Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Balance 1080 v7 review

I feel like I'm having a hard time finding a shoe that has a few essentials:

- big forefoot with plenty of room for my toes to spread out
- durable upper and outsole that can last 250 miles without any wearing through in either place
- 4 to 8 mm heel to toe drop
- a decent amount of structure in the heel, a minimal amount of stability through the running gait

The Topo Ultrafly came pretty close. It showed wear in the upper - burning holes through on both sides just past 100 miles was the only demerit. Not sure why, but I'm liking the shoes enough to continue using them as walk-arounds and ordered another pair to see how they wear.

The Hoka Clayton 2 checked all the boxes. However, they gave me a nasty blister along my arch below my big toe joint which is a common issue in the originals and happens to some in the 2s as well.

So my search continued. Joanna at Pacers Running on 14th Street suggested trying out the New Balance 1080 v7 because of the heel drop and big forefoot specs. I was open to trying a shoe that I hadn't used since the original Fresh Foam 980 (review by Road Trail Run) from several years ago. It was a pretty light and spacious shoe, but I found the foam a little dead on the energy return. 

Normally, I avoid shoes over 10 ounces - and the 1080v7s weigh in at 10.8. But I was getting pretty desperate to find a shoe that gave me some relief from nagging heel pain and felt like trying an 8mm drop shoe made sense.

I like this shoes a lot. I wish they were lighter by an ounce or two, but I can deal with it - it is a smooth shoe to run in, so whatever impact the weight has it's offset by the nice gait I have while running in them. I have run 110+ miles in them to date, and they are holding up nicely on the outside heel spot where I have extra wear. Cross fingers, but I hope I can get 250 miles+ on these before retiring them.

The upper: nice mesh that's pretty breathable. I've run in 95 degree temps with 100% humidity and I haven't found them to be as uncomfortable as a lot of shoes in those conditions. The laces are a good length, but I found the best locked down fit with using the last lace hole on the shoe with a looped tie.

There is an internal bootie in these. They are fairly tight feeling when you first put them on, but they stretch to fit very nicely. I usually like a loose fit but these are comfortable for me. Some have complained about a rubbing seam inside the bootie, but I don't feel it. 

The insole is pretty standard - nothing to report here which is what I like. Medium high arch, not super soft. The midsole is a little firmer than even the Fresh Foam 980 which is ok but could go for a touch softer.

The outsole is the kind of durable rubber I like on shoes, with a couple of breaks in the forefoot and the midfoot to increase flexibility. The wear is visible but not excessive on the heel area, so I hope it can handle another 150 miles or so without wearing through straight to the midsole foam. We'll see...  The outsole is grippy enough for pavement, but seems to retain mud and dirt until the shoes get a good knock together.






Sunday, July 16, 2017

Topo Ultrafly 100 mile review

The Topo Ultrafly is holding up well as the odometer hit 105 miles, and has earned a central place in my running stable of shoes which include the Topo Fli-Lyte 2 and the Altra Torin 3.0. The Ultrafly is an extraordinarily well made shoe and wears as well as any shoe I've had since the Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 8. Here are some earlier thoughts on both Topo shoes.

I am enjoying the heavier build of the Ultrafly with a touch of stability. I've had some hip/psoas tightness which seems to benefit from a more built up shoe, and the Ultrafly is doing the trick. And my sore right heel (not sure if its from excess heel striking or tight calves and achilles) responds well to the more rubberized, cushioned feel of the Ultrafly and possibly the 5mm heel to toe drop.

The only real drawback of the shoe is its weight - it is 10oz in the men's size 9. I would like an ounce or ounce and a half lighter normally, but the weight is not a detriment to my middle of the pack pacing most of the time. For faster races I can go to the Fli-Lyte 2. But I think I'd wear these in a half or full marathon distance.

The upper is holding up nicely. There's a little puckering but no holes in the material. They do seem to be a little more stanky than the usual shoe. It could be the fact the upper isn't as breathable as it could/should be (hope to see some minor improvements on that count in the next version of the Ultrafly in 2018), but it might be nothing more than the humid DC weather.



Edit: Holy crap. Not even 20 miles after writing this, two holes have opened up on the upper, right on the spot where I mentioned the puckering, above. This is for normal road and some dirt trail running - I haven't taken this on trails where they could get scraped up. Sort of sad to see this happen on a shoe so young in its lifespan. You can see my finger on the other side of the holes. So much for what looked like extraordinary durability.




The outsole wear patterns are usual for me - some wear on the outsole near the ball of the foot and the outside of the heel. The heavier rubber is holding up super well - I don't think all the rubber is going to get worn away before the midsoles lose their effectiveness after 300+ miles.









Saturday, July 1, 2017

Altra Torin 3.0 review

Upgrades to good shoes get me nervous. The Torin 2.5 is a great all-around trainer. However, nothing's perfect - it has a few drawbacks spelled out in my earlier review.  

Torin 2.5


  • The midsole is very "foamy" - meaning it is soft and cushioned but doesn't have much responsiveness. It feels pretty dead when I am out on a run - like there is a lot of energy lost on impact with no bounce.
  • The wear pattern on the rubber pods on the outsole is uneven and early. I was seeing too much wear even with +/- 50 miles on the shoe for a $120+ purchase.
  • Others have complained about the plastic-y upper material that isn't very breathable. I didn't think it was that bad - it has mesh areas on right/left of your big toe that allowed breatheability - but it was certainly not the most airy upper I've worn.

Altra's Torin 3.0 seems to have successfully addressed each of these issues. 

The midsole has a little bit of bounceback sorely missing from the last version. According to the Altra website, they haven't made a change in the midsole material - still "Midsole Eva With A-Bound Top Layer & InnerFlex™." I don't believe it. While it's nowhere as bouncy as Ego, it has something else in there that is an improvement. A Torin with Ego is something to dream about...

The wear is improved for me. I'm around 46 miles and the rear outer pod on the heel is not worn down to the foam. Hopefully it can hold out for a good while longer.

Torin 3.0

Not so good on the Torin 2.5

Altra has also shaved off .7 oz - always good to see when a manufacturer can go lighter in an upgrade without destroying the shoe's good qualities. They possibly shaved some weight off the upper or even out of the midsole.

The shoe's upper is definitely much more breatheable compared to its predecessor. I have run under blazing hot summer conditions in DC and on a 4 hour trail race and my shoe hasn't turned into a sweatlodge. It's obvious how much breatheability is built into the upper - just hold it up to a light to see how much light gets through.




I referred to this shoe earlier as a Clifton that fit me right. I think that anyone looking for a cushioned zero drop shoe who has liked the Clifton but found one aspect or another of that shoe lacking (the Clifton 3.0 upper wore badly and stretched out, the 2.0 midsole was too hard, the 1.0 tongue didn't work for me) should check out the Torin 3.0.

 

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.

Edit: see 100 mile review of the Ultrafly here.

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.