Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fitbit Ionic Review- All Day Useful, Animated, Colorful, Beautifully Crafted GPS/HR Watch with Deep Health and Wellness Tracking Features

Article by Sam Winebaum
Fitbit Ionic ($299.95) Available for Pre-Order from Amazon  here
First deliveries early to mid October 2017
The just launched Fitbit Ionic represents the brand's first true smart training watch. It has both GPS and HR on board and of course the full compliment of Fitbit insights. More than a "tracker" the Ionic also includes:
  • on board coached Fitstar workouts such as abs and chest, the animated color screen shows you how to do then
  • a "wallet" for contactless payments for that after run coffee or beer
  • multiple sport modes including swim tracking with 50M water resistance so suitable for any swimming and the shower. 
  • a built in 300 song music player, including the ability to download Pandora Plus and Premium stations
  • smart phone notifications
  • a battery life spec. at 4 days  all day use and 10 hours GPS/HR training mode that doubles its obvious Apple Watch and Android Wear competitors and approaches battery life of many dedicated GPS watches 
In my testing I found the Ionic to be a perfectly serviceable very comfortable on the wrist run companion with the added benefit of Fitbit's excellent cardiac health and sleep monitoring. The screen sharpness and clarity is outstanding I really appreciated the longer battery life compared to my Apple Watch Series 2.

Friday, September 15, 2017

First Hands on Impressions. 3 Fashionable, Light New GPS/HR Watches: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport

Article by Sam Winebaum

Competitor Running just published my article covering these three just introduced GPS Run Watches here.

I have tested all three. Full reviews here soon. My RoadTrailRun initial impressions and live photos  are below.
Left to Right: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport
Front to Back: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport
 Brief Descriptions and Impressions

Monday, September 11, 2017

Salomon XA Elevate-First Runs Impressions Review with Comparisons to Sense Ride and S/Lab Sense Ultra

Article by Sam Winebaum

Editor's Note: RoadTrailRun will have an in depth review for the XA Elevate soon where I will join with Jeff Valliere, running trails above Boulder and Larisa Dannis, hammering long technical runs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Salomon XA Elevate
Weight: Test sample in US M9:  10.7 oz/304g
              Production: 10.4 oz/295g (US 9M) 9 oz./255g (US 7W)
Stack Height: 25mm/17mm (8mm drop)
Lug Height: 5mm
MSRP: $130
Available 12/1/17 at REI in the US, general distribution 3/1/18

We first saw the XA Elevate at Outdoor Retailer where it was Salomon's big introduction along with the S/Lab Sense Ultra 2 (preview article here). It was for sure flashy and low slung looking but stiff flexing  it felt it had more hiking vibe than run vibe. It joins the line up sitting just above the Sense Ride (RTR review here) in overall cushion and protection and just below the Pro Max with its higher stack but lower height lugs RTR (review here).

First Impressions 
Salomon kindly sent us a sample and first trying them on underfoot they did feel like a hiker with prominent support under the arch, lots of noticeable cushion and protection upfront, a very secure upper hold and somewhat larger lugs than the Sense Ride and Sense Ultra 1.  

Friday, September 08, 2017

Coolcore Apparel Review: All Conditions Comfort and Cooling Performance

Article by Sam Winebaum with Dominique Winebaum
We have long been obsessed here at Road Trail Run by apparel which is effective for running comfort at the extremes of heat and cold. In warm weather perceived and real comfort comes from how cool one's skin feels and in  minimizing wet cling of fabric to the skin. Cooling using fabrics can come from
  • a variety of chemical and other treatments (Columbia Omni-Free Zero, 37.5)
  • the actual structure of the fabric to allow not only rapid evaporative cooling but also less clammy cling to the skin when wet. The approach Coolcore takes.
  • fiber selection,for example Titanium fibers in adidas Climachill article here to actually conduct heat away from the skin
  • reflective outer layers on the fabric (Columbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector 
Of course, fabric color is also a factor with lighter colors generally less heat absorbing. In colder conditions staying dry is the key and many of the same characteristics of rapid evaporation and fabric structure needed in heat can apply to keep garments drier and more comfortable in cold. The differences generally are the fit, generally snugger in cold, deeper structures or "fuzzies" on the skin and on the outside to insulate being main difference between hot and cold weather comfort and performance.


Coolcore
We have long kept an eye on Coolcore a local to us Portsmouth, N.H, company.  Their fabric technology (see here) relies on structure to provide cooling and drying power and less wet cling. Coolcore achieves this by wicking, transporting moisture, and regulated evaporation. No added chemicals are used to achieve the performance and comfort of these synthetic fabrics.  Early on Coolcore was involved and still is in cooling towels that when wet provide a distinct cooling effect as well as some licensing of the fabric technology into work wear and general athletics. For several years we have wrapped a Coolcore cooling towel around our neck during long trails runs, very effective and tested a t-shirt a few years ago that was effective in cooling but was a fairly crude slick feeling fabric with plenty of wet cling . We were eager to try their latest  introduced at Outdoor Retailer in July and put it to the test.

Performance 
Cool core had their fabrics tested on specialized equipment, and not just anecdotally via user impressions, at the Hohenstein Institute, a 60 year old independent testing and research institute for the clothing industry  The fabric was tested against 7 competitors and three competing technologies, un named but we might assume Climachill and Columbia were in the mix.  The testing results are here and also illustrated below. Coolcore won several awards for fabric technology innovation.

In the Hohenstein testing Coolcore came out with the highest performance scores in the three tested categories of Cooling Power, Drying Time, and Wet Cling.  One must always take such company sponsored testing with a grain of salt and actual on the run use in varying conditions of humidity, temperature, sun combined with color of garment, wind, if used under another layer along with of course each runner's preferences also go into the mix.

This said when compared to standard technical t-shirts, and other cooling claiming shirts on many runs and hikes in varying conditions and even cold conditions, in combination and overall, the Cool Core outperformed any of our many high performance and cool claiming shirts.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Scott Supertrac RC - A Top Tier, High Performance All Mountain Racer

by Jeff Valliere

Scott Supertrac RC
9.6 oz. (272 grams) US Men's Size 9 or 8 oz. (230 grams) US Women's Size 8
(9 7/8 oz./281 grams for my US size 10)
25mm heel/20mm forefoot
$150 Available Now

It has been some time since I have tested/reviewed a Scott shoe, I think it was the Eride AF Trainer a few years ago, but it did not make much of an impression on me either way.  I was sort of on the fence reviewing this one, but the look of the outsole really appealed to me and it looked like an interesting all mountain shoe overall.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this shoe performed!  It feels light and high quality out of the box, very well built, with buzz saw like sticky lugs, a race profile and blinding neon yellow coloring to confirm that you had better be moving quick in this shoe.

La Sportiva/Polygiene Odor Free Clothing Review

by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

La Sportiva Motion T-Shirt - $39.00
La Sportiva Rapid Short - $129.00

Polygiene Odor Control is a silver salt which naturally occurs in water and soil. It is co-applied in the finishing stages of garment manufacturing so no extra water is used.  Long used in health care, silver salt has been extensively tested for skin sensitivity. Polygiene only inhibits growth of bacteria on the fabric to reduce odors and not with naturally occurring skin bacteria. Polygiene's motto is " Wear More, Wash Less" as the energy and water savings over the lifetime of such treated garments can add up.


Review
Jeff: The La Sportiva Motion T, made from Polygiene Odor Control treated fabric has quickly become one of my favorite running shirts. The shirt is light, very breathable and has a great cut that is comfortable, lays well, drapes just below the hemline of my shorts at just the right level, without feeling like a dress or an 80's crop top.
Sam: I agree with Jeff this is one comfortable, light T. Stretchy and a bit slick and sticky when wet. I wish the fabric was more mesh like and had more texture.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Revant Optics Replacement Prescription Sport Lenses

by Jeff Valliere


Revant Optics was founded in 2009, soon after founder and CEO Jason Bolt crashed while mountain biking and damaged his sunglasses.  When he tried to buy replacement lenses, he found that they were no longer available, so ordered a batch of 200 lenses from the manufacturing company, kept a few pairs and sold the rest.  The idea was born to make available lenses for sunglasses, new and old, at a fair price and offer great customer service.

I'll admit that I had never heard of Revant Optics before being offered to review a set of their lenses and when I learned that they offer prescription lenses as well, I was quite excited.  My Oakley Flak Jacket prescription lenses were over 8 years old and even though I have a very mild prescription, things were getting a touch fuzzy.  Even with insurance, performance oriented prescription eye wear costs a good bit of money and I kept putting it off.

I scrolled through the Oakley options and soon (as I expected I would) found the Flak Jacket.  I could have used the search function and got there faster, but was interested to see all of the model glasses where replacement lenses were available and was blown away.  That was just Oakley!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2018 Inov-8 Previews & First Run Impressions Review ParkClaw 275 GTX Invisible Fit, RoadClaw 275

Article by Sam Winebaum

Inov-8 a British run shoe brand which was really first, starting in 2003 to design a line of trail "running" shoes from the ground up as not only running shoes but from day one with variable designs of outsoles and midsoles for different terrain types and distances.  I first wrote about Inov-8 in 2007 here after testing several different models. 
Looking back at that article, and after seeing their 2018 line I  clearly see that Inov-8 has stuck true to its mission of designing a wide array of terrain specific models for ice and snow, mud and wet, rock, mountain trail, moderate "park" trail, and road. 
The 2018 RocLite 315 (left) stays true to the 2007 RocLite 315's (right) all terrain endurance mission

Most models are not so specific that they don't cross over categories but each is called out with a sweet spot. I am currently testing the ParkClaw 275 a trail with some road capablities and the RoadClaw 275 a road shoe which can easily tackle easier trails

All Inov-8 shoes regardless of terrain and distance purpose, be they 2007 or 2017 models, share key characteristics:
  • firm, stable midsoles with embedded Meta Shank or Dynamic Fascia Band inserts built into the midsoles. These plates mimic foot bio mechanics with a fingers shape and depending on model are more or less substantial with hard rocky terrain trail shoe shanks such as in the TrailRoc line extending more coverage under the front of the foot for rock protection and lighter terrain versions thinner fingers such as in the RoadClaw
  • very supportive rugged uppers in all shoes, including road shoes, which generally fit on the snug side but over the years getting more front of the foot volume. 
  • within each model, often different upper choices including the new Invisible Fit Gore-Tex, ballistic nylon for super abrasion durability, as well as more conventional mesh. 
  • of course an outsole designed for specific uses and terrain types
  •  a new Sticky Grip outsole compound claiming 50% better forefoot and 20% better heel traction than its predecessor launches in 2018 on some models with others having a Tri-C or Dual C outsole which can include Sticky Grip rubber as one of the 2 or 3 different compounds in the outsole.
  • within each terrain type shoe model frequently with at least two and often more levels of cushioning, basically stack height difference, distinguished by Inov-8's Arrow System marking and by differing weights called out as the number in the model description: RocLite 305 vs. RocLite 315.
2018 Previews
I visited Inov-8's US headquarters in Massachusetts a few miles from the start line of the Boston Marathon and across the railroad tracks from Hopkinton State Park and its many trails.

The shoe wall Jim Howard, General Manager showed us just includes running shoes. A whole other wall had cross fit, weight lifting, and obstacle course shoes. Inov-8 stability, firm outsoles and rugged uppers have made them very popular for these sports.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Salming Speed 6-If Looks Could Kill

Article by Peter Stuart with Sam Winebaum

The Salming Speed 6 ($130) is an uptempo (duh, check the name) more racer than trainer--coming in at 7.4 oz./210g for a men's size 9, 6.5 oz./ for a women's size 8 according to Running Warehouse. It loses a full ounce in weight from the Speed 5.  
It has a heel height of 23mm and a forefoot of 17mm, 6mm drop. It's a firm shoe underfoot with looks that make me think of Blade Runner or a Japanese street corner. 


There is so much branding on this shoe it's hard to believe. But how do they run? Are they speedy? Read on to find out what we think about the ride and relative ups and downs of the Speed 6. Let me just say, in advance, that I'm glad there were only two SPEED movies, and we could have done without the 2nd. That said, here are the reviews:

First Impressions and Fit
Sam: Wow! Peter is right about the branding. I kind of like the loud look in a combination of bright fading to green yellow and muted swampy green. 
Sam: The build quality and finish from Sweden based Salming is among the best of any shoe company, and it sure shows here. These are beautifully build and finished shoes.
There is plenty of durable rubber, a surprising amount for such a light shoe. 
My pair is a half size up from my normal 8.5 with the fit a bit roomy. I could easily go true to size with thinner socks.  Salming has lost the more substantial overlays of its Exo Skeleton found in prior models and this is a good thing as it makes the fit more consistent from heel to toe. The fit is what I would characterize as higher volume and "tubular" feeling over the foot meaning with no sensation of a change in pressure from the rear to the front, decently roomy at the forefoot and as with prior Salming a bit pointy up very front of the shoe. I did not run in the Speed 5 so can't compare but have run in the Distance D4 and EnRoute.

Upper
Sam: The upper is a two layer very fine mesh with extensive overlays. The foot is stabilized by the thin Exo Skeleton overlays, the yellow green lattice and strips in the pictures. I did not find the upper particularly breathable but also certainly not overly warm. Compared to the Distance and En Route the upper is more comfortable overall, less snug than the Distance (RTR review) with its thicker external Exo Skeleton overalays  and easier to dial in than the somewhat sloppy upper of the Enroute (RTR review).
Peter: Sam, I love when you handle all of the technical stuff! I'm a big fan of the upper on the Speed 6. As busy as it looks, it works for me visually. I find the fit to be true to size and it holds my foot well in all the right places. I love the high reflectivity as I've been heading out for pre-dawn runs lately. It's a very deluxe and dialed-in upper.





Speed 6 puts on an incredible show under the lights!

All dark areas of the upper are actually highly reflective as seen when flashed with the camera.
The flash photo also highlights the thin strips securing the mid foot.

Midsole 
Sam: The midsole is made of Salming Recoil foam in 2 grades of firmness with what is called out as a softer Recoil R heel insert embedded in a single density or Recoil. I must say the heel did not feel soft but it sure is decently responsive if quite firm. I think the shoe could benefit from a deeper central cavity just in front of the heel to allow some more deflection of the heel and overall slightly softer foam with more actual "recoil".
Some will appreciate the responsive firm snap of this midsole, and I certainly did at faster tempos less so when run slow but after all this is a Speed shoe by name. It is firmer at the heel than the Enroute which I found to soft there.  Interestingly the EnRoute also has a similar Recoil R heel insert yet I found that shoe's heel to soft at least in contrast to the firmer fore foot. Maybe the Recoil R insert in the Speed is firmer or more likely the overall EnRoute midsole is softer.
Again this is a performance/racing oriented shoe with a midsole feel along the lines of the ASICS Roadhawk FF which is more trainer and  New Balance 1400,  or even Nike Zoom Streak 6 racer, two others I find overly firm for all but shorter racing. ASICS with its firm FlyteFoam seems to get more of a rebound sensation out of its firm foam.
Peter: Man oh man is this a firm feeling foam. Unfortunately I don't get a lot of recoil from the recoil--it just feels firm. Sam, I disagree on the 1400 and the Zoom Streak 6. While they are both on the firm side, the 1400 has some give and the Zoom Streak 6 is so much snappier. 

Outsole: 
Sam: The defining feature of Salming shoes is its Natural Running Support System which combines a mid foot Torsion Guide System to stabilize the foot after which, at 62% of the length of the shoe from the heel, there is an anatomically correct flex groove at a 75 degree angle towards the medial side just behind the first orange forefoot outsole band in the photo above. This location is called the ballet line.  As with all Salming there is a distinct sensation of plenty of stability at mid foot followed by a very natural feeling and smooth toe off.
Peter: It's funny, given the ballet line, you'd think this shoe would transition through the gait cycle effortlessly, but that isn't the case for me. I feel like I have to PUSH through each stride. The outsole feels both stiff and firm for me and it's just not a smooth transition. I've hoped that it might break in, but hasn't done so yet

In addition to the 75 degree angle first flex point, three other flex grooves are located further forward in an approach similar to the Enroute. 

Ride
Sam: This ain't no mushy ride! The ride is firm and responsive as a fast shoe should be but... I do think the heel is overly firm especially in contrast to the agile smooth running forefoot.  Salming tells us the forefoot midsole is firmer than the heel but I don't feel this.  I think  due to 62/75 design with the perfect flex and the deep flex grooves the contrast between heel and forefoot is a bit more jarring than I would like. A somewhat more relaxed heel ride, followed by the mid foot stabilizing Torsion Guide System, a feature similar to what adidas puts in its softer midsole Boost performance shoes such as the Adios, would really help me dig this shoe as a half racer and faster daily trainer.

Peter: Rarely I have I wanted to like a shoe more (based on looks and what, on paper, is my kind of shoe). Unfortunately it's just not a shoe that works with my body mechanics. The ride is really clunky for me. I feel like I'm fighting with the shoe to get through a run. I'm not expecting a shoe to do the work for me, but every once in a while a shoe just seems to get in the way of running naturally--and this shoe seems to do just that. I've tried a variety of tempos and distances in these and I just can't get a great feeling run in them. 


Conclusions
Peter: The Salming Speed 6 wasn't a great fit for me. The upper is terrific and I like the shoe in theory, but couldn't get a great feeling run in them. They are super firm and pretty stiff. If they work with your biomechanics I think they'd be a great race shoe, they're just not for me. I'd love a substantially more flexible version of this shoe that was a little less firm. 
Sam: I agree with Peter on the upper being terrific. Rarely has a more race oriented upper felt so great without the usual "lock down" mid foot constriction and/or cramped toe box. And the look says fast.   I do like a race weight shoe I can run with some comfort and ease on other days for example the adidas adios Boost 3 or the lighter yet Vaporfly 4%. Here the ride is just a bit to firm overall especially at the heel.

Comparisons to the Speed 6 (7.4 oz)
Salming Distance D4 (7.6 oz.) RTR review
Sam: The 2016 Distance is slightly softer underfoot and for me and is not as responsive. While I raced a half in them they just don't feel as speedy as the Speed 6.  The upper is pointier up front and the denser Exo Skeleton overlays more noticeable. They sit somewhere between firmer trainer and softer racer with less focus than the firm, fast Speed 6. 
adidas adios Boost 3 (RTR review)
Sam:  The class of comfortable racers. Somewhat heavier and with not nearly as refined an upper the adios can still make mid packers or world record holders smile in comfort and at speed at a variety of paces and distances. 
Nike Zoom Streak 6 (6.4 oz) RTR review
Peter: The Streak 6 is similarly firm, but way snappier. It's a race shoe that is just aching to go fast. Works better with the way I run. 
Sam: While the Streak 6 is snappier it has a rough narrow heel landing for me and the snappy part only kicks in at race paces. I reserve mine for 10K or shorter races and never for training. I would not hesitate to take out  Speed 6 for tempo and faster runs. 
New Balance 1400 v5 (7.4 oz) RTR review
Peter: The 1400 V5 is shaping to be one of my 2 or 3 favorites of the year. It's more flexible and softer than the Salming. Good at any tempo and perhaps the most natural feeling runner of the year (The Zoom Elite 9 is the other contender)
Hoka One One Tracer 1 (7.4 oz) RTR review
Sam: Also a firm shoe and identical weight. The Speed 6 to be a more refined overall package and ride, the Tracer being stiffer and more awkward for me although having a slightly softer but lower  heel and about identical forefoot stack.
Skechers GOmeb Razor (7.7 oz) RTR review
Peter: Speed 6 and Razor are pretty similarly stiff, but the Razor has a little more give--feels better at tempo to me. 
On The Cloud (7.4 oz.) RTR review
Sam: While its upper is a bit "casual" fitting with its optional bungie lace for faster running and to snug with real laces,  under foot the Cloud is softer and easier on the legs despite being firm. The Cloud Elements really work in this shoe. My denim and muted green Cloud also goes casual with less of the bright lights of the Speed!
Saucony Kinvara 8 (7.8 oz) RTR review
Peter: If the Kinvara 8 works for you, the Speed 6 might work too. They feel similarly clunky to me. 
Sam: While the Kinvara 8 tend to bottom out at the heel for me, leaving me lingering back there in transition, the Speed 6 heads in the other direction at the heel, firm and without much give wanting me to get off it as quick as possible which the forward part of the shoe 62/75 design facilities. Upfront the Kinvara has a stiffer feeling transition. The Speed 6 upper is superior in fit and comfort.
ASICS Roadhawk FF (8.1 oz) RTR review
Sam: I feel this may be the closest comparison. While the transition of the Roadhawk is not as smooth due to excessive firm outsole rubber upfront making them stiff  its equally firm midsole is more forgiving and dynamic but has a more awkward to forefoot transition. At $30 less the Roadhawk upper while very decent is snugger, rougher feeling and doesn't disappear on the foot as the Speed 6's does
Altra Escalante (7.8 oz,) RTR review
Peter: These two are polar opposites. The Escalante is flexible, soft and barely there. 

For Peter and Sam's run bios visit our reviewers' page here

The Speed 6 was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Visit our Index Page here for over 60 of in depth 2017 shoe and gear reviews
Visit our 2018 Previews Page here for 2018 run shoe, apparel, and gear previews 

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