Thursday, December 08, 2016

2017 The Running Event: Skechers Performance- GOmeb Razor and GOrun 5 Compared

Skechers Performance will be releasing the new GOMeb Razor ($115)  and the updated GOrun 5 ($105)  in January. Both shoes share:
  • nearly identical weights of around 7.5 oz/213 g in a men's 9 
  • identical midsole stack of 14 mm/18 mm and total stack height of 22mm/30mm
  • GOKnit uppers
  • 5GEN midsole
So what are the differences between these two shoes?
Left to Right: GOmeb Speed 4, GOmeb Razor, GORun 5
Left to Right: GOmeb Speed 4, GOmeb Razor, GORun 5

The GOMeb Razor is Olympic medallist and Boston and NY Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi training shoe of choice.

Much like with his GOMeb Speed 4 ($125) racer also out in January, Meb prefers a supportive secure upper and a firmer ride in a light shoe. So Skechers Performance did the following to the GOrun platform:
  • took the GOrun 5 upper design and instead of using a circular knit GOKnit for a sock like fit used a more supportive flat knit GOKnit material to get that secure fit Meb prefers
  • made the heel counter firmer and slightly increased the collar and tongue padding
  • increased the firmness of the 5GEN midsole material over the GORun 5. While we haven't run in the Razor it felt considerably firmer than the 5, closer to GOMeb Speed 4
The result is that the Razor can be characterized as a hybrid of the GOMeb Speed and GO Run 5. 
It should be a more cushioned yet still highly responsive racer than the GOMeb Speed series along with being a firmer, more supportive up tempo option than the GORun 5.

Road Trail Run will be testing and publishing a comparative review when the shoe releases.
In the meantime read our first impressions review of the limited edition NYC GORun 5 here

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Shop Skechers Performance at Running Warehouse including the new Gotrail Ultra 4
Men's here
Women's here

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Ultraspire Epic - An Alpine Style Top Loading Running Vest For All Day Adventures

Article by Jeff Valliere

Ultraspire Epic
Weight - 23.4 oz. (664g)
Capacity - 1,526 c.i. (25L)
Colors:  Red/Blue
One size fits all

The Ultraspire Epic is a solid, high capacity running vest (pack) capable of comfortably hauling just about everything one might need for a full day adventure in the mountains.  The classic alpine style top loading Epic handles heavy loads well for running, but with a pack this size fully loaded, the line between running and hiking becomes somewhat blurred.  Single day fastpacking might be a more appropriate term.  The Epic is a one size fits all pack, with plenty of compression straps to stabilize the load and adjustment straps to dial in the fit.

Testing the Epic on a bluebird fall day at the summit of 11,000+ ft Twin Sisters Peaks

Starting at the front of the pack, there are 2 semi soft 550ml flasks on the shoulder straps, plus 1 zippered pocket on the left strap and 1 cinch pocket on the right strap.  Additionally, there are two larger pockets on the waist belt that are easily accessible.

The two bungee chest straps originate on the left shoulder strap and are integrated with the left flask pocket, which connect to the right chest strap via a simple hook.  I found the design, combined with the recessed location of the adjustment tabs to be somewhat difficult and non-intuitive to figure out (despite testing and reviewing the Velocity last year with the same adjustments).  I eventually found it easiest to adjust the straps once to a medium tension, then not adjust them again.

The waist strap relies on a quick and easy to operate clip vs. a buckle.  This can easily be operated with gloves, but I found many of the other tabs, cinches and adjusters to be somewhat difficult (or impossible) to operate while even wearing glove liners.

Ample breathable and quick drying mesh wherever the pack interfaces with your body.

The zippered left shoulder strap pocket easily holds 3 gels or other small essentials.

The right cinch pocket is the perfect size for a gel flask.

The elastic mesh outer pocket that covers the main compartment is durable, stretchy and is great for storing items that need to be accessed quickly, such as a jacket.  There are also clip/bungees on either side for lashing a set of folding poles and/or an ice axe.

The large top hood pocket easily holds plenty of food, hats, gloves or other essentials that need to be accessed somewhat quickly.

The hip belt pockets on either side and generous in size and can easily fit an iPhone 6 in protective case, or more food, gloves, hat, etc...  These pockets each have a nice pull tab and are easily accessible while on the move.

Inside the main compartment is another organizing/safe keeping pocket that can fit a phone, wallet or any other small valuables that need to be organized.

The Epic also can accommodate a 3L bladder (not included).  A 3L bladder is a bit of a tight squeeze though and also quite heavy when full, so a 2L seems a bit more practical for most circumstances.

A clever pack cover unfolds out of a dedicated pocket at the bottom of the pack.  The pack cover can also be removed to save weight and/or provide more storage.

With pack cover

Side view with pack cover.

There are an ample amount of adjustment tabs and straps, so achieving a custom fit is easy for just about any size person.

One minor issue I had with this pack was that the hood pocket does not stay in place very well when the pack is not stuffed entirely full.  When the pack is less than full and there are items in the hood pocket, the entire hood bounces from side to side and can be a bit annoying.  The reason for this is that the buckles are angled horizontally in one fixed spot, vs. the usual vertical and telescoping positioning normally found to anchor the lid of most top loading packs.

The buckle for the hood can be seen here anchoring to a horizontal compression strap, where a vertical anchor would be much more effective.

Overall, I really like using the Epic pack for long days in the mountains and moving fast.  It is comfortable, breathes well, is highly adjustable and can comfortably carry a larger load for a full day. Quality is great and I know that Ultraspire has excellent customer service and stand behind their product. In a perfect world, I would love to see vertical buckles to more securely cinch down the hood, as well as more easily adjustable chest straps.  Though the adjustment method of the chest straps is not my preference, they are admittedly effective and comfortable, allowing for simultaneous stability and deep breathing.  Additionally, when combining the front bottles with a bladder, you can comfortable run with a lot of water, a real bonus in the desert/long outings between water stops.

Jeff's Score: 8.8/10
-.5 for bouncing hood pocket
-.5 for difficulty adjusting chest straps
-.2 for difficulty operating while wearing gloves

The Epic was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Jeff Valliere's 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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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Salomon Gets Some Road Vibe-Vibe Cushion Explained, First Runs Review Salomon Sonic

Salomon has been long known worldwide for its mountain focus. With impeccable construction, superb and innovative designs, supportive uppers, terrain and race length specific traction and features Salomon shoes, apparel, and packs are used by many of the world's top trail and ultra runners.

At Outdoor Retailer we heard about a new cushioning vibration reduction technology from Salomon called Vibe which will see its way into trail and road shoes in the near future. Well, the future is here, as starting in January Salomon will put Vibe in 3 "road" shoes along with several trail shoes. I put quotations around road as while there is no question these are road focused shoes due to their trademark Salomon supportive Sensifit uppers and plentiful coverage grippy Contagrip outsoles, they can easily do double duty on moderate trails.

At The Running Event I had a briefing with Simon Bartold, a fellow Run Shoe Geek and a world renowned podiatrist and bio-mechanist long involved in shoe design and sports medicine who has been recently working with the Salomon research and product team.

What is Vibe?

Vibe seeks to reduce energy sapping vibrations while still providing an efficient ride. So a Vibe shoe, such as the Sonic they gave me to test, combines a firm, responsive midsole with an eerie and real sense that shock and vibration are attenuated.  A Salomon bio-mechanist explained that the forces measured during stride are generally made up of 50% shock, 15% rebound, and 35% vibration. Vibration is a huge component of the input load and is mainly made up of tibial vibration. Beyond the muscle, skeletal and nerve impacts there is also the perceived comfort impact of reducing vibration.
Vibe Technology is made up of 2 components:
  • Energy Cell+  compression molded EVA midsole (black below) which is firm, likely to firm for road use without..
  • Opal (light blue below) are inserts of a Thermoplastic Polyproylene (TPP) material which is lighter and softer than TPU's such adidas Boost and Saucony Everun, and with different cushioning properties.  Notably, Opal seeks to reduce vibration and in an interesting twist seeks to also reduce the vibrations of shear or side to side forces.  Opal is not glued into the cavity in the midsole, this so has to provide less interference for its movement under load or have any interface of glue between it and midsole.  Not to worry it should not go anywhere or shift as i there is a layer of sock liner like material over it, stitched to the upper sides to keep it in place

Salomon Vibe cutaway
I notice right away that the structure of the Opal in the diagram below is almost like an open weave and not granules heated and bonded such as the TPU in the adidas and Saucony shoes. This might explain the more dispersed shock and vibration reduction I noticed in the Sonic, particularly in the forefoot, a soft pleasant feeling without any instability or mushy sinking. The heel of the Sonic with Opal insert, while firm is notably stable, with no bottoming out or shock/vibration from over firmness or over softness, again the combination of the firm Energy Cell+ EVA and the Opal insert.
Salmon Vibe PC: Salomon

The red fine print above is significant. Each Vibe shoe has a different approach to the Opal insert given the function of the shoe
  • The trainer Sonic I am testing has a 12mm thick Opal insert at the heel, 6mm thick at the forefoot. Given that the Sonic is a 26mm heel/ 16mm forefoot stack a good portion of the make up of the cushion in these areas is Opal.
  • The uptempo Sonic Pro 2 and top end road racer S-Lab Sonic 2 each only have a 6mm Opal heel insert with no Opal in the forefoot for more road feel. The S-Lab Sonic 2 is of particular interest to me as while I loved the trail performance and foot hold of its early predecessor the X-Series, I found them somewhat harsh on the road, the surface they were primarily intended for (review here). The new Vibe version should widen the versatility of the Sonic 2. 

Instead of listing stats for the 3 Vibe road shoes below you will find the excellent Salomon catalog pages with all the details.

S-Lab Sonic Pro 2 Stats-PC: Salomon
S-Lab Sonic 2 Stats-PC: Salomon

Salomon Sonic
Salomon Sonic Stats-PC: Salomon
My early sample pair of Sonic weighs 9.5 oz, so less than the production weight listed of 9.9 oz/281 grams. Regardless, the Sonic is a lot of shoe for less than 10 oz. I would have no hesitation running them on any Park City single track as the upper is plenty supportive and the outsole bridges road to trail. There is no question that the Sonic retains Salomon's trail heritage and for me that is a good thing as I like a supportive neutral shoe and versatility for mixed routes of pavement and trail.
Salomon Sonic 
Salomon Sonic 
As to sizing, my pair of size 9 is a half size up from my normal and fits perfectly for road with a thin sock providing some needed front of the shoe over the toes room. While the forefoot fit is wider than what I have seen in other Salomon, my last being the S-Lab Wings and X-Series, the over the toes room is a bit low, maybe due to the fairly substantial (good for trail use) overlays. As time goes on the sock liner likely will pack down and the upper soften giving more height and comfort. Given the impeccable upper support towards the rear of the shoe, I think many will chose to size up a half for some extra toe room for the road.
The upper hold and lace up is easy and fast with a great secure foot hold and no pressure points. These are clearly more accommodating than older Salomon without being in any way sloppy.
Salomon Sonic 
Returning to Vibe...
Beyond some branding on the midsole wall, the secret sauce is inside... 
Recall the Sonic heel insert is 12mm thick out of the total 26mm  heel stack and the forefoot insert 6mm out of the 16mm there. One might think that so much "soft stuff" would impact stability or feel mushy but this is absolutely not the case due to the firm outer EVA Energy Cell+ midsole. I would repeat there is distinct and pleasant soft "feel" to the forefoot directly under the toes, with very little if any shock vibration sensation and no instability. At the heel, the sensation is of consistency and stability without any sensation of the heel compressing to far before the foot moves forward, again without shock or vibration, a most difficult combination to achieve. 
Salomon Sonic 
The outsole features Salomon's trademark Contagrip and plenty of it. The entire outsole is made of what I believe is a single firmness rubber which I measure in the low 60's on the durometer. If I have a single knock on the outsole, and in fact the shoe, it is that the forefoot rubber may be to firm contributing to stiffness up front, at least when new, and some slapping on the road. The flex and transition seems to be somewhat impeded in the area of  the first row of lugs after mid foot towards the front of the shoe. It is still early as I have only 12 miles on the shoes and I expect the flex to soften up (midsole and upper) but nonetheless the shoe is a bit stiffer at the initial flex point there than I like. This area is also backed up by Salomon's ProFeel, a flexible film which provides some stability analogous to what adidas and Salming do with their torsion systems. 

Ride and Recommendations
As the trainer model in the line the Sonic has a stable, firm and yes thanks to Vibe a noticeably vibration and shock free ride, a difficult combination to achieve. As stated above, the transition is a bit more labored and stiff just in front of mid foot than I like and the Sonic is somewhat "slappy" on the road. These are relatively minor quibbles as the Sonic is easily on the legs, very responsive in feel and versatile, without being either mushy or overly firm. While I have not yet run trails in them, I am almost certain they will also perform admirably on moderate terrain. Salomon is clearly onto to something with Vibe and for me it is one of the key run innovations of 2016

The review will be updated as I run so more in the Sonic and I sure I will. It is a great and versatile shoe.

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Brooks Pureflow 6 Review: ISH

Brooks Pureflow 6

The Pureflow 6 is an 8.9 oz/ 252 grams (men’s size 9) daily trainer from Brooks with a 4mm offset from heel to toe. The stack is approximately 24mm heel/ 20mm forefoot. The 6 loses 0.3 oz from its predecessor likely due in part to the elimination of the printed star overlays found on the 5. Price remains the same $110. Available January 2016.
Brooks describes the shoe as follows: “The flexible midsole feels plush underfoot-for a natural feel that still protects from impact where needed”.
Upper and Fit:
The upper on on the Pureflow 6 is nice enough. The materials are soft and high quality. There’s a pretty good amount of cushioning around the ankle and in the heel collar. The upper is sort of a quilted fabric. The fit is a little loose all around on my foot and I had to cinch the laces down pretty hard. Once locked in there’s no heel lift and the shoe is pretty comfortable. There’s a fair amount of room in the front of the shoe. They feel a little too roomy for me, bordering on sloppy.  

Midsole and Outsole:
The midsole is made of BioMoGo DNA LT. Seems like the usual DNA foam from Brooks. There are flex grooves and some firmer blown rubber both on the heel and covering most of the forefoot. There is a “forefoot dynamic flexgrid” up front, which basically means there are pods, but they are linked together to form a grid. The result is a pretty flexible shoe. There’s plenty of rubber on the bottom of these and I expect they’ll be quite durable.   The heel is rounded. I barely ever land on my heel, so I don’t know how that impacts the ride, but it makes it tough to take the shoes off using only your feet.

Maybe my expectations of a shoe named “pureflow” are too high. I hoped these shoes would feel more natural. Overall the ride is fine. It’s a firmer ride than I generally like, and though it has softened a bit over 30 or so miles, it still doesn’t feel like a relaxed and easy shoe to run in. They run like a less flexible shoe, and ultimately just don’t ‘flow’ for me.    That said, they are firm enough that they feel spritely if you pick up the pace, and cushioned enough to go out and pound some miles out.

Conclusions and comparisons:
I really wish I liked these more. I don’t dislike them-- they’re fine—and if I didn’t have a choice I’d be happy to run in them. That said, there’s not much that separates them from the pack for me. They’re light (ish), flexible (ish) and fun (ish). They might work better for a wider foot. If you step into them and love them, give them a shot.  

Pureflow vs. Nike Pegasus 33
The Pegasus 33 has been the benchmark for me this year. I’m finding myself reaching for them more than any other shoe (except maybe the Zante). Though the Peg is slightly heavier it is a much more fluid and forgiving ride for me than the Pureflow.

Pureflow fvs. New Balance Zante V2
I find the Zante has a quicker turnover and feels less clumsy. They are similarly firm, but pureflow is a bit slappier on the pavement.

Pureflow vs. Saucony Freedom ISO
The Saucony is what I wish a shoe named Pureflow was. Where the Pureflow is stiff and firm feeling, the Freedom is, um, free feeling and disappears on the foot.

Score 8.00 out of 10
-1.0 for baggy upper
-1.0 for uninspiring ride
The Pureflow will be available January 2017. Retail $110

Brooks fans read our review of fine the new Launch 4 here

The Pureflow was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Peter Stuart's Running Bio

My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Altra Running 2017 Previews at The Running Event: Timp, One V3, Torin 3.0, Escalante, Paradigm 3.0, HIIT

Altra was very busy with not only at their very active booth but across the aisle sister company Pro-Form's treadmills in heavy use for Vertical K Challenges and a 50 mile world record attempt and success by Altra athlete Jacob Puzey who shattered the record by almost an hour, running 5:56 pace in his Altra Paradigms. 
Pricing will be updated when I receive it.

Weight: To be verified and updated.
Stack: 29mm Zero Drop
Available July-August 2017
Altra Running Timp
Altra athlete Jason Schlarb (co-winner of the 2016 Hardrock 100 and 4th at 2014 UTMB) shows us his new go to shoe, The Timp. He has been running most ultras in the Paradigm. Fellow Altra athlete Jeff Browning has been running the Timp for the past several months.
With a similar Zero Drop stack of 29mm The Timp can be thought of as the Torin for trails, sitting between the Lone Peak and Olympus in cushion with 4mm more stack than the Lone Peak and 7mm less stack than the Olympus.
Altra Running Timp
The upper is wear and water resistant and we hope breathable.  The random pattern seen below the top mesh is highly reflective. The Timp also features Altra's effective GaiterTrap.
Altra Running Timp
The upper has the asymmetrical lacing found on the Impulse.
Altra Running Timp
Timp features Altra's MaxTrac outsole which is supposed to balance grip with a comfortable ride on any terrain.

One V3
Weight: 7.6 oz/215 g Women 5.7 oz/162 g
Zero Drop stack: 23mm
Available July-August 2017
Altra Running One V3
The One gets an updated more reinforced upper and a new outsole with more durable rubber coverage than the 2.5. It appears (initial catalog weights can be off and will verify and update if incorrect) to gain 1.3 oz/ 37 grams but should also be a more durable shoe as a result.

Altra Running One V3 
Torin 3.0
Weight: 8.4 oz/238 g  Women 6.5 oz/184 g.
Zero Drop stack: 28mm
Available July- August 2017

The Torin 2.5 is one of my favorite all around shoes of 2016. Soft under foot with a super supportive upper it is equally adept on roads and trails for me.  The Torin 3.0 loses 0.3 oz/8.5 g which is always welcome.  It gets a new upper and fit with a bit more stretch, some found the upper a bit constrictive but not me. The Inner Flex and outsole pods closest to mid foot are moved slightly further back to more closely match foot flex dynamics.
Altra Running Torin 3.0
Paradigm 3.0
Weight: 10.3 oz/292 g Women 8.2 oz/232 g
Zero Drop stack: 32mm
Available July-August 2017

You will recall that the road Paradigm has been Jason Schlarb's go to shoe for trail ultras and Jacob Puzey's 50 mile world record setting shoe. With its hefty 32mm stack and low weight we can see why. With version 3 Altra revamps the mesh upper and bunion window.
Altra Running Paradigm 3.0
The 3.0 outsole also gets more rubber coverage as likely as a result the Paradigm gains 0.6 oz/17 g a small price to pay for the extra potential miles from this long hauler.
Altra Paradigm 2.5                                   Paradigm 3.0
HIIT XT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Weight 11.2 oz/318 g Women 8.1 oz/230 g
Zero Drop stack: 23mm/17mm with insole removed
Available July-August 2017

The HIIT takes Altra into cross training. Altra co-founder Golden Harper cross trains and plays tennis a lot, when he isn't running of course, so Altra and Golden came up with the sharp looking HIIT.  With a wrap around rubber outsole and a stable PowerSole platform the HIIT is designed for lateral movement, rope climbing and should be a great new choice for the gym, power driven sports and Crossfit.
Altra Running HIIT XT
Escalante is a 8.2 oz/232 g neutral racer trainer with the fit/last of the Torin 2.5, one of our favorite shoes of 2016 (review here) but with the lower(3mm) stack height 25mm heel/25 mm forefoot of the Instinct. Available February 2017. $130.
Altra Running Escalante
This shoe should be right in my sweet spot for faster paced running and racing given the stack, low weight, and new responsive Altra EGO midsole. The Escalante features Altra's first knit upper. My only concern is how soft/low the heel may feel when combined with the zero drop the EGO is  softer yet also bouncier than Altra's other midsole materials.  

Altra IQ
IQ a combination of sensor equipped dedicated shoe and app has been under development for several years and was first shown over a year ago. IQ measures cadence, landing zone, impact zone, and contact time. It  provides live feedback and coaching tips via the app to improve technique, form, and balance. The live demo I saw below showed real time data that corresponded, as far as I could tell, to how the runner on the treadmill was actually running. 
With many form sensors and apps now appearing, not tied to a particular shoe, I think its success will come down to how effective the tips developed by Golden Harper and his team are. I am optimistic as Golden is known as a fantastic run form coach with hundreds of clinics under his soles.  
Needless to say getting the whole system right and reliable is not easy but it looks to me that Altra is progressing with appropriate caution and care. 
We should expect to see IQ released sometime in the first half of 2017 in 2 shoes: Torin 1Q $199 and Timp $220

Finally as I do at every show I asked co-founder Golden Harper what he was most excited about in the line:
For the brand and for sales: Escalante
Most excited to run in: Timp
For all the other activities he does: HIIT

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