Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Mizuno Wave Sky Review

June 14, 2017

Ever since adidas introduced their Boost cushioning system, there has seemingly been a wave of new shoes from companies looking to have their own version of a highly cushioned, but responsive/springy shoe. It’s not often that Mizuno releases an entirely new model, but the Wave Sky seems to be their entry into this new category.

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The Wave Sky features Mizuno’s new Cloudwave cushioning system “paired with an articulated U4icX midsole and Strobel lining.” No, I’ve got no idea what any of this means, or how it works, but what it amounts to is the softest, plushest Mizuno you’ll ever lace up, especially compared to the typical firm Mizuno ride.

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According to Running Warehouse, the Wave Sky comes in at 11.1 oz. for a men’s size 9, which is definitely on the heavy side for me, but it runs lighter than its weight, like a heavyweight boxer dancing around the ring. That may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s not often I get to wax poetic in a shoe review. The drop is 10 mm.

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Now, how about the actual running part of the shoe? I honestly didn’t expect to like this shoe all that much. Highly cushioned shoes aren’t really my jam, as a rule. I generally lean more towards lighter weight shoes with good road feel. That said, I am a fan of the Wave Sky through my early runs in them. While not quite as bouncy as an adidas Boost shoe, the Wave Sky did have a surprising amount of noticeable rebound without feeling squishy or sacrificing responsiveness.

I’d note that the forefoot seems to be fairly roomy, even for someone like me who has a wider forefoot. So, if you have a particularly narrow one, this may not be your shoe. Take note of the right lacing I had to do to get cinched in.

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I think this is going to be a winning entry in the Mizuno lineup, offering an option to those who prefer a softer rider than Mizuno is known for. I will keep updating this entry as I put more miles in the Wave Sky!

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Disclaimer: I received these shoes free of charge for my review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and are without influence.

 

 

 

 

 

Salomon Trail 20 Review

September 29, 2016

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any sorts, and that’s probably some combination of laziness and wanting to do in-depth reviews with lots of pretty pictures and whatnot. But I figure there may be some useful value to just sharing thoughts on products I use on a regular basis, not worrying too much about getting into nitty gritty tech specs, but just with the hopes of making your next purchase a little bit more informed.

Since moving from the suburbs to roughly 5 miles bikeable distance to Boston, I’ve been biking to work almost daily on my GT Grade. In fact, as of the time I started drafting this post, I think I took the subway 3 times into work as opposed to riding. It’s been a really wonderful change to my daily commute, certainly coming from upwards of 75 minutes by car from our suburban home, and I look forward to it on a daily basis.

Of course, one challenge when bike commuting is how to transport your clothes needed for work. Luckily, I work in an office with a pretty casual dress code, i.e. no dress code, when we don’t have clients, so my daily officewear is jeans, a button down, and sneakers. Since I started riding into work, I’ve left a pair of sneakers in the office, cutting down on the things I need to transport. I also am able to leave my U-Lock and cable locked to the bike rack in our office building. For the rest of what I need, I use the Salomon Trail 20 backpack.

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In this bag, I can comfortably fit a pair of jeans, shirt, and foundation garments (socks too!). Although I generally don’t take my lock with me, I can also fit the U-lock and cable when needed. I would not say it’s appropriate for a suit, but it’s fine otherwise. I think it’d also be tight if you bring shoes with you on a daily basis, but, again, not a concern of mine. For what it’s worth, Salomon states the pack’s volume is 20 l. and 1220 ci.

To keep the pack secure as you bomb through urban streets, the pack has both a chest and waist strap, both of which I find keep the pack exactly where I want it to be. I don’t experience any kind of slipping around, whether when “sprinting” or climbing. The waist strap has two pockets, a zipped one on the left, and a mesh open pocket on the right side. The zip pocket comfortably fits my wallet and keys. Each side of the pack also has deep mesh pockets, which I often use to hold my phone in case I need to access it quickly for, you know, directions. Definitely not for selfies. I never take selfies when riding.

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OK, this ONE time I stopped and took a selfie, but that was purely to illustrate the backpack for this post. Except that I took it a couple weeks before starting this post. And before I decided to write this post. Also, I take a lot of selfies while riding.

So, there you have it, if you’re looking for a streamlined pack for bike commuting, I’d recommend checking out the Salomon Trail 20!

Jawbone Up 2 #ExpertGear Review

March 21, 2016

One of the perks of working in a running store part-time is the chance to learn about a variety of great brands and products through a site called Experticity (and then have the chance to purchase those products at a discount). OK, that’s a big perk of working in a running store. Pro pricing is a wonderful thing but, aside from the personal benefits I get from it, it also allows industry pros to train with a wider variety of products, which in turn helps them provide better advice to customers.

Through my relationship with Experticity, I now have the opportunity to review products, beginning with the Jawbone Up 2 fitness tracker! Until now, I’ve never hopped on the fitness tracker bandwagon, figuring I stay relatively active as a triathlete. Still, the health implications of sitting at a desk all day go beyond not getting exercise during the day and it always helps to have a reminder to get up and move every now and then. But I figured I’d get even more useful information from the sleep tracking, which would give me a better idea of just how much of a sleep deficit I have. No part of me believed I was getting enough sleep before tracking it.

Now, you’ll have to bear with me as, in the interest of efficiency, I did my unboxing while on the trainer while watching results from Super Tuesday 2. That’s right, I’m a multi-tasking triathlete politics geek. NBD.

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What you’ll get in the package is the tracker, a charger, and “instructions.”

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Now for those instructions.

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So, get the app. Plug your tracker into a computer. Got it. Now, when I was able to actually do this, it was an exceedingly simple process. If you have a modicum of familiarity with apps, you will be able to set up the Up 2. As I recall, there’s no pairing to fumble through, no passwords etc. But, my quibble with the process would be that you need to plug the tracker into a computer to do the initial set-up, which seems to be an “antiquated” requirement. On the subject of connecting to a computer/charging, you may have noticed the charger looks a little funny, with no obvious clips to attach to the charger. Turns out, it’s magnetic! Neat!

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You can also see how you actually put the tracker on here. There is a metal clasp that attaches via hook to another piece, which you can move up and down the rubber band to adjust the fit. When you set the app up, there is a video that shows you exactly how to properly put the tracker on. Of course, I’m one of those guys who figures I can figure stuff out on my own – instructions are for sissies, and so ended up putting it on like this.

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I’m a moron, which is plain to see here. After watching the instructional video I was able to do it the right way, which is actually quite easy to do.

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Much better, right? And here’s how it looks on the wrist.

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The tracker itself is thin, light and comfortable, meaning I hardly notice it’s on during the day and never am bothered wearing it at night. Personally, I don’t see it as a drawback that the Up 2 lacks a display as it makes it more business-appropriate for daily wear.

On The Wrist

As for functionality, as mentioned, the Up 2 tracks steps and sleep. That’s it. And, really, given that I have GPS watches for keeping track of my swim/bike/running, as well as giving me smart notifications, that’s all I need from a fitness tracker. When you sync the Up 2 using the UP app, you’ll see a progress chart showing your steps for the day and your sleep for the previous night, both of which you can then dive down deeper into for more stats, as shown below.

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Please don’t judge me for my inactivity today, so far all I’ve done is taken a train from Boston to NYC.

The best thing I can say about the Up 2 is that, seemingly, it works. I’ve never actually taken a hard look at my sleep stats, but I like that it tells me light and heavy sleep, which seems to line up with what I experience at night. If nothing else, it reinforces that I need to get more sleep. As far as cons about the Up 2, I wish that it was fully waterproof so I could swim with it, but it is resistant enough so that you can shower with it and not have to take it off. I do find that it can be a bit of a pain to take on and off, but also don’t have to do that all that often.

All in all, the Up 2 is a worthy option to consider if you are looking for a slim, simple, stylish fitness tracker!

XX2i Sunglasses Review

August 4, 2015

It is with great excitement that I can say I am now a part of the Rudy Project/XX2i team!  If you’re into the cycling or triathlon world it’s a virtual certainty that you’ve heard about Rudy Project before.  Their helmets dominate the Kona field year after year and their sunglasses are a superb combination of technical features and style.    XX2i is distributed by the same company as Rudy Project, Running And Cycling Enterprises (R.A.C.E.) and has been making a name for itself alongside Rudy Project at race expos as a more affordable entry into performance optics.  There are a wide range of options available in different frame styles starting at $59.99, putting the sunglasses at the same price point, or cheaper, than Tifosi or Optic Nerve, which occupy the same space.  The difference?  XX2i glasses are plain and simple better.

For my review, XX2i sent me a pair of the France2 glasses with the crystal frame, green tips, and green flash lenses.  The lenses on this frame are interchangeable, with replacement lenses only costing $24.99.  The glasses come with a great case that keeps your glasses well-protected with foam while not taking up too much space in a bag.  Also, it looks much cooler than competitors’.

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Here are the glasses themselves.

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I seriously love that green, and it just so happens that it matches my bike, which is super-important!  You can see the nose piece looks a little misshapen, but that’s just because it’s adjustable and got bent a little before I took the picture.  The ear tips are also adjustable.

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Now, of course, sunglasses for running and biking aren’t just about looks –   what matters is how they perform.  I first took the glasses out on a commute ride, about 24 miles, on a hot, humid, sunny morning.  As you can see in the picture above, one of The Rules I adhere to when pure road riding (as opposed to triathlon racing) is ear pieces over helmet straps.  I found the glasses to be very comfortable on my face, with no discomfort in the nose or ear regions.

You can see just how much face coverage the France2 provides.  I haven’t experienced any eye tearing with these sunglasses as the lenses do a great job of providing both sun and wind protection.  The clarity is also excellent, better than my Tifosis, giving me confidence when going from sunlight into shade and not worrying as much about seeing road imperfections.

The coolest feature of the sunglasses though is how they shed sweat.  I didn’t notice this feature until I felt a cool stream on my face and couldn’t figure out why.  With my other sunglasses, sweat would streak the lens and dry, making it hard to see.  Not so with the XX2i’s.  Even on hot, sweaty rides, I haven’t had any issues with the lenses staying fairly dry, a huge plus during a New England summer.  Similarly, I had zero issues with fogging while riding.  If I stopped long enough at a light the lenses did fog up, but that went away immediately when I started back up again.

Two other important features to note from the XX2i website:

WARRANTY: Lifetime Warranty! No questions asked, you break or scratch them, send them back to be replaced for a nominal shipping and handling fee!

RETURN POLICY: 365 Days! We know it may take some time to try on and get comfortable with a pair of sunglasses bought online so that’s why we give you a full year to do so! That’s right, take up to 365 days to determine if you want to keep them and if not, send them back for a full refund less any shipping and handling fee.

You can call me an XX2i convert, which I suppose is a good thing if I’m going to be on the team.  Though I was sent these glasses free (that’s my obligatory blogger disclaimer), these opinions are all mine and completely uninfluenced by RACE, Rudy Project, or XX2i.  Silly though it sounds, I want to ride more so I can wear these sunglasses more.  Feel good, ride good.  Here’s the best part, if you’ve made it this far in the review you can be rewarded with a 50% off discount code for Rudy Project.  How’s that sound?  To get the code, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you directions forthwith.

Happy swimbikerunning!

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Road Runner Sports R-Gear High Five 5″ Short

May 27, 2014

This post kicks off an exciting new relationship with Road Runner Sports!  RRS was kind enough to send me some great clothes from their house R-Gear brand, along with a sweet running dufflebag, for me to review.  I’m going to kick off the reviews with the R-Gear High Five 5″ short.  Here they are, pictured below front and back.

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Anyone who has seen my race pictures knows that, when it comes to race shorts, I like to keep things as short as possible, usually in the 3.5″ range.  Still, there are times when having a bit of extra coverage is more appropriate, particularly when it comes to group runs when I don’t want to be “that guy in the short shorts.”  What I love about these 5″ shorts is that they give me some extra coverage without making it feel like I am wearing basketball shorts.  You can see where they hit my leg here, which is to say about an inch or two above the knee.

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This is pretty much my ideal length.  The shorts feature a fairly standard built-in mesh brief that didn’t bind or chafe.  The shorts were, in a word: comfortable, even when tackling the stairs of November Project.  When I run, I don’t want to have to think about the clothes I’m wearing, either in a positive or negative light.  If I’m not thinking about them, they are doing their job, and I’m very happy to report that is the case with the High 5 shorts.  When I first put them on, I noticed that the waistband seems a bit thicker and…for lack of a better word, sturdier, than some of my other shorts.  I thought this might wind up bothering me, but instead it proved to be a positive feature, as the waistband material did a better job of staying put without a lot of need for a tight drawstring, which can cause unpleasant pressure in other shorts.  The shorts stayed put, no riding up, no twisting.

A final noteworthy aspect of the shorts are the pockets, which, for anyone training for a longer race, are quite important to get right.  What’s very cool about these shorts, and, I believe, unique among all the shorts I own, is that these shorts have 3 pockets, two of the “holster” style, i.e. slanted on the back hip with velcro closures, and one zip pocket right at the small of the back.  I typically prefer velcro pockets because they allow faster access to gels and I never have to worry about not being able to get a zipper undone when I’m really hurting for fuel.  At the same time, a zippered pocket is really idea for when you want to be certain you don’t lose something important like a key or hotel room card.  3 pockets, one zippered, two velcro, that is the way to go.  Hands down.  Overall, I really liked these shorts and, for $35 they’re priced right too.  I definitely recommend these shorts!

Full Disclosure: These shorts were sent to me free of charge by RRS.  All opinions are my own.

First Impression Review: Hoka One One Conquest

May 15, 2014

Greetings readers!  After a bit of a lull post-Boston, I’m back with another First Impression Review, this time it’s the Hoka One One Conquest, courtesy of a wear-test run at Marathon Sports in Boston.  Hoka One One (pronounced “hoe-kah oh-nay oh-nay”), which I’m just going to refer to as “Hoka” from hereon out, is a relatively new brand on the market, having been founded in 2009 but only recently showing up in running stores.  Hokas were originally targeted at ultrarunners and gained a foothold among a small, but extremely devoted, group of trail runners that gravitated towards the highly cushioned ride, which protected them over the course of 50 or 100 miles.  It would be fair to say that Hoka is singularly responsible for the recent “maximalist” trend sweeping the shoe industry.  Where the Saucony Kinvara 5 has a stack heights of 22 mm in the heel and 18 mm in the forefoot, the Hoka Bondi 3, pictured below, has heights of 35 mm and 30 mm.  Essentially, Hoka has kept the best lesson to come out of the minimalist trend. i.e. lower heel-toe drop (from the traditional 12 mm) while adding back in cushioning.

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Bondi 3

As you can see, all that white stuff is cushioning.  To give you a sense of some other Hoka offerings, here are some shots of other models in the lineup.

Stinson Tarmac

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Stinson Tarmac (Womens)

Stinson Tarmac (Womens)

Rapa Nui 2 Tarmac

Rapa Nui 2 Tarmac

Mafate Womens

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Mafate Trail

Mafate Trail

Kailua Tarmac Womens

Kailua Tarmac Womens

The first time I ran in Hokas, I tried out the Bondi 2 and, I’l be honest, I hated it.  It was too clunky, too SQUISHY, and just didn’t provide the responsive ride that I’ve come to look for in my preferred running shoes.  After asking around, the general consensus was that if I was going to give Hoka another shot, I ought to try the Conquest model, which as it so happens, was being offered as a wear-test option at the run.  According to Running Warehouse, the Conquest weighs 11.9 oz. and has stack heights of 34 mm in the heel, 28 mm in the forefoot, amounting to a 6 mm drop, not quite the 4 mm drop that typifies many minimalist shoes but flatter than even Saucony’s now-standard 8 mm drop.  The Conquest would be considered a neutral shoe.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, I think Hoka made an excellent choice with this colorway, choosing the same color for the midsole as the upper, which distracts from the gigantic midsole and makes the shoes look a bit more traditional.  Having seem a number of customer’s at GBRC reject a shoe just based on looks, this is not insignificant from a sales perspective.

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I’m happy to report that, after giving the Conquests a shot, I finally am starting to understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to Hoka.  Starting with the fit, the Conquest felt great on my foot, with enough volume to allow for comfort but without my foot feeling like it was swimming.  You’ll notice that my test pair featured Hoka’s bungee lacing system, my first time using such “laces.”  I found they pretty much worked the same as traditional laces, though they may have been slightly harder to dial-in the right pressure.  Hokas come with both traditional laces and the ones seen.  The upper is “no-sew,” which means no seams to dig into your foot.  I definitely felt the tall stack height upon lacing them up, but not to the point of distraction.  The other thing I could feel immediately was the shoe’s rockered design, which seems to be increasingly commonplace.

As per usual, the proof is in the running, in this case the run was a glorious 5.5 miles around the Charles River with none other than Runner’s World Shoe Guide Editor, Jeff Dengate.  As a side note, this was pretty a pretty cool experience for me, being a shoe geek and all.  This was my first run in 4 days, finally getting back after a stomach virus socked me, literally, in the gut, so I wasn’t sure what my legs would have in me.  After an 8:00 first mile, Jeff and I picked up the pace, going through the next 3 miles in 7:26, 7:22, and 7:19, which is definitely on the faster side for me.  I don’t think I could have comfortably run this pace in the older Bondis, but the Conquests proved up to the task, delivering on the promise of a responsive, but cushioned ride.  The bungee laces and no-sew upper held my foot well and the rockered outsole provided for a fluid ride.  Unlike the Bondi experience, I never felt like my foot was pushing through the cushioning, and wasting energy in return.  After only one run, I’m undecided on how the weight of the shoe affected pace.  For 11.9 oz., the shoe didn’t necessarily feel heavy, but nor did it feel as fast as, say, the adidas Adios Boost.

If Hoka keeps making more models along the lines of the Conquest, and finds a way to drop the weight while maintaining the uniquely cushioned yet responsive ride, they are going to continue to make headway in the mainstream market.  Cosmetics will continue to be a challenge to widespread adoption, but not not an insurmountable one.  I can say that I’m happy I gave Hoka one more chance, as I can now confidently recommend that runners looking for a neutral shoe that can handle some uptempo running give the Conquest a chance.

Have you tried Hokas yet?  What was your experience?

Skechers GOBionic Trail Review

January 10, 2014

A while back, I was able to help facilitate getting a bunch of Skechers GOBionic Trail shoes into the hands of Trail Animal Running Club members.  As it turns out, there was a pair for me in the shipment as well, a fact I was not aware of until just recently when I re-examined the sizes I had left.  Not being one to let a good shoe sit around gathering dust, I wanted to get in them immediately and see what they had to offer, first on a 6 mile treadmill run to break them in, and then on a 10 mile tempo run on the streets of Boston, knowing that there were bound to be some icy spots on the road and that the cold weather would give me a good indication of the kind of protection afforded by the shoes.  If all you have time to do is read this paragraph, I’ll jump to the punch line: These shoes are awesome and should be very high on your list of shoes to consider.  For those who have some more time to spare, I’ll keep going with some more details.

If you’re a shoe geek, you’ve probably noticed a huge uptick in the number of reviews of Skechers running shoes on running blogs, the overwhelming majority of which have been positive.  In fact, according to a survey on the venerable blog, Runblogger, the GOrun was voted readers’ second favorite shoe of the year and the brand Skechers came in third most popular, not a small feat at all.  The GOBionic Trail, which I’m just going to refer to as the “Trail” from here on out, is the line’s entry into the trail running market.  Here are the features of the Trail, according to the Skechers website:

Details:

  • GObionic engineering uses nature and organic inspired design for a more natural movement
  • Watershed Mesh drains moisture quickly in wet conditions
  • Lightweight Rock Diffusion Plate disperses pressure to protect against rough terrain
  • Resagrip outsole is a proprietary durable, lightweight and flexible compound with traction control
  • Engineered to promote a midfoot strike
  • Decoupled geometric lugs on outsole elevate flexibility and grip
  • Breathable stretch mesh supports in extreme environments
  • 2 in 1 custom fit – wear with insole for a 4mm heel drop plus enhanced cushioning and protection, or remove the insole for a zero-drop barefoot-like experience
  • Ortholite integrated anti-microbial sockliner helps inhibit odor

Construction

  • Ultra lightweight mesh and synthetic upper
  • Lace up front
  • Smooth comfortable interior for barefoot wear
  • Weight: 8 oz. per shoe in a men’s size 9

But details are just details and runs are runs.  And runs are what put details to the test, so let’s get to the wear testing.  Out of the box, these are some fine looking kicks:

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You may notice some scuffing on the toe in the picture above.  I assure you, the shoes don’t come that way.  I picked up the scuffing by catching my toe on a lip of sidewalk, which then sent me a-tumblin’ to the ground.  I’m not sure I’d recommend doing this, if you can avoid it, but that’s just me.  Here, you can see Watershed Mesh in some detail.  The temperature for the run was roughly 20 degrees but the mesh kept my feet comfortable without overheating.

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And, finally, the outsole of the shoe.

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The first thing you’ll notice when you slip on the Trails is their weight, or lack thereof.  These shoes are light, with an upper that you’ll barely notice.  The toe box is on the wide side, which is great for me as, even though I don’t wear wide widths normally, I do have a wider forefoot.  The wide toe box allows for a natural splaying of the toes upon impact, which will keep your feet feeling good throughout the run.  Even my wife, who does wear wide sizes, finds these comfortable.  One surprise of the shoe was that I REALLY liked the lacing system.  I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but the system allowed me to get a good fit without any hot spots on the top of my foot, which is all you can really ask for from your laces.  Trying to avoid hyperbole, these shoes really do feel like an extension of your foot, rather than a heavy addition.  The 4mm drop is a large part of this feeling, as is the lack of a heel counter and extreme flexibility of the shoe.  In fact, let’s take a look at that flexibility, courtesy of my first ever attempts at a GIF (apparently you have to click them to make them work).

Bionic Gif

Compare to the Brooks Cascadia, which I also happen to love, it’s just a different shoe.

Cascadia Flexibility

If that extremely scientific demonstration doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

The run upon which this review is largely based was a 10 mile tempo run, consisting of 2 miles warm-up, 6 miles up-tempo, and 2 miles cool-down, giving me a chance to see how the Trails perform at different paces.  Some shoes I’ve found, like Hokas, are alright at slower paces but suffer at speed.  Others are great for racing but I wouldn’t put in substantial miles on them.  The Trails excel over distance, at speed.  At one point I even remarked to my running buddy that these are the kind of shoes that get me into trouble during a workout as they just feel like they want to go fast, encouraging me to exceed the pace I probably should be running.  All the same, this led to a fantastic run at a great pace during the tempo portion.  During the slower miles the Trails felt cushioned without losing groundfeel.

Returning to the 4mm heel-toe drop mentioned earlier, it bears mentioning that this kind of drop takes some getting used to.  Even though I do a fair amount of running in the Brooks PureCadence, which also has a 4mm drop, the Trails felt flatter and my achilles/calves definitely noticed it the next day.  This could be partially attributable to the lighter weight of the Trails compared to the Cadences (8.4 oz compared to 9.3) or the relative lack of structure to the upper compared to Cadence.  Either way, I wouldn’t recommend just jumping right into the Trails for all your miles, or any more minimalist type of shoe for that matter, without some period of acclimation.  Start by using them for targeted workouts as you build up strength and then go all-out as you see fit.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned actual “trails” when it comes to reviewing the Trails.  While I do enjoy a good trail run, I won’t be returning to them until after the spring thaw this year so I can’t give any opinion as to how they will perform on-trail.  What I can say is that the Trails perform remarkably well on the wintry roads of Boston and even felt comfortable on a treadmill.  Should I get the chance in the near future to take the Trails off-road, I will be sure to post an update.

That’s all for now, folks, keep up the good training!

Disclosure: I received these shoes for review purposes from Skechers Performance Division and was in no way compensated for this review.  All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Brooks LSD Lite Jacket III Review

December 16, 2013

Sometimes working in a running store provides more perks than just getting to work with cool (and fast) people and helping customers get all the right gear they need to train in comfort and style.  In this case, our friends at Brooks Running provided me with a sample of their Men’s LSD Lite Jacket III to test out.  With the temperatures dropping in Boston, I couldn’t wait to try out this lightweight jacket on my longer marathon training runs.

Before I get to my impressions though, let’s find out what Brooks has to say about the jacket.  According to the website description, the jacket is both windproof and water-resistant, both of which are fantastic features for a New England winter.  The jacket is semi-fitted, weighs 4.3 ounces and features a hood with a cinch as well as one chest pocket.  There are two vents on the back for breathability.  One of the much-touted features of the jacket is that it “packs into its own pocket.”  I’ve yet to test this feature and, honestly, I can’t ever see a need to given how light and squishable the jacket is anyway.  But if things packing into themselves is a feature you look for in clothing, then this is the jacket for you based on that feature alone.  “That’s all well and good” you say, “but what does it look like?” you continue.  Through the power of “Save Image As…” I present to you representations of the LSD Lite Jacket III:

Orange LSD Back Orange LSD Front White LSD Front

It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but the front and back orange colors are the same.  In fact, the orange color is the one that I have and, technically, it is a different product, called the Nightlife LSD Lite III, as opposed to the plain old LSD Lite III.  It’s a good looking jacket and the orange nightlife color gives me some extra comfort in visibility on the roads at night.

I took the jacket out twice in the past week, both times wearing it over a Brooks Rev II Sleeveless base-layer and Brooks Nightlife Infiniti 1/2 Zip.  My first run was 8 miles in roughly 25 degree weather with a bit of a breeze and the second run was 9.5 miles with a starting temperature of 12 degrees and some wind gusts.  Brooks says the jacket is suitable for 40-65 degrees, but unless you run really cold or it’s raining/blowing wind like crazy I think you’ll overheat very quickly in that range.  Me, I run hot, and even at 24 degrees I think the jacket was a touch much without any substantial wind to block.  The back vents certainly help get some air flow going without feeling like they are letting cold air blow through the jacket.  I fared better in the 12 degree weather when I was happy to have the windproof layer.  I still have some tinkering to do to find the right long sleeve match for the jacket, with the Infiniti top being about as heavy a top as I have, but I think I would have been perfectly dialed in with a step down in warmth.

In terms of fit and function, the jacket fit true to other Brooks sizing.  I wear a medium in all Brooks tops and the jacket proved no exception.  I think I understand why you’d want tight cuff bands from a design point of view, as they would prevent wind from coming up the sleeves, but I did find that they really prevent you from pushing up the sleeves when feeling warm, and even made it hard to get to my watch easily on the run, though my Garmin 305 is admittedly huge.  All that said, I wish they’d gone with an adjustable Velcro cuff.  I didn’t use the chest pocket, but I’m sure it’s good for a small key or some gels, or I suppose for packing the jacket into itself.

I will definitely be using Brooks LSD Lite III jacket a ton this winter, particularly on those blustery, snowy days that will be upon us before we know it.  I foresee the jacket getting use on chillier spring and fall days when you really want to wear a t-shirt but biting wind stands in the way.

Run Happy!

Disclaimer: I received this jacket gratis from Brooks, but all the opinions above are my own without input from either Brooks or Greater Boston Running Company.

Tom Tom Runner GPS Watch – Initial Impressions

December 5, 2013

Greetings runners!  Last night at my usual Wednesday night Marathon Sports – Boston group run I had the chance to take the new Tom Tom Runner GPS watch out for a test run so I thought I’d share my initial thoughts.  I’m hoping there’s a chance of getting a review unit in the future for some more extended testing, but, for now, I humbly submit this review based on one sole run.

First impressions, this watch is lightweight and stylish.  The watch is pretty much night and day compared to my current Garmin Forerunner 305, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate on my wrist.  I can’t say I know precisely what the watch strap is made out of, but it feels rubbery without being grabby or heavy on your wrist.  I found I could get a much better fit on the watch than I am able to do with Garmin, making it feel more like a seamless part of my wrist.  Speaking of the strap, one of the cool parts of the watch is that you can actually pop out the actual electronic unit and fit it back into a different color strap.  I’m not sure how many people will be so into customizing their watch look that they will frequently change strap colors, but it’s a cool idea in any event.  But enough of me yammering, you want to know what the watch looks like already.

TomTom FrontTomTom Side

Not bad, huh?  Want a different color?  You can purchase a blank strap for $29.99.

COMFORT-STRAP-TURQUOISE

 

You’ll notice the large black square under the display surrounded by a plastic bezel with 3 dots on each side.  The plastic bezel is how the watch is controlled, with everything being a button push up/down, left/right.  There are no buttons on the side of the display nor is the display touch screen save for one spot on the right side of the display that can be tapped to illuminate the screen.  I’m not sure I can say I understand the shift of the buttons from the side of the display, as you’d traditionally find on a watch, to the square.  Although I’d probably figure things out with more runs, I missed having a dedicated start/stop button that could easily be located and pressed.  The buttons on this watch are fine when standing still, but I’m not sure how easy they would be to operate while actually on the run.  But I reserve judgment here because I didn’t have a full briefing on all the watch’s operations before taking it out for a spin.  I have a feeling that after spending some quality time with the watch I’d be able to figure out everything I wasn’t able to figure out on the first go-round.

Personally, the display on the watch is where it really shines, particularly for its price point of $169.99 (putting it in the same category as Nike’s GPS watch).  While on the run, you have 3 zones to customize the stats displayed, including duration, average pace, current pace and distance, with two stats being displayed in a smaller header and a third in big numbers in the main part of the window.  You can even switch these on the fly just by pressing up or down, which is a nice feature to have.  I can only speak to a dark night run, but, when illuminated, the display was easy to read at a glance, exactly what you want in a GPS watch.  The run display is uncluttered so you see what you need to see and nothing else to confuse things.

I found the satellite connection to be extremely fast but, again, my control is an older Garmin model, so I don’t know how it compares to newer versions.  All the same, you shouldn’t find yourself being the last one to leave on your group run because you’re standing there waiting for your watch to find a satellite connection.  As for accuracy, I believe it was within a tenth of a mile or so of what I generally get from my Garmin on the same loop.  Because the watch has an auto-pause feature, I can’t be certain of whether or not that caused it to lose some mileage.  I generally don’t like auto-pauses for that reason but, perhaps it can be turned off with some settings fiddling.  According to the website, you should get up to 10 hours of GPS running on a charge.

After one run, I would say this watch is definitely worth checking out for yourself at your LRS.  I know Marathon Sports carries it, with more stores likely to come.  When checking it out in person, make sure you try out the buttons for yourself and see if you find they work well for you.  If they do, the Tom Tom Runner GPS should serve you well, especially compared to more expensive models.  If your primary concern is distance/pace/time, give this watch some consideration!

Run Happy!

New Balance Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip Review

November 29, 2013

This morning I put the New Balance Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip through its paces in the Manchester Road Race with 15,000 of my closest friends. The Thermal uses NB’s NB Heat technology to keep you warm. According to the NB website:

“Made from eco-friendly coffee grinds, NB Heat helps to provide thermal warmth and heat the surface temperature of the skin by approximately two degrees. Plus, it provides UV protection and is designed with quick-dry and anti-microbial properties.”  NB Heat or not, it’s a pretty sharp looking top

NB FrontNB Back

So, there you go. But pretty words aside, the real question is how does it perform on the run?

Temperature at race time was roughly 30 degrees with anticipated winds of 18-20 mph. Before the run even started we had to wait for 45 minutes in the cold. I paired the top with a lightweight vest and I am very happy to report that at no point did I feel cold on account if the top, even though my toes and fingers were fairly frozen by the end of the wait for the start. On the run itself, I actually found I was a touch on the warm side when there was no wind, but fine when the wind picked back up. I was very grateful for the thumb hole feature and I love zip tops for the flexibility they offer to regulate temperature.

If I had to pick out a negative for the shirt, I’d say the fit in the arms could use some work. The body of the shirt fits nicely but the forearms get quite tapered and can feel a bit tight. That might be a design element though, so try it in for yourself and see what you think. I will say that the thumb hole feature fits very well and doesn’t feel like they just cut a hole in the cuff, as is the case with some other shirts I’ve tried. I should also mention there’s a small pocket in the arm that could fit a house or car key, of gel, though not much else.

So, all that said, I feel very good recommending the NB Impact Thermal 1/2 Zip for your winter running needs!

Run Happy!

Disclaimer: I received this top free of charge from New Balance for review purposes. All my opinions are my own though.

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