Rubbed the Wrong Way: Warm Weather Chafing

As the weather warms, the coverage we look for in running clothes drops off dramatically. It seems so freeing to run with as little on as possible. I will be faster! I’m like a wild animal! It’s not until I get home and survey the damage from skin rubbing on skin or cloth that I realize it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Chafing! Miles and miles of it. Burning, stinging, oozing, and bleeding in some very sensitive regions of my body. Add a run commuter backpack to the mix and there is bound to be chafing in areas of which you’d never thought.

We put together a list of problem areas and anti-chafing solutions, as well as a some additional fixes you can make, to keep your run commute as smooth and irritation-free as possible.

Running Form

Running with a backpack requires some adjustment. Even if you haven’t paid much attention to your form before, you will immediately recognize if adjustments to your stride or posture need to be made. Runner’s World recently reposted one of the best articles on form that I have ever read. It was written in 2005, and there have certainly been lots of others since, but not many with advice that you can so easily apply on your own.

Your pack, with sternum and waist straps buckled and cinched, will normally pull your shoulders back and straighten your posture while you run. Run with strides too far apart under this setup however, and no matter how well your pack fits, it will rub somewhere. Practice running with good form and you will not only reduce the likelihood of backpack chafe, you’ll also find yourself to be a more effective runner without the pack.

Chafing Problem Areas

Under arms: Device cases and backpack straps are the worst offenders here. To borrow from a recent very popular animated film in which the main character suffers from complex icy architecture shooting from her fingers unsolicited, “Conceal it. Don’t feel it.” A layer of clothing between you and the offending strap and a good bit of lube is the only way to prevent this if running with these items is desired or required. For these hot summer months, try an ultra-lightweight moisture wicking shirt. Take your pack and device case with you to the store to try on new running clothes. That way you can see if they fit comfortably together and ensure that your trouble spots are covered.

Sports bra chafe

Sports bra chafe

Shoulders, Lower Back and Stomach: These are all from backpack straps. We here at TRC are of at least two different schools of thought on this one. Josh likes his straps tight; I like mine kinda loose. Again, look at your form and your pack and make adjustments on the fly. If your pack is rubbing a hole in your back, it is moving around. If it is moving around, either you are bouncing or wasting tons of energy with side-to-side motion, or your pack it too loose, or possibly both.

Here is Josh’s advice to a new run commuter suffering from backpack-related chafing:

‘First of all, cinch everything down like crazy. In order, tighten your waist strap, then shoulder straps, then sternum strap… All of these can be adjusted on the run as well. Usually, I readjust everything once I’ve been running for a few minutes.

Wear polyester-based shirts; either 100% poly, or at a minimum, a 50/50 poly/cotton blend. After you start sweating, these types of shirts tend to stick to your skin better than cotton, and provide a slippery, non-irritating surface for your pack to slide over if it is loose.’

Nipples: Chafed nipples are mostly commonly a problem for men, but women can get them too from wearing an ill-fitting or poorly supporting bra, but that may need to be addressed in a later post. The cause is the same though: bouncing. Noticing a theme here? Some guys stick Band-Aids over their nips, others use Vaseline or an anti-chafe product, such as Red11Sport. And then, some just deal with it until their nipples become less sensitive. One or two good long, sweaty runs will result in painfully raw, possibly bleeding, nipples. Thankfully they heal quickly and will be tougher and less likely to chafe again. As long you keep running regularly, they will stay that way. As a mother who has breastfed two children, I have to say that this last option is probably the easiest in the long run if you can handle it.

Inner thighs: I am a normal-sized human being, and my thighs touch. They did when I was a little girl, and they will until the day I die, or, God-forbid, only have one leg. This is arguably the most common spot for chafing on a woman. Do an internet search on chafing (like I did for this post) and most of what comes up are blog posts from women whose thighs touch and means by which they’ve tried to prevent it. You must do one or both of two things: cover them or lube them.

Thigh chafe. That shower is gonna hurt...

Thigh chafe. That shower is gonna hurt…

“I feel like such a sexy beast standing at the trailhead lubing up my thighs before a run,” said no one ever. But no one ever managed a sexy walk while suffering from inner thigh chafe either. Compression-style gear is tight-fitting, like bike shorts without the chamois, and acts like a second skin, so all the friction will be on it and not your sensitive bits. However if heading out of doors wearing what feels

[looks] like sausage casing doesn’t appeal to you, try a loose, lightweight layer on top. You may also notice that shortening your stride length helps keep your shorts down on/between your legs. I don’t know who told running clothes manufactures that everyone likes (and can wear) short shorts for running. Some companies are getting better about making slightly longer lengths, but I for one do not want very short or very tight. Rubbing a friction reducing product on the areas that touch will not only help keep your thigh skin from rubbing off, but also your shorts from riding up, and you from walking like a monkey for a couple of days.

Anti-Chafe Solutions

Try out different kinds of anti-friction products. You can often buy small/trial sizes of different kinds to help you find one you like. When you do find one that works, buy several so you’re never stuck without it.

A few of our lubricants on display. L to R - Aquaphor (generic, store-brand), Body Glide, Vaseline.

A few of our lubricants on display. L to R – Aquaphor (generic, store-brand), Body Glide, Vaseline.

Aquaphor and Vaseline are my favorite products because they have so many uses. They are also affordable and easy to find. Before I head out on a run, I smear it on my lips, under the band of my sports bra and shorts, and on my thighs. If, despite all my preventative measures, I still get a raw spot, Aquaphor is very soothing as well.

Here are some products we like, and where to find them:

On-the-Run Chafing Emergencies

I may scandalize or otherwise shock you here, but picture this: you’re headed home from work. It’s been a fine day, relatively normal, but you are eagerly anticipating leaving on vacation on Friday. It is only Tuesday, but you have much on your mind- saltwater fishing, that chef that’s going to come cook an amazing dinner for y’all, which books are you going to read, how many pairs of running shoes can bring without your partner mocking you…Anyway, the run home will be great for thinking about those things.

It’s pretty hot, and you are getting ridiculously sweaty, because in this story you are me and I sweat. A lot. Suddenly, a twinge of something, a tiny prick of stinging pain rouses you from your pleasant thoughts. You realize you forgot to put on your anti-chafing stuff! DAMMMMMITTTT! Pleasant thoughts instantly change to – cute new bathing suit is ruined, ocean water is going to burn like acid, how am I going to look amazing wearing shorts and walking like someone who is just getting used to standing upright? If you can get over how gross this idea is, you still can. Raise your hand up to your mouth and spit a big glob of saliva on it, cough something up if you have to. Then rub it on the spot that’s starting to chafe (in this story, your thighs, but I’ve used it under my arms, my bra band, and my pack shoulder straps too – don’t judge), and every time it dries out, do it again until you get home. Disgusting? Yes, absolutely, but it’s better than the alternative in my book.

So, there it is. I hope these tips and ideas will get you through a long, hot summer of run commuting without losing too much skin. I’d love to hear how you manage chafing and your high friction areas too.

Review: Henty Wingman Backpack

Henty takes a simple method of storing and transporting clothing to an entirely different level with their Wingman Backpack.

This unique, smart bag transforms a heavy-duty garment carrier into a securely rolled-up backpack, making it a mobile gear transportation system for runners, cyclists, and walkers alike.

Though a bit expensive, cyclists have sworn by the messenger-style Wingman for years. Listening to customer feedback, Henty decided to add backpack straps to make the bag more appealing to cyclists who preferred that setup to carry their bags. With that simple modification, the Wingman Backpack opened up to the running market. I ran with it multiple times over several weeks under varying conditions to see how it performed. Here are the results.

Test Scenario 1: Suit coats and a laptop

I chose to test the Henty Wingman Backpack out on the run commute home, so I dressed in my normal business casual attire, packed up my lunch and gear, then headed to the train station.

Packed and ready to go

Packed and ready to go

The Wingman Backpack consists of two pieces – the garment bag, and the duffel. The garment bag seems like it is full of secret pouches, velcro attachments, straps, buckles and zippers. One pouch even contains an integrated raincover!

Garment Bag Opened

Garment Bag Opened

One of the zippers reveals this quick-access area, complete with a detachable passport-style organizer. This is a great feature if you are a run commuter who combines running and transit (easy access to bus/train pass).

Quick-access pouch with removable organizer

Quick-access pouch with removable organizer

Overall, there is a lot of space in this pack. The duffel is extremely durable yet simple, with no extra pockets or gadgets within. It held everything I needed to pack into it and had remaining space left over. The duffel bag buckles inside the empty, center space of the rolled-up unit. 

Looking down into the WIngman Backpack from above. The duffel fills the empty space within.

Looking down into the Wingman Backpack from above. The duffel fills the empty space within.

The hanger system is awesome, consisting of a single, high-grade plastic hanger that pivots to allow you to pack the curved “hanger part” away when not being used. Henty recommends one suit jacket and one shirt, or three shirts as the maximum load for the garment bag. 

The pack felt different when I donned it, but not in a bad way. I was unused to wearing a cylindrical-shaped backpack, and the feel of it against my back was unusual and tight, but out of the way of my swinging arms. It felt great while walking, though when I started to run, I could feel the effect of the change in center of gravity away from my back due to the extra weight of the suit coats and laptop. The laptop also altered the fit against my back, making the contact width wider than it would have been without a laptop. 

Padded laptop sleeve rests against your back

Padded laptop sleeve rests against your back

The laptop protective sleeve is fantastic and kept sweat out like a champ. Around mile three, the shoulder straps started chafing under my arms a bit, but not terribly bad. I tried it again a few days later under the same conditions and had the same results. It works well for shorter distances under this configuration.

Also, the suit coats looked great when I pulled them out after arriving at home. 

Ideal Distance (no laptop, no suit(s), normal clothes): 1 – 3 miles

Test Scenario 2: Regular clothes, no laptop, normal daily items

For the second test, I again took the train to work dressed in my normal business casual attire, and packed my lunch and running clothes in the duffel. At the end of the day, I hung the clothes on the hanger, packed away my things, cinched everything up, and headed out.

Without the laptop, the bag fit much better. It rested on my back in between my shoulder blades and maintained body contact down to my lower back. And, since it was a bit lighter this time without the suit coats and laptop, the pack’s center of gravity changed to a more normal location.

On the run, I had to occasionally adjust the straps to keep the pack in place. That is a fairly common thing to have to do, and why we recommend choosing a running backpack with easily adjustable straps for on-the-fly cinching.  

Unlike a regular pack, the Henty Wingman Backpack did not affect my arm swing, and it was a comfortable run for the entire 5.2 miles back to the train station. 

Henty - Test 02 Arrival.jpg

The end of a my run commute home with the Wingman Backpack

I did not use the sternum strap very frequently, however, as it is a bit too short. I have a small chest, and it was tight on me. It could probably use another 5 inches of length, but the pack fit securely enough without using it all.  

The only other thing I could see that might affect runners with a different body shape than mine is how far it extends down beyond the lower back. It might rub if the runner has a larger backside. With a standard cargo load, the Henty Wingman works well for medium distances.

Ideal Distance (no laptop, normal clothes): 3 – 6 miles

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Overall, it is extremely well-made, durable, and works pretty well for running. It would be ideal for run commuters who bring a suit or two in on Monday, and bring it back home on Friday. I would forgo carrying a laptop, as it will change the fit a bit too much for running. It’s also perfect for those run commuters who cycle in on Monday morning with clothes for a few days, and run home and to work until they need to change out clothing or supplies.

The cool part about the Wingman Backpack for me is that it combines two things that I normally use – a clothing carrier (Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15) AND a backpack (Osprey Manta 20) – into one easy-to-use system.

As always please try on a running pack to ensure that it fits your body properly and comfortably before you commit to it.

Click here for Henty’s US Website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Review: Skulltec gel-filled beanie

We sometimes are offered opportunity to review products, usually running-related ones. Some are unrelated, or so at first it would seem, but, hey, we’re running to work here, gang; we’re doing something outside the norm. We can look at some seemingly-unrelated-to-running products and review them in that light.

And so I offer for your consideration Skulltec.

SOYBEAN POWERED PROTECTION

Hall dons the Skulltec and becomes a French Popeye with a claimed 25-percent reduction in likely brain injury.

(more…)

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:37+00:00 May 30th, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Choosing a Running Backpack: A Few Tips and the Deuter Race X

During my run back home today, I saw a lady running with a fully loaded Osprey Stratos 34 (2,000 cubic inches – 34 litres) on her back. Osprey makes amazing backpacks, but that particular one on this lady’s back – whom was no more than 125 pounds after a good meal (50 kg), was just too big, to a point where her running stride was clearly impeded by it as the weight of the pack was constantly shifting from one side to the other.

Choosing a backpack to run commute is not just like choosing any pack back. First, you want it as light as possible, even when packed. And, not only does it have to be well-adjusted, but it has to stay well-adjusted WHILE RUNNING. Finally, it must also be slim enough on your back as to not impede your running action, particularly your arm movements. This normally translates into packs that are between 500 and 1,200 cubic inches (10 to 20 litres), depending on your body type and size. This is well below the traditional day hike back pack size, which is around 1,350 cubic inches (22 litres). In summary, good run commuting back packs are:

  • light
  • slim
  • small
  • tightly-adjusted to the body

Over the years, companies have built more and more packs that fit these requirements. My personal choice: the Deuter Race X.

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back

Deuter Race X on my back

At 5’10” and 160 pounds (1,78 m, 73 kg), the Deuter Race X (730 cubic inches – 12 litres) is the perfect run-commuting backpack for me. This bag is light (1.5 pounds – 600 g), and it fits well between my shoulder blades. Even if I load it to its fullest, it rarely weighs more than 10 pounds (4 kg). The shoulder straps are thin but comfortable and well adjusted, and the waiste and chest straps help keeping it snug against my back. Its compact size does not affect my running stride, and my arms can move as freely as if I had nothing on.  In winter, it fits just as nicely over all the layers required to run through any kind of nasty weather (see Running Gear Fit to Face A Canadian Winter for more information on these layers).

The Deuter Race X fits me like a glove, but it has other very interesting characteristics. First, it is extremely durable – I have used it constantly, through all kinds of weather, for the past five years, over 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles). The only thing that let go was the top pocket zipper, which I had fixed by a shoe maker.

front

Front view of waist and sternum straps

The Deuter Race X has another interesting quality…it is very affordable (64$ Cdn at MEC; oddly, it appears to be more expensive in the US, at a cost of around 80$ US). Osprey (Raptor), Gregory (Miwok) and many other companies have bags just as good as this one, but none cheaper (at least in Canada).  This bag also comes with an integrated rain cover and is pre-fitted for an hydration pocket (sold separately).

In conclusion, the Deuter Race X is the right size, the right fit and at the right price for most run commuters.

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I mentioned above that I had my pack repaired by a shoe maker after the top pocket zipper gave up on me. I actually get lots of modifications or repairs done on my kit. I am a creature of habit, and I don’t like to change gear that much. If anything breaks or annoys me, I always look for a way to fix it before thinking about getting newer equipment. There are all kinds of good reasons for doing it, but I mainly do it because I don’t like changing things too much!  Many years ago, on a long hike, I grabbed the wrong backpack and threw it on. Despite the fact that it was the exact same pack, I knew right away it was not mine, and I did not like that feeling. I then found my pack and put it on; the feeling was amazing, a bit like meeting an old friend you had not seen for a long time. All that to say that I like my gear and that I take super special care of it!

Top of pack with zipper modification

Top of pack with zipper modification

To get modifications or repairs done, I used to go to a normal shoe maker, but lately, I found a shoe maker that specializes in outdoor gear. The cool thing about that, is not only does the kit gets fixed, but it comes back just as good as new. Since gear can become expensive, I strongly encourage you to look for that kind of shop in your area. (if you live in the Ottawa region, check out Atelier hors Piste http://www.atelierhorspiste.com).

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:38+00:00 May 21st, 2014|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , |14 Comments

Running Gear Fit to Face a Canadian Winter

We’re excited to introduce a new contributor to the The Run Commuter! Nick Pedneault joins us from Ottawa, Canada and will be writing about running in harsh winter conditions up north, as well as sharing tips, advice, and gear reviews from which all run commuters, in any climate, can benefit. Welcome to TRC, Nick!   

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The Run Commuter, Cold Weather Running, Boston Marathon, Canadian Runners, Nick Pedneault, Polar Ninja

Nick after a typical Canadian winter run

My name is Nicolas Pedneault, and I am a run commuter from the Ottawa area, Canada. I have been run commuting for 6 years now, and I am planning on doing so for as long as I can. Run commuting for me was the result of many factors: I wanted to keep doing sports like I used to before I was married and had kids, but without neglecting family life; I did not have a parking spot at work; and I wanted a solution to get to work which was valid year round. One year, I cycled to work in the winter; in May, my bike was as good as junk because of the salt they use to de-ice roads. Public transit was a solution, but there is not much sports involved in taking the bus. To make matters worse, OC Transpo – the Ottawa public transport company – went on a 2-month long strike in 2009. That was the last straw for me: I started running to get to and from work.

My total daily commute is between 16 and 24 kilometres (10-15 miles), every day of the week. Running in Ottawa year-round means facing temperatures as high as 36ºC (97ºF) and as low as -35ºC (-31ºF). Consequently, it requires a wide variety of gear to face the elements.

Running year-round in Ottawa means running through some pretty harsh weather – snowstorms, freezing rain, blistering cold, tornados, etc. However, in the present post, I will stick to the blistering cold, describing the gear I use to run at temperatures between -30 ºC and -35ºC (-22 ºF and -31ºF). I have no preferences in terms of brands; consequently, the pictures included in this post and the brands are mentioned for general information purposes only. However, the brands mentioned are the ones I use.

Feet

To prevent my feet from freezing, I combine a pair of thin liner socks (Wigwam Ultimate Liner Pro) with a pair of heavier merino wool socks (Great Canadian sox company super-wool hiker GX socks). Although I wear 2 pairs of socks, it all fits nicely in my normal running shoes. For winter, I use standard trail runners (either Saucony Peregrine or Brooks Cascadia). I know speciality shoes are now available for cold running (for example, Salomon SnoCross CS), but I have yet to venture on that road since outside winter, these are of no use.

Legs

In that order, I wear a pair of thermal tights (MEC Mercury tights), a pair of running shorts on top of the tights and a pair of very generic wind pants (MEC Flux pants). I experimented once during a winter marathon (Ottawa Winterman, February 2013, -29ºC / -20ºF) without the shorts between the 2 layers; I ended up having to stick my mitts in my pants to warm up my manhood. Suffice to say that I highly recommend wearing shorts over the tights in winter. In my backpack, I also carry an extra pair of wind pants which are a size larger than the first one; if it gets really windy or suddenly colder than expected, I can throw them on over everything else.

Outdoor Research Enchainment Jacket

Outdoor Research Enchainment Jacket

Top

As always, I make sure to use many layers. My base layer is a 150-weight merino wool long sleeve shirt. My second layer is a 150-weight merino wool t-shirt. Over time, I found this combination of merino wool garment to be the best in terms of weight and sweat absorption. My third layer is either an old long sleeve polar fleece shirt or a Polartec power dry hoody with thumb holes (MEC T3 hoodie). The principle behind this combination of layers is pretty simple: the natural fibre near my skin is less susceptible to develop bad odours than the synthetic fibres. My final layer is a soft shell jacket with a hood (Patagonia Ascensionist or Outdoor Research Enchainment.) In cold weather, I prefer soft shells to hard shells because they are much better at letting perspiration out.

Hands

Mitts. No gloves. Just mitts. Again, I use a small pair of mitt (hand knitted by my wife’s aunt) and a bigger one on top of it (MEC overlord mitts.)

Watch

One day, it was so cold, my watch display totally froze. To avoid that, I now wear it on top of my jacket at the wrist, and I throw the bottom portion of my mitt over the watch. If you are doing intervals, it is a bit annoying to have to push your mitt up to press the buttons, but it is far less annoying than a frozen watch.

Sonic Outdoor Research Balaclava

Sonic Outdoor Research Balaclava

Head

The next piece of kit is by far the most important one for me, and this time, the brand is important. My Sonic Outdoor Research Balaclava allows me to stay warm while being able to breathe properly although the air is very cold. Many years ago, I was running with a small scarf over my mouth. Over time, it would get wet and I would eventually auto-waterboard myself from time to time. This was awful, and I looked for a balaclava that would allow me to breathe while keeping me warm. The Sonic has a special screen in front of the mouth that never freezes. It is also far away enough from my mouth to create a warm up chamber just in front of it. Because of that, I end up breathing air which is a few degrees warmer than the ambient one. Since I tend to suffer from performance induced asthma in the winter, these few degrees mean the difference between coughing all day or not at all. Over it, I will normally use a Buff around my neck, and another one over my head. For good measure, I also carry a third safety Buff in my backpack, just in case.

Backpack

I currently use a Deuter Race X backpack. It is a bit small (12 litres or 730 cubic inches), but for a bag that cost me CAD$54, I think it is near perfect. I always carry a safety jacket in it (MEC Uplink jacket with hood), which I can throw on top of everything if get too cold or if I suddenly have to stop running. As mentioned above, I also carry in it an oversized pair of wind pants, an extra Buff, my lunch and some clothes. A point worth mentioning: in winter, the simple fact of having a bag on your back will keep you warmer as it offers an additional layer of insulation.

That’s it! You’re ready to run in the midst of the Canadian winter or the polar vertex. Now, I must be honest: running in these temperatures is never that great, but I have found that these somewhat miserable runs made all summer runs great no matter what afterwards.

The Run Commuter, Cold Weather Running, Boston Marathon, Canadian Runners, Nick Pedneault

Finishing the 2014 Boston Marathon

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:38+00:00 April 30th, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |6 Comments

Review: Thorlos Socks

One of the most overlooked pieces of running gear has got to be socks. Around here, we talk about socks quite a bit. At trail races, we occasionally overhear brief discussions about interesting looking specialty socks; another runner’s knee-high, neon green compression toe socks, for example. However, I rarely hear conversations about someone’s everyday running socks. That is, unless you are talking about Thorlos

People that we know who wear Thorlos, love them. Whether they wear them for running, tennis, or walking, they can’t say enough good things about them. In fact, many who try them, soon become loyal Thorlos wearers for life.

Thorlos, Thorlos 84N, Thorlos Trail Running, Thorlos More Casual Comfort, Thorlo

Thorlos 84N Runner, Experia, Trail Runner, and More Casual Comfort

Recently, Thorlos sent us four pairs of their clinically tested, award-winning, made-in-America padded socks to test out; three for running on roads or trails, and one pair for wearing around the office. It’s hard to tell whether socks are “good” or not without putting in some decent mileage under a variety of conditions. So, we ran these through as many conditions as we could over the past month to ensure we could provide the best opinion possible.

 Thorlos 84N Runner

Thorlos, Thorlos 84N, Thorlo, road running socks

On the foot

Thorlos, Thorlos 84N, Thorlo, road running socks, Merrell Mix Master Road Shoes

Thorlos 84N Runners and Merrell Mix Master Road Shoes.

Made for “feet that hurt,” the 84N is definitely the most comfortable running sock out of the three I tested. They are thickly padded, giving your feet a protected environment which allows you to continue your running routine uninterrupted.

Since my feet don’t normally hurt and are not prone to blisters (another thing the 84N’s help to prevent,) I decided to test them during my normal morning run commute, during two different temperature ranges over the course of two weeks; mild (50F – 60F) and cold (25F- 35F.)

Upon donning both the socks and shoes, it felt like I was wearing a completely different kind of shoe altogether. My foot was snugly tucked away with little remaining space for movement, including toe wiggle. It felt a little constricting, but not uncomfortable or bulky.

The 84N’s performed very well under both temperature levels – My feet felt good throughout the whole run, and they were especially warm during the cold commute. That warmth, however, led to lots of fairly normal sweating during the run in mild conditions. Thankfully, the socks wicked as promised, and my feet emerged unscathed. A solid performer.

Conclusion: Fantastic, comfortable socks suitable for everyday use.  Ideal for running short and long distances, or as a recovery sock after a long distance race. 

Thorlos Experia Socks

Thorlos, Thorlos Experia, Thorlo, Merrell Mix Master Road

Thorlos Experia with Merrell Mix Master Road Shoes

Thorlos, Thorlos Experia, Thorlo, padded running socks

Thorlos Experia with Lite Pads

I wore these during several morning commutes, including a rainy morning run and was quite pleased with the comfort and wicking properties of the pads. Unlike the rest of the socks in this review, the Experia have “Lite” pads, as opposed to the thicker, engineered pads (CTPS) that the others contain. For the most part, the Experias are primarily made of a thin, blended material (Coolmax) that is mesh-like and extremely breathable. In fact, parts of the sock are so thin, that you can actually see through them in places.

In addition, they are one of Thorlos only socks to come in a wide variety of eye-catching colors, including Electric Orange, Jet Pink, and Very Berry.

I like the wearing the Experia during most running days, but also enjoy the comfort of the 84N, so I switch back and forth throughout the week.

Conclusion: Light, minimal, breathable, and padded only where necessary, the Experias are an ideal running sock for short- to middle-distances, under everyday road conditions. Made for feet that don’t hurt.

Thorlos Trail  Running Socks

Thorlos, Thorlos Trail Runner, Thorlo, North Face Ultra Guide, trail running socks

Thorlos Trail Runner Socks paired with North Face Ultra Guides for a snow and ice-filled morning run commute.

Unlike road running, where surface conditions are relatively unchanging, every step is different from the last while running trails. Rocks and fallen trees are bounded over; muddy paths are slipped along; streams and rivers are crossed. Impact and variability of surface conditions require socks (and shoes, for that matter) that are comfortable over long distances, absorb shock, provide protection, and quickly move moisture away from your skin.

The Thorlos Trail Sock is very similar to the 84N runner in overall feel. The ball and heel pads add a generous amount of comfort and protection from the ever-changing conditions of the trail and the sock is snug and comfortable all around. Like many trail socks, the top of the sock is higher, to protect from debris, and brushes with sharp sticks and rocks. The instep and arch have extra cushioning for long-lasting comfort.

The Trail Sock performed extremely well during both a snow and ice-covered commute and while on a road-and-trail morning run to the office. 

While the snowy commute tested the overall function of the trail shoes I was wearing at the time (North Face Ultra Guide), the Thorlos Trail Sock kept my feet warm and dry throughout. It was also a fairly slow run, with cautious steps while traversing many icy sections, so I couldn’t say much about how well they performed related to impact and quick-changing conditions. 

For my next tests, I threw in several morning detours, including some trails, for which these socks were designed. Previously, I used Drymax socks during my trail runs, because I was always worried about getting blisters from having wet feet due to regular stream crossings, so, I was a bit apprehensive about trying out anything different.

Surprisingly, the Thorlos Trail Sock performed much better for two reasons – not only did they quickly wick water away after stream crossings, but they provided a level of long-lasting comfort that I was not used to from other trail socks. This comfort was felt while running the uneven terrain of the trails, stepping (intentionally) on stray rocks and sticks, and while going uphill and down. I’m anxious to try these on a long trail race!

Conclusion: Great sock for trail (and even road) running. Wicks away water very well, and is very comfortable from start to finish.

Thorlos More Casual Comfort Socks

Thorlos, Thorlos More Casual Comfort, Thorlo, office socks, comfortable socks

Thorlos More Casual Comfort Socks

I tested the More Casual Comfort sock out during many endless hours of grueling, rigorous… desk work. I’m not on my feet much around the office, but I try to move around as much as I can to keep myself a little bit active throughout the day. 

The Casual Comfort socks are quite different from my normal office socks. My feet tend to be warm (and stay warm) all day long, so I usually choose a cheaper, thinner sock, hoping that they will allow my foot to breathe properly. This can be a problem after wearing the socks inside dress shoes all day though, as certain fabric blends, well… stink. And, I always rely on my shoes to be comfortable, and the comfort of the socks I wear has never mattered.

With the Casual Comfort sock, you get a thicker sock with great wicking performance, it is extremely comfortable all day long (It seriously feels like you are walking on a cushion of air,) and best of all NO STINK!  They come in several colors as well – black, khaki, and white.

Conclusion: A very good sock for wearing all day long while at the office. Looks good with a dress shoe. Warm, but breathable and extremely comfortable overall.

Important Note

I have a fairly wide variety of shoes and even though they are all the same size, different types of Thorlos padded socks fit differently depending on the brand and type (road, trail, casual) of shoe I was wearing. In order to ensure proper fit, Thorlos recommends choosing a sock first, then wearing that pair while trying on shoes.

Thorlos is currently offering a free pair of their padded socks (just pay s&h) to anyone interested in trying them out. Click here for more info, or click on the image in the sidebar.

For additional information on Thorlos visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or check out their extensive video collection on their YouTube channel.

 

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:41+00:00 April 16th, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , |1 Comment

Running with a Laptop: Should you do it? Yes and No…(but mostly no.)

All computers eventually fail.  Ones that move a lot, fail a lot faster.  Backup your data.

– IT department email to a run commuter

Should you run with a laptop? Or, like the IT specialist’s email from above hints at, should you avoid it all costs? Buckle up, run commuters – it’s about to get a little bit wordy… and a little bit nerdy.

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Do you really need to run with a laptop?

We recommend that you do not run with a laptop. Yes, we know some of you do it, and I myself have run with one (well, a tablet/keyboard combo) several times, but the components are just not made for being bounced around regularly. Occasionally, perhaps, but not regularly.

In this rapidly-advancing digital age we live in there are many ways you can work without transporting a laptop back and forth to work every day – emailing documents, using remote/virtual desktop solutions, cloud-based applications, or simply transporting electronic docs and data by flash drive to work on at your home computer. However, we’ll just go ahead and assume that it is not possible or reasonable to use any of these options. You absolutely must transport a laptop to and/from work or school and you want to ensure that your computer is protected and your data is safe. So, I’m going to tell you what the ideal setup is, but again…not recommended.

Scroll down to the TL;DR if you don’t want to hear a bunch of computer/tech talk.

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The Old Standard: Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

Inside most laptops and desktop computers, you’ll find one of these. They store all the data of your computer and spin nearly nonstop all the while you are computing. When your laptop HDD is powered off, it is normally parked, or stopped in a position least likely to cause damage if bounced/moved/dropped or the head crashes.

After a very unsuccessful series of emails to the top four hard drive manufacturers’ (Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi/HGST, and Toshiba) Departments of Shaking and Dropping to get more details, I ventured out on my own to find out what I could.

For run commuters who carry HDD laptops, the main factors that can lead to hard drive failure are vibration and mechanical shock. Too much of either of those can result in head crash or separation of solder points that hold the components of the HDD together, either within it’s own housing or within the laptop case.

Standard laptops are run through various tests to see how well the disc drives perform under regular and abnormal conditions.  Here is Toshiba’s laptop vibration test:


 

This is a fairly normal test in the industry and roughly emulates the slight-to-moderate bounce of a secured laptop within a backpack while running. Unfortunately, I could not find at what point a laptop will fail – only users or IT professionals saying not to bounce it if you can help it because there are many, many HDD laptops that just can’t hack the continuous beating.

A better HDD laptop, would be a specially-designed, super-rugged laptop, made for extreme conditions, high levels of shock, and harsh environments, such as those encountered during military field operations. These do exist, unfortunately, there are two major drawbacks: price and weight.

CF-29

A very basic heavy-duty, military-spec laptop such as the Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 (shown above) from ToughRuggedLaptops.com is $299 USD (that’s the refurbished price without upgrades) and weighs in at a hefty 8.5 pounds /3.9 kg. Add a few basic upgrades, though, and the price jumps to nearly $550 USD. Models with more features, better processors, and better components, not only cost more, but weigh more as well (the Getac X500 weighs in around 12 pounds/5.4 kg).

So let’s just forget about standard HDD laptops for run commuting. They are too susceptible to vibration and break too easily. And forget rugged laptops, too. Even if you can afford one, they are too heavy to run with. So, what’s left?

The New Edition: Solid-State Drives (SSD)

Unlike Hard Disk Drives, Solid-State Drives have no moving parts – no spinning discs; no heads that can crash or need to be parked – and use flash-based memory. They have many more advantages as well, including speed (both when starting up and accessing data), weight, energy-use, and operating temperature. Though they have been around since the 1970’s, SSDs have only become commercially available (and affordable) over the past few years. 

The reliability testing for SSDs is similar to that of HDDs, but to see how they stack up against one another, you should really check out the first dozen pages of this Super Talent Technology Environmental Testing Report (you can just look at the graphs). SSD is definitely the way to go!

Some rugged laptops are now being made with SSDs, but again, they are still pricey and too heavy for run commuting. The Panasonic Toughbook CF-30 starts at $570, and weighs 8 pounds.

You have several options for SSD computer. These include:

Chromebook – non-Windows operating system, uses web-based applications.

Ultrabooks – Windows-based operating systems, super lightweight, and thin.

Tablets – Android or Windows-based operating system, optional keyboard, extremely light, limited connection with peripherals, keyboard sold separately.

Macbooks –  Lightweight, expensive.

If you have to run with a laptop, make sure it has an SSD or other flash-based setup and you should be good to go. Or, so we’ve heard…

Running Backpacks for Carrying Laptops

An ideal running backpack for transporting a laptop back and forth from work should have two key features;  A laptop sleeve, and external compression straps.

Laptop SleeveOne of the categories we included in our Running Backpack Roundup indicates whether or not a laptop sleeve is present in a pack. A laptop sleeve is a designated pouch within the backpack (usually closest to your back) that can be padded or unpadded, and normally has a fastening mechanism on top (such as velcro or a buckle) to keep it closed and keep the laptop from slipping out if turned over. Even if you don’t run with a laptop, a laptop sleeve is a great place to hold documents or folders and keeps them from becoming crumpled or bent.

External compression straps on the Osprey Manta 20

External compression straps on the Osprey Manta 20

 External compression straps should be on any pack you use for run commuting, whether you carry a laptop or not. These straps can be found in one or more locations on the outside of the pack, and allow you to cinch down and eliminate any remaining empty space within the pack. Your pack might be tight as can be against your body, which is great, but if there is space within your pack that is empty, the contents will bounce around. By eliminating that space by tightening your pack’s external compressions straps, the contents of your pack (inluding your laptop or tablet) will be unable to bounce around while you run.

So, which make and model should you get? We can’t recommend one specifically, however, we recently asked our readers who run commute with laptops what they used. Take a look below and you might find a pack (or computing solution) that works for you.

TRC Reader’s Running Rigs

 Osprey Spin 22 and HP Pavilion

Gary uses an Osprey Spin 22 to carry his HP Pavilion DM4 laptop.

Osprey Raptor 14 and MS Surface

Randal uses an Osprey Raptor 14 to carry his Microsoft Surface tablet.

Manta and Asus T100

I use an Osprey Manta 20 to carry my ASUS Transformer tablet.

Another reader, Jeanne, commented that she uses a standard backpack, packing clothes around her laptop to keep it protected, and holding everything together using a race belt. There are plenty of DIY tricks like this that you could come up with yourself to make what you have now work for run commuting with a laptop.  

TL;DR: We don’t recommend running with a laptop. We don’t want you to lose your data! Find ways around it, like using your home computer, cloud-based services, email, web meetings, etc. However, if you must run with one… Hard drives (HDD) bad, Solid-State drives (SSD) good. Get a backpack with a laptop sleeve and external compressions straps, pack it tight, cinch it down, and off you go (as infrequently as possible)!

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:41+00:00 March 31st, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , |5 Comments

Gear to Destinkify: Towels and Cloths for your Post-Run Commute Cleanup

“I could NEVER run to work. There is no shower in my building! What am I supposed to do to get clean and not stink?!?!?”

We hear this a lot; usually when talking with someone who is thinking about starting to run commute, or while engaging others in discussions on the web. And, yes – some people do have legitimate reasons where a shower is absolutely necessary post-run (long hair, for instance). But for those whose offices lack a shower, you can still be a well-groomed employee without smelling offensive. 

Stephanie has told us how she packs her clothes for the commute; Kyle wrote about cleaning up in Part 5 of our Getting Started series; and, Anna – in our latest edition of  The New Run Commuters – showed how she dries her running gear after arriving at the office. Over the next few months, we’ll highlight a few pieces of gear, as well as common, everyday supplies that will help you look, and smell, your best at work. First up – towels and cloths.

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One of the more important items to have for a no-shower cleanup (besides baby wipes) is a towel. I use two – one that I get wet for cleaning, and one for drying off. To help you get yourself as clean as you can after a run, here are a few I’ve tried in the past few months and what I though of them.

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Norwex Body Cloth

We were contacted by a Norwex representative who happened upon our site, and she said she was going to send us something she thought would be a great fit for run commuters who cleaned up without a shower.  Several days later we received a Norwex Body Cloth, and we tested it out over the course of a several weeks at the office.

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First Impression:

The cloth is small – about 12″ x 12″ – and is made of a blend of 70% polyester and 30% polyamide. Like most microfiber towels and cloths, it’s a little “sticky,” in that it catches on any slight imperfections it finds; dry skin, for example. It is also impregnated with silver, which is supposed to inhibit bacterial growth. The test cloth is green, but it comes in five other colors.

First use:

I arrived at the office and cooled down as I normally do. I used baby wipes over most of my body, put on antiperspirant, got dressed, and headed to the restroom. Per the instructions, I wet the Norwex towel down thoroughly, and wrung it out. As I cleaned off my head and face, I noticed two things about the towel – It was extremely refreshing and it smelled really good. After cleaning up, I felt just a little cleaner than I normally do if I just use wipes. It is probably due to the fact that the baby wipes I use leave a moisturizing film on my skin after each use, and was removed by the wipe-down with the towel. Back in my office, I hung the towel up and by lunchtime it was dry.

For the next several weeks, I used this over and over, bringing it home after a few days and washing it. The towels are sold in a pack of three, which should get you through a full work week. At the end of the week, take them home, wash them, and you are ready to go for another week.

Conclusion:

This is a great piece of gear for run commuting. It functions extremely well as a wet cleaning cloth. It cleans the skin very thoroughly, rinses easily, dries fast, and can be used for quite some time before washing. The cloth doesn’t stink. You don’t stink. The world is good.

Divatex Sport Towel

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First Impression:

The largest of the the three towels, the Divatex Sport Towel is 24″ x 47″ in size and, like the Norwex microfiber cloths, extremely soft. It is made from 80% poly/20% nylon, and is thin – about half as thick as the Norwex or Coleman towels.

First Use:

After cooling off, wiping down, and getting partially dressed (pants, shoes, undershirt), I grabbed the Divatex and headed to the bathroom. In this version of the cleanup, I used the water from the sink to wet the skin on my head, neck, and face, then scrubbed with soap and rinsed, using the towel to dry off. I repeated the same with my arms and chest (a wash/body cloth, like the previously mentioned Norwex, works best here) Drying off with the Sport Towel was quick and comfortable. The material is soft against the skin, and absorbs water much better than a standard cotton towel. Once finished, I returned to my office, finished dressing, and hung the towel up to dry.

It didn’t pick up any offensive smells during the testing week and could probably have been used unwashed for two weeks, however, I recommend washing it with your running clothes once a week.

Conclusion:

This is a solid piece of gear. It’s a great, lightweight drying-off towel and can go for extended periods of time without washing. And, don’t be fooled by it’s small size compared to a regular bath towel – it will completely dry you off after a shower.

Coleman Camp Towel

I purchased this several years ago while researching camping, backpacking, and traveling gear that could also be used for run commuting. It was very inexpensive and looked like it would fit the bill for the post-run cleanup.

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First Impression:

Made from “non-woven polyester,” the Coleman Camp Towel has a completely different feel to it than the microfiber towels. It’s rough, scratchy, and very lightweight. But look how easy it is to spot in that smashing yellow color! It measures in at 20″ x 27″.

First (and last) Use:

I repeated the same procedure I had with the Divatex Sport Towel and the first thing I noticed was that it is scratchy as hell – just downright uncomfortable against the skin. It’s hard to describe it’s absorbency. It’s hard, because I could not tell if it soaked water up, or merely pushed it off me, similar to that thing you do when you turn the shower off in the morning and realize there isn’t a towel within 50 feet of you – just brush off as much as you can and hope it is good enough.

On the upside, the thing dries more quickly than any towel I’ve ever used. That might be due to the fact that it never really gets wet though (just a hunch).

Conclusion:

No. Don’t use it on yourself. Don’t use it on others. Don’t give it as a gift. Leave it in it’s natural habitat: the camping section of a WalMart store.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:42+00:00 March 19th, 2014|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |3 Comments

Review: Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack

Have you ever wanted to run somewhere with a chair strapped to your back? How about two? With the Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack anything is possible.

The idea for this pack emerged when a cyclist wanted to bring a chair with him to the beach. As occasional/regular bike commuters ourselves, we know how hard transporting oddly-shaped items via bike can be. And yes, there are times as an alternative commuter when you need to transport such things to work (or home), but realize it’s just going to have be a driving day. Sure, there are exceptions to this; like the dude who ran over a thousand miles with a refrigerator on his back, however, the Granite Rocx Tahoe fills in the middle ground between normal and crazy insane transportation quite well.

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Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack (R) with Insulated Cooler (L)

Front: Attached to the front of the pack is a cooler. Yep. A backpack cooler. And, one that has fairly substantial volume, at that. It can easily hold a 64-ounce growler of beer or a twelve pack of cans. The cooler bag is fully insulated, has a zippered top, front and back pouches, a carrying handle, and a removable carrying strap. It’s actually a pretty nice bag on it’s own. The cooler attaches to the backpack with three, sturdy buckles. 

On the backpack itself, a crisscrossed, adjustable bungee system covers the front panel, allowing for items such as spare jackets, towels, or even yoga mats to be attached securely. Inside the spacious, zippered front panel are several pouches that can hold a variety items you want quick access to, from pens and pencils, to cell phones, wallets, and books.

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Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack – Front View. The three buckles on the top and sides are for attaching cooler.

Sides:  Mesh side pockets with stretchable, elastic openings are located on both sides of the pack. These are useful for carrying water bottles and small items, such as keys or anything to which you want reach-around access.

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Granite Rocx Tahoe – Side View

Main Compartment: This thing can only be described as cavernous. There are no pouches, key attachments, or zippered pockets inside, just wide open space in which a great deal of cargo can be carried. My rough calculations put it at 1,440 cubic inches.

With a total volume of 2,135 cubic inches, the Tahoe is the largest pack by far we’ve ever reviewed. To give you an idea of the difference, the next closest pack we’ve tried out – the LatLock E70 – was only 1,428 cu. in.

Bottom: The bottom of the pack has room for carrying even more items. Two adjustable, buckled straps will easily hold a camp chair, mattress pad, or even a tent. This is a feature normally seen on external frame packs, and it’s cool to see it on a daypack for once.

Back Compartment: This is where the Tahoe separates itself from every other pack on the market. When unzipped, the front of the pack falls away from the back, unveiling a space bound by three, 22-inch long cinch straps, which can be buckled and unbuckled to wrap around and secure your cargo. What sort of cargo? The pack was designed to hold folding chairs, but any sort of fold-flat, sturdy item would work equally as well. Like a two-burner, propane camping stove, for example. 

Suspension: The shoulder straps are wide, medium-padded and curve outward, attaching at the bottom corners of the pack. The left strap has a small mesh pocket that fits a set of keys or a small cell phone (but not a larger smart phone).The waist strap has 4.5 inches of padding on each side where it hits the hip, and is connected in the middle by a large plastic buckle with strap wranglers. The sternum strap is adjustable and also includes a strap wrangler. 

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Granite Rocx Tahoe – Suspension Setup

On the Run 

Scenario 1: Backpack only, full contents.

Scenario 2: Full contents, with a folding chair.

Note: I used a standard folding chair, as opposed to this type of chair, because the one I used folds up narrower, and doesn’t hinder arm movement while running as much.

Scenario 3: Full contents, with a folding chair and a camp chair.

Bounce and Shake Test: Not bad…

Performance and Evaluation:

This is a great pack for cycling or even on a scooter. In fact, I transported all of the items in the videos by scooter and it worked really, really well. 

By itself, The Granite Rocx Tahoe worked just fine for running. It has most features of a good run commuting pack; waist strap, strernum strap, etc., but it could use external compression straps to keep internal items from moving around too much. It would definitely work fine for regular run commuting.

Running with a folding chair worked pretty well. There was some movement of the chair, but it was minimal. And, you don’t notice it too much because the back panel of the pack stays very tightly secured against your back, while the extra movement feels like it is happening completely indepedently.

When a collapsible camp chair was added underneath, I expected it to feel extremely awkward on the run, however, I was very surprised to find otherwise. My hands and arms never touched the camp chair while running, and it wasn’t bouncing against my backside like I expected. It took a little getting used to, but I could see myself occassionaly running with this cargo load for a few miles with little problems.

Specifications:

  • Material: 420D Ripstop Nylon
  • Volume: 35 Liters
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Dimensions (inches): 13 x 7.5 x 19.5
  • Cost: $65.00. Available through the Granite Rocx website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Granite Rocx Tahoe Backpack for free from Granite Rocx as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.

Review: SKORA Form Running Shoes

While the post-Born to Run minimal running shoe fad began to slow a couple of years after it took the running world by surprise (seemingly overnight), some companies have prevailed as leaders in the industry, remaining solid performers while other styles and designs came and went. SKORA, a Portland-based shoe manufacturer, is one that has continued to thrive.

In a market once dominated by giants like Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and Asics, the demand for minimal, barefoot, and natural running footwear created new niches allowing smaller running shoe companies, like SKORA, to fill the void and provide an alternative to the clunky, heel-striking shoes that had been the standard for decades. 

Recently, we were sent some SKORA Forms to review. We put some miles on them under regular running conditions, and – of course – while run commuting. Here is what the tester thought of them.

(more…)

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:44+00:00 November 30th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , |1 Comment
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