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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Squirrel’s Nut Butter Review

It doesn’t matter if you are an elite runner or a weekend warrior, if you have ever had chaffing issues, you never want to let it happen again.  There are a bunch of different products out there and I have tried most of them.  I was given a sample of Squirrel’s Nut Butter at the Salmon Falls 50k last year and decided to give it a try after hearing great things about it. 

Squirrel’s Nut Butter makes an anti-chafe and restorative skin salve.  Chris and Stacy Thornley founded the company out of their own necessity.  Their daughter battled severely dry skin and Stacy, who is a Registered Nurse specializing in allergies, decided to start exploring solutions.  None of the skin health products she had found could properly help with her daughters eczema and other conditions.  She put her knowledge to work and started trying to create a salve.  It took a ton of trial and error, but finally an effective product was created. 

Chris and Stacy started offering the product to friends and family around Flagstaff, where they live.  Everybody loved it!  Eventually the new product made its way to a guy whose nickname is Squirrel (who works for Chris’ tree cutting company).  He tried the product instead of his normal anti-chafe product and raved about how well it worked.  Chris came up with the name and started marketing the product to endurance athletes.  Once he knew he would be able to sell the product, it was time for a name.  Because the original blend was made with almond oil, he knew the name had to be Squirrel’s Nut Butter.

Squirrel’s Nut Butter is now made with four simple ingredients; coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and vitamin E oil.  They have been selling their product since 2015 and it has really taken off.  It is now utilized in several sports including running, cycling, triathlon, hiking, and any other sport where chaffing may be an issue. 

They now have a spicy salve for pre and post workouts called Born to Rub.  Happie Toes is a foot-specific salve blended with peppermint and tea tree oils.  They even have a vegan version of the original Squirrel’s Nut Butter.  In addition to being an anti-chafe product, it prevents blisters on your feet and can heal and restore your dry, irritated skin (including eczema).

I have been using Squirrel’s Nut Butter for months now and have to say that I like it way better than the other products out there.  There are several reasons why.  The first reason is that it isn’t clumpy like Bodyglide.  It isn’t greasy and won’t stain your clothes like other products either.  It isn’t made with a ton of chemicals that I can’t pronounce.  It simply is easy to put on and works forever.  I ran my recent 50 miler and didn’t have a single chaffing issue after 13.5 hours of really wet and hot running.  I couldn’t have thrown more at Squirrel’s Nut Butter and it protected me like my own personal secret service. 

They recommend that if you are looking to use it in colder temperatures, that the stick works best, which is my favorite option.  They also have a double-walled tub that works great in heat up to 120 degrees.  In cold weather the SNB can get rather hard.  I just rubbed it between my hands for a few seconds to have it melt.  Then I applied it where needed.

I really liked the Happie Toes as well.  My feet really get thrashed, especially when I am doing a lot of runs in the rain and mud.  My feet get dry and sometimes even start to crack.  Other brand’s products are okay, but I really liked the effectiveness and feeling of the Happie Toes. 

Price List:
2.7 ounce sticks SNB $16.95
2.0 ounce double wall plastic jar SNB $13.95
2.0 ounce tub of Vegan SNB $13.95
4.0 ounce tub of Happie Toes $19.95
0.5 ounce double wall plastic SNB $4.95
0.75 ounce stick of SNB $8.95
1.7 ounce stick of Born to Rub $19.95
* all products can be purchased at the Squirrel's Nut Butter website

Great anti-chafe product lasts forever
All natural
Washes off easily and won’t stain clothes
Great prices

Squirrel’s Nut Butter’s Social Media Links

I can’t say enough good things about Squirrel’s Nut Butter.  It really is an amazing product and would definitely recommend it over other products.  The only downside is that because it is made with cocoa butter, it does have a chocolaty smell (more like cocoa), which makes me want candy.  Hopefully it doesn’t make a bear think I am a huge candy bar. 

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.