New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon – 120K Review

The Beacon may be well received by the running shoe geeks (RSG), but they weren’t really in my list of to-try shoes simply because I already have more than enough for the current training cycle. But as fate would have it, while poking around Rakuten, as any RSG worth his salt is wont to do, I spotted the shoes going for just RM260 including shipping! It was quite an easy decision to make *shrugs*.

9 days later, the package arrived. I did the usual unboxing just to check the product, marvelled at their lightweight feel and excellent upper construction but resisted taking them out for a run. I fully intended to use them only post-GCM19 as recovery shoes.

As luck would have it, the shoes were called to active duty just a month later. It was clear by then that the Rival Fly (RF) that I bought (also very cheaply from Japan) needed more time breaking in and the Zoom Fly (ZF) would not be working as go-fast tempo shoes on the roads that I run. My daily route consists of 12 90-degree turns each 2K loop, and the ZF isn’t suited to quick and constant changes in direction. I’d long ago retired my tempo shoes for GCM18 which was the Zoom Elite 9 (ZE9), something I initially hoped the RF would replace once broken in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for the breaking-in period and after testing the Beacon out on an easy 10K, I was knew enough to know that they would be great for tempos.

The shoes are everything that others have written about – light, superbly constructed upper that’s breathable, accommodating fit. At 7.5oz (US9), 26mm/20mm stack heights for a 6mm heel to toe drop, (per Runningwarehouse specs), there’s nothing superfluous about the Beacon. They fit true to size too. You would think that not having any overlays would render the shoes unstable and sloppy but you’d be wrong. It could take the twisty roads, return a good feel of the road for a fast push-off yet providing adequate cushioning for races up to the Half Marathon from the get-go. They’re surprisingly stable too. Efficient and lighter runners will have no problems taking them to the full distance.

As mentioned earlier, the mesh upper is light and breathable. I believe they’re even lighter than knitted options that we see so prevalent these days. The stock laces are rather long and has a bit of stretch. I found myself having to tuck the extraneous parts under to prevent them flopping around. The padding around the collar and on the tongue are just nice and I’ve absolutely no complaints there.

For midsole duties, NB uses what they call Fresh Foam Ground Contact (FFGC) and they’re essentially a more durable version of the traditional FF. Visually, the stack height of the Beacon appears thick but they don’t feel that at all mainly because they’re anything but mushy. They don’t ride anything at all like the Pegasus Turbo nor Clayton 2 but there are some similarities to the Epic React, which incidentally was one of my favorite shoes.

The lateral side of the midsole features concave hexagonal cut-outs.
The medial side, on the other hand, has convex cut-outs, hence the stability without the need for a medial post.
Another view of the convex design of the medial side. Clearly shows how NB builds stability into a neutral shoe like the Beacon.

I’ve only ever worn 2 other NBs the past 5 years – the OG Zante and the Vazee Pace. Of these 2, only the Zante is made of FF, with the Vazee built on top of Revlite midsole. While I prefered the Zante over the Vazee, running in both always beat up my legs. The Beacon’s FFGC, however, has that extra bit of cushioning and over the several 13-14K tempos I’ve ran in them, my legs didn’t protest as much compared to the Zante days. I was still able to resume my easy running the very next day. The sweet spot of the Beacon is really in the midfoot area. If you’re predominantly a midfoot striker, you’re going to be in for a treat – that’s where the shoe’s cushioning and responsiveness are best experienced.

Just like the upper, the Beacon’s outsole is also a design in simplicity. 90% all-foam with the 2 small areas of rubber plugs, to provide durability on take-off and landing. The exposed foam areas wear rather well. Even though there’s noticeable wear in the center of the push-off area, I suspect the phenomenon is akin to that of the Epic React where the rate of wear tapered off after the initial 100km. Photos below show their state of wear after 120km. There should be no problems hitting 350km and, if lucky, 400km. It’s appropriate to mention that I’ve yet to run in wet conditions in the shoes to be able to comment about their traction.

While I’ve mostly employed the Beacon as faster paced shoes, they’re versatile enough for easy days as well. That said, I prefer softer shoes for those ambling miles.

Other than online sources, and perhaps NB’s factory outlets, good luck finding the Beacon now. You might as well wait for the Beacon 2 coming out sometime Q3 or check out the Fuelcell Rebel. The New Balance Beacon gets my firm recommendation.

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

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.