Archive for the ‘ Product Review ’ Category

Product Review: Brooks PureConnect

Confession: over the past few years, I’ve had a love affair with Brooks.  To be clear, though: these shoes were bought and paid for myself.  These are not wear-test, discounted or free products.

Sure, here and there I’ve strayed and tried out other shoes, but somehow I’ve always come back.  I’ve been a member of the ID program, and now am a “Brooks Fanatic”. I value Brooks’ focus on the amateur runner and their focus on running, not multi-sport. I’ve run in the Glycerin, Defyance, Green Silence, T6 and my go to shoe for the last three years: the Launch.

In the last 18 months, to address chronic Plantar Fasciitis and other recurring nagging aches and pains, I’ve really been focused on midfoot striking and the ChiRunning/POSE approaches.  For me (and most), its simply tough to run that way in traditional stacked heel running shoes.  That simple fact has led me to try out the Saucony Kinvara and the New Balance Minimus Road as Brooks did not have a comparable model with a low heel to toe ratio.  I had hoped that either the Green Silence or the T6/T7 could work for me, but sadly, they simply didn’t.   So, I was pretty excited when I heard about the PureProject!

Brooks was pretty clear about their stance on minimalism when the CEO wrote an open letter expressing his disbelief in the benefits of barefoot running and minimalism.  However, clear market demands seem to have forced the issue of bringing product to market, if even for a niche.  Brooks created the Float/Feel axis and the shoes in the PureProject line up vary along the two-dimensional grid according to their targeted purpose, however most lean toward the Feel side as the Float side is covered by Brooks’ traditional product line.

I chose to try the PureConnect out of the PureProject line, as it is the least cushioned and the furthest toward the Feel side of the spectrum.  All the products have a relatively low heel/toe drop, and the PureConnect is measured at 4mm, exactly the same as the Kinvara and the New Balance Minimus Road.

So, on to the impressions:  when I put it on for the first time, I was struck by a couple of things:

  1. It felt like a sock.
  2. It felt like a sock with a surprising amount of arch support.

The upper fit my foot very much like the Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas in that it is a foot hugger.  Obviously without the toes, but with a much more generous toebox than the T6/T7.  I was surprised by the snug arch fit I guess because I was expecting something similar to the Kinvaras and the Minimus, which both have little there in the way of the arch.  The combination of the Nav band (an elastic strap) and molded sockliner really fill up my high arch.  Not really minimal, and I’m on the fence of how I feel about it long term.  I don’t want another crutch for weak feet.

There is also a generous amount of cushioning in this shoe.  Enough to make me very glad that I didn’t get the PureFlow with even more cushioning.  They are well made and comfortable out of the box, and I took them for their first spin in a 5 miler at 6:45 pace with no issues whatsoever.

To compare it to the other shoes I’ve referenced here; it’s between the Kinvaras and the Minimus road.  Similar weight to both.  More structure and firmer than Kinvaras, yet softer than the Minimus road.  If you can run in these, you’ll do fine in the PureConnect.

They have a fairly aggressively cut out outsole with a mix of EVA and harder rubber pods.  I don’t get why companies focusing on minimal shoes are constantly putting these pods below the ball of the foot and directly under the big toe.  If you’re like me, you don’t toe off from your big toe.  i could be the anomaly here, though.  Anyway, as a result, after about 20 miles on them in the first week, there’s a fair amount of scuffing in the EVA under my second toe, directly where there should be a pod, but there’s not.  Time will tell, but I suppose they’ll wear like the Kinvaras where I had similar concerns.

I’m not sure yet I really see a benefit from the split toe, but the shoe rides well and feels springy and flexible enough.  So far, I’m enjoying them, and I can see them replacing the Launch as my go to daily trainer.


Product Review: Bodyglide

It’s on my mind today since I just used the last of my Bodyglide stick, and it struck me how it has become a valuable part of my running toolkit.   I’ve always dealt with foot blisters, and through trial and error, the combination of wearing Injinji Tetrasoks and using Bodyglide on my feet has served me well.

I’m not sure exactly what this stuff is made of, and it tastes freaking terrible (don’t ask why I know this), but for the most part, it lives up to it’s manufacturer’s claims.  Bodyglide provides a nice friction barrier for those “hot spots” you get, particularly on feet and toes, and sometimes around other body parts where gear or skin mixed with moisture produces friction.  The product comes in a stick format, much like deodorant, that makes for easy application in a variety of places.

One issue I have had with the product is the claim of  stainlessness.  When used for nipple protection (pretty much a guy only issue), I’ve found shirts develop a quite unattractive half-dollar sized brownish stain right above the nipple area.  Not terribly cool.  Good thing I’m not out to pick up the chicks…  Anyway, after contacting them via email and twitter, soaking the shirts in water with a temperature of 160F or above got the stains right out by melting the Bodyglide.  Perhaps I could avoid this by not leaving my nasty sweaty clothes in my gym bag in my car after lunch runs, but that’s another story.  Regardless, the people at Bodyglide were quite quick and polite at helping me through the issue to my satisfaction.

Since I’ve started using it, they’ve introduced a whole line of additional products that I haven’t tried yet.  These additional products seem to target individual or specific applications or needs (Bodyglide for Her, Bodyglide for Feet) that could possible be solved equally well with the original product.  However, given my need, the Bodyglide for Feet is something I’ll most likely try.

Overall, I would recommend giving this a try if you have blistering or chafing issues.  For the most part it’s a product that does exactly what it says it does, for a reasonable price, and THAT is something us runners need more of…

Product Review: SPIbelt

I bought one of these about a year ago mainly because I couldn’t figure out the logistics of my keys and other crap when going to races.  I’ve used it in a few races and on a lot of training runs when I’m not wearing pockets with shorts.

The belt itself does a pretty good job of not bouncing around, and has minimal “riding up” problems, but this is influenced greatly by the material and finish of your running shorts.  You can really stuff a shocking amount of stuff in one of these things, as the little pocket area thingy stretches quite far, but any more than an iPod nano and a key or two, and you’re gonna start risking the “fanny pack” look from the 90’s.

I initially thought I would keep a gel in there for long runs along with an ID, keys and my iPod, but this just didn’t end up working well for me, and if I need to carry that much junk, it’s usually on a pretty long run and I’ll have a fuel belt instead.  So, after using this for a while, it’s kind of fallen out of use and I prefer my Brooks Infiniti Notch Shorts instead, because they have a key pocket in front and two “gel pockets” in the back.  I only really use the SPIbelt now if I’m out in shorts that don’t have pockets of if I’m at a race that doesn’t have drop bag capabilities, and I want to put my car keys in it.  Good idea, good product execution, just doesn’t fit my need anymore…

Product Review: Strassburg Sock

As many of you know, I’ve been having a problem with Plantar Fasciitis for the past few weeks.   At the recommendation of many, I went and got the Strassburg Sock (available at pretty much all running specialty stores).  My first reaction was that it was pretty pricey at about $40, but I was fairly desperate and still wanted to run a scheduled half marathon coming up in a week.

I had been using a night split that attached with velcro straps to the top of my foot for a few nights, but this never really achieved a good stretch of the Plantar Fascia and I didn’t feel like any progress was being made.  Within an hour of putting on the Strassburg Sock, I could feel the stretch helping.

The idea with this sock is that by pulling upward on the toes and keeping the ankle in a neutral position, you gently stretch the Plantar Fascia through the period of wearing the sock, and allow healing in an elongated position, rather than healing in a shortened, relaxed position.

It’s a little tricky to get comfortable sleeping while it’s on, and if you sleep on your back, you’re gonna have a nice “tent-pole” at the foot of the bed.  If you’re a side sleeper, make sure that you are extending your leg fully while sleeping to get the maximum effect from the stretch.

I’ve worn the sock now for three nights in a row, and I believe that this is the item that has helped the most in a quick recovery.  By no means was this a silver bullet, but use of this sock combined with stretching, strengthening of the feet and calves, rolling and massage of the calves and icing of the foot can make a huge difference for other people suffering from this problem.

Anyone else have experience with this solution to Plantar Fasciitis?