Monday, May 17, 2021

Quick Strides #1: RTR Team Testing Notes, Run Favorites and More: Black Bears! The NorthFace, Craft CTM, Atreyu, Saucony Xodus 11, Endorphin 2, Nike AeroSwift & Socks, X-Bionic

Article by Joost de Raeymaeker, Jeremy Marie, Zack Dunn, Michael Ellenberger, Adam Glueck, and Sam Winebaum


Quick Strides will be a weekly article here at RTR. The format and content will be as our contributors wish. More blog posts than in depth reviews, we hope to bring our readers yet timelier brief information in advance of our full reviews as well as fun and interesting content from our many perspectives on this wonderful sport.

The RTR team all over the world is continuously testing and using dozens of run products for road and trail. Some are provided by brands, some are personal purchases, some are for upcoming reviews, others are not, and finally some are long time favorites and go to’s. 

And not just “testing” our contributors run in all kinds of interesting places and in this first edition we have contributors chiming in from the tropics of Africa, France the loaded with bears woods of New Hampshire and the Mid West US and all also have (as they wish to share) perspectives to share on their time on the run, their training, their experiences and from their experience.  

in this first issue we discuss  Black Bears!, The NorthFace, Craft CTM shoes and apparel, Atreyu, Saucony Xodus 11 and Endorphin 2, Nike AeroSwift & Nike Socks, and X-Bionic socks.


I live in Luanda, the capital of Angola, southern Africa. It’s impossible to find most apparel and recent running shoes locally. My roots are in Belgium and Portugal, so before covid, there were always friends traveling back and forth between Portugal and Angola, a former colony, bringing me back stuff I ordered over there. I would also order things and have them delivered in Belgium, where I would pick them up personally once or twice a year. For the USA, I use a forwarding service to get stuff over here. The virus, however, has thrown a spanner in the works of international package delivery.

To cut a long story short, this week I received a long awaited pair of Atreyu shoes. The plated and superfoamed The Artist arrived at my doorstep after being “scanned into a sack/container” almost a month ago. A friend also brought me a bunch of apparel I had ordered and delivered in Belgium for a trip that didn’t materialize in 2020. 

To counter the inherent sadness and tediousness of the covid-filled months, I went for colorful stuff from the Nike Aeroswift racing collection.

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.

The Nike Aeroswift Collection is available at Running Warehouse HERE


Lots of shoes in for review these days (working on the Endorphin Shift 2, NovaBlast 2, and more), but I’ve still been squeezing in miles in my new pair of Atreyu from their subscription model. There’s something I really appreciate about simplicity in a running shoe, and the Atreyu is about as simple as it gets (though I am keen to learn more about the upcoming Allbirds x Adidas option - something about all white shoes really does it!). Of course, I’m appreciative of the advances we’ve made in foam composition and plates - but sometimes it’s nice to head out with a slab of foam, a one-piece upper, and the road ahead (well, plus the Stryd footpod - my favorite piece of running tech). Cheers!

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 


Nike Racing Socks

I love these for racing and training.  They are my favorite lightweight / racing socks. 

They were designed for the Eluid Kipchoge “Breaking2” project. It’s special because it utilizes NikeGrip technology (which is a rougher, rugged yarn) under the forefoot and heel to create a slip resistant design and for added support and stability. They are very breathable, really lightweight / thin, and form fitting with an anatomical design (each sock specifically made for each foot). They are costly at $28, so if you can afford it or get them onsale then they’re great; if that price doesn't interest you then there are definitely still affordable, great lightweight running sock options under $20, such as Nike’s Spark Lightweight running sock for $18 (which is similar to this sock just without the NikeGrip yarn).

Nike Socks including the Spark at Running Warehouse here

Zack Dunn is a junior in high school. “I’ve been running for 7 years, and focused solely on running after giving up on years of baseball and wrestling. I race distances between 800 meters and 10K  whether on the track, roads, or on cross country. I do most of my training on the roads, some training on the track, and occasionally run trails logging anywhere from 40-60 miles a week.  My typical training paces range from 7’30 a mile on easy days to sub-5 minutes miles on fast interval days, and with many paces in between. My personal bests are 2:02 for 800m, 4:30 for 1600m, 9:50 for 3200m, 15:57 for 5K, and 34:10 for 10K. “


This week has been full of a lot of exciting shoes for me including two carbon plated shoes.  First, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2.  I was a huge fan of the Endorphin Pro 1, and the 2 doesn’t mess with that working formula.  The midsole and outsole are identical as far as I can tell, but the upper is new and features a polarizing but distinctive checkered flag colorway.  The foothold is also slightly improved and the toebox has slightly more stretch to it.  Overall it feels like a minor upper improvement to an already excellent shoe. 

The second Carbon plated shoe I’m testing (and I will soon join our existing review) is the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon.  Have you ever  wondered what a carbon plated racing shoe would feel like on the trails?  If this sounds incredibly exciting that’s because it is.  On the road, the CTM Ultra Carbon has a propulsive rocker and energetic feel and will happily cruise at sub 7 mile pace. 

It is equally at home on dirt, gravel, and light trails, only struggling on technical singletrack (where the stack height and minimal upper contribute to instability) and steep descents (where the rocker slides your toes forward when you are trying to control your descent).  

The Zebra/Prototype camo colorway is incredibly eye catching and makes me feel like I can outrun any lions or bears I run across..  

Some friends I share the trails with

Saucony Xodus 11  

The Xodus 11 is a more traditional trail shoe that is built like a tank.  While it’s very heavy, it runs lighter than its weight due to a responsive beaded TPU midsole.  Despite the stack height and impressive protection, it features an incredibly stable platform, feeling good for extremely technical singletrack where agility and grip are required.  This shoe will dance through rock gardens, easily accept microspikes, and is at home in the mountains.  Compared to rockered trail shoes like the CTM Ultra and Asics Trabuco Max, it’s far more comfortable on singletrack and in the mountains, at the expense of weight and not turning over as fast on the roads.  Review soon. 

These three shoes would actually form a pretty good rotation on their own, since the Endorphin Pro 2 is one of the fastest road shoes, the CTM Ultra Carbon bridges the gap from roads to light trails, and the Xodus excels in the mountains and twisty singletracks where stability, traction, and protection matter above all else.  


Craft Apparel

I’m currently testing some Craft apparel which are quite different from what I’m used to wearing from this brand. Up until now, I associated Craft with effective base layers. Thin, soft to the skin, light, very effective. I have had one of their base layers (Craft active extreme LS) for...5 or 6 years now which is still running strong. It’s my most used base layer by quite a long stretch and covers my need for 95% of the winter conditions I may have to face in France. Quality stuff. 

The apparel  I’ve received covers the extreme opposite: a minimal split short (my first real split shorts!), a tank that I’ve used on the turbo trainer up until now, which seems to be very effective at wicking away moisture (turbo trainers users know  what I mean!), an effective windstopper jacket and for now my favorite piece of kit: the Hypervent Short Sleeve Tee

Stretchy, soft, light, airy, « non-smelly » with the nicest color scheme of my running wardrobe, not sporty and quite distinctive. The beige and light brown combination just works for me. 

Even if it’s designed for the hottest temperatures, I find it works well even around 9-10C. I’ve been caught under the downpour with it around those temperatures and even completely soaked up it does not freeze you like some other fabrics. 

Craft Hypervent Short Sleeve Tee at Running Warehouse HERE & at Craft HERE

X-Bionic X-Sock Trail socks

Well this is a special one. The X-Bionic X-Sock Trail Run socks was my  first quality pair of socks that I bought in 2008 while training for my first ultra (UTMB CCC), which was also my first race, save for a 10k in Santa’s clothes. Of course I DNF (the socks did not help!) but those socks are still up and running. And I wear them on a regular basis. They have thousands of kms, and some harsh ones, but nothing has managed to tear a hole in. I almost never had a blister or chaffing wearing those socks. This is a “Swiss Quality” sock I guess. It’s been only a month or two that I’ve decided to « retire » them and they’re now in the same closet as my bibs :)

Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km 



The NorthFace Flight Vectiv and Enduris Vectiv

I am testing both of these concurrently. Others on the team have already reviewed the Flight (RTR Review),  Infinite (RTR Review) and Enduris (RTR Review) and I will join soon.

All share the same design with high rear collars, dual density midsoles with the softer white foam on the lateral side and at the forefoot and all have plates with varying degrees of flex, but all have flex, with Flight having carbon, Infinite Pebax, and Enduris TPU.  Flight and Infinite have a lower stack and firmer black foam than Enduris and all seem to share the same relatively soft white foam. All share the same moderate lug height all terrain outsole. The uppers differ with Flight a combination of Matyrx and somewhat stretchy knit like mesh, Infinite all Matryx, and Enduris a more conventional mesh.

The white and black Flight I am testing is a W9 so in the men's equivalent it is about 1.5 sizes down from my normal men’s...and it fits with a comfortable race type fit with no real issue beyond somewhat snug at midfoot as the women’s may be B width and not D.  Confusing right? Jeff Valliere tested both a white and black Flight and a yellow and black later version. He saw similar overly large fit in the white and black, with fit just about right in the yellow and black a later color in the same size. Seems like there were some early  production issues with white and black pairs? 

The Enduris fits fine if generously at midfoot in my usual size when taken on more technical terrain. Otherwise an ultra type fit. 

Taken on concurrent days on the same course of road and mellow forest paths, the Enduris is softer with a mellow ground conforming feel than Flight. Even very slow paces were smooth if a bit soft. Perfect for very long days on any surface The TPU plate doesn’t really provide a strong impulse but serves more as a very mild rocker/propulsion/protection element. I think  Enduris can be considered as the ultra shoe in the line up for most. Enduris reminds me of the Xodus 10 from Saucony and a lighter 361 Yushan 2. 

The Flight is firmer and more responsive with a stiffer plate and more rocker off  the front but again not as aggressively shaped as a road carbon race shoe is. Plenty of softer cushion up front from the white foam which works very well with the plate, masking it while the shoe also unlike carbon road shoes has a decent flex with a noted if gentle snap back from the plate.  More to come but so far for me snappy uptempo, any surface faster trainer racer equally at home on road or trail as with as is the Enduris. Reminds me of Craft CTM Carbon Ultra. 

The NorthFace Vectiv Collection shoes are available at Running Warehouse HERE

Naked Running HC Vest

I have had the Naked HC (high capacity vest) for several months now. I used it to great effect as front carry of phone, gloves/hats, and water under a bigger hiking pack late this winter. I have taken it both trail and road running.

The HC is not a vest that is “like clothing” for example Salomon or a near pack with 3D mesh . It is entirely made of stretch meshes that compress the load and hug the body so to that extent it may also help with posture… but comfortably! It is hard to zip its single front zipper when new, yet now it has stretched just enough so even with a full load I can grab the sides out a ways and zip it up. No straps to fiddle with ever here. While you may think it is too small when new,  go with their sizing guidelines. 

A different approach to a race vest the Naked is maybe not the highest capacity vest out there but it sure is at one with the body in motion and with any load. My just posted full review is here

The Naked HC Vest is available at Running Warehouse HERE

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2

Sam: I took a first run in the Endorphin Speed 2 this week. It had been a while since I had run the Speed 1 and my first run reminded me of the light weight for so much cushion, great rebound, effective more mellow plastic plate and that distinct final roll to toe off.  

The update is said by Saucony to entirely involve the upper with a more secure heel fit and a new engineered mono mesh upper. I wonder if there is more as my Speed 2 is stiffer than my Speed 1 with its about 30 miles on it, more stable at the heel, more aligned forward in motion and maybe snappier. Uppers can often contribute to ride and in Speed 2 and I note the slightly narrower achilles collar with less padding and hidden by the checkered flag pattern a series of very narrow but quite thick translucent overlays running from the front of the lacing where they start low all the way to the heel where they are to the collars. More runs to come and soon our multi tester review. Releases June 15, 2021.

Salomon S/Lab 6” Shorts ($120)

I am a big fan of Salomon S/Lab apparel and especially the shorts. I have an ancient 10 year old? S/Lab short super light with mesh waist storage pockets still almost like new. I originally bought it mainly for secure carry of my phone. About the first short to every provide around the waist storage. I also have an S/Lab Short Tight, mercifully not the super long 2-1 type and with 2 hip pockets I always race in with another short over.

So I treated myself to the very hard to find S/Lab 6” shorts. Essentially they are an above the waist belly band of very thin stretch mesh with ample storage (phone, flask, keys, gels all can come along). Serving as the inner layer of the band is the brief with below that at the waist the outer stretch 6” shell. The outer shell is in fact tacked on in places and not fully sewn all around for yet more breathability and ease of motion. Big carry in a very minimal light short that also makes it incredibly easy to carry find, retrieve and return items. About as good as it gets shorts wise if you need to carry anything but wish for a slightly shorter inseam.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying to many fine New England IPA.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Sam. Thanks as always for the great information. Does that “slightly narrower achilles collar with less padding” on the Endorphin Speed 2 mean that the fit might not be as friendly for those of us who have wide feet as the first version?

Drift Hunters said...

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