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Kasumigaura Marathon 2016

When \\\\\\\"blustery\\\\\\\" wasn\\\\\\\'t even the right word. Read the race report here!

31st Marathon and my 6th Consecutive GCAM. Race report here.

 

Category Archives: Gear Review

Saucony Freedom ISO

 

The above is an excerpt from the Saucony blog post about the Freedom ISO. When early photos of the shoe appeared on the Internet last year, the first all-EVERUN (topsole and midsole) shoe from the company generated considerable excitement. Now that the launch in Malaysia is imminent, and that I’ve put in more than 60K in them, it’s time to put out this review.

But first, the specs…

  • Full length EVERUN midsole and topsole.
  • Engineered mesh with ISOFIT.
  • Totally rad translucent Crystal Rubber outsole.
  • Significant toe-spring.
  • Support frame for the heel.
  • Blue-black-citron colorway for men, blue-citron for women.
  • Stack height of 19mm/15mm (heel/forefoot) for a 4mm offset.
  • 9.8oz for my US10.

The Freedom ISO (FISO) comes with a spare set of flat laces. I switched the blue ones out for the yellow purely for cosmetic reasons :) . The shoes look amazing out of the box, the design is one of simplicity. No superfluous overlays and strips. Even the traditional heel counter is absent, replaced by a single thin strip of plastic called Support Frame (a little more on that below). A one-piece engineered mesh upper is a little stretchy and its integrated lace loops complement the ISOFIT system. This iteration of ISOFIT has seen some refinement since the first Zealot, and I’ve not encountered any bunch-ups in all runs. Reflective elements are generous – on the tongue, logo and heel.

The wide tongue has some ribbing which cushion against pressure of the laces. So you can lace up for an even greater locked down feel. Since the tongue is integrated with the ISOFIT system, there’s no chance of it ever slipping.

In your hands, the shoes certainly don’t have the flyweight feel of a racing flat. Although weighing in at 9.8oz (a tad heavier than the Kinvara 8, TPU being heavier than traditional EVA), they’re still what majority will call lightweight. Employing a minimal approach on the upper has allowed Saucony to pare away the unnecessary “fat” and thus offset the TPU “weight gain”.

Flip the FISO over and you’ll see the very colorful take on the full-contact outsole. It’s not carbon nor blown rubber but a compound called Crystal Rubber. I wasn’t able to get more information on Crystal Rubber but it has a translucent look allowing the designers to go a little wild. It’s said to be just as durable, if not more, than the traditional rubber. The shallow lugs are still in TRI-FLEX configuration and the strip of hollowed out section reveals the EVERUN material.

As with the Kinvara 8 (K8), the Freedom is true to size for me. Nevertheless, it’s always good to try several sizes out at the stores. Step-in feel is very comfortable, and you do feel the 3mm layer of EVERUN topsole just under the sockliner. The upper and ISOFIT combines well and it feels like having thin socks with a slab of cushioning on. The stitching around the edges of the wide tongue were executed very well – there won’t be any rubbing around the edges for sure.

You don’t get nor feel much structure anywhere around the upper. Even the so-called Support Frame is not stiff, ultimately minimalist – more of a clip than a full-on heel counter.

At this point, you’ll probably be wondering how the Freedom ISO rides and how it compares to the K8 [reviewed here]. The curiosity is understandable, since both are within an ounce of each other, are light, versatile and have 4mm offsets.

Well, the FISO has more ground contact feel, what with its lower stack heights. Its cushioning is a lot subtler than the softer and bouncier K8. It’s there all right, but it’s not in-your-face. The FISO’s ride is firmer and feels more planted. Those expecting a mushy run will have to look elsewhere. You’d want to go fast in the Freedom.

Transition is silky smooth, offering an assured hold on the road, wet or dry. I’ve took them out in the rain, covered some sections which are pebbly and sandy and have come away pretty impressed with the Crystal Rubber material. It has an almost tacky feel like that of PWRTRAC, Saucony’s other outsole material.

I’ve not had any issues with the breathability in this hot and muggy climate as ours and as with the K8, my preference has been to go with thin socks. However, if your socks collection consists of the thicker variety, I’d suggest upsizing to allow for some room in the toebox area.

The FISO joins the K8 as my go-to shoes of late and both will be in my packing list for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon this July.

The Saucony Freedom ISO will be launched very soon, and will be available in Stadium and Running Lab stores as well as selected RSH outlets nationwide. They will retail at RM529. Do follow the Saucony Malaysia Facebook page (link below) for information about the Freedom’s launch and availability.

Disclosure: I am a Saucony Malaysia Ambassador but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in the shoes. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Saucony Kinvara 8


I’ve worn a lot of shoes but the one consistent presence in my running the last 3-4 years has been the multiple versions of the Kinvara, way before I was even drafted into the Saucony Ambassadorial role.

It’s hard not to like the Kinvara. Light, breathable, low-drop, cushioned minus the mushiness, making it all near perfect for uptempo running and racing over all but the shortest of distances when a firmer ride works better. I’ve worn versions 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the Kinvara and while the ride changed this way and that over the years, the versions still maintain its legacy of light, cushioned and responsive. This makes the Kinvara a safe bet for a large segment of runners out there.

EVERUN TPU material and TRI-FLEX outsole configuration made their way to the Kinvara line with the version 7, but the casual wearer could be forgiven for not “feeling” the touted EVERUN hype, compared to say the Ride 9, Zealot ISO 2 or Triumph ISO 2/3. That was because EVERUN was used just as a heel insert within the midsole, unlike the topsole layers of the aforementioned siblings. In summary, the expected bounciness was less palpable. Nevertheless, I still found the K7 to be an improvement over the K5 (I skipped the 6 since I already had 2 pairs of K5 in rotation along with the Ride and Zealot) in terms of overall durability. The Tokyo and Boston editions of the K7 are still in active rotation but their usage are now under serious threat due to the arrival of the Kinvara 8!


So what’s the big deal about the 8? A fair bit actually, albeit the black/citron colorway is similar to the K7’s slime/black. Here are the high level specs, with the improvements marked with an *

  • 23mm (Heel)/19mm (Forefoot) for a 4mm offset.
  • Full-length EVERUN topsole*
  • Revamped upper which is super breathable*
  • Simplified use of Flexfilm*
  • Inner sleeve
  • Less intrusive Pro-lock*
  • Tongue is now better padded to take the pressure off the laces. It’s also long enough to accommodate full lacing*
  • Unchanged TRI-FLEX outsole configuration.
  • Slight increase in weight. Still a lightweight at 8.3oz for US10. Comparatively, the K5 weighed 7.5oz while the K7 8.15oz.

I’ve logged just over 60K in the K8 so far, which comprised of a 24K, 20K (at sub-4 MP), and many more shorter ones and I can say that I just love how the shoe feels. Moving the EVERUN from the midsole to the topsole was a stroke of genius. Skeptics will think that it’s just a marketing gimmick but it does work – the wearer gets the benefits of the springy and responsive cushioning right where it matters while minimizing the weight gain of the shoe. TPU is heavier than traditional EVA, so a full EVERUN midsole will need to have a wildly engineered upper like the Freedom ISO (my next review!) to mitigate the weight gain.

The fit is similar to the K7, while not as roomy up front as the Triumph ISO 3, your toes won’t end up scrunched together. There’s certainly enough room for foot swelling right up to ultra distances under 100K. The Pro-lock no longer feels as restrictive and with the improved padding on the tongue, I’m able to lace down further without the added pressure on top of my feet.

The K8 is surprisingly stable, thanks to the semi-rigid medial heel counter as well as the overlay on the lateral side of the midfoot. I found the recent marathon-paced 20K done in the rain to be particularly enjoyable. The legs felt less beat up due to the topsole and in case you’re unaware, the EVERUN material is less susceptible to temperature changes, retaining its cushioning and responsive qualities even in cool/cold weather.

With the K8, Saucony has taken a long-time favorite and made it even better. If I had to pull a shoe out from my rack for a last minute race, this would be it. If I had only 1 shoe to run in, this would be it.


The Saucony Kinvara 8 is already available in Stadium and Running Lab stores as well as selected RSH outlets nationwide, and it best of all, it still retails at RM429, the same as the K7. Unless you’re no fan of the new-found smooth and bouncy responsiveness or the miniscule weight gain, I don’t see why you’d opt the 7 over the 8.

Disclosure: I am a Saucony Malaysia Ambassador but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Saucony Triumph ISO 3 NYC Edition


I’ve not worn shoes weighing 10oz or more for close to a year. Even the “bulkiest” in my rotation i.e. the Ride 8, Zealot ISO and Guide 9 are all a shade under 10oz. With the Ride and Zealot approaching EOL (End of Life), I’ve to line up a replacement quickly since I’ve several races in mind up till July 2017. So I popped over to Running Lab to check out several Saucony models, namely the Ride 9, Zealot ISO 2, Triumph ISO 2, it was the latest Triumph ISO 3 NYC edition (TISO3NYC) that tickled my fancy, despite weighing in at 11oz (312g) for US10.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. Of the models I tried, the TISO3NYC has the most accommodating toebox.
  2. I was looking for a pure trainer, thus the 8mm drop on a thicker stack height was something I’m OK with.
  3. Despite its looks, it’s incredibly smooth and well-balanced (more on this later).
  4. The 11oz felt like half ounce lighter. I only weighed the shoe just before paying for it.
  5. It has all the latest tech that Saucony has put into the market.
  6. It’s slightly more flexible than the Triumph ISO 2.

Please note that I’ve not had prior experience in the pre-EVERUN Triumphs nor the Triumph ISO 2 (TISO2) other than the few minutes of wearing it in-store. Also noteworthy is the fact that the NYC edition was a special release in conjunction with the NYC Marathon and has subtle differences compared to the regular TISO3. The NYC edition has stock exchange design cues all over the upper, outsole, sockliner and even box. The light blue colored fabric around the collar and tongue of the NYC edition feel plusher and more luxurious compared to the regular version. What’s unchanged are the EVERUN midsole and TRIFLEX outsole construction – which means the regular version will share nearly all the wear experience of the NYC edition. For simplicity sake, this review applies both to the NYC as well as the regular version of the Triumph ISO 3. The regular version is only expected to land in Malaysia sometime Q1 2017.

Medial view.

Lateral view.

If you’ve been keeping count, the TISO3 is the 14th edition in the Triumph lineage. Its looks is understated probably due to the classy black and blue colorway combo. The ISOFIT inner-sleeve system which I love in the Zealot is also retained although the TISO3 sees 1 less “finger wrap” than the TISO2’s. The tongue is very well padded as is the collar, and plushness is what you’ll get when you pull them on. Because it’s part of the ISOFIT system, the tongue stays in place all the time. Flexfilm strips holds the engineered mesh upper together while around the heel, an external piece of PU Support Frame, marketing talk for “heel wrap/counter” provides some structure to that area. A large reflective strip runs vertically down the rear of the shoe.

Like the TISO2, the TISO3 also features a full length EVERUN topsole and heel insert. However the midsole of the TISO3 has been hollowed out, creating a center of pressure sweetspot with each footstrike. You can now see the EVERUN foam when you flip the shoe over. It has heel and forefoot stack heights of 30mm and 22mm respectively for a 8mm heel offset. Unlike shoes with high heel offsets (10mm and above), 8mm smoothes out the heel to toe transition and one doesn’t get the jarring effect of the difference in stack heights.

The outsole retains the now familiar TRIFLEX configuration. There’s more rubber used now, with each of the strips noticeably wider. Flex grooves are deeper which ups the flexibility of the shoe. In the case of the TISO3NYC, you get a unique 2-color outsole indicative of the up/down movement of the stock indices.

How does the shoe ride? In 2 words: smooth and plush. Regardless of you’re the sort to heel/midfoot/forefoot strike, you’re assured a very comfortable run. If you’re a heel striker, you will certainly feel the silky transition as you toe-off. It also rides stable for a neutral trainer to me. The stock sockliner doesn’t rub my feet the wrong way, no rubbing nor chafing around the arch region. The TISO3 just feels very balanced, in terms of weight distribution. The heel doesn’t feel much more overly contructed than the mid or forefoot regions – just very even, very neutral. If you were to place the TISO3 on a tip of a wedge right in the middle, the shoe will even out on both ends and not tip over at the heel nor forefoot.

Where the Fastwitch and Kinvara will get you running fast, the TISO3 will put the enjoyment back into your long and easy runs. I enjoy the miles I put into TISO3 so much that I ran in it for the whole week without any shoe rotation, with the longest run at 15K. Since I was coming off the recovery from P78, the total clocked for the week was 47K. Most of the miles were in the 6:30-40 pace range but I had no problems pushing it down to 5:45 as well. There’s a limit to how much you can sustainably push it at that quicker pace though. Its weight will eventually prove a factor. 5-7Ks of 5:30s and a sub 5:00 K tired me out. The 2oz do make a difference over the course of a marathon or ultra!

The TISO3 has no traction problems with concrete, tarmac, dirt, and loose sand but avoid residual mud. Some tiny pebbles were lodged in between some grooves but the TRIFLEX outsole (made up of iBR+ and carbon rubber) performed very well. I reckon 700K to be a reasonable number to hit for the life of this shoe.

I’d say that the TISO3NYC is a great shoe to be logging your slow to moderate miles in. It’s ultra plush and smooth, flexible and stable enough for a lot of people out there. Because it carries an extra heft, it’s best fitted into a rotation with other shoes such as the more responsive Ride 9, Zealot ISO 2 or the ever trusty lightweight and race-ready Kinvara 7 (review here). They’re all EVERUN models.

At RM599, the Triumph ISO 3 NYC edition is positioned as Saucony’s premium neutral trainer and is available on a very limited basis from Running Lab Tropicana City Mall. You’ll be able to check out the regular version of the Triumph ISO 3 in a couple of months’ time.

Disclosure: I am a Saucony Malaysia Ambassador but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphone Review

In all of my reviews on earbuds and earphones, I’ve always emphasized on the importance of exercising safety when considering running outdoors to music. I’ve my personal safety protocol when it comes to running with earbuds plugged in.

Music continues to feature in many of my runs these days, more so these days having moved nearly half of my weekday sessions to 5:30am. On double days, I alternate between the outdoors and the treadmill. Without some kind of diversion, I wouldn’t be able to get through the miles without losing my sanity!

When I read about a new sports headphones to hit the Malaysian shores recently that focuses on safety, my interest was piqued. Relying on bone-conduction, the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium (ATT) lets you listen through teeny vibrations generated by patented transducers which are then conducted to the wearer’s inner ear by way of the cheekbones. As you can guess, that method leaves the ear canals uncovered, all the better to allow the wearer retain a fantastic level of situational awareness. I’ve put the gear to test and came away pretty impressed. There are some compelling pluses and some areas which can be improved, so let’s get to it.

Where are the earphones? I was listening to music when I took this shot. :D

The ATT comes in a medium-sized box and inside is where you’ll find a zippered soft carry case, a QRG (Quick Reference Guide), a pair of foam earplugs, a pair of silicone FitBand (should you require a snugger fit), a micro USB cable, and a small 2-year warranty card with online registration. The earphones itself is made of flexible titanium encased in silicone sleeve so you can confidently handle the device with confidence. The micro USB charging port is located under the rubber seal and 45-minute charge from a PC topped up the juice – charge indicator will change from red to blue. The unit probably still had a good amount of juice left hence the shorter than the published period of 90 minutes.

Micro USB port for charging.

Blue = fully charged!

The Volume Up button doubles up as the power button as well and the wearer will be greeted by a female voice prompt. The first pairing was with my iPhone which was very easily and quickly done.

Pairing was very easily done.

Bluetooth and battery level indicator are displayed on the phone.

From then on, it was a matter of getting acquainted with the unique listening experience. Unique because with the other earbuds, surrounding sounds are always blocked out, allowing for an immersive musical experience. With the AfterShokz, you get to hear everything from the sound of the photocopier, colleagues chatting and of course, your music. Audio quality (AQ) is a mixed bag. On paper, the frequency response ranges from 20Hz to 20KHz, which isn’t the most dynamic in the market. Given that the Trekz Titanium adopts an open-ear concept, the music will always lose the low-ends. If you’re looking for thumping bass, the ATT will not impress. However, the mids and highs were surprisingly open and presented with great clarity. The AQ will vary by wearer due to anatomical differences, sensitivity to frequencies and how one positions the device. You do have the option to stick the 2 foam plugs in to block off the outside noise resulting in AQ changes – bass levels are immediately boosted, ideal for casual listening when not working out.

A point worth noting is that there’s a little sensation of vibration when music is being played depending on how loud you’ve set the volume. It isn’t uncomfortable but I thought it’s something I should mention.

Sweating profusely but the ATT still held on nicely.

With the indoor listening out of the way, it was time to take the ATT outdoors. Since I dislike lugging my phone when I run, I paired the headphones to the iPod Nano 7th Gen. To pair the ATT to another device, just hold down the power button to put it back into search mode. The Bluetooth pairing was quicker than my Garmin in acquiring a sat lock, so it was a very quick affair as well.

Again, there was practically no bounce from the ATT, even when the pace picked up. I was able to detect all ambient sounds, passing traffic, approaching vehicles from behind and to even engage in a conversation. It was as if I was running to background music rather than an in-your-face experience. If anything, I found toggling the volume to be a rather fastidious affair, finding it hard to engage the correct buttons.

The ATT fits over the ear and the transducers rest just in front of your ear, on your cheekbone. Looking at the Trekz Titanium’s band, I thought that the headphones will bounce a fair bit as I run but none of that happened. Well, I’m pleased to report that I thought wrong. The fit was secure from the get-go. Changing of the tracks were easily done with the multi-function button on the left earpiece. Double-tapping it will advance to the next track while triple-tapping it will reverse the selection. Pausing requires a single tap as is taking a call (which I separately tested at home) via 2 noise-canceling mics located at the tip of both earpieces.

Techies will be interested in the spec sheet below:

 

So the AfterShokz has surprised me. Granted, one shouldn’t expect ground-shaking audiophile quality music (even though the mids and highs are pretty sweet) out of it but as workout headphones with a strong emphasis on safety, it performs as described. A few friends and I remarked that it would be nice if a 4GB flash memory for music storage can be incorporated into the left earpiece so that there’s no need to carry around another MP3 player or phone.

Pluses:

  • Excellent situational awareness.
  • Bluetooth.
  • Good fit with no bounce.
  • Very easy to connect.
  • Voice prompt.
  • IP55 sweat-resistance.
  • 6-hour battery life should accommodate most training runs.
  • Open mids and highs.
  • Reasonable pricing for a pair of Bluetooth earphones.

Can Be Improved:

  • No internal flash storage.
  • Weak low end
  • Access to volume controls needed some getting used to.

Word of caution: Regardless of the earphone design, please be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume.

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium is distributed by Distexpress (M) Sdn Bhd and retails for RM499. is available at TheMarathonShop outlets.

Disclosure: The product was made available for my use as an AfterShokz Ambassador.

Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara 7

My experience with the Kinvara dates back to version 1 (ViziPro version), the 3, and 2 pairs of the 5 (the Runshield as well as the regular version). You can say that I’ve a pretty good idea on how far the K has come since the early 2000s. Since major changes are put into the odd numbered (1, 3, 5) Kinvaras, I’m in a unique position to have experienced the enhanced editions. Since I’ve ran my best marathons in the 5s, I’ve a soft spot for the Kinvara.

The K5 weighs 7.5oz while the 7 has a slight increase. Do note that the K5 has a substantial mileage logged and the wear and tear is sure to have shaved off some weight. Taking that into consideration, I’d say an increase of 0.3oz on the K7 would be a reasonable guess.

The Kinvara has always been positioned as a low drop (4mm), conventionally stacked (23/19mm) lightweight trainer/racer. Its DNA have been that of simplicity, although the shoe has seen its ride qualities alternating between soft and firm. When v7 was announced last year, I was already enthused, bugging Frank when the release dates would be. The thought of a new midsole material, new upper and a rocking look only added to the impatience! Having used the Ride 8 as a slow-burn trainer, and the Zealot ISO the ultra versatile shod, I was eager to bed in the K7 quickly in preparation for the 3 marathons I’ve committed to this year. Through the help of a friend, I secured the Tokyo edition (¥9000) and promptly got down to seasoning it. The brand had a large presence at the Tokyo Marathon expo, from the looks of the photos here.

Medial side. Moderate toe spring.

Lateral side.

The aglets have the Tokyo identity as well.

Aside from the Sakura-motifs, the Tokyo edition certainly lives up to the visual aesthetics of Toshikazu Nosaka, a pro skateboarder and artist. There’s a bit of Zen in the understated black and white colorway punctuated by the green Saucony logo. It’s been awhile since I wore a shoe with this much white and I’m torn between dirtying it and giving the shoe its due (i.e. putting many miles and getting them dirty and soiled)! #firstworldissues. A consolation is that the entire range of K7’s are lookers themselves, and replacing this pair eventually will not be as painful a thought. The regular colorways that we will see in Malaysia (3 for men, 2 for the women) will no doubt appeal to many, what with the anything-but-boring dark-to-light cues. The Boston Green Line edition which is due out in time for the world’s second oldest marathon has a simpler all-green take.

K7 Boston edition. Photos released by Saucony.

The upper is an improvement over the K5 in several ways, from the greater use of Flexfilm overlays. The sleeker logo, relocated to a more forward position, is now a thin strip which means it no longer presses down onto the top lateral side of the forefoot when flexed at push-off. The mesh looked ever more refined on the K7 as well. Apparently the position of the Pro-lock has been moved back a little for better midfoot support, but the feature isn’t something I particularly needed.

From top: K7, K5, K5 Runshield

Moisture-wicking RunDry lining continues to be used on the sockliner and collar. The padding around the collar is just nice as on the tongue.  The tongue is semi-gusseted which means sliding will be kept to a minimum. What would be nice though, is for the Kinvaras to have a slightly longer tongue – just 2cm extra just so that the laces have a bit more room to secure over.

Removable sockliner is awesomely detailed as well. No Everun foam on the topsole. It lays deeper within the midsole.

The left shot shows the medial construction. Notice that it bulges out slightly, giving the Kinvara a touch of stability. Conversely, the lateral side has a curved indent, promoting a nice transition to the toe-off.

Gone are the reflective strips on the lateral side of the midsole, outsole. All that remains that is shiny is the teensy triangle with the logo. This shot shows clearly the concave lateral and convex/bulging medial sides of the midsole.

Moving along to the SSL EVA midsole, there are changes to be had as well. There are now horizontal grooves on the medial side and a concave impression on the lateral side, possibly to promote a smoother transition. The use of Everun isn’t visible in the case of the K7, unlike the Hurricane and Triumph ISO 2 where the molded PU material can be seen on the topsole as well as in the heel section. Instead, the implementation is much subtler for the K7, with the Everun layer inserted into the heel.

Comparing the outsole of the K7 (foreground) against the K5.

Tri-Flex configuration for the outsole replaces the triangular lugs. While this may seem like a design decision, I notice a subtle change in how the shoe feels. More of that when I cover the wear experience. There are sufficient IBR+ material used to ensure durability doesn’t take a drastic hit. I’ve worn enough shoes over the last 10 years to state that IBR+ is the most durable blown rubber material I’ve experienced. The heel plug remains the dependable XT-900 carbon rubber variety.

I’ve logged close to 80K in the K7 and thus have a better idea on how the shoe rides. Runningwarehouse rate the K7 as firm and responsive, and that would be pretty much my take as well. It has a performance feel to the toe-off phase, not hard but more of a fast and firm bounce, resulting in a very engaging experience. The Tri-Flex configuration makes the midfoot to toeoff transition snappier and urgent than before – I can’t explain how or why, just that it feels that way! Heel cushioning is there but it’s not what anyone would call plush (for that, look to the Ride 8 or Triumph ISO 2) since the Everun layer is placed deeper into the midsole. I like the furrow in the midsole, which extends from the heel to the midfoot area. Besides being a weight-saving move, the longitudinal groove will provide some “center-of-the-pressure” cushioning during the impact-loading phase.

The ride characteristics change as you put in the miles in the K7. Having inched closer to the century mark, I notice a mild midsole softening which should stay the same for the life of the shoe. The wear and tear signs are not as pronounced as expected, a sign that version 7 will most likely outlast my ageing K5 :) . The traction offered by the K7 is exceptional, which is surprising, given the understated appearance of the outsole. The K7’s hold on the wet tiled and brick surfaces felt superbly assured as I ran at pace during one rainy day.

Narrower? Same?

So what of the supposed narrower toebox? I don’t notice it at all, maybe because my choice of socks tend to be that of thinner material. The upper is still a little stretchy, no different from the previous version. That said, if your favorite socks are as thick as those traditional Thor-Lo’s, you may want to first try out the shoes in the stores before committing to a size.

You can surmise then, that the K7 is more suited for uptempo sessions than long easy runs, at least for me. For the most parts, the Kinvara 7 continues its tradition of providing a fast and lightweight ride. The fit remains true and if you’ve been a Kinvara faithful over the years, you’ll recognize it the moment you slip the it on. The slight bump in the weight department doesn’t slow the shoe down. The converse is, in fact, true. An enhanced midsole and a re-tweaked outsole config ensures that all you need to worry about is whether you can keep up with it.

The Saucony Kinvara 7 is available from today at Running Lab – Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets, and retails at RM429.00.


Thinking of running your best marathon on a scenic and flat course? Well, entries for the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon is now open and early bird rates valid till April 28! With public holidays slated at that time of the year, join a record number of Malaysians and I in Gold Coast this July where you and your family can run and then enjoy what the world-famous holiday destination can offer. For details, please refer to my blog post here where I’ve shared some important info for you to plan your travel and race!

Shoe Review: Saucony Ride 8

Every shoe company out there has one or two designated work horses that are durable enough for daily use. For Saucony, the role is filled by more than 2 actually – Triumph ISO 2, Hurricane ISO 2, Ride 8, Guide 9 and Zealot – with the Triumph, Ride and Zealot serving those with neutral gait. Let’s take a look at what the Ride 8 (R8) brings to the table. R8 takes over from the well-received 7 as the brand’s midrange neutral offering. I wanted something with a little bit more structure yet softer than the Zealot, which I love for those speedier sessions, for the long and easy days as my PF heals up completely.

The Ride and I didn’t quite start off on the right footing. I found the ride stiff and firm the first 30Ks but as the shoe gradually broke-in, the greater my liking for it. With 120K logged, it’s definitely the one for those long fat-burning runs and recovery days. Weighing 10.55 oz (301 grams) and with a  26mm/18mm (heel/forefoot) stackheight, for a 8mm offset, the R8 isn’t exactly what you’d call a performance trainer. In fact, it feels clunky coming off something like the Kinvara. However as mentioned, the out-of-the-box feel isn’t a finality. Put some miles in them and the midsole softens up.

#FTT marked on the upper to support a departed friend when he was fighting cancer.

 

Use of FlexFilm takes over from the thicker strips.

 

Plush tongue and collar padding.

 

The upper isn’t overly-engineered unlike how a typical high mileage trainer is. Other than a few PU strips on both sides of the lateral and medial side panels and in front of the toebox, the upper has a number of thin FlexFilm welded overlays. Unless and until an ISO version is released in the future, wearers will have to contend with this traditional setup. Not that it’s an issue, mind you. The mesh design on the R8 is a little more refined compared to the 7, at least visually. I’ve yet to develop any hotspots from running in them and neither have I ended any runs wearing sweaty socks, which can only mean that the upper’s breathability is good. Toebox roominess isn’t as spacious as that of the Zealot’s but still provides adequate wiggle room for the toes. As can be expected of a cushy trainer, the Ride’s tongue and collar are very well-padded. I found myself lacing up tighter to get a snugger fit. Even with the greater all-round padding and bulk of the shoe, the fit of the Ride 8 surpasses that of the other shoe in the same category, adidas Supernova Glide Boost 7 in that it hugs my better. Needless to say, it fits true to size.

One large reflective patch on the back

 

The XT-900 used on the heel is tough-wearing. This is after 120K.

 

The blown rubber looks to be pretty durable too.

 

The yellow parts of the outsole are made of iBR+, Saucony’s blown rubber.

 

Saucony relied on the usual sandwich combo for the midsole. The ingredients? PowerGrid layer and EVA with a dash of softer Special Rebound Compound (SRC) on the lateral heel side. The new Everun compound will only make its appearance on the Ride 9 sometime end of 2016. The full-contact outsole is holding up well at this point with scuff marks on the XT-900 carbon rubber and mild wear on the iBR+ blown rubber on the forefoot. Do note that I’m not the most efficient of runners so I reckon this pair can easily go 600K, more if you’re a “glider” :) .

As mentioned, the initial feel of the shoe felt a little off but once they’re broken in, they felt great. So much so that I find myself reaching out for it a couple of times a week. For a neutral shoe, the Ride 8 feels remarkably stable and smooth even towards  the end of my recent 29K. Unsurprisingly, running quick miles in them poses a challenge somewhat (that’s where the Zealot and Kinvara come in), what with it built like a tank. You will feel the weight after some miles. That said, at 10.55oz, the R8 is still lighter than the Asics Cumulus 17 (11.5oz), adidas Glide Boost 7 (11.25oz), Brooks Ghost 8 (11oz) and even the adidas Ultra Boost. Make no mistake about it. The Ride 8 is and remains an utility shoe. It can do most of the tasks out there and do it pretty well. There’s no single element that stands out or define the shoe. Rather, it’s a sum of many things that work well together. It may not be the lightest nor responsive Saucony out there but at RM399, the Ride 8 is a darn value-for-money utility shoe for the long haul.


Thinking of running your best marathon on a scenic and flat course? Well, entries for the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon is now open! With public holidays slated at that time of the year, join many fellow Malaysians and I in Gold Coast this July where you and your family can run and then enjoy what the world-famous holiday destination can offer. For details, please refer to my blog post here where I’ve shared some important info for you to plan your travel and race!

Skechers GOrun Ride 5 Review

Just when I thought 2015 was a wrap, along came a text from Skechers Malaysia announcing that the GOrun Ride 5 (GRR5) just hit their warehouse. The news was a huge surprise since I was expecting the updated versions of the GOMeb Speed or GOTrail. Fellow shoe geek and GCAM Alumni Nick was kind enough to help with the pick-up and within a few days, I was already logging some miles in them. If you’re expecting the GRR5 to be yet another  same old shoe, you’re in for a surprise.

Old and new.

The GRR5 retains the 6mm drop with the sockliner and 4mm without the sockliner.

If the GRR4 saw a brighter colorway, the GRR5 upped that factor a bit more. Some may opine that the look is anything but exciting but I quite like the snazzy looks of the 5. The next thing you’ll notice will be the somewhat tapered look of the updated version. I’ve always found the GRR4’s fit to be somewhat sloppy in the forefoot. There’s just too much space up front and my toes had acres to spare even when compared with the Altra Torin. I’m happy to report that version 5 has the forefoot fit issue corrected by trimming excess areas. Visually, the GRR5 looks to have a constricted fit up front but fret not – your toes won’t be packed together like sardines with this one. How did they do it? The answers can be found in the photo below.

  1. Move the first row of the laces backwards -
  2. Widen the gap between the laces – nearly 50% more across
  3. Remove the 2 rows of stitching on the vamp

These tweaks ensure that while a narrower last may have been adopted, the shoe remains adequately roomy.

The GRR5 has a more tapered forefoot but with several smart tweaks, the area is still roomy enough. Without the sloppiness.

Elsewhere on the upper, 3D printed overlays are now widely used and an additional lace eyelet was added, increasing the count to 7. Be advised that you’ll find the laces too short to fully secure all the 7 eyelets through double-knotting. Nevertheless I find the added set of eyelets to be redundant personally. If that addition is important to you, you may need to swap out the stock laces for a longer variety.  The Quick-Fit Portal (QFP) is not only retained but it appears to be 50% larger on the GRR5. The downer is that the 2 large reflective strips on either side of it have been dropped, making the empty spaces appear rather awkward.

The Quick-Fit Portal is retained but the reflective strip is reduced to a little thread.

The changes are also extended to the Resalyte midsole. Firstly, the squishy feel of the earlier versions is gone, replaced with a firmly-tuned foam. The firmness is very obvious as you press down on the external midsole area with your fingers. It almost felt like the GOMeb Speed 3. The 3D design elements on the lateral side is a matter of preference, though. I thought it looks pretty neat, flashy even.

Moving on to the outsole, the GRR5 now bears an uncanny resemblance to the GOrun 4 (GR4), right down to the the midfoot cluster. Just like in the GR4, the lugs are deeper with 14 rubber plugs (the GRR4 had 11) adding a bit more durability to the high wear areas. Elsewhere, you can expect the exposed foam to wear out just as quickly. I can spot several nooks and crannies that will snag some small rocks. Have a look at the next 2 photos where you can see how different GRR5 is from the previous version and the similarities it shares with the GR4.

The GRR4’s outsole design (above) looks entirely different from the 5. Also notice the much wider forefoot of the 4.

GR4 on the left. Notice the similarities between the 2?

As a result of the tweaks, the GRR5 now wears a different persona. It now has an palpable performance feel to it even if the weight sees a nudge upwards (GRR4’s 8.65 oz vs GRR5’s 8.80 oz ). The denser midsole foam and the closer fit both conspire to change the character of the shoe. It still offers a cushioned ride except that it’s much more responsive than pillowy. I’d go as far as calling it a cushier version of the GOMeb Speed 3, instead of a cushier option to the GOrun. Needless to say, the GRR5 now feels great for uptempo sessions and Half Marathons. Efficient runners will be able to take it all the way to the Marathon distance.

A tinge heavier than the GRR4 but still under 9oz

I’ve not logged many miles in the GRR5 as I’m nursing a stubborn PF brought about by the Adios Boost. A smattering of 5 to 8Ks are all I can manage in firmer shoes for now as my base building continues. But as I wrap up this quick review, I wonder that with the new firmer take on a cushioned model, where is Skechers going with this series? There’s very little that separates the GR4, GRR5 and GOMeb now and the shopper would be advised to give all 3 a try at the stores before deciding. Give each a good skip-around in the store and let your feet be the judge.

Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ride 5 is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. The GRR5 will be available very soon in Skechers stores in the country and retails for RM439 and RM399 for the men and women models respectively.

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