Friday, February 15, 2019

Altra Running Kayenta Review: Light, Smooth and Soft Fitting, Easy Running Zero Drop

Article by Dave Ames and Sam Winebaum


Altra Running Kayenta ($110)
Introduction
The Kayenta is a brand new approximately 7.1 oz /202 g light performance trainer. I has, despite its light weight, a substantial 23mm Zero Drop stack Max LT midsole with minimal yet strategic outsole rubber coverage and great flexibility.  


Essentially, the Kayenta was said by Altra to slot in between the Vanish-R and Duo for those wanting a firmer, more responsive lightweight training ride and as a long race, tri, and tempo option  Its Max-LT midsole, shared with the Duo has firmer responsive characteristics with some of EGO's bounce. It is about an ounce lighter than the bouncier EGO midsole similar stack Escalante 1.5 and is about an half an ounce lighter than the lower stack Escalante Racer. For 10K and shorter races the Vanish-R is the choice in the line and continues. The One does not continue.

Kayenta features an adaptive two layer upper. First there is an inner and quite substantial stretch sock/slipper like inner (other socks clearly optional here), then four A straps (blue tabs seen above) at midfoot each acting as  lace loops and then running down to the midsole and finally an outer very ventilated non stretch thin mesh layer with pliable no sew overlays. It should fit a variety of foot types.

Somehow this very deconstructed yet layered approach works very well. The foot hold is comfortable, very soft everywhere and secure.


Pros:
Truly slipper meets running shoe with a foot form fitting upper which should work for a wide range of foot shapes.
Well balanced shoe for zero drop, pick up the pace to slow tempo and heel is not missed at all.
Ideal introductory Altra Zero Drop shoe.
Very flexible, foot bones molding, well cushioned, soft and easy to move along

Cons:
Dave:  Runs small
Dave: Did not wow me after 8 or so miles (ends up being limited in my rotation, due to not enough underfoot) - - Not necessarily raceable, rather trainer for me.
Sam: While wonderful in feel. the flexible softer, forefoot lacks a touch of racing/fast snap and response.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

adidas Ultra Boost 19 Review - Yes Virginia, it's finally a real running shoe!

Article by Jeff Beck

adidas Ultra Boost 19 ($180)
Introduction
The first major overhaul of the vaunted adidas Ultra Boost, the Ultra Boost 19 has taken largely a lifestyle (or at least its most prevalent use) shoe and turned it into a bonafide runner. Claiming 20% more Boost material underfoot, the Ultra Boost 19 is more cushioned without being sloppy. The extra squish, along with the deletion of the previous versions' ubiquitous (and awful) plastic midfoot cage has created a shoe that's enjoyable, if not a little confusing, to run in.

Pros
-Primeknit upper holds the foot well
-Lots of Boost underneath gives a comfortable ride
-Outsole grip is outstanding in wet and dry

Cons
-Expensive
-Too heavy for a fast shoe

Monday, February 11, 2019

Gore Wear H5 Fast Hike Collection Review: Ideal for Variable Conditions Mountain Running and Hiking

by Jeff Valliere

Introduction:  Don't let the "Hike" in the Fast Hike Collection fool you.  The majority of my Winter "runs" involve very steep hiking (and some running) up technical trails, followed by a fast plunge back down the hill to make it home in time for dinner/family obligations.  The trails are often covered in snow, ice, drifted snow and is not entirely uncommon to encounter high winds, sometimes even of hurricane force as storms pummel the Continental Divide.  Selecting the right clothing can be tricky, especially given the rapid changes in weather terrain and elevation.

For running/fast hiking in moderate to cold windy and snowy conditions, the Gore H5 GORE-TEX  Active Hooded Jacket and Gore H5 Gore Windstopper Hybrid Pants have quickly become my go to on colder winter runs, especially if there may be wind and precipitation involved.

Test Conditions/Location:  January/February in the foothills of Boulder Colorado at elevations ranging from 5,300 feet up to 8,500 feet.  Temperatures ranged from the low single digits to nearly 50 degrees, night running, sunny days, cloudy days, heavy dry snowfall and in windy conditions with blowing snow.

Friday, February 08, 2019

New Balance 890v7 Initial Run Impressions Review: Dramatic Drop in Weight, Improved Stable Ride

Article by Sam Winebaum

We have a full review coming with input from multiple testers but here are some initial impressions after two runs in the 890v7.

New Balance 890v7 ($120)
The New Balance 890v7 is called out by New Balance as having a "sleek and lightweight design which makes it the perfect daily trainer and dedicated workout shoe".  The 890v7 is priced at $120 and will be available early April 2019.

The big news here is that my size US 8.5 sample weighs 6.6 oz /187 grams for a massive 2.3 oz drop from my 890v6 sample (RTR review) at the same size.

With a catalog spec of 7.1 oz men's and women's at 5.5 oz /158 g it should come in a touch under 7 oz. / 198 g in a size 9 (New Balance I believe using size 9.5 for catalog weights). That is light!

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP Review - A Top Pick for Winter & Wet Running and Fast Hiking

by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum


Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid Waterproof ($160)
Introduction
The Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP adds a waterproof breathable SkyShell soft bootie upper and a mid height substantial ankle supporting but not constraining cuff to the iconic super cushioned Speedgoat trail runner, without adding a big weight penalty. It is shod with a versatile Vibram MegaGrip outsole which is equally effective on snow, hard ground, or rock. The result..both a highly capable trail runner for rough and wet terrain and a superb light hiker, fast packing and thru hiking option with considerably more comfortable and softer cushion than the usual hard cushion of traditional hikers. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Polar Vantage V GPS Multi-Sport Watch Initial Review Updated: With Patience You Will be Rewarded!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Update: With the release of Polar's first major firmware update (3.0) to the Vantage on February 11, 2019 the review will be progressively updated as I test the new features.

I have been testing the Polar Vantage V for a few months now and yes it takes time for it to analyze your trends to see its benefits but now I feeling the famous "Polar Flow”. With a month of steady consistent training in Park City I am now seeing the magic of the system despite the new Vantage V's early warts.
Tolerance above is a 28 day average of my ability to endure cardiac training. January 1st arriving in Park City I was at 80, now while closely following the Polar Flow data, I am at 116 so progress on my training for Boston.

Strain above is my average daily load over the last 7 days. It is shown as "Productive" in the green so good. It took me a while to learn from the data that I was not training quite hard enough as I was often stuck in “Maintaining”.  
The picture above starting the top graph shows my cardio load status and indicates did not "Over reach" much, the orange area, and need to a bit more. The graph below shows my Strain (purple) vs Tolerance (blue) with the red bars being my daily cardio load. Clearly, its shows working with the Polar Flow system's data as the month went by I tolerated an increasing training load.

Monday, February 04, 2019

The North Face Gore CloseFit Tricot Gloves Review: New Infinium fabric tech creates a remarkably comfortable, versatile, multi activity, all seasons companion!

Article by Jeff Valliere, Dominique Winebaum, Sam Winebaum, and Sally Reiley

The NorthFace Gore CloseFit Tricot Gloves ($45)


Introduction
The NorthFace Gore CloseFit Tricot Gloves represent one of the very first products made with Gore’s new Infinium technology. Gore created Infinium ( a sandwich of membrane and other fabrics) for situations when “comfort and performance take priority over waterproofness.” The single seam Closefit gloves are thin, soft, only slightly stretchy, very form fitting and well articulated. They are highly wind resistant and very breathable, as well as decently water resistant but are not waterproof. They are a great companion for high output activities such as running and as a super functional (grip and touch screen use) liner under heavier gloves and mittens.
The palm starting at the thumb and the next two fingers have a series of printed silicone dots for what has proven to be great grip and durability.
All the fingertips and rest of the palm have U/R Powered soft shell for five finger touch screen operation.
During our four tester evaluation, thanks to the Infinium’s wind resistance and some very light brushed fleece on the back of the hand they have served as a standalone glove for a variety of high output activities down into the 20’s F / -3 to 4 C for some of us, as well as liner under alpine ski mittens. At somewhat warmer temperatures, they have also proven comfortable absorbing little moisture despite their snug fit. Of course your own hand comfort range will be personal. The wide range of temperatures comfortably possible, durability, touch screen operation functionality, and sleek looks truly make these gloves a multi season, multi activity piece of gear that should always be in your pack or bag!


First Impressions, Look, and Fit
Jeff:  I didn’t really have any expectations, but the gloves are thinner than I imagined and also more tapered at the wrist, meaning that even the men’s glove has a tapered women’s glove look (I had to double check the packaging to confirm they are indeed Men’s).  There is no insulation beyond a very thin brushed fleece on the back of the hands, nor any substantive cloth pile. There is a taut, but somewhat stretchy feel to them. Quality feels top notch with a nice grippy non slip coating on the upper palm, extending along the thumb, forefinger and middle finger to help grip ski poles and other winter tools and to reduce the chances of fumbling slippy items like an iPhone.


I have very thin hands/fingers (wedding band size 7.5), and normally wear a medium glove and these fit true to size, long enough for my fingers, reaching the ends without feeling confined or having extra material at the tips.


Sam: I noticed that after 3 or 4 uses the women’s medium which I shared with Dominique has stretched some. I usually wear a size men’s size medium glove. Don’t size up from your normal glove size, these are designed to fit snug and too much room will have you struggling with the touch screen capabilities. If you don't care about the touch screen capability sizing up will allow you to ball your hands some when really cold as I did with the X Large pair Gore sent.
Sally: First of all, let’s preface this with the fact that I almost always prefer a mitten, unless the temp is over 40 degrees. My hands are always cold. For last year’s cold and wet Boston Marathon, I dressed in far more kit than others advised, and yet I was comfortably warm and finished the marathon without hypothermia. EXCEPT for my hands! No amount of wool mitten liner, waterproof (supposedly) outer mitt, and handwarmers could keep my hands functional.
So I rarely choose a glove over a mitten for warmth.


We did not see mild temps in New England until yesterday, so I was excited to finally give these gloves a try.  I might be a petite female runner, but I have large “manhands” and wear a glove size 8. The women’s small fit a bit snug on my hands, particularly the trigger finger. Others have said that they stretch a bit after several wears, so I am hoping for that.  The fingers were plenty long. These gloves are very light, comfortable, and smart looking. The long gauntlet wrist is unique - hoping it will serve to keep my wrists warm, and hence my hands.


Performance
Jeff:  I have used the gloves trail running in temps from as low as the mid 20’s in the dark with high winds and dabbing hands in fresh snow, all the way up to the 50’s and sunny.  I found them to be adequate for those mid 20’s temps if you are moving at least at a moderate intensity and generating heat, but if moving at a casual pace or stopping for a few minutes, my fingers got cold and then had trouble warming up again.  At warmer temps, like 30’s and 40’s, I had no trouble staying warm. I should note that although I have a tendency to dress more conservatively on the side of warm, more often than not I prefer and am comfortable with non insulated, but thin clothy glove liners for most of my runs in the mid 20’s up to ~50 degrees.  Colder than mid 20’s, I’ll wear a slightly thicker glove liner type glove (but this is all for high output activity).


On a recent calm, mid day sunny run in the 50’s, my hands were comfortable and not too warm.
Water resistance is excellent, having made slushy snowballs and dabbed my hand in fresh fluffy snow on cold runs without any soaking.  I do find that my hands can get a touch clammy and damp from the inside, but the Gore Infinium keeps the wind out and heat contained which beats a soaked out, more porous liner.


When my hands are somewhat clammy (when running hard), I find that I have to work them a bit to pull them off (vs. quickly sliding off gloves by clenching the tip of the middle finger in my teeth and sliding them off).


Touch screen performance is good.  The actual touch sensitivity is excellent, though I find that with any glove, precision is compromised as one would expect.  I can operate my iPhone 8 such that I can punch in my passcode, take a photo, answer a call, make a call, check texts, activate Siri or perform basic app. operations, but if the target of what you are trying to press is small, then it can take a few tries.  I would by no means be able to type any text and often outside the most basic operations, prefer to remove my glove, or wait till later.


Dexterity is excellent and I am able to easily operate my GPS watch, wireless headphones, zippers, clips, buckles, etc….


So far durability is goodI have seen no wear whatsoever with the gloves, using them for daily runs, while grabbing rocks and trees, etc....I will update after more use and see how long it takes me to blow through the fingertips, which always happens to me due to rock scrambling or using my hands a lot on very steep runs.


Dominique: The North Face Gore-Tex Closefit Tricot Gloves, proved to be multi-functional, super versatile as well as free of wear and tear, after weeks of sporting them during the month of January in Park City, UT where I used them to run, Nordic ski, Alpine ski as well as for general wear. They totaled over 65 miles of nordic skiing, 10 days of Alpine skiing under mittens, and every day wear, including to Sundance movies. Below a picture of what they look like now.
With the exception of some light wear of the silicone dots on the first two fingers below the touch screen soft shell, they are like new. Obviously, they are not a dedicated nordic ski glove with their leather palm and often double layers of palm reinforcements, but for more occasional holding of poles and certainly for running and everyday use one should expect at least a couple of years of use out of them.
I ventured to wear the gloves cross country skiing, spurred by their close fit and sleek design, as well as their breathable, water resistant, and windproof qualities.  On colder days, hand warmth was a bit compromised, however, the ease of strapping my poles to my hands was noticeable as well as the lack of blisters – not always a given!  The five-finger touch screen capability allowed me to operate my phone without having to remove my gloves although I had to make sure that the tips of my fingers were in tight contact with the tips of the glove fingers.


When Alpine skiing, I wore the gloves as a liner to my mittens for added comfort and protection.  
Unlike wool liners, the gloves with their silicone dots on the palms enabled me to get a good grip on my skis when holding them without mittens.  


Again, I really appreciated the five-finger touch screen capability when operating my phone so that I could keep my gloves on and my hands warm. Despite their sleek and thin and snug design, their somewhat looser long wirst length provides enough room for a layer with thumbholes to fit under the glove when added warmth is needed and also rolled back easily enough to see a GPS watch.
In terms of warmth, this is a factor a bit hard to determine and based on everyone tolerances.  Back in New Hampshire, I wore them running in 22 F weather with a wind chill factor of 14 F. My hands felt fine though they would have felt cold if I had been Nordic skiing with wind on downhills. I was fine nordic skiing in Park City well down into the 20’s with no wind.
Testing gear, as I frequently do, means that some items will get more long term use than others.  The North Face Gore-Tex Closefit Tricot Gloves have become my favorite gloves and I wear them driving, grocery shopping, and walking around town, in addition to skiing (as described above) and running.  
Sally: Runners who prefer gloves in the colder months are going to love these for many reasons. They are sleek, comfortable, supple. The long back of the glove has great windblock capabilities. The dexterity while wearing these gloves is seemingly unparalleled - it is awesome to have touch screen capability in all the fingers, not just the one trigger finger. 
You can easily operate your GPS watch, use your phone, or take a photo without removing them. They will be great around town gloves for the shoulder seasons here.
I remain unconvinced that they will be warm enough to keep my perennially cold hands warm on a run in chilly temps, but that is strictly a personal variation and preference. Milder days? I love them!

The only drawbacks (besides the above biggie) for me were the challenging overlap/incapability with the long gauntlet wrist and my GPS watch. I like to wear my Garmin against the skin for wrist heartrate accuracy, and that doesn’t work with these gloves. I had to roll them/shove them above the wrist to make room for the watch, so that defeats the purpose of the design of the long wrist gauntlet.

Secondly, though the fabric on the backs of the thumb and the hand is surprisingly soft, there is no dedicated nose wipe fabric! Like thumb holes on a running top, this is a key feature for me.
These gloves work great for walking the dog, and the dexterity makes for easy doggy cleanup. :)

Shop for the CloseFit Gloves at The North Face: men's here women's here

Read reviewers' full run bios here
Photo Credits: Jeff Valliere, Sam Winebaum, Dominique Winebaum, and Sally Reiley
The product reviewed in this article provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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Sunday, February 03, 2019

New Balance Zante Pursuit Review

Article by Derek Li, Hope Wilkes, Michael Ellenberger and Kathleen Valadez

New Balance Zante Pursuit  ($110)
Introduction
Derek: The Zante line has been a staple of New Balance running shoes since 2015, and has a huge loyal following. The first Zante was in many ways revolutionary in that it really put a focus on how to design a shoe to make it transition faster and allow the runner to do less work per stride. That combination of firm heel-soft forefoot, full coverage outsole rubber, and very pronounced toespring created quite a fun, enjoyable, go-fast shoe. Over the next few iterations of the shoe, it got a little heavier and a little firmer overall, making it more of a lightweight trainer than a potential road racer. In steps the Zante Pursuit for 2019, with a new knitted upper and a throwback lower weight a full ounce lighter than v4. With that in mind, let’s see how these new puppies perform!

Tester Profiles
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.
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 flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.
Kathleen is in her late 20’s and a former college 5K/10K runner. These days, she runs for fun and stress relief, about 30 miles a week between 7:00-7:30 minutes/per mile.
Full reviewer bios here


Pros:
Derek: Very comfortable upper, softer overall feel than Zante v4 with better vibration dampening
Michael: Upper is one of the industry’s best; outsole, despite lack of scoring, is dynamic and gives a smooth ride.
Hope: Astoundingly lightweight, comfortable upper, durable outsole
Kathleen: I like the appearance and the lavender color, felt soft and lightweight


Cons:
Derek: Upper does not provide enough lockdown for a speed-oriented shoe.
Michael: Not quite a racer, not quite a trainer, the cushion falls in-between.
Hope: Harsh underfoot feel, toe spring is unforgiving over the long haul
Kathleen: Not quite enough shoe to be an everyday trainer for me

Friday, February 01, 2019

Hoka One One EVO Carbon Rocket Initial Runs Impressions Review: Explosive Power!

Article by Sam Winebaum

EVO Carbon Rocket  ($160)
We will have a full multi-tester review soon but wanted to share some first runs impressions of the
EVO Carbon Rocket +,  Hoka's answer in the carbon plated race shoe arms race.
It weighs 7.55 oz 214 g for my US men's 8.5 so about 7.7 oz /  218 g for a US men's 9 and has a retail price of $160. It has a 26mm heel /25 mm forefoot not including the substantial 4mm Ortholite removable sock liner. It is available now. See shopping choices at the end of the article.