Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Altra Running Paradigm-Max Cushion, Supremely Refined

Running shoe design continues to evolve and Altra Running pioneers in minimal cushion, FootShapeTM toe boxes and  "Zero DropTM" shoes (no height difference heel to toe) is evolving too. With the Paradigm Altra maintains its heritage of incredibly comfortable toe boxes and zero drop and now applies it to a maximally cushioned, super light shoe. Hoka One One now has real competition in the space they invented.
Altra founder Golden Harper gave me a full update on the line and was kind enough to send me a pair of the Paradigms to try. My preview of the Spring 2015 Altras here. Paradigm not expected to change.

The Paradigm has 34mm of stack height front and back according to Altra and 25mm according to Running Warehouse. Will inquire as to measurements difference. Most conventional "well cushioned" shoes have 20mm or less in forefoot and 24-28mm in the heel.  The advertised weight is 9.1 oz in a men's size 9. My 8.5 Paradigms (review sample provided at no charge, opinions herein entirely my own) weighed 9.5 oz on my digital scale. I will not quibble over the difference as there can be manufacturing differences. From Altra: "As for the weight discrepancy, manufacturing tolerance is usually about an ounce in either direction.  Our weights are based off of weighing production shoes when they show up in a size 9. " These weights are incredibly light for such a supremely cushioned shoe. They fit me true to size.
Altra Running Paradigm

Comparison to Hoka One One 
I have run in a multitude of the earlier Hokas such as the Mafate, Bondi, and Stinson all with similar stack heights. I loved the ride but found them slow and soft given my no knee lift, heel striking stride. The challenge is to provide either enough forefoot flexibility for all that foam and/or create a rocker effect. Newer Hokas such as the Huaka and Clifton reviewed here have reduced their maximal forefoot  height somewhat and are now fantastically flexible fast and light, about the same weight as the Paradigm and even lighter for the Clifton. However, Hoka uppers are often not quite there in terms of fit and comfort for me. Don't get me wrong I will still reach for my Huakas when I want to go fast with super cushion, but for supreme comfort Paradigms will have a place in my rotation.

Altra hits it out of the park with the Paradigm creating a super cushioned,  supremely comfortable long run shoe.

  • The FootShape toe box allows my foot to splay spread out fully, yet I do not feel it is too wide as the midfoot upper hold is just snug enough with the lacing also effective. The overall upper is supremely comfortable, among the best or in fact the best for a long run trainer I have ever put on.  
    Altra Running Paradigm- FootShape

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Initial Review: adidas Terrex Boost- Trail Monster- But Can It Dance?

I spotted the adidas Terrex Boost at Outdoor Retailer as as Boost fan knew I had to learn more and try them.  The adidas Terrex Boost is in the Spring 2015 (release date) a 11.5 oz 325 gram 6mm drop mountain/trail running shoe. Women's weighs 9.9 oz 280 grams. Retail $160.  (Updated: confirmed production weight is 11.5 oz,)

I titled this review Trail Monster as on first sight this is one beefy shoe. Huge lugs,
adidas Terrex Boost
a substantial upper with overlays along the rand and toe, a shoe clearly design for rough trails, rocks, mud. The question in my mind was what would Boost, the TPU based high rebound midsole that I like so much in the adios boost racer on both roads and yes trails (review here), add to a dedicated trail shoe? I say adios Boost as close as I can tell the white Boost layer in the Terrex looks identical to the adios, at least in the forefoot and appears to sit on top of EVA that wraps up the sides. The orange Terrex and Boost logoed areas seen around the heel are a TPU based film (same material but thicker than the seamless overlays now seen so frequently on run shoes) support element. It wraps all the way around the heel. The orange TPU is not hard plastic but have some give when pressed and when running, clever.
adidas Terrex Boost

The speed laces are not my favorite way to keep a shoe snug and just right but clearly adidas has done some homework on these. Lots of friction when tightening, good. We'll see as cord wears if the friction stays. To lock, no goofy additional sliding piece as on for example the Hokas. A small black center button that as one holds the cincher is depressed. Takes considerable appropriate pressure to make it work. Cord is snug and slip free through the cincher, at least so far on new shoes.
adidas Terrex Boost
The lace tucks into a loop near the toes, no lace garage and a bit worried they might catch on branches or rocks if not wrapped around the lace loops.

The fit is roomy enough for my narrow foot with a substantial enough upper to prevent rolling of the fore and midfoot. It is quite narrow in the forefoot, especially in the area of the last quick lace loop and overlays. Strangely there is no heel counter, just soft leather like material with the heel sitting about half an inch down into the orange TPU collar. Didn't miss the heel counter except a bit on steep uphills when balancing on rocks. The TPU rear and outsole were plenty stable on downhills without the heel counter. The upper does not appear to be "water proof" or "weather resistant", and that's the way I like my uppers even in winter with the laminated rand (just above midsole) overlays protecting from shallow puddles.  With the exception of the 3 stripe midfoot bands and the overlays all the way around the outside where midsole meets upper  there are no seams or overlays whatsoever over the top of the foot all the way to the front. A very sock like fit using a rugged not overly heavy mesh, a good approach that felt great on the foot if a bit narrow upfront.

How do they run?
Apart from being heavier than I would liked my 7 mile run on a combination of rough, rocky rooty trails and smoother single track was confident, often an issue for this timid older runner on rough terrain. Yes, they ran a lot like the adios boost especially upfront, with a snappy toe spring just like the adios. They were very stable on the rough terrain, smooth and quick on the smoother gravel. Never noticed the lugs. I ran a small amount of pavement and while somewhat slappy noisy the Boost layer seemed to absorb the usual awkward presence of big lugs when running roads in such shoes. Will have to try more road miles to really confirm.

What will they be good for?
I plan to make these my winter foul weather snow running shoe. Boost has the characteristic of being less susceptible to changes in the cushioning in heat and cold so on a cold snowy day on the road the ride should be great.
Apart from winter these should make great mud running shoes and appear to be designed to be a competitor to the Salomon SpeedCross and FellRaiser among others. And I imagine they are also sensational on wet rock given the Continental rubber outsole and the big lugs. While not an ultra runner I imagine we'll see these on the feet of many Ultra folks come next year. For me they will be an everyday trail shoe, ready for just about anything along the way.
Those with wide feet or bunion problems may find the toe box too tight given the overlays.

Despite appearances Terrex Boost certainly can Dance!

See also my more recent post on 3 summer 2015 adidas Boost trail shoes:
Adizero XT Boost here
adidas Response Trail Boost here
Adistar Raven Boost  here.

See what's coming from adidas and others for trail and road in 2016 at our January 2016 Outdoor Retailer previews article here

Terrex Boost Available Now from at the links below. Your purchases support RoadTrailRun.

adidas Adizero XT Boost
adidas Response Trail Boost

adidas Adistar Raven Boost

Comparison Review: Hoka One One Clifton and Huaka

Hoka One One recently launched two fabulously light, super cushioned shoes: The Huaka and Clifton.  Having now run in both and reviewed the Huaka earlier here, where I called it the first "fast" Hoka,  I can say now having run in both,  that these close "cousins" are quite different in feel and even purpose.  Hoka's marketing theme is "Crazy Fast. Crazy Light. Crazy Does." and for sure marketing spin meets reality with these shoes, although I will quibble that the Huaka is for me a faster shoe than the Clifton. 

By the numbers
Huaka (9.3 oz/264g M9 , 2mm drop, 27mm heel/ 25mm forefoot, $150)
Clifton (7.7 oz/217g M9, 5mm, 29mm heel,/24mm forefoot, $130)
Both fit me true to my size 8.5 with the Huaka initially feeling a touch too roomy until I removed the speed laces.

The Huaka is a no compromises road and trail hybrid with an energetic and dynamic midsole (RMAT) with great rebound, decent support and traction for all but the roughest or muddiest trails. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

OR Summer 14: Sigvaris Sports Compression- Light with True Graduated Compression

Sigvaris is a 150 year old Swiss company specialized in medical compression garments. They have been in medical compression for over 50 years. Medical compression garments are used for varicose veins, DVT, maternity, diabetes, leg ulcers, etc... In recent years compression garments and especially leg sleeves/socks and shorts have become popular in endurance sports.
Sigvaris says:

 Athletes who wear SIGVARIS SPORTS products will benefit from:
- Increased circulation
- Improved blood flow through the veins
- Increased oxygen to the muscle tissue
- Less lactic acid buildup in the legs during exercise
- Reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness in the legs

I have used a number of compression products over the last several years, primarily calf compression sleeves,  including the first I found on the market CEP, then Zanesh, Salomon, SmartWool and more recently CEP again. While I am not sure about the performance benefits of improved circulation, improved blood flow and oxygen and less lactic acid build up I am pretty sure, that at least for me that with compression:
  • I have less exercise induced soreness after wearing sleeves 
  • My legs feel more aligned in the direction of travel
  • I am quite sure they  help reduce calf cramps in long events by stabilizing the muscles, reducing vibration and preventing nerves from twitching into cramps. According to this article in Competitor quoting Prof. Schwellnus of the University of Cape Town “The mechanism for muscle fatigue and muscle damage causing cramping is best explained through an imbalance that develops in the nervous system control of muscle. Muscles tend to become very twitchy when they become fatigued or are injured,” said Schwellnus. "
The issue with calf sleeves  has been one of comfort for me. Zanesh was too thick and hot and while the latest CEP are fine, I keep looking for thinner and more comfortable options.

Found what I was looking for at Outdoor Retailer from Sigvaris .

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Dominique Guest Post: Pakems -- Fun Apres Sport Footwear - WaterResistant and Packable

With thousands of exhibitors and 200 new exhibitors each year at the Outdoor Retailer Show, it can be a challenge for new product lines to stand out and catch the attention of the passerby.  Pakems caught my eye. They are lightweight, water resistant and packable footwear meant to be worn after/après a sport activity, such as hiking and skiing.

Outdoor Retailer Summer 14: Skechers GOmeb Speed 3- I Ran in Meb's Boston Winning Shoe!

Well I ran a minute or so on a treadmill at the Skechers Performance  booth and found the GOmeb Speed 3 to be one serious snappy racer.  This is the exact shoe that Meb wore to win Boston and the only difference between his shoe and yours will be that they have a special last to exactly fit his foot.
Speed 3 is more shoe than a traditional racing flat with decent race cushioning. The stats are 6.9 oz, 14mm midfoot/18mm heel 4mm drop. This marvel can be for many. including me, a fabulous 5K-Half racer. For the fleet footed and light or flatter courses a sensational and  one would have to say, proven marathon shoe.
Skechers GoMeb Speed 3
Earlier this year after reviewing the GoRun Ride 3 and GoRun Ultra I was tickled pink to be invited to participate in Skechers future models wear testing and feedback program. In addition to Meb, Skechers recently signed Kara Goucher.
While the GoMeb Speed 3 is Meb's shoe I can say that Skechers listens to its middle of the pack testers most closely. I have been amazed by their rapid iteration of changes, their careful listening and responding, and their follow through. It was a thrill to see some of the shoes I tested, and others, almost ready for production for Spring 15 at their booth. Lots of exciting shoes coming from Skechers.

Back to the GOmeb Speed 3 and a comparison to the GOmeb Speed 2 now on the market. First as people will ask the GOmeb Speed 3 will be available sometime in January but... there will be a special NY Marathon available in November.

Seth Hasty, a grassroots coordinator for Skechers Performance and the founder of the Running Shoe Geeks Group on Facebook gave me the tour and compared the Speed 2 to Speed 3. Read on to discover the differences.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Summer 14: Brooks-Launch 2 and Transcend 2

Brooks has a new Launch and an updated Transcend 2. 

Launch 2
9.8 oz New BioMoGo DNA midsole, almost seamless upper, nice toe spring. $100.  Feb. 2015 release.

Transcend 2 
11.9 oz. $170. Updates to upper. Somewhat softer than version 1 according to rep who has run in Versions 1 and 2. Release Jan. 2015.

Guest Post: Dominique Finds the Ideal Exercise Dress at Outdoor Retailer- The Nuu Muu

Thank you Sam for inviting me to post on your blog to talk about a little exercise dress – that comes in black too – which I discovered at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market as I tagged along with you.  
To the readers of Sam’s blog, this still has to do with running, although it won’t make you run faster, but revolutionary exercise dresses from Nuu-Muu are worth talking about.

Nuu-Muu: Poppy Ruu $80

A runner and nordic skier for some 33 years, seasonal biker, once a week tennis player, who does yoga but not enough, and likes to paddle board with her sister-in-law in Maine, I have found the perfect versatile workout dress for all my indoor and outdoor activities.  To the 55+ that I am, the Nuu-Muu exercise dress is indeed revolutionary.

It all started with a postcard mailed to our New Hampshire address, from Bellingham, Washington, where the company Nuu-Muu is located, inviting us to visit booth # PV2036 at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market from August 6th through the 9th.   Mailers still work!  After visiting the Nuu-Muu booth, and trying on the Ruu-Muu pocket, in size medium, my next step was to purchase one, which I did.  (I was offered a discounted promotional price.)  I got the Poppy Ruu above.

The Nuu-Muu line of clothing consists to two different types of exercise dresses: the Nuu -Muu and the Ruu-Muu (the latter has a pocket in the back).  Huggs sleeves are available to mix and match with the Nuu & Ruu dresses, along with the Nuu-Tee, a long sleeve Tee made especially to layer with the dresses.  
Nuu-Muu Sangria with sleeve Huggs

What is outstanding about the dresses are the fit, the “ultra-flattering” look, the colorful prints and patterns, and the feel of wearing such free-spirited exercise wear.  The price reflects the quality and sustainable approach of the product, and Made in USA. The price for the  dresses is $70-$80, $5 shipping. More to come when I get the dress!

Outdoor Retailer Summer 14: Hoka One One- Challenger ATR (Clifton for Trail), Bondi 4, Constant(stability), Valor, Vanquish, Odyssey

Times are very good for Hoka One One, the original "maximalist" running shoe company. While the minimalist trend was in full force bucked the trend and went with super cushioned shoes. I have run in various Hokas since their inception and until the super versatile Huaka (review here) and Cliftons (review) came along found them more suited for long slow hauls than speed. No question fresher legs for me day in day out in Hokas.

Hoka introduced several new models and updates at Outdoor Retailer. The new models (Valor, Vanquish, Odyssey, and Challenger ATR) will be sold at both speciality running retail and "sporting goods" stores such as REI, etc...

Other Hokas such as the Mafate Speed, Clifton, Bondi, new Constant, Huaka, Stinson Lite and ATR will only be sold at speciality running retail.
As Hoka grows they have found the need to segment their lines. Interestingly it does not appear that the sporting goods models will be lower priced than models found at speciality running stores.

Reviewing the product grid (at bottom of post)  I see the original Mafate and the Rapa Nui will no longer be in the line for Spring 2015.

The highlights:

  • The Challenger ATR, a 8.6 oz, 5mm drop 24mm forefoot/29mm heel trail version of the Clifton. All new shoe. The Challenger will launch  Dec 1st at REI exclusively for 60 days then available at all channels. This will be a popular trail runner for sure! I just wish that Hoka made a beefier lugged version of the Huaka.

  • The Constant, $160. a 10.7 oz, 4mm drop, 26mm forefoot/30mm heel stability oriented model with firmer RMAT for stability combined with EVA, asymmetrical lacing combined with a medial lycra wrap of the midfoot. All new stability concept from Hoka.

  •  Bondi 4, now has a padded tongue and is updated with a rounded heel, helpful in my view to initiate roll forward as well as longer wearing rubber at the heel and toe, key wear areas on the road with conventional Hokas' softer outsoles.

  • The Valor is a 9.6 oz 29mm forefoot, 33mm heel with the stack heights of the Bondi 4 but a somewhat different midsole configuration and a bit lighter than the 10.6 oz Bondi.. Note white is just one of several potential colors! 

  • The Vanquish, $170.  is a 11 oz 25mm forefoot 29 mm heel RMAT and EVA midsole combination. Basically a sporting goods channel Conquest with a different upper. 

  • The Odyssey is a 8.4 oz 24mm forefoot 29mm heel with EVA based midsole and a different upper. Basically a bit heavier Clifton as Clifton comes in at 7.7 oz. 

    Model Comparison Chart 2015 
Hoka One One Spring 2015 Product Grid
With the exception of the Challenger XTR available exclusively for 60 days at REI by Dec. 1st then in wider distribution other models are for Spring 2015 

A few other notes from my visit to Hoka. Speed laces will disappear from the line over time.  The next version of the Huaka will likely have a few more overlays and potentially a somewhat more durable outsole materials in the heel and toe high wear areas. A good thing.

Can't wait for all these goodies? Consider the Huaka, a super versatile firm yet super cushioned road and trail speedster or the Clifton, a bit lighter than Huaka with a somewhat softer EVA midsole. Purchase via the links below and you support my blog. Thanks!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Summer 14: Salomon Sense X Series, Softground andSense 4, S-Lab Ultra Vest, Killian's Everest Shoe?

Salomon always has interesting stuff at the S-Lab high end of the line to drool over.

What immediately caught my eye was a "road" or City to Trail version of the Sense, the S-Lab X Series. With a bit softer heel midsole and some high wear hard rubber outsole on a low profile tread pattern this should be a fantastic shoe for smooth single track and dirt road/asphalt mix races. Update: 2/15 I have now run the X-Series. Review here.
Salomon S-Lab X Series
 Darn that orange is bright! so hard to take a good pic... Anyway the front of the upper is soft mesh and the rear is a very breathable ripstop mesh.
Salomon S-Lab X Series
The Sense 4 Ultra and Sense 4 SG Softground go to version 4. The changes are a slightly different outsole lug configuration and hard to believe the heel area, black in the Softground and White in the Sense Ultra are reflective.
Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra

Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 SG SoftGround

Salomon makes incredible race vests. The S-Lab Sense Ultra Set is designed to be potentially worn against the skin.  Think of it as clothing more than a vest. It looks like it is made of the same mesh and main body material as the super comfortable Salomon Sense Short I reviewed here.. and at $130 it is actually less expensive than the shorts.  Includes the bottles, has 2 zipper side pockets, 2 pouch pockets below the bottles, a zippered shoulder pocket, whistle, I believe a rescue blanket, and a drop in pocket on the back. Also available in white/gray.

Another Ultra vest from Salomon, S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 12 Set. Not the super soft fabric of the Sense Ultra Set, but still very comfortable. Has neat shoulder straps that lift the back as pack empties for, as I was told more air on the back (Killian's back) but me too!, and to consolidate the load. More capacity than the Sense Ultra as well and can hold a bladder.

Finally these bad boys, the S-Lab X Alp Carbon GTX, a mouthful that product name is a super light mountaineering boot with some forefoot flexibility for moving fast yet, due to patented Carbon Edging Chassis also outstanding lateral stiffness.

Who wants to bet that Killian Jornet, who has a had in designing these as well as most of the Sense and S-Lab products,  might wear something like these when he does his Everest speed attempt?

Outdoor Retailer Summer 14: Altra Running-Superior 2.0, Instinct 3.0, Provision 2.0

Golden Harper, founder of Altra Running was kind enough to give me a tour of his latest creations.

First up the Superior 2.0. I had the Superior 1.0 which was one of the most comfortable shoes for kicking around I ever have worn but had a very deconstructed upper and no heel counter.  The midsole and outsole were great and the removable rock plate a very clever innovation but not quite enough shoe for me.  

The Superior 2.0 is still a go fast trail shoe but with a more aggressive outsole, a decently supportive upper, and a heel counter. It is 2.5 oz lighter than the 1.5 and 2 mm thicker. It includes the now standard Altra gaiter trap, a firmed up rear rudder, and of course the removable TPU rock plate. One heck of a fine race shoe for shorter races even if zero drop is not your thing. Retail $109. On sale January 2015.

Altra Superior 2.0
Altra Superior 2.0

Altra Superior

Next up the Provision 2.0,  Altra's stability shoe.   
While the market still asks for "stability" shoes, and so Altra has created one, it seems that in fact very few people  really, really need stability shoes but if you do this is one carefully created creation designed in part to compete with Asics GT 2000. The Provision has a $119 MSRP.

The Provision helps stabilize over pronation with several innovative features:
  • Medial midfoot is 2.5 mm higher than the lateral outside of the shoe.

  • The last and upper are closely matched to the midsole unit with additional upper tension medially to help guide the foot away from over pronation.

  • The white Stabli-Pods below are the only firmer midsole material. There is no huge wedge of firm material on the medial side as many stability shoes have. 

Altra Provision 2.0
Last up the Instinct 3.0, one of Altra original models, and in the 1.0 version a true firm minimal shoe. With the 2.0 Altra made the Instinct considerably more cushioned and there was some outcry from the Instinct faithful. I met with Altra at Winter OR 2014 and covered the Instinct 2.0 here. It had a 26mm stack height. The 3.0 is a move back to the original heritage of Altra as it is 1mm thinner and has a firm midsole material. 

Altra Instinct 3.0

Altra Instinct 3.0

The heavy duty trail ultra ready Olympus is now 1.5 with an upper update.