Article by Sam Winebaum. Editor
As I complete my 49 year of running I am grateful to still move along just fast enough, maybe, to be worthy of all the great innovations in running shoes and gear we saw this year.
I say maybe as I have discovered in the new age of race carbon shoes that those designed more specifically for fore to mid foot striking ain’t for me at longer distances with my heel striking and no knee lift, not a function of age always been that way just getting worse!
An indication, and of note, is that the gear is getting increasingly specialized for racing and here at RoadTrailRun we need to continue to compare, provide varied perspectives of pace, age, distance to our readers.
I clocked 1547 miles of road and trail running, so almost to the mile the same distance as 2020 averaging 30 miles per week with 316 days of running.
Add to that quite a bit of hiking and nordic skiing so I guess you can say I am consistent, maybe to a fault as unlike 2020 I had fewer long runs and less vertical as I hit 63K feet of run vertical vs. 94K in 2020. In 2020 we spent March to July hunkered down in Park City which clearly has more vertical than seaside flat New Hampshire whereas we only were a month or so out West this year as the pandemic continued.. More on the challenges for brands and RTR below.
Back to the first paragraph and those carbon shoes. After testing a bunch, and maybe for too many days in a row I picked up some hip issues in March which lingered into early summer. I slowed things down but kept at it. Movement for me is always the best cure. I raced sporadically this year: 3 halves and 4 10K if memory serves with a real difficulty due to the hip (and maybe age) of getting much under 8 min miles, no matter the distance.
I did pick several AG podiums along the way although my slightly younger brother Jake cleaned my clock in a local 10K going sub 7 min miles and he mainly bikes! More cross training for sure would be a good idea but doubt I will!
I did not reach my annual goal of a sub 1:40 half, getting to a 1:42.16 but am on my way as I write this..I think as my new fav watch the Coros Vertix 2 predicting a 1:39:50 half whereas back when I ran 1:42 it was predicting a 1:43 or so. So as in some years 2021 was an off racing year with early “promise” going into 2022!
I did have a super fun time running my first Ragnar Trail Relay in Aspen joined by RTR Contributor Jeff Valiiere and other media types.
Will 2022 see me maintaining or slipping in races? Who knows but as long as I continue to enjoy the run and in my 50th year of running I do as much as the very 1st year it won’t matter but as a new half decade age group arrives in April so time to pick up the pace!
RoadTrailRun continues to grow not just in the metrics of page views, followers, subscribers, likes and such but in our dedicated community of contributors about 25 strong and on 5 continents. An amazing group they not only are superb shoe geeks but many PR’d, won and podiumed races on road and trail at all distances and along the way to test for the over 200 articles we collectively wrote clocking many tens of thousands of miles. They worked and ran fast and far to meet release dates, took incredible pictures, promoted their reviews on social media, and answered innumerable reader questions on all our channels
We continued to expand our international coverage with reviews in German , French, English, Spanish, Danish, and Polish.
So as for those metrics. In today’s world of social media a presence on all “channels” is important as readers consume information, find things they may be interested in many evolving ways. So in addition to our website we now have 50K Instagram followers, 14.3K YouTube subscribers, and 5.9K Facebook page likes. Our contributors through their own social media presences and through RTR reposts of their content increased our reach.
Below are our nine most “liked” Instagram posts of 2021.
Not necessarily all are our team’s favorites but some correlations.
For the team’s big survey article of the Best of 2021 in multiple categories see below.
My personal Road Shoe of the Year was the Puma Liberate Nitro (RTR Review) and here is what I said about it in the article along with Honorable Mentions.
Puma Liberate Nitro : In a world of wildly expensive and high stacked plated shoes, the Liberate has no plate but incorporates Puma’ s supercritical Nitro foam in a super light flexible package at a mere 6.5 oz with plenty of training worthy outsole rubber and cushion It is a joy to run fast and can daily train as well. All for a mere $110.
Diadora Equipe Atomo (RTR Review) for to date outstanding durability and a light and versatile ride. All coming at a steep cost but worth it.
Nike Vaporfly Next % 2. Continues to lead the pack in long racers for me but while it was on my feet for my fastest 2021 half the OG Vaporlfy was my shoe for my fastest 10K and standing the test of time and new very well indeed. .
Adidas Takumi Sen 7 (RTR Review): a superb race flat with incredible light trails worthy traction and a spectacular secure upper.
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 (RTR Review): Improved in fit and as a result ride it still leads the non carbon but plated ride game for me in 2021.
Brooks Aurora-BL (RTR Review): A wonderful supercritical max cushion ride at very light weight and a big surprise from stodgy Brooks.
My personal Trail Shoe of the Year was the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra and here is what I said about it in the article along with Honorable Mentions:
For most shorter runs (and most of my trail runs are 10 miles or less) on more moderate terrain and especially if there is fast climbing, smoother straight ahead, fast cruising and even road in the mix, the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra takes the overall prize. Its combination of agile, fast any terrain ride, great outsole and best of 2021 upper make it incredibly versatile.
For longer efforts on more technical terrain the Scarpa Spin Infinity.
For long days on technical terrain at slow paces and hiking the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300.
I tried to improve my YouTube “style” and video quality but I am afraid I will never be that “entertaining” when yakking about shoes. No question when it came to photography and video the new iPhone 13 Pro, my only capture device really helped.
Below just a portion of my recent shoe "archive"…I donate lightly used shoes to a homeless services center associated with Boston City Hospital.
I don’t have an exact count but based on the shoe boxes in my lair, and not all are shown, I ran in at least 80 different shoes last year while collectively the team wrote about 210 articles in 2021 most often in our multi tester format with comparisons and in multiple languages.
It was a challenging year to say the least for all the brands with factory shutdowns, remote work, continued uncertainties while at the same time consumers took to the roads and trails in unprecedented numbers. Somehow we haggled for, pleaded and received enough samples to carry on with our multi tester format reviews and I am most grateful to all the brands for their efforts.
What were 2021’s Trends?
A flood of competitors to the earliest carbon super race shoes emerged with many pushing the World Athletics 40mm heel height limit with some attempting to get as close to the magic 7 oz barrier set by Nike’s Next % with lower drops, very light uppers, and minimal outsoles. Not all of them worked for a heel striker such as me and many others. While a new super max beyond 40mm heel category began to emerge.
Carbon plates became “popular” across the spectrum from racing of course to training but as the year ended more flexible plate options both carbon and non carbon emerged.
Super foams either super critical or blends made trainers and racers lighter and livilier yet and also made their way into trail shoes.
Uppers got lighter, more supportive and more breathable through the use of mono meshes, overlays, and elaborate zoning of support in engineered mesh.
- Trail shoes were not left behind as the first carbon plated models came to market with mixed results while uppers also followed the lighter thinner trends of road shoes with surprisingly good results.
- Brands most notably Puma and adidas launched completely new performance run shoe lines with models for multiple purposes but sharing common tech such as uppers and midsole foams while brand new players such as Craft, Scott, and Speedland emerged.
Apparel continued to evolve with technical fabrics, treatments, and constructions increasing comfort in all temperatures and conditions in surprisingly great if not always obvious in ways obvious to the eye and with prices to match performance.
What’s to come in 2022?
I see the following trends emerging in 2022
Super foams and near super foams are now increasingly common in both road and trail with gas infused, chemically modified, and mixes of materials in the foams. Pure old EVA is for all intents and purposes gone as the ride and weight advantages of these foams is so compelling.
Uppers are getting lighter too, moving towards next generation knits (Hoka Carbon X3) with mono filaments in the mix, simpler light yet effective engineered mesh with elaborate zoning of support and breathability (Diadora Equipe Atomo), and light mono type mesh with elaborate overlay/underlays (adidas Celermesh) in both road and trail
“Plates” are moving from monolithic rigid carbon plates to more dynamically flexing (Carbitex), shaped forms (New Balance Energy Arc), multiple plates in parallel (Hoka Tecton X trail) and non carbon highly tunable plastics and fiberglass (Salomon Energy Blade). Brands also now offer non plated versions of the plated platforms (Craft) or PEBA inserts surrounded by more stable foams (Craft, Saucony Xodus Ultra, and some others we can’t discuss yet)
Stack heights continue to increase for both trainers and racers yet the shoes can stay light if not lighter than their predecessors due to the new materials
Weights drop across the board for both road and trail as both midsoles and uppers get lighter and in all categories of shoes.
Prices continue to rise with many shoes with latest tech $180 or more.
Supply chain issues continue to plague the industry with many of the “Spring” shoes we saw delayed until mid year.
As 2021 ends and a new and I hope brighter year is on the way, I can’t wait to get out and run no matter the pace, place, or shoe and maybe push that pace and the distance a bit more in 2022.
Thanks for reading, watching, following RoadTrailRun in 2021.
Please let us know how we can continue to improve.
Have a great run!
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'
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