Tag: gearreview

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Time for a another gear review.  In the interests of full disclosure, I am NOT an ambassador or otherwise connected with the Altra Brand, but I DO like their shoes.  Today’s review will feature the Altra Escalante road shoe.  I decided to check out the Altra Brand after my first 100 mile race.  I wore Hokas for my training and for the race and I love the padding which protects my feet after miles of pounding on the roads.  On the down side, even when I sized up, the toe box of the Hokas was too narrow, and my feet swelled so bad that I was tempted to cut the toe box out of the shoe by mile 75.  I saw several runners on the course with this latest “fashion idea” but something galled me about destroying a $130 pair of shoes.  Enter the Altra which has a very wide toe box design to allow plenty of room for your toes to wiggle and move.

Design – the shoes are light weight with a knit upper to allow for a sock like fit/feel.  I love this because it makes the shoes very breathable so my feet don’t feel soaked after miles on the asphalt.  Another staple of the Altra brand, beyond the wide toe box, is a zero drop.  Zero drop shoes are shoes “that allow the foot to sit level to the ground without a slope from the heel to the forefoot (check out this Runner’s World article for more information on Zero drop pros/cons).”  For me, the zero drop prompts me to run more “fore footed” and helps me focus on feedback from my feet to promote better form.  The shoes are also very light, coming in at 8.2 oz for the men and 6.5 oz for the women.

Ride – the wide toe box and zero drop give the illusion of a more barefoot running experience.  I wear these shoes and feel fast and “zippy”.  It feels like I’m fast at toe off and can pick up speed quickly.  There is a caution that comes with the shoe design, if you are not used to zero drop or more minimalist style shoes, ease into these kicks.  I have run in more minimalist shoes in the past with no problem but I know folks who have complained that with a more forefoot strike, as promoted by these shoes, they can get achy calves and Achilles.  So if you can’t resist this new shoe technology, at least take it slow.  I have had stiff calves the next morning after longer runs with these shoes.  I’ve worn my Escalantes for both half-marathon and marathon distances with no problems.

Overall 5 out of 5 stars. I love this shoe.  My husband got a pair and I saw how much fun he had on weeknight runs, so naturally I had shoe envy and had to get a pair for myself.  Pros, smooth ride, light weight, makes you want to fly on a run.  These shoes also feel great for scaling hills!  I think I get more from this shoe than what was intended by the designers.  I can take these on long road runs and not feel the fatigue and get both tempo runs and longer slower runs from the same shoe.  No hesitation in wearing these for races (e.g. The Dragonfly Jackal Marathon).  Cons – The shoe runs a bit big because of the roomy toe box – I normally wear a 9.5 which is VERY roomy in these shoes but not so much that I trip.  I could however have done a 9.  Make sure to get fit correctly.  The price is also a bit less sexy with shoes retailing at $130.  I have already put about a 100 miles on my shoes and they still feel/look new so we will see how well the wear for the price.  Lastly, I wear these for 5K to Marathon distance but would not use them for track work.  For me, the wider toe box doesn’t let me dig in in the same way as a racing flat or spike for track work, sprints, or repeats.

Dem’ Britches

Dem’ Britches

Being part of the ultra-running community means that we log a lot of miles. Which also means we do a ridiculous amount of laundry and go through a ton of shoes and clothes every year. On the plus side, this means we have an opportunity to put a product through its paces and form a list of products we like and dislike. We will post regular gear reviews of everything from shoes to hydration packs and underwear to headlamps in the hope that someone will find a product they can use without wasting time or money on things that do not meet their needs.

First up on the gear review is the InknBurn 6″ shorts. As an InknBurn Ambassador I will occasionally review the best in class products that I have used but will also try to keep the reviews balanced as I understand that every company who wishes to excel must continue to innovate and develop. So here I go with our first gear review.

As of summer 2017 InknBurn has produced 5 different designs for their 6″ shorts (Mejiro pictured in the attached photo).  Visit their website for the availabilities of the different styles.  The shorts are made of a synthetic blend of fabric that is stretchy, soft, and moisture wicking (mostly, see below).  The shorts come with standard features of two front pockets on the thigh, drawstring to adjust fit, triangle crotch, and super sick bold patterns.  Now let’s talk details:

Fit – most folks can do two sizes of these shorts.  I wear a 4 in their standard shorts but can do a 4 or 6 in the 6″ shorts.  Both sizes work for me.  The big difference in fit for me is in the waist.  Sometimes on super long runs I hate feeling any pressure on my waist so I size up.  There was also some concern on the forums that if you went with a smaller size, the shorts would be “see through” and there would be “wash out” of the pattern.  This is true of all my running tights and a fair critique of this product.  For me personally, I always wear a solid color “boy short” cut of underwear or compression shorts (if it is cold) under these shorts.  I know triathletes will also wear these with their bike shorts underneath.  For me, this was not a deal breaker.  The bigger concern was if the shorts would ride up during use on my “soccer girl” quads.  I was pleased to find that regardless of the size, the shorts stay in place and do not require readjustment on the run.

Features and Care – the shorts are fairly low maintenance.  I wash in normal or “sports” detergent, no bleach or fabric softeners.  Personally, I line dry my InknBurn gear because they dry fast and I don’t have to go on a “treasure hunt” in the dryer to find my clothes for the next run.  I wash these shorts with my normal laundry but am sure to remove any Velcro products from the load (e.g. my husband’s running hats).  The Velcro will catch on the fabric.  The pockets in the front are spacious and will hold your average smart phone, gels, or a key.  My only critique is that I wish they could add a zipper pocket in the back of the waist band.  My single greatest fear as a trail runner, besides getting lost, is running a ton of miles on the trail and staggering back to my car only to find I lost the keys in the woods.  So let’s hope they add a security pocket for the paranoid among us.

Overall review – 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The shorts are fairly close to being perfect for me.  I wore a couple of these shorts during the Jackal Marathons, 5 marathons in 5 days, during the heat of June in Tennessee.  I never had problems with the shorts in terms of needing to readjust, no chaffing, and they looked sick.  Some of the designs look like jean shorts and I always laugh when people think I’m crazy enough to run in jean shorts until they get close to see the actual material.  I get a lot of compliments.  The only thing I didn’t like and I am not sure I could have solved the problem with any of my other gear, is that at some point when the humidity is 95% and you are sweating something fierce, the shorts get saturated beyond their ability to wick moisture.  Then you are stuck just being soaked . . . everywhere.  The shorts do become a bit more noticeable to me with the added water weight but still not a deal breaker.  So my plea to InknBurn and any other running short manufacturer is to find the magic material that can withstand the heat and humidity of the South.