Friday, May 29, 2015

Solomon S-Lab X-Series Review

I received the Solomon S-Lab X-Series a little over a month ago.  I couldn’t wait to try them out because they are designed to help you tackle all life has to offer in urban settings.  Solomon made these shoes to provide traction and instill confidence on the road or smooth trails.  As far as I have been able to determine, this is Solomon’s first attempt at a road shoe. 

These shoes are extremely comfortable from the moment you put them on.  They have a quick lacing system similar to some of the Hoka One One shoes (the Huaka in particular).  I found that it was quick and easy to lace.  There is a pocket at the top of the tongue to store the excess lace after you tighten them.  I found it slightly difficult to use this pocket, but it is a great idea.

These shoes have a hybrid outsole that takes characteristics from road and trail shoes to provide the best traction on various types of trails.  There are smoother areas that are typically used in lighter weight road shoes and deeper lugs that are typically found in trail shoes.  I found that the traction was great on smooth trails and pavement.  These shoes definitely do not provide enough protection for technical trail running on rocky trails, but I found them to be really comfortable on pavement.

These shoes weigh in at 7.7 ounces for a men’s size 9.  The X-Series has an 8mm heel drop (19mm in the heel and 11 mm in the forefoot).  This provides adequate protection while still giving you that feeling of being connected to the ground. 

The upper is made up of a combination of barely there mesh, thin Lycra, and a more structured nylon area near the ankle.  There isn’t any toe protection so don’t try kicking any rocks.  The upper is nice and airy and I felt that it fit my foot well. 

The X-Series uses a rocker geometry that helps promote a forefoot strike.  This rocker design has worked well for companies like Hoka One One and I did feel it made a difference.  All in all this is a great shoe.  They are somewhat expensive costing $160 on the Solomon website, but you can find it cheaper on various other sites including Amazon for about $125 including shipping. 
Very comfortable
8mm heel drop
Fits like a slipper
Very light (under 8 ounces)
Plenty of cushion
Quick lacing system
Superior traction on various surfaces

A little pricy ($160 MSRP)

I feel that the Solomon S-Lab X-Series is a great shoe and can be used on the pavement, smooth trails, or a combination of the two.  I really like the shoes and they fit like a slipper.  I will be keeping these in my shoe rotation.  This is a great entry into the road shoe arena Solomon.  Two thumbs up!

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, May 11, 2015

Skora Tempo Review

I contacted Skora about testing out a pair of their shoes.  I was able to get a sample of the Tempo before its release to the public.  What drew me to Skora is that they use some of my favorite design aspects like a zero drop platform and a wider toe box than standard shoes (similar to Altra).  This allows your toes to spread out and puts your body in more of a natural running form. 

The Tempo uses some great materials to keep this shoe remarkably light, weighing in at less than 8 ounces.  They have a stack height of 22mm, which is minimal enough to really let you connect with the ground, but provide enough cushion to keep your feet feeling good mile after mile.  Skora calls them “Plush and protective yet flexible.”  I don’t know if I would call them plush, but if you are comparing them to some of their other shoes that are true minimal shoes with only a stack height of 11mm, I guess the Tempo are considered plush.  I would call them just right!

They utilize asymmetric lacing, meaning that they lace at a diagonal instead of straight down the top of the shoe.  This design matches how your foot is shaped and provides a more comfortable and secure fit.  I really like the one piece upper which eliminated stitching, reducing hot spots and providing a better fit for different types of feet. 

I don’t know that I have ever seen a running shoe that has a heel shaped like Skora’s shoes.  The heel is rounded to match the natural shape of your foot.  The upper is made up of a mesh that is extremely breathable and will help keep your feet cool in the summer.

The only negative thing that I could find is that the material in the outsole (bottom of the shoe) is harder high abrasion rubber while other areas are softer.  The high abrasion rubber seems like it is extremely durable and will last quite a while, but the softer material seems like it will probably wear out faster.  I am not sure if that will really shorten the life of the shoe, but it was the only negative thing that I could find.

Very comfortable
Zero heel drop
Wide toe box
Very light (under 8 ounces)
Plenty of cushion
Great price (As low as $129 at Skora)
Asymmetric lacing

Some of the material in the outsole is soft and might wear faster than the rest of the outsole.

I feel that the Skora Tempo is a great shoe and can be used for training runs, speed workouts, or races.    
I was not expecting these to become my favorite shoes.  I am not talking about liking them a little; I mean that they are my favorite shoes by far.  I love my Altra Instinct 3’s, Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte’s, and Skecher GOmeb Speed 3’s too, but the Tempo jumped to toe top of my list.  I would probably call them the best shoe of 2015 (so far).  Way to go Skora!

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, May 4, 2015

Dr. Cool Chemical-Free Cooling Shirt Review

I have been reading about cooling fabrics and towels that you could put around your neck.  I even bought a hat that had some cooling material in the headband.  I didn’t feel that it worked that good.  I contacted Dr. Cool when I saw they were coming out with the Dr. Cool Chemical-Free Cooling Shirt because I love the Dr. Cool Wraps (Click here for my review of their wraps) and wanted to see if the shirt would actually keep you cooler.

The Claims:
Dr. Cool claims that the shirt delivers three distinct functions to provide chemical free cooling.  It wicks sweat away, circulates moisture, and regulates evaporation.  They claim that by doing so, the fabric’s surface temperature is up to 30 degrees cooler.  They also claim that because they don’t use chemicals like most of their competitors, the cooling effect never washes out.

My Review:
I got this shirt in the mail and to be honest, I was skeptical.  I put the shirt on and went to my Les Mills Body Pump class.  I figured that because I typically work up a decent sweat there, what better place to put the shirt to the test.  I have to say that I was noticeably cooler and my shirt was drier after the class.  I didn’t sweat any less, I don’t think, it just evaporated (or ended up in a puddle on the ground).  The Dr. Cool shirt passed test number 1 with flying colors.  I had similar experiences the following three weeks in the class.  While the shirt was still sweaty, you don’t feel it on your skin.

Now it was time to put the shirt to the real test.  I took it out on a run with my very fast friend.  I knew it would be a struggle to keep up with him, especially because we were doing a 10 mile run, at a fast pace, up some very steep hills.  Oh, it was relatively warm out as well.  “Let’s see you pass this test Dr. Cool!”  Again, I felt cooler than I expected.  The shirt was actually fairly dry in the front, but the back was soaked.  You can feel the air circulating through the shirt which helped with the cooling effect.  I did stay fairly cool and dry.  The shirt passed this test as well.  Good job Dr. Cool, good job…

Keeps you cooler than normal running shirts
Great job of wicking away moisture and keeping you dry
Looks great!

It fits a little on the large size, so order 1 size smaller.
I only have one

I really like this shirt and plan on buying another one in the near future.  I really like that it is chemical free.  It fit well, looks great, and most importantly kept me cooler.  With the warmer weather on its way, I would recommend this shirt to anyone who wants to stay a bit little cooler.  While it won’t make you feel like you are running through a cooler, it definitely helps.  You can pick up your cooling shirt for $34.99 at the Dr. Cool website.  They have several colors in both men’s and women’s shirts available.

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, May 1, 2015

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra 2.0 Hydration Vest Review

I love running with water and hydration packs are a great way to take a decent amount of water with you.  Most of the packs that I have used in the past utilize a water bladder in with a tube.  The SJ Ultra 2.0 Vest from Ultimate Direction is a little different.  It has spots for 2-20 ounce bottles in the front of the vest. It was designed by (and named after) Scott Jurek who is one of the kings of ultra running.  He knows what runners need and tried to incorporate those items into the pack.

This vest has tons of room to store food and other supplies.  There are 2 pockets on either side of each bottle, 2 pockets below the bottles in the front of the vest, and two more pockets above the bottles.  6 of the pockets are for energy gels and other smaller items, while the two pockets above the bottles were for “smart phones,” but my Samsung Galaxy S5 was too big for those pockets.  There are two larger pockets on the sides.  I was able to get my phone to fit in the side pockets without any problems.  My one issue with this design is that I had a difficult time putting my phone back in the side pockets without taking the vest off.  With that being said, I am trail running, so I don’t need to be taking my phone out all of the time anyway. 

There are two large pockets in the back of the vest for your larger items and an elastic cord to put your jacket if it gets too warm out.  You could also buy a hydration bladder (sold separately) and put it in one of the back pockets.

UltimateDirection uses the lightest weight materials of any hydration pack that I have tried. The material is very breathable too, so I never felt hot with it on (unlike many of my other hydration packs).    The vest utilizes the following materials:
  • Silnylon 66: Impregnating nylon with Silicon and Polyurethane creates this permanently waterproof fabric, and also substantially increases its seam and tear strength.
  • Hex Mesh: The Hex Mesh vest structure is completely breathable, extremely strong, and lightweight. Its inability to absorb moisture results in a drier, more comfortable wear.
  • Power Mesh: All pockets are strong and stretchy, made with heavy duty 340gm Power Mesh stretch fabric so the vest expands as you need it to. 
  • Super soft VelvetexTM no-chafe binding
This vest fit great.  The two straps in the front adjust up or down as well as loosen and tighten to get the right fit for your body type.  There are also straps on the sides, which remain hidden, that you can use to further adjust the fit.  This vest did not move around at all.  It felt like it was an extension of my body, although the bottles sticking out in front of me took a few minutes to get used to.

There are a few features that several companies have not included which I feel are awesome.  Ultimate Direction added an emergency whistle.  If you are out and get injured or lost, this would be a great tool.  Also, if you come across some predator (person or animal), the whistle could help scare them off.  The vest also has loops for trekking poles and an ice axe.  I don’t know where they run, but I won’t need to utilize the ice axe loop anytime soon. 

The bottles work well, although on occasion the caps tend to loosen and water starts to leak out.  A simple twist of the lid and the problem is solved though.  The bottle’s top makes getting water easy and you can push the nipple in to lock it.  The water does slosh around a lot once the bottles are only half way filled, but you get that with almost all hydration packs as well.  

Very light weight material
Tons of storage
Great fit, doesn’t move around
Has an emergency whistle

Phone is hard to access without taking off the vest.

This is a great vest, weather you are running on the road or on a trail.  I have used it during two half marathons and numerous trail runs.  It is a great pack and the price is very reasonable.  The SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 has tons of storage and is extremely comfortable.  You can pick up your own vest for around $129.95 at the Ultimate Direction website or at Amazon.

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.