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.

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