Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review Brooks Ghost 8: Solid, Dependable, Traditional, Plush, A Bit of a Stiff

Brooks Ghost 8: Supportive Medial Midsole, Caterpillar Crash Pad Lateral Side
The Brooks Ghost 8 from Brooks Running is the 8th iteration of this popular, basic plush daily run trainer. No fancy new technologies here, just refinements  a formula providing a dependable, supportive and cushioned ride. At 10.5 oz  M 9, 9.2 oz W8  with a 28mm heel/ 16mm forefoot 12mm drop  the $120 Ghost 8 has what I would call a traditional running shoe design: high drop and somewhat heavy. They fit me true to size.  For the somewhat heavy weight, by today's standards, or for what I typically run in, the runner gets:

Heel Ride
The very cushioned yet stable heel ride is for me is the Ghost's best feature. The 28mm of BioMoGo DNA and Caterpillar Crash Pad midsole and outsole feels great back there, not mushy or block like and reminds me somewhat of the adidas Ultra Boost heel ride.
Brooks Ghost 8

Brooks Ghost 8

The Ghost has a fuller contact and thick outsole with significant sized gripping lugs reminiscent of many trails shoes, yet they are not noticeable as such on the road. With this outsole, the upper support, and stable midsole I would not hesitate to take them on smoother trails. On the minus side, the fore foot outsole could use deeper or wider  flex grooves particularly at the large continuous areas of rubber on the medial side (left) in picture below to smooth the transition from landing to toe off.
Brooks Ghost 8

Brooks Ghost 8

Upper and Fit
The Ghost has a luxurious supportive soft mesh upper with minimal stitching and has a great lacing and very well padded tongue system which held my foot superbly, if holding it maybe a bit too coddled while also adding to weight.
Brooks Ghost 8

The forefoot area is narrower and snug. I am a bit cramped in my D width tester especially so when combined with the relative stiffness of the mid and outsole. Brooks does provide the Ghost in 2E width as well as a narrower B.  I was reminded of the front of the shoe fit of a racing oriented trail shoe such as Salomon S-Lab Wings.
Brooks Ghost 8

The Brooks Ghost 8 fit me true to size.

    My Impressions
    The Ghost has a classy refined look and is made of quality materials. I think it looks great in the gray and light neon, office colors almost. I would not say this is the liveliest shoe I have run in this year that's for sure but they will get you through many miles in the comfort and performance akin to a lightly "sported" up good, basic sedan. There are many runs which call for just such as shoe. The traditional 12mm heel to toe drop is the greatest I have run in this year but I did not notice it much, although I would certainly mix my runs in the Ghost with lower drop shoes to balance.

    While called a "neutral" shoe its vertical medial side wall, relatively firm foam and rigidity back of the forefoot could in my view classify it as a light stability shoe as well. Without the green yellow "Caterpillar Crash Pad" on the lateral side I likely would find them too rigid and stiff for me especially when combined with the already narrow and fairly stiff forefoot part of the shoe. The flex is somewhat stiff and uneven starting too far forward leading to a somewhat awkward and forced heel to toe transition for me. I am finding that as I get more miles on them the flex is improving. This is likely a shoe that requires some patience and seasoning through miles on the road.

    I will keep the Brooks Ghost in my rotation for longer and recovery runs as its cushioning is just about right for me, attenuating shock very well without being unstable or overly soft. I probably would prefer the somewhat livelier Brooks Launch as an every day trainer.

    The Brooks Ghost 8 is a fine choice as a well cushioned, supportive basic trainer featuring traditional heel to toe geometry. The road feel is excellent in the back seat, the heel, and somewhat stiff and hard to transition up front, again reminding me of many trail shoes...which it is not.  It has a great upper, if somewhat narrow and cramped upfront. The outsole with its larger lugs increases versatility leading to light trail and winter running options and should provide many miles of service for all foot strike types.

    While targeted at neutral runners, I think it can also serve as a light stability shoe due to its medial midsole geometry, full coverage outsole, decently firm midsole and supportive upper. These characteristics may also make it a good choice for heavier runners, beginners, and those who run some easier trails during their road runs.

    For comparisons to the Ghost 7, a shoe I have not run, and more details on the Ghost 8 see Solereview's excellent article here

    Overall Score Ghost 8: 4.3
    -0.1 for weight
    -0.2 for narrow low volume toe area
    -0.4 for forefoot flex and smoothness on toe off.

    Disclosure: The Brooks Ghost was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely our own. RoadTrailRun receives a small commission on sales through the links below which helps support our site. 

    Running Warehouse has the Brooks Ghost for Men here and Women here

    Deals for Brooks Ghost 8

    Monday, October 19, 2015

    Capt. Bluetooth's Week in Running: 2 Half Marathons, Ambit3 Run,RunScribe, and Maffetone Training

    Mount Desert Island Half Marathon and Acadia National Park
    The Captain and Mrs. Bluetooth returned from magnificent Mount Desert Island, Maine Acadia National Park and the MDI Half and Marathon all smiles. What an incredible place to visit and run in fall. Spectacular mountain and ocean scenery with leaves in full color and the best organized race I have ever been in with the bonus, intimate small towns feel and attention to every detail.  Last year I ran the Marathon with my daughter. This year Mrs Bluetooth  and I ran the Half. Both highly recommended and very tough courses.  Small town feel, careful attention to every detail, and magnificent scenery. Rated Most Scenic and Runner Up Overall by Runner's World readers and well deserved.

    Many came from far away, 47 states and 7 countries, for a "running vacation" including these 2 newlyweds from Pittsburgh we chatted with in the "warm up" room, the Northeast Harbor Community House, not too shabby a place to stay warm on a 27 degree morning. They placed 1st and 2nd in the their age groups, 1:35 for Jo and 1:31 for Tom. They weren't spring chickens either! We gave them our Acadia park pass so they could take a post race tour of the park, a wedding present.

     BAA Half Marathon 
    I almost forgot... a week ago I ran another half the BAA Half along the Fellsway in Boston. I did OK at 1:40.27 but struggled a bit the last mile through Franklin Park zoo on the pathways.
    So going into another half a week later I kept all my running at my Maffetone HR (MAF) of 180-age+5 beats or my maximum aerobic heart rate of 127 and took a couple of days off as we toured Acadia before the MDI. I really believe that keeping 80% of training at the MAF heart rate is already paying off.  The other 20 or so percent of training or racing at a higher intensity and heart rate. My average heart rate at the hilly MDI Half was 164.

    MDI Half-The Race

    Mrs. Bluetooth and I had fine races. Mrs.Bluetooth was expecting around 2:10 but ran 1:57.45. 8th in her age group. She is known as the Sandbagger! I ran 1:38.34 on the very hilly course with 800 feet of climbing. The views along Somes Sound were spectacular.
    My annual goal as I am pushing 60 is to run a half under 1:40. Mission accomplished so now to really push it hard at my final half the Seacoast Half on my flat home roads in a few weeks.

    I set a goal of keeping my heart rate below 170, even on the climbs, and pushing all the many downhills hard, not my strength. My average heart rate was around 164 and my splits relatively even. I started the first 2 miles with the 1:40 pace group to keep my usual overly fast few miles under control, a smart move.  I was 5th in the 50-59 age group and am about to age out of it.... As the week before in Boston, I rocked the incredible Altra Impulse (review here), with a heel wedge. They were perfect and fast.  Particularly appreciated the responsive forefoot cushioning on all those hills. Unless something else appears at the last moment they will be my Road Shoe of the Year.

    Suunto Ambit3 Run
    Suunto Ambit3 Run

    I have been using the Suunto Ambit3 Run lately with the Smart Sensor heart rate strap, a smaller pod and comfortable. While it seems to race high at the start of runs after 5-10 minutes it settles in. The watch is rugged, sort of the high quality "Rolex" of GPS watches.  Made in Finland and easy to see and operate with metal buttons instead of a touch screen it is great for winter and sweaty fingers. I am particularly liking the recovery calculations (based on pace and observed hear rate). After the BAA Half it told me I needed 80 hours to recover and the recovery time cumulates new hours if you train while in the recovery time. I hit zero recovery to go late Friday for my Sunday race and felt great.  After the MDI Half the Ambit told me I needed 87 hours to recover so clearly it was a bigger effort race.

    I participated in the Kickstarter for RunScribe which claims:

    "RunScribe™ provides 3D insight into the mechanics of how you run. Let the data drive you toward smarter training decisions."

    After a rough beta, the RunScribe, pods you attach to either the heels of your shoe or laces, is now generating a lot of data about my stride, contact time, and various other metrics I need to work on understanding and maybe "doing something about". The app and website is very well done if a bit data rich. I might wish for more coaching on the run via the app, for example to work on reducing my contact time, a key metric, but the pods only record and then you upload to the app. I am most eager to see the differences in metrics between shoes, if any. As I often run the same loop at the same max aerobic heart rate I believe this will be a useful tool for seeing if shoes do make a difference in affecting the metrics. It takes 3 runs to  generate a baseline for a shoe. Full review soon.

    Happy Running!

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    Review Pelican 2750 Headlamp. Great Value, Solid, Long Battery Life, Bright Enough for Most Runs

    Guest Review by Jeff Valliere.
    See Jeff's Run Bio at the end of the review.

             Pelican 2750 Headlamp (MSRP $37.03)

    Pelican 2750 Headlamp: Photo Credit Jeff Valliere
    Pelican is best known and renowned for their ultra-rugged military grade storage cases and industrial, public safety and mining lighting.  Like the Pelican 2780 with its powerful Downcast and Main lamps (review here), my initial impression of the Pelican 2750 upon unboxing was that of top notch quality.  The materials of this headlamp feel durable, high quality and heavy duty, all while not feeling at all heavy.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Review Ultraspire Lumen 600 Light Belt & Pelican Progear 2780 Headlamp-New Ways to Get Light Where You Really Need It on Road or Trail.

    Guest Review by Jeff ValliereSee Jeff's Run Bio at the end of the review

    Road Trail Run takes a close look at the Ultraspire Lumen 600 reflective waist belt with high power LED light and Pelican 2780 headlamp with a downcast and main lamps. Jeff Valliere an accomplished mountain runner night tested them on rugged trails above Boulder, CO. 

    Editor's Note: Run lighting technology has improved by leaps and bounds the last several years. Sort of like Moore's Law in computing with dramatic increases in LED output (Lumens), computer and sensor control, USB charging etc... So if your headlamp is 5 or 6 years old and you run or hike at night a new light will most likely be helpful. The lights below likely have between 4 and 6 times more light and likely equivalent or better battery life than your old one.  In addition to output, etc... innovative companies such as Ultraspire and Pelican both reviewed here, and Petzel with their RXP and Nao (not reviewed here) are directing light in new and effective ways for runners, not only far and wide, but also closer to the feet at the same time and with less tunnel effect.

    Ultraspire Lumen 600 $179.99
    Reflective belt with high power waist mounted light
    I had never tried a waist belt style light and was eager to give the Ultraspire Lumen 600 a test, with its versatile and widely adjustable belt, handy pockets and secure comfort, not to mention the advertised 600 max lumens, the Lumen 600 was at the top of my list.  Ultraspire makes top notch run vests and hydration products used by many elite ultra runners so I expected something special from them. When running at night, I almost always use a headlamp combined with a handheld in order to have a bit more contrast, which is especially helpful on the rocky, technical trails that I frequent, so the prospect of having my hands freed up was quite appealing. 

    Performance on the Trail

    Tuesday, October 06, 2015

    Altra Running Impulse Review- A Pleasant Surprise. Fast,Light "Stability" Shoe That Doesn't Run Like One.

    By Sam Winebaum

    The Altra Impulse is an 8.6 oz 243 gram Men's 9 Zero Drop light cushioned "stability" shoe with a 23 heel/23mm forefoot. $120, on sale now.  I say "stability" in quotes as this term is often associated with the dubious effort to "control" pronation.  All feet pronate to some extent, they are supposed to. The Impulse is actually a great all around shoe, and a fast one, for any type of training and racing for this runner who has always run "neutral" shoes.
    Men's Altra Impulse: www.altrarunning.com
    I have more than 70 miles in the Altra, most in the last few weeks. Very rare that I run every day in a new shoe or that I accumulate close to 50 miles before I review, but I really dig the energetic, comfortable well directed ride of the Impulse and especially the incredibly well executed "front of the house", the forefoot. The sometimes sloppy Altra Foot Shaped toe box is well held by the asymmetrical lacing. The upper sits on top of a stable and responsive midsole with full contact StabliPod rubber outsole tuned for just the right amount of cushion and flexibility by innovative InnerFlex channels through the midsole. The heel, due to Zero Drop, is firm and a bit low for me an issue easily resolved by training (w)heels. More on this below.
    The Impulse will be the first shoe to include Altra's IQ run stride metrics sensor system. See our Outdoor Retailer coverage about the IQ shoe and system here
    Women's Altra Impulse: www.altrarunning.com 

    The "Issue" of Pronation Control
    A bit of "control" of the gait does not have to be a bad thing as we all get sloppy, all feet pronate anyway and helping the foot track in the direction of travel, as the Impulse does brilliantly, is a good thing. How Altra does and does not do the control makes the difference.
    • no firm midsole inserts under the medial side mid foot as is the usual. Instead, according to Competitor Magazine a cantilevered  wedge sloping down from the inside to the outside of the shoe to keep the foot from collapsing inward.  If it's there it is not noticeable and it work fine for me. Doesn't overdo the control, just a bit of guidance forward.
    • 3 points of firmer well covered outsole contact the StabiPods: heel, midfoot, forefoot. Just the way I like any shoe stable and smooth in transition. So not only a touch of pronation control but supination control for a balanced directed push off.
    • a great upper with asymmetrical lacing which for the first time in an Altra does not create a compromise between the roomy Foot Shaped front of the shoe and good secure foot hold.
    • a series of holes drilled into the midsole both vertically and as slits horizontally Altra InnerFlex to make the shoe more flexible, soften the forefoot feel a bit and to lighten it.
    Upper and Fit
    The Impulse fit me a bit large and loose in the heel with thin socks in my true to size before adding my heel wedge training (w) heels. I used a lace lock through the far back last holes to cinch the heel. The upper is made of a very tightly woven soft, light mesh.

    There are no seams or overlays beyond the logos at the mid foot and a substantial toe bumper to keep the foot aligned and stable in the roomy upper on push off. Unlike many such toe bumpers, and even the Lone Peak 2.5 from Altra, I have no sense it is there, that annoying feeling of something over the tip of the toe, so plenty of overhead toe volume for me. The asymmetrical lacing which extends the lacing closer to the medial side really keeps my front of foot locked in but with plenty of that Altra toe splay room from the FootShaped toe box.
    No sense, as I sometimes have, of a bit of a sloppy forefoot in Altra's Foot Shaped toe boxes, obviously key for a shoe designed to go fast. While a bit "baggy" looking on the foot no sense of a lack of support anywhere except maybe in the heel collar which is wide. A fabulous tongue with just the right cushioning and no side to side slip as I found in the Lone Peak. I think part of the secret, decent friction from the material and especially that the tongue is not free floating side to side very far down towards the toes being attached to the sides at the 3 lace hole. 

    The lateral side of the tongue where it attached has a bit of stretch material, the medial side does not to better support the pronating food.  As stated above they fit me a bit large in my true to size but as I tend to "miss" the heel in Altras given their Zero Drop I added a 2 inch long  5-7mm soft piece of yoga mat type material at the heel which gave me some training (w) heels and some extra cushion and drop. The heel wedges also snugged up the heel fit very nicely.  I also tried substituting a variety of after market sockliners such as the Superfeet Carbon and while not a big issue, the foot towards the heel sits a bit higher and the heel collar is a bit wider than I would like in the relatively low heel collar. The heel collar of the Topo Magnifly is better executed in my opinion (review here) as it perfectly secures the rear of the foot even when the road Magnify is used as a trail shoe.

    While not a place people usually go looking, the connecting piece between the 2 sides of the upper which is called the Strobel board is not the usual solid glued down sheet but a mesh open to the midsole. Less glue is required, the shoe becomes more flexible, and weighs less. We saw a similar construction in the Spring 2015 Pearl Izumi N2. Upper construction appears solid if a bit rough where the end of the heel collar meets the rest of the upper at the 2nd lace hole and a bit of fuzz around the sewn lace hole reinforcements.

    Midsole and Outsole
    The midsole is made of 2 layers: underfoot Altra's Abound (yellow) which "reduces the impact of hard surfaces and returns energy with each stride". Not sure what this material is but likely a mixture of EVA and rubber. Underneath the main layer is Altra's Ultralight EVA (crimson) whose firmness I measure at approximately 42C, so a fairly normal midsole firmness.

    The midsole is made lighter and more flexible overall and with some give over the firm Stablipods  by being drilled with a series of circles as well as having the 4 InnerFlex side slit channels which go all the way through the midsole.
    Altra Impulse Inner Flex and Drill Holes provide drainage
    The slits at the front combined with the drilled holes provide drainage from the insole area. When combined with the mesh Strobel board the shoe should drain well, something triathletes often look for. The flexibility is smooth and decent for a 23mm forefoot stack shoe if a touch stiffer than I would like at the very front of the shoe.

    The outsole has 3 areas of black harder rubber at the heel, a nice stable landing and push off zone underfoot, and at the medial toe area.  The rest of the outsole is exposed EVA. The heel area seems to have harder rubber than the front 2 areas, the usual configuration for most run shoes with the firmness of both outsole materials about the same as what I find in most shoes. 50 miles in and almost no wear at all with the very fine pattern on the surface visible everywhere even at my high wear point at the heel. Good stuff and a good geometry of the heel construction, slightly beveled to the lateral side with no overhang behind the heel cup which may contribute to the firmness as often an overhang behind the heel softens impact for me.
    But these are Altras and we aren't supposed to run on our heels.... and because the Impulse is an Altra, the forefoot feel is particularly fine on the road particularly given that the upper is well secured to the platform if roomy up front. Stable, cushioned and energetic. The 23mm front stack really protects the foot but doesn't deaden the ride or responsiveness. As stated above the heel is firmer, a touch too firm for me, unless going fast and off the heel. This may come from the heel height at 23mm really, at the lower limit in terms of stack for me in any shoe and that this is also a zero drop shoe.  I might compare the heel firmness to the New Balance 1400 or Topo Magnifly.  I added my wedge of yoga mat and am happy as can be. Adding some of those InnerFlex channels in the heel area might help.
    Super Pleased with my Altra's at the BAA Half

    Update: I ran the BAA Half Marathon in Boston this past weekend in the Impulse. "Official" time 1:40.27. I got a slow bottled up start the first minutes and the course was very curvy and difficult to run the tangents with the crowd ahead blocking view of the road. My Ambit GPS showed 13.3 with pace 7:32 so a touch under 1:39, and one second under my goal pace. Tip: I have found GPS watches generally very accurate on point to point courses with few turns. On courses with lots of turns and or where it is difficult to run or see the tangents they tend to run long. Plan ahead on such courses to run faster than your GPS data to hit a goal.
    The Impulse was outstanding: climbed well on the rollers and was particularly effective on the downhills. Officially now replaces my beloved Adios Boost 1 for half racing and I would race a marathon in them for sure.
    Update: A week after the BAA Half I ran the very hilly and spectacular Mount Desert Island, Maine (Acadia National Park) Half. 1:38.34 on a very tough course. Impulse was superb on both uphills and the many downhills. My legs none the worse for wear the next day. Impulse now in the lead for my Shoe of the Year.

    Conclusion and Recommendations
    The Altra Impulse is classified by Altra as a stability shoe but neutral runners seeking a light, stable, fast, well cushioned forefoot and a roomy well secured toe box should definitely consider the Impulse as a fast every day trainer and racer.
    All Altra's have a zero drop from heel to toe, when most conventional run shoes are 10mm and modern shoes 4-8mm.  As with all Altras  gradual transition to Zero Drop is important.   Particularly here with a 23mm heel stack, at the lower end of just about any shoe I run in, even racers, I have so far needed some Training (w) Heels to really make them sing for me by adding a bit more cushion and drop.  I added a soft 7mm heel wedge. Perfect!
    What does the Impulse feel most similar to? The forefoot ride is quite similar to the Hoka Huaka or the Topo Magnifly but a bit more cushioned than the Magnifly and a bit more flexible and lively than the Huaka. The heel firmness even after the extra wedge is close to the Topo Magnifly or New Balance 1400 and firmer than say the Adios Boost or Boston and certainly Nike Lunar Tempo or Hoka Clifton 2.
    Packed with innovation: FootShape, InnerFlex, StabiPods, the subtle varus wedge, and the asymmetrical lacing the Impulse has been on my feet daily for 2 weeks for its smooth stable ride, a rarity given how many shoes I run in and test. Impulse is a finalist for my Road Shoe of the Year.

    Highly Recommended for:
    Neutral or lightly pronating runners
    Faster pace road running, up to marathon distances.

    Overall Score: 4.85 out of 5
    -0.1 for somewhat firm heel and a bit loose heel collar area, in particular at slow speeds when back on the heels
    -0.05 for not including Training (w) Heel wedge for those transitioning to Zero Drop or those preferring a bit more heel.

    Disclosure: The Altra Impulse was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely our own. RoadTrailRun is an affiliate of Altra Running and Running Warehouse and receives a small commission on sales through the links below to support our site.

    Altra Impulse is available from Running Warehouse US women's here  men's here 
    Altra Impulse is available from Running Warehouse Europe women's here  men's here 
    Also  from Altra and other retailers at the display ads below.