Monday, August 29, 2011

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011: Saucony Drops... Heels

Fresh on the heels of the success of the 4mm heel to toe drop  in its minimal road Kinvara and trail Peregrine shoes, Saucony is dropping the heels of most of its "franchise" models which will be on the market late 2011, early 2012.  The new road Triumph 9, Hurricane 14 and Guide 5 will all have an 8mm drop, down from 11 to 12 mm.   The Ride and Omni will not be heel dropped this winter as they are new models. I have been running roads in the Inov-8 Road X 255 lately and its 9mm drop is just about right for me.

The trail Xodus 3 will also feature a 8 mm drop and a new lighter upper.  This one really caught my eye as a shoe for technical trails.

Xodus 3.0: release 1/2012

While it always tricky to mess with franchise models Saucony is making the right call here. A lower drop will lead to a more natural stride and should reduce injuries and stress on the knees. These shoes can also serve as a transition to the more minimal shoes in the line such as Kinvara, Mirage, and even to the new Cortana, a plush neutral trainer with a 4mm drop and a recent Runner's World Best Debut shoe winner.

 Other Saucony news from Outdoor Retailer:
The Hattori will be coming in an AW-All Weather version. The Peregrine 2 is largely unchanged except for a lighter upper with more welded on support and less stitching.

Triumph 9: release 11/1/2012

Guide 5: release 12/1/2011

Hurricane 14: 2/1/2012

Peregrine 2

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who Says Minimalist Running Shoes are New

A couple of pictures from my high school days, circa 1974-1975.
Mount Washington Road Race-Halfway House ( I am at right cheering something). Click to enlarge.

The weather was so bad, the road so muddy, on Mt Washington that day that they stopped cars at the halfway house and we had to run down from the top in the storm. I was sporting Onitsuka Tiger Marathons, less than 1/2" of midsole and outer sole in one piece. Nylon uppers. The classic 1970's race shoe. The founders of Nike were originally the Tiger distributors in the US. Not sure why I am so fired up in the pic with the grind to come. Did finish 7th overall that day in 1:13 so being pumped at this point was a good sign!

Portsmouth NH 10 miler

My grandfather George on the right just gave me water. I remember a very hot day and fast times, I think 54 minutes for a few tenths less than 10.  I believe my brother Jake is on the bike and my dad took the picture.  Again the trusty Tigers got me to the finish. Wore them to race roads, cross country, and mountains. Not sure I ever dared a marathon in them.

Today with older legs I might just wear them to run on the grass!

At the link from Running Past a picture of Tiger Marathons as worn by Jim Fixx on the cover of his famous book: "The Complete Book of Running". While my school colors were red I remember always having  the blue version. 

Red Onitsuka Tiger Marathons (

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Outdoor Retailer Summer 2011- Salomon Synapse Run your Hike, Hoka One One Stinson EVO Hybrid, Technica MAX trail runners and trekking boots.

A quick introduction to some of the trail running innovations on display at the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

Salomon Synapse
Available Spring 2012 this 12 ounce $120 shoe recently took Jennifer Pharr-Davis through her 2200 mile, 46 day Appalachian Trail record. A record for this epic trail for anyone by almost 7 days!  Salomon gave me a pair of Synapse to try. A full review will follow but I am already finding the Synapse to be a great road to trail performer. I have run about 40 miles of road, hard pack gravel, and rocky single track in them. Equally adept on rough trails as pavement. While classified by Salomon as a "Run Your Hike" shoe due to a natural stride geometry  my quest for the one shoe to take for any run or adventure may be over. Not overly firm on the road as many trail shoes are yet totally stable and responsive on single track.  I can see how this became the AT record setter.

Hoka One One Stinson B EVO

I am a big fan of Hoka One One "clown shoes". I have tried the Mafates and the Bondi B. While the Bondi B is lighter than the Mafates I learned at OR that it also has a different rocker sole geometry, with the heel strike point further forward which favors a mid foot striking runner. As I found at Boston when you lose the mid foot I settled back onto my heels as I got tired I sank and leaned backwards. Not good.

The Stinson has the Mafates' midsole geometry with a new softer and more flexible upper and a hybrid sole which is more durable than the Bondi's EVA and has more pronounced lugs, yet not the lugs are not  so pronounced s that they are unsuitable for roads. Hoka calls them hybrids and I agree. I am running in a pair of the  first generation Stinson B/Combo XT now and finding them, much as the Salomon Synapse equally adept on roads and trails.  I will certainly consider the Stinsons for my next marathon.

The Stinson B EVO is a Spring 2012 model which does away with laces by using a cord system similar to Salomon's. has a slightly different upper and will feature the ability for the runner to drill small holes into the midsole to either make the sole more flexible or stiffer through the insertion of small plastic rods. Still under development this concept has real merit. I made my Bondi's a bit more flexible in the forefoot through cutting grooves in the midsole at the forefoot and sure could have used more heel firmness.

Current Model Stinson B

Spring 2012 Stinson EVO

Not particularly well known for running shoes Technica is in its second season with trail runners based in part on the same technology as Hoka: oversized outsoles, thick light cushioning  and rocker rolling technology. 

I saw the Spring 2012  Inferno MAX Ms, $140 330 grams which is about the same weight as the Synapse and Stinson. Lighter than the first generation Technica at 11.6 oz . The line also features lighter lower to the ground models all based on Technica's rolling energy transfer  technology: "TRS or Technica Rolling System"

Inferno Max Ms

Most impressive from Technica was an ultra light hiking/trekking boot based on the same oversize rolling technology, the TRS Max Hiker  Mid GTX. This 550 gram/ 19 oz  $190 boot/shoe would have been an even better choice than the Salomon XA Pro Mid GTX on our recent Chamonix to Zermatt trek. In 2009 I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in Hoka One One Mafates and found the day to day  recovery benefits a big plus although upper support and grip a bit lacking on the rockier rougher parts of the trail. The Chamonix to Zermatt trek is considerably rougher with many boulder fields so the high top, oversize outsole and cushion, and Vibram lugged sole of the MAX Hiker would have been ideal.

Technica MAX Hiker Mid GTX

Friday, August 05, 2011

Headed to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market

Off to Salt Lake. I will be spending Saturday at the Outdoor Retailer summer show, largely products which will show up at retailers Spring 2012. Human powered outdoor sports. All the gear, gadgets, shoes and apparel Most running companies are there too and this past winter I got some near scoops on among others the Saucony Peregrine and Hattori and the Hoka One Bondi.

I will be looking for post minimal yet low drop natural toe box trail and road runners, cooling fabrics, hydration gear, and the always unexpected innovations.

Anything you've heard rumored and want info about? Post a comment here and I will try to dig it up.

New Ways to Beat the Heat-CoolCore Sports Fabrics

A Portsmouth NH start up: CoolCore is introducing fabrics which claim to cool your core as you exercise.
 I have used a Craft T-shirt which makes some of the same claims and found it to be my day in day out go to shirt for our recent Chamonix to Zermatt trek. Call it a good micro climate but no discernable cooling effect.

I recently purchased a CoolCore bandana and put it to the test. The bandana was made of a felted material on one side and smooth fabric on the other much like a backpacker towel but more flexible. Wet with warm water, wring, snap. I was very surprised that within seconds the bandana which had been soaked in warm water turned distinctly cool to the touch. I wore it around my neck for several runs on warm days and it stayed cool and felt very pleasant. After "initiating" with the water  heat, sweat and motion continue the cooling effect. As I run hot any cooling effect has for sure a psychological effect. Remains to be seen what physiological effect occurs. As suggested on the CoolCore blog I also soaked the bandana, put in freezer for 5 minutes and used to reduce swelling on my sore knee. Sore from the Swiss trek and then a hard downhill on Spiro in Park City.

Moving to shirts made of the material, I contacted CoolCore and they were kind enough to send me a golf shirt. It was size large so not as form fitting and close to the skin as a medium might be. The material felt much like my Craft T-shirt: a bit slick but fairly thin. Not a mesh for sure. I did not soak the shirt for my first test as  Michael Simchik the CEO of CoolCore told me motion and sweat would activate the cooling effect. Temperature was a mild  70 F with relatively high humidity. After about 20 minutes of running, when the sweat got going, I definitely noticed a slight, almost tingly cool feeling on the skin where the fabric was wet. Further, testing in high temperatures are in order  but CoolCore is a very promising to cooling.  I tend to run hot and if core temperature can be reduced even a small amount, comfort and performance benefits should follow on a hot day. Not to speak that is it just more pleasant to be cooler!

How do they do it?  From the CoolCore web site Technology page:

"The fabric is engineered with a unique variety of fibers that when structured in a designed way creates a series of high-density capillary network, where the water molecules are absorbed deep into the fabric core and hydraulically compressed into the voids within the fabric. This void within the fibers creates an orientation of the water molecules in such a way that when the product is activated (snapped) it allows for maximum evaporative cooling to take place from the vibration of the snapping. At the same time, because of the uniqueness of the combination of different fibers and their reaction to one another, the suppression of water loss by evaporation (high absorption and wicking simultaneously) suspends the water within the fibers for an extended period of time."

CoolCore says their fabrics' cooling effect is achieved without chemicals, phase change materials, or polymers. There appears to be some anti-microbial effect but at least for the golf shirt not as effective as the all time winner, wool.

CoolCore does have t-shirts, bandanas, sport towels, etc... for sale on their web site but their longer term plan is to license the fabrics and technologies to apparel brands. 

Trip down my high school running lane-wonderful post by my team mate Ed Ernst

How much Running is Enough. Great blog post by high school cross country team mate Ed Ernst. The post focuses on how much mileage high school athletes should really do. I am the high mileage guy in the post. I always ran far more than my team mates in the summer and tended to peak earlier in the season. I was always race ready no matter the distance, even ran a 2:37 marathon at 17 and this before a great track season. Most of my long miles were easy and on trails or  long 8 hour run hikes in the White Mountains of NH.  I did mix in summer road races on a regular basis. The key for me and it is still is: the running was never a chore. It was always fun and a chance to explore. I think shooting for a mileage target is what leads to injuries and burnout. And, of course each runner tolerates a different load especially. Always run for fun.

Yes I ran long miles but each run stood on its own and I never really added or tracked weekly or monthly miles. I had great mentors in Coach Lovshin at Phillips Exeter for track and XC and Don Putnam the grand guru of long miles, trail expeditions and hard road racing.  They took a totally un athletic at 14 to a very decent XC, track, mountain, and marathon runner by 17.  Ed reminds me of the interval workouts and timed tempo runs Coach Lovshin had us do every week. And the fun long runs with Don Putnam. Still best training practices. They always looked and led by example towards a long term  picture of life long fitness yet with hard team oriented racing as Ed so eloquently describes.