Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Road Trail Run Year in Review & Sam's Running Shoes and Gear of the Year

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor and Founder

RoadTrailRun had quite a year. Our able and dedicated team (reviewer bios) wrote over 180 articles including reviews of run shoes, apparel, run tech and more along with preview reports from CES., The Running Event, Boston and New York Marathons expos, and two Outdoor Retailer shows. 

Our readership grew rapidly in 2018 and will pass 7,000,000 page views just after the first of the new year. We also have a rapidly growing audience of 3200 followers on Instagram, 2400 on Facebook, and 1275 on our YouTube channel which we invite you to follow.  We very much appreciate our loyal worldwide readers' and viewers' interest in our independent, often first to publish, in depth, comparative content. In 2019, we plan to modernize the navigation and access to information on the site, increase our YouTube channel content, and continue to seek out the latest and greatest in running gear and try to get you the details first! 

Sam's Running
Barely could stand but could still smile after my BQ
I will end up running about the same 1750 miles as in recent years mostly at moderate paces with about one race per month of varying distances from 5K to marathon. I ran two 25K trail races this year: Speedgoat and the UA Mountain Series at Killington, VT.  I met my annual goal of a sub 1:40 half with a 1:38.40 early in March and then on a cold windy day in April on the flattest marathon course I have ever run managed a 3:40:52 Boston qualifier  at age 61. The rest of the year of racing was so so but I remained healthy, consistent, and injury free for which I am very thankful.

Needless to say, I ran and tested many shoes, much apparel, and tons of other run tech in 2018. I did not do an exact count but I likely ran in close to 80 different running shoes this year and tested many other run products . Needless to say it's all a bit of a blur but certain products stood out. I will say no shoes were "game changers" as the 2017 original Vaporfly 4% were, not even in comparison the later Obsidian color or the Flyknit version. But there was a game changing non shoe product. Please read on. After careful thought and some re testing here are my 2018 picks. My shoe of the year is at end..


Daily Trainers:

Nike Zoom Vomero 14 (RTR review

The Vomero 14 is a complete remake of the soft and fairly stiff earlier versions and checks all the boxes for me: decently light at 10 oz /283 grams, stable, with a well cushioned but not mushy heel and some light stability side walls to guide the legs decisively forward,  a deep, long and effective decoupling groove tfor easy transitions at all paces, with up front a very flexible yet well cushioned and stable forefoot. This heavy duty trainer with a just right and secure upper is snappy and cushioned thanks to a combination of React foam and a new full length low profile Air Zoom unit which together with the full coverage outsole have a touch of that magic fall forward and blast off responsive feeling of the Vaporfly, yet with more cushion. The Vomero, as far as I am concerned, replaces not only the stiff dull Pegasus 35, is a somewhat more substantial daily training focused shoe than the Zoom Fly Flyknit, is more dynamic than the lighter Epic React, is a far more versatile option than the soft Pegasus Turbo. but as it has a touch of stability from the prominent but not really noticed on the run side walls may replace the Structure (haven't tested though) for some runners.  A lot of versatility well tuned here.

Honorable Mentions: 

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9  (RTR review)
It took 9 versions but New Balance finally got Fresh Foam and the 1080 right. Gone is the stiff and dull ride. Decently soft with  enough flexibility from its long flex to handle any pace, the just 10 oz 1080v9 is a great daily trainer for all paces, moderate paces being the sweet spot topped off with a secure and very comfortable upper. 

Brooks Ghost 11 (RTR review)
Checking in a little heavier than its competition above, the significantly upgraded Ghost 11 proved a reliable training companion: secure, a touch softer in the heel due to DNA Loft it has  no sharp edges and no bright edges either but got the job done well.

Salomon Predict RA (RTR review)

Designed top to bottom to follow the anatomy of the foot during its natural motion, the Predict RA has 10 platforms of support at the outsole level, fully decoupled at not only the outsole but mirrored as grooves following foot anatomy in the midsole, top and bottom. The upper is designed to be 360 degree articulated to also follow the foot without undo interference but with adequate support, We very much enjoyed the smooth, easy ride of this shoe, best suited to moderate paces, and its extremely comfortable upper.

Performance Trainers:

Reebok Floatride Run Fast (RTR review)
Weighing about the same as most racing flats at 6.6 oz /187 g the Fast has a PEBA midsole with EVA ring for stability and is super light, responsive, and for its weight easy on the legs. It can train or race equally well and was the most versatile light shoe I ran in 2018.

Honorable Mentions:
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon (RTR review)
We did not see this coming, and when we did, were all was very pleasantly surprised. At a mere 7.1 oz / 200 g with a substantial 20mm forefoot /26 mm heel,  the Beacon represents a significant departure for New Balance and its sometimes overwrought with data and stiff outsoles Fresh Foam concept. Basically, no outsole here beyond a few patches but plenty of softish but responsive Fresh Foam Ground Contact for a ride between training and racing in a super light well cushioned shoe.

Saucony Kinvara 10 (RTR review) January 2019!
The devil is in the details in this excellent update which finally after several wayward versions gets the K shoe more back to its "natural running" origins of a light, low drop, flexible trainer racer with a non restrictive secure upper. The improvements over the earliest versions? The Kinvara is now more stable and practical especially for later miles when things start to fall apart. The upper here is a thing of beauty in its simplicity, light weight, and effectiveness.

Altra Running Duo (RTR review)

The Duo with a maximal 31 mm heel 31 mm forefoot stack checked in at a very light 8.5 oz / 246 grams. Remarkably given that huge forefoot stack the shoe flexes quite nicely. The dense  Max LT midsole gives the shoe a firmer more responsive ride than most Altra and contributes to overall stability. The super minimal high volume upper had just adequate hold for lower volume feet but is highly breathable. The Duo was the most fun Altra I ran this year,

Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR review)
The 2018 Zoom Fly is as I titled it in the review the "2.5%" shoe. It gets close to the 4% in overall feel and dynamism using its smaller carbon plate and React foam instead of Zoom X but ends up weighing close to 2 oz more and that is noticed making it a great faster days option and a solid race option at a more reasonable price than Vaporfly. 


All of my 2018 road races were in one of these two shoes.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Original (RTR review) and  Flyknit (RTR review)
I still prefer the somewhat softer, easier yet roomy upper and and more dynamic very original Royal Blue Vaporfly over the firmer Obsidian and equally firm Flyknit versions. My fastest half and Boston Qualifier were both in the original Vaporfly. Can't blame the shoes...but all my races in the Flyknit were relatively disappointing and while OK the new upper as all such knit stretch type uppers not quite good old engineered mesh done right. It was a fabulous shoe but just didn't pop while also having the softness of the original. 

Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro  (RTR review)
Clearly one of my big smiles shoes of 2018, the Pro weighs an almost impossible to fathom sub 4 oz / 113 yet has an amazing amount of substance for so little weight. I ran a 5K, a 4 miler, and then chanced a hillier 5 miler in them and the cushion was more than adequate and the responsive forefoot feel amazing.

Jeff Valliere our trail gear specialist and I agree 100% on our picks. Jeff's Best of 2018 is here

Heavy Duty
Hoka One One EVO Mafate (RTR review)
Hands down one of the most impressive shoes of the year. A direct descendent of Hoka's original shoe, the Mafate, now tuned for speed. It is super cushioned with plenty of all terrain MegaGrip yet with a highly responsive ride on harder surfaces this monster with its kevlar threaded upper weighs less than many road daily trainers and flies across all kinds of terrain, even roads for me.

Daily Trainer and Racer

Hoka One One Torrent (RTR review)

I raced both my 25K trail races in these, one in wet slippery Vermont and the other dry and rocky Utah and in both cases the courses were rough and steep yet the roomy yet secure Torrent with its outstanding grip and more than adequate cushion handled everything magnificently. The Torrent is particularly noteworthy in that it weighs 9.2 oz / 261 g and is a lot of shoe for the weight. 

Light Racer

Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG (RTR review)
Along with the Reebok Fast Pro, the Sense 7 SG was my other big smile shoe of the year due to the amount of substance achieved at such a light weight. No miracle materials here, just careful craftsmanship to produce a protective, secure and fast trail racing machine with big lugs and decent cushion all for about 7.6 oz /215 g, less than many road racing shoes. 

Honorable mentions:
New Balance Summit Unknown (RTR review)
Reasonably priced at $110, the Unknown is a great road trail hybrid along with being a fast trail runner. Based off the 1400 with a stable RevLite midsole and very flexible rock plate which gives also gives it hard terrain spring,  it has 4mm multi purpose lugs and a snug yet comfortable fast drying upper. I enjoyed varied terrain runs in this light (9.1 oz / 259) speedster. 

Topo Ultraventure (RTR review)
Topo surprised me with the Ultraventure. It has a well and softly cushioned yet stable tri-density midsole with fairly soft and tackyVibram XS Trek outsole. A long days and even road cruiser with a middle of the road versatile ride it has great grip and the anatomical natural shape toe box of all Topo.

Quite frankly I do zero to recover beyond taking my run shoes off.  No massages, no inflatable boots, no foam rolling. I just put on recovery shoes or sandals.

Topo Athletic Rekovr
The Rekovr is a new take on the wool felt “hut shoe”. Built on a Topo trail shoe platform it has a wool and microfiber blend upper. The foot hold is pretty darn good with the wide straps so a bit of light running would be possible in them in a pinch.

Designed to be worn barefoot, they have a massaging 3mm drop Ortholite footbed with deep fairly ridges which feel great after a workout. The Rekovr has a stout trail outsole.
You might imagine they could be too warm in summer. Not so! We tested them in summer and were perfectly comfortable. In fact, the foam based recovery clogs felt clammy and here nothing of the sort. And of course, now that we are in winter, they are most cozy.! After several months of fairly frequent barefoot use they remain admirably stink free. They make an ideal recovery shoe in all seasons, can easily make it to the mailbox in winter, and are a great travel and driving shoe for the post race trek home.

Fusion SLi Run Tights with pockets
Arriving in December after The Running Event, Fusion compressions shorts shocked me with their comfort (even as is without liner or underwear as they have a thin and thin width fleece liner "up front"), their versatile, deep thigh pockets, and seemingly no moisture absorbing, stretch thin compression fabric.
The comfort and lack of chill and chafing is outstanding. I have recently been racing with Salomon Short Support tight under my shorts, a very similar but thinner and stretchier fabric with "K-T" tape like overlays.  Danish Fusion originally started in tri apparel and in fact sponsors two time Kona Ironman champion and record holder Patrick Lange.  All of their apparel is made in Europe. I had to ask about the amazing fabric here as it was truly something different.  This French fabric, 70% polyamide 30% elastane, is similar to what is used Olympic grade swimsuits and costs three times more than what high end compression shorts use. It is much thinner, compresses evenly and smoothly and absorbs almost no moisture.

ON Lightweight Cap and ON High Run Socks

I am quite the run cap freak and fuss endlessly over just the right fit and breathability. Wel,l ON Running, masters of run shoe uppers make incredible apparel and accessories and their Lightweight Cap is no exception. Laser ventilated and hand detailed it has some structure above the bill to keep it looking sharp and off the forehead for air flow. 

Not to be outdone at the other end of the body ON's socks fit impeccably, look stylish and provide a touch of compression. My new goto for testing most run shoes as they sit between lightweight and medium.

Salomon RS Warm Jacket
Salomon offered the RS Warm for testing. I was skeptical that this soft-shell jacket with a fairly thick front might be to warm. As a soft-shell t is not fully windproof but is very decently so as well as water repellant due to the density of its weave. I have worn it just about every day in all kinds of conditions. The warm part comes from the fairly thick, lightly brushed on the inside front. The back and under the armpits is lighter jersey material with a thinner mesh panel down the center upper back. Ventilation and temperature regulation is superb over a broad range of cooler temperatures.,

There are two side pockets, one with a key clip. The fit is relatively generous and there is a high chest short strap and snap to run it unzipped and in place. The zipper pull is particularly fine, easy to work with gloves on and with a nice lockdown.
The extensive subtle reflective hits provide night visibility and for sure enhance the look. Equally fine for running, nordic skiing, and hiking the Warm does around town duty in fine style as well and its durable construction should last for many years of adventures. Also available in women’s style.

Daehlie Wool Air-Net
I have been amazed at the temperature and also moisture regulating as well as insulating properties of this stretch wool base layer with "fish net" knit in higher temp areas.  I have run this layer in both cold, wet, and wind and alone or under a shell including the RS Warm and it does an admirable job thermoregulating and keeping chill away.

Best Run Shoe Updates
Skechers Performance Razor 3 Hyper (RTR review)
Wait you'll say we didn't see the Razor in your picks above. While an amazing shoe, as a heel striker it is a bit low back there limiting its versatility for me to shorter racing. With the incredible new Hyper Burst midsole foam and a smooth, very light and supportive monofilament fiber upper it is a vast improvement over the Razor 2 and a great shoe for mid and forefoot strikers. 
Saucony Kinvara 10
While Skechers completely overhauled the Razor, Saucony carefully upgraded the Kinvara to better reflect its origins as a low drop natural riding and fitting lighter trainer and racer and did a brilliant job in the process

Best New Shoe
New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon
New Balance deserves huge credit for making Fresh Foam actually fresh in this super light, well cushioned and easy fitting and running trainer racer. 

Brand of the Year: Reebok
Reebok is a big company but its run department is small. In 18 months, from start to finish, the team there came out with two of the very best shoes of 2018  (the Floatride Fast and Floatride Fast Pro) with a focus on light weight and high performance through the use of innovative midsole materials and outsole construction and minimal but effective uppers. They topped it off with a great trainer at a value price in the Sweet Road 2 (RTR review).


Skechers Performance Hyper Burst
Hyper Burst is a new midsole foam which notably delivers very light weight and a great springy or as I like to say zingy ride. Key though, unlike exotic pricey foams such as those based on PEBA (Zoom X and Floatride Foam), they managed to create this incredible ride (and I am now testing other models with Hyper Burst) with lower cost base EVA materials and an innovative new process using CO2 gas to create durable wall bubbles in the foam, allowing their future shoes to drop in weight or gain in cushion while not skyrocketing in price.

Garmin Instinct (RTR review)
I tested a number of great GPS watches in 2018 including the high end Garmin 5 Plus and Suunto 9. The $300 Garmin Instinct provides many of the features of the "big" watches in a lower price yet rugged smaller format. A solid run and outdoor adventure smart watch it looks great, is light, and performs the essentials of accurate GPS, wrist heart rate, activity and sleep tracking, and notifications just as well as its pricier Fenix siblings. Its innovative circular "second screen" is a distinct new and useful feature for additional data and interaction guidance.

Kogalla RA Adventure Light (RTR review)
Of all the products I tested the Kogalla RA was the biggest "game changer" of 2018. Last year the Vaporfly was.. 

This 800 lumen 5 LED light bar casts a natural, broad light making night running and hiking a joy while improving visibility to traffic on the road and safety dramatically. Using the same kind of USB battery as phone chargers it design simplifies powering lighting as well. Literally "Portable Daylight". Jeff Valliere also included the Kogalla in his best of 2018. 

Salomon S/Lab Sense 7 SG
Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro
Kogalla RA Adventure Light.

Nike Zoom Vomero 14
Usually my shoe of the year is a racing shoe or performance trainer. Last year it was the Vaporfly. This year, the Vomero is my pick. It's a training shoe with everything I look for: stable well cushioned heel, smooth transition at all paces, and a lively flexible forefoot which combines cushion, road feel, and response.

More Best of 2018 Articles

Peter Stuart Road 
Michael Ellenberger Road
Jeff Valliere Trail

Hope Wilkes Road
Jeff Beck's Road and Trail
Dominick Layfield Ultras

Thanks for Reading Road Trail Run in 2018!
What were your Running Favorites of 2018?
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Grant Humphrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant Humphrey said...

Sam, awesome highlight reel, what's your pick for hydration vest of the year?

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks Grant! I really only tested one vest the Ultraspire Momentum and I liked it a lot for its versatility for carrying just a small load up to 2 liters of water. My review: https://www.roadtrailrun.com/2018/05/ultraspire-momentum-race-vest-review.html
Jeff Valliere really liked the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 4.0 : https://www.roadtrailrun.com/2018/12/jeff-vallieres-best-running-shoes-and.html
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Mark said...

Thanks for all your work this year. I'm looking forward to RTR in 2019!

Anonymous said...


since the vast majority of my running is on the hard packed trails and fire roads of southern california, i was
wondering how your road shoe picks perform on trails?
the vomero 14 or the reeboks, for example?

also, i was wondering if the salomon sense 7 sg is now your favourite salomon for the trail?

many, many thanks for the hard work you put into this website.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for your kind words about RTR! We will keep at it!
I think the Vomero, 1080v9, Predict RA and Ghost would work fine on mellow trails. Reebok upper might be a bit light, for me anyway. As far as the Sense 7 SG it is not a long run shoe for me on trails, more a fun go fast shoe. For all around heavier duty trail running the XA Elevate which was my 2017 trail shoe of the year would be my Salomon pick. Also consider that Topo Ultraventure.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam,
Love the gear and shoes of the year segments from each person.
A few technical questions about pace/speed in various running shoes. I am running different paces in different shoes which surprised me at such a difference.
NB Beacon : 5.00 - 5.45 kmh, Nike epic react 5.30 - 6.00 and saucony triumph iso 3 around 7.00 -7.30.
What speeds do you consider slow pace, medium pace and fast pace for say a 5kmh run? In your shoe reviews sometimes it says shoes good for recovery run, or moderate pace or fast pace. what pace do you consider when you say that for each category.
What speed/pace do you expect out of the saucony triumph iso 5, 1080 v9 and Nike vomero 14 and new balance beacon for a 5kmh/10kmh run?
Thanks Cheers Steve

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Steve,
The main reason you may run different paces is shoe weight with the factor that we often naturally select a lighter faster design for faster running. Heavier as a rule but not always will be slower. Not always though...as the materials and design can play a role. For example the Vomero 14 has React foam plus most importantly a thin Zoom Air which makes the forefoot flexible (more forefoot(cushion can often means less flexible) and responsive thus fast. As far as paces I run those shoes you mention close to your paces. Some of our reviewers are much much faster 1:07 half for example for Cheyne and Michael. Your paces are very similar to what I run although I am a bit faster racing paces and at the Triumph end as well but in the middle Epic React about the same as you.
Sam, Editor

MechaDriver said...


In regards to the Salomon RS Warm Jacket, did you find it to be tight fitting as recommended by Salomon's sizing?


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Mecha Driver,
RS Warm is not particularly snug fitting for such a jacket at my usual medium. Room for a layer or two underneath, somewhat easy stretching and soft not a shell type fit.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Hi, I’m interested in getting my first pair of recovery shoes. Rekovr or Oofos? I can’t decide. Any thoughts?