Monday, May 24, 2021

Quick Strides #2: Team Testing Notes, Mini Reviews, Run Favorites, Races: LMNT, VJ, Brooks, Saucony, Craft, Nike, POPPocket x OtterBox, ASCIS, Tracksmith & More!

Article by Peter Stuart, Zack Dunn, Shannon Payne, Johannes Klein, Renee Krusemark, Derek Li, Jeff Beck, Jeff Valliere, Sally Reiley, Nils Scharff, Ivan Luca Corda, John Tribbia, Joost de Raeymaeker and Sam Winebaum


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 are preparing for all kinds of races and adventures from the track to the ultra.

Peter Stuart: 

LMNT Recharge Electrolytes and a new pair of Hoka One One Mach 4’s are my summer recipe for fun. It’s rare that I buy a second pair of a shoe I’ve reviewed (RTR Review). There are always new shoes coming down the pike--so it’s a big sign that I love a shoe when I buy a new pair. Happy to say that after over 350 miles on my first Hoka One One Mach 4’s, I ordered a new pair. Not only are they a nice summer color, but Hoka solved the shoelace problem from my review pair. We now have normal length laces. Day in, Day out the Mach 4 is still one of my two favorite shoes to run in. 

LMNT is a daily hydration drink that will help me get through those sweltering Texas Summer days. 1000mg of Sodium, 200 mg of Potassium and 60 mg of Magnesium. I mix it with about 20 oz of water and sip all day. I’m drinking the Citrus Salt flavor now and each sip tastes sort of like the salted rim of a margarita glass. Tasty.

Shannon Payne: I’ve admittedly always been a bit “meh” towards most versions of the Saucony Xodus. It’s never been that it’s a bad shoe by any means, it just always seemed to me to be more or less a stiffer, beefier version of the Peregrine (which I love) and it just didn’t really seem like all that necessary of a shoe within the Saucony trail family. Anyway, having not run in the Xodus for several versions now, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that with a new midsole comprised entirely of PWRUN+ TPU foam, feels like a far more flexible, nimble shoe underfoot than it has previously. To me, it strikes a great balance between being beefy (for lack of a better word) enough to handle more aggressive terrain, yet also has a nimble, fits-like-a-glove feel that really moves with the foot. Bravo, Saucony.

And not to steal Peter’s thunder in the hydration department, but I too have found in recent months that my fluid intake is largely comprised of LMNT, Salted Watermelon flavor if you want to get specific about it. My previous favorite was SOS Rehydrate, but LMNT not only has zilch sugar, it also has a considerably high electrolyte content, and it’s super tasty. Highly recommended.

Zack Dunn: 

Brooks Elite Singlet ($90) 

The Brooks Elite Singlet is a Brooks running top made for racing and is of amazing quality. It features an extremely lightweight and probably one of the most breathable meshes on the market. The fit is pretty relaxed and nice, though I probably was better off ordering a S rather than a M but it wasn't too bad. Overall, it's super lightweight and great for hot weather, the only downside is the really high price of $90, compared to the other brands  whose high quality racing singlet is $70-$80.

Running Warehouse has the Elite in a variety  of colors including women’s crops HERE

Johannes Klein

Saucony Ride 14 (140 €) - German review coming soon (RTR English review here)

Upper & Fit
No significant changes apart from a little more ventilation in the forefoot. There is still an exuberant amount of padding around the ankle and tongue, which makes it a warm shoe. The fit is secure and snug (Maybe even a bit narrower in the forefoot than v13).

Midsole & Ride
Transition is not very smooth due to what feels like an imbalance in weight distribution - Much of the shoe’s weight seems to be in the back. Upon forefoot landing at faster speeds, there is some springy feedback from the midsole, but in terms of energy return, the basic PWRUN foam can’t compete with other versions of PWRRUN.

Does not perform very well on wet pavement, which is surprising given the substantial rubber coverage. No issues in dry conditions and on gravel.


The transition feels a bit clunky at slower paces and the weight is felt when trying to go faster. For me, this leaves the Ride 14 in kind of a no-man’s-land.
Weighing in at only 10 grams more, I could see the Triumph 19 as a strong homemade competitor, packing a full length PWRRUN+ midsole.

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 (160$)

German review coming soon, Sam’s Initial video review here

Upper & Fit
Breathable mono-mesh + printed overlays from heel to forefoot + rigid heel counter + gusseted tongue = snug fit and secure lockdown.
Just the right amount of padding for  comfort.

Midsole & Ride
Soft & bouncy foam, midsole stiffness, rocker and nylon plate propel the runner forward. High amount of energy return.
Heel and midfoot are somewhat unstable due to midsole bevel. Best landing zone is the ball of the foot.

Strategically placed carbon rubber on the edges of the platform, exposed foam in between from heel to midfoot, denser coverage in forefoot. Performs well on dry + wet pavement. No early signs of wear.


Well-crafted, lightweight (255 grams, size US 11 / EU 45) trainer for neutral forefoot runners. Less suited for heel strikers and overpronators due to lack of support.

Sam Winebaum:

Pop Pockets x OtterBox Symmetry ($60)

Since the iPhone X was shown to be “waterproof” in the Apple intro video,  I have used the ubiquitous stick on PopPockets with their PopGrip as a phone holder for nature and RTR photography on the go, but more importantly as a handy clip to shorts and pants on the run. It will work securely with just about any short that has a decent waistband and/or drawstring. I even found it to work, albeit at  the limit with the hyper light Craft Pro Hypervent shorts most recently. 

The PopPockets x OtterBox case, and I have the Symmetry but Defender series are available of course provides excellent phone protection and now has the Pop Pocket directly integrated into the case so no worries about the glue coming unstuck on the run (occurred only twice in huge downpours with the original stick on) . The Pop Grip is replaceable and the protection is 3X as many drops as military standard (MIL-STD-810G 516.6) and the case works with Qi wireless charging.

The case has a sufficient enough lip around the screen to prevent most inadvertent phone activations as long as your shorts waistband is not loose. While pockets and belts are a great way to carry a phone, I have yet to find a solution as simple and always available as the PopPockets x OtterBox. 

And if you film on the go, often solo as I do, the PopPockets tripod is a great add on. It is rubber coated spring metal and folds up and clips to the inside of shorts as the PopPockets and each of its legs can be bent and wrapped around chairs, stumps, branches,  or jammed into rocks.

Derek Li:

So I was pretty intrigued by the reviews of the ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review) and all the conflicting verdicts on whether the shoe is firm or soft and whether it is best for shorter or longer races so I set about trying to get a pair myself to test. Unfortunately the shoe is even harder to source than the Adidas Adios Pro. As luck would have it, the ASICS store on Chinese e-Commerce site Taobao (run by Alibaba) had a re-stock and I jumped at the chance. It took about a week and ended up costing a little more than normal retail (~US$260) but I finally got a pair to try. 

I measured a 39/33mm stack for a US9.5 

And weight came in at 198g which is only a smidge heavier than the VF4% and VFNext%. 

Walking around there was a surprisingly nice free floating feel to the underfoot ride, reminiscent of that first time I wore the Ice Blue Vaporfly 4%. And yes, that low 5mm drop is definitely noticeable but not too bad once you start running. I think the dynamic drop ends up higher because the plate sort of prevents your heel from sinking much, compared to the very high stack and springy forefoot. 

My first run was really just a few minutes at 10k effort to see how it fared, then I put it back in the box. 

The real test came just this weekend, where I knocked out a steady 35km long run in the shoes, pretty good for just the second time using it and the first time didn’t even really count since it was barely 10 minutes. 

This thing is cushioned with a capital C. Very good vibration attenuation and I felt fresh all the way through. Mind you it was my first outdoor long run (in Singapore weather) in about 3 months, and I knocked about 10s/km off my previous best pace for the route. I concede that the low drop does come into play as my left calf felt a bit sore and tight towards the end so the shoe definitely encourages forefoot loading (the hallmark of the Stride running pattern it is designed aroun). I can definitely see this shoe being very popular with the forefoot strikers. 

Renee Krusemark: 

I lowered my miles this week after running a fairly good half marathon race the week prior (1:30:59). I hardly ever run flat pavement and was able to comfortably cruise along at a sub 7-minute pace wearing the Nike Next%, which is probably still my shoe of choice for a 10k to marathon race. The temperatures started in the mid-30s, so I raced in my Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Long Sleeve shirt with the Twilight Tank underneath. I have continued to wear both of those shirts frequently after review, along with the Tracksmith Session Shorts and Twilight Split shorts. I know Tracksmith is a bit pricey, but given the amount I wear them each week, totally worth the cost. 

On a weekly basis, I still run frequently with my Article One x Ciele Athletics  GTGlass sunglasses (RTR Review). Pricey, but I use them almost every day. I purchased the CompressSport Free Belt from Running Warehouse, but still prefer to carry necessaries (phone, car fob, gels, small knife) in my Salomon Active Skin Set 8, which is on sale at $75 from RunningWarehouse right now and totally worth that price. I prefer to have weight across my chest rather than on my waist. I’ll continue to give the CompressSport Free Belt a chance though. I also purchased the Adidas Terrex Core Agravic Trail Pro shorts and The Ultimate Direction Hydro shorts. I raced my half marathon in the Adidas Terrex shorts. I like the longer length and pockets, even for a road race.

I’m reviewing four shoes right now, the Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 and Triumph 19 (RTR Initial Video Review), the Brooks Revel 5, and the Craft CTM Carbon Ultra

So far, I like the Shift 2’s Speed Roll, which makes cruising along at 30 seconds from marathon pace seem easy. The Triumph 19 has a soft bounce. Both shoes are a bit heavier than I like and I’ll need more miles in both shoes before I write my full review. 

The Craft CTM Carbon Ultra is a fun shoe on rolling country roads, and surprisingly stable running up and down rolling hills on gravel and uneven surfaces. 

The Revel 5 seems like the least exciting shoe of my current review shoes, but given that the other shoes are somewhat heavy and high drop, I look forward to wearing the light-weight, low-drop do-it-all Revel 5. At $100, it is a surprise. I’ve used it for 150 meter strides, running in the high 4/low 5 minute/mile paces and for a 1-mile interval workout. Although probably not my top choice of shoe for any workout, the shoe can do pretty much anything from speed work to mid-distance runs of 15 miles. And it also  works for walking and casual use too. 

I’m also reviewing the Osmo Nutrition  Preload and Hydration mixes. Temperatures have not been warm enough to use the Preload mix, but I have used the Hydration mix a few times. So far, like Tailwind, the mix makes me thirty for plain, good ol’ water, but I imagine I will get a better perception of the performance once I run in 85-100 temperatures. Stay tuned!

Ivan Luca Corda: 

Last high mileage week is done (180km) leading up to an expected ultra race in a few weeks. Best time of the year as I’m figuring which shoes to wear and luckily lots of exciting shoes in for testing including the Craft CTM Ultra, New Balance RC Elite 2 and Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 ( full review out soon). All are great candidates for the longest runs on the road or light trail. All are highly stacked but the rides and levels of cushion are so different. Maybe a rotation strategy is the way to go. 

Also, I’ve had the pleasure of running in the latest Craft Sportswear (review out soon) which I can highly recommend. Superb quality, functional and well-designed.

Cheng Chen:

The Era of Hypershoes (Vaporfly 4% Vs. Tempo NEXT%)

When the Vaporfly is merely a “nicely cushioned racing flat,” I can’t help but declare that we’ve moved-on from supershoes. Welcome to the era of hypershoes!

Many times, I keep shoes that I’ve already reviewed or have stopped training in for future reference. The Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit is certainly on this list. While running a short 3-mile tempo segment with the Nike Tempo NEXT% (RTR Review), I decided to capture some data and ran the same course again the next day, but with the Vaporfly.

The resulting data confirmed exactly how I felt during the runs: that the 4%s are merely a “nicely cushioned racing flat…”

Across these two runs, the warm-up, distance, and heart rate were reasonably identical. Temperatures on the second day (Vaporfly) was sightly higher than on the first (Tempo). I was also slightly less recovered by round 2, given the nature of training. While these may be slight confounders, we can still gain insight by looking at the directionality of all the metabolic and non-metabolic performance indicators as a whole.

In this context, I felt that I had to run much harder with the Vaporfly 4% on day 2, and the numbers prove it. We see that average power, heart rate, and stride rate all increased while pace and leg spring stiffness (stride efficiency) decreased.

Subjectively, I perceived that the lack of energy return and less aggressive rocker in the Vaporfly 4% forced me to turn over my legs much faster in order to keep up with pace. I couldn’t just stride out, land with a stiff leg, and ride the rocker-foam platform into my next stride. Step after step, I was amazed by the sensation of just how “meh” the foam of the Vaporfly 4%’s felt. Bear in mind: I have put on less than 50 miles in them, so this could not be attributed to material degradation...

That’s it for this week. Next week, I will further dive into analysis explaining what causes the Vaporfly 4%’s seeming lack of performance and what this means for you as a runner. Meanwhile, feel free to reach out to me directly via Instagram (@MrChengChen). You can also use my code CHENGROCKS for 10% off your entry to the Detroit Free Press Marathon.

Sally Reiley: After 14 months of running for routine and sanity but no racing, I have committed to running the Boston Marathon in October. This will be my eighth straight Boston (and 10th marathon, having run Chicago in 2017 and NYC in 2019), but without the usual pattern of training in the cold New England winter months. Time to start adding the miles!

I headed out Saturday to do a 12 mile training run, no expectations whatsoever. I laced up the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, a shoe I am enjoying immensely in testing. So I set out with no target pace, but after a few comfortable miles in, I had a brainstorm: I was supposed to “race” a virtual 10K sometime this week as part of a relay team for Greater Lowell Road Runners, and it dawned on me that this training pace, made easy by the Endorphin Speed’s cushioned propulsion, might be fast enough for a decent 10K. Indeed it was! The Endorphin Speed 2 feels natural and fast, and is quickly becoming a favorite training shoe of 2021. Review to come soon! 

It was also quite warm for that run. Summer temperatures arrived suddenly this weekend, and presented a perfect opportunity to wear the Tracksmith Bill Rodgers 79 Singlet.  

I am a huge fan of everything Tracksmith, and this airy light retro singlet did not disappoint. The vintage vibe combined with updated fabrics is a win-win, and the open mesh keeps you cool but covered. This is a singlet I will reach for often for summer training runs.

Jeff Valliere:  

This week I have been wrapping up testing on the Saucony Xodus 11, Brooks Cascadia 16, Hoka Zinal and just received the VJ Ultra.

The Xodus 11 features a minor, but fine upper update to an already amazing shoe.  The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a huge leap forward for the Cascadia lineage and might be a top contender for daily all around trainer.  The Zinal is a ripper of a race shoe, handling moderate to even some technical terrain with aplomb, has excellent foothold, grip, protection, cushion, response and stability.

The big surprise and excitement however was the arrival of the VJ Ultra, which is the best go fast through the roughest mountain trails shoe that I have yet to run in, with freakish grip, amazing foothold, super light, well cushioned response.  

The shoe is so good, it propelled me to a PR/Strava CR on a local 7.5 mile route comprised of 2 summits and 3,400 vertical on some very technical trails.  We reviewed the VJ Maxx (RTR Review) 2 years ago, which I enjoyed, but which never made a deep impression on me, but the Ultra is a stand out shoe that is sure to make a splash.  I also like it because the company name is my initials backwards.  Stay tuned.

I am looking forward to participating in the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, Colorado on June 11th/12th, It will be the first time in nearly 2 years that I have participated in a running event.  I’ll also get to hang out with Sam and other running friends and acquaintances, which I am most excited about, seeing like minded friendly faces in person.  I am taking the family along as well, as we could use a bit of a getaway and there is a lot for them to do at Snowmass/Aspen while I am off running and talking shoes.  I think my biggest hurdle with this trip will be refraining from running up every nearby peak and saving myself for the event.

Jeff Beck: 

I’ve been struggling with a selection of injuries with a Morton’s Neuroma on one side and Achilles Tendonitis in both legs. I’ve always had tight calves and constantly stretch/roll/massage/etc, but apparently I haven’t been giving them as much attention as I should have. Luckily I’m working with an incredible PT who has given me a number of daily exercises to get to the root of the problem and back running and reviewing shoes VERY soon. 

In the meantime, here’s a little tip for all Garmin users that hate Garmin’s charging cable (the venn diagram overlap with this group and “all Garmin users” is likely pretty big), there is a better option. It’s an aftermarket charger that integrates the charging port into a puck that your watch sits on. So no more plugging your watch in, only to discover the cable broke the finicky connection when you set it down. Best part about it? A two-pack of them is less than $10. Enjoy! Available at Amazon here 

Nils Scharff: 

I’ve been on a short running break for most of the last week, after pulling off my first sub3 marathon (2:57h - a 18min PB  - ASICS Metaspeed Sky) two weeks ago. But as I’m restarting right now I’m happy to chime in on our new Quick Strides format.

I ran my first recovery miles in the Craft CTM Ultra which offers a fine ride, but unfortunately just isn’t made for my narrow feet. Be also aware of the very bad (dangerous!) traction on wet surfaces. The multitester is already up (RTR Review), andI’m also going to add a German language version within the next few weeks. Craft sent along some nice apparel as well, which offers great fabrics, cut and quality all around. Just the 2” split shorts are dangerously short and my wife forbids me to wear those in public!

After losing hope, mail from Saucony showed up at my doorstep this week. Therefore I’m going to get some miles on Endorphin Pro 2 and Speed 2 over the next few days. I just started with 10 easy miles yesterday in the Speed 2 and must say - it’s as good as the first iteration. But without an A/B test I really can’t tell much of a difference besides maybe a more substantial heel cup (which is nice for me as an overpronator) and checkers all over the place. Sam has an initial video take on the pronation issues here. I think the same applies to the Pro 2, which I’m going to run a 10k time trial in next week. There’s been a 3rd checkered flag box from Saucony - stay tuned for more!

John Tribbia

This week I tested the Salomon S/Lab Phantasm (RTR Review). As with many Salomon fleet, it fits narrow. If you are like me and have a slim to normal foot, you should be okay. But wider feet will have some issues. My initial thoughts about Salomon’s non-carbon, fast road / track shoe is that its “Reverse Camber” (aka rocker) is very effective at quickly transitioning your foot plant from heel to toe. I found it especially fast during a 30s on/off fartlek session on flat road. Cushioning is what you would expect from a lightweight racing shoe - you’ll feel beat up if worn for regular mileage. That said, I like the firmness of the cushion as it complements the rocker transition well. 


Last week, I finished my review for RoadTrailRun of Atreyu’s The Artist and this week I received the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 for testing and I’ve had my first couple of runs in them in order to contribute to our group review. The differences with the previous model are minimal and from my first impressions are all in the upper. Even so, they feel much the same to me so far. The lateral midsole is a little thinner on the 1, but that has probably to do with the fact that I have around 500km (300+ miles) on them and it’s compressed where I land.

I’ve also been walking around the house in a pair of slides that make me taller because of the sheer thickness of the midsole. They are a pair of Deckers Lab KO-Z Slides. Running Warehouse arranged for us to test.

Extremely comfortable, although the fluffy bits are a little hot for the tropics. Review coming up as well.

Prior Quick Strides HERE

Some samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others were personal purchases. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Skidad said...

Really looking forward to Jeff’s review of the VJ Ultra. I’ve got the MAXx, a great shoe and the grip is insane. Now with more cushion and other improvements the Ultra should be an even better kick ass shoe.

rms said...

Have about 20miles & 4kft vert on the VJ Ultra. A solid shoe, but I'm not sold on the upper: My forefeet are getting shoved into the front of the shoe on steep descents and I'm getting some minor hotspots as a result of this movement. Just tightening the laces doesn't seem to help, I'll try heellock lacing next, but feel like VJ needs to work on upper lockdown.

In contrast, the Sense Ride 4 has astounding heel lockdown, with zero slippage. I want to see this performance level in the VJ shoe as well.