Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Run Hydration: Salomon Park Hydro Handset, Agile Belt, Advanced Skin S-Lab 2 Belt Set

It's almost summer so it's time to think about carrying some water.

I have been a big fan of the Salomon Softflask bottles.
Salomon Softflask 500ml 16oz

The smaller sizes can be hand carried, as is without problem, but the 500ml/16oz version flops around and must be rolled up once partially empty. Last year I tried the Advanced Skin S-Lab Belt which was really designed for the smaller bottles (250 ml, 125 ml)  with not enough depth for 500ml bottles.

This year Salomon has gotten wise to methods to carry the 500ml bottles. I ordered the Park Hydro Handset ($40) , Agile Belt Set ($65). I returned the $80 Advanced Skin as it was overly fussy and complex with 6 pockets and a difficult closure and tightening system. It does have the same deeper pass through pocket as the Agile, an improvement over last year's model.
Salomon Park Hydro
The Park Hydro is a fantastic way to hand carry 500 ml of water in the softflask with a little bit of extra storage for gels, keys, and even if you want to a phone in the decent sized zip pocket. My iPhone 5S in a slim case and baggie fit but I will continue to keep my phone in a shorts pocket, too much in the hand bothers me. There is also a stretch pocket between the fingers to hold a gel or two.
As the bottle emptied I noticed some sloshing noises but given the easy to tighten elastic strap no flopping around. It is fairly easy to insert a full bottle into the strap.  A 500 ml soft flask is supplied with the Park Hydro. The drink valve is improved over last year's with  a wider opening and better quality silicone. The stretch strap is easy to adjust on the go.

I found the flask perfectly comfortable to run with, rare for me with handhelds.
Salomon Park Hydro

The Agile Belt is a compliment to the Park Hydro for those runs where more water and gear is in order. Losing the fussy belt of  S-Lab Advanced Skin, the Agile has a simple padded belt. It too comes with a 500 ml bottle.

Here a picture with two 500ml SoftFlasks, 2 gels, energy chews, and a wind jacket in the zip pocket

Salomon Agile Belt

The rear main rear pocket closest to the back is  a stretchy pass through clear to the other side.  One 500 ml bottle slips easily into this stretch compartment.  Two Softflask bottles are certainly possible particularly if once removed you carry one and the zip pocket is not to full. Conventional bike bottles could be used but the stretch pocket does not provide a real holster so more bouncing could be expected with full bike type bottles.

The zip pocket is clearly water resistant although I am not sure I would put in smartphone in it without a baggie. On either side of the stretch pocket closest to the waist are 2 more stretch pockets which hold 2 gels each. The reflective trim loops can be used to attach a bungie, not supplied.

With one bottle on board as well as a smartphone the carrying is very comfortable with minimal bounce. So if one combines the Park Hydro Handheld with 2 spare Softflasks in the Agile,  1.5 liters or 48 oz of water can be carried.

Backcountry.com and Moosejaw currently have the Agile Belt on sale. Moosejaw has Park Hydro on sale.
If you Purchase below you also support this blog. Thanks!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

OOFOS Recovery and Comfort Sandals Review: We felt the OO!

The OOFOS tagline is "Feel the OO!" Is it possible that a humble slide, thong, or clog is so much more comfortable than the usual, and worthy, of a heart felt "OO"?  Well Nicole and I set out to find out. 
OOFOS kindly sent Nicole, at no charge for review purposes, their OOcloog ($49.95). I received the clog, OOriginal thong ($39.95),  and OOAHH slide (39.95).

Our conclusion is that OOFoam is far more comfortable and lively than what one finds in a typical recovery sandal. The OO is real! Read on to see what we thought.

Sam and Nicole

Nicole is an active runner and Boston Marathon qualifier who has suffered from multiple foot problems over the years. She is also a food scientist who is on her feet all day in her lab. So her feet take a beating.

Nicole: When looking for a pair of every day shoes, comfort is of the utmost importance to me.  As I mentioned on my previous guest blog reviewing Correct Toes , I have just about every foot problem you can imagine.  People with foot problems, bunions in particular, are always looking for the holy grail of comfortable shoes.   My problems are compounded by having a job that requires me to spend a lot of time on my feet, often followed by a post-work run.  In other words, if a shoe can pass my stress test, it must make the grade in several categories.
I chose to review the OOFOS OoCloog because, as it states on the website, I was looking for a shoe that I could wear to work or kick around in post-run or around town on the weekends.  The Women’s OoCloog comes in two colors- black and plum.  I selected the plum as I wanted a color that would stand out more and have the other ladies in the lab asking me what shoes I was wearing.  I wore them over the course of a week to get a true impression of whether they would be a shoe for the long haul.  

Sam: I am older runner and Boston Marathon qualifier. I have no particular foot or leg problems beyond old age aches and pains.

Technical Features

Here is what OOFOS says about the OOfoam™. All models share the foam, general construction and outsole pattern:
Technical advantages of OOfoam™ over traditional cushioning materials:
  • Significantly more comfort, cushioning and natural articulation
  • 37% more impact absorption
  • Longer lasting support and cushioning
  • Arch support for most foot-types
  • Durable wear
  • Machine washable


Nicole: These are not Minolo Blahniks, nor did I expect them to be given they’re a comfort shoe.  However, they are definitely more attractive than something like a Croc and the design lines and features are very subtle.  I received compliments on the plum color when I wore them with jeans to work, but they didn’t quite pair as well with shorts when I wore them on a warm day.  I would say if your goal is comfort, they’re stylish enough.  I’d like to see these in more colors- the plum is nice, but it would be great if they had more variety.

Sam: My clogs are basic black but also available in the Plum Nicole received . With the exception of some venting holes on the the medial side smooth and almost dressy if a bit bulky looking. I have no problems wearing them for more casual work or after work situations.

The Ladies OOriginal is available in many more colors than the slides and clogs.

Nicole: When I first put them on, I thought they might be too big.  It only took a few minutes of walking around to recognize  that the larger size wasn’t a problem.  There was plenty of room for my toes to move around, which is very important for a person with bunions.  The toe box is also large enough to accommodate a toe spacing product such as Correct Toes.  Despite being roomy, they didn’t slide  or feel sloppy at all.  I tried them barefoot and with several different types of socks over the course of the week and had no issues.  The arch support made them feel a bit strange the first time I put them on.  Not strange in a bad way- they positioned my foot in a way I’ve never experienced with a shoe.  They pushed up the arch, allowing the toes to lift and gently splay.  In fact, it felt like my toes were barely touching the ground, as there was no pressure on them.  I own a few pairs of Dansko work clogs and, while they are very supportive, they tend to push me forward into my toes.  It was refreshing to have the benefits of good arch support without toe pain.  However, I don't know if I could recommend these to someone with flat feet- the arch support might be a little too extreme. 

Sam: The clogs fit me fine but agree with Nicole they are a bit roomy and long. I am typically a size 8.5. As far as sizing of both the clogs and thongs it feels to me that they are sized at the upper middle of the size, no half sizes being available. So a size 9, what I received for all three types, feels like  about a size 9.5. The slides are a bit different as the band over the foot is fairly snug for me over the foot or maybe it is the foam grips a bit too well so the 9 fits fine but must say is my least favorite of the three in terms of comfort. The thongs fit perfectly. As they are molded all in one piece I was a bit worried the fairly thick, compared to usual webbing,  "strap" between the toes would irritate but this has not been the case. 

The important stuff!

Nicole: Have you ever worn a shoe that makes you think “My feet feel sooooo good right now” every time you stand up?  That’s what I experienced with the OoCloog.  I imagine if they turned a memory foam mattress into a pair of shoes, this is what they’d feel like.  They’re both cushy and supportive at the same time.  They had a nice bounce to them when I walked, probably due to the special rubber material they’re made of.  Normally, the first thing I want to do when I get home is take off my shoes, but I was more than happy to keep them on.  I also noticed that my legs didn’t feel tired after a long day and this helped me enjoy my post-work runs more.  My only complaint is they get a little warm when you wear them without socks.  My feet got a little sweaty after a warm day outside, but not quite as much as I would’ve thought due to the small vent holes located between the sole and upper. 

Sam: OOFOS are significantly more comfortable and cushioned than my Crocs, or other recovery sandals and flip flops I have tried. OOFOS does not tell us what they compare their impact absorption to so as to say they achieve 37% more absorption. So, I did a little test... I put the Oofos clog on one foot and a Crocs clog on the other... The difference was immediately apparent. The Croc felt far harsher and firmer than the Oofos and had far less bounce when walking. I did a bit of a fingernail midsole push test and my sense is that the proprietary OOfoam has more rebound/give back that regular running shoe foam or the Crocs. The arch support is apparent and pleasant on my high arch feet. I am in my OOFOS all the time!

Utility and Uses

Nicole: I would recommend these to anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet.  I know several hospital and food service workers who would love a pair.  They’re also machine-washable, which is a nice feature for those of us who get a little dirty at work.  They would make a great post-run recovery shoe.  I’m sure they could sell a million pairs at marathon finish lines.  Anyone with foot problems, bunions in particular, would really benefit from a pair. 

Sam: The OO is great comfort and utility for sports and work! recovery,  in the garden, by the water, and for workers who are on their feet all day. I hope they try the OOFoam in a pair of running shoes to be used for those easy recovery runs. 

Nicole: I was very pleased with the OOCloog.  In fact, I would go so far as to say they make my feet feel better than any other pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.  Remember the old Dr. Scholl’s commercial about “gellin’”?  Well, instead of gellin’, I’m feeling the “oo.”

Sam: OO OO they feel good!

To find your own OO visit OOFOS online store here. Also available at many running and comfort shoe stores. Store locator here

Monday, May 12, 2014

MioGlobal MioLink Review: Wristband Heart Rate Monitoring. Finally no Chest Strap!

I have had a number of chest strap type heart rate monitoring sensors and have never used them consistently due to their discomfort and the strap fussing.

I recently purchased the $99 MioLink, a wristband that monitors heart rate. The MioLink is small and unobtrusive. It comes in 2  rubber size straps. I picked the large for my very small wrist and can't imagine very many people needing the smaller size. The sensor slips out of the back of the band so the band is replaceable, washable.

Mio monitors heart rate  as follows: "Integrated into the back plate of a wristband or watch, the LEDs shine light into the skin, which enables the electro-optical cell to detect your pulsing volume of blood flow."  So far seems to work fine and at long last the nasty strap is gone!
MioLink www.mioglobal.com

The MioLink can give you heart rate information in 2 ways:

  • a blinking LED light with different colors indicating what heart rate zone you are in. 5 zones can be set in the Mio iPhone (4S and newer) app and on Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0. See compatibility list here. I have not found the blinking mode particularly useful on the run as the blink interval is about 4 seconds and who wants to stare at your wrist that long. For more stationary exercises fine. The second mode below
  • as the MioLink has Bluetooth Smart 4.0 as well as an ANT+  it can communicate with phone run apps (iSmoothRun, Strava, etc...)  which capture data such as heart rate using these communications protocols. I actually use iSmoothRun on an iPhone 5s and have the Mio data as well as my run statistics coming through that app to my Magellan Echo watch (review here), itself a Bluetooth Smart controller and display. It should also be able to send data to any ANT+ communicating device such as many of the Garmin watches and bike computers which used ANT+, etc...
MioLink(left) Magellan Echo displaying iSmoothRun (right) Note heart rate displayed

MioLink Heart Rate on iSmoothRun
MioLink heart rate data on Strava Run App

I have now run 4 times with the MioLink. I have noticed a bit of inconsistency (fast heart rate reading) the first 5 or so minutes of runs something I have also seen on occasion with my Wahoo Bluetooth Smart chest strap. Otherwise the MioLink seems very accurate and useful. Suggestions: my sense is the accuracy is more consistent if you keep your iPhone and its recording app out of a back pocket. Keep phone on the front of your body somewhere. I have noticed that if you synch MioLink to your app and then wait for more than 15 minutes or so to start the app, connections may be lost. I am not sure this is to the iSmoothrun app I use or to the Magellan Echo.

Battery life is claimed to be 8-10 hours. Charging is via USB dongle. Water resistant to 30 meters.
DC Rainmaker has a very complete review here of a pre production version of MioLink.

You can help support my blog by purchasing the MioLink at REI via the link below