Monday, January 14, 2019

Winter Trail Running Shoes Roundup: Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP, Altra Lone Peak 4 RSM, Topo Hydroventure 2, Salomon Speedcross 5, and La Sportiva Uragano GTX

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere

Sam: With much of the running world deep in winter getting out on the trail requires suitable footwear.

I run a lot on hard packed and softer snow in Park City, UT. Such terrain and conditions as well as wet soft ground in cooler temperatures calls for running shoes with 2 key characteristics: deeper more widely spaced lugs for traction and an upper which can resist moisture and provide some warmth.

We selected six top contenders and put them to the test on snow in Park City, Utah's magnificent Round Valley on a combination of hard packed powder single track and groomed multi purpose trails. My loop is 6 miles with about 600 feet of total vertical, so moderate. Jeff tested three of the shoes on his usual steep technical terrain above Boulder, Colorado
The five shoes are the top to bottom below: LaSportiva Uragano GTX, Salomon Speedcross 5 Topo Hydroventure 2, Altra Lone Peak 4.0 RSM, and Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP .  As we are talking winter running we will first focus on the two key ingredients of winter worthy shoes: upper and traction.
Uragano GTX, Speedcross 5, Hydroventure 2, Lone Peak 4 RSM, Speedgoat Mid WP

Friday, January 11, 2019

ASICS GEL Nimbus 21 Review: The N Formula Deftly Tuned

Article by Hope Wilkes, Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21 ($150)
Sam: The Nimbus 21 continues, and deftly tunes, the long standing Nimbus formula of bomb proof snug upper, great under foot stability, a densely protective and cushioned ride, and long durability in an every day moderate pace trainer.  My last Nimbus was the 19 and it was the shoe I reached for this year when I had a bout of Plantar’s for all of the reasons above but not for plush, comfortable, or fast. Never an inspiring or even that comfortable a shoe, the 19 got the job done but without to much excitement. The product description for the 21 includes “supreme”, “ultimate” “plush” and other such descriptors. The 21 does not fundamentally change the formula of supremely supportive, cushioned and protective but those attributes are softened a touch, relaxed and made somewhat liviler on the run. as well Basically, the Nimbus is no longer a chore to run. I expect Nimbus fans will not be disappointed.

The changes include:

  • The upper is now a fine soft double jacquard mesh nicely supported by subtle overlays. The straight jacket approach of the 19 with its dense tight mesh is gone. We now have some give and room in the toe box.
  • The complex midsole with its front and back GEL inserts now substitutes an underfoot  layer of bouncier Flytefoam Propel for Flytefoam, and Flytefoam Lyte for the Flytefoam of the 20.
  • The plastic under midfoot Trussic plate is reduced now only appearing on the medial side.
  • The outsole sees significant changes. Gone is the vast unbroken expanse of firm hard rubber upfront. We now have a nicely segmented softer blown rubber which combined with the Propel really softens and moves things along more smoothly and with less shock.
  • And my men’s size 8.5 is now 0.4 oz /11.g  lighter than the 19 at 10.44 oz / 296 g and a touch lighter than 20 helping place the weight in the realm of the reasonable for a heavy duty premium trainer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Brooks Running Caldera 3 Review

Article by Jeff Beck, Dom Layfield, Hope Wilkes, Dave Ames, and Jeff Valliere

Brooks Running Caldera 3 ($140)
  • Updated upper gives a little more room up front and has no overlays 
  • Outsole has better traction, especially on rock, than previous model.
  • Excellent cushioning and all day comfort.  
  • Fairly soft outsole rubber gives the shoe good road manners
  • Gaiter attachment points welcomed to keep out debris.
  • Mid foot hold on the most technical terrain at speed has suffered a bit in the tradeoff for more upper comfort with no overlays.
  • Thin laces.
  • Somewhat shallow lug depth may limit use to drier more groomed trails and rock surfaces.
  • Only one color way, so far, so if you have a moral opposition to the choices they’ve made you will miss out on a great shoe.
Official Weight: men’s 9.3 oz / 264 g , women’s 8.5 oz /241 g
US M10.5 D 10.6 ounces/300 g
US M10 Sample: 10.0 oz / 283 g (Dom)
Stack Height: 28/24 (without sockliner), 4 mm offset

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Under Armour UA HOVR Infinite and HOVR Guardian Review: HOVR goes Big and Connected

Article by Sam Winebaum

UA HOVR Infinite ($120) & HOVR Guardian ($120)

Last year's original HOVR Sonic (RTR review) was one of the big surprises of 2018. It combined a soft HOVR heel insert with stiffer side walls for a firmer yet decently shock free ride. Priced at $100 with a thoroughly modern design top to bottom it was a fine trainer.

This year UA expands the HOVR line with a daily neutral trainer the HOVR Infinite ($120)  and a stability trainer the HOVR Guardian ($120) as well as performance trainer HOVR Velociti 2 ($120, review soon) and an upper update to Sonic, the HOVR Sonic 2 ($100).

UnderArmour Introduces the HOVR Guardian, Velociti 2, and Sonic 2 in our YouTube

HOVR now goes goes full length in both these new shoes for a softer yet still stable ride. The two share similar very soft, disappear on the foot uppers with plenty of room and great support.  Both shoes are on the heavy side at 10.75 oz for Infinite and a very stout 12 oz for Guardian but run lighter than their weight, particularly Guardian. Both release in February 2019 and both are very reasonably priced at $120.

  • Full length soft HOVR foam supported/encased by firm Charged Foam makes for a comfortable and stable ride in both shoes.
  • Superb, roomy uppers that disappear on the foot.
  • Smooth blend of ample cushion, decent flexibility and adequate easy of transition in Guardian
  • Largely un noticed stability elements in Guardian
  • Both shoes have a built in Connect sensor for (optional) phone free distance, cadence, and stride length recording and form coaching. 
  • Very good values at $120 for plush premium trainers with built in sensing.
  • Infinite is heavy. Guardian is very heavy but both run lighter than their weight especially Guardian.
  • Infinite is very stiff, considerably stiffer than Guardian and not as much fun to run with a dense mid foot feel and quite labored transition
  • Inconsistent Connect sensor connect and synch performance 
 Skip the Written Review?
Watch our YouTube Review

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Hoka One One EVO Rehi Review: Gotta Go Fast Race Flat

By Michael Ellenberger & Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One EVO Rehi ($140)
The Skinny
Light, comfortable, and sharp-looking - a combination not often found in the same flat!
Doesn't quite have the HOKA signature super cush road-feel; unclear how the outsole, which is the midsole, will fare over time.
Low stack means a firm ride if a somewhat bouncy one

Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flat at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Sam is 61 with a recent 3:40 Boston qualifier. He runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range.

Sam: The Rehi represents Hoka's first traditional stack height, non maximal or near maximal race "flat".  Shoes like the Tracer and Hupana check in with at 20mm forefoot height, Rehi has 13mm up front and 17mm at the heel so low.  Forget max cushion here or cloud like soft Clifton bounce along. The comparison needs be to other flat type racers.  The difference between Rehi and other flats is that while stack heights are "traditional" for a flat, if lower drop than many at 4mm, the upper is a Kevlar supported MAYTRX mesh first seen in the trail EVO Mafate, while underfoot the midsole is the outsole, a  rubberized foam in two densities co molded together without glue: softer heel area, firmer forefoot area. We tested Rehi to see how it measured up.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Dom Layfield's Running Gear of the Year 2018

Article by Dominick Layfield

My Year in Review

2018 was not a stellar year for me.  I had foot surgery in late April that put the kibosh on most of my race plans.  And those races that I did enter were disappointing.  I DNF'ed at Angeles Crest 100, and again later at the Bear 100.  At UTMB, I opted to play it safe and make sure I finished.   My result was unimpressive, but I still had a very satisfying experience.
In 2019, I plan to be back at all three of these races, hoping to redeem myself.  Otherwise, I'm also going to venture outside of my comfort zone and run a road marathon at Boston.

Lightweight Trail Shoe of the Year: Altra Superior 4.0

I'm psyched that Altra let RTR release our review of the new Superior 4.0 a little early, because that means I can fudge the timing and designate it my shoe of the year 2018 -- even if it is not officially available until January 2019.  (Although I notice the shoe is available for preorder at REI.)

I enjoyed running in the Superior more than any shoe I can remember.
The new Superior is a "minimalist shoe for the masses".  I've always liked lightweight, unstructured running shoes, but have found truly minimalist shoes (like Merrell Trail Glove, Vibram Five Fingers etc.) offered too little cushioning.

The Superior 4.0 is wonderfully soft and sensitive, enabling invigorating barefoot-like sensation of the trail under your feet.  Hard-core minimalists may scoff, but for me the new Superior managed to strike a wonderful balance between sensitivity and cushioning.  Additionally, the shoe comes with a removable rock plate (which Altra brands "Stone Guard") that can be added underneath the insole to provide a little protection while still retaining the stellar ground feel.
All this comes with a fabulous and innovative burrito-style upper that provides a glove-like fit, and that RTR reviewers unanimously thought was outstanding.
The Superior 4.0 is not for everyone.  For many runners, it will be just too soft and unstructured, and lacking in protection.  Others will think it too squishy underfoot.  Even for me, it's just not a shoe I can wear all the time during high-volume training, and I can't imagine racing long distances (50 mile +) in it.

Long-haul Trail Shoe of the Year:  Hoka Challenger ATR 5

Consequently, my "mainstream" pick for trail shoe of the year is the excellent Hoka Challenger ATR 5.
What I loved most about this shoe is its simplicity.  There's little overt structure to the upper or the sole.  It's a wonderfully neutral shoe on the foot, but still provides that characteristic Hoka feel of bottomless cushioning.

This shoe has no weak spots, and gets everything just about right.   The Challenger ATR 5 is ideal as an everyday training shoe, while also being lightweight enough to use for racing.
In the past, I've found certain Hoka shoes uncomfortably narrow.  But the forefoot of the Challenger ATR 5 is decently spacious.  What's particularly exciting is that the shoe is also available in a wide version for those with hobbit feet, dealing with foot swelling (as occurs in 200-mile races, for example), or who just like to wiggle their toes.
This is the shoe that I'm planning to wear for my next hundred-mile race (conditions permitting!).

Running Headphones:  Aftershokz Trex Air

I've tried a bunch of running headphones, but find nearly all of them either uncomfortable or too isolating.   I like to hear the world around me when I'm running -- or doing almost any activity for that matter.  Maybe when grinding away on a dreadmill or other indoor trainer, I might want to shut out all external sound, but for pretty much everything else, it is good to hear what's going on.

Aftershokz Trex headphones are designed to sit outside your ear and transmit sound through your cheekbones, allowing you to simultaneously listen to your tunes and hear the growl of the mountain lion about to gobble you up!  Last year I used the Trex Titanium headphones, and found them a revelation.  They were the first headphones I've ever wanted to use regularly while exercising.   This year, I upgraded to the newer Trex Air version that is slightly lighter and with improved sound quality.

Like a lot of great products, much of what works well is unobtrusive.  Little things, like having a hoop connecting the two earpieces and not having to insert the speakers into your ears make taking the headphones on and off so much easier.  Having an easy-to-find button on the phones to pause the music or answer phone calls turns out to be extraordinarily handy.

Pushing the button on the earpiece pauses music playback and answers phone calls.

  • Bone conduction headphones allow you to simultaneously listen to music and hear the world around you
  • Light, convenient, simple.
  • Bluetooth works seamlessly, including handling phone calls.
  • You'll wonder how you got through life without them.
  • Audiophiles might complain that sound quality is not as good as conventional in-ear headphones.
  • Headphones don't get loud enough to perform well in noisy environments.
  • I found that plastics used in latest version (Trex Air) do not play well with certain chemicals in sunscreen.  On the plus side, Aftershokz warranty and customer service is excellent.  Aftershokz replaced my headphones promptly and with no quibbles.

Race Nutrition:  Maurten & Spring Energy Gels

If you race ultramarathons, you will have experienced the logistical and physiological problems associated with fuelling on the go.  No matter who you are, how steely your stomach, you will have experienced both the energy crashes when you don't take in enough fuel, and the nausea (and other gastrointestinal issues) that occur when you do.

This is a conspicuously unsolved problem in sports physiology.

Several companies are innovating in this area.  The two that I want to single out here are Maurten and Spring Energy.

Maurten's signature product is their hydrogel drink mix.  The concept is that they take a relatively simple carbohydrate drink formulation and add a chemical to it that forms a gel when exposed to the acid in your stomach.  Exactly why this is beneficial is actually debatable, but the likely reasons are (i) faster gastric emptying, and (ii) less sloshing around in your GI tract.

If you're a running geek, you've likely heard of Maurten, as all sorts of high-profile athletes have been using their products, including most conspicuously Eliud Kipchoge in his world-record-breaking run at the Berlin Marathon.  I hadn't heard of them until early 2018 and bought some to try.
For road marathons, and long events in relatively predictable environments, I think this is an important step forward.  However, for many trail and wilderness events, the logistics are too fragile.  The problem is that you need to limit your fuel exclusively to the Maurten drink, as the gel only forms at a limited range of concentrations or pH.  If you decide to chase down the Maurten drink with a liter of water, you will dilute it and the gel won't form.   More likely, you'll refill your bottles with whatever is available at race aid stations, and really mess things up.   If you have a effective support crew, and can control exactly what you ingest during a race, Maurten has the potential to be a game-changer.

For the reasons outlined above, Maurten's drink mix is not a good fit for many mountain races.   A more practical product that I discovered in 2018 are Spring Energy Gels.   In terms of macronutrient composition, their gels are relatively conventional.  What is most striking about their products is that they are made with real, natural foods like rice, banana pulp, mango, coconut etc.

I experimented with Spring Energy products at a couple of races, and really enjoyed the different flavor.  Late in a race, when you're suffering and your stomach is rebelling, it's hard to make yourself continue to ingest fuel.  There is a lot of what's called "flavor fatigue" where the things you've been eating for the last umpteen hours taste repellent.  No fuel that I've yet found is immune to this problem, but Spring gels are about the best in this regard.  They are a pleasant contrast to the overpowering sweetness of most gels.
I would suggest starting by interspersing Spring gels with whatever you're used to fueling with.  Spring sell directly through the web, and the best way to try them is their sampler pack of 12 assorted gels for $24.

Dominick Layfield
Dom lives in Southern California after several years in Park City, UT.  He is an avid trail runner who likes to race.  He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT, and has worked as a researcher in orthopedic biomechanics.  He trains and competes mainly on trails, running about 3000 miles and 500k ft of vert per year.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the Los Angeles marathon.

Sam Winebaum  (Editor and Founder) Road, Trail, and Tech 
Peter Stuart Road 
Michael Ellenberger Road
Jeff Valliere Trail

Dave Ames Road and Trail
Hope Wilkes Road
Jeff Beck's Road and Trail

Thanks for Reading Road Trail Run in 2018!
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