Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Skechers GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ultra

GoRun Ride 3
Through a referral from Pete Larson at RunBlogger I was recently introduced to Skechers. They sent me the  GoRun Ultra, a cushioned trail runner also suitable for roads and GoRun Ride 3, a light weight trainer. Disclosure: The Ultras and GoRun Ride 3 were provided to me free of charge for the purpose of the review.

OK, you might snicker a bit Skechers, right. Well hang on a moment. As a bit of a run shoe snob, I have been watching with growing interest what they have been up to. Skechers over the last few years has built a Performance Division and a line of trail and road shoes the right way:
  • They have a free reign to innovate from the parent company
  • Top notch designs that make no outlandish claims and use innovative light materials
  • Signed America's top current marathoner the venerable Meb Keflezghi(4th at the last Olympic Marathon in his Skechers)... after Nike let the "old guy" go.
  • Provide value with reasonably priced top level shoes. The 2 models reviewed retail for $80.
  • A commitment to be nimble, to rapidly respond to the consumer ( check out their response to questions online), and to iterate shoes rapidly through feedback from on the run testing with a variety of runners, a crowd sourcing of design improvements  As a shoe geek I know this is true from the many comments on line from non star runners who have been involved in this process. In fact, they are also going to let me join the new product testing fun and my initial feedback has been responded to by their VP Technical Development. 
  • A goal to "make the most enjoyable shoes possible", above all else.
The Results/The Shoes
After all that what really counts is where the rubber or foam hits the road. As part of this review I was able to interview the Skechers VP Performance Division Technical Development to get insights into the design philosophy and the how's and why's of what I felt while running in GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra.

GoRun Ride 3
The Ride 3 is a  8.4 oz M9, 6.5 oz W7 road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner and 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 13mm forefoot, 19mm mid foot, 17 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ride 3
GoRun Ultra
The Ultra is a M9  9.1 oz, W7 7.1 oz, 4 mm drop  trail and road trainer with a 4mm heel toe drop w/o sock liner or 8mm with sock liner inserted. Midsole stack height without insole is 23mm forefoot, 30 mm mid foot, 27 mm heel. Retail $80.
GoRun Ultra
Common Shared Themes & Differences 

Upper and Fit:
While the materials vary a bit, both shoes have a very comfortable easy to lace hold on the mid foot area. I usually fuss a lot getting the right lacing pressure but with both shoes the upper wraps smoothly from toe to lace tie. I think this is part due to the use of a non stretch nylon on the sides of the upper up to the lace eyelets on either side, sidewalls if you will, that maintain the foot on the midsole and direct the stride in the direction of travel. Both shoes have a very soft stretchy mesh on top of the toes forward of the last laces, far to soft for an entire forefoot but just right to allow the foot to splay in the wide toe box and due to the sidewalls of non stretch material without the sloppiness of the hold of the foot to midsole I find in shoes such as Kinvara.

The Ultra has a conventional heel counter to provide more stability on off counter trails. The Ride 3 has no heel counter at all just a bit of a rise of the midsole to wrap the heel. I was concerned about this but don't miss the heel counter at all. Additionally, the tongue is part of the upper on the Ultra, similar in construction to the adidas energy boost. This helps the whole upper to come together over the foot, keeps the tongue from sliding to the lateral side and help prevents dirt and debris from sneaking in.

Interestingly in this day and age of welded, taped upper construction the uppers on both are stitched with substantial overlays that seemingly do not create a weight penalty or a fit problem. It's all a very careful balance of design, materials, and construction that comes together "seamlessly" in my view.
Both fit me true to my size 8.5, maybe a bit big especially on the Ultra.

Midsole and Outsole: 
Essentially the midsole is the outsole on both shoes.
GoRun Ride 3 Outsole
The Ride 3 has some small circular rubber outsole wear patches, the Ultra none.
GoRun Ultra Outsole

Skechers believes that large harder rubber outsoles patches or lugs can interfere with the stride's natural state and can cause pressure points as would have the inclusion of a rock plate on the Ultra. Instead both shoes have round pods with Ultra also  having triangular lugs around the outside perimeter. I have found the ride incredibly smooth and quiet in both shoes. I never felt I was landing on a particular pod even on the deep pods and lugs of the Ultra.

The geometry of both is what Skechers calls convex leading to a mild rocker. This means that while the heel/toe drop without the insole is 4mm the midsole is actually 2-3mm higher under the midfoot at what Skechers calls the M-Strike. This similar to what Pearl Izumi does with their E:Motion line but in the case of Skechers they do not rely on a gap under the toe area to create the rocker effect or have a steep slope up of the forefoot as Hoka does. Think of this rocker as at the top of the midsole level and not at the outsole level, a key difference from the other two "rockers". The higher mid foot is not noticeable standing.

Both shoes are finished with insole fabric under where one typically finds an insole/sockliner. They are also supplied with a conventional molded sock liner. . I have not tried to run barefoot in either shoe. This means the runner can chose to go without the insole for a 4 mm drop shoe or use the insole to add a net of 4mm of drop or a total of 8mm heel to toe and a bit more cushioning and stability. The sock liner is 3mm thick at the toe and 7mm thick at the heel. A nice touch to provide such drop flexibility. All my runs have been with the sock liner in as I prefer a 6-8 mm drop shoe

GoRun Ultra Midsole
I was concerned that New England rocky,  rooty trails might be painful in the Ultra given the lack of either a rock plate or an outer sole per say but this has not been the case. The advantage of this design along with deep lugs and grooves in the Ultra midsole is that the front of the shoe is flexible and agile while also being more than adequately cushioned and stable for all but the most technical trails. It turns out the gray midsole material the Resagrip is quite dense, maybe close to the density of  Pearl Izumi's overly firm (in my view)  midsole, but in the Ultra the firm midsole/outsole close to the ground is overlaid with a softer midsole material, the black material in the picture,. This material also serves as a bumper to hold the foot onto the footbed on twisty surfaces, a bit of a less extreme version of Hoka's "bucket seat". I think the bumper could be a touch more accentuated or the upper wrap a bit more under the forefoot for a bit more forefoot hold on very technical trails.

The Ultra had great grip on snow, leaves, and rock. And then miracle of miracles, on the road it is as smooth and "lug and slap free" as any road shoe with a very cushioned yet not mushy ride.

I am a bit concerned by long term wear of the soft outsole in road usage, one lug at the heel is wearing fast. Skechers suggests that the natural pattern of my stride asks for this pod to wear faster until I achieve a balance. I have seen accelerated wear in other shoes in particular places on the outsole then far less after a certain mileage. Like any design choice, the decision to not have hard rubber wear areas is a fine balance of feel, weight, and longevity. For now I am going with it.

The Ride has a single density midsole, in my view close in firmness to that of the Kinvara but softer than E:Motions but with a far more stable landing and takeoff due to the combination of supportive upper,wide stance, and rounded tightly spaced pods instead of sharp angled soft lugs. The circular pods are not noticeable when running. I have taken runs as long as 12 miles in the Ride with no unusual leg pains and certainly no blisters.

Time to Run and Conclusions

To date I have 35 152 miles of trail and road in the Ultra and 20 miles of road in the Ride 3. I have a hard time selecting which to run roads in: the smooth cushioned yet flexible Ultra or the faster sure footed Ride. It has been very cold here in NH , 15 F and below but I have been pleased that the midsoles do not seem to get as hard as most in these temperatures.

One thing is for sure the trail Ultra with its great cushioning, light weight, and flexibility. It runs as well as any road trainer or even light weight trainer. Very, very versatile addition to my rotation and one that has quickly replaced the adidas energy boost and Hoka Rapa Nui as my long run shoe on any surface. My only concern is outsole durability but keep in mind the price is also right for the Ultra, $80. Given that the Ultra is only 0.6 oz heavier than the Ride, and well under 10oz, such a combination of cushion and light weight is very appealing for not only trail Ultras but as a marathon shoe for a hilly course. Clearly a worthy competitor to Hoka in the very cushioned category, without the "clown shoe" look. The Ultra is also competition to the slightly heavier but far stiffer adidas energy boost that has been my favorite road shoe this year due to the boost material.

The Ride 3 is a solid lighter weight trainer with a great smooth feel. Its strong points are more than adequate cushioning,light weight, and great value. I will certainly be considering it for my Boston this spring as well as for races 10K and up.

All in all I am very impressed with Skechers Performance Division shoes and can't wait for more innovation and tuning of the products as time goes on.

Another review of the Ultra by Nate Sanel over on Runblogger. Has more photographs than mine and is well done and complete.

You can support my blog by purchasing the Skechers reviewed at the links below.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground SG - Castleberg Outdoors Review

Castleberg Outdoors in the UK has just posted a video review of S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground. I first saw and posted about  this deeply lugged version of the Sense at this past summer's Outdoor Retailer. Looks like a great choice for snow and mud running.

Castleberg is saying they will have limited stock in January. I have ordered from Castleberg in the past and it has been a smooth and fairly reasonably priced way to buy product not yet available in the US. Not sure yet if US retailers will have January stock but suspect some may.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Canadian Running Magazine: Great Sneak Peak of 2014 Running Shoes from The Running Event

Through a tip from Patrick over on the Running Geeks Facebook group I see Canadian Running has a great preview, with pictures, of 2014 run shoes.

Source: Canadian Running Magazine http://runningmagazine.ca/a-sneak-peak-at-2014-shoes/

The trend seems to be towards more cushion a la Hoka with Brooks Pure Flow, Pearl Izumi N2 Trail, and NF Hybrid Trail Road all appearing to show more stack height.

Adidas is moving all its running shoes to Boost material. I have reviewed the original Energy Boost here and Adios Boost here and they are fabulous shoes in large part due to their innovative midsoles. The Boston and Glide Boosts look particularly good with the Glide Boost appearing to dispense with the EVA/Boost sandwich of the first version just now coming on sale.

Skechers, an up and coming performance brand, is showing a road trail hybrid version of their Ultra. I am running in the trail Ultra and finding it a strong performer on the road, as is. Review soon.

New Balance is showing a trail version of its Fresh Foam for this summer. I got a sneak peak this summer of the road version here that looked particularly neat which should be out this spring.

Altra is showing a very stripped down racing flat and a super cushioned zero drop shoe.

No pictures of upcoming Hokas. but over on another Running Geeks post I saw 2 new models the Clifton and Huaki for later in 2014, both under 10 oz size 9 US, a first for Hoka. They appear to be using the sole geometry of the soon to launch Conquest, preview here.

You can see the gallery over at Canadian Running here

Monday, December 02, 2013

Winter Gift Guide for Runners

OrangeMud Transition and Seat Wrap
Every runner can use one of these handy quick change and car seat cover OrangeMud Transition Wraps. Super soft terry towel material.  I love mine, review here. MSRP $39.95. While you are at Orange Mud check out there HydraQuiver no bounce bottle pack reviewed here.

OrangeMud Transition Wrap

Helly Hansen Warm
I received a free sample Helly Hansen Warm top at Outdoor Retailer last year and it was my go to run and ski top in the heart of last winter.
Helly Hansen Warm Odin Top
Helly Hansen has created a 2 layer fabric of hollow fabric Lifa polypropylene on the inside and merino wool on the outside with no sense that there are actually two layers. The inner layer keeps you dry and the outer wool layer keeps you warm and evaporates the moisture.  Even on relatively warm days it stayed comforatable The poly pro, unlike the Lifa of old is very stink proof. Available in many styles for men and women. Fits snug. MSRP $100.

Wool Cap
When it is not to cold for a full hat but cool enough to want to keep the head warm there is nothing like a wool cycling cap. I have the Ibex Muni Reflective Cap, $45. Made of a thin felted wool, including the brim, it provides good wind protection and wicks very well. The brim also shields a bit from winter sun. Style is a bit less run and a bit more urban cool.
Ibex Muni Reflective Cap

WildThings Custom Made to Order Jackets
Create a truly unique gift. I just posted about these custom made to order jackets for men and women at very reasonable prices. Pick fabric, colors (for shell, zippers, liner, cuffs, pockets) , add features such as hood or pocket, personalize all for $229 for the Insulight model.  Order by Dec.6 and receive in 14 days. Made in the USA.

WildThings Made to Order Jackets

UltrAspire Spry Vest
Give a gift of safety with the UltraViz Spry Race Vest, review here. High visibility and just enough carrying capacity for everyday longer runs. MSRP $55.
UltraSpire Ultra Viz Spry

Ashmei Socks and Merino Sweatshirt Full Zip Hoody

Finally some "luxe" run items where incredible quality, unique modern design, and innovative materials all come together. Ashmei is a UK company producing run clothing and accessories from "bespoke" materials, mostly merino and merino carbon blend fabrics unique and thus, bespoke or custom to Ashmei in Brit speak.

I got a 3 pack (approx. $54)  of the Trail Run socks at a review discount earlier this year. They also have a road run lighter weight models as well as short versions of both.
Ashmei Trail Socks
I have run in the socks as well as worn them literally every day use since then. They are wearing better and feel better than any sock I have ever had and have had no blisters or damp feet  and this in varied conditions from heat to cold. The Carbon fibers help move moisture better than any other element.

I also have their Merino Sweatshirt.
Ashmei Merino Sweatshirt
This $163 approx. full zip hooded sweatshirt has proved incredible versatile in varying conditions. A bit heavier than a tech shirt with a bit of stretch, smooth on the outside and a with a bit of texture to the inside,  it features a great hood, both thumb holes and a built in mitts, a hip pocket that holds a iPhone 5 with rear cord port, cord holder by the neck, small ipod or gel pocket in the rear and gripper silicone tape along the hem. Modern styling and available in men's and women's versions.
Ashmei ships to the US.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wild Things Custom, Reasonably Priced Mountain Jackets-Order by Dec 6, Receive your own design 14 days later. Made in the USA

This is one of the coolest ideas I have seen in a while, custom reasonably priced mountaineering jackets from your mouse to your door in 14 days.

Wild Things was started in the early '80's in the Conway NH area by alpinists looking for gear to tackle "The World's Worst Weather." Simple, well made and burly I remember Wild Things as the no frills, no surf vibe New England country cousin of Patagonia.  In recent years,  with a move to Rhode Island, Wild Things, has been a premier supplier of custom mountain and cold weather gear to the military. All Made in USA.

I received an email yesterday promoting their Insulight custom jackets for $229, 2 other styles also available. Order by December 6 and receive your made to order jacket by Christmas
WildThings Custom Styles

The incredible thing about the Insulight is that you get to pick from

  • 3 fabrics, 
  • 5 or more kinds and weights of PrimaLoft insulation, 
  • multiple colors for the jacket, cuffs, side panels, liner, zippers, and optional chest pocket; 
  • with our without hood and personalized with your name. 
  • all for $229!
An incredible example of how US industry can compete on flexibility and speed.

Here is snapshot of what I was cooking up. Have fun making your own! Suggest if it is a gift you collaborate with the giftee!
WildThings- Building my Own

Friday, November 29, 2013

Exhaustive List of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Running Deals from Runblogger and a Time Out to live by, Worn Wear

My friend Pete Larson over at Runblogger has compiled an exhaustive list of running oriented deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday here. Shopping via Pete's site helps support his incredible work to help us understand the science behind running.

Also please support my good friends Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks by shopping through their definitive source for ultrarunning at www.irfunfar.com

You can support my blog by shopping via the links at the right.

While this is a season for "deals" please consider only buying what you and yours really need. The tried, true, and well built are still good for many years. As a gear nut this is sometimes tough to live by.  I have a circa 1985 Patagonia running jacket, still going strong and useful.  At the link a wonderful video from Patagonia:  Worn Wear: A Film about the Stories we Wear. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Run. A Few Words

I recently posted a link to the wonderful Salomon video featuring Bernd Heinrich: Why We Run

Why I Run

With Nature
Fresh Air
To Compete
Daily Anchor
...To Rest

Why Do You Run? 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Review Magellan Echo Watch and iSmoothrun: Connecting SmartPhone Run Apps to your Wrist

I have been much intrigued by the Magellan Echo run watch (MSRP $149, $199 with HR strap) since it was announced at Outdoor Retailer. The last year I have been running with Strava on my iPhone as I love how it aggregates all my runs, elevations, segment performances, and friends activities. I only pay attention to stats after the run as I stash the phone and the audio cues can sometimes be hard to hear. When racing I use my Nike+GPS in parallel to keep closer track of pacing and time. Duplication.

Essentially the Echo watch acts as a display and controller for popular fitness apps including my social favorite Strava, as well as RunKeeper, Wahoo Fitness and my new favorite iSmoothrun ($4.99 Apple App store). The Echo transmits data and controls from your phone to your wrist.

I tested all 4 and they work fine with varying degrees of flexibility as to what can be displayed on the watch from a single static screen of distance, time, and average pace currently for Strava to literally dozens of options for iRunsmooth including cadence (from accelerometer) that can be configured to appear on multiple screens.All the apps supported also include basic phone music controls accessible from watch buttons.

Magellan very cleverly leverages the GPS on the phone, its processing power and internal and external low power sensors (accelerometers, HR, foot pod, etc...), as well as low energy Bluetooth LE Smart communications  built into increasing powerful phones that fitness apps take advantage of. In the future I believe, as we all are so reliant on our phones, that these "dumber" smart watches that act as displays and controllers will become far more prevalent than standalone,  complex and expensive GPS watches.

The more minimal approach of what the watch is asked to do reduces the battery requirements of the watch. The Echo is rated to last 6-12 months on a single standard watch battery. Update: I have used the Echo 6 days a week with all runs in cold weather since early November. March 1st the battery died. I estimate I got about 140 hours of live run time life or 4 months out of the Echo battery which I feel is excellent due to the low temperatures it was subjected to on every run. It also reduces the weight and complexity of the watch. No charging! Synching of data is via the phone as the watch essentially records nothing beyond what is is supposed to display.

Communications of data from your fitness app to the watch face is via Bluetooth.  Command of the app is via buttons on the watch:  Start/Pause, instant audio interval (from phone) for iRunSmooth multiple data elements configurable from the app,  a backlight, and basic music controls. Screens are scrolled by tapping the watch face, a bit fussy but functional.
Start up and synch is very reliable and fast. No looking for satellites as the phone already knows where they are. All the watch and apps are doing is opening a communications channel to each other.

Open the app. Put your phone away. Press the top left button on the watch to connect to the phone. Press the bottom right button of the watch to start and pause the workout. Tap the watch face firmly to scroll between data screens. When the workout is complete press the bottom right pause button. When you can take the phone out and end the workout. No fumbling to get at your phone to stop, pause or do intervals.

The only thing I would like to see on the watch that is not included for now is vibration alert capabilities ( although Echo does beep when it synchs to iSmoothRun so some audio alert capability is available)  and standard alarm watch buzzing. At this point only iPhones from the 4S on are supported by the Echo watch or any app above due to their consistent use of the Bluetooth Smart LE required to communicate with the watch.  Androids are hit or miss at this point as not many support Bluetooth Smart LE yet.

Instead of a full review here of the Echo I refer you to DC Rainmaker's excellent and exhaustive review of the Echo and the supported fitness apps.
Also see Pete Larson's excellent review at Runblogger.com. I introduced Pete to the Magellan iSmoothRun combination last year.

I was planning on only reviewing the watch but when I stumbled upon iSmoothRun (iOS only at this time) and given the magic is really in combining the phone app and the watch here is a further introduction to iSmoothRun with a focus on its strong interval capabilities.

It works seamlessly with the Echo watch. It is the most full featured run app I have used with outstanding flexibility as to what you can display on the watch and app and logging of data. Everything from temperature, wind chill, stride length, cadence, splits, HR, and on and on.

You can easily set up 5 custom screens on the watch via the app with any of the many data elements captured by the app displayed.

Pete Larson of Runblogger.com video tapes my run gait in super slo mo and invites you to be the analyst

I am a video star (dubious on the star part). Pete Larson editor of the very popular RunBlogger.com, and a renowned gait analysis scientist,  invited me over to his place in Concord NH  for a video gait analysis. Pete has left academia and among other things is doing gait analysis at Performance Health Spine and Sports Therapy. He has posted the videos of my running form, if you can call it that, in super slo mo... on his site, and invites analysis of my gait.... He gave me his analysis (secret for the moment)  and now is inviting that "You be the Gait Analyst." I do want to,  and think I can, run faster if I work on some things.

Here it the link to his post, complete with multiple videos of my running form. I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Salomon Video: "Why We Run". And Why I Run.

Wonderful Salomon video featuring the wisdom and emotion of Bernd Heinrich, a retired UVM comparative physiology professor and holder of numerous US ultra running records. Shot in remote Maine, where he lives, with film of Bernd's past races as well as incredible running and Maine scenery he captures and describes the essence of Why We Run.

"Running is about extreme movement. Running is about movement. Movement is life."
"How much little things matter. And how far they take you. The essential thing is to run, period. For a long time, consistently.  And then everything takes care of itself."

"We're basically all runners"

Monday, November 04, 2013

NYTimes Well Blog: What is your Fitness Age? A Simple Calculator

Now here is some fun. The NY Times Well blog recently wrote how  researchers in Norway after extensive testing came up with a simple on line calculator  to estimate your VO2 max and "fitness age."

"The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age."

The simple questions they came up with, and my answers:
Gender: M
Resting heart rate: 51
Age: 56
Intensity, length and frequency of exercise: hard, more than 30 minutes, exercise almost every day
Waist line: 85cm
Results : VO2Max 55, Fitness Age: 25

The calculator is here.

What's your fitness age? 
Do you think this approach is valid? 
Share here if you wish and also include a recent marathon or half marathon time.

Review: Orange Mud No Bounce HydraQuiver Single Bottle Run Pack.

We all struggle with the best way to carry an adequate amount of water and supplies (gels, phone, light jacket) for those 1 to 3 hour runs. Some such as yours truly, prefer not to carry bottles in hand, are bothered by tight belts and bouncing bottles, hate to fiddle and twist while grabbing bottles on the run while others find that race vests chafe or are uncomfortable.

The Orange Mud HydraQuiver is an ideal solution to all these issues.  Instead of carrying water on the waist or wrapping around the front with pockets on the chest as some vests do, the HydraQuiver puts its included 24 oz water bottle high in the middle of your shoulder blades. No bounce.  Very easy to grab  to grab the bottle and then replace into a nice stiff holster.
Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

The HydraQuiver is more than a bottle carrier, it's also a great little run pack. Read on for the details.

Monday, October 14, 2013

St George Marathon (UT)- Magic Course, Magic Day

A week ago a group of Park City and Houston running friends trekked to Southern Utah for the spectacular St George Marathon. Not my fastest by a few minutes but a very satisfactory 3:33 on a cool, sunny day perfect conditions for this desert course. Almost the whole gang got Boston Qualifiers or PR's.
Photo Credit: St George Marathon
It was cold and dark at the start, high 30's, but the incredible organizers light up at least a 100 campfires for the 7600 runners. Perfect.

Several of us were sporting the adidas Energy Boost (my review here)  and CEP compression sleeves. All these feet got a Boston qualifier and one got a  PR. No blisters, no cramps with plenty of responsive cushion for the long, steep downhills.

adidas Energy Boosters do St. George Marathon

The gang gets together for the group photos:

St George has been voted the best organized marathon and one of the most scenic and fastest. While it can get very hot, this year the conditions were ideal. A bucket list race for every marathoner.

Tales from The Shoe Crypt: Circa 1980 Nike Classic Run Shoes Unearthed-Waffle Racer, Mariah, Terra TC

My friend and college team mate Scott Slater was known in the day as somewhat of a pack rat. He did not disappoint recently when during an email conversation with a number of old Dartmouth runners he disclosed he had stored away a number of circa 1980 or so Nike classic shoes, some brand new,  never worn.

Here is his collection of classics. They are oh so close to what today passes for "minimal" shoes:

Nike Mariah 

Nike Terra TC
I wrote about the Terra TC here in a post about classic 70's and 80's running shoes.
Nike Track Spikes

The famous Nike Waffle Racer
Ever run in these? Your recollections of how they felt? Race memories?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review UltraSpire UltraViz Spry: Safety focused, Versatile, Year Round Race Vest

I am a big fan of UltraSpire run vests and packs. This relatively new company has top notch, innovative design and materials and works closely and listens to top ultra runners such as Karl Meltzer, Krissy Moehl, and Luke Nelson.  They make a very wide variety of highly functional belts and packs of very lightweight durable materials. I have purchased their Spry and Alpha vests and found them to be a perfect balance of light weight, comfort, carry capacity when needed, and zero bounce when fully loaded. I also own and have reviewed their Quantum race belt here.

I met with UltraSpire at Outdoor Retailer and they were kind enough to send me their late 2013 UltraViz SpryVest.  They also sent me their 2014 Titan 2.0 pack which I will review shortly

I was particularly taken by the UltraViz vest as it meets multiple needs:
  • winter and year round visibility and reflectivity.
  • moderate carry capacity: phone, gels, small bladder or light shell.
  • no need to have separate winter reflective vests and summer race vests. All in one.

 Key Features:

  • reflective stripes and ANSI high visibility colors  for winter month safety, and really year round if roads are on your program.
  • 2 easy to reach  deep, stretch mesh pockets on the front. I have put 6 plus gels in a pocket. My smartphone, with room to spare, fits in one pocket or you can easily put an 8 oz soft flask with no jiggling in the second pocket, or gloves, hat, etc...
  • a small zippered mesh pocket on the shoulder for electrolyte tablets or your car keys.
  • 2 shoulder elastic loops for hydration hose or an LED blinker. 
  • Single, somewhat elastic sternum strap that is easy to adjust on the go. Metal slide in hook closure as with all UltraSpire belts and closures.
  • the back has a stretch mesh pocket, with solid magnetic closure for either an optional 1.0 liter UltraSpire bladder or a light shell, gloves, etc..
  • easy to reach adjustment straps on either side to fit over bulkier clothes.

  • UltraSpire UltraViz Run Vest- rear magnetic closure pocket, fits 1 liter hydration bladder

UltraViz Spry is very similar in cut to the conventional Spry.  UltraViz Spry is made of sweat proof mesh with a smaller, less textured pattern than the Spry. Unlike the conventional Spry with its drop in pocket on one side and zipper pocket with small mesh pocket on top on the other, the UltraViz has 2 flat stretch mesh pockets. Far more versatile setup in my view. Women runner friends with the Spry comment that sternum strap should be adjustable vertically.

Road Test:
I have taken a few runs with the vest with front pockets loaded. No bounce to speak of, a tiny bit of looseness and motion in the top part of the chest but also very important the vest is in no way constricting.  Pockets are very easy to reach with no toggles or zippers to deal with. By pulling up on the top of the vest, with a bit of loosening of the side straps, one is able to reach back into the rear pocket without taking off the pack.

Year round safety and moderate carry capacity.
Comfortable, easy to adjust with no belt pressure around the middle.
Quick, fumble free access to all pockets on the run.
OK it is high, high visibility. Might be a bit of light show on the trail but you can't be too visible on the road.

MSRP $55.  Available from UltraSpire

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Review adidas adizero adios Boost: Light, Boost Powered Racer/ Light Trainer

Earlier this year adidas launched the Energy Boost featuring a midsole made of TPU instead of the conventional EVA. The Runner's World Shoe Lab found in an article by Amby Burfoot:

   "Yet after poking, prodding, stomping upon, dissecting and inspecting (under a microscope) the new     “boost” midsole, Martyn confirmed what Adidas is claiming: the shoe has “industry leading” energy return (more on this soon), thin and lightweight but effective cushioning, tremendous resistance to heat and cold, and more durability (perhaps twice as much) as conventional EVA midsoles. "

I am now on my second pair of Energy Boost and have found the claims above to be largely true. With the exception of some curling up at the toe and normal outsole wear my first pair with 300 miles feels and looks like new. The Boost material really holds up far better than conventional EVA. My review of the Energy Boost is here.

This said the Energy Boost is really a trainer. In October adidas launched the adizero adios Boost a Boost midsole version of their popular adios racer.
adios Boost

adios Boost is a light, 7.8 oz  Men's 9 US,  6.6 oz Women's 8 US  cushioned racer/trainer with heel/toe drop of 23/13mm vs. 26/17 for the Energy Boost according to Running Warehouse. This is not a low drop shoe but certainly runs like one for me. They fit me true to my size 8.5 with a light sock.

The adios Boost is just starting to be available in the US. I got mine from Wiggle in the UK earlier in September. Wiggle is a great place to get products released in Europe before the US  for very close to what they will sell for in the US and with very reasonable and rapid shipping.

adios Boost (left) Energy Boost(right)
Unlike the Energy Boost with its stretchy soft shell "Techfit" material, the adios Boost has a conventional mesh.
The individual cells' weave is not particularly soft but as they are small and with entirely welded overlays in the toe box provide  a great combination of support and give.
The lacing goes far further towards the toe than in the Energy Boost.
The toe box is plenty wide for a racing shoe over the forefoot then somewhat pointy towards the toes. The tongue is thin mesh with minimal padding.

Midsole and Outsole:
The midsole is of course made of Boost. The construction is identical to the Energy except of course thinner at stack heights of 27.75/17.25mm vs, the Energy Boost with 31.5/21.5mm.

adios Boost Outsole
adios Boost Outsole
The outsole/midsole interface features the adidas Torsion System as on the Energy Boost, a web of thin, stiff  green plastic under the arch and extending in strips on the outer edges towards the toe. This system produces the snappy toe off and also helps stabilize the soft Boost material. It really works. In board are 2 glued on strips of small lugs: black outer sole covering tiny stiff pieces of plastic. Based on my first runs, these tinylugs help stabilize push off while giving good ground feel and providing more flexibility than solid strips of outsole would. Finally, a somewhat firmer than Boost material EVA torsion piece, ironically with the word "Boost" on it, is used in the heel for a firm yet cushioned heel landing and roll forward. The actual outsole is "Continental" rubber, as in Continental tires for claimed great slip free grip on all surfaces and long wear.

This is one stiff shoe with a very springy flex point as illustrated in the photo (right). I was working hard to push down and flex the shoe. Some may not like this approach but I find it highly responsive at speed. The Energy Boost has a similar stiff flex but the flex point is somewhat further back than the adios. I can say that with close to 300 miles on my Energy Boost they have remained consistently stiff and I would expect the adios Boost to perform in a similar fashion. There is no break in with these shoes. The first miles will feel exactly like the last all around: cushion via Boost and flex and stability via Torsion.

Ride and Runs:
I have done 5 runs for a total of about 30 miles in the adios including a very brisk 7.5 mile tempo that included flats and steep uphills and downhills. In a word "incredible" at speed, less fun for a jog.  The adios have a great combination of snappy response and a cushioning that only be described as soft when it needs to be and firm when it needs to be. By this I mean the initial landing is soft but stable and the push off is firm, very directed with no sloppy feeling  with great ground feel and responsive rebound from the combination of Boost and Torsion. My tempo at altitude was considerably faster than expected and the next day my legs were none the worse for wear. With a marathon in 2 weeks with 2500 feet of downhill I will be cautious and run the Energy Boost but for any other race adios Boost for me!
Update: Ran my first race in the adios boost, the traditional, low key Gosport Chowder Club Huffin' for the Stuffin' 5K here in coastal NH and finished 3d overall. They felt great super snappy and firm but unlike other racing flats not harsh and jarring. Legs fresh the after the race and next day.
Update 2/2014: I have now done 3 long races in the adios Boost: 15K, Half, followed by a 20 miler the week after All three races have been surprisingly fast for me including a 1:37.42 half in cold weather, my first half under 1:40 on a legit course since 2011. Even the 20 miler yesterday was painless and I ran today with minimal soreness. The adios truly disappear on the feet, are snappy, and without removing road feel have a unique combination of race flat fast feel, great cushion and no harshness.
Update 6/16/14: 3 races in the adios in the last few weeks. A 25K trail race on wet grass, some mud and dirt/gravel roads. Great upper support and pretty decent traction. Followed that with a 5K and 10K on the road. There is something about these shoes that keeps your stride in a groove. You can feel when tired things slipping and a slight adjustment keeps one tracking straight and smooth.

Light, cushioned, highly responsive racing machine for distances from 5K to Marathon.
Boost material really works at speed when combined with the stability of Torsion
Expected long life of midsole for consistent performance over time.

10 mm drop may put off some but I run in mostly 4-6mm shoes and didn't notice.
Toe box may feel narrow for some but after all this is a race shoe.
Stiff forefoot with highly directed push off, not particularly "natural" for some.
Price: Expected MSRP around $140.

Other reviews: Pete Larson at Runblogger reviews the adios boost and likes them a lot.
adios boost review at Believe in the Run. adios boost directly out of the box for a marathon!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Outdoor Retailer Innovations- Keeping it Clean After the Run: Orange Mud Transition and Seat Wrap, Scrubba Wash Bag Reviews

With thousands of exhibitors and maybe millions of products it is sometimes hard to find the truly innovative products that are useful, simple, and unique. New exhibitors are assigned to 3 huge air conditioned tents across the street from the Salt Palace. Often they are displaying a single or a very few products. Thanks to some good pre show emails I sought out 2 really neat companies: Orange Mud and Scrubba. It turns out that both had very useful simple products for athletes used after the run, ride or workout. Orange Mud is focused on changing on the go after a workout and using the same product to keep your car seats clean. Scrubba has come up with an incredible "Washbag", the world's smallest washing machine that also doubles as a dry bag.

Scrubba Wash Bag $64.95

This crowd funded (indiegogo) Aussie company has come up with a simple way to get washing machine clean clothes on the road. More than just a washing machine the Scrubba can be used as a totally waterproof dry bag, a travel pillow, and even a foot massager.

Here is how the Scrubba Wash Bag works:

The dry bag has a plastic lamination of firm scrubbing fingers on the inside (seen below from the outside).

  • You put your clothes inside the dry bag: at least a couple pairs of shorts, t-shirts, socks, etc...
  • Add a bit of laundry soap. I use Bronner's when I travel.
  • Cover the clothes more or less with water.
    Scrubba Wash Bag- Machine is loaded!

  • Make sure the air valve is open, squeeze out the air and seal.
  • Massage the clothes against the washboard for about 3 minutes
  • Drain and fill with clean water
  • Scrubba Wash Bag- Rinse Cycle
  • Plug the air valve so air is kept inside. Shake a while and drain.

I have used it twice including all my super dusty, dirty clothes from the 16 mile trail Jupiter Peak Steeplechase last weekend and everything was immaculately cleaned.
Scrubba Wash Bag medium load- 3 pairs of socks, T-shirt, shorts

Remarkable invention. A great solution for backpacking, business travel, workout clothes left at the gym, and quick washes of your workout,  running or cycling clothes.

The Orange Mud Transition  and Seat Wrap $39.95
Brilliantly simple. The product's motto is "It's application is limitless, basically if you are dirty, and you know you often are....this will keep your car purdy! "Think of a nice large super soft beach towel with a secure hook system to wrap around your waist. Great for quick changes in parking lots after a workout. But there is more... one corner zips into a sort of hoodie. Slip the hood over your car head rest and you have a great seat cover for the drive home. And of course you can wear it as wrap around hoodie to stay warm. I have tried it and it absolutely works as advertised.

Orange Mud-wrap to change

Orange Mud-zip corner and slip over car seat
Update: Runner's World picks the Transition Wrap as one of its 2013 Gear of the Year, several months after this post.

There is more from  innovative Orange Mud. I will review separately but Orange Mud's original product is a very tiny hydration pack, the HyrdraQuiver. Instead of placing a water bottle around your waist or in a chest pocket they place it between your shoulder blades. Have run once in the pack and there is absolutely no bounce and complete freedom of arm motion. The bottle is very easy to remove and replace on the run. Brilliant, if a bit goofy looking. Also available in a 2 bottle version. Made in the USA!
Orange Mud HyrdaQuiver

Orange Mud-HyrdraQuiver

Disclosure: Products were provided at no charge for evaluation and review.

Friday, August 02, 2013

WmGault Leather IPhone 5 Sleeve and Wallet: Classy, Protective, Well Designed.

My friend Craig Miller and his wife Rita are industrious, creative, active participants in multi day Mountain Man Rendezvous where everything worn and used has to be period 1820-1840's yet they are also very tech savvy. Craig, whose business is real estate, was the first person (other than me!) I saw actively using the iPad day to day, as soon as it launched.

Craig and Rita are incredible crafts people. Rita knitting and weaving;  Craig doing fine leather work, hand forging of knives, and now pack basket weaving. Oh and they have multiple horses out on their spread East of Park City.
Wm Gault Classic Wallet and iPhone 5 Sleeve

Craig has brilliantly combined his classic, western leather working and tech savvy to launch a new company Wm Gault. The first two products, and he makes these by hand in his workshop in UT,  are a leather iPhone 5 Sleeve $65 and a super streamlined Classic Wallet, $55. They can be purchased separately or as a Duo, $110.

Outdoor Retailer Summer 13 Coverage: Trail and Road Running. Summary of my posts. Other links

I will be posting multiple articles and will be updating this page regularly over the next week or so.
So much to see at OR!

The two big trends I focused on:

  1. highly cushioned lightweight shoes
  2. GPS and smart watches going to new levels of innovation in size and interaction with the ever popular fitness apps on smart phones. (posts to come) 

Show Preview post

Hoka One One Conquest: The lightweight, super cushioned innovator launches a more responsive midsole tech.
Salomon Sense 3, Sense Ultra and new Sense Pro post: Salomon minimal trail runner line improved and with a new more affordable model the Sense Pro
New Balance Fresh Foam post: New Balance joins the low drop, cushioned category.

Keepin' it Clean Innovations post: Scrubba Wash Bag and Orange Mud Transitions and Seat Wrap.

iRunFar's 2014  best trail shoes preview: very complete

Competitor Running's short overviews of 21 new shoes: I missed some.... Clear innovation and trend towards more cushion.

Runblogger post on max cushion in a lightweight package: Altra Olympus, Hoka One One Conquest, and Brooks Transcend.

More to come...

Outdoor Retailer Summer13: New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Launch

I was tickled that New Balance invited me to the launch party for the Fresh Foam 980 road runner.
The Fresh Foam is a 8.8 oz (men 9.5), 7.3 oz (women 7) $110 retail model that will launch in February 2014. 4mm drop.
New Balance Fresh Foam 890 Men
 The Fresh Foam is New Balance's entry into the rapidly growing cushioned low drop light weight category. Quite frankly low drop and cushioned is what I like to run in for daily traiining. Shoes in this category I have run in include the Altra Torin and my new favorite the Hoka One Rapa Nui.

I was told heel forefoot stack height was 16/12 without insole so about 21/17 with insole which is  a touch on the more "minimal" side of this new category when say compared to Hokas.  I spoke to one of the design engineers and what New Balance had done is engineer the distribution of forces into the midsole and outsole via computer modeling of the structure.  They told me this is only the first step as next they will engineer the structure of the single foam internally using the same prinicples.
Note the differences in the midsole between lateral and medial sides in the pictures below.
New Balance Fresh Foam 890
New Balance Fresh Foam 890

New Balance Fresh Foam 890

New Balance Fresh Foam 890

New Balance Fresh Foam 890 Women's