Monday, December 21, 2015

Peter Stuart's 2015 Run Favorites

By Peter Stuart

The Gear in Review...

It’s been a great year for running gear. For me 2015 is the year that running shoes landed right in the sweet spot. I love shoes that disappear on the run, are light but have enough cushioning to get me through big mileage. It seems like many shoe companies have figured out how to get to this goldilocks mix of great cushion and light weight. This was the first year I’ve regularly written reviews, so I’ve had to get my head around more shoes and really think about what works for me and why. I’ve decided to break shoes up into categories for this piece—so here we go:

Everyday Running

3rd place: Altra Impulse
The Altra Impulse is a late surprise—I just got them a month or two ago and have never run in Altra before. They’re Zero drop, they’re a stability shoe and they’re medium weight. That said, they have channels and voids under the ball of the foot and they’re really fun to run in. They speed up nicely, they leave me feeling pretty fresh after long miles and they are holding up exceptionally well at 100 miles. My review.

2nd Place: Skechers GoRun4
The Skechers GoRun 4 is a delightful shoe—definitely the most fun running shoe for me this year—yes FUN! I know it’s not even from this year, but I enjoyed running in it all year long. Cushioned, light and comfortable. One of those shoes that feels really good to me no matter what tempo I’m running. There’s plenty of protection up front, the materials feel better to me than past Skechers and they’re actually not terrible looking.

1st Place: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
There’s a lot to love about this shoe. It’s light, the transition is terrific, they’ve held up well for me (over 400 miles on first pair, up over 200 on second). The Zante was practically all I ran in for a couple of months and I used them for Boston too. They held up great in the rain at Boston and they’re still a really fun go to for me. They’ve slipped a bit on the list as some newer shoes have come, but I’m looking forward to the Zante 2. The Zante is a hair tight around my mid foot and I get a little bit of fatigue under the ball of my feet on long runs. Other than that, just a terrific shoe to run in.


3rd Place: Pearl Izumi N0 V2
The pearl is a barely there slipper-like race shoe. There’s not a ton of cushion and I don’t think I’d take them longer than 10k, but they are crazy comfortable, disappear on the feet and fun to run in. I don’t feel like they give me quite as much push off of the forefoot as my two other favorites of the year, and they’re not super versatile,but they are fun to work out in. My review.

2nd place: New Balance Vazee Pace
The pace is on the same lovely last as the Zante, with a little less of a wrap on the mid foot. They have lots of miles in them due to great coverage with rubber, are super light and really like to go fast. They are a fun fartlek and spadework shoe—if a tiny bit firm. I’ve had a lot of fun in these and they hold up well for long runs too. They fall to 2nd because they are just a little heavier and firmer than my favorite shoes. My review.

1st Place: Asics Hyperspeed 6
Sure, these are a year (or two) old, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. This shoe achieves a magical combination for me. They are light, light, light and they are bouncy and protective as well. Such a great race shoe. I feel really fast in these. They feel good fast, they’re fine for cruising around in and they are my marathon PR shoe. The only downside—to be expected—is that they don’t have a ton of miles in them. The rubber on the bottom tends to wear down pretty quickly. I know these aren’t enough shoe for the marathon distance for everybody, but I LOVE them. They’re also a great 5k, 10k and half shoe. I just PR’d my 10k in them a couple of weeks ago and PR’d my half marathon in them this past weekend.

Recovery/Easy Days

Skechers Ultra Road
This is the most surprising shoe on my list. Surprising to me I mean. On paper this shoe is the antithesis of everything I would like. It’s heavy, it’s stiff and the stack height is pretty big. That said, I’ve really, really enjoyed running in the Go Run Ultra Road. It’s cushy, but the toe-off is really firm. They never feel soggy or like they’re sapping energy and they fit my foot great. I love the knit upper and they look and feel like new after over 100 miles. I love them for recovery miles, but they also do just fine when I pick up the pace. There’s a certain bounce to them that’s really enjoyable. Perfect recovery day shoe for me. The knit upper has held up well and I’m looking forward to the knit making its way onto the GoRun 4.

My Run Shoe of the Year
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

Other Gear:

Sugoi RSR Split short
For Southern California weather these are the best shorts I’ve ever worn. They’re super light, they have a back pocket and a key pocket, they are split on the sides, but connected at the bottom, so there’s not a lot of exposed thigh, and most importantly the materials are so soft and light that the shorts just disappear. I don’t know why I don’t have more pairs of these...
 Pearl Izumi Fly Endurance short
This is a great long-distance race short. There’s a zip pocket and two little side pockets for gels. They fit well and are very lightweight. I haven’t had any chafing problems and they’ve stayed comfortable in extremely rainy races too.


Swiftwick Aspire
Love these socks, they do great in heat and rain. Ran Boston in them and slogged through 26.2 wet miles with nary a blister. Only bummer is that they’ve discontinued the “pulse” line of socks which were a bit thinner and were my go to race socks. These things last and last and last.


Headsweats “Supervisor”:
I’m new to the Visor game, as I’ve always worn random hats from races, but really enjoy the fit, they keep sweat out of my eyes and seem to allow some heat to escape from my dome.

Hydration and Run Packs

Orange Mud Hydra Quiver and Gear Quiver:
I’ve always struggled to find a comfortable way to carry water for long runs. I finally settled on hand-held water bottles, and though I didn’t love running with something in my hand it beat dehydration. This year, for some personal reasons I started to need to carry a phone as well. I’ve always refused to carry a phone while running, but I just couldn’t be unavailable for 2-3 hours at a time. Adding a phone to a handheld water bottle made for a one-armed workout and felt like it was affecting my stride and gait. Enter Orange Mud. I’m admittedly very narrowly experienced in vests and the like, but I am sort of a princess about what I’ll wear and carry. The Orange Mud Hydra Quiver is a great solution for me on long days and I use the hydra-quiver on shorter days. They’re both terrific.
Hydra Quiver
If I were just getting one vest, it would be this one. It holds a 20-24 oz water bottle in the back, has a pocket in the back for phone and some other stuff and has two expandable pockets on the shoulders for Gu, headphones, whatever. I was afraid there would be a ton of chafing with this vest, but it’s been remarkably chafe free, even when I’ve worn a singlet, or (gasp) had to go shirtless. There’s no bounce, it’s easy to get the water out and I’ve found it to be comfortable and unobtrusive—even when I’m doing speed work. The only tweak I’ve made to mine is to switch out the Orange Mud bottle for a slightly smaller Ultimate Direction 20 oz “kicker” bottle. It’s got a little handle on it so it’s easy to get the bottle out. Love this vest.
Gear Quiver
This is essentially the Hydra Quiver without the bottle holder. There’s room for a small
fuel belt flask, a phone and the same shoulder pockets for nutrition. It disappears on my back and makes it very easy for me to have a phone with me.

Sometimes I like to run with headphones. Sometimes I don’t. I always like to hear the runner, biker or car about to hit me, so I prefer headphones that don’t fully isolate sound. I’ve discovered the joy of bluetooth wireless headphones this year and have tried just a couple of different ones. My favorite is the Plantronics “BackBeat Fit” bluetooth wireless headphone. Design is simple, battery life is good, they stay plenty stable on the ears at any pace and the water resistance seems really good. Controls are simple and intuitive (which isn’t always the case). Overall I’m pretty happy with these. I wanted to like the Yurbuds wireless headphones better than I do. They tend to start sliding out of my ears when things get really sweaty, and on long, hot days the sweat would just start making the headphones go crazy. The controls would skip forward, skip back, glitch out and shut off. I really like the yurbuds wired headphones— they’re more comfortable than the Plantronics or the Yurbuds bluetooth—but I’m happier wireless.

See Road Trail Run Editor Sam Winebaum's 2015 Run Favorites here
See Jeff Valliere, the vertical trail master of Boulder's 2015 Run Favorites here

Peter Stuart's Running Bio
My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

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1 comment:

Dietmar said...

Hi Peter,
nice post! The Altra Impulse sounds nice and i´m curious to try them out. I´m a fan of the original Zante, v2 is available now in Germany and i must say i´m disappointed. The upper/fit has become better, more relaxed in midfoot/forefoot, but according to my taste i prefer much the ride of v1. It seems that v2 seems to be a bit more stable/firmer in certain areas (especially forefoot), but i think it has lost responsiveness compared to v1. I can´t help it, but v2 feels for me lazy. It´s ok as an easy run shoe, but for some tempo v1 feels much better, IMO! It´s feels comparable like the Vazee Pace at slow pace, which is a kind of flat feeling, but whereas the Pace excels at speed the Zante v2 does not. I never considered the Zante v1 as a speedster, but in its versatility it could handle tempo quite capable. Zante v2 suffers in that regard. Curious about your take some day.