Category Archives: Gear 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.
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.
- Move the first row of the laces backwards -
- Widen the gap between the laces – nearly 50% more across
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Jabra, one of the world’s leading producers of headsets and earbuds recently added the Jabra Sport Coach Wireless (SCW) to its range of great-sounding, tough-wearing Bluetooth earbuds. Having put it through some sessions, I can now share some of my experiences with you. It helps if you’re familiar with their Sport Pulse Wireless and Sport Rox Wireless but if you aren’t, you can read about them by following the links provided. With that, let’s get going.
The SCW is optimized for cross-training and indoor workouts when paired with the smartphone but it works perfectly fine as standalone Bluetooth earbuds should you work it with your other Bluetooth enabled devices such as the iPod. The SCW rides on the Jabra Sport Life app on the smartphone, the same as what the Sport Pulse Wireless works with. But because the SCW is geared towards indoor workouts and drills, you’ll be prompted to update the app the very first time the SCW is paired with the smartphone. The update presumably includes additional voice prompts and programmed workouts.
The SCW shares the same design queues and battery life (5.5 hours) as the Sport Pulse Wireless (SPW). It’s lightweight, comes with different sets of EarGels and EarWings for a custom fit. Likewise, a FitClip is bundled for the wearer to secure excess length of cable behind the head such that the cable doesn’t flop around at the back. Once you’ve found your fit, the earbuds stay put – I can’t emphasize how important this requirement is, given how the SCW is intended to be used. A flat unit charges up to the max in 2 hours and this is done via a micro USB cable. The charging port is cleverly hidden away under the right side earbud. Connectivity with the smartphone or media player is made either via Bluetooth or NFC and like any sports earbuds worth mentioning, the Sport Coach is IPX55 certified for water and dust resistance.
So far, everything that has been covered is pretty much the same features you’d find on the SPW (minus the heart rate monitor) and Sport Rox Wireless. Now comes the feature-set that’s unique to the SCW, and that’s the audio coaching features. The SCW comes with the TrackFit motion sensor which measures distance, pace, steps, cadence and calories burned. Geared towards the fitness crowd, the SCW has more than 40 exercises built-in, catering to beginners and advanced enthusiasts.
The workouts are grouped into several circuits, 5 of which – CardiCore, TakeOff, BellyBurn, PushPerfection and MadCore – comes preset with the Jabra Sport Life app. Since I’m the curious type, I poked into the MadCore circuit just to see what’s in there. You can see from the screenshots below that it consists of a single set of workouts based on timing and reps, with 10 seconds’ rest in between.
If the preset is a bit much or still too mild for your liking, you can go ahead and duplicate the preset and then customize it according to your needs. You can tweak parameters such as number of sets, rest time, and add additional workouts. In the example below, I duplicated the MadCore circuit.
And since MadCore didn’t sound badass enough, I went ahead and created a circuit called Get Hammered. Just because I could
Thankfully I checked myself before I got started and promptly changed my workout to CardiCore, albeit the modified version. I kicked things off with a slow jog, drills and some ROM routines. I selected Running as the activity and had the Jabra Sport Life app playing from my iTunes playlist. It was just a short run on the warm sunny morning yet I was sweating like I had just completed a 10K. The SCW performed as expected – it sounded just like any Jabras that I’ve worn, which is a good thing. The ROM routines didn’t dislodge the earbuds as I bounded here and there. Ending the warm up will bring up the summary screens. You can add a photo and share your session on several social media sites, no different from the usage experience as the SPW.
Then, it was time to get down, literally, to the circuits. Press the Sports button located on the left earbud to call up the Sport Life app on the phone. Then on the phone, just select the desired circuit. I kept things relatively straightforward but over-estimated my fitness! In the course of performing these workouts, I also discovered that overall strength was unevenly distributed – something not surprising since running is just about the only sport that I do on a regular basis. Therefore the 20 reps of lower body routines were QED since squats and lunges are already part of my weekday post-run regimen. The push-ups are another thing, though
Now comes the part where my rating of the SCW drops a couple of notches. Conceptually the on-board TrackFit motion sensor should allow automatic tracking, progression and guidance for the athlete. It should be able sense how many reps have been executed and therefore knows when to move along to the next phase. The SCW, however, didn’t realize that potential. For example, it was able to track the time-bound routines but found itself at sea with the repetition-bound ones. What this means to the user is that she will need to count the number of push-ups, crunches executed and upon completion of those tap on the phone to progress the workout to the next routine.
Try doing that when you’re huffing and puffing, and trying to get into the zone and you’ll understand how frustrating the user experience can be. On the other hand, the transition screens were functional. Enough visual cues on your routine and the remaining time till the next one will keep you apprised. As will the audio announcements, inter-playing with your music playlist. However, since the SCW is unable to track certain types of routines, slowing down when completing a particular routine (for example, as you’re tiring) will not trigger a motivational message. It’ll be nice if the voice could scream out, “C’mon move it, you slug!” in full Dolby quality sound when you’re struggling 3/4 into your session!
Once you’ve completed the required sets (I only managed 3), you’ll be able to get a snapshot of what you’ve just accomplished. I seriously doubt that what I did burned only 55 kcal even though I rarely pay any attention to that measurement.
I’ve since used the SCW without the Sport Life app a number of times, pairing it with the iPod 7th Gen and the iPhone 6+ with no problems. In fact, switching between previously paired devices seemed easier with the SCW – I just needed to hold down the multi-function button for 5 secs till the blue light comes on for a new acquisition.
So is the SCW for you? It depends on the type of athlete you are. As a runner, I can see incorporating it as part of an overall fitness or post-run regimen. It works well as Bluetooth earbuds and if Jabra can work out the kinks in the tracker (not sure if it’s sensor or firmware related), the SCW will present a good buy for those seeking their first wireless earbuds. The other option is of course the cheaper Sport Rox Wireless, which is a solid alternative.
- Retains the good stuff that Jabra is known for – build and Dolby sound quality, lightweight construction, custom fitting courtesy of EarWings and EarGels.
- Less finicky pairing and repairing process in a multiple device environment compared to the Sport Pulse Wireless and Sport Rox Wireless.
- Conceptually good, catering to the fitness crowd and the cross-training athlete.
- Customizable circuits with a wide variety of routines that the user can mix up.
- Tracking of repetitions is not quite there, resulting in a less-than-desirable user experience.
- Battery life is still constrained to 5.5 hours.
Disclaimer: The Jabra Sport Coach Wireless is a review unit courtesy of Jabra Malaysia. It retails for RM649 (including GST) and is now available at IT Hypermarket Sdn Bhd, Harvey Norman, Machines, Radioshack and Viewnet Computer Systems. Jabra is an official partner of International Triathlon Union events. For more information please visit: http://my.jabra.com/Products/Bluetooth/JABRA_Sport_Coach_Wireless/Jabra_Sport_Coach_Wireless
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 next 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!
As I’m getting ready to catch some really long-overdue break, I thought I’d put out a quick post to recap the notable gear that I’ve had the chance to try the past 12 months. My running are done almost exclusively on roads, within sane distances and timeframes, making my gear needs rather simple. I’ve no need for hydration vests, 50-hour GPS watches, trekking poles, whistles and space blankets ! While it’s not surprising that the resulting list came out rather short, it was eye-opening to discover that my favorites were nearly all old releases! It is true that good stuff need not be the very latest gear to come out into the market nor be the most expensive.
You’ll see that all my favorite shoes, aside from the lime-green colorway preference, were released in 2014, with 2 arriving on our shores early this year. In no particular order, here they are…
- Saucony Kinvara 5 (Q2 ’14). Marathon PR shoe for 2 consecutive years. I didn’t review the regular K5 but did one for the Runshield version which you can read here.
- adidas Boston Boost 5 (Q3 ’14). Its forefoot fit is a little narrow and rides firm up front but I’ve enjoyed my races in them. Reviewed here.
- Nike LunarTempo (end ’14/early ’15). Looks like the Lunaracer but it’s not the Lunaracer. An all-round shoe for speedwork, long runs, Half and Full Marathons. This is one of the best shoes of the year and I rank it higher than the Zante for all the mentioned versatility. Plus the LunarTempo has a forgiving ride and even an accommodating forefoot! Reviewed here.
- NB Zante (end ’14/early ’15). Love it for shorter races. It just edges out the GOmeb Speed 2 due to its softer feel and sock-like fit. Reviewed here.
The observant runner will notice that the mentioned shoes retail between RM399 to RM450. With the price of goods ever soaring, that price range appears to be the sweet-spot for performance shoes nowadays.
I’ve worn the 405, 620, Fenix 1 as well as the Polar RCX5 over the years but where technological advancements progressively make better equipment can be seen on what we wear on our wrists. The Garmin Forerunner 225 is a simple watch, has no annoying bugs like the Fenix, easy to use, and has a built-in Mio-based HRM sensor which is accurate (as cross-verified during an ECG test). The sweetener was the fact that I bought it at the GCAM15 expo at a price that’s cheaper than in Malaysia (with a TNF backpack thrown in!) means this watch is a keeper. In case my wife reads this, I’d like to state that I’ve sold off all the older watches!
Sony Smart B-Trainer. I don’t think I’ve seen a single piece of gear which can do this much. Your smartwatch definitely can’t spin your tunes without a paired phone, can it? Well, this Sony can. It plays music, tracks your activities with a built-in GPS, measures your heart-rate, reads out your run metrics via a plethora of sensors, takes voice memos, works in the pool, connects via Bluetooth and NFC. That feature set alone warrants a special shout-out. Last I checked, the price has dropped to RM799. Reviewed here.
Shoe geeks are already rubbing their hands in glee with the teasers coming out of the Outdoor Retailer expo in the US. But my wishlist is pretty simple. I’ve eyes on the Saucony Kinvara 7 and the Triumph ISO 2 which will be updated with the Everun material. If the K7 fits anything like the K5, my racing shoe of choice for GCAM16 is already a foregone conclusion! I’m also curious about the Skechers GOTrail Ultra 3 (moving away from the GOrun Ultra nomenclature) and other FitKnit models from the company.
What about you? Any gear in particular that you’re eagerly awaiting? What are your favorites of 2015? Let me know in the comments.
Thinking of running your best marathon on a scenic and flat course? Well entries for the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon is open now. With public holidays slated at that time of the year next year, join many fellow Malaysians and I in Gold Coast next July where you and your family can run and then enjoy what the place 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!
Word of caution: Please exercise vigilance when plugging in during an outdoor workout. Be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. The majority of my listening happen in the gym, 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.
With more than half of my week’s running done in the gym, I’m pretty much plugged into my iPod whenever I’m at it. Stock earphones that come with the media devices and smartphones just won’t do it for me. They’re sonically harsh to the ears and don’t fit well, often dislodging from the ears as you get progressively sweaty.
While you can wear just about anything (including over-the-ear types provided you don’t care about the sniggers you get from others) when working out, it’s always more practical to go with sports models which are weather/sweat/shock/dust-resistant. Consider as well, those that come with multiple sized ear-buds and in-ear hooks (usually made of silicone, example here) for a customized and secure fit, or how some brands are supposed to be worn. Case in point, Shure’s recommended method of fitting (see here). As you can expect, there are a bewildering variety for which to choose from and much depends on your preferences and budget.
Since I’ve had experiences with IEMs of varying price-point and brands, from Sony, Yurbuds, Ultimate Ears, Shure, JBL, Bose, and Griffin to Jabra, I thought I could point out some obvious and not-so-obvious tidbits for you, what with the holiday shopping season coming up.
First, some pros and cons on each type.
- No-brainer connection – Stick the 3.5mm jack into the portable and you’re ready to rock and roll.
- Cheap to expensive – Prices can start from RM70 to RM450. Non-sports models can even sport a RM1,000 price tag, but you won’t be using those in the gym anytime soon!
Audio quality – You get what you pay for due to the components (e.g. drivers, cabling) used in the production of the IEMs. Since audio quality should always matter if you love your music, a general rule of thumb is to stay away from those sub-RM100 models.
- Pesky cords – You’re hard-pressed for time and want to just go but untangling those bits are a pain. These days, many manufacturers tend to put some attention to the design by using braided or flat cords to reduce tangling but it still happens to some degree.
- Fit – Cheap IEMs may not come with replaceable ear tips and the last thing you’d want is your IEMs getting dislodged due to sweat. Noise-isolating types will improve sound quality as well.
- Choices – There are a wide variety to choose from. Finding one that fits you well, provides good audio quality and yet doesn’t bust your wallet is often a maddening process of trial and error.
- Wireless! ‘Nuff said.
- One-time setup/pairing – In theory. In the case of Jabra, switching devices will require a reset on the IEM and a fresh pairing on the new device. This is regardless if the 2 had been paired previously, which is annoying. Other makers may have different setup.
- Audio quality – You get what you pay for, although in a critical listening scenario, a wired headphone will almost always trump a wireless one.
- Pairing – If you’ve multiple devices in which your media files sit, such as an iPod and an iPhone, you may need to unpair the previously set device. I’ve only ever use Jabra and that’s one of their misgivings.
- Battery life – Typically maxed out at 5 hours and below. OK for the most part but may be too short if you race an ultra, for example. Additionally a micro-USB cable or a proprietary charging dock (in the case of the Sony Smart B-Trainer) is necessary for recharging purposes.
- Needs charging – Full charge typically takes 2.5 hours
- Pairing – May not be a consistent experience, depending on the brand. Refer to the same point under Pros above.
- Cost – Typically twice (or more) the price of a corded variety.
So here are my preferences:
- Sony AS800AP
- Jabra Sport Rox Wireless (reviewed here)
- Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless (iPhone required since it works best with the app. Reviewed here)
The RM317 (10% rebate if you hold a MySony membership) waterproof Sony AS800AP has been a real joy to use. It has all the ruggedized features, great fit courtesy of the in-ear hooks and multiple-sized buds, and simply sounds fabulous. Its wide frequency response of 5Hz to 25KHz provides a controlled low-end (necessary in a workout setting) yet has enough of the mids and highs to keep you engaged in the train ride home. The AS800AP would be the one I’d bring along anywhere. There’s a significantly more expensive Bluetooth version as well but that one has a 5-hour battery life and a narrower frequency band.
Since we’re at it, I might as well cover a little on home listening. My favorite unit at home is the Sony MDR-1A (reviewed by What Hi-Fi | Head Fi). While there are esoteric and hi-fi brands out there which cost an arm and a leg, recent models from Sony have been fantastic, providing excellent listening experience each I put them on. While home listening doesn’t require the thumping bass of sports IEMs, the music doesn’t need to come out flat either, and the MDR-1A has an ultra wide frequency response to handle just about the genres I typically listen to. The amount of clarity alone was the best I’ve experienced. It works fantastic with the 64GB Mi Note which has a built-in DAC and amp (that bit of power brings the music to live and able to drive most headphones). Additionally, the Mi Note handles uncompressed and lossless formats like FLAC, APE, and DSD, among others, like a charm out of the box. If there’s one media device you should get as a portable media player, it’s the Mi Note (I’d use it like an iPod Touch). And yes, it’s a fine Android phone to boot. Since relinquishing the Note to my wife, I’ve resorted to pairing the RM250 Fiio headphone amp to the iPhone 6+ to get a bit more punch. The Fiio is very transparent in its duties and add no noticeable coloration to the sonics.
Hopefully there are enough tips in this post to get you started on the path to better audio-on-the-move. Keep in mind that great products need not be super expensive. Happy shopping!
Smartphones are ubiquitous these days. If you’re one of those not in possession of a hand-me-down, you would know that the price of a smartphone is hardly pocket change – a month’s paycheck if the brand is that of a certain fruit ;). It makes sense then that you will want to protect that investment of yours. Nope, not insurance (well, at least not what I’m alluding to in this case) but physical protection like the Rhino Shield .
That’s the Rhino Shield Crash Guard you see in the photo. Launched as a Kickstarter project, it was the highest backed iPhone project on the crowdfunding site. The Crash Guard is a 2.5mm slim profile bumper unlike the bubble-wrap thick ones you’ll find in some stores. Weighing under half an ounce you certainly won’t feel like you’re lugging a rhino. Instead of a smooth surface, the designers wisely opted for a matt texture for easy grip. An important consideration since I consider myself a somewhat power user. Unless you’re hardcore butterfingers, you won’t be dropping your phone anytime soon. Even if you do, you can count on the Crash Guard as your final line of defence against phone annihilation. All ports remain accessible with the bumper on, including Beats cans, if you’re one of those users. No issues plugging in my Sony MDR-1A and Shure SE, nor the Fiio headphone amp.
The Crash Guard comes in a nice box and includes the back protector and tools to help you fix the said protector. “Hang on, how about the front screen protector?”, I hear you ask. That’s where the separately sold Rhino Shield Screen Protector comes in, which I’ll cover below. But first some photos of the Crash Guard which comes nicely packed. The bumper comes with a back protector which can be found in a slide-out envelope/sleeve.
So what’s so special about the Rhino Shield Crash Guard? EggDrop Technology. On the inside of the bumper (made of a new polymer blend) is a series of honeycomb-shaped texture which disperses the impact across the entire bumper – much like how running shoes’ midsole material do their job – thus saving your phone.
Before the bumper is fitted, you’ll need to first install the back protector. The thin layer is hardly noticeable as you can see below.
The back of the phone taken care of, it’s time to get the Rhino Shield Screen Protector (see the yellow envelope with the large “Impact Protection” words in the photo at the top of this post) onto the face of the phone. Now, the Screen Protector is the special one in this protective detail if you ask me. Sold separately, it’s just 3 times the thickness of a sheet of paper (0.029cm to be precise) yet offers 5 times the impact protection of Gorilla Glass 3. The Screen Protector is of the clear type and has the following properties.
Finally, fitting the Crash Guard bumper is easy. Snug and secure there’s no sliding around. It’s pretty much a personal preference but I thought the black bumper would complement the space grey model better.
The manufacturers claim that installing the Rhino Shield Crash Guard along with the Screen Protector can protect your device against more than 225 pounds (or close to 100Kg) of pressure. Now, I wasn’t about to use my phone as a test unit but check out the videos below.
The first is the 11 feet drop test. Unless you’re truly confident of your product, this isn’t something one would be doing. You can also watch David Pogue’s test here.
And how strong is the Rhino Shield Screen Protector? This strong. Mind you, I was wincing throughout the video! It’s crazy, man!
With the launch of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the Crash Guard and Screen Protector tag team couldn’t have arrived on our shores at the right time. Per their website, they’ve solutions for popular models from HTC, Samsung, LG, Sony, OnePlus, Google, and Motorola too but you’d have to buy direct from their website http://www.evolutivelabs.com/pages/rhinoshield. Incidentally, Evolutive Labs was founded by some boffins who dabble in Material Science and Metallurgy from the University of Cambridge. Brilliant nerds, I say.
Now, the iPhone owners can get their units from the list of stores nationwide below. The Rhino Shield combo set which includes 1 Rhino Shield Crash Guard bumper and Rhino Shield front and back impact resistant screen protector. The set retails for RM298, a small investment for an expensive device, won’t you say so?
- 1 Mont Kiara – iStore
- Bangsar Village II – epiCentre
- Cheras Sentral – IT World
- Lot 10 – Machines
- Low Yat – Mac Studio & ID Wholesale Smartphone
- Fahrenheit88 – epiCentre & Connect
- Mid Valley – Machines & Connect
- Nu Sentral – Machines
- Pavilion – epiCentre & Connect
- Publika – iStore & My Chameleon
- Suria KLCC – Machines
- The Gardens Mall – Machines
- AEON Anggun Rawang – IT World
- Atria – Mac Studio
- Bukit Tinggi – Machines
- eCurve – epiCentre
- Digital Mall – iStore
- Empire Shopping Gallery – Machines
- Encorp Strand Mall – IT World
- IOI Mall – epiCentre
- Jaya Shopping Mall – Mac Studio
- KLIA 2 – Machines & Connect
- Lim Kok Wing University – epiCentre
- Paradigm Mall – Mac Studio & My Chameleon
- Setia Mall – Machines
- Sunway Pyramid – Machines & Connect
- The Main Place – Machines
- The School Jaya One – iStore
- First Avenue – iStudy
- AEON Seri Manjung – IT World
- AEON Station 18 – IT World
- AEON Taiping – IT World
- Ipoh Parade – IT World
- Palm Mall – IT World
- City Square – Machines
- Desa Tebrau – Machines
- Komtar JBCC -Ascentouch Resources
- Danga City Mall – Ascentouch Resources
- Sutera Mall – Ascentouch Resources
- Batu Pahat Mall – Ascentouch Resources
- KB Mall – IT World
- Ba Zhong Commercial Centre- Pronova
- Prima Square – mc.com
- Bintang Plaza – Optiprimus
Disclosure: The Rhino Shield Crash Guard and Rhino Shield Screen Protector set is provided courtesy of Distexpress (M) Sdn Bhd, the authorized distributor of Rhino Shield in Malaysia.
Note: Be sure to read to the end of the review to know how you can get the Altra shoes at a special time-limited price!
I’ve been intrigued by the shoes from Altra for a number of years. Alas, they were not sold in the country, and are not as widely distributed in other parts of the world which I’ve visited. What captivated me was the trademark wide toe box (marketed as FootShape) their shoes come in as well as their take on Zero Drop which adopts a cushioned approach as opposed to the “ground feel” approach taken by other companies. The only cushioned zero drop shoe I know before the Torin was Saucony Virrata.
The sizing of Altra shoes are slightly different. For example I typically wear a US10 (exceptions are 10.5 for certain adidas models or even 11 for some of Nike’s), but fit the US9.5 on the Torin. The best way to be sure of your Altra sizing is to utilize the Shoefitr Guide Altra included in their product page. Enter your current shoe brand and size and you’ll get the Altra equivalent.
Since the Torin 2.0 is my very first Altra, I’m unable to comment on how it measures up against the 1.5 or other models although I read from other reviews than the 2.0 has a lower toe box (but same width) than the 1.5. Stack height of the 2.0 are 27mm front and back, so it’s not as close to the ground as most lightweight performance shoes out there. In comparison, the 11.1oz GOrun Ultra Road (US10, reviewed here) has a 30/26 stack height.
The entire upper is made of close-knit mesh. Due to the prevailing air quality issues, I’ve not been able to take the 2.0 on long runs to determine the breathability of the upper. I’ve not had sweaty feet from the couple of short ones I’ve managed, though.
Welded overlays with generous reflective strips go round the shoe. The Torin’s upper has a soft feel to the touch. Lacing is the regular type and the flat laces are non-stretchable. Incidentally, the lace eyelets are pretty snug, so a one-handed approach to removing the laces won’t be as easy.
The Torin 2.0 has a segmented midsole which makes for a soft and flexible ride. Comprising of dual layer EVA with A-Bound foams which Altra claims to result in less compression over time
Finally, FootPod outsole mimics the bones and tendons of the human foot where lugs are mapped to the foot. The pods are both foam and rubber depending on the areas of wear. It’s nice to note that solid rubber are used directly under the toe off zone of the shoe because I expect that area to be stressed the most. Deep flex grooves cut this way and that throughout the outsole, attracting small pebbles along the way.
The wear experience of the Torin 2.0 is unlike any I’ve experienced before. Its pillowy plushness is reminiscent of the Skechers GOrun Ultra (GRU) yet with a lower stack height and a zero drop configuration, the Torin 2.0 provides better road feel (albeit still considerably muted) and added nimbleness to the wearer’s movements. Its interior has an almost sock-like feel. All that in a package that are a couple of ounces lighter than the GRU.
There’s a noticeable midfoot bump when you first put on the shoe but that feeling goes away as you start your run. There’s always a hint of bounce that came along with every midfoot landing and forefoot toe off. At first, I was quite conscious of my gait, this being a zero drop shoe and all, but after a few Ks into the run, my pace started to pick up and I was able to settle into a nice momentum. The smooth and bouncy ride was one that was easy to like. It certainly felt refreshing to step away from the “if-you-don’t-feel-the-road-you’re-not-wearing-the-right-shoe” school of thought because heck, it was pretty enjoyable running in the Torin, short the runs may have been. Once well and fully adapted, the runner should have no problem taking the Torin for marathons and beyond.
Nevertheless, the shoe is still a zero drop and thus, some transition is necessary to work yourself into the new way to run on top of letting your body adjust to the added loading on the achilles. Altra has done a great job in providing plenty of tips and information on how to transition to their shoes on their website. Below is the recommended transition period as suggested by the company.
From the purveyors of Zero Drop and FootShape toe box comes the Torin 2.0, a cushioned and lightweight take on the zero drop movement. In my limited time in them, I really like the roomy toe box and its blend of plush cushioning with bouncy responsiveness. Which is why I’m so darn frustrated of not being able to run outdoors with the continuing smog.
Runners Unite has kindly offered readers of this blog a special 30% discount. All you’ve to do is to quote ALTRAJAMIE when making your purchase online by visiting and sending a PM via www.facebook.com/RunnersUnite or Whatsapp Miss Tan at +60124230661. Offer ends Oct 12th 2015, so if you’ve been wanting to try on an Altra, now’s the time!
Disclaimer: The Altra Torin 2.0 was a review pair provided by the Runners Unite and I continue to be frustrated by the air quality and thus missing out on more runtime in the Torin!
Most runners know Saucony from the Lexington-based company’s best seller, the Kinvara. The Kinvara continues to work well for me, having worn it for 2 of my best marathons to-date. It offers lightweight responsive cushioning in a 4mm drop configuration that’s neither too minimalist nor overly engineered monstrosities.
But Saucony has a few stalwarts in its stable of shoes too, from the dependable workhorses like Ride, Guide, Hurricane to the Triumph (review by CY here). On the lighter end of the scale, there’s the Endorphin Racer, Fastwitch (both of which unfortunately aren’t sold in this country) and Virrata. And now, there’s another which is a little harder to peg, the Zealot ISO.
Released as part of the 3-shoe ISO series (the other 2 being the Triumph ISO and Hurricane ISO) in early 2015, the Zealot is a completely new shoe. Some say it replaces the Cortana (not related to a certain IT company from Redmond!) but I’ve no experience in the Cortana to comment on that. It’s a harder shoe to define, since it’s a little of everything – it doesn’t appear as performance-based as the Kinvara, yet the Zealot is lighter than Ride (and just 0.2oz heavier that the Breakthru). Plus, it has an offset of 4mm, similar to the Kinvara. Let me try to break it down as simply as I can, starting with the upper.
ISOFIT, if you’re unaware, is Saucony’s fitting technology, an inner sleeve or bootie that wraps around the foot. The sock-like fit is then complemented by the external cage which functions like fingers extending upwards from the midsole providing a semblance of structure and support to the shoe. The ISOFIT sleeve has a soft spine running down the middle (in blue) and ventilated mesh on either side of it. The construction and choice of material of the ISOFIT allow for a fit that’s just right, never constrictive nor overly snug. The use of mesh means ventilation isn’t compromised either. The vamp sports a zigzag patterned mesh and the upper is held together by soft PU and welded overlays, as well as harder plastics towards the rear.
The cage looks like a stencil cut-out. Since the material used isn’t as thick as those from Salomon or adidas, the weight of the shoe is kept low. The Zealot’s flat laces are minimally stretchable and secures the shoe well in all my runs without coming undone. I’ve tested this via single or double knotting and I always ended my runs not having to stop to re-tie my shoes.
Although the fit is near perfect for me (forefoot is a little roomier than the Kinvara), some could experience minimal bunching of the ISOFIT spine should they cinch the laces a little too tightly. When auditioning the shoe, just try out several sizes to be sure you get your best fit.
At 8.95oz (254g) for my US10, the Zealot would be in the sweet spot for many runners as their marathon shoe. In contrast, Asics Nimbus 17 and Cumulus 17 weigh 11.4oz and 12.6oz (US9) respectively. Each ounce of weight saved without having to compromise on the support and cushioning counts a lot over the course of 42KM. Running light is even more crucial if that 42KM comes after a tough swim and an energy-sapping bike ride.
The all-round padding isn’t excessive. Saucony wisely left the plusher treatment to the Triumph ISO. So what we get on the Zealot feels just nice. RunDry material around the collar is standard in the ISO Series and Kinvara, so you can find the same here as well. Since the tongue is part of the ISOFIT system, you won’t be annoyed by any slippage.
Around the back, an external heel counter cups and locks the heel down nicely. I like the fact that the piece of plastic is configured differently – broader near the base for support and in strip form towards the collar. Again, weight savings without compromising the support.
Still on the upper, there are plenty of large reflective elements all over the shoe, even on the outsole. Added to that is the ViziOrange colorway that will ensure you stand out under all lighting conditions.
There’s a considerable amount of midsole flare here, just like what you would see on the Kinvara.
The perforated sockliner is removable and sits on top of a layer of thin foam.
The task of support and cushioning falls on the PWRGRID+ (Powergrid+) midsole. The crash pad, the yellow section in the photo below, is made of SRC (Special Rebound Compound), and it’s meant to offer a smoother heel to toe transition.
The outsole is largely a full contact one. As you can see, the instep is filled in (blue triangular foam in the arch area) resulting in a pretty stable shoe. While there are scuffing marks there – it’s made of foam anyway – other sections of the outsole are without a doubt durable. The yellow lugs, interspersed with deep flex grooves, from the front to midsection are made of IBR+ (Injection Blown Rubber) which is the firmest form of blown rubber I’ve experienced. The orange bits at the heel section are Saucony’s XT900 carbon rubber, which are even harder to the touch. So how does it all come together?
I’ve logged over 50K in the Zealot and one of the reasons why I nearly always reach out for it is because of its versatility. It’s built like a traditional shoe, but has a 4mm drop similar to that of the Kinvara (my favorite marathon shoe). At the same time it’s at least 2 ounces lighter than most trainers in the market today. It has a plush step-in feel but takes on a different character the moment you take your first steps, which is when you’ll notice the firmness of the outsole. Thankfully, that initial jarring effect is tempered by the softer Powergrid+ midsole, so the firmness never gets into uncomfortable territory. The same could be said of the heel where the slight stiffness goes away once you get into a groove.
This is a shoe that will be enjoyed running at a brisker pace due to that responsive nature. Toe spring is moderate but enough to get you a smooth and snappy toe-off.
The longest distance covered in the Zealot was a 21K of varied pace and elevation. It’s light enough that I’m able to get into a quick cadence going up the hills and protective enough to dampen the shocks coming down the other side. I encountered no hotspots nor any irritation of any sort from the ISOFIT sleeve. A friend has even worn it for a 60K road ultra and raved about it.
The Zealot is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile shoes out there. Some may feel that not having a standout quality is a sign of weakness but just look at the football giants and their utility players who can play in any position, covering end-to-end and plugging holes in the team. There’s always room for such players in the clubs. And there’s always room in the crowded shoe cabinet for a shoe like the Zealot.
Disclaimer: The Saucony Zealot ISO is a sample pair provided courtesy of Saucony Malaysia. It is available now from Running Lab and Stadium outlets for RM469.