Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review: ASICS 33-FA Firmer, Durable, Lighter Weight Trainer

The ASICS 33-FA trainer is an 8.9oz (252gram)  25mm heel/21 mm forefoot lighter trainer in Asics 33- Fx line. $110 MSRP.  The 33-DFA is a lighter version and the 33-M a heavier version. I picked the middle child, the 33-FA, as it fits my preferences more closely for a decently cushioned yet sub 9 oz road trainer. 

Quite frankly it is about time Asics really joined the party of lighter, well cushioned, lower drop, more naturally lasted shoes with seamless uppers and simple mid and outsole construction.
Asics describes the 33-FA as follows:

"Seamless Construction and the oblique-shaped Natural33™ last create a truly  slipper-like fit and feel. New forefoot flex groove geometry and FluidAxis® complement the ultra soft AmpliFoam™ platform for smooth flexibility from heel to toe."

 Do they succeed in joining the party with the 33-FA?  I say, Yes.
  • not quite as light as some of the similar competition I have recently run and reviewed such as the NB Fresh Foam Zante(8.1oz), Saucony Zealot (8.3oz), Nike Lunar Tempo(6.8oz), adidas Boston Boost(8.5oz) and Skechers GoRun Ride 4(7.8oz).  This said the 33-FA has considerably more durable outsole coverage than most of these shoes and while outsole adds weight it can add more miles of use. Links to reviews of all of these can be found at my summary page here.
  • a ride on the firmer side similar to the New Balance Fresh Foam 980, ISO Zealot, Zante and Pearl Izumi N2 but not as overly jarring as I find the Zante and Zealot heels and the N2 and 980 overall as it appears to me that with the FA layers of foam go from softest under the foot to firmest at the outsole in a gradual progression without sharp differences in firmness.
  • a smooth striding road feel from a well cushioned, firm and stable heel with cuts/cavity through to the soft red foam allowing shock to dissipate, then to an easy transition to the mid foot, but unfortunately, due to all the thick outsole rubber at the toe without the deep grooves, a bit of an awkward stiff push off on uphills in particular. 
  • and caveat, as I have not run that many miles in them,  a firm, thick and full ASICS AHAR outsole coverage in 2 densities which should allow all foot strike types to get many miles out of a pair. I believe this kind of full dense rubber along with the firm mid sole is what adds weight. 
Who might like the 33-FA?
  • runners seeking a firm, relatively responsive shoe with a wider toe box
  • runners who tend to have heavy outsole wear in strange places.
  • potentially, mild over pronators seeking to transition to a neutral shoe due to the firm midsole and firm outsole coverage. 
  • heavier fast runners who tend to compress softer midsoles.
The deep cuts go all the way to the softer red midsole. ASICS calls this FluidAxis and describes it as follows:

Anatomically correct deep flex grooves have been aligned to the joints of the foot. This innovative construction enables the shoe to recognize, adapt, and respond to the athlete's exact load and positional change from first impact to toe-off.

I find the FluidAxis approach particularly effective in the heel as despite the firm outsole and midsole shock seems to be well dissipated. The mid foot rides and then flexes nicely with decent snap but the front flex towards the toe is quite stiff, at least so far. The heel outsole material is firmer than the forefoot's. 

The upper is an engineered mesh similar to the Lunar Tempo or adidas Energy ESM. There are no seams. The front overlays are woven in. Towards the mid foot they are welded or glued over.

ASICS 33-FA  Photo: ASICS America
I find the upper roomy and comfortable. The inner lining seems a bit heavier than what usually lines such mesh upper and loose, not tightly as bonded to the outer mesh. Maybe this helps with flexibility but I worry a bit about creasing and blisters in the toe area. I sized up a half size and except for a bit of pressure by the little toe should have sized true to size. 

There is no heel counter but even a bit oversized I do not miss it. My foot is well held but the hold cannot be mistaken for the snug race ready feel of the Zante. It more like the Lunar Tempo but a bit wider and roomier and without the dialed in Flywire of the Nike.

Ride and Recommendations
The 33-FA is a fine light trainer. Not quite as light as some of its competitors, it trades some weight for a firmer, and presumably more durable mid and outsole along with extensive full contact outsole coverage on the road. The front fit is roomy and allows the foot to splay nicely. The ride is firm all over but not harsh with all layers of cushioning feeling as one, very smooth  but it could use a bit more flexibility towards the toes for me. I might recommend the 33-FA for runners who tend to tend to have heavy outsole wear, heel strikers seeking more heel stability, heavier runners who tend to crush midsoles in lighter trainers and those who prefer a firmer ride.

The 33-FA was provided to me free of charge. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

If you would like to try the 33-FA they are available from:
Running Warehouse US- Men's hereWomen's here
Running Warehouse Europe-Men's here 

Running Warehouse has great customer service policies:
  • Free 2 Day Shipping and Return Shipping
  • 90 Days No Sweat Returns
  • $9.95 Overnight Shipping 1-4 Lbs
All your purchases at Running Warehouse via these links support my blog.

I review many shoes and much gear and apparel every year.  At the link here a summary page with links to all my recent reviews.

Thank You Readers!

Thank you very much to readers of my blog. Sometime around 9PM last night my blog passed 500,000 page views.

It's been fun and your interest and questions keep me at it.

What would you like to see more of, less of?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tried Some New on the Run Today: UA Speedform Gemini, Garmin VivoActive, 2015 adidas Climachill Tee, Dynafit Enduro Dry Short

Trying some new today.  Reviews to follow

UnderArmour Speedform Gemini: Very nice cushioned shoe, just the right firmness for me,not too soft and also not stiff and harsh. Similar firmness to a Hoka Huaka or Altra Paradigm but with 8mm drop 29/21 so a decently thin forefoot.  Upper is "trail shoe" supportive, maybe a touch too supportive for me for the road. Feel my midfoot and forefoot is over supported not flexing forward even though the midsole and outsole is plenty flexible enough.

Vivoactive GPS Watch. Great screen in sun. Super light and thin if a bit square. Replaces my Magellan Echo which drowned at Boston. Cancelled my delayed Apple Watch. Already miss the ease of setting up fields to the Magellan via iSmooth Run app... but with GPS on board I won't need to carry a phone at races. Configuring on a watch is tedious and old school. Run operation is super simple with auto-lap vibration alerts. Still haven't found how to configure for a workout average pace field as defaults are instant pace and lap pace.

adidas Climachill even better than 2014 edition. A lighter knit vs weave, not as slick. Should be incredible in heat as the original was.

Dynafit Enduro Dry Short: from a mountaineering brand moving into mountain running. Super light and comfortable. 2 large hip pockets, each plenty big enough for a large iPhone and then some, plus zipper rear pocket. Very comfortable elastic waistband with no cord. Run large... when loaded. I sized to a SM for my 33" waist.

Gemini, Vivocative, and adidas Climachill all available from Running Warehouse 
US here

Dynafit Enduro Dry Short available from here

Purchases at these links support my blog. Thanks!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Initial Review: Hoka One One Speedgoat-Lively, Light, All Terrain Speedster

The Hoka One One Speedgoat is a 9.7oz 33mm heel/28mm forefoot stack(with insole), 5mm drop trail shoe inspired by the winningest 100 mile runner (36 and counting) in history, SpeedGoat Karl Meltzer.  It is resplendent in Red Bull livery, one of Karl's sponsors. This $140 shoe will be released on July 1st in both men's and women's models. See end of post for other colors and spec sheets.
Hoka One One SpeedGoat
Karl is meticulous in his gear selection having always preferred comfort over minimalism. In fact, as minimalism was all the rage, Karl was the first elite athlete to sign with Hoka, the original maximalist shoe company.  I have very much enjoyed seeing Hoka evolve from their early Mafate downhill monster truck to today's incredibly light and cushioned (reviews at the links) Clifton, Huaka, Challenger ATR and now SpeedGoat.
Build on the same last as the earlier Rapa Nui,  the SpeedGoat has a slightly softer midsole over a sticky, relatively soft, full Vibram outsole with 4mm lugs, a first for Hoka. Kind of ironic given Vibram's Five Fingers minimal history but one must not forget Vibram is first and foremost a great climbing boot, and now running shoe outsole company.

Review: Montrail FluidFlex ST-Stable, Supportive, Low Slung Trail Runner

The Montrail FluidFlex ST is a 9.4 oz/ 266 gram 22mm heel/18mm forefoot trail runner with a stable supportive ride. $95, so a very good value compared to many 2015 trail runners. Lightweight and agile, the overall package has a substantial seamless upper, great rock protection and an innovative variable density midsole, the Fluid Frame. While the shoe is called out for "over pronators" this resolutely neutral runner, who can't stand stability and support features in most shoes, found the firmer mid foot midsole foam just right for rougher trail stability and confidence. I sized up half a size and fit is perfect.
Montrail FluidFlex ST
I have run up to 16 miles on easier smooth Utah trails, some roads, and rough, rooty, rocky NH trails. The FluidFlex ST handled all terrain with ease and comfort but one would say, if used as road trail hybrid, it would lean towards trail. While I have not run in the Fluid Flex the key difference between the 2 shoes is the FluidFrame midsole and its increased stability

Fluid Frame
The special sauce in the FluidFlex ST is the midsole.