Saturday, July 20, 2019

ON Running Cloudstratus Review: Swiss Engineered Heavy Duty Road Cruiser

Article by Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

ON Cloudstratus ($170)

Introduction
Jeff: The ON CloudStratus is ON’s second release of the year featuring their new cushioning material, Helion. It is also their first offering using a double stack of their ubiquitous cloud pods that are on all of their shoes. The result is the smoothest running shoe ON has made, and a daily trainer that can handle solid mileage - married with an ultra premium upper that is breathable and comfortable without sacrificing foot security. The CloudStratus is a big step forward for ON Running.
Sam: We just spent 13 days across Switzerland. We realized that along with all the mountains, cows, and green pastures it is also a very modern country with cool new architecture, very well engineered infrastructure, and many small high tech factories in just about every village and town. The Cloudstratus reflects modern Switzerland well with impeccable engineering, quality construction, and in our samples a bright even striking visual design.

Pros:
Sam/Jeff: Finally an ON without a harsh heel landing
Sam/Jeff: Superb upper with well held copious volume and innovative new lacing system which reduces flex point pressure yet holds well
Sam/Jeff: Smooth, Stable Transitions 
Sam/Jeff: Swiss quality top to bottom
Jeff/Sam: Aesthetics may be love it or hate, but I absolutely love it
Cons:
Sam/Jeff: Weight at 11.1 oz is up there and felt.
Sam/Jeff: Superb quality and expected many miles durability but price at $170 is up there
Watch Sam’s Video Review

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New Balance FuelCell Propel Multi Tester Review: A "Cool" Shoe. A Superb Upper Tops a Soft and Smooth Ride

Article by Jacob Brady, Peter Stuart, Michael Ellenberger, and Hope Wilkes

Editor's Note:
We welcome Jacob Brady to the RoadTrailRun review team. He began running casually in college and after a season of triathlon training transitioned to a distance running focus. He started his run streak (at least 2mi, every day) in April 2018 and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob runs a mix of roads and trails; most recently, he qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon (2:54), completed his first trail ultra (50km), and has been getting into the trail racing scene. Jacob often places in the top 10 finishers in local races around the Portland, Maine area. In addition to running, he surfs, bikes (both mountain and road), and nordic skis. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava here.

New Balance FuelCell Propel ($110)
Introduction
The New Balance FuelCell Propel checks in at about 9 oz / 255 g with a 6mm drop. It releases August 1, 2019 and is also available in wide. It features an exciting new midsole foam called FuelCell. FuelCell is said by New Balance to have a minimum of 39% more rebound than its Revlite foam found in its performance shoes such as the 1400 and we can say it sure does! It is the training companion to the FuelCell Rebel (RTR Review)
Soft and very bouncy, FuelCell is contained by a broad midsole geometry and a full contact outsole. The Propel is an exciting new option in the lighter daily trainer category going head to head with Nike offerings with React and Zoom X foam, Skechers Hyper Burst, Reebok's Forever Energy, and for sure New Balance's own Fresh Foam.
Jacob: I was very excited to experience the next new super foam; to some level the first from New Balance, no less. The FuelCell Propel is the daily trainer model in the recently released series of shoes from New Balance making use of their FuelCell midsole. The line also includes the up tempo FuelCell Rebel (RTR Review) and the road mile short racer FuelCell 5280. The shoe promises a wide slab of bouncy goodness and boasts modern styling with a no real overlays, no big New Balance ‘N’, and a tall, swooped heel collar; an exciting start.


Peter: After experiencing the FuelCell foam in the NB FuelCell Rebel, I was excited to see how it would translate to a more typical daily trainer.

Hope: In the “Foam Wars” where some brands push us into higher priced models lest we miss out entirely on their best midsole tech, New Balance has three great options with Fresh Foam, Rev-Lite, and now FuelCell and multiple shoes that feature each. Having read some rave reviews for the FuelCell Rebel, my FOMO was in full effect when I was happily surprised with the chance to run in the FuelCell Propel, NB’s daily trainer vehicle for their new super foam.


Pros
Jacob:    Comfortable, well-fitting upper
     Flexible, soft, and bouncy midsole
Michael: Terrific upper and midsole combination; 
     Dynamic enough for nearly any pace; 
     Shoe could almost be run sockless
Peter:     Great upper, easy to dial in.
    Great new midsole material
    Really good outsole, great grip.
Hope: 
Roomy toe box and secure midfoot and heel lockdown — always a  winning combination, 
   Comfortable and runs smooth


Cons
Jacob: 
Slightly short; the fit for me was great overall but I could see those on the line between sizes having to size up just for length and then having the shoe feel too large overall.
The midsole is on the extreme end of softness, likely too much for some
Michael: Slightly too mushy
Peter: none
Hope: too soft for my liking, accelerated outsole wear, kind of ugly (sorry!)
Watch Sam's Initial FuelCell Propel Video Review

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tecnica Origin Review: Custom Shaped to Foot Italian Sports Car of a Trail Runner in 20 Minutes

Article by Jeff Valliere, Don Reichelt, and Sam Winebaum


Tecnica Origin XT ($170)
Tecnica Origin LT ($170)


Introduction
Sam: Tecnica Sports is a long time Italian ski and hiking boot manufacturer that also owns Blizzard skis. Their entry into trail running shoes adeptly leverages the now common practice of heating and shaping ski boot liners and shells for custom fits.
Launching July 2019, after in 2018 introducing two custom molded hiking/ trekking shoes, the Tecnica C-A-S (Custom Adaptive Shape) process for the new Origin XT and LT trail runners is carried out in 20-30 minutes, and only at retail stores with the system. The customizing of the shoes is done by heating and shaping a custom foot bed as well as heating and shaping the rear of the shoe with the just molded foot bed in place. 
It differs from options with custom uppers and midsole outsole combinations chosen by customers then fabricated in mini factories such as Salomon ME:sh or in the case of Brooks’ still to launch Fit Station a process including an in store biometric analysis with fabrication from an arch length (limited number of arch lengths per size) last and then a custom injected midsole based on runner data. The Brooks and Salomon options are made in mini manufacturing cells off site, so complex. With Tecnica the equipment is in each store and relatively simple. The customer gets on the spot custom shoes, the retailer has an online proof product to sell.


It’s not just about custom shaping the two trail models to each runner's foot, gender and weight. The somewhat lower stack LT and beefier XT have a superb tri-density midsole, a narrow plastic insert front of heel to mid foot for a touch of pronation control and stability, a flexible plastic rock plate and a moderate lug height Vibram MegaGrip outsole. Origin is available in gender specific models in two specific midsole densities based on the runner’s weight. Talk about customization! 

The Origin was clearly the most compelling run innovation we saw at Outdoor Retailer this June in Denver. 
WATCH AS TECNICA PRESENTS THE ORIGIN AT OUTDOOR RETAILER
I immediately wore my custom molded pair the first day of the show and wore them for both subsequent days for the long days on the concrete. For the first time ever at a trade show, truly, I had no heel for foot pain during or after the show.. They were on to something. We were eager to see how they performed on Colorado and New Hampshire trails. 

Pros
Sam/Jeff/Don: Early pick for trail shoe of the year! Overall that good.
Sam: 
Custom molded insole really puts the foot in full contact with the midsole and ground
Custom molded heel counter with clever medial extension locks the foot to the platform without any pressures.
Single piece laminated upper pulls everything together with while not wide with plenty of toe box room.
Very stable on rough terrain, decently lively on smoother terrain.
Dense and super protective midsole has great cushion, some light bounce and agile flex.
Jeff: 
Precision Custom Fit
Comfort
Security
Versatile traction
Responsive
Agile 
Protection
Don: Fit, Secure feeling, rock protection, stability on different terrain, custom fit, misole feels great at all paces, 


Cons:
Jeff/ Sam:  
Lacing/”tongue” could be dialed in for increased security. Laces are thin and a bit fussy to dial in
Rand could be more continuous/protective around the forefoot
Sam/Don: Sizing is a little long, sized down a half size from my usual trail fit. 
Sam:  Somewhat dense dull ride on smoother firm terrain.
Don: The upper “bunches” a bit when tied snuggly.
Watch our YouTube Review of the Origin

Monday, July 15, 2019

Brooks Running Revel 3 Multi Tester Review: Lighter, Softer, Do it All, Fun to Run Surprise and Only $100!

Article by Hope Wilkes, Michael Ellenberger and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Revel 3 ($100)
Introduction
Sam: The Revel 3 sees significant changes from its forgettable predecessor which none of us ran.
  • Weight drops 1.4 oz / 39 g!
  • Revel goes from a 12mm to a 8mm drop
  • Softer midsole comparable to Ghost, Revel 2 midsole was comparable to Launch 6's
  • Flat knit upper

Brooks originally said it was targeted at not only running but “ work, working out, and beyond.”  Ignoring the marketing, we think it is one heck of a nice, light and simple performance trainer at a great price with a lively softer ride. It is not the first “budget” shoe of 2019 to woo us, the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy is another great example from this year’s crop. Simple, well executed without extra fancy tech.


Hope: The Revel is a model that I avoided in its first two iterations. It just looked too “lifestyle” for me, not like a serious performance trainer. I’m glad I finally got over my preconceived notions and strapped the Revel 3 on my feet. It’s one of the most fun shoes I’ve tried in a while. If the prospect of a Brooks Launch 1-Saucony Kinvara 7 hybrid priced very fairly at $100 makes you drool, you’re going to flip over these. 


Michael: I hadn’t just avoided the first two Revel offerings - I had never heard of it!  But, like the others, the Revel was a massive surprise, and one of my favorites in 2019 thus far. I don’t know what necessarily makes this a “do-it-all” or non running shoe; while it doesn’t pack Brooks’s newest technologies, it does include a solid BioMoGo DNA midsole and flat knit upper, and looks (to my eyes) like any other trainer from Brooks. But at $100, I think the Revel is a more competitive choice than (what I found to be) a lackluster Ghost update, and a shoe that should appeal to a wide swatch of runners, novice to advanced.


Pros: 
Hope/Sam: Flexible, smooth, spacious toe box, lots of durable outsole
Michael/Sam: Responsive and comfortable; pricepoint ($100!); wide range from recovery days to tempo.


Cons: 
Hope: Colorway is kind of weak, could maybe be a touch lighter but this is a nitpick
Michael: For a "lifestyle"shoe, it’s not a looker.
Sam: Lack of reflectivity, plain look.
WATCH OUR VIDEO REVIEW

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Topo Athletic MTN Racer Multi Tester Review

Article by Dom Layfield, Don Reichelt, Jeff Valliere, Jeff Beck, and Sam Winebaum

Topo Athletic MTN Racer ($140)
Introduction
The MTN Racer is essentially, on the surface, the Ultraventure (RTR Review) with a somewhat firmer midsole, Vibram Megagrip outsole instead of Vibram XS Trek, topped with a ripstop nylon mesh upper instead of more conventional mesh.


It shares a tri density midsole, 30/25mm stack height and 5mm drop with Ultraventure, and the same general overall fit with an anatomical toe box and secure mid foot and heel hold.


It ends up about 0.5 oz lighter at 9.75 oz / 276 g than the Ultraventure and there is no doubt it is a lot of shoe for the relatively light weight.


Topo calls out the MTN Racer as for “trail racing and speed hiking” whereas we found the Ultraventure to be more an easy cruiser type shoe and a pretty good road trail hybrid.  So what did our testers discover? Please read on to find out,


Pros
Sam/Jeff V: Outstanding front protection and amount of cushion while also remaining stable and flexible
Sam/Jeff V/Dom: Totally secure fit and hold without over constraining with plenty of volume
Don/Jeff V/ Sam: Firm midsole with solid traction. Wide toe box with ample room across the metatarsal arch. Lighter weight than it looks. 
Dom: Stellar traction
Dom: Great foot hold, Comfort
Jeff B: Solid cushioning, fantastic traction, great foot shape


Cons:
Sam/Jeff V/Dom/ Jeff B : Somewhat dull firm ground ride, lacks a touch of bounce
Sam: Overall balance: High 25mm front stack height, while flexible, is not particularly agile, 30mm heel while well cushioned and stable feels low in comparison to forefoot. 
Dom: Poor breathability
Don: Extremely warm due to the lack of venting on the upper. Firm ride is not comfortable for easy miles and has no ground feel. 
Jeff B: firmer foam doesn’t provide much more rock protection than Ultraventure

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Brooks Running Ghost 12 Multi Tester Review- Ethereal Upper, More Down to Earth Ride

Article by Jeff Beck, Hope Wilkes, Sally Reiley and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Ghost 12 ($130)

Introduction 
Sam: The Ghost 12 doesn’t change its long time formula of a heavily cushioned and stable neutral trainer with a solid upper. The Ghost is not a shoe one will get in trouble with, surprise with fast splits, or have you do a double take of joy or displeasure when you weigh them. Weighing 10 oz so approximately  0.2 oz less than Ghost 11 and with a 12mm drop it leans towards the heavier and more traditional side of modern daily trainers. 


The Ghost 12 has a number of subtle and mostly effective improvements which in no way change its fundamental character but result in a nearly invisible feeling (and very quiet) shoe top to bottom, truly ghost like in its refined execution and total comfort. 

When actually run, it has less of an ethereal feel and more a protective solid yet soft plushness that feels a touch heavy and slow to move fast. And that’s OK as the Ghost is designed for high mileage, high comfort, great durability, and steady as she goes for runners of all types including beginners and heavier runners.

We think most fans of prior Ghosts will be very pleased with this update. Below what noted running one Ghost 12 on one foot and an 11 on the other:
  • a less “harsh” mid foot hold, the 11 upper was truly over built dense and warm at midfoot. The 12 is very easy on the foot and has noticeably softer and more comfortable toe bumper
  • a more flexible upper leading to easier toe offs with a great set of fatter easy to dial laces.
  • deeper midfoot cavity eased transitions while more segmented rear rubber deflected shock, but to much?

Hope: I put a lot of miles in the Ghost 3 many years ago. Looking at pictures of my old pair (the ones with the navy and neon accents, if you’re curious), I do see some similarities between the ~2011 Ghost 3 and the 2019 Ghost 12. Stylistic sensibilities have changed (thank goodness), but the Ghost remains a solidly “traditional” shoe. What I mean by that: 8 mm heel-toe offset (high by some standards, but realistically a middle-of-the-road drop) and a thick, nearly full-coverage rubber outsole. Sometimes I like to describe durability as “tankiness.” At roughly 10 oz, the Ghost 12 isn’t a super heavyweight tank, but it’s one that’s built to run for a long time. That’s traditional in the best sense, right? Built to last. That said, there are some “traditional” features of the Ghost 12 that I don’t totally love. I’ll get into those in the review. 


Pros
Hope: so good looking I immediately put them on my feet when I got them, walk around comfort, fit
Jeff/Sam: Breathable upper, comfortable midsole/outsole, everything you’d expect in a Ghost
Sally/Sam: Classic looking, uber comfortable shoe right out of the box. Great running shoe for the average runner not concerned about weight, pace and energy return. Ghost like silence under foot on the roads. Disappears on the foot.


Cons
Hope: firm heel, inflexible midfoot, wish there was more DNA Loft
Jeff: Glycerin is less than an ounce heavier and offers substantially more, feels like the safe choice rather than the great one.
Sally: Dull ride. Stiff feel with little energy return. Had to work hard for a fast split.
Sam: The wonderful, quiet, smooth transitioning ride is over soft and heavy feeling at the heel and overall the shoe lacks some pop and response up front.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% Initial Review and Shoe Details: Cushier and Lighter!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% ($250)


Introduction
With the Next% already for sale in Europe I picked up a pair via StockX just ahead of its July11 US release. I was a huge fan of the very original ice blue Vaporfly 4% setting many 8 year personal bests in many distances in them in 2017 (RTR Review). I was less of a fan of the Vaporfly Flyknit (RTR Review) as I found it firmer with less of that distinctive drop forward and spring away feel of the original and not nearly as comfortable an upper.

Hearing the Next% had 15% more Zoom X foam, much concentrated at the forefoot, a lower 8mm drop, a new outsole design and overall geometry and a new thin VaporWeave upper I was eager to test the marathon world record setting shoe. 
Key Highlights
Science has shown and the Vaporfly has proved that among the keys to improving running economy are reducing the weight of the racing shoe, improving its energy "return", and keeping legs fresher longer. The Next% clearly focuses on these elements.
  • 15% more high energy "returning" Zoom X foam and a  thicker front outsole leads to a softer forefoot ride than any previous VF, yet one with carbon pop.
  • The weight drops 0.3 oz / 10 g to an amazing estimated sub 6.5 oz / 184 g for a US9 (Sample: US8.5 176 g)
  • Apparent lower position of the carbon plate at the heel, low medial side walls plus firmer and thicker well placed heel outsole leads to a softer yet considerably more stable heel. 
  • The oh so thin VaporWeave upper, first real heel counter in a VaporFly and asymmetrical lacing holds the foot well front to back.
  • I was true to my size 8.5 with thinner medium socks, as I was in predecessors, with the original requiring thicker socks and Flyknit quite snug and low over the toes for me. The upper fit and feel is closer to the original than Flyknit, if a touch snugger but with no sloppiness. 
  • The ride has less of that drop forward and spring away feel of the original VF, feeling more level and stable with the front of the shoe providing a broad platform for a more vertical less abrupt toe off and spring away than the original.I miss the very original VF's dynamism at bit but don't miss the firmer stiffer feel of the VF Flyknit.  Compared to the Hoka Carbon X with its flat carbon plate and 2mm lower drop the Next% with its spoon shaped plate is not as flat feeling and is easier to transition. 
  • There is enough cushion and overall  stability for me to easily daily train in the Next%, something I would hesitate to do in prior VF or even new Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review). This said given the rigid plate it is best to mix the new VF with other shoes in training. 
WATCH OUR INITIAL VIDEO REVIEW WITH FULL SHOE DETAILS


Update: I did a progression run with each mile faster with an overall pace 8:32 / mile a bit slower than my 2017 Boston qualifier so a mix of slower and faster miles with ending mile at my half pace. 

Some observations:
  • The %Next is considerably more stable than the 4%. My run included some rough concrete sidewalks and some off camber road shoulders and I was totally stable despite the obviously narrow platform. 
  • The ride is more "level" than the very original VF meaning less of a sense of drop forward to toe off and by my sense closer to the later firmer VF but... here the forefoot and heel is more forgiving while not being in any way mushy soft. It is clearly and by spec more cushioned.  
  • There is less of a sense of a particular groove, a slight forward lean to activate the plate and toe off of the original. Thus, I found slower paces easier to handle but faster paces not quite as distinctly dynamic at toe off, with a more vertical than forward sensation but not one requiring a deliberate knee lift action as in the Carbon X.  I had no issues stepping up the pace at each mile
  • The combination of massive cushion without a sense of lost energy or instability  and the light weight is remarkable, even more so than the originals. 
  • At least for me and I am a heel striker, somehow, so far Nike has solved the notorious ugly very rapid scuffing of the heel ZoomX foam. I suspect the firmer longer outsole rubber patches which are slightly convex are part of the answer. Below my %Next at 10 miles. The 4% was scuffed after the first mile or two.

Full written review to follow after more runs and a race or two!

Read reviewers' full run bios here

The product reviewed was a personal purchase. The opinions herein are the author's.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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