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 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.