Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Runners / Running Bloggers Follow!

Chatting with Mike Wardian at the 2014 Boston Marathon Expo!
If you’re interested in the latest running shoes/gear, want new ideas for workouts and diets, and love to just follow all-things running, then I highly recommend you follow the Twitter folks and bloggers below.

Of course, there’s a lot of blogs and twitter accounts to follow, and it’s hard to choose what to write about. So, I decided to write about the people who post the most frequently about running shoes, gear and workouts, and/or who respond to questions and comments the most frequently. I’ll keep updating the list throughout the year as I remember people that I follow and converse with. But for now, Enjoy!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Arc’teryx Running Gear: Darter Jacket & Cyclic Zip Neck

Darter Jacket
Cycle Zip

Two pieces of Arc’teryx gear that should be in your wardrobe for 2015 for review below!

I had the privilege to review two pieces of Fall/Spring 2014-2015 gear that I have come to really enjoy. This review is about 2-3 months past due, but such is the life of a medical student!

Friday, August 8, 2014

The North Face Ultra Smooth Road Shoe

TNF Smooth Ultra pic from

It has been a bit difficult to post reviews lately since I've been so busy, but here I am on a Sunday morning... no plan to run (trying to relax a bit before I tackle the next week), only a little bit of studying to do, and hopefully a lot of relaxation. Time to write a review!

I received the The North Face Ultra Smooth Road Shoe quite a while ago, but I had other items to review before I could review these. Since I got these shoes back in late-February or early-March, I've put about 100 miles on them. For those of you who are not familiar with TNF's move to making road shoes, you should not be shocked that they are pumping out quality gear. This is the second pair of TNF shoes I've had the opportunity to review, and they do not disappoint. 

Like all shoes that we review here on Vagabond Running blog, we try to highlight the strengths of the shoe given the purposes for which they were created. That is, don't expect a shoe designed as a high mileage trainer to be your go-to shoe for track day. It's really just common sense.

What I Liked
This shoe is oddly reminiscent of the Saucony Kinvara 4. So, what is the TNF Ultra Smooth designed for? Here's what TNF says:

Dash across pavement or hard-packed trails wearing a featherweight trainer that's designed with CRADLE™ technology to encourage a natural, continuous stride across smooth terrain. The Ultra Protection Series provides critical impact and element protection while eliminating excess weight for unrivaled performance on any terrain. Constructed with a Pebax® plate and EVA midsole for a springy feel with cushioned impact protection underfoot.

As you can see from the description, this is a shoe that's really meant to be a daily trainer. Think about it this way: easy runs, mid-to-long runs at LSD pace, city-trail (from the road to hard-packed trails), etc. And this is what it excels at!

I've taken this shoe out for runs up to about 13-14 miles, but mostly at an easy pace. I did do one 8 miler in about 56 minutes during an ice-y March morning, and it seemed to perform well (as well as any shoe can perform in ice-y conditions). 

Since this shoe has quite a bit of cushion, an 8mm heel-to-toe drop, and weighs in at 9.3 oz, I tend to use this shoe primarily for easy paced runs and runs when my legs feel very sore from the previous days track workout. It feels like I'm running on pillows, but it's still pretty stiff under foot. 

This is also a great shoe for road-to-the-trail, too. And by trail I mean compact trails, jeep trails, gravel trails. Given the sole of the TNF Ultra Smooth, you won't pick up rocks or twigs, which is a huge plus from perspective! 

Other things I liked about this shoe: the classic FlashDry technology of TNF really does work. This shoe doesn't stay wet for that long, and it will dry fairly quickly on-the-go. It's super breathable, and I have yet to develop an hotspots or blisters running in this shoe. It sports a "track-like" tongue, which is kind of nice because the tongue of the shoe feels almost non-existent and I like that.. it's just more comfortable when you don't notice the tongue. 

What Didn't Thrill Me
I tried a few tempo runs in these shoes (as mentioned above), and they performed OK, but they didn't have the pop I was looking for. AGAIN, they weren't made for this, so it's kind of hard to judge it based on this perspective.

I didn't really notice the Cradle Technology, which is aimed to help with a more natural gait. I have a pretty natural gait as it is, so maybe that's why I didn't notice it. I also didn't really notice the Pebax Plate, which is supposed to provide a springy feel. Again, these shoes don't have that "pop" when running quickly. Not a complaint, but just an observation.

The one thing I did notice, however, is that after about 9-10 miles of running, my arches start to ache a bit and then a shooting pain would develop around miles 11-12. If I took a short walk break or sat on a bench for a few minutes, the pain would go away and I could keep on running as usual. I'm wondering if the combination of the Cradle Technology and Pebax Plate makes the shoe a bit less flexible and much more stiff compared to what I'm used to? CAVEAT: I do a lot of my runs in zero drop, super flexible shoes, so this could explain why my arches respond somewhat negatively to a firm, less responsive ride.

Here's the deal: this is a great easy paced, LSD run shoe. TNF elite athletes have been rocking these in ultra marathons across the globe at distances way longer than I could ever run and at paces I could not even fathom. The North Face is putting out quality running shoes for the road now, too, and the Ultra Smooth is a step in the right direction for which they can base future models. If you're used to running in a 4-8mm drop, firm shoe, I suggest trying out the Ultra Smooth. If you're used to running in a traditional trainer and you want to make your way to a lighter, more minimal shoe, the Ultra Smooth is a good transition shoe for that purpose. I look forward to seeing what TNF comes up with next!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Salomon Hydration and S-Lab Running Shirt

S-Lab Hydro Set ( 
As always, it's fun to review quality gear. It's fairly hot out right now, and regardless of whether it's hot or cold, you need to have adequate gear when you run. I'd like to introduce  you today to some Salmon hydration gear and their amazing S-Lab Sense Tank.

S-Lab Sense Tank

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Tank is the lightest, most breathable piece of gear that I currently own. Literally, it feels like I'm wearing almost nothing! It doesn't have compression, which makes me happy and keeps me cool. This is literally the most breathable piece of gear that I own. I've often run with a hydration pack on and my back neither sweats nor does the shirt build up sweat. I need to reemphasize this: the shirt does not accumulate sweat. It seems to evaporate, which helps when it comes to thermoregulation.

The best part is the Cocona Fabric, which is Salomon's odor and moister control. I already mentioned the moisture control and how great it is, but the odor control is equally fantastic. I know this sounds terrible, but I like to run frequently but I don't like to do laundry frequently. I've run as many as 3-4 times in this shirt before washing it and it still does not really retain any odor pre-wash. Great for people who don't want to do laundry as often, eh?

Sense Hydro Set
I'm going to say it like it is -- if you buy the Sense Hydro Set, you don't need anything else for hydration for the most part. This is by far one of the best pieces of hydration equipment on the market. For those of you who are still looking for the perfect hydration pack or belt, look no further! Use your hands.

When you about the gloves, you get two gloves and one SOFT FLASK. The gloves fit very nicely on my hand, and I never experienced any abrasion while using them. The soft flask, though, is what really makes this hydration set shine.

Fill up the soft flask to 8oz, and you can insert it into the glove and it is secured by the bungee system and palm strap. You literally don't need to hold onto the flask as the glove secures it on its own. Thus, no energy is really needed to carry the flask. I LOVE THIS!
To drink from the soft flak, all you need to do is squeeze. You don't even need to put your lips on it. As the water in the flask is used throughout the course of the run, the flask shrinks and remains secured. Thus, you get the benefits of carrying water without the downside of having to carry a big, awkward running bottle. Kilian Jornet made this set popular during his win of the Western States 100.

5/5 stars and can't recommend it enough! I've used this hydration set on almost ALL of my super hot, cruddy summer runs!

XR Energy Belt

I'm a huge Salomon fan, as you can tell, but I do have some mixed feelings about the XR Energy Belt. As a hydration belt, I think it's probably the best that I've tried, but hydration belts just don't work for me. I have a very sensitive GI, and I found that the weight around my waist even wight he Energy Belt just didn't work for me. I think this belt primarily excels at slower paced run than quick runs.  On fast runs, I felt that it bounced a little too much for me.

As a belt, it sits nice on the waste, and the weight seems to be distributed fairly equally around the torso. It comes with a fairly decent sized pocket to store gels and a smaller iPhone and keys. It also has a race number strap that you can secure a race bib to -- nice for those longer races!

Even the belt pockets have little storage areas for gels. So, you can fit quite a bit of fuel in this little energy belt, along with the two, 200mL plastic flasks that come with it.

I didn't use the belt that much since most of my long runs tend to be about 2-2.5 hours at the absolutely most, and I would use the Sense Hydro set (two pairs) instead and refill them when needed.

HOWEVER, if I were to be out on the trail for multiple hours running at a slower pace, this would probably be the ideal pack.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The North Face S/S'14 Running Gear Review

Wearing my TNF gear, yo.

As much as I love reviewing shoes, I really like reviewing running apparel. You can have the most amazing shoes on your feet when you go out for a run, but if the apparel doesn’t feel right it can still make for a pretty lousy run.

After our Fall/Winter ’14 The North Face apparel review, The North Face sent us some of their Spring/Summer ’14 running apparel and Mountain Athletics line-up to review for our blog. I’ll definitely say that over the years The North Face has become one of my favorite companies for both casual and running apparel. Here’s a list of what is reviewed below:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Skora Running Sale

Quick reminder, folks!

From June 25 to June 30, get 25% OFF all Skora Running shoes! Free shipping on orders over $90 + Bonus FREE Gift Card Offer. Click here for more details:

These are the shoes I've been running and racing in lately. I've put a lot of miles on the following models: Form, Fit, and Phase-X. I highly recommend trying them. The Fit is a great choice if you are transitioning to a lower profile shoe.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Newton Gravity III Review

Pic courtesy of
Intro- We here at Vagabond are really big fans of Newton Shoes (see our review of the BoCo AT, MV3 and Energy NR). While we are generally skeptical when it comes to new shoe technology, The Newton line up is one we've come to really believe in. The Gravity III is marketed as a distance racer/trainer and I would agree that it fits well into both categories. For those who are already used to low drop shoes (0mm-6mm), and particularly Newton's unique Action/Reaction technology the Gravity III will be a good next step after one of their more transitionary/introductory models like the Energy or one of their new Pop 2 line of shoes. It has fast become my favorite daily trainer. 

Looks- Newton is known for its intensely bright color schemes. These yellow/red Gravities are tame by comparison featuring only two bright colors. The colors of the Gravity III kind of look like a well-known fast food chain ;). Free association aside, the color scheme is more cohesive than many Newton shoes have been in the past (I'm looking at you 2012 Lime/Neon Orange/Red/Yellow Distance). Frankly they were a bit overwhelming. I came to like them but only in the way that I like pugs i.e. in the so-ugly-it's-cute sort of way. Newton's new line of shoes seem to know who they are from a design perspective at this point and I like what I see.
Great reflection at 4am in the morning!

5th Lug- Proprioception is the name of Newton's game and Newton is winning so hard that it would make Charlie Sheen blush. Thanks to their patented lug and chamber technologies, Newton found a way to shatter the dichotomy of cushion and ground feel. Originally Newton's featured four lugs in the four foot. The lugs however did not stretch across the entire width of the forefoot which, for some, felt unstable especially around corners. Newton's response was to add a fifth lug. They first introduced the 5th lug in the Energy NR which we really liked (read our review here). I've run in the four lug Distance S and did not notice and instability, but I understand intuitively what the problem was and can not discount other runner's experiences. Joshua noticed increased stability with the addition of the 5th lug when running fast repeats on the track.

Gravity III with 5 lugs (pic from

Distance II with 4 lugs (pic from

Performance- Not a shoe I'd run a short race in (maybe half marathon), but my favorite daily trainer. If you're looking for a Newton shoe with a bit of pop, check out the MV3. Especially in my long slow distances (LSD's) the Gravity III is well cushioned, but I never feel like I'm fighting the shoe. Joshua liked these for longer road repeats, such as 1 mile or greater, as well as long slow distance runs. They perform pretty well on dry mud trails and jeep roads, but when there is trail with lots of rocks, the pebbles get stuck in the lugs. That's ok, though, as this is a road shoe and not a trail shoe. The farthest Joshua ran in these was up to 13 miles, and he wouldn't hesitate to use them for distances up to the marathon. It just kind of lacks 5k/10k road speed requirements.

Fit- One thing we loved about Newtons is that we always know what we are going to get in terms of fit. With the exception of the MV3, Newton shoes fit our feet exceptionally well and are consistent across the models. There's plenty of room in the toe box without feeling sloppy and they are accommodating yet secure through the midfoot and heel. Consistency with a brand is important, and exceptional fit goes a long way in my book.

Overall- We put quite a bit of miles on these shoes. Jordan fractured his ankle and couldn't run as much in this shoe as Joshua, but Jordan said that that this is the first shoe he's going to run in when he gets clearance from the doc to start running again. Overall, we give this shoe 5/5 stars since it feels comfortable (secure throughout the midfoot with enough forefoot room), performs well on longer runs, and the fact that the lugs on these seem a bit more durable than the one's on the Energy NR.