Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mid Foot vs. Heel Strike in Running: Finally Starting to Understand What's Best for Who., Article Competitor

Competitor has a great article by Tom Michaud summarizing the latest research. He starts by... walking where a heel strike is 53% more efficient and the fact that most joggers heel strike first then... speeds up from there.

  • The faster you go the more metabolically efficient a mid foot landing becomes. Recent research is suggesting that at a pace of 6:25 per mile most are just as efficient mid or rear foot striking. Slower that that and most runners are more economical with a rear foot landing. 
  • Even in minimal footwear 35% of runners strike the ground heel first, ouch! as "heel striking is too efficient to give up"
  • Yet, Michaud goes further, and is more nuanced, as those with recurrent knee pain should consider working towards a mid foot strike as it "significantly reduces stress on the knee." and especially so "for faster runners with wide forefeet and flexible Achilles tendons." 
  • "Conversely, runners with a history of Achilles, forefoot, and/or plantar fascial injuries should almost always make initial contact along the outside of the heel, because contrary to what many running experts say, striking the ground heel first is safe and efficient."
I think this article makes a lot of sense and provides not only scientific explanation but also valuable variations on the theme of mid vs rear foot striking that can help many runners with injuries.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

adidas Energy Boost 2: First Look from Holabird Sports

The original Energy Boost was one of my Best of 2013, actually the Boost material was and is the best. The Energy  got me through 2 painless (almost), blister less marathons.  The next generation Energy Boost 2 is hitting the market in Feb. 2014. From what I understand all changes are to the upper.  Video from Holabird Sports describes some of the changes:
  • a new TPU cage at the midfoot upper. I thought this area was fine so will see.
  • still the sock like Tech Fit upper which I liked, but many didn't,  but with new arrangement of overlays in forefoot. It looks like the forefoot overlays are reduced to 2 from 3 and the front overlay is moved a bit back from the toe which may make the feel a little more open and less constraining and directed. 
  • weight at 9.9 oz Men's 9. Adidas has the Boost 1 at 9.5 oz so heavier, not a good thing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Race Schwag: Shave Secret - a discovery in the bottom of the bag

A bit off topic from my usual running shoes and gear but I did discover this product in a marathon race schwag bag.

All runners know the feeling of picking up your bib, t shirt, and a bag full of samples, race post cards, and instructions. Often this stuff is ignored or thrown out after a quick glance.
Well in the bottom of my bag for the St George Marathon last year I found a yellow card with a minuscule vial attached. Didn't think much of it until months later as I finally emptied the bag and actually tried the sample of Shave Secret
Great stuff. Literally 3 drops and I get a smooth, nick free shave. Super for everyday use and for travel as a tiny bottle will last for months. They claim secret natural oils do the trick and I agree.

I'll keep a closer eye on the race schwag in the future. Who knows what I might find next.

Shave Secret is available direct and at many Wal Marts.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why I Run: The Rye Snowy Owl, iSmoothrun & Magellan Echo, Wave Rider 17, and Rudy Project Photochromic Clear Lenses all together on a run

Yesterday on a beautiful clear and cold day I ran a nice 10 mile tempo north along the coast here in NH. I used to favor going south but lately have been taken by bird watching as between the coast road and land there are extensive marshes filled with neat birds. This winter I have spotted a peregrine falcon, great blue herons, and every kind of water fowl imaginable.
immature Peregrine Falcon
 The internet has been filled with pictures of a magnificent Snowy White Owl camped about a mile from my house. You can tell when she is around by the bird watchers parked and staring. Well yesterday on my way back I stopped at their cars and asked where she was. They said you just ran by her, she's on the pole. And there she was. Watched me calmly as I snapped a few "telephoto" shots with my iPhone 5S which by the way handles zooming far better than prior iPhones.
The Rye Snowy Owl
I always run with my phone for 2 reasons: to indulge my geek data side and to have a camera. I never listen to music although I do listen to my run app, iSmoothRun, read off my splits.

Just before my run I had seen comments on a fine review at RunBlogger about the combination of the iPhone iSmoothRun app and the Magellan Echo. I discovered the Echo and iSmoothrun at Outdoor Retailer last summer and reviewed it here. I introduced it to Pete over at Runblogger and he calls the combo "brilliant" in his review. Well back to those comments on Pete's review. Some are steadfast in wanting a watch to keep track of all their stats and can't stand carrying a phone. I am not with them as the apps will increasingly be more capable due to the processing power of the phones and... I love to carry my "camera."

On that run I also tested for the first time some Rudy Project Clear Photochromic lenses in my Rydon sunglasses. Rudy makes in my view  the finest lenses with superb optical quality, has a huge variety of lenses for different uses and are worn by many pro cyclists and nordic skiers.
I got these lenses as they go from almost clear 78% light transmission to dark 18% and have the greatest light transmission for morning/dusk, in and out of forest situations of any of the Rudy lenses.  Well it was sunny and they got very dark and then took a while to return to clear. I was curious why such a long transition. So off to Google I went and discovered that photochromic lenses get darker in cold and transition slower back from dark. In heat they tend to not get as dark but transition far quicker back and forth. This applies to all photochromic lenses. Never knew that.

What would a run be without... shoes to test. I am debating my Boston choices: adidas adios boost (review here), Skechers GoRun Ride 3 (review here), or the Mizuno Wave Rider 17.
Mizuno Wave Rider 17. Source: Mizuno USA

I got the Wave Riders as the combination of light weight 8.6 oz, stack height of 18 forefoot/ 31 heel with a flexible forefoot is in my sweet spot, except... the 13mm drop is more than I am used to. I prefer 6-10mm. Well they are a fine shoe if a bit noticeably high in the heel.  It is going to be a tough choice as last weekend I ran a very fine fast (for me)  15K on a fairly hilly course in the adios boost. No harshness, super snappy and fast feeling. I thought the adios boost might be to light but now am not so sure so off to the Half at the Hamptons in the adios boost the 23d to evaluate further. And back to temperatures, unlike the Rudy lenses or the Wave Rider the boost material is not as affected by cold as the EVA in most shoes, including the Wave Rider, firms up in cold.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Review- New Balance 980 Fresh Foam: Supportive Cushioned Lightweight Product of Computer Aided Design

The New Balance 980 Fresh Foam, a 8.8 oz men's size 9, 7.3 oz women's size 7, 4mm heel/toe drop lightweight trainer is now on sale ($110 MSRP).

Note 4/11/14: New Balance sent me another pair of 980 in size 9, up half a size from my normal 8.5. It turns out the firmness in the midsole I felt in the first pair reviewed here was not to spec, too stiff. The new pair is more cushioned especially in the forefoot, roomy, and has better flex.

The New Balance 980 Fresh Foam is not made up of innovative materials (a la adidas Boost) or for that matter has a radical design ( a la Hoka).  The 980 is innovative as for the first time New Balance is leveraging parametric modeling software often used by architects to micro design and shape the data characteristics of loading and biomechanics into what is essentially a very simple single material EVA midsole and single material rubber outsole. New Balance has used this approach before  to custom design 3D spike plates for elite athletes based on their form and foot shape. I saw the Fresh Foam introduced at OR last summer and wrote about them then.

How does this innovative approach translate to the shoe's design? 
The outer sidewalls have hexagonal "relief" based on the data modeling, which depending on location, either provide additional support via convex bulging shapes or deform, absorb shock and cushion through concave shapes.
New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Medial Side
The medial (inside of foot)  heel area is firmer and more supportive due to convex hexagons on the  sidewall. The forefoot is more cushioned and deforms more due to concave hexagons.
New Balance 980 Fresh Foam Lateral

The lateral (outside of foot)  heel is concave and deforms and absorbs on landing on the decoupled heel, while the lateral forefoot is more supportive allowing the foot to roll inwards for toe off

Does it work? Yes. Not only does my informal finger "durometer" test indicate that convex areas are firmer and concave areas deform more but running in the shoes one gets a sensation of consistent smooth support from heel to toe.

Marketing materials from New Balance say that the 980 has "ultra-plush" cushioning. Well it all depends on what one means by ultra plush. They feel quite a bit firmer than Hokas or Skechers Ultra but less firm than the sometimes harshly firm Pearl Izumi EM line.  They are fairly close in cushion for me to the adidas Energy Boost although quite a bit firmer but more stable with less of the Energy's rebound effect. Running Warehouse has the stack heights at 25mm heel, 21mm forefoot.  They have a thick insole which I believe RW includes. The forefoot certainly feels nicely cushioned similar to an Altra Torin. The overall sensation is by no means unpleasant. One feels very well cushioned, well supported with good road feel. They feel particularly stable, yet cushioned, on downhills.  The bumps in the road have been smoothed out but it still there. Think of the difference between a big Audi and an old school luxury sedan. 980 is the Audi.

Upper and Fit
They fit true to my size 8.5, just, due to a somewhat narrow front of the toe box. I would size up half a size if I was running a marathon in the Fresh Foam and since this review New Balance sent me a half size up which fits far better.  Not really as roomy as the very roomy, almost too roomy, Skechers show below. There a 5 eyelets plus 2 further back to dial in the upper. Tongue is big and thick I think to help cushion use of far back 2 lace holes.  Laced and stayed comfortable without adjustment on the first try. A very modern seamless upper. The only stitching is at the very bottom of the lacing system. Rest is all modern overlays over a soft open mesh.
Skechers Go Run Ride 3 compared to New Balance 980 Fresh Foam 
Outsole is completely covered in rubber with a bit of a decoupled heel. The computer aided design informed the size and placement of the outsole's hexagons and it is here New Balance may have gone a bit too far.  The shoe flexes far back near the middle of the area of small hexagons under the instep. Fairly stiff in the forefoot especially in the cold and I am pretty sure it is mostly the outsole and not midsole that causes the stiffness but it is gradually "breaking in" ( with 22 miles on the shoe). Unusual flex and not sure it matches my form as I have a roll forward and toe off near the front. I might have opened the forefoot outsole up to the midsole with grooves to get a more gradual flex. As the shoe does not have a "rocker" as a Hoka does or an air gap far back as the Pearl Izumi does, and they are stiff, it is fairly hard for me to roll forward and off at jogging pace. With more miles they may flex more.  I have not yet tried them at speed but soon will. Often shoes feel and function far differently at speed, particularly stiff ones.
Road Feel and Ride
Apart from the stiff forefoot and flex point far back they run very smoothly with great firm cushion and support. No leg soreness at all the next day. While a 4mm drop shoe, I did not have the sensation I sometimes to that the "heel isn't there". If I was making the decisions I might have gone with a bit softer foam. I say "road feel" as the midsole outsole (lack of lugs aside) could also make this a fine trail shoe in my opinion. I tried them off the side of the road and found them very stable. Unusual, as I often look for trail shoes that can run the road but this one feels starting from a road focus it could easily handle many trails. And New Balance knows this, as a trail version I saw at Outdoor Retailer is coming later this year. It essentially looked like a beefier deep tread on pretty much the same shoe.
Who might like the New Balance 980 Fresh Foam?
The 980 is a well cushioned and light trainer for those seeking a smooth, supportive ride. I might hazard a guess that heavier runners looking for a light sub 9oz shoe will find the Fresh Foam a good option due to its supportive nature. There are support/stability features designed into the hexagons so this could also be a good shoe for mild over-pronators without causing issue for neutral runners.  As long as not muddy or too steep (the stiff forefoot a bit of a concern on steep climbs without a rocker)  the Fresh Foam should also give a stable ride on easier trails. If they feel comfortable at speed I will consider them for my Boston shoe.

See my review of the New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail here. A very fine trail shoe for rugged terrain as well as a smooth runner on the road, a versatile hybrid for varied terrain.

For another review of the New Balance 980 Fresh Foam see Holip Soekawan's super review here.

Disclosure: The New Balance 980 Fresh Foam were provided to me free of charge for this review. The opinions herein are entirely my own.

Outdoor Retailer Winter 14: Source Hydration. Tastes Better. Innovative Designs

Source is an Israeli hydration company well known in Europe and by militaries worldwide, including the US, French, and of course Israel's IDF. They have not recently been strongly present in the US market. At OR they had a large booth with neat consumer packs, bottles,and reservoirs and  very serious military tactical hydration and packs on display

Their key differentiator is a "glass like" reservoir film material. By "glass like" Source means the material is far smoother with fewer peaks and valleys on the surface than competitors.

Source Hydration Glass Like Film

This translates to less gunk accumulating in the bladder. I have had a Source hydration bladder for several years, it came in the original Salomon Advanced Skin run vest. I think liquids do taste better in Source and it was my goto bladder on our 10 day trek from Chamonix to Zermatt a few years ago, got one for my wife, and I put it in my run packs.

I was given a  free sample and demonstration of Source's Ultimate Hydration System ($61 MSRP). The Ultimate features:

  • Most innovative, smart and successful design, the Widepac Hydration Reservoir makes filling, cleaning and draining easier than ever, and it's 100% leakproof.
  • Features a 360 degree cylindrical valve with soft bite which eliminates the need for a specific mouth orientation. The retreat spring sealing mechanism is leak proof even under pressure.
  • An effective Valve cover that keeps the valve protected and clean when not in use.
  • QMT Tube
    Tube with two quick connect adaptors, one on each side.
  • A revolutionary solution for refilling your hydration system on the move. The reservoir is filled directly through the tube eliminating the need to remove the hydration pack from the back for refills.
  • Magnetic Clip
  • A smart and simple magnetic tube holder clip, easily attachable to shirt, shooulder strap or Molle strap, allowing complete ease of use.
  • Insulated UV-Block woven cover. Keeps liquid cool and bacteria-free from the first to the last sip. 

Source Ultimate Hydration Bottle Refill
The reservoir tube can be disconnected at both ends by pressing and pulling secure spring snap valves,  to clean the tube and also to fill the reservoir. Using the blue UTA Universal Tube Adaptor, a soft wide coupling you can refill from a sink tap or from a water bottle without removing the bladder from your pack and opening  the wide mouth as one normally does. The UTA fill came from input from the US military in Afghanistan as drinking water used by soldiers there is bottled. The drink valve is easy to use, rotates 360 degrees and twists to secure shut. A dust cap is included but I find it fussy string, leash and all, and will remove. The magnet is a nice addition to secure the hose wherever you want.

Source 1 liter Liquitainer

The 1 liter (33 oz)  Liquitainer ($11) caught my eye. For most runs of less than 3 hours I use bottles in the front pockets of my race vests. I like the Salomon soft flasks but they tend to flop over when less than full if the pocket is not deep enough. The Liquitainer, as it is more rigid,stands up far better. To drink all one has to do is bend my head a bit and squeeze the bottle. I can almost entirely drain the bottle without taking it out. There is also a 750 ml version which will fit in shallower pockets. Folds flat.

The Dune Extreme Sport Hydration Pack ($126 MSRP)
Source Dune Extreme Sport Hydration Pack

Source Dune Extreme Sport Hydration Pack

Source's take on a performance hydration pack was very interesting.
The cross straps lie over the center area where the bladder sits
allowing a very secure customizable fit. The zip hip pockets
 are easy to get at without removing the pack and will hold an iPhone 5. 
No pockets on shoulder straps which is a bit of a downside as I like to be able to carry bottles, mobile, or nutrition there.