Nagano Marathon Race Report

A short a trip to Japan but what a trip it was as I caught the Sakura season and there was a marathon too! Read about the race here.

Gear Reviews

All the reviews here...

Trans Nuang 2013

5 runners. 42km. 16 hours. Elevation gain 2,878 meters / 9,442 feet. All here.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 Race Report

After a long long wait, I finally nailed it. Full story here...

 

Category Archives: Gear Review

First Impression: Skechers GOrun Ride 3 Bolt

Like a bolt (ooops!) out of the sky, the soon-to-be-in-stores Skechers GOrun Ride 3 Bolt (GRR3 Bolt/Bolt) landed on my laps quite suddenly last Friday. Because it was so totally unexpected, I braved the Friday+Downpour+5pm-KL-Traffic phenomenon to fight my way to the Skechers office after work.

Let’s get on with some of the nuts and bolts (ooops again!) of, ummm, the Bolt.

  • Skechers FitKnit seamless mesh fabric upper
  • Contrast colored overlay detail
  • Agion odor protection
  • 8.9oz (US10, with sockliner)
  • Custom Fit insoles included
  • Additional laces included

Lateral and medial shot.

Identical

You wouldn’t be wrong if you dismiss the Bolt, just by looking at the photos, that this is  another example of a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. After all everything other than the eye-catching upper’s the same as the GRR3 [my review of the GRR3 here].

  • Same GRR3 platform
  • Same Resalyte midsole down to the placement of the GOimpulse sensors as the GRR3
  • Same 4mm drop
  • Same great lightweight flexibility
  • Non-gusseted tongue

But then, there’s the knitted fabric upper. As it is, the upper found on the GRR3 is already well made, as with most of the Performance series’. FitKnit isn’t unlike other knitted upper that’s marketed by other sports companies and I’ve worn several of those (and liked them a lot too). It’s basically iterations of stitching technology that see a tighter weave around the stress-zones, for example, the toebox, heel counter and flex areas. The result is a single piece seamless upper that has good breathability.

Close-up of the upper showing the denser toebox area.

From this photo, the Bolt has a rounder toe-box than the GRR3

Slightly different heel setup on the Bolt. It, however, retains the soft and flexible feel of the GRR3. The logo is reflective for low light visibility.

In terms of weight, the GRR3 (with sockliner) sits between the Bolt with and without the sockliner. Even at its heaviest 8.9oz for US10, the Bolt is featherweight compared to Zoom Elite 7, Pegasus 31 and even lighter than the Boston Boost 5 (review coming up).

If you’ve not worn any shoes with a knitted upper before, you’d be interested to know that there are subtle differences to the wear experience. Due to the absence of overlays, you’ll discover a little bit more real estate in the toebox. Indeed, my US10 felt roomier than usual. My first run in the Bolt was a hilly 12.5K. I didn’t lace up as tightly as I normally do when I race. While my feet didn’t slide to and fro even when I hit the downhills, there was a slight sideway movement in the forefoot region. There wasn’t any blisters though, and there was room to lock down the lacing further. No real issues but I just thought it’s something worth mentioning to guide you when trying the Bolt out.

Interestingly, as opposed to other brands’ knitted uppers, Skechers FitKnit retains the stretch properties used in the mesh models like the GRR3. There’s not a stitch on the Bolt that adds to a stiff wear experience, even where the knit are most dense.

Coming into the scene late in the adoption of knitted uppers, Skechers GOrun Ride 3 Bolt expands the brand’s tradition of great uppers with FitKnit. The result is an all-round improved package for the runner in the tradition of the GRR3. Those looking for a lightweight cushioned trainer suitable for up to the marathon distance should check them out. They’ve the looks to go with jeans and will make an excellent and versatile shoe. Wherever I travel to, I’ve always packed an extra pair of running shoes for my exploratory runs. With the Bolt, it will serve as a 2-in-1, suitable for sightseeing and putting in the mileage while traveling.

The Bolt will hit the local stores from this weekend and will retail for RM419 (men) and RM399 (women).

Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ride 3 Bolt is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. I’ve only put in approximately 20K in them but the ride is similar to the GRR3.

Samsung Galaxy S5 & Gear Fit: Wrap Up and Final Thoughts

This is the final part of my take on the Samsung duo of Galaxy S5 and Gear Fit. If you’re interested to find out more about my usage of the devices, follow the links below:
First impressions| HRM, Distance Tracking and Coaching Functions

So after more than 2 weeks, what’s my take on the S5+GF combo? As mentioned in my earlier posts, I don’t bring along my phone when I go out running, so my time was mostly spent with the GF. Since I’m not an Android user, I stay away from delving too much into the interface. Where menus and UI are covered, it was done from the angle of usability rather than technical aspect. With that out of the way, let’s get things going.

What I like:

  1. The S5’s crisp, vibrant Super AMOLED. The GF has a 1.48″ OLED display that’s more than decent as well.
  2. Both devices are dust and water resistant
  3. Smooth scrolling on both devices
  4. Accuracy of HR sensor is amazing. I ran the comparison tests against the Garmin 620 in my previous post. I’m so impressed that I now think chest straps are passe.
  5. Configurable multiple alerts on the GF – from text messages, reminders, WhatsApp, FB, Twitter.
  6. The GF has decent battery life – around 3.5 days
  7. Sharing options e.g to Facebook, Google+, email, are plentiful.
  8. The GF can be worn with the screen facing outwards or inwards. Personally I prefer the screen facing inwards so that the HR sensor can rest directly on my inner wrist.
  9. Customizable backcover (S5), strap (GF)
  10. Customizable interface on the GF – wallpaper, vertical/horizontal orientation, page order and more. The Android OS on the S5 accords you even more customization

Could be better:

  1. Slight lag in the Pedometer, when starting up.
  2. No app support. While there are plenty of exercise apps for Android, they don’t interface with the GF. That means you can’t use the GF to call up RunKeeper or Endomondo on the phone. That’s a shortcoming since the GF has no built in GPS and not having this function means that you’re limited to what the S-Health can do/track.
  3. Could be an Android thing but the S5 began displaying some lag after several days of use. Since I’ve no other Android device comparison, I’ll leave that as that.
  4. I don’t cycle outdoors, so I’m not sure how the tracking is done when there’s no GPS on the GF. Unless of course, if it’s paired with the S5.
  5. Running mode and Pedometer are a little confusing as the wearer may think that Running mode will invoke the GPS functions, which the GF isn’t equipped with.
  6. Strangely there’s no sharing of completed workouts to Twitter.
  7. Stress Tracker is gimmickry since it relies on the HR scan results. A fit and healthy person will have a overall lower HR and to base the stress level based on a simplistic manner is not an accurate representation of a person’s well-being.
  8. Inconsistent wake-up (from powersafe) experience – wrist flick/double tap doesn’t always work. I usually just press the Power button.
  9. No online logging such as to Dailymile, Strava, Nike+ means no community-based challenges and motivation. What’s logged on the device/phone stays on the phone.

There you have it, a runner’s take on the GF. It’s Samsung’s first real dip into the lifestyle tracking segment and a decent entry at that. It’s the glaring misses, no doubt, include the lack of integration with online communities or for that matter with other exercise apps on the phone such as Endomondo, Runkeeper or MapMyRun. Having said that, there are a many fitness enthusiasts out there who run with their smartphones and who aren’t anal about tracking their exact mileage nor need perfection in their measurements. These group may find the GF a logical accessory to their Samsung smartphones. The competition in this segment is stiff, both in pricing and features. The S5 is currently going for RM1,999 (16GB LTE model) and Gear Fit RM599. Unfortunately there are no bundled pricing.

Disclaimer: The Galaxy S5 and Gear Fit were media review units courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics (SME) Sdn. Bhd. No payments nor complimentary devices were given in exchange for this series of postings.

Samsung Galaxy S5 & Gear Fit: HRM, Distance Tracking and Coaching Functions

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.

The first take was a primer. I felt that it was still too low and I wasn’t quite convinced. But there wasn’t that much difference between them. So I hopped around some and got these readings.
The gap widens the second time around. I chilled out for a few minutes before jumping around like a madman in my cubicle (I had warned my colleagues beforehand) trying to get the HR up. Here’s the final take.

Pretty impressive don’t you think? It totally dispelled my doubts about wrist-worn HRMs.
Distance Tracking
The results of this test is a forgone conclusion. There’s no way a non-GPS device will outdo one which is considered the brand of choice for GPS. The numbers speak for itself even though I started the GF early while stationary waiting for the start of the recent PNM Half Marathon. Here’s I need to point out that I wore the GF without tethering it to the S5 mainly because I don’t run carrying a phone. I’m quite certain that the S5 will do a better job measuring distances than a standalone wrist band.

If I had the GF and S5 paired over the duration of the race, there would’ve been more data captured.

If you’re one who has no problems carrying a phone, you should instead use the phone’s exercise tracker instead. The features available are nothing extraordinary as any bona fide smartphone will have a functions such as the one you see below. There is no difference between Running, Walking and Hiking beyond workout classification because you won’t be able to measure cadence or elevation. In its defense, neither could any phone in the market today.
Once you’ve wrapped up your workout, you could flood your achievement in a multitude of platforms. But not Twitter?
As you can see, the fitness logging features the GF and S5 combo provide a decent combo for enthusiasts but let’s be realistic here. They will never outperform other sports brands’ products. Polar, Garmin and even Nike+ are in a different league of their own due to their years of experience and product integration. Having no online logging is a downer for Samsung in my opinion. Relatively new, Samsung’s activity tracking are pretty much confined to what you can view and track on the phone as you can see from the following screen shots. The storage may be local on the phone but the graphing and presentation are not too shabby. Below are some screen samples.
If you decide on making more changes to your lifestyle the S-Health functions can actually provide you with a touch more help in the form of a “Coach”. This is designed to provide motivation and guidance by recommending workouts or exercises that commensurate with your current level of fitness/well-being. It does that by putting you through a series of questions and assigning you a score.
Once you know where you stand, the next step is to set goals and work towards meeting them. I didn’t find the features intuitive enough and following the questionnaire I felt a little overwhelmed on what affirmative actions I need to take. As it is, I need to poke around a bit to set each goals. If the goal setting can be presented in a single screen (or multiples by swiping) it’ll make the set up process easier. Presently it feels a little disjointed. A bit of refinement is all it needs.
I’ll wrap up my thoughts in my next post on the GF and S5, so be sure to check back.

First Impression: Samsung Galaxy S5 & Gear Fit

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.

The Gear Fit strap is available in several colors. Shown here are the black and lime green options.

With that let’s get some of the (very) basic features out of the way:

  1. Both the S5 and Gear Fit are weather resistant.
  2. Both are very light despite their weather sealing.
  3. Both are equipped with heart rate sensors.
  4. 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.

Installing the AFT on the Mac.

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.

Freaky sounding Baby Crying Detector detected!

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.

Ready for the Zzzzz’s

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.

Adidas adizero Ace 6 Review

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.

Forefoot is wide with a medium to high toebox. Atypical of Adidas.

The removable sockliner is as thin as that found on the GOrun 3 but is overall slightly stiffer and contoured around the arch. And not as hard as Nike’s FitSole.

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 compound is known for its durability.

Darker colored material used are “sticky rubber”. Note the inscription on the outer edge of the forefoot.

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 Torsion strip is so small, why have it in the first place?

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.

Kinvara 5 Runshield Review

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.

Close-up of the weather resistant upper.

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 K3. The paddings are clearly seen on either side of the achilles.

The K5 with beefed up overall padding.

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.

After 100K, the wear and tear has been pretty good with just minimal scruff marks.

The K5 (above) compared to the K3.

7.65oz for the US9.5 K3, 8.25oz for the US10 K5

Semi-rigid heel counter

The K3 has a more minimalist heel counter but not by much.

It may not be obvious but the K5 is quite flexible.

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.

Skechers GObionic 2 Review

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.

Weight with the removable sockliner (top) and without it (bottom)

The GB weighed in at 5.8oz for a US9.5 while the GB2 at 7.05oz for a US10.

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.

Same good stuff

Outsole configuration is exactly the same, down to the placement of rubber plugs and flex grooves

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.

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