Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Garmin vivofit jr. 2 Kids Activity Tracker Review - A Tool To Inspire Health, Fitness, Wellness and Chores!

by Jeff, Amelie and Isabelle Valliere

Garmin vivofit jr. 2 Princess Edition
$79. Available Now


My soon to be 8 year old twin daughters often like to make fun of my obsession interest in running gear, particularly my Garmin GPS watches that I wear and am distracted by on a daily basis.  When given the opportunity to review the latest vivofit jr. 2 kids activity tracker in Disney Princess livery, they were exited about the idea, listing a handful of school and neighborhood friends that also have vivofits.  With all 3 of us sporting Garmins on our wrists, the activity/daily step showdown was on!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Karhu Ikoni Ortix Review: Plush, Energetic, Smooth Transitioning Finnish Sports Bear

Article by Sam Winebaum

Karhu Ikoni Ortix ($130)
The elaborately named (and hard to remember) Ikoni Ortix from long time Finnish sports gear manufacturer Karhu (Finnish for Bear) is a truly memorable shoe, and the wonderful surprise of 2018 in the plush daily run trainer category.

Usually I find shoes in this category a "chore" to test as they tend to be heavy to begin with, often pushing 11 oz as the Ikoni does at 10.8 oz and even heavier as some of its competitors such as the Brooks Levitate or Saucony Triumph ISO are.  They can be either overly soft (Glycerin 15 and Energy Boost 4) or overly stiff, not very bouncy and lumbering (NB 1080v6). They tend to be difficult to transition for me, especially at slower paces. Weight aside, and it runs considerably lighter than its weight, the Ikoni threads the needle through all these big shoe issues brilliantly by delivering:
  • a very well cushioned softer ride with great energy from its Aero Foam a blend of EVA and TPU, 
  • some targeted support at landing and a noticeable forward propulsion effect to guide transitions from the mid foot Fulcrum of firmer compression EVA and a nylon Propulsion Foil or plate, 
  • a smooth flowing rocker from its gently curving overall Ortix geometry which even includes a shaping of the last directly underfoot, while also including some very welcome toe off flexility as well, 
  • a very comfortable, easy fitting engineered mesh upper developed using data from over 1000,000 customer foot scans using Fit id 3D scans by exclusive US partner Fleet Feet Sports.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit Initial Road Test Review: Zoom Fly 2.5%?

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit ($160)

The Zoom Fly Flyknit, the second in the series, available now, arrives with big changes. The "new" Zoom Fly is a racer trainer suitable for uptempo training and longer racers. The original Zoom Fly (RTR review) "appeared" similar to Nike's ground breaking Vaporfly 4% (RTR review) but ran quite roughly and firmly, with less pace range and weighed considerably more than the Vaporfly.

The new Zoom Fly substitutes:
  • the mostly plastic propulsion plate of the original for a full carbon plate similar but not as wide as the VaporFly's, 
  • the original's Lunarlon midsole for Nike new React but not the Zoom X of the VaporFly, a
  • and the engineered mesh upper for a Flyknit upper with no overlays and no heel counter.  
While the weight for this 10m drop shoe creeps up about 0.2 oz to approximately 8.6 oz /244g (my sample US M 8.5 weighs 8.325 oz/236g)  the ride is almost completely changed and approaches that of the VaporFly in its dynamic spring yet well cushioned feel. The dynamism of this uptempo trainer racer far surpasses the Epic React (RTR review), a shoe I found somewhat better cushioned, particularly in forefoot but dull in its ride and performance.

Polar Vantage V and M Introduction: 14 Sensors Polar to Measure Wrist HR in the V & M, Running Power and Muscle Load Metrics in the V, Battery Life up to 40 hours

Article by Sam Winebaum
Polar Vantage V
On September 13th Polar announced two new multi sport training watches: the Vantage V ($500) and Vantage M ($280).
Polar Vantage M
Both watches promise high accuracy GPS and wrist heart rate monitoring and include Polar's excellent training features and programs. The Vantage V adds advanced features and metrics including barometric altimeter, Running Power and associated Muscle Load sensing and calculation, as well Training and Recovery Load Pro. Spec battery life in training mode are very robust, maybe class leading, but our testing will tell if any GPS accuracy compromises are required for up to 40 hours for the V and 30 hours for the M. And in a departure from prior more rectangular Polar watches they are round in shape!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Racer Stories: Dominick Layfield's 2018 UTMB Race Learnings and Gear Report

Article by Dominick Layfield

UTMB 2018
For those of you who don’t follow ultrarunning obsessively.  UTMB = Ultimate Tour of Mont Blanc. A race that does a long (~170 km/106 miles), hilly (~10000 m/30,000 ft gain) loop around Mont Blanc, starting in Chamonix, France, and running though Italy and Switzerland before returning to France. It’s a huge race, with ~2600 entrants. There are longer races, and there are hillier races, but nothing matches the prestige and excitement around UTMB.

After last year’s debacle (in which I got pulled by the race medics), my goal for UTMB 2018 was specifically, unambiguously, to finish the race.  I told myself that I wouldn’t pay any attention to time or position.

Naturally, as soon as the race started, I started to imagine a stunning performance that would stand in stark conflict with my meager training and unfocussed preparation.  But I was quickly and rudely brought down to reality. From the start, my heart rate was too high, my pace too slow, and my body out of sorts. My quads felt shot on the first downhill.  It was immediately clear that if I kept pushing, I would guarantee a repeat of last year’s DNF.

So on to plan B -- which was really the original plan A -- Take it easy and enjoy the race.  And to cut a 27-hour story short, that’s pretty much what happened. I had a phenomenal time, ran with a smile on my face, and finished 50th.  Hoorah!
Obligatory photo from race check-in, on Thursday.
Things I learned (or re-learned) at this year’s UTMB:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Salomon Sense Pro 3 Review

Article by Jeff Valliere 

Salomon Sense Pro 3

Introduction/Initial Impressions:

The Salomon Sense Pro 3 is the latest lightweight speedster in the Sense line, packed with many S/Lab attributes, all at a lower cost.  The Sense Pro 3 out of the box has strikingly good looks, is light, narrow and toothy, if a bit stiff feeling.  Fit is snug and race ready, though a bit more accommodating in the forefoot.  They feel quick and ready to roll fast without any urging.

Weight: 8.9 oz US Men's size 9 (9 5/8 oz./276 grams) US men's size 10 / 7.9 oz US Women's size 7
Sample US Men's 8.5 (8.7 oz/246 grams)
Stack: 20mm/16mm (4mm drop)
$130 Available now

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Race Report: Run Mag Mile 10K, Chicago, Illinois. In the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro!

Article by Michael Ellenberger

Race Report: Run Mag Mile 10K, Chicago, Illinois
I just recently ran the “Run Mag Mile 10K” in Chicago - a pretty terrific course that takes you north and south along the titular Magnificent (“Mag”) Mile on Michigan Avenue, along with some out-and-back stretching along Lake Michigan. Scenic… but on Saturday, quite exposed and windy! Fortunately, the wind was at an angle such that I think we benefited more than we lost to it, but still - a bit demoralizing to be out there all alone with no cover! I’ve been training in the Nike Epic React and Pegasus Turbo, favoring the Peg Turbo for those really slow recovery days, and the Epic React for anything a little quicker and/or longer. My initial impressions from the Peg Turbo have cooled, if only a little, as it just feels like they doesn’t have the responsiveness I want for any kind of faster turnover, and they can come off feeling sloppy. For slower miles, it’s still the go-to.
For the 10K, I decided to take out the Reebok Run Fast Pro (RTR review).

Saucony Xodus ISO 3 Review - Because sometimes your feet deserve an armored tank


The Saucony Xodus ISO 3 is a beast of a trail shoe made for every type of terrain. A complete redesign from the Xodus ISO 2, it combines a very comfortable sock-like upper wrapped in Saucony's ISOFIT system, now sitting on top of a new full EVERUN midsole (the big update) and a very burly outsole.
The result is a heavy duty shoe that is marketed toward muddy terrain but which chews up rocky Arizona mountains just as well. If you are looking for the one shoe to take with you everywhere (except the road), the Xodus could be everything you are looking for. Just make sure you aren't too weight conscious, because this may be the heaviest shoe on the market today.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Topo Athletic Ultraventure Initial Review: Accommodating, Softly Cushioned and Versatile Door to Trail Runner

Article by Sam Winebaum
Update read our full multi tester review of the Ultraventure here.

Ultraventure ($130)
The Ultraventure represents Topo's first trail oriented more maximally and softly cushioned shoe. It adds 2mm front and back stack to the road focused Ultrafly 1 (RTR review) and like the Ultrafly features a tri density midsole. The midsole of the Ultraventure combines higher rebound injected EVA for the main body of the shoe with a softer compression molded heel insert to ease transitions and a firmer medial side compression molded area for a touch of guidance.  The Ultrafly 1 was all compression molded foam.

The upper is a simple, fairly dense and thin engineered mesh with a multitude of pliable overlays. The outsole is Vibram XS Trek rubber, a tacky fairly soft all terrain outsole material. And of course we have Topo's roomy yet secure wider toe box. I have always loved the room and security of Topo uppers but have found their rides on the firm rough side when combined with the low drops, even somewhat in the Ultrafly. So I was very curious how the Ultraventure would run and suspected it would also be versatile and equally at home on many trail types as well as roads.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Suunto 9 Baro Full Review: Highly Accurate GPS Tracking, Improved Wrist Heart Rate, Outstanding and Leading Battery Life

Article by Jeff Valliere

Suunto 9  Baro
$599 ($649 with Chest Heart Rate Belt)
Colors:  Black (tested) or White
Available now
The Suunto 9 Baro is the latest evolution of high end GPS multi-sport watches from Suunto, building and improving upon their most recent Spartan series. In addition to a much simpler name (in stark contrast to the more recent Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro, which we reviewed here), the Suunto 9 features several improvements, that, even while not a revolutionary overhaul, are worthy of consideration if you are planning to upgrade from previous Suunto models, or are looking at Suunto for the first time.  The Spartan series had some improvements over previous Ambit models such as easier and more intuitive menus, a touch screen to accompany buttons, slightly better navigation functionality, wrist HR on certain models, more comfort, interchangeable bands, but overall was looked at as a step back with less accurate GPS, diminished battery life (in all but the Ultra model), lack of add on apps and all at a hefty price tag.  The Suunto 9 addresses many of those concerns and I think is the best watch yet from Suunto.