Thursday, September 21, 2017

Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set Review

While I really like Salomon gear in general, I was really impressed with the S-Lab Sense Set Vest more than any other product I have tested from them so far.  It was lightweight, minimal, and just fit my body well.  I have tested hydration packs, waist belts, vests, and handhelds from all of the major companies that produce hydration gear and the S-Lab Sense Set Vest was one of my favorites.  I have been testing the Adv Skin 5 Set for a while now, I apologize to Salomon for taking so long, but I’ve been out enjoying the pack and putting it to the test.

Most of Salomon’s running gear is centered around trail running and ultras, but would be great for all running.  I have been focusing more on trail running in the last year (with a little road running sprinkled in there) so it is nice to test out gear made for the trails.

The vest is extremely light weight at only 451 grams (just under 1 pound) with the bottles and 225 grams without the bottles (just under 8 ounces).  Like the S-Lab Sense Set Vest, the Adv Skin 5 Set is specifically designed for stability and it truly becomes an extension of your upper body.  There is definitely more storage with this pack too.

There are two bottles that come with the pack, which is honestly my biggest issue with this pack, and all Salomon packs for that matter.  The water bottles are thin, flexible, and collapsible, which I actually like.  They are made by Hydrapak (which makes bottles for several major hydration companies) with the Salomon branding on them.  They hold 500ml or 17 ounces of fluids each.  The valves make it easy to get a decent amount of water. 

I have a few issues with the bottles though.  The opening for filling them up are rather small, so adding ice is not really possible and putting electrolyte powders can be messy.  There is no shut off option on the valve, which I tend to like and the bottles are difficult to get in the pockets, which I have read they fixed with the new S/Lab Sense Ultra 8 Vest bottles.  With that being said, I got used to the bottles and for most training runs, they won’t be an issue, but in ultras or other long races where you will need to refill the bottles, you might lose a little bit of time (there is always the option of buying extra bottles and have them in your drop bags, which is where a lockable valve would be great). 

The straps in the front are elastic based, which I didn’t like at first because I was trying to figure out the fit.  Now that I have tested it out for a while, I like this attachment system better than any other pack.  The reason is that it can truly be fit to your body unlike some straps out there that are rigid and don’t flex.  I really like how the elastic allows for a tight fit while still allowing your chest to expand and contract while you breathe.  It’s adjustable so you can move the straps up and down with ease, finding the right point across your body for the straps to cross.  Two thumbs up there.

Let’s talk storage…  There are the two bottle pockets in the front (one per side).  There is a pocket on either side in front (and slightly lower) of the bottle pockets and on one side, there is a small pocket above the bottle pocket.  On the other side is a zippered pocket above the bottle pocket.  That makes for four usable pockets not including the bottle pockets.  The smaller pocket (non-zippered) is perfect for trash or salt pills.  The zippered pocket is great for your car key or ID.  The two pockets in the front are great for gels, gloves, and other gear and the pocket material is really stretchy so you can stuff a lot into the pockets.  The pockets wrap around your side, which made it perfect for storing my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, which is not the easiest to store in most vest pockets, but wasn’t a problem here.  I really tested it out on some technical climbs and descents where I expected my phone to be ejected at least once, but it stayed put.  I like to keep my phone close by to check where I am at on trails (if it is a new trail that I haven’t been on before) or want to take a few pictures.

On the back of the pack, there is a large pocket that can be used for storage or for a hydration bladder, which is not included.  You do get a bladder insulation sleeve and an emergency blanket (Mylar like the ones at races).   There is a smaller pocket that is inside of the larger pocket that is the perfect size for the emergency blanket.  I actually use that pocket for storing my hat and headlamp when not in use because I can access it without taking my pack off.  It is also great for storing an additional soft flask. 

On the lower back area is another pocket that opens on either side and is great for storing extra layers.  There are also two smaller zippered pockets, one on either side of your lower back.  These are perfect for more energy or clothing, batteries and more.

Other great features include the straps for your trekking poles (which you can store without taking the pack off), the ability to drink without taking the flasks out of the pockets.  The thing that really sets Salomon packs apart from the competition is that the vests are the perfect combination of plenty of storage and an awesome fit. 

Awesome fit
Excellent breathe-ability with mesh back and moisture wicking
Lightweight (8 ounces w/o bottles)
Great price ($155)
Can store more than you will need
Can hold bottles and a hydration bladder if needed
Excellent elastic strapping provides a superior fit

The bottles could have a larger opening and valve lockout

Salomon’s Social Media Links

The really cool thing about this vest is that it is so light weight and breathable that it almost feels like it isn’t even there.  I love all of the pockets and that the back will not trap heat in.  There is a whistle inside one of the front pockets and the chest straps are easy adjust for a great fit.  Out of the 15 or so packs that I‘ve tested over the years, this is one of favorites.  You can get the Adv Skin 5 Set for $155 on the Salomon website.  I have even seen them under $115 online if you shop around.  They also have a slightly larger version (Adv Skin 12 Set) for about $175 that has more storage if that is what you are looking for. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hoka One One Clifton 4 (Wide) Review

Hoka One One was the first company to release an oversized foam midsole running shoe in 2010 and the trend has been gaining popularity ever since.  Now most companies have some variation of a highly cushioned shoe.  The founders of Hoka One One wanted to create a larger sweet spot, much like on oversized tennis racquets or skies.  There have been statements both for and against these highly cushioned shoes. 

While they might not be for everyone, there some benefits that the shoe companies are claiming.  They claim that the extra cushion provides a softer ride, which you cannot disagree with.  They also claim that the extra cushion lessens the impact on your joints and can reduce the amount of recovery time needed after long or higher intensity runs.  Another claim is that the extra cushion provides an increased energy return, meaning that the shoes will provide more of a spring than lesser cushioned shoes. 

I have reviewed several shoes from Hoka One One in the past.  Click the links below to read my reviews.

Hoka One One has been winning awards for many of their shoes.  The original Clifton won multiple awards while the Clifton 2 won the Summer 2015 “Editor’s Choice for Best Ride” from  The Clayton won the September 2016 “Editor’s Choice” award from Runner’s World and the Clifton 3 won the 2016 “Best Update” award from  I really liked the Clifton 2 when it first came out, but the more I ran it them, the more I realized that they were too narrow for my feet.  They made some improvements with the Clifton 3, which were much better in terms of the width of the toe box, but it was still just a little too narrow for my feet (which are wider than most people’s feet).  I do wear my Clifton 3’s every day because they are extremely comfortable, but because I have wider feet, I just need something a little wider to run in.  The Clifton 4 that just came out within the past few months is even wider than its predecessors, but is a little too narrow for me still.  The good news though is that the Clifton 4 is now available in a wide version.     

My favorite features of the Clifton line of shoes are that they have tons of cushion, but don’t feel like you are running on a wet sponge.  They are really light weight and just feel great (unless you have unusually wide feet like me).  Even with my wider foot, the width was more of an irritation than anything else.  That irritation would turn into pain after 18+ miles.  They have made some improvements with the new Clifton 4.  The shoe is more adaptive, meaning that it molds to your foot, providing a more consistent and comfortable ride than previous versions.  They used new materials including an engineered mesh with 3D puff printing in the upper.  It stretches much more than the previous versions and is more breathable.  The difference is noticeable both in the fit and comfort, especially on hot runs. 

Clifton 4, Clifton 3, Clifton 2 (Left to Right)
Clifton 4, Clifton 3, Clifton 2 (Left to Right)

The foam that they use has been improved as well.  Hoka wanted to provide more rebound and a longer life of the foam.  I feel that they succeeded in both areas, but they are a little stiffer than the Clifton 3.  While they are still really soft and cushy, they are more firm than previous versions.  The commercials compare it to running on marshmallows.  I felt that the Clifton 3 had more of a feeling like running on marshmallows, but I do like the Clifton 4’s fit, feel, and cushioning better.  The Clifton 4 weighs in at 9.3 ounces with a stack height of 29mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot.  That gives it a 5mm heel drop.  Here is a chart that shows the progression of the Clifton line of shoes.

8.3 ounces
8.6 ounces
9.3 ounces
Heel Drop
Forefoot Width
Narrowest shoe in the Clifton line (Not available in wide)
More wide than Clifton 2, more narrow than the Clifton 4 (Not available in wide)
Widest of the Clifton line (also available in wide)
Type of Shoe
Balanced (Middle of Plush and Responsive)
Balanced (Middle of Plush and Responsive)
Balanced (Middle of Plush and Responsive)
$130 (as low as $99)
$130 (as low as $75)

All of the Clifton shoes include an Early Stage Meta-Rocker that is made to propel you forward while promoting a natural gait.  Your foot rolls smoothly from impact to off.  They are all are well cushioned, with the Clifton 3 being more plush, and the Clifton 4 having a different feel, but plenty of cushion.  Different people will prefer one of these shoes over the other for their own personal reasons.  My favorite Hoka road shoe is the Clifton 4 Wide though.  I put in 28 miles in three days before my long run this week.  I was able to do 17 miles in the Clifton 4 Wide with no foot pain, which was common with the Clifton 2 and Clifton 3 because they were a little too narrow for me.  I simply love how the Clifton 4 Wide feel.  I could run in them all day! 

There has been a gradual increase in weight over the last three iterations of the shoe line, which has added a full ounce since the Clifton 2.  I am absolutely on board with the increase though as Hoka has really improved this shoe.  I can use the Clifton 4 on long runs, easy runs, and even faster tempo runs or races.  It really is an all-purpose shoe.  Thank you Hoka One One for making a wider shoe for big footed fellows like myself.

Clifton 4 Pros:
Plenty of cushion for all types of runners
5mm heel drop
Very light 9.3 ounces
Great price ($140 Hoka One One website)

Hoka One One Social Media Links:

While I loved the idea of the Clifton 3, they weren’t quite wide enough for my feet, although they are probably wide enough for most runners out there.  They made the Clifton 4 wider and even have a wide version, which I absolutely love.  It is my go to long distance shoe right now and my favorite Hoka One One road shoe so far.  Check them out at your local running store (click here for locations), at the Hoka One One website, or at your favorite online retailer.  They are worth checking out and I would love to know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.