Latest Running Shoe, Gear, and Apparel

By clicking on the "Latest Running Shoe, Gear, and Apparel..." here you can see a list of my recent reviews and articles organized by category.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Altra Running Paradigm-Max Cushion, Supremely Refined

Running shoe design continues to evolve and Altra Running pioneers in minimal cushion, FootShapeTM toe boxes and  "Zero DropTM" shoes (no height difference heel to toe) is evolving too. With the Paradigm Altra maintains its heritage of incredibly comfortable toe boxes and zero drop and now applies it to a maximally cushioned, super light shoe. Hoka One One now has real competition in the space they invented.
Altra founder Golden Harper gave me a full update on the line and was kind enough to send me a pair of the Paradigms to try. My preview of the Spring 2015 Altras here. Paradigm not expected to change.

The Paradigm has 34mm of stack height front and back according to Altra and 25mm according to Running Warehouse. Will inquire as to measurements difference. Most conventional "well cushioned" shoes have 20mm or less in forefoot and 24-28mm in the heel.  The advertised weight is 9.1 oz in a men's size 9. My 8.5 Paradigms (review sample provided at no charge, opinions herein entirely my own) weighed 9.5 oz on my digital scale. I will not quibble over the difference as there can be manufacturing differences. These weights are incredibly light for such a supremely cushioned shoe. They fit me true to size.
Altra Running Paradigm

Comparison to Hoka One One 
I have run in a multitude of the earlier Hokas such as the Mafate, Bondi, and Stinson all with similar stack heights. I loved the ride but found them slow and soft given my no knee lift, heel striking stride. The challenge is to provide either enough forefoot flexibility for all that foam and/or create a rocker effect. Newer Hokas such as the Huaka and Clifton reviewed here have reduced their maximal forefoot  height somewhat and are now fantastically flexible fast and light, about the same weight as the Paradigm and even lighter for the Clifton. However, Hoka uppers are often not quite there in terms of fit and comfort for me. Don't get me wrong I will still reach for my Huakas when I want to go fast with super cushion, but for supreme comfort Paradigms will have a place in my rotation.

Altra hits it out of the park with the Paradigm creating a super cushioned,  supremely comfortable long run shoe.

  • The FootShape toe box allows my foot to splay spread out fully, yet I do not feel it is too wide as the midfoot upper hold is just snug enough with the lacing also effective. The overall upper is supremely comfortable, among the best or in fact the best for a long run trainer I have ever put on.  
    Altra Running Paradigm- FootShape
    There are no seams at all in the upper. The front toe area has a relatively thick welded overlay and might be a bit low, others have reported the same. I feel the overlay when standing but not when running. I think the toe box height has to be kept fairly low to keep that foot shaped foot in place, at speed! More miles will tell the story on overall upper durability. I tend to be easy on uppers.
    Altra Running Paradigm
    The tongue is a simple leather-ette with a bit of cushioning front and back except at the very top and sides to I assume prevent slipping.  It works.
  • The midsole is just firm enough, somewhat firmer than Hoka Clifton or Skechers GoRun Ultra, but not quite as firm as Hoka Huaka. Not mushy or overly soft. Not as energetic as the Boost shoes or Huaka but still in no way a marshmallow for such a massive amount of cushion. As I put some miles on the midsole I expect the midsole to firm up further, great. 
  • The heel landing midsole outsole crash pad combination is similar to the Huaka, with even less of an angle. Paradigm does not have a steep rear crash pad of the Clifton and which for me leads to an overly soft heel landing when combined with the soft foam and then a sense of loss of snappy propulsion forward. The adios Boost has a steep crash pad but due to the firmness of the outsole and the thinner cushioning works incredibly well. Smart choices by Altra in the heel area of the Paradigm.
    Left to Right: Hoka One One Clifton, adidas adios Boost, Hoka One One Huaka, Altra Running Paradigm
Forward propulsion to toe off is also aided by what Altra calls NRSTMNatural Ride System, a soft A-Bound EVA layer and collar which is a higher on the medial side to gently control pronation. It works for me, no sense of a firmer medial side or plate as in many "support" shoes, a type of shoe I avoid like the plague.

  • There are deep flex grooves in the right places; namely in the midfoot and along the length of the outsole. This last somewhat similar to Pearl Izumi E:Motion line and Salomon but in the case of Altra in 2 stages. Note the super wide landing platform. Paradigm appears about the same heel and midfoot width on the ground as the Hoka Huaka and Clifton, maybe a bit wider right under the foot.

  • While there is a rocker right up near the toe, I never felt I had to force change body position or stride, that feeling of having to drop forward and then accentuate knee lift, to make it work as I have to do with the similar maxi Hokas but not the more svelte Clifton and Huaka 
  • There is a super fine and "seamless" interface of outsole and midsole. No harsh feeling, of firmer wear surfaces on top of softer foam. Such a softer outsole may wear faster as I have found the similar Hoka combination does. I do not think I will get the wear of my all time favorite outsole midsole combination, adidas boost in combination with the super long wearing Continental outsole rubber but we'll see.
  • I did add my SuperFeet Carbon insoles to firm the heel up a bit and add a bit of drop.  I am not completely sold on zero drop especially when tired.

Paradigm seems to work at the elite long ultra level as Jason Schlarb just placed 4th against many of the best in the world at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in his Paradigms. Mind you he wore this ostensibly road shoe for what turned out to be a muddy and quite rough trail. I have not run trails in them.

Where will the Paradigm fit in my rotation? 
To start I am going to use Paradigm for recovery and long slow runs. The ride is smooth, stride is never forced and they are supremely cushioned without being mushy or unstable.

Highly recommended.
$130 MSRP.  Available now.

You can support my blog by purchasing your Paradigms at the links to below. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Initial Review: adidas Terrex Boost- Trail Monster- But Can It Dance?

I spotted the adidas Terrex Boost at Outdoor Retailer as as Boost fan knew I had to learn more and try them.  The adidas Terrex Boost is in the Spring 2015 (release date) adidas Outdoors catalog as a 10.2 oz, 290 gram 6mm drop mountain/trail running shoe, $160.  There is a women's version too.  The early size 9 sample pair that adidas sent me at no charge weighed in at 11.6 oz, 320 g. I will inquire what the final weight will be.

I titled this review Trail Monster as on first sight this is one beefy shoe. Huge lugs,
adidas Terrex Boost
a substantial upper with overlays along the rand and toe, a shoe clearly design for rough trails, rocks, mud. The question in my mind was what would Boost, the TPU based high rebound midsole that I like so much in the adios boost racer on both roads and yes trails (review here), add to a dedicated trail shoe? I say adios Boost as close as I can tell the  white Boost layer in the Terrex looks identical to the adios, at least in the forefoot and appears to sit on top of EVA that wraps up the sides. The orange Terrex and Boost logoed areas seen around the heel are a TPU based film (same material but thicker than the seamless overlays now seen so frequently on run shoes) support element. It wraps all the way around the heel. The orange TPU is not hard plastic but have some give when pressed and when running, clever.
adidas Terrex Boost

Comparison Review: Hoka One One Clifton and Huaka

Hoka One One recently launched two fabulously light, super cushioned shoes: The Huaka and Clifton.  Having now run in both and reviewed the Huaka earlier here, where I called it the first "fast" Hoka,  I can say now having run in both,  that these close "cousins" are quite different in feel and even purpose.  Hoka's marketing theme is "Crazy Fast. Crazy Light. Crazy Does." and for sure marketing spin meets reality with these shoes, although I will quibble that the Huaka is for me a faster shoe than the Clifton. 

By the numbers
Huaka (9.3 oz/264g M9 , 2mm drop, 27mm heel/ 25mm forefoot, $150)
Clifton (7.7 oz/217g M9, 5mm, 29mm heel,/24mm forefoot, $130)
Both fit me true to my size 8.5 with the Huaka initially feeling a touch too roomy until I removed the speed laces.

The Huaka is a no compromises road and trail hybrid with an energetic and dynamic midsole (RMAT) with great rebound, decent support and traction for all but the roughest or muddiest trails. 

The Clifton has a softer compression molded midsole (CMEVA), which is noticeably softer than Huaka in the heel.While some will run some trails with it, its purpose is as a road running shoe. 

I have run 2 half marathons including a 1:36 AG win on a downhill course in the Huaka ( purchased retail) , many Utah smoother trail miles, along with both hilly and flat roads in this most versatile shoe. Surprised how stable the RMAT midsole is on trails for such a light shoe. The Cliftons (provided at no charge by Hoka for review purposes) are new to my rotation but are a welcome addition with more miles and updates to come.

The two shoes share a similar upper material weave pattern but the Clifton's seems to be made of a softer thread and thus for me less plasticy and easier to adjust than the Huaka. While a lighter shoe overall,  Clifton has more sewn on overlays and leaves out the 6th lace eyelet of the Huaka upfront. The Huaka has no sewing that I can see, and thus I must assume as it is a bit heavier, that the additional weight comes from the denser RMAT midsole material. 

Overall I find the forefoot fit and comfort of the Clifton better than the Huaka and the rear foot fit of the Huaka more secure than the Clifton where there is actually some sagging of the upper on the medial and lateral sides just ahead of the heel when standing, not noticeable when running.  
Hoka One One Clifton

The Clifton on toe off seems narrower and more agile on the road than the Huaka but on measuring the outsoles they appear to be the same width. This feeling may come from the great full contact of firmer outsole upfront on the Clifton (the green areas) as well as the slightly softer more flexible upper whereas there is less coverage upfront  of firmer outsole (blue areas) on the Huaka. 

 The heel feel of the Clifton is noticeably softer than the Huaka, too soft for my taste out of the box. There is 2mm more foam and softer foam than the Huaka in the heel. I seem to sink in more than I would like but don't get me wrong this is one incredibly light cushioned shoe.  I think this comes from the softer EVA in the Clifton and also a far more pronounced heel bevel than Huaka (see below). All is not lost as adding a Superfeet Carbon insole to my Clifton's changed the ride a great deal. firming up the heel and springing me forward faster. I use the same insole in my Huakas when I run trails giving it even better stability and support.

                Clifton                                                                         Huaka
The Clifton comes with 2 insoles, a conventional molded EVA insole as found supplied with most shoes and a thinner flat Ortholite midsole which when used can add a bit more volume or  combined with the molded insole for narrow or low volume feet for a more precise fit.

Hoka One One Clifton is supplied with 2 insoles.

As with all Hokas today, the smooth ride comes with a softer outsole or in places no outsole. Hokas tend to wear fast initially for me in the toe and far back of heel then once "worn in" the wear tends to slow down. Others online report some delamination of the upper overlays. I have 150 miles on my Huaka and there is a bit of delamination but nothing that overly concerns me. I also cut off the speed laces from the Huaka and replaced with the supplied laces as the speed laces just didn't seem to give me a good fit and tended to loosen. Clifton and future Hokas will only come with laces.

Runners will not go wrong with either of these fabulous shoes. Out of the box, without the after market insole, my nod goes to the Huaka for its versatility and dynamic feel on both roads and trails. I plan more fast runs in the Clifton with Superfeet Carbon insole but tend to think the softness of the midsole especially in the heel takes some pop out of my ride when compared to Huaka. Huaka does cost $20 more than Clifton, and its outsole may wear a bit faster on the road, but so far its my first pick of these 2 close cousins.

My review of the Huaka here
Coverage from Outdoor Retailer of Hoka One One's Spring 2015 introductions including an upcoming trail version of the Clifton the Challenger ATR  here
All my Outdoor Retailer posts including Saucony, Altra, Salomon, Brooks, New Balance, and adidas here
You can support my blog by considering purchasing your Cliftons or Huakas or both! as well as SuperFeet Carbon insoles via the links below. Thank you!

Monday, August 11, 2014

OR Summer 14: Sigvaris Sports Compression- Light with True Graduated Compression

Sigvaris is a 150 year old Swiss company specialized in medical compression garments. They have been in medical compression for over 50 years. Medical compression garments are used for varicose veins, DVT, maternity, diabetes, leg ulcers, etc... In recent years compression garments and especially leg sleeves/socks and shorts have become popular in endurance sports.
Sigvaris says:

 Athletes who wear SIGVARIS SPORTS products will benefit from:
- Increased circulation
- Improved blood flow through the veins
- Increased oxygen to the muscle tissue
- Less lactic acid buildup in the legs during exercise
- Reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness in the legs

I have used a number of compression products over the last several years, primarily calf compression sleeves,  including the first I found on the market CEP, then Zanesh, Salomon, SmartWool and more recently CEP again. While I am not sure about the performance benefits of improved circulation, improved blood flow and oxygen and less lactic acid build up I am pretty sure, that at least for me that with compression:
  • I have less exercise induced soreness after wearing sleeves 
  • My legs feel more aligned in the direction of travel
  • I am quite sure they  help reduce calf cramps in long events by stabilizing the muscles, reducing vibration and preventing nerves from twitching into cramps. According to this article in Competitor quoting Prof. Schwellnus of the University of Cape Town “The mechanism for muscle fatigue and muscle damage causing cramping is best explained through an imbalance that develops in the nervous system control of muscle. Muscles tend to become very twitchy when they become fatigued or are injured,” said Schwellnus. "
The issue with calf sleeves  has been one of comfort for me. Zanesh was too thick and hot and while the latest CEP are fine, I keep looking for thinner and more comfortable options.

Found what I was looking for at Outdoor Retailer from Sigvaris .

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Dominique Guest Post: Pakems -- Fun Apres Sport Footwear - WaterResistant and Packable

With thousands of exhibitors and 200 new exhibitors each year at the Outdoor Retailer Show, it can be a challenge for new product lines to stand out and catch the attention of the passerby.  Pakems caught my eye. They are lightweight, water resistant and packable footwear meant to be worn after/apr├Ęs a sport activity, such as hiking and skiing.