Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First Look, Run, and Race in the Adidas Energy Boost Running Shoe: More than the "Magic" Boost Material

I received my pair of the new Adidas Energy Boost at end of February :  $150,  9.3 oz, 11mm heel to toe drop. Stack height 17mm forefoot 26 mm heel according to Running Warehouse.

Update 2/28/2013: I took the Boost out for a first run today. The upper is snug and feels great. No hot spots especially around my big toe which isn't liking anything but a wide shoe these days. The Boost is narrower in the forefoot than what I have been running in but no issues. It is fairly stiff in forefoot flex.

The "magic" Boost material is very cushiony especially at heel and at slow speeds, almost Hoka soft, but no sensation of sinking away into a pillow. Not much noticeable energy rebound just a very comfortable ride. A great shoe for long slow runs.

At speed they feel completely different. I can't say I feel a distinct rebound in the forefoot but I do sense that I may be turning over a bit faster. The feeling is firm but no harsh. See below my commentary about the Torsion System. Not nearly enough data but I ran a 1. 4 mile Strava segment 8 seconds faster than earlier this week with about the same perceived effort. Wish the heel was a bit lower.

Took a chance as I had only run in them once before and ran the Boosts in my first race of 2013, the Black Cat 20 miler in Salem, MA. Sensational. Ran the pre Boston tune up pace I wanted to and walked away from the race tired but not sore. Easy on the legs and responsive, a rare combination. Very good on downhills. Even towards the end when I was tired the shoes never felt sloppy. No blisters or issues with my troublesome big toe so the upper, while snug, does stretch just enough.
Update 3/30/13:
180 miles in the Boost. Except for a couple runs in the very fine Pearl Izumi N1 Trail all of my running in March has been in the Boost. Great day in day out leg freshness no matter what I throw at them. Almost no wear at all on the outsole. Snug upper should be thought of as a tight fitting sock and not as a shoe upper as that what it really is. No blisters, no problems with my troublesome big toe which anything other than a wide Altra Torin seemed to cause pain with in February and January. A bit firmer than when they were new and this is a good thing. I will be wearing them at Boston!
Update: While my Boston time was slow my feet and legs were happy in the Boost. For the first time in a marathon no blisters whatsoever.
Update 7/1/2013: Now have close to 300 miles on the Boost. Midsole has not collapsed. Upper almost like new and over time has stretched to my foot. The outsole is showing most wear in the toe off area.

Shoe Details:
Runners have been buzzing about the claimed energy return properties of the Boost midsole, a steamed under pressure molding and expanding of thousands of bits of TPU into a matrix of irregular shaped shapes. All other midsoles are made of EVA, either blown or molded, so Adidas use of TPU is different and the claim is that they provide superior energy return to EVA. Runner's World did some mechanical testing of the material which confirmed it had the best energy return of the 800 shoes they have tested.  TPU is also not as sensitive to temperature differences, the brick midsole when its cold. I did my usual finger test of midsole firmness and find the material to be very soft indeed,  softer in my test than even the very soft Hokas. Interestingly they feel more elastic; namely when pressed the material wants to pop back out. Indication of the energy return? We'll see..

Seeing how soft they were I thought they might feel mushy and "Hoka like", pillowy or unstable walking around the house. They do not. The other parts of the midsole and outer sole might explain.

Adidas Energy Boost Construction
 Under the sock liner is a fairly dense woven, maybe impregnated fabric. There is a round cutout at the heel to the foam, maybe to seat the heel? In front towards the forefoot there is a slight indentation into which it looks like the fabric layer is glued, again to seat the foot. I think this fabric "plate" may distribute foot impact over the surface of the midsole. The gray oval and tab is for a MiCoach foot pod.
Adidas Boost Outsole 

 There is a stiff yet thin plastic yellow Torsion System plate which runs on the medial side from near the heel and wrapping up the midsole all the way to near the toes, under the black outersole.  On the lateral side it runs from the the midfoot at the rear of the central plate to the toes. This plate likely provides the shoe the structure to support the foam without it feeling unstable or sloppy. Pressing my fingers into the outsole, anything not white above shows it is plenty firm. The combination of the outsole and Torsion System likely will make the rebound firm and directed, not like the mushy feel on toe off I find in shoes like the Kinvara. Runs will tell if this is the case.

Adidas Energy Boost 
 Towards the lateral side, where the heel lands there is no plastic plate but there is an "outrigger" of outsole similar to what Altra does. Assume this decouples the heel. A bit curious how the heel will feel given the soft midsole.

The upper feels outstanding. No seams at the toe which is a bit low and narrow in volume compared to what I have been running in lately, Altra Torins with their wide toe boxes. This said the Techfit material, which is not a mesh but more like a softshell material stretches just enough to make them super comfortable with the foot well held. They fit me true to size, may be a 1/4 size small.

Disclosure: I purchased the Energy Boost.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Review Pearl Izumi EM N1 Trail: Smooth, Streamlined, Versatile

The Pearl Izumi N1 Trail is a 9.8 oz,  $115, highly versatile trail runner, a prototype of which took Tim Olson to a record win at 2012 Western States 100. Pearl Izumi planned to launch the E:Motion line a few months ago but wisely pulled the first production pairs and destroyed them as the midsole was too firm. At OR they offered to send me the N1 for a second look. They had  earlier sent me a pair of road N2 which I found painfully firm and along with feedback from me and others did the right thing to get it right.  They have!

The N1 is a fabulous shoe on...the road. Road because due to all the snow and slush here in NH,  I have not been able to run them on trails, yet. Adequately lugged, with a thin rock plate and with a well designed, supportive upper I am confident they will be fantastic on trails. After all Tim Olsen thought they worked just fine for 100 very fast miles.

If I recall, Pearl Izumi was the first shoe company to reduce the number of seams by using welded overlays and glued seams. Everyone is doing it now to reduce shoe weight but Pearl Izumi has really made the seamless, simple streamlined upper an art form in its N1.  The single layer mesh is tightly woven and soft. The toe box while not as roomy as Altra's has absolutely no overlays, yet is not sloppy due to a low outer bumper wrapping to a point at the first eyelet. They fit me a half size small, 9 instead of 8.5.
Pearl Izumi N1 Trail

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail
Some of the upper magic is hidden inside. In addition to the thin overlays on the outside, there are 4 thicker welded overlays on the inside on both sides (pink arrows)  surrounding the mid foot. Note  that in addition to a tongue lace holder further down as one would expect, there are 2 tongue lace loops (green arrows)  between the first and second lace eyelets. Tongue stays put and this system contributes to wrapping the mid foot all around.  I have the found the upper supportive without being constrictive in any way.

The outsole is more than adequately lugged for most terrain up to real deep mud with a small plate of outsole material (yellow arrow) under the arch for a touch of pronation support.  There is also a denser cookie embedded under the arch in the midsole from what I understand. The rock plate is visible through the forefoot above. The rear lugs are wider for what I assume is some braking effect on steep downhills.
I can report that while a bit "slappy" due to the lugs and rock plate the outsole is also fantastic on the road.  A firm ride directed ride the N1 is not pillow soft but has plenty of cushion. This is the first truly hybrid (road/trail) shoe I would not hesitate to take on any road or trail run or race up to marathon distance.

Ride and Midsole
The ride is really determined by the E:Motion's midsole geometry. I can say the geometry is super smooth and natural. I have a sensation of landing on my mid foot and then easily rolling forward to toe off. With the zero drop Atra Torin, another shoe I am enjoying running in as I prepare for Boston, I have a sensation of landing flatter on the forefoot but then having to push off and up to toe off.

Pearl Izumi prefers not to talk about heel toe drop  but with the real and distinct sensation of a  mid foot landing and then very natural feeling push off as one goes to toe off. Pearl Izumi call this "dynamic offset" and below is described in an email from Chuck Sanson, Run Guy at Pearl Izumi :
        "The “dynamic” in dynamic offset is due to the unique shape. In the simplest terms we moved   the take-off point which is traditionally under the 1st met head or ball of your foot, approx 25mm rearward. By doing this we effectively created empty airspace under the balls of your feet when you are at stance. As your ankle and knee come over the top of the shoe moving forward, your forefoot falls into this dead airspace in a smoother fashion with the effect of a smoother transition and less slap."

Here is the dynamic offset and heel toe drop data for the E:Motion line: 
Source: Pearl Izumi
So, the heel toe drop as measured from the mid and outsole materials is 1mm. When the forefoot is loaded at stance it has a "dynamic offset" of 4.5mm or effectively 3.5 mm. I believe this means that if the forefoot was against the ground in the picture below my heel toe drop would be 3.5 mm. Running Warehouse has the heel at 23mm toe at 16mm which I assume includes the insole. Insoles can add ramp to a shoe.
Below a picture of the Altra Torin and Pearl Izumi N1 nose to nose. The airspace under the toes on the N1 clearly extends further back.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail and Altra Torin nose to nose
The Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trail is a smooth running trail shoe with a very comfortable supportive upper. The overly dense midsole foam problem of the prototypes is clearly resolved. I believe it will be equally adept on moderately rough trails, snow, mud, gravel, and roads.  I have very much enjoyed my first runs on the road in this shoe. The simple yet highly effective midsole geometry of the E:Motion line contributes to a distinctly fluid and natural sensation at landing, loading and toe off.

Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion website

Disclosure: Pearl Izumi provided me the review pair at no charge.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

New Advertiser:Sage to Summit- Mountain Running and Fastpacking

Please go over and visit Sage to Summit my new advertiser. Sage to Summit is a great mountain running and fast packing store in Bishop, CA, the gateway to the Sierras.  They have just started an online store. They also do guided trips, including one of our favorite treks in the Alps,  a Tour du Mont Blanc for runners.

I see on their website that Sage to Summit  still has in stock some sizes of the hard to find ultralight and functional Ultimate Direction AK race vest as well as few of the SJ vests
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest

as well as all kinds of other goodies Any purchases help this blog. Thanks for reading and for supporting my advertisers!