Wednesday, April 27, 2016

adidas Terrex X King - Taking Traction and Innovation to a Whole New Level

 Article by Jeff Valliere

adidas Terrex X King 11oz US Men’s size 9, 6mm drop, $160, available now.

adidas Terrex X-King

Initial impressions:
Since I typically prefer steep, technical terrain (often off trail) and am a sucker for luggy, sticky rubber shoes with a precise fit and good protection, I was quite intrigued with the X King upon first learning of them.  
adidas Terrex X-King
With an innovative removable midsole and Continental outsole fused to the upper “for lightweight and low to the ground feel”, I was eager to give the X King a thorough test and had high hopes after recently testing the adidas Agravic Boost GTX (review here). 
adidas Terrex X-King
Even before taking the shoes out of the box, it is evident that these shoes are unique if only judging on the box, complete with cut out to display the gnarly tread of the shoe.  The box, shoes, paper and associated packaging feel quite heavy, but once I got the shoes unpackaged, they felt quite reasonable and even lighter on the foot.
adidas Terrex X-King
My first impression wearing the shoe was not particularly favorable, as they felt a little awkward with the removable midsole, feeling strangely platform like (not the normal sinking into a rounded and comforting insole) with noticeable seams under my arch.  I had a moment of regret, thinking that I had committed myself to running in a shoe that I may have misjudged, but was still eager to get out on the trail for the final verdict.

adidas Terrex X-King

Though hard to mention any one aspect of the shoe without including another in the same sentence, I’ll start with the outsole, since it is the most glaringly obvious highlight of the shoe.  Made out of Continental rubber, it is essentially a mountain bike tire for your foot.  The lugs are deep, well positioned and shaped effectively for great traction in mud, snow and dirt.
adidas Terrex X-King
Best of all, this rubber compound is STICKY!  I was able to test this shoe in a very wide range of conditions and I was continually amazed at how well it stuck in just about any circumstance.
adidas Terrex X-King
It actually took me a bit of getting used to this sort of traction, as there were many occasions where I would traverse frozen, icy sections of trail, wet rock, gritty/grimy steep slabs of sandstone, polished rock, steep snow, slush, mud and knew that with most other shoes, I would likely slip, but the X King stuck every time. I depended on them doing so.  Temperature was hardly an issue and though I never ran in temps much below freezing, the rubber stuck about as well as it did when it was warm (over 80 degrees)
adidas Terrex X-King
Trail feel and torsional flexibility is excellent.  The X King contours very well over the terrain and I always felt in touch, but not too much, as protection is excellent.

It is the midsole that gives the shoe it’s structure, so the outsole without the midsole is extremely flexible.  So much so, you can roll it up into a ball and easily fit it in you pocket!
adidas Terrex X-King
After around 40 miles of testing, I did start to notice the lugs starting to wear some, especially in the forefoot, but it was not excessive.  With rubber this sticky though, I suspect wear will be a bit quicker than shoes with a harder compound.

adidas Terrex X-King

The removable midsole/insole is a one piece EVA insert, intended to be interchangeable with different inserts for different uses, racing, training, etc… (though at the time of testing, there were no other midsole options that I know of).
adidas Terrex X-King
The included midsole/insole is titled “Speed” and features a 6mm drop.  For the X King in its current form, I never felt the need, even if options did exist, to change to various level midsoles, as the one supplied felt appropriate for this specific shoe.  Cushioning is firm and responsive when pushed and overall the X King felt good at just about any speed.
adidas Terrex X-King
Also integrated in the forefoot of the midsole is a flexible stone guard.  Combined with the EVA cushion and the generous lugs, I found that rock protection is amazing without compromising ground feel and flexibility.

adidas Terrex X-King

Fused with the Continental rubber outsole, the upper integrates very nicely and provides a precise, true to size and somewhat snug fit.  Room in the forefoot is just enough for a little swelling, but I found it to not allow for much splay (which for a high performing, all mountain shoe best suited for steep terrain, I am OK with).
adidas Terrex X-King

Overlays are minimal, utilizing the signature adidas side stripe logo act as very effective supports.  The upper is quite breathable, yet does a good job keeping out dirt and debris (though any bit of moisture easily penetrates).
adidas Terrex X-King

The X King has a very solid (yet unnoticeable from the inside) wrap around toe bumper which is quite durable, bulletproof and integrates well.  It is a toe bumper that will protect from the hardest and clumsiest of kicks.
adidas Terrex X-King
The heel counter and collar is semi flexible and on the minimal side in both thickness and padding, but does an effective job holding the heel in place without any discomfort or rubbing.
adidas Terrex X-King

The tongue, though mostly adequate, in my opinion is a bit too thin and a bit too short, as I can feel the laces on the top of my foot a bit more than I would like when the laces are cinched tight.  Though I am aware of the pressure, it has not yet been problematic.
adidas Terrex X-King

The X King has quick pull laces and I had a bit of difficulty with them at first, but once I cut the laces down (being very careful, as it is easy to cut off too much) and after I had broke the shoe in a bit, I have made peace with them.  Though I eventually got to a point where I could cinch them with one pull, with enough tension to lock my foot down for an entire run, I would much prefer traditional laces (sausage link please).  Normal laces would be a huge improvement for this shoe.

All in all though, the upper with quick pull laces ultimately provide a very locked in, precise feel with great control and stability.

Overall performance and suggested use:
adidas Terrex X-King
Though not the lightest shoe of it’s kind in my quiver (12 ¼ oz for my size 10), I find the added weight to be worthwhile when I consider the overall confidence inspiring traction, fit, control, performance and protection.
I really appreciate how confidence inspiring this shoe is in the roughest, most varied conditions and how well my foot is locked into the shoe.  It is almost like an extension of my foot.  Though I would not recommend this shoe for most ultras, I am confident that it would certainly provide ample protection/cushion/comfort for long days in the mountains.
I’ll keep this shoe at the front of my rotation and pick it for days when I know I’ll be on steep, rough terrain, wet terrain, mud, off trail or snow (when I am not really worried about getting my feet wet).

TNF Ultra MT - Similar traction, weight and overall feel.  Ultra MT has a better fitting upper, but the traction advantage goes to the X King.  A toss up.
Salomon S Lab Wings SG - Salomon has a superior upper and they have mastered the quick lace, but again, the traction and grip of the X King in just about all conditions probably seals the deal for me.

Jeff's Score - 4.7 out 5

-0.1for laces
-0.1 for weight
-0.1 for tread wear

All Photos Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Terrex X King were provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's. 
Reviewer Bio

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 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

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The X King is available from adidas Outdoor at the link below. Sales help support Road Trail Run

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rick Samaha Shares 70's Vintage Racers and the Stories Behind the Shoes

Article by Rick Samaha with Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

Editor's Note: RoadTrailRun is thrilled to have Rick Samaha a former teammate of mine contribute this article. Rick is a physician with a long and consistently fast running history over many decades. 
In the mid 1970's I was fortunate to be a member of truly outstanding high school cross country and track teams. Undefeated for 2 seasons, the Phillips Exeter Academy Cross Country team relied on fabulous depth. At the 1974 Class A Prep School Championship, the Interschols, we took 6 of 8 places after 4th place in a 10 school field. I was 2nd for the team in that race, 4th overall, after winning the Mount Washington Road Race Junior title the summer before placing 7th overall and later that school year running a 2:37 marathon. That deep and strong a team!  
Rick Samaha, only 4th JV runner in 1974 and a junior my senior year, stepped up his training. He became the school record holder in multiple events, a fabulously gutsy racer who ended his high school career with a 9:18 two mile in the 1976 National Junior AAU Championship.
The fastest times from those great years. Led by Rick Samaha

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vignettes from the Finish Stretch of the 2016 Boston Marathon

Congratulations to all the runners! You are an inspiration!

I did not run Boston this year as I had the 3 previous years. Time for a break and a wait.  I get a 15 minute "bonus" as I age into another group in 2017...
Spectating was fun and just as intense as running, emotionally and physically. Well not that intense physically but my feet are sore and my activity tracker says many miles covered.  Emotionally as it was incredible to see the effort and joy of so many tens of thousands from my spectating perch at the Lenox Hotel, a few hundred yards from the finish.
Many thanks to New Balance, a Boston based brand, for the invitation to their viewing party.

Early. Logistics. Logistics!
I got to Boston as the school busses were loading for the trip to Hopinkton. It was warm, very warm.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Review Salming Distance 3: Low, Wide, Light, and Fast. A Well Balanced Do It All Racer Trainer.

Review by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

The Salming Distance 3 is a "stabilized" neutral trainer racer with 22mm heel 17mm forefoot, 5mm drop according to Running Warehouse EU stats. My size 9 US weighs 8 oz/227 grams, Women's size 8 weighs  7.2 oz/204 g. Retail $155.
Never heard of Salming? Well Salming is a Swedish company that started in squash shoes and the last few years has moved rapidly into running with a great line of shoes. Their designs are practical. "No Nonsense" is Salming's slogan but this is by no means a stripped down or for that matter budget shoe!
Very well balanced between responsiveness, light weight, and cushion, the Distance is one of those rare shoes that can be a single arrow in the quiver for both training and racing. It is a very successful update to their earlier Distance.

Friday, April 08, 2016

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail- Light, Fast, Protective and for less than $100, it is a steal!

Review by Jeff Valliere

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail 8.8 oz/ 249 g US men's size 9, 7.6 oz/215g women's size 8. 27mm heel/17mm forefoot, 10mm drop according to Running Warehouse. $99.99
Vazee Summit and the Boulder Flatirons
First Impressions:
I was immediately impressed with how light the Vazee Summit felt when picking them up for the first time.  They miraculously look/feel compact and minimal, yet at the same time are protective and substantial.  Though my size 10 fits perfect and is true to size, the Vazee Summit is comparatively trim in relation to most of my other shoes of the same size.  Though the New Balance advertised weight is 9.3 oz. for a men’s size 9, my size 10s weighed in at an impressive 9 ⅛ oz, in line with what Running Warehouse shows..  Though this is at the lower end of my weight tolerance for a daily trainer, as I typically prefer a more substantial shoe for my typical runs on steep and rocky trails, before even running in the Vazee Summit, I suspected it could easily perform double duty as a racer or daily trainer.  This was one of those shoes that I put on in the house and knew right away that it was going to work very well for me, without even running a step.