Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Garmin Forerunner 405 with Heart Rate Monitor: $349.99

If you have not been running with a GPS watch, you have been missing out on gathering a ton of valuable information for improving your training and racing. For years, if we wanted to know our running pace we had to wait until each mile marker on a race course, then look at the watch and do the math. On training runs, knowing our exact running pace was virtually impossible unless we were running on a track or on a pre-measured course. Measuring distance was another challenge for runners who like to run different routes. GPS watches (and foot pods) have changed all that. Now we can see how fast we are running in real time, how far we’ve gone, our average pace, how many calories we’ve burned and even find out how to get back to our starting point. With the Garmin Forerunner 405, you can do all that plus much more.

The original GPS watches were big or required a second receiver to be strapped on the upper arm. The Garmin Forerunner 405 is no bigger than a regular watch and has a clean sleek look. It’s most distinctive feature is the “Bezel”, a silver ring around the screen, full of sensors that allow the user to operate and change screens quickly simply by sliding the finger around it and tapping on it. For someone used to mechanical buttons like me, this proved to be a little weird at first. Fortunately, the Garmin 405 allows for different levels of sensitivity on the Bezel. I settled on “medium”. On “low” it took me a few taps to get the desired action and on “high” any little touch changed screens. Another noteworthy feature is the ability to “lock” the unit on one screen to prevent changes from accidental touches or from dripping sweat.

As with all GPS units, the Garmin 405 needs to acquire a satellite signal in order to provide accurate speed and distance data. This requires standing still on an open area prior to the workout for a couple of minutes until the signal is acquired. The Garmin 405 will find the signal and let you know when it’s ready to go. A “Hot fix” will help predict the satellite location the next time you work out, so the unit will locate the signal quicker and the wait will not be as long. Even though to initially locate the satellite you need to be in an open area, the Garmin 405 works surprisingly well under tree covers. I ran the Uwharrie 20 mile trail run using the Garmin 405 and it recorded my pace and the distance throughout the entire single track, tree-covered course.

Unlike other regular watches, the Garmin 405 needs often recharging. For me, who never took my watch off, this required a little more planning. The Garmin lasts up to 8 hours when fully charged and can be charged in approximately 3 hours. I now charge it every night. The charging clip is extremely easy to use as it simply “clips” to the unit at two connection points and can be connected either to a USB port or an outlet. Note, to save energy the unit stays dormant displaying just the time of day when not in use. In this mode the watch will display the time much longer than 8 hours.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 gathers an overwhelming amount of information and gives the user a tremendous amount of flexibility on how to access and view such information. It allows the user to customize the number of viewing screens (up to 3), what data fields are displayed in each screen (such as elapsed time, lap time, distance, current pace, average pace, etc) and how quickly they change while using “auto scroll”.
After experimenting with several different options, I settled on one screen displaying elapsed time, current pace and current distance, and a second one showing current heart rate, switching by my tap. The auto scroll was interesting but I preferred having control of what’s displaying and when. I then set the “auto lap” to let me know when each mile is reached, by beeping and immediately displaying the pace for that elapsed mile. This unit is so incredibly customizable that an “auto pause” feature can stop timing either when the runner stops moving or if the user’s heart rate drops below a certain number of beats per minute.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 is designed to work with a heart rate monitor strap, as mentioned above. You can either purchase it with the unit, or you can use one from a different Forerunner model, as long as you “pair” it with the unit. This easy to do and will ensure that there is not interference from heart rate monitors of other runners. The Garmin 405 can also work with heart rate zones, determined by entering the user’s max heart rate or by entering specific zones in the user profile in “Garmin Connect”.

“Garmin Connect” is Garmin’s computer program that allows the user to download and manage data. I found it easy to install and simple to use. I was able to go through the entire process without assistance from our IT guy. Downloading data is also quick and easy as the “Garmin Ant Agent” simply plugs into the computer’s USB port and detects the unit as they get within 3 ft of each other. The download is done automatically and then the user can store, analyze, plot, graph and email data each workout. Note that the Garmin 405 saves up to 1000 workouts in its memory.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 also makes it easy to execute different types of workouts, from simple time or distance based workouts, to interval workouts. I liked being able to preset intervals based on time or distance, selecting the amount of rest in between, and even allowing for a warm up and cool down period. Running 1000m intervals on the greenway now became possible, manageable and even fun.

Two unique features in the Garmin 405 are the virtual partner and the navigation. With the virtual partner, the user sets a desired pace and the unit displays two animated runners in the screen. The top runner runs at the pre set pace while the runner below is the user in real time. If the bottom runner is ahead, the user is running faster than the pre set pace. The numbers below then quantify how far ahead or behind the user is of the desired pace. This can be especially useful in races where pacing is critical, like a marathon. The navigation feature is designed to guide the user back to the start location of the run, by retracing the route (identifying and displaying all the turns made). This can be invaluable when running in a different city.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 provides every piece of information that any runner may need for training and racing. It has so many features that it can take the user some time to get fully familiar with this incredible unit. For assistance, Garmin provides a dozen short videos online that guide the user through all the different functions. This was extremely helpful and very easy to follow. I found it much better than looking through a small owner’s manual in several languages. After using the Garmin 405 for a couple of months, I now have a hard time going out the door without it. Since my training is now entirely based on heart rate and pace, it could not be executed without this watch. This is the kind of piece of equipment that before purchasing one may doubt whether the $350 price tag is justified, but after using it and seeing its capabilities, I will say that it is practically a bargain. The only issue I have with the Garmin Forerunner 405 is that it is not completely water proof, so I cannot swim with it (no need to remove when showering though). Supposedly future Garmin products will address that.

Blist-O-Ban®: $6.50 for a Pack of 6 Bandages.

Anyone who runs regularly will get a blister at some point or another. Maybe it will be after getting new shoes, rigid orthotics, racing flats, or going sockless for the first time in a triathlon. Although I have had my share of blisters in my 22 years of racing, I must admit that in the last few years, due to better sock technology, experience with different shoes and a little Vaseline here and there, that has not been a problem for me.  However, last year after I had foot surgery on my left foot, the doctor recommended using wider shoes for a while. The additional width accommodated the foot that was operated on but created a persistent blister on my other foot. The extra upper material from the EE width of the shoe would fold downward causing a seam to rub against the sock and my second toe. Since I was training for IM Florida, taking days off from running was out of the question. The blister seemed to heal periodically but the skin would break again during the next long run. I tried different shoes but ran into the same issue. Eventually, race day approached and the blister was still red, swollen and sore. Not only did I have a marathon to run, but that would follow the 2.4 mile swim and the 112 mile bike ride.

Blist-O-Ban® is one of those products that we have been quietly selling at the store and at the expos for a couple of years. Although I had never paid much attention to it until now, sales reports show that it is popular among customers. Developed by Sam Medical Products, it is described as “equipment for the skin” and is available in three different sizes, small, medium and large.

The crux to the Blist-O-Ban® success is the patented BursaTek dome, a thin yet strong, slightly loose bubble or cover designed to encapsulate the actual blister. This non adhesive pouch actually looks like a blister itself, but it gently deflects friction in other directions. The bandage unit behaves much like a band-aid, with a strong adhesive on the areas around the BursaTek dome and paper backs that peels off before application. The material is very thin, pliable and water resistant. It comes with an alcohol pad designed to clean the skin prior to applying the bandage. The application process is conceptually simple but not as easy as it looks. The thin material folds easily and the strong adhesive will quickly stick to itself, rendering it completely unusable. I ruined a couple bandages before getting two in the right position on and around my toe. Luckily a pack has 6 bandages. However, once applied successfully, it sticks well, protects the sore spot and does not add unnecessary bulk.
With few other options available, I decided to try the Blist-O-Ban® bandage at the IM race (my back up plan were extra socks in the special needs bag and globs of Vaseline). I applied the two units around the toe early in the morning (before the swim) and hoped for the best. The result was unbelievable. Not only did my blister not bother me at all during the race, but when I took the socks and running shoes off 10 hours later, the bandages were still in place. Too bad my nutrition didn’t work so well.
As you can see, I used this product more out of necessity than choice but felt compelled to review it because it worked so well. I like reviewing $5000 bikes and $100 carbon bottle cage holders but there are other products out there, like the Blist-O-Ban®, that deal with mundane and annoying problems that definitely deserve attention. For less than $10, I was able to deal with a potentially debilitating issue at an important race.

Use Pantyhose to Protect Yourself From Jellyfish StingsIf you’re planning on summer adventuring in a locale known for jellyfish—surfing in Australia perhaps?—you can protect yourself from jellyfish stings with the most unlikely of tools—pantyhose.

Photo by bkgunner.

While there is some debate as to the mechanism surrounding how a thin layer of nylon mesh protects the wearer from stings—some jellyfish have very short stingers which cannot penetrate the mesh and others have stingers which are triggered by contact with the skin surface and the nylon provides just enough buffer—many an oceanic lifeguard will be more than happy to sing the praises of wearing a nylon bodysuit during jellyfish season and how it has protected them from being stung.

Use Pantyhose to Protect Yourself From Jellyfish Stings

You can go two routes when acquiring the right gear to protect you from jellyfish stings. You can stop by your local lingerie store and pick up a nylon cat suit in your size—fella’s, go ahead and blurt out an awkward “It’s for my wife, not for fighting off jellyfish!” if it makes you feel better—or you can purchase a commercial suit designed for the purpose, like the Stinger Suit—primarily marketed and sold in—you guessed it—Australia. Photo by How Can I Recycle This.

If you forgo the suit and end up getting stung, bust out the blow dryer—assuming you were stung by the irritating and not life-threatening kind of jellyfish— and use a trick a friendly lifeguard taught me. Fire up a blow dryer and hold it as close to the site of the stings on the hottest setting you can stand (don’t burn yourself) and then fan it back and forth over the affected area. The blow dryer dries out the stingers without activating them—like drying to rinse them off with fresh water would. Once you blast the area with heat you can use a safety razor or credit card to scrape the stingers off.

Check out more information about jellyfish including safety and sting-treatment tips at the link below. Have a jellyfish story to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Jellyfish Facts [Wikipedia]

If you
ask cyclists or triathletes what they dislike the most about long
rides, they will tell you that it is saddle related discomfort. As a
result, bike saddle manufacturers continue to dream up new ways to
improve comfort, so there are now probably more models of saddles in
the market than any other component category.  Most designs continue to
adopt the same basic triangular shape while employing new and different
materials to make them softer or more flexible in certain areas. Others
focus on the now popular cut outs and holes to reduce pressure on the
perineal nerve. Lately, a different looking saddle has been showing up
at triathlons around the country. Our mechanic calls it “the lobster
claw saddle”, due to its uncanny resemblance. The manufacturer, ISM,
calls it the “Adamo” Racing Saddle, which means “pleasure” in Latin.




ISM, or Ideal Saddle Modification was founded by Steve Toll, an
independent thinker and cyclist. This new saddle concept was then
refined by the legendary John Cobb, relying on some of his previous
experiences with seat design and manufacturing. The end result was a
shorter, stubbier saddle, different from anything else in the market.
The saddle is slightly narrower than most in the back and a little
wider than most in the front, and looks like it’s missing about an inch
and a half from the front tip. Halfway from the back it actually splits
into two sections that run perpendicular to the top tube, never joining
in the front area.  The Adamo Racing Saddle is 240 mm in length (in
comparison to 300 mm the popular Fizik Arione) and only 130 mm wide
(while the Fizik Arione measures 140 mm), in its widest area. It weighs
280 grams, which is middle of the road as far as saddle weight goes
(assuming they have stainless steel rails), and it comes in 6 different
color options (Black, Gray, White, Red, Blue, Yellow, Pink). The rails
are long, 100 mm, allowing for plenty of adjustments and each saddle
has a tri hook imbedded in the under rear section, to allow for quick
bike racking for those who do not use a behind the saddle water bottle
holder.




The word on the street about the Adamo Racing Saddle is that you either
love it or you hate it and that you will know right away. I was further
told that if you come from a cycling background like I do, I would not
like it, inferring that those of us who have put countless miles on
thin leather saddles have come to either not feel any pain on the
crotch or have become adept at ignoring it (which in my case is
certainly not true). Oddly enough, my first reaction upon using the
saddle was that I neither loved it nor hated it. I found it interesting
and welcomed the new feeling, but I did not have one of those “oh wow”
moments. The pressure shifted from the center of the crotch area a
little further back and to the sides, but there was still pressure.




I found the more I rode it, the more I liked it. I began to appreciate
the fact that my weight (and therefore most of the pressure) was no
longer at the perineal nerve but more on the pelvic cavity of the hip
bone. The base of the scrotal sac was positioned in the air, between
the two separate parts of the saddle while the sac itself rested freely
off the front of the saddle. Other so called “tri”saddles, address
comfort in that area by padding the nose, often making it bulky and
therefore less comfortable in the long run. By essentially removing the
nose, and resting the rider’s weight equally on each side of a bone
structure, this saddle became more comfortable with time. Also,
according to ISM, this prevents the blocking of blood flow common with
other saddles that often causes numbness and additional discomfort. I
was obviously reviewing this as a male cyclist but it is important to
note that ISM markets this as a unisex saddle and the Adamo Racing
Saddle is used by as many pro women cyclists and triathletes as men. 




Positioning the Adamo Racing Saddle properly took a little time but it
was easy enough to do. Once you understand how you are supposed to sit
on this saddle, it’s relatively easy to position it in relation to the
previous. Their website, www.ismseat.com has a good explanation
and some pictures explaining where the rider should sit and how the
saddle should be positioned but any experienced shop or fitter should
be able to properly install and position the seat. After that, it may
still take a few rides to fine tune the position but that is standard
for such new equipment. I had a set of Allen wrenches with me for the
first few rides and probably made two or three further adjustments
after the initial set up. The Adamo Racing Saddle seems to allow for
less rider movement, since the saddle actually has less room from front
to back. The limited movement felt a little weird since I’ve been
riding a long saddle and therefore have grown accustomed to sliding up
and down the saddle quite often. However, I did find that I was able to
ride in the aero position  for a longer period of time, which shows a
greater aerodynamic gain than just about any other improvement  you can
do to your riding equipment.




At first glance, the wider than normal front area of the saddle can
seem to be an area of concern. Some have even hinted that closing the
gap between the two front parts, and thus making the front saddle
“narrower” can make it more comfortable. I thought about that and after
riding it as is, I felt it was unnecessary. I honestly had no
complaints with the width of the saddle. Like most old time racers, I
used to believe that for the most part, narrow saddles in the front
were better. This does not seem to be the case with the Adamo Racing
Saddle.




I did have a hard time riding the Adamo Racing Saddle in the non-aero
position ,  at least initially. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. I
see it mostly as good since it made me want to get in the aero position
(see above). Nevertheless, even in races there are plenty of times when
riding in the non-aero position is advisable or even necessary. Again,
the more I rode, the more used to it I got. I also noticed that sliding
back a little (away from the split part) made riding in the non aero
position more natural. ISM does not market the Adamo Racing Saddle as a
tri or time trial saddle only but I found in the aero position was
where I liked it best. ISM does offer other models such as the Road,
the Peloton and the Touring that I suspect would be more geared toward
standard road riding.


Dan Empfield once said, riding in the aero position requires some
tolerance for crotch discomfort, but we can still look for ways to
minimize it. The Adamo Racing Saddle is a definite departure from
conventional saddle designs and this approach may work for those who
are not 100% happy with their current saddle (which is probably the
case with most triathletes). Don’t judge the Adamo Racing Saddle by the
way it looks…try it yourself and you may be pleasantly surprised.




For advice from Cid on selecting or fitting a bike, please see the VIDEO page.



 

After many years of repetitive-use injuries like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and tight calves and Achilles I gradually moved from a typical heel-strike running form to a mid-foot strike.  I have also stopped wearing traditional ‘jacked-up heel’ running shoes, and have transitioned to shoes with less support, less cushioning, and less of a raised heel.  I tossed my orthotics out the window, and this gradual transition has been amazing!  I no longer spend time stretching or visiting the physical therapist or doctor, and my feet simply feel better even with high mileage weeks.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been test-driving a pair of New BalanceRT801MU road running shoes, and so far…I really like them.  Traditional thick-heeled shoes support a heel-strike running form, and make it difficult if not impossible to run with a mid-foot strike such as Chi Running teaches.  New Balance is on the front lines of providing a comfortable shoe, the 801, that allows the runner to protect their feet without stifling the mid-foot running form.

My first half mile in the 801’s was on the American Tobacco Trail; flat hard-packed rail-trail with a granite dust and fines surface.  On this particularly cold morning the surface was frozen so it was just as hard as asphalt!  Wow – these shoes feel really light compared to the Asics I’ve worn for many years.  And how come I’m up on the balls of my feet?  I dawned on me that for two years as I’ve used a mid-foot strike in traditional shoes with a raised heel my actual landing was still toes-down-and-heel-raised.  Now, with the New Balance 801’s I had to drop my heel an additional ½ inch with every stride.  This felt weird…for maybe ½ mile, and then I really did not notice anymore.

After five miles my calves were really getting a nice stretch with every step, and I felt pretty good.  No pains, no soreness, and maybe a slight feeling that the angle between my lower leg and foot was a bit tighter as my heel was now dropping lower than it ever had when running.

Two days later I took the 801’s for a thirty-miler in Umstead State Park.  They felt great!  Yes, I know, never run long in new shoes. But, despite being totally different from what I’ve worn for years,these New Balance 801’s just felt great.  In all, I ran 50 miles that first week with about 1/3 on asphalt and concrete, and 2/3 on hard-packed and frozen smooth-surface trails.

The 801’s have a roomy toe box, little if any arch, less cushioning than many shoes, but more than racing flats, are very light, and have dual lace holes on the top for using a lace-lock to anchor the runner’s heel in pace.  I did find that large chunks of gravel with sharp edges(by large I mean big, not the little stuff we often see on a roadside)do feel uncomfortable in the 801’s since there is no hard protection in the 801’s sole.  And, this is fine, as these are intended to be road shoes.  And, with a mid-foot landing the deceleration/impact we experience is so much less than with a heel-strike the reduced cushioning feels appropriate.

My quest to find the 801’s found none in the local shops I checked except for the New Balance stores (Raleigh on Glenwood Avenue and Durham at Southpoint).  The store’s running rep, Brian, was wearing a pair when we met.  He’s been trying them for a few weeks.  I also spoke with Mark, the owner of both stores.  Brian and Mark really knew their product line as well as other shoe lines.  This was helpful for comparisons.  I’m sure they will enjoy their current corner on the 801market (they had a bunch in stock, but told me the 801’s were selling fast as more and more runners are moving away from heel-striking) but it will be nice to see other local and regional shops carry the 801’s.

There is one item to note with the 801 Chi Running shoes: New Balance also makes an 801 slide-on clog-looking thing…you might not want to run a marathon in them!  This makes online searches a bit confusing so look HERE.

Overall I really like the New Balance 801’s.  They work well, feelgood, deliver what they say they will, honestly work for a mid-foot/Chi Running strike, and support my desire to run in shoes with ‘less is more’ design and manufacturing.

Over the last year I’ve witnessed more and more traditional on-road triathletes and duathletes  taking to the off-road courses for training and racing.  Six, twelve, and twenty-four hour mountain bike races, Xterra multisport races, and simply training off-road are becoming much more commonplace in our region and across the country.


“Why change out the stock hand grips the came with my bike,” you might ask.  Your body contacts a bike in three places.  And, you have already customized your butt-to-bike connection with a personal choice in shorts and maybe a different saddle.  Plus, you are most likely using pedals and shoes of your own choice.  It only makes sense to also custom-fit the third contact point – your hands.


You should use grips that meet your personal hand size, and the type of riding you want to do.  And, compared to the hundreds of dollars we spend on pedals, saddles, shorts, and so on, grips are pretty inexpensive with even the more costly lightweight racing models coming in under $50.


I recently replaced the stock grips on my mountain bike with a pair of Ergon GX-1 Mountain Bike grips (http://www.ergon-bike.com/us/grips/gx1.html) that I purchased at Cycling Spoken Here in Cary.  Unlike traditional round grips the GX-1’s have a rearward projecting ‘wing’ that supports part of your palm.  Be prepared to carry an Allen wrench on our first ride with the Ergon’s, and to stop-and-adjust a few times to get the wing rotated to just the right position so that your arm and wrist form a straight line.


I typically like a large grip with a fair amount of padding.  This helps reduce fatigue on long training or racing rides, and it just works well with my larger hands.  At first glance I thought the fairly stiff GX-1 body would be a bit uncomfortable compared to my plush existing grips.  But, I was pleasantly surprised when the GX-1’s felt perfectly fine after the initial ride on single track.


The Ergon’s wing is really, really nice!  The wing is a place to rest my hand, and to prevent my wrist from rotating lower and lower on the bar as I become tired on long rides.  I am able to hold onto the bike with less hand grip force, and this means less fatigue.


So far I am very pleased with the Ergon GX-1 grips, and will give them their first racing try this weekend at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge.  As a real test, in about a month, I’ll take the Ergon’s off the bike for a day, and try my old plain round grips.  That should be a good way to see test the Ergon’s for function and for my adapting to them.


Questions?  If so, please let me know.
Coach Daren
dmarceau@me.com

I’ve mountain biked for many years with a CamelBak, and swear by it for hands-free hydration in technical terrain.  As my trail running and ultra-distance running has increased in distance and frequency over the last year I’ve searched for ways to have water with me on these training and racing sessions.  The Nathan QuickDraw handheld water bottle is great in cold weather, but in warm and humid weather it becomes a bit sweaty and slimy!


So, I tried running with my trusty CamelBak.  That was an unpleasant experience.  The sloshing and bouncing almost made me seasick!  I had to tighten the shoulder and sternum straps so tight that breathing was difficult.  Buy mile two I abandoned the rig alongside the fire road in Umstead, and came back later in the day on my bike to retrieve it!


The Nathan HPL 020 is like a traditional CamelBak, but is designed exclusively for runners – http://www.nathansports.com/our_products/hydration_nutrition/hpl_020.html  The vest material is so soft you can easily wear it shirtless or with just a sports bra/running top.  I wore the vest over a technical running shirt, and the vest did not snag or pick the shirt fabric. (I remember how the Velcro on another brand of running belt destroyed several shirts!)  The two-liter bladder is suspended in a rubber shock absorber system that keeps the bounce and sway to a very minimal and very manageable amount.  I love the two pockets on the front of the vest for carrying gels (fits about 5 gels in each side), and a cell phone.  There is another zippered pocket on the back as well as a bungee-system for carrying a light wind jacket and gloves.


I tried the Nathan HPL 020 for the first time on a nineteen miler last weekend, and only made one simple on-the-run strap adjustment on the entire run.  It just simply fits well right off the shelf.  Having an almost unlimited supply of water that is one-hand-drinkable with the hose and bite valve is really cool.  And, my hands are free during the run!  There is an audible sloshing sound with the hydration vest, but no more so than with a handheld bottle.  In the first mile or so I did notice that my back felt warm, but by mile two this was not noticeable.


There was zero chafing from the Nathan hydration vest.  I don’t mean that I lathered-up with Body Glide and received no chafing.  I mean that I threw the vest on over my shirt and went running…and got no chafing.  And that was in very humid and sweaty conditions on a long run.  This is a huge difference from the old Fuel Belt I used to use that despite generous applications of Body Glide would always rub raw spots into my waist.


In the past I’ve always planned my runs very carefully to go by water refill spots every so many miles.  Now I can just leave the house and go wherever I feel like going.  This is important to me as I travel frequently for work, and thus run in unknown cities and parks all over the country.  Having my own water tank with me really expands my running opportunities when traveling as opposed to coming back to my rental car for water refills.


I will say that I did have one minor technical issue with my Nathan HPL 020.  I emailed the folks at Nathan, and they answered me the next day.  They have bent over backwards to be helpful, and to back up their product.  Their fast, personal, and friendly customer service sold me on them as a company.


For next weekend’s long run I plan to fill the HPL 020 bladder maybe 50% with water, make sure that the hose, valve, and hose inlet are free of water, and place the bladder in the freezer the night before the run.  The plan is to then top off the bladder with water before running the next morning, and to have a nice supply of cold water as well as a chilled back!  I’ll let you know how this turns out.


In the end, the Nathan HPL 020 is a definite keeper.  If you are out running on trails or fire roads and see me with my newest running necessity don’t hesitate to stop me to take a look at it.  I’ll bet that you will soon order one for your own running.  Oh, and one last thing, I did have to order this hydration vest.  Maybe if a few other runners start asking for them our local Nathan dealers will stock a few so you can try them on before buying.


Coach Daren – dmarceau@me.com


Clearly a standout in the sports clothing market, Under Armour is leveraging their success in the baseball & football shoe market and is now entering the running shoe market with a splash.  On January 31, Under Armour will have their full line of running shoes available, offering technical, lightweight and trail options for both men and women. You can check out the entire line at: http://www.underarmour.com/shop/us/en/footwear/running.



In early November UA sent me a pair of the Apparition in Royal Blue.  I wear goon size – that would be size 13. The Apparition is the Neutral, Technical model.  In the last ten weeks, I have enjoyed numerous runs of many distances and speed and over varying terrain.  As a bigger runner – 6’4” and 185 lbs. – cushion and support are important to me.  It is also true that styling and “cool factor” are historical factors in my shoe selection.

My initial impression was “wow, these are great!”

While very much a consumer of UA training clothing, I will confess that I am not a huge fan of the styling of the Under Armour baseball and football cleats.  However, the Apparition, and the entire running line, is very modern without being trendy.

For the past year I have trained and raced in Asics DS Trainers – which are very mild stability shoes.  The Apparition has a wide toe box like the DS Trainers, which really allows my toes to spread out and “swell” with longer runs without ever feeling tight or experiencing numbness.

UA has engineered a unique “Footsleeve”, which wraps around your mid-foot and holds your feet firmly against the heel.  Many shoes allow your foot to slide forward and jam your toes into the front.  I have hobbled after many long runs from this.  This is simply no longer an issue with the Apparition.  Unique to the Footsleeve is that it does not incorporate elastic which can bind and eventually cut off circulation to your toes.  Made from a webbed material, it also fully breathes. The combination of the Footsleeve and wide toe box really work well for me.  It may seem a bit trivial, but I love it that the “tongue” stays straight and is thin and comfortable.

Looking deeper, this shoe combines several features that I really appreciate. The “Directional Cushioning Engineering” includes the “Armour Guide”, which is torsionally stiffer than a DS Trainer – which makes for a more stable platform in the mid-foot, while still allowing flex under the ball of the foot.  This Armour Guide reminds me, somewhat, of the Mizuno Wave Plate, without the harshness or long break-in period.  This really helps me with proper foot, leg and hip alignment throughout the stride.

The “Cartilage” insert and “Armourlastic” heel design remind me of my Fila’s which enables a smooth roll forward, without being mushy.  The heel cup is very firm without being too tall or rubbing in any way.

The material of the sole is firmer than most high-end running shoes.  Yet the overall cushion is exceptional.  Wear on the sole, appears to be slower than is typical.

The sole, Footsleeve, and Armour Guide combine for a very firm, very stable, yet very comfortable shoe.

In my first few runs, I noticed that my arch, outside of my ankle and big toe were slightly sore.  I thought that I might benefit from a mild stability model – The Revenant or the Illusion.  However, the Product Manager at UA recommended that I would benefit from the less technical and lighter Spectre – which is also a Neutral shoe.   I look forward to checking this out as soon as they are available.

The Apparition weighs in at 11.8oz., and offers an excellent balance of weight, comfort and support.  Suggested retail price is $109.99.  The entire Under Armour line will be available on January 31.  You can place your advance order now or learn more at www.underarmour.com.

Overall, the shoe combines much of what I really like into one.  They are supportive, not clunky, comfortable and stylish.  Under Armour really got it right.  I much appreciate the advance pair and the opportunity to check them out for the DELTA Triathlon readers.


Todd Spain
www.deltatriathlon.com