Thursday, March 15, 2018

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket Review: Highly Functional Minimalist Protection

Article by Sam Winebaum

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket
$275. See sale pricing at the end of the article.
I am a huge fan of Salomon's S/Lab products and especially their gear and apparel. Developed for Salomon's top athletes needs, prototyped in house at the Annecy Design Center (see RTR article about my recent visit here), then impeccably manufactured  and sold to the public in limited quantities and at stout prices but... I always find the features and quality well worth it.

The S/Lab Hybrid Jacket is clearly the product of the S/Lab process. Here the goal was to create a running shell adaptable on the fly to rapidly changing mountain conditions. As such the Hybrid features:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Zeal Optics Sable Polarized Sunglasses Review: Run and Around Town Ready

by Jeff Valliere

Zeal Optics Sable Polarized Sunglasses
28 grams

Zeal is an innovative, environmentally conscious company who prides themselves in making high quality sunglasses out of plant based materials with their Z Resin frame and Ellume lens.  The Z Resin used to make the frames is produced from castor oil derived from the castor plant, a renewable resource that reduces CO2 in the manufacturing process, replaces petroleum based products and ultimately produces a lightweight, comfortable and durable frame.  The polarized Ellume lens is also created from plant based materials, while retaining impressive impact resistance, durability and optical clarity.

Beyond the innovative plant based materials and environmental consciousness, Zeal is also noted for their ability to integrate a casual lifestyle look with athletic performance.  They make a few models that have a solely for sport "look", but the vast majority of their models have a lifestyle look, while still being lightweight, well ventilated and durable.

I have been somewhat leery of polarized sunglasses due to a pair I owned years ago that gave me headaches and distorted auto glass and camera/phone screens  The Zeal Ellume Copper lens however seems to be much more "user friendly" with only minimal screen distortion when looking at my iPhone, hardly any noticeable difference in the car and thus far, no headaches.
The advantage of polarized lenses to a trail runner however becomes evident on days where there is snow, ice, wet trail and especially advantageous when the trail is a mix of the above.  Polarization really brings out crisp contrast and helps me to better identify the texture of the trail surface and thus can better anticipate what I'll be stepping on (composition of the snow, ice or wet trail).

It is difficult to present the level of contrast in photos, but the photos below represent trail conditions where I found polarization most useful.

The Ellume Copper lens has a 14% light transmission rate and though this is a bit lighter lens that I normally prefer, I found it to be a versatile lens for all but the very brightest high altitude, snow bowl glacier travel sort of outings.  Otherwise, it is plenty dark enough for bright sunny days, yet light enough to maintain good visibility going in/out of the woods or use on partly cloudy days, though a bit too dark for use at dawn/dusk or really overcast days and in deep woods.

The Z Resin Sable frame/glasses are reasonably light at 28 grams and fit me perfect out of the box.  When running, they stay well planted on my face with little to no bounce and have a wide field of vision with great wind protection, yet are well ventilated and only fog up in the wettest of conditions (snowing/raining combined with hard uphill effort) that would fog any sunglasses.  If they do fog however, they de-fog relatively quickly.

Ideal use:  The Zeal Sable are versatile and perform well for running, and a wide variety of other sports (though I might pick a larger style for cycling or skiing). They do so with a casual style so they are a good choice if you a want one pair of sunglasses that easily crosses over from sport use to day use without looking like you just got done with a bike race.

The Sable also come in two other flavors, Matte Black with Dark Grey Polarized lens (9% light transmission) and Atlantic Blue with Horizon Blue Polarized lens (12% light transmission).

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 

The Sable  were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere and Zeal

Comments Questions Welcome Below!
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Monday, March 12, 2018

Reebok OSR Grasse Road Review: Heavy Duty, Stable, Super Cushioned Daily Trainer..Without the Heavy Part!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Reebok surprises again with the Grasse Road, a light 9.8 oz max cushioned neutral trainer with steady stable manners bordering on that of stability shoe at the heel and with some livelier neutral shoe personality and transition further forward.

Grasse Road has a substantial 30mm heel, 24mm forefoot stack, a just right for me 6mm offset, some rocker to the front midsole with also decent flexibility for such a massive stack, and copious coverage of thinner but still substantial firmer rubber. It is priced at $130.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Saucony Kinvara 9 Review: At Long Last The K Shoe Returns to Top Form!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Dave Ames, and Peter Stuart

Saucony Kinvara 9
Weight: 7.6 oz/215g (size M9)  6.8 oz/ 193 g (size W8)
    Test sample M8.5: 7.5 oz/212 g
Stack Height: 23mm (Heel), 19mm (Forefoot)
$110. Available now.

First Impressions and Fit
Dave:  The Saucony Kinvara is a shoe I have tested through many versions and really, really wanted to like. Over the years, I have loved the aesthetic look, reduced weight, and overall concept of this shoe.  Unfortunately, update after update the Kinvara did the same exact thing o me-It tortured my achilles and heel bone. The hard heel collar inflamed my heel bone and caused a calcaneal spur.  That, combined with the softness or too much firmness in the ride of Kinvara over the years, always changing, from version to version, just created an unpleasant experience.  Note: I last ran in the K7.

Well, all that seems to have changed!  I am absolutely in love with the Kinvara 9!  Yes, the heel collar is causing a bit of an issue again (I struggle with all hard heel collars), but this time it is not pulling into my achilles.  The fit is outstanding via the rubberized Pro-Lock system in the middle of the “throat” of the shoe, I have a great locked and loaded fit when laced up.  My size 9 does run a hair small, but I like wearing my shoes on the smaller side (years of track spikes) - - If you are looking for a bit more wiggle room, I’d suggest going up a half size.  

Peter: I really enjoyed the first couple of Kinvaras (Kinvarae?). Somewhere around 4 they lost me and I could barely muster up the enthusiasm to run in the 8, so I came into the Kinvara 9 with pretty low expectations. There are so many shoes out there that have delivered on the recipe that the early Kinvara established--light, relatively highly cushioned, and somewhat minimal. How was the Kinvara going to keep up with the many shoes it had inspired? 

I agree with Dave, it seems like they’re back on course with this shoe. The fit is a tiny bit snug, but in a good way. I didn’t have any rubbing or blistering, just a very nicely fitting shoe. These are one of the rare modern shoes that actually seems to need a little break in. They felt a bit too stiff on first run, but have opened up as the miles piled up. 

Sam: I have not really enjoyed a Kinvara until.. The early groundbreaking models, really the first low drop (4mm) very light and minimal shoe from a major company, were overly “natural” for me, not enough upper structure and overly flexible, The Kinvara 7 was a pretty darn good shoe but stiff and with an awkward overly constraining upper, all a sharp contrast to the early models. The Kinvara 8 while improving on the 7’s upper and regaining flexibility was overly soft underfoot at the heel and not lively. 

Well with the Kinvara 9 Saucony has really brought the K shoe forward with nods to its "natural" ride through its flexibility and light weight but with upper support and under foot performance now more central to the recipe.  The upper is much improved in comfort but is clearly a performance type fit, retaining the Pro-Lock strap which now is thinner and more pliable and is actually useful and effective given the soft engineered mesh upper. Pro-Lock is no longer a literal pain as in the past. Underfoot, the ride is lively and relatively firm, just right by me, but also well cushioned particularly in the forefoot.

The fit is true to size, if a bit short and low way up front. 
I wondered at first try on if they were going to work as they were snug and seemingly low volume over the midfoot. Barely through my first 5 miler, I noticed that the fit improved and quite dramatically. The sockliner packed down?  Pro-Lock strap and upper stretched a bit? The soft mesh makes the relatively snug fit, truly foot conforming, in a sharp contrast to the stiff flat mesh of the Kivnara 8 which had little give.  This is a shoe that doesn’t need to be laced overly tight for a good foot hold given the Pro-Lock strap.  I agree with Peter, the first run they were stiff but after 10 miles became very flexible. 

Dave:  Boasting a new more substantial upper than the Kinvara 8, which also increases breathability, the K9 fits me pretty well.  The toe box is a bit jammed, which unless you like a snug fit, this is why I would say to go up a half size.  Wider footed runners may struggle with the upper on the K9 as it really seems to at least me, to have a narrow fit.  That being said, I love the update and it molds extremely well, making this be a great race shoe if you wanted it to be.
Peter: I think the K9 has an exceptionally well designed upper. 

There are some great features that help assure a great fit. 
The tongue--which looks like it’s slightly too short every time I go to put the shoe on but then is just fine--has a perfect amount of padding. 
Saucony FINALLY made the Pro-Lock system an integral and useful part of the lacing system. This is by far the best implementation of the Pro-Lock system. You can really fine tune the midfoot lock by making-micro adjustments on the Pro-Lock. 
At first I was afraid the K9 was too narrow, but with a little bit of fiddling with pro-lock I got the mid-oot to give a bit and had a great fit. The mesh up front is super breathable. I still prefer a great engineered mesh like the one on the Saucony K9 to a knit upper. The ankle collar has nice padding and the foot is held really well inside the new woven heel cup. The upper is finished off with sleek flex-film overlays. It’s great looking and all works together to function beautifully. 

Sam: I will agree with Dave and Peter that this is an outstanding upper if somewhat narrow. The upper is foot conforming, soft, well held and secure. Those with higher volume feet may have a better chance in this upper, unlike the last few versions if a snug fit is your preference, and by potentially sizing up a half size.  
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                             RIGHT Kinvara 9
Saucony wisely brought back a few overlays to hold things together up front given the soft mesh. 
At midfoot the Pro Lock strap is notably thinner and more pliable than in the K8 and does its job of stabilizing and locking the foot to the platform without bothering as it did before. 
TOP: Kinvara 9                         BOTTOM: Kinvara 8
Further the strangely placed substantial lateral gray overlay of the K8 is removed, replaced by thin pliable overlays. For sure, I can feel the extra room where foot meets sockliner as now the foot can expand a bit in that area and as said before the Pro-Lock is thinner and more pliable as well. More importantly given this change the flex of the upper and the foot is now longer and smoother as a result of the overlays removal and the softer mesh overall, harkening back to the original K shoes.  
Towards the rear, the new woven lace to ankle collar wrap supports seamlessly and securely, 
The tongue loses the “puff” of the K8 and works perfectly in conjunction with the laces and Pro-Lock. I found this is a very easy shoe to lace and go after the first snug run, and one that does not require over tightening which I found can lead to a bit more pressure from the Pro-Lock strap. 


Sam: The K9 retains the EVA+ midsole and EVERUN topsole of the K8 but here due to visible changes in the midsole geometry and what feels upon pressing as slightly firmer foam we have a vastly improved feel and ride which is dynamic, fairly firm yet well cushioned and flexible. The K8 was overly soft for me especially at the heel, the K7 was very firm and stiff. 
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                             RIGHT Kinvara 9
The midsole underneath now has two deep longitudinal grooves for flexibility and moves to 3 zones of forefoot contact from the Tri-Flex outsole for I think a fuller, more stable and responsive ground contact. 
LEFT: Kinvara 9                                             RIGHT Kinvara 8
There is also a change to the heel geometry making it less concave right at the outsole so less compression on heel strike yet with also less outsole rubber thickness (and durability..?) to keep things from getting harsh.

As with prior Kinvara the midsole platform is wide and the medial side walls vertical which gives the shoe some inherent stability at mid foot. so those who prefer some pronation control might find it to be a good race shoe option. 
Personally I would prefer a bit more of a sculpted less vertical medial side wall as I actually found the support under foot on that side a bit much interrupting the transition to that smooth forward flex a bit at pace. At slower paces daily training and in the later stages of a marathon I would certainly appreciate it!  

So in summary without changing the basics of EVA+ and EVERUN Saucony has produced a significantly better overall midsole and ride.

Dave:  Through the use of new EVERUN in the topsole and EVA+ in the rest of the midsole, this baby can flat out fly!  EVERUN is definitely one of the best midsole materials out there right now and can rival the stuff Nike (Zoom X), Skechers Performance (FlightGen) Altra (A-Bound) and Brooks (BioMogoDNA) are putting out there in the run industry right now. The combination of EVERUN and EVA+ produces a very, very smooth heel to toe transition, making mile after mile effortless, however when you get to your mid load position and about to transition into your forefoot, the EVERUN begins to shine.  There is a huge sense of pop off of the forefoot and the snappiness is abundant!  I seek this in every single shoe I ever review, and Saucony put it perfectly where I like it.  It’s the bread and butter of how a forefoot should respond at toe off in my opinion.   So, so good!

Peter: Prior to the K9 I have been pretty underwhelmed by Everun. It just hasn’t felt that responsive OR cushioned to me. The K9 finally incorporates the Everun in way that creates some symbiotic harmony with the upper and the outsole. While the K9 feels pretty cushioned over the length of a run, it’s not particularly soft at any point in the run. Suffice to say that it’s cushioned, but not cushy. There are no dead spots in the forefoot here (a problem I had with the Freedom and the Liberty and to some degree the Nike Epic React). As Dave mentioned above, the Kinvara 9 just pops off of the forefoot. It’s fine at slow speeds and really livens up as you go faster. 

Sam: The outsole as with all Kinvara is mostly midsole. The new longitudinal flex grooves make a huge positive difference in how the shoe runs giving it a very fluid any pace transition. As noted above, there is a bit less heel rubber. The forefoot now has Tri Flex patches all the way across to the lateral side which the K8 did not have. 
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                            RIGHT Kinvara 9
I do worry a bit about the removal of the lateral outsole.  Overall the K shoe does not have a lot of rubber and while the minimal rubber contributes to the super light weight for the cushion and  ride, durability likely won’t be up there but that is part of the trade off for the light weight, flexibility and dynamic ride. 

Dave:  The Kinvara has struggled over the years with durability issues.  For me, it was always in the 200 mile range. Again, and I think we overlook durability in regards to a runner's gait, weight, etc, this K9 update should last a bit longer.  It seems the K9 has addressed some of these issues by providing a re-tooled outsole, with added flex grooves to allow smooth transition so less potential scuffing and potentially increased longevity of the shoe.  I think that if you were to exclusively make this a training shoe, you may need 2 or 3 pairs for a marathon cycle if you are a runner logging say 50+ miles a week.  Again, to each his or her own.  The ride of it alone will make you want to keep coming back, mile after mile, therefore you may need an extra pair or two.

Peter: Where the K8 felt stiff and brick-ish, the K9 feels more flexible (thanks to deeper flex grooves and less rubber on the bottom) and more fun to run in. It seems like Saucony decreased the amount of blown rubber on the lateral part of the foot, which helps with flexibility. As I mentioned above it took a few runs for me to feel these loosen up a bit, but wear is pretty minimal so far.

Dave:  The Kinvara 9 is one of the best shoes I’ve run in so far in 2018.  It’s easily in my Top 5 of Spring 2018 (Rankings coming via RTR soon!) and it’s currently going to be rotated heavily with the Skechers Performance Ride 7, which is my current fave!  

The K9 is smooth, snappy, vibrant and makes your running effortless.  While it is labeled as a light performance trainer, don’t hesitate to just plain run in this shoe.  Like, just run.  Easy days honestly feel great.  If you want to crank it up it really shines for tempo days, Fartleks and can be used on long runs with some MRP work in it.  I will not be afraid to throw it out there that the K9 can make a great marathon racing flat.  It’s energetic and exactly what I like on my feet for the long haul. 

Peter: With the caveat that it feels a bit stiff in the first few runs, this is a great riding shoe. The upper and midsole work together to hold the foot really, really perfectly. The shoe disappears on the foot and you can just run in it. I agree with Dave that this is a great shoe at any pace. It falls into the swiss army knife category for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to take it out on a slow 20 miler, a medium fartlek session or a longer race. I’m hoping it breaks in even more and continues to get smoother. 

Sam: The KInvara 9 has a fabulous, any pace ride. It has enough cushion for any distance and with its responsive midsole and its flexibility it can handle slow pace transitions as well as up tempo. It's a rare double, a very light “performance” oriented shoe which can race or train. The midsole is just firm enough, the outsole just thin enough that the ride bridges response and cushion brilliantly with no overly soft bottoming out as K8 had, and without the stiffness and harshness on landing of the K7. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Dave:  In all, an outstanding job by the product development team at Saucony to bring back to life a shoe that in my opinion somewhat lost its way over the past few years.  Recommended for the runner looking for a fast shoe, but also the runner looking for something to just cruise some effortless miles in the middle of the week.  It’s built strong enough for the long run and like I said above, I may think about racing my next Full Mary in it!  For the runner looking for a lightweight option in the shoe rotation this should definitely be added, especially if you are a fan of vibrant midsoles.  EVERUN is certainly the real deal.

Peter: A return to form for the Kinvara. I’m not as enamoured of the K9 as I am of the Skechers Ride 7, but it’s a different ride. It’s a bit firmer than the Ride 7. The K9 works well at any speed, looks good and will be a great workhorse. Agreed that it’s one of the more fun shoes of the year so far--and running should be fun, right? Right?

Sam: Kinvara 9 is one of the best shoes of 2018 and is an outstanding update. Other than potential outsole durability concerns, K9  has tremendous pace range and comfort in a very light weight package. It can be a daily trainer, performance trainer, and for sure a fabulous longer race shoe. Yes, it is on the snugger, narrower side, but the new soft mesh upper and Pro-Lock modifications keep the comfort for daily use in the realm of just fine and up tempo and race really fine. So unless you want an unstructured “slipper” where most often performance will suffer, or have a very wide high volume foot, the K9’s fit is where it should be in such a shoe. I particularly appreciated the combination of comfortable upper support, under foot stability-if a bit overdone for my tastes, great flexibility, the dynamic ride and smooth any pace transitions. If you are seeking a light do it all shoe with a low drop the K9 is a delight to run, a big smiles shoe and is highly recommended.

Dave’s Score - 9/10
-.5 for too firm on the heel collar (causing a spur)
-.5 for a tight toe box

Peter’s Score: 9/10
-.5 for somewhat tight midfoot, takes a minute to dial in
-.25 may run a bit small for some
-.25 stiff at first

Sam’s Score 9.7/10
-0.15 for outsole durability concerns. A few fractions of an oz of additional rubber would be good.
-0.1 for somewhat short and low upfront. The toe bumper could potentially be stiffened a bit to raise the fit.
-0.05 for somewhat overdone mid foot midsole support for this neutral runner


Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Saucony Kinvara 7 (RTR review) and Kinvara 8 (RTR review)
Dave:  The K7 was my last Kinvara, as I skipped the 8, thinking I wasn’t going to see a change.  By far, the K9 is the best Kinvara ever built.  It’s extremely responsive and seems to be built for the long haul (at least better than previous versions)  The K7 shredded my achilles and lacked the key flex grooves in order to give me a smooth heel to toe transition and pop off of the forefoot I like.

Sam: The Kinvara 7 was a fine fast shoe but it had a quite frankly painful upper which was very snug and made snugger by the massive Pro-Lock which even had a cross piece. It was super stiff and quite firm. K9 resolves all the of the issues of K7 for me.

Kinvara 8 on the other hand was soft at the heel for me and was not a very lively shoe. It did regain some flexibility.  

K9 puts the snap back in the ride, is flexible and improves the upper significantly. Version 9 is by far the best K shoe for me to date.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Saucony Freedom ISO (RTR review)
Sam: Same company, Everun in the mix but completely different rides and fits. The full Everun midsole in the Freedom is bouncy, somewhat sloppy and lively, overly so for serious daily running or even racing for me. The Freedom upper is snug but lacks support over the soft underfoot platform. So we have a wild ride in the Freedom and a fun one but for training or racing I much prefer the lighter, steadier, more responsive and evenly cushioned K9.
As for the Liberty ISO same as the above but with a bit more support and stability.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Run Ride 7 (RTR review)
Dave:  Easily two of the best shoes to debut in the early stages of 2018. This is an extremely tough call, but the edge goes to the Ride 7.  FlightGen is just a touch more lively than EVERUN and the M Strike technology in Skechers Performance just really hits home with me when I step down on the gas.  However, don’t count out the K9.  I personally just want both in my rotation and will keep it that way!

Sam: The Ride 7 has a superior no compromises upper which is clearly roomier. It is not as stable or responsive under foot as the K9 but does have a softer, livelier bounce and more cushion from its higher stack. While the Ride 7 is a great shoe, I prefer the stability and lively responsiveness of the K9 and bonus, it is close to 2 oz lighter. 

Peter: Ride 7 still top dog for shoe of the year for me. K9 is definitely firmer and has a different feeling ride, but the Ride 7 is a little more comfortable and just bounces off the pavement for me. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Run 6 (RTR review)
Dave:  I can’t run in the Run 6.  A sloppy upper and a underfoot that is far too soft, the K9 gets the easy win for me.  Upper wise, the Run 6 trumps the K9 upper, but it’s too sloppy on my foot and is worn casually. 

Sam: Generally concur with Dave here. The Run 6 weighs 0.4 oz less and has less overall stack. Its midsole seems softer so I tend to bottom out in them and don’t get the lively response of the K9. The K6 stretch knit upper is super comfortable but just isn’t enough for serious well supported running as the K9’s upper delivers.

Peter: K9, no doubt.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Brooks Launch 5 (RTR review)
Sam: The considerably heavier and somewhat more cushioned Launch has plenty of durable outsole rubber that the K9 lacks. Launch 5's new fabric like engineered mesh upper with no overlays at all does not match the narrow mid foot midsole platform. It is unstable at speed and on curves. It has a bootie as the K9 has but no Pro-Lock or underlays and either or both are sorely lacking as the middle of the foot support in the Launch at pace is inadequate while in the K9 it may actually be a bit over done. I also prefer the liviler, smoother transitioning ride of the K9. K9 the clear winner for me.

Peter: I prefer the K9 from the upper to the ride here. The Launch remains stiff after many runs, while the K9 is breaking in more and more. Smoother and more enjoyable ride for the K9.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Meb Razor 2 (RTR review)
Dave: These both have that lively snappy feel.  They both want to go fast, but when dialed back for an easy day, keep your stride nice and smooth.  I like the narrower overall last of the Razor 2, but I’m not sure it pops as much as the Ride 7, and the K9 pops like the Ride 7.  So to clear all of this confusion, the Kinvara 9 beats out the Razor 2.  

Sam: I am with Dave here. The Razor has a great upper but its midsole is overly firm for me. It lacks the pop and smoothness at all paces of the K9.

Peter: For shorter races (up to and including 13.1)  I’d go Razor 2 in a heartbeat. The upper fits me a little better on the Razor 2 and it is FAST. The K9 would be a longer run or Marathon racer for me. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Nike Zoom Elite 9 (RTR review)
Dave:  To me, not really a comparison because I think the K9 now enters a more daily trainer category, that’s just really lightweight.  The ZE9 is a workout shoe for me and when reaching to the never ending mountain of shoes in my place, the ZE9 is just plain faster.  I wouldn’t take the K9 on the track and I will with the ZE9.  That seals the deal for me.

Peter: K9 trainer, long race day shoe. ZE9 is a faster shoe that can go long. Different shoes. If I had to choose 1 it would be the ZE9.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Nike Epic React Flyknit (RTR review)
Sam: All the buzz these days the flashy attractive Epic React just doesn’t make me smile other than at its looks. Its upper is similarly snug to the K9 and also with some use will stretch. Underfoot the K9 ride is far more pleasant and lively for me. The Epic React is more cushioned but somehow lacking a bit of soul. The K9 has a longer easier flex which is something I especially like in a trainer.

Peter: I ran these back-to-back today. On step in, the Epic react is MUCH more comfortable and cushy. When I run in it though I feel like I lose just a bit of energy in the forefoot landing and take-off. I want to love it, but I just like it a lot. The K9 pops off the toe more and is more fun for me to run in. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. NB 1400 V5 (RTR review)
Peter: This is an unfair comparison. I love the NB 1400 V5 so damn much that very few shoes can compare. It’s blazing fast race shoe that I can run any distance in. The ride of the K9 is a bit firmer, though a bit more cushioned--if that makes any sense. I prefer the 1400 v5, but I’m glad I have both of them. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Salomon Sonic RA Pro (RTR review soon)
Sam: Both shoes have similar more “natural” ride intents and feel. The 6mm drop Pro comes in at 8.3 oz so 0.7 oz more than K9 has a roomier yet well held upper and tons of durable outsole rubber, likely most of the weight difference. The Pro is slightly more cushioned particularly at the heel with its Vibe insert. The Pro transitions almost as well at all paces but has, despite its outsole rubber, less pop than the K9 with a slightly more easy going ride.  Pro would be a good choice if you want a light long lasting daily trainer with some racing capabilities with the K9 a better choice for up tempo and racing. 

Peter: I found the RA Pro to be really tight in the toe-box--causing irritation on both sides of my feet. The ride of these is pretty similar, but so far I like the K9 better. 

Reviewer Bios
Peter Stuart is a late 40's avid LA based runner with recent sub 3 hour marathons and sub 1:25 halves.
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half.
Dave Ames is the Founder and Head Coach of Ame For It Run Coaching, a nationwide run coaching business, training athletes of all ability levels from 5K to Marathon.

The Kinvara was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments Questions Welcome Below!

Visit our 2018 Previews Page here for 2018 run shoe, apparel, and gear previews. 
Watch our YouTube Channel  here for 2018 Run Shoe Previews and Wearable Tech Reviews 
Visit our Index Page here for over 80 in depth 2017 & 2018 shoe and gear reviews

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Yaktrax Diamond Grip and Yaktrax Run Review - Run Hike Traction Solutions for Moderate Terrain

by Jeff Valliere

Yaktrax Diamond Grip
Sizes S-XXL

The Yaktrax Diamond Grip are a newer addition to the Yaktrax line up, featuring case hardened steel alloy diamond shaped beads strung on aircraft grade cable.
The Diamond Grip is light, simple, compact, easy to put on and take off and remain securely on your shoes no matter the surface/gradient.  They are comfortable, where I noticed very little pressure from the rubber strap (though not bothersome, you'll feel it a little bit on minimal shoes, less or not at all on more thick and protective shoes or boots).
I found the sharpness of the diamond shaped beads to be impressive and durability to be far superior to the traditional Yaktrax coil versions if you are more likely to use on trails and varied surfaces.  The beads/chains underfoot are low profile and not the least bit intrusive and are great for running on packed snow and ice.  I do find however that they perform best on flatter terrain and moderate ice covered inclines.  If you frequent primarily steep trails, deeper snow and rougher terrain, then consider the Summit (RTR review).
YakTrax Summit

Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 BOA Hydration Vest Review

by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 BOA Hydration
10 liter capacity
1lb 4oz/567 grams
Sizes:  S/M - M/L

The Inov-8 Race Ultra 10 BOA Hydration pack, as the name implies, is an all day(and night) running pack/vest that offers several features that set it apart from many of the other competing packs/race vests on the market.  From BOA compression adjustments, a 2 liter horizontal water bladder (with insulated hose) and additional ultra race kit required items such as a soft cup and emergency blanket.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 Initial Impressions Review (English)

Article by Estelle-Marie Kieffer

Editor's Note: We have translated Estelle-Marie's initial impressions review from the original French (here) into English. We will also be publishing a multi tester review of the S/Lab Ultra 2.

Estelle-Marie is a doctor, accomplished triathlete, trail runner and "Advanced Shoe Geek". She lives in France.

For more background on the S/Lab Ultra 2 see our article about the introduction of the S/Lab Ultra 2 is here.
Our article about our recent visit to Salomon's Annecy Design Center where we saw prototypes of the Ultra 2 and got insights into its design is here.

S/Lab Ultra (2)
Stack Height: 26mm/18mm (8mm drop)
Weight: 10.6 oz./300g (US 9M)
MSRP: $180. Available March 2018

Monday, March 05, 2018

Interview with Nick Symmonds Co-Founder of Run Gum. Launch of Extra Strength Run Gum

Article by Sam Winebaum
I recently had the pleasure to interview Nick Symmonds, CEO and Co-Founder of Run Gum. Nick started Run Gum towards the end of a fantastic track career where he focused on the 800 meters. He represented the US at two Olympic Games with a personal best of 1:42.95 and 5th place in the 2012 Olympic Games, and along the way won 6 National Championships and 7 NCAA Division 3 titles.  He also owns a sub 4 minute mile and a 5:19 Beer mile!

Nick is launching a Kickstarter for a new "Extra Strength" version of his caffeinated energy Run Gum this week. The Kickstarter is here.

The new version will have the equivalent of the caffeine in a cup of coffee or an energy drink in each piece so about 100mg in each of the 2 pieces in a pack, double the current product's dose. Extra Strength also includes Taurine and B vitamins. Nick is planning on using it for his marathons and mountain climbing, his latest new challenges. More on that below.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Oakley EVZero Path - Prizm Trail and Prizm Road Lens Sunglasses Review

by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

Oakley EVZero Path - Prizm Trail and Prizm Road
22 grams

EVZero Path with Prizm Road lens front (gloss black with red ear stems)

I have been wearing Oakley sunglasses since 1987: Factory Pilots, Blades, Razor Blades, Frogskins, M Frame, O Frame, Flak Jacket, prescriptions sunglasses and daily prescription eyeglasses, you name it.  When presented with the opportunity to review the ultra light, frameless EVZero Path while attending Winter Outdoor Retailer, I jumped at the chance.

EVZero Path with Prizm Trail lens (matte black with grey ear stems)
The Oakley EVZero Path feels like nothing in your hand and is even lighter on your face with a frame-less, completely unobstructed panoramic view of the trail and your surroundings.  Though minimal, these glasses are durable, with a good bit of flex (to avoid snapping) and easily spring back to their original position.  I never flexed them too far, but under normal use it seems as they would hold up well over time and the only chance of true damage would be in situations that would break any pair of sunglasses (ie stepping on them, running them over or a catastrophic face plant).

Because they are so light and aided by the grippy nose piece and ear temples, I get absolutely zero bounce on my face and they fit me perfect straight out of the box.  I have a small face and the EVZero Path fits me well, a bit large for daily use, but great for running and cycling, where full coverage is paramount.
Sam: I do strange things with sunglasses... I wear them over my prescription specs...The EVZero fits perfectly. All I have to remember is to have the hinge bump out sit on top the corresponding hinge on my other glasses. I also use a Croakies ARC System retainer with all my glasses. What I immediately noticed was how light they were compared to my Julbo Aero Lite and the very wide crystal clear field of vision and sharp contrast.
Jeff: Though the earstems are NOT interchangeable, the nose piece is removable, which is very handy when cleaning the lens.  An extra is even included with this model.

Oakley offers a variety of Prizm lenses, each tailored to increase contrast for a specific sport or environment, such as Trail for the purposes of this review, as well as Road, Golf, Snow, Field, Cricket, Deep Water, Shallow Water, MX, Everyday, some of which are polarized, some are not.

The chart below gives information on some of the Prizm lenses offered.  You can see that the Prizm Trail allows for 36% Visible Light Transmission, the lightest of this bunch and the lightest non photochromic (transition) sunglasses lens I have used to date.
Below is a screen shot from the Oakley website of the interactive slide bar photo, which does its best to represent the difference between wearing Prizm Trail and not.  I think it is a bit exaggerated to sell their product, but realistically concede that it is difficult to accurately convey without actually using the glasses in real life.  Either way, it does a reasonable job to get the point across.
So, how do they perform in real life?  I am truly impressed with the clarity and lens quality.  Contrast is excellent on the trails and really enhances the definition of every little rock, stone, root and undulation in the trail.
With 36% light transmission (VLT), the Prizm Trail is best suited for running in shady areas with lots of tree cover, overcast days or just after dawn or just before dusk.  When the sun is shining bright, even in winter here in Colorado, and especially when there is fresh snow and brilliant sunshine, I tend to lean toward a lens that is more in the 10-15% VLT range.  With the 36% VLT of the Prizm Trail, I find that I can get by better than I imagined (I have sensitive eyes), but when compared side by side with my Oakley Black Iridium sunglasses, my eyes are much more at ease with the darker lens.  I was well aware of this ahead of time, so not a knock at all on the Prizm Trail at all, simply a realistic suggestion as to their ideal use.
Sam: Unless I am on snow or the sun is very bright I prefer a lower light transmission lens. I often run at dusk or in overcast conditions and when trail use in and out of the trees is in the mix as well I value the contrast and light over yet darker protection. So, the Trail lens is just about ideal for me and even when raining or snowing I have not felt the need to remove them.

Jeff: The Prizm Road however has a 20% light transmission rate and though titled a "Road" lens, is also ideally suited to the trail, just in slightly brighter conditions.  Though I am more accustomed to 10-15% for most bright sunny days (especially with fresh snow, high altitude, summer sun), I found that the Prizm Road lens is appropriate dark for all but the most extreme sunny conditions, yet are appropriately not too dark in shady woods and fading light.  For my use here in Colorado, the Prizm Road lens is more versatile.

The below 3 photos are of the Prizm Trail with a "grapefruit" tint, enhancing contrast, reminiscent of a low light ski goggle.

Though not a lens labeled for "snow", I found the Prizm Trail to be great on overcast, snowy days, as they brighten the surrounding and provide a warm, high contrast hue.
The setting in the photo below is perfect for the Prizm Trail lens, a sunny day with a low angle sun late in the afternoon causing a lot of long shadows and fading light.  The Prizm Trail does a great job easing the transition between light and dark.

An out in the wild comparison between the lenses, Road left, Trail right.

Side by side, Trail left, Road right

The Prizm Trail has high contrast, perfect for cloudy days, in the woods and lower light conditions, however on this bright sunny day, are a touch on the light side.

The Prizm Road however tones down the bright light, while still retaining a high level of contrast, easily picking out shadows and any obstacle or undulation in the trail.

Sam: In addition to the VLT being in my sweet spot, I have been struck by the sharp contrast provided by the Trail lens. The tint is not overdone or artificial but effective. I am also amazed by the wide peripheral field of vision of the lenses, unobstructed by any frame elements, the widest and most open sight lines of any glasses I have ever used. All that lens and the relatively high light transmission also provides excellent bad weather coverage and contrast on snow.
 The Trail lens is a great option for those activities which start in decent even sunny weather and end in a dark storm as I experienced during one of my test runs.

Jeff: I also find the EVZero Path to ventilate quite well under most conditions, but on days where it was rainy, snowy or quite humid right after a snow storm I did get some fogging while running/hiking slowly uphill (high output but slow speeds). That said, I have honestly never had a pair of glasses that have not fogged in the conditions described above.  With a little better airflow from running faster on flats or downhills and certainly while cycling, fogging has not been an issue under the same weather conditions.  Other than those damp days, I have never had them fog in the least.

The EVZero Path is also very close fitting, good for keeping out the wind while riding or on a breezy day, but I do notice my eyebrows touch the top of the lens and leaves a sweat mark.  I can adjust slightly to minimize contact, but may need to trim the brows a bit (though my eyebrows are pretty slim and trim as it is).  If you have really bushy brows, this could be an issue.


I would highly recommend the EVZero Path for running, hiking and cycling (or a wide variety of other outdoor applications), as they are crazy light with excellent unobstructed visibility and great wind protection.  The Prizm Trail lens is sharp and clear, enhancing ground contours and obstacles in impressive fashion.  If you run in the woods mostly, live in a less sunny environment or run early or later in the day, I would highly recommend the Prizm Trail lens.

If you live in a predominantly sunny location, high altitude, visit the beach, run mid day or have sensitive eyes, I would strongly consider no less than a Prizm Road lens with 20% VLT or even one of the darker Prizm lenses.  All in all a hit from Oakley and one of my favorite pair of sunglasses to date.

If I could come up with one area of improvement, it would be to allow for interchangeability of the lenses as some other models of Oakley allow and as far as I can discern, that is not an option with the EVZero.

Sam: I run, nordic ski and hike in both New Hampshire and Utah, often at dusk. The Trail lens, while not what I would use for a sunny, summer mid day run on snow or open terrain, covers all the other bases for me. Unlike photochromic lenses which tend to darken in cold and stay dark even as light fades, the Trail has consistent relatively high light transmission regardless of temperature, is great for runs in and out of trees and shadows, for overcast flat light conditions, and at dusk making it broadly versatile for me.  Light with truly outstanding lens clarity, contrast, and a broad field of vision EVZero Path Prizm are a great choice for endurance sports of all kinds,

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half. 

The Oakley was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
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