Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: 14 Patagonia Men's Strider Pro 5" Run Short- Versatile, Comfortable, Effective, Pockets Galore

The Patagonia Men's Strider Pro-5" Short ($59) is a dialed in marvel of style, comfort and carrying capacity. As many of us increasing carry "stuff" when we run, and especially smartphones, finding a way to carry all of it is increasingly a challenge. With marathons banning race vests for security reasons and the smart move to carry a jacket and a bit of nutrition on the trail, pack or belt less carry is a challenge.

Patagonia Strider PRO Short Source:
The Strider PRO is in its 2nd year. I have the first version and it was great if a bit constricting and limited in carry capacity. Designed in collaboration with Patagonia's run ambassadors this second version iterates last year's model to new levels of comfort and versatility. Really in my opinion, the ultimate run short and I have tried plenty.

The new version includes:

  • 5, yes 5 stretch mesh pockets: 2 deep hip pockets suitable for smartphone or light jackets, 2 shallower hip pockets able to hold 2 or more gels, and a rear zip pocket for key or more gels. When empty the pockets are really not apparent, not baggy tacked on Race Ready looking appendages.
  • a wide drawstring that can be threaded on the outside or inside of the waistband and minimal stretch waistband to hold it all up when pockets are loaded. Yet always comfortable and non constricting even when loaded
  • a very soft smooth fabric with mesh inserts for heat dissipation and breathability in all the right places.
  • some pretty wild colors, as well as a basic gray and black.
I have already run plenty of miles in the Strider Pro. The carry capacity without bounce or sagging is very effective. 

Below the shorts with on board: iPhone in case, 2 gels, 1 energy chew package and a NorthFace Better Than Naked Jacket. Didn't even load the rear zip pocket which can carry at least 2 more gels. Due to the drawstring/waistband construction, and tight yet easy to handle stretch of the pockets, nothing bounces or sags. 
Patagonia Strider Pro 

Patagonia Strider Pro 

Patagonia Strider Pro 
You can purchase the Strider Pro Shorts below from REI or Moosejaw. Every purchase from the link helps support my blog. Thanks!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 14: Updated Altra-The One2, Instinct 2, Paradigm, Superior 1.5,

The smallish Altra Zero Drop booth was packed as usual.  All Altra shoes have zero drop from heel to toe and feature a superb anatomic wide toe box and matching wide forefoot landing. Altra has specific lasts and fit for men and women on all shoes. Love the feel but zero drop is a bit much for me day in day out.  I have run in the Superior and Torin.

My eyes were immediately drawn to a new "maximalist" shoe, the Paradigm. Think of it as the road version of the just released 12.2 oz Olympus trail runner.  Paradigm is a very light 10.5 oz men's 9 with a 34 mm stack height, right up there with the most cushioned Hokas such as the Mafate or Stinson.  The midsole is Altra dual layer EVA with their A Bound energy return layer ( the blue) under the foot. Matching women's model too coming in at 9.5 oz. MSRP $130.
Altra Paradigm

Altra Paradigm

Altra Paradigm

Altra Paradigm: I am a 9 and the shoe here is 10.5 but note the roomy toe box
 Update: I went back to take a closer look at the Altra One 2 avery intriguing and super light new cushioned Altra. 7.5 oz with 24 mm of zero drop stack height, the stack height increasing from 18 from the One (1).  This is a flexible shoe that reminded me of Nike Free but of course more maximalist. I was told it targets Kinvara and Nike Lunar Racer. No heel counter. Unlike other Altras with their EVA A-Bound combinations, the One has something called Inner Flex EVA that I found out is a mix of EVA and A-Bound, a TPE. MSRP $100. A very nice looking shoe.
Altra One 2

Altra One 2

Altra One 2
The Altra Lone Peak 2 trail runner increases its stack height from 22mm to 25mm and has a more aggressive tread.
Altra Lone Peak 2 Men's
Altra Lone Peak 2 Women

Altra Lone Peak 2 Women

Altra Lone Peak 2 Women

I ran in the original Altra Superior. Better on the road than the trail for me due to the very stretchy un reinforced wide upper and no heel counter. One of my favorite lounging shoes. Well the Superior 1.5 adds upper strapping, reinforcements and a heel counter. Altra and zero drop fans will likely find the Superior 1.5 a fine trail racer.
Altra Superior 1.5

Altra Superior 1.5

Altra Superior 1.5

The Instinct, the very popular original Altra is now Instinct 2.0 gets more cushioning and has a 26mm stack height.  MSRP $105.

Many of the models featured are available now from Altra. Your purchase here supports my blog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Winter 14: Hoka One One- No Longer Oversize means Overweight- New Huaka, Clifton, Mafate Speed

One of my very first stops at OR was at Hoka One One. I have followed Hoka since 2010 and tried multiple models along their journey swimming against the now receding"minimalist" tide.  With rising popularity and  funding and energy from new owner Deckers they do not disappoint with their fall 2014 offerings.

I focus here on 3 new models (Mafate Speed, Clifton, and Huaka), with the 11.8oz Conquest just now releasing with notes on other stalwarts such as the Stinson, Rapa Nui, and Bondi all receiving or having just received updates.

Mafate Speed
This is a brand new 12.8oz.version of the original Hoka, the Mafate.  The Mafate 3 (14.7oz) stays in the line. With a supportive Speed Frame upper and a durable RMAT (blue) outsole midsole with harder rubber patches over Hoka's CMEVA under foot this is the trail beast in the line.
Hoka One One Mafate Speed

Hoka One One Mafate Speed.
Update: Road Runner Sports reports the Mafate Speed will be available around July 1st, 2014 and can be pre-ordered now.

Update 7/14:  I have been running in the Huaka, over 100 miles of road and trail. Fantastic versatile, flexible, and light Hoka that is still... a Hoka with great and now responsive cushioning.
Review here.

A 2mm drop 8.9 oz racer/trainer  with the entire midsole made of the new RMAT material. A bit heavier than the Clifton which comes in at 7.9 oz so I am guessing the RMAT is a bit denser and heavier but more responsive. Likely takes away a bit of the mushy feeling at speed in Hokas.  Some patches of harder rubber. Technically a road shoe but with more than adequate lugs for most trails.  Sage Canaday a recent convert to Hokas, and one of the top ultra runners at less than 100 mile distances, just ran a 2:22 road marathon in Huakas to finish 2nd at the difficult Carlsbad Marathon. I believe a world record for Hoka shod marathoning.  While the drop is lower than I like,  I can't wait to try Huakas potentially retrofitting them replacing the flat insole with an insole with a bit more heel lift.

Hoka One One Huaka Outsole
 Note the deep carve outs in the outsole to reduce weight and increase flexibility.

Update: Boulder Running Company and Road Runner Sports (pre-order now) are showing the Huaka will be available very early July 2014

The Clifton will be "value" priced by Hoka standards at $130. Entire midsole is made of CMEVA. Remarkably light at 7.9 oz. 4mm heel toe drop.  This is the shoe I am most interested in as a long haul road runner and marathon shoe. The other "lightweight" Hokas the Bondi 3 and Rapa Nui 2 come in at 10.8 oz and they are fine shoes indeed.
Hoka One One Clifton

Hoka One One Clifton Outsole.
Update: Boulder Running Company and Road Runner Sports report Hoka One One Clifton will be available around July 1st, 2014.

My understanding is that the Mafate Speed, Huaka, and Clifton will launch for Fall 2014 so July.

Across the line common themes emerge:

  • RMAT a new midsole/outsole compound which has a bit of rubber in the mix for " increased rebound, better durability, and exceptional outsole grip." Full RMAT in the Huaka racer, partial RMAT outsole/midsole in the Mafate Speed and Conquest, rest of the midsole on these Hokas have Hoka's special EVA under the foot.  All other models including the new Clifton have different densities of Hoka's special EVA with Clifton having something really special in that department to achieve such a low weight
  • 3 kinds of meta-rocker or rocker profile. I finally understand this Hoka signature feature: 
    • early stage with the rocker "behind the met heads for a smoother ride and faster transition to the forefoot ( Mafate Speed, Conquest, Bondi 3, Huaka, Clifton, 
    • late stage with rocker in front of the met heads. "Designed to create a more stable base for forefoot support. More the Hoka "stability" shoe. ( Stinson Lite road and ATR trail, 
    • balanced stage meta rocker ( Mafate 3, Rapa Nui, Kailua) 
  • Speed Frame-a new kind of upper construction..
    • Speed Frame on newest models Stinsons, Huaka, Clifton,Conquest and Mafate Speed with more no seam thin overlays. I believe this upper is contributing to weight drops.
  • Lighter weight Hokas. Over sized geometry no longer means overweight. Due to the combination of new midsole and upper materials, Hokas are lighter across the board with the highlights the new EVA based Clifton at a remarkable 7.9 oz and the RMAT based Huaka 8.9 oz. Note also the big weight drops from Mafate 3 at 14.7 oz to  Mafate Speed 12.0z and Stinson Lite now 11 oz. 
  • Heel to toe drops remain in a very "natural" 4-5 mm with the Huaka coming in at 2 mm, so a very low drop entry.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Best of 2013: Trail and Road Running

Revelation of the Year: a variety in surfaces,  shoe heel toe drops, cushion and midsole geometries is what probably keeps our legs happiest, healthiest and fastest. Not really a revelation but many runners have in recent years been stuck on fads (minimal), orthodoxy(support stability), or the same shoe as always.

"Shoe" of the Year: not a shoe, but a midsole material, adidas Boost. 
Breaking away from the traditional EVA midsole, adidas emerged with a TPU material with great energy response, longevity, and less sensitivity to temperatures (hardening and softening). I ran most of my road miles in the adidas Energy as well as two marathons (review here) . Later in the year the adios Boost came out and it proved a fantastic speed racer/trainer (review here) with great road feel and snappy response without harshness.  While not a low drop shoe, at 10mm,  the adios was one of Pete Larson over at Runblogger favorites for 2013 coming in at #2. More Boost to come with the Glide Boost now on sale. (Energy and Glide Boost comparison here)

Brand of the Year: (tie) Hoka One One and Skechers. 
2013 was the year the super cushion of Hoka proved that not every run or runner is the same and that a super cushioned shoe for long miles or injuries is a great idea. I ran all my trail miles and many road miles in the Rapa Nui, a bit less Hoka and a fabulous all around hybrid (review here).

Out of nowhere, or even worse than nowhere, Skechers has emerged as a trail and road run brand with light, beautifully designed shoes, at a value price.  The results of listening closely to every day runners and iterating rapidly shows. Their GoRun Ultra is a versatile very light and well cushioned shoe equally at home at the road or the trail. The GoRun Ride 3 is a light, decently cushioned trainer in the mold of the Kinvara from Saucony but with a more stable forefoot and wide yet supportive upper (reviews here).

Hydration Gear of the Year: Ultraspire UltraViz Spry Vest. Honorable mention: Salomon Softflasks.
Couldn't make up my mind here on a specific item as each has a focused utility so going with UltraSpire as a line. The Spry UltraViz is a high visibility vest with enough room for a 1.1 liter bladder or small bottles, up front a phone, and some gels (review here). Can't be to visible these days on the roads so I have it on for just about every run. The Alpha is similar with more capacity. To come in 2014 the Titan 2.0 a pack with room to spare, deep bottle pockets for those Salomon 500ml softflasks I like so much and absolutely no bounce.

Jacket of the Year: Hands down, the NorthFace Better than Naked.
Very light, very breathable .An ideal, easy to stow running jacket for all but downpours (review here).

Short of the Year: Patagonia Strider Pro
With a 5" inseam and most importantly 2 hip stretch and one rear zip pocket these were my go to shorts all year. Well designed all around with no bounce or sag when pockets are loaded. In 2014 the Strider Pro gets even better with 5 pockets.

Sock of the Year: Ashmei trail socks.
I got three pairs of Ashmei  trail socks this spring and they are the only socks I have worn since then, running and otherwise. None the worse for wear Merino and Carbon blend. Comfortable in all conditions. All of Ashmei run apparel is of outstanding quality and functionality if a bit pricey. Well worth it.

Run Tech of the Year: Magellan Echo Watch combined with iSmoothRun app for iOS.
Finally a way to harness the processing power of the iPhone and apps without fumbling with the phone or worrying about battery life and synching of the watch to computer.  The internet of things is here. The Echo Watch receives the data from the app and also serves as a controller for start, pause, music, laps, etc... The iSmoothrun app provides a wealth of options for training and synchs the data on multiple screens flawlessly to the watch. The app is being continuously improved. (review here)

Accessory of the Year: Orange Mud Transition Wrap
Super practical combination quick change wrap and car seat cover. No more sweaty car seats (review here).

I welcome your personal Best Lists and Comments here!

Friday, January 03, 2014

adidas Glide Boost Compared to adidas Energy Boost

adidas continues to roll out its non-EVA Boost material to more shoes.  Boost seems to combine cushion with just the right firmness and energy return response. For me the Boost material was the innovation of the year in running, even if the initial Energy shoe had an upper many didn't like and was a bit stiff and overly directed.  The Energy was my goto road shoe all year including problem free, blister free Boston and St George Marathons (review here).
adidas energy boost.

Then came the incredible Adios Boost racer.
adidas adios boost

I reviewed them last year and finally got them on an indoor track for a 2 x 5K tempo last night. Even an old slow poke like me can run fast and feel great in what I told my friends at the track are the "world's fastest shoes",worn by multiple major marathon winners this year. Smiles ear to ear for me and a bit of envy from the friends in their Mizuno and Pegasus... slower boats. Pete Larson over at Runblogger called them his #2 shoe of the year, despite the greater than usual for him 10mm heel to toe drop.

Next up and just out the Supernova Glide Boost.

Supernova Glide Boost Source:
Supernova Glide Boost Source:

I tried a pair on at a local running store side by side with the Energy and noticed immediate differences
  • wider toe box with a soft mesh and welded overlays instead of the stretch tech fit fabric that bothered some.
  • the rest of the upper seems at bit old tech with stitching and heavy looking overlays. 
  • less "spring" and stiffness to the forefoot flex than Energy, a good thing for a trainer.  A smoother, more continuous flex due to removal of front plastic Torsion strips and use of EVA near the toe. Under the instep the Torsion plastic seems to be more substantial for a bit more stability.
  • a wider more continuous coverage of Continental rubber outsole especially in the forefoot. My sense is a bit less forefoot Boost midsole thickness when compared to the Energy for a firm yet cushioned  ride upfront, sitting between the Energy and Adios. Not quite as rigidly directed as the Energy, a good thing in my view. 
  • a bit of an EVA bumper, the white above the blue in the picture for a I think a bit more seating of the foot, but also some additional weight.
  • an obvious issue and sad is that  the overall weight is higher than the Boost at 10.3 oz vs 9.3 oz Men's size 9. Quite frankly  a shoe like this should weigh less than 10 oz.  The weight is likely due the heavy mid foot overlays, the bumper, and the additional rubber outsole material.
  • Price for Glide Boost $130 vs. Energy Boost $150
I hope to run some serious long miles in a pair of the Glide soon. Thinking they might be an ideal Boston shoe. That is is if adidas doesn't come out with a Boost version of their Boston shoe soon.