Nike Zoom VaporFly 4% Review

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 to provide the runner a firm and responsive pop. Broadly speaking, they’re also not very comfortable and will pretty much leave your legs trashed after the race. Needless to say, flats have minimal support compared to conventional trainers.

The lightest racing flats that I’ve worn are 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 had constrictive toe boxes and black toe nails were the norm back in the days. Version 3 corrected some of those weaknesses through minor tweaks but the current version 4 is by far the best. Nike has since killed the Lunarlon foam and with it, the Lunaracer line. 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 VF is all about, this short RunnersWorld video sums 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 that getting a pair meant extreme patience in monitoring the online retailers or paying scalpers through the nose. There were also some hearsays that the Zoom X foam was hard to manufacture contributing to the minimal stock levels but I’m more inclined to think that the marketing boffins behind the brand had more to do with that.

Through some strokes of fortune, I eventually got my hands on not 1 but 2 pairs late 2017 from the U.S. – a pair used and at a substantial discount (even used pairs were still fetching over retail price on eBay, mind you!), and another pair at actual retail of US$250. As one who laughed at the price tag of the Ultra Boost, I suddenly found myself with 2 pairs of bloody expensive shoes! I reckoned that if the VFs didn’t work out for me, I could always find a buyer for them. However, after 2 races – a 15K and the recent GCM18 – I’m pleased to declare that I won’t be letting go of either of mine anytime soon!

There’s little of the shoes that the Internet hasn’t Vlogged and blogged about. For detailed breakdown and tech specs, 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 Channel | Wired. Even the NY Times chipped in with a fascinating article on the VFs’ influence on runners’ race times. With all the hard work already done by those good folks, I won’t be rehashing all the tech specs (well, maybe just a little), but instead focus on my wear experience.

Here are the facts, my observations, and experience running in the VFs in no particular order:

  • VFs are racing shoes and not your daily workhorse, so they’re not something you reach out on a daily or even weekly basis. Well you could, if you’ve deep pockets or have access to some secret stash direct from Beaverton. For the majority of us, the VFs are pretty much reserved for A races.
  • At 7.65oz for US10, they’re light; in fact very light for their built-up look and levels of cushioning they offer. While the 6.7oz Lunaracers beat the VFs for weight, the VFs offer far greater bounce and cushioning albeit at a price that’s unattainable for most. For more weight comparison, the VFs are nearly an ounce lighter than the Pegasus Turbo and Zoom Elite 9, and nearly 2 ounces lighter than the regular Pegasus 35.

  • 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 BASF Boost. The softness of Zoom X is complemented by the carbon fibre plate that runs the entire length of the midsole, propelling you forward. The plate also lends a little stability to the shoes. The unique shape of the plate, of course, allows the quick roll off for the wearer. I marked the location of the plate in the photo below. The piece actually extends all the way to the front close to the outsole.

  • The VFs also ride differently from the just-launched Pegasus Turbo. The VFs are just short of an ounce lighter than the Turbo. We already know that the VFs’ midsole are 100% Zoom X but the Turbo is more or less 50/50 Zoom X and React. I will cover the Turbo in a separate post.
  • Without the embedded carbon plate, the VFs would’ve been too unstable and wobbly to wear. Even with the plate, there’s a degree of pronation of my right foot. See next point below.
  • 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 GCM19, I struggled to keep my foot plants stable. So if you’ve greater support needs, I wouldn’t recommend the VFs. There are plenty of options if you’re going with Nike – Zoom Elite 9, Speed Rival 6, Pegasus Turbo, or Epic React. Other brands’ models include adidas Boston Boost 7, Saucony Kinvara 9, NB 1500 v3, and the Reebok Floatride Run Fast.
  • The VFs fit and feel entirely different from its cousin, the Zoom Fly even if they share some similarities in looks. The Fly is stiff, firm and heavier, and not one of my favourites. I can take a bit of firmness but I continue to find the Fly’s transition is jarring.
  • The VFs fit true to size but with a generous toe box, you can very well half size down, with thinner socks. You can see how much narrower the Vapor Street is compared to the VF.

  • Their outsoles aren’t as durable as that of daily trainers, obviously. However, they’ve held up quite well for me after 130K. The rubber sections have minimal wear and tear but the midsole crinkles are very obvious from the compression and the white paint surrounding the outsole rubber are peeling off from all the abrasion. I’ve used some Shoe Goo in the high wear areas to extend the durability. Hopefully I’ll be able to get 300K in them. If you’d like to check out how the VFs look after extensive mileage, click on the Fellrnr link I shared above. Warning: He typically shreds and cuts out his shoes to make more room, a little excessive if I might add.

  • Excellent breathability. Extensive cuts in the vamp area of the mesh upper ensure the feet stay cool.

  • I’ve not ran in wet conditions but some runners noted that they got slightly bogged down and squishy when soaked.
  • Traction hasn’t been an issue so far despite the thin threadings on the outsole but I’ve been rather careful taking sharp corners and haven’t yet run in very wet conditions.
  • My legs felt great even after my 3:38 effort at the recent Gold Coast Marathon. I wasn’t the only one to have noticed this post-race feeling. I trained hard for the PR, so perhaps that was the reason.

In my opinion, shoes themselves or for that matter any piece of gear alone, will not make one a faster runner. However with a great training cycle and smart race execution, equipment can definitely enhance a runner’s chance of a breakthrough performance. I bought the VFs to run my best and to keep me honest in my training. I knew that I’ve to be at a high level of readiness to do the shoes justice and should my race didn’t pan out, I will not put it down to having poor gear. Nothing was left to chance, from training right up to gear and race execution. And the VF did prove their worth on race day.

So would I recommend the VFs? It depends. There would be many who won’t think of splurging on these shoes. Equally many will readily point to much cheaper, more available alternatives – and I will agree. I would also put into perspective that US$250 can do a lot for the needy. But if you can afford one. If you can find a pair in your size. If you’ve a running goal that you absolutely can’t leave to chance and want the absolute best gear to toe the starting line in after months of focused training, then go for it. There isn’t any shoe out there that has this unique ride that’s this cushioned yet light and fast. And I’ll leave it at that.

There’s word that the Flyknit version of the Vaporfly is due out in September. Expect the shoes to sell out within minutes of the launch as well.

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

Fila Flow K4

Can’t Afford Them Nikes
The 2005 Pegasus was my shoe of choice but at RM340, I found myself priced out. My secondary choice was the 2004 model which was a very well received version, soft and cushy albeit a little tadpole like in the looks department but the RM202 offer was no longer available.

How Now Brown Cow?
My choices then were narrowed down to a handful of NB models but I was apprehensive of their durability in the heel strike area. The new models seem to be poor in that area despite the Ndurance carbon rubber material used. Mizunos on the other hand are workhorses in nature. You can literally run them to the ground but they’re just overpriced.

An Obscure Brand?
While not a household name for running shoes – their expertise being in tennis – Fila have been producing excellent racers and performance trainers for some years. At the elite end, many top Kenyans are in their stable while locally, this brand is well received by the triathletes. Azwar himself loves the K4 Racer. I found myself in a Fila shop for the 4th time recently in Penang and was glad that their sale was still on. I had trouble finding my size for the Flow K4 performance trainer in KL. The Isetan salesgirl told me several weeks back that this model is currently being phased out (probably for the arrival of the K6) and the popular size 9 and my usual 9.5 are no longer available. But they’re available plenty here in Penang. Although the running websites tend to feature the grey/black version, I chose the red/white one as they don’t look as dull. 1st try of 9.5 is too small, which show that the Fila fit and last was snugger. Size 10 was perfect.


Visual Rundown

The extensive use of mesh is just great and the removable sockliners are also vented. The shoe is slip lasted with 2 large vents in the middle of the last to allow the warm air to escape. Also a moisture draining feature I think especially useful for triathletes who may choose this model as their footwear of choice.


One Cool Shoe

The Flow technology apparently focuses on keeping the feet dry and cool by channeling air into the midsole through strategically positioned vents and air channels in the midsole. Upon closer scrutiny, I saw where these vents are. Beside the ones in the last, there are 4 small holes on the lower medial and lateral sides of the shoe. You can see them clearly in the middle photo of the 2nd column. The toeboxes are vented further with 4 holes placed vertically.


Bright Too

Large reflective strips are placed at the front as well as the heel counter area. Nice.


Support Features

For a 10.5oz shoe, this model certainly pack plenty of support features. The decoupled heel works together with the small medial post to slow down the rate of pronation. This is useful support feature in the later stages of a long run/race. Meanwhile a transparent midfoot shank provides rigidity much like asics’ Trusstic System and NB’s Stability Web.


Fit

As mentioned earlier, the 9 was just too snug for me but the 10 was perfect. They’re snug around the midfoot and you can even feel the arch support (some may not like this) but offers plenty of breathing space on the forefoot with a nice toebox, essential to accommodate the swelling of the feet in the course of a distance race.


The Ride

The feel of the shoe was really really smooth – smoother than the Pegs and Maverick. The fluid heel to toe transition just has to be experienced. The ride is responsive and I felt that the 3Action rear cushioning is even better than the Precision. The 3Action material is supposed to provide a blend of stability, cushioning and responsiveness. The forefoot outsole is made of dimpled blown rubber with plenty of flex grooves for flexibility while the heel wear areas are made of EverGrind, a proprietary rubber and metal flake compound that’s supposedly 10% lighter, cushier, flexible yet more durable. I hope it’s as lasting as Mizuno’s X10 material.


First Run

The medial posting was hardly noticeable, being very small but I think towards the later part of the race, the support will be felt more substantially. The smooth and responsive ride was there too. Whether or not this shoe will be in my Singapore Marathon packing list remains to be seen. I’ll need to test them out over a series of longer and slower runs. I find that I perform as well in responsive shoes these days so I’m optimistic that this pair, bought at RM203 after a 40% discount, will be suitable for me.


First Race

I’ll be wearing the K4 for the Putrajaya Half next week, so I’ll be acquainted more with it pretty soon!


Originally reviewed Sep 4, 2005

Hoka Clayton 2 Review

Astonishingly, this is another Hoka review. I blame CY for this. And I blame eBay too because just like how I snagged the Tracer (reviewed here), there was a store-returned, like new, Clayton 2 there as well. At RM420.

Now, you’ll be able to find plenty of mixed reviews online about the Clayton 1, with wearers raving about the ride, cushioned responsiveness and stability all in a sub-9 oz lightweight package. Then the same wearers would often vent about the shoe’s various design issues which caused bad chafing around the arch area. So when had the chance to try out CY’s Clayton 1, I almost immediately took a liking for the shoe. They’re like the Skechers GoRun Ultra, minus a couple of ounces! Prior to this experience, my impressions of Hoka weren’t that positive, to be honest. I appreciated their concept of building super comfy yet relatively lightweight shoes but did they have to make them so puffy and pricey?

 

Unlike the Tracer, I stuck with US10 for the Clayton 2 (C2). While not supremely light, 8.4oz is in the vicinity of proven racing and performance trainers such as the Boston 6, Kinvara 8 and Zoom Elite 9. The C2 has a 28/24mm stack height. But let’s cover the upper first. It’s largely a one-piece mesh upper with zig-zagging latticed overlays, from the forefoot up to the midfoot area, while a more structured but soft construct secures the heel.  At one glance, one might opine that the entire concept lacks breathability and the lattice constrictive, but the opposite is true. The C2 has the most forgiving upper of Hokas. I wouldn’t call the C2’s upper the best ever simply because even the Zoom Elite 9’s is more generous in the toebox height department.

The overlays are reflective, making the C2 one of the highest visibility shoes I’ve ever worn, just behind Skechers’ Nite Owl versions of the GoRun Ride and GoRun Ultra.

Laces are stretchy and very long, necessitating a double-knot approach to securing them. Or simply tuck them under. Where it gets a little tricky is achieving a secure lockdown which, for some reason for me, is a frustrating affair. I’ve resorted to using the heel-lock lacing method to get a good hold but that resulted in a tiresome lacing experience.

The step in feel is expectedly pillowy soft. Your foot comes in contact with a thin layer of removable Ortholite insole which sits on top of a layer of perforated foam forming the footbed. Like Hoka’s other go-fast model, the Tracer (reviewed here), the C2 also features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot). And in a shoe with the C2’s stack heights, the difference in sensation of the softer/firmer midsole sections are more palpable here than in the Tracer.

The foot actually sits cupped inside the midsole, where the tip of my thumb is, in the photos below. The first photo is of the medial side, and the second, the lateral side. As you can see, the sidewalls are high, typical of Hokas, which centers the foot, creating a stable footplant.

Hoka’s customary early stage meta-rocker geometry works to get the wearer through the gait cycle quicker. Other than the lightweight cushioning the shoes offer, what attracts me to the Clayton is the way they make me run tall (well, they’re higher stacked shoes anyway) and upright, and with a certain sense of efficiency in the strides.

The Clayton’s full contact outsole is all RMAT foam. They feel spongy to the touch, so durability will not be comparable to rubber. The RMAT coverage is very generous though. At 73km, there are already visible signs of wear and 350 – 400km would be my estimate before they look worse for wear.

I’ve not covered distances long enough (10 miles being the longest) in the C2 to be able to confirm the non-recurrence of the chafing issues reported for version 1. I did, however, pre-emptively swap out the stock Ortholite insole with Skechers’ 😬. So far so good.

The Hoka One One Clayton 2 is already in selected stores in the country but with a eye watering price tag of nearly RM700. It’s for that reason that I can only recommend an online purchase from overseas sites. Furthermore, Hoka will be releasing the all-new Cavu and Mach early 2018, with the Mach a direct replacement of the Clayton 2. So I’d say hold off your purchase of the Clayton 2 and wait for a few more months. If you’re interested, Sam Winebaum had a nice post up on both the new shoes over at www.roadtrailrun.com.

Reebok Floatride Run Review

I’ve run in so many brands of shoes out there that it’s easier for me to list out the brands that I haven’t worn! Strangely, Reebok is one of those. Yep, the brand that has cornered the CrossFit and Spartan market actually had some pretty decent running shoes, like the 3D Electrolyte and Premier Lite series in the ’80s. They were also the purveyors of The Pump which existed in several running models and basketball high tops, which Jackie Chan endorsed some years back. Oh, you didn’t know that tidbit? Told you, I’ve been around the block a few times! Then, there were the ones with the funny-looking Zig midsole design which can still be found on the shelves today. Clearly, Reebok isn’t a company afraid to make a statement. Whether each of the statements work is debatable. I don’t have any key race going at this time, so mileage wise is rather meagre. Nevertheless, I’ve logged over 30K in the Floatride Run and think I’ve figured it out enough to come up with this review.

Lateral side
Medial side.

Intent on keeping the trend going, Reebok recently released the Floatride Run (FR) into the wild and snagged Runner’s World 2017 Best Debut award. First visual impression? Quirky. The FR is essentially a shoe with a hydrid upper. A seamless one-piece Ultraknit upper, which looks and feels remarkably like the 1st Gen adidas Ultra Boost, starts from the front to where the ankle bone is and terminates in a ribbed construction edge like the top of a sock.

Depressed the knit upper to clearly show the cage.

The natural tendency of the runner is to adjust the tongue prior to lacing up. But there’s no tongue on the FR! You slide your foot into the shoe like wearing a sock and simply lace up. Since there’s no tongue, there’s no padding between the wide and non-stretchable stock laces and the Ultraknit material. Some folks may feel a bit of lace pressure as a result. To mitigate the discomfort, Reebok made the laces thicker than usual, almost like strands of fettuccine. You could also experiment by swapping the stock laces with others.

A soft neoprene-feel 3D heel counter overlaps the knitted portion from arch area and rises up at an angle to wrap around the heel. The heel counter is not rigid yet not as soft as those found on Nike’s Free series or Saucony Freedom. The heel is then secured by a strip of PU extended from a midfoot cage. On the inside, there a little nobs to secure the heel further. The cage itself functions as lace loops (just 3). Unlike the Ultra Boost, Reebok kept the cage to a minimal, thus keeping the weight of the shoe down. Having found the Freedom’s take on the heel too minimalist, I appreciate the secure support the FR provides. Other than a tiny strip on top of the vamp, there are no other reflective elements on the FR.

Minimal midsole flaring.

The midsole consists of traditional EVA (in blue) surrounding the white Floatride Foam. Reebok claims this setup provides a stabler form of cushioning. From the photo above, there’s minimal midsole flaring be it on the medial or lateral side. Lateral twisting is hardly noticeable and the ride is very stable for a neutral shoe.

A full contact rubber outsole that has the appearance of Nike’s ’90s waffle pattern, especially in the forefoot area, further provides the wearer a stable platform. The rubber is solid to the touch and after logging 20 odd kms in them, there are zero signs of wear, even on the fine wavy thread lines. You should be able to log 500 – 550 kms at the very least in the FR. If there’s a downside to the choice of rubber used, it’s the loud slapping sound the shoes make when the feet make contact with the ground. I would’ve preferred the lighter blown rubber to be used for the forefoot section, but that’s a personal preference.

Speaking of weight, the FR weighs in at a surprising 9.3oz for my size 10. Now, that’s light given the FR’s appearance of a bulky shoe. In terms of weight comparison, the FR is:

  • lighter than the Nike Zoom Span (9.9oz, review)
  • 0.7oz lighter than a sized-down Nike Pegasus (10oz for US9, per Running Warehouse)
  • more than 2oz lighter than the adidas Ultra Boost (11.35oz, review)
  • lighter than the Saucony Ride 10 (10.15oz, review)
  • much lighter than the Saucony Triumph ISO 3 (11oz, review)
  • just 0.1oz heavier than the Zealot ISO 3 (9.2oz)
  • half an oz heavier than the Nike Zoom Fly (8.85oz)
  • much lighter than the Energy Boost (11.2oz)
  • lighter and better balanced than the Under Armour Gemini 3 (9.9oz, Gemini 1 review)
  • just an ounce heavier than the Kinvara 8 (8.3oz, review)

I can’t find the stack height data but Reebok’s website puts the FR’s heel-to-toe offset to be 8mm.

The step-in feel is soft with a stretchy upper that’s comfortably snug. Soft, but without the “sinking” feeling you get in certain Hokas. There’s a noticeable arch area bump that doesn’t quite go away throughout all of my workouts in the FR. The sensation is by no means uncomfortable, just that I needed to mention it. My first run in them was on the treadmill and I was sockless. I don’t run sockless ordinarily but I’d forgotten to pack my socks that day and I wasn’t about to let a run slide.

While the run was an enjoyable one, I did end up having to work through the discomfort of chafing on the left arch. There was no such issue on the right foot, though. The FR is an easy shoe to assimilate into your shoe rotation – no real transition needed. Ride was very smooth as I varied my pace from 6:40 to 6:05 on the flat and incline settings. While the shoe felt like a 10mm drop, I noticed that I was hitting the ground on the midfoot. The PF soreness was kept to a minimal and it was truly an enjoyable 35-minute run, save for the arch rubbing.

I find the upper very accommodating, and very breathable. In fact, whenever I picked up the pace, it certainly felt breezy in the toebox!

So is the Floatride for you? It has a premium price tag of RM679 but some folks nowadays won’t even bat an eyelid for a RM4,100 phone, right? If you’re an Ultra Boost (UB) fan, or someone shopping for a neutral cushioned shoe by an atypical sports brand, the FR is a very viable alternative. As Reebok is owned by adidas, there are several shared technologies between the 2. The knitted upper and the BASF foam midsole are just 2 of those. The FR weighs less and retails RM100+ less than the UB. It really does present a strong case, this one. I expect the midsole foam to withstand many miles of running. It checks off many of the good traits to have in a pair of running shoes i.e. it’s breathable, stable, light and durable. Which is why I often run my easy days in them these days. In socks, of course 😀 .

 

 

Reebok has a few other interesting models such as the Sweet Road performance trainer (RM449), the pair of Harmony Road Trainer (RM499) and Harmony Racer (RM399, which feels like an amazing 5K road flat).

Note: Removable ribbed insole, and some numbers inscribed under it. Wondering about the significance of the numbers, I dug around and found out from fellow running shoe geek, Derek Li’s post that they’re Sydney Maree PRs. Maree, a 2-time Olympian, once held the WR for the 1500m beating Steve Ovett and has a Reebok shoe named after him. You can check out Derek’s review of the FR here. You’ll notice that while my marathon times are more than an hour slower than his, our opinions about the Floatride are somewhat similar 🙂

Disclosure: The Reebok Floatride Run was kindly provided for review by Reebok Malaysia but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. It retails at RM679 and is available now at Reebok boutiques located in 1Utama, Nu Sentral, Sunway Velocity and Paragon.

Saucony Ride 10 Review

Like the iPhone, Saucony’s Ride celebrated its legacy with version 10 this year. Unlike the much-hyped device from the fruit-themed company, this neutral shoe doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (or kidney), nor adopts a Roman nomenclature. It does, however, prove to be the best, IMHO, Ride yet – updated, possesses responsive cushioning yet supportive. It’s also light enough for many to be marathon race day shoes. And that, readers, are sufficient to wrap up my review. But let’s go on a little more, shall we?

My recent relationship with the Ride was with version 8, which has long since been retired. The 8 took some time to break-in and until about 60K, felt clunky and stiff to run in. Once broken in, however, it proved to be a trouble-free daily trainer, providing a ride that’s on the softer side for those easy days. It was certainly softer than the Pegasus but not the least responsive like the Supernova Glide Boost. The Ride 8 (R8) had an unassuming character and quietly got the job done. Gave me plenty of miles too. I skipped the 9 as I continued my love affair with multiple pairs of the Kinvara.

Recently, the chance to run in the Ride came my way and it’s nice to see the improvements made to this shoe. The Ride 10 (R10) is a major update in nearly every aspect over the R8.

The upper now sports an even more ventilated soft heathered engineered mesh upper, with a mid to rear section that’s more structured and supportive. Flexfilm strips continue to feature on key areas, but not used as much as before. My version of the Ride has the Chroma reflective colourway which on top of providing an urban flavour on what would’ve been a staid and traditional looking running shoe, looks pretty cool with changing colours depending on the viewing angle. While the heel collar is given a “just-nice” treatment in terms of padding, I would’ve preferred a less padded tongue for weight saving and less bulk. Heel counter is the internal variety. Heel fit and lockdown are customarily very good in the Ride, and the forefoot is roomier than that of the Kinvara 8’s.

There was a slight annoyance when toeing off, however. I felt the Flexfilm strip pressing down on the top of my feet – so I simply laced up from the second row. Quite easily fixed.

As with most of Saucony’s offerings, there’s an EVERUN topsole positioned just below the removable insole. The midsole is no longer a dual-density setup with the removal of the softer crash pad at the heel area. In its place is PowerFoam which gives the R10 a more responsive wear experience to the older versions.

The shoe has a stack height of 27/19mm for an overall heel to toe offset of 8mm. The real-feel is that of a lower drop value, so runners who go about in 4mm shoes such as the Kinvara shouldn’t have any issues adjusting.

The midsole has a considerable flare especially in the medial side of the forefoot, giving the R10 a wide base. The heel is bevelled on the outer side for smoother transition especially if you’re a heel striker, while the medial side has a

The outsole is Saucony’s usual Tri-Flex design with deeper flex grooves. Where the old R8 was stiff, the 10 now has increased flexibility. It helps that the flex grooves extends a few millimeters into the midsole as well. Softer blown rubber can be found in the forefoot outsole while the high wear areas see the use of the XT-900 carbon rubber. As you can see, at 40km, the fine lines on the outsole are still visible. The typical runner should be able to get 600km in these.

With these enhancements, the R10 sheds considerable weight from R8. My US10 weighs 10.15oz compares to R8’s 10.6oz. While not a flyweight, it’s lighter than 90% of workhorse trainers from competing brands out there.

As earlier mentioned, the 10 has better responsiveness and departs from the laid back nature of the 8. The firmness of the PowerFoam midsole is tempered by the soft bounce provided by the layer of Everun. If there’s a need to pick up the pace, the R10 will be able to handle it. Each stride has a nice firm bounce and the shoe feels better balanced. Although I race in shoes weighing under 10oz, many will find the Ride 10 a perfect race day shoe over the Half and Full Marathon distances. Most will use the Ride as a daily trainer or in rotation with the Kinvara 8.

The Saucony Ride 10 Heathered Chroma edition retails at RM489.00 and is now available at Stadium, RSH and Running Lab stores nationwide.

Disclosure: The Ride 10 was provided for review by Saucony Malaysia but the opinions expressed above is based from my own personal experience and miles logged in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

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.

Hoka Tracer Review

Trainer + Racer = Tracer. That’s what the Hoka Tracer (HT) is. It took me awhile to what with a name that references tracer rounds used by the military. This featherweight shoe weighs in at a paltry 7.8oz for my US10.5 (I upsized by half since Hokas are typically narrow and racing shoes fit snug). Here are some weight comparisons with others of the same category (US10 unless otherwise stated):

The K8, Elite 9 and Fly would be more appropriately clubbed together, leaving the Tempo, GoMeb and Fastwitch the HT’s closest competitors. Interestingly, according to Running Warehouse, the HT’s stack height measures at 24/20mm, almost similar to the Saucony Freedom’s 23/19mm.

Like the Hoka Clayton models, the Tracer features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot), in case you’re wondering. Unlike other Hokas, the Tracer looks just like any conventional running shoe as it completely departs from the Active Foot Frame construction that lends the brand its trademark look. There’s still an obvious toe spring but not much of a midsole flare as you can see from the photos above.

Lateral side of the Tracer.
Medial side.

The one thing the Tracer shares with its siblings is the Early Stage Meta-Rocker geometry. As the name suggests, this is the curved midsole geometry (when viewed from the side) that serves to propel the wearer more efficiently and quickly through the gait cycle. Several other companies have implemented this before – Skechers being the easiest to come to mind with their M-Strike.

As mentioned, the Tracer is as conventional as a Hoka comes. Remove the Ortholite insole and you’ll see that the thin foam footbed. The interior of the shoe looks to be well constructed and soft enough, with no wayward stitching. I’ve not run sockless in them to determine if they’re suitable.

The upper of the shoe appears to be a sandwich of 3 layers – softer perforated underlayer, a open mesh top layer held together by strips of welded overlays.

The welded strips securing the front half of the shoe are thinner in width than the thicker and wider ones used (such as the white ones) from the midfoot to the heel. I’m pleased with the greater support and structure in those areas.

The thin flappy tongue bunches up but is ok when worn.

A firm toebox and substantial external heel counter (with a huge branding print) make up the front and rear of the Tracer respectively. Design elements and colorway are certainly to my liking conveying a fast look. The fit around the ankle is snug right through to the midfoot before opening up in the toebox region. This is a surprising take on footwear design by Hoka, since they’re notoriously narrow and tight in the toebox. Again, the Tracer isn’t your typical Hoka. The upper has a little give so that’s pretty sweet as well.

The outsole comprises of hard rubber around the high wear areas but more than 50% of what you see when you flip the shoe over are the RMAT foam. There’s also a small hollowed out section in the midsole where the foot strikes (if you land heel center), so if you’re a heel striker, there’s a bit of shock attenuation feature there for you.

I haven’t had many miles in the Tracer, only 43K, and it’s not because of my dislike. Instead, the opposite is true. I just want to save them for key speed workouts and races. The local distributor in Malaysia marks up the price of the Hokas to such a ridiculous level that the brand isn’t an automatic choice for 95% of the running population here. It makes sense for me to wear it judiciously. I wouldn’t have been acquainted with the Hoka had it not for eBay. Just like the case of the Clayton 2, I was able to snag the Tracer off eBay – the Tracer at RM350 (literally new and worn less than 5 miles) and the Clayton 2 at RM440.

Speed workouts, tempos, trackwork and of course races up to the Marathon would be up the Tracer’s alley. Having run several tempo and interval sessions as well as a 16K in them, I can attest to their versatility. It’s way more stable than, say, the Nike Lunar Tempo and Flyknit Lunar 2/3 yet doesn’t relinquish the speed factor. My next Half Marathon shoe will be a toss up between the Tracer and the Zoom Elite 9. The Tracer is proving to be a more exciting option than the Boston Boost 6 and Fastwitch 7. It’s fast, offers firm and responsive cushioning, with a hint of bounce. The fit is unlike any Hoka, but do remember to size up by half.

The Hoka Tracer reviewed is a first version with the update (which also sees a slight weight bump) just released into the wild last month. I’d give the Tracer a thumbs-up!

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

Asics Fuji Attack 2

After last month’s review on the Fuji Racer 2 (FR2 reviewed here, retailing for RM349), Gigasports sent another trail shoe my way, this time the much more protective Fuji Attack 2 (FA2). If you didn’t catch it already, asics have re-branded a number of their trail shoes to include the Fuji, the iconic mountain being the obvious inspiration behind the name.

The differences between the Racer and Attack are clear.
Despite the bulk, the shoe retains a reasonable amount of flexibility.

Now wiser, I opted for US10 just so that the shoe has space to allow my feet to swell as well as accommodate the wearing of thicker socks (such as the Drymax Trail). The US10 weighs oz with the sockliner, which isn’t too bad. Information is rather hard to find but RW Germany puts the FA2’s drop to be at 10mm. Other areas are standard trail training shoe specs – thicker rounded laces, slightly more padded upper that has a closer mesh and larger lace pocket than the FR2. The tongue is very well padded and is gussetted. The overlays are more substantial. Elsewhere, the midsole is SpEVA instead of the FR2’s Solyte. SpEVA is not as light as Solyte but it is cushier. A conventional hard heel counter and prominent toe bumper completes the upper. There’s a gel insert in the heel section of the midsole. For protection, the wearer can count on the thin rock plate at the toe-off section while aggressive lugs provide traction which are expectedly good over grass, loose pebbles and sharp rocks. There are no drainage ports and since I didn’t have the opportunity to test them on wet surfaces I’ll reserve my comments on this area.

Gussetted tongue and the lace pocket.
No drainage on the outsole for the FA2 while the FR2 at the bottom has 5.

You’d have correctly guessed then the FA2 presents a beefier take on the FR2, much beefier. It’s competition would be adidas Response Trail and Brooks Cascadia (I wore version 4 of the series for the TNF 50 in Singapore back in 2008). Being so built up, you can expect a plusher albeit ride and that’s what you do get. You’re not about to feel the rocks as much as the Racer.

If you’re looking for a more protective and cushier trail shoe from asics be it for training or racing which should you go for? The choices are plenty – the FA2 (RM329), Fuji Trainer 2 (RM399) and the even bulkier and heavier Fuji Trabuco (RM399). I’ve not had the chance to try the Trainer other than the few minutes of walking around in the store. It has a smooth ride but the tongue is conventional. I know that’s petty but I seriously dislike debris entering the shoes. Yet, at this juncture I still prefer the Trainer 2 over the Attack 2 but that’s a personal preference. The lower weight and drop, the blend of cushioning and support the Trainer 2 offers seemed more balanced than the FA2, which is more functional rather than spectacular.So it’ll be the Fuji Trainer for training and the Racer for races under 50K. A little bit more comfort and protection is always welcome for anything over 50K, in which case you could either opt for the Trainer or Attack. The trail shoe segment is getting to be packed. There are options aplenty from many brands.

If you place a premium on comfort over responsiveness, the FA2 warrants an audition. It has a wallet friendly price point to boot too.

The Fuji Attack 2 was kindly provided for my review by Gigasport, authorised distributor of Asics in Malaysia.

Originally published: Sep 13, 2013