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Shoe Review: Skechers GORun Strada

It was roughly a year ago when eagle-eyed shoe geeks spotted Skechers athlete, Kara Goucher sporting a not-too-familiar shoe. There were much speculations on what it was, since it appeared to have no semblance to the existing crop of Skechers Performance shoes. The whole thing became even more mysterious when I was requested to pull down some photos of it on FB, even when the name and photos of it were already circulating online (if you know where to look then).

Fast forward to end of June when the shoes finally landed on our shores and a pair was made available to me for a review. So, is the GORun Strada all that cracked up to be? Let’s take a look.

If I’d previously mentioned that the GORun Ultra (GRU) was Skechers Performance’s most mainstream shoe, then the Strada has supplanted that title. It has been mentioned that the Strada is Kara Goucher’s training shoes (she having trained in the stability Nike Air Structure when she was sponsored by the Beaverton-based company). With that in mind, you can basically imagine a shoe that is, ummm, more shoe – thicker stack heights, more overlays, thicker padding – which in turn chalks up more weight, a full 0.35oz heavier than the mushier GRU2.

Here are some specs for the nerdy ones out there:
Stack height (per Skechers website): 17/25mm (forefoot/heel)
Drop: 8mm
Weight: 10.4oz (US10)

Where the other GORuns have greater use of mesh material, the Strada is not constructed out of a single-piece upper. Instead, larges swathes of thicker synthetic strips and overlays cover much of the upper. On the lateral and medial side of the upper where the large S logos sit, large pieces of synthetics form what the company called the “Layered Support Zone”, which I think was to provide a good midfoot lockdown. Personally, the jury is still out on that claim, as I’ll explain below.

Like any traditional shoes, the Strada’s tongue is padded but not gusseted. A good thing that it didn’t slide around though, so it doesn’t really matter in this case. If you use all of the 8 eyelets, there’s just a bit of it left to prevent the laces from rubbing the top of your foot. Reflective accents are sufficient and are located on the tips of the toe box and logo print on the heel counter.

The S logo is reflective.

At the back, the shoe gains much more structure and stiffness over all other GORun models. More than the front half of the shoe, the rear’s construction truly influences the Strada’s ride on the run.

Close-up of the padding.

The padding on the achilles section (the yellow bit) is very substantial.

 

Rigid external heel counter.

There’s enough room in the toebox for the toes to wriggle. The upper material doesn’t really stretch but thankfully there’s no concern about your digits being cramped into a sardine-can like space. As always with Skechers shoes, 2 sets of laces are provided.

The removable insole is stiff, thick and firm, totally different from that of the GR4 and GRU. The Strada’s is on top followed by GR4’s and GRU’s. The Strada’s no longer sport the herringbone design seen on the other two.

The substantially thicker insole (especially up front) of the Strada’s is evident.

The upper sits on what I felt was a wider midsole platform – still Resalyte, although I think tweaked to be a little firmer than the GORun 4’s to provide greater stability for the wearer. There’s no softer crash pad on the outer heel side because it’s still a shoe that’s promoted to enhance midfoot strike.

I’ve no idea what those holes in the midsole are supposed to achieve.

Noticeably, the outsole is now dual density, comprising of firmer black sections and the regular soft foam sections. Perhaps it’s just a cosmetic decision but other than the outer heel use, I’m uncertain of the purpose of the diagonally positioned firmer rubber (the black parts). From the observation of the wear marks on my shoes, the abrasion marks are located in a slightly more forward position and not directly under the arch/midfoot.

2 reflective strips on each side of the toe box. Viewed from the front, the black and white outsole reminded me of Cruella de Ville’s locks!

I received the Strada when I was tapering for GCAM15 so it was an appropriate time to get some maintenance miles in them. They felt rather stiff out of the box, and one of the things I noticed was the propensity to twist my ankle running in them especially when negotiating changes in terrain and turns around the KLCC Park. After some thinking and looking at the photos, the reasons are two-fold. Firstly, the upper lockdown is too slack especially in the top 2 eyelets. Due to the stiffness of the upper and the overlays used, you’ll need to really lash down the laces for a good fit. Secondly, the heel collar padding was a little too much in my opinion. From the photo below, it’s obvious that my ankle wasn’t well secured. You may argue that I didn’t lace up for the photo shoot but I’ve lined up a separate post to compare the Strada’s collar fitting against some shoes in my rotation to give you a better idea.

See the space around the collar? The thick padding along with the shape of the heel cup didn’t give me a secure fit around the area. I’ll explain the presence of the ruler in a separate post.

There was also the issue about the overlays surrounding the first eyelet which presses down on my 4th toe. The irritation was reduced by not lacing the first row. This isn’t the first time I’ve experience this in a pair of Skechers. I’ve used the knife on the GRU as well to alleviate the issue, cutting away the thick strip of synthetic. Do note, however, that this is a personal peculiarity. None of my friends reported this.

The ride of the Strada is certainly firmer than that of the GR4. You don’t sink into the midsole but rather get a quick and firm bounce back. In fact, I quite like the tuning made on the Resalyte material, which is more forgiving than the GOMeb Speed 3’s. It would be interesting to see the same midsole tuning in a lighter and race oriented model in the future. I’ve not had any issues with traction on dry conditions (have not had a chance to wear them out on rainy weather). While not exactly clunky, it’s hardly sock-like. As mentioned earlier, the fitting around the collar could be better.

I’ve logged 50km in the Strada and there are signs of scuffing on the exposed areas of the outsole, no different from that of the GORun series. The harder rubber sections appear to weather the use better, although still not exceptional.

If you’re one who wished for a traditional daily trainer from Skechers, this could be it. You should, however, not expect the lightweight, responsive and flexible package that has become the trademark of the GORun series. If you’re looking for structure in a pair of shoes for mileage work, then the Strada should be in your consideration, barring any fitting issues. The competition out there are Nike Zoom Structure, Asics GT-series and Brooks Adrenaline. That said, I find the Strada to still be a little more flexible, rides smoother after broken in, and cheaper compared to those mentioned.

Disclosure: The Skechers GORun Strada is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia and is now available at all Skechers stores for RM419 (men) and RM399 (women).

Sony Smart B-Trainer Review

Working out, specifically running, to music isn’t something I normally do, mainly due to safety reasons. However, under certain circumstances and in a secure environment, doing so can play a part in getting the workouts done. The 6 weeks of training prior to tapering for GCAM saw a number of double workout days and increase in mileage. Anyone can run a marathon but if one has a time goal, you need to put in the work. Since I’m not genetically gifted it’s been challenging, like any paths towards improvement should be. Music makes those hard days a little more bearable.

Note: I’m not here to debate the merits and demerits of plugging in when running. Whatever rocks your world. However, please read the cautionary note at the bottom of this post.

That precursor out of the way, let’s get on to the Sony Smart B-Trainer (SBT). The SBT is the 2nd wearable from Sony that I’ve had the experience of using. The first being the NWZ-W262 Meb Special Edition [review]. Since the W262, what a difference 3 short years have made. Where the W262 and W273S were mostly about the music, hence their Walkman branding, the SBT is a different beast. To the point that the company tries hard not to associate it with the Walkman. Nestled within the earpieces are Heart Rate, GPS, Accelerometer, Gyro, e-Compass, and Pressure sensors. Other features are of course the MP3 player, NFC, and Bluetooth components. It’s the market’s first all-in-one device that I know. No longer will you need to slap on the chest or wrist straps or hook up your smartphone or iPods. Because it’s IPX5/6 and JIS/IEC waterproof grade, you can wash it or wear it swimming (if you must have music while doing your laps in the pool).

Out of the box, the SBT looks very unassuming. Several sets of buds (for regular or swimming use), HRM covers, a carry bag, USB charging cable/dock, and quick guide.

The included pouch is to store the device and the accessories.

There’s a holder or hook thingy to secure the SBT

From left: HRM covers, swimming buds, regular buds

The iconic Walkman logo is hard to shake off. The exposed pins on the right ear piece are charging contacts, not heart rate sensors.

Slide the right earpiece into the charging dock like so.

Red indicates charging and green, complete.

Even though there’s always the excitement about using new gear straight out of the box, it’s my habit to first charge it up. Slide the right ear piece into the dock and plug the dock into the computer’s (PC or Mac) USB port. You’ll get a prompter to install either the Media Go (for Windows) or File Transfer (for Mac) software. (Windows Media Go (how-to setup) | Mac File Transfer how to setup). The installation is very simple and this software allows you to manage your music files, just like iTunes. The supported audio files are MP3, WMA, AAC, and Linear-PCM. The interface is easy to understand and use – the gold old-fashioned drag and drop method. To get the most out of the SBT, it’s advisable to export a large selection of music tracks to it’s 16GB memory. This is so that there’s a wide range of tunes assigned to all the training intensities. So go ahead and fill up your playlist.

This is how the Windows based Media Go User Interface looks like. The SBT appears as a removable device on the left panel – be sure to eject it like you would any flash drive before unplugging it. The UI is pretty intuitive and you can see from the highlighted column the track BPM. Some are blanks, which I’m not sure why.

And below, the rather inferior and spartan UI of the Mac version. Even the name of the software, Mac File Transfer, doesn’t inspire any excitement :D. To add salt to the Mac user’s wounds, the Mac File Transfer offers no calibration of the music tempo. There’s a workaround though, and to do that you’ll need the smartphone app – more of that in awhile.

It takes a couple of hours (max 2.5 hours from zero to full) to top off the battery so while that’s going on, it’s time to download and install the B-Trainer smartphone app to ensure that you get the most out of the device. It’s available for free on the iOS and Android (iOS | Android) platforms. This is the app that will get you going like setting up of a training plan, charting your workouts and getting everything sync’d with the device, not to mention the calibration of the track tempos done. With the app installed on the phone, it’s time to pair both the SBT with the phone. I had the opportunity to test it out with the Sony Experia Z3+ and connectivity is ultra easy with NFC (on the SBT, the NFC sensor is located on the right earpiece). On my iPhone 5S, I’d to toggle to the Bluetooth settings to get that done. Next, 2 screens will guide you on how to wear the SBT properly, which is important since the HR sensor needs a good contact with the outer ear to get an accurate HR reading.

Next will be the app settings you may want to get out of the way. It’s not something critical which can’t be done at a later stage.

Sorting out your music tracks.

I mentioned earlier that Mac users won’t be able to get the File Transfer software to calibrate the music tempo? You get around that limitation by going into the smartphone app menu and selecting Device Info > Retrieve song information and follow the onscreen instructions.

There’s a wide variety of training modes that are up for selection. For example, you could train by time, calories burned, pace or use the preset Fat Burning or Endurance training modes. There’s also the Custom option where you can tweak to your heart’s content, right down to what data you want read to you and at what intervals. Due to Sony’s partnership with Asics, there’s also the  Do note that whenever you select a workout mode, you’ll need to sync it to the SBT. Otherwise, the SBT will run on the same mode as the previous workout. I kept things simple and opt for the Free training mode every time. A great thing about this is, once sync’d, you can pretty much leave the phone behind and just go run without your ridiculously large phones strapped to your arms.

Set it up your way, if you so choose. Or go Free mode.

Now that all the setup is out of the way, you’re pretty much good. I pretty much had all the gear on for the first run – the Garmin watch and chest strap, and the B-Trainer. Although I’m no expert at determining which is the more accurate, this is necessary for comparison. The SBT’s GPS acquisition speed is impressive, and I noted that as you log more workouts with it, the acquisition gets increasingly quicker. This is consistent with the behavior of the wrist-based GPS devices. HR acquisition is even quicker and once both are established, all I needed to do was to press the Start button on the left earpiece. The Free training mode essentially allows you to run according to your music tracks. There are toggle buttons to allow the forward and backward skipping of the tracks. At the preset intervals, voice prompts will keep you updated on your distance, pace, HR and any other metrics you set to. Press the Info button anytime and the same set of data will be read out too.

Once your run is done, you can sync the data to the phone. Below are some of screenshots from the workouts.

There are several analysis you can make of your workout once the data is sync’d, for example, comparison between any 2 readouts from pace, elevation, heart rate, stride and cadence. Like any social apps worth their salt out there, there’s the sharing of your exploits on Facebook or Twitter too.

 

Past workouts can be easily searched from the logs and they can be viewed by the various measurements below.

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Note: As mentioned earlier, the SBT can be worn during your swim too, although several functions are inactivated in the water. I don’t swim but a friend who does, reported that the measurement is not as accurate given the bobbing motion of the head. He pointed out that his Suunto also has this shortcoming, and thus Sony isn’t alone in this area. The product website does, after all, states that only the music function is enabled during the swim mode.

The Bluetooth button toggles between Device mode and Swimming mode. By default, it’s on and set to Device mode.

The distance readout performed flawlessly and each kilometer was ticked off within 3 seconds of the Garmin. What proved more challenging was the HR reading, which depends largely on how well the device fits. This is critical especially if you’ve chosen the preset training modes where you could, inaccurately, be prompted to slow down or speed up. I was experienced enough to know that I wasn’t running at 170+bpm but beginners may be alarmed. So, be sure to get the correct earbuds fitted.

The GPS lock was good throughout the run, which was done on neighborhood roads. It only faltered when I logged my runs at the KLCC Park where the surrounding skyscrapers dropped the signal a number of times. Tall buildings are a bane to GPS devices and the Sony isn’t exempted. While the wrist-based devices only alert you in cases of extended loss of signal e.g. transitioning from running outdoor to a treadmill, the SBT will alert you each time the signal drops. In the case of my week day runs, drops can be experienced a few times over the course of a workout session, especially when I run along the KL Convention Center frontage. To be fair, the reacquisition is pretty quick.

I’ve used the SBT for a couple of months and the initial few weeks had been like discovering easter eggs. Many of the functions are not as obvious from the get go and some buttons serve multiple functions. Here are some of those that I’ve discovered:

Bluetooth button

  • Short press – toggles between the Swimming or Device Mode.
  • Long press – turns the Bluetooth on or off.
  • Short press (when paired and used with the smartphone) – Toggles between playing songs stored in the sport device and songs stored in your smartphone

Info button

  • Long press – Power on or off.
  • Short press during workout – Info readout.
  • Short press (when paired and used with the smartphone) – Answer or end calls.

Memo button

  • Walkman mode – Play, Pause.
  • During workout – records voice memo via a mono mic. Recording length is configurable via the app.

Memo button doubles up as a music and voice memo recording

Depending on the usage, published battery life ranges between 3 to 13.5 hours. A friend wore it for the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon and managed to squeeze 4.5 hours out of it. If the battery saving feature is enabled (via the app), 5.5 hours is a possibility. Given the size and weight of the device with so many sensors, this is expected.

So, is the Sony Smart B-Trainer for you? On paper, it’s a solid proposition from the company, especially to those who place a premium on working out to music without having to lug around a smartphone or a HR strap around your chest. On top of that, it has every other important features – GPS, HRM, cadence sensor – a runner would look for.

Pros

  • All-in-one device. Has pretty much everything you’d need to track your progress.
  • Option to leave the phone behind.
  • Fast GPS acquisition.
  • Good sound quality.
  • Not noise isolating, hence the wearer retains some awareness of the surroundings.

Cons

  • No cloud sync. Storage and viewing of data are limited to the smartphone.
  • Battery life is around 4.5 hours per real-life use.
  • May be an overkill for those who don’t need as much in a product.
  • Price. Some may compromise convenience with carrying separate devices.

Word of caution: Please exercise caution when plugging in during an outdoor workout. Be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. The majority of my testing occurred at the KLCC Park where there are high human traffic. I don’t recommend running solo with the ears plugged. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume.

Disclosure: The Sony Smart B-Trainer was a review unit courtesy of Sony Malaysia. The SBT is available from Sony Centers and The Marathon Shop outlets in Malaysia and retails for RM999. More information on the SBT here.

Jabra Sport Rox Wireless Review

With the current health and fitness boom, choices are aplenty when it comes to shopping for a set of Bluetooth earbuds geared towards the active person. In my opinion, it all comes down to three factors: fit, sound and price consideration, in no particular order.

I reviewed the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless (SPW) in April [read it here] and found the lightweight premium buds with integrated Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) to offer excellent sound quality. More importantly the SPW has the best and most comfortable fit I’ve experienced in a pair of sports earbuds. That counts for a lot since I sweat buckets and have flippant ear canals that has floored every sports earbud that I’ve popped in. The downside? The SPW needs a smartphone to work and no matter what, it couldn’t connect with the 7th Generation Bluetooth-enabled iPod Nano. Since I dislike lugging my phone on a run, my time with the SPW is pretty much limited. Then, there’s the eye-popping RM899 price tag as well.

There’s a lower-priced alternative to the SPW, and that’s the award-winning Sport Rox Wireless (Rox). At RM549 it’s not exactly pocket change to be sure, but if sound quality, comfort and fit, ease of use, and durability are what you seek in a sports earbuds, it could be something for you.

Where’s the Rox? I already had them on, rocking out some tunes!

“Massive Wireless Sound”

Print on the box pretty much states all the features.

In the box: Carry case, micro USB charging cable, 3 sets of EarGels and EarWings. Not shown are the user guide pamphlet and activation code for the Jabra Sound app

The Rox is not as featherweight nor has the HRM features (and therefore assisted training modes) the SPW comes with. Neither does it have the extensive set of voice prompts of the SPW. It does, however, have the same great fit of the SPW, with 4 sets of ColorCore EarGels and 3 sizes of EarWings in the box. It retains the Dolby HD sound support on top of the standard BT 4.0, NFC connectivity, and is built to U.S. Military standards for weather (IP55), shock, sand and dust protection. Like most sports earbuds in the market, there’s a built-in mic to take calls (should you pair it with your phone).

When you hold the Rox in your hands, you’ll immediately feel the fantastic build quality from the cord down to the metal bits. The Rox comes out of the box without the EarWings attached but since I really like the secure fit it provided in the SPW, I fitted the Medium-sized ones to the Rox. I’ve not experienced excessive bouncing of the cord behind me to necessitate attaching the Fitclip but it could be an option for you.

Charging is via the micro USB port located under the left ear bud cover. Out of the box, this unit charges fully in about 1.5 hours.

A feature unique to the Rox are the magnetic earbuds. Both can be joined or separated to enable/disable the standby mode. Another battery-saving feature is the 5-minute auto off when the buds are separated and not connected to any device. Charging the unit is simple; flip up the backcover of the right earbud to expose the micro USB port and the rest is a no-brainer. It takes around 2.5 hours to fully juice up the unit. Pairing the Rox with the Bluetooth device is also a simple affair. If your phone or device is NFC-ready, you’ll just need to slide it along the Rox’s volume rocker where the NFC zone is located to pair up.

The Rox doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the sound department. Music is punchy and lends workout-tunes the needed excitement to pull you through the workouts. Synth, dance, house, and rock all shine, and while it won’t be the final word in terms of audiophile quality (c’mon, the source files are in compressed MP3 format after all!), acoustic-leaning tracks in Everything But The Girl’s Amplified Heart, SEAL’s Best 1991-2004 Acoustic, and Tristan Prettyman’s Say Anything track in Cedar+Gold albums is as involving. Marc Shaiman’s The Ruling/Graduation track in the Patch Adams score got the rightful ground-shaking treatment while pounding hip-hop grooves threaten to turn you into Snoop Dogg.

The Rox isn’t marketed as noise isolating buds but as the seal is good, ambient sound is almost negligible. The secure fit means going through drill routines on top of hopping and bounding will not dislodge the buds. I’ve done a couple of runs in heavy downpour without losing a beat too. As you can see from the topmost photo, I went with the double-flanged EarGel, which I felt gave me the best fit for the sound.

Bluetooth buds appear to still be limited by the sub-6 hour battery life. In the case of the Rox, the published battery life is 5.5 hours. I can understand this shortcoming since these buds are designed with size and weight in mind. Don’t go expecting a device this small to pack a 3100mah battery! If you need to listen for a longer duration, the wired option is still the way to go, at least until the day technology brings high capacity micro-sized batteries (at a low cost) into mass market devices. The other question is whether the wearer can tolerate a 10-hour continuous listening period. Is it even safe to plug in for that long a period?

So, is the Rox for you? If it’s Bluetooth sports buds that you seek, and won’t mind the slightly higher price (to basic Bluetooth options) in favor of the build, fit and sound quality, then the answer is yes. If you need and can tolerate even longer listening period, stick to the wired type. Personally, I’m hooked to the wireless buds and unless I’m in an event exceeding 10 hours (which is super rare!), I won’t be reaching out for the wired buds anytime soon.

Pros:

  • Great fit and sound for a pair of Bluetooth sports earbuds.
  • Fantastic build quality that’ll stand up to real-world use.
  • Accompanying Jabra Sound app provides sound customization.
  • Unique magnetic earbud cover that doubles up as standby feature.
  • Easy pairing with the 7th Generation iPod Nano and iPhone.

Cons:

  • There are cheaper Bluetooth sports earbud alternatives (but not by much and not necessarily as great fitting and sounding).
  • Battery life of 5.5 hours is 30 minutes more than the SPW but some folks will demand more. Real world experience (during the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon) puts the battery life somewhere around 4 hours. Battery low messages were prompted at around the 3 hours 45 minutes mark.

Word of caution: Please exercise caution when plugging in during an outdoor workout. Be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. The majority of my listening happen at the KLCC Park (where there are high human traffic) and 1K loops around my housing area. I don’t recommend running solo with the ears plugged. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume, nor for an extended period of time.

Disclaimer: The Jabra Sport Rox Wireless is a review unit courtesy of Jabra Singapore. It retails for RM549 (including GST) and is now available at all ALL IT Hypermarket Sdn Bhd, epiCentre, Machines, Radioshack and Viewnet Computer Systems around the country. You can learn more about the Jabra Sport Rox Wireless here.

Shoe Review: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

I can’t imagine how long I’ve put off this review. Now, before that statement made you think that NB served up a lemon in the form of the Zante (pronounced “Zantay”), let me assure that it’s not the case. It’s been one of my firm favorites in the last 2 months of my GCAM15 training. I liked it so much that I wanted it to be my marathon race shoe but it wasn’t to be. It’s evident from the photos below how much I’ve put the shoes to use.

Named after a gorgeous island in Greece, the Zante was one of two shoes launched by NB early 2015 (the other being the Boracay, another famous island destination in the Philippines) that saw a departure from the confusing nomenclature used by NB.

If the term Fresh Foam (not related to a certain golden hop/malt based beverage) sounded familiar, you’d be right. The midsole material was first used on the NB 980. I’ve not worn the 980 and although reviews were generally OK, it was widely panned for wrong marketing – it was neither as plush nor soft as the marketers made it out to be. The Boracay, with a retweaked midsole, has since replaced the 980, while the Zante is an entirely new shoe marketed as a go-fast option.

Link to the Irish eBay site.

M625. Be very afraid of the asking price!

It’s been ages since I last owned a pair of NB. I was a fan of the venerable brand back in the days (my favorite was the M625 you see above, a lightweight performance trainer). NBs were still made in the USA then and had a classy boutique in the KL Plaza. And they were the Volvo of running shoes – built like a tank.

Fast forward 23 years later, my idea of fun shoes are those made with simplicity in mind. Keep the upper design and construction simple, avoid excessive overlays, do away with plastic inserts here and there, and I’m generally good. Which is why I reach out to the GOrun 4, Boston Boost 5, Kinvara 5, Ultra Boost (for recovery runs) the most often. The Zante joins this list of favorites.

The Zante is a really simple shoe. Very simple breathable upper that fit like sock, single density foam, full contact outsole. Herein lies the mystery. Despite the simple take on the construction, the shoe weighs in at 8.25oz for US10, which is around the Kinvara 5’s. 8.25 is still light but if you’ve ran in the Zante, you’d have thought it was a sub 8oz shoe.

The front mesh is  very breathable while the dark section has a tighter weave.

There’s only a sliver of reflective element resides on the lateral side of the toebox in the form of a two-pronged fork. The upper is stretchy and never once did my toes felt cramped. I like how the tongue padding is kept just nice to prevent any pressure from the thin laces on top of the foot. The tongue is connected to an inner sleeve which means no sliding around – no stopping to readjust the tongue which means the wearer can just enjoy the running experience.

Tongue is integrated with the inner sleeve.

 

The internal heel counter is soft compared to the monstrous types seen on the Kayano 21, for example. There’s no rubbing whatsoever, and the best thing is the absence of unnecessary weight. The collar isn’t notched, and the padding not overboard. Heel lock down is fantastic as it is.

The removable insole is soft and perforated, and feels like that of the DS Racer.

The Zante has stack heights of 23mm and 17mm (heel/toe) for a 6mm drop, not too low to turn off traditionalists. The midsole foam has a honeycombed pattern – concave on the lateral side, convex on the medial.

As mentioned earlier, the outsole is a full contact one, made up of hexagonal lugs. The lugs aren’t that deep nor are they of the hard-wearing variety. They have a nice grippy feel on all the surfaces (wet or dry)  I’ve run on, from synthetic track, sandy road shoulders, hard tiles to tarmac. After 190KM logged, you can see that it wears better than Skechers’ foam but inferior to the Continental rubber used by adidas in the higher end models. I reckon I could push the mileage to 400KM before the forefoot lugs are sheared down to the base.

Forefoot wear is obvious but quite even.

 

Wear signs on the outer heel of the left shoe.

 

With the full contact outsole and a substantial toe spring, which you can see from the photo below, the Zante treats the wearer to a fast and smooth ride. The Zante feels more balanced shoe than the heel-heavy Boston Boost 5, more responsive than the Kinvara 5 and fits better than the GOrun 4. There’s not a stitch on the Zante that’s wrongly put together and it’s easy to see why that even at the beginning of the year, Competitor.com awarded it their Road Shoe Of The Year. I’ve ran my 10K PR and have enjoyed nearly every run from track workouts to 23K in them.

It’s unfortunate then that I’m unable to wear them for the marathon owing to its firmer forefoot cushioning. While ideal for races up to the half marathon, I’ve experienced some forefoot soreness after 21K. Faster and more efficient runners may be able to take it further than I could. If you belong in that category, you’re going to really enjoy the Zante for all its worth.

The New Balance Zante retails at RM439.00 (going rate for shoes these days!) and is already available at all NB and Marathonshop outlets.

Giveaway Results – Jabra Sport Rox Wireless

Wow, the response to the giveaway was simply fantastic! And the winners of a Sport Rox Wireless each are…


Jabra Malaysia will be in touch with you on the prize delivery. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the great sounding buds pretty soon.

Thank you to everyone who participated. Please continue to follow the blog for gear reviews, running related posts and future giveaways.

Finally, huge thanks to Jabra Malaysia for sponsoring the 2 units of the Sport Rox Wireless!

Giveaways: Jabra Sport Rox Wireless

Last month I reviewed the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless which you can read up here. I’ve also posted the Jabra Sport Rox Wireless here, and you can also head on to the product site to find out more about it.

Here are the specs of the Sport Rox, which is essentially the Pulse without the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Click on the image below to enlarge.

Now comes the exciting bit – Jabra Malaysia will be giving away not one but 2 units of the Sport Rox Wireless earbuds. Each unit retails at RM549! The raffle opens June 1st 2015 12am (Malaysian time) and ends June 15th 12am (Malaysian time). As always, the draw will be randomly determined via Rafflecopter. Here’s how it works:

  1. To enter, simply leave a comment in this post (it can be a simple “I want the Rox!” or a sonnet but no extra beanie points for creativity though :D ). Be sure to leave your email, otherwise there’s no way Jabra Malaysia can get in touch with you if you win.
  2. You must also like the Jabra Malaysia Facebook Page.
  3. Be sure to enter your valid email.
  4. Opens: 12:00AM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 1st 2015.
  5. Closes: 12:00AM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 15th 2015.
  6. The 2 winners will be randomly drawn by Rafflecopter.
  7. Announcement will be made on this blog by 6:00PM Kuala Lumpur Time (GMT+08:00), June 17th 2015
  8. Giveaway is only for those residing in Malaysia.
  9. All the best!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I receive no payment nor commission for the running of this giveaway.

Salomon X-Scream 3D Initial Impression

Salomon, the outdoor gear company from Annecy, France has pretty much the trail and mountain running market cornered. Any outdoor person worth his/her gnarly toes will know that the brand invests a lot in R&D, its stable of ultra talented (and good looking) athletes, and of course producing great products. Redefining traditional products in terms of design, material use and functionality has been synonymous with the brand. The S-Lab Skin Hydro packs (the 2012 12-liter version was reviewed here) and the S-Lab Exo TwinSkin Compression Shorts as just 2 examples of great design coupled with performance.

With close to 20% market share in this niche yet fast growing segment secured, Salomon is now training its sights on road-running with its recently launched CityTrail series of shoes. The hybrid take on the shoes can actually be traced back to the days of the XT Mission. What we have today is the X-Scream 3D, with several more models to hit our shores in the months to come. CityTrail, if you haven’t already guessed, represents gear designed for use in a mixed conditions that a city provides. Grassy parks, sidewalks, and stairs, and surfaces like concrete, tarmac, packed dirt – those are the playground for the X-Scream 3D.

Photo courtesy of WOS.

I was one of the fortunate ones invited to try out the shoes last weekend around the KLCC Park, my weekday haunt. The park has seen tremendous increase in human traffic lately, to the extent it’s hard getting a smooth run in. As a result, I’ve been forced to run the paths less taken, up the grassy sections and knolls, around the concrete frontage of the KL Convention Center, in between buildings, and along clogged roads around the city center. Anywhere and anything goes. I hope I won’t need to be forced to the rooftops anytime soon though!

Out of the box, the X-Scream is quite a looker. It has a typical road shoe look-and-feel but you can trust Salomon to inject some catchy colors to their shoes. In the case of the X-Scream, a bright canary yellow. It’s also one of the lightest Salomon that I’ve held in my hands, though at 11.5oz (for my US10) it’s still not a flyweight. The S-Lab Sense Ultra, Sense Mantra or the X-Series (this one is exciting!) are lighter. Most of Salomon’s proven tech continue to be applied to the X-Scream. The seamless upper consisted of the SensiFIT overlays to provide upper structure, while the medial and lateral toe areas have a 3D stretchy webbing for a more forgiving fit. Padding around the collar is decent and just about right for a road shoe but I felt that the internal heel counter to be too stiff.

3D Flex overlays on the front lateral side

On the medial side

Medial look.

Lateral side

The Quicklace system with a lace pocket is, of course, standard. The lacing works very well with the EndoFIT inner sleeve to provide a secure yet not-too-restrictive fit. Of all the other brands’ adoption of the inner sleeve design, Salomon’s EndoFIT has one of the best implementation. I remembered the first time I tested the Sense Ultra in the store and found the inner sleeve to be impressive.

There’s the usual lace pocket. Tuck them in to prevent snagging.

Moving down, the midsole comprises of 2-density EVA and a flexible ProFeel Film is there to provide some midfoot stability. The thin layer extends from the midfoot to the forefoot via 2 finger-like strips. The X-Scream 3D doesn’t have a full contact outsole. As you can see, the midsection has a cutaway and the center heel has a concave cutout. The Contagrip outsole on the X-Scream 3-D discards the chevron-shaped lugs for lower profile ones laid out in the shape of pentagons. We were informed, during the product briefing, that the lugs are designed to deform and splay out on impact to provide traction and cushioning. It’s all solid rubber in the forefoot while the heel plug is given the high-abrasion variety. 2 flex grooves cut across the forefoot section.

First impressions caught me by surprise, particularly the roomy feel of the shoe. There was no need for me to upsize. The lacing was quick and fast and I needed to really cinch it tight to get a snug midfoot feel. For a shoe that’s supposed to go along with the runner in a non-linear direction negotiating the twists and turns, it’s important to have a secure lock down. Over the course of a short 3.4K with the media group and the brand ambassadors around the KLCC Park, I found the X-Scream 3D to be a little stiff and hard. There was some slippage as well around the collar. The park offers plenty of twists and turns, ups and downs with surfaces ranging from synthetic to concrete to grass, which was perfect to gauge the performance of the shoe. Pace varied from a slow 7:15 all the way to fast 4:20 and didn’t slip once. Foot plant was assured, although I felt that the forefoot was a little too wide when taking a fast corner or negotiating a quick change of direction. The ride remained firm and a little awkward and stiff throughout even when deliberately heel striking.

The Salomon logo offers a teensy bit of low light visibility.

Second run was 3 times longer which provided a more stringent test for the shoe. Instead of my usual thin socks, I wore the thicker trail ones which improved the fit. Here are photos taken along the run, incidentally my regular weekday training route. The terrain and surface are all what the X-Scream is designed for.

While the ride was still firm and leans towards the stiffer end of the scale (no change to my opinion there), the fit was way better than the first time due to the thicker socks. There was zero slippage on all the surfaces I ran, which was truly impressive. You can see from the photos that, with the exception of sharp rocks, I cover nearly all types of surfaces in the course of my running! The most recent run in the shoes was even longer at 13K, in pouring rain for much of the distance. The surfaces were naturally slick from the rain and road grease yet I didn’t slip a bit stepping off the squelchy grass onto those bricked surface and more. As I clicked off the miles, the confidence grew and I could really put in a decent pace for the remaining part of the session. Impressive hold on the surface, the shoe offers.

I tracked my run using Salomon’s free CityTrail app (iOS | Android) and you’ll see that on top of the KLCC Park, I included Jalan Pinang, Kia Peng and Stonor.

Aside from experiencing the shoes, I took the opportunity to also give the accompanying app, the CityTrail app a try. The free app allows the runner to experience the routes mapped by fellow runners in major cities around the world. Landmarks are nicely marked as well. There are no routes yet for KL and I was unable to upload my routes due to insufficient points earned. The more points you earn from running with the app, the more functions will be opened to you.

Once you’ve logged your run, you can view the usual metrics and share it out on Facebook and Twitter. And it appears that you earn a point for each K logged.

I can see how this’ll work where there are more users but don’t let that dissuade you. You can download the app for free for your device by clicking on these links iOS | AndroidWindows Phone (unofficial) or head on to the City Trail site (where your workouts are logged) for more details.

In conclusion, the X-Scream 3D is a decent hybrid from Salomon. There are several areas which I wasn’t particularly fond of such as the stiff ride. It doesn’t offer a smooth a transition as I would’ve preferred. While the stiffness is not that obvious when running on the urban trails, it provides for a jarring experience on tarmac and concrete. Despite the concave midsole in the heel, it’s not particularly light either, although it’s not a deal-breaker at 11ima+oz. In contrast, the Ultra Boost is a heavier shoe. The X-Scream 3D could benefit from a softer or minimal heel counter, the introduction of a softer crash pad in the heel for a smoother heel to toe transition. Elsewhere, the shoe shines, from the versatility, breathability, assured traction for urban use, lacing system, to the EndoFIT system.

The Salomon X-Scream 3D retails at RM489.00 and is already available in the country from Salomon boutique located at Pavilion, World of Sports and World of Outdoors outlets.

Disclaimer: The Salomon X-Scream 3D was a media pair kindly provided by W.O.S World Of Sports (M) Sdn Bhd. Review was written after logging close to 30K in the shoes.

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