Category Archives: Gear Review
April 2012 saw the release of the first performance oriented shoes from Skechers, the GOrun (my quick take here). It was a shoe that caught many by surprise including me. It was a decent shoe but the midfoot bump meant that while running in them was a fine, walking in the shoes was an uncomfortable experience. The GOrun 2 saw a reduced bump, addition of a few solid rubber plugs to improve durability and some tweaks to the upper (review here). What didn’t change was the end product – it was still a fast shoe.
More than a year later since the original GR was introduced, I now have the Skechers GOrun 3 (GR3) in my hands, well on my feet actually, and I can say that this represents the best update yet for the series. The GR3 appears to be a more substantial update, from the upper to the stack height. If you’d like to know what the GR’s heritage is all about, head on to my reviews of the earlier versions because this post will just quickly cover the differences to the GR2 and the ride.
The sockliners come separately packaged with the shoes and I suspect this will be Skechers’ approach with some of their core releases going forward. This allows the wearer to customize their ride between a 4mm or something that’s closer to zero drop. In my few runs in the GR3, the sockliners stayed in the shoes as I prefer the middle-ground approach. With the sockliners in, the ride felt more like a 6mm than a 4mm but official word from Skechers is that they’re 4mm.
The upper has been improved and on the topside of the front section, there’s a 3-layer sandwiched-mesh construction. GR2 already improved on the breathability and suffice to say that I’ve no issues whatsoever with the GR3′s even with the additional layer. There’s also more mesh used on the side panels than before which is a great thing. The heel section continues the minimalist approach with a barely-there heel counter, while the tongue is reminiscent of the GObionic’s. As expected, there’s not a stiff portion to be found anywhere on the shoe.
I do sometimes wish the heel section of the outsole to be reinforced with solid rubber plugs. This is not a call for drastic changes, just add the rubber plugs to the 4 “sensors” across the 2nd last row would suffice. This should take care of the heel striking and scraping when late stage fatigue sets in along with form deterioration.
The GR3 remains a lightweight performer (6.5oz without the sockliner, 7.1oz with) and more than ever for the GR series, I like the ride and fit of the GR3 a lot. Its forefoot is wider than the GR2 and runs true to size. The thicker stack height results in improved responsive cushioning. Those looking for a marathon race day shoe should seriously check out the GR3.
The photo above shows the thicker stack height of the GR3 but it’s by no means a slouch. This one ranks higher than the Nite Owl (which I wore for the Putrajaya Night Marathon) and I can’t wait to really put in big miles in them when marathon training starts in January. The GR3 will be available on these shores pretty soon and will retail for RM399 and RM369 for the men’s and women’s models respectively.
Disclaimer: The GR3 is a review pair kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia. Opinions stated are my own and may change once I log over 100K in them.
Fall is finally in many parts of the world and major shoe companies are releasing weather resistant and high visibility versions of their popular models. Skechers chose the GOrun Ride 2 (GRR2) and GOwalk 2 to receive the photoluminescent (PL) treatment. According to Wikipedia, PL “describes the phenomenon of light emission from any form of matter after the absorption of photons”. From this you’d have correctly guessed that to activate the glow of the GRR2, you will need to expose the shoe to any form of light source – the stronger the exposure and longer the duration the better.The GRR2 retains largely its predecessor’s smooth and light ride traits, one which I very much like. Added to the fact that I do most of my runs in low light and dark conditions, this combo is too tempting to pass up.
As can be expected the GRR 2 Nite Owl is a very close replica of the GRR 2, with the exception of the upper mesh and of course the PL treated strips. Therefore I won’t talk much about the inherent characteristics except to point you to my review of the original GRR via the link below.
When Skechers Malaysia handed the GRR 2 Nite Owl to me, it was already too late to adopt it as my race shoe for the Men’s Health/Shape Night Run (race report). I wore the GOspeed aka GOmeb instead). The next opportunity came quickly enough when I felt confident enough to take it for a 24K first run in the Back 2 Endurance event. As recommended, I prepped the shoe by sunning it for a few hours the day before. The feel of the GRR 2 Nite Owl felt very similar to the original GRR (quick take here) and the shoe adequately absorbed the hard pavements of the Lake Gardens. However, the US9 prove to be slightly small, which is truly perplexing since I wear a similar size GRR. For some reason my toes were ramming the front of the Nite Owl and there were some measure of pain and discomfort that would result in some blisters under those nails.
As if to prove that marathoners can be a little hard headed, I wore them again for the Putrajaya Night Marathon (race report) albeit with thin socks. I noticed that the glow lasted for about 4 hours after 6 hours of light exposure during the day. Pretty decent return. I’ve since logged over 100K (including long runs of 24, 42 and 30Ks) in the GRR 2 Nite Owl and other than the personal sizing issue, I’ve nothing against the shoe. Go half a size up for me, and the problem will be solved. It’s after all based on the well received GRR and having good visibility added to it is a bonus to us who run under the moonlight. The photo above only manages to capture an approximate effect of the glow. For a better idea, head on to Happiefeet’s blog where he posted several better photos.
The GOrun Ride Nite Owl will be in-stores soon and will retail for RM429 for the men’s version and RM399 for the women’s version.
Disclaimer: The GRR 2 Nite Owl is a review pair kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia. Opinions stated are my own after over 100K logged in them.
Like many who have worn the shoe, I’ve found the Skechers GOBionic to be one of the most accessible and best fitting 0-4mm drop shoes out there. I’ve put the GOBionic from walkabouts to short runs up to 10K as part of continuous strengthening routine and I very much like the grey colour too. Now, the company has combined the trail design cues from the first generation of Skechers debut trail shoe, the GO Trail, with the GOBionic. However there are more GOBionic traits (such as the last, toe box design, tongue) than the GO Trail in the newly launched GOBionic Trail (GBT) – at least that’s how I see it. Nevertheless, the result presents a pleasant surprise for me, from the cosmetic to the wear experience.
All the good things we’ve come to know about the Skechers Performance range are still there – flexible and fast ride, low drop, wide forefoot and soft upper in a lightweight package. The upper design took a dramatic turn with the spider web-like tendrils glued to the top a honeycomb mesh upper. While the upper may not seem to be breathable, I can vouch that the opposite is true. The fluorescent yellow laces aren’t as easy to pull through the loops and I suspect they’re easily frayed but they don’t seem to irritate the top of the feet. The tongue of the GBT is gusseted and have very minimal padding, which really isn’t an issue. The same minimalist treatment extends to the padding around the collar and lack of a plastic heel counter. Remove the thin OrthoLite (anti-microbial to inhibit odor) sockliner and you instantly convert the 4mm drop to a zero. Naturally that changes the running dynamics as well in terms of ground feel. 4 reflective trims provide a measure of visibility.
The Resalyte mid and outsole appear to be a one-piece construction. The center arch section in the midsole is sculpted very nicely for weight reduction. 4 lugs occupy the outside of this section. Throughout the shoe, the lugs are spaced far apart from each other and as a result you won’t get pebbles lodged there. The tiny serrations on each lug provides very good traction on all the surfaces I’ve run on. The depth of each lug provided ample cushioning for a “Bionic”. I’d go so far as to say there’s a bit more cushioning on tap than the original GoTrail. With the barely there rock diffusion plates, running over mildly rocky terrain shouldn’t result in any yelps. Remove the sockliner and the feel would change, naturally.
I mentioned earlier that I love the fit of the GOBionic but as it’s more than my usual tolerance of minimalism hence my use of only up to 10K. If you ask me how the GBT feels like, I’ll ask you to imagine a build up and rugged version GOBionic. As a result, cushioning that leans more the firmer side is felt throughout the shoe. I was confident enough that after wearing the GBT to work on Friday, to take the shoe out for a spin on the road this morning. You read that right – road. Incidentally our regular route presented plenty of opportunities to get a little off-road of the milder kind. There were also some stretches of freshly dug up pavements where rocks, pebbles and sand were present. The GBT dealt with these comfortably enough and the rocks and stones were sufficiently dampened. Wearers of the Five Fingers and Merrell should have no issues with the GBT and should be able to take them to trail marathon distances if they want slightly more protection and cushioning. Wearers of 6-8mm shoes will have no problems for distances of 21-25K on the trail, longer if the trails are smooth.
Heel striking isn’t easy, nor comfortable, in these babies. Best way to enjoy as usual is to shorten and quicken your strides. Total distance covered was just short of 15K because everyone had an eye on the long run tomorrow. The shoe breathes very well so other than mileage clocked, I had no blisters to take home. If you’re looking for a trail shoe, the GBT is a big improvement over the GO Trail. The better build quality is apparent in the stitch work all-round. On top of that, you get the excellent fit of the GOBionic and all the Skechers DNA.
I’m aware that this take is very much prelim and I’ll need to take the GOBionic Trail to where it belongs to see how it performs. Meanwhile, it’s a thumbs up from me for this door-to-trail shoe!
Disclaimer: The GOBionic Trail was provided to me for review by Skechers Malaysia but opinions here are my own. Further take on the shoe will be posted after more miles in them on the trails.
After last month’s review on the Fuji Racer 2 (FR2 reviewed here, retailing for RM349), Gigasports sent another trail shoe my way, this time the much more protective Fuji Attack 2 (FA2). If you didn’t catch it already, asics have re-branded a number of their trail shoes to include the Fuji, the iconic mountain being the obvious inspiration behind the name.
Now wiser, I opted for US10 just so that the shoe has space to allow my feet to swell as well as accommodate the wearing of thicker socks (such as the Drymax Trail). The US10 weighs oz with the sockliner, which isn’t too bad. Information is rather hard to find but RW Germany puts the FA2′s drop to be at 10mm. Other areas are standard trail training shoe specs – thicker rounded laces, slightly more padded upper that has a closer mesh and larger lace pocket than the FR2. The tongue is very well padded and is gussetted. The overlays are more substantial. Elsewhere, the midsole is SpEVA instead of the FR2′s Solyte. SpEVA is not as light as Solyte but it is cushier. A conventional hard heel counter and prominent toe bumper completes the upper. There’s a gel insert in the heel section of the midsole. For protection, the wearer can count on the thin rock plate at the toe-off section while aggressive lugs provide traction which are expectedly good over grass, loose pebbles and sharp rocks. There are no drainage ports and since I didn’t have the opportunity to test them on wet surfaces I’ll reserve my comments on this area.
You’d have correctly guessed then the FA2 presents a beefier take on the FR2, much beefier. It’s competition would be adidas Response Trail and Brooks Cascadia (I wore version 4 of the series for the TNF 50 in Singapore back in 2008). Being so built up, you can expect a plusher albeit ride and that’s what you do get. You’re not about to feel the rocks as much as the Racer.
If you’re looking for a more protective and cushier trail shoe from asics be it for training or racing which should you go for? The choices are plenty – the FA2 (RM329), Fuji Trainer 2 (RM399) and the even bulkier and heavier Fuji Trabuco (RM399). I’ve not had the chance to try the Trainer other than the few minutes of walking around in the store. It has a smooth ride but the tongue is conventional. I know that’s petty but I seriously dislike debris entering the shoes. Yet, at this juncture I still prefer the Trainer 2 over the Attack 2 but that’s a personal preference. The lower weight and drop, the blend of cushioning and support the Trainer 2 offers seemed more balanced than the FA2, which is more functional rather than spectacular.So it’ll be the Fuji Trainer for training and the Racer for races under 50K. A little bit more comfort and protection is always welcome for anything over 50K, in which case you could either opt for the Trainer or Attack. The trail shoe segment is getting to be packed. There are options aplenty from many brands.
If you place a premium on comfort over responsiveness, the FA2 warrants an audition. It has a wallet friendly price point to boot too.
The Fuji Attack 2 was kindly provided for my review by Gigasport, authorised distributor of Asics in Malaysia.
As far as hydration vests go, I’ve used 2 brands – Nathan HPL020 and the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest. Both have different capacities but they’re very light. I’ve always put a premium on using products that offer a blend of performance in a lightweight package and both have not disappoint. I wore the Nathan in TNF 50K in 2008 and found it to work well. While stilla race virgin, I’ve been very happy with the UD in training. Its shortcomings are a few – a little issue with the sizing/fitting and lack of use of its tiny pockets. Despite that, it’s one of the best vests around, supremely lightweight and stable.
The problem for me started when the race I’ve signed up requires the content of the drop bag to be brought along (or face disposal). This meant that while I can spread out the lugging of my fueling needs and other ancillary gear, I won’t be able to leave behind the stuff that I may no longer need. Runners will also have to contend with wearing a single pair of shoes after several stream crossings.
Tried as I may over several separate attempts, I’ve been unable to cram the gear into the UD and my outer gear are already all of the packable and compact variety! No choice then but to cast my eyes on 12L packs. For a moment, UD’s PB pack seemed a valid choice but I didn’t want to face the UD design of “neither-here-nor-there”. My requirements are simple – lightweight, 12L capacity, non-bladder setup – yet choices are limited. Raidlight’s OLMO, while has the right capacity, felt a little too sloppy.
Until Salomon (it had to be Salomon!) came along. Prior to the Salomon Advanced Skin LAB HYDRO Set (5 and 12L options), the Advanced Skin LAB Sets were the bladder types. While the brand prides itself as battle-tested by its stable of elite athletes in exotic races, I’ve not really gravitated towards it for reasons of cost and them not being exactly lightweight (I’m spoilt by the UD’s featherweight!). The HYDRO Set, introduced as part of their 2013 Fall/Winter lineup, changes all that. It’s heritage is the 2013 bladder version and therefore retains most of the features that Salomon vests are known for.
However upon closer look, the vest has gone through several important tweaks. First, the Salomon Advanced Skin LAB HYDRO 12 Set comes with 2 500ml Soft Flasks that are carried in front, has 2 large drop in pockets, side webbings that can actually accommodate gear and energy bars and 2 very nicely implemented lateral pockets with vertical zippers. Other than the top main compartment, the wearer could extract stuff from these pockets without having to remove the vest. With the simplification of the construction, there’s now less material used and the HYDRO 12 Set weighs only 340gms compared to the 530gms of the bladder version. It’s also 20gms lighter than the already lightweight SJ vest (368gms) and way lighter than the PB pack (496gms). The Soft Flasks alone already shaved off some weight compared to hard bottles.
No change are the fully customizable elasticated Twin Link, Sensifit, Load lifter, insulated bladder pocket, 4D pole holder, safety blanket, whistle and reflective trims. With 10 pockets and more compartments, there’s now enough room to carry the full load of battle gear. Since I prefer the Soft Flasks, the space vacated by the bladder pocket can fit a few more items.
My first outing with the HYDRO was for RJM recently. Though it was a road event, the distance and leisure nature of the event was perfect to test the vest out. 42K and over 5 hours would give me adequate time to get to know the product. So what did I pack into the vest? A tube of electrolyte tabs, GU Chomps, 2 GUs, a tablet carrier, the Olympus TG-2, a rain jacket (just to simulate partial load-out), 1 headlamp, an old iPod Shuffle, and of course the 2 soft flasks.
As expected, the HYDRO acquitted itself very well. What I love in particular are the well thought access to gear, from the direction of the zippers to the large access of the compartments. Even the small pockets were useful. The other thing about the Soft Flasks was the near complete absence of sloshing. As a bonus, you could actually drink from it without having to remove it from the sleeve. Just squeeze and the fluids squirt right into your mouth. Thirdly, the vest doesn’t slide around laterally nor bounce, even though I didn’t really adjust the fit out of the pack. When the sun was scorching, things didn’t get uncomfortably warm either.
A few days later, I started putting stuff into it just to get an idea how they’ll fit into the HYDRO. I gathered up the following items: 1 sachet of Perpetuem, 1 sachet of Heed, a tube of Fizz, chomps, 2 gels, a bottle of Endurance Amino, 2 packs of batteries, a packable Inov-8 Mistlite pants, packable TNF Venture jacket, 2 headlamps, the TG-2 camera, beanie, gloves, iPod Shuffle, trekking poles, safety blanket and the 2 Soft Flasks. Of course in this simulation, the Hammer and GUs are insufficient but there are plenty of room left.
The Salomon Advanced Skin LAB HYDRO 12 Set fits the bill if you’re looking for a vest that can carry plenty of gear while at the same time remain lightweight. It may seem like an intimidating piece of gear (the price certainly is so, since it’s a Salomon) but play around with it and you’ll realize that every component of it has been given a fair bit of thought in its design. In my opinion it’s leaps and bounds an improvement over the old Advanced Skin Lab 12 in that it’s lighter, tweaked zips and much better all-round accessibility. If there are some areas to improve it’ll be the following:
- There are straps running here and there and it’ll be great if some literature is provided. As it is, only a tiny card showing how to secure the trekking pole is included.
- Increase the size of the screw-on caps of the Soft Flasks. I needed to break the electrolyte tabs in two before being able to drop it into the flask. This is where the UD bottles triumph over the flasks.
In the coming weeks, there’ll be more and more opportunities to use the HYDRO. Can’t wait to use it on the trails. I bought my HYDRO 12 Set from the UltraMarathonRunningStore. Head on there for great products at very competitive prices.
Before reading this, you may want to first read up on my initial impression on this new offering from Puma.
I was on the verge of illness when I wore the shoes for the first time. I felt crappy that evening and very tired and the foot pain I felt in the shoes made my experience quite unsatisfactory. It was only fair to give the shoes another chance and after a little more than a week of no running, I finally laced up for a short one just 2 days ago.
The second time around, I made sure that I re-tweak the lacing – skipping the midfoot eyelets (as shown in the photo above) in the hope that whatever pressure there is on the foot in that area is alleviated. I didn’t plan to but I ran much quicker in this second outing from the outset. Every footstrike was still noisy though, which created the impression that the shoes were clunkier than they actually were. At a quicker pace, the shoes didn’t feel as sluggish as I had experienced before. Also, I seemed to sink less with each footstrike. My calves were still getting their fair share of workout yet didn’t feel as tired as the first time.
Unfortunately the discomfort in the lateral side of both feet where the external stability device extends upwards into the upper was still conspicuously felt. I can’t see myself going long in the MEG just because of this. I dug around the Internet for other viewpoints and saw that opinions are really mixed. Many experienced the same lower leg soreness and pain/discomfort as I’ve had. At the same time nearly everyone reported on faster runs up till 10K in the shoes.
Puma has a mixed one in the Mobium Elite. Your mileage may vary but if it’s a glow-in-the-dark shoe that you’re looking for, give these a try or the Glow version of the Faas.
The one and only experience I had with Puma was during my school days in Penang. Maradona was running circles around opposition teams and on his feet were, you guess it, Puma football boots. I persuaded my classmate, who played for the school team, to let me have 5 minutes in them and that was it. The rotund legend is still associated with the company and if you Google around, you’ll see that they put together a promo in conjunction with his 50th birthday not too long ago. The other trivia which you may not know about the company is the history it shares with the other German sports giant adidas. Brothers Adolf and Rudolph Dassler just couldn’t get along on almost any subject despite their passion for sports and because of this we have today adidas and Puma. No points for guessing who formed which company.
The intro isn’t meant to be a history lesson but a segue to the review of the latest offering from Puma, the Mobium Elite Glow (MEG). The MEG is the glow-in-the-dark version of the Mobium Elite (the other visibility enhanced shoes the company released were from the Faas and BioWeb series) which was released in February this year, a shoe that Puma said to promote an “adaptive running” experience. That would mean a shoe that conforms to how the feet expand and contract, move and twist in the gait cycle. In my opinion, for that to work, the shoe has to be flexible, light and soft enough. And because I land more forward these days, the shoe will have to facilitate midfoot striking.
The MEG certainly doesn’t look like a conventional running shoe, more like a stiff boot. The midfoot section is curved upwards and not filled up. The sides are beveled with little to no flare, the heel section is similar to Brooks’ Ideal Heel in the way it wraps upwards at the rear, and the external midfoot stability device that holds the foot in place on the lateral and medial side looks a little like Hoka One One Conquest’s cradle. The upper looks breathable with open mesh construction. There isn’t much overlay except for the said stability device connecting the midsole to the upper. The gusseted tongue is thin and unpadded but since the laces are cushy and elastic, there should be no irritation topside.
The glow factor is provided by luminous materials and strips located throughout the upper. For best results, the wearer is advised to expose the shoe to light, artificial or natural, a couple of hours before the run to get between 45 minutes to 2 hours of glow-in-the-dark effect. Once “charged”, you don’t need a light source to enable the glow, unlike reflective materials. The shoe literally emits glow. Many of us get our runs in the early morning and in light of recent accidents involving runners, this is a much appreciated feature.The contour of the molded EVA midsole is unusual and forms what the company calls a Windlass Chassis, which supports the changes in form, length and height of the foot during a gait cycle. Embedded in the midsole is the figure of 8 Mobium Band which contorts and springs you forward. Outsole construction is uncomplicated with forefoot lugs that resemble Newtons’ (Puma calls them Expansion Pods) and an even simpler heel section. The shoe flexes easily laterally and in the toe-off area due to the deep longitudinal and lateral flex grooves. These grooves would also be catching on small stones and pebbles, unfortunately.
Nothing like some running to check out how all that tech come together. I’d been struggling with a throat issue the last 4 days and have been coughing like crazy but still needed to stick to the planned 10K. My US10 fits good, very snug midfoot and opens up at the forefoot. As for the heel, I needed to lace up right up to the top eyelet in order to secure a snug fit. Perhaps I’ve skinny ankles, but once that was done, I no longer encounter any slippages. At 9.3oz including a nice uncontoured sockliner, the shoe is lightweight enough. It definitely doesn’t look lightweight and that was the first thing that nicely surprised me. Walking around while the watch was acquiring a satlock, I found the shoe to be soft and flexible in the forefoot albeit a little stiff in the heel.
A few strides into my run was all it took to convince me that the shoe will get you to land more towards the midfoot. There wasn’t any midsole rocker or anything like that, it just happened. Secondly, I found the Move Cell midsole material of the Mobium to be soft. Really soft. So cushy it was that I felt I had to exert more to propel me to the next step. I know that’s total opposite to what the Mobium Band was supposed to do which was to flex and propel me forward, but I felt really tired not even 4K into the run. I won’t form any judgment for now, knowing full well that I could be genuinely tired from my illness. Thirdly, the outsole made a lot of noise, no matter how softly I attempted to land. More like “thuds” rather than “taps”. Fourth, there were some rubbing on the inside of the upper to the side of the ball of both feet. Though that didn’t result in any blisters, the MEG is not a shoe to run sockless in due to the exposed stitches on the inside.
Fifth and most damning observation was the pain on both sides of the feet as I ticked off the miles. It took me awhile to isolate the area of discomfort but after stopping for awhile to loosen up the laces around the area, it dawned upon me that the medial and lateral “cradle/stability” device that protrude into the upper to be the cause (see photo above). As it was, the shoe was already pretty snug in the midfoot. The stiff protrusion which is linked to the laces inadvertently puts greater pressure on the sides of the foot, resulting in the mentioned pain. I wasn’t a happy camper.
The next morning, my calves were a smidge sore, but in a nice way that tells you that they’ve been given a good workout. I’m surprised since 8mm is really not a super low drop. Could it be the ultra soft midsole which had me putting in more effort to push off? I’ll be putting on the Mobium again once I get rid of this cough as I really need to verify my initial take. Can’t wait to get back to you on this as I’m equally curious myself!
The good: Nice ride, well implemented glow-in-the-dark feature, lightweight and flexible forefoot.
The bad: Laboured running (to be confirmed), fits rather too snugly in the midfoot, loud footstrike
Disclosure: The Puma Mobium Elite Glow was provided by Puma Malaysia, but opinions were entirely my own.