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  • Icebug - Featured and Main

Review: Icebug Mist RB9X Shoes

A pair of shoes from a Swedish company named “Icebug” wouldn’t seem to be appropriate for running in the hot, humid summers of the American South, however, I was quite surprised – they’re pretty damned good.

Though you may not have seen anyone running in Icebugs lately, the company has been around for almost 15 years. They have only had a market presence in the United States for the past few years, however, and just recently opened a unique testing center in Shale Hill, Vermont where the public can try out the shoes at their on-site obstacle course.

I tried out a pair of their Mist RB9X shoes over the past couple of months. Here’s a summary of their performance for both running and run commuting.

Icebug Mist RB9X

Icebug Mist RB9X (US Size 10)

“We were frustrated by having to choose between slipping and saying [sic] no to outdoor activities because of the risk of slipping. The company started as a result of us wanting to be able to stay active year-round.”

– On the origin of Icebug shoes

Initial Wear and Run

The shoes fit great and are true to size. I love the off-center tongue loop and the cushiony feel of the tongue and collar. It makes for a very comfortable feeling around the ankles.

They’re slightly flexible. They initially feel quite stiff and you don’t really feel any cushioning underfoot.

The tread is amazing and makes Icebug shoes stand out from the competitiors. The crazy combination of rubber knobs, raised surfaces, little rounded buttons, and corrugations seem out of place on a road shoe, so I was a bit leery at first about how the Mists would run on streets.   

The upper is made of a tough, durable mesh. While you would expect a mesh upper to be breathable, the Mists seem to surpass that expectation. I had a fan on nearby when I first tried them on and you could feel the breeze pass through extremely well.The only shoe that I’ve worn with a similar breeziness were the Salomon Techamphibians, which – oddly enough – were the shoes I used for run commuting when I first started almost 7 years ago.

Quick Facts

5 mm Drop

9.4 oz. Weight

Rubber 9 Extreme Outsole

Minimal Cushioning (though listed as Medium)

One Color Option (Shell and Sapphire)

My test run – a 5.3-mile morning run commute through urban and suburban neighborhoods – went quite well. My initial thoughts after I finished:

  • The shoes are stiff, but feel fine on the run
  • Terrain grip is excellent
  • Feet did not get warm on hot day while running
  • Did not feel rocks or roots underfoot

To expand upon several of the points above, let’s take a closer look at the traction on the sole.

The tread pattern is grippy on flat, smooth surfaces and very functional on rough terrain. They worked extremely well in all conditions I tested. 

Extended Test Period – Road and Trail

After running over 60 miles in the shoes, I’ve found that the shoes pair best with a slightly padded sock, such as the Thorlo Experia or Trail Runner, rather than a thinner one like the Drymax Lite-Mesh sock. The stiff insole allows the foot to slide around inside a bit too much otherwise. Buying a half size smaller may solve the issue, though I prefer a looser fit in the midfoot and toe.

The shoes are solid performers in the city. You never know what kinds of conditions or terrain you will come across during a run commute, and, in my case, whatever those happened to be, the Mists handled them exceptionally well. Here are some of the surfaces and/or conditions that I encountered:

  • Wet and dry concrete
  • Wet and dry asphalt
  • Dirt trails
  • Stream crossings
  • Slightly muddy trails
  • Heavy-volume rainstorms
  • Gravel
  • Medium-sized stone paths (think railroad grades)
  • Dusty, pollen-covered, and wet steel road plates
  • Wooden footbridges

On my trail test runs, I took them through several stream crossings and was amazed at how well they both shed water and returned to their pre-submerged state. With some trail shoes, the cushioning and upper retain moisture for a long time, leaving you with wet feet and soggy, squishy, heavy steps for up to a mile-and-a-half afterwards.

These shoes would be ideal for obstacle course racing, where the terrain and surface conditions change frequently and you are constantly getting wet. Apparently, I was not the first to realize this – Icebug was just signed on as the official footwear sponsor of the 2015 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships.

Pros

  • Comfortable, airy upper
  • Durable construction
  • Rock-solid tread for any conditions
  • Drains water extremely well
  • Dries quickly
  • Great for road and trail

Cons

  • Little cushioning
  • Rubbed a little on longer runs (8+ miles)

Summary

For the run commuter, the Icebug Mists will treat you well overall. They’re a good, all-around run commuting shoe, in which one can easily switch from hopping paver stones along a sidewalk, to bombing down steep trails and plunging through streams on the detour in to your office. Best for up to mid-distance commutes (5 – 8 miles), and those accustomed to running in minimal shoes.

Icebug’s International Website

* Disclosure: Icebug provided us a pair of Mists for this review.

By |July 13th, 2015|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments
  • 633

Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20

Fastpack 20

Source: Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20 (more…)

By |May 11th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Ultimate Direction – Fastpack 20
  • Hoka Clifton - Featured 2

Review: Hoka One One Clifton

The Hoka One One Cliftons are a lot of shoe. When I first pulled one out of the box and turned it over in my hands, it almost felt like I was holding a football at the park, preparing to throw it. But, that look and feel is exactly what makes Hokas, well…Hokas.

Hoka One One emerged in 2010 and turned the tables on the minimal shoe craze that was raging strong with their head-turning “maximalist shoes,” designed to provide the foot with maximum protection against the ground underneath. Since they hit the market, runners wearing Hokas have consistently been performing very well at both trail and road races throughout the years. They’ve been doing especially well in the last two years in ultramarathons, worn by such notable racers as Sage Canaday, Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, Darcy Africa, and Jen Benna (who recently placed first female at the American River 50-miler whilewearing Cliftons!).

With all that in mind, Hokas seem like they would be a fantastic shoe for run commuters. We run consistently throughout the year over terrain that, while not usually woodsy trail, can be quite similarly irregular, jagged, rough, and variable. And, unlike a nice soft trail, our commutes are spent pounding bone-shaking pavement day after day, usually with an additional 8 – 10 pounds in our packs.

So, when Hoka One One sent me a pair of their latest model Cliftons to try out, I was pumped. Here’s how they performed for run commuting.

Hoka One One Clifton

The Hoka One One Cliftons (US Size 10)

Initial Wear and Walk

Since the drop in these shoes (5 mm) was a bit more than what I normally run in, I wanted to start off by wearing the Cliftons for a short one-mile walk.

The shoes fit snugly and were slightly tighter in the midfoot region, with more ample space in the toe box. The first few steps were surprising; it was like walking across couch cushions on my living room floor – springy, bouncy, comfortable.

The midfoot region pushed up into my arch at first, but relaxed after about a half mile.

The tread pattern is grippy on flat surfaces and very functional on rough terrain

Quick Facts

5 mm Drop

7.7 oz. Weight

24 – 29 mm Sole

Meta-Rocker Geometry

Six Color Options

The Clifton’s thick sole provides impressive protection and comfort

Things I Noticed on my Run Commute

  • When running, the shoes felt like they caught my foot as I landed, rocked it forward, and then pushed me off again. I’m not used to having such full foot movement, and it was cool to feel. 
  • Hills were the Clifton’s strong game. I felt like I had a distinct advantage, both in comfort and leverage, while running up and down hills. The Meta-Rocker geometry they tout actually works very well.
  • I felt almost nothing underfoot. It took a while to get used to, but the sole thickness provides a ridiculous amount of protection, allowing me to run over large broken rock, pushed-up sidewalk, and a litany of other rough surfaces without discomfort. 

Pros

  • Great for running up and down hills
  • I felt nothing underfoot, even while running over large broken rock
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Excellent tongue material
  • Excellent overall construction
  •  Minimized surface impact

Cons

  • May require an adjustment period if you were previously using a higher drop shoe

Summary

Overall, a great shoe with a unique design that feels like it gives the runner an advantage. A bit bulky at first, and may require a gradual build-up period, but it is worth it. The Cliftons are great on long runs and should have a long use-life (500+ miles?). Perfect for those looking for more foot protection in a shoe. Ideal for run commuters who regularly carry heavy loads.

* Disclosure: Hoka provided us a pair of Cliftons for this review.

By |April 19th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments
  • photo 1.1

Review: Altra Torin 1.5, Superior 1.5, and Lone Peak 1.5 Minimal Shoes

Keen to try minimalist running? Interested in the latest biomechanical theories about how our bodies run? Want to get a sense of the range of contemporary running shoes that are out there and popular, but don’t want to blow the budget on a possible dud? Well, here’s how you can try out contemporary shoe ‘ideas’ without breaking the bank: it’s the eleventh hour for the old range of Altra shoes, with their 2013/2014 updates well and truly in the shops. But you may see the old range selling at bargain-basement prices at your local running store, and if you do, here’s a review that tells you why you should give them a try.

Altra Torin 1.5

Altra Torin 1.5

Available in several online stores including:

Altra Running

Amazon

Zappos

Campsaver

One of the best shoes for run commuters is the Altra Torin. Why? Because it combines ‘zero drop’ with major cushioning to protect your bones from the repetitive jarring of running on concrete and asphalt.

Many minimalist and barefoot shoes from the early years of the movement had very little rubber between your tootsies and the ground. This is not such a big deal if you always run on grass (though even then, the too-sudden substitution of conventional running shoes to FiveFingers etc. caused injuries in thousands of runners and the subsequent infamous lawsuit.) But when you’re running on pavements and roads all the time, ‘natural’ running can be a painful experience. Hence, the ‘second generation’ of ‘barefoot’ shoes, which some wag dubbed “maximalist shoes” – lots of cushioning, but not necessarily huge ‘heels’.

Quick Facts

23 mm Sole

Zero Drop

Wide Toebox

Uppers Keep Out Water

Cushioning

23mm stack height (cushioning/sole). Zero drop, meaning there is no height difference between the forefoot and the heel when your foot is in the shoe. The cushioning is superb. You feel like you’re running on top of it. The Torin are comparable to Brooks’ Pure Flows in ‘instant comfort’ factor, but happily (in my opinion) their underfoot cushioning feels somehow both more substantial as well as not as ‘marshmallowy’ as the pillows of the Pure Flows.

The Torin’s level of cushioning is protective for distances up to (and beyond, probably!) marathon distances on road. The cushioning in these babies is also very durable, seemingly unsquashable even after miles and miles of run commuting.

Shape and Fit

A wide toe box is the other ‘feature’ of all Altra shoes. The Torin and the Superior are two of the three reviewed here that have, in my view, genuinely ‘wide’ toe boxes. The (female) Torin model is wider than my Brooks Pure Flows men’s version, which are a ‘standard’ men’s D-width (as opposed to the women’s ‘standard’ B-width, which is narrower). The Torin is also ‘straighter’ across the toes than ‘normal’ running shoes, which reflects the wider toe box. On ‘normal’ shoes the toe box is curved more aggressively from the big-toe around the other toes and to meet the lateral edge of the shoe. The drastic curve of normal shoes is what causes the squashing of the toes together and prevents the natural splaying tendency of bare feet in motion. The toe box feels like it was custom-carved to gently cradle my toes and forefoot, with no pressure or squeezing at any point around the coastline of my foot. I’ve never had a blister from these shoes. This may be a happy miracle matching of my foot and the shoes, however. The shape may not be as perfect for everyone, even the wide-footers.

Shape and Fit of Sole 

The bottom ‘edges’ of the Torin—the edge and the back and front ends of the sole—seem to round jauntily upwards, for a turned-up feeling and a rolling of the foot forward when you land square on the middle of the shoe. This is a pleasant—even heady—sensation of swiftness. Turbo-charged in the Torin.

In regards to flexibility, I have read other reviews on the web that comment on the inflexible nature of the Torin. It is true that this shoe does not bend much in the middle when you try to squash the toes and heels of the upper together. Having high arches and normally landing on my forefoot, I personally need and prefer a highly-flexible shoe. However, the Torin seem to encourage me to land square on the midfoot, which feels like the most protective landing position on hard concrete, and it also means my foot doesn’t bend much. I’ve never had any problems with the flexibility of the Torin.

Styling

The confident black and beautiful aqua blue of this shoe is complimented by a dash of white on the edges of the sole rubber and in the Altra label. The female Torin also comes in a magenta, yellow and white colourway.

Summary

Fresh and strong. Cheeky, full of zest, but profoundly capable. Stubborn long-livers. A joy to wear as a daily run commuting shoe for the mean city streets of the modern metropolis.  

Possible Criticisms

If you have a ‘fat’ foot—by which I don’t mean that your foot has been hitting the pizza and ice cream, but that you have a high volume foot/high arches, etc. —you may find the laces too short. I have just such a bulky, well-muscled foot, and I can only just double-tie the bows in the laces.

The upper isn’t made from the softest material…. It’s a kind of rubbery material that is flexible, but I wouldn’t call it actually soft against the skin etc. I wouldn’t wear these without socks, for example. However, turning the negative into a positive (!), the rubbery uppers keep out rain and puddle-splash from wet roads extremely well in my experience.

Run Commuting Potential?

Maximum run commuting joy!

Altra Superior 1.5

Altra Superior 1.5

Available in several online stores including:

Altra Running

Amazon

Moosejaw

Nolashoes

These are the perfect shoe for run commuters who traverse sections of grass, trail, dirt track or road, rocks, fields, paddocks etc. as well as pavement and concrete on their way to work. The grip is definitely trail grip. It’s not going to stick you to the side of wet grass hills as you bomb down them at top speed, and you might experience the occasional slippage on wet rock. But I’ve worn these a lot on highly technical, steep and (dry) rocky single-track, and their grip performs really well. More than adequate for city parks on the way to work. They have the added benefit, unlike other trail shoes, of feeling like ‘normal’ road running shoes when you’re wearing them to run on road.

Like the Torins, the Superiors feature Altra’s wide toe box, zero drop, and enough cushioning to protect your tender footsies.

Quick Facts

18 mm Sole

Sizing Issues

Extremely Wide Toebox

Quickly Wear Out

Cushioning

They are light, very flexible, and initially have a pillowy cushioning that is soft but protective. However, the cushioning on these gets flattened very quickly, and feels like a racing flat after about 100 miles. (see the ‘pancake’ effect on the cushioning in the photo). In my opinion, the metaphorical and literal flexibility of the Superiors makes them worth the quicker wear-out time. Especially for that AU$60 sale price…

They do have a thin plastic ‘rock plate’ underneath the innersole, and they certainly guard against most pointy rock pain, but they don’t allow the same level of ‘ignoring what you’re treading on’ that you can get away with in the Lone Peaks.

Shape and Fit

The toe box is as generous as or even more so than the toe box on the Torins. The review in Trail Runner Magazine described them as “like running in comfy slippers”, which is spot on, though they are not as bulky as slippers!

Sizing

Problematic. I ordered them online without trying them on, and, following the advice of the website, ordered a full size larger than my normal running shoe size, only to be swimming in them with nearly two inches at the end of my toes. Swapped for my regular size, they are still pretty big, and for my next pair I’m ordering down at least half a size.

I think the problem with Altra sizing and the weird phenomenon of my need for a smaller size while many people on the internet report having had to size up, stems from the difference in people’s individual toe lengths. People with very long big toes or second toes need a size bigger than ‘normal’ in Altras, because the Altra toe boxes have the almost horizontal end shape. This means that any toe that is substantially longer than the others is going to be rammed against the end of the shoe. All of my toes are of an almost scaled decreasing size that forms a curve very similar to that of the horizontality and width of the Altra toe box (I hesitate to imply that my toes are perfect, but, well, they are!). Perhaps that’s why I love the Superiors so very very much.

Run Commuting Potential?

Absolutely…just take the alternative route to work along the river bank/through empty lots/across sports fields.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Altra Lone Peak 1.5

Limited availability online at:

Altra Running

Amazon

For run commuters who also run trails or those who are curious about beginning trail running, try the Altra Lone Peak 1.5s while they’re on sale.

If you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for the Lone Peak 2.0s, the 1.5s will give you a (cheap) sense of what it’s like to run in trail shoes capable of handling heavy-duty terrain.

Quick Facts

22 mm Sole

Superb Traction

Excellent Durability

Great Water Resistance

Sizing

I had the same issue with the Lone Peak 1.5s as I did with the Superiors, which I ordered half a size bigger (hedging my bets), but which I had to swap for size US9s. These still have ample room at the end of the toes even when I am wearing Injinji toe-socks, which fill the space out. In regular, thinner socks the size 9s are almost too big. So I don’t know what the hell is going on with Altra sizing, basically.

Shape and Fit

Toe box is not big enough! More craziness! Despite the wide toe box being a stated feature of Altra shoes, I find the women’s Lone Peak 1.5s not wide enough. Having got used to the Superiors and the Torins (and having previously worn through three pairs of FiveFingers) my toes like to go their own ways. So, for my second pair of Lone Peak 1.5s—purchased on sale for nearly 1/3 of the price they were on debut—I ordered the men’s model (size US7). The toe box is perfect, and the same width as the women’s Superior toe box. Happy days. For AU$60 you can afford to make an educated guess as to the sizing (after reading this review, of course!).

The Lone Peak 1.5s are much less flexible than the Superiors, but they have greater cushioning and a higher overall level of ‘hardiness’ than the Superiors. They also have deeper lugs (little claws on the sole) for better grip on the trails. In my experience the soles of the Lone Peak 1.5 are more effective in the wet than the soles of the Superior. The Lone Peak’s lugs are still not as grippy as the almost-gecko-like lugs of shoes like the Inov-8 Roc-lites, but then the Lone Peak soles are more protective. Only at the end of a six-hour trail run on hard rocky trail have I felt that I needed more shoe between me and the ground (though by then I felt like my feet never wanted to touch the ground again anyway, so it’s kind of irrelevant!)  One day I hope to run longer than six hours, maybe in the Lone Peak 2.0s, which apparently have even more cushioning. Now I just need to get a complimentary ‘review’ pair from Altra…

Run Commuting Potential

Only for lucky b*%$#rds whose run to work is mostly on trails. They last longer than the Superiors, and like the Superiors, the lugs aren’t really super evident when you’re running short distances on concrete.

Safety Note

For best results, combine the information in this review with Josh’s awesome article on his journey from (running shoe) stilettoes to (running shoe) ballet flats. Snap up a cheap pair of Altras and wear them once or twice a week instead of your existing shoes to transition safely to zero-drop shoes.   

By |April 13th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , |0 Comments
  • PackHacks Strap - Featured

Pack Hacks: How to Tame Excess Backpack Straps

Run or hike with a pack long enough and you may begin to notice tiny annoyances about your gear transporter that are enough to drive you crazy.

For example, your zippers may make jingling, tinkling noises with each step. The quiet, sloshing water in your bottle or hydration pack might start to sound like you’re camped next to a gushing waterfall. You may even get noticeably angry at your straps that keep swinging into your arms as you move.

Some backpacks come with pre-built solutions for all these issues, but many do not. What can you do to keep yourself sane while out on the run? We’re here with answers!

In our first Pack Hacks instructional post, we’re going to show you how to deal with excess backpack straps.

The Problem:
Excess Straps on Your Pack

The Solution:
Secure the Straps with Velcro Tape

Here’s How to Do It

Step 1

Purchase some Velcro Tape

Also known as “fastening tape,” velcro tape comes in a wide range of sizes and lengths and is suitable for many jobs in which things need to secured (wires, cables, yoga mats, rope, etc.).

For our example, we used a roll of 3/4″ tape.

Step 2

Cut a 5″ – 6″ Piece of Tape

The length may vary depending upon how much excess strap you have, but usually 5 – 6 inches (13 – 15 cm) will suffice.

Step 3

Place End of Tape Near End of Excess Strap

By placing the first part of the tape inside the roll of strap, you will be securing it from unrolling later on.

Step 4

Roll Excess Strap to Buckle

The roll doesn’t have to go all the way up to the buckle – it can finish near it.

Step 5

Wrap Tape Under and Around Strap and Secure

If you have too much tape leftover, trim the excess.

Done!

The Finished Product Should Look Like This

When done correctly, the straps should never come loose. If you need to expand the pack straps, simply unfasten, adjust, re-roll, and secure once more.

Use anywhere you have too much extra strap on your backpack

By |April 3rd, 2015|Categories: Gear, General, How To|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment
  • Deuter_Futura22_Featured

Review: Deuter Futura 22 Backpack

All of us down here at The Run Commuter’s Atlanta, GA headquarters decided it was time to get some new packs to test out, so over the next few months, we’ll have some in-depth insight and detailed field test results from a handful of running backpacks. First up, the Deuter Futura 22.

Performance and Evaluation

Blinkie lights will fit in between the zippers on the top and bottom of the pack.

I ran approximately 50 miles with the Deuter during rainstorms, extreme cold weather, and mild-to-warm days over several weeks.

When I first put the pack on, I immediately noticed how much more comfortable it was than the Osprey Manta 20. That was entirely a result of the thick padding within both the shoulder and waist straps, as well as a small patch of cushioning that rests between your shoulder blades.

The lower portion of the frame felt like two fists gently pushing into my kidneys. It was strange, and normally something you’d experience in an external-frame hiking backpack.

The break-in period for the pack ranged from 10 – 15 miles. What happened during that time was two-fold – One, the straps loosened slightly from their stiff out-of-the-box feel; and two, the waist strap cushioning softened. These two things together allowed the pack to adjust and fit the individual shape of my body much better than it had when brand new, leading to a more comfortable run (Note: this is normal for all packs, with some variability in the length of time it takes.) The “two-fists-pushing-into-my-kidneys” feel gradually lessened, with a bit more use, changing from slightly uncomfortable to unnoticeable.

The rain cover is tucked away in the standard location at the base of the pack and stays on without using a plastic toggle spring like Osprey rain covers, which tend to drift in between your back and the pack while moving, creating some discomfort. I used the rain cover during my first test run with the Futura. It deployed and went on quickly, and kept the pack, and the items inside, secure and dry.

I experienced absolutely no hot spots or abrasion areas. None. Some days I used the pack while wearing full winter gear, with several layers between my body and the pack; some days it was just a single tech shirt. No chafing, whatsoever.

There are no attachments for lights on the back of the pack, but I found that blinking lights could be added in between the dual zippers on the top and bottom of the pack.

In addition, the hiking poles attachment (seen on the left side of the pack) works quite well for carrying a long-handled umbrella to or from work.

Overall, the Deuter Futura 22 is a great pack for run commuting and I would put it in a tie for first place with the Osprey Manta 20, followed closely by the Osprey Stratos 24.

What I Liked

Volume: Very roomy; enough space for work clothes, lunch, and a winter jacket

Strap Padding: Very thick and comfortable

Bottom Pouch with main compartment access

Raincover is effective and does not use a plastic toggle spring

What I Didn’t Like

No pouches on waist strap

Cannot access side pouches while running

No blinkie/light attachments on back of pack (I use Amphipod Vizlets in between the dual zippers for low-light conditions)

It should be noted that these certainly wouldn’t keep me from purchasing this pack.

Let’s Get Down to Details

 Volume

22 Liters

Weight

2.5 pounds

Material

60% polyester

40% nylon

Color

Papaya/Stone

Price

Buy It Now

Amazon.com

Front

The front of the Deuter Futura 22 includes a large, fold-down zippered accessories pouch at the top, and a rounded, dual-zippered compartment at the bottom. Inside the accessories compartment are several standard mesh pouches and key clips for keeping your small items organized and in-place while moving.

The front of the Futura 22 includes two compartments and four small areas of reflective material.

The accessories pouch is large and will easily hold all of your personal items, like cell phone, wallet, and keys.

Sides

Both sides of the pack feature elastic-topped pouches which are crossed over by the packs lower set of external compression straps. Each pouch is partially-covered by reflective material that wraps around to the front of the pack.

Each side includes an elastic pouch and both a lower and upper set of external compression straps.

Main Compartment

The main compartment, while very basic, is extremely roomy. It easily fits my Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter, winter jacket, lunch, and extra running gear, with space to spare. The Futura is hydration compatible, and includes a hydration sleeve and velcro attachment (shown below,) as well as a tube slot at the top of the pack.

The spacious main compartment, with hydration sleeve and attachment

Bottom Compartment

The bottom compartment, open.

The bottom compartment is not a normal feature of run commuting packs. Standard packs generally have a large main compartment and one or two smaller accessories pouches near the top.

Inside view, showing the zippered access to the bottom of the main compartment.

Back/Suspension

The Deuter Futura 22’s suspension system.

Deuter’s breathable suspension system, called AirComfort, is very similar in concept to the AirSpeed frames that Osprey manufactures. The one noticeable difference is that the Futura’s wire frame forms an “X,” whereas Osprey’s lightwire frame forms a rectangle. This gives the Futura a little more malleability at the sides, allowing it to contour to your shape a little better than the Osprey.

Rain Cover

In my opinion, a rain cover should be a feature on any pack you use for run commuting. If you get caught in a rainstorm, you only have to stop for a few seconds to unzip and cover your pack, keeping nay electronics and dress clothing dry and out of the weather. Deuter even added a reflective logo to the cover, so when it is on and covering up the pack’s standard reflective fabric areas, you still have a little extra something to keep you visible to drivers.

The Futura’s rain cover is found at the very bottom of the pack.

The rain cover on the pack.

By |March 3rd, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , , |6 Comments
  • Snocross 2

Review: Salomon Snowcross CS

Salomon Snowcross CS

Salomon Snowcross CS

Running on ice can be treacherous, and sometimes even dangerous. For many years, I have been carrying a set of Yaktrax for those days where the paths were just too icy to run comfortably. However, I never felt I had stable and solid footing while running with these on, and most of the time, I ended up running much slower than desired. Running intervals with these on was simply just out of the question.

Since running on icy and snowy surfaces north of the 49th parallel is frequent, I started looking for other options. Among them are the IceSpikes. Unfortunately, I was never able to test them since they are, at least in my area, only available through online purchase.

Last Spring, as I was resigned to keep doing my best with my Yaktrax for many more years, I stumbled on a very good deal for a pair of Salomon Snowcross CS.  I had known about these shoes for over two years, but their price tag ($200) was, at least back then, just too high for the family budget. This time though (under 100$), I did not hesitate.

 These shoes stayed in my closet until this past November, where Ottawa started having some relatively inclement weather, which left us with quite a bit of snow, lots of ice and some cold temperature, but still not enough to get the cross country skis out, for about a month.

Not expecting much, I took the Snowcross out for many spins over that month… and I don’t think I will be able to live without them ever again.

On the ice, the nine carbide spikes on each shoes offered unprecedented grip, to a point where my brain actually had problems adjusting to it  (“lots of ice. Should be slippery. Very slippery, but… not slippery. Not at all… can’t compute.”)  Honestly, it took me about four or five runs over a week to understand that these would keep me going on the ice as fast as if I was on clear roads.

Ice-covered trails are part of my everyday commute

Icy trails are part of my everyday commute

In the snow, the aggressive cleat pattern also got me going pretty fast.  The integrated gate design, borrowed from the cross country ski world, also kept the snow out while keeping me warm and cozy.

Frankly, I am now in love with these shoes.  If you have to run on icy and snowy roads on your way to work, they offer amazing grip while keeping you warm.

Since I have to keep a minimum of critical sense, the low points of these shoes are:

  • the integrated gate is water resistant, but not waterproof.  It will keep you dry through snow, but not through puddle of slushy water.
  • the white lines are not reflective.  For shoes of that price, this would be expected.

 Last, but not least; with the carbide spikes*, make sure you do not walk on wooden floors.

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*The Salomon Snowcross CS share their soles with carbide spikes with the Salomon Spikecross. The latest are basically the same shoes as the Snowcross, but without the integrated gate. Therefore, a clever alternative to the Snowcross would be a pair of Spikecross combined with a set of short gators. The company Inov-8 also has two models with integrated carbide spikes (Oroc 280 and Oroc 340), which could also be used in conjunction with a short set of gators for similar results.

By |January 5th, 2015|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments
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Save the nips: Red11 Sport anti-chafe salve review

I, like so many, have since my first tentative steps as a runner dreaded this happening to me. During an out-and-back segment of my first ultra, 24-ish miles into a grueling 50K, a runner in the opposite direction had upon his face not fatigue but wide-eyed fear mingled with agony. I understood why. Upon his white shirt: twin red streams trailing toward his waistband. And he had six more miles to go.

Bloody nipples. Nipple chafe (clinically: nipple fissures). Hell, chafe in general, as M. Suzette writes, in any of the body’s geography. Every runner harbors this terror in the heart and the skin above it, and holds forth numerous methods of mitigation: adhesive bandages; sport tape; petroleum jelly. But I give you today Red11 Sport, an anti-chafe agent unlike others I have known, a salve to save your nipples and nethers from being churned to hamburger when you run.
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The Run Commuter team has been using Red11 Sport for several months now, putting it on our delicate tissues, then putting this through the wringer. My first impression was a chuckle for its clever, snarky name. (Think about my description above of the afflicted gent.) Red11 Sport is a New York City-based newcomer, cheeky in its marketing and seems so in its company culture, judging by our correspondence with them. That is a good beginning to recommend it to runners: they’re like us.

But they can get away with it because the product works, and works extremely well. Red11 Sport is composed of shea butter (main ingredient), vitamin E, coconut, mineral wax and peppermint. In fact, the peppermint scent was among the first things we noticed, as soon as we popped the tin open. It’s present but not strong, just enough to notice. You won’t feel it on your skin, and don’t worry that your areolas will smell like candy canes: they won’t.

Red11 Sport feels to the touch like a lip balm: a bit waxy, smooth, but spreadable. In fact, one of our contributors, Nic, has used it just so when he forgot his lip balm at home. Rub some on the end of a finger; rub the finger on your nipple(s); go running: simple. Both sizes come in tins small enough to fit in a pocket.

Here’s the meat of this review: it works. This tiny tin of chafe-halting nectar works so much better than anything I have found. I’ll explain by way of comparison, then tout Red11 Sport’s merits.

IMAG1466The primary anti-chafe methods, anecdotally and from experience, are bandages/sport tape, petroleum jelly and BodyGlide. The latter will likely be Red11 Sport’s main competitor. Bandages/sport tape will protect nipples from being rubbed raw, but sweating will dislodge them. That’s been my experience with bandages, anyway, though sport tape usually stays put. Unfortunately, you can’t put them in your armpits, butt crack, upper thighs, and balls, all areas prone to chafe.

Petroleum jelly always works but it stains shirts, leaving competitors and onlookers to wonder why you’re lactating. I slathered it on my thighs mid-race in the 2011 Detroit Marathon, experiencing some chafe then, and it again worked but my shorts clung to it, riding waaaaay up into the nethers. And my shorts are short enough already; there’s little room to travel.

I’ve never been a fan of BodyGlide. It wears off too quickly. I’ve tried it, tried it again to be certain, but it seems to slough off maybe 5-10 miles into a long run or race. I’ve seen teammates and competitors in longer ultras reapply it periodically, which I never had to do with petroleum jelly. It always leaves me disappointed and raw.
IMAG1468Red11 Sport came to us just before the crush of southern summer. Most of my use has been on run commutes, but I’ve used this precious goo on shorter and moderate runs, about 5-10 miles, and several times on long efforts, up to and past 20 miles. No issues. No need to reapply. And nary a hint of chafe! Nor has there been any stain or mark on my shirts, any time that I have applied Red11 Sport. That is hugely important. Stains in no way alter the function of tech shirts but it is embarrassing and ruins some very cool race shirts.

It also has proved effective with irritation from heart rate monitors. Hall has used applied it in that way and had none of his usual chafing. We passed it along to a female friend who was experiencing significant chafe from her monitor whenever she ran. She says, “I ran twice last week with the heart rate monitor strap and used your special cream. I was free of all irritation!”

Here’s what one of our contributors, Nic, had to say:

“I have used the Red11 for about 150 km since I received it, and it is great. Seriously, it is the best anti-chaffing stuff I ever used (I got absolutely no chafing at all last week, and I ran a total of 114 km). My only comment would be to replace “nipple protection” on the container by something more gender neutral, but beside that, I liked the product and the format of the container. And I even used it as lip balm this morning since I could not find my usual one!IMG_8431

“I wore my chafing shorts for a 15 km interval training/run commute. (These shorts are very old, and I always have problems with them, even with Vaseline and Nok). So I decided to wear them, over a generous coating of Red11. And I am glad to report … nothing! Nothing at all! Baby skin throughout. I am very, VERY impressed.”

Heed Nic’s suggestion to alter the “nipple protection” labeling on the tins. That’s how Red11 Sport is primarily marketing the product — indeed, that is the top-tier trouble zone — but I’ve used it everywhere, as Nic has. Thoroughly saturated by sweat in 95-degree heat and maximum humidity after 18 miles: I felt nothing in any of the typical problem spots. If you see Red11 Sport at your running store, snap some up. Your nipples/genitals/miscellaneous, and anyone who has to see them, will thank you.

DISCLOSURE: Red11 Sport provided gratis samples for our review.

By |August 6th, 2014|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , |4 Comments
  • Switch Vision H-Walls

Review: Switch Vision Prescription Glasses

If, like me, you have poor eyesight, you may have to run with prescription glasses. Running with spectacles that are not made for running quickly becomes annoying, as they start sliding down a sweaty nose. Luckily, good prescription glasses for runners do exist. Run-commuting adds some complexity to all of this. North of the 49th parallel, it is not uncommon to run in total darkness during winter months. Therefore, clear lens prescription glasses made for runners are required. Dark lens glasses are preferable for the rest of the year.  

Switch Vision H-Wall Sunglasses. Photo from http://www.switchvision.com

Switch Vision H-Wall Sunglasses. Photo from http://www.switchvision.com

Three years ago, I bought Switch Vision prescription glasses. They came with interchangeable lenses; one clear set and one darker set for sunny days. These are made of ballistic material, which means they can also be used as safety glasses. Switch Vision uses small magnets inserted in the frame and around the lenses to keep them firmly in place. In my opinion, this feature places Switch Vision in a category of their own in terms of sports glasses. Switch Vision glasses’ design is great for people that needs sports prescription glasses for dark and sunny days. However, I have a bit of a bad aftertaste with the durability of the H wall model I purchased. The exposed metal rusted out after only a few months. When that happened, I took them back to the store, where they were replaced. Just like the first one, however, the second pair showed signs of rust after only a few months. Therefore, I would recommend avoiding these particular Switch Vision frames that expose portions of the magnets – they tend to rust over time, as shown below. I would also avoid frames with a soft nose mount and choose one with a plastic one instead.

Switch Vision H-Walls

Switch Vision H-Walls, showing spots of rust on top of the frame

Finally, depending on the number of dealers in your area, these can be pretty expensive (myself, I paid $700 Cdn, which is an outrageous amount of money for any pair of glasses when I think about it). I could probably have bought 2 pairs of sport prescription glasses, 1 clear and 1 dark, for less money than that. I really like the Switch Vision magnetic system, but not enough to pay such a premium to get it again the next time around. Hopefully, prices will have come down to a more reasonable level. ********************* Characteristics of good run-commuting prescription glasses: -durable -interchangeable lenses -light -lenses held firmly in place -resistance to fogging (good luck finding that!)

By |June 24th, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments
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Review: Purinize water-purifying tincture

I was as a young man waaaay into Dungeons & Dragons, as well as video game RPGs like the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior series. There was always some bottled liquid to cure your ailments and even restore life, should your mighty berserker be somehow felled by an elf. Those indoors-for-hours days rushed to my memory when we received our latest product to review: Purinize, a potion promising to render water potable by vanquishing microscopic assailants and coagulating sediments.

How does Purinize manage these extraordinary feats? Why, by the sensible and scientific application of VOLCANO SALTS. (more…)

By |June 13th, 2014|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , |1 Comment