Friday, September 29, 2017

Altra Paradigm 3.0 Review

I started running in Altra shoes about a three years ago.  I wrote several reviews during my ”Week of Altra,” a few months back.  To say I am a fan of the Foot Shaped Toe Box and Zero Heel Drop is an understatement.  Just look at this picture of a normal running shoe vs a shoe with a Toe Shaped Foot Box.


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

As with all Altra’s shoes, the Paradigm 3.0 has the FootShape™ toebox, which allows your toes to spread out.  It helps eliminate issues resulting from compressing your feet/toes.  This is a common issue with most other company’s shoes because of their narrower toe box.  Altra’s zero heel drop (meaning that the heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground) promotes proper form, provides better propulsion, aligns your feet, back, and body, and is not weighted more heavily in the heel (like most shoes) which promotes heel striking. 
There have been some really nice improvements since the original Paradigm. Here’s a comparison of the two shoes.




Paradigm
Paradigm 3.0
Weight
10.5 ounces
10.3 ounces
Stack Height
34 mm
32mm
Outsole Feel
Not very flexible
Way more flexible
Cushioning Level
Max Cushion
Max Cushion
Stability
No Guide Rail
Guide Rail for added stability
Midsole
Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound
Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound
Insole
5 mm
5 mm Sculpted Footbed
Upper
Quick-Dry Mesh
Quick-Dry Air Mesh
Cost
$99 (on Amazon currently)
$130

Paradigm

Paradigm 3.0

The big difference for me between the original Paradigm and the Paradigm 3.0 is that the original Paradigm was stiffer, but the outsole was shaped so you could roll through your gait.  The Paradigm 3.0 is way more flexible and provides an all-around better feel as you go through your gait cycle.  The feel of the Paradigm 3.0 is much more comfortable around your foot with more of a softer structural section in the back.  I do like the Guide Rail, which is an improvement on previous versions.  It is not your normal stability shoe, but provides a little extra support around your midfoot/heel area when your feet get tired at the end of longer runs.  It really helps.


There are many similar specs between the shoes.  The new Paradigm 3.0 is 0.2 ounces lighter and 2mm less stack height, neither is a big change.  Other than that, the shoes are almost identical.  While I haven’t tried the Paradigm 2.0, the Paradigm 3.0 is amazing and has quickly become my go-to road shoe for long and even tempo runs. 

Pros:
Zero heel drop
Wide toe box.
Extremely comfortable
Awesome amount of cushion
Lightweight at 10.3 ounces
Decent price ($130 at Altra.com)

Altra’s Social Media Links:

I have been training for the Urban Cow Half Marathon (this Sunday) and the California International Marathon (in early December).  I am always looking for a fast and comfortable shoe that gives my wide feet plenty of room while still allowing me to be fast (when my legs allow it).  I have played around with several shoes to nail down which shoes will be used for training and which will be used for race day. 


I was leaning toward another shoe, but after putting in about 60 miles in the Paradigm 3.0, I have decided that it will be my shoe of choice for the following reasons.  They are relatively light weight, especially considering the amount of cushioning.  The Paradigm 3.0 is flexible and has the Foot Shaped Toe Box, which allows my feet to spread out.  I do not have any foot pain while running in them, unlike most shoes that are narrower.  I also like how there is cushioning under the ball of your foot that really helps propel you forward and for me, it keeps me landing more mid-to-forefoot. 

I can’t wait to try for a new PR this weekend.  I think the Paradigm 3.0 will help me get there.  You can find them for $130 on the Altra website.   Please let me know what you think of Altra or if you plan on getting a pair to try out.

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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Drymax Socks Review

I have been searching for the ultimate running socks for years now.  I have switched between several brands that make great socks as you can see in my past reviews.  I settled on Injinji socks over a year ago and they were my go-to socks for almost all races and training.  As I transitioned to more trail and ultra-endurance running, I was looking for a better sock since most socks don’t handle moisture well.  Many of the trail races around the Northern California area have stream or river crossings.  That and I love to cool my feet off in the water on long runs.  I really wanted to find a sock that would keep my feet drier and not feel like I was running on wet sponges. 

I ran across some articles after the Western States 100 race this year that basically said that Injinji and Drymax socks were the two most popular socks at the race.  I had never tried Drymax socks so I took the opportunity to reach out and request some samples.  They sent me several different versions to test.  They have several different thicknesses and lengths.


Moisture leads to blisters, Athlete’s Foot, odor-causing bacteria, and foot discomfort.  The reality is that in most races your feet will get wet from sweat, rain, getting splashed at aid stations, or running through creeks.

The funny thing is that almost all performance sock companies say that their moisture wicking socks will keep your feet dry.  Not to get too technical, the fabrics that they use attract moisture and they actually hold the moisture near your skin, keeping it wet.  While it does pull moisture off of the skin, it also pulls sweat toward the skin.  You have wet fabric just sitting against your skin until the moisture can evaporate and the sock eventually dries, if you are lucky.  If you have ever seen pictures of ultra-runners after 12-hours of running, their feet are shriveled soggy messes. 


Drymax is different though (Click here to see the difference between Drymax socks and other moisture wicking fabric).  It is made with moisture repelling fabric on the inner layer, which helps remove sweat from your skin.  Because it does not adhere to the Drymax fibers, the moisture is instantly transferred to the outer layer of the sock, keeping your feet dry and comfortable.  They call it “A Self Contained Dual Layer Sweat Removal System.” They keep your feet dry and comfortable in all conditions from hot to cold weather and even in pouring rain or wading through creeks.  One of the leading causes of DNF’s (Did Not Finish) at ultra-distance races is blisters or other foot problems. 

Drymax socks also are made with their Anti-Blister System.  The socks prevent blisters by providing exceptional 3D fit, five different sock sizes, seamless insides, instep-hugging arch band, and they keep your feet dry.  Drymax socks are also made with air vents on the top and bottom of most socks they produce to keep your feet cooler.

Now that you have a basic idea about what makes Drymax socks different than other brands, let’s look at what they have to offer.  They have Hyper Thin Running socks, Thin Running socks, Running Lite-Mesh socks, Running socks, Lite Trail Running socks, Trail Running socks, Cold Weather Running socks, Hot Weather socks, and Triathlete socks.  They even have Maximum Protection Running socks for both road and trail as well as some socks specifically designed for elite runners like Ian Sharman and Stephanie Howe.  They have sock lengths from no show to crew length socks.  You can see their complete sock line below.


I really have been happy with my other socks for the most part, but ignorance is bliss.  Now that I started running in Drymax socks, it’s going to be really hard to run in anything else.  They are so comfortable and I have not had a single blister since I started using them, which has been a huge issue for me in the past.  I previously had included time before a run for Rock Tape on the back of my foot (above my heel) and trail toes jelly on the ball of my foot.  That is all in the past though my friends.


It honestly is really hard to pick a favorite Drymax sock.  I love the Maximum Protection socks in both the road and trail versions.  I also really like the Hyper Thin Running socks in the mini crew length.  Their trail socks that come in a ¼ crew length can also be folded down to make them shorter depending on your preference.  I ran 15 miles with 4500 feet of elevation gain in the Max Pro Trail socks this last week.  My feet felt awesome who whole run.  I wish I could say the same for my quads.

Drymax offers a “STAY DRY & COMFORATBLE – GUARANTEE” where they promise Drymax socks will keep your feet drier and more comfortable than any other socks.  If you don’t agree, return them to Drymax with a copy of your receipt and you will be fully refunded.  You simply can’t beat that offer. 

Pros:
Actually keeps moisture away from your skin
Plenty of thickness and length options
Awesome money-back guarantee
Decent price (starting under $15 on Amazon)

Drymax’s Social Media Links

I honestly can say that after testing Drymax socks for over 250 miles, these are the best socks that I’ve tested to date.  They keep my feet cooler and drier than other socks.  I also like the wide variety of thicknesses and lengths so I can choose my socks depending on what type of training day I have planned.  You can find Drymax socks online or at a local retailer near you. (Click here for locations).  While they aren’t the cheapest socks, they are still reasonable and the quality and functionality makes it a worthwhile investment.  I think of it this way… my feet are the one thing that keep me going day after day.  If I don’t take care of them, they can’t take care of me.  Drymax will be my sock of choice going into some big ultra-endurance runs in 2018.  Give them a try 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.

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. 

Pros:
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

Cons:
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.