Friday, December 04, 2020

La Sportiva Karacal Review

Article by John Tribbia

La Sportiva Karacal ($130)


Introduction

John: In a recent interview with Jonathan Wyatt (multi-time World Mountain Running champion and La Sportiva Running Product Specialist) he suggested that last year’s release of the La Sportiva Jackal (RTR Review) was a prelude to this year’s new release, the Karacal. 


The emphasis in design of the Karacal was comfort and maximum mobility, which translates to a very comfortable and breathable shoe. La Sportiva listened to consumers by focusing on the shoe’s protection to cushion the impacts from varied terrain. The Karacal uses the blue FriXion outsole with an “all ground” tread that is supposed to perform well on any kind of surface. In addition, there is a full length hardened EVA rock plate for best-in-class protection The shoe boasts a 7mm drop in the midsole from 29mm in the heel to a forefoot height of 22mm, which offers cushion in the back and exceptional ground feel in the front. Coming in at approximately 10.37 oz (294 grams) in a 42 EU size, the shoe is intended for training and off-road races over medium and long distances.

 

Pros:

John: great ground feel, very stable, well protected, and efficient in technical terrain. Very breathable


Cons:

John: a bit too breathable for colder pursuits, my feet were freezing at 45 degrees!


Tester Profile

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.


Stats

Weight: men's 10.37 oz/ 294g   (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

  Samples:  10.37 oz/ 294g   (288g left,, 301g right) men’s US9

Stack Height: 29mm heel / 22mm forefoot, 7mm drop

Available early 2021, $130  


First Impressions and Fit

John: The La Sportiva Karacal is incredibly comfortable and holds my heel securely in place. The forefoot and toe box feels wider than other La Sportiva I have run in, but not in a blister inducing way. The seamless upper is comfortable on the foot with no abrasive spots, breathes well, and works well in tandem with a wide tongue and locking lacing system to envelope the foot. 


Upper

John: With a seamless 3D mesh upper that is covered with very thin overlays and thicker wrap around rand, the upper of the Karacal is an excellent combination of breathability and protection. 

The heel collar is low with just enough padding. There’s an external heel cup overlay that provides structure to the upper and greatly enhances the heel hold. 

Related, the midfoot hold is excellent. With the combination of a secure heel and midfoot, the high volume fit in the forefoot / toe box allows for swelling and splay, which I find gives me better control on the technical terrain. 

Overall, the upper security is exceptional,, especially on steep technical terrain.

The laces are soft, comfortable, and provide a secure tie-down. Lastly, the gusseted tongue wraps around the foot nicely and stays in place quite well.


Midsole

John: the midsole of the Karacal is a dual density compressed EVA with a full length hardened EVA rock plate designed to protect your feet from those sharp and uneven rocky paths. Like the Jackal, I didn’t find the cushion plush, responsive, or bouncy, but it provides excellent stability upon impact. But, the shoe does have some give with the 4mm Ortholite insoles that when combined with stability and firmness, absorbs shock and keeps the foot stable when navigating rocky, unstable terrain.


Outsole

John: The FriXion AT2 outsole with 3mm lugs provide superb traction and security in all types of terrain. I felt very secure and was able to be aggressive in almost any terrain - from rocky trail, ice, gravel pack trail, to mud. 

The yellow hardened EVA rock plate extends the entire length of the shoe and provides stability at the rear while providing protection at the front without being overly stiff as rock plates sometimes can be

Although the 3mm lugs aren’t exceptionally deep, they are sharp and strategically placed so they attach well to a variety of surfaces 



Ride


John:  The ride of the Karacal is dreamy for those who run in the mountains over rough and technical terrain. Traveling over scree or other technical and rocky surfaces feels smooth and responsive. Moreover, there’s plenty of cushion to soften descents or hard foot impacts. What I love most about the Karacal is the exceptional ground feel and low center of gravity. I never felt wobbly or disconnected from the terrain even in the most technical situations. 


Conclusions and Recommendations


John: If you are looking to add a shoe that is ideal when moving fast and efficiently through technical mountain terrain, the Karacal is a top choice. The shoe is comfortable with a wider fit than typical La Sportiva shoes, feels secure and stable when running across varied terrain, is firm in a good way, and can withstand long days in the mountains.

John’s Score: 9.1/10 

Ride: 9 (fun mountain shoe with stable and firm ride)

Fit: 9 (the roomier toe box is a welcome feature)

Value: 8 (breathability is great for summer, but my feet get too cold in colder temps)

Style: 9 (I love bright yellow!) 

Traction: 10 (best in class)

Rock Protection: 9.5 (toe protection, foot plate and firm cushioning, and durable upper)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


La Sportiva Jackal (RTR Review)

John: Karacal feels lighter on foot and more nimble. I would say the Karacal is best on compacted terrain and the Jackal can perform a little better in loose stuff, but honestly there's not a ton of differentiation between the two other than I would use the Karacal for road to trail runs more than I would the Jackal because I like the fit and feel of the Karacal. The low center of gravity and snug fit of the Karacal yields more ground feel. By contrast, I feel prefer the Jackal fit and that it has a little more cushion. The upper of the Karacal is enveloping and very breathable. The Jackal's upper is thicker and not as comfortable to me. 


La Sportiva Bushido 2 (RTR Review)

John: The Bushido is well protected and slightly more cushioned, but has a rigid feeling ride. By contrast, the Karacal rolls better, has better ground feel, and the more open toe box provides a more comfortable fit. 


Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review)

John: Both have a really comfortable upper and similarly have great ground feel. The tread on the Peregrine is great for loose, mud, and soft conditions thanks to the aggressive lug design. The Karacal’s tread is lower profile, more versatile, and very sticky on rocky surfaces. 


Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review)

John: The Sense Ride 3 has more cushion, especially in the forefoot. Given the cushion differences, I would prefer to take the Sense Ride on longer excursions. Both have really great traction, but the slight edge goes to the Karacal. 


Hoka Torrent 2  (RTR Review)

John: The Torrent 2 is lighter, faster, with less protection. I think the Torrent does well in most terrain, but lacks an edge to the Karacal in rocky and uneven terrain. The Karacal is well suited for trail and off-trail sections where superior traction and protection are mandatory.


Please Check out our Big Holiday Runners' Gift Guide HERE

The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the author's.

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adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro Multi Tester Review: Versatile, Fun to Run, Winter Ready, BOA Dialed In!

Article by Jeff Valliere, John Tribbia, Canice Harte and Sam Winebaum

adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro ($250)


Introduction

Sam: The Agravic Tech Pro is called out by Terrex as a "trail running shoe" designed for “.. crossing glaciers or scrambling up a serious piece of rock, .. adidas Terrex Agravic Tech ProTrail Running Shoes were made to push limits. The high-cut shoes are water repellent and have adjustable laces that let you dial in the fit without taking off your gloves. Responsive cushioning stays comfortable in low temperatures.”


Sitting in weight at just over 14 oz / 400g so closer to a light hiker than a trail runner, the Tech Pro essentially has the undercarriage of a trail runner and the upper of.. I say.. a nordic classic ski race boot with in the mix a super easy to use BOA fit system which dials in a precise easy to adjust fit.

We’ll get into the details but the upper has a high water resistant exterior shell while the interior “shel boot” wrapping the midfoot is relatively stiff for a trail shoe but broad in its opening over the thin BOA laces.  

This upper design, in combination with the midsole/ outsole,, delivers both lots of rear and mid foot support and stability and lots of forward flex for climbing and moving along.

Underfoot, we have “classic” adidas Boost construction with a stout upper EVA frame for stability with below that bouncy Boost which yes we have experienced over the years and as adidas says is a midsole compound which is more temperature resistant than EVA so doesn’t harden in cold.  Below the midsole we have some front rock protection and finally a full coverage Continental outsole with about 4mm lugs. Quite a tasty sandwich!

So what did our testers in Colorado, Utah, and New Hampshire discover as they took the b to the mountains on snow, dirt and rocks and more mellow forest paths? Is the Tech Pro fun to run and versatile and does it justify its steep price at $250 and hefty weight ? Read on to find out. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 Multi Tester Review

Article by Nils Scharff and Jeff Beck

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 ($150)


Introduction

Jeff: The Nimbus has been ASICS big neutral daily trainer with some slight stability features. Favoring comfort over speed or weight, the Nimbus has always been well cushioned and plush, but that has made it something of a chore to run in the past. The 23rd iteration doesn’t stray too far from their tried and true formula, but a combination of Gel and FlyteFoam in the midsole with a pared down plastic TRUSTIC midfoot insert makes this Nimbus the most runnable in years.


Pros:

Jeff/Nils: Plush yet firm ride gives plenty of protection without making the shoe laborious

Jeff: Upper isn’t overworked, really comfortable tongue

Jeff/Nils: Segmented outsole gives the shoe plenty of flex along with good durability

Jeff: Least obtrusive TRUSTIC insert yet


Cons:

Jeff/Nils: Nearly twelve ounces on the scale for 10.5, and it isn’t that well cushioned

Jeff: It’s 2020, and it still has GEL. Still. 

Jeff: It’s the least obtrusive TRUSTIC, but it’s a neutral shoe - why is there a plastic insert?

Nils: I can feel some uncomfortable lace pressure at times. You can avoid it, but you have to take care!


Sally’s women’s colorway. Her review soon.

Stats

Approx. Weight:  men's 10.9 oz / 309 g (US9)  /  women's 9.7 oz / 274 g  (US8)

  Samples: men’s 10.5D 11.9 oz / 336 g, 10D 11.5 oz / 325 g

                  Women’s size US8:  9.7 oz / 274 g

Midsole Stack Height: 15mm/25mm (men’s) / 14mm/27mm (women’s)

Available now. $150

Hoka ONE ONE Arahi 5 Multi Tester Review

Article by Dominique Winebaum, Jana Herzogova, and Sam Winebaum 

Hoka ONE ONE Arahi 5 ($130)


Introduction

Dominique: Along with October foliage, HOKA footwear from the Spring 2021 Collection landed on our patio, and with two road shoes and one hiker to test, off I go equipped with the latest.  With the Mach 4, it was love at the first step and I gave it a rave review declaring it my favorite HOKA road shoe ever (RTR Review).  With the Arahi 5, it has been a different experience, mostly because I am a neutral runner who tends to gravitate toward super cushioned shoes with a more marshmallow feel.  

As a stability shoe, the Arahi 5 is a great fit for moderate overpronating runners given the extra support built into the shoe from the upper to the midsole and outsole, albeit in a sleek and performing way.  This is my first introduction to the Arahi model and the making of a great stability shoe, one that delivers comfort, yet calls for performance.


Sam: At approx. 9.35 oz / 269 g this very subtle (on the) stability trainer loses close to 0.5 oz in weight and gets a far more dialed in performance oriented upper than the Arahi 4. 

The mild J Frame stability element is provided by a slightly firmer rear medial side foam frame which also wraps around the lateral heel. With a 29mm heel /24mm forefoot stack, it is the same stack as the Clifton 7, Clifton Edge and upcoming Mach 4 which all while the same stack heights provide very different ride experiences with the Arahi 5 the stability option. As with the Mach 4 and Clifton Edge, the Arahi clearly also has a new Meta-Rocker geometry and miracle of miracles for the big 24mm front stack some nice flex something missing in the Arahi 4 that is for sure!


Jana: When I saw an opportunity of testing a stability shoe from Hoka, I wanted in on the ride. Most of my shoes are build for higher speed, with some sort of propulsive toe-off platform, so I welcomed the chance to test in this category. 

Does it deliver? Read on!


Pros:

Dominique:

Comfortable and performing shoe providing great support for moderate to overpronating runners.

Stability shoe with a sleek and attractive look.  

Lightweight and breathable supportive upper.  

Significant upgrades from its predecessor: the Arahi 4. 

Design for support and durability. 

Sam:

Light stability that doesn’t get in the way even for neutral runners

Light in weight at 9.35 oz for a max cushion stability shoe, loses approx. 0.5 oz over Arahi 4.

Superbly comfortable and secure upper.

Vast improvements in fit (no longer baggy and voluminous) and gains front flex as well as more effective rocker geometry compared to Arahi 4

Jana: 

Considering this is not a race day design and price tag, these shoes feel light, and perform well. 

Grippy, with breathable and fast drying upper, cushioned mid/outsole, it is a stable secure ride over all. 


Cons:

Dominique: Cushioning is a bit too firm. Stability shoes are not for everybody. 

Sam: Firmer lateral heel feel favors faster daily training paces even with generous cushion

Jana:  Have not found any so far

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Brooks Launch 8 and Launch GTS 8 Multi Tester Reviews

Article by Renee Krusemark, Michael Ellenberger, Joost de Raeymaeker, Sally Reiley and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Launch 8 and Launch GTS 8 ($100)


Introduction

Sam: The Launch is Brooks’ venerable lighter daily trainer known for durability, a responsive firmer ride and great value at $100. 


Brooks updates the Launch with a new Air Mesh upper and “more blown rubber at the forefoot for smoother transitions and durability.” The result is a Launch that is close to an ounce lighter at about 8.6 oz / 244g. Very nice! 


End of story? Well not exactly as the Launch also will come in an identically priced GTS (“Go To Support”) version weighing about 9.15 oz or 259g. The uppers appear exactly the same with the only difference that the GTS 8 version has an elastic mid foot support band whereas the 8 has none.

The GTS has Brooks GuideRails tech which rather than focusing on pronation seeks to stabilize the runner’s knee. The lateral side GuideRail is the same foam as the midsole rising in higher sidewalls with the medial rail (shown above) co-molded, so no glue seams and their stiffness as early Guide Rail generations suffered from and which is firmer foam than the main midsole and lateral rail.


Seen from the outsole there are slight differences between the two with the GTS having somewhat more extensive rubber coverage at midfoot to, it seems, also provide some stability of the more pronation control variety into the support mix.


The Ravenna which was the comparable prior light stability model goes away. The naming and simplifying also carries over to the Glycerin which now gets a GTS version replacing the Transcend. 


So now runners can choose essentially the same Launch platform, stack height, and drop with or without support components. 


Pros:

Sam: 

Durable, well cushioned, lighter daily trainers at a very fair $100, the support GTS version costing the same

Welcome 1 oz / 28g drop in weight over Launch 7 with the GTS dropping about 0.2 oz from Ravenna 11, 


Launch 8

Sam: more flexible upfront with a slightly softer midsole and rubber so less dense/stiff than 7 and with a more breathable upper

Renee: Smooth, traditional ride, Overall comfortable, Durable outsole for a $100 road shoe

Joost: Durable. Nice wide toe box, Well fitting upper, Nice ribbed shoelaces that don’t come undone.Great value for money

Michael:

Durable and comfortable; a shoe that can do a lot for not a lot of money

Toebox is roomy and upper is breathable and snug

Sally: Traditional trainer in fit and ride, accommodating toe box, great value


Launch GTS 8 

Sam: 

Integrates Guide Rail light support very well, and far better than stiff railed Ravenna 10

more responsive and has a more secure upper than Launch 8

Great value for a lighter weight, faster shorter workouts focused shoe with light weight and  “just enough” but not to much support/stability


Cons:

Launch 8

Michael/Sam/Joost/Sally: Dated dense ride and quite firm. Sort of boring, and perhaps redundant in the Brooks lineup

Michael/Sam/Sally:

Fit is wonky; shoe construction may be too voluminous for some, and a half-size down  for those in-between is recommended

Sam: Launch 8 lacks mid foot upper support especially when compared to GTS and 7

Renee: None, aside from not having a super exciting midsole

Joost: The tongue is a little too narrow and long and slides a little to the lateral side In the non-GTS version.


Launch GTS 8 

Sam: Dated, quite firm, dense ride. Medial rail could be softened and or shortened yet more.