Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I Run: There's Always a Lesson

I fit the bill of the average blogger.

I get inspired, I collect some thoughts, and I write them down.  I know that very few people have the opportunity to earn a living doing what they are truly passionate about, and I also know that when people have the chance to do what they are passionate about, those passion areas of life can help to inform and give a wider context to circumstances.

This is the place I found myself today during my morning run.  I have a group of friends of different skill levels  and speeds that I take the opportunity to run with as often as I can.  Generally, the meeting spot is about 2.5 miles from my house, so I leave my house early enough to meet up with the gang, get the group run in, and head the 2-2.5 miles home.  All things being equal, my training pace is faster than we usually run while together but there are too many opportunities to experience life and conversation on the 5ish miles in between my runs too and from to stop running with these folks.

Like other bloggers I am also gainfully employed elsewhere.  While I dream dreams of running, writing, writing music, and making red wine for my vocation, I still sit in my home office staffing/recruiting and fitting runs and writing around my job.

Some days I feel great - some weeks I feel great about my quality of work.  Some days I don't feel so great, and some weeks I don't feel great about my quality of work.

I'm currently coming off of a dud.

My amazing wife can always tell when I'm in need of quick check in.  She sent me a quick email today, and it just simply said, "How are you doing today?  I can tell you're a little bummed with your recent performance at work..."  I told her that things were getting better, but I need to do a better job of dusting myself off.  Then I thought about this morning's run - an 8 miler that had a little bit of everything in it.

  • Mile 1 - 7:45" my favorite, my 'Garmin' mile, and it's always slower than I feel like I'm running.
  • Mile 2 - 7:10" - had to bust  out another quick mile out to meet the group on time
  • Miles 3-6 - 8:46", 8:58", 9:05", 8:38" - slower than normal, but nice for a run with friends :)
  • Mile 7 - 7:46" - picked it back up to get home
  • Mile 8 - 7:38" - cruised into the driveway.
  • Overall pace - 8:11/mile
In my email response I said, "It's a lot like this morning's run.  I saw glimpses of my best and my not-so-good, but if I take the time to look at things overall, across the span of time, my "goods" have outweighed my "not-so-goods"...

...and there are always more miles to run...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Out of the Box: Saucony Kinvara TR

New to the stable is the Saucony Kinvara TR.  So far, this relative to the much beloved Saucony Kinvara has the same shape and the same 4mm offset of the road Kinvara, but based on my visual inspection and wear around the house (hey, what can I say?  I need to get new gear on my feet ASAP) that's pretty much where the similarities end.

The TR is almost like the quasi-granola cousin from Boulder that the rest of the Saucony family sees once a year...but I digress...

The TR's upper is made of Saucony's Flexfilm which hugs the foot nicely, and fits the bill of my biggest criteria - that being that the shoe feels like an extension of the body rather than something you wear.  My foot shape (long and narrow) also allows me to get away with the narrower toebox, but it's worth mentioning also that I had to size up to a 10.5 from my normal Saucony 10 (Mirage and Virrata most notably) for the most comfortable fit.

The outsole of the shoe features a moderately aggressive lug pattern, and the under-foot outsole rubber feels very grippy to the touch.  The front 2/3 of the shoe also showcases a carbon fiber foot plate (present in the green colored triangles in the photo below) that is visible and exposed when looking at the sole of the TR.

The one thing, in my opinion, worth mentioning above all else lies in the ankle collar of the shoe.  Present are two memory foam pods that hug the Achilles area of the foot.  Frankly, they look kind of like areas you could squeeze like the pronounced orange basketball on the tongue of a pair of circa 1992 Reebok Pumps, and then cover your eyes Dee Brown style and jump across ravines.

Okay, so, not quite -

However, it is the first pair of shoes I've owned with foam pods in the ankle collar of a shoe, and with snow and ice on the way later in the week, I may have the chance to get them out for a few miles.  I don't suspect they'll ever be worn for runs longer than 20 or 25K on a trail - which is precisely why I went with them over the Brooks PureGrit 2 or the Cascadia.  I do have a running buddy from So Cal that is also a big fan of the Saucony Peregrine, but he uses them for distances of 50K or more.  I don't see that kind of distance in my immediate future.

With snow on the way, I do see getting out in the Kinvara TR's and looking forward reviewing them right here.


Final Word: Skechers GoRun 2

I have now run 50 miles at different speeds, and I'm ready to give my 'final' verdict regarding the Skechers GoRun 2.  (If you missed my initial reaction regarding the GoRun 2, visit it here.) In a few words, I found them to be a pleasant surprise, very fast, and very responsive.  The final piece of the puzzle was a nice, long run to really get a feel for the ride.

After a handful of easy miles this past Friday, I went out for a worthy test on Saturday.  I had a 19 miler slated for my marathon training regiment and, given how they performed on the Wednesday previous, I decided to take them out.  My training buddy, Brian, declared the choice to be 'brassy', but I was feeling confident.  I picked up Brian about 5.5 miles in to the run leaving a solid 13.5 miles to finish up.

My goal wasn't speed for this run.  I wanted to fully experience the ride, and have a negative split for the run.  Missions accomplished. (Thoughts on the ride are below - 2:30" negative split from the first 9.5 miles to the 2nd.)  The first hunk of the run aligned exactly with my previous experience - a quick, somewhat liberating ride that I felt in control of the entire time.  I waited and waited for the front half of my foot (especially the ball) to get that worn, tired feeling, and it never did.

Right about mile 8, I started to notice a strange ache in the top of my foot.  At the time we were maintaining an 8:30 pace, and I had to run down my mental checklist:  Form? Check.  Crown of the road?  Not an issue.  I did notice that my right foot, as I experienced on an earlier run, was running out of the shoe.  We kept going and took a quick, proactive gel shot at mile 10; I noticed that the ache was growing from dull to a bit more sharp.  I could have kept going, but, to me, it made more sense to take 30 seconds and check the lacing to be safe.

Good thing too, because it was evident that I was running out of the left shoe as well, and while the tongue in the GoRun 2 is primarily sewn in, there is a small flap of the tongue that had folded under on the outside of my foot.  A quick fix and a re-tying job and we were off again.  While I wasn't 100% comfortable, we kept on going.  I started to hypothesize that since I've found these shoes to be tough to walk in because of the mid-foot bulge, perhaps I would find a bit more comfort if I picked up the pace.  So, we quickened from 8:30 to 8:10 (by the last 3 miles, we were at sub 8's).

By the time we were done, there was no discernible discomfort that I could categorize as anything more than what you could expect by doing a 20 miler.  We arrived at our destination (I had planted my car the night before), loaded up, and headed back to town.

Final thoughts:
  • The GoRun 2 is a great shoe for going fast.  Not really a mileage base or recovery shoe for me.  For me to get the most out of the shoe, I've got to be at about a 7:55 pace or I risk a foot strike that doesn't really jive with the shoe.
  • In my opinion, there are a couple of flaws with the upper of the shoe.  First, the collar around the ankle is pretty low in comparison to the other shoes in my stable, and it doesn't really grab the foot as much as other shoes such as the Newton Distance and Saucony Mirage.  I think it contributed to my 'running out of the shoe'  That issue could be handled by lacing the shoe differently, but, I wasn't able to figure it out after 4 runs in the shoe at different distances/speeds/paces.
  • At 50 miles, there was no visible wear to the sole of the shoe.  Seems to me that the out sole durability is capable.  Admittedly, I expected the high-density pods (the orange dots in the picture below) to be pretty resilient, and the others to be less so, but everything looked great.  All of the pods allow the out sole of the shoe to remain flexible and responsive for the instances that you need it to be. See the pod arrangement below:

  • Maybe the biggest surprise to me was how comfortable the entire bottom of my foot was after nearly 20 miles.  No soreness after the run to report.  I can't say the same thing after running half-marathon distance or further in my Newtons.  The balls of my feet felt tired and a little beat up after a longer Newton run.  Skechers get high marks from me for overall comfort even if the ride was a little inconsistent at times.
Overall, I could probably run my upcoming marathon in these taking into account all of the data I've gathered  over my first 50 miles in them.  They are a remarkably quick and responsive shoe that I would think for most runners would be a nice choice for quicker runs of 10 miles or less.  Intermediate or advanced runners that have a firm grasp of their form and efficiency could reasonably expect to do well in this shoe for runs of 10+ miles - perhaps even a longer distance racing shoe.  The GoRun 2 offers a reasonable amount of protection, and, at the same time, really is a fun shoe in which to log miles.

**This pair of Skechers GoRun 2's were provided by Pete Larson from as a media sample direct from the manufacturer.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rapid React: Skechers GoRun2

Yesterday, I had my first opportunity to go for a spin in the recently released Skechers GORun 2.  While it will be be another week or so before I get 50 miles or so in them, I thought I'd share my initial thoughts.  It was a great day to give them a proper tussle as I was in line for a 2-a-day speedwork/threshold day, so I'll talk about the two runs separately.  But first - the shoes:

My practice generally is to put new shoes on, dink with the lacing, and wear them around the house for a little bit to bond with the shoe. One thing was noticeable right away - the midfoot bulge.  Admittedly, this was the exact thing that turned me off from the Go Run 2's older sibling, but I had read & seen enough to know that most have agreed that the bulge is not awesome for walking, but is decent, if not nice, for running. I reserved my judgement, and boy I'm glad I did.  If I hadn't, I would've missed out on one of the most fun days of running I've had in a while. (special thanks to Pete L. at for providing these shoes - they were provided free of charge as media samples directly from the manufacturer)

As a regular Newton wearer, I know that shoes built for running don't always cut it for other uses.  I also am aware that some shoes are designed for a particular kind of footstrike, and the Go Run 2, in my opinion, would fall into that category.  So, admittedly, me being picky about the midfoot bulge is a little hypocritical - I'll own that.  Here are the parameters of my AM workout:

1 mile at 7" 6 X 2" intervals with 2" of rest between.  Intervals were at 9 mph and rest was at 7.5 mph.  Finished with 1 mile at 7:15" with some light jogging to cool down.  5.7 total miles in.

Almost immediately I noticed that the heel cup and collar around the ankle was lower than I was used to (more on that it a bit), so it felt almost like a racing flat.  As reported, the midfoot bulge was completely a non-issue almost immediately, and I felt fast.  This particular workout is a 'go-to' speed workout for me, so I've done it in my Saucony Mirages, Newton Distance, and now the Go Run 2, and if I had to describe the things felt, I would say it was one of the most liberating runs I've had in a while.  With Newton's lugs, you  have to constantly be aware of your form and footstrike.  Believe me, there are times that connecting with your body during a run is essential, but it was nice to have the technology of a shoe not feel so 'bossy'.  The Go Run 2 felt light, super responsive, and having long and narrow feet, the upper had plenty of room up front for my feet to do what ever they wanted to.

PM Workout: 7.3 mile steady state/threshold run done at a 7:50/mile pace.

If liberation was the theme in the morning, the citizens in the Go Run 2 were lining up behind John Hancock to sign the Declaration of Independence at night.  It was cold out with a steady 15 WNW headwind, but all I could think about is how much fun the run was.  My dailymile reflection used the term 'buttery' to refer to the performance of the shoe.  Again, everything just felt fast.  The shoe grabbed the road nicely and for as messy as the Newtons can be on corners, the Go Run 2 was the opposite.  I made sure to try to accelerate at every opportunity - paying special attention to spots where I would've slowed in the Newtons, and the Go Run 2 didn't disappoint.

Under foot, the Go Run 2 offered a nice mix of protection and cushion, but at all times I felt that I was in control of the run.  I did start to develop a hot spot on the outside of my left big toe, but that was due to a seam in my sock, and not from the toebox crowding my foot.  Remember that lower profile ankle collar I spoke of?  Here's where it was an issue.  At about mile 4, I actually felt like I was starting to run out of the shoe.  If I had one criticism about the fit of the shoe, it would be a better, more sock-like fit around the ankle.  I wouldn't have wanted to lace them any tighter.

When I pulled into the driveway after my 13th mile of the day, I felt satisfied.  The only other discomfort that I felt was due to me and not the shoes.  My AM speedwork was on an indoor track (20 laps = 1 mile) and the sharp turning at a 7" pace really took its toll.  I'll take a couple days off before the weekend -  I'm planning a 19 miler on Saturday and a 6-8 mile recovery on Sunday.

Overall, so far so good.  Not a bossy shoe, but I'll have to do a much longer run to really be able to sign off for sure.  However, this is an unexpectedly capable shoe and at the Skechers price point of $80, it would be hard to not mix this shoe into the rotation.  At a 4mm offset, plenty of ground feel with just enough protection, I have definitely fallen in 'like' with this shoe.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Are you an athlete?

Out on the roads running an hour or two (or three) at a time, leaves one with a lot of time to think.  A few days ago, I posted about me losing the calorie battle.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's darn near impossible to think of oneself as an athlete.  Most of us are subject to a mindset where we are all held captive by the idea that there is someone out there that is better than you.  For instance, I am not an athlete, but ___________________ is -

In our fitness lives, it's clear that most people think in terms of fitness and weight loss versus "I am an athlete."  This is a thought process I've been toying with and finally put words to following a long run with Brian last Saturday. I truly feel that if you're training for something to the extent that you're regularly measuring your performance (either by distance, time, or both) then your mindset needs to change.  It needs to change from "I'd like to drop a few lbs." to "I am an athlete, and I need to fuel like one".

It's been my experience that if you train hard for an event, but think like you want to be fit and lose a few lbs, that sooner or later your body just can't keep up any more because you won't be giving it what it needs.  Does this mean you just eat whatever you want?   Umm, no...I wish that were the case (believe me!).  It does mean that increasing your caloric intake with the right kind of foods will inevitably keep you fresher longer on runs (or during activity), and will help prevent injury.  Remember - the body gets what it wants :)

I can't count the number of people that have said to me, "Boy, I need to start running."  Maybe they do, maybe they don't - my advice will always be to find what it is that allows one to maintain a sustainable regiment of health.  It may be running, it may be cycling, or swimming, or rollerblading, or Cross-fit...whatever... The bottom line remains that if you take up something that is sustainable to you, whatever that is, you have a better chance of understanding the link between body and mind, and you can begin to see a change.  A change from the inside out - and yes, you may drop a few lbs on the scale, but -

It's only a number - 

And there are numbers that matter much more than what the scale says.

Do yourself a favor - take the time to understand your goals.  Maybe even set some if you never have before , and crystalize in your mind what outcome you're hoping for and treat yourself accordingly.  Maybe you do want to lose 10 lbs or maintain a certain degree of fitness - that's cool, treat your body that way.  Maybe it's that first 5K,or half-marathon, or full marathon, awesome - treat your body that way.

And, finally - watch out!  You may be an athlete and not even know it -

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chalk it up... paying close attention to the body when it's talking to you.

Since last Saturday's 17 miler, was feeling some soreness in my left lower leg - between the calf and ankle.  I've had some recurring cramping from time to time in my soleus.  So, I tried to treat it as other cramping events - water and increased salt intake.  With no real change, the former me would've plowed through with my training/miles.

I took my own advice (for once!) and called my doctor.  I asked others that I respect, and I have to say that inside the running/active community, there is a great sense of care an 'ownership' in each other's well-being.  I had a great experience going to the running internet community (thanks Runblogger!) for advice.

I'm scheduled for a 19 miler on Saturday - jury's still out on whether or not I do it all or part of it, we'll play it by ear the rest of tonight and tomorrow.  Frankly, it could also be a gear issue as well.  The bottom line is that you have to listen to your body, because as I've stated before, if it needs you to stop, it will always get what it wants whether you like it or not.

Updates to follow, new trail shoes imminent - looking foward to a little throwdown with the Inov8 X Talon 212...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A lot can happen...

Nothing ever goes as smoothly as you want it to - in every piece of life.

My question: why do we expect it to?

If there's anything running has taught me is that there will always be some sort of adversity.  Every run, every race, every workout no matter how long or short there is always a moment where you choose to persevere.

I have never been on a run of any length where there wasn't some twang of the knee, twinge in my foot, stitch in my side that was unexpected.

What is worth sharing today, is that, just like in life, there's always more to discover.

Over on the left of the page is my dailymile counter, and it shows my distance covered and pace, and total time, and even a few thoughts on the run.  But so much more happens - there is so much more to that story.  Anyone you see or talk to, or text, or email or Facebook, or Tweet at is, at their very core, a collection of stories and experiences from their day or week or year or lifetime.

So, run the race of discovery.  Challenge yourself.  Push yourself harder.

After all, we enter the season of Lent tomorrow; run that race of discovery...challenge yourself...push yourself.

It won't be easy, and things likely won't go as expected -

Nothing of value ever is or ever does.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Executive Decision

No, this is not about the move where Steve Segal dies - although I do remember that being somewhat of a coup when it happened :)

The decision I'm talking about really goes back to a thought that I had a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about your body always winning out whether you want it to give out or not (read it here).  When I started training for the full marathon, I knew that above all I would have to listen to my body.  So, even though the training plan calls for cross-training, I just don't feel like I'm getting the desired benefit from it, and frankly, it cuts into my recovery time - which I feel is key.

I ran 48 miles last week - the mileage is only going to increase, and to me, recovery is as important as training.  What's the use of training hard and then not being able to compete at your highest level because you're on the shelf?

I've decided to put the marathon first in mind when it comes to training.  That means no more cross training until after the race.

Second, I'm losing the calorie battle.  I'm not fueling up enough - my BMR for activity (Basic Metabolic Rate) like this is about 2400 calories a day to fuel my body properly.  Friends, that 2400 calories is what I used during my long run this past Saturday.  I like the way my body is transforming, not gonna lie about that. But, it's all fun and games until you almost face plant in a spinning sanctuary during worship :)

My next executive decision is to make sure I'm nourishing mid-run and meal time adequately.

I know that several folks reading this are at different points in their fitness journey, so I leave with this little paraphrase of a Bible verse (it should be in a fitness Bible :) )

What good does it do a person to gain a beachbody, but lose their ability to function?

Keep your perspective, friends - keep working :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Favorites: Protection/Cushioning Systems

I have to admit - I'm a shoe nerd.  Well, actually a gear nerd -

I also want things to work the way they're supposed to.  Over the years, my tastes in shoes have changed about as much as my body has.  I've decided to take some time to outline (and rank) my favorite cushioning/support systems inside of running shoes.  Typically speaking, a manufacturer has their proprietary substance and while it can morph over time, it mostly stays the same.  (Disclaimer: just my feelings here - any shoe you try should support the foot from a mechanical amount of cushion will protect you from injury if the shoe isn't a mechanical match)

So, here's my top 5:

5. Asics GEL 

The GEL (here illustrated in the Asics Gel-Kayano 15) is the red substance most prominently displayed in the heel of the shoe.  Overall, my experience in Asics (Nimbus, 2140, Kayano) have been positive, but all of them started out with a firm feel.  The Kayano probably less so, but that's due more to the Gel and the memory foam around the collar of the shoe working together.  There's a part of me that always liked putting on the shoe, working the Gel into something a little softer and then bonding - almost like the relationship bakers have with bread.  I have several fellow runners that have had great luck with Asics - and they do make a great shoe.

4. Skechers Resalyte

Relatively new to the market, Skechers has made a reasonably big splash by putting their shoes on the feet of Meb Keflezighi, so my initial thought was - 'good enough for Meb, good enough for me'.  So I headed out to my local store to get a piece of the GoRun.  While I think there were (and still are) some design flaws in the shoe overall, the cushioning system is outstanding.  Skechers here gets high marks for two reasons: First, the Resalyte is very comfortable and very light, and that with a virtually seamless upper makes for the basis for a great shoe.  2. I've not seen a shoe company be so responsive to the customer base.  The pronounced bump in the midfoot of the GoRun has all but disappeared, giving the later forms in the GoRun family much more widespread appeal and usability.

3. Saucony Pro-Grid Lite 

My first foray into minimal footwear was in a Vibram KSO and while they were awesome (and a worthy conversation starter), 100 miles in, it didn't take long for me to love the ground feel and overall natural approach.  It also didn't take me long to realize that I really needed some protection from the ground.  At that time, I was about 15-20lbs heavier, and I needed the medial posting support, so I took a stab at the Saucony Mirage - basically a Kinvara with a medial stability posting, and I wasn't disappointed.  It was incredibly forgiving throughout the entire gait cycle from heel strike to toe-off.  What's amazing about the stuff, is as I made the transition to midfoot/forefoot strike, the support was just as nice.  Just like most permutations of Asics Gel, it started firmer and eased up. Buyer beware - any shoe built with this midsole will only give you 250-300 (well documented by Kinvara wearers alike) miles before noticable breakdown, which (in my opinion) is too a short a lifespan.

2. Newton Forefoot Actuator Lugs

The Newton forefoot actuator lugs may be the only one of a couple proprietary shoe technologies that actually deliver on it's promise of cushion and energy return.  Much of that does depend on running efficiency  however.  So, even though I love them (see my review of the Newton Distance here), they don't (and probably won't ever) have widespread appeal due in large part to the fact that there is not any kind of consensus on foot strike mechanics.  For that reason, they reside at number 2, however they are my shoe of choice, nearly all of my miles are on one model or another of them.  Amazing ride, great protection, and, frankly, really fun to run in.

1. Brooks DNA

The DNA found in most models of Brooks shoes over the past 18-24 months, only bumps Newton's lugs, because it accommodates every type of foot strike made my humans and frankly feels amazing.  The ride in any shoe from the Pure line-up (I personally like the Connect and Flow) all the way to stability trainers like the Glycerin provide maximum comfort.  The only drawback from where I sit really lies in the fact that there's no return of energy to the body.  DNA is basically a non-Newtonian fluid (think that episode of Mythbusters when Adam walked on water) - its firmness is directly related to amount of stress applied to it.  I basically want a mattress made out of the stuff, except I would sink into it, but, seriously - the stuff is awesome.

There you have it - I'm interested to hear any additions or experiences otherwise.

Happy Miles!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Milestone time!!

Just rolled 200 miles for the year - here are few reflections:

  • My family is amazing.  They put up with my gear nerd-dom and support me by allowing me to be gone for copious amounts of time.  Anything I achieve personally is attributed to them as much as me.
  • I have goals set for races in terms of time goals, but some are just to complete - that motivates me quite a bit because I am super competitive.  These miles, this time, aren't just for me, they're for someone else too, which has deepened my experience.  Its made it richer and increased my awareness of the needs of those around me, so in some way, these are the most life changing miles I've ever put on my shoes.
  • That's a lot of miles - and something shifted in my head.  I have to treat my body very differently - even more differently than if I was dieting or making a lifestyle change for weight loss.  I am an athlete, and more of you reading this blog are athletes too.
  • I'm still not halfway to my pre-race mileage estimate of 500 miles.  Seems much closer than I thought it might 6 weeks into 2013.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Out of the Box: Inov8 Talon 212

In Canton, OH there is a little burger stand where you can get burgers shaped like baseballs and a side of fried okra.  A friend of mine once asked Mr. G (the owner/chef of said stand) how much meat was in the burger.  His answer was "I don't really know for sure - I just cook it when the amount feels good in my hand."

So, its in that spirit I write an out of the box review of a friend's recent acquisition - the Inov8 Talon 212:

Full Disclosure:  I have not put any miles on these shoes, however, I have worn them, so all of my thoughts will be through that lens.

Right off the bat, the first thing noticeable is the weight of the shoe (or lack thereof) and the aggressive lugs on the outsole of the shoe.  There aren't a ton of the lugs versus something like the Brooks PureGrit 2, but they are serious.  The shoe weighs in at a nimble 7.5oz (or 212g - thus the name Talon 212) and on the foot feel great.  Given Inov8's approach to minimal shoe design, I expected a little more room in the toebox than one actually gets.  The fit was more like a track spike or a X-Country spike than minimal, splay-friendly shoe.

Clearly, Inov8 expects wearers to do some serious mudding in these babies.  The Talon looks like just that, claws you put on your feet.  If you look at the picture above, you'll see right above the midsole, a black wrap around moving into a lighter gray material.  These are two different types of material.  The black is a bit more hefty and protective and the gray a bit more breathable.  I would guess that this keeps the foot dry when trekking through shallow water, but also allows the foot to dry if it does get wet along the trail.

The yellow overlays really grab the foot nicely.  The single biggest thing in a shoe for me is it feeling like part of my foot and subsequently an extension of my leg.  This was absolutely the case here.  On the trail I suspect that it will be a very capable and nimble shoe.

Midsole-wise, there's a 4mm heel/toe differential bringing you pretty close to the ground.  And there is a midsole there offering some protection, but it is worth noting that there is no motion control to this shoe at all.  No medial post (no help in the arch of the foot), so this may not be the best choice for runners needing that kind of support.  I also didn't see anything that functions as a rock plate for tough terrain although I felt the shoe's outsole was a bit on the firm side.

I look forward to putting some miles on the Inov8 Talon 212, as I have a big trail race coming in May 2013 and could be persuaded to race in them - have thoughts?  Share them here:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gear Review: Newton Distance (2012)

Gear Review Time, gang -

In a future post, I'm going to unpack my relationship with shoe brands and their proprietary propulsive/absorption systems, but since I've taken the dive into the Newton brand for road running, it was probably time that we go over my impressions of my personal favorite and hoof of choice for the bulk of my road miles.

After a close inspection of the most of the Newton 2013 line-up, it seems that the differences from 2012-2013 are very minimal versus the changes in the lineup from 2011-2012.  I actually have 2 pairs of the Distance.  I have the 2012 model and the 2011:

If you do a quick scan of the shoes, you'll notice a very generous mesh upper.  Maximum breathe-ability and takes weight of the shoe down pretty low, making the shoe itself feel very quick and light under foot.  The 2012 model also decreases the heel-toe differential from 4mm to 2mm.  In all seriousness, it's really hard to feel that little of a difference, unless you possess some freakish 'princess and the pea' amount of sensitivity.

The next thing I noticed, having expected the look of the actuator lugs in the forefoot, is the complete absence of outsole rubber on the heel of shoe.  This is worth noting because this is not a typical 'out of the box' shoe.  There is an adjustment period (a well-documented one, in fact) - it's worth noting at this point that most people that report calf/achilles/heel issues have most likely done too many miles in the shoes too quickly.

The single most differentiating factor with the Newton, are the actuator lugs under the forefoot.  The design is simple and remarkably effective in returning the runner's energy back to the runner.  I've run 15+ miles at a time in these shoes a handful of times now, and they'll be the ones that will be on my hooves for a marathon in April.  Admittedly, if you're not running, they feel goofy - I wouldn't look at them as shoes that will graduate to street kicks upon retirement ;)

Under the umbrella of proper adjustment time to a natural running gait, these shoes are fast.  More correctly stated, in my opinion, they are fast in long, straight lines.  Now with 140 miles on each pair, the biggest complaint I have with the Newton Distance - in fact, all models I've put miles on (Distance, Sir Isaac, and Momentum) are really unstable on curves - sharp ones specifically.  I've noticed that quick sharp turns require much slowing than in other shoes I've worn or at the very least it's very hard to stay aligned and in proper body position - frankly, running is more fun when you're really cornering, like in a fast car...the Dodge Neon is very practical, but very few would say 'fun to drive.'

Having said that, this shoe does provide the most noticeable energy return of any shoe I've ever run in.  They literally feel like I was hoping the original Nike Air Max would've felt like when they horked "Revolution" by the Beatles.  In my experience that single positive outweighs virtually every negative of the shoe - of which there aren't many.  Overall, things I like:

  • Shoes are fast and light - 7.8oz
  • Noticeable energy return and protection to forefoot/midfoot strikers due to the forefoot actuator lugs.
  • The 2012 mesh upper is softer than 2011's and previous albeit a bit more aggressive in terms of size
  • You get noticed in a pair of Newtons - the look sweet, and the team out in Boulder, CO really seems to be able to enter the mind of the runner from a performance perspective; also from a look perspective.
Things I don't like:
  • The Distance is very sloppy at higher speeds when cornering (Feels like I'm describing a Dodge Neon when I say that) - again, this is a problem systemic to each shoe in the Newton lineup.
  • I've found that lacing the Newtons is challenging in terms of consistency.  I find that I lace either too tight or too loose more often in these shoes versus others I've run in.  
  • Be prepared to size up at least a 1/2 size for the actuator lugs to hit in the proper spot under foot.  This also effects the inconsistent lacing pressure.
Overall, a great shoe.  My favorite shoe and shoe that gets the bulk of my training miles.  Feel fast, look fast, run better.

Full disclosure:  I've owned Distance (2011 & 2012), Terra Momentus, and the Sir Issac.  I returned the Sir Issac after 40 miles or so, and the Momentus is meant for more rugged terrain.  The sloppiness is absolutely noticeable off road and on the trails, especially on more technically demanding runs.