Category Archives: Gear
Note: I posted my first impression of the Samsung Gear Fit and Galaxy S5 here, so that could be your starting point.
I’ve since spent a week with the duo and gotten more at home using either gadget. The GF pretty much stayed on my wrist throughout the day, silently recording my steps, exercises and sleep. The function I use most often is the Heart Rate (HR) sensor as well as the Pedometer. The rest, not so much other than poking around. Prior to this head-to-head test, I wasn’t too impressed by the HR readings of the GF. The readings ranged from low to mid-50s (waking up), 70s (middle of the day), stressful meeting with the boss (70s) and while working at the desk (60s). Since the only time I ever monitor my HR is when I run, I found these readings strangely low. There’s only one way to find out – a throw down! In the mix, the Garmin 620.
I strapped on the Garmin HRM chest strap, stood in place and started the watch and GF. The following photos show the recording. Photo was taken by a bemused colleague.
Being a geek, it’s an anomaly that until last weekend, I’ve not owned nor had the opportunity to use any Android devices. So it was an opportunity not to pass up when a chance to get to know two of the latest offerings from Samsung came along. Although I’ve worn the Nike Sportband some years ago (review page), living and sleeping with not only one but two devices. Talk about two-timing!
The two in question are of course the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Gear Fit. I need to preempt the reader that I’m not setting out to review the S5 in the manner of the experts at GSM Arena, Techradar and Trusted Reviews. If you’re curious as to what lies under the hood of the phone, you’d best click on each of the link I provided. Instead my goal is to give a fair take on what amounts to the tech giant’s first take on wearable fitness devices. You may ask why first when the smartwatch the first version of the Gear has been around for more than a year. That’s a valid question which has a simple answer. The Gear is quite simply an extension of the phone whereas the Gear Fit goes beyond the functionality of complementing the phone by incorporating much more features devoted to keeping an active lifestyle.
With that let’s get some of the (very) basic features out of the way:
- Both the S5 and Gear Fit are weather resistant.
- Both are very light despite their weather sealing.
- Both are equipped with heart rate sensors.
- Both allows for external cosmetic customization which means you can change the colors of the S5 backcover and Gear Fit straps.
The way geeks work when confronted with an entirely new gear, is to do away with any reading material or online reference. Very gung-ho, I might add! Just figure things out on our own because, you know, reading is such a waste of time! Better dig into the gear, right? After all, not reading the manuals beforehand would be akin to put the gear through a usability test. Unless, of course, we run into a wall. Common sense dictates that both devices need charging before the test drive. So both were plugged into the USB adaptor and left to charge overnight. To charge the S5, one has to peel away the weather-sealed flap of the port before plugging it into a power source while the Gear Fit (GF) snaps onto a clip. It’s a little tricky in getting a secure hold between the GF and the clip. I found that I had to press on a little firmer to achieve a good latch. Otherwise you’d find that the device wasn’t charged a single bit the next morning, as I’d found out to my detriment!
Once the devices were charged, the first thing I saw on the GF when I powered it up was the message to update its firmware, so I promptly got that done. The updates were installed speedily enough on the S5 and eventually transferred to the GF via Bluetooth. There were enough screen prompts to move me along the way. If you’re a Mac user like I am, there’s an added component you should be downloading – Android File Transfer (AFT). While not having any implication to the usage of the GF, the AFT app will facilitate the transfer of files such as photos, videos and documents between the S5 and Mac. You can download the AFT app from this link.
By this stage I was really, and I mean really, eager to start using the gear. But before that there were just a bit more to do. The GF allows for a wide range of customization when it comes to the interface from the wallpaper, vertical/horizontal orientation, page order, types of alerts to flash and more. The following screen shots give you a teaser of what you could do.
With the setup and some major poking around done, I was ready to give the gear a run out – or rather a sleep-in – because it was already late into the night! To engage the Sleep tracker function, just scroll along and hit the Sleep option and off you journey into Dreamland. Below was how I fared, when I checked the stats. Not too bad.
By the time I checked the S5, the stats were already transferred to the phone in a seamless fashion. I also wore the GF during the Larian Hijau but I bungled the tracking – instead of selecting Exercise>Running, I accidentally triggered the Pedometer function, which resulted in some pretty darn impressive numbers! The GF has no ambient light sensor (hence the screen brightness control isn’t automatic), you can manually toggle the brightness settings on the device.
On weekdays, with the GF on my wrist, I was more conscious of taking walk breaks away from the desk. I’ve observed that on several occasions there were lag times of several seconds (even if I’ve started moving) from the moment the pedometer function was started till the counting of the steps actually commenced. Otherwise the counter worked in tune with each step I took.
There are several ways to view the logs, hourly (if you’re one who micro-manages your life), daily or monthly. It would be better served if the “Hour” option be replaced with “Week”. IMHO, hourly tracking is only useful if the device is able to provide hourly alerts to, well, get off the seat and take a walk.
That’s it for now, my first experience with the S5 and Gear Fit. In my next post, I shall try to compare the accuracy of the HR recording and distance tracking of the S5-GF combo against the Garmin FR620 besides exploring the guided coaching features.
I was on the lookout for possible footwear in the weeks leading to Starlight (race report here). because, believe it or not, I didn’t have a pair that met my criteria for a road ultra: lightweight (under 10oz), breathable, not over-engineered, perfect blend of responsiveness and cushioning (meaning, not ultra soft), medium-stacked, with just a hint of structure/support to carry me as I straggle like a zombie towards the finish. Oh boy, was I in for a surprise. Little did I realize that I am that hard to please when it comes to shoes!
The original plan for Starlight was to go with 2 pairs – the GRU Nite Owl for the first half before swapping it for the Kinvara 5 Runshield for the second leg – but I finally decided to keep things simple by going with a single-pair approach. The GRU wasn’t an option as in the lead up towards the race, it caused some blistering on the top of my 4th toe. I even contemplated cutting out a hole where that problematic overlay ran over. The last time this happened was when I wore a overly small GR3. I was puzzled that this cropped up in a correctly sized GRU. The crucial question was then, “Which pair should I go with?”. The Strada and the regular version of the Kinvara 5 weren’t available as well.
With a few days to D-Day and in desperation, I’d tried on the asics Excel 33, Electro 33, adidas Revenergy Boost (photo). I found the silky smooth Revenergy too heavy (felt like over 10oz for my size 10) to be carrying over 84K, while the 2 asics just didn’t feel quite right and a little too thin on the forefoot midsole. I also checked out the several Nikes but they also felt off.
Just when I was this close *holding up my thumb and index finger* to giving up, I chanced upon the adiZero Ace 6 (aZA6). The aZA6 weighs under 9oz for my US10, which makes it lighter than the GRU, DS Trainer 19, Revenergy Boost, Zoom Fly, Zoom Elite 7, Pegasus 31 and Launch. More importantly it felt just right in the store – not too snug in the midfoot, sports a roomy forefoot (a shocker since adidas typically runs narrow) and has a little toe spring. It also didn’t feel like one with a high offset, more like between 6-8mm.
The upper of the aZA6 shares the same design philosophy as GR3 and GRR3 – simple, minimal overlays over just the necessary areas. Interestingly, there’s an area just behind the forefoot flexpoint that is a little stretchy allowing the foot to splay further. This small area is reminiscent of the Biomorphic Fit found on the DS Trainer 9. The entire upper of the aZA6 down to the laces, tongue, padding, heel counter, is likewise kept simple. In all the miles that I’ve covered in the shoe, I’ve found the ventilation to be excellent.
Midsole is typical adidas with the firmer adiPRENE®+ employed in the forefoot and regular adiPRENE in the heel for cushioning duties. Where the Boost midsole accords a smooth and cushy ride, the adiPRENE setup creates a more responsive ride. It has that snappy feel to it, though not to the extent of the GOspeed.
adiWEAR material can be found in the high-wear areas while the lighter Quickstrike in the other areas of the outsole. Sticky rubber is well deployed on sections of the outsole and I’ve found the forefoot grip to be astonishingly good. I certainly felt very assured wherever I ran, even on wet surfaces. Exposed midsole foam are evident throughout the outsole too. There’s a tiny strip of TPU which I don’t think serves any purpose due to its size. If I had a say in the design, the strip wouldn’t have found its way into the shoe. Flexibility is, however, just average.
The ride? The aZA6 is somewhat similar to the Wave Rider 17 but definitely firmer than the Kinvara 5 and Boston Boost. While I wore them over 84K, alternating between running and walking, it’s definitely a shoe that’s more suited to faster-paced running. I’ve also found that I needed to lace up tighter in order for the shoe to lock down better. Although there were no blisters post-Starlight, my feet slid back and forth a fair bit especially on the descents.Lacing up tightly wasn’t an option at that time due to foot swelling encountered over the course of an ultra. The aZA6 would definitely be more comfortable tackling quicker-paced runs and marathons than slow burns.
All things considered, the Ace 6 would find itself in the company of traditional performance trainers such as the Kinvara 5, DS Trainer 19, Zoom Elite 9, Zoom Fly, 890 v4, Launch, Wave Rider 17, Wave Sayonara 2. At 9oz for the US10, the aZA6 is the lightest of those I mentioned above. However, if you prefer an even lighter, softer and way more flexible option, you won’t go wrong with the GOrun Ride 3 (8.7oz).
It needs to be mentioned here that I’ve never taken to adidas shoes, even as a shoe geek for 15 years. I’ve found their training shoes to be too narrow, too clunky and heavy while their racing shoes too hardcore (read: ultra minimalist, firm). Lately the company seemed to have made some good moves addressing the middle ground. I’m impressed with the Boost midsole material. Its durability (my Energy Boost has logged over 300K with the outsole showing hardly any wear and tear) and that of the adiWEAR outsole is excellent. Of course, durability without a ride that fits the wearer is pointless. The Ace 6 thankfully has that. It won’t make waves in the running circle because it’s an understated shoe. Added to that, it’s not easily available.
I’ve logged over 110K in the adiZero Ace 6 and the shoe is available from the adidas boutiques in 1Utama and Sunway Pyramid for RM360. Information is scant on the Ace 6 unfortunately, but head on to the brand’s UK site and you’ll be able to see it there.
There is arguably no other shoe that’s more identifiable (read: popular) to Saucony than the Kinvara. While Saucony, a company founded in 1898 and headquartered in Lexington, may have the Mirage, Virrata, A6 and Ride in its stable, it was the Kinvara that got runners excited when it debuted in 2010 to a handful of accolades. Kinvara is Saucony and Saucony is Kinvara in my books. Saucony is also one of the very few companies to only focus on the running segment. Hence you won’t find cross-training models made by these guys.
My past experience with the Kinvara was the v2 ViZiPRO (retired and donated), followed by Kinvara 3 (K3, also retired). I wasn’t that fond of the K3, mainly due to the very tapered forefoot. I skipped Kinvara 4 entirely but reviews generally covered its issues rather than how well they performed.
I was recently reacquainted with the series, the Kinvara 5 (K5), specifically the weather resistant version called the RunShield. Unlike the dreary colors of other weather resistant versions of other brands, the K5 RunShield comes in a catchy blue-gray colorway with silver reflective trims along with orange ViZiPRO logo. Do note that I don’t have the regular version of the K5 for comparisons but the 4mm drop platform, midsole material and outsole configuration are the same as the stock version. Only the upper sees the adoption of a FlexShell upper, a polyester fabric with weather resistant membrane.
Lightweight FlexFilm welded overlays continue to be employed since the K3. This time, Saucony incorporates the ProLock lacing system to better lock in the midfoot. ProLock is similar (but not identical) to Brooks’ Nav Band, which I’m no fan of. The photo below shows how the ProLock integrates with the tongue and entire midfoot upper resulting in a snug fit around the middle. The internal sleeve reminds me of Salomon’s Endofit. I noticed that keeping the midfoot lacing a little loose works best for me. Inside, the K5 sports a RunDry lining for moisture management.
The 2 little padding on either side of the achilles in the K3 have been replaced with a thicker and plusher material, which I prefer.
The K5′s midsole is made up of single density foam marketed as EVA+. There’s an embedded PowerGrid with the foam and the K5 sees an increased use of carbon rubber plugs. Even the outer lateral side is now more filled in resulting in more ground contact. It’s clear the designers wanted to make the shoe more durable while not going overboard with added bulk/weight. Still, the K5 has gained some weight over the K3 (see below), but do note that my K5 is half a size up than the older shoe. I’m unable to confirm but the use of weather resistant upper could’ve possibly contributed to the increase. It’ll be interesting to check out the stock version of the K5 measure up.
My wear experience has been great, right from the get-go. My feet instantly feel secure when I slide them into the shoes even without tightening the laces. The ProLock definitely lends a snug fit around the midfoot area. The added bit of padding on the tongue and around the collar gave it a noticeably comfortable feel unlike the thinner and stiffer setup of the K3. Given the Runshield is a weather resistant version, I had concerns that I would wind up with soggy shoes from all that sweating after every run. Thankfully, I’m glad to report that such fears proved unfounded despite the current heatwave. Sweaty feet were largely a non-issue. Runners who leave pools of sweat on the ground *urgh* are best advised to stick to regular versions though .
It’s been ages since KL saw a downpour and I’ve not stop casting my eyes at the skies for any hints of rain clouds. When that happens, the Runshield will finally get to play in the rain. Oooh, I miss those days!
I’ve since put in 97km in the K5 RunShield and I like it a lot. Even more so when it’s my marathon PR shoe . Unlike the firm K3, the K5 provides a smoother, more forgiving ride, very welcome in the late stages of a marathon. So far, the durability has been outstanding, with negligible wear and tear. The K5 is a tad soft for trackwork – for that I rely on the GOSpeed 2 or Hitogami – but works very well on the road and gravel. With the 5, the Kinvara is definitely back and is a solid choice for anyone seeking a high mileage lightweight trainer/racer.
Disclosure: The Saucony Kinvara 5 RunShield is a sample pair provided courtesy of RSH (M) Sdn Bhd. It is expected to be available, along with the regular versions of the Kinvara 5 and Ride 7, from Running Lab, Stadium and RSH outlets in September 2014.
Note: The GObionic 2 (GB2) shares the same DNA as the original GObionic (GB). I recommend checking out my take on the original [link] before reading further.
As Skechers Performance Division’s most minimal offering, it certainly took a while – close to 2 years since its debut – for this update to come around. The GB2 has been tweaked just enough such that the update now sports a refreshing look. The change takes place on the upper, a design approach that completely transforms the somewhat dull look of the original into something more pleasing to the eye.
The revamp, thankfully, retains all the good that the shoe is noted for i.e. flexibility and fit in a lightweight package. The weight has nudged up slightly with the removable sockliner but the numbers you see below are a bit misleading because the original GB is a US9.5 while the GB2 a US10. Couple with the new 3-ply upper, we’re still looking at a very respectable 7.05oz. The sockliner if removed, turns the GB2 into a zero drop ride. Personally I’ve always left it on for a 4mm experience, and I’ve always worn it with socks.
The last of both versions are essentially the same. You get the same wide and rounded front, noodle laces, integrated tongue which is a little stretchy compared to the original. The GB2 sports a neither-here-nor-there offset lacing, which is neither straight nor as deviated as the assymmetrical take on the, say, Brooks Pure Drift.
The heel counter still manages to retain its soft and flexible feel despite having a tinge of structure added to the section.
I’ve worn the GB2 whenever I do my drills, core and short runs on the treadmills. Their low profile platform engages all the foot and lower leg muscles in ways that “thicker” shoes don’t give you. I love how the GB2 feel when I run on the gravelly and sandy stretches around my home. The ground feel with a little cushioning, the scrunching sound, the short and quick cadence, all adds to an amazing running experience. I’ve put in 40K in them and have not encountered any issues. No hotspots whatsoever. There are some solid minimalist shoes out there in the market and it’s great that the GB2 continues to be the flag bearer for Skechers in this segment.
This short review would not be complete without a cautionary note. Runners seeking to add the GB2, or other minimalist shoes for that matter, into their shoe rotation should take it slowly. The GObionic 2 warrants a serious audition if you’re in the market for a well-designed minimalist shoe. A pretty good looking one at that too!
Disclosure: The Skechers GObionic 2 is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. They’ll be available in Skechers stores in Q3 2014 and will retail for RM399.
Note: I highly recommend that you pop over to my review of the GOrun Ultra (GRU) prior to continuing this post as the GOrun Ultra Nite Owl has minimal changes over the GRU.
The GRU was designed to go long on the trails, which may be a surprise to some of you, but it’s been my go-to shoe for long slow burns on the tarmac including the TITI 50. At least that’s the case until a road version of the GRU is released in the future. In total my pair has logged 210km. It’s not much as I’m heavily rotating it with a large pool of shoes. At the same time, I was saving it for Starlight 84.
The grinding routine of GCAM and the Starlight training was one day broken by the excitement of the surprise arrival of the GRU Nite Owl (GRUNO). The news was out of the blue, totally unexpected, but who am I to complain? This owl has swooped in at just the right time before Starlight. Let’s get this review done so that I can head out for a run, shall we?
The GRUNO isn’t the first shoe to be “night-enabled” in the performance series. I’ve previously reviewed the GOrun Ride 2 Nite Owl, which you can read all about here. The Nite Owl essentially are photoluminescent treated shoes to provide the wearer with a higher degree of visibility while out training in low light conditions. Photoluminescent technology beats reflective strips as the former emits glow rather than depending on a light source (e.g. headlights from a passing car) in the case of reflective strips. Running along unlit stretches of Balik Pulau will no longer feel so intimidating, safety-wise.
Like the GRR2 Nite Owl, the GRUNO comes with a similarly colored glow-in-the-dark band, a card explaining the tech behind the glow, a booklet catalog and some marketing blurbs. IMHO, Skechers can do a bit more to reduce the in-box marketing collateral. Less carbon footprint and that sort of thing, if you know what I mean.
As I’ve said, there’s very little that separates the GRU from the GRUNO. In fact, the overlays, the design elements down to the lace trims are identical. The difference between the variants is only in the photoluminescent treated overlays. I’d put the half ounce difference in weight down to the Resagrip outsole wear of the GRU, which is expected after over 200km of use.
How then is the wear experience? I’m pleased to report that after a short mid morning run in sweltering heat, it’s also exactly the same give or take a little extra bouncy from the older pair. That’s to be expected with midsole compression from the wear and tear. You see, this review is becoming rather boring, but in a good way. The GRUNO has gone back into the box where it will stay until Aug 23. I’m glad Skechers released this flavor of the GRU. Given that my long runs are undertaken when most are still asleep be it very early in the morning or dead in the night, the added visibility in a familiar package helps. In fact, I’m making my future GRUs the Nite Owl version!
Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. It is already available in Skechers stores throughout the country and retails for RM419.
Touted as the Boston Marathon champion’s recovery shod, the GOmeb KRS (GKRS) is quite an unusual shoe, design-wise. I even asked if the model came out from the company’s Performance Division mainly because it seemed like a detraction from the simple and effective design which the Division (that sounded like some covert ops unit haha!) has been turning out. Well, the GKRS, for better or worse, is indeed an output from the prolific Performance Division.
Cosmetics-wise, you’re either for or against it. It looks entirely unconventional from any of the offerings in the GOrun series which stands for simplicity, accommodating, lightweight performance. At 10.05 oz, my US10 (yes I’ve had to upsize recently) isn’t really a sack of rice but it’s noticeably heavier than the flyweight GR3, GRR3 or even the GRU. If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ll know that I meant the GOrun3, GOrun Ride 3 and the GOrun Ultra. Hit this link to get to the review page.
Flashy 3D printed breathable synthetic upper with mesh underlay presents a visually striking appearance. The tongue is integrated to the upper which means no more slipping sideways. The gap in the Resalyte midsole is essentially what the meat of the GKRS is about – the Kinetic Return System (KRS). Made from Dupont Hytrel for “high energy return” according to the website, the stiff plastic insert works a little like a trampoline in propelling you forward. On the outsole, there’s a complete absence of solid rubber plugs, possibly to keep the weight down.
With the marketing talk done, how does the shoe feel? Impression that it’s clunky, not breathable, stiff were quickly put away. Despite boot-like appearances the GKRS has a soft and smooth ride. The all-foam outsole definitely the main contributor here. No ground slapping feel to be had, and as far as giving the wearer a smooth ride is concerned, I’d give the shoe a thumbs up. The lack of mesh use also didn’t mess up the breathability factor. I’m not sure how that can be, given the large coverage of the synthetic material but the shoes breathes well. Weather in KL the last few weeks have been wet and the outsole still manages to maintain admirable grip on the slick surface. The foam looks and feels like those used on the GObionic S, which is amazingly grippy as well.
There are some downsides, however. The non-stretchable upper accorded little, if at all any, room for stretch. Even for a US10, my toes have very little room to wiggle which means it fails my “toe curl” test. Additionally, the KRS feels narrow and snug throughout, just like the GOmeb Speed. I reckon that’s how the Boston winner’s feet are shaped – narrow.
Frankly I don’t know what to make of the GKRS. Some parts of the design works and some don’t. Impression counts in shoe design and the GKRS comes across as a mixed bag. For sure it’ll appeal more towards recreational runners and fitness enthusiasts instead of running purists. At RM419, my recommendation would be for the GR3 or GRR3 instead.
- 4mm drop
- Casual runners with low volume feet
- Smooth and a little springy ride
- Surprisingly breathable
- Design elements are subjective and will be a hard-sell to some segment of serious runners
- Upper design doesn’t convey good breathability (which isn’t the case)
- Possible durability issue with an all-foam outsole
Disclosure: The Skechers GOmeb KRS is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. It is already available in Skechers stores in the country and retails for RM419.