Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No more shoe reviews.

I really enjoy writing my blog.  You wouldn't know that by my recent lack of activity.  But I've been thinking about it a lot lately.  I originally started this so that I could practice writing in preparation of writing a book.  If you have been here since the beginning you remember that I used to write more often, and mostly about personal issues.  Topics like my love of running and my obsession with finding out what type of diet and exercise will turn back the hands of time and keep me feeling young and strong.

One of the coolest bi-products of writing about running is that shoe companies have asked me to try their shoes and review them.  That development was really initiated by my friend Pete who writes  He has made the introduction to almost every company that has provided materials for review.  And I love it.  Or at least I did....

I approach most things in life like you would expect from a neurotic person with a Jewish upbringing  (think Woody Allen) and for the last 6 months or so I have felt a TON of pressure to get these reviews done in a timely fashion.  But I have failed on many levels.  I still have 5 or 6 shoes that I never reviewed, and I received them months ago.  Every time I see them I feel guilty.  Sure, I could half-ass a bunch and whip them out really quick, but that's not my style.  So it takes me a lot of time to write them up.  Like 3 or 4 hours to do it right.  And I just haven't been able to find the time.  The thought of those manufactures thinking that I took advantage of their generosity really bothers me.  But the pressure of always feeling like I HAVE to get this review done is killing my love for writing.

I have decided to no longer do shoe reviews here.  I will continue to write the Dirty Runner column for Pete (which I have not done in a long time either...) whenever he needs or wants me to.  And I'm really grateful for that opportunity.  Thanks Pete.

While running is still a huge part of my life, I have been focusing on my business more. This needs to be my first priority.  We are kicking so much ass and its exciting.  I'm at the shop more because I'm enjoying it a lot.  We are even in the process of opening our first branch location.  I'll write more about that as developments happen.

Even more than the business, I have been thinking about...well, thinking.  Trying to tackle some of the bigger issues.  Reading more books about the Law of Attraction, Alternative Thinking, Quantum Physics, etc.  It seems as the more I learn, the more I realize that I don't know anything.  And even what I do know is probably skewed, based only on my personal experiences.   Our brain only keeps information about what it recognizes and can fit into it's idea of what is important.  For that, it looks at what it knows from past experiences.  Anything it can't neatly fit into some category gets filtered out.  I want to know what I'm missing!  Just because we can't recognize something with our 5 senses doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  I love this concept.  It opens so many possibilities.

I have had an idea in the back of my mind for a long time.  For some reason, the timing finally seemed right to take some action.  I have started an on-line study group for people that are interested in learning more about alternative spiritual thinking.  Its like a book club, but with a specific type of book and discussions that take place on-line (although there is an actual once a month meeting for those who can attend).  We will study one chapter per week and then share our thoughts.

I started studying these alternative ways of thinking 15 years ago.  And I have applied them to create the incredibly abundant life that I enjoy today.  I see the potential in every person I encounter to do the same.  But a lot of people don't know where to start or how to take it to the next level.  I'm hoping that this project will be of value to them.  Judging from the amount of initial interest, I think it will.  Our first meeting was this past Monday, and we picked "The Master Key System" by Charles Hannel as our first book to study.  If you curious or want to join up, click on the pic below.  This is not a business venture and it doesn't cost anything.
The Discussion Board  Please join us!

So for those of you that only come here for shoe reviews, I want to say "Thank You" for reading and being so supportive.  But if that's the only reason you came here, you might want to take me off your blog feed.  For everybody else, I hope to write a bit more about topics that have a little more substance than just my love for an item that you wear on your feet. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Shoe Review - Hoka Huaka

Hoka always has funny names for their shoe models.  This new one is no exception.  It is not pronounced "Who-A-Ka", but rather "Waaka".  So lets just get this out of the way right now:

Photo Credit -
Waaka Waaka Waaka!!!  There.  You were all thinking it, now I've just said it.  So now, can we get onto the shoe review?

At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, there is a certain type of shoe that I gravitate towards.  A flexible, light weight, low drop and well cushioned shoe is what I love to run in.  The Hoka Huaka fits that bill to a T. (Note: these shoes were provided as a media sample to me at no charge by Hoka One One).

Two or three years ago, this was exactly what I was looking for but nobody had put the two types (minimal and well cushioned) together.  For this review, lets just start at the front of the shoe and go backwards from there.

The green toe cap reduces volume a bit, but not in a bad way.  Feels performance oriented.

The toe box is wider than most Hokas, certainly wider than the Rapa Nui or the Stinson, but not quite as roomy as the Bondi.  One thing worth noting is that the height of the toebox is more performance oriented and is fairly snug in that regard.  The shape feels more rounded than the other Hokas as well.  The shoe fits true to size. I have never had any pinky toe irritation like I have experienced with some other more severely tapered Hoka models.

Speed laces which I proceeded to remove shortly after getting them.

The shoe comes with Hoka's speed laces as well as a pair of traditional laces.  I have found in the past that I can't get as good of a fit with the speed laces so I cut them out after I took these pictures and replaced them.  I can get a fairly snug fit but I would consider the upper to have a medium amount of room.  The construction is very simple, with an airy mesh that has glued on welded overlays for support. 

The nice thing about the upper is that it is pretty flexible (really flexible for a Hoka). 

Heel cup inside...

and outside.

The heel cup doesn't have a stiff counter and flexes nicely with your foot.  The inside of the heel cup is well padded and very comfortable.  I think that the fit is very similar to the Pearl Izumi EM N1, but a tad bit looser overall.

Very thin tongue.

The tongue is a very thin piece of  Leather and mesh that is what I would call "semi-lasted".  It is attached at the front of the shoe to the first three lace holes.  It has never has moved on me or let in a disproportionate amount of dirt and grit.

The all new RMAT sole is a thing of beauty.  Rather than the traditional squish of the Hokas built with EVA, the RMAT has a nice impact deadening feel with a great bounce.  This provides the best of both worlds.  It is much more performance oriented but it doesn't beat the hell out of your feet.  And it's lighter too!  Thats a win, win, and win. 

Hoka has this shoe listed on their website under both Trail and Road shoes.  I feel that is accurate as it is a true hybrid.  The traction is not stellar off road, but works fine for most circumstances.    There are three small areas that have little chevrons for grip, but they really don't do much in poor traction situations.  Running on the roads finds them to be smooth and grippy.   I have 62 miles on them at the time of this review and here is a picture of the wear so far.

Wear after 62 miles.

As you can see, the heel and toe chevrons are showing wear already, but nothing that I consider to be disappointing.  I expect a shoe like this to wear quickly if I run on the roads with them.  I would say that about 40% of my runs have been on trails, the rest on roads.  Much to my surprise, the three holes in the sole have never trapped any rocks.

To sum it up, my size 10.5 Huaka's are 9.7oz light...


Try THIS with any other Hoka.


and extremely comfortable.  Although I have a ton of shoe reviews to do, I'm having a hard time not putting them on my feet before every run.  I have been waiting for this shoe for a long time.  Well done Hoka.

Here are the specs as listed on Hokas website.

Catagory: Neutral light cushion
Geometry: 2mm Heel offset - (Heel 27mm, Forefoot 25mm)
Weight: 8.9 oz (actual for my 10.5 was 9.7oz)
Construction: Ultra lightweight no sew speedframe with racelaces, full length RMAT midsole, early stage meta rocker geometry with 2mm offset and stregic hi abrasion rubber zones.
Price: $150

Friday, July 4, 2014

New Balance MT110v2 shoe review

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have had a love affair with the original NB MT110.  It was one of the most anticipated trail shoe and in most ways it didn't dissapoint.  It was an industry leader for a lightweight trail shoe and it is common knowledge that Anton Krupica called it the best trail shoe he had ever used.  Of course, no one shoe is perfect.  The biggest complaint about it was its durability.  The perforated plastic-like material was prone to tearing open if it came in contact with a sharp rock or stick.  How long they lasted really depended on what type of terrain they were used on.

But despite its faults, it had one very magical aspect for me.  The fit.  It was simply perfect for my foot.  Built on the NB minimus last (NL-1) it was as if the designers snuck into my room, cast my foot, and then built a shoe just for me.  And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I have probably gone through 6 or 7 pairs since they first came out.  I love it for runs under 20 miles in the woods, even though I once used them for 70 miles of the Leadville 100.  If I was asked to design version 2, I would try to address a few things.  I would add some better traction.  I would change the outer material for more durability.  And I would add a bit more cushioning for longer runs.  From what I have read by many, my list of desired changes is a pretty common one.

When New Balance first announced and showed this new version a lot of people were surprised.  It looks nothing like the original.  With the different materials, much deeper lugs and a bit more cushioning, it looks like a perfect match for what I was hoping for.  The one thing that nobody understood was the change of last.  The V2 is no longer built on the minimus last.  I questioned that immediately, way before I ever held one in my hand.  I mean, the minimus design is what drew so many of us to that shoe (and the others built on the NL-1).   And it no longer looks foot shaped, it looks like a 1930's dress shoe with a super pointy toe box.

Hmmm....seperated at birth?

But sometimes looks are deceiving.  Unfortunately for me, this time they are not.  When I first put them on my feet, I could feel the tighter toebox immediately.  But as I've learned many times, the first impression standing in my living room doesn't nessisarily translate to how a shoe feels on the run.  So I headed out to the trails and put 15 miles on them.  My notes say: "First run in MT110v2.  Nice shoe, but the toe-box is too narrow." 

There are two areas that bothered my feet on this run.  You can see in the picture above how my foot fits on the footbed of the V2, next to the original version.  The addition of a footbed is another change on this shoe as the original didn't have a separate one.  The skin on the outside of my big toe, where my toenail starts, got "lifted" or sort of "torn" and my pinky toe, which is pretty small and short, again on the outside edge.  You can also clearly see the extra area in front of my foot which creates a dead feeling area at the front of the shoe.  Three days later I took them to Pats Peak to test their traction and see if I had better luck with the fit.  After only 7 miles I ran into the same problems.

Steep climb up the ski mountain.  Incredible traction!
Close up view

Being a bit bummed out, I decided to reach out to Brendan Murray, who I believe was the lead person at NB for the development of this shoe.  I explained that I was happy to see the shortcomings of the original addressed, but could not understand the decision to move to the PL-4 last.  He wrote me a very thorough explanation and then followed up with a phone call to help me explain better. I'm not going to post the entire email/conversation, but here is a small piece:

"Since we already had a 4 mm off-set trail model in our iconic minimus trail 10, we felt that continuing to make the 110v2 in the same fit and nearly the same stack heights would have been redundancy from our stand point and really limit the trail community with choices.  Futhermore talking with our ambassadors such as Tony, and their needs, they were asking for a slightly straighter lasted model in the forefoot - as ones foot needs adjust and change over time.  The idea of using the PL-4 last allowed for the trail runner who was seeking a lightweight trail model which provided slightly more girth in the midfoot and depth in the toe box, that the 10 didn’t, a new option.  The new 110v2 will also provide slightly more cushioning under foot (the trail 10 has a midsole specific stack height of 8/12 while the new T110v2 has a 10/14)."

He also gave me a perspective that I would have never considered.  He stated that although the original was extremely popular with the trail running community, they actually were not reaching the full sales potential based on their market research.  NB actually had a sizable amount of complaints regarding the NL-1 last for this shoe.  There is a visual look of a "hook" shape because of the way the shoe curves on the lateral side that actually prevented a lot of people from purchasing the shoe.  All of these factors led to the decision to change the last. 

Close up of lacing system, which does a good job at keeping the non-lasted tongue in place.

On the few runs that I took, my only problem was the toebox.  I want to like this shoe so badly.  The traction is awesome.  It seems to drain well.  It still retains that excellent balance of ground feel and protection.  They feel fast!  The materials seem like they will be far more durable than the originals.  If this shoe fit the way the original did I would probably have 500 miles on these things by now.

More cushioning than the originals

Here is what I suggest.  Forget these are the next MT110.  Consider them to be a new mountain/fells running shoe.  Try them on.  If they fit your foot shape and you liked the "running feel" of the originals, then you are psyched.  There are a lot of positive features of this shoe.  I just wish they fit me better.

9.8 Oz for size 11 (they fit a bit small, just like the originals.  Try the same size as what you wear in those (1/2 size up)

As a side note I also need to add that I don't like writing negative reviews.  I think that every shoe reviewer/blogger feels a sense of appreciation to any manufacture that has been kind enough to provide free shoes for review (which these were for me).  But I read too many reviews that are flowery bullshit because of that very fact.  I truly believe that the good manufactures listen and with enough feedback, make positive changes for the next version.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.  Either way, I don't write these reviews for them.  I write them for you.  I will never stop writing honest reviews, with both the positive and the negative.  Obviously it is only from my perception.  Everybody's feet shape and needs for a shoe are different.  But my goal with reviews is to give exactly that, my opinion.

Call for comments:
Have you tried them?  What's your opinion?  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Altra Olympus Shoe Review

Altra Olympus

At the end of my last post I listed a few shoes that I need to review and asked if anybody had a preference for which I should do first.  It was a tie between the Altra Olympus and the New Balance MT110V2.  So here is the first of the two.

When I first heard about the Olympus I was very excited.  Way back at the beginning of Altras incredible ride to popularity (3 or so years ago) I fell in love with the Altra Instinct.  I wore it for road and trail ultras, including 3 different 100 milers.  As much as I loved it, I wished that it had more cushioning and better traction.  So much so that I even cut the sole of a pair of Hoka Mafates and bonded it to a Instinct upper. 

My original Altrokas

When I heard that Altra was coming out with a Zero drop, maximum cushioning shoe I was psyched.  What I was hoping for was a Hoka type ride with an upper that had the typical Altra features of a large toe box and comfy upper.  Speaking of Hoka, there is no way to do this review (in my eyes) without having some sort of comparison between the two.  Most trail runners I know have at least one pair of Hokas, even if they primarily run in minimal or traditional shoes. 

When I slipped them on for the first time I was really pleased with the fit of the upper.  Then when I took my first steps I was immediately struck by the odd gait I had walking on our wood floors.  It was as if I was standing on a flat sole that canted forward when I walked. I have worn many rockered shoes but they have always felt as if they exaggerated the natural running stride.  These felt like they impeded it.

See the short steep angle of the toe spring?  Feels more radical than it looks.

My first run was on the pavement.  I hated them.  It felt like the radical ramp angle had my toes hanging off the edge of a diving board and the stride was just clunky.  The level of cushioning was great.  Not Hoka Bondi soft, but similar to the Stinson Evo.  Also similar to the Hoka Rapa Nuis, but with more height.

The best toe-box in the biz

I was pretty bummed and put them in the closet.  I wrote Golden (the founder of Altra) asking if I was the only one who was fixated on the ramp angle.  I asked because I had already read many reviews and people seemed to love the shoe and was starting to see it on peoples feet at races.  He said that no, I wasn't the only one, but many folks were saying that it was much minimized when running off road.  He also said that for the next version they will be working on a more natural transition to toe off.

Cool built in Gaiter Trap

Since I loved the fit, I wore them a few times casually.  My heel bruise does better wearing maximal cushioning shoes.  I didn't run again in them for a while.  Then I tried them on a short 8 mile run on the trails and though that he was right.  The ramp angle wasn't nearly as noticeable.   But with many shoes to test they sort of fell out of my rotation.  With it being the top pick for a review, I decided I better run some more miles in them.

Lacing system allows snug fit

So Thursday I took them out for a 12 mile run all trails.  I swear they seem like they are breaking in.  The run felt really good and I enjoyed wearing them.  Then on Sunday I took them to the White Mountains. 

Slippery when wet!

Since they fit just a tad tight on my right foot, I was worried about using them on the steep descents, but it turns out that wasn't a problem.  As a matter of fact, they were excellent.  I ran 21 miles of very steep, rocky, wet, muddy, mossy, rooty....ok you get it.  With 8000 ft of elevation gain/loss it was a great test. 

Going back up Mt. Tecumseh

The level of cushioning is so appreciated when running/hiking on trails like these. As is the super comfortable fit and wide toe box.  But the upper can be laced very snugly and they keep your foot in place.  Which prevents your toes from being smashed against the front, which is something I hate.  What's not as appreciated is the traction.  It has somewhat grippy rubber, but not awesome.  And the road based tread doesn't work in mud at all.  The good news is the fit and comfort.  I got zero hot spots or blisters and I just love how comfy they are.  Although I haven't submerged them, they seemed to dry out pretty quickly from the water/mud I did get on them.

It should be noted that I saw these shoes on the feet of several competitors at the Peak 200 race 3 weeks ago.  And two of them wearing them finished!  Also it's worth noting that my friend Larisa Dannis ran a 2:44 Boston Marathon in them, finishing first non-elite US woman!

The foam seems to be getting a bit softer and breaking down a bit.  This is a really good thing.  The stiff rigid feel I encountered at first seems to be going away.  Sometimes you actually do get another chance to make a first impression.  I still will be excited to see Altra fix the abrupt ramp angle, but in the meantime I am going to put a lot more mountain miles on these puppies.

Oh yeah...If you really want to know the stats...
Weight (size 10.5) - 12.75oz - actual weight on my food scale
Fit - True to size, perhaps a tiny tiny bit on the small side
Delta - Zero Drop
Cool stuff - built in Gator velcro
Stack Height - 36mm (!!!!)
Price - $130
Construction/materials/etc. - Check out Altra for more info.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Trans-Zion and Peak 200 race report. A recap of May's activities.

Well, May has come and gone and I've just realized that I didn't post even once!  Rather than write individual posts about everything, I thought it might be nice just to do a little recap.  First, the stats.

Total miles ran - 365.3
Hours running - 71:58 (no wonder I haven't had time to write)
Calories consumed - 1 billion

Finishing the Lake Waramaug 50k
After running a fast 50k at the end of April at Lake Waramaug, May was the time to start putting in more miles and more specific training.   Going into this year, committed to running 200 miles in Sept, I knew that I had to change the way I trained.  I've always put a lot of miles in, but this year I need to put in more long (really long) days.  Time on my feet is the most important thing, not the speed at which I do my training.  I've added in walking at a fast pace, and I'm trying to get more cross training in.

Sherpa John

Knowing that I need to get some Journey runs in, I made the decision to join my old friend Sherpa John for a Trans-Zion run on the 17th.  I flew out a few days ahead of time to catch up and do some runs in his stomping grounds (Colorado).  We had a great time running, eating and catching up.  Friday we drove the 500 mile trek to Utah.  The drive was beautiful.  The campground we stayed at was even more beautiful!  Since it was a group fun run, I got to meet everybody at the campground as we hung out around the fire and got to know each other.

The group running Trans-Zion together.  This is the view from behind our campground!

The run itself was a blast!  It ended up being 51.5 miles with about 10k of elevation.  We also ended up going up Angels Landing as a side trip.

Angels Landing.  We went right up that ridge to the top.  Scary!

It was almost 100 degrees for most of the afternoon and it really ended up affecting most in the group.  It didn't seem to bother John or I much, and despite almost everybody taking the 36 mile bail out, we soldiered on to finish in 14.5 hours.  The great part was that there was no rush.  It was just an awesome day covering lots of miles with friends.  These type of adventures are more memorable than most of my races.  I finished the day feeling good.  It was a confidence builder for what I was about to do 10 days later.

Starting the Pittsfield Peak 200

On Thursday the 29th at 6am I toed the line at the Pittsfield Peaks 200 mile race.  I had been planning on doing this race as a practice for the Tahoe 200.  Leading up to the race I had told Amy that I was just going to see how far I could get and what I could learn about doing a multi-day race.  The longest I've ever been on course was 24:34 (Leadville 2011) and I've never had to sleep during a race. 

Board where we record our laps - Old School Cool!!

Of course, in the few days leading up to the race I forgot about all that and was determined to just finish at all costs.  I wanted to learn to be patient, which I am terrible at.  I even decided to not wear a watch, which for me is a big deal.  As we headed out on the first of what should have been 20 loops of the 10 mile course I felt great.  I was in the lead and running and climbing at what I thought was a very easy pace.  I knew I needed to slow down when I come in from the first loop in 1:44.  So I backed it down, or so I thought, to an even easier pace.

Stone Shack.  My favorite place on the loop.

By then end of the fourth loop, which I finished exactly at 8 hours, I already had over 10 miles on almost the entire field.  I was still moving well, but even with slowing down I still think I was going to fast.  My thought process was that if I could run with no discomfort, why shouldn't I?  I knew that I would slow down later and the buffer I had build would really take the pressure off to finish in under the 82 hours that the course was open.

Singletrack with waterfall.

On the 6th loop I decided that I would hike the entire loop just to see how long it took me.  Of course that went out the window when I came to my favorite part of the course, the 4 or so miles of downhill single-track after the Stone shack at the crest of the mountain.  I remember thinking that not only was I going to finish, but I was going to win this thing.  I felt awesome and ripped off a 2:20 or so lap (my total time was 2:40ish, but that included a 15 minute stop at the start/finish and a 5 minute break at the top of the hill).  Oops. 

The start/finish line.

The 7th loop was tough.  The 8th was even tougher.  I finished mile 80 at 19:03 into the race and decided that I needed a break.  I was tired.  My feet had been wet for hours and some blisters were starting to form.  I figured that I could take a nap and dry out my feet.  I went to sleep around 1:45 and woke up a little past 5.  

Deluxe accommodations.
When I got up I couldn't believe how well I felt.  The pace was much slower than what I'm used to in a 100 and my legs didn't feel beat up.  I put on new shoes and socks and headed out for my 9th loop in really good spirits.  By the time I got to the top of the hill, about 3.5 miles into that loop, I was really tired again.  I was moving a lot slower and the downhills were killing me!

These little messages were all over the course. 

On my 10th loop the tendonitis in my right shin was flaring up really badly, especially on the downhills.  I decided that 100 miles was a pretty good training run and called it quits after finishing 100 miles.

I don't feel like it was a total failure.  I learned a bunch of things about what I'm going to need to do to finish one of these monsters.  In one sense, I'm even more scared than before.  100 miles is a really long distance to run, 200 miles is like...double that!!  What the hell am I thinking?????

One final note.  I am way behind on my shoe reviews.  Here is what I have in the works.
- New Balance Fresh Foam Trail
- New Balance MT110V2
- Altra Paradigm
- Altra Olympus
- Merrell Bare Access Trail

Please help me prioritize.  Are there any of the above shoes that you want to hear about first?  I appreciate the feedback!