Monday, August 13, 2018

Hoka Mach review - initial and replacement shoes (blue and grey)

I purchased the Hoka Mach back in February 2018 but never got around to doing a review of the shoe. I recently purchased a second pair, so it seemed like a good time to do so. Here's a good review of the Mach by Ben Zuehlsdorf at URP.

The first pair were ordered right around the time they were released. A lot of things about the shoe were perfect: a very light weight, 7.9 oz in Mens size 9 vs 9.6 in the Clifton 4. Successors to the Clayton line - a very similar shoe that I enjoyed a lot but which caused blistering on the ball of my foot, a problem experienced by many others. I did not get any blistering from the Machs, which unfortunately still seems to be an issue for some people (see some of the reviews here on Running Warehouse). I also thought the Mach had a very nice upper that was flexible and breathable. Finally, the shoes were ample for me in the toe box - they allowed some splay (much more than the Clifton 4 or 5) and didn't feel cramped or cause blistering on the ends of my toes like I experienced in the Clifton 4.

The pair with 230 miles. A little baggy in the upper but not totally stretched out.

A new pair of the Mach - tighter in the uppers.

I put around 230 miles on the Mach and found the durability to be pretty good. The upper has stretched out a bit, but I still can get a decent lock down when I run. The RMAT outsole held up very well - some wear pattern on the outside of the heel but that's where I usually abrade the outsole. But: still plenty of the material left and the shoe feels like it has life in it yet. And, despite a good amount of sweating, they aren't repulsive - they don't hold odor like the new Altra Knit Torin 3.5 does.

I bought a new pair of Machs and found them to be a bit of a revelation. The upper is a bit more locked down than the first pair. I'm not sure if that's because the first pair is stretched or Hoka has tweaked the design in response to early feedback about the shoes being too wide. It seems to be identical upper material, just slightly less of it. But I find the slightly tighter upper to give a better feel on the road - I have a more even footfall with the upper of the second pair being a little more snug. I'll see if they loosen up with more use, or this is a persistent difference. But I definitely like the feel of the new shoes better. (Edit: after 15 miles, the uppers have loosened up)

Here, you can see a couple of shots where there's been a few millimeters of RMAT wear on the outside heel of the shoe (blue = used, grey = new).

The "after" view - worn down so there's no more pattern on the outside rear heel. But still enough material left for another hundred miles (or more)

This shoe only has one run - there is some wear visible immediately, but you can see the "before" depth of RMAT

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Altra Paradigm 4.0 review - good first try but not there yet

This is a highly awaited and positively touted update of the Paradigm series. I did not run previously in the Paradigm, but the early praise of the 4.0 by Sam Winebaum on Road Trail Run got me interested.
A great looking pair of Altras - maybe the nicest yet.

See the StabiliPod at the outside of the shoe near the pinky toe and the heel.

On the inside, just a StabiliPod near the ball of the foot.

Excellent looking outsoles that should hold up for hundreds of miles. I wish the Torin looked like this.

Recommended by Altra for road, trail and cross training, the shoe is super comfortable - its one of those models where they feel absolutely perfect in the store and you know you must have them. The EGO material in the mid sole is luxurious, the toe box is ample but not too roomy, and the quality of the shoe is spectacular. The out sole has enough rubber on it to hold up to wear, but not too much. I couldn't resist.

Unfortunately for me, the shoe has two drawbacks that led me to return after two runs.

First, and most important, the shoes clip the inside of my ankle when running. When the right foot swings back the front left side of the right shoe can nick my left ankle. I've had this experience in Topo's Ultrafly (original - the second version shaved enough material that this doesn't happen). It is one of the drawbacks of natural style shoes that are big in the forefoot. It only happened a couple of times when running, but it was enough to scratch up my leg. 

Second, the shoe is just too bulky. I've been running in the Torin 3.5 knit which are really delightful in the cushion/ground feel tradeoff. Unfortunately, the Paradigm 4.0 is over the top in this department. That might not be a problem for people looking for a real cush shoe for either recovery or ultra road distances (I couldn't see wearing these on trails - I'd be tripping over rocks and roots with this stack height). But for me - my average daily run is in the 5 mile range, long around 10, and weekly miles sub 40 most of the time -- this is just too much shoe. If they took off a bit of the stack height and got the weight down by an ounce or two, this would be a super trainer for me.

I encourage Hoka enthusiasts - particularly people who love the Bondi or Clifton and think it could use more room in the toebox - to check out the Paradigm 4.0. But for me, I'll wait and see what they can do in the Paradigm 4.5 to address some of these issues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Altra Torin 3.5 Knit review - best Torin yet

This is the third generation of Torins I've worn, and the first where Altra knocked it out of the park by creating an extremely comfortable daily trainer.

The 2.5 version was my first pair. Their main deficiency was in the upper material - which was thick and lacked ventilation. 

The 3.0 version addressed the upper material issue, creating a more breathable upper. Unfortunately, over time, I found the thick plastic material over the big toe became increasingly uncomfortable to me. I eventually found it so bothersome I abandoned the model. 

On the 3.5, Altra created a truly magnificent upper. In fact, this could be my favorite upper of all time for any Altra shoe. It grips your foot, but is not constricting. It provides stability but not too much. And it is breathable and soft - my feet aren't feeling too hot on DC summer days and not hot spots where pressure causes discomfort.

The upper feels like a super-improved version of the first generation Altra Escalante. It is fabric-like, stretchable, but unlike the Escalante, doesn't allow your foot to move around excessively within the shoe while running.

One factor in the improvement seems to be a bit tighter weave in the material. The other is the "A-Strap" midfoot support technology which appears to be attached on one end by 3 loops that laces go through and attached on the other end where the upper meets the midsole. This technology is also implemented on the Vanish-R racer and the Lone Peak 4 (which hopefully can address the poor midfoot fit of the latter).

The tongue is thin and unobtrusive, helping create a better lacing experience than the earlier versions. It reminds me of a slightly rubberized version of the tongue on the Clifton 1, one of the best features of that shoe. The laces are a little flimsy and require double lacing, but that's a minor quibble and does improve the comfort of the fit by eliminating possible ressure spots on top of the foot.

The A-Bound midsole material feels very similar to the 3.0, a little more springy than 2.5. The Torins can feel a little mushy, especially after 50-100 miles when the A-Bound loses its spring. An EGO midsole version of the shoe - found in the Paradigm 4.0 and Escalante 1.5 - would hold up better and provide even more energy return. 

The outsole seems unchanged from the earlier versions, which is a little disappointing. The Torin line could benefit from more durable rubber pods with longer lifespan since it is pretty common to read complaints about premature wear on these elements of what is a very durable shoe otherwise. I have put on 40+ miles on the 3.5s and can see early wear on the heel pods, as usual.

Altra has taken a great daily trainer, suitable for longer road races (I've even used the 3.0 on a smooth 30K trail race) and improved on its major weaknesses. I've been running with the 3.5s for a week, and really enjoy the comfort and performance of this Altra mainstay. I'm looking forward to many more miles in this excellent version.

The price has crept up $10 to $135, comparable to the Hoka Clifton 5 at $130. But still, totally reasonable given the general pricing of the industry for cushioned daily trainer shoes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Saucony Ride 10 review

Saucony is a brand I keep coming back to but don't stay with for that long. Occasionally they have a winning shoe like the Mirage 3 and then end up modifying it or discontinuing it or both. Generally they get it just right, but not for consecutive models.

I loved the Mirage 3 - it was lightweight, a little stable, and firm - a great shoe to race in. The original Zealot was a great cushioned low drop shoe. And I liked the Triumph 3 - a real tank of a cushioned trainer. But I moved on, mostly in search of shoes that had more splay in the forefoot and less tightness in the midfoot area.

I have had excellent experiences with the Peregrine 8 - it seems to have gotten the right balance between forefoot room and midfoot lock with a nice heel, not too much weight, and great grip on the trail. That shoe gave me some desire to try out the Saucony Ride 10, a shoe that is about to get upgraded to an ISO bootie in the next version. 

The 10 is a fine shoe. It checks a lot of boxes for me:

- 8 mm drop. I prefer somewhere in the 4-6 range, but honestly I think my heel and achilles tendon prefer a little more here.
- 9.5 oz weight. They feel pretty light to me - it would be great to get down to the 8.9 oz of the Mirage 3s - but really that's a quibble.
- The nice roomy forefoot. My toes have space, nary a blister or black toenail, and no foot discomfort that comes with tight shoes for me.
- A great upper with a secure lockdown. No hotspots or rubbing for me over the metatarsals like Sam from Road Trail Run experienced. A little tight right out of the box, but they loosened up nicely after a few runs.
- A cushioned yet not too much midsole. Goldilocks for me - not too firm, just soft enough. Some disagree and find it harsh, but I don't.
- And a durable and grippy Tri-Flex outsole. No slipping on wet roads, and excellent wear (really, no wear that's visible) through 75 miles.

These seem to be a winning shoe for me for both training and racing in the 10M-13.1 distance. I'd wear them for a marathon as well, I think.

Hope they don't fuck up the updated Ride ISO - due to drop in June. 

This post would suck even more without photos!

A nice forefoot, grippy laces that stay tied, and breathable and quick to dry upper.

I dig the hologram film overlays! Nice and reflective.

A better shot of the nice reflective hologram-esque overlays above the Ride 10 logo.

Looking good... a little dirty but no rubber wearing at 75 miles. These guys should make it to 250 with plenty left.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hoka Napali and Napali ATR

I don't have much to say about these shoes, other than they were way too tight in the midfoot and the toebox compared to the Clifton 4 and even the Clifton 3. They were not a wearable alternative for me, although I did find the Napali (non-ATR) version to be pleasantly light and have a less restricting upper material than the Clifton 4. The Napali could be a good alternative for those with a narrower foot in D width.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 top ten list

1) Was able to run six weeks after abdominal surgery when at initial diagnosis wondered if/when I'd ever run again. 
2) Got times down to 1:44 in the half and 47 min in 10K, pre-surgery times.  
3) About to hit 300 miles on a single pair of shoes (@HOKAONEONE Clifton 4). 
4) Whipped heel and calf pain through PT and millions of lunges and heel lifts. 
5) Ran new races incl Gunpowder Falls and Rodeo Valley. 
6) Made more new friends at Fletchers Cove and College Park @parkrun.  
7) Learned to love cross training on the bike.
8) Understand core strengthening is not an option. 
9) Got smarter about shutting it down early when an injury or cold is coming on. Saves much more time in long run than it costs in the short term. 
10) Most of all, enjoying being healthy and just being out there. Longevity in running is still my top goal, more important than any race or time or annual goal. 

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.

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
Edit: 100 mile update

The shoe is wearing beautifully at 117 miles compared to any other Hoka I've ever owned. The upper is holding up perfectly, and I don't see much additional wear on the outer rubber pad that was visible when I first started running in these. The midsole doesn't feel compressed and I haven't detected a loss in energy return, either. Hopeful these will hit 250 miles in good shape with more miles left in them!

No change 

Haven't worn much more through the outer foam, and most of the rubber shows minimal wear pattern.

The edge of foam around the rubber is holding up nicely. No shredding or ripping!
Edit: 300 mile update

The shoe didn't wear much more through the outer foam and the upper remained totally pristine through 300 miles. Even though those outer rubber pods get shot, the shoe can go on productively for quite some time.