Saucony Kinvara 7 Review

Shortly after May 5, 2009 the whole running industry went completely berzerk! All of a sudden cushioned shoes with a large heel-to-toe offset were blamed for millions of runners injuries. The ‘normal’ running shoe was completely shunned and minimalist shoes were set up as the saviours of the sport of running. Minimalist and Barefoot shoes inspired a more natural form of running which many claimed would end all running injuries forever. Barefoot shoes hit the scene in a big way as runners scrambled to run like the Tarahumara Indians, who ran for days on nothing but tyre treads wrapped around their feet and a mix of Pinole and Chia in a brown bag. Why did the industry go completely berzerk you ask? All because of a book called “Born to Run“.*

Fast forward 4 years and suddenly barefoot shoes were the enemy and ‘maximal’ shoes were now being hailed as the answer. Shoes with insane amounts of cushioning hit the market as the pendulum swung through the masses of injured runners to the other end of the spectrum. The very shoes that were supposed to fix all running injuries were now causing new ones. In defense of the minimalist shoe it was mostly down to runners not transitioning correctly. Running 100km weeks in cushioned shoes does not mean you can go straight into 100km weeks in minimalist shoes. Nevertheless this outbreak of injuries was the catalyst for the ‘maximal’ movement and once again the industry went through a complete revamp.

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Before the industry was swinging from one extreme to the other, in late 2009 Saucony released a shoe that would effectively influence their entire future production catalogue and eventually the whole running shoe industry. The designers at Saucony had the foresight to find the middle ground before anyone else did. A product that could sustain runners over high mileage training weeks yet still encourage a more natural form of running. The legendary Saucony Kinvara.

The name of the shoe was inspired by Boston’s rich Irish heritage. Kinvara is a little town in the Irish country side surrounded by giant castles, steep cliffs and lush green fields. Saucony liked the town so much they even gave the mayor of Kinvara a replica of the shoe which was made of bronze.

Now in its 7th version the Saucony Kinvara has to have one the biggest cult followings of any shoe we know. We know of people who have at least 4 of the 7 versions, some even all 7. This intrigued us greatly – why were a whole bunch of people so besotted over a single shoe? No one knew just how popular the shoe would become when they launched it, even after it won numerous industry awards like the Runner’s World Best Debut award in 2010. Needless to say we were tremendously excited to see what all the fuss was about when we got a pair of the new Kinvara 7.

Saucony Kinvara 7 Review

Outsole

The Saucony Kinvara 7 features Saucony’s TRIFLEX outsole technology. Paired with the new EVERUN technology in specific parts of the midsole, the shoe is incredibly stable for a lightweight neutral trainer. With the lateral flex grooves along the base of the shoe the outsole design disperses pressure well throughout the whole shoe. Every runner who is training for a marathon has experienced that ‘hot foot’ feeling under their forefoot during long training runs. The TRIFLEX design does it’s best to disperse that friction throughout the midsole preventing that ‘hot’ feeling over certain parts of the foot. As far as we can tell in training, Saucony have nailed it. The base of the shoe is also incredibly wide as the midsole and outsole flair out from the upper to give maximum ground contact. Admittedly this has been quite distracting for us. The Kinvara 7 does lack that sleek racing shoe feel but then again this shoe is meant for logging high mileage in training and not necessarily for out and out racing.

That’s what the Saucony TYPE A6 is for.

The Kinvara is no slouch though, weighing in at 218g it will rival most racing flats in the weight department. The one advantage of the wide toe box is it allows your toes to open up inside the shoe, another great hand-off from the minimalist movement.

TRIFLEX outsole of the Ladies and Men’s Kinvara 7

Midsole

Probably the most exciting upgrade of the Saucony Kinvara 7 from the other derivatives is the use of Saucony’s new Midsole Technology, EVERUN. The previous models featured Saucony’s legendary POWERGRID which was excellent at dispersing the force generated while running throughout the whole midsole. This lessened the impact on the body greatly. So how is EVERUN different?

Saucony EVERUN

EVERUN is basically “continuous cushioning”, never failing, and always returning to its original shape. 83% Energy return. 3 x more durable than standard EVA. Bold claims but they seem to have the science to back it up (See video below for more info). We have only had the shoe for a couple of weeks so we can’t comment on the ‘never failing’ part but we can definitely comment positively on the comfort, energy return and response of the cushioning. We are noticing a significant difference between the feedback of POWERGRID based models compared to the EVERUN in the Kinvara 7. EVERUN, for us, feels to be by far the more comfortable material. Plush but not spongey. Just enough ‘bounce’ in your step to feed energy back into your stride. Rigid enough so it doesn’t give the feeling that you are running on marshmallows. We won’t be surprised to see EVERUN starting to feature in plenty more of Saucony’s models as it filters through the ranges. The new Peregrine 6 trail shoe has EVERUN in the heel which is probably the best news we have heard all year. We found the Saucony Peregrine 5 to have a distance limit of about 30km’s. With EVERUN the Peregrine 6 will comfortably get up to Ultra Trail distances like 100km and 100 miler events.

One of the reasons the Kinvara models have been so popular in the ‘natural’ running community is Saucony’s commitment to keeping the shoe at a 4mm heel-to-toe offset. The Kinvara was one of the very first ‘natural’ running shoes ever made and it remains at the pinnacle of the category. The best thing the minimalist movement did to the running shoe industry was to bring down those monster heel-to-toe offsets. Gone are the days of 17 and 14mm offsets with most brands settling on around 8-10mm. It is the offset and not the amount of cushioning that inspire a more natural form. The Heel Stack Height sits at 22mm and the Toe Stack Height 18mm giving an offset of 4mm, as we mentioned earlier. This keeps the minimalist feeling by ensuring the bodies centre of gravity remains closer to the ground, while providing enough comfort to sustain high mileage in training.

Upper

Saucony have a very exciting Racing department which focuses on producing shoes that perform in the most competitive of situations. Thankfully for us ‘slower’ runners some of the technology filters down through the rest of the ranges. One of those is Saucony’s FlexFilm Upper. Most running shoes have to have support built into the inside of the shoe to increase durability, this can be a problem as the seams where each layer is joined together can cause friction and friction causes blisters. Saucony developed the FlexFilm as an external exoskeletal support allowing for less support needed inside the shoe. FlexFilm is hot melded to the shoe instead of being stitched giving the runner a nearly seamless interior. Think of the suit that Human Torch wears in the Fantastic Four. Made to withstand his “Flame On” fun while protecting and supporting him from the elements. FlexFilm does exactly that, plenty support and less friction. Plus it is oh so pretty to look at.

Another great feature of the Kinvara 7 Upper is a support band that is built into the lace system. It is basically a panel that is stitched into the base of the midsole, is attached to the tongue of the shoe and the laces are fed through the top. We found this made the shoe incredibly stable and the support it gives over the arch of the foot is fantastic.

Support to the max!

In 2010 the original Kinvara effectively revolutionised the running shoe industry. After testing the new Kinvara 7 we are very confident that the Kinvara 7 is poised to do the same in 2016. With the new EVERUN technology the Kinvara 7 is set to take Energy Return and Durability to a whole new level. Watch out world, this shoe is coming out of the gates like a Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion with all of the luck of the Irish.

Something things are best enjoyed when shared #BeASeeker

*slight disclaimer: We are not for or against any specific type of running or running shoe, in fact Born to Run is one of our favourite books. We are more fans of moderation and what works for each individual runner, than the extremes. Minimalist running might work for Runner A but not necessarily Runner B. Find what works for you. As Kinetic Revolution says, “Form before Footwear.”

Puma FAAS 300 v2 TR Review

Let me ask you a question? Why is it that you think we as runners read these types of reviews? Is it for insight, or is maybe that we don’t always trust the marketing “schpeals” that come with the shoe? It could even just be for pure entertainment, for example I thoroughly enjoy watching the Ginger Runner reviews for a good laugh. Mostly though I think it is because we would like to know how the product handles in the real world on real trails etc. It’s easy to read a bunch of complicated high tech and fancy sounding words but until you actually run in the shoe one has no idea how it is going to play out.

It is because of this fact that I believe Trail and Mountain Running as a sport is really starting to hit a sweet spot at the moment. 5 years ago we were very limited in terms of shoe options, as well as kit and accessories options but as the sport has grown and as more and more events are filling up the calender companies are really putting their R&D budgets to work to ensure they stay ahead of the curve. (Sometimes they go a little too far ahead like these particular what-ya-ma-call-its??? but hey let’s not blame them for wanting to push the envelope). This also means that existing models are being revamped often, as technology improves and companies receive constructive feedback from their pro athletes and customers. What this means for us as trail runners is that we are no longer scraping the bottom of the barrel to find good quality products to feed our hunger for the dirt. Companies like Puma that were solely a lifestyle, road, track and field brand have started developing competitive ‘trail-specific’ shoes that are really going to shake a few tree’s once word gets out how good they actually are.

:)

Which brings me back to this review, the cool cats at Puma South Africa very generously sent me a pair of the FAAS 300 v2 TR in the recently launched ‘NightCat Camo’ edition and straight out the box these shoes were made to impress. (For our review on the ladies FAAS 300 TR version 1 click here.) Looks wise they are stunning, as you can see from the images they really are a very photogenic shoe with the “360 degrees of camo-inspired reflectivity which makes you visible in the dark” (hence the name ‘NightCat’). Let’s face it, running is way better when your kit looks cool whether it’s in the day time or at night

The outsole features a high abrasion resistant rubber in high wear areas which gives the outsole added durability, all that means is that they have put a material that lasts longer on the parts of the shoe that usually wears down first. Trail shoes take a pounding on sharp rocks, loose gravel, running through mud so added durability is always a plus in my book. This is also one of the key features that makes this shoe a great trail to tar shoe, not all of us live in the Alps or at the Western States trail head so some tar running is usually needed to get to the trail. These shoes are great for that, one of my favourite features of this shoe is that they are just as comfortable on the road as they are on the trail.

The multi-directional lugs, which are found in most trail shoes worth looking at, provide that added stability and grip on the steeper descents that we trail runners appreciate when things get a little hairy. I will be honest, when I saw the outsole I thought to myself that Puma might have made a decent road shoe with some off road capabilities but looks can be deceiving and I was sheepishly surprised after taking the shoe onto the trail and finding out that the grip was magic. The shoe holds it’s own out on trail and they did not shy away from the technical rocky sections. The rock grip of the shoe is decent, I experienced very little slippage jumping between the larger rocks. It usually takes me a few runs before I can ‘trust’ the capabilities of a shoe to really open up the taps but after only a few km’s into the first run I felt like I had been running in the shoe for months. For me that is one of the best thing’s Puma has going for this shoe. Have you ever met someone for the first time and after a coffee and a good chat you feel like you have been friends for years, that’s what it was like for me and the FAAS 300 v2 TR.

The midsole, as with all the other FAAS models, Puma has gone with their FAAS Foam which is a lightweight one-piece blend of foam and rubber and it really is light and it really is comfortable, oh and it really is fast! This shoe is light, in fact they are just over 230g for a pair of size 8’s which by our standards is very pleasantly light. Again the comfort of the midsole and the lighter weight make it a great tar to trail shoe. Not everyone has the finances to buy a pair of shoes for every kind of terrain so if you are looking for a shoe that isn’t a “jack of all trade’s and master of non” but actually performs when you need it to this is definitely one of the best shoes out there. The FAAS Foam takes the impact of the tar as well as protecting the foot from sharp rocks on the trail. There is no rock plate but I found that it really isn’t necessary as the midsole provides adequate protection, this also keeps the shoe very flexible and allows for a fast roll off on the toe, as you can see from the image below.

The Upper of the shoe has been designed really well, it features minimal ‘no-sew’ overlays which provide great support to the foot. On the trail the more support you get the better. The ‘no-sew’ overlays also mean less abrasion on the foot inside the shoe, this helps to prevent blisters very well. The shoe breathes and displaces water incredibly well, having water sloshing around in the shoe after running through a river or a stream is not fun at all, thanks to what Puma calls it’s “Air Mesh Upper” water is able to escape fairly quickly and your foot can breathe better on those hot summer days. One of the fun features that I have begun to appreciate is a small ‘pocket’ at the top of the tongue that you can fold the laces into, I hate having laces flapping around while I run so this was a great feature, plus it keeps the shoe looking super fast and sleek which my OCD enjoys thoroughly.

The only issue I have with the shoe is the narrow toe box, although in the shoe’s defense I do have freakishly wide feet so for a normal size foot they would more than likely be fine but I personally did find the toe box quite narrow. As you can see from the image below it could actually be the sole itself which is a bit too narrow for my feet (see how my foot stretches out over the sole in the load phase). Next time I will go for 1 size up (like I had to do with the New Balance Fresh Foam) and see if that makes a difference. If you, like me, have a more wider foot try fitting a half size or full size bigger than you would normally go for.

I do believe Puma has made a massive effort to improve a number of key areas of the shoe, some areas I would have liked to see an improvement were left out (specifically wider toe box) but the version 2.0 is monumentally better than the version 1.0 – in fact it is probably the best improvement I have ever experienced between different models of a shoe on all the brands of shoes I have run in. The key is that they made lots of small adjustments that most people might miss and say ah it looks just like version 1. Trust me, it is not! Those little adjustments and improvements add up to one great shoe. When those pesky software updates come out for my iPhone I don’t always install them, some of them are lame and change my phone so much I don’t even recognise it. This, though, is definitely one of those “software updates” you want to do. #ForeverFaster

Irony: Your Training May Not Be Helping You Reach Your Goals – Try Polarised Training

What is the purpose of training?

Is it for fun?  Is it to test yourself? Is it to cause adaptations that make you better?  Something else altogether?

I think all of these things are potentially valid, but in my opinion what training actually involves is a person attempting to cause an adaptation (or set of adaptations) to occur in order to become better able to achieve specific goals.  A focus on fun and tests doesn’t necessarily achieve this, and as as tempting as they may be I don’t think this is what training is for. But, ultimately, it does depend on what your goals are; and please note that I didn’t say to completely exclude these.

So what if your goal is to become a better runner?

If you want to win races, and to get fast over certain distances, always training for fun or treating every training session as a test is quite simply a mistake; this would be a case where you either need to change your training or re-evaluate your goals.

If the above-mentioned “get faster over certain distances” is your goal, then specific adaptations that allow the human body to do this are what we want to result from our training.

I think one of the most important adaptations to seek as an endurance athlete that would aid this goal would be mitochondrial biogenesis, which can be mediated by a protein called PGC-1α  – a key regulator of energy metabolism.  Our mitochondria are the part of our cells that generate most of the energy, so it should make sense that we want lots of mitochondria that function well in order to be a good endurance athlete. Increasing PGC-1α, then, would be a goal that one should probably have as an endurance athlete, and so training in a way that best does this might be a good idea!

One of the things that I’ve recently learned exhibits control over PGC-1α in skeletal muscle, is testosterone.

In this study, wherein some rats were fed exogenous testosterone, there were significant increases in their skeletal muscle PGC-1α.  The level of increase here would likely only be seen if one were supplementing with exogenous testosterone, since the rats doing so had ~12-fold increase in serum testosterone vs. the control; but this at least demonstrates a potential link between testosterone levels and PGC-1α (and so mitochondrial biogenesis) in skeletal muscle.

PGC-1α itself also increases angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) and fat oxidation — so it does more than simply increase mitochondria.  Both of these factors would also be helpful for improving performance.

The fact that PGC-1α is affected by testosterone should make us think twice about whether we want to engage in training that has a robust and prolonged stress response involved with it, which may negatively impact testosterone.  This goes back to my original point of matching our training up with our goals.

So perhaps simply running as much as possible as fast as possible for as long as possible might not be the best way to train.  We can negatively affect our testosterone production by waking up early to run (ie sleeping less), running too much or, more simply put, experiencing chronic stress.  In doing these things we are potentially stopping one of the adaptations we want to be happening in the first place as a result of our training.

So if we want to actually benefit from our training and propel ourselves toward our goals, how should we go about doing so?

I believe the method that makes the most sense is to reduce or remove the junk middle-ground training and train either at a high- or low-intensity.

High volume training, at a low intensity which can be sustained for long periods of time has lots of benefits, one of which is increasing mitochondrial biogenesis.

High intensity training induces metabolic stress, and also increases mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK which is an enzyme that becomes more active when there is low energy levels within the cell, and subsequently activates PGC-1α. This happens especially so when in a glycogen-depleted state.  This especially makes sense when we think of metabolic stress as a state wherein we don’t have enough energy as we need for whatever we are doing, and high intensity exercise is the “whatever we are doing” and the lack of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is the “don’t have enough energy.”

Middle ground training is not as intense as high-intensity training (because high-intensity is done at a level beyond which is sustainable for time), and not as long-duration as low intensity high volume training, so although it will still obviously have some of the effects mentioned above, it is not going to give you the biggest return on investment.  As fun as a tempo run may be, it should have a specific place in training in relation to your goals (race) and should probably not make up a large part of training.

Polarised Training

This is a training model that I have mentioned before referred to as polarised training, which was looked at in this paper where they tested a group of well-trained athletes who were randomised into groups of either high intensity interval training (HIIT), high-volume low-intensity training (HVT), lactate threshold (THR) or polarised (POL).  Here is a description of the intervention:

The HVT included three blocks each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high-volume training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume weeks each included six training sessions with three 90 min LOW sessions, two 150–240 min LOW sessions (according to the training mode: running, cycling, or roller skiing) and one 60 min LT session using different types of interval training (e.g., 5 × 7 min with 2 min recovery, 3 × 15 min with 3 min recovery). The recovery week included three training sessions with two 90 min LOW sessions and one 150–180 min LOW session.

The THR included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume and intensity weeks each included six training sessions with two 60 min interval sessions at the LT (5 × 6 min and 2 min recovery in the first block, 6 × 7 min in the second block and 6 × 8 min in the last block), one 90 min LT session with longer intervals (3 × 15 min with 3 min active recovery in the first block and 3 × 20 min for the remaining two blocks), one 75 min session with varying changes in intensity (“fartlek”) (intensities resulting in a blood lactate of 1.5–5 mmol·L−1) and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min LOW session and two 60 min LT interval sessions (5 × 6 min with 2 min of active recovery).

The HIIT included two interval blocks of 16 days with one adaptation week prior to and one recovery week after each block. The adaptation week included two 60 min HIIT sessions, three 90 min LOW sessions, one 120 min LOW session and 1 day of recovery. The condensed 16 day interval block included 12 HIIT sessions within 15 days, integrating four blocks of three HIIT sessions for three consecutive days followed by 1 day of recovery. The recovery week contained four LOW sessions of 90 min and 3 days without any training. All of the HIIT sessions included a 20 min warm-up at 75% of HRpeak, 4 × 4 min at 90–95% of HRpeak with 3 min active recovery and a 15 min cool-down at 75% HRpeak based on the protocol proposed earlier. The LOW sessions lasted 90–150 min depending on the training mode (running vs. cycling) at an intensity resulting blood lactate of <2 mmol·L−1.

The POL included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The high volume and intensity week included six sessions with two 60 min HIIT sessions, two 150–240 min long duration LOW sessions (duration according to training mode: cycling, running or roller skiing), which included six to eight maximal sprints of 5 s separated by at least 20 min, and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min HIIT session, one 120–180 min LOW session and one 90 min LOW session.

The study was meant to assess specific “key endurance parameters” over 9 weeks.  These parameters included submaximal and peak VO2 (VO2submax and VO2peak) and HR (HRsubmax and HRpeak), as well as time to exhaustion (TTE) and velocity/power.  At the end of the 9 week period, it seemed that polarised training demonstrated “the greatest increase in VO2peak , time to exhaustion (during a specific protocol) and peak velocity/power.”

It would seem that a training model that includes the best of both worlds (and eliminates what interferes) makes sense both intuitively and in light of evidence.  Polarised training  allows one to use both high intensity training and high volume training (mentioned above to both induce mitochondrial biogenesis through different mechanisms) separately and effectively without running the risk of overtraining.  I would, however, plan my own training quite a bit differently than was done in the above paper, which will likely be discussed in the future.

Train smart.

About the Author:

James is an amateur-adventurer and a curious thinker that spends much of his time outdoors playing amongst and exploring nature.

According to James he is a “pretty average person” (note however that he doesn’t claim to be normal!).  He feels there’s nothing special that he possess that allows him to enjoy any of the things he does, or to live the way that he decide to.  That mean’s that pretty much anybody is capable of doing whatever he does here, or at least has the capacity to develop an ability to do such things.

James is attempting to explore the full capacity of being a human — to enjoy life to the fullest extent that he know’s how.

Becoming a better human is something he deems to be important, and thankfully for us he will share anything he can come up with that may help!

PUMA Faas 300 Women’s Trail Shoe Review

If I think of female super hero’s Cat Woman usually comes to mind, for me she has always been one of the best and most fiercest of all the female super hero’s. Being one of DC Comic’s master’s of villainy she would always prove to be a fierce rival and a force to be reckoned with. Her Cat-like agility and stealthy thievery enables her to thwart even the strongest and toughest of opponents. If Cat Woman had a hobby, it would be trail running, and she would be pretty darn amazing at it with her fierce agility and power.

Now unfortunately for the ladies out there, you can’t all be Cat Woman but fear not because the team at PUMA have given you the next best thing, the PUMA Faas 300 Trail Shoe. Designed specifically for ladies who crave those cat like reflexes and agility that Cat Woman seems to enjoy so much!

Sole of the PUMA Faas 300

Right out of the box it is clear that this shoe means business. The sole of the PUMA Faas 300 is littered with claw like lugs just waiting to tear at the dirt and rocks as you whisk along the single track, just like Cat Woman would leap and skip between buildings with her loot on a moonless night in Gotham. Running on wet, muddy or loose gravel will give you great confidence in the grip of the shoe, our tester even said, “They are super grippy, I could even probably walk up an acute angled wall if all the odds were in my favour.” Once you hit the hard pack don’t think yourself crazy to stop and check if the lugs (read claws) have retracted into the sole as the spacing between the lugs (read claws) and the comfort of the Faas Foam gives you a wonderfully smooth and flat ride on the harder stuff.

Staying with the sole lets look at the midsole, PUMA have used their Faas Foam throughout the midsole which gives the shoe a great ride and is very comfortable (according to our lady tester, Lona Trew-Browne). They say a cat always lands on her feet and with this mid and outer sole any lady is going to be happy to land on her feet on a rugged and technical trail. One of my favourite aspects of the PUMA Faas 300 is how PUMA have managed to give the shoe a decent and comfortable amount of cushioning while still keeping it light, agile and in a ‘minimal-shoe’ bracket. The one thing that it is missing though(which has been added to the V2 model) is a rock-plate which along with the Faas Foam keeps the shoe nicely flexible but does slightly lack in the under-foot protection department.

Heel to toe drop on the PUMA Faas 300 will bring you out at 8.0mm with Heel Height of 26.4mm and a Forefoot Height of 18.4mm. These measurements with the pliability of the Faas Foam gives you a very lightweight shoe weighing in at fierce 8oz. (or 225g).

The PUMA Faas 300 Upper

The Upper has not let down in the comfort and agility department either with a padded tongue as well as a cushioned heel bridge. PUMA have gone with an upper that is reinforced with their Translucent Webcage Technology and has a dual density mesh throughout which is very effective in keeping dust and dirt out of the shoe.

The Look

One benefit of buying shoes that are made by one of the largest Lifestyle and Sport Shoe manufacturer’s in the world is you are sure to get some great colour options. This particular pair came in a flaming purple which will definitely turn a few heads, yet it is dark enough to hide the dirt a bit longer than a lighter colour.

So there you have it ladies, there can be only one Cat Woman but thanks to the team at PUMA everyone can run like her.

Altra Running ONE 2.5 Road Shoe

There is a lot one can do with 12 hours. You could perform a living donor liver transplant surgery, slow cook a Pork Belly stew to mouth watering perfection, or even fly from Cape Town to Paris to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic score a wonder goal in the Champions League. All amazing things but up until a few weeks ago very few people thought you could run over 100 miles in that same time. Yet that is exactly what Zach Bitter did at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour race in the US on 19 December, setting a new world record for 12 hours with a distance of 101.66 miles. Simply Sensational. That’s averaging a mile every 7 minutes and the shoes he did it in? You guessed it… the Altra Running ONE 2.5 road shoe.

Altra Running is making some serious waves in the running industry with their lightweight, no frills, no fuss running shoes. Simple yet wildly brilliant. Not only are Altra’s trail and road shoes setting records and winning awards all over the world but the company as a whole is making massive leaps in the running industry. As of 2016 Altra Running will be the exclusive foot-wear sponsor of the infamous Western States Endurance Run. This is a remarkable achievement, especially for such a young company that has only been manufacturing shoes for a few years now. Their shoes are good, really good and the running community is starting to recognise that fact.

Flying High with #ZeroLimits

A few months back we reviewed the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe and found it to be a game changer, lacking a few good qualities but as a whole… A solid game changer. In this review we will be looking to see if the ONE 2.5 will have the same effect on the road running shoe industry.

Outsole


In terms of what you can see, the outsole is pretty simple. Just your standard rubber outsole to give you the grip you need. In terms of what you can’t see, i.e. the technology behind the outsole there is plenty going on. Instead of just giving you a piece of rubber to grip the surface as you run Altra have developed what they call their ‘Foot Pod Technology” which works incredibly well with the midsole and the runners foot to give the shoe flexion exactly where your foot needs it. This is the first shoe we have come across where the outsole has been developed so closely with the midsole in mind that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The patterns in both fit together very well to map the bones and tendons of the runners foot, this gives the sensation that you aren’t even running in shoes at all.

A shoe designed with the runners foot in mind

Midsole

There is no doubt about it, this shoe is built for speed! A lot of speed and according to Altra, “without sacrificing the comfort needed to maintain that speed through the finish line”. A 23mm stack height ensures there is optimum comfort, giving you enough cushioning to hit distances like Zach Bitter did in his 12hour record. The midsole features Altra Runnings signature Zero Drop foot-bed meaning the heel and toe’s are flat on the foot bed, this encourages are more natural forefoot running form. This does make it a shoe for a specific type of runner so if you haven’t run in a Zero Drop shoe before and are looking to make the switch it is a process that should be taken carefully to avoid injury.

Altra will be the official shoe sponsor at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run

Running in Zero Drop shoes has many benefits. One of the disadvantages we have found in the past is that a zero drop shoe can feel a bit “sluggish” because you don’t have the elevated heel-to-toe drop. Shoes with a 4mm or 8mm drop give you some momentum through the transition phase as your foot strikes the ground, zero drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike which can make them feel sluggish at first. We found the ONE 2.5 transitioned brilliantly into the next phase after the foot hit the tar, this is because of Altra’s A-Bound Technology which according to Altra “reduces ground impact and adds a spring to each step.” We found this to be true and worked incredibly well with the InnerFlex grooves built into the midsole, completely removing that sluggish feeling out of the foot transition phase.

Zero Drop. Zero Limits.

Upper

After running quite extensively in the ONE 2.5 we are pretty convinced that the ONE 2.5 is Altra’s most comfortable shoe they have produced to date. The no stitch overlays and quick dry Air-Mesh make for a very comfortable, sock-like feel inside the shoe. Very rarely are light weight racing shoes this comfortable, because of this fact it is a great shoe across all distances from 10km to 100miles. The ONE 2.5 features Altra’s signature Foot-Shape Toe Box which if used with a sock like Injinji gives you a massive amount of room inside the shoe for your little piggies to play all the way to the market. Your toes can naturally spread out and relax more instead of being cramped and unable to move inside the shoe. This coupled with an effective forefoot strike will increase your stability as you run.

Breaking Limits. Setting Records.

The Upper has been completely redesigned from the previous version and it is very noticeable. The Upper dries faster and wicks sweat more effectively keeping friction in the shoe to a minimum. We find this is a major factor in the shoes comfort. The Upper also fits better over the arch and top of the foot. The wider toe box gives your forefoot lots of room while the rest of the upper keeps your foot from moving too much in the shoe.


All in all we found the Altra ONE 2.5 to be absolutely fantastic! Lightweight, comfortable, and very fast. The ONE 2.5 is a solid option if you have been running in Zero Drop shoes on the trail. If it is good for Zach Bitter we are pretty sure it is good for us!

The Altra ONE 2.5 is available from the RUN Specialist Store in Cape Town. 7 – 11 Bree Street. The shoe retails for around R1599.00

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 Review

“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity — culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.”

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

Scan the horizon, any horizon, and the silhouettes of distant peaks against the backdrop of a clear blue sky will almost always churn up feelings of curiosity, adventure and freedom. Well, that is at least the case with us. A lone peak stands out above an otherwise monotonous horizon. It is separated from the rest of the earth, “unearthly earth” as Rebecca Solnit put it. It demands respect. It demands to be feared. It challenges the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer it. Characteristics we have found the new Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 to embody in every way over the last 2 months of rigorous testing.

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5

We reviewed the previous version Altra Running Superior 2 a while back and found the shoe to be fantastic, there were some issues though that we had with the shoe and we are happy to say that Altra Running have addressed these issues very well. The shoe feels a lot more solid and stable under foot. It is no wonder the Lone Peak 2.5 is the choice of leading Ultra Marathon Runners, some of those runners include Ian Sharman (Leadville 100, 2015 winner), Josh Arthur (US SkyRunning series, 2015 winner) and Jeff Browning (Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji, 2015 third place).

Before we get into the review let’s look at what is new compared to the Lone Peak 2.0

  • Redesigned Upper
  • Improved Lacing System
  • Improved Upper Durability
  • Slightly Firmer Midsole

Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5

Outsole

This shoe really stands out from others in the design of the outsole. The centre lugs are in the shape of a foot and look more like Bear Claws to us than feet. This makes the shoe feel incredibly stable as the points of the outsole that make contact with the trail underneath your feet are digging into the dirt like claws. The multi-directional lugs ensure you have grip whatever the gradient, whether you are going up or down the Outsole gives you a lot of confidence.  The Outsole is made up of what Altra call their “Sticky-Rubber TrailClaw”, aptly named as the shoe sticks in dry or wet conditions. One of the issues we found with the Superior 2 was that the grip in wet rocky conditions was almost non-existent. Altra has definitely sorted that out in the Lone Peak 2.5. The other aspect of the lugs that we enjoyed is that they aren’t too deep, so running on hard pack gives you a smooth feedback. Some trail shoes with very deep lugs can get uncomfortable on the hard stuff as you feel the individual lugs under your feet as you run.

In terms of durability we found the Outsole rubber to hold out well on jagged rocky terrain, we didn’t experience any of the lugs being cut off by sharper rocks. All in all we could not fault the Outsole, a seamless design makes it so much a part of the midsole that it is difficult to separate the two while running.

Midsole

The Midsole of the Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 is where things get exciting for us. A 25mm stack height with Altra’s signature Zero Drop (0mm) heel-to-toe offset is low enough to provide feedback on the technical terrain, yet plush enough to offer some added comfort on the longer runs. One characteristic that puts people off zero drop shoes is the transition from heel to toe while running can feel ‘sluggish’. As your stride adapts to landing on the forefoot your legs work more to continue the momentum through each stride. Picture cutting a pizza with a round pizza cutter and a knife, the knife takes more effort to lift and cut down while the pizza cutter rolls through with ease. Having a larger offset works like the round pizza cutter. A smoother transition from heel to toe. The guys at Altra know this and very cleverly developed what they call ‘A-Bound Technology’ which is built into the top layer of the Midsole. It is merely a built up piece placed under the foot to stimulate that transition while still giving you a zero drop shoe. If you take the insole out and wear the shoe without socks you can clearly feel it under the middle of your foot. The Lone Peak performs and feels like a standard running shoe with an offset but still gives you all the benefits of a shoe that encourages a more natural stride.

One of the great advantages of a more minimal zero drop shoe is that you feel the trail beneath you, it is also one of the big disadvantages as a sharp rock in the arch of your foot is not fun. The Lone Peak 2.5 are somewhere in the middle for us, enough protection through the Rock Gaurd protection plate and the dual layer EVA but still responsive enough to give you feedback as you skip along the trail. Altra Running have stiffened up the midsole of the Lone Peak 2.5 slightly which many runners were requesting, we thought the previous version was perfect in terms of flexibility. We found it now to be a little too stiff but that comes down to personal preference, South Africa trails are far more technical than ones in the States. Having a more flexible sole on the technical terrain can increase stability.

A-Bound Technology built into the Midsole

Upper

The body of the Upper is made up of Altra’s Quick-Dry Trail Mesh. A fantastically breathable material that allows water to easily drain out of the shoe when running on a very wet route, one thing we found though is beach running can result in some sand finding its way through the mesh into the shoe. To be fair it was very minimal, it is a fine line to have an Upper that breathes well and still keeps out the debris that the trail throws at the shoe. Durability on the Upper has been drastically improved which was a welcome improvement. The material feels far more robust than that of the Superior 2 Upper.

As with all Altra running shoes the Lone Peak 2.5 has ample room for your toes to open up inside the shoe. Used in conjunction with Injinji Performace Toe Socks  you will struggle to find a more stable set up for the trail. The seams inside the shoe have been covered which significantly decreases the amount of friction in the shoe. One really nifty feature of the shoe is the Gaiter Trap that comes standard on the shoe, it is a piece of velcro at the back of the shoe which secures your gaiter perfectly. Visually the Lone Peak 2.5 has also been improved in our books, the contrast of the grey and blue in the pair we tested is striking.

The Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 stands out in every way possible for us. Calling your shoe the ‘Lone Peak’ is risky as it can have two meanings. On the one hand it could mean separated, lonely, cast out but it could also mean set apart, unique or great. On the horizon of trail running shoes it really is a lone peak clearly visible from the rest. It clearly is unique, set apart and dare we say even great. They are “unearthly earth”, a discontinuity in the continuum of long distance trail running shoes. They demand respect. They demand to be feared and they challenge the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer with them.

AfricanX Suggested Kit List

2016 Cell C African X presented by ASICS

The 2016 Cell C AfricanX Trail Run presented by ASICS is less than 3 weeks away so we thought we would put together a ‘Suggested Kit List’ together for the event in conjunction with RUN Specialist Store on Bree Street, Cape Town. The race is run over 3 days with competitors running a total distance of around 90km’s over the 3 days. Although the routes are very runnable the cumulative effect of the distances run each day make this a very daunting event. Stillwater Sports puts on an incredibly well-organised event so thankfully there is little you have to worry about with plenty support and well-stocked refreshment stations along the route. Having the right kind of kit can make a massive difference on how much fun you will have on the day. After spending months in training, preparing for the event, the last thing you want is to come up short because of a kit issue.

We are very excited to be bringing you a fun competition with our suggested kit list. The guys at RUN Specialist Store have agreed to offer a 10% discount on the items on this list. Give them a call on (021) 4181051 to find out pricing etc. Not only are they offering a discount on the goods but we will be having a lucky draw prize on Monday 14 March. Everyone who purchases kit from our list at RUN Specialist Store will go into the draw to win 2 Gold Package Entries to the Cape Town 12 ONE RUN on 15th May 2016. Arguably one of Cape Town’s biggest road running events, the route is a flat and very entertaining 12k from Woodbridge Island to Bree Street. More info on the competition and the details of the prize can be found at the end of this post.

BBTR Suggested Kit List for Cell C African X

All of the Gear!

ASICS Mens fuzeX Heather Tee

Clothing is critical on a 3 day stage race, you want light and comfortable clothing that won’t chafe and hold moisture. It is sure to be very warm over the 3 days so a light breathable material that wicks sweat and keeps you dry will be best. ASICS fuzeX Tee is made of a soft lightweight yarn which is incredibly soft to the touch and comfortable, even while wearing a hydration pack. The top is seamless and features ASICS MOTIONDRY technology for superior moisture management. Keeping you dry and keeping friction to a minimum. Paired together with the ASICS 5inch Performance Black Running Shorts and you’ll be looking more superfly than Marty McFLy in the year 2030.

ASICS Fujitrail Ladies Graphic Tee

The Fujitrail Graphic Tee is dedicated to the trail. ASICS designed the top around the contours of the female figure so it fits like a glove, giving you confidence to attack the trail and not worry about your gear. The top also features ASICS MOTIONDRY technology keeping you dry and preventing chafing. Paired with the ladies fuseX Knee Tight and all you will need to worry about over 3 days is conserving your energy to get you to the finish line. An elastic waistband coupled with the same MOTIONDRY technology gives maximum comfort and active moisture-wicking capabilities without affecting range of motion.

ASICS Gel FujiAttack 5 Mens and Ladies

Mens ASCIS Gel FujiAttack 5

The FujiAttack is most people go to shoe when it comes to Neutral ASICS Trail Running shoes. They are lightweight and very comfortable. Durability is fantastic as the outsole is made of a slightly harder compound rubber than some competitors versions. This doesn’t sacrifice grip though as the aggressive lugs offer plenty of grip when the going gets rough. A 10mm heel-to-toe offset also make it a great shoe for longer runs. A built in Rock Plate offers extra protection on sharper rocky terrain. The midsole material is lighter than ASICS standard EVA and SpEVA + resulting in improved comfort and durability. Two things you need plenty of in a trail shoe.

Injinji Performance Toe Socks

These socks have been an industry revolution! You don’t need to be running in Vibram 5 Fingers to be able to wear these socks. We have been running in very little else over the last 2 years as these socks are incredibly comfortable and completely eradicate excessive blister-causing friction in the shoe.  The socks have a built-in arch support to keep the foot stable on the ever-changing terrain of the trail. A protective cushion and double cuff ensure maximum comfort and moisture management. These are an absolute must for for us when it comes to Multi-Day Stage Races.

Injinji Toe Socks

Compressport R2 Calf Sleeves

Compression gear has to be the most debated topic in Trail Running at the moment, one thing is for sure they do help. Whether it is placebo or actual performance benefits the fact is wearing compression gear, especially on longer efforts, aids in recovery. By supporting the muscle they help cause less fine microfibre tears in the muscles from the jolting and impact while running. According to Compressport the R2 Calf Sleeves “accelerate venous return preventing blood from stagnating in calves, ischia and quadriceps therefore making your legs feel ultra light.” We have found the best results in sleeping in compression gear but on a 3-day stage race, out on the trail any advantage is a welcome advantage. The R2 Calf Sleeves are very light-weight and feature Moisture Management technology.

Llama Bar 

Although the route has fantastic support with refreshment stations stocked to the nines with some amazing nutrition and hydration, having some backup in your pack in case the wheels fall off is never a bad idea.

Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest

We reviewed the Camelbak Circuit Hydration Vest a few months back and since then have not been able to run with anything else. It is an incredibly comfortable lightweight vest. The Marathoner is the bigger cousin with a 2lt Reservoir Capacity and 2 Bottle Pouches up front for additional hydration. With multiple compartments to store gear and nutrition for longer runs the Marathoner is a very versatile hydration vest. Xavier Thévenard recently won the 2015 UTMB while wearing one of these vests. For more info click on the Heading.

For what to put inside the vest we love NUUN sugar free Energy tabs. Each tab contains plant based caffeine (green tea extract), Vitamin B, electrolytes and is gluten-free, dairy + soy free. This is by far one of our favourite ways to hydrate.

#nuunlove

So that wraps up our Suggested Kit List. If you are training for AfricanX we hope your training is going well and we will see you out there come 11 March.

Terms and Conditions of Competition and Prize Details:

  • Only stock on the suggested kit list is eligible for an entry.
  • For every different item purchased the customer will receive one entry i.e. purchasing a Llama Bar, Injinji toe socks and Camelbak Marathoner will result in 3 entries. Purchasing 3 Llama Bar’s will result in 1 entry.
  • All items must be bought at RUN Specialist Store. 7 – 11  Bree Street, Cape Town. Discount is available on items not already marked down or on special. Customer will be required to leave their name and contact details on the back of their till slip at the store.
  • Competition runs from 23 February 2016 – 11 March 2016.
  • The prize includes 2 x Gold Package Entries to the Cape Town 12 ONERUN taking place in Cape Town on 15 May 2016. Prize winner will need to ensure their own transport to the event.
  • Extra Social Media love and promotion of the competition will result in bonus entries added to your name.

The prize includes, for two people:

  • FNB Cape Town 12 Buff
  • Timing chip
  • Finisher medal
  • Route entertainment
  • Shuttle service to the start of the race
  • PUMA® Performance Tee
  • Exclusive access to the Gold entrants’ area pre-race (refreshments and tog bag drop included)
  • Exclusive access to the Gold entrants’ area post-race (massages, refreshments, ablution facilities and tog bag collection included)

Saucony Peregrine 5 Review

Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running shoe

Normally I like to start these reviews with a nice little build up, a story of sorts to whet the appetite for what’s to come. Today though I am going to hit out of the gates with some good old fashioned honesty. It might come as a surprise but before receiving these particular Peregrine 5’s I had never run in a pair of Saucony’s. Not in the last 5 years I have been trail running, or the 7 years of triathlon and road running before that, or even all the years of running cross country in school and for the life of me after testing these shoe’s the past month, I cannot figure out why. The main reason I guess has always been that I couldn’t quite get past the fact that a pair of shoe’s can sell for the same amount of money as the shoe’s that the greatest trail, ultra and sky runner that ever lived in the history of anything and everything running uses. A shoe that is arguably the most tested and developed shoe in the history of shoe manufacturing.

The Salomon Sense Ultra 5.

Having your shoes retail at the same price as what many consider to be the best trail running shoe in the world (simply because the best trail runner in the world, Kilian Jornet, runs in them) is like training in the same gym as Manny Pacquiao and occasionally slapping him when he isn’t looking. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be able to back it up if he wants to go toe-to-toe with you! I am not sure whether or not Saucony meant to slap the “big boys” on purpose but let’s see how the Peregrine 5 would stack up in a Title fight.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

The thing that separates boxers like Pacquiao from the rest can be attributed to a number of things but for me it is, without a doubt, attention to detail. Some people call it Marginal Gains. Sky Pro Cycling have proven how successful it can be to focus on improving just 1% over a number of areas instead of trying to get 20% improvements over a few areas, especially with Chris Froome’s absolutely dominating performances. From the moment that I took the Peregrine 5 out the box that is what struck me most, attention to detail. Not just in the functional aspects of the shoe but also in the aesthetic aspects, Saucony have realised that even placebos are marginal gains if they have the desired effect of improving performance.

Pacquiao has spent hours in the gym and in the ring perfecting his boxing skills and fitness, this is Saucony’s Fifth version of the Peregrine. Have they perfected their skills enough to challenge for the title or do they still need more bag work? Let’s see what’s cooking…

Outsole

Grip much?

A trail running shoes grip could be linked to a boxer’s power. Without power you aren’t going to do much damage to your opponent. It is the same in running, without grip in your shoes you aren’t going to do much damage, to the competition or the Strava segments you’re chasing. When it comes to grip the Peregrine 5 are punching way above their weight. For such a light-weight shoe the amount of grip you will have at your disposal is phenomenal, regardless of the terrain. Rocky outcrops, technical single tracks and dusty roads will not be an issue for this shoe. We found the Peregrine 5 to be an out and out racer, if you are looking to log 1000km’s in training for a goal race don’t be surprised if the shoes don’t make it to the start line.

These are built fast and light, perfect for Sky Running. The lugs are flexible, so flexible we thought they would be torn off in the first run. I was happy to finish my first run in the shoes, the Matroosberg Sky Marathon Challenge, on some insanely rugged and technical terrain with all the lugs intact. The multi-directional 5mm deep lugs make for very good grip. Saucony went with their XT-900 rubber for the OutSole in the Peregrine 5 which makes for a very durable and flexible lower layer of the shoe. Having logged around 200km’s in just under 3 weeks across varied terrain I have been very satisfied with how the shoe is lasting. At the current rate of wear we estimate this particular shoe should be good for 650-700km’s which if compared to other shoes we have tested is a lot for a lightweight racing trail shoe.

#FindYourStrong

Midsole

The Midsole is made up completely of Saucony’s PowerGrid foam, I could go into the science of the PowerGrid technology but I am just going to mention my experience of it as I feel it will explain it better. There is only one other shoe that I have experienced the midsole distributing pressure throughout the whole sole so well that you can literally feel it as you run, and it was a road shoe. This is the first trail shoe I have come across where you can literally feel the midsole distributing the force coming from the ground as you run. The Grid technology really does absorb the impact and evenly distributes it throughout the midsole. This also means there is very little ‘foot slippage’ inside the shoe as your feet are centered well by the foam and upper.

The stack height is spot on for a lightweight racer. A height of 21.5mm at the heel and 17.5mm at the forefoot. Giving you a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. Although the shoe might not feel like it rolls out of transition as nicely as a 8mm drop would, it does encourage fore-foot running which will keep you well balanced, especially on the technical stuff.

A Nylon Mesh rockplate has replaced the more rigid hard plates from previous Peregrines, this has been a brilliant improvement to Peregrine 5 for us. The midsole is still incredibly flexible even with the plate, yet it still offers the under-foot protection that most runners don’t want to go without.

All in all we found the midsole to be very responsive, as firm as you would like without sacrificing the much-needed flexibility.

PowerGrid MidSole at it’s best!

Upper

I have a problem, you see I have very flat and wide feet. So finding shoes that fit and give me enough space in the toe box is always a struggle. Thankfully that has not been my struggle with the Peregrine 5. The seamless FlexFilm Upper really fits like a glove, without cramping up my toes. The Tongue is attached to the sides of the Upper which effectively keeps trail debris out of the shoe and the shoe is fully compatible with Trail Gaiters if you really need to keep stuff out. The design and colour schemes of the Upper has also been a great aspect of the shoe for me. I read online that a few people had issues with the heel counter causing blisters but I didn’t experience that. My very first run in the shoe was a 3hour plus Sky Run with no blisters and I haven’t had one yet. Although having said that, this could be because I only run in Injinji

Run Anywhere!

Earlier on I spoke about attention to detail and the Upper is where we see the most attention to detail, even if it is just aesthetic. The top of the tongue features a rad Mountain graphic with the words “Run Anywhere” and the Heel Counter features a reflective Falcon graphic that is lit up at night by car lights etc. Saucony have realised runners enjoy the little things, even if it just looks cool and doesn’t necessarily make you run faster.

Flying High

The Upper breathes incredibly well, almost too well actually. If you plan on running in winter in this shoe you might need some warm socks. This also means though that the shoe drains very quickly if you need to run through water, and helps keep you cool on the hot days.  A solidly rubberised toe cap effectively protects all the little piggy’s as they enjoy the trails and not the market.

Conclusion:

For us Saucony have a legitimate title fight on their hands. If the Peregrine 5 was a young gun picking a fight with Pacquiao, Pac Man would seriously need to pull up his socks and get to work. The Peregrine 5 means business on every single front, there is no messing around with this shoe. I fear this review could come across too “glowing” but it is not our ethos to say lots of nice things about shoes to keep the brands happy so they can send us more stuff to review. If there is something wrong with the shoe we will say it, but honestly we have struggled to find anything wrong with this shoe. They are the real deal, across any terrain. The Peregrine 5 is like a punch-drunk pugilist who eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes to break records and crush the opposition. I might not have convinced you but they sure have convinced me, these shoes are worth every cent and the big boys better pull up their socks if they want to keep their Titles. There is a new challenger for the “Best Trail Shoe in the World” title.

Punchdrunk kid!

PUMA FAAS 500v2 Trail Shoe review

PUMA have come along way since the days of the NightFox and the TrailFox trail shoes, so far in fact that it is almost hard to believe that those shoes and the shoe we are reviewing today come from the same stable. Not to say that the previous models were bad. Rather it is a testament to how technology and science behind manufacturing, state of the art, performance gear has advanced. As trail running popularity is growing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun) all the major shoe manufacturer’s are keeping their fans happy with gear purpose built for smashing through the toughest of terrains. Some go a more balanced route like the PUMA FAAS 300v2 Trail Shoe which we reviewed a few months back and some go all out manic!

We are happy to report that PUMA have not neglected the most hardcore of the trail running community. Those that shun the idea of having to put time on the road, those of us who are offended by single shot skinny latte’s. Those of us who would rather have a double shot full cream cortado put some extra hairs on our chest. You get balanced and then you get crazy, and that is how we would describe the Faas 500v2 TR… certifiably nuts!! I mean just look at them…

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we are not saying that PUMA have nailed it and can now sit back, rest on their laurels while the other brands try to catch up. No, not at at all. They have come a long way since the TrailFox released in 2006 but they still have a ways to go, but more on that later. Lets dig into the specs and see what makes this shoe tick before we make any suggestions on improvements.

OutSole:

Right off the bat you can see these shoes mean business. Just look at that grip. If we had to liken these shoes to an animal it would hands down be a Velociraptor. If the unfortunate humans who became dinosaur food in Jurassic Park were wearing these shoes while running through the jungles we think they might have had a bit more screen time. With the claw like talons protruding from the bottom of the outsole there is plenty of grip, and confidence to go with it. We were almost too nervous to run easy in these shoes for fear of them slapping us and telling us to get a move on! As we see in pretty much every PUMA running shoe the Faas 500v2 TR features the brilliant ‘EverGrip’ technology which according to PUMA is ‘Abrasion-resistant’. If by ‘Abrasion-resistant’ they mean that the shoe doesn’t wear very fast then yes, I would say it is very ‘Abrasion-Resistant.’ I was happy to see that the lugs on the outsole did not crack or break off after some pretty long (7 hours plus on one instance at UTCT) and technical runs. Value for money will always be a major factor when purchasing a new pair of shoes and for us these shoes score brilliantly in durability. Think DuraCell Bunny. Multi-Direction lugs give you plenty grip on the up hills, through the technical singletrack and also provide some breaking force on the down hills.

Claw-like outsole.

MidSole:

The Faas 500v2 TR has a slightly more plush ride than the Fass 300v2 TR we mentioned earlier. With a stack height of 22mm at the forefoot and 26mm at the heel and a 4mm footbed there is plenty of cushioning without completely taking away any feedback you might want to get from the trail. A 4mm heel-to-toe drop encourages a midfoot strike which we like a lot. Even though you get some extra cushioning you won’t sacrifice on the weight. The shoes still weight in around the 340g mark. As the name suggests the Faas 500v2 TR features PUMA’s lightweight and versatile Faas foam midsole. The midsole is built to provide a more gradual transition from heel to midfoot by slowing down the rate of pronation. This is done by some ‘release grooves’ in the midsole. These grooves give a little more flex to the midsole by dispersing the force generated from running evenly throughout the midsole. While we found this worked fantastically well on hard pack or more ‘flatter’ surfaces unfortunately it did add a bit of instability on the super technical terrain. We found there was a little too much lateral movement at times causing the ankle to roll slightly to the outside of the shoe. Nothing major, but just enough to be aware of it. In terms of cushioning the midsole felt exactly like a Faas midsole, consistent in that it was comfy and smooth as the Faas foam is.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Upper:

This is where version 2 has received the most upgrades from the first version of the Faas 500 TR. The Upper has been upgraded with PUMA’s WeaveMesh technology. This provides the midfoot with a lot more support and really does make the shoe feel snug and fit well. One thing we notice with more ‘cushioned, higher mileage’ shoes is that they can feel cumbersome and a bit sluggish but the Faas 500v2 TR does very well to still give you a spring in your step. The WeaveMesh plays a big part in this. The Gaiter-compatibility and the Gusseted tongue will keep debris and unwanted irritations like little stones etc. out of the shoe, a welcome advantage when running for hours on end. PUMA were one of the first major brands to feature Ortholite’s EcoOrthoLite technology in their shoes. The technology has proved to be very popular and the Faas 500v2 TR features a sockliner made of that same technology. The benefits of this include advanced breathability, moisture control, and anti-microbial properties. All of these aid in preventing chaffing. Another great advantage for those long runs.

We also found that the heel cup and tongue of the shoe came up nice and high on the ankle which provide great support on the technical stuff. Even though the release grooves in the midsole let the shoe down a bit the added support on the ankle more than made up for it. Having said that if you prefer more movement around the ankle this shoe might not work for you.

The Upper as a whole looks incredibly solid. We have yet to see any tears or breakages in the mesh after a good few long runs in some dense terrain.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

What would we improve?

So earlier I said that PUMA have come a long way since the TrailFox but that we still feel they have a little way to go before they have an industry changer on their hands (in the trail shoe department). As great as this shoe is we still believe there is something missing. You see I unfortunately blame Puma for this. I blame them because of a little shoe called the PUMA IGNITE. The IGNITE midsole has ruined the Faas midsole (and almost any other midsole for that matter) for me, the one piece IGNITE foam is so insanely comfortable and responsive the Faas foam feels like a stack of A4 pieces of paper stuck on top of each other with Pritt glue. Don’t get me wrong, the Faas midsole is comfortable! It has worked for PUMA for years! I have an 8 hour trail run in the blistering rain at the 2015 Ultra Trail Cape Town with no blisters or sore feet to prove it. The Faas midsole is fantastic, but stacked against the IGNITE midsole it doesn’t even come close.

We hope a day will come when PUMA start bringing out trail shoes with the IGNITE midsole as a feature, for us that would be a game changer! On that day Trail Runners perception of PUMA as a trail running shoe will literally change forever. Unfortunately that probably won’t be a reality for a good year or two, maybe even 3. So we will just have to be happy with the Faas foam for now, till our dreams of an IGNITE Trail are realised.

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe review

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

Have you ever heard the expression don’t bring a knife to a gun fight? Well that pretty much sums up my early years as a kid. I had a pretty rough time in Primary School. It was a decent private school with all the luxuries that came with it but when it came to the playground it didn’t matter what car your daddy drove. It was survival of the fittest, the strongest and the meanest. Since my genes decided to bloom later on in life I somehow always managed to be separated from the herd. An easy prey for the stalking wolves of the concrete playground.

Now why am I telling you this? It sure isn’t so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t regret those early days, they toughened me up, taught me a lot about preparation and survival. I learnt early on that to win a fight you needed to be, either, A: Stronger and Faster or B: Have a bigger stick. Take world wars for example, the country with the biggest weapons and baddest armies usually come out tops. Add Nuclear Warfare to the equation and you have a slam dunk. In World War 2 Japan was giving America and the allies all kinds of hell on various fronts. Refusing to give up they fought with honour and ferocity.

That is until. Hiroshima.

After the US dropped the atom bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima Japanese authourites must have realised they were fighting a losing battle, America had a bigger gun.

Fighting smart with what you have might help you win the battle, but having a bigger stick can win you the war. When it comes to a maximal cushioned trail shoe purpose built for Ultra’s that is what New Balance have in the new MT910v2 trail shoe. A bigger stick. This shoe has been phenomenal for me. I have run in many New Balance shoes over the years. With the MT910v2 it is so blatantly obvious why their RevLite technology has put New Balance on the map and won many battles for them in the past. So lets get down to what makes this shoe tick.

Out Sole:

The New Balance MT910v2 features a HHR rubber outsole with aggressively shaped lugs throughout the base of the shoe. As I said earlier I have run in many a pair of New Balance and these are without a doubt the best outsole New Balance has ever produced. The grip is insane, granted you don’t get much feedback as the shoe is highly cushioned but it is a grip you can trust. The rubber is sticky in the wet and smooth in the dry. Since the shoe is made for Ultra’s and for varying terrain the shoe performs best in slightly wet to dry hard pack conditions. It isn’t an out and out mud shoe with deep lugs but it will offer stability and a sense of confidence on a wide variety of terrains. Even on the tar and hard pack it performs brilliantly.

HHR rubber outsole

MidSole:

I mentioned the Revlite tecnology earlier which in this shoe, is simply outstanding. It has the perfect amount of stiffness for stability yet at the same time offers a very comfortable ride for those insanely long runs. Revlite offers a 30% reduction in weight compared to other New Balance foams without sacrificing on comfortability and stability. One great feature of the midsole is the addition of an full EVA “strobel board”. A strobel board is a sheet of EVA that is glued to the midsole and then the Upper is stiched to the material. It does make the midsole less flexible but adds a massive amount of stability to the shoe. The MT910v2 has a relatively low heel-to-toe drop of 8mm which will put less strain on the calf muscles over the long haul, although to be honest I would have preferred a 4mm drop it will appeal to a wider market of runners. Add a Rock Stop® to all this and you have one of the best Ultra running midsoles on the market.

Upper:

Sublime design

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this shoe is oh so nice to look at! It is simply stunning. The nuclear orange contrast with the black midsole is enough to frighten even the hardest of enemies. The full synthetic mesh upper is breathable and tough. I was glad to find it standing up against possible scuffs and scratches from branches or rocks on the trail. The Toe Protect feature in the front of the shoe is a welcome addition as well, adding to the confidence needed to go in guns blazing when you need to. The shoe has also been designed to keep stuff out, the tongue is secured to the edges of the upper ensuring small stones etc don’t get into the shoe and a thick gusseted heel arch also keeps dirt out at the back. New Balance really have gone to town to ensure that this shoe will be the least of your concerns in an Ultra distance race.

Full Synthetic Mesh Upper

Conclusion:

As Ultra running is becoming more and more popular we are seeing battles raging for the top spot. Runners are looking for well constructed and practical products that can get them through the distance. No Ultra runner is looking to bring a knife to a gun fight. Preparation and a big stick will ensure victory. With the MT910v2 New Balance haven’t just won the battle, they might have just won the war.

#Alwaysinbeta