Thursday, December 5, 2019

Real Runner Reviews’ 2019 Gift Guide

So I have been off the grid for a while.  I promise to share all about it in the new year.  A lot has happened in my life, some good and some bad.  I plan on coming back with more content than reviews in 2020.  Don't get me wrong, there will still be reviews, but I want to really get into injury prevention and how injuries change our lives, within running and beyond.  Lets get to the good stuff though.

It’s that time of year when you may be looking for that perfect gift for the runner in your life.  It may be a $5 stick of anti-chafe or a $1,000 pair or recovery boots.  There are so many choices out there and everyone advertises their product as life changing.  While I won’t make any claims on any product being the best for every person or situation, I wanted to list a few of my favorite pieces of gear and why.

OOFOS makes the most comfortable recovery sandal around.  Maybe your boss will be okay with you wearing them to work?  Not only does OOFOS foam absorb 37% more shock than other materials, but they cradle your arches as well.  They are machine washable and float. Beware, once you put them on, you won’t want to take them off.   I can say that everyday when I get home, my work shoes come off and my Oofos go on…for over 2 years now…on the same pair.  These are especially great after a long run or a punishing track workout. 

If you are not familiar with SportHill Direct, Inc. they are based out of Oregon.  Jim Hill was a track runner at the University of Oregon when he realized that clothing at the time was not very effective.  He developed 3SP fabric, which was the fasted drying fabric in the world.  They have clothing for all types of outdoor sporting activities.  The Zephyr Long Sleeve Crew is made with their SwiftDryPro which is a 91& Polyester to 8% Spandex blend that blocks wind to 25 mph and wicks moisture like a champ.  It has built in thumb holes and just feels good, even on those long stormy runs.  The price is higher than other long-sleeved shirts, but the fabric holds the secret and is worth the price of admission.  I was a skeptic when I first saw the price point, but it has jumped to one of my favorite long sleeve shirts.

When I was younger I could sit on my bulky tri-fold wallet with no problem.  I am not as young as I once was and have noticed that I cannot sit on a big bulky wallet anymore.  I am always in need of a pen and a place to put spare change or a stash pocket (not for that…its good for stamps, spare house key, etc).    Allett has been in my pocket for the past 5 years or so.  They have a range of slim wallets using different materials depending on your preferences.  The Nylon Small Coin Wallet is great.  It has an outside zippered coin pocket, has two slots that each holds 10+ cards, and a divided pocket for cash and receipts.  The Nylon is tear resistant and easy to clean. My favorite part is the micro pen that fits in a special slot on the inside of the wallet.  At the sale price, this makes my butt and my wallet happy.  I had to retire my old Allett wallet for this one.

So, one thing that kills me is watching people run on trails or on the shoulder of the road with normal headphones that drown out all noise.  It is vital to hear other runners, cyclists, or vehicles and most earphones don’t allow that.  It has been a few years since bone conduction headphones really started hitting the mainstream market.  Aftershokz explains it as “Transducers send mini vibrations through the cheekbones and deliver sound directly to the inner ear, bypassing the eardrum.”  This allows you to hear your surroundings.  I can listen to music and still hear my friends when they occasionally say when we are turning up ahead. 

I will state up front that the quality is not as good as some closed ear or in ear headphone, but the sound is good and is a safer alternative for sure.  I had the Trekz Titanium for the longest time before upgrading to the Aeropex, which is their newest and most advanced headphones yet.  You get better sound, battery life (8+ hours), and is waterproof (with an IP67 rating).  I love these and the battery life is amazing!

Do you ever run in wet weather?  Did you know that it can dramatically reduce the life of your shoes if you don’t dry them the right way?  Shoes are typically held together, at least in part, with glue.  If exposed to heat from a laundry dryer, your shoes can start to come apart. 

In the past, I stuffed my shoes with newspaper and let them dry naturally, which would take days.  There is a much better solution though, and the price is great as well.  The DryGuy Force Dry is a shoe and glove dryer that is compact enough to take with you on trips thanks to its fold flat design.  The DryGuy Force Dry can dry a pair of shoes in 1-2 hours according to the packaging and after several tests, it rarely took me more than 90 minutes, even with the most thoroughly soaked shoes. 

There is a timer that you can set for up to 3 hours so you can turn on the DryGuy Force Dry before you go to bed or head out to run errands and not have to worry about the dryer running too long.  Another thing that I like about the DryGuy Force Dry is that it’s fairly quiet.  Unlike a pair of snowboard boot dryers that I got 10 years ago, the DryGuy Force Dry can be in the same room as you while watching television without having to crank up the volume.  I use this to dry my shoes all winter long.  It’s great for gloves and kids shoes too.


So, to be completely honest and upfront, I have talked with Victor Ballesteros, the CEO of Victory Sportdesign, for a while at events.  He is a really nice guy.  I would see his vendor booth and would check out the bags and after a year or so, I finally got to test a few out.  Victor not only makes awesome bags for runners, but works with certified a fair wage factory and makes sure that each bag takes into account the impact on the environment that making the bags will cost, trying to minimize that impact.

The Bear III is a great drop bag or race day gear bag.  I use it mostly for runs after work or at lunch when I need to pack all of my gear.  You can fit everything into this well-organized bag.  It has numerous pockets, a detachable divider, a shoe bag all on the inside.  The outside of the bag has see-through pockets for your name (drop bags) or so see what you have stored.  The seams are taped, and it has a water-resistant outer shell.  You also get a shoulder strap. 

If you need something bigger or are looking for a travel bag for racing outside of your area, look no further than the Kodiak.  This beast is amazing as well.  It has the same water-resistant outer shell and taped seams but adds backpack straps with bottle holders that can be strapped together (attached) to make a duffel handle.  There is a see-through pocket as well as a few outer pockets.  On the inside, you really get to see Victor’s genius designing at work.  There are 9 separate see-through pockets in the top of the zippered opening.  There is a large customizable storage area that includes separators.  You can keep it open as one big compartment or make smaller ones.  I could go on-and on about these bags, but they would be at the top of my list for runners who travel to races or even who just like to have their gear organized on race day.

Stretching your muscles out on a regular basis will help you recover quicker, increase flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury from running.  The OPTP Stretch Out Strap is 6’4” in length and has multiple loops to make it easier to hold while stretching.  The included exercise book comes with 30 exercises to help you along the way.  I use mine almost every night.

With this being the time of giving, you now have a few items that are worthy of checking out for the runner in your life.  I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season and I am going to be coming back in 2020 to bring some exciting changes to the blog.  The long hiatus is over!

Note:  I received these 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.  I worked with Deep Creek PR out of Seattle on the Allett and SportHill items.  I have been working with Deep Creek PR for a few years and Cameron Ownbey really goes out of his way to represent their clients.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rehband Knee Sleeve Review

There is much more involved with being an injury free and successful runner than just hitting the pavement or trails.  I have found that stretching, foam rolling, and strength training also have to be included in my training to not just become stronger, but reduce the risk of injury.  By strengthening the muscles in my legs, I become more stable and can really crush my runs.  I have really noticed my endurance increasing and I can handle climbing and descending hills much better.

I have been working out in the gym for over 25 years now.  I can’t believe that I can even say that.  It makes me feel so old!!!  I am not a gym guru by any means.  I’ve had some friends who are personal trainers work with me on my form and training plans to get the most out my gym workouts.  I have always had some knee issues, especially on heavy leg days. 

My friend and coworker told me about his favorite knee sleeves that he uses when he’s lifting.  He’s a pure animal and puts his gear through the ringer, but says his Rehband Original Knee Sleeves are amazing and will last forever.  I fully trust him and wanted to see if it would help with my knee pain. 

The Rehband Original Knee Sleeve is a 7mm thick knee sleeve that will provide support and stabilization while lifting.  It’s made of thick Neoprene with a seamless back panel and anatomical construction to really work with you when lifting heavy weights.  It does a great job of warming up your joints and muscles to prevent injuries.  When I say warming, I mean that it will make you sweat like crazy under the sleeve.

These knee sleeves are the go-to knee sleeve for people in cross fit from the research that I’ve done.  They are approved for use in Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, Crossfit, Strongman, and Elite team sports.

So my experience with the sleeves has been really good.  They fit great and stay put.  I have tried other cheaper sleeves that always slide down or cause irritation.  The Rehband Original Knee Sleeves do a great job of heating up my knees.  I throw them on before my 1/2 mile jog to the gym and am ready to lift heavy when I get there. I’ve not had any knee pain since I’ve started using my Rehband Original Knee Sleeves and have been able to lift heavier and longer because of the extra stability.

Here is my only issue and it has nothing to do with the product at all.  By the time I am done with my workout, the knee sleeves are drenched with sweat.  I just let them dry, but do have to wash them in the sink after every 2-4 workouts because they start to smell a little.  I could easily see these sleeves lasting for years, they are that durable. 

You can find them on Amazon for $39.59 each (sold per sleeve, not per pair) and they are eligible for Prime shipping.  I encourage you to go to their website and look at their injury guide for other products that may help with an injury you are dealing with (click here). 

Extremely durable
Help with knee pain
May help you lift heavier and longer
Reduces the risk of injury
Stabilizes knee and surrounding soft tissue

Rehband’s Social Media Links

I am a huge advocate for products that can help you reduce the risk of injury.  The Rehband Original Knee Sleeves are one of those products that can help you when working on increasing your strength and becoming less injury prone in whatever sport you are participating in.  I do not plan on having to buy another pair of these sleeves because they should last for quite a long time, but I would not hesitate to buy them again.  While I would be hesitant to spend $80 on a pair of sleeves, the fact that they will last forever and work so well, makes this a “no-brainer” for me. 

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.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Altra Olympus 3.0 Review

I started running in Altra shoes about a four years ago.  I wrote several reviews during my ”Week of Altra,” last year.  To say I am a fan of the Foot Shaped Toe Box and Zero Heel Drop is an understatement.  Altra ventured into the world of running apparel within the past few years and strives to make running gear that will improve your running experience.  Altra seems to just keep getting better from their clothing, to jackets, to shoes.

I’ve written reviews for several Altra shoes in the past.  Click the links to read my past reviews:

The Olympus 2.0 is a max cushioned trail shoe that I reviewed last year.  It’s perfect for running longer distances on the trail where your feet need a little more cushion and support.  They have a stack height of 36mm, which is a lot, but doesn’t feel unstable in any way.  I was impressed with the  Olympus 2.0 for the most part.  They had a decent amount of cushion and had grip for days.  There were a few areas where I saw room for improvement.  The upper let way too much debris in and created some issues for my feet on a few runs.  Also, I like a shoe that is more flexible and because of the stack height and design of the midsole/outsole, the Olympus 2.0 was not very flexible.  I heard that the newest Olympus had been completely revamped and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

11.0 ounces
10.7 ounces
Stack Height
36 mm
33 mm
Outsole Material
Vibram® MegaGrip
Vibram® MegaGrip
Midsole Material
A-Bound/dual-layer EVA
Upper Material
Abrasion Resistant Mesh
Heel Drop
Gaiter Trap
Heel Velcro only
4-point gaiter attachment

The Olympus 3.0 was redesigned to provide more support, stability, and traction than its predecessors.  Like the Olympus 2.0 the newest Olympus has a midsole made with both EVA and A-Bound™ materials.  They changed the EVA top layer to a dual-layer EVA to help take some of the impact from the trail while the A-Bound™ bottom layer to adds a spring to each step.  The Olympus 3.0 did feel like it was more cushioned compared to the previous model.  There were able to increase the plushness while not making the shoe feel sloppy.  All of this was done at 10.7 ounces, which is 0.3 ounces lighter than the Olympus 2.0. 

Like the Olympus 2.0, the outsole is made of durable rubber with strategic sections of Vibram® MegaGrip.  This is a super-grippy material that really helps on technical and rocky trails as well as in the mud.  The Vibram® MegaGrip is center gray area on the picture below.  The teal area of the outsole is the durable rubber.  The tread is awesome!  It has both forward and reverse facing lugs.  The lugs will help give you grip when running up a hill and traction while running down hills.  

I have used this shoe in wet conditions as well as on dry technical trails.  I have used it in shorter fast trail runs as well as at the Skyline 50k last weekend.   I had an absolute blast in this shoe for over 30 miles.  There was plenty of cushion to protect my fragile feet.  I have been running with Plantar Fasciitis for over a year now and it’s often painful to run for longer than 10 miles.  While the pain didn’t disappear with the Olympus 3.0, it was much more bearable than with most of my other trail shoes. 

The redesigned upper material is made up of abrasion resistant mesh, which flexes with your feet, but does a great job of holding your feet down so you don’t slide around and blacken your toe nails.   It’s also due in part to the overlays and the lacing system, which works really well together.  The upper is breathable and drains well if you have any creek crossings.  The tongue is thick enough to prevent the laces from biting into the top of your feet, but not too thick to make your feet overheat.

Like other Altra shoes the Olympus 3.0 puts your foot in its natural position with its zero heel drop (that’s how you would walk if you didn’t have shoes on).  The FootShape™ toebox allows your toes to spread out and will eliminate issues of compressing your feet/toes like many shoes out there. 

One of my favorite features of this shoe is the Gaiter Trap.  It is a piece of Velcro on the back of the heel that you can attach your gaiters too.  It’s also on Altra’s other trail shoes (including the Superior, Lone Peak, and Timp) and it makes securing your gaiters much easier.  What Altra has done recently is included side gaiter traps so you can use Altra’s 4-point gaiters.  I absolutely love this feature as most shoes don’t have attachments on the sides for the gaiters.  The 4-point gaiter system really does a great job of keeping debris out.  

Very comfortable
Zero heel drop
Wide toe box.
Great grip with the Vibram® Megagrip outsole
4-Point Gaiter Trap
Plenty of cushion Dual Layer EVA and A-Bound
Lightweight at 10.7 ounces

Altra’s Social Media Links:

I have been looking for a shoe that had enough cushion and support to handle those long, tough days on the trail.  I am training for my first 100 miler (the Rio Del Lago 100 Miler in November) and the Olympus 3.0 will be one of the shoes I use, not only in training, but during the race.   The Olympus 3.0 has great grip thanks to the multi-directional lugs and Vibram® MegaGrip outsole.  It really gives you confidence on the trails, no matter the conditions.  You can get the Olympus 3.0 for $150 on the Altra website.

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, June 18, 2018

2018 Arc’teryx Review

If you are like me, you may not have heard of Arc’teryx before.  They are an outdoor clothing company based out of North Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.  Their name and logo refers to the Archaeopteryx Lithographica, which is the first reptile to develop the feather for flight (something to bring up at your next trivia night).  Their parent corporation is Amer Sports, which includes Salomon, which has built up quite the following in the outdoor sports world.  I have been working with the Arc’teryx store at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto (660 Stanford Shopping Center Suite 1030, Palo Alto, CA 94304).  If you head in, be sure to say hi to Dan Kirk.

The company was founded in 1989 by local climbers whose goals were to create equipment that enables a person to be immersed in the moment no matter what the conditions are.  Arc’teryx also believes highly in environmental stewardship, responsible manufacturing, and community engagement.  I recently tested five products including the Adan Short, Accelero Comp Zip Neck SS Shirt, Incendo Hat, Norvan LD Shoe, and Norvan 7 Hydration Vest.

Adan Short

Shorts are something that are vital for me.  I have dealt with chaffing issues in the past, mainly because I carry a little more junk in the trunk thanks to bad genetics and a diet that could be approved upon.  The Soleus Shorts were the first shorts I tested from Arc’teryx and I was excited since they are a higher end brand, which is evident in their prices as well. 

The Adan Short is a super lightweight short that stretches with you whether you are running the flat roads near your house or climbing up a gnarly hill in the mountains.  It’s made with a quick drying material and has a small side split on the side.  The back of the shorts features a smaller stash pocket with a zipper. 

The inside of the shorts features a draw string to tighten the shorts and an inner brief.  My only issue is that in the medium shorts, the brief was a little small on me and caused chaffing issues.  I contacted Arc’teryx and quickly received a size large as an exchange, which alleviated any issues with fit or chaffing. 

I really like the Adan Short.  It moves really well with my body no matter what I throw its way.  The shorts retail for $79.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Accelero Comp Zip Neck Short Sleeve Shirt

The Accelero shirt is a performance shirt that uses two different fabrics for those hot days on the trail.  The Helius™ material on the front of the shirt wicks moisture away and protects your skin from the sun with a UPF 50+ rating.  It is extremely smooth on your skin and prevents chaffing on those hot, sweaty runs.  The back and sholders of the shirt utilize a Viente™ mesh that is used to increased airflow and provides a cooling effect.  The combination of the two materials provides a very comfortable shirt that easily moves with you and keeps you cool. 

Another feature of the Accelero shirt is the zip neck.  I haven’t run with a shirt like this before and actually like the zip neck because I can unzip the shirt if I need a little extra ventilation.  At only 4.8 ounces, it is really light weight and almost feels like it is a part of you.  The Accelero shirt fits true to size and retails for $75.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Incendo Hat

Sometimes a hat is just a hat, but there are other hats that provide more ventilation, are super lightweight, and just feel great.  The Incendo Hat would be the second type of hat.   Incendo Hat is a lightweight, ventilated hat that not only protects you from the sun and wind, but does an awesome job at wicking moisture away and is even moisture resistant for those rainy days. 

The material is really light and fits great using a cord in the back of the hat to tighten for an optimized fit.  I have been grabbing this hat more than any other hat in my closet because it simply is a top-notch choice.  I used the Incendo Hat at the American River 50 Mile and it performed flawlessly for over 12 hours.  The Incendo Hat retails for $45.00 on the Arc’teryx website.

Norvan LD Shoe

I have been interested in testing a shoe from Arc’teryx ever since I tested some of their gear last year.  I know that they really put a lot of thought and technology into their gear and knew that the shoes would be great.  The LD in Norvan LD stands for “Long Distance” meaning that this shoe was designed to provide comfort mile after mile. 

The Norvan LD starts at the bottom with a Vibram® Megagrip outsole for a nice grip on technical trails.  The cushion of the midsole is nice and springy, but provides a great deal of responsiveness so you can be quick and nimble on the trail. 

The upper material helps to regulate temperature by allowing moisture to escape the shoe with ease.  This makes for an airy shoe that will keep your feet from overheating.  It also lets water drain fairly easily after creek crossings.  I also like that it doesn’t allow dirt and debris to come in through the mesh, which can be an issue with some trail shoes.

The laces are thin and flat, which makes it easy to get a secure fit.  There is a lace storage system in the tongue, which keeps those laces from getting snagged on a branch (not that it‘s ever happened to me).

The Norvan LD comes in at 10.9 ounces, which is a little heavier than some trail shoes, but it doesn’t feel that heavy.  The place where this shoe really excels is the construction.  I haven’t seen a shoe that is built like this.  It is one solid shoe, from the stitching, to the welds.  The durability is something that I don’t worry about at all.  The Norvan LD comes in four colors and retails for $160 on the Arc’teryx website. 

Norvan 7 Hydration Vest

I also got to test out the Norvan 7 Hydration Vest.  Talk about a solid, high performance vest that you can take anywhere.  I have tested numerous vests over the years, but was extremely impressed with the features and build quality of this vest from Arc’teryx.

The Norvan 7 was built to provide functionality as well as be extremely comfortable, which I have to say that it hit both of those marks.  It is light weight at 9 ounces and holds a 2-liter bladder from Source (which is a great company).  The bladder has a quick connect hose and comes out the side of the pack at the bottom, which I found better than the packs where the hose comes over your shoulder.   

This pack has more pockets that you can imagine.  Besides the hydration bladder, you have two larger chest pockets, which can accommodate flexible bottles (not included).  There are two lower pockets at the bottom front of each side.  There is a large pocket where you can store stuff in the back as well as a smaller mesh pocket and a zipper pocket in the rain cover.  There are also pockets on the side toward the back which double for pole pockets.

The pole pockets are reinforced to put the sharp edge of your trekking poles.  First you put the poles in the pockets and then use the bungee cables to secure the poles.  It is easy to do with the pack on and securely holds the poles in place.  This is a great feature for longer runs or at times when you want to poles for climbing, but want to put them away for downhills. 

Arc’teryx  thought of almost everything for this pack.  While the material is a little stiffer than my Salomon packs, I like the fit and feel of the Norvan 7.  After over a dozen test runs, I can say that this is a solid pack that most people will really enjoy (because no pack will work for all people).  The price is slightly higher than some packs out there, but for the build quality and features, the price is great.  You can get the Norvan 7 at the Arc’teryx  website for $179.00. 

The Arc’teryx Social Media Links:

Arc’teryx makes some amazing products.  While some of their products have a higher price tag, I think they are worth the extra money.  I am a strong believer that paying a few extra dollars on a product that will make your hours of running more enjoyable is more than worth it, especially if the gear lasts for quite a while.  I challenge you to find products with a better build quality.  I love my Arc’teryx gear and highly recommend it.  If you have tried any of their gear out, drop me a line and let me 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.