Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 review

I could've sworn I wrote a review of the Altra Lone Peak before, but a review of my posts showed none and confirmed my fading power of memory.

I owned the Lone Peak 2.5s. I enjoyed the cushioning and roominess of Altra's moderately cushioned trail shoe (falling between the less cushioned Superior and the maximally cushioned Olympus). But there was too much of a good thing in the Lone Peak 2.5 version -- the upper was a little too loose and roomy, causing a lot of foot sliding on rocks and downhills resulting in black nails and blisters.

The Lone Peak 3.0 is a massive improvement in my view. It is a much more form fitting upper, providing plenty of foot splay and comfort at the same time. I found that my foot didn't move around much and the tension of the laces were just about perfect.  The laces are a bit too short, but they stay tied.

The one drawback to the shoes is the insole definitely slid around when I ran through water on a hot and sweaty day. The water drained super well, but once there is a layer of moisture, the insole doesn't want to stay in place. Dominick Layfield on Road Trail Run had the same issue with his 3.0s, but addressed it by crazy gluing the insole down. I haven't tried it yet, but intend to do so the next time I expect to be running in wet shoes.

Otherwise, I find them a great all around trail shoe in the 3.0 version. Great rubber grip, cushioned enough while still preserving enough ground feel, not too heavy (but certainly not light), pretty good at draining out after a dunk, mildly breathable so my feet don't get super hot. The durability seems pretty good for me on the trails in the DC area -- no abnormal wear is visible at 60 miles.

As Dominick writes, the newest 3.5 version is about to get released with what sounds like minor changes. Given that my first pair of 3.0s has another 250+ miles left on them hopefully and I have a back up pair that I currently use in the gym, I'm not even sure I'll have a need for another pair before they release the 4.0 version! But the 3.5 release will certainly mean a lot of good discounts on the 3.0 -- I just snagged a pair of Torin 2.5s for $68 for a model which doesn't seem to have changed much in the 3.0 version. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Unboxing - Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 2 first thoughts, some comparison to the Ultrafly

I liked the Topo Ultrafly's so much over the first 30 miles or so, I decided to try the newest model from Topo: the Fli-Lyte 2.

I didn't own the first version of the Fli-Lyte, so I can't compare them in terms of an upgrade. But a few thoughts compared to some other shoes I've worn recently.

They are 3mm drop and fairly light at 8.2 oz in Mens 9s. They seem light as feather's compared to the Ultrafly's 9.2 and 5mm drop.

They have a nice breathable upper, especially compared to the Ultrafly which has a pretty tight knit upper.

And they are a looser fit - bigger in the toe box, looser in the midfoot, about the same in the heel compared to the Ultrafly. Part of the toe box improvement is shape, as you can see. But they also benefit from a much thinner toe bumper.

On the road, the Fli-Lyte 2s have a nice feel - a little soft and mushy but still a bit responsive, definitely not a rubbery/bouncy feel like the Ultraflys. On the first run I had them laced pretty loose but didn't feel sloppy even at that low tension. I'll definitely give them a pull tighter on my next run.

On my first run in the Fli-Lytes, I immediately was reminded the Ultrafly has some slight motion control while the Fli-Lyte 2s are purely a neutral shoe. 

With both shoes, I feel pretty comfortable midfoot landing. There's no rocker effect on either shoe that I can tell.

The rubber areas gave me plenty of traction on slick pavement, and those areas look pretty reinforced so I'm hopeful they will hold up to striking and scuffing for longer than 100 miles, which seems to be the limit for Altras.

Fly-Lyte 2 on top, Ultrafly on the bottom: 

Fly-Lyte 2 corner heel rubber overlay:

Ultrafly corner heel after 40 miles showing very little wear:

I can see using the Fli-Lyte 2s as a racing and tempo shoe and for shorter daily running, and the Ultrafly for longer runs and easy trail running.

I'll come back with more thoughts on both shoes once I hit 100 miles on each.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hoka One One Clayton 2 review

Last you may have heard, I was in love with my Altra Instinct 4.0s. Unfortunately, I developed some heel pain, symptomatic of insertional achilles tendonitis, self-diagnosed with my degree in Internet medicine. I decided to experiment with non-zero drop shoes to see if there was any improvement in the pain I felt, mostly in the am and at night (not while running).

I decided to try the new Hoka One One Clayton 2s. I have tried on the original Claytons and didn't love the feel in the store. But the reviews of the update have been largely positive - an improved upper as well as a fix for a blistering problem many folks had with the original made it seem like an appealing choice.

I have joked it would be great if Hokas and Altras had a baby - meaning, a shoe with a comfortable (wide) toebox and the cushioning and drop of the Hoka. Cliftons have been almost great, but not wide enough. Challengers more so. And the lack of any heel to to drop was irritating my heel.

The Clayton 2 is very much in this vein. A super roomy toebox and comfortable upper, Altra style. And a 4 mm drop. Plus, a lot of Hoka style foam and cushion. They definitely did the trick for my heel - I experienced almost immediate relief and the pain completely went away in a week of running in the slight drop shoes.

These shoes were super comfy and light -- only 7.2 oz in a men's 9. I ran several races - including a 15 mi trail race through roots, water and mud, a 5K XC type race, and a fairly hilly half marathon without race-specific training with good results. The laces are rubberized and gave a really nice tie - cinching down the upper and preventing foot sliding. A super good fit. Except... a blister did develop on the inside of the ball of my right foot from the edge of the insole where the arch meets the upper material.

I thought it might have been a fluke - got my feet wet on the half marathon and thought that could have caused an unusual blister (I had already run 35 miles with no problems before it sprung up). But unfortunately, it happened again a few days later in the same spot on a 6 mile run.

I think the problem is with the insole - it should not have a rough ridge where it meets the upper material - it should be tapered and maybe even glued in place to avoid this irritating rough spot. I don't like cutting things up, but that might be my next step (or find a pair of replacement insoles).

Also, I experienced some pretty aggressive wear on the outside heel of my left foot - not completely surprising since its all RMAT foam and no rubber on the outsole (keeping the shoe so light), but its still not a good sign since it is almost all worn down in one spot after only 100 miles in. Another 50-75 miles and I'd be wearing into the white foam at this rate.

Hoka is so close with this shoe to something great for a light trainer/racer. But my experience through 100 miles is that they haven't solved the blister problem that has plagued this model. And Hoka still is not a long lasting workhorse for such an premium priced shoe - I had early breakdown with the Clifton 3s midsole material last summer.

I'm going in another direction - that combines the bigger toebox of the Altra and has some cushioning and a bit of heel/toe drop a la Hoka -- but that is pretty durable (some rubber on the heel) and better fitting: the Topo Ultrafly. I'll do a review on them once I hit 100 miles for a better idea of how they perform in the medium-term. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

10,000 miles of run tracking (thank you, Nike)

I have been obsessively tracking my miles run since July of 2009. I had just hit 45, and was unhappy that all my resolutions for my 40s had gone down the toilet.

Healthy lifestyle could never quite take hold. And unhealthy habits were hard to break. As a technophile early adopter, I was super excited and hopeful that Nike's then revolutionary + SportBand would help me do what I had failed to consistently do for my entire adult life.

With a janky little accelerometer in your Nike shoe, the wristband tracked your mileage and speed. It was the first taste of running tech crack that got me going on the road of a long run of purchases in the Garmin family, from the Forerunner 310 to the 935, and tracking and analysis from Nikerunning.com to Garmin Connect to Strava.

Yes, I quickly went overboard, running from 0 to nearly 100 miles (and back down to 10) in the first few months I started running.

But at least I was able to track it and work to correct the errors of my ways. I discovered consistency through data feedback. Yes, many people have done it for decades with running logs (always too much work for me, including driving around trying to measure running paths in my car), but the new running tech enabled measuring and tracking easily at the press of a button. And here we are eight years later, and the odometer on my tracked miles run is about to roll over from 9999 to 10,000 on Saturday.


A lot of naysayers don't like the concept of trackers and GPS watches for various reasons. But for me, it gave me the ability to hold myself accountable and keep my running going over the long haul. It's not something I think I've ever said, but thank you, Nike, for getting me off my ass on a regular basis and helping transform my physical and mental state for the better through running.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Garmin Forerunner 935 quick hits mini review

As always, if you want a real review, read DC Rainmaker's review. This is a quick wrapup of my general impressions of the device and whether its worth the upgrade for the average runner from my last watch, the Forerunner 235.

My view is that if you have a lot of Garmin love - you are the kind of person who doesn't run without it, wears it when not running for things like step counting and 24/hr heart monitoring, the answer is a yes.  I'll run through the biggest pluses:

1) Improved battery life over the Forerunner 235. I have had it set to GPS and Glonass, Bluetooth and 24 hour hr on, alerts for calls and calendars on. I have run 6.5 hours over the last four days. And the battery is at 57%.  I'd estimate 10% drawdown is for the background functions, 47% for running, which means about 5% per hour for running. Garmin says 24 hours on GPS - that may be right if Bluetooth and HR is off. For the full kahuna of settings, I'd feel comfortable that it would have plenty of juice left after a 50 miler or a 12 hour run. And going away for a week of travel no longer means stressing out about whether I pack the cable - it should be good for an hour of running a day for seven days plus background draw and still have 50% left.

2) Better display. I find it to have improved contrast and outdoors readability in bright sunlight.

3) More accurate Elevate wrist HR measurement. This is completely subjective, but I see less unexpected spikes or cadence lock where the module gets stuck measuring your footfall cadence instead of your heart rate. It also seems to be giving more accurate readings when I do things like get up from my desk and run up the stairs - getting to the peak and returning to rest faster than the 235. 

4) A more comfortable strap. I don't have to tighten and loosen it depending before and after each run. It measures HR well with a more lax tension; I think it is a little more rubberized and grips to your wrist better.

5) Barometer. I always felt like I was getting ripped off from the estimated elevation gains on Garmin and Strava. Hopefully this is more accurate.

6) Better looking. Small changes include the metal buttons and the improved case and bezel. It just looks more quality than the 235.

7) Additional running metrics, including readings on aerobic and anaerobic training effect. I find it helpful to see these post run. I'm looking forward to getting training status reads after I've been using it for a month as well.

8) Ability to set alarms using Garmin Connect mobile rather than only on the watch. I often realize after turning off the lights that I haven't set my watch alarm for an early race wake-up. It's nice to set it on the phone - a lot easier than fumbling through several layers of menus on the watch to do so.

9) A nice solid feel on the wrist. The weight is heavier than the 235, but not that noticeable. It is a lot lighter than the Fenix line which just was too uncomfortable for me. Given that it has the most desirable of the Fenix 5/5S functions, the size and weight is a real plus here.

10) Improved activity move bar response. Again, a subjective take, but it seems like the move bar is more consistently cleared with exercise. Sometimes the 235 would take forever to do so.

There you have it. Sorry to push you over the edge if you were wobbling, but I don't think if you are reading this you'll end up regretting it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Altra Instinct 4.0 review

I still love my Torin 2.5s, but my Torins don't love me back as much. At least the heel doesn't.

As you can see, the rubber outsole on the heel smears off like cream cheese on a bagel after about 100 miles. The top photo is after 108 miles, the bottom photo is a previous pair after 158 miles. Clearly I scuff a little on the outside of the heel, but this never has ripped off a rubberized area like this.

Altras didn't have a terrific reputation for build quality - I read a lot of complaints out there about wearing through uppers, especially on trail shoes. Personally, I haven't had that issue on my Lone Peak 2.5s or 3.0s, and I didn't have wear issues on my Instinct 3.0s.

So, given that I want a little extra heel protection beyond what the Torin 2.5s provide, and I don't want to give up the Altra Foot Shape toebox, I tried the Instinct 4.0s (for men; for women, it's the Intuition 4.0) out once again. I had already bought and returned a pair of this latest model; the right shoe didn't feel the same as the left shoe (I notice the first run of shoes when they are first released, no matter who the manufacturer is, often have minor defects like this. I've had issues like this with Hoka when I get them right off the bat; I assume it takes a couple of manufacturing runs to hammer out the problems.) But given that I loved the 3.0s so much (see my review of the Instinct 3.0 here... The 3.5s left a lot to be desired, so I moved on), I decided to give them another chance given the great reviews they've been getting, and the fact I loved their grandfather the 3.0s.

I went for the grey/yellow pair after striking out with the black ones. I think I got a winning pair.

First of all, the Instincts have a lot more rubber on the bottom. There's a yellow layer - and a graphite layer of rubber around/underneath that in spots. Then there's the grey foam.

Here's a closer look:

And again with more of a side view:

It looks like its going to take a lot of scuffing to go through the yellow and graphite layers of rubber. And even if I do, the light grey foam underneath seems firmer and more durable than the light foam on the Torin.  It costs an ounce or so in weight, but given that the Torins aren't exactly racing flats at 9.1 ounces, an extra .9 ounces is not really noticeable.

The Instinct 4.0s are 3mm lower than the Torin 2.5s, which I prefer - it gives you a better ground feel.

A couple of noticeable differences...

The upper: The Instinct 4.0 is a little less form fitting than the Torin 2.5, yet, I'd say it is a tighter lacing grip. Sounds contradictory, but the Torin holds by being more molded to the foot while the Instinct relies more on the lacing.

I'd also say the Instinct 4.0 upper will be more comfy on hotter days with a more breathable mesh. But the Torin 2.5 upper didn't bother me on warmer spring days, and I have hot feet.

The midsole: The Instinct 4.0 is a firmer shoe with better road feel. The Torin 2.5 is more cushiony and pillowy. 

The outsole: The Instinct 4.0 looks to be a lot more durable. It definitely has a better grip given the additional rubber making contact with the ground. The Torin 2.5 relied on foam in a few spots which really has little gripping power. I ran a fairly tame trail 50K in the Instinct 3.0 and I see no reason why I couldn't do the same with these. Same goes for road marathons - I did with the Instinct 3.0 and these should be similar. Not sure they'd be great for faster stuff like a 5K where I found the Torin 2.5 to be pretty competent if not ultra speedy.

Looks: Altra continues to improve in the design department.  See the improvement from the Instinct 3.5 to the Instinct 4.0 -- looking more presentable in public, the little kids don't point at your feet and yell "freak".

Retail: $110. Hopefully I can get a full 250+ miles out of these. I'll be back and let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Altra Torin 2.5 review

I've procrastinated writing a review of one of the most comfortable pair of trainers I've ever owned, and the best pair of Altra's I have run in: the Torin 2.5. It's good I'm getting around to writing this review now, since the 3.0 is expected to be released in the next couple of months - long enough to get a lifecycle out of a pair purchased today.

The Torin 2.5 is a good daily trainer kind of shoe. It's relatively light and relatively cushioned - for my taste, just about right. I would be happy to wear them for a trail ultra if grip wasn't too big an issue, and would definitely wear them for a marathon or half. I have worn them for shorter distances - 10Ks and 5Ks -- but they have drawbacks at those races. The foam is not very springy - it's relatively dead - so you really don't get the kind of energy return bounce you are looking for in those quicker races. The ultimate upgrade for the Torin would be to use the EGO foam in the new Escalantes - it would allow this shoe to excel at the quicker stufff.

The shoe is pretty ugly looking. Altra is doing better in making the foot shaped shoe look less like a clown shoe and more like a regular running shoe. They've done a great job with their latest versions of shoes like the Instinct, Lone Peak and Escalante on the design front. Hopefully the Torin 3.0 looks a little more socially acceptable! (The black/red version is the better looking colorway, better than the blue/yellow, below)

Now, picking it apart in detail...

The upper: I love the construction on this shoe. Most of it is some sort of nylon material with varying degrees over plastic overlays. Some think it is too tight and not breathable enough, but it is great for me. I get enough support that my feet aren't sliding around, but I don't find it overly hot (and I do get pretty warm in the feet during my runs). There's a little bit of mesh on the upper that perhaps provides some ventilation. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune during the summer, but I haven't had a problem. More support than the Instinct 4.0 here, which feels too loose to me. The shoe laces up very well - not hot spots or puckering like I saw on the Instincts current and past.

The midsole: Absolute comfort. I don't find it too mushy or too hard - it is just right. My foot, which on the right has suffered from vague and annoying pain due to either too much or too little cush over the last couple of years - is happy and pain free. My feet don't feel "tired" at all - they've nailed it here. For comparison, it is significantly firmer the Escalante, slightly firmer than the Lone Peak 3.0, softer than the Instinct. 

The outsole: The weakest part of the shoe. I suffered excessive wear on the outside heels of both shoes. Yes, I tend to do my share of heel striking but land midfoot most of the time. I had to retire my shoes at around 150 miles because the black rubber was totally gone. Hopefully this was unusual wear, based on running on some rougher surface. But still, it doesn't look like this is a shoe that will have much life after 200 miles. Altra has consistently had quality issues like this, but is making progress. Hopefully the Torin 3.0 addresses this problem