Thursday, January 09, 2014

Best of 2013: Trail and Road Running

Revelation of the Year: a variety in surfaces,  shoe heel toe drops, cushion and midsole geometries is what probably keeps our legs happiest, healthiest and fastest. Not really a revelation but many runners have in recent years been stuck on fads (minimal), orthodoxy(support stability), or the same shoe as always.

"Shoe" of the Year: not a shoe, but a midsole material, adidas Boost. 
Breaking away from the traditional EVA midsole, adidas emerged with a TPU material with great energy response, longevity, and less sensitivity to temperatures (hardening and softening). I ran most of my road miles in the adidas Energy as well as two marathons (review here) . Later in the year the adios Boost came out and it proved a fantastic speed racer/trainer (review here) with great road feel and snappy response without harshness.  While not a low drop shoe, at 10mm,  the adios was one of Pete Larson over at Runblogger favorites for 2013 coming in at #2. More Boost to come with the Glide Boost now on sale. (Energy and Glide Boost comparison here)

Brand of the Year: (tie) Hoka One One and Skechers. 
2013 was the year the super cushion of Hoka proved that not every run or runner is the same and that a super cushioned shoe for long miles or injuries is a great idea. I ran all my trail miles and many road miles in the Rapa Nui, a bit less Hoka and a fabulous all around hybrid (review here).

Out of nowhere, or even worse than nowhere, Skechers has emerged as a trail and road run brand with light, beautifully designed shoes, at a value price.  The results of listening closely to every day runners and iterating rapidly shows. Their GoRun Ultra is a versatile very light and well cushioned shoe equally at home at the road or the trail. The GoRun Ride 3 is a light, decently cushioned trainer in the mold of the Kinvara from Saucony but with a more stable forefoot and wide yet supportive upper (reviews here).

Hydration Gear of the Year: Ultraspire UltraViz Spry Vest. Honorable mention: Salomon Softflasks.
Couldn't make up my mind here on a specific item as each has a focused utility so going with UltraSpire as a line. The Spry UltraViz is a high visibility vest with enough room for a 1.1 liter bladder or small bottles, up front a phone, and some gels (review here). Can't be to visible these days on the roads so I have it on for just about every run. The Alpha is similar with more capacity. To come in 2014 the Titan 2.0 a pack with room to spare, deep bottle pockets for those Salomon 500ml softflasks I like so much and absolutely no bounce.

Jacket of the Year: Hands down, the NorthFace Better than Naked.
Very light, very breathable .An ideal, easy to stow running jacket for all but downpours (review here).

Short of the Year: Patagonia Strider Pro
With a 5" inseam and most importantly 2 hip stretch and one rear zip pocket these were my go to shorts all year. Well designed all around with no bounce or sag when pockets are loaded. In 2014 the Strider Pro gets even better with 5 pockets.

Sock of the Year: Ashmei trail socks.
I got three pairs of Ashmei  trail socks this spring and they are the only socks I have worn since then, running and otherwise. None the worse for wear Merino and Carbon blend. Comfortable in all conditions. All of Ashmei run apparel is of outstanding quality and functionality if a bit pricey. Well worth it.

Run Tech of the Year: Magellan Echo Watch combined with iSmoothRun app for iOS.
Finally a way to harness the processing power of the iPhone and apps without fumbling with the phone or worrying about battery life and synching of the watch to computer.  The internet of things is here. The Echo Watch receives the data from the app and also serves as a controller for start, pause, music, laps, etc... The iSmoothrun app provides a wealth of options for training and synchs the data on multiple screens flawlessly to the watch. The app is being continuously improved. (review here)

Accessory of the Year: Orange Mud Transition Wrap
Super practical combination quick change wrap and car seat cover. No more sweaty car seats (review here).

I welcome your personal Best Lists and Comments here!


Nick Bradley said...

Nice list Sam. I've got a few things which are similar ... a few different. What a year hey? So much change going on and innovation which is great to see.

Revelation - Overly controlling shoes are not as effective long term vs. working on your own body, conditioning etc. A somewhat controversial comment but certainly how I've adapted this year.

Shoe - As always a tough category. Have to go with my Comrades shoe I reckon - Hoka Bondi B2. I remember getting to mile 30 and thinking thank God I'm in Hoka's for the last 20-25 ... all on road.

Brand - Skechers. I'm now a convert. Took a bit to move away from the brand snobbery but there's no denying they make great shoes. Honourable mention: Pearl Izumi for their great EM line.

Hydration: UD Signature Series. I've got the SJ and the PB vests. Really nice if you like bottles up front. I also pair with the Salomon soft flasks.

Jacket: Inov8 Race Pro line. I've got a jacket and a thermo fleece and perfect for UK winters.

Shorts: Yep, Patagonia Strider Pro. Just brilliant! Also like the Pearl Izumi Ultras.

Socks: Not new but the Drymax Trail socks are superb. In fact I find their entire range perfect ... no blisters in any of my marathons or ultras this year.

Tech: I really like the Garmin 620 here. Adding cadence and race prediction times is a nice touch and I've found them to be pretty accurate. Just needs a longer battery life. I used last year's Suunto Ambit for quite a few runs but the battery failed me on some runs over 12-15 hours. Especially in cold, wet weather.

Accessory: Lifeproof iPhone case. Waterproof and very usable in all conditions. But expensive and feels flimsy. I ran a 50 mile night ultra in pouring rain and not a drop of moisture inside the case. Worth the investment.

What am I most looking forward to in 2014?
The new range of Hoka's ... particularly their lower drop racing models. Just brilliant shoes .... in my opinion.

Sam Winebaum said...

Nick, Thanks so much for contributing. Great list. PI would have been on my list but for one thing, overly firm midsoles especially on road shoes IMO . The rest, upper and geometry brilliant. I have seen the UD but never tried. They look great but what sold me on UltraSpire is the range of options from belts to packs all super well designed and with rapid iterating year to year. When I told them at OR that I liked the 500 ml Salomon Soft Flasks they said let us show you what's we done with the Titan. We swear by DryMax hiking socks for trekking and their socks are great but IMO don't have nearly the wear of the Ashmei and tend to stretch. Here is what I do with my iPhone. Swear by the UK Tech21 Impact Snap with Cover. Very thin with magic impact foam. Then every run I put my phone in a Lok Sak, a military grade baggie that lasts many months. I will be at OR later this month and am heading straight to Hoka to hear about those new models!