Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running Favorites and Year in Review: Shoes, Gear, Runs, and Races

I had a wonderful year on the roads and trails. Thankfully, injury free, I ran a few miles under 2000 total for the year with: 2 marathons, a 20 mile race 25K road race, 25K trail race, 6 half marathons, and a fast 10K. I was pleased that after some "slowdown" the last 5 years, that my racing pace got back on track with all my halves under 1:40 except one on a hilly dirt course, with my 10K under 7 min/mile pace, a pace this old guy (57)  never thought he'd see again.

My 2 marathons were "challenging", with significant slowdowns after 20 miles. I have to incorporate more longer runs and more work on hip strength and flexibilty. Mt Desert Island Marathon was particularly special as my daughter completed her first marathon in just over 4 hours, negative splitting a very hilly and beautiful course. I am very proud of her.

Hannah finishes strong in her first marathon
Of course there were many shoes and much gear tested and used along the way. In addition to the laureates below, I wear tested and provided input on many fine future shoes for Skechers. They will undoubtedly be shoes of the year in 2015.

To provide some perspective to this list I took a look at my Strava mileage for the shoes I ran in during 2014. If you reach for them more frequently they work for you. While some miles on these were in 2013, here are my 4 top mileage shoes
  1. adidas Energy Boost (2 pairs) : 365 miles
  2. adidas Adios Boost (2 pairs):    345 miles
  3. Hoka One One Huaka          :    205 miles
  4. Hoka One One Clifton         :    125 miles
So here goes, and these are my preferences. We all run differently and have different needs.

Innovation, Apparel and Gear of the Year
Salomon S-LAB Sense
I  could have easily given adidas Boost the win for the 2nd year in a row as it is truly a fantastic innovation but thought I would go a bit further afield into design as applied to technology.

Triple win here for Salomon's S-Lab, a skunk works you can buy pricey stuff from.  While their shoes haven't done much for me to date, they hit it out of the park with Kilian Jornet inspired S-Lab apparel and gear.  There is more to Kilian than a big motor who conquers mountains and races all over the globe with stunning ease. This guy also fine tunes his gear in the S-Lab!

S-LAB Sense while not a shoe, or a specific material, is a philosophy of minimalism and functionality applied and executed brilliantly.   Salomon's design and use of fabrics for jackets, shorts and race vests is outstanding. They call the result SensiFit.  Durable, highly functional, super breathable, and incredibly minimal designs which also never forget than on the road and on the trail we often carry "stuff",  and that carrying it shouldn't get in the way of running comfortably and fast. incredible attention to detail and outstanding craftsmanship in every item.

The items that really were exceptional for me in the Sense line:

  • the S-Lab Sense Shorts (review) with their super comfortable, minimal construction combined with 4 no bounce pockets.
  • S-Lab Sense Set vest (review) with a snug clothing like fit and plenty(6) of stretch pocket carrying capacity plus 32 oz of water in easy to sip on the go SoftFlasks. 
  • Also the recent and hard to find S-Lab Motion Fit Nordic jacket with incredible breathability in the back and windproof comfort up front, and of course multiple pockets. 

S-Lab Sense Set
S-Lab Sense Short
S-Lab Motion Fit Jacket

Honorable mention: adidas Climachill (review). By combining the principles of conduction via aluminum dots on the shoulders and a titanium infused fabric, and evaporation via fabric knitted from flat fibers to increase evaporation rates, I truly felt Climachill shirts kept me cooler this summer. A  runner who is sensitive to heat and sweats a lot, I never felt overheated wearing Climachill and was often actually comfortable, especially in dry heat while wearing Climachill.

Road Trainer of the Year
adidas Energy Boost: simply outstanding for their long wearing materials and smooth Boosted running.

Honorable Mentions:
Hoka Huaka: really a super cushioned and low drop (3mm)  road/trail hybrid this firmer Hoka with oh so smooth ride and responsive RMAT midsole was my do anything shoe.  While I had considerable miles in the Clifton as well I found them overly soft in the heel. (comparison review of Huaka and Clifton)

Saucony ISOFit Triumph: the innovative ISOFit upper conforms to the foot magnificently . The firm outsole over cushion makes the Triumph an intriguing blend of snappy firm and decently cushioned (review here)

Road Racer Light Trainer of the Year

 adidas Adios Boost

I ran almost all races in the adios Boost (review here), except my marathons which were in Energy Boost . Snappy, supportive, and very well cushioned this shoe is always a pleasure to run fast in. Did it have something to do with me turning back the clock on my race paces?  I think so. I even ran a wet trail race in the Adios and came out smiling.

Max Cushion Shoe of the Year
The maxi cushion category was all the rage in 2014. Day to day I backed off from super cushioned but still used them for recovery runs.

Tie: Altra Paradigm and  Hoka Clifton

The Paradigm is a supremely refined shoe. The foot shaped toe box and smooth combination of midsoles made this the Lexus of my 2014 running shoes.  I just wish it had some drop built in. Zero Drop just doesn't agree with me as the miles go by (review here).
The Clifton while "popular" was harder for me to run slow. The soft heel and its bevel were a bit unstable for me but as speed picked up I enjoyed the soft ride and response.

Update of the Year
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

I am calling the Zante, an update, even though it is a brand new shoe because it is the first road shoe in the Fresh Foam line that evolves from the original 980 which  was quite harsh and stiff, really not much fun. The Zante has been a fast smooth tempo shoe. (review here). Far less harsh, firm and stiff than the Fresh Foam 980  due to an effective updated hexagon geometry to distribute forces as well as a different outsole configuration, to reduce stiffness and better cushion. The snug fitting upper is just right for a fast tempo/race shoe, comfortable yet supportive and superbly crafted

Honorable mention: Pearl Izumi N2 Road v2. Much like the Fresh Foam the N2 in its first version was stiff and firm. Version 2 solves these issues mainly via a subtly segmented outsole. Still a firmer shoe than I like day in day out but vastly improved.  The smoothness of transition from heel to toe is second to none in the N2 due to its dynamic offset, moving the takeoff point further back than customary.  Make it a bit softer and it would for sure be in the running for shoe of year. The already outstanding totally seamless upper, one of the most comfortable if not the most comfortable of any shoe I ran in this year,  is slightly wider in the forefoot and slightly longer.

Trail Shoe of the Year
Hoka One One Challenger ATR

A late December entry to these sweepstakes the Challenger ATR provides great grip, stability, and Hoka cushion at an almost impossible to imagine 8.6 oz. In limited release now,  it will be on many 2015 lists so why not give it early kudos, (review here)
Honorable Mention: Hoka Huaka and New Balance Fresh Foam Trail

The Huaka took me on smoother Utah trails with aplomb and no compromises. The Fresh Foam Trail  (review here) was my heavier duty terrain trail shoe and one that also was just fine on the road as well

Road Trail Hybrid of the Year
Hoka One One Huaka
This do anything shoe took me from smoother trails to roads at any speed, with equal aplomb at a very light weight. The firmer RMAT midsole provided stability and good response on all surfaces. The upper could use some work but the positives of the ride outweighed the negatives.

Honorable Mention: Skechers GoRun Ultra

This very flexible softy at a value price was a great road recovery shoe and smooth trail cruiser (review here). As a wear tester for Skechers I know newer versions will improve on a great concept in 2015.

Technology of the Year
What would crazies like me do without Strava. Wait ...just a few years ago it did not even exist and we still ran. Yet, Strava is a most useful tool. I pay close attention to a reasonable weekly mileage goal, the mileage on all my shoes, my splits compared to how I actually felt, discovery of neat routes and new friends. At the link a neat compilation of my year in running my 2014 Strava Story.

Shoe of the Year
adidas adizero Adios Boost
No contest!  Not only the shoe worn by winners and record holders at most major marathons in 2014, but a shoe the average person can enjoy, run fast in, and come out with legs that aren't battered. Snappy toe spring combined with a well cushioned yet stable heel and a great supportive upper with plenty of forefoot room.  This is the one shoe that makes me smile every time I pick up the pace.

2nd Place: Hoka One One Huaka. A most versatile, no compromises road or trail shoe.
3d Place: While many great shoes, no obvious 3d place.

Runs of the Year
The Mount Desert Island Marathon was incredibly scenic and also the toughest marathon course I have ever run. The scenery, organization, and support was amazing. Mt Desert's awards as most scenic and runner up for best overall marathon are well earned.  I actually remember almost every sight along the way, rare for me. Extra special run as it was also my daughter's first marathon.

Late in December I ran 25K with a friend on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. An amazing wild and desolate place with grand vistas of the lake and mountains and very smooth, see forever ahead trails.

Race of the Year
Lone Gull 10K (MA): A New England Grand Prix race this spectacular ocean side race featured great age group competition on a windy, cold day. I ran just under 7 minute miles for the first time in a 5 miler or 10K in about 5 years.

Here's to 2015!  Many more miles, friendships, races, shoes and gear, and of course great places to explore on the run.

Thanks for reading my blog.
What were your favorites of 2014?
Please Comment.


Harold said...

No real favorites for shoes this year, I ran the most in Pearl Izumi, but they are too firm for me to love them.

Gear - nothing really made me go wow!

Best run - I would have to say a certain rainy run, with another old running shoe geek. It was fun, scenic and mostly flat.

I am enjoying and learning a lot by reading your blog, at some point I am going to get a pair of the Adios, everyone that runs in them loves them.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks for commenting Harold. That was a fun run in rough conditions. Let's run again when I am back in NH. I must say I went out of my comfort zone on a very snowy steep run tonight. The 2 young fellows are among the best in the SLC area, 2;22 marathoner one of them and took pity on me. They had 2 very lively dogs with them, looked like your Bennie who were most well behaved even when the herd of Elk ran in front of us, well the 2 fast guys ahead of me, twice!

Joel said...

Congratulations on an outstanding year of running!

I really enjoy and appreciate your blog. Based on your review, I took a chance on the S-Lab Sense shorts, and agree, they're amazing. For me, the shoe of the year has been the Adidas Boston 5. While it hasn't received as much attention as other shoes in the Boost lineup, it's been the perfect every day shoe for me.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Joel, Thanks for reading and comment. When you are getting as old as me, 57, if you don't get slower year to year one is happy. Sense Short is well worth it. Kind of crazy to say because of the price but after all we can spend that much multiple times per year on shoes. Mine show zero wear more than 6 months. Boston Boost not my favorite. Soft in the heel likely as they don't have the Torsion plastic on the medial side that Energy and Adios do. Still a fine shoe but I personally rarely reach for them

Mike said...

Solid article Sam. I've enjoyed the adios Boost this year as well. And have also enjoyed keeping up with you on Strava.