Friday, January 28, 2011

Outdoor Retailer-Altra Zero Drop Road and Trail Running Shoes & Something for Bad Feet

Pete Larson at Runblogger  recommended I visit Altra Running a Utah start up with a new shoe line for:

Both shoes are zero drop (heel to toe ramp), among the very first zero drop "shoes" along with the GoLite Flash and Amp as well as the upcoming Saucony Hattori.
Weight:  trail Lone Peak  10 oz (men's size 9 ), the road Instinct  9.1 oz.  Not the lightest but they appear quite durable both outsole and upper.
What is most striking about the Instinct and Lone Peak is the toe room width as illustrated here by a photo of the Instinct outsole.
Instinct Outsole
Altra Instinct
The toes will  have plenty of room to splay out and I think this will help cushion impact in a mid foot stride. While I am not sure the overall midsole cushion height is in my sweet spot I am willing to give them a try. 
For those who are "toe tappers", have bunions or other foot issues the Instinct will provide far more room up front than conventional shoes, and when combined with the zero drop from heel to toe, should tend to not mash the toes against either the front or side of the shoes.  The rest of the lacing system and upper is conventional so the foot will be very well held and stable.

The Instinct along with its zero drop has 12 mm of forefoot ( and heel) midsole which is 2 mm more than the GoLite Flash Lite  zero drop shoe that I found a bit firm and 2 mm less than the Saucony Kinvara's forefoot foam height which for my 168 lb frame I find not quite responsive enough for my pseudo minimal tastes. The outer sole appears very durable, likely more durable than the Kinvara's patches of longer wear material over EVA. 

Altra also has 2 super minimalist, velcro closure shoes the Adam and the Eve weighing less than 5 oz.

Instincts and Lone Peak will be on sale in spring  in stores and via Altra's web site, at slightly higher prices. 

Coming later this summer: 
Lace up versions of the Adam and Eve as well as firmer somewhat more stable versions of the Instinct and Intuition for bigger runners.

Correct Toes
Reinforcing the message that Altra may help those with bunions and other foot problems Altra also had samples of  Correct Toes ($65) a toe spacer developed by Dr. Ray McClanahan, a sports podiatrist. 

The idea is that modern shoes, and that includes most running shoes, can mis shape the foot  and can cause problems such as bunions, plantar's heels and hammer toes. Worn at night or in wide shoes such as Crocs or Altras during the day, these silicone spacers claim to help spread out the toes back to a more natural position. I am not sure they are intended to used while running.

My Utah running friend Nicole with whom I have been training for the Boston Marathon while in Park City is both a toe tapper, has bunions, and has considerable foot pain from running intervals on the tight turns on the Basin Recreation indoor track.  She is currently testing a sample of Correct Toes and will be writing a guest post here about her experiences with the product.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Runner's World Out of Touch?

Runner's World's Spring Running Guide features the usual assortment of expensive, heavy, big heel to toe drop motion control, stability,and "performance training" shoes. Nothing weighing much less than about 9 oz and no shoes with what would consider Low heel to toe drop, less than 6mm, that I could see. A small addition is included in the print edition about more minimal shoes.

Seems to me the main line running press or at least RW is out of touch with the revolution in running that less can be more for many runners, even the recreational joggers and beginners RW targets. I often see the same assortments reviewed pushed in even very good running specialty stores.

Is it because most more minimal shoes are less than $100? Overall inertia of big companies? To much invested in dollars and brand messages in motion control technologies? The editors have been pushing "categories" based on foot type for so long?

What do you think?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Outdoor Retailer-Other Ingenious Finds in Brief

All kinds of ingenuity on display by small companies. A small sampling below.

Paper Shower

After a run or ride and no time for a shower or just to cool and clean off after a sweaty run before getting in the car. Most towelettes are moisten with an  alcohol based solution. Paper towel is saline based. Then what to do to dry off? Paper towel is actually 2 towelettes: the cleaning towel and a durable drying towel.
Pockettoolx Pirahana ($49)

A TSA friendly multi tool. Features  five Metric box wrenches, Phillips  & flat screwdriver, box ripper, ski paint scraper, 1/8 " & 3/8" pry tips, bottle opener,  and six SAE open wrenches all on a single piece of stainless steel 

OtterBox Utility Series Latch for iPad ($49.95)

iPad case for data collection in the field or on the go. Hand strap, shoulder strap, leg strap. Accessory kit bag which holds the straps serves as totally non slip stand in landscape or portrait mode.

Over the car visor or strapped to your leg while driving for GPS directions.  Includes a protective temporary dust and moisture cover.  In use by EMT's in Boulder, CO.

Can be combined with the Otter Box Defender Series iPad Case for serious dust and shock protection. I saw someone "wearing" their iPad at the Niteize booth. Turns out it was the designer of the case and CEO of Niteize, Rick Case. Niteize designed the case for OtterBox. I bought one.

Niteize always has incredible innovations in the areas of lighting, fastening and tie down of gear, mobile device protection, write anywhere collapsible Inka pens and hardware including the S-Biner which I have dangling on all my packs. I always pick up something at their booth.

Outdoor Retailer-Julbo Ultra Dawn to Dusk Sunglasses

I am currently running and skiing with the Julbo Trail glasses.  Julbo is a small family owned French company in the Jura Mountains near Switzerland. They have been making exceptional optics since 1888. Despite their longevity they never stand still. Among their pro athletes:  Ed Viesturs of Everest fame and  Glen Plake, the long time  extreme skier with the huge multi colored mohawk. I saw him at the Julbo booth and you can't miss him.

I like Julbo's for 2 reasons.
  • Many of their lenses such as on the Trail are photochromic, they rapidly darken and lighten as light conditions change. Particularly useful for trail running and mountain biking. The optical quality is exceptional.
  • Call me goofy but I look for sunglasses which will fit over my prescription glasses and the Trail works just fine over my wire frames.
Coming this spring a new Julbo photochromic sunglass, the Ultra. Retail $180. The Ultra has what Julbo calls a Zebra 1 to 3 lens or Dawn to Dusk utility.

My Julbo Trails are 2 to 4 rated or Shade to Light. What 1 to 3 means is that the Ultra will lighten even further than the Trails for those dawn or dusk runs and will darken as the day goes on. Not quite as dark as the Trails at a 4 rating but I put a premium on the lower light situations so as to avoid having to remove glasses when plunging from sunlight into a dark forest or changing lenses or sunglasses for low light situations.  Not having to removing sunglasses as light gets low also insures that the eyes remain protected from branches, dust, etc...  

The Ultra's lenses are flexible, one can pull them forward to vent on the uphill, and they have the same superb anti-fog coating as my Trails.

Above a photo of the Ultra over the top of my specs. They clearly are at a Dawn to Dusk 1 photochromic setting. The large lenses provide exceptional field of vision. The fit was excellent with almost no light seeping over the top or side and no slip even over my glasses. The side temples are wider than the Trail and have anti slip material along their length.
I hope to review a pair soon.

Outdoor Retailer-Saucony Hattori and Peregrine

Saucony Hattori
The Saucony Hattori is a true minimalist zero drop shoe coming this spring. Retail $80.  Weighing 4.4 oz it has 10 mm midsole height.  2 velcro straps: one across the mid foot one across the heel. Very light, soft almost sock like upper with welded mid foot reinforcements Saucony's theme for the Hattori is "Protection without Correction".  It will come in 5 very flashy colors for men (right)  and 5 for women (left). Much as my Vizi-Pro Orange Kinvara's attract attention, these shoes also make a fashion statement.

Saucony Hattori
Update 4/13: Road Runner Sports showing men's and women's Hattori as in stock.
The popular Pro Grid Kinvara has a 14 mm forefoot/ 18 mm heel height according to Running Warehouse.  The midsole material in the Hattori is same as the Kinvara and thus with the front to back 10mm  midsole height the Hattori will be a firmer ride which will put a premium on good mid foot placement. Saucony recommends starting with 1-2 short runs a week in the Hattori. The outer sole uses strategically placed, more durable outer sole materials in the forefoot and heel. I was told this is the same material as used on the triangular lugs of the Kinvara but in a different color.
Saucony Hattori Outer sole
Saucony Peregrine

The Peregrine can be thought of as the trail cousin of the Kinvara as it has the same 4 mm heel to toe drop. Peregrine midsole height: 10 mm forefoot. 14 mm heel vs. 14 mm forefoot 18 mm heel for Kinvara which makes sense as most trail runners have a low forefoot for better trail feel and stability. Weighing 9.1 oz vs. the Kinvara's 7.7 oz, as a trail runner Peregrine features a deeply lugged sole which should be great on snow and loose surfaces as well as a more rugged upper.  I was told it is water resistant.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Outdoor Retailer-Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydration Pack- An OR Favorite!

One of the products I was really looking forward to seeing was the Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydration Pack. It did not disappoint. This is one of the best engineered pieces of running, skiing, biking gear I have ever seen. I look forward to trying one on the run soon.

It was designed with help from Kilian Jornet  twice  winner of the Tour du Mont Blanc North Face® UTMB® & Skyrunning 2010 World Champion, 3rd at Western States 100 miles in 2010. Kilian is also the world ski mountaineering champion and he is only 22!

Most hydration packs are just that, packs. The Advanced Skin is far more like its name than a pack. Very close to the body, wrapping around the upper torso with functional elements front and back. Soft padding throughout, very form fitting. I would expect no bounce or sliding side to side.


2 closing pockets on upper shoulders for keys, cell phone, etc... 
                       2 open pockets below. They will fit water bottles or can be used for nutrition. 
Salomon suggested one for  gels, blocks, bars, the other for trash. 
Visible on the right shoulder strap is a safety whistle, a required item for European trail ultras.

High waist strap and sternum strap. Sternum adjustable for height. on the shoulders
Slightly elastic straps for easy breathing on the go.  

The loop on the bottom right with orange pull has a mate at top left. Put  trekking poles through the top over the back to the right bottom and cinch. Euro trail runners often use light trekking poles for uphills. 

Insulated hydration tube runs from behind on the left, under the arm across to the front. Under a jacket in winter I bet it won't freeze as quickly as an over the shoulder tube, the way most backs route. 


Hydration bladder and decent sized main pocket, say for a light jacket. 2 side zippered pockets. The pack comes with a safety blanket, again a requirement for European ultras.

Hydration System.
1.5 liters (51 oz)  bladder. Anti microbial, inside an insulated sleeve. Note that 2  bike bottles can be added to the front pockets for approximately 90 oz of liquid. Bike bottles may interfere a bit with arm motion.

1.To refill the bladder. Disconnect the tube at the bottom 
2. Pull bladder out the top. Opens fully for easy filling and cleaning. Reconnect the tube. 

Uses: Trail and Road Running, Cycling, Nordic Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Hiking.

Price and Availability: $180. Spring 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Outdoor Retailer- GoLite Footwear

Stopped by to chat with my NH neighbors at GoLite Footwear who are increasing their offering of zero drop trail runners, boots, and sandals. I had previously tested and wrote about the GoLite Flash Lites. I found them to be a bit firm on the road and trail but a very strong road to trail shoe and the first true zero drop running shoe.

Doug Clark, Go-Lite Footwear founder, told me my observations had been borne out by further testing and that future models will increase the overall height of cushioning. The Flash Lite has a 10 mm midsole height. The new Tara Lite has a 20 mm height, with 14 mm of midsole foam which should provide enough foam deflection to soften the road ride and make the shoe Soft(er) Against the Ground. I also think the additional height will make them somewhat more stable on trails. It is still zero drop from heel to toe. Weight in size 9 is 10.5 oz.

I think this will be a very good road to trail shoe. Doug said orders for the Tara were very strong. In addition to its gecko sole of small rubber nubs which should make them very sticky on most surfaces, the Tara has a far more minimal upper than the Flash Lites. No laces, just velcro straps.  Inside the forefoot is a sandal type thong which helps stabilize the foot. A split toe sock is supplied with the shoe. Tara Lite is coming this spring.

Doug was kind enough to give me a pair of the GoLite Floodlight Trail Sandals. Also zero drop. They were very comfortable for the rest of my day at the show. Positioned as a recovery and water shoe for some they may serves more purposes.  I wonder how they would run. I will give them a try and report back. Minimal, zero drop, not quite a Vibram Five Finger but close....and with adequate midsole and toe protection and total breathability.

Outdoor Retailer-Adidas CC Trail Running Shoe

Adidas is introducing a very cool, super flexible trail shoe the CC Trail.

Available in July for $95.  I was told they weigh about 6 oz. They will be providing me info on the heel to toe drop which appears quite low. CC stands for Clima Cool so these would be a very comfortable summer shoe. Tight, thin mesh similar to the Saucony  Kinvara so one would expect minimal dust sneaking in and great water drainage. They are very flexible and similar to Nike Frees. I wonder how well they will shed mud and small rocks, expect fairly well given the flexibility but testing will tell  I also wonder how well they will wear on rough rocky trails. Might be best for smoother trails  While maybe a bit too radical for my trail use, these may make a very fine minimal road shoe given their cushioning, light weight, and flexibility.

Outdoor Retailer-Hoka One One Bondi-B Road Running Shoe

I have previously posted about the counter intuitive and bold Hoka One One Mafate "natural running" shoe. While a trail shoe they are my current favorite for long road runs and recovery. Feel like running on grass on the road. Legs stay fresher during and after runs than any other shoe I have ever run in.

I visited Hoka's booth and talked to Nicolas Mermoud, co-founder about their new road shoe the Bondi-B.

The Bondi-B is  8.8 oz in size 9 vs 10.8 oz for the Mafate. Bondi-B has 10% less cushioning than the original Mafate which should make them snappier without losing the leg saving properties of all the midsole foam. Update: Running Times Outdoor Retailer article reports a 4mm heel to toe drop. When combined with the soft foam I believe the Bondi is effectively zero drop.

The upper is lighter and the toe box is seamless on top. It does not have the middle seam of the Mafate. The seam was never an issue for me but it seemed unnecessary. Glad it is gone.  The rocker sole seems a bit more pronounced. Hoka's are stiff and rely on the rocker sole to keep you in a short, forward leaning, mid foot efficient stride. You can feel this stride and unlike other shoes stride form seems to stay consistent even when tired.  Update: I interviewed Karl Meltzer, podcast coming soon, and according to him one of the key strengths of the rocker sole is that it allows a faster cadence than other shoes he has run ultras in such as LaSportiva Fireblades and Montrail Vitesse.  The Bondi-B outer sole is designed for road use.

Update: While they have only had them for a few days both Karl and Dave Mackey plan on doing all their trail running in Bondis despite the less pronounced lugs. The trail Mafates outer sole lugs wear quickly on the road. I did a brief run down the aisles in the Bondis and they felt very responsive. The forefoot is noticeably more flexible than the Mafates. They seemed to be half size small on my foot.

I hope to test a pair soon and likely will run Boston in them. I am thinking they will prove themselves after Heartbreak Hill on the downhill and into the homestretch. As far as the wild look and colors, I say go with it!

Karl Meltzer who did an incredible 2064 miles in 50 days along the Pony Express Trail in Hoka One One Mafates was also in the booth and looking none the worse for wear. Told me it would have been impossible to pull off his feat and still have feet in any other shoe! His last day on the Trail was across the flats of Nebraska for 105 miles and he said the next morning he was ready to run again. I believe him.

Available in early to mid February.  Wasatch Running Center,Salt Lake Running, Boulder Running Company have them and will ship.. I expect there will also be a limited number of other stores and online retailers. Will update dealer list when I hear.

Update 2/15: Took first runs in Bondi B and they are great. See my post here
Update 2/21: More impressions after several runs here
Update 3/12: Post with video from Hoka One One on shoe performance.

Other recent articles about  Bondi-B and Hoka One One:

Outdoors Magic UK 1/24/2011: Hoka One One founder is quoted as saying that Hokas are intended  “to allow people to run longer, to run more often, and to run without injury”.  Based on my experience with Mafates, I agree, I believe Bondi-B will be even more versatile.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Outdoor Retailer Reporting and Winter Running in Park City

I will be spending time at the twice yearly Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, Utah this week at the tail end of a family skiing and running vacation in Park City and at Alta.

Yes, winter running and nordic skiing is incredible in Park City and runners will find the running at least as good as the sliding.  My favorite outdoor running venue is in Round Valley, just to the northeast of downtown. Over 20K of machine groomed trails over rolling terrain with great views. Run, ski, even bike ride on these groomers.
Park City and the surrounding area has over 40 miles of free groomed run-ski-walk trails- a bit less than the summer total of 350 miles of superb trails, most with smooth, fast footing.  I often run at night with few roads to cross and cars to dodge.

What do you do when the outside weather is not great or for a workout after a day of skiing?  Well, Kimball Junction, 6 miles north of downtown has a spectacular public field house at the Basin Recreation Center ($6 day pass) featuring an approximately 9 laps ( I think it is closer to 8.75 laps)  to the mile indoor balcony track with a great surface.  The place for winter intervals. You can run from the Recreation Center on groomed relatively level trails almost all the way to Park City

The Racquet Club   another public facility which is in Park Meadows, closer to downtown, is under renovation and will also feature a similar indoor track when it reopens in Fall 2011.

Below a map illustrating the 2 facilities and Round Valley. Click the link below the map and zoom out.

View Park City Winter Running in a larger map

Most sports stores in Park City sell a very detailed trail map which can also be seen online at Mountain Trails

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Apple launches app store for Macs, a la iPhone - Technology & science - Wireless -

Apple launches app store for Macs, a la iPhone - Technology & science - Wireless -

No running in this post but this news signals the end of shrink wrapped software and ever more revenue for Apple. Apple never goes to the Consumer Electronics Show but they always have some real news which upstages the thousands of companies clamoring for attention at CES.

Nike+GPS Running Watch Announced at Computer Electronics Show.

Wired News and others have news about a new Nike+GPS Watch announced at the Consumer Electronics Show today. Combing  GPS pace tracking with the Nike+ Stride sensor and in some models HRM. Here is Nike's intro video. Cool looking with large light digits on black background which is a plus as I have found  most watches and my Blackberry with miCoach GPS running app are very hard to see in bright sunlight or on the move. Wall Street Journal reports that it will be available April 1st at prices between $199-$249. Pre Order March 1st.

The watch will not only have GPS pacing and mapping via Tom Tom but it will also be able to function with the Nike+ stride sensor. From the video it looks like some models, maybe the $249 priced unit, will include a heart rate monitor. So, one unit for indoor (sensor),  outdoor (pace), or heart rate based workouts with a smaller sensor than the adidas, Suunto, or Gramin footpods in what looks like a very compact watch.

Unfortunately, upload to PC via fold out USB. No over the air synch.This said I am sure the USB will be more reliable than a wireless upload to PC.

According to Wired the screen is operated by tapping: backlight and lap times which if effective eliminates reaching for all those small buttons.

I hope the build quality is more solid than my original Nike+Sportsband. One crash on the Flying Dog Trail in Park City onto my wrists and the unit flew out of the sportsband away never to be found again!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Smartphone Running Apps-Searching for the Perfect Mistress

A guest post by my NH running buddy Mike Schwartz. Mike has joined me for many of my Boston Marathon training runs in recent months. He is keeping the pace brisk!

"After buying my first iPhone, my wife quickly dubbed it 'my mistress' -- I was a bit too addicted. Now I'm searching for that mistress running App. She needs to have a nice voice, be very flexible and have a top notch plan. Well, Adidas seems to be the answer. I'm new at this, so maybe I'm missing something, but I have been running with the Nike+ iPhone GPS app for about two months. It was easy to use and has been a great motivator, but I think I've reached the limit -- although the voice and motivation is great, the flexibility and ability to plan are weak. You can not view your splits without logging in from your home computer. The coach feature seems a bit limited with very few distances and static schedules (e.g. a 12 week schedule that starts now). I took a look at RunKeeper which is offering a January promotion -- free iPhone download. But this again, seems to have very limited coaching and RunKeeper Elite has a monthly fee -- definitely not what I am looking for. So I came full circle to what was first recommended to me -- miCoach. At first look, this app by Adidas seems to be the perfect mistress. It is extremely flexible -- you can choose your distance, you can specify a race date so your training schedule is updated to prepare you in time for your race; you can choose the intensity to create a plan that helps you reach your time goal; you can run Assessments to ensure you are on the right track. It seems to provide a great plan with a variety of runs including multiple zones to build your endurance and strength. I'm not so sure about the voice, but you can't have it all. We'll see how this affair works out!"

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Blast from My Past-Mt Washington Road Race-Top 20 Juniors

The master of all things Mt Washington Road Race Dave Dunham  has a great blog with all kinds of historical statistics including junior records.

I found this listing of the top all time junior times and lo and behold I am listed. Note Karl Meltzer of ultra fame is in 5th place. Most from the golden years of New England running the 1970's and 1980's when speed was king, even uphill speed climbing the 4772 vertical feet in 7.6 miles. Those fast days are long, long gone for me but I have never tired of putting one foot in front of the other in all seasons and all terrains.

Now if I can just get in the 2011 edition via the lottery! Two years in a row a no go for me to this most classic of mountain running running races.

Hoka One One trail workhouse is now also my long haul road runner

Ran 2:05 on the roads yesterday in my Hoka One One Mafate "maximalist"  running shoes yesterday. Myfurthest road run yet in the "clown shoes" which I discussed in  previous posts. This shoe not only took Karl Meltzer down the Pony Express Trail in 40 days at 50 miles a day but it got me around the Tour du Mont Blanc trek this summer, pack and all, in fine form.

The Mafate has 2" of cushy foam and an aggressive rocker sole which encourages a short, efficient turnover. Decent 9:08 pace on a damp but pleasant trek with my NH training buddy Mike Schwartz  through Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, with even a quick side trip to Kittery ME to make this an interstate run!

Legs stayed fresh throughout and this morning no soreness in  hamstrings or my feet, my usual sore spots. There is definitely something to a maximalist approach for long and recovery runs. Given the smoothish sole not a great snow and ice running shoe without studs or Yak Traks.

Anyone else have Hoka One One experience?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Swiftwick Compression Arm Warmers... They're Arm Coolers Too!

Last winter the folks at Swiftwick were kind enough to give me a pair of their Ole Arm Warmers ($22.50) . I have extensively used and previously reviewed their light compression wool blend Merino 12 (12") socks in all seasons with great results.

At first I didn't see the purpose of arm warmers beyond the flexibility of rolling them down as temps and pace warmed during a run. Since then I have worn the Ole on warm and cool days and find them highly effective over a wide range of temperatures. I almost never roll them down.

Tightly knit and constructed in part of Olefin a highly hydrophobic fiber I find they manage temperatures well over a wide range.  They never seem to get soaked with sweat and thus stay warm.  When its warm the moisture seems to have a slight cooling effect and the long sleeves protect from the sun.  I find that the gap between the top of the sleeves and a t-shirt contributes to helping regulate temperatures. They are quite windproof. Most will find sizing up a bit more comfortable. I got the large.

What to wear on a breezy day in the 40's? Combine Ole Arm Warmers with a merino wool t-shirt.