Saturday, December 15, 2018

John Shaw's Racer Story: The Unexpected Journey from Couch Potato to World Records!


Article by John Shaw

Editor's Note: We are thrilled to bring you John's story. Six years ago, John took up running in a Couch to 5K program after leading a pretty darn sedentary life. In October 2018 he smashed the 20 year old 50K World Record for a 65 year old with a time of 3:34.18, passing the marathon in 2:54. He also holds the world marathon record for a 63 year old with his personal best 2:45.13. He shares his remarkable life story, motivation, training and racing methods, and his secrets, "the nitty gritty of an ancient marathoner" on how to really run fast, at any age, with RoadTrailRun.
John before taking up running and on the podium after his world record 50K PC: Jasmine Scholtz and Raine Shaw

On any given weekend up to June 2012 you would have found me lazing on the couch watching sport; munching my way through yet another pack of chips (crisps) while guzzling down a rum n coke.
Fast forward to October 2018 and at age 65 I’m standing atop the podium after winning a 50km event and smashing my age group World Record by 6 minutes. A record that had stood for 20 years!
Hold on! What the heck happened to that couch potato? To find out let’s go back to the very beginning of an amazing and unlikely journey.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Brooks Launch 6 Full Review: Steak and Potatoes for Launch

Article by Peter Stuart, Sally Reiley, and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Launch 6 ($100)
Reviewer Profiles
Sam is 61 with a 2018 Boston qualifier of 3:40 and 2017 1:35 half. He runs 35-40 miles a week with most training averaging 9:20 per mile. Sally is in her late 50's with a marathon PR of 3:29 (Boston 2017) and 44:04 10K PR. She peaks her training at around 50 miles per week with paces around 8:15. Peter is 51 and recently ran 3:00:14 at the California International Marathon and has a half PR under 1:25.

Introduction
Sam: The Launch is the Brooks up tempo and longer race shoe. It slots into the Energize collection. My Launch 6 sample checks in at exactly the same weight as the Launch 5 (RTR review) in my size US men's 8.5: 9.17 oz / 260 g, so about 9.4 oz in a size 9 with a women's size 8 at approximately 8.1 oz / 230 g.  It has a 10mm offset 

The primary changes to the Launch 6 are its new engineered mesh upper and added cushion in the forefoot. It comes in a very reasonable $100 and is available now.

Peter: The Launch 1 changed my life. No, really, it did. Way back when John Schrup used to write word poems about shoes he made the Brooks Launch sound like the greatest shoe ever made. It was simple, light and functional. To quote John Schrup from his open letter to Brooks to save the Launch when it faced discontinuation,  “There was a time when we joked that we could open up a store selling just the Launch.  We understood the brilliant, simple design, the functionality, the breadth of appeal. It is arguably the best shoe in decades.”.  


Ok, Great, so how did that change my life? Well, long story short I made a pilgrimage to Rogue Running in Austin, bought a pair of Launches, liked them, started writing about shoes, occasionally trained with Rogue over the years (lured in by their ‘JFR’ campaign) and now I’ve moved to Austin where I train with Team Rogue. Enough about me--back to the Launch. The beauty of the Launch was that, at the time it came out (2010-11?) it was a rare breed. Light and cushioned--able to go fast or to go long--a good shoe for pretty much anyone. It was a gem.

In the passing years, lots of things have happened. One of them is that John Schrup doesn’t write about shoes as much--which is a shame--because when he does it’s still a delight. Another is that lots of shoes have come out that are in the same category as the OG Brooks Launch: Roughly 9 oz, decently cushioned and versatile as all get out. So how does the Launch 6 face up to all of the competition in this iteration? Read on to find out.

Brooks Running 2019 Previews: Adrenaline GTS 20, Ghost 12, Revel 3, PureBeat, Cascadia 14, Pure Grit 8

Article by Sam Winebaum with Shannon Payne and Peter Stuart

Brooks Running previewed updates to the best selling Adrenaline GTS and Ghost trainers, a slimmed down Revel, a major update to the Cascadia, an update to the Pure Grit and a new light run and workout shoe the PureBeat.
Watch our YouTube Preview 
Adrenaline GTS 20, Ghost 12, Pure Beat, and Cascadia 14

A key focus for Brooks was to highlight the pairing of the Ghost 12 (left below) and Adrenaline GTS 20 (right below).

Monday, December 10, 2018

Altra Running Timp 1.5 Review: A Maximal Trail Shoe with Distinctive Personality

Article by Dominick Layfield and Jeff Valliere

Altra Running Timp 1.5 ($130)

First Impressions and Fit
Dom:  Wow. I didn’t think I was going to like the Timp.  Previous incarnations of the Lone Peak have provided enough rock protection and support for me to run hundred mile races in them, and I couldn’t imagine wanting much more.  High stack shoes often have stiff soles that remove much sensation of the ground underfoot Moreover, extra protective trail shoes often come with stiff “supportive” uppers that overly restrict the foot.  To my surprise and delight, the upper of the Timp is very soft and light, and the sole is flexible and compliant. Instead of being a whale, these shoes are a delight to run in.


Dom:  My sample pair felt a little large, but I assume this is deliberate given that the Timp is targeted more for long distance than cruising than for fast, high G-force efforts.  The spacious fit allows room for a little foot swell. But notably, cinching down the laces to take up extra midfoot space somehow doesn’t result in the uncomfortable squeezing that it does in some shoes.


Jeff:  I too was initially quite impressed with the Timp 1.5 as I took them out of the box and first tried them on.  The upper is very sleek and stylish, yet subtle grey with orange accents contrasting nicely. It feels lighter in the hand and especially lighter on the foot than it’s 11.5 oz. weight would imply.  Comfort/cushion feels amazing and the outsole looks very capable in a variety of terrain. Quality feels top notch with seemingly good protection and a protective toe bumper.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

ON Running 2019 Previews: Cloudswift and Cloudstratus

Article by Sam Winebaum with Peter Stuart and Shannon Payne

ON Running

I have been a huge fan of ON's "textile" capabilities. Textile technology, production and machinery has been a long time strength of Switzerland where ON is based. Their run apparel is spectacularly comfortable and functional. I am going on my third winter in their Running Pants and picked up their Lightweight Running Cap and stylish High Socks, featuring them in our 2018 Gift Guide here. Their shoe upper designs are modern and beautifully executed shoe after shoe.

Swiss Engineered ON run shoes with their distinct channel through CloudTec elements and stabilizing and propulsion Speedboard have not,  beyond the light and fast Cloud and Cloud X, really been to my liking over the years. With firm heels they are often stiff with the run feel kind of dull  I struggled to enjoy them. I have not run the more flexible Cloudflow though.

Well for 2019 ON has my attention with two new shoes: The Cloudswift, a daily faster trainer with a new midsole foam and the Cloudstratus, a heavier duty trainer with dual heel layers of CloudTec elements focused on maximum cushion and a stable ride.

Watch our YouTube as ON presents Cloudswift and Cloudstratus to RoadTrailRun

Friday, December 07, 2018

Reebok 2019 Previews: New Forever Floatride Energy! Updates: Float Ride Run 2.0, Grasse Road 2 ST, Harmony Road 3

Article by Sam Winebaum with Peter Stuart and Shannon Payne

Reebok was one of the big surprises at last year The Running Event, essentially relaunching the brand in the run game with a decent  trainer the Floatride Run and two spectacular up tempo and race shoes the Fast and Fast Pro.

Reebok is leaving great alone with the Fast and Fast Pro unchanged but for new colors, tunes up the Run, launches a light midsole foam Floatride Energy in a new shoe the Forever Floatride Energy and uses it to update their trainers Grasse Road (now a much more stability oriented model) and Harmony Road  (neutral).

Floatride Energy is an expanded pellet TPU (think Boost) foam that it said to be more responsive and springy and lighter than traditional EVA foams. The foam here is clearly not Boost (Reebok is owned by adidas but does its own thing from everything we can tell)  as the pellet grains seem much smaller and it appears lighter. It is also allows Reebok to offer "super foam" based shoes at a great price as Energy comes in at $100, Grasse Road at $120, and Harmony at $120.
Reebok presents 2019 in our YouTube below

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Topo Athletic Terraventure 2 Review: A Well Balanced Buffet of of stability, rock protection, and ground feel

Article by Dominick Layfield.


Topo Terrraventure 2
Specs
Stack height: 25 mm heel, 22 mm forefoot (3 mm drop)
Official weight: 10.8 oz / 306 g (US M9)  8.2 oz / 232 g (US W7)
Test sample (US M10) weighed 11.4 oz / 322 g
Price: $120. Available late November 2018

First Impressions
I thought this was a splendid-looking shoe, dressed in rich yellow with a fly red sole and black accents.  Beyond the bright and cheerful color, the exterior of the shoe is relatively plain, with overlays that match the egg-yolk color of the mesh.    


I’ve found in the past that Topo shoes fit my feet well, and I appreciate their functional design philosophy.  The Terraventure 2 was no different: as soon as I put them on they felt comfortable and familiar.


Fit
On the foot, the Terraventure 2 fits like other Topo shoes, with a relatively wide toe box, a snug midfoot, and modest (3 mm) heel-to-toe drop.  I recently tested the Ultraventure and the two shoes have a lot in common, in terms of shape, feel, construction, and style.The reader is advised to at least skim the RTR review of this shoe which may cover details not mentioned here.


In my experience, and echoed by most other reviewers, Topo shoes are consistently true-to-size.  The Terraventure 2 is no exception, and my US Mens 10 felt perfectly sized.


Topo shoes may not ideal for people with very narrow feet, nor excessively wide.   But for for most runners, I suspect Topo nails a happy middle ground. The wide toe box provides room for toe spread and good ground feel, but remains snug enough to avoid the shoe feeling sloppy.
Upper
In addition to the exuberant yellow colorway of our test pair, the Terraventure 2 is available in more muted olive and dark red colors for those who prefer to fly under the radar.


Structurally, the upper is very nicely designed.  The primary fabric is a relatively open mesh that strikes a nice balance between stretch and foot retention.  The overlays seem functional, rather than cosmetic.
As with the Ultraventure and Runventure, the principal structure of the heel counter is external, and also provides attachment points for Topo’s proprietary gaiters.  I discussed my experience with these in other reviews.  Briefly, I found they mostly worked well but putting them on in poor visibility or with numb fingers was definitely difficult.


The heel collar of the Terraventure 2 is overall a little lower than in the Ultraventure.  I prefer the Terraventure: the lower heel still grips well and makes the shoe feel more nimble.


The tongue is nicely padded and fully gusseted.  No minuses there. Similarly, the laces are a good thickness, easy to grip, the right length, and have just enough stretch to stay tied.
Midsole
The signature characteristic of the Terraventure 2 is the rockplate embedded in the midsole.   As rockplates go, I think Topo’s implementation is highly competent. A perfect compromise is hard to titrate.  With too stiff a rockplate, a shoe can feel very dead, lacking sensation of the ground underfoot. A stiff rockplate can also make a shoe feel unstable and ‘tippy’, teetering on prominences. On the other hand, if a rockplate doesn’t provide enough protection, then it is worse than useless, making a shoe heavier and more expensive to construct, with no tangible benefit. (This was my feeling about the Altra Lone Peak 4.0.)
Caption: Topo Terraventure 2 (top) alongside its sibling, the Topo Ultraventure (bottom)


The rockplate in the Terraventure 2 gets the balance about right.  The shoe maintains good flexibility and ground feel, while providing decent rock protection.  My quibble, though -- and I appreciate this may a matter of taste -- is that I don’t really see the necessity of the rockplate in the first place.  Topo’s new Ultraventure shoe weighed 606 g (per pair US M10), and the Terraventure 2 644 g, so a difference of 19 g (0.67 oz) per shoe.   The Ultraventure doesn’t have a rockplate, but offers almost as much protection by virtue of extra forefoot stack height (25 mm vs 22 mm in Terraventure 2), and   In theory, stability ought to be better in the Terraventure 2; but in testing I found the difference to be slight.


Consequently, I’m left scratching my head to understand the role Topo envisage for the Terraventure 2.   The rock plate in Topo’s excellent Runventure 2 shoe makes sense as this lower, lighter shoe would otherwise be very lacking in protection.  But with the Terraventure 2, it’s hard not to observe that the Ultraventure offers similar performance at a lighter weight.
Caption: Outsole on Terraventure 2 (left) is almost identical to Ultraventure (right)

Outsole
The outsole of the Terraventure 2 is made from Vibram XS Trek, and appears to be identical to the outsole of Topo’s Ultraventure shoe.   For the Ultraventure, all of RTR’s reviewers felt that outsole traction was excellent, including in the wet, and that mud/snow clearance was also very good.
I tested the red outsole of the Terraventure primarily in dry, dusty Southern California conditions, but also in the snow on a trip to Utah.  As expected grip was great, and durability looks promising.


Conclusion
The Terraventure 2 is an excellent trail shoe.  It serves up a well-balanced buffet of stability, rock protection, and ground feel.  Traction from the Vibram XS Trek outsole is outstanding. The refined upper is clean and functional, and provides excellent foot retention, comfort and breathability.  The overall shape of the shoe, in common with Topo’s other shoes, feels natural, following the anatomic form and leaving room for toe splay.


My only critique of the shoe is the weight.  In isolation, it’s another highly-competent offering from Topo.  But I can’t help but compare the Terraventure 2 to its sibling, the Topo Ultraventure, which offers a similar experience at a lighter weight.  My assumption is that the extra weight of the Terraventure is due to the rockplate embedded in the midsole.


Overall score:  9.7 / 10
  • This shoe does everything well, but weight is disappointing: It should be lighter than the Ultraventure, not heavier.


Comparisons (Links below are to our reviews)
Topo Terraventure 2 vs Topo Ultraventure
If you like rockplates, the Terraventure 2 has one; the Ultraventure does not.  Otherwise, the shoes are similar, with the Terraventure 2 having a slightly less supportive upper.  The Ultraventure has a higher stack (30/25 mm vs 25/22 mm) but surprisingly is lighter (606 g vs 644 g per pair, in US M10 sample shoes).  The Ultraventure has a softer, more cushioned heel, due to its compression molded insert there that is a little friendlier to heel strikers. Stability of Terraventure 2 is marginally better since it rides closer to the ground.  Personally, I’d give the nod to the Ultraventure.


Topo Terraventure 2 vs Topo Runventure 2
The Runventure 2 is lower, lighter, and feels like a more minimal shoe.  The Terraventure 2 is a better choice for longer runs or rougher terrain.


Topo Terraventure 2 vs Altra Lone Peak 4
Both have rockplates, but the one in the LP4 doesn’t provide much protection.  Stack height in LP4 is 25 mm front and rear; Terraventure 2 is lower at front (25/22 mm).  Both shoes tip the scales a little heavier than they should, at essentially the same weight (Sample pair of LP4 648 g, Terraventure 2 644 g).   Terraventure 2 a little firmer underfoot.


Topo Terraventure 2 vs Altra Superior 3.5
With its removable rockplate installed the Superior is surprisingly similar to the Terraventure both in weight (Superior 3.5 heavier by 10g per pair) and underfoot feel.  The Terraventure has better wet grip, and better foot retention (unless you downsize the Superior, which I think runs a little large). The removable rockplate of the Superior may be an attraction for some.


Topo Terraventure 2 vs Hoka Torrent
Stack height is almost identical.  I prefer the shape of the Terraventure 2, which is a better anatomical match for my foot.  The Terraventure also has the edge on rock protection. Grip from both shoes is excellent, and picking a winner would depend on precise usage scenario.   I prefer the lower heel collar of the Topo, and felt that the Torrent was overbuilt in this area. Torrent however, has a significant edge in weight: Torrent is 86 g (3 oz) lighter per pair, which would be a big factor if you plan to race in them.

Reviewer Bio

Dom Layfield  lives in Southern California after several years in Park City, UT.  He is an avid trail runner who likes to race. He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT, and has worked as a researcher in orthopedic biomechanics. 
His 2017 achievements include first place in the dead of winter 2017 108-mile Spine Challenger race in the UK, breaking the course record by an hour, first place in the Quicksilver 100K in California, and 14th at the Western States Endurance Run. In 2018 he ran 2:46 at the Los Angeles Marathon, and then, coming back from foot surgery finished 50th at UTMB.


Photo Credit: Dominick Layfield
The Topo Terraventure 2 was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments Questions Welcome Below!
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Saucony 2019 Run Shoe Previews: Liberty ISO 2, Ride ISO 2 & Mad River TR


Article by Sam Winebaum with Shannon Payne and Peter Stuart
Saucony showed RoadTrailRun a substantial upgrade to the light stability Liberty ISO, an update to the Ride ISO, and a new customizable trail shoe, the Mad River TR, at the recent The Running Event.

Watch Saucony present the 2019 models here to RoadTrailRun in our YouTube below

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Altra Running 2019 Previews: Vanish-XC, Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush, Escalante 2, King MT 2, Tushar Hiker, Grafton and Wahweap Approach Shoes

Article by Sam Winebaum with Peter Stuart and Shannon Payne

Altra as always presented in detail and in depth at The Running Event. The season's preview was presented by Brian Beckstead, Altra co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer.
Watch our video preview here

Vanish-XC ($80)
Available May 2019
Weight: 5.5 oz
Stack Height: 15 mm

Monday, December 03, 2018

New Balance 2019 Previews: Fuel Cell Rebel, Fresh Foam More, Fresh Foam Beacon 2

Article by Sam Winebaum with Shannon Payne and Peter Stuart

New Balance was on a roll at The Running Event with two new run shoes, a speed oriented trainer the Fuel Cell Rebel and their first max cushion trainer the Fresh Foam More. Not left out we also saw a strong upper update to their popular Fresh Foam Beacon.

New Balance presents the Rebel and More in our YouTube 

Hoka One One Fall 2019 Previews: Rincon, Clifton 6, EVO Mafate 2


Article by Sam Winebaum


At the recent The Running Event in Austin, Texas Hoka One One previewed updates to the Clifton and EVO Mafate and a new shoe, the Rincon, which could be called the lighter, more responsive, faster days and race Clifton.

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Review - Large Capacity & Stable Ride

Article by Jeff Valliere

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest
Capacity: 10 Liters
10.4oz. without bottles
Sizes:  One size fits most
$99.95

UltrAspire photo

The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest is a secure, high capacity vest that can carry a reasonable amount of essential gear on longer runs or all day summer outings.  As the name implies, the Legacy can be used for racing and is better suited toward longer mountain races where more gear, or mandatory gear, needs to be carried, but most would find it too large for shorter, faster racing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Running Event 2019 Preview Videos: Under Armour. Brooks, Hoka One One, Saucony, New Balance, ON Running, Altra, & Reebok!

Article by Sam Winebaum
 
Brands presented their highlight introductions for 2019 to RoadTrailRun at the Running Event in Austin, Texas. Each brand presents two to three models.
Full Preview articles to follow with details and more models.

Altra Torin 4 and Torin Plush, King MT 2.0, Vanish-XC, and Tushar Boot
Update: Read our full Altra Preview article here
Vanish-XC, Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush, Escalante 2, King MT 2, Tushar Hiker, Grafton and Wahweap Approach Shoes
Saucony Liberty ISO 2, Ride ISO 2, Mad River TR
Update: Full Saucony Preview article HERE
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20, Pure Beat, Cascadia 14
Update: Full Brooks Preview article HERE Adrenaline GTS 20, Ghost 12, Revel 3, Pure Beat, Cascadia 14, Pure Grit 8

Hoka One Rincon, Clifton 6, and EVO Mafate 2
Update: Preview article and photos here
New Balance Fuel Cell Rebel and Fresh Foam More
Update: Preview article and photos here
ON Running Cloudstratus, and Cloudswift
Update: Preview article and photos here
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (new), Harmony Road 3, Grasse Road 2, Fast and Fast Pro
Update: Read our full preview article here also includes Run 2.0
UA HOVR Infinite (plush neutral trainer)
UA HOVR Velociti 2 (up tempo trainer), HOVR Guardian (light stability trainer), HOVR Sonic 2 (light neutral trainer)

UA Connect/Map My Run.
All HOVR are Connect enabled with a  built in sensor with a  life of the shoe battery to measure pace, distance, stride length, and cadence.  No phone or watch is required to capture the data. With the MapMyRun app form coaching is offered based on Connect data.

Comments Questions Welcome Below!
2018 Frequently Updated Holiday Savings Page CLICK HERE
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Monday, November 26, 2018

Nike Zoom Vomero 14 Review: Fast and Responsive Heavy Duty Run Trainer!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike Zoom Vomero 14 ($140)
The Vomero was a personal purchase at retail.

Introduction
The Zoom Vomero 14 is an entirely new run trainer from Nike. It only shares name, Zoom Air and the exact same weight with its predecessors. There is no question from my initial testing that the Vomero is designed to be Nike's new heavy duty faster, long and big mileage trainer. It is by far my favorite Nike heavy duty trainer in many years.

The Zoom Air is in a new full length patented configuration embedded in Nike's React foam. It is my understanding the Zoom Air unit swoops down in a curve similar to the Vaporlfly and Zoom Fly but here we have air instead of carbon for the plate.

At a reasonable shade under 10 oz (283 g) it is heavier than the Pegasus 35 (RTR review) and Turbo (RTR review) as well as Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR review) and Epic React (RTR review). Not to worry it is a very dynamic riding shoe with a particularly well executed thinner, stable, firmer, yet well cushioned forefoot that likes to go fast and lively. My ground contact times as measured by RunScribe are close to the Vaporfly in the Vomero 14 which means I am turning over fast, always a good thing.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Stryd versus RunScribe Plus: Can Data Make You Faster?

By Michael Ellenberger with Joost de Raeymaeker

RunScribe Plus and Stryd
The future is smooth, black, and shiny.
How do you record your runs? If you're like me, you use a GPS watch, automatically (or not) sync it to Strava or Garmin Connect, and forget about it. Maybe collect some kudos along the way, if you're lucky. If you're like some teammates of mine, you might document every run without the watch data, describing how far and fast you ran without an actual map, and add notes about how it felt, what you thought about, who you were with. If you're even more old school, you might keep a paper notebook lined with running entries and memories of those crisp fall days when you just felt like you could run forever. Or, when you found out the nearest open bathroom.

It's 2018, so why not ditch your paper running log, hand-written date on your trainers, and manual step-counter and move into the future? Sure, there are some interim technologies - basic GPS watches, Strava, multi-sport behemoths that can handle anything - but for a lot of us, running in 2018 looks a lot like it did in 2008. And 1998. And (okay, I'm making it up at this point) 1988. Want to know how many steps you take? Count them. Want to know whether you over-pronate? Better get yourself to a running store and have them film you, or find yourself a treadmill and line up your iPhone just so and hope you can determine what that shaky video footage really means. (That one isn't exactly 1988, is it?)

One of the RunScribe Plus units (left), and a Stryd Power Meter (right).
Regardless - data science is now a part of running, and it's here to stay. But why, exactly, do we need to know our power output, shock, efficiency, motion, symmetry, and more? Why can't we just... run? I set out to find out if two new running tools - the Stryd Power Meter and the RunScribe Plus - could make me faster. You'll be disappointed in the answer (it's "TBD"), but hopefully I can provide some insight into what these nifty little gadgets can, and can't, do. I tested them mostly along with my trusty Apple Watch Series 4, but you don't have to - they work with most major GPS running watches, or, without a watch at all*! Both Stryd and RS+ allow for data retention and sync once you're back in the confines of your home. D.C. Rainmaker, I am not, but grab some coffee (or beer, depending on time of day) - this might be a long one.

* * * * *

Hardware Review: RunScribe Plus
Like pebbles... but with more science.
I'll get this out of the way - the RunScribe+ setup costs $249.99. Compare that to $199 for the Stryd Power Meter and $70 for the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod, which is not being reviewed here. Does the RS+ setup do more than those two? It tracks more metrics, certainly - having two pods, rather than one, allows for a more accurate calculation of leg- and foot-specific imbalances, as well as improved clarity of those shared across both legs. It also (as we'll see) has a better interface, for the most part, which may help make up some of the cost difference. All I wanted to highlight was that these aren't cheap, necessarily, and to be ready to pony up the cash if you want this sort of data. For many of us, it may well be worth it. 

All laced up and ready, even on the tricky upper of the Zoom Fly FK.
Unlike the Stryd, which is a singular pod, there are two RunScribe Plus units - one for each foot. They are solid little units, plastic, but not so light that they feel cheap. It's a delicate balance - you need to attach it to your shoe somehow, so lighter is obviously better, but you're also at a risk of knocking it around against downed branches, curbs, stones, whatever. I imagine the most technical trails or paths you run, the more you'll care. I really only run on pavement and crushed gravel, so it's not a huge concern for me. Others may care - but I can't imagine something feeling much more durable than this. It's satisfying when you can drop something onto the floor and not immediately worry about it. Why can't iPads be made out of plastic? Anyway...

Like a good USB drive, don't forget to eject before removing.
The RS+ allows for two mountings, on-lace (like Stryd), and at the heel. I received two sets of the RS+ and neither of them, unless I'm way mistaken, included the mountings for the heel. Ultimately that's fine - I prefer the laces anyway - but it did mean I couldn't actually try the heel mounted pods. Oh well. [Edit: RunScribe's website has been updated to read: "We have moved to a laces-focused solution. All (new) sets of RS Plus are shipping w/ 2 sets of Laces Cradles." I suppose I wasn't crazy, after all.]

The charger (right) is pretty slick here, too - it holds both footpods at once, and charges via Micro-USB. I'd hope for USB-C in a future update, but you charge these things so infrequently, it doesn't really matter. The back of the charger provides a convenient holding spot for each of the two clips which allow the pods attachment to your laces. Traveling to a race? Clip the pods into the front of the charger, the holsters into the back, and toss it in your bag. Nifty, and a well thought-out design.

What else will you need to get up and running? The RS+ is compatible with over 20 Garmin watches through Garmin Connect IQ. It also has an Apple Watch app, or you can bring your phone (Android or iOS) and track via the RunScribe+ app. This speaks more to software, but it also interfaces with Zwift. I've never used Zwift (I haven't run on a treadmill in some time, for that matter) but it sure looks like a nice way to spice up an indoor run, if you have the capabilities.

[Edit: RunScribe confirmed for me that the latest version of the RS+ has a barometric altimeter, which should provide meaningful altitude data for those who are fortunate enough to have hilly terrain. As a Chicago runner... it's not quite so useful, but nice to have, regardless.]

Each RS+ unit is smaller than a Stryd, but then again there are 2 of them.
Too much reading? The takeaway is this - there are two RunScribes, instead of one. And they charge in a neat little box. No, really - you put these on your shoes, so obviously they're largely designed to be forgotten about, and they do a pretty good job. I, for one, like the baby blue accents, but it does make the footpad stand out more than black might.

Hardware Score: A- (Why no USB-C? And that $250 buy-in... Yikes! You better love data, or learn to quickly.)

* * * * * 

Hardware Review: Stryd
[MPE: Stryd provided me with some additional information, which I've worked into the review in the respective sections, below. In short, the charging (which was one of my biggest issues), is about to get much easier. Moreover, there are some software elements I hadn't realized before, but I've now updated the review to reflect the new information!]
About as premium of an unboxing as you can get.
In its cradle, the Stryd Power Meter certainly doesn't scream "tech."
As noted, the Stryd costs $199, $50 less than the RunScribe+. At least the unboxing experience (above) makes you feel it's money well-spent: more organic shapes and solid materials. What do you get for $199? It actually isn't listed on their page, but I'll tell you - the Power Meter (footpod, I'll use these interchangeably), the charging dock, the USB charging cable, and the mount to keep the footpod in your laces. Simple enough. Some versions of the Stryd unit have a different color front indicator light - I like the way it blends in here. Very subtle, very futuristic.

The Stryd Power Meter looks like something you'd pull out of a river, if you chose to do such a thing. It is organically-shaped, with ridges in the firm rubber and a weird, almost-hidden button in the center for modulating its power state. It's nice to roll it around in your hand... not that you'll do that, much. But you could. And it'll feel good. There's only one here, unlike from RunScribe, but that's okay - you can mount it on either shoe and be off and running. 

The Watch is elevated towards the camera here, but they're comparable.
The Stryd Power Meter is compatible with a large number of watches - most Garmin and Apple Watches included. The full list is here (usually I'd paste this in as a photo but really, there are a ton). I tested it with an Apple Watch and an old Garmin Forerunner 235 I borrowed, and it worked fine.

Like the RunScribe, the Stryd attaches only to the laces. Unlike the RunScribe, there's no other mounting option. Fortunately, lace mounting is easy, and especially convenient if you switch shoes as often as we do here at RoadTrailRun. Just don't forget to take it with you when you're rotating pairs.

A bit smaller than an AirPods case.
Charging the Stryd is considerably trickier than the RunScribe, and it's only (real) hardware deficit. Yes, this setup undoubtedly looks cool - it honestly looks like a pebble, sending ripples into a lake. The aesthetics is nice. But besides the fact that your glossy charging "lake" will be covered in fingerprints from day one, it also requires that you line up the Stryd just so on the pad so that the wireless charging can function. If you're like me, and often set something to charge on something else, you better make sure that something else is flat, because any angularity and this foot pod is going flying to the floor. It's small enough to get lost easily (I've done this once) and without anything adhering it to the charging mat, pretty easy to lose track of. This problem is accentuated by the fact that the charging cable (also Micro-USB to USB-A) is incredibly short, so you better have a flat surface really, really close to your outlet. It's imperfect, if not downright frustrating - but there's an upside: like the RunScribe, you won't be charging this much: it's rated to last about 20 hours of run time on a charger. Depending on who you are, that's 1-3 weeks. Not bad.

[MPE Edit: Florian, a helpful commenter, called to my attention that Stryd can be charged by any Qi-compatible wireless charger, including those that work with Apple iPhone (8 and newer) and the new Google Pixel series). Wireless charging isn't super widespread yet, but I have seen mats in a number of hotels and Starbucks, which may be useful if you're traveling and didn't bring the Stryd pad. Stryd doesn't make note of this on their website, so as with all charging-related curiosities - use with caution!]

[MPE Edit II: Stryd confirmed for me that the footpad is Qi-compatible, and also that they're switching to a dual-charging system: units will now ship with a wired clip in charger, which should offer "a more secure charging experience you can take with you," as well as the existing wireless charging capabilities. This is a big improvement, in my opinion!]

The Stryd charger. Yours may not look so clean, after a few sweaty runs.
Quick takeaways: The Stryd looks cool. There's only one of... it. Charging is futuristic, but finicky*. 

Hardware Score: B+ (Cost is a factor here, for sure, but my biggest complaint is that charger.)

*See updates, above, which should presumably fix the biggest issues I had with charging!


* * * * *

Now to software. For reference: I am a law student, I have been trained as a chemist, and I am a (reasonably) long-time runner, but I am not a data scientist. All of these numbers are what's being proposed to me by the respective apps, and I am sure that there are places where I'm missing what's happening, or misunderstanding some data, or just flat wrong. Please feel free to tell me in the comments (really!). Both platforms are evaluation on MacOS and on iOS, as that's what I primarily use. With that... let's get on with it.

Data & Software Overview: Runscribe Plus

RunScribe provides a plethora of data, which is accessible via a web browser (“Dashboard”), an iOS app, Android app, Apple Watch app, Connect IQ software for Garmin, Suunto Ambit and Spartan Compatibility, and sync with Garmin Connect, TrainingPeaks, and Movescount. Hard to imagine there are many runners left out here.

Opening the RunScribe Dashboard gives you more than enough information; at least the visual aids are clear.
RunScribe’s comprehensive metrics, calculated by the pair of footpods and tabulated through the aforementioned platforms, “highlight tradeoffs between the core elements of a runner’s stride: Efficiency, Motion, Shock, & Power.” Motion metrics include those often described at a running store when selecting the newest trainer: footstrike type (heel, mid-, or forefoot strike), pronation excursion (in degrees), and pronation velocity. Fortunately, RunScribe provides context to its metrics - particularly helpful when some of the data may not make intuitive sense. On a recent run, my RunScribe told me I had “high” efficiency, “average” shock, a midfoot strike (on both feet), and a differential of pronation - average on my left, and low on my right. In both cases, it was marked as low velocity.
Nearly all metrics can be displayed graphically (top) or numerically (bottom).
Notably, RunScribe also describes the symmetry of a running stride, the only consumer-grade system to do so. They say that the bi-pod system captures “independent Left & Right data for each of our metrics, enabling you to see any imbalances in symmetry from your footstrike type to running power.” It’s pretty amazing tech - this can be tracked in real-time - and almost certainly illuminates something in most runner’s strides. The RS system allows you to tag individual shoes, terrains, and workout types, so that you can later come back and view, for example, every run you’ve done in a Zoom Fly, just to see. It’s a really smart feature, and one I need to get better at staying on top of.

Realtime data coming from the RS+.
It’s worth noting on the issue of symmetry - really with all metrics, across both platforms - that being aware of the biomechanical issue and fixing it are immensely different concepts for many of us. In the RunScribe Dashboard clip, below, you can see that while the footpods have me reasonably symmetrical, there is a difference of (for example) about 25% between my left and right “footstrike type” (5.8 versus 7.4). Is that something to be corrected? It’s hard to know. If Steve Magness, the famous scientist/author/coach, who provides an endorsement on the front page of RunScribe, was my coach, than I could likely implement some of this more readily - at the very least because it’s easier to have someone observe your gait from afar - but as a self-coached (read: not coached) runner, these things are not easy to apply.

Of course, there are some obvious implementations that runners of all abilities can make - bringing stride cadence closer to 180 strides per minute at all paces (the traditional view; there are dissenting minds here). Trying to focus on a midfoot strike, with your landing underneath your body and a quicker, rather than longer, turnover can also be vastly beneficial. I spent several months in college working to increase my efficiency and while I still have, as my collegiate coach told me, “the least knee-drive in school history” (it’s true), I have found a more efficient stride that’s helped me over longer distances. Just focusing on upping my cadence and managing where my shoe planted ended up being a massive help. But of course, I did that before RunScribe even existed.
"Run Summary" gives Strava-esque data.

Let me crescendo into the biggest question of all here, and one that I certainly, in a few weeks of testing these two platforms, have no answered - do we need to change? Do we need to be symmetrical? Many national-class and even world-class runners are asymmetrical if not downright inefficient. The LetsRun Community (message boards) have a few good threads on this, linked here and here. Of course, RunScribe has a number of resources as well (see e.g., here, here, and here). There is not shortage of data and ways to interpret it.

Small things, now: The RS+ Apple Watch app doesn’t allow for GPS recording natively, so you’ll need to run two apps at once, or measure your distance another way. It may be coming soon (the AW app is quite new itself), but I elected to just forego the app and pull the data after my run (the pods silently collect your run data, regardless, as long as they’re paired). I can’t imagine dealing with the biometrics on a tiny watch screen mid-run, anyway - but may others can.

If you’re a data nerd - and I suppose I put myself in that camp - you’ll probably love the RS+ plus system just to have it. I know I do. And maybe if I had some injuries to overcome, or a coach to go over the data with on a regular basis, I'd give this a more glowing recommendation. But for now, it's a toy - a really, really cool toy - that I'm still trying to find worth in. Doesn't mean I don't love using it (I do!), but does mean I can't tell every runner to go and grab one this holiday season. Not yet.


Data & Software Overview: Stryd

The main page that greets you in the PowerCenter.
Stryd has a browser interface (the PowerCenter) and an iOS app. Both relay, ultimately, the same data, but do so in different layouts. Stryd also has an Apple Watch app, though you can't review data in it, only record. That's par for the course on most Apple Watch workout apps (who'd want to review all these numbers on a screen that small, anyway?).

Update: The Apple Watch app allows users to review individual runs by swiping right and seeing distance, then clicking on that run, which allows for a view of individual metrics on the graph. Not as full-featured as desktop or iPhone, but, as I said - you're probably going to want to get to a bigger screen, anyway.

You got all that?
You get a bunch of additional metrics on desktop, too, by clicking the circles below the "main" readouts: Elapsed Pace expands to Max Pace; Elapsed Time expands to Total Time; Average Elapsed Power expands to Max Power; Averaged Elapsed Form Power expands to both Average Elapsed HR and Average Elapsed Leg Spring; and Average Elapsed Cadence expands to Average Elapsed Ground Time and Average Elapsed Vertical Oscillation. Phew. This is the majority of the available measurements taken by the Stryd, in their absolute form.

Then there's the Running Stress Score ("RSS"), which Stryd sees as the shortcut to your run analysis, as far as I can tell: RSS = 100 x training duration x (Power/CP)^K, where critical power ("CP") is your maximal average sustainable power over one hour of running, also referred to as “lactate threshold” power. Only have a few seconds to check the app? This is where you should look - RSS quantifies your day-by-day running intensity relative to your critical power, giving you a single number representing both the variety and duration of training. Looking at the algorithm above (and cheating a little, because I already know the answer) we can see that one hour of training at one's critical power will earn them exactly 100 RSS points.

This RSS metric is, as far as I can tell, the most useful, quantifiable piece of data Stryd provides. It's similar to Garmin's Training Effect software, in that you could theoretically sit down and plan a training block around matching specific RSS scores to specific workouts, but it's also just easier information to use than Average Elapsed Leg Spring (no offense to leg spring, of course).

Stryd's iOS app provides this funky, "flyover" style map of your run.
The iOS app allows you to view your run in "real time" (i.e. it provides the metrics for you at that specific point in your run, overlaid onto the map) which looks sharp, and has some obvious utility - you can see what happened to you during that part of the race. Maybe you felt your legs giving out, and wanted to see how your cadence changed; maybe you wanted confirmation that there really wasn't a downhill when you started speeding up. Both should be available in this view.

Apple Watch interface. Simple.














*This is a long asterisk, and hopefully you followed it down. Stryd says that it records every run, even if you aren't using the app. Just run, technology free (besides the footpod), come back home, and it'll have your run ready for you. But I can't get that to work - despite resetting the app, trying just about every setting I can think of, and more. [Update: Stryd is helping me through some troubleshooting and hopefully we can have this up-and-running soon. None of the other reviews had this issue, so may just be a faulty unit, or user error.]


Head-to-Head (ft. Joost de Raeymaeker):

Joost and I were split on which system we preferred overall:

Not a lot of room left for, you know, the laces.
Joost said he preferred Stryd overall, as he found the immediate metrics a lot more helpful to me than those provided by Runscribe. Unfortunately, Joost wasn't able to use the newest iteration of the RS+, but the system is (largely) conserved. Moreover, Joost noted that while the power metric is new with Runscribe, he was disappointed overall, as well as in the lack of barometric measurement.

Even so, he reported that while his first Stryd was incredibly accurate, it ended up going the way of so many electronics and needed to be replaced. Stryd sent him a complimentary replacement, but he found the accuracy to be well off its distance calculation, and the app doesn't allow for a calibration factor.

[MPE update: I didn't have an issue r.e. the calibration factor, but for those, like Joost, who did, Stryd allows hardware-based calibrations to override their software, which may be helpful if you have a watch that allows it!]

I (Michael) would prefer the RunScribe, were I approaching these in the marketplace. For a reasonably small price difference, you get considerably more metrics and a software interface that (in my opinion) is largely more user-friendly. After two weeks of using the system, I don't think I'm ready to handle 10% of the data provided - but I'm excited to keep digging and hopefully integrate it fully into my training. Let's say this - the RunScribe is will stay laced in my trainers a long while.  I also preferred the hardware, though it's mostly a toss-up, as both are really well-made and seem to have strong customer service.

* * * * *

Conclusions

So, can data make you faster? Ultimately, I think I'm asking the wrong question. Instead, can we make use of all this data? I know that I can't; at least not right now. RunScribe+ and Stryd both have tons of metrics - Power being perhaps the most obvious (and the one Stryd pushes the hardest), but all worth considering, if you have the time.

Paired with an Apple Watch or a Garmin Fenix or Forerunner, either of these footpods will provide more than you can need, even on-the-fly. If you're like me (or like me, before this review), and still think that time and distance are the extent of the data you need after a run, you're in for a real treat. It's amazing technology, fun to play with and imagine the possibilities. 

Both Stryd and RunScribe make strong statements about injury prevention; I suppose in the time that I've been reviewing these footpods, I have not been injured, so they've been successful that far, but I don't think that's what they intend. And, ultimately, if you're strapped for time, barely squeezing in your run every day for family, work, and other commitments - you aren't necessarily missing anything by not having these numbers. You won't finish your next race and think if only I knew my pronation velocity, I would have caught that guy! 

Here's the truth: I fully believe you could help prevent injuries, or increase your efficiency, or even, yes, become faster from these things. There's more data here than even the top coaches in the world are dealing with, and if you have the prowess to sort through it, more power to you. It's exceptionally cool, and fun to play with. But for me, now, it's just that: a toy. A really fun toy, one I'm excited to use for the upcoming weeks and months and (hopefully) years - but one that I'd advise only the nerdiest of runners (and I imagine RTR readers are among them) to pick up. Those who have stuck through this far may well enjoy a RunScribe or Stryd, find catharsis in picking apart the numbers for that long run, race, or grueling workout. If that isn't you, you aren't missing some critical piece of training. But if that does describe you - welcome to running in 2018.
Shop for Run Scribe Plus HERE
Shop for Stryd HERE
Reviewer Run Bios
Michael Ellenberger is a 3d year law student at Northwestern University who recently ran a PR 1:07:43 half marathon. His full run bio is here.
Joost de Raeymaeker is 50 and won his age group in 2018 with a PR 2:27.32. He is a photo journalist http://www.deraeymaeker.com who lives in Angola, Africa.
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