Sunday, July 28, 2019

Saucony Type A9 Review: Loud and Light. A True Old-School Racing Flat Designed for One Thing: Speed!

Article by Mac Jeffries

Saucony Type A9 ($89.95)

Mac: There are precious few companies that offer true racing flats in a size 14, so when I see one, I try to snatch one up. I haven’t worn many Sauconys - except for the Freedoms - but the A8s were so well received that I was super pumped to get to try out the update, the A9. This is an old school, as light as possible, show’nuff racing flat, for better or for worse, and while there are newer technologies in midsole foams out there, sometimes you just need something super light that will let you feel the track beneath your feet. If that is you, then you need to give these a look. 

Mac: Very lightweight. Great upper. Screams “fast”; if you get lost in the woods, people will be able to spot these from a mile away. 

Mac: Very thin EVA midsole is better suited for very short road races or the track than your weekend 5k over broken asphalt. The great upper may have a tad too much material. 

Tester Profile
Mac is a former collegiate defensive lineman who runs to fill the competitive void left after school and to stay in shape. He is in his late 30s, runs 50-80 mpw, and at 6’3”, has come down from his playing weight of 275 lbs to a steady 205 lbs for the last 10 years. Jeff’s PRs are 19:30, 1:33:xx, and 3:23:xx; he also teaches and coaches XC & T&F.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

COROS Vertix GPS Adventure Watch In Depth Review: Rugged, Accurate and with Leading Battery Life

Article by Sam Winebaum

COROS Vertix Adventure Watch Dark Rock ($600)


Coros burst on the GPS smart sports watch stage in 2018 launching the Pace (RTR Review) a $200 fully featured training watch and the Apex (RTR Review) a barometric altimeter equipped, longer battery life, titanium bezel, and sapphire crystal lens training watch at $300. Both watches demonstrated leading battery life, great GPS accuracy, and while adequate some work to be done on wrist heart rate accuracy.

With the new Vertix COROS takes aim at heavy duty multi sport training, vertical adventures and one might also say showpiece wrist statement sports watches such as the Garmin Fenix and Suunto S9. It is marketed as an adventure watch for your "Altitude and Attitude" with lots of focus on very long battery life, low temperature performance, rugged durability, and even leading 150 meter water resistance. While it has those adventure features I found that it is also a superb daily any run training watch as was its close sibling the Apex.

The Vertix adds several sports modes which the Apex and Pace lack such as: Trail Run, Hike, and Mountain Climb.  

I have been at sea level so I haven't been able to test its O2 saturation altitude acclimation feature which kicks in at 8250 feet although via the quick menu I have been able to manually measure Sp02.

The on wrist comfort of this 76 g watch is outstanding. The soft silicone band and streamlined hinge as well as placement of the 3 buttons (no touchscreen here)  higher on the watch towards the screen with a beveled case below has never caused the "bite" while typing or while sleeping which had me removing watches such as the Fenix 5X although here we also have a somewhat smaller case.
I was  particularly thrilled to see the Digital Knob which controls most functions and allows in workout data screens viewing is larger, easier to operate and has moved from the top right as in the Apex to center in Vertix. The small easy overly easy to spin Apex knob often spun inadvertently when the watch was waiting for a race start or paused. Press and if you were on different function such as Settings or Finish and didn't notice for a while oops... 

I have had zero issues of that sort with the Vertix knob although in summer heat there are fewer sleeves to catch as well. The new knob can even be auto locked and a hard pressing spin down can turn lock off. We found this default setting awkward to operate and turned it off. A long press on any button can also lock and unlock the screen and we found that easier to deal with.
I demonstrate the watch features in the video below.
Review & Watch Operating Features Video
I ran many times Vertix on one wrist and  the new Garmin Forerunner 945  on the other. I found very near identical GPS distance accuracy, wrist heart rate readings, and off and on course navigation alerts. Load a GPX route file and the watch will display your climb progress along the route (photo below) along with a somewhat hard to see on the run breadcrumb style map.
I got close its claimed 60 hour battery life, estimating 57 hours in training mode with best GPS sampling as well as the stunning 45-50 days of everyday use (assuming no training). 

The battery life is a game changer not just for sport but by banishing thinking about charging for literally weeks at time as we wore it and worked out for 20 days with 13 hours of training during the period, never charging  and only used 77% of its battery as shown in the photo above.

From that "adventure" perspective I estimate you could train/hike/climb 10 hours a day for about 5 days registering GPS track, navigation, and heart rate and in off hours sleep, notifications, steps etc...and with no need to recharge.  

And you can extend that training battery even further in the UltraMax mode which has a spec of 150 hours and in the sibling Apex proved very distance accurate.

You will not get all the bells and whistles of an extensive web based training and trend tracking platform, as for example with Polar or the on wrist mapping of the Fenix Plus and 945 or all their elaborate training features although you will get accurate breadcrumb type route navigation with quick off and on course alerts. 
You will get all the basic training data most require, with run data easily and automatically exportable and as I found in the case of Strava . 
Coros is app only, no web site, but the app is cleanly and well executed if basic in terms of long term training, heart rate trends, and other analysis. I think Coros assumes you will export to other platforms for these functions and that is OK.  There is no social component or currently the ability to adopt other users routes, although they could be exported and imported as GPX files. And as with Apex, the synching to the app is always flawless and super fast, fastest of any GPS watch I have tested as was the Apex. Just open app and pull down and transfers are in seconds to the app and then other platforms, Strava in my case.

Along with the performance and accuracy, the Vertix has a titanium bezel and cover with a diamond like coated sapphire crystal so its a very beautiful, highly highly durable smart sports watch as it also does notifications, sleep, steps. compass, timer, stopwatch, intervals, and all the basics except music control for a "reasonable" in class $600 given premium features such as titanium and sapphire crystal. 

The Fenix 5 Plus with stainless steel bezel, reinforced glass lens and about 1/3 the training battery life by spec at 18 hours will also set you back $600 while the new Forerunner 945 also $600 will get you 32 hours of training time and weighs 26 g less due to its all plastic construction. 
An Ice Breaker Edition, shown above with clear hinges and azure titanium bezel is also available for $700.


Stunningly long training close to 60 hours in best training mode, 150 hours in UltraMax mode with 45 day everyday battery life 
Rugged build with extreme conditions specs (water resistance and low temp battery)
Accurate GPS tracking
Quick "off and on" course route navigation alerts.
Comfort on the wrist. great looking for every day wear 
Superb on the run operating interface with the substantial and easy to operate Digital Knob
Very sunlight readable screen in workout mode with white background dark digits
Light 76 g weight for battery life and durable build
Premium materials at a "reasonable" price.
Rapid BT synching


Readability in watch mode is only fair in dim light without backlight or ambient light
Hard to see breadcrumb navigation screen
Elevation quite consistently off by  5-10 meters high, although at times it has been accurate.
Sleep tracking, generally accurate, on occasion can "gap" for  extended periods with no data then resume.
Adequate but limited app with few long term analysis or detail features (being worked on)
For a run use focus about 2x the price of the Coros Apex with a largely similar feature set.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

ON Running Cloudstratus Review: Swiss Engineered Heavy Duty Road Cruiser

Article by Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

ON Cloudstratus ($170)

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.

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
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)
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.

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.
Roomy toe box and secure midfoot and heel lockdown — always a  winning combination, 
   Comfortable and runs smooth

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)

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. 
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. 

Sam/Jeff/Don: Early pick for trail shoe of the year! Overall that good.
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.
Precision Custom Fit
Versatile traction
Don: Fit, Secure feeling, rock protection, stability on different terrain, custom fit, misole feels great at all paces, 

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)
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.

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.

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.

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)
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,

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

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