Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #8 (Altra Instinct)

Altra Instinct
Support Category: Neutral/Minimalist
Weight: 8.8 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: No
Durability: 300+ miles
Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
Upper: Lightweight, soft, supportive, and airy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 0 mm

About Altra
Altra is a new shoe brand which focuses on natural running. Natural running is defined as a straight back, slight forward lean, midfoot strike, and a cadence of 180 (180 steps per minute). The way Altra achieves their goal is by designing shoes that have no drop from heel to toe and developing a naturally wide toe box which molds to normal foot anatomy. Zero drop in your shoes means the heel is the same height in the shoe as the toes. In your typical performance running shoe, you will see about a 12mm drop. With no drop, you are forced to land on your midfoot, which means you will not be heel striking and naturally landing with a softer more efficient foot strike. A naturally wide toebox is built into the shoe to allow for a weight bearing toe splay while running, which also emphasizes a gait similar to running completely barefoot. The reason runners would want a natural running form is to help prevent injuries and become more efficient, which leads to faster, longer runs.

Shoe Specs
The purpose of these running shoes is to be completely different than anything else out there by giving you the most natural stride possible while still protecting your feet from the ground. It is one of three gender specific shoes offered by Altra, the Intuition being the women's model. 
New Balance 890 (left) vs Altra Instinct (right) in forefoot width
  • Heel- An overall loose fit on the heel, but grippy enough where you won't feel like you are sliding out of it. The collar is cut much lower than other shoes, so you will feel nothing pressing up on your ankles or rubbing the back of your Achilles.
  • Instep- As with most shoes, the tighter you tie the laces, the tighter it's going to be on your instep. Unlike some shoes that have been coming out lately, the Instinct has very few overlays and seams, so there is no rubbing on the sides of the foot. In addition, it boasts asymmetrical lacing, which follows the natural curve of the fit, leading to a more biomorphic(form-fitting) instep.
  • Toebox- I mentioned earlier about the toebox being one of the features that makes the Instinct unique. It has a much wider toebox that does not come to a point like a typical run shoe. It gets wider toward the end then finally rounds off leaving it open for that natural toe splay.
  • Flexibility- With a shoe that focuses primarily on giving the runner a natural gait, flexibility it key. This shoe can bend in any direction with your foot while still maintaining a sense of stability where you won't feel off-balance. It provides a structured yet free-flowing feel.
  • Cushion- Yet another aspect that separates the Instinct from other shoes is that it comes with 2 different kinds of insoles. One is a super soft cushy insole to help give a little support, while the other is not as soft and is designed to help strengthen your muscles and tendons. Adding to the versatility, this shoe can also be worn without insoles, giving it a rigid barefoot feeling. So I would say depending on the insole you have in, it could be a 2, 6 or 9 out of 10.
A Little Personal
Being a minimalist by nature I saw these shoes and immediately decided I had to try them out. I placed my order and got them very promptly. As soon as they got in I took them out for a spin. My first run in them was a 6 miler and let me tell you, they are comfortable. Despite being a little heavier than my other minimalist shoes, I still consider these a top contender. The reason being is that when I wear these shoes, I don't feel like I'm running barefoot, I feel like I'm running natural. I have the same gait as if I was wearing Vibram FiveFingers, but I have the same support as if I was wearing the Nike Lunarglide. In that sense, the cushion is what sets it apart from other minimalist running shoes. Since my first run, I have taken it out a few more times, with the longest going up to 8 miles. This is a shoe I feel confident enough to do up to 20 miles in. For those of you who are thinking about going minimal, give this one a try before you go pick up the FiveFingers or the Minimus Trail. My favorite things about this shoe:
  • Gives me a natural gait while still providing a secure feeling
  • It will last much longer than other minimalist shoes
  • The multiple insole option
  • The softness of the shoe
Let me end my review with a little disclaimer. Do not expect to be able to run the same amount of mileage in these shoes right away. As with all minimalist/barefoot shoes, you need a transition period of about 1-4 weeks to allow your calves and tendons to strengthen up and get used to the new gait. Even though you will feel like going out and running 100 miles, don't do it. Just take your time and enjoy your new found natural stride. I hope you learned a little bit today about Altra Running Shoes and are enjoying living the Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #7 (Brooks Green Silence)

Brooks Green Silence
Support Category: Neutral/Racing
Weight: 6.9 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 250-300 miles
Updates from Previous Model: Original!
Upper: Lightweight, minimal, and meshy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 8 mm (21mm-13mm)

Shoe Specs
The Green Silence is a one of a kind shoe in that it is made from 75% recycled materials. The shoe as a whole is extremely eco-friendly. It uses 38% less solvent in glue and overlays, has non-toxic dyes and colorants, and contains 100% recycled shoelaces and webbing. Plus it is made with BioMoGo, which is the first ever biodegradable running shoe midsole, hence the name Green Silence.
A view at the lacing system
  • Heel- The Green Silence has a nice heel grip without being restricting. There isn't any room for play in the heel, but it doesn't feel like it's grabbing you. It gives a sense of security along with a minimal and light grip. The heel collar sits very low, so you don't have to worry about it rubbing on your Achilles or ankles.
  • Instep- Utilizing a sewn in tongue and alternative lacing system, the Green Silence really provides a customizable fit on the instep. Perhaps the best feature about the shoe is that no matter how loose you keep your laces, the shoe is immobile, meaning there is no slipping or sliding. 
  • Toebox- More on the narrow side, but not in a negative way. The toebox comes in and closes up pretty quick at the end, but it doesn't make the shoe feel narrow. It definitely runs true to width, but it doesn't allow for a lot of extra space. Keep in mind this is a competition shoe, and it is designed to hug the foot to stay the lightest weight possible.
  • Flexibility- Very flexible midsole, but it has enough rigidity to provide support to the foot. Bendy in the toe, this shoe gives a full range of flex no matter where you toe off in your gait cycle.
  • Cushion- 4 out of 10. This shoe is not super soft, it provides more of a "feel the road" sensation. In terms of impact absorption, this shoe is great, 9 out of 10, but on the soft scale, it will stay a 4. Despite being rigid, the shoe has a surprising spring in the step, making it a really good shoe for longer distances as well as shorter ones.
A Little Personal
I was very excited to try out this shoe. In every marathon and half marathon I have done in the past year and a half, I have seen the Green Silence on an elite's foot. In my eyes, if the elites wear it, it must be a good shoe, right? Right. I recently raced a half marathon in this shoe and it felt great. My half and full marathon shoe before has been the Brooks Launch, but since I have been racing a bunch of shorter distance races this past summer, I'm used to really lightweight shoes. The Green Silence is a good compromise to the lightweight/durable debate. It is light enough where you can actually tell a difference on your foot, but it also has enough cushion to it so your feet aren't aching at the end of a 13.1 mile race. In addition to my race, I have done several speed workouts on both track and grass and it holds up very well! Even when the shoe gets wet from dew or accidentally spilling water on it, the porous upper wicks it away in a flash, keeping my feet dry and slip resistant. Reasons I like this shoe:
  • Weight, 6.9 oz feels like I have nothing on at all!
  • Fit, this shoe has one of the best overall fits I have ever owned. The sewn in tongue makes the upper smooth everywhere, and the lack of overlays means you won't feel any seams in the shoe. Plus they did a fantastic job on the lacing system making it fit perfectly on your foot every time
  • Durability, typically with a racing flat, you get low mileage, but the buildup of midsole in the shoe makes it not only last longer, but make it a good option for longer distances as well.
Overall this shoe gets a 9 out of 10 for me. There really isn't anything I don't like about it. I'm saving that 10 out of 10 for the shoe that makes me go "This is the one," so that is why it doesn't get perfect marks from me. But this really is a great racing shoe, from 5k to full marathon, it will get you to the finish line. A little known fact for you, Scott Jurek broke the American record for the 24 hour run in this shoe, running a remarkable 162.46 miles. Follow in Scott's footsteps and live The Life of a Runner.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #6 (Nike LunarGlide+3)

Nike LunarGlide+3 
Support Category: Neutral to mild stability
Weight: 11 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: Yes
Multiple Colors Available: Yes
Durability: 300-500 miles
Updates from Previous Model:
  • Added grooves in the sockliner
  • Split the outsole down the middle for a springier step
Upper: Minimal with a breathable mesh
Arch Height: High
Heel-Toe Drop: 12 mm

My Take on the Shoe
The first step I took in this shoe sent mixed signals through my mind. Right off the bat, I could feel the infamous high arch that almost every Nike shoe I've ever had has. But it was way cushier than I am used to, and I liked it. A more detailed analysis of the shoe:
  • Heel- The LunarGlide+3 has memory foam in the heel so it is a nice snug feel that gets more and more comfortable the more you wear it, because it molds to your foot.
  • Midfoot Wrap- Because of the implementation of the flywire, the tighter you tie your laces, the tighter it is around your arch. With that being said, it really is up to you as to how loose or tight it fits on the midfoot(great amount of customizability here, great job Nike!)
  • Forefoot- A nice open toe is boasted in the LunarGlide+3, which in my opinion makes it a comfortable shoe for both walking and running. It isn't too wide though, so get your normal size.
  • Cushion- 8.5 out of 10. Very nice cushion, super soft, you don't have to worry about stepping on rocks or anything because you are running/walking on a cloud.

Grooved Sockliner? What is that/why would they do it?
The sockliner is the little insole that comes with the shoe. Nike recently added grooves to the bottom so when you cinch up the laces on the shoes, even the bottom part of your foot gets a customized fit. It pulls on the sides giving a full wrap around your foot, making an even more personalized fit.
Split the outsole?
On the bottom of the LunarGlide+3, it looks like there is a chunk missing from the heel leading up to the forefoot. If you look straight at it, you can see the midsole component, which is basically what cushions the impact when you run. By leaving a piece missing from the middle, there is almost a trampoline effect when weight is put on the center of the shoe. The midsole sinks down into the crevice and shoots back up giving you return in your step and an extra little boost of cushion.
A Little Personal
I used the LunarGlide+2 for my long run shoe for a while and I would say everything that shoe lacked, the new version has come in strong. The upper has just the right amount of support, the cushion is outstanding, the durability is amazing, and you can use it for pretty much anything. The good thing about the Dynamic Support system is that it really opens up the field for a bunch of runners. I have been using this shoe lightly so far, but first impressions are good. It's hard for me to find a shoe I don't like, but I genuinely do like the LunarGlide+3. Specific reasons I like the shoe:
  • Price, the $100 price point is starting to look more appealing because a lot of entry level performance running shoes are jumping up to $105 and $110.
  • Versatility, I know I say this about almost every shoe I review, but this one more than others because it can be used for sports other than running, cross training, etc... AND it can be used safely for neutral gait as well as for a pronating gait
  • Color options, like most Nike shoes, the LunarGlide+3 has a multitude of colors available, and you can design your own!
Overall this shoe gets a 7 out of 10 for me. It's going to last you a long time, be super soft for around 400 miles, and can be used for pretty much anything. Note, this is the entry level version of the LunarEclipse, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, so if you're on a budget, try picking this one up if you thought the Eclipse looked interesting. Now go enjoy The Life of a Runner.