EE Run 2019

This morning’s Energy Efficiency (EE) Run was a low-key, cheap (RM40!) 10K race organized by the country’s Energy Commission scheduled smack in between GCM19 and the start of my base training. After 2 weeks of zero running, getting back on track has been hard for me. I’ve no injuries to begin with but stringing together short runs have been challenging. I started putting a few runs a week 3 weeks post-GCM19 (pGCM) with the intention of gradually building up from a couple of 30K weeks but it was quite a drag. I toed the line in a de-trained mode and, despite the name of the event, obviously struggling with energy issues of my own.

Start: A visual sweep pretty much confirmed the presence of the battle hardened 10K specialists. These folks race for the money and podium and unless you’re knocking back 4:20 splits, there’s no point in entertaining a fantasy.🤷🏼‍♂️

2K into the race: Fwah, how did the 1st K pace happen with the little running I did the last 3 weeks?! Tiok bo? Eat this, you young ‘uns!👊🏽

3K: Still OK wor! The hardcore guys, with a couple of ladies in tow, have pulled so far ahead I’d lost visual contact. Up the bridge we went. A guy in the same category put up a fight after hearing the noisy slapping of the 4% but he couldn’t sustain and dropped off pace. 🤤

4K: Resumed my 2nd K pace. I only had 2 in the Open category for company.✌🏾

5K – Finish: The positivity started dissipating. Kena liao lor. Things started going downhill from here as I was reduced to a crawl🐌. Blame game started😜, from the haze to the very warm morning😂! The consolation was that this was only a 10K so that didn’t drag on for too long – I was running out of things to blame🤣. Imagine had that been a marathon!

I was not passed in the 2nd half of the race by anyone except 1 young ‘un. Oh, and the distance was 9.9K which meant I couldn’t really take this 45+ as my PR. With base training due to start in 2 weeks, I’ll try again at SCKLM. While my passion lies in the marathon, with a key race planned next year, this morning’s effort without any semblance of mileage nor speedwork can only benefit my marathon preps.

The event was well organized other than the start time made to suit the government officials and the😴 VIP speech. Traffic was well managed, and there was more than adequate water stations. Per the VIP, this race only happens once every 2 years and offers one of the best prize monies for a government organized event. Si meh? With the cheapo entry fees to boot, runners won’t have much to complain. And since I’m not a frequent racer, it was great to catch up with Naresh, Michelle, Chooi Fern and Sharon. With Muhaizar also in the mix, that made 3 GCM19 alumnis there!

 

Nike Pegasus Turbo – 50K Review

Plenty of hype went into Nike’s launch of the Pegasus Turbo last year. So strong were the marketing that I got my hands on the shoes a day before the official launch. As usual, after logging some miles in them, I sat down to write a review. Only to discard the draft and a few weeks later, sold off the shoes. Let me explain.

Sold this pair off after 260km.

Firstly, here’s what I liked about the OG Turbo – they’re light (8.45oz/239g for my US10), very smooth and cushioned, and spec-wise just a carbon plate short of Vaporfly 4% material. They reminded me of the Clayton 2 but without the bulk. And even with the controversial but eye-catching, racing strip that runs down the vamp, I’ve found wiggle-room to be sufficient.

The feet sit atop the premium Zoom X foam (greyish tint) and under that is the React foam. Other than the racing strip, the exaggerated pointed heel is a Turbo giveaway.
This version has a unique print on the sockliner, which says “Run The Night”. Other than a reflective strip on the heel counter, I’m not sure if the upper material has added reactive shine properties to it.

Now, the negatives:

  1. The Turbo were not quite stable to run in. The absence of a carbon plate meant there was a need for compensating controls, literally, with the use of React foam. The midsole comprises of Nike’s high-end Zoom X foam and under that layer, React. Despite that approach, I still found them to be less stable than the Epic React. Taking turns and corners in the Turbo wasn’t as reassuring as I’d liked.
  2. They’re a tad too soft for my liking, resulting in my arches flaring up.
  3. At RM735, they’re very expensive.
Rubber in a rail-like design encircles the outer rim of the shoes. Within the perimeter are little pentagonal waffles in all the high-wear areas. Exposed React foam commands the midfoot real estate. No signs of wear after 50K.

Despite my mixed feelings, I still logged over 260km in the Turbo before being sold off. That ordinarily would’ve ended my association with the Turbo, except that I not only found myself with another pair nearly a year on, but also the updated Turbo 2! We will leave the Turbo 2 for future review and stick with the OG here. It happened when JD Sports had their sale and the Turbo were had for a more palatable RM510. Coincidentally I was on the lookout for soft lightweight trainer for all the easy running, post-GCM19. Since the first pair, I’ve made some gains as a runner and I reckoned that with better mechanics, I’d be able to finally enjoy the shoes. And after logging 50K in them, I’m pleased to report that I do like them! I’m unable to explain my new-found liking for the Turbo except to pin it to my general fitness and running form. The other fellas from the running group have always liked the shoes, and have worn them for easy long runs right through to long tempos but with plenty of time before Base Training kicks off late September, most of my running are the easy maintenance stuff. So while there’s little use of the firm and fast shoes such as the Hyper-Tri or Rival Fly at the moment, there’s plenty of opportunities for the versatile Turbo.

I appreciate the soft and bouncy ride when rotated with the much firmer Forever Floatride Energy and Beacon, and that’s a good thing when it’s all about enjoying the miles at this stage. I expect the mini-waffle outsole to hold up well as the pair I’ve sold off were in great shape even after 260km. I’ve never had breathability issues with my first pair of OGs and it’s the same here. The fit around the collar is as good as that of the Pegasus 35 with the swept heel design. And yes, the Turbo is true-to-size. It has been a little odd, getting reacquainted with shoes that didn’t quite work out the first time, but perhaps due to me being a different runner this go-around, the experience with the Turbo have been largely positive. I’m looking forward to getting plenty of miles in them!

With the launch of the Turbo 2, you should be able to find the Turbo OGs on sale in most places. While the Turbo 2 retains the midsole and outsole material and design, the upper is now sleeker, the formerly padded tongue and collar are now race-oriented. The racing strip and Flywire are gone as well. The Turbo 2 is thus lighter, befitting a performance shoe. Is the Turbo OG (or 2) for you then? There’s no clear answer – since there are folks on both sides of the divide. I’d suggest trying the shoes in-stores (e.g. Nike KLCC has a treadmill) before purchasing due to their imposing price tag.

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Update: After the initial draft of this post, I ran a couple of quicker sessions in the Turbo. The first was a short 6K, rolling off very slowly and progressing down to MP and under to wrap the workout up. No stability issues this time, despite the route being the usual twisty roads in my neighbourhood but as my right shoe wasn’t laced up as snugly around the midfoot – my own doing – every footstrike was an annoying and thoroughly distracting smack. So lace up snugly! My second run was a fast finish 12K at Peremba. The route is basically a 6K loop with 2 sharp turns. Unlike firmer and lower-stacked shoes, soft ones like the Vaporfly and Zoom Fly require a wider turning radius and you’ll need strong ankles to execute a quick turnaround. The Turbo is no different – you’ll still need to use the Vaporfly’s racing lines to negotiate the turns. Other than that those observations, I’m enjoying the shoes. They will certainly feature a lot when base training commences in 2 months time.

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Nike Pegasus 35 iD Review

The neutral cushioned daily trainer category is the bread and butter of every shoe company. ASICS have their Nimbus and Cumulus, adidas have their Ultra Boost and Solar Boost, Brooks’ Glycerin, Ghost and Launch, Saucony’s Triumph ISO and Ride ISO. And Nike, of course, have the Vomero and Pegasus. I’ve worn a few versions of the Pegasus intermittently since I took up running in the ’80s. ’92 (heavy, very firm, thick, stiff) ’06 and ’07 (cushier and dialed back on the stiffness, but still heavy) but my favourite then was the 2005 which I went through 2 pairs. They got progressively firmer and stiffer, not to mention more expensive, from that point on. Check out some of the early Peg models as featured by Complex here, Sneaker Freaker here and Nike here.

The Pegasus 35, launched May 2018, sees a complete overhaul in the silhouette, with it taking after some elements of the stupendously popular Vapor Fly 4% in the way the full-length Zoom Air bag is shaped to mimic the curve of the 4%’s carbon fiber plate. The Peg 35’s upper also does away with the multiple overlays seen on the earlier versions. A swept-back heel tab was incorporated, taking the cues from Mo Farah’s preference for a non-intrusive construction – not that this part of a shoe has ever bothered me. The engineered mesh upper has a tighter weave this time around and this is complemented with an internal bootie which connects to a slimmer yet extended tongue. The laces go through Flywire cords to secure the shoe as do the internal toe and heel cups. Then there’s the pointy heel seen the 4% and Zoom Fly. The Peg 35 has a stack height of 28/18 for an overall 10mm drop, within the 8-12mm standard for shoes on this segment.

This setup accords the Peg 35 a decidedly sleeker look and naturally piqued my interest as well. However, with a shoe cabinet that was already too well-stocked, I reminded myself that I would only part with my cash should I achieve my marathon goal time on the Gold Coast. As it turned out, I did (race report here), and a little reward in the form of a customized Peg was in order. The Nike iD custom took 3.5 weeks to arrive and when they did, I thought they were too nice to run in, albeit imbued with a Chinese New Year vibe! I opted for a red upper, metallic gold swoosh, speckled midsole and gum-rubber design, complete with my PR printed on both shoes and a self-reminder inscribed on the tongue.

Despite the sleeker appearance, the Peg 35 still weighs in at 9.5oz a shoe for a US10. Now, if the midsole was React instead of Cushlon, and the upper wasn’t made of such tight weave, they would perhaps lose a few more ounces. Doesn’t really matter that much to me since my use would be strictly for training.

The fit of the shoes are snug. As mentioned, I stayed true to size and if you’re one to run in thin socks, that will not matter much but I’d advice testing the Pegs out in the stores prior to purchase. Moving the first row of the laces back also frees up the forefoot area. Now less restrictive, flexing during the toe-off phase is also a pleasant experience without anything pressing down on the toes or feet. Moving to the rear, the swept-back heel tab didn’t enhance nor mess up the fit of the shoes for me. Heel lock down is secure as it is.

Lateral view.
Medial view.
The vents on the upper are only concentrated around the vamp. Breathability suffers a little in our hot and humid climate due to the tight weave of the mesh in the other areas.

Now comes the most important question – how do the Peg 35s feel? If you are not the least interested in the specs, you’d be forgiven for thinking they ride lower, as in the midsoles are thinner, than the Epic React. In reality both the Peg 35 and Epic React share the same stack height and offset! The Pegs’ use of durable rubber outsole and Cushlon midsole combine to give the wearer a certain firmness and road feel, unlike the softer and bouncier experience of the Epic. The differences are especially palpable for me coming off the retirement of the Epic. Here’s the interesting thing – I’m more susceptible to heel striking in the Epic than the Pegasus despite the latter being a full ounce heavier.

I did mention that the Peg is firm. But that doesn’t mean an absence of cushioning. It’s there and provides just enough of it and quickly send you off to your next stride. There’s very little sinking feeling with easy stride, so there’s no Hoka-type of feel here. The Peg is a little warm to run in in Malaysia’s tropical climate but not uncomfortably so. I’ve yet to finish a run in soggy socks but I’ll have to confirm that once I resume my longer runs.

Since I’m already so far behind, I thought this post would be more relevant if I work it as a 100-mile review. So while the photos were taken when the shoes were new, the video below will show the close up of the wear of the Peg after 160km. Overall, the wear and tear, or the lack of it, have been astounding. Other than a very slight wear on the left shoe along the outer edge of the heel (the usual wear spot in all my shoes due to a weaker left leg), both the left and right shoes have seen very little degradation. Even the thin grooves on the pentagonal lugs in the forefoot landing and push-off areas are still visible.

This is one shoe that will take you through the entire marathon training cycle. While advances in technology have brought us racing flats we can train and race in, you still won’t get anywhere near the miles and durability you can put into these traditional daily trainers. Dependable and durable, there’s great ROI you can derive from them. And as I’m now approaching the big Five-O, I need to be looking after myself so that I can continue chasing my running goals. These shoes offer that. Besides, “Train heavy, race light” seems like a great idea!

The Nike Pegasus 35 remains a good buy for those seeking a durable daily trainer. The latest iteration is sleeker, simpler in construction and, by golly, still the durable shoe that we know. Cushioning remains on the firmer side but still delivers a smooth ride. What I’d like to see in a future release is React foam replacing the Cushlon (although that would certainly result in price increase) and the use of a more breathable upper. The earlier colorways are already on sale under RM400 (US$100), so go check them out!

Nike Epic React – 550K Review

I reviewed the Epic React Flyknit back in March 2018. You can read about it here.

Back then, it sold for RM589 (US$143) but now, the RRP had gone up to RM608 (US$148) not much difference if you’re in the US, but that’s making the purchase decision very much harder for us Malaysians. Thus, the casual shopper may be interested to know if the shoes do indeed stand up to some serious use.

I’m almost exclusively a road runner, so the Epic React hasn’t gone off the tarmac. But I can say that the shoes have stood up admiringly up to the test. As you can see, the upper still looks fantastic, a testament to Nike’s Flyknit construction. The translucent rubber reinforcement wears very well. The React foam looks battered but still has a bit of life left, possibly 80K. That said, at 550K, I reckon it’s time to retire them and really push the Peg 35 and Zoom Fly Flyknit into the heavy rotation. They’re both logged approximately 100K by the way, so they’re definitely seasoned for daily use.

Check out the video I shot for a better look at the condition of the shoes!

Here I’d like to point out that I’ve liberally applied Shoe Goo to the foam where the high wear. Shoe Goo, if you’re a shoe geek, is a well known (and long time go-to solution to fix and/or reinforce a shoe’s durability). Just RM38 from ACE Hardware, it’s a great buy and I’ve used it on the Epic React and the Vaporfly 4%. Now, I’m not the most efficient runner but I’d say the wear on the shoes have been excellent and defied my doubts.

The price appears prohibitive and for much less, as of this post, there are so many options out there. From New Balance Beacon (which I snagged from Rakuten Japan for RM240), Fuel Core 5000 (RM262 from RunnerInn), Brooks Launch 5 (RM370 from RunnerInn) just to name a few. Because of that, I won’t be getting myself a second pair, unless they pop up at the premium outlets for under RM350.

Did I like the Epic? I love it the more I wear it. Mostly between 6:00 to 6:45/km pace, which meant they were great for easy to recovery runs for me. The React foam feels a little dull and uninvolving at paces quicker than that but as I logged 70-95K weeks for GCM18 and recently Macao, they were what I reached out nearly all the time for the easy days.

So, that’s that!

Note: The Epic React 2 is slated to be released Q1 2019. So v1 will surely see greater discounts.

Nike Zoom VaporFly 4% Review

Disclaimer: I drafted this post way back in March but since I had so many work deadlines to meet on top of marathon training, blogging was of the least importance to me. Certain sections of the post have been updated following further experiences in the shoes.

By definition, racing flats are running shoes that are designed to go fast. Stripped down, lightweight, often made of premium materials and rides low to the ground. Think Ferraris, Porsches and Lambos. They would also be less supportive than conventional trainers, possessing a firmer ride due to their greater ground feel.

The lightest racing flats that I’ve worn in my years of running have been Nike’s Lunaracer series. Sub-7oz (under 198 grams) for US10 and cushioned enough for the marathon, the Lunaracer was one of my all-time favorites. Versions 1 and 2 didn’t have particularly roomy toe boxes and I had plenty of blistering issues those days, but version 3 corrected all that through minor tweaks. Version 4, however, was by far the best. I’ll save my review of the Lunaracer 4 for another post because this one is all about the Vaporfly 4% (VF).

In case you’ve been living in an alternate universe and wondering what the circus about the VF is all about, this short RunnersWorld video summed it up nicely. With that much hype and marketing power channeled into the product, the US$250 shoes are pretty much sold out the instant they hit the online stores. They were not even available in this part of the world until a full 6 months after Kipchoge and his posse of extraordinary marathoners took a tour around the Monza track. The shoes were so in demand and production so limited (and controlled) that getting a pair meant extreme patience or paying online scalpers through the nose. Now that the marathon World Record has been broken in the elite version of the VF, you can bet the demand for the shoes amongst runners pursuing their own records have just ramped up another notch, if that’s even possible. Note (Dec ’18): It is more possible than ever to snag the latest version, the Vapor Fly Flyknit, with constant stock replenishments at the U.S. retailers. Stock in Malaysia, however, remains non-existent.

Very breathable and roomy upper.

Difference in the wordings of the ice blue OG and the crimson, after the runaway success of the earlier releases.
Look closer and you’ll see the the carbon fibre line running down the length of the shoes. Look just below the grey paint scheme on the midsole.

Nevertheless, through no small amounts of patience and endless monitoring of online marketplace, I got my hands on not 1 but 2 pairs late in 2017 from the U.S. – a pair used and at a substantial discount, and another pair at full retail. Luckily for me, both the sellers were honest folks because used pairs were still fetching over the RRP on eBay! The VFs were the most expensive pieces of sporting gear I’ve ever paid for by far. And I used to laugh at the price tag of the Ultra Boost! I reckoned at that time, that if the first pair didn’t work out for me, I could always join the eBay scalpers and hawk them off online🙄.  But there’s no need for all that now. After 3 races – a 15K, GCM18 and Macao Marathon – in the OG, I won’t be parting ways with either of my VFs, and the latest Flyknit version (the cat’s out of the bag now I guess!) anytime soon! I’ve since relegated the OGs to long training runs and will finally be debuting the crimson at the Twincity Half in January. There’s plenty of life yet for the OG despite nearly 400K logged. The Zoom X midsole have compressed a bit and the shoes have lost a little bounce but the rubber outsole’s durability, with the liberal application of Shoe Goo, have been outstanding. There’s hardly any wear and tear! A point to note: The photos of the OG in this post were taken way before their retirement.

The VF with the Vapor Street

With that little bit of backstory and no small measure of digression, let’s get going with the shoes.

There’s little of the shoes that the Internet hasn’t yet covered. Even the NY Times chipped in with a fascinating article on the VFs’ seeming influence on runners’ race outcomes. If you’re a geek, you’ll totally dig the article. For tech specs and detailed review, these reviews written by runners for runners will have you covered: Sam Winebaum’s RoadTrailRun | Fellrnr (with extensive photos of the shoes’ durability at 300 miles)| Running Shoes Guru | Believe In The Run YouTube Channel | Jamison Michael’s YouTube ChannelWired

With all the hard work taken cared of by those good folks, I won’t be rehashing the same stuff but instead focus more on my wear experience. And the easiest way to do that would be to do that in point form. So here are the facts, my observations and experience running in the VFs, in no particular order:

  1. VFs are racing shoes and not your daily trainer, so they’re not something you reach out for on a daily or even weekly basis. The VFs’ exorbitant price and rarity pretty much limit their use to just A races – races you’ve put your absolute everything into. If you’ve invested so much in time, energy and waking hours into priming yourself to that race readiness, the VF is that final variable in your arsenal. The thing that completes you, leaving nothing to chance. Think of it this way – after months of training, you don’t sit in a VW at the starting grid of a car race. Every component of your very self, inside and out, should be optimized to yield the very best results for the day. Forgive the hyperbole, but I’m listening to Max Richter’s poignantly epic War Anthem as I’m typing this!
  2. At 7.65 oz for US10, they’re light; in fact very light for their built-up look and levels of cushioning they offer. While the 6.7 oz Lunaracers beat the VFs for weight, the VFs offer far greater returns in terms of ride, bounce and cushioning albeit at a price that’s unattainable for most. In comparison, the Vapor Street weighs 7.9 oz and the Epic React 8.6 oz.
  3. The VF v1 is true to size, while the latest Flyknit version is a tad small. I upsized by half for the Flyknit version.
  4. It’s been reported that the OG edition is the softest and the shoes was tuned progressively firmer from there, albeit still soft and bouncy overall.
  5. They may be soft and cushy but they’re hardly mushy. They certainly ride differently than Clayton 2. The step-in feel is soft and yet you get that springy feel as you move around. No other foam comes close to the feel of Zoom X except for adidas’ much heavier and firmer BASF Boost. The softness of Zoom X is complemented by the carbon fibre plate that runs the entire length of the midsole, lending precious stability to the shoes.
  6. The VFs also ride differently from the just-launched Pegasus Turbo. In fact, the only similarity between these 2 shoes is the use of Nike’s Zoom X foam – 100% Zoom X for the VF, approximately 50% for the Turbo. The Turbo wasn’t my favorite – too soft and wobbly – and I sold them off after 120K.
  7. Without the embedded carbon plate, the VFs would’ve been too unstable to wear like in the case of the Pegasus Turbo, just like the case of the Turbo. Even with the plate, there’s a degree of pronation of my right foot. See point #13 below.
  8. The unique shape of the plate allows the quick roll off for the wearer.
  9. The VFs fit and feel are different from that of its cousin, the Zoom Fly Flyknit (ZFF), even if both share some similarities in looks. The ZFF is heavier and firmer, possessing a narrower plate sandwiched in a React midsole.
  10. Excellent breathability. Extensive cuts in the vamp area of the mesh upper ensure the feet stay cool.
  11. I’ve not ran in wet conditions but reports noted that they get slightly bogged down when soaked.
  12. Traction so far hasn’t been an issue despite the thin threading on the outsole but I’ve been rather careful taking sharp corners and haven’t yet run in very wet conditions. Also see next point.
  13. The VFs aren’t the most stable of shoes. Due to their stack heights and the softer properties of the Zoom X foam, they only have the carbon plate as any semblance of structure. There are no external heel counters, no medial posts, no external trusstic plates. I’ve found that the mild late-stage pronation of my right foot is exaggerated in the VFs. On some of the cambered roads of GCM18, I noticeably struggled to keep my foot plants stable.
  14. The VF v1 fits true to size while the VF Flyknit (VFF) has a much snugger fit. Depending on your preference, you might want to go up 1/2 size which I did. The VFF has an improved and secure midfoot fit which is great for racing. The knit upper stretches.

In my opinion, shoes themselves or for that matter any piece of gear alone, will not make one a faster runner. However if you’ve had a great training cycle and have an aggressive goal time to chase for, toeing the start line with everything taken care of right down to gear can’t hurt. I bought the VFs to run my best and they delivered. My legs felt fresh right after the marathon, with just minor soreness setting in 2 days after. Even after race-retired, the OGs still have plenty to offer in training runs. They’re worth every cent I’ve put into justifying their purchase.

The VFs are truly incomparable to any racers out there. Admittedly, the price tag is prohibitive and unless Reebok, adidas, Saucony, or Skechers (with the promising Razor 3) come out with their version of lightweight TPU that offers superb cushioning, responsiveness and durability, Nike pretty much has this niche cornered. If your races are important for you, I’d say just get these and get on with training to run your best!

Nike Epic React Flyknit Review

There’s probably not a more innovative shoe company out there right now than Nike. As a shoe geek who has been following the trends since the ‘80s and wearing many of the brands out there, I can say for a fact that there’s never been a been a more exciting time to be a runner-shoe geek. I’ve had a mixed relationship with Nike shoes in the past. Other than the Free series, I’ve found that they tend to be narrow and pointy around the toebox section. We Asians who spend our time unshod at home, typically have wider feet than our Western counterparts. It was almost a certainty that I finish a marathon with a medal and bruised toenails!

Sometime in the past 3 years, things changed. Perhaps it was due to the introduction of Flyknit and the engineered mesh upper that gave the shoe uppers more give and “stretch-ability”. Perhaps there was really an update to the shoe lasts. Shoes like the Flyknit Lunar series, Lunar Tempo, Zoom Span and even the later versions of the Lunaracers were fantastic shoes to run in. They had forgiving uppers, light and cushioned. So were the performance oriented models like the Streak 6, Zoom Elite 9 and Speed Rival 6, which became favorites not only of the super-efficient elites but also weekend warriors. They were still based on various forms of traditional foam like Cushlon, Lunarlon and old fashioned EVA.

Then hot on the heels of the Breaking2 Project (watch the videos here – link 1link 2NatGeo feature,  came the release of the Zoom Fly and Vapor Fly 4% into the wild. The runners-shoe geek population and sneakerheads everywhere went wild literally. Since this review is not on the Flys, let’s move on.

The Epic React Flyknit (ERF) was released in the States end January 2018 and a month later, they landed in Malaysia. To the uninitiated, React refers to Nike’s new midsole material, much like how Adidas affixed the Boost name to nearly all their running line of shoes. I won’t be regurgitating what React is but Nike has it covered here. Now, if you’re familiar with Boost (or for that matter any of the BASF’s Boost derivative such as Saucony’s EVERUN or Reebok’s Floatride) shoes, you’ll know that that they can range between soft and bouncy (such as the Ultra Boost) to firm (such as Freedom ISO) depending on how they’re “tuned”. They’re undoubtedly durable and pretty temperature resistant, meaning they’ll retain their wear properties in cold and warm temperatures. However, the TPU material is heavy, resulting in heavy shoes. The Ultra Boost weighs in around 10oz, the Reebok Floatride Run comes in at 9.7oz and even Adidas very own racing and performance oriented Boston Boost and Adios weigh between 7.8 to 8.6oz. TPU usage often meant shoe companies will need to be creative in the design of the upper and outsole so that they don’t add on to the already heavy (relatively speaking, of course) shoes.

So Nike decided to go their own way. Instead of putting out another BASF-based TPU, they developed React and slapped it on the Epic. Now, in case you’re wondering, the Epic name isn’t used for the first time by Nike. In fact, the very shoe that the ERF replaces – Flyknit Lunar Epic Low 2 – is still being sold at a premium price of RM629 in Nike stores around here. Going further back, the Epic Low was a replacement for the Flyknit Lunar 3.  That’s history for you.

If you’ve clicked on the link to the React page, you’d see the many numbers put forth by Nike in terms of durability, softness, bounce and weight. So how do they measure up on the feet of a marathoner deep-in-training? Pretty good. In fact, I’m downright impressed! The hype may be from the collectors and sneakerheads but I’m here to state that the ERF is a totally legit running shoe. So let’s get on with the review.

Compared to the Boston Boost 5, the ERF has a more forgiving forefoot due to the absence of hard Continental rubber. I also find it softer than the Freedom ISO but firmer than the FloatRide Run. The ERF offers a different ride experience at different speeds. Firm when things heat up, smooth and cushy without any of the mushiness of the Hoka Clayton 2 when taken at a slower pace. It’s over long and easy runs (between 5:50 to 6:30/km pace) that I like them the most. They’re surprisingly stable and responsive, a sentiment concurred by my fellow running mates. There’s some ground feel but minus the harshness of the Boston or the NB Zante.

I’ve logged 77km in total in the ER and have very little to complain. The longest single run in them was a fast-finish 24km in clammy conditions, and there were no blisters, no chafing, no heat build-up. The superbly engineered one piece Flyknit upper provided a snug midfoot fit that’s just nice without the overly constricting feel of the Vapor Street’s. You can see for yourself the quality of the weave in the photo.

The toe box is accommodating enough, no complains there. Flat laces are used but there were no pressure on top of the feet. They never got undone either, unlike those used for the Zoom Elite 9. Even with the external piece of plastic to help stabilize the shoe and a thin heel counter to further lock in the foot, the shoe only weighs in at 8.6oz for my US10. And yes, the Epic React Flyknit fits true to size.

The uniquely designed React midsole has the appearance of ant farm tunneling. Flip the shoe over and you’ll see that most of the outsole is exposed React foam. Only the heel and toe sections have translucent-like rubber placements. I thought the placements were a little too minimal and durability will take a hit. That’s true to a certain extent. There were already visible wear signs from the very first get go (they’re exposed foam anyway, so that’s a given) but the wear seem to ease off and became less noticeable after I heaped more miles on them. The ERF’s outsole won’t return you 600km – you’ll probably see around 350 to 400km tops. Nike has since released a lower priced light stability React model which has more rubber on its outsole – the Odyssey React (OR). So if you’re looking to get more miles for your hard-earned cash, the OR may be the option for you.

Nike’s recent releases are certainly bringing plenty of new tech to the roads and that’s exciting for us runners. The Epic React Flyknit remains the most readily available model right now and it retails at RM589. If you’d like a bit more durability, and mild stability at a lower price point (engineered mesh instead of Flyknit), consider the Odyssey React. The Odyssey (also a carried over name from a discontinued stability model) feels slightly different from the Epic, so give both a try first. The Nike Epic React has my recommendation.

Other reviews of the Epic React Flyknit:

Running Shoes GuruBelieve In The Run | Road Trail Run | T3

Nike Zoom Span Review

One of the delights for a shoe geek is to walk into a local running shoe store, with absolutely no intention of buying anything, only to leave with a pair or two because the deal was simply too good to be true. The same could be said of my unplanned purchase of the Nike Zoom Span (ZS).

If that name sounds familiar to veterans out there, that’s because the Span name has been used before. The OG and Span 2 were neutral, plush and highly cushioned shoes in those days which morphed into stability models with the old Zoom Elite’s medial post! Some sneaker head sites have revealed that the Span 2 will be making a comeback in 2018 as a vintage model, just like the Huarache, Sock Racer, Air Mariah. If you’re not a runner in the ’80s, you be best take a peek on how they used to look like in the links below:

Span OG | Span 2Span 4Span 7

Back to my story.

So there I was walking around Sunway Pyramid after a meet up, passed by 2 sports shops (with large Sale stickers) and decided to pop in. Lo and behold, Sports Empire had the Zoom Span on 40%! I’ve had my eyes on the Span for some time as a cheaper alternative to the Pegasus, and have read many reviews proclaiming them being excellent value for money, what with so much of Nike’s core technologies included. The RRP of RM399 is at least RM60 cheaper than the Pegs and the Saucony Ride 10. With this discount, the price was further slashed down to RM240. And that was how I ended up with another pair of shoes.

As I’ve mentioned above, the ZS is anything but similar to the Spans of yore. The current version is a reboot and takes on the form of the Pegasus. With the low price, you still get the goodies such as an engineered mesh forefoot, Cushlon midsole, Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, and full contact outsole (Duralon, which is Nike’s blown rubber in the forefoot, and solid rubber in the heel). For a touch of stability, a tiny and indeed innocuous medial post works in tandem with a flared midsole.

Instead of a flashy upper, the ZS sports a 2-tone colorway – grey and black, with a saddle that looks like the Pegasus 31’s. The difference is that the Peg’s saddle is like breathable supportive webbing while the ZS’s version is simple a midfoot wrap with cosmetic design cues. Just like in the case of the automotive industry, the Volkswagen Group will deploy the latest tech and whizbang in the Audis, while Skoda will inherit their 2-year old tech, the ZS are like cheaper Pegs with slightly dated design cues.

Happily, the US10 fits true to size and at 9.7oz each side, they don’t weigh like bricks. Forefoot space is very decent despite the tapered appearance. You can see from the photo above there’s a considerable flare from the midsole. The midfoot lockdown is comfortable. The ZS’s ride leans towards the firmer end of the scale in the forefoot yet softer in the heel. The heel is notably softer than that of the Ride 10. The internal heel counter is stiff but doesn’t cause any discomfort other than a weight penalty.

The ride of the ZS is neutral and should be very agreeable to the masses out there. There’s a degree of stability with each footstrike which I think is more attributable to the midsole flare than the tiny medial post, and might I say there’s a little responsiveness to go with that too? Transition is smooth which is no doubt due to the many flex grooves zig-zagging across the outsole. To shave off some weight, the midsole is hollowed out length-wise from exactly the midfoot point to the center-heel. When I needed to pick up the pace, they respond too. That’s the benefit of having a firmer forefoot.

Admittedly, durability of the Cushlon and absence of carbon rubber outsole may not be on par with the costlier options but at the least, 500km isn’t an unreasonable ask from the Span. At 50km, there’s literally no wear.

Runners on a tight budget should rejoice. At this price, there’s really nothing to complain. Like the Zoom Elite, the Zoom Span has been redesigned from the ground up. There’s no resemblance to the Spans of old.  However, unlike the much more expensive and race-centric Zoom Elite, I don’t foresee the Span hanging around too long nor see an update if news of a vintage version due next year. So if your budget is a little tight for a pair of versatile shoes yet can’t afford a Pegasus or any other workhorse trainers, grab these! Especially if they’re so heavily discounted.

Nike LunarFly+

If there was an Oscar for the most underrated shoe award, the LunarFly+ wouldve taken it.
If there was an Oscar for the most underrated shoe award, the LunarFly+ would’ve taken it.

The Nike LunarFly+ is one of the most underrated and understated shoe in Nike’s Lunar range. Yet, it has turned out to be one of my favourites, one that I’m strongly considering wearing for the Mar 26th TUC. Oftentimes you don’t  need to load a product with all the bells and whistles to come out with a great offering. Keeping it simple while ensuring the basics are covered are what works.

The LunarFly’s upper design is a close replica of the discontinue Hayward, another lightweight retro looking model. It’s construction is minimal and has just enough trimmings to retain the integrity of the shoe. And like the Hayward there are two venting ports on the instep of the shoe. There are several colourways for the Fly but I decided on the Black/Green version because I wanted the reflective properties of the large swoosh strips – essential for early morning/night time running. This is one shoe with a completely retro look that’s highly visible on the streets. As with most Nike shoes these days, it comes Nike+ ready.

The midsole is constructed of Lunarlon and surprisingly sports the  Dynamic Support midsole, even though it’s not indicated anywhere on it. According to Nike’s product person in the US, the Dynamic Support found in the Fly is the mildest to be put in their stable of shoes. The outsole is made up of tiny waffles, unlike the chunky ones found on the Pegasus.

The outsole configuration.
The outsole configuration.
Closeup of the nibblet-size waffles.
Closeup of the nibblet-size waffles.

How does the LunarFly fit? I’d say pretty snug in the midfoot without being restrictive. The shoe’s forefoot width and height offer more than adequate room to the toes. As can be expected of a shoe this minimal, the lack of weight makes it a very appealing fast training and racing shoe. While not too soft, there’s a bounce to the footstrike but I’d welcome a slightly more responsive ride and a smaller heel to toe drop personally. The support is adequate for those with a neutral gait. I like the shoe’s flexibility which is totally unlike the more rigid LunarGlide+.

I’ve logged 163KM in the LunarFly including a 42KM training run and I’d say that they’re pretty darn good. There are some wear and tear to be sure which I fully expected in view of the outsole design. I reckon I’ll be able to clock a total of 350KM in them. There are no issues with heat build-up and if laced closely, the one incident of some renegade pebbles that I encountered would not have happened. The small waffles did present a tricky proposition when dealing with sand, as I consistently slipped a little on a patch when I covered 4 loops around Mutiara Homes. After slipping once on my first loop, I purposely ran over it the next 3 loops just to confirm that finding. I do have to mention that I had no problems on wet surfaces though.

The large swoosh is actually a very large piece of reflective tape.
The large swoosh is actually a very large piece of reflective tape.

That’s it for the LunarFly+. What you get is a simple shoe that serves me well and covers nearly all the most important bases. The sweetener on this package is the price which is just RM299. The LunarFly+ are not sold out of Nike boutiques but in retailers such as Al-Ikhsan and Stadium. I bought mine in Penang towards end of last year but then the LunarFly 2 is already out now, albeit with some tweaks to the upper. If you like a more minimalist shoe, opt for the first version.

Originally published: Mar 3, 2011

Nike Zoom Wildhorse

2 weeks ago I spotted a FB update from Runningwarehouse on the launch of 2 trail shoes from Nike. Not another Free or Flyknit road shoe but trail! Not one but two!! OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me clarify.

Firstly Nike’s take on the trail segment has always been more towards the ruggedizing the existing road models. Long gone were the bulky ACG (All Conditions Gear) hiking series, you’ll see Pegasus Trail, Fly Trail, Structure Trail… You get the idea. Therefore when photos began circulating in the Internet of the Zoom Wildhorse and Zoom Terra Kiger along with some of their specs, my toes were well and truly tickled. Not only are these 2 designed freshed (in a manner of speaking since I think various parts of the shoes were influenced from other models), they’re low drop (4mm), lightweight (9.3oz for US10.5) and have much more room up front than traditional Nikes.

One of my frustrations with Nike has always been the narrow toebox. This IMHO has prevented the Lunaracer from being a good to an excellent shoe. To illustrate the difference between the Wildhorse and the other shoes, I pulled out several (not all!) active ones out of my cabinet for comparison and you can see for yourselves.

From left: GOBionic Ride, Wildhorse, Fuji Racer 2.
From left: Kinvara 4, Montrail Rogue Racer, Wildhorse.
From left: Free 3.0 v5, Flyknit Lunar One, Wildhorse.

Wildhorse and Kiger are unusual names so I dug around and found out that both are names for locations in the Steens Mountain, Oregon (Nike’s home state) – Wildhorse Lake and Kiger Gorge (Kiger is also a name of mustang from that area). The Wildhorse shares several traits with the Kiger namely their lasts, absence of rockplate, weight, outsole design and drop. However there are subtle differences such as Kiger’s use of heel and forefoot airbags, smaller toebox room, sticky rubber, Dynamic Flywire, mesh than resembles the Free and LunarGlide and a USD15 higher price.

The Kiger isn’t brought into Malaysia (probably due to price factor), so this initial review is only on the Wildhorse. On to the shoe and firstly on the sizing and weight. Because of the intended purpose of this shoe (i.e. taken on runs long enough such that my feet will swell), I started my fitting with a US10. It turned out to be just enough with a thicker trail socks (I tried the shoes while wearing the Nike 2-layer sock but the Drymax Trail has roughly the same thickness). Upsized the shoes to a 10.5 and with a thumb and half space up front, the fit was just right. Without any walking around, the footbed felt firm but walking and hopping around in them, I fully appreciate the responsive cushioning the shoe offers.

Topside, the traditional laces were super easy and smooth to cinch up – you pull the top and the entire shoe upper wraps around your feet. A rounded and wide forefoot was so appreciated. There’s a small toe bumper that wraps around in front. The lightly padded tongue is gusseted (yet another plus point) and long enough unlike the Flyknit Lunar One’s. There’s really no need for too much padding since the laces are not of the thin wires or Kevlar types which could potentially put extra pressure on top of the feet. The gusset is sewn to an inner sleeve which acts to prevent the outer layer of the upper from rubbing the foot. The lime green layer sandwiched between the outer layer and inner sleeve is called Dynamic Fit – you adjust your laces and these will wrap  closer or looser depending on your adjustments. It gets better, the removable sockliner isn’t molded to the extreme in that the arch area, so there’s no chance of chafing there. Interestingly, “Nike Free” is inscribed on the underside of the sockliner.

At the back there’s an absence of a traditional and stiff heel counter. In its place, just a strap across the heel to secure it in place.

The dual density midsole has a 23mm and 19mm heel-forefoot stackheight, rounded at the sides of the heel which mimics the foot shape and should provide traction on the uneven trails. The outsole is a mix of slanted lugs. Towards the heel section, the lugs are directional while the perimeter has an aggresive thorny (much like durians’) take.

Now comes the interesting part – taking these bubble gummy colored shoes for a run. Note that I’ve only put in 2 very short runs in them around my neighborhood. A rocky hillock sits on one side of the children’s playground. The surface on this little patch of land are a mix of sharp rocks or various sizes, packed sand, clay and tricky granite faces.

I’ve been using this playground’s twisty paths and this rocky section to break up the monotonous linear movements of road running as well as to develop agility. It forces me to get on my forefoot most of the times and to keep the cadence up. On a bulky shoe, my experience on such a tricky course would be akin to taking the RR Phantom to the Top Gear circuit. But a performance trainer or lightweight trail shoe would feel right at home. The grip of the Wildhorse on the tarmac, bricked and tiled sections leading up to the park was fantastic despite not having the Kiger’s sticky rubber. It handled everything there were in the area and even without the rockplate, the lugs are deep enough to lend some protection in the forefoot area. I can’t wait to take them to the trails where they can be put to a good workout. Do they drain well? Will they slip on logs? How do they feel on the descents? Will my legs feel like they’re trashed just after 3 hours? Can debris enter the shoe at will? I’m not sure but when I find the answers to the questions, you’ll know too.

I’m very surprised at the direction the company has taken with the Flyknit Free and now these 2 trail shoes. Initial reviews of the Wildhorse have been very favorable in the forums and hopefully this will lead to more nice things to come. If you’re in Malaysia and are looking for a lightweight and low bulk trail shoe that has the cushioning and support to handle long distances, the Wildhorse warrants a serious look. It joins the asics Fuji Racer 2 (6mm), Montrail Rogue Racer and Salomon Mantra (6mm, but I was unable to get over the narrow forefoot and the way it flexes) but none of these have the room up front as the Wildhorse. And while the Skechers GOtrail (4mm) is a commendable shoe for short distances, I wasn’t able to go long in them.

The Nike Zoom Wildhorse is already in stores and retailing for RM409. No disclosure required as I was excited enough to purchase this pair for myself!

Originally published: Jul 31, 2013

Nike Vomero+ 5

The Vomeros aren’t new to me. My relationship with it began back in early 2008 with the yellow-silver Vomero 2. It was a handsome shoe (if shoes can be handsome) but more importantly it was mighty plush, the most cushy shoe I’ve ever worn. I rotated the 2 with Zoom Elite 3 and Triax 11, before the LunarTrainer and Racer came into the picture.

Sadly it returned me only 490K in total mileage when the midsole broke down. Having the softest midsole in the neutral shoe category does have its drawbacks. The Duralon outsole and Cushlon midsole are more susceptible to wear and tear. But to a runner seeking a soft ride, the Vomero was it. 2 generations later, we have version 5 on the shelves. I wanted to put in enough miles in them before I put in a review and to-date, I logged very close to 90K in them to form an opinion.

Just as the Nimbus is the top dog in asics’ cushioned shoe range, the Vomero+ 5 is Nike’s equivalent in the Bowerman Series. Since I wear both, I’m able to comment on the similarities and differences of both. Both offer cushioned ride for the neutral gait runners, have highly breathable upper and are excellent choices for the long runs. That’s where the similarities end. The Nimbus has a bulkier and thicker midsole while the Nike+ ready Vomero+ 5 is less beefy and sports a lower profile, keeping the toe to heel rise minimal. The Vomero has a wider forefoot, less midfoot shank and overlay, all of which I appreciate. As a result the Vomero’s weight of 11.6oz is easier on the scales.

Externally, the upper seems to resemble the Air Max Moto. The external heel cup are perforated presumably to reduce the weight and promote ventilation. Interestingly the stiff Flywire threads have now been replaced with stretchable bands of polymer (?).  This makes the upper softer and much more flexible.

I wore the Vomero out the very first time in the 43K Raya Run last week with no blisters (despite the wet run), no hotspots (well, it was a cool morning). Taking a new pair of shoes out for a run this long is certainly not advisable but I was prepared to face the backlash of such foolhardiness. Luckily there was none. My run was done on roads of varying surface condition. On several tiled sections in front of Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, my footing were a little slippery due to the moss but other than that stretch there were no issues. I also managed to put in several mid-run spurts just to see how running fast felt in them. They passed. Try doing that in the Nimbus and you’ll feel like the shoe is absorbing all your strides, making quicker paced runs a tiring affair. In the area of responsiveness, the Vomero+ 5 outdid the Nimbus and even the Vomero 2.  I didn’t experience any change to the Vomero’s legacy of smooth heel to toe transition, although I need to mention that I land more on my midfoot these days.

The Vomero+ 5 is an easy recommendation for neutral gait runners and those with high arch requiring a flexible and cushioned ride. It’s breathable, feels light on your feet and takes the Nike+ sensor. It may not be as plush as the Vomeros of old definitely, so faster runners who seek a more responsive ride would be happy.

Disclosure: Nike provided me with the Vomero 5 for review

Originally published: Sep 29, 2010