Monday, July 01, 2013

Wool for Summer Running? Finally Yes! Ashmei Race Vest and Socks

Since the advent of light merino wool running shirts several years ago I have been looking for  true "summer weight" wool. When the weather cools and in winter I almost always run in wool from Ibex and Icebreaker. Come summer and above 60 F I have gone back to synthetics.
Wool has great thermo regulating properties and is practically stink proof so I have been on the lookout for lighter cooler wool.

This year I discovered wool apparel from Ashmei that recognizes that when it's really hot,  pure wool needs some "technology" help to keep us cool.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Great Cases for Protecting Your Phone on the Run: Tech21 Impactology featured in New York Times

The New York Times Gadgetwise Blog has an article " The Science of Protecting your Phone" on my favorite iPhone case company Tech2. Tech21, some models available at the Apple Store,  uses a layer of magic polymer D30 which hardens on impact and redirects shock. Models also available for Android, Nokia, etc...The article talks about their bumpers and bumper and back cases. The author has no fear dropping his phone to the floor or rapping it on his desk.
I prefer a case that completely covers the screen and have Tech21's Impact Snap with Cover for iPhone 5. As I clock my runs with Strava I always have the phone with me.

Very slim, not much thicker than the phone itself, very classy, and super protective.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Ultraspire Quantum Run Belt-Simple, Effective, Bounce Free Carry Anything Marvel

As more and more of us run with a smartphone, gels, water, keys, etc.. simple ways of toting our gear while running in whatever clothes we chose are needed. I happen to always run with my iPhone to log my miles and performance via Strava. I never look at the phone while I run so I just need a place to tuck it away.  The Patagonia Strider Pro shorts have 2 very effective pockets for that purpose, no bounce. See my review here. Other shorts have either bouncing drop in front pockets, small back pockets, or no pockets at all especially ladies' shorts. I have tried all kinds of belts with mixed results. Most often they loosen on the go, are to big for just the basics, or are overly complex for the purpose.

Ultraspire Quantum Belt-Front: iPhone 5, 2 Salomon SoftFlasks
The folks at Ultraspire have come up with a brilliant way to carry a few things. The Quantum Run Belt. The key innovation is that there is no buckle around the waist.  You just slip them over your feet and up to your waist. Small, Medium and Large sizes available. The belt fits snuggly and comfortably with no bounce possible. You can even tuck an 8 oz or even 16 oz SoftFlask or two between the belt and your body and not notice them at all. That is until you drink something and the flask tends to flop over. I say finish it or hold it in your hand but you can certainly tuck them back into the belt.

Rear: 4 gels, Better than Naked Jacket under compression strap

Ultraspire Quantum-Top View: No clip, iPhone 5, 4 gels, NorthFace Better than Naked Jacket on board

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

New Research: Running is good for your knees! -Outside Magazine

Very interesting Outside Magazine article reviewing a very large scale study, almost 90,000 runners and walkers over 7 years. The runners had half the risk of osteoarthritis and half the hip replacements when compared to walkers, regardless of mileage.
While risk of osteoarthritis increases with age the cause in runners is usually from other sports (tennis, skiing, soccer, basketball and even from deep knee bends at the gym) really any other sport than running. Running promotes cartilage thickening. Runners also tend to be leaner which obviously helps.

"While all physical activity should theoretically provide some protection for your joints, Williams says he was surprised to find that forms of exercise other than running and walking actually boost your risk of osteoarthritis. In fact, people who were most active in activities other than running were at a 21 percent greater risk for osteoarthritis and 99 percent increased risk for hip replacement compared to those who exercised the least."

So, as my high school track coach used to say: "Don't play games, you'll get hurt. Just run."

First Review: Hoka One One Rapa Nui Trail Runner, Road Too!

Hoka One One (Europe site showing Rapa Nui Comp trail and Kailua Comp road models) is well know for launching maximalist, super cushioned running shoes while most other shoe companies veered towards minimalist barely there shoes. I have run in Hoka's original Mafate, the Bondi, and most recently the Evo Tarmac. All of these shoes feature a minimum of 30-36mm of cushioning and an approximate 6mm heel to toe drop. Stiff, fabulously cushy, and surprisingly light  I have found them to be a great shoe for recovery, long runs, and any kind of downhill. I just couldn't seem to take full advantage of the rocker sole profile when tired tending to get back on the heels.

Enter  more "minimal" Hoka, the Rapa Nui Trail and Tarmac
Hoka One Rapa Nui Trail

Update: Boulder Running Company has an early US release of the Rapa Nui Trail (model I have) and Rapa Nui Tarmac (road version) both $129.95 available today November 20th, 2013.
Update 1/20/14: the Rapa Nui is now the Rapa Nui 2 and more broadly available in the US. Biggest change a new upper that does away with the burrito toe area shown below replacing it with a seamless toe box area. Midsole and outsole construction and thus the ride appear the same as described below. A fine review of the Rapa Nui 2 by fellow NH blogger Nate Sanel over at Runblogger. Rapa Nui Trail

Basic Info:

Height: 20mm forefoot height/26mm heel height: 6mm drop. About the same as other Hokas.

Weight: exactly 10oz for my size US 8.5 so likely about 10.3oz for standard 9. At least an ounce less than the comparatively svelte (for Hokas) Tarmacs.

Upper: Mesh with welded overlays. Unlike many 2013 shoes there is still stitching particularly in the toe box area. This likely adds to weight. The tongue is a thin suede like material with a bit of mesh cushion on the inside. Similar to the Tarmac's tongue but thinner and softer. The tongue (white in picture) extends almost all the way to the toe, unusual construction as part of the toe box is actually the soft tongue.
Toe Construction:  Hoka One Rapa Nui Comp

The sides wrap around the foot and over the tongue like a burrito up to the stitches by the toe. I believe this helps with overall flexibility but means several seams over the toes. These seams have not been an issue at all so far. Fit is comfortable with decent forefoot volume if a bit narrower than Tarmacs. True to size with my high arch, narrower feet wearing thin socks.

Update: The new version of the Rapa Nui now coming on sale in the US has a new toe area construction. The somewhat complex "burrito" construction with many seams is replaced by a open toe box.
Photo Boulder Running Company: Hoka Rapa Nui Trail Toe Box

Midsole:  EVA as other Hokas but at 1.5x volume vs. 2x volume for older models. The Rapa Nui has injection molded EVA (IMEVA) vs. the compressed EVA in all other models for what is claimed to be a more responsive feel and more rebound. I think this is true, if subtly and may also contribute to the fact they also have more forefoot flex by far than other Hokas I have run in.

The midsole extends up and around the upper to create a "bucket seat" for the foot, a signature of all Hokas and what also creates the illusion they are far off the ground and somehow not stable, not true.

Outsole: Decent lugs for most trail terrain. Lugs are are not noticeable on the road. Harder rubber (black) in heel and toe areas. I am seeing some accelerated wear in a few of the heel lugs as I have run many miles on the road. Par for the course for Hokas. The Shoe Goo may come out in a month or so...Carved out areas in the midsole for increased flexibility, and these Hokas flex in the forefoot as well as any trail shoe, a first for Hokas.
Outsole: Hoka One One Rapa Nui Comp

Overall geometry: overall width of outsole is narrower at heel and forefoot than Tarmacs. This is positioned as a racing Hoka. Far more flexible than other Hokas. The rocker effect is less pronounced.

Laces: One pull speed laces as on Tarmacs. I have found them effective

The Ride:
I have run 190 miles so far [Update: 300 plus miles] in the Rapa Nui, about 150 road miles. Still very much the cushioned  like running on grass while on the road Hoka feel. A bit surprised that they felt almost as cushioned particularly in the heel as Tarmacs which have about 10mm more of foam cushioning front and back.Of course super cushioned even more so than the adidas Energy Boost I reviewed earlier but responsive and smooth in a way similar to the new Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1, also reviewed here yet without nearly as much of what is almost a too firm road trail feel.

At the forefoot they generally feel as flexible as a "normal" running shoe and the characteristic rocker effect of other Hokas is far less noticeable.  I have not had the occasional metatarsal pain at my big toe that I have on occasion experienced with the Hoka Mafate and Tarmac.  The soft forefoot cushioning and flexiblity seems to lack a bit of stability on the very technical rocky, rooty NH trails of my first trail run. A band of denser rubber outsole on the outside of the forefoot to the midfoot such as on the New Balance 1210 Leadville or or an embedded rock plate, web or frame of plastic such as in the Inov-8  or my adidas Energy Boost could help make them a bit more stable.

I have run and hiked about 90 miles on the smoother less technical trails in UT and the RapaNui climb far better for me than other Hokas. Much more trail feel with no rock push throughs despite no rock plate. Not quite the bomb proof downhill performance of "traditional" Hokas but nonetheless very smooth over obstacles.

At speed on the road they felt great. I did a test 3 days apart on essentially the same 6 mile course running at a moderate easy pace for 5 miles then clocking a fast last mile on a Strava segment. First run was in Nike Lunar Fly racing flats from several years ago. Second run in the Rapa Nui. I was overall 50 seconds per mile faster , I did push a little harder on the easy miles the second time, but more significantly my last fast mile was to the second identical to the prior run and a segment record for me, with less perceived road shock and effort.

I think the Rapa Nui will,  given their lighter weight, lower profile, and flexibility be a faster shoe than prior Hoka models and a good candidate for my mostly downhill fall St. George Marathon as well as Park City's Jupiter Peak Steeplechase with its 3000 feet of climbing and then fast downhills. I believe as with all Hokas this is a great shoe for folks struggling with injuries such as PF or worn out joints.

Given the flexibility I believe Rapa Nui's is a more responsive uphill trail running shoes than the bigger Hokas. As slope increases and the rocker angle of traditional Hokas is exceeded (about 10 degrees) I have found you need to have plenty of knee lift to drive up and forward.  Last year I ran most of my trails in Tecnica X-Lite, a lower profile close technological cousin to the Hokas, a great shoe but quite heavy and with a somewhat loose upper. As far as downhills Rapa Nui  have the great confidence building Hoka cushion on a somewhat narrower less stable platform but also  have greater responsiveness and terrain feel than its beefier cousins: Mafate, Stinson, and Tarmac.

A little less of the Hoka "cloud", more flexibility, less weight. What I have been waiting for from Hoka in a longer run trail and also road runner. A true hybrid good for anything you can throw at them except maybe a 5K-10K road race with no compromises for road, trail, and hiking.

Another great review of the Rapa Nui over at Runblogger

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston: Interfaith Healing Service, President Obama's Beautiful, Uplifting Running Metaphors

“This doesn’t stop us. And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us — to push, to not grow weary, to not get faint, even when it hurts. We finish the race. And we do that because of who we are and we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend, a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody’s there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick up.”

“Our prayers are with the injured -- so many wounded, some gravely. From their beds, some are surely watching us gather here today. And if you are, know this: As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again,” he said as applause rained down. “You will run again.”

“When the Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, the Bruins are champions again – to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans – the crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the one hundred and eighteenth Boston marathon. Bet on it!’’ 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston was All In to Save Lives: The Finish Line and the Hospitals.

"The bombs at the Boston Marathon were designed to maim and kill, and they did. Three people died within the first moments of the blast. More than a hundred and seventy people were injured. They had their limbs blown off, vital arteries severed, bones fractured, flesh torn open by shrapnel or scorched by the blasts’ heat. Yet it now appears that every one of the wounded alive when rescuers reached them will survive." 

The tragic events at the Marathon occurred within yards of the medical tent and hundreds of the best caregivers in the world. I have not run another big city marathon in many years but have run St. George 3 times with 7000 competitors. St. George puts a very active medical presence on the course to intersept those in trouble and has a relatively light medical presence at the finish line. You finish, go under a mister, are handed a bottle of water and directed into a grass corral with hundreds of others to fend for yourself, often in tremendous heat. Not that EMT's aren't around but you are pretty much on your own.

Boston, for those who haven't run it makes finishers walk a couple hundred yard (at least it feels that way), very friendly gauntlet of medical people and volunteers. No stopping for any length of time beyond picking up a water bottle, mylar, medal, food. If you can't walk and need help they are there in an instant with wheelchair and helping arm.

The fact that hundreds of some of the best medical people in the world, EMT's, police, race volunteers, finishing runners with training, and passerby were there at the site of the bombings and went into action in seconds going from tending a few blisters and dehydration to setting up a battlefield triage and tending to gravely injured is truly amazing. Within 5-10 minutes all the injured were being treated and sent to hospitals.

The heroic care continued of course at the hospitals. And here the story is equally amazing. Please read the full NewYorker article here. The hospitals had drilled for such a mass event but it was so large, so sudden, and so devastating that no direction was really possible. Everyone knew what to do:  hundreds showed up immediately, nurses watching the news decided how to stock multiple operating rooms based on anticipated injuries, teams formed with multiple specialists for each patient.

All the injured who were alive when reached by rescuers are still alive and we pray it stays that way.

From the article written Atul Gwande, a doctor at one of the hospitals, reflecting on the post 9/11, Newtown, Aurora, Iraq and Afghan wars world:

"We’ve learned, and we’ve absorbed. This is not cause for either celebration or satisfaction. That we have come to this state of existence is a great sadness. But it is our great fortune.
Last year, after the Aurora shooting, Ron Walls, the chief of emergency medicine at my hospital, gave a lecture titled “Are We Ready?”
In Boston, it turns out we all were."

Boston Marathon: Please donate to help victims, Interviewed by Park Record(UT).

The City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts along with other business and civic leaders have established a charity, The One Fund, to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Sadly, I believe we will find out that several of the maimed were runners, especially by that second bomb.

Please consider a donation. I just donated.
Link to donation site:
Link to press release:

I was interviewed by the Park Record in Park City, UT about my experiences at the Boston Marathon along with several others from Park City. Link to the article here:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon: I did not sleep well last night

I ran Boston yesterday. A magnificent day on the roads ending in tragedy.

I did not sleep well. Not the usual after marathon sleeplessness. Yesterday's events were such a contrast of beauty, effort, and joy followed by fear and tragedy. 

Grateful that we and friends are safe but deeply saddened and angry about the injuries, deaths, and terror on this particular, highly symbolic day: The Boston Marathon, Patriots Day commemorating Lexington and Concord, and of Boston itself. All symbols of the best of our region,country, and humanity and the day when somewhat still parochial Boston opens its arms to the whole world. Much lost. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those and their families struggling with loss and injuries. I saw the blasts go off from the bag pick up area. 

Yet, amid the chaos all of Boston, the BAA, the people of Boston, the first responders, doctors and nurses, and authorities responded instantly and magnificently. Many many more might have died if it wasn't for the best doctors and nurses in the world tending blisters and such and race running doctors who ran to the scene and who instantly turned the medical tent into a battlefield triage tent. The police within a few minutes stopped the race away from the scene. The residents and businesses opened their arms to cold exhausted runners stopped on the course or unable to get to their hotels. 

The Marathon and Patriots Day will come back bigger and with even more emotion and meaning as this was an attack on our freedoms, peaceful assembly, history, and the good noble endeavor of running a marathon. 

The theme for the Boston Marathon, on billboards and posters everywhere is : All in for Boston. Right now in this difficult time we should all be All in With Boston.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Boston Monday: It's going to cool fun! Gear list

Really looking forward to my 5 or 6th Boston. Had a 25 year gap in there. The weather should be cool, good for me. Not much of a fan of the course but will try for once not to go out to fast!  Love the crowds, the organization, the tradition. Had the goose bumps at the expo yesterday seeing so many fit and fast runners of all ages from all over the world. The Marathon and I am lucky and grateful to be still able to qualify and run in such an amazing event. Best wishes to everyone running Boston Monday!

Shoes: Adidas Energy Boost.  My go to shoe all spring
Socks: Falke. Anatomical fit, lightly cushioned
Shorts: Patagonia Strider Pro. Love the 2 big no bounce pockets. Just the right 5" length.
Shirt:  Mountain Hardwear Way 2 Cool Tank. Not sure I will need the magic Q cooling disks,  who knows this is New England and it was 33 and raining Friday. Fits just right and has good shoulder coverage.
Belt: Salomon S-Lab 2 belt. 6 pockets (2 zip on a no bounce soft belt. iPhone on board Strava but I won't be looking at it. Gels, Bloks in other pockets.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Spring Running Favorites: Patagonia Strider PRO Shorts, NorthFace Better than Naked Jacket

With spring trying to arrive I have been enjoying 2 very well designed running items from Patagonia and the NorthFace.

Patagonia Strider PRO Shorts
I like the Strider PRO alot because for the first time I have found a short with decent sized pockets which actually work, no bounce and secure. The Strider has 2 decent size hip pockets: the yellow stretch fabric covers the pockets and is tied into the waistband.  There is also a zip pocket on the rear.  I run with an iPhone 5 in a baggie for Strava... and for pictures along the way. By placing decent size pockets on the hips and making them snug and secure Patagonia is the first to really solve the "pocket problem".
Patagonia Strider PRO shorts 

I have even been able to stick a full Salomon 8oz Soft Flask in the other pocket or you can put at least 4 gels in either pocket. Note with the Salomon Soft Flasks once you have had a decent drink, no matter the pocket, they tend to flop around so I hold them in my hand after starting one.

The waist band is snug and substantial  but unfortunately has a continuous pull cord so no way to synch a bit tighter and keep it that way when pockets are really full: phone and Flask.

The material is a combination of very soft, smooth polyester fabric on the front and back and mesh on the sides. The inseam is 5", a great compromise length. A very functional, breathable and comfortable short indeed. $55 retail.

NorthFace Better than Naked Jacket

The $130 Better than Naked is one fabulous running jacket. Very light at 6.35 oz. Made of a non plasticky, smooth yet textured and stretchy fabric it not only blocks wind but its breathability is outstanding The FlashDry treatment really seems to work as I have never sweated through the jacket. I tend to run hot and this jacket really bridges the gap between wind protection and a sauna, wet feeling in variable conditions.
North Face Better than Naked Jacket

Hard to see in the picture but the sleeves running from just in front of the elbows, up under the arms and then down the back in a strip are a more mesh like version of the rest of the fabric. The wrists are also made of the mesh material and can be rolled up a ways. There is laser perforation venting at the top of the back.  I have not yet run with it in rainy conditions but expect it will provide decent protection but really should be considered a wind shell.

I wear a medium and have put a heavy weight mid layer underneath without feeling constricted due to the stretch nature of the fabric. The pocket is decent sized and accommodates an iPhone 5 without bouncing even when the jacket is partially unzipped.

Disclosure: I purchased both items.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Sign of the Times: Vibram Five Fingers Jump the Shark

Vibram Five Fingers-75% off they're giving them away

Vibram Five Fingers on deep discount at the local outdoor and running store. The barefoot, near barefoot, very minimal running shoe has jumped the shark. For many if not most, more than occasional light use is an invitation to injuries. See this NYTimes article on a recent study clearly showing the risks and real injuries from overdoing it in Five Fingers. Sure, in a 5K race I get out the super light racing flats but for training other than intervals minimal is not for me and I might say not for most.

Low or zero drop running shoes with roomy forefoot and seamless light uppers are the future  for most runs and runners. These shoes will have decent cushioning as I think, and the studies are starting to show, that super minimal shoes are really only for a very few. Running form can be adjusted for many but probably not changed, especially  during later stages of a long workout or race.

Some examples of lower drop, cushioned shoes I am running in these days:

  • The Altra Torin is a fantastic shoe. My first zero drop shoe and have had no issues with sore calves. Review soon
  • Altra Superior: zero drop pretty light cushion brief overview here ; 
  • adidas Boost (10mm drop)   review here. I will run Boston in these.
  • Hoka Tarmacs: (6 mm drop)  super cushioned, for recovery runs review here
For the trails this summer I am going to run:
  • Pearl Izumi N1 Trail (low drop about 4.5mm)  review here 
  • Tecnica X-Lites or this year's version the Demon X-Lite, a low drop wide outsole cousin of the Hokas with more flexibility, a little less cushion, and lighter  (review here) 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First Look, Run, and Race in the Adidas Energy Boost Running Shoe: More than the "Magic" Boost Material

I received my pair of the new Adidas Energy Boost at end of February :  $150,  9.3 oz, 11mm heel to toe drop. Stack height 17mm forefoot 26 mm heel according to Running Warehouse.

Update 2/28/2013: I took the Boost out for a first run today. The upper is snug and feels great. No hot spots especially around my big toe which isn't liking anything but a wide shoe these days. The Boost is narrower in the forefoot than what I have been running in but no issues. It is fairly stiff in forefoot flex.

The "magic" Boost material is very cushiony especially at heel and at slow speeds, almost Hoka soft, but no sensation of sinking away into a pillow. Not much noticeable energy rebound just a very comfortable ride. A great shoe for long slow runs.

At speed they feel completely different. I can't say I feel a distinct rebound in the forefoot but I do sense that I may be turning over a bit faster. The feeling is firm but no harsh. See below my commentary about the Torsion System. Not nearly enough data but I ran a 1. 4 mile Strava segment 8 seconds faster than earlier this week with about the same perceived effort. Wish the heel was a bit lower.

Took a chance as I had only run in them once before and ran the Boosts in my first race of 2013, the Black Cat 20 miler in Salem, MA. Sensational. Ran the pre Boston tune up pace I wanted to and walked away from the race tired but not sore. Easy on the legs and responsive, a rare combination. Very good on downhills. Even towards the end when I was tired the shoes never felt sloppy. No blisters or issues with my troublesome big toe so the upper, while snug, does stretch just enough.
Update 3/30/13:
180 miles in the Boost. Except for a couple runs in the very fine Pearl Izumi N1 Trail all of my running in March has been in the Boost. Great day in day out leg freshness no matter what I throw at them. Almost no wear at all on the outsole. Snug upper should be thought of as a tight fitting sock and not as a shoe upper as that what it really is. No blisters, no problems with my troublesome big toe which anything other than a wide Altra Torin seemed to cause pain with in February and January. A bit firmer than when they were new and this is a good thing. I will be wearing them at Boston!
Update: While my Boston time was slow my feet and legs were happy in the Boost. For the first time in a marathon no blisters whatsoever.
Update 7/1/2013: Now have close to 300 miles on the Boost. Midsole has not collapsed. Upper almost like new and over time has stretched to my foot. The outsole is showing most wear in the toe off area.

Shoe Details:
Runners have been buzzing about the claimed energy return properties of the Boost midsole, a steamed under pressure molding and expanding of thousands of bits of TPU into a matrix of irregular shaped shapes. All other midsoles are made of EVA, either blown or molded, so Adidas use of TPU is different and the claim is that they provide superior energy return to EVA. Runner's World did some mechanical testing of the material which confirmed it had the best energy return of the 800 shoes they have tested.  TPU is also not as sensitive to temperature differences, the brick midsole when its cold. I did my usual finger test of midsole firmness and find the material to be very soft indeed,  softer in my test than even the very soft Hokas. Interestingly they feel more elastic; namely when pressed the material wants to pop back out. Indication of the energy return? We'll see..

Seeing how soft they were I thought they might feel mushy and "Hoka like", pillowy or unstable walking around the house. They do not. The other parts of the midsole and outer sole might explain.

Adidas Energy Boost Construction
 Under the sock liner is a fairly dense woven, maybe impregnated fabric. There is a round cutout at the heel to the foam, maybe to seat the heel? In front towards the forefoot there is a slight indentation into which it looks like the fabric layer is glued, again to seat the foot. I think this fabric "plate" may distribute foot impact over the surface of the midsole. The gray oval and tab is for a MiCoach foot pod.
Adidas Boost Outsole 

 There is a stiff yet thin plastic yellow Torsion System plate which runs on the medial side from near the heel and wrapping up the midsole all the way to near the toes, under the black outersole.  On the lateral side it runs from the the midfoot at the rear of the central plate to the toes. This plate likely provides the shoe the structure to support the foam without it feeling unstable or sloppy. Pressing my fingers into the outsole, anything not white above shows it is plenty firm. The combination of the outsole and Torsion System likely will make the rebound firm and directed, not like the mushy feel on toe off I find in shoes like the Kinvara. Runs will tell if this is the case.

Adidas Energy Boost 
 Towards the lateral side, where the heel lands there is no plastic plate but there is an "outrigger" of outsole similar to what Altra does. Assume this decouples the heel. A bit curious how the heel will feel given the soft midsole.

The upper feels outstanding. No seams at the toe which is a bit low and narrow in volume compared to what I have been running in lately, Altra Torins with their wide toe boxes. This said the Techfit material, which is not a mesh but more like a softshell material stretches just enough to make them super comfortable with the foot well held. They fit me true to size, may be a 1/4 size small.

Disclosure: I purchased the Energy Boost.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Review Pearl Izumi EM N1 Trail: Smooth, Streamlined, Versatile

The Pearl Izumi N1 Trail is a 9.8 oz,  $115, highly versatile trail runner, a prototype of which took Tim Olson to a record win at 2012 Western States 100. Pearl Izumi planned to launch the E:Motion line a few months ago but wisely pulled the first production pairs and destroyed them as the midsole was too firm. At OR they offered to send me the N1 for a second look. They had  earlier sent me a pair of road N2 which I found painfully firm and along with feedback from me and others did the right thing to get it right.  They have!

The N1 is a fabulous shoe on...the road. Road because due to all the snow and slush here in NH,  I have not been able to run them on trails, yet. Adequately lugged, with a thin rock plate and with a well designed, supportive upper I am confident they will be fantastic on trails. After all Tim Olsen thought they worked just fine for 100 very fast miles.

If I recall, Pearl Izumi was the first shoe company to reduce the number of seams by using welded overlays and glued seams. Everyone is doing it now to reduce shoe weight but Pearl Izumi has really made the seamless, simple streamlined upper an art form in its N1.  The single layer mesh is tightly woven and soft. The toe box while not as roomy as Altra's has absolutely no overlays, yet is not sloppy due to a low outer bumper wrapping to a point at the first eyelet. They fit me a half size small, 9 instead of 8.5.
Pearl Izumi N1 Trail

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail
Some of the upper magic is hidden inside. In addition to the thin overlays on the outside, there are 4 thicker welded overlays on the inside on both sides (pink arrows)  surrounding the mid foot. Note  that in addition to a tongue lace holder further down as one would expect, there are 2 tongue lace loops (green arrows)  between the first and second lace eyelets. Tongue stays put and this system contributes to wrapping the mid foot all around.  I have the found the upper supportive without being constrictive in any way.

The outsole is more than adequately lugged for most terrain up to real deep mud with a small plate of outsole material (yellow arrow) under the arch for a touch of pronation support.  There is also a denser cookie embedded under the arch in the midsole from what I understand. The rock plate is visible through the forefoot above. The rear lugs are wider for what I assume is some braking effect on steep downhills.
I can report that while a bit "slappy" due to the lugs and rock plate the outsole is also fantastic on the road.  A firm ride directed ride the N1 is not pillow soft but has plenty of cushion. This is the first truly hybrid (road/trail) shoe I would not hesitate to take on any road or trail run or race up to marathon distance.

Ride and Midsole
The ride is really determined by the E:Motion's midsole geometry. I can say the geometry is super smooth and natural. I have a sensation of landing on my mid foot and then easily rolling forward to toe off. With the zero drop Atra Torin, another shoe I am enjoying running in as I prepare for Boston, I have a sensation of landing flatter on the forefoot but then having to push off and up to toe off.

Pearl Izumi prefers not to talk about heel toe drop  but with the real and distinct sensation of a  mid foot landing and then very natural feeling push off as one goes to toe off. Pearl Izumi call this "dynamic offset" and below is described in an email from Chuck Sanson, Run Guy at Pearl Izumi :
        "The “dynamic” in dynamic offset is due to the unique shape. In the simplest terms we moved   the take-off point which is traditionally under the 1st met head or ball of your foot, approx 25mm rearward. By doing this we effectively created empty airspace under the balls of your feet when you are at stance. As your ankle and knee come over the top of the shoe moving forward, your forefoot falls into this dead airspace in a smoother fashion with the effect of a smoother transition and less slap."

Here is the dynamic offset and heel toe drop data for the E:Motion line: 
Source: Pearl Izumi
So, the heel toe drop as measured from the mid and outsole materials is 1mm. When the forefoot is loaded at stance it has a "dynamic offset" of 4.5mm or effectively 3.5 mm. I believe this means that if the forefoot was against the ground in the picture below my heel toe drop would be 3.5 mm. Running Warehouse has the heel at 23mm toe at 16mm which I assume includes the insole. Insoles can add ramp to a shoe.
Below a picture of the Altra Torin and Pearl Izumi N1 nose to nose. The airspace under the toes on the N1 clearly extends further back.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail and Altra Torin nose to nose
The Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trail is a smooth running trail shoe with a very comfortable supportive upper. The overly dense midsole foam problem of the prototypes is clearly resolved. I believe it will be equally adept on moderately rough trails, snow, mud, gravel, and roads.  I have very much enjoyed my first runs on the road in this shoe. The simple yet highly effective midsole geometry of the E:Motion line contributes to a distinctly fluid and natural sensation at landing, loading and toe off.

Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion website

Disclosure: Pearl Izumi provided me the review pair at no charge.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

New Advertiser:Sage to Summit- Mountain Running and Fastpacking

Please go over and visit Sage to Summit my new advertiser. Sage to Summit is a great mountain running and fast packing store in Bishop, CA, the gateway to the Sierras.  They have just started an online store. They also do guided trips, including one of our favorite treks in the Alps,  a Tour du Mont Blanc for runners.

I see on their website that Sage to Summit  still has in stock some sizes of the hard to find ultralight and functional Ultimate Direction AK race vest as well as few of the SJ vests
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest

as well as all kinds of other goodies Any purchases help this blog. Thanks for reading and for supporting my advertisers!