Saturday, December 22, 2018

Jeff Valliere's Best Running Shoes and Gear of 2018

by Jeff Valliere

2018 was yet another great year of reviewing with eye opening innovations, improvements over prior generation products or entirely new products that hit us unexpectedly. What follows is a random round up of the running shoes and gear that stood out as my favorites for the year in no particular order.

Oofos recovery footwear (full review):  Unparalleled comfort and adequate style even for the office.  In the summer, I wear the Ooahh Sport Slide Sandal around the house and in winter, the Ooahh OoCloog around the house and at the office.  If I am not wearing a running shoe, I am wearing something from Oofos.

Julbo Aerospeed/Aero/Aerolite with Zebra Light lens:  As part of our run glasses roundup, we reviewed the Julbo Aerospeed  n depth, a larger version of the Aerolite.  I ended up trading the Aerospeed for the Aerolite with Sam, as they work better fitting over his glasses and I prefer smaller glasses for my smaller face.  No matter, any of these 3 models, whichever you may choose, are light, fit well with no bounce, have a wide field of vision, take a lot to fog and with the Zebra Light (or Zebra Light Fire) are extremely versatile for a wide range of light conditions and transition quickly from dark to light.  Julbo is always my first pick.

ON Running Performance T, Lightweight Short and Weather Jacket (RTR review):  Unparalleled quality, materials, comfort, performance and style all wrapped into one.  The shorts and T are super light and breathable, while the Weather Jacket is light, yet very protective and fits well.  It is ALWAYS in my gear bag.

Best Trail Shoe Max Cushion - Hoka One One EVO Mafate (RTR review):  The EVO Mafate was intriguing from the start, but I was slow to warm up to it.  Over time, once the upper softened and conformed to my feet and the tall lugs wore down a bit, the EVO Mafate skyrocketed to the top of my list.  Fast, light, responsive, durable with excellent traction, this is the perfect shoe for ripping fast all day long over just about any terrain.

Best Mid Cushion Trail Shoe - Hoka One One Torrent (RTR Review):  Hoka is absolutely just killing it, with the one two punch of the EVO Mafate and Torrent.  The Torrent has less cushion, but better ground feel, foothold and stability. It is ideal for pushing hard no matter how technical the trail.  Cushion and protection is excellent, without the tall maximal feel of most traditional Hokas.

Best Short Distance Trail Race Shoe - Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG (RTR review):  For short, fast and technical PR attempts or as a race day rocket, the S/Lab Sense 7 is a top pick as it is light and agile with surprising protection, response and superb traction.  It just looks fast too!

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (RTR review):  Reviewing the Fenix 5 Plus was without a doubt my review highlight of the year.  I can't think of an overall better watch on the market for my purposes, pulling double duty as a precise any sport GPS sport watch with on board maps, music and all the bells and whistles you could imagine, yet also performs double duty as a stylish all day smartwatch.  The 5 Plus has essentially become an appendage of my wrist.

Garmin inReach Mini (RTR review):  Made to communicate with the outside world while out of cell phone range in the backcountry and to notify search and rescue in case of emergency, the inReach Mini is a must for trail runners who like to get off the beaten track.  Light and compact with flexible subscription plans, the inReach Mini wraps up all the goodness of the full size version (well, without the mapping screen) and integrates with the Fenix series and 935 for easy operation.  Small enough to fit in just about any pocket, there is really no good excuse not to bring it along on any outdoor adventure or run.

Best Light and Innovative Product of 2018?  Kogalla RA Adventure Light (RTR review):  Either way, if you run or adventure at night, take a time out and read our linked full review, then order one for yourself.  Now that you are back, you will have a lot to look forward to.  Even with good lights, I was previously just so/so on running at night on the rocky trails above Boulder.  I was often off balance and a bit stumbly.  With the Kogalla however, with it's broad swath of light, 800 lumen brightness, warm light hue and zero bouncy jitteriness, my night runs have been transformed into a pleasurable experience instead of a reluctant necessity.

Best Running Vest - Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0 (RTR review):  Lightweight, soft materials, improved soft flasks, high capacity without feeling bulky and stable ride with excellent access to well thought out pockets, the UD Mountain Vest 4.0 is my first pick for long runs in the mountains where I need to carry more than the very basics.

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he has recently worked in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 6 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

More Best of 2018 Articles

Sam Winebaum  (Editor and Founder) Road, Trail, and Tech 
Peter Stuart Road 
Michael Ellenberger Road
Dave Ames Road and Trail
Hope Wilkes Road
Jeff Beck's Road and Trail
Dominick Layfield Ultras

What were your Running Favorites of 2018?
Comments Questions Welcome Below!

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Jeff Valliere said...


office supplies in bulk said...

Thanks for sharing such office product info

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff, can you please comment on the Torrent's suitability on dry, hard-packed terrain and/or asphalt? The lugs look quite prominent...

Jeff Valliere said...

Torrent works well on hard pack dirt, OK, on road, but if any substantial road running, probably not the ideal pick.

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

im very tempted by the kogalla, but i cant wrap my head around where to mount/carry the thing.
if im going long enough to need water or a snack, i wear a flip belt or naked running band but with
my shirt untucked over them.
if im going shorter, i dont wear a belt but just a little pocket to hold my iphone on my shorts.

does using the kogalla doom me to wearing a waist belt over my short? can you attach it
to a hat, or does that defeat the purpose?

thanks for all your hard work on the site.

Anonymous said...

oops, i meant over my SHIRT, not short. apologies.

Jeff Valliere said...

I too was a little perplexed as to where/how to mount the Kogalla, but have come to learn over time, that it is very easy and options are numerous. Mounting does not have to be perfect either given the range of light and no bounce aspect.

I favor mounting the light with the Naked Running Band and I just tuck the front of my shirt under the front of the band as to not cover the light. During the day, I don't like my Naked Running Band over my shirt, as everything feels constricted and throws off the fit of the shirt, but just tucking a little bit at night under the light does not really matter to me, plus, if worried about how bad it looks, it is night anyways, so nobody will notice.