Category Archives: Gear
If all you do are flipping through trail running mags, you’ll know that Montrail has been around for awhile, since 1993, in fact. They’re sponsor for the Western States 100 (http://www.wser.org/) and elite runners like Geoff Roes (course record holder of WS100, Moutain Masochist 50, Wasatch 100 among others), Dakota Jones, Max King and Sean Meissner. In 2006, the company was acquired by Columbia Sportswear and along with Mountain Hardwear, form a pretty strong alliance of outdoor and trail
The Montrail Rogue Racer (MRR) is hardly a new offering from the trail running footwear company. Released back in end 2010, I first spotted the MRR in the Gardens outlet of World of Outdoors (WoO) in early 2012 and was quite taken by the conventional look and lightweight of the model. Quite a departure from the Salomons then. Of course, Salomon has emerged as the hip brand and has introduced the versatile road-to-trail category. I’m a fan of the Skechers GOtrail which have plenty to offer for 2 hours in the trail but for something longer, I’m hoping the added midsole stackheight, but not too much, would give me more comfort.
I’ve only ever had 2 trail shoes, the GOtrail which is sill in service, and the Cascadia 4 (heavy and chunky) which I’ve donated. The MRR sits in between the 2. With a weight of 8.8oz and a heel stack of 18mm and front of 9mm, Montrail seems to have dialed into the sweet spot of trail shoes as far as I’m concerned. The upper has little overlays and wide mesh. The laces are of conventional type as are the lacing system. There are no lace garage to stash your laces, so ensure they’re double/triple knotted. The tongue unfortunately isn’t gussetted and debris may find a way into it. Small reflective strips on the front and back complete the upper package.
The MRR has a pretty flexible mid and outsole. There are flex grooves that run lengthwise and across as well. The outsole design is made up of clusters of 3 micro lugs which felt a little soft but surprisingly durable. The configuration of the lugs gave me a large measure of assurances during my outing in Kiara and FRIM. Montrail brands the rubber compound Gryptonite™ and I certainly am very happy with the traction provided. I went over sharp rocks, fallen and wet tree trunks, river stones, grass, packed earth, leaf covered tracks, sandy sections and tarmac and the MRR never slipped. You can see from the closeup of the outsole that the little lugs are pretty durable too, even after 20K of off road trekking and running.
Ventilation and drainage properties are excellent. While there are no drainage ports on the outsole, the shoe drained superbly within 10 minutes of running after being dunked in a running stream for 5 minutes. No blisters encountered so far.
A protective but thin Trail Shield covers some parts of the midsole. It’s not Kevlar nor TPU but unless you go over some treacherously sharp rocks, the MRR should be able to hold itself.
If there’s one thing the MRR could do better would be keeping out the sand and small pebbles. On both outings these pesky elements somehow managed to enter the shoe. The reason for this I suspect is due to the absence of a gusseted tongue.
With WoO selling them at RM230, the Rogue Racer is a pocket friendlier alternative which delivers on many counts to the RM350 (after discounts) and above Salomons while you explore your interests in trail running. It’s more than enough shoe for the casual trail runner at a price point that you can’t really complain. The Skechers GOtrail (check out a 3-way review here) is a more exciting shoe to me, allowing for some displays of nimble footwork . Word has it that something exciting may be on the way as well, so options are on the rise in the trail segment for sure.
Being so time-pressed, I’ve, last year, donated my hi-fi components of close to RM9,000 (no point keeping it and letting them rot) and my music consumption is now done through multiple channels i.e. in-car listening, portable music players (own collection or Spotify) or home streaming via Apple TV. Everything is all about “on-the-go”. Admittedly compressed audio formats are like pariahs to hi-end audio elites but I still love music enough to pay attention to good sound quality.
I’ve gone through many earbuds, over-the-ear cans over the years and have had several duds before as well. It’s noteworthy to mention that for all my pickiness, I still look for value-for-money purchases and think that RM600 is too much to pay for such accessories. The ones I have in my active use are Griffin (with built-in mic, balanced sound with a sweet midrange), Ultimate Ears (with built-in mic, decent midrange, a little bass centric, sweat/splash proof), Sony PMP (with built-in mic, bass heavy, sweat/splash proof), Bose (over the ear, similar qualities to the Griffin) headphones and most recently Yurbuds Inspire Duro.
What made me set out to look for yet another pair of earbuds was the problem with how nearly every bud I stick into my ears to drop out in the course of running. No matter which size of silicon tips I change to, one (usually left side) bud will inevitably slide off. Causes range from the movement or sweat, or simply because I’ve finicky ear canals. Getting to the end of a workout with both buds still lodged in ear is impossible. I don’t head out on my runs with my ears plugged, mind you, except that recently I’m hooked to a series of podcasts that I listen to during my runs at the KLCC park. I don’t listen to music when doing running for safety reasons.
So when I saw the bold claim that using the Twist & Lock process, Yurbuds are guaranteed to stay in your ears, I’ve to give them a try. It helps that the price isn’t prohibitive to start with. The buds come foam packed, complete with a spare pair of silicon tip of another size, a clip and a little brochure. Not forgetting a little storage bag to stow everything away. The Inspire Duro version is Ironman co-branded not that it’ll improve sound quality. The casing for the cables is made of tangle-free Kevlar fabric and so, should be durable. The cables are a little long, though. Yurbuds positioned their products as sports accessories so the Inspire Duro is geared to take sweat, sun and rain. To put the buds on, start from the back-pointing position and then twisting to the front. Like how this video demonstrates. It’s easier than it looks.
How did it stand up to the rigors of the real world?
One word: Awesome. The buds are not of the noise isolating variety to purposely allow some ambient sound into the ear for safety reasons. This is a good move as it’ll not block out the wearer’s situational awareness. I was able to listen to in-car conversation even while listening at moderate volume. The low-end is a little lacking as can be expected from such a setup. Therefore, the Inspire Duro isn’t something I’ll pull up when doing any serious listening.
However, out on a race course, the sound quality produced by the neodymium drivers was good enough. The fit was excellent and throughout the half marathon, the buds stayed in my ears like they weren’t even there. Even when I unloaded cups of water my head repeatedly on that blazing hot morning, they stayed in and kept pumping out the tunes. This has to be the best fitting buds for the active person out there. It’s not an audiophile-grade gear but it does its job well in a very light package.
The Yurbuds Inspire Duro retails for RM269 and along with the other models are available from Running Lab located at Tropicana City Mall.
The Climacool Revolution (I’ll call it CCR for short) hit the Malaysian shores just as the recent heat wave hit the country. Mornings and especially noons were scorchers. Lunch time temps have been between 32 – 35 Celcius and if you’re one of those who finds sweaty feet a problem, you just need to get a more breathable shoe. Short of drilling holes into the upper and midsole of your current pairs, the CCR employs plenty of vents. Without getting into the technical jargons, vent ports are found all-round with the use of highly breathable upper mesh, midsole “fins” and outsole drainage ports that let air in and out with each step you take. Even the colorway is a cool blue – maybe if you stare at it long enough, it’ll even give you the chills !
Weighing in at 10.6 oz (I don’t have the offset measurement), the CCR is just a tad heavier than a typical performance trainer. It has an admittedly odd look but doesn’t have the bulk of traditional shoes. From the outset, the shoe doesn’t give the impression that it’s suitable for high mileage running. And you would be correct because it’s not meant to do that. adidas has instead positioned the shoe as a casual/lifestyle trainer, which you can wear in the gym, short runs and walkabouts. It runs true to size, which surprises me since I’ve always found adidas to be a little on the narrow side.
On your feet, the shoe rides close to the ground like a performance trainer. The forefoot is flexible enough and though the midfoot to the heel section appears stiff with the presence of the plastic “fins”, the shoe didn’t feel stiff in my walkabouts to warrant a negative comment. In fact, they helped channel breeze and air into the shoe. My socks stayed completely dry after an entire day out.
If you’re a casual fitness enthusiast who does a little of everything and has a problem with hotspots, heat buildup and sweaty feet, you’d want to give the CCR a try.
Disclaimer: The adidas Climacool Revolution was a media sample provided by adidas Malaysia.
The Skechers GObionic (review here) was one of 2 of my favorite zero drop shoes (the other being the Brooks Pure Drift). But in terms of overall construction and fit, the GObionic has the edge. Roomy forefoot, superior flexibility, breathable, easy to slip on and off, it also has a high degree of road feel. But if you’re like me, someone who appreciates a little bit more TLC, you’ll love the GObionic Ride (GBR) even more. So what’s the difference?
It’s easy to separate both the shoes really. The models in the Performance Series with “Ride” affixed to the shoe names mean they’ve a bit more built-up than the original. For example, the GOrun 2 and the GOrun Ride are 2 different shoes, with the Ride having a deal more cushioning. Likewise the GBR has a hint of extra cushioning than the original GObionic.
The other difference is the drop. The GBR has a 4mm instead of zero, thus it’ll be more accessible to newcomers to minimalist/transitional shoes. I’ve worn such shoes long enough to no longer notice the 4mm of difference . All the good stuff that the brand excels at is still there: well construction upper, breathability, flexibility. The use of 3M Scotchguard for a degree of dirt and water repellent properties is retained.
With a bit more protection, cushioning and durability added, the weight naturally goes up a little, albeit the whole package remains under 7oz. The visual descriptions out of the way, let’s now go to the wear experience. I wear US9 for all my Skechers but the GBR feels like being a little roomier than usual. Ideally an 8.5 would fit better but the size mismatch is not as bad as one would think. The Compressport ProRacing socks work well with the GBR, thus I don’t wear any other socks with it. I also laced them up a little snug and found it nice that there’s no pressure exerted to the top of my feet.
My first run in the GBRs was a moderate-paced 15K. I appreciated the responsive cushioning the shoe provides. They’re by no means close to what, say, the Nike Lunaracer feels like nor should they be expected to. After a few sessions in the GBR, the Asics Hyperspeed 5 feels like a luxurious trainer! The GBR will still give you a firm road feel but it’s still not a shoe you’d want to, or can, heel strike in. With this baby, your cadence is going to be high (I recorded an average of 186 for my runs using the Polar S3 Stride Sensor) and you’ll be pottering along efficiently on your mid to forefoot. As a result, your lower legs are going to get a nice workout. If having the insole is too much for you, just remove it and get even closer to the original GObionic feel. The insole still slides around (just like the in case of the GOrun 2 – review) if you walk around sock less in the GBR but I’ve no such issues when running in them. Just glue them to the footbed if you find this irritating, but do note that you won’t be able to remove them after doing so.
Nick has run the marathon in the GObionic but I know I won’t be able to. However, having logged close to 30K, in the GObionic Ride I finally have a “road-feel shoe” that I can take on longer runs of up to 21K – on days when it calls for leg strengthening.
The Skechers GObionic Ride is already in-stores and are retailing for RM399 and RM369 for the men’s and women’s models respectively. The full range of color ways are expected in by mid-May.
Disclaimer: The pair of GObionic are review shoes kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia.
If you’re intrigued by the Flyknit upper of the Flyknit Racer (reviewed here) but think that the Racer or Trainer is a little too minimal for you, there’s the 3rd option – the Lunar One.
Also made of the same Flyknit fabric as the Racer and Trainer, the Lunar One is a traditional shoe that’s along the lines of the Lunar Glide. Both the Glide and Lunar One have Dynamic Flywire, simple upper (though the Lunar One’s are of different approach) and relatively similar outsole configuration.
I reckon that the Lunar One rides lower to the ground – it certainly feels so – if only a little than the Glide’s (which has an 11mm drop). The other difference is the Lunar One dropped the Dynamic Support feature on the midsole, which makes the shoe less clunky. The Lunar One is an ounce lighter than the Lunar Glide, only 8.35oz for my US9.5 would you believe it. Yes, sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
The upper has a tighter weave than the Flyknit Racer as you can see from the closeup below but breathability is still good. Much of the design cues come from the Racer, such as the very flat laces (you still need to triple knot them) and how the Dynamic Flywire is used in creating a snug fit through the mid foot.
Dynamic Flywire (in green) also functions as lace loops
Because the flex grooves don’t cut across the lateral to the medial side, flexibility suffers. Nike could do well to redesign the Lunarlon midsole to have deeper grooves such as those found on the Vomero.
Not particularly bendy, if a little stiff as you can see from the photo below.
How then does the whole package fare on the run? I’ve taken the Lunar One on several runs, nothing long, just maxing out at 7K. I found it to have a bouncy yet responsive ride. The most surprising thing was I had very little problem in maintaining a mid foot strike throughout my runs. However I wasn’t able to lift my heels as high as I would normally do while running around in a transitional shoe. The upper in the forefoot region has a little more stretch and give than the typical upper. The use of Flyknit essentially eliminates extraneous layers, indirectly taking up less space. As a result, my toes had more room to spread.
The Lunar One is a largely a nicely put together shoe for someone wearing traditional shoes. The Flyknit upper is definitely a winner and with a weight that’s under 9oz, this group of runners would be tempted to take the Lunar One as a race day shoe for the half and full marathon. Where it comes up a little short is the stiff midsole and finicky laces.
The Nike Flyknit Lunar One is now available in Nike stores in the country. The shoe is a review pair provided by Nike Sales Malaysia.
The Nike Flyknit Racer is an intriguing shoe. Let me rephrase that: It’s a mind-boggling shoe. The way the the upper is put together sees a dramatic departure from what we runners know of how shoes are made of. This isn’t to say that the Flyknit Racer is a near perfect shoe because it’s not. Nevertheless it’s an awesome start and the prospect of seeing more of the Flyknit upper in new footwear is exciting.
The Flyknit Racer is a very niched shoe. Most runners would probably not able to wear it, at least as an everyday shoe and I’ll explain in awhile. The Racer is one part of two shoes – the other’s a Trainer – produced for Nike sponsored athletes in conjunction with the London Olympics. Nearly a year on, the Racer’s finally hit our shores. Prior to laying my hands on them, I’ve had the chance to see them in Japan, both in Osaka and Kyoto, so I knew what to expect.
When you first pick up the Racer, you’ll immediately be smitten first by the lack of weight and then by the upper. Indeed, this weave of the upper is so complex yet so simple in its idea. The entire upper is basically cut from a single piece of fabric as you can see from a still from a video below.
How light is the shoe? At 6.3oz, it’s lighter than the 6.65oz of the Lunaracer+ 3 (reviewed here) and I’ve previously put some shoes to the scales to verify manufacturers’ claims (read here) against actual weight. Without the insole, the shoe drops another 0.7oz but the Racer is not designed to be worn sock-less. Any lighter you’ll have to pick up the LunarSpider R3 and Zoom Streak LT. Running Warehouse puts the Flyknit Racer at a 10mm drop (Heel: 24mm, Forefoot: 14mm).
Because the upper is a single piece of fabric, there are no seams to rub you the wrong way unless there’s some stitching anomaly. Nevertheless I doubt the Racer is designed to be run sans socks. The evidence is in the exposed stitching around the footbed as you can see from the photo below. Unlike conventional shoes, there’s a complete absence of padding under the top layer of knitted upper. No cushy material, nothing between your skin (well, unless you’re wearing socks) and the fabric. Even the collar is unpadded. This means carrying less weight around and more real estate inside for a roomier feel. I’m able to fit into a US9.5 rather than a 10 or 10.5 when it comes to a Nike racing shoe. I need to point out that the Flyknit Racer is a Unisex shoe. The sizes are men specific so women should subtract 1.5 from their usual size to determine their size in men’s. (Example: If you wear size 8 in women’s, order size 6.5 in men’s).
The next few photos will be close up shots of the upper, so that you’ll appreciate the intricate weaves of the thread. You’ll notice that everything is kept to a minimum, resulting in a shoe that’s ultra breathable. Even the swoosh is painted on rather than a separate piece of stitched-on. Where areas of additional structural support are needed, the threads are in a tighter weave.
The thin fettucini-like laces, in my opinion, are a miss. Despite double knotting it on my first run, they came undone. From then on, it’s all about triple knotting for me. Lacing the shoe is smooth and easy, through the dynamic Flywire loops that pull the upper snugly against your feet.
What you get in the Flyknit Racer’s midsole is a single Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, a reflection on its racing pedigree. We’re not talking about heel striking here, folks. The midsole has a very substantial flare especially in the heel section. Because running in the Racers are pretty much a get up and go fast affair, chances are you won’t be heel striking. Note the very thin use of rubber in the outsole. This is not a shoe you’d want to be dragging you feet – do that and you’ll basically be fast-tracking the shoe to destruction.
Underfoot, you get little nuggets of waffle. Called ”Waffleskin” rubber outsole features a racing-specific diamond pattern, delivering lightweight durability and traction. As previously mentioned, only a thin layer of rubber serves to protect the heel.
With all the features out of the way, let’s quickly talk about the wear experience. Out of the box, the Flyknit Racer needed no breaking in. It’s more spacious up front than the Lunaracer and most definitely firmer. Both shoes aren’t the most flexible around unlike the Free or Skecher’s Performance Series. Where the Nike Free, Skechers and even the Lunaracer are soft, pliable and cushy, the Flyknit is very firm and responsive.
My first run in the Flyknit Racer was over a hilly 9K course. There was an immediate fast feel to it, almost spike-like. You propel to the next stride the moment you hit the ground forefoot and there was a snap to the strides. True racing shoes are stiffer than regular trainers for a quicker turnover – imagine a short and tightly wound spring that stores and unleashes the energy. My lower legs were fully engaged throughout the run but since I’ve done most of my running on transitional and minimalist footwear, I didn’t find the experience painful. Good thing there wasn’t any hotspots either.
I’ve also ran a handful of shorter runs around the KLCC track after the first wear. The Waffleskin held up very well on the wet synthetic surface and above average on the wet bricked sections. I didn’t have to pay extra attention to maintaining a grip of the wet surface. Rainwater entered the shoe almost immediately but exited almost as quickly.
The star feature of the Racer which is the upper, performed flawlessly in my opinion, although I won’t discount the chance of a stray pebble entering the compartment of the shoe. It’s the midsole and firm ride that most runners will have to contend with. If you’re fast enough, the Flyknit Racer would have an excellent track-like racing flat. World-class elites have been seen wearing the Racer for marathons but unless you’re really fast, you might not be able to do that. Personally, this is a perfect shoe for speed work and races up to 10K. It’s not a shoe that I’d put on for slow and easy runs, just like you won’t be taking a GTR or ST on a slow 60 km/h weekend drive. For that there are plenty of other options. If I’d a say in the design of Nikes, it’ll be for a wider forefoot. It’s something I’d wished for in the case of the Racer as well, but given what the shoe stands for i.e. pure speed, the snug sock-like fit is almost a necessity. There are reports on the Internet of other wearers subjecting the upper to a steam treatment before putting the shoes on, to allow the upper conform to the wearers’ feet – something like getting a customized fit. I’ve not tried it yet though .
The Nike Flyknit Racer is hard to find with limited stocks everywhere. But if you find one on the shelves, just give it a try even if just to feel the upper.
Disclosure: The shoe was provided to me for by Nike Sales Malaysia for a review.
The hugely popular Nike Free series is back, updated, refreshed complete with the trademark bright colors. Fans of the ultra flexible shoes will wonder what the changes are. The midsole and outsole (down to the configuration) remains unchanged but the changes to the upper are quite significant. Let’s take a look firstly at the Free 5.0.
Previously known as the Free Run (read my quick take on the previous version here), the model is now known simply as Free 5.0. This move makes sense since many are confused to the Free Run’s place in the Free series. Hardly a minimalist shoe to the purists, the 5.0 with an 8mm drop is the most accessible to folks. It’s a go anywhere, do anything (mostly) shoe that has found its place in gyms, track, road, markets, malls and just about anywhere really. Lest all that description comes across as putting the 5.0 a little on the casual footwear segment, newbies to the shoe would be interested to know that the Free Run has been seen in road races from 3K to the marathon. Such is the versatility of it.
So what are the changes made to the update? I’ll let pictures do most of the “talking”.
A quick peek is all it takes to see the updates to the upper. The Run + 3 has an outer see-through layer, while the 5.0 does away with it. Instead dynamic Flywire is now employed to good use. As a result, the shoe now wraps around the foot better, with a snug fit around the mid foot.
At 8.3oz of my US9.5, the Free 5.0 falls into the territory of a lightweight trainer. I believe it would hold up as a second shoe and as a transitory shoe to something more barer. Do note however, a runner’s transition period would vary from another’s. It took more than 8 months for me to complete my move to shoes that have 6mm drop and below.
Absolutely no change to the sole. But then there’s really no need to change something that works.
No stiff and hard material used to cup your heel, something that I like.
You can expect the same flexibility as all the Frees.
The swoosh is no longer reflective
I recently wore the Free 5.0 for more than a day (there was a 3-hour downtime I spent prone on the bed trying to catch a shuteye before reporting back to the event site) while on duty at the Malaysia Women Marathon. The overall wear experience sees no change to the outgoing Free Run+ 5.0. My feet didn’t feel thrashed at all and when paired with the Compressport socks, the fit was excellent. My feet never felt overheated and for all that it is, the Free 5.0 will remain the most popular in the Nike Free series. It’s accessible to most runners, flexible and light, basically a fantastic general purpose get up and go shoe.
Next up would be the Free 3.0 v5, the lightest of the 3 Frees (there’s a 6mm drop 4.0 which stands in between). If there was a flaw in the 3.0 v4 design, it was in the upper. In tropical weather, the neoprene-like bootie will result in your feet getting a sauna experience. On top of that the fit was way too snug especially on the top of the foot, so much so that I had to upsize my usual US9.5 to US10. And even with the upsizing, I could wear the v4 without laces – such was the tight fit. You can read about the v4 here.
v5 serves as a significant update even if the mid and outsole see no changes whatsoever. Again, there’s no need for any changes in that department.
The tweaked upper brings about huge differences to the entire wear experience. The neoprene-like use has been reduced to just the tongue area, and while you still can’t see through to the inside of the shoe, the liner under the outer mesh (no longer the welded star design) is made of much thinner and softer fabric. As a result 3.0 v5 weighs in at 7.45oz compared to the 8.2oz of the v4.
The sizing is now back to my usual US9.5, my apprehension unfounded.
No change to the soft heel section.
The swoosh is no longer a reflective material, if that’s important to you. The most significant gain, as mentioned, is the added breathability. I put that to the test one hot afternoon during route marking duties recently and my sock less feet came away much drier than it would compared to the previous version. One can’t underplay the importance of a breathable shoe in this weather!
The Free 4.0 v5 sees a major update to the upper, giving the wearer a cooler experience. The neoprene-like bootie, in my opinion, could be entirely removed to improve the wear experience more and hopefully the next iteration will be even better. Like the 5.0, the 4.0 is a wear anywhere shoe short of the trails. The 4mm drop would work the calves of newbies who are seeking to depart from the world of bulky shoes, so if your plan is to wear them for half marathons, do transition slowly.
Both the Free 4.0 v5 and the 5.0 are now available in Nike stores in the country. Both shoes were review units provided by Nike Sales Malaysia. Head on to the Nike Running site for more details on the Nike Free.