Friday, November 17, 2017

Hoka OneOne Clifton 4 Review: 4th time a charm?

The Clifton line from Hoka has always been one step away from a great shoe for me. 


The first iteration was a revolutionary shoe, combining heavy cushion with lightness. Unfortunately, the thin tongue killed it as a wearable shoe although most other reviewers loved that feature and the model overall.

The second version mucked up nearly everything good in an attempt to remedy the tongue issue. Unfortunately, the changes to the rest of the upper and the midsole were counterproductive in my experience; I found it to be a hot and overly firm ride.  

The third version got the closest in my book to a big winner, but the upper really couldn't stand up to the beating I delivered during DC summers. http://www.midpackgear.com/2016/08/170-mile-revisit-of-clifton-3-not-so_18.html


So is the fourth time a charm? Through the first 40+ miles, I'd say yes.

Things I like about this version:

- The upper is a sturdy yet breathable nylon mesh that does a good job of holding down the foot without having to tighten the laces too much. It seems like its going to be a lot better in keeping its shape and tension over the course of hundreds of miles than the Clifton 3. For me, this is a major improvement.

- The midsole seems significantly firmer yet still cushioned as compared to the 3s. I found the 3s to verge on marshmallow-ish, especially as the miles layered on. The midsole changes has led to some weight gain in this iteration (In mens size 9, it weighs in at 9.3 ounces vs 8.6 in the Clifton 3). This is ok by me - the shoe doesn't feel like a heavy clunker compared to the 3, though compared to the 7.6 ounces of the original Clifton it is a tank.

- The toebox may be a little more relaxed than the 3s, but its not very noticeable. My toes are able to splay decently in the shoe, and feel comfortable to an Altra-lover.

- The lacing is most comfortable slightly loose, which is the way I like to wear shoes. I tightened it too much in the first couple of runs which led to toe bruising on my middle toe (no photos, you can thank me for that) from not giving my foot enough room to expand under the laces. Loosening it up on subsequent runs has taken care of the problem, and don't feel any hotspots and haven't experienced any blistering.

As always, I'll update at 100 miles.

Looking good in the Griffin/Micro Chip colorway:


A pair of Hoka OneOne Clifton 4 Griffin/Micro Chip colorways

They look more tapered in the toebox than they feel. 

Nice padded tongue that stays in place and doesn't get in the way

The same outsole which we know and love in the last iterations of the Clifton

Getting a little wear on the left outer shoe rubber pad, but the foam is holding up ok

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Best of 2017 Running Podcasts

Podcasts: a running conversation inside your earbuds

There's still nothing like getting lost in your own thoughts while out for a run. But I do also like good conversation as well to make the miles roll by. I think of a podcast as a conversation between the earbuds - and find they are a great way to take your mind off of some of the discomfort of running while not being too distracting. Another side benefit of listening to running podcasts while running is allowing you to geek out in running talk and even pick up a few useful pointers or two.



Here’s a list of some of my favorite running podcasts in regular production in fall 2017. These people spend a lot of time and effort producing these free shows, often on a weekly basis. I urge you to support the ones you listen to by becoming a Patreon supporter at the link following the mini-reviews.


Science of Ultra - Shawn Bearden. The gold standard of ultra endurance health podcasts. Shawn calls the bullshit out and elevates the science which is always interesting and often actionable. http://www.scienceofultra.com/support/

House of Run - Jason Halpin and Kevin Sully. A very entertaining podcast covering news in track and road racing. The click and clack of running. https://www.patreon.com/houseofrun


Marathon Talk - Martin Yelling and Tom Williams. A lot of marathoning, but a lot of conversation about other aspects of running, from 5K parkruns to ultra endurance feats. They have a great rapport together and are always entertaining. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923212


Pace the Nation - Chris Farley, Joanna E. Russo, William E. Docs. A running related podcast sponsored by Pacers Running, from the center of the universe in Clarendon, Virginia. Also a lot about problems, preoccupations, and pets. If you like to laugh, this one can’t be beat. Veers from discussions of the ridiculous (emojis) to the sublime (Gabe Grunewald). Led by three guests who play each other expertly mostly for our amusement but often for theirs as well.


The Shakeout Podcast - Canadian Running, Michael Doyle, Sinead Mulhern, Tim Huebsch. Our friends to the North put on a heck of a podcast about everything from heptathletes to joggling. Highly recommended.


Ultra Runner Podcast (URP) - Eric Schranz. A great way to keep up on the latest news from the pro ultra scene as well as pick up some real wisdom and knowledge about going long from Eric, his sometimes co-host Sarah Lavender Smith, and a lot of average Janes and Joes who do some incredible things. https://www.patreon.com/ultrarunnerpodcast


The Strength Running Podcast - Jason Fitzgerald. A good one for geeking out on the training side of things from a coach, particularly strength training. He also pulls a great variety of running luminaries (from Shalane Flanagan to Dathan Ritzenheim) as guests,  Very sensible and science based.


Talk Ultra - Ian Corless. The European mountain/ultra/trail scene plus a lot of global coverage that URP doesn’t have the bandwidth for. Ian is extremely knowledgable and very opinionated, but I admire him for putting it out there, even when you’d like to slap him. https://www.patreon.com/talkultra


Run Faster Podcast - Jay Johnson. Another great podcast where great coaching advice gets dispensed. Jay is a student of coaching and tells it like it is. Make sure to listen to him about your strength and mobility (SAM) training!


Marathon Training Academy - Angie and Trevor Spencer. More aimed at the marathoners, and often at people just getting started in terms of their coaching advice. But interviews with folks like Bart Yasso and travelogues from races like Berlin, Munich, etc., are very listenable and amusing. Good husband and wife chemistry on the air as well.


Running for Real - Tina Muir. Tina’s new podcast after leaving Run to the Top with the goal of making running real. Tina scores great guests and asks a lot of questions you wouldn’t expect.


Personal Best - Brian Dalek. Runner’s World’s new podcast which seems to be a rebranding of their old one from what I can tell. I liked the previous Runner’s World Podcast and Brian Dalek is a good interviewer, so I expect this one will stick on the playlist.


Run to the Top - Sinead Haughey. Sinead took over from Tina Muir, and has done a fine job filling her running shoes. Churns out a ton of shows like clockwork - seems like there’s always another one to listen to. I find the cheesy show sponsors to be off-putting but someone’s gotta pay the bills for the content.


Trail Runner Nation - Don Freeman and Scott Warr. A good listen with a lot of great guests, like Andy Jones-Wilkins, Candice Burt, and others. A lot of holistic health and nutritions solutions which I find of questionable science get peddled, but still overall a quality podcast and love the roundtables.

DC Rainmaker Podcast - Ray Maker and Ben Hobbs. Hilarious repartee and quality DCR insights into running/tri technologies in response to audience questions. Great when it exists, but in the middle of a regular multi-month hiatus. Come on, guys.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Topo Fli-Lyte 2 review and 100 mile update

Topo Athletic's Fli-Lyte 2: an alternate to Altra


I already shared some thoughts a while back about the Fli-Lyte 2 here. I haven't changed my mind that much. The shoe has held up very well, and is one of my favorites for everything from training to racing half marathons on down. I'm not positive it would be enough shoe for me for a marathon, but it isn't totally out of the question.

The shoe is light and doesn't have a ton of energy return - but is nicely cushioned, not overdone. And it is very roomy, breathable - all around comfy. The mesh doesn't get your feet overheated, yet it seems to be a tougher, more durable mesh than what Topo uses on the Ultraflys which doesn't hold up very well (I have gotten holes in the Ultrafly upper fairly quickly in the shoe's life cycle).

The only complaint is a little premature wear in the rubber near the outside of my left heel. There's a small area where there is a break in the rubber and I see wear around that spot. The rest of the rubber pods seem very durable. I'd expect to see these shoes wear well for the remaining 200 miles or so I usually put on shoes for a total of around 300+.

You can see the durability of the upper and outsole in these photos:






you can see the extra
wear spot on the top left of the photo

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.

Edit 10/10/17: The upper and the midsole of the shoe is holding up nicely through 150 miles. No wear or tear is visible on the mesh; the midsole has a lot of cushioning remaining by feel. The rubber pads on the outer heel are starting to wear away as with the 2.5. I'm still very positive on this update despite this issue which needs to get addressed by Altra on the next version of this shoe.

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.