Nike Zoom Fly 3 160K Review

Note: I discovered this unpublished draft review which was written back in August 2019 (gulp!). I’ve since retired the Zoom Fly 3. The role of the daily trainer now rests with the React Infinity Run Flyknit [review]. Due to the MCO lockdown to arrest the scourge of COVID-19, there’s been no running since early March. With that, let’s get on with the review.

Midway through a recent 19K, it dawned upon me how my opinion has shifted ever so slightly on the shoes I had on. The Nike Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3) is my 4th in the Zoom Fly series, having experienced the OG and Zoom Fly Flyknit (ZFFK), with a new pair of Zoom Fly SP Fast still in storage. I’ve always had a mixed relationship with the series. I’m not a fan of their weight (they’ve always been heavy) and clunkiness, which is incongruous with Nike’s “fast” sales pitch. Nike has such depth in their range, the Epic React, Rival Fly, and Turbo being just 3 of them, which can easily handle the fast days. Yet the ZF3 are still Nike’s only carbon-plated shoes other than the 4/Next% and as of this post, the only one accorded the VaporWeave upper treatment. If you’re a shoe geek like me, the ZF is the closest you’ll get to the feel of the premier Percents. Which explains why even with their weighty misgivings, the lure was just too strong for me.

Aesthetics-wise, ZF3 takes it up a notch from the ZFFK. As expected of Nike, the shoes are just beautiful – a huge swoosh garnishing the translucent upper, a highly sculpted midsole that tapers to the rear, white colorway accentuating minimalism – their silhouette leaning to that of the Vaporfly Elite, Next % and Vapor Street. Those expecting a lighter ZFFK would be disappointed though, as my pair of US10 still weighs in at 9.8oz for the left and 10.05oz for the right. Tiny manufacturing variances do naturally occur, so I’m not sure if a 0.25oz difference is considered a huge one. The shoes feel hefty to hold compared to Nike’s other models such as the Rival Fly, Epic React 2, Odyssey React 2 or even the Pegasus 36.

At over 10oz for my US10, these are in my opinion, not conducive in tackling speed work. To each his/her own, I know, but there are certainly better options out there for your tempos and intervals. As mentioned earlier, Nike’s own Turbo and Streak or even the Epic React for example are more suited for the fast days. NB’s fantastic FuelCell Rebel being the other option. You can see how disappointed I was with this weighty issue – while regular workhorses like the Pegasus 36 and featherweight Next% have both shed weight, the ZF3 gained!

Left shoe weighs 9.8oz
Right shoe weighs in over 10oz! A little variance is expected during manufacturing but this difference in weight is quite big.

Similar to the direction taken by the Next %, the knitted upper has been replaced with Vaporweave, a TPU and TPE mix, chosen to improve breathability and reduce water retention. While the hype is going to be on Vaporweave, the upper is actually a combination of several elements and layers which include a highly perforated mesh just under the outermost weave, and an internal perforated arch band which secures the midfoot and arch which attaches to a neoprene-like integrated tongue and collar. The reinforcements around the toebox and heel cup are sufficient. A V-shaped lace loop strip adds some structure. The neoprene-like tongue is lightly padded, no undue pressure felt on the top of the feet. even when cinched up tight.

Where the ZF3’s upper falters would be the fit around the ankle. Visually, there are plenty of space and gaps around the collar when you put on the shoes, creating the impression of poor fit and lockdown. Trust me when I tell you that it’s impossible to lace up without closing off the space – I’ve tried. The best you can do is to secure a tight fit and pray the internal suede padding on each side of the ankle adequately hold down the foot. It’s a little disconcerting at first and I was quite concerned about pebbles and small stones finding their way into the shoes during my first few runs.

The ZF3 sees an increase in the midsole stack height, which probably explains their weight gain. Runningwarehouse puts the midsole at 36mm/28mm for an 8mm offset. The ZF3 retains a full-length React foam midsole with an embedded carbon fiber plate.

The outsole has been beefed up considerably as well. The forefoot sports a thicker rubber with deeper grooves. The good? The blown rubber offers excellent bite and traction, even around corners. The bad? Added weight, of course. Rear rubber coverage is limited to the high wear lateral and medial sides.

My first run in the ZF3 was a short 6K. I felt the imbalanced weight distribution of the shoes almost immediately. The front is perceptibly heavier than the rear – possibly due to the much greater rubber coverage in the forefoot. That said, the ride is very very smooth, the smoothest of all ZFs. Almost Pegasus smooth with very little trace of the stiff, rolling rocker transition. Could Nike have re-positioned the carbon plate? There were some talks of that, which would explain the tamped down rocker-feel.

After logging over 160km in the shoes, I’m please to report that the durability is top-notch. Wear and tear is excellent and the only giveaway that they aren’t new shoes is the slight yellowing of the Vaporweave material. I’ve also yet to encounter wayward pebbles entering the shoes. Another plus for me is the roomier forefoot and cushioned ride. I do wish the ZFs to be lighter although I doubt they’ll ever be in the mid 8oz region. It’s for this reason that this pair of ZF3s will probably be my final dalliance with the series. I’ve grown to enjoy the Turbo which I’ve found to be versatile and there always the New Balance Propel for a lighter training option.

If you’ve not experienced the Zoom Fly series and are curious about it, version 3 may be of interest to you.

Summer Rubbers

Warning: Old news to the sneaker heads and shoe geeks.

Every runner by now would’ve followed the recent development surrounding THAT shoe. News outlets hoping to channel traffic to their sites then chipped in with their opinion pieces and predictions (more often than not bearing clickbait titles) about impending bans on the Nike Next% and next-gen AlphaFly. Only a handful (this article is one of the few) really offer any intelligent discussion or putting the whole subject.

On Jan 31, World Athletics finally released a statement concerning the allowable parameters for competition shoes. Plenty of interesting points in there.

With the April 30th deadline approaching, shoe companies are rushing their prototypes into production. Good for us! If you’ve missed out on the shoe announcements, here’s a recap of what were announced (and seen) over the past few days, starting with the Big Daddy of them all.

Nike
What’s new: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%.
RRP: Rumoured to be similar in price tag to the current Vaporfly series, limited release Feb 29 to coincide with the US Olympic Marathon Trials.
New Tech: Atomknit, upgraded stack height.
Carry-over Tech: Carbon plate, ZoomX midsole, Zoom Air (pod-shaped)
Comments: To be released alongside track spikes and the Air Zoom Tempo Next%, a new performance trainer (thought to be Turbo 2 replacement). I hope the Next% will not be discontinued because I think they’re already rad enough for me 😀
Nike Media Release
Reviews: None available, yet.

Skechers

What’s new: Speed Elite Hyper
RRP: US160, available Feb 17
New Tech: Carbon plate in a winglet configuration, Goodyear rubber outsole
Carry-over Tech: Hyper Burst midsole, M-Strike Geometry, mono-mesh upper.
Comments: Reviewed to be the most similar in feel to the Vaporfly.
Skechers Media Release
Reviews: RoadTrailRun | Doctors of Running

Saucony
What’s new: 3 shoes -> Endorphin Pro, Endorphin Speed, and Endorphin Shift
RRP: US250, USD200, USD180 respectively. No release dates announced.
New Tech: Carbon plate (for Pro), TPU plate (for Speed), PWRRUN PB (for Pro) midsole, SpeedRoll Geometry
Carry-over Tech: PWRRUN (for Shift)
Comments: Released as a trio for racing, speed work and training respectively, the 3 shoes are accorded fresh and light pastel colorways. Couldn’t locate Saucony’s Media Release, so here’s one covered by Canadian Running Magazine
Reviews: None available, yet.

Brooks
What’s new: 2 shoes -> Hyperion Elite and Hyperion Tempo
RRP: USD250 (Elite) and USD150 (Tempo), selected release Feb 27 and Jun 1 respectively.
New Tech: Carbon Plate, DNA Zero midsole (for Elite), DNA Flash (for Tempo)
Carry-over Tech: Brooks’ underwhelming look.
Comments: Boring utilitarian look. Believe In The Run guys weren’t impressed with the harsh ride. Brooks’ reported lifespan of only 100 miles!
Brooks Teaser | Forbes Coverage
Reviews: Believe In The Run (Hyperion Elite | Hyperion Tempo | RoadTrailRun (Hyperion Elite | Hyperion Tempo)

New Balance
What’s new: FuelCell TC
RRP: USD200
New Tech: Carbon Plate
Carry-over Tech: FuelCell nitrogen infused midsole seen in the Propel and Rebel.
Comments: Plenty of design cues carried over from the Rebel but without the lateral flange. Unable to find any news from NB so here’s some coverage by RunnersWorld.
ReviewsRoadTrailRun

adidas

What’s new: AdiZero Pro
RRP: Euro 180 (approx USD196), selected release Apr 1, worldwide May 15.
New Tech: Carbitex Carbon Plate
Carry-over Tech: Continental rubber outsole, Boost heel midsole, Lightstrike forefoot midsole.
Comments: Lightstrike isn’t new. It’s featured in the current AdiZero RC2 flat. They look pretty good, although I doubt they’ll be as featherweight as the Nike due to the continued use of Boost midsole.
Adidas Media Release
Reviews: None available, yet.

Spyshots on social media have emerged showing the rumoured Hoka Carbon Rocket X (Hoka already have the Carbon X and Carbon Rocket), Mizuno and Asics.

Nike React Infinity Run – After 30K

While manners maketh man, doth injuries maketh a runner? 
I’ve been a runner for over 20 years and have managed to stay relatively injury-free. I’ve “only” had a case of plantar fasciitis which took me 8 months to completely recover from and I’m currently desperately trying to shake off a debilitating posterior tibial tendonitis. So at least for me recently, injuries doth maketh a runner. It’s just a matter of severity and the recovery time needed to be back in business.
After creating the fastest distance running shoes on the planet, the folks at Nike are now training their sights on producing shoes that will make injuries a thing of the past. Enter the Nike React Infinity Run.
Now, every runner worth his or her electrolytes knows that not getting injured is not only about wearing the appropriate choice of footwear. It’s about proper training, efficient biomechanics, and yes, correct gear. You could be wearing the best gear money can buy but if training volume and intensity are not compensated with adequate rest and recovery, an injury is just waiting to happen. Which is why along with the launch of the React Infinity, Nike are leveraging on the Nike+ Run Club (NRC) and Nike Training Club (NTC) to guide the runner along the proper way to train.
Before we dive into my first experiences in the React Infinity, I’d like to point out that Nike do have and have had several stability oriented shoes in their line-up. The Odyssey React and Structure 22 are currently available shoes offering mild to moderate stability respectively, while 6 to 7 years ago, there was the popular LunarGlide (with the Dynamic Support Lunarlon midsole) and the Structure Triax 10+ with Footbridge and firm medial posting working in concert.
The React Infinity have no medial posting, no superfluous straps and no plastic pieces embedded in the midsole. They really are simple shoes. Well-engineered yet simple.
See the vertical stitch line just aft of the Flyknit tab? That’s the separator between the Flyknit Loft to the front of the shoe and regular Flyknit to the rear.
To begin with, the upper is now 3/4 Flyknit Loft which comprises of 3 layers. The base provides smooth comfort, the mid layer adds some structure and stability while the top layer enhances breathability. Traditional Flyknit continue to provide rear upper integrity. Lacing eyelets are now decoupled into 4 separate “islands” which allows the wearer to customise the lockdown. The Flyknit upper wear like socks – snug but not restrictive. There’s certainly enough room for the toes to splay and has just enough stretch for all-day wear – I know because I’ve worn it exclusively as work and training shoes since the day they were handed to me. A thin TPU wrap provides a bit more structure without the need for a heel counter. The iconic swoosh logo is nicely, and creatively, incorporated into this wrap.
The midsole flaring is clear to see in this shot.
With the exception of the midfoot area, the wearer’s feet will sit on a noticeably wider platform of a rocker geometry. This allows the taller React Infinity to maintain a buttery smooth transition as the lower slung Epic React which I’ve reviewed here. Remove this rocker and you’ll regress to the days of motion-control shoes simply because they’d be too stiff to run in! Because the React Infinity have 24% more React foam (33/24mm stack height for a 9mm heel-to-toe offset) compared to the Epic React, there’s no need for Zoom Air. The extra React foam already handle the cushioning job well enough, is durable and inherently stable on their own. Those elements of stability and durability are the reasons why React is used to complement the Turbo 2’s Zoom X midsole.
Cut-off heel.
The pointy elf heel that we’ve grown accustomed to – and present in the Winflo, Pegasus, Vomero, Zoom Fly, Turbo, Rival Fly, Vaporfly 4% and Next% – is gone. Instead, the React Infinity sport a cut-off heel. I’m not sure if that’s a purely design call but I’m sure the 2 pieces of extended heel clips that secure the midsole and upper play a major role in guiding the feet through the gait cycle.
The full contact outsole retains the DNA of the Epic React but with greater rubber coverage at all high-wear areas. Deep flex grooves can be found at all the, um, flex points. I logged more than 600km in my retired Epic and on account of the added rubber alone, the Infinity React will be able to return similar mileage if not more given the shoes now have even more foam. Traction seems to be on point too – no face-planting myself dashing over slick tiled surfaces as I sought shelter on a drizzly KL evening.
The step-in feel is soft but not mushy, and comfortable with a very noticeable arch support. The tongue feels like an upgrade from that of the Epic React with a touch more cushion. The fit of the React Infinity is true to size. My US10 weighs in at 10.4oz (women’s US8 comes in at 8oz per Nike’s official specs) which isn’t flyweight but I find them to be so well balanced that I really don’t feel the weight at all. Go try them out yourself and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve logged over 30km in the shoes and here’s what I think in no particular order:
  1. They ride as smooth as the Epic. Those who love the Epic will love the Infinity while Pegasus wearers seeking a more cushioned ride may be convinced to rotate in the Infinity.
  2. They’re cushioned, protective and stable without needing to be outright stability/motion control-class shoes. There’s little to no excessive inward collapsing of my problematic right foot on foot strike.
  3. Best worn with medium-bulk socks. Over the period of a week, I’ve worn them sock-less (not recommended not only from the fit perspective but also due to upper bunching as a result of added space), with thin race socks (hard to get ankle lockdown) and medium-bulk socks (works best!).
  4. Overall fit is great although heel lock can be improved. Maybe it’s my narrow ankles. This can be improved by adding 2 internal strips/pads onto both inner sides of the heel counter, or adding an additional lacing eyelet.
  5. Flyknit Loft is very breathable! Gone are the days of ending workouts in soaked shoes.
  6. Pretty versatile for their weight and stack height. I’ve taken them out at 5:00/km to 6:45/km paces. Great for those fast finish long runs.
  7. The pronounced arch support I felt when I first put on the shoes disappeared minutes into the workout, and most importantly didn’t result in chafing.
Just like for the Epic React, I expect the Infinity React to break in – upper and midsole to turn softer and conforming to the wearer’s specs – around the 50km mark. While my mileage is comparatively low due to my current injury, the shoes are still comfortable enough for me to log several 10Ks so far. I can see myself pulling them out for all my easy/recovery and long run days once I’m out of this present situation. I will definitely put up a follow-up post once I put them through longer runs.
Nike’s moonshot of creating shoes that’ll see the end to injuries is an audacious one but didn’t Breaking2 start that way just a few years ago as well? The React Infinity is a solid debut in that regards and prove that supportive shoes can be designed to be like neutral shoes – staying relatively light, flexible, smooth and cushioned yet offering protection and support.
The Nike React Infinity are now available in Nike stores nationwide from today January 30th, 2020 and they retail for RM649.
Disclosure: The Nike React Infinity Run was provided for review by Nike Sales Malaysia but the thoughts expressed above are entirely my own after logging over 30km in them.

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.