Thursday, April 25, 2019

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 Full Review - Significant Upper & Footshape Updates are a Winning Combination!



Article by Jeff Valiiere and Estelle-Marie Kieffer with Canice Harte
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 ($180)
Estelle-Marie: Without any media hype, Salomon has delivered a new version of the Sense S/Lab Ultra 2 -- a trail running shoe created in collaboration with Fra├žois d'Haene, multi-time winner of the UTMB.


I was disappointed by the first version of the S/Lab Ultra  (My RTR review) as I found it a bit heavy and lacking responsiveness and precision.  Quite narrow, with pressure points, I clearly preferred the Ultra Pro and XA Elevate. So it was with some apprehension that I ordered the S/Lab Ultra 2.


Jeff:  Though I gave the first S/Lab Ultra a reasonable score last year, I share the same sentiments as Estelle that it was a bit sluggish and lacked response, mostly because I expect more out of a Salomon S/Lab.  Though I found the toe box in the original version to be noticeably narrow, my testing took place during colder months of Winter/Spring and aside from some post run pinky toe/toenail soreness and being aware of the narrow taper during my runs, it was a minor complaint.  However, once summer arrived, particularly on a 3 hour, hot mid day technical run with some road miles thrown in at the end, my toes ended up aching throughout most of the run due to foot swell and warmer temps causing more sweaty feet. Because of this, I have not run in the last version since last summer.  Like Estelle, I too was a bit reticent of the S/Lab Ultra 2.


Stats:
Official Weight:  9.9 oz /280g US M9
S/Lab Ultra v1 weighed 10.7 oz / 303 g US M9
Tested Sample Weights:  
EU W40: 8.9 oz / 253 g vs. 9.5  oz / 268 g S/Lab Ultra v1 (EU 40)
US M10: 10.5 oz / 298 g vs. 11.13 oz / 315 g for v1
Stack Height: 26mm/18mm (8mm drop)
MSRP $180. Available now.


PROS:
- Cushioning and forefoot protection
- Agility and precision
- Durability
- Traction
- Fit (especially toe box) now more consistent with other Salomon trail shoes
CONS:
- Still on the narrow side toe-box

Tester Profiles
Jeff runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder, Colorado often challenging well known local FKT's.
Estelle-Marie is a French ultra runner who finished 34th in the Trans Canaria 64K. She is also a tri athlete who has completed Ironman Kona six times with best performance 6th in her age group.

Hoka ONE ONE Rincon Multi-Tester, In-Depth Review: Flying Fast, Very Light and Cushioned!


Article by Peter Stuart, Sam Winebaum  and Jeff Beck
Introduction:
Sam:  There is much nostalgia for the groundbreaking Clifton 1, a sub 8 oz maximally cushioned shoe with noticeable bounce and for me so so rear stability. Subsequent Cliftons have gotten heavier, more stable, and longer lasting but for many lack the original“magic”. Roll forward to 2019 and here comes the Rincon.


The Rincon can be thought of as the up tempo, racing sibling of the Clifton. It utilizes a new more “balanced” vs. Clifton’s “soft” foam according to Hoka, has a light airy upper similar to the Carbon Rocket’s, and mostly midsole for the outsole. Checking in at an estimated mere 7.1 oz / 201 g (based on our samples), so more than half an ounce lighter than the Clifton 1, it shares the exact same 30mm heel, 25 forefoot with the upcoming Clifton 6 (which loses loses a full ounce, 28 g of weight compared to the 5)  to come in about 8.9 oz / 28 g of weight. Review soon.

Watch our A/B Test Rincon vs. Clifton 6 and Clifton 6 vs. Clifton 5 videos at the article here


The combination  super lightweight plus maximal cushion sure was intriguing . Were they a racing shoe or a training shoe or as the original Clifton was a combination of both?  How do they compare to shoes such as the NB Beacon, Pegasus Turbon, Epic React, Skechers GO run 7, and Hoka’s own Mach, Carbon Rocket, and of course Clifton, Peter Jeff and I set out to test but can tell you already they are a delight!


Peter: The Hoka One One Rincon came along at a perfect time for me. Due to a recent foot injury (plantar plate tear=ouch), I have been instructed to wear shoes with little to no flex in them. The logical result of that prescription is that I have been running in various Hoka models over the past couple of months as they are the only shoes (except for the skechers Razor 3) that don't seem to hurt my feet.


That said, I've been frustrated with the Hokas I've been running in. I'm on the lighter side of things (around 145) and while my feet don't hurt when I run in the Bondi I also don't really enjoy running when I run in the Bondi. It's a lot of shoe and it feels like a chore for me to push them (especially after 10 or so miles or up hills). I picked up some Cliftons (Clifton 5) which were better, but still left me feeling kind of uninspired. While the Cliftons are a lighter than the Bondi, they still don't thrill me. I figured that I'd run in Cliftons until healed and then ditch them.
So along comes the Rincon. Ahhh, what a relief. These puppies are light (7.1 oz in our test size 9 weight--which puts more than 2 ounces lighter than the Clifton 5), comfortable and a joy to run in. I've always wanted to really enjoy a Hoka--and have never been able to really enjoy any of their shoes (even when it got close there were fit or blister issues). That's all changed  with the Rincon.

Jeff Beck: Looks are deceiving, and on the surface the Rincon is a lightweight neutral trainer, with a very reasonable price tag. There isn’t much to go crazy over. The upper is comfortable and pliable, but not super premium. The midsole is one of the lower stack heights Hoka has put out there. And the outsole is largely exposed midsole, with a little bit of strategically placed rubber. Yet the result is nothing short of outstanding. A friend who works in the industry said his understanding is that the Rincon was positioned as a great daily trainer for the average high school track or cross country runner. I’m sure the high school kids are going to enjoy it, but I think nearly everyone else is as well.

Pros:
Lightweight
Well cushioned
Flexible very breathable upper
Great price point at $115
Sam: first Hoka (except Rehi) with a distinct flex point. Rocker plus flex is a great combo!


Cons:
Exposed midsole could be a durability concern
Forefoot is adequate width, wider footed runners won’t be able to experience an amazing shoe.
Sam: Softish heel but not nearly as soft and unstable as Clifton 1 as there is a less pronounced heel bevel. A touch more rear rubber would help stabilize the heel and provide more pop
How will the new foam hold up? Given the light weight and foam characteristics they are expected to pack out more than Clifton. The trainer pair becomes a racer?

Tester Profiles
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and is sub 3 hour in the marathon in recent years as well as a 1:25 half marathoner.
Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less.  Jeff runs 30 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in North Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a very ancient 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hoka One One EVO Mafate 2 Review - Max Cushioned Trail Rocket with Upper Improvements

Article by Jeff Valliere, Dom Layfield, and Canice Harte

Hoka One One EVO Mafate 2 ($170)
Introduction
Hoka One One Ultra racing shoe the EVO Mafate returns with upper tuning to increase comfort for the long haul. Ultra cushioned and as fast as any on all but the most technical terrain it features a low water absorbing very breathable single layer Maytrx upper reinforced and supported by woven in Kevlar like cords and fibers, a versatile Vibram MegaGrip outsole and a lively responsive ride.

Pros:
Canice: Long miles on mellow terrain and you’ll float along the trail.
Canice/Jeff:: Downhill Strava segment be warned, the EVO Mafate 2 is coming for you!
Canice/Dom/Jeff:  Cushion, allowing you to run longer with less damage to your legs.
Dom/Jeff:  Springy, bouncy ride, with lovely roll onto toe-off.
Dom/Jeff:  Comfort improved over predecessor.
Canice/Jeff: Traction
Canice: Relaxed fit


Cons:
Canice: Loose midfoot and heel undermine this shoe on technical terrain.
Canice: With all that cushioning you lose ground feel. This trade-off affects your speed when precise foot placement is needed.
Dom:  Outsole durability remains questionable. (EM1 was disappointing in this regard.)
Dom:  Expensive at $170 MSRP.

Skechers Performance GOrun 7 Hyper Multi-Tester, In-Depth Review


Article by Peter Stuart, Hope Wilkes, Jeff Beck, Mac Jeffries, Michael Ellenberger, and Sam Winebaum


Skechers Performance GOrun 7 Hyper ($130)
Introduction
Mac: I don’t know if you know this, but Skechers makes shoes that you can’t find at Payless. Like, real running shoes. Like, some of the best running shoes in the industry. ...I know, I thought the same thing at first. Here, have some Kool-Aid...
Hope: Skechers Performance might be winning the foam wars with Hyper Burst. Crazy light and crazy bouncy as the midsole in the stellar Razor 3, I was excited to see how it would translate to the GOrun 7. There’s a lot to love about this uptempo trainer, but it’s not without issues.


Peter: Skechers has been making a steady progression to running shoe Greatness. The Go Run Ride 7 and the Razor 3 were two of my favorite shoes in the past year and they continue to be really fun to run in. I was excited to see where this next version of the GoRun would, um, go. The short version is: There’s more to a running shoe than a great midsole.


Sam: Steady progress, increasing notice and accolades from serious runners Skechers Performance has methodically improved their run line with a heavy focus on innovative ,ever lighter and lively midsole foams season after season. With the Razor 3 Hyper and its Hyper Burst foam we experienced the next generation of midsoles from Skechers: a very light, zingy, and durable EVA processed in an entirely new way. The Run 7 uses exactly the same foam in exactly the same firmness as in the Razor 3 Hyper but with a different geometry and upper.


Michael: This is my first pair of Skechers (without a “t”) ever, and I have to say I’m impressed. I had tried on previous iterations of the GO Run and found the fit to be wonky - that isn’t entirely alleviated here (as I think most reviewers will attest to) but man, that Hyper Burst midsole is exceptional, and makes the shoe worth  trying, even with residual issues.


Pros
Mac: Midsole is fantastic, extremely comfortable shoe
Hope: Hyper Burst is quite possibly the best midsole compound available in 2019, featherweight for a trainer, flexible “only as much as you need” outsole
Derek: Light and responsive shoe.
Peter: Magical midsole, light shoe.
Sam: Light with a springy zingy midsole and plenty of cushion for weight, super comfortable on the foot at "rest".
Jeff: Midsole is fantastic, outsole has plenty of coverage to assuage durability concerns.
Michael: Hyper Burst, hyper awesome - this is the most “fun” trainer you can buy right now.


Cons
Mac: Midsole to upper hold is crazy loose and requires some creativity to get the lockdown right. Not a particularly great looking shoe, but reasonable people may disagree on that :-)
Hope: Too-stretchy upper makes lockdown a challenge, that “S” logo is still hard to stomach
Derek: The upper design makes it difficult to get good lock down.
Peter: Upper is a bit baggy, hard to lock the foot down without doing some lacing tricks and the shoe loses out on midsole/upper synergy due to the combination.
Jeff: The upper shape is awkward, toebox feels more narrow than it is, midfoot allows too much stretch.
Sam: The overly stretchy upper doesn't quite keep up with the speed potential of the shoe, even with lacing hacks.
Michael: The upper is a boot - but unless your foot is really tall, it’s not a great fit.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

COROS Apex GPS Multi-Sport Watch Long Term Test Review: Value and Performance

Article by Sam Winebaum

COROS Apex Premium GPS Multi-Sport Watch ($350)
Introduction
In December 2017 December at CES I noticed the Coros booth, featuring in bright lights their initial product, a hands free, ears open audio enabled bike element with automatic notification to loved ones of an impact.  Not as prominently, Coros was starting to show their Pace GPS watch. I was immediately struck and also somewhat skeptical of its very strong 25 hour GPS and wrist heart rate battery life  and very low price. I tested an initial release and low and behold it was a fine watch.
Roll forward to this fall and Coros introduced the Apex with up to 35 hours of battery life, a sapphire screen and even a titanium alloy bezel on my 46mm version all at a very reasonable 55 g weight, . There is a lighter smaller 42mm version (above left) with a ceramic bezel and still very respectable 25 hour battery life. Note that the "comparable" at least as far as hardware and size Garmin Forerunner 935 at a slightly lighter 49 g has a lower 24 hour battery life and has no durable bezel or sapphire screen cover and a $500 price tag, $150 more than the Apex.

Apex is assembled by a Chinese company specialized in GPS software so they are for sure and have proven in my testing very well qualified to achieve long battery life and accurate GPS. Coros sent us a sample Apex and I began testing in Decembe. I  now have many hundreds of miles of indoor and outdoor running and nordic skiing in 123 workouts through the winter with the watch. I did not test swim or bike modes.

Why you might ask not a review sooner? Well, while the battery life and GPS accuracy have proven outstanding, the optical wrist heart rate and screen visibility were not so good... I saw extended mid run periods of heart rate readings about 20 beats above actual and the thin digits peering through the dark dim screen largely unreadable in any kind of bright sun and especially with sunglasses on. One is now able to have dark digits on a light background which has helped.

I was also told Coros in their first big update would introduce navigation. With any new technology we often see not  quite "finished" firmware at release and bugs can emerge. So I waited for the first major update to finalize this review
About a month ago Coros released that first major update. It included the promised breadcrumb navigation features, and while not called out in the release notes,  I believe clearly improvements to the accuracy of the wrist heart rate sensing. This said most of my running is at moderate paces on flatter terrain. Hills and hard pounding impacts on downhills along with cold dry air temperatures which reduce blood flow to the extremities seemed in part a cause of the earlier heart rate monitoring issues. I have run in cold enough temperatures that previously may have caused the issue without similar inaccurate readings since the update so can conclude wrist based heart rate sensing is much improved for my uses.

The Bottom Line:
The Apex is an accurate long, long battery life GPS with wrist optical heart rate training watch with premium features such as a sapphire crystal and a titanium alloy bezel most often seen in watches costing hundreds of dollars more. I say training watch but in this day and age one can't call it a full "smartwatch" as while it includes phone notifications there are no apps,  no music control, or contactless payments. And Coros does not plan to be everything to everyone saying they are focused on the focused performance athlete, accuracy and quality at a fair price and not the "social" elements of fitness. The data exports easily to Strava and other platforms.

Pros
-Amazingly long training and everyday use battery life, up to 35 hours tested with GPS and oHR running and many days in everyday use. This is truly a watch you just don't have to worry about charging, a huge plus.
-Very accurate GPS tracking
-Very solid basic navigation features and route following as long as you go off prompts and do not have to stop squint at the actual mapping
-Very rapid GPS acquisition and post workout synching.
Cons
-Dim, not very trans reflective screen. or maybe the sapphire reflects too much light with overly narrow digits even with few fields in view. Difficult to see in any kind of bright light, with sunglasses on, ...or with old eyes. In those conditions I have difficulty seeing more than 2 fields plus the standard fixed  configurable lower field.
-Digital crown is high profile and with light tension and so can inadvertently spin out of position to another choice unintended before pressing for an action prior to start during workout pauses.
-Decent app but no web view and currently only limited shorter term training progress analysis.
-Only ANT+ external sensors only can be paired, strangely given very rapid BT synch capability

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Enda Sportswear Lapatet Review: Stepping Proudly Into the Big Leagues

Article by Michael Ellenberger with Sam Winebaum


Enda Lapatet ($120) - Kickstarter live now here at $100 per pair

Update: Enda successfully reached their initial Kickstarter goal! Fortunately, the Lapatet will continue to be offered at the discounted ($100) price through the life of the Kickstarter campaign, so those seeking a discount would be wise to back it!

Introduction
Michael: Enda is a brand we’ve quickly become fond of here at RoadTrailRun; their first-generation, made-in-Kenya running shoe (the $95 lightweight trainer, the Enda Iten was one of my surprise favorites of 2018 (RTR Review). 
I did a large portion of my marathon build up in the Iten before my marathon PR in Austin (2:31), and the wider toebox and low-drop profile allowed it to function as aggressively as you wanted. Sure, it was a little too rigid for those really easy days, but for the vast majority of my runs, the lightweight trainer was the perfect class of shoe, and the Iten a strong example.


Sam: There is much more to Enda than just fine run shoes. The company was founded to, and is focused on, bringing as much as possible of its production to Kenya, arguably the heart and heart beat of running. Enda seeks to help grow the local economy through making high value added state of the art products while training workers for the skills required to build and market a globally distributed running product. So the mission is more than just creating great running shoes.


Michael: Enter the Lapatet, now on Kickstarter here and almost fully subscribed, so head on over ASAP.  Where the Iten was simple, stripped down, and clearly a first-generation product (the upper being comfortable but, in my pre-production pair, clearly affixed by glue), the Lapatet could be, absent the logo, the newest offering from Brooks, Saucony or Nike. And it will feature an ever increasing portion of the production costs (40%) to be Kenyan, when few shoes assembled in the US even come close.


The ribbed-knit upper is unlike any we’ve found (and knit uppers have become the craze around the running world of late).

Sprinkled throughout are Enda’s nods to their Kenyan heritage (and present-day life!)  - flag-colored eyelets, a fabric-accented tongue, the Iten’s Kenyan-inspired outsole, and more. It’s hard to open lace the shoe and not be impressed, even in comparison to the Iten.


Sam: co-founders Weldon Kennedy and Navalayo Osembo present the technical and cultural details of the Lapatet in the YouTube below (will embed full video in Blogger)
The Lapatet incorporates multiple subtle Kenyan cultural hints from nature, heritage and everyday life.

The shoe name, Lapatet comes from one of Kenya’s 40 languages and means Run. The upper’s wave pattern reminds of Kenya’s  landscapes: ocean, clouds, and wind on the savannah.
The handmade tongue fabric and the pull tab remind of everyday Kikoi fabric used to carry babies and other loads.
Underfoot we see the word Harambee which means: “All Pull Together”.
The deep decoupling groove has a topographical map of the Rift Valley, home to some many great runners.



The darker gray version features red and green eyelets reminding of the Kenyan flag. All the eyelets are stitched in Kenya.
Michael: Enda has pulled out all the stops for the Lapatet. As much is apparent from the Kickstarter pages alone - whereas the Enda Kickstarter was more about the company than the product (and rightfully so), the Lapatet’s page highlights the best-in-class specifications of the trainer, the build quality, and the design choices to make it competitive in the marketplace. This is less of a prototype and more of a flagship. But looks - and advertisements - aren’t everything, so Sam and I gave the Lapatet a thorough test to see if this Kenyan-made runner could live up to the hype!

Pros:
  • Extremely premium feeling (and looking) trainer, build-quality is high
  • Very well but cushioned with a 30mm/24mm stack without feeling clunky or mushy or weighing much (9.2 oz.!)
  • Very easy to transition and toe off.
Cons:
  • Knit upper is slightly too thick, may be hot in the summer months
  • Sam: the end of the seam running from the toe to the first lace on medial side is thick and irritates a bit where seam meets laces.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Saucony Ride ISO 2 Initial Impressions Review, Comparisons to Ride ISO 1


Article by Sam Winebaum

Saucony Ride ISO 2 ($120)
Stats
Weight: sample  US 9 : 9.84 oz 279 g
Stack Height: 29mm heel /21 mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Available: 5/1 run speciality stores, 6/1 general release

A full multi-tester review to follow soon. In the meantime my initial run impressions Ride ISO 1 on one foot ISO 2 on the other, shoe details, and comparison to Ride ISO 1 video is below. 
Key highlights: 
  • 2mm more PWRFOAM midsole stack but same overall stack height by using a thinner durable Crystal Rubber forefoot outsole with 4 Tri Flex bands instead of 5.
  • Somewhat softer riding and easier to transition. 
  • Considerably more medial upper support at lace up area due to less pronounced/deeply cut ISOFit bands and a new medial overlay. 
2019 Saucony Previews article featuring Ride ISO 2, Liberty ISO 2, and Mad River TR here
Saucony Ride ISO 1 review here
Read Sam's run bio here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments and Questions  
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi 3: A Great Road Trail Hybrid for the Right Foot


Article by Mac Jeffries


New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi 3 ($100)
Introduction:
My interest in the Gobi 3 started with a different shoe- the Zante 4. What a good-looking shoe. What a narrow, un-run-ably harsh - but good-looking - shoe. I wanted to love it, but it was just a non-starter for me; they barely even make it out of the kitchen before I was pulling out the return label. So, when I saw that the Gobi 3 was built on the same Fresh Foam  23mm/17mm platform as the Zante 4, but with a wider toe box and softer outsole tread meant for softer ground, I was intrigued. How did the lightweight road/trail hybrid perform? You’re probably gonna have to scroll past some awesome sponsors to find out!


Pros:
The Fresh Foam midsole - combined with the softer Hydrohesion outsole - is very well suited for hard trails and most any surface a little harder, or softer. They look GREAT. The full-bootie upper seems to keep out debris very well.


Cons:
Sizing: Although better than the Zante, they still fit narrow (I switched my D out for an EE, something I usually only do in dress shoes and hiking boots.) Putting them on and lacing them up takes about an hour. They will probably get stolen because they look so good.