Thursday, September 28, 2017

Merrell Bare Access Flex and Trail Glove 4 Reviews: The Bare Essentials for Road and Trail

Article by Peter Stuart and Dominque Winebaum

Peter's Review
The Merrell Bare Access Flex ($90) is a lightweight, zero drop road/trail hybrid shoe. It weighs in at 7.3 oz/ 207 g for a men's size 9, 6.5 oz/184 g for a women's size 8 with a 15mm zero drop stack height. It's a pretty minimal shoe with a terrific upper and just enough protection to go out and have some fun.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Brooks Running Levitate Tech Details & First Runs Review: Stable, Consistent, Dynamic Ambulation

Article by Sam Winebaum
Brooks Running Levitate
The Brooks Running Levitate ($150) is an all new, premium neutral trainer featuring an innovative DNA Amp midsole which works in harmony, and we don't use that word lightly, with a flexible arrow shaped outsole. This is a energetic, if heavier shoe, for long miles in great comfort. Levitate has a 8mm drop. Available September 30th. 
Brooks Running Levitate
The weight spec is 11.2 oz/318 grams in men's size 9. Our sample size 8.5 weighed 11.1 oz.

11. 2 oz you say... Isn't that heavy for even a premium daily trainer these days?  Let's put the weight aside for the moment as in our first run the energetic smooth ride had us feeling we were in a lighter shoe and certainly lighter feeling and more lively running than many shoes in its class such as the ASICS Gel Nimbus 19  (RTR review), adidas Energy Boost 4 (RTR review), or even Brooks own Glycerin 15 (RTR review), all weighing somewhat less. 

Altra One V3 Review: Not the One

Article by Peter Stuart
Altra brings out its 4th version of the One (I think...there was a 2.5, was there a 1.5?).  The description is that it's a 'lightweight race day shoe".  At 7.9 oz/224 g for a men's 9, it's not THAT lightweight--and in fact has gained about 1.3 oz/37 g over One 2.5, while also losing 2mm of stack height. So, enough griping, what are the specs and how does it run? As I said it's 7.9 oz, zero drop and has an 18mm stack height.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fitbit Ionic Review- All Day Useful, Animated, Colorful, Beautifully Crafted GPS/HR Watch with Deep Health and Wellness Tracking Features

Article by Sam Winebaum
Fitbit Ionic ($299.95) Available for Pre-Order from Amazon  here
First deliveries early to mid October 2017
The just launched Fitbit Ionic represents the brand's first true smart training watch. It has both GPS and wrist heart rate on board and of course the full compliment of Fitbit insights. More than a "tracker" the Ionic also includes:
  • on board coached Fitstar workouts such as abs and chest, the animated color screen shows you how to do then
  • a "wallet" for contactless payments for that after run coffee or beer
  • multiple sport modes including swim tracking with 50M water resistance so suitable for any swimming and the shower. 
  • a built in 300 song music player, including the ability to download Pandora Plus and Premium stations
  • smart phone notifications
  • a battery life spec. at 4 days all day use and 10 hours GPS/HR training mode that doubles its obvious Apple Watch and Android Wear competitors and approaches battery life of many dedicated GPS watches 
In my testing I found the Ionic to be a perfectly serviceable, very comfortable on the wrist run companion with the added benefit of Fitbit's excellent cardiac health and sleep monitoring. The screen sharpness and clarity is outstanding I really appreciated the longer battery life compared to my Apple Watch Series 2.

Friday, September 15, 2017

First Hands on Impressions. 3 Fashionable, Light New GPS/HR Watches: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport

Article by Sam Winebaum

Competitor Running just published my article covering these three just introduced GPS Run Watches here.

I have tested all three. My RoadTrailRun initial impressions and live photos  are below.
Update: Full review of the Fitbit Ionic is here
Left to Right: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport
Front to Back: Suunto Spartan Trainer, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Vivosport
 Brief Descriptions and Impressions

Monday, September 11, 2017

Salomon XA Elevate-First Runs Impressions Review with Comparisons to Sense Ride and S/Lab Sense Ultra

Article by Sam Winebaum

Editor's Note: RoadTrailRun will have an in depth review for the XA Elevate soon where I will join with Jeff Valliere, running trails above Boulder and Larisa Dannis, hammering long technical runs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Salomon XA Elevate
Weight: Test sample in US M9:  10.7 oz/304g
              Production: 10.4 oz/295g (US 9M) 9 oz./255g (US 7W)
Stack Height: 25mm/17mm (8mm drop)
Lug Height: 5mm
MSRP: $130
Available 12/1/17 at REI in the US, general distribution 3/1/18

We first saw the XA Elevate at Outdoor Retailer where it was Salomon's big introduction along with the S/Lab Sense Ultra 2 (preview article here). It was for sure flashy and low slung looking but stiff flexing  it felt it had more hiking vibe than run vibe. It joins the line up sitting just above the Sense Ride (RTR review here) in overall cushion and protection and just below the Pro Max with its higher stack but lower height lugs RTR (review here).

First Impressions 
Salomon kindly sent us a sample and first trying them on underfoot they did feel like a hiker with prominent support under the arch, lots of noticeable cushion and protection upfront, a very secure upper hold and somewhat larger lugs than the Sense Ride and Sense Ultra 1.  

Friday, September 08, 2017

Coolcore Apparel Review: All Conditions Comfort and Cooling Performance

Article by Sam Winebaum with Dominique Winebaum
We have long been obsessed here at Road Trail Run by apparel which is effective for running comfort at the extremes of heat and cold. In warm weather perceived and real comfort comes from how cool one's skin feels and in  minimizing wet cling of fabric to the skin. Cooling using fabrics can come from
  • a variety of chemical and other treatments (Columbia Omni-Free Zero, 37.5)
  • the actual structure of the fabric to allow not only rapid evaporative cooling but also less clammy cling to the skin when wet. The approach Coolcore takes.
  • fiber selection,for example Titanium fibers in adidas Climachill article here to actually conduct heat away from the skin
  • reflective outer layers on the fabric (Columbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector 
Of course, fabric color is also a factor with lighter colors generally less heat absorbing. In colder conditions staying dry is the key and many of the same characteristics of rapid evaporation and fabric structure needed in heat can apply to keep garments drier and more comfortable in cold. The differences generally are the fit, generally snugger in cold, deeper structures or "fuzzies" on the skin and on the outside to insulate being main difference between hot and cold weather comfort and performance.

We have long kept an eye on Coolcore a local to us Portsmouth, N.H, company.  Their fabric technology (see here) relies on structure to provide cooling and drying power and less wet cling. Coolcore achieves this by wicking, transporting moisture, and regulated evaporation. No added chemicals are used to achieve the performance and comfort of these synthetic fabrics.  Early on Coolcore was involved and still is in cooling towels that when wet provide a distinct cooling effect as well as some licensing of the fabric technology into work wear and general athletics. For several years we have wrapped a Coolcore cooling towel around our neck during long trails runs, very effective and tested a t-shirt a few years ago that was effective in cooling but was a fairly crude slick feeling fabric with plenty of wet cling . We were eager to try their latest  introduced at Outdoor Retailer in July and put it to the test.

Cool core had their fabrics tested on specialized equipment, and not just anecdotally via user impressions, at the Hohenstein Institute, a 60 year old independent testing and research institute for the clothing industry  The fabric was tested against 7 competitors and three competing technologies, un named but we might assume Climachill and Columbia were in the mix.  The testing results are here and also illustrated below. Coolcore won several awards for fabric technology innovation.

In the Hohenstein testing Coolcore came out with the highest performance scores in the three tested categories of Cooling Power, Drying Time, and Wet Cling.  One must always take such company sponsored testing with a grain of salt and actual on the run use in varying conditions of humidity, temperature, sun combined with color of garment, wind, if used under another layer along with of course each runner's preferences also go into the mix.

This said when compared to standard technical t-shirts, and other cooling claiming shirts on many runs and hikes in varying conditions and even cold conditions, in combination and overall, the Cool Core outperformed any of our many high performance and cool claiming shirts.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Scott Supertrac RC - A Top Tier, High Performance All Mountain Racer

by Jeff Valliere

Scott Supertrac RC
9.6 oz. (272 grams) US Men's Size 9 or 8 oz. (230 grams) US Women's Size 8
(9 7/8 oz./281 grams for my US size 10)
25mm heel/20mm forefoot
$150 Available Now

It has been some time since I have tested/reviewed a Scott shoe, I think it was the Eride AF Trainer a few years ago, but it did not make much of an impression on me either way.  I was sort of on the fence reviewing this one, but the look of the outsole really appealed to me and it looked like an interesting all mountain shoe overall.  Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this shoe performed!  It feels light and high quality out of the box, very well built, with buzz saw like sticky lugs, a race profile and blinding neon yellow coloring to confirm that you had better be moving quick in this shoe.

La Sportiva/Polygiene Odor Free Clothing Review

by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

La Sportiva Motion T-Shirt - $39.00
La Sportiva Rapid Short - $129.00

Polygiene Odor Control is a silver salt which naturally occurs in water and soil. It is co-applied in the finishing stages of garment manufacturing so no extra water is used.  Long used in health care, silver salt has been extensively tested for skin sensitivity. Polygiene only inhibits growth of bacteria on the fabric to reduce odors and not with naturally occurring skin bacteria. Polygiene's motto is " Wear More, Wash Less" as the energy and water savings over the lifetime of such treated garments can add up.

Jeff: The La Sportiva Motion T, made from Polygiene Odor Control treated fabric has quickly become one of my favorite running shirts. The shirt is light, very breathable and has a great cut that is comfortable, lays well, drapes just below the hemline of my shorts at just the right level, without feeling like a dress or an 80's crop top.
Sam: I agree with Jeff this is one comfortable, light T. Stretchy and a bit slick and sticky when wet. I wish the fabric was more mesh like and had more texture.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Revant Optics Replacement Prescription Sport Lenses

by Jeff Valliere

Revant Optics was founded in 2009, soon after founder and CEO Jason Bolt crashed while mountain biking and damaged his sunglasses.  When he tried to buy replacement lenses, he found that they were no longer available, so ordered a batch of 200 lenses from the manufacturing company, kept a few pairs and sold the rest.  The idea was born to make available lenses for sunglasses, new and old, at a fair price and offer great customer service.

I'll admit that I had never heard of Revant Optics before being offered to review a set of their lenses and when I learned that they offer prescription lenses as well, I was quite excited.  My Oakley Flak Jacket prescription lenses were over 8 years old and even though I have a very mild prescription, things were getting a touch fuzzy.  Even with insurance, performance oriented prescription eye wear costs a good bit of money and I kept putting it off.

I scrolled through the Oakley options and soon (as I expected I would) found the Flak Jacket.  I could have used the search function and got there faster, but was interested to see all of the model glasses where replacement lenses were available and was blown away.  That was just Oakley!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2018 Inov-8 Previews & First Run Impressions Review ParkClaw 275 GTX Invisible Fit, RoadClaw 275

Article by Sam Winebaum

Inov-8 a British run shoe brand which was really first, starting in 2003 to design a line of trail "running" shoes from the ground up as not only running shoes but from day one with variable designs of outsoles and midsoles for different terrain types and distances.  I first wrote about Inov-8 in 2007 here after testing several different models. 
Looking back at that article, and after seeing their 2018 line I  clearly see that Inov-8 has stuck true to its mission of designing a wide array of terrain specific models for ice and snow, mud and wet, rock, mountain trail, moderate "park" trail, and road. 
The 2018 RocLite 315 (left) stays true to the 2007 RocLite 315's (right) all terrain endurance mission

Most models are not so specific that they don't cross over categories but each is called out with a sweet spot. I am currently testing the ParkClaw 275 a trail with some road capablities and the RoadClaw 275 a road shoe which can easily tackle easier trails

All Inov-8 shoes regardless of terrain and distance purpose, be they 2007 or 2017 models, share key characteristics:
  • firm, stable midsoles with embedded Meta Shank or Dynamic Fascia Band inserts built into the midsoles. These plates mimic foot bio mechanics with a fingers shape and depending on model are more or less substantial with hard rocky terrain trail shoe shanks such as in the TrailRoc line extending more coverage under the front of the foot for rock protection and lighter terrain versions thinner fingers such as in the RoadClaw
  • very supportive rugged uppers in all shoes, including road shoes, which generally fit on the snug side but over the years getting more front of the foot volume. 
  • within each model, often different upper choices including the new Invisible Fit Gore-Tex, ballistic nylon for super abrasion durability, as well as more conventional mesh. 
  • of course an outsole designed for specific uses and terrain types
  •  a new Sticky Grip outsole compound claiming 50% better forefoot and 20% better heel traction than its predecessor launches in 2018 on some models with others having a Tri-C or Dual C outsole which can include Sticky Grip rubber as one of the 2 or 3 different compounds in the outsole.
  • within each terrain type shoe model frequently with at least two and often more levels of cushioning, basically stack height difference, distinguished by Inov-8's Arrow System marking and by differing weights called out as the number in the model description: RocLite 305 vs. RocLite 315.
2018 Previews
I visited Inov-8's US headquarters in Massachusetts a few miles from the start line of the Boston Marathon and across the railroad tracks from Hopkinton State Park and its many trails.

The shoe wall Jim Howard, General Manager showed us just includes running shoes. A whole other wall had cross fit, weight lifting, and obstacle course shoes. Inov-8 stability, firm outsoles and rugged uppers have made them very popular for these sports.