Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Garmin inReach Mini Review - Finally!! A Lightweight Two-Way Satellite Communicator For Runners, Travelers Off the Beaten Path and Gram Counters!

Article by Jeff Valliere

Garmin inReach Mini
3.5 oz./100 grams
$350.00 Available now
For years I have considered some sort of satellite emergency tracking device for my adventures in the mountains, especially hearing story after story of somebody being saved because of one, but also more so when I hear of somebody not making it because they did not have one.  On top of that, I have some close friends who have had near death, loss of limb injuries in the backcountry, friends who are more skilled than I.  As careful as I am, I am well aware that even a small mistake when running/hiking/adventuring in the mountains can have dire consequences.  As I also start taking my 7 year old daughters on more mountain adventures outside of cell phone range, the decision to get an emergency tracking device was increasingly weighing on me.

The offerings from Garmin (after they bought out DeLorme, maker of the inReach) were most appealing as they offered the ability for 2 way communication (important to confirm SOS message has been received and to communicate details to rescuers), the freedom of very flexible use plans depending on your specific needs and the option to start/stop and pay by the month if one so chooses.  

But, the normal inReach is a touch on the heavy side (7.5 oz.) and large (more than twice the size of the Mini) and expensive ($399.99 and up), with features that I don't need such as GPS maps and navigation all of which I get from my iPhone and GPS watch.  Other devices like Spot are a reasonable size/weight, but still not super tidy, the plans not very flexible and the SOS communication is one way, meaning in an emergency, you press a button and hope that the message sent and keep your fingers crossed that help will arrive.

Enter the inReach Mini

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hoka One One Bondi 6 Review - Subtle Updates to a Tried and True Maximal Road Cruiser

Article by Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Bondi 6
Weight: 10.9 oz/ 310g M9, 8.6 oz/246 g W8 (11 5/8 oz. / 329g US Men's size 10)
Stack Height: 36mm heel/32mm forefoot, 4mm drop
Available in Wide sizes for men and women
$150. Available Now

First Impressions:
As expected, the Bondi is reliably puffy with a huge 36mm midsole that screams maximal cushion and comfort.  The Bondi 6 looks great (in my opinion) in the Caribbean Sea/Storm Blue colorway with yellow accents.  The upper, midsole and outsole have all received subtle upgrades for a slightly more refined look and feel, but putting a Bondi 5 on one foot and a 6 on the other, it is hard to tell them apart.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo Initial Road Test Review: Light, Comfortable Trainer Built for the Road to Breaking 2... or Breaking 4!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo ($180)
On July 11th Nike released the Zoom Pegasus Turbo, an approximately 8 oz/ 227 g (men's 9), 6.9 oz /196 g (women's 8) run trainer.   Nike's official weight at a size 10 men's is 8.4 oz. The Turbo has a 10mm drop and is based on the popular Pegasus.

The Zoom Pegasus Turbo is the second shoe, after the magic Vapor Fly-the Breaking 2 shoe, (RTR review) with a Zoom X midsole. Zoom X is a PEBA based foam which is incredibly light and has superb energy "return" and cushioning characteristics. The Vapor Fly has flown elites and four hour marathoners to shockingly fast times while keeping the legs fresh through the race and after. I can attest to the friendliness and speed of this incredible shoe.  The Turbo geometry seeks to reproduce the familiar feel of the Pegasus, at race shoe weights, as well as the energetic softer ride of the Vapor Fly with a hint of its propulsive effect but with no carbon plate in the mix.

The Turbo was developed with feedback from Eliud Kipchoge who got oh so close to the magic two hour marathon barrier last year and who has been the world's most dominant marathoner. Eliud wanted a training shoe with the very light, lively, soft, and friendly feel of his record setting Vapor Fly to hammer out the hundreds of miles of training required. Quite frankly, Nike had few if any training shoes with such a ride feel and light weight in their current line up until the Turbo.

Nike was kind enough to send us a pair for testing. I have run 21 miles in them since receiving yesterday: a 5.5 mile moderate tempo run,  4.5 mile slow recovery pace run, a short pre race tune up with a faster mile and a 7.5 mile hilly daily  pace run. Read on, but Nike has a winner here. The Turbo is a training shoe that is a light, comfortable, softer and is smoother and at the same time is not quite as aggressively responsive and firm as the standard Pegasus. Recall Eliud wanted some comfort in his trainer and we should too!

Monday, July 09, 2018

ASICS DynaFlyte 3 and Roadhawk FF 2 Comparative Review: More Room or More Response?

Article by Sam Winebaum
ASICS Dynaflyte 3                    ASICS RoadHawk FF 2
Asics in recent years has struggled somewhat to find its stride in a run shoe market increasingly focused on lighter trainers with more dynamic midsoles and lighter comfort uppers. We reviewed the RoadHawk FF  last year and found it a fast but quite harsh and snug performance shoe. We have never run the DynaFlyte at its origin in version one a trainer with some light stability elements and version two a more neutral trainer.

ASICS introduces two new midsole compounds: FlyteFoam Lyte in the DynaFlyte and Flyte Foam Propel in the RoadHawk FF 2. We first saw Propel as a bouncier, softer layer above Flyte Foam in the Cumulus 20 (RTR review), an excellent highly supportive lighter daily trainer. Here Propel as a full midsole appears firmer than in the Cumulus layer yet is still noticeably bouncy  FlyteFoam Lyte is a lighter version of the fairly dense foam found in recent ASICS trainers and to me it feels more dynamic in the Lyte version. And light indeed as the DynaFlyte comes in at a very svelte 9 oz.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Asics Gecko XT Review - Rock Crawler Extraordinaire

by Jeff Valliere

Asics Gecko XT
10.4oz. US Men's size 9 (11 1/4 oz. / 318 grams US Men's size 10)
24mm heel/18mm forefoot (6mm drop)
First Impressions:
I'll admit that the plain black colorway with purple logo initially had me on the defensive.  The materials feel thick and durable, yet perhaps a bit stiff and warm.  The Gecko XT feels a bit on the heavy side and somewhat dense, more so than the advertised 10.4 oz. listed weight would imply.  The outsole looks very interesting, with low profile lugs that look best suited to rocky slabs and has a hint of approach shoe.

ON Running Cloudace Review: Serious Business. Impeccably Designed and Built Swiss Run Machinery!

Article by Sam Winebaum

On Running Cloudace ($200)

The mighty Cloudace is marketed as a significant evolution for ON Running on multiple levels (including a $200 price point) while at the same time the brand does not abandon their distinctive CloudTec channeled cushioning elements and superb upper construction.

ON says about the Cloudace:
"The objective was clear: deliver the ultimate cushioning sensation without slowing you down. The sole of the Cloudace is the result. Our most advanced application of CloudTec® delivers the smoothest ride you've ever felt. Experience extreme heel comfort and protection thanks to rear Zero-Gravity Clouds and still get an agile push-off thanks to the rubber landing zone in the forefoot."

The statement above, if proven true, even without the hyperbolic words of "ultimate" and "extreme", addresses what I have found in my previous testing of the original CloudSurfer and CloudFlyer to be major handicaps for me in truly enjoying running ON shoes. These handicaps were: a firm high heel and a stiff awkward transition from the Speedboard plastic plates embedded in the midsole. I did enjoy the Cloud and Cloud X, stripped down, flexible and firm ON shoes designed for faster shorter runs. So please read on to find out what I found, but I'll give you a hint. Mission accomplished in terms of an agile push off but I think still some work to do with the heel landing on those "Zero Gravity Clouds".

Monday, July 02, 2018

Brooks Levitate 2 Review: Smooth, Weighty and Substantial Road Cruiser

Article by Jeff Beck, Dave Ames, and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Levitate 2 ($150)

Dave:  Brooks has been a company completely off my radar for a number of years.  Poor biomechanical performance, general mass production of “chunky” trainers and a ton of weight and stiffness just let the brand fade further and further away from my foot.  However, in 2018 the brand really took a step in the right direction coming with a stronger aesthetic look, re-tweaked fun DNA Loft midsole materials in the Ghost 11 and Glycerin 16 and just plain more enjoyable shoes to run in.  The Ravenna 9 (see RTR review) was outstanding earlier this year and I pounded over 500 quality miles in it. I had heard decent things about the Levitate 1 (did not run in it other than try it on) so I was intrigued to see what all the hype was about in the 2.

Jeff: Unlike Dave, Brooks has been the backbone of my running shoe assortment for a while. Between giving the Glycerin a shot every year, and dabbling with the Ghost, I am solidly a Brooks fan. That said, I was intrigued with the Levitate last year, but the shape of the toe box made it a non-starter for me. When I saw pictures and read early reviews that the Levitate 2 changed all that, it quickly became my most anticipated shoe of the year.

Sam: Don't let the considerable 11.7 oz weight scare you off! By far the heaviest roads shoe I have run in for years, and gaining a bit over Levitate 1, the Brooks Levitate 2 with its innovative DNA AMP PU midsole skinned with a supportive sliver TPU skin is all smooth and supportive. I ran the Levitate 1 and was surprised by its smooth almost pneumatic cushion and measured yet noticeable "energy return". Amply cushioned, well shod with a full smoothly and quietly transitioning durable outsole it is a shoe I reach for when I want to really save the legs and still move along at a moderately decent pace. If you were a Leviate 1 fan not to worry the ride is the same. The changes here are to the upper.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Suunto 9 Baro Initial Impressions Review - FusedTrack, Extended Intelligent Long Life Battery Settings and Improved Wrist HR

Article by Jeff Valliere

Suunto 9  Baro ($599)
Available now
We recently received the new Suunto 9 which was released on June 26th for review and after initial testing, wanted to give some first impressions before our upcoming, full in depth review.

Introduction:  The Suunto 9 is the next generation of GPS watches from Suunto with the look, menus and operation are very reminiscent of the Spartan series watches (see our review of the Spartan Sport Wrist Heart Rate Baro here) , but with some interesting new additions.

Whats new:
  • FusedTrack, which fuses data from the barometric altimeter and movement sensors between GPS pings to improve accuracy and help conserve battery for very long events.
  • New HR sensor
  • Compatibility with Suunto's multiple mobile app. platforms
  • Easily swap-able bands
  • 24/7 continuous HR tracking
  • pre and in workout Intelligent battery tracking with a higher level of adjustability of features to most efficiently optimize battery life based on length of planned activity or as battery gets low.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Initial Testing Review: Trendline Popularity Route Mapping, Climb Pro, On Board Music, and Battery Life

Article by Sam Winebaum

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire ($800)

We are testing the Fenix 5 Plus. A full comparative review will follow but here are some initial impressions from trail and road running.
We like to see battery life on the watch face so changed to the Garmin Titanium face, one of dozens available.  Pardon the sweaty watch face. It was hot on the trails here in New Hampshire!

The mighty Fenix 5 series goes Plus. This multi-sport, fully featured, rugged GPS and wrist heart rate watch series has every sport feature and performance and physiology metric imaginable. The Plus  series has three significant upgrades over the original Fenix 5 series:
  • All three Fenix 5 get color topo and road routable map capability on 1.2"/30.4mm displays. Previously only the Fenix 5X had color maps.
  • All three get an on board music player with up to a 500 song capacity
  • Garmin Pay for contactless payments is included.

Titanium Bezel Fenix 5 Plus

There are three Fenix Plus models distinguished by size of case, battery life and in the case of the Fenix 5 Plus the addition of a pulse oximeter sensor for altitude acclimatization. In a nutshell the bigger the watch the longer the battery life. 
Fenix 5s Plus: ($700 and up)
  Case Dimensions: 42 x 42 mm x 15.4 mm 
  Weight: 65 g
  Battery life: up to 11  hours GPS
Fenix 5 Plus: ($700 and up)
 Case Dimensions: 47 x 47 mm x 15.7 mm 
 Weight: 86 g, 76 g Titanium. 
 Battery life: up to 18 hours GPS. Our initial testing indicates close to 24 hours GPS+HR, up to 9       hours GPS+Music+HR
Fenix 5X Plus: ($850 and up) 
  Case Dimensions: 51 x 51  mm x 15.7 mm 
  Weight: 96 g, 87 g Titanium 
  Battery life: up to hours 32 hours GPS 
All can extend battery life via UltraTrac mode with up to 70 hours GPS with the 5X. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Hats Review - Style, Versatility and Attention to Detail. For running or any activity, and for the whole family!

by Jeff Valliere

Living in Colorado, hiking, running and spending time in the mountains, we have become a hat wearing family.  Having worn the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat for quite a few years, I was familiar with the brand, but after visiting their booth at Winter Outdoor Retailer this year,

I was very impressed with the wide variety of full coverage sunhats for both adults and kids, along with a wide array of lightweight, breathable running/everyday caps and visors.  When presented with the opportunity to review, I immediately jumped at the chance and was eager to see what Sunday afternoons had to offer beyond the one hat from them I was familiar with.

The Adventure Hat has been my go to for long mountain hikes, days at fairs, festivals, farmers markets, the beach, the pool or wherever I know I will have the sun beating down on me for a long period of time.  Coverage is extensive, providing neck protection and a wide shadow that keeps me from getting cooked.  For running however, the Adventure Hat is a bit too thick, bulky, heavy and keeping the sun off of my head becomes secondary to staying cool and ventilated.

Enter the Ultra Adventure Hat, which is not quite as airy and vented as a ball cap or visor, but provides an excellent balance of the wide brimmed sun protection that I have come to appreciate along with breathibility for those long runs in the hot summer sun.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Salomon Ultra Pro Review: Versatile and Roomy. All Day, Any Trail Comfort and Performance

by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

Salomon Ultra Pro 
The Ultra Pro joins Salomon's excellent fleet of trail runners as a secure yet widest fitting, well and relatively softly cushioned option with the longest easiest flex. It shares features with new S/Lab Ultra but also differs slightly:
  • both have the new Energy Save forefoot insert but here it is TPU instead of a PU insert as in the S/Lab,
  • both have two external Sensi Fit wings tied to a new tongue design and vertical loading lace garage. The S/Lab's are a dense pliable rubber like material the Ultra Pro's a combination of mesh and a sewn on overlay type material, 
  • both have a dual density midsole whose heel layer is somewhat softer in the Ultra Pro
  • both have excellent Contagrip rubber with 5mm lugs on the Ultra Pro and 4mm on the S/Lab, with the Ultra Pro having what seems to be slightly softer black rubber and a slightly wider forefoot ground platform. 
The design of the Ultra Pro is clearly intended for Ultra racing and really any trail run's comfort and security while not sacrificing performance. So how do they run? Jeff and Sam ran them in Colorado, Utah, and New Hampshire to find out.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Skechers Performance GO Run Max Trail 5 Ultra Review: Radically Different & Awesome Riding...On the Right Kind of Trails!

Article by Jeff Valliere, David Henry, Dave Ames, and Sam Winebaum

Skechers Go Run Max Trail 5 Ultra
Sam: I wear tested previous Skechers Performance trail shoes and found the trail side lagging the brand’s clear progress in road shoes over the last couple of years. I also wear tested the Max Trail 5. This is one truly radical new shoe. 

The original design did not change of a super cushioned and soft shoe with big lugs, a super comfortable sock like upper and a very lively dynamic ride helped along by a rock protecting stabilizing Hytrel plate, something did change big time along the way to production. The midsole foam changed from FlightGen to UltraFlight resulting in a whopping 2 oz drop in weight to 10 oz The change to UltraFlight also led to a yet more lively ride and a vibe that increasingly reminded me 
in many ways as the weight dropped of the road...Nike VaporFly 4%. Or as Jeff put it combine a race car engine and undercarriage with a luxury sedan cabin for an incredibly dynamic ride and speed with easy going up top cushy comfort that feels like it might struggle to hold on around the race track curves. The question to be answered in our test was: can a super cushioned, high stack, super light shoe with such a sock like upper support and hold up to the rigors of trail running on all kinds of terrain? Our testers in New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado, and Southern California set out to find out.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Brooks Levitate 2 Initial Review: Yet More Solid Goodness!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Levitate 2 ($150)
Read our Full Review here
Don't let the considerable 11.7 oz weight scare you off! By far the heaviest roads shoe I have run in for years and gaining a bit over Levitate 1, the Brooks Levitate 2 with its innovative DNA AMP PU midsole skinned with a supportive sliver TPU skin is all smooth power. I ran the Levitate 1 and was surprised by its smooth almost pneumatic cushion and measured yet noticeable "energy return". Amply cushioned, well shod with a full smoothly and quietly transitioning durable outsole it is a shoe I reach for when I want to save the legs and still move along at a decent pace. If you were a Leviate 1 fan not to worry the ride is the same. The changes here are to the upper. We will have a full multi tester review shortly but here are my initial impressions after 20 or so miles at various moderate paces.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Saucony Freedom ISO 2 Review: Great New Upper. Improved Foot Hold and Stability. Same Ride.

Article by Sally Reiley, Dave Ames, and Sam Winebaum

Saucony Freedom ISO 2

The Saucony Freedom ISO 2 comes to the training table with changes focused on more secure support and stability for what in version 1 was a pretty wild and hard to tame ride for many. A low slung, "natural riding", 4mm drop shoe with an unstructured upper and a midsole made entirely of Everun TPU midsole, the ISO 1 was an intriguing ride (RTR review) capturing many fans but faded here at RTR as newer lighter dynamic midsoles such as Nike’s React, Reebok Floatride, Skechers FlightGen and even Saucony’s own Kinvara 9’s with EVA+ emerged after the Freedom ISO 1 came out. Does Freedom ISO 2 refresh the magic? We tested to find out.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Brooks Glycerin 16 Review: Finally Delivering on the Promise! Always Plush. Now Any Pace Lively

Article by Jeff Beck
Brooks Running Glycerin 16

The Brooks Glycerin 16 is a quantum leap forward for a shoe line that I have wanted to love for a long time. While the upper and overall fit and finish of this shoe has always been dialed in (leading to an immediate response of “This feels nice”), the 16 is the first version that puts it all together for me. This feels like Stockholm Syndrome is finally paying off.
My first Glycerin was the 8, and I have run in every version since (I skipped the 13 and 14), and ultimately every single shoe has been a disappointment in some way. Typically too sluggish, not responsive enough, or what felt great in the first few runs gave way to feeling just okay on the foot. That said, the 16 killed it. It's the first version that delivers on all the marketing promises of "balanced soft cushioning, plush transitions, and plush fit". This is a great all-around shoe, and none of its many predecessors were great all-around shoes. They were fine to good and mostly for long slow days, or heavier runners. The 16 breaks the mold to become an everyday monster.