Monday, June 3, 2019

Torin 4.0 Review

The Torin is one of those models that seem to change substantially with each iteration yet managing to remain true to the concept of the shoe. The Torin is about plush and cushion for training and even possibly longer races (perhaps the  marathon/ultra distance at less speedy paces).

I've run in a bunch - 2.5, 3.0, 3.5 Mesh and Knit. My favorite of them was the 3.5 Knit, so it seemed like Altra was making good progress in their iteration of the line over the last few years. I've been running in the 4.0 (regular?) version for the last 60 miles and really like the shoe.

New and improved features of note:

- A well fitting upper that is an improvement over the 3.5 Knit, which was a little baggy around the tongue and laces. This shoe fits a lot more like the Kayenta - more form fitting without being too tight or creating hotspots.

- A better midsole material made of Quantic - closer to the feel of the Ego midsole of the Escalante line than the A-Bound of previous Torins. It has a bit of a bounce to it and doesn't feel like it has flattened out at all in the first 50 miles.

- Support straps at the midfoot. They aren't that noticeable like the ill-fated version Saucony implemented on the previous Kinvara models. They may incrementally help with lock-down. But they aren't anything to be that concerned with, one way or the other.

- A decoupled heel on the outer side of the shoe. This presumably creates a little more flex on heel landing on the outside of the shoe. Not sure I notice it at all, but the general feel on landing is comfortable cush but not squish.

- Nice laces - thin and stay tied. The 3.5 laces were not long enough, the laces of the Paradigm 4.5s are ridiculously long and still untie with a double-knot.

- Seemingly more durable rubber pods on the outsole. On previous versions, the pods seemed like they were made of midsole material or really soft rubber. The pods on the 4.0s seem like they are made of honest-to-goodness rubber that might hold up for a couple of hundred miles before they scrape right off. I am getting some wear on them at the heel (none elsewhere) but it seems more normal than premature.

- Light on my feet. While they are listed at 9.1 ounces vs. the 8.4 of the 3.5 Knit, the latest version feels like it weighs less. I would not hesitate to wear the 4.0s from a 5K up to a marathon - they are a joy to run in and never feel plodding like the 3.5 Knit/Mesh could at times.

- Look. Altra has kicked up the styling a bit to the point where the first thing that comes to mind isn't "clown shoes". These don't scream Altra - they look more normal which is a good thing in my book.  

I'm looking forward to trying the 4.0 Plush version -- a 28 mm height vs the 26 mm of the regular version reviewed here. The regular retails for $120 while the Plush requires a plusher wallet at $140.

But all things considered, this is an excellent upgrade that address some of my main complaints around past Torins outlined above.

A good looking Torin from above and below

You can see the midfoot straps and the highly functional laces. 

A nice mesh upper that fits snugly yet provides plenty of toe splay and aeration

The heel is segmented on the outer side of each foot

A good shot of the rubber on the heel before I start to wear it away!

The rubber is wearing a bit but not too badly

Another view of the wear and tear around the outer heel.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Torin 3.5 Mesh review

I was so wrapped up in loving the Escalante that I missed out on the Torin 3.5 Mesh. I've been a fan of the mainstay of Altra's line, and they seem to be making continued progress on making small improvements without trashing the basics  - a supportive zero drop shoe that is a great everyday trainer. 

The 3.0s were a major improvement over the 2.5s; this upgrade is a minor improvement but has significant changes. 

The 3.5 Mesh differs from the 3.0 in the following ways (see my 3.0 review here):

- There is an improved mesh upper in this version. It is more comfortable to me, especially over the big toe, than the 3.0. This version is soft and has the kind of give in the material that I like in an upper - no hot spots after 90 miles. When I first tried on the shoe it fit a little tight, but loosened up very quickly.

- There is a lot more support around the heel collar. Some dislike it and the fact it goes "up" the back of the Achilles heel; I find it super comfy and have no issues here.

- They have a bit of an inner stretch booty going on (you can see it under/left of tongue) which works well to improve hold.

- The midsole feels a bit more firm to me - not as firm as the 2.5, but a bit firmer than the 3.0. I love the feel of this shoe - and it doesn't feel like it is getting "flat" yet unlike past Torins which start to lose resiliency around the 100 mile mark. It is a bit softer than the 3.5 Knit, a point made by Road Trail Run's review.

I've had some foot pain from running in the very flexible Escalantes so have been wearing the Torins for all my runs over the past couple of weeks. Out of necessity I'm running a couple of races (10M and 10K) in them, and find them totally acceptable to wear - not too heavy nor too warm. The Torin 3.5 Knit, in comparison, feel way too bulky and hot to race in in warmer weather. The Knit has a better feeling upper in terms of grip and fit, but the tightness of the weave broils my feet in anything other than sub freezing temps.

I'm looking forward to the soon to arrive Torin 4.0s. From Road Trail Run's photos they look similar to the 3.5s re the upper and have improved outsoles with more rubber coverage (hopefully they exhibit better road wear for me then past Torins -- they scuff/wear quite a bit especially when I run downhills!).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Altra Escalante 1.5 and Escalante Racer review

I was almost a believer in the first edition of the Escalante. Altra's EGO midsole foam blew me away - it was light and bouncy and had terrific durability - what you hoped their A-Bound compound (Torin and Lone Peak) should be. A-Bound loses bounce very quickly and becomes dead foam in 100 miles or so in my experience over several generations of Torins and LPs.

Unfortunately, the Escalante 1.0 had an upper that didn't provide any support on any kind of corner. I have a memory of running in them on a wet track where my foot was sliding off the footbed a half an inch on turns - it just didn't have any kind of lockdown. And they stretched out as well - so they became a little baggy after purchase.

The Escalante 1.5 remedied the weaknesses of the first version. The shoe has improved the mesh by creating more reinforcement on the inside and outside of the shoe with a thicker weave - it didn't resort to uncomfortable straps or wires for a better lock down. Now, it provides enough support to me so that I didn't experience the sliding from 1.0.

The weave under the logo is thicker and has less "give"

Altra firmed up the midsole material just a tiny bit - its not quite as marshmallow-y as the first version, but keeps it pretty close to what made the ride for the Escalante 1.0 so special. It prevents the foam between the bottom of the rubber outsole from bottoming out (the spot between the rubber pods with "Innerflex" bulged out and wore on the ground in 1.0 - now it doesn't).

The rubber outsole is super durable - unlike the pods on every model of Torin it doesn't wear down to the foam. I've had three pairs - the lifespan of the 1.5s is well north of 300 miles - I do feel the EGO foam losing some resiliency around that point but they continue to be wearable and show no loss of integrity in the upper.

The Racer series has a completely different upper than the 1.5. It isn't a stretchy mesh - it is a harder less flexible weave that provides even more support on a track. It is more aerated with bigger holes to aid in ventilation. And the midsole compound is even firmer than the 1.5. I'd rate the three shoes like this, with a 10 being the bounciest:

Escalante 1.0: 9
Escalante 1.5: 8.25
Racer: 7.5

Despite the changes in the upper and midsole, I have found the Racer to be very comfortable on both the road and track, and wouldn't hesitate to wear it in distances including a half-marathon. For a full 26.2, I like the extra cushion of the 1.5 version.

I haven't put many miles on the Racer, as I generally prefer the 1.5 for training and save the Racer for, well, racing.  

The Escalante 2 will provide more support in the upper and slightly more rubber on the outsole , according to - but in my view, this isn't necessary. Altra has a super good thing going with this model, and here's to hoping they don't destroy what is my favorite shoe of theirs to this point. 

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.

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.

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.

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.