Thursday, September 20, 2018

Karhu Ikoni Ortix Review: Plush, Energetic, Smooth Transitioning Finnish Sports Bear

Article by Sam Winebaum

Karhu Ikoni Ortix ($130)
The elaborately named (and hard to remember) Ikoni Ortix from long time Finnish sports gear manufacturer Karhu (Finnish for Bear) is a truly memorable shoe, and the wonderful surprise of 2018 in the plush daily run trainer category.

Usually I find shoes in this category a "chore" to test as they tend to be heavy to begin with, often pushing 11 oz as the Ikoni does at 10.8 oz and even heavier as some of its competitors such as the Brooks Levitate or Saucony Triumph ISO are.  They can be either overly soft (Glycerin 15 and Energy Boost 4) or overly stiff, not very bouncy and lumbering (NB 1080v6). They tend to be difficult to transition for me, especially at slower paces. Weight aside, and it runs considerably lighter than its weight, the Ikoni threads the needle through all these big shoe issues brilliantly by delivering:
  • a very well cushioned softer ride with great energy from its Aero Foam a blend of EVA and TPU, 
  • some targeted support at landing and a noticeable forward propulsion effect to guide transitions from the mid foot Fulcrum of firmer compression EVA and a nylon Propulsion Foil or plate, 
  • a smooth flowing rocker from its gently curving overall Ortix geometry which even includes a shaping of the last directly underfoot, while also including some very welcome toe off flexility as well, 
  • a very comfortable, easy fitting engineered mesh upper developed using data from over 1000,000 customer foot scans using Fit id 3D scans by exclusive US partner Fleet Feet Sports.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit Initial Road Test Review: Zoom Fly 2.5%?

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit ($160)

The Zoom Fly Flyknit, the second in the series, available now, arrives with big changes. The "new" Zoom Fly is a racer trainer suitable for uptempo training and longer racers. The original Zoom Fly (RTR review) "appeared" similar to Nike's ground breaking Vaporfly 4% (RTR review) but ran quite roughly and firmly, with less pace range and weighed considerably more than the Vaporfly.

The new Zoom Fly substitutes:
  • the mostly plastic propulsion plate of the original for a full carbon plate similar but not as wide as the VaporFly's, 
  • the original's Lunarlon midsole for Nike new React but not the Zoom X of the VaporFly, a
  • and the engineered mesh upper for a Flyknit upper with no overlays and no heel counter.  
While the weight for this 10m drop shoe creeps up about 0.2 oz to approximately 8.6 oz /244g (my sample US M 8.5 weighs 8.325 oz/236g)  the ride is almost completely changed and approaches that of the VaporFly in its dynamic spring yet well cushioned feel. The dynamism of this uptempo trainer racer far surpasses the Epic React (RTR review), a shoe I found somewhat better cushioned, particularly in forefoot but dull in its ride and performance.

Fit and Upper
The Zoom Fly fits me true to my usual size 8.5. The fit is more performance oriented and while far more pliable, stretchy and light on the foot reminds me most of the Pegasus 35 in the Nike line up. I am 8.5 in the Vaporfly but have to wear heavier socks, 8.5 in the Epic React but find them very snug at the lower mid foot and somewhat overly high and rigid in hold at the achilles and heel, was just fine in the original Zoom Fly at 8.5 but found them overly roomy.  I found the Pegasus Turbo somewhat roomy and unstructured as there was no stretch and at the same time low over the toes. Here the fit is very close to perfection from heel to toe for me fi a bit more tapered way up front than I prefer, the front rounding of the original and Vaporfly were just about perfect. 
I do note some very slight slip forward, a low but no pressure (as some had in Turbo due to the racing stripe) sense over the big toe, I think this due to the lightly padded heel hold with no plastic heel counter leading to some slip or maybe a touch to little mid foot support  I am not sure I would size up in this shoe but those with wide feet but not a narrow heel might consider it. 
The upper is thin somewhat stretchy Flyknit and has no overlays or heel counter plastic.
In contrast to the original's not particularly stretchy engineered mesh and Flywire mid foot here we have a single layer of stretchy, light knit with variable densities for support and breathability.
In contrast to the Epic React's Flyknit upper the mid foot is less dense but more 3D in structure with a painted overlay Swoosh instead of a thick laminated plastic one.  My first run was on a not particularly warm but extremely humid day. Breathablity and comfort was outstanding. 


Midsole

The midsole combines Nike's React foam with a full carbon propulsion plate. While both the Vaporfly and Zoom Fly have similar midsole stack heights and geometry there are differences, 
Differences in midsole design between the Vaporfly and ZoomFly:  

  • Vaporfly uses lighter more silky softer feeling Zoom X PEBA foam while Zoom Fly uses the denser somewhat less lively React. 
  • By pressing the side walls of both shoes I can tell the Zoom Fly's carbon plate towards the rear of the shoe is narrower as I can't feel it. With the VaporFly one can easily feel the plate, not so with the Zoom Fly. In both the plate slopes down and under the forefoot and is similar to a spike plate sitting just above the outsole.
These differences for me so far have translated into a considerably more stable heel landing with the Zoom Fly, an issue for some runners and slower paces in the Vapor Fly. The soft Zoom X in the Vapor Fly with the carbon plate not far below the heel limited training uses of the Vapor for me. At slower paces I could really feel the plate. Not nearly as much in the Zoom Fly so far. The forefoot is not quite as soft as VaporFly with a denser cushion feel and a touch less dynamism and sense of fall forward and pop off and go.The Zoom Fly Flyknit differs from the original Zoom Fly midsole in having a carbon plate in place of plastic and substituting React foam for Lunarlon foam. The result is a far springier and easier on the legs run feel and one that is much easier to transition than the original but not quite the flowy, soft bounce of the VaporFly.

Outsole
There is plenty of durable rubber here. Other than color it does not appear different than the fine outsole on the original.

Ride
This is clearly a performance training and racing ride: responsive and snappy due to the plate. The heel is stable and well and amply cushioned with the forefoot far more forgiving than the Zoom Fly 1 as the density of the React cushions well there, whereas the prior foam just bottomed out and was harsh quite frankly front and back. The carbon plate gives clear snap to the ride. My 8.5 mile progression run had splits ranging from 9:27 to 8:17 minute miles at the end. Zoom Fly was smoother and more decisive at paces below 9 minute miles but, unlike the Vapor Fly which seems to flounder much above 9:20, felt decent at the slower paces. At my finishing pace I struggled a bit more to transition than in the Vapor Fly with its softer forefoot cushion and somewhat more pronounced fall forward effect. My last marathon was in the Vaporfly where I averaged 8:25 per mile and was delighted by its performance and my fresh legs. I think the Zoom Fly would do just fine for me at half to marathon paces but I still have Vapor Fly!
Initial Conclusions
One run in, with more to come it feels like the Zoom Fly slots in between the lighter by almost 2 ounces Vapor Fly (racing) and the softer longer trainers Epic React and Peg Turbo as Nike's new uptempo racer trainer. It clearly improves on the first edition. It can replace the heavier, densely cushioned, quite responsive and firm but somewhat ponderous in comparison Pegasus 35 for faster workouts and the softer and fun but not particularly stable and responsive Pegasus Turbo. It is definitely a closer cousin to the $90 heavier and almost two ounces lighter Vapor Fly than the first version was and as such is a good alternative, if not quite but within "1.5%" or so of the other worldly Vaporfly experience with its lighter weight and softer more bouncy Zoom X. The mid foot and heel cup area could have a touch more support and I wonder what a touch softer React foam would feel like but overall for faster running with a distinctive propulsive effect it is a great choice.

Quick Non Nike Comparisons (more to come with full review)
Reebok Floatride Run Fast (RTR review)
The Run Fast is a touch easier to run slow and its combination of foam similar to Zoom X with EVA rim is another way to skin the light weight, relatively well cushioned cat. The Reebok at about 2 oz lighter is noticeably lighter.  Also a stiffer shoe but not totally stiff as the Zoom Fly  it lacks the carbon plate which gives the Zoom Fly its distinctive snap but has a wider range of paces for me, so far.
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon  (RTR review)
Beyond both having relatively unstructured uppers these two couldn't be more different in construction. The Beacon essentially is a single slab of foam with no plate and essentially no outsole. It is is easier going at all paces but gets a bit sloppy up top and underfoot as the pace picks up. The Zoom Fly is a better workout shoe and should be for me be a better race shoe, the Beacon a slightly better all-arounder and a 1.5 oz lighter one which likely won't last nearly as long but at $100 is fairly priced.
Reviewer Bio
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 and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify one more time for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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Polar Vantage V and M Introduction: 14 Sensors Polar to Measure Wrist HR in the V & M, Running Power and Muscle Load Metrics in the V, Battery Life up to 40 hours

Article by Sam Winebaum
Polar Vantage V
On September 13th Polar announced two new multi sport training watches: the Vantage V ($500) and Vantage M ($280).
Polar Vantage M
Both watches promise high accuracy GPS and wrist heart rate monitoring and include Polar's excellent training features and programs. The Vantage V adds advanced features and metrics including barometric altimeter, Running Power and associated Muscle Load sensing and calculation, as well Training and Recovery Load Pro. Spec battery life in training mode are very robust, maybe class leading, but our testing will tell if any GPS accuracy compromises are required for up to 40 hours for the V and 30 hours for the M. And in a departure from prior more rectangular Polar watches they are round in shape!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Racer Stories: Dominick Layfield's 2018 UTMB Race Learnings and Gear Report

Article by Dominick Layfield

UTMB 2018
For those of you who don’t follow ultrarunning obsessively.  UTMB = Ultimate Tour of Mont Blanc. A race that does a long (~170 km/106 miles), hilly (~10000 m/30,000 ft gain) loop around Mont Blanc, starting in Chamonix, France, and running though Italy and Switzerland before returning to France. It’s a huge race, with ~2600 entrants. There are longer races, and there are hillier races, but nothing matches the prestige and excitement around UTMB.

After last year’s debacle (in which I got pulled by the race medics), my goal for UTMB 2018 was specifically, unambiguously, to finish the race.  I told myself that I wouldn’t pay any attention to time or position.

Naturally, as soon as the race started, I started to imagine a stunning performance that would stand in stark conflict with my meager training and unfocussed preparation.  But I was quickly and rudely brought down to reality. From the start, my heart rate was too high, my pace too slow, and my body out of sorts. My quads felt shot on the first downhill.  It was immediately clear that if I kept pushing, I would guarantee a repeat of last year’s DNF.

So on to plan B -- which was really the original plan A -- Take it easy and enjoy the race.  And to cut a 27-hour story short, that’s pretty much what happened. I had a phenomenal time, ran with a smile on my face, and finished 50th.  Hoorah!
Obligatory photo from race check-in, on Thursday.
Things I learned (or re-learned) at this year’s UTMB:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Salomon Sense Pro 3 Review

Article by Jeff Valliere 

Salomon Sense Pro 3

Introduction/Initial Impressions:

The Salomon Sense Pro 3 is the latest lightweight speedster in the Sense line, packed with many S/Lab attributes, all at a lower cost.  The Sense Pro 3 out of the box has strikingly good looks, is light, narrow and toothy, if a bit stiff feeling.  Fit is snug and race ready, though a bit more accommodating in the forefoot.  They feel quick and ready to roll fast without any urging.

Stats
Weight: 8.9 oz US Men's size 9 (9 5/8 oz./276 grams) US men's size 10 / 7.9 oz US Women's size 7
Sample US Men's 8.5 (8.7 oz/246 grams)
Stack: 20mm/16mm (4mm drop)
$130 Available now

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Race Report: Run Mag Mile 10K, Chicago, Illinois. In the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro!

Article by Michael Ellenberger

Race Report: Run Mag Mile 10K, Chicago, Illinois
I just recently ran the “Run Mag Mile 10K” in Chicago - a pretty terrific course that takes you north and south along the titular Magnificent (“Mag”) Mile on Michigan Avenue, along with some out-and-back stretching along Lake Michigan. Scenic… but on Saturday, quite exposed and windy! Fortunately, the wind was at an angle such that I think we benefited more than we lost to it, but still - a bit demoralizing to be out there all alone with no cover! I’ve been training in the Nike Epic React and Pegasus Turbo, favoring the Peg Turbo for those really slow recovery days, and the Epic React for anything a little quicker and/or longer. My initial impressions from the Peg Turbo have cooled, if only a little, as it just feels like they doesn’t have the responsiveness I want for any kind of faster turnover, and they can come off feeling sloppy. For slower miles, it’s still the go-to.
For the 10K, I decided to take out the Reebok Run Fast Pro (RTR review).

Saucony Xodus ISO 3 Review - Because sometimes your feet deserve an armored tank

Introduction


The Saucony Xodus ISO 3 is a beast of a trail shoe made for every type of terrain. A complete redesign from the Xodus ISO 2, it combines a very comfortable sock-like upper wrapped in Saucony's ISOFIT system, now sitting on top of a new full EVERUN midsole (the big update) and a very burly outsole.
The result is a heavy duty shoe that is marketed toward muddy terrain but which chews up rocky Arizona mountains just as well. If you are looking for the one shoe to take with you everywhere (except the road), the Xodus could be everything you are looking for. Just make sure you aren't too weight conscious, because this may be the heaviest shoe on the market today.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Topo Athletic Ultraventure Initial Review: Accommodating, Softly Cushioned and Versatile Door to Trail Runner

Article by Sam Winebaum
We will have a full multi tester review of the Ultraventure soon but wanted to share some first impressions now.

Ultraventure ($130)
The Ultraventure represents Topo's first trail oriented more maximally and softly cushioned shoe. It adds 2mm front and back stack to the road focused Ultrafly 1 (RTR review) and like the Ultrafly features a tri density midsole. The midsole of the Ultraventure combines higher rebound injected EVA for the main body of the shoe with a softer compression molded heel insert to ease transitions and a firmer medial side compression molded area for a touch of guidance.  The Ultrafly 1 was all compression molded foam.

The upper is a simple, fairly dense and thin engineered mesh with a multitude of pliable overlays. The outsole is Vibram XS Trek rubber, a tacky fairly soft all terrain outsole material. And of course we have Topo's roomy yet secure wider toe box. I have always loved the room and security of Topo uppers but have found their rides on the firm rough side when combined with the low drops, even somewhat in the Ultrafly. So I was very curious how the Ultraventure would run and suspected it would also be versatile and equally at home on many trail types as well as roads.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Suunto 9 Baro Full Review: Highly Accurate GPS Tracking, Improved Wrist Heart Rate, Outstanding and Leading Battery Life

Article by Jeff Valliere


Suunto 9  Baro
$599 ($649 with Chest Heart Rate Belt)
Colors:  Black (tested) or White
Available now
Introduction:  
The Suunto 9 Baro is the latest evolution of high end GPS multi-sport watches from Suunto, building and improving upon their most recent Spartan series. In addition to a much simpler name (in stark contrast to the more recent Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro, which we reviewed here), the Suunto 9 features several improvements, that, even while not a revolutionary overhaul, are worthy of consideration if you are planning to upgrade from previous Suunto models, or are looking at Suunto for the first time.  The Spartan series had some improvements over previous Ambit models such as easier and more intuitive menus, a touch screen to accompany buttons, slightly better navigation functionality, wrist HR on certain models, more comfort, interchangeable bands, but overall was looked at as a step back with less accurate GPS, diminished battery life (in all but the Ultra model), lack of add on apps and all at a hefty price tag.  The Suunto 9 addresses many of those concerns and I think is the best watch yet from Suunto.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Mack Weldon Stratus Active Short and AIRKNITx T Review: All Day, Any Activity, Stylish, Highly Functional Performance and Always Fresh (Smelling) !

Article by Sam Winebaum

Mack Weldon is a New York City brand on a mission to reinvent Men's Basics: underwear, socks, shirts, and now athletic shorts. They do this through  smart design, premium fabrics, and simple shopping. We had heard of the brand and seen their ads appear on our pages. We were curious when they reached out to RoadTrailRun to test their Stratus Short, their first athletic short ,and an AirKnitX T shirt. Of course we were a bit skeptical and are always picky when it comes to run shorts as what could essentially is an underwear company do to improve on this run essential? 

We knew Mack Weldon focuses heavily on the comfort of their fabrics, sourcing unique materials always of interest here at RoadTrailRun, so we said yes. Our interest really perked up when we learned the fabric of the Stratus short was treated with 37.5 Technology which we have also tested and appreciated for its comfortable temperature and humidity regulating properties in top of the line Salomon S/Lab apparel and race vests. 37.5 is described as follows:
     "37.5® Technology helps keep your body at the ideal core temperature of 37.5° Celsius and helps  keep the microclimate next to your skin at the ideal relative humidity of 37.5%. When you’re hot, patented active particles embedded in the material remove sweat in the vapor stage before liquid sweat forms, cooling you down. When you’re cold, those same active particles trap your energy to help warm you up."

Stratus Active Short ($88)
  • 37.5® technology regulates body temperature, eliminates sweat, and fights odor
  • Silver XT2® brief liner fights odor (and leaves room for optional underwear)   
  • 7” inseam
  • Zip side pockets and hidden back pocket securely hold phone, wallet, keys
  • Laser-cut side perforations for targeted breathability
  • Elastic waistband with drawcord for customizable fit
  • Reflective side detail for nighttime visibility
  • 43% Polyester, 43% 37.5® Polyester, 14% Spandex
The Stratus has a 7" inseam short. Generally, and especially in super humid run weather we steer clear of longer inseams as the legs tend to stick, they get heavy with moisture and in the way. Not so here as the leg openings are sufficiently wide and that 37.5 tech really works compared to any short we have tested. It seemed to draw the moisture and heat out with a distinct feeling of thermoregulation. The outer fabric is very lightly textured, somewhat stretchy but not plasticky feeling,  drapes well and never noticeably sticks anywhere. The inner brief is soft and stretchy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

UA Horizon BPF Trail Runner Initial Review: Race Tested at UA Mountain Series 25K!

Article by Sam Winebaum

UA Horizon BPF ($130)
The UA Horizon BPF is a lightweight (9.4 oz/266 g) trail runner with a molded soft and supportive upper, a relatively firm, responsive but forgiving and protective ride with great stability over uneven terrain. They are shod with what proved to be a very versatile all terrain Michelin rubber outsole. The BPF in the product name stands for Bullet Proof Feather, a cool name which more testing will have to validate but so far so good!
I took a pair straight of the box to run, well more like mostly hike ,at  the Under Armour Mountain Series 25K at the Killington Resort in Vermont this weekend. They did not disappoint as I clambered up and down 4500 vertical feet of very  steep grassy ski slopes navigating lots of mud, rocky jeep roads, and single track. RoadTrailRun will have a full multi tester review soon but here are my initial impressions but I can say the Horizon BPF puts UA on the trail running map with an innovative and effective shoe.
Above my wife's women’s version all fresh, clean and ready to get muddy! My pair did not make it in time for the race so UA loaned me a pair from their demo fleet.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

La Sportiva Unika Review:A Unique & Futuristic Trail Shoe It Is!

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere
La Sportiva Unika ($199)

Introduction
The La Sportiva Unika is aptly named. This is one unique shoe! It packs an innovative soft, forgiving yet quite stable Infinitoo polyurethane foam (PU) midsole, an elaborate sock like upper supported by an outer harness with a bulbous toe protector, and one of the grippiest outsoles we have ever tested.  It is also unique as according to La Sportiva it is the first trail shoe manufactured in Europe, Romania to be specific.
The relatively heavy 12.2 oz /347 g Unika is a puzzler. Is it a trail runner, a fast packer, a through hiking shoe, or the ideal slow terrain Ultra shoe for the masses? Jeff and I tested on a variety of terrain including fast technical runs above Boulder, mellow road and trail on the Seacoast of New Hampshire and took them for a two day hike on the never ending steeps and boulders of the Northern Presidentials of New Hampshire. Read on for our test conclusions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mystery Ranch Huckberry Edition 1000 D Urban Assault 21 L Pack Review: Seriously Rugged Streamlined Day Pack

Article by Sam Winebaum
Mystery Ranch Huckberry Edition 1000 D Urban Assault 21 L Pack ($139)
Mystery Ranch of Bozeman, Montana founded in 2000 by Dana Gleason, previously co-founder of the iconic Dana Designs pack company, was approached in 2004 by the Navy Seals to design and build special packs for their needs. Since then Mystery Ranch has expanded its offering beyond traditional backpacking and mountaineering to military and Special Forces, woodland fire and upland hiking packs.

With a focus on user centric design, Mystery Ranch packs are known for their function first focus, durability and comfort-regardless of the load. I have often seen their packs on display at Outdoor Retailer with always a crowd of outdoors people and those special military people flocking the booth but  have never owned one.

I have been in the market for a day pack that I could use for hiking, nordic skiing and carrying the weekly work laptop. An advertisement from Huckberry for a special edition Mystery Ranch caught my eye as the specs met my needs to a T.

The Huckberry version of the Urban Assault 21 L differs from the regular Urban Assault in being made of forest service Hot Shots grade super rugged Cordura 1000D vs. the almost as rugged 500D in regular version, having a Velcro patch removable logo, and a special Dusky Green color.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro Full Review: Amazing Substance, Minuscule 4 oz Weight! Best Race "Flat" Ever?

Article by Derek Li, Michael Ellenberger, Dave Ames and Sam Winebaum


Reebok Floatride Fast Run Pro
The Reebok Floatride Fast Run Pro is an impossibly light (3.6 oz/102 g in my US M8.5 so sub 4 oz in a US M9) road racing flat with an atmospheric $250 price tag, more than $60 per ounce so literally caviar pricing!


Sam: Designed for Reebok's elite athletes including their Zap Fitness team, this shoe took Nicole DiMercurio to a stellar 6th place at the Boston Marathon this year.  I sure scratched my head hearing that news, Boston hills and all... Was there more to this shoe than meets the scale? In the day of the super cushioned Vapor Fly what was Reebok thinking here? Let's just say real, real good thoughts and superbly executed!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Reebok Sweet Road 2 Review: Easy Riding. Easy Fitting Faster Trainer

Article by Sam Winebaum

Reebok is on a focused tear in 2018. The race Floatride Run Fast (RTR review) and Floatride Run Fast Pro (RTR review) are superb racing shoes among, if not the very best and most innovative of 2018 with their Floatride Foam PEBA midsoles, minimal uppers, and new approaches to integration of midsole materials and outsole.
Left to Right: Sweet Road 2, Floatride Run Fast, Floatride Run Fast Pro
What then is the fast training partner for these more race oriented shoes? Not the Grasse Road a fine somewhat more stability oriented and heavily cushioned shoe we recently tested (RTR review) and for me due to its 10.8 oz weight not the similar but more cushioned neutral oriented Harmony Road 2. Enter the Sweet Road 2.

At a very fair price of $100, this approx. 9.6 oz // 278 g US men's 9, 8 mm drop trainer seems to us the product of very, very careful consideration of and laser focused improvements area by area of the competitors in the class such as the Brooks Ghost, Saucony Ride ISO, Nike Pegasus 35, Asics Dynaflyte 3, Skechers Ride 7, adidas Solar Boost, even we would venture to say the lighter Kinvara.

To sum it up, and upfront, the Sweet Road 2 is flexible and transitions very easily and smoothly, has a relatively soft forefoot to go with a stable heel with its softer KooshRide TPU insert, has plenty of durable rubber well matched in firmness to the midsole, and is topped off with an unstructured buttery soft (I run them barefoot daily) engineered mesh upper with only one strategically placed medial overlay/insert, an upper that is most comfortable and decently supportive at the same time. Read on for the details.