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

Nike Zoom Wildhorse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published: Jul 31, 2013

Asics Fuji Racer 2

Since taking more and more to the trails 2 months ago, I’ve been sampling an increasing number of trail running shoes, so much so that from a sole rep – the Skechers GOtrail – I’ve acquired 2 Montrails and now am in the midst of putting the Fuji Racer 2 (FR2) through its paces. Given that the trails are only possible over the weekends, the 50Ks logged over 3 runs seem like some pretty extensive time put in.

Other than NB and adidas, Asics is one of the mainstream brands which produces a wide variety of trail models, from the beefier Trabuco to the much lighter FR2.

The FR2 follows the path of the successful FR1 and from visual cues, most of the changes are on the colorway. In concept, it remains the lighter and sleeker version of the Fuji Trainer 2 but the differences appear quite distinct. For this review I’ll take a look at the Racer.

True to its name, the FR2 is fits and feels like a fast shoe. It rides lower to the ground with a 6mm offset and has a responsive feel to it. There’s just enough support and overlays topside to give the shoe some structure without weighing it down. As a result, the weight is kept to a very decent 8.35oz. I like the thin laces which you can stow under a lace pocket (just like a Salomon) and also the gusseted tongue which manages to keep out most small pebbles (some still get in, though). The shoe is geared towards maximum drainage and breathability with plenty of open mesh used on the upper as well as ports in the outsole. Water will get in just as easily as they’re squished out. If you’re prone to getting frozen toes from a cold and wet run in a mountain race, you might want to explore another model. Otherwise, this would be excellent in tropical Malaysia.

Very “meshy”.
The lace pocket

There are fluorescent strips all over the top which I didn’t notice until pointed out by my running partner.

The single density responsive Solyte midsole contributes to a firm if flexible ride. I thought there was no rock plate under the forefoot of the midsole as my feet felt it a bit after bombing down the Rover track on my 1st long run (18K, 2:45). After poking around the web, I discovered that there’s indeed a rock plate. I changed my descent technique a little on the 2nd long run (20K, 2:40) opting for quicker turnover and smaller strides instead of bounding, and my legs and feet came out feeling better. I’m more inclined to attribute the absence of soreness to my method as well as better conditioning rather than the barely-there plate.

Closer look at the toe bumper.

The rubber on the outsole has a cross-diamond configuration. The lugs are small and aren’t particularly deep but it’s more than sufficient for dry, mildly loose or packed dirt trails. No issues on the leafy stretches of Dream Trail as well. I wouldn’t call the FR2 a “Door to Trail” shoe but it’ll take a very short road section adequately.

The crisscross configuration of the outsole lugs. You can also see the drainage ports here.

The FR2 did struggle over a clay section of my route when the soil clung to the shoe. However, once the section was gotten over with the soil was quite easily dislodged. Rocky sections are always tricky to negotiate and one can easily wring an ankle, which is why I’m always leaning towards a lower profiled shoe as theiy allow me to react quickly and catching how the feet slips before . The low drop FR2 fulfills that well. The outsole durability is excellent, with nary any wear signs so far. They should hold up well.

I’ve not had slippages going over wet planks and rocks yet mainly because I was pretty cautious about them, relative new shoes and all. But as I gain confidence, I’ll be a little more carefree and see how the shoes perform.

In conclusion, the Fuji Racer 2 presents a fast and responsive ride that’s built lower to the ground. It’s firmness is ideal for fast running and hill repeats on the trails, and it’s got a nice blend of flexibility and structure without the bulk. In terms of sizing, I suggest going half a size larger. However if a softer or plusher ride is what you seek, there are many other options out there.

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

Originally published: Jul 24, 2013

Asics DS Racer 9

Boy, I’ve been wanting to get this post out going for the longest time but somehow the other review shoes kept coming in and I was obliged to put them to quick tests to get the word out. Even though the opinions on the review shoes are all mine, there’s still a personal policy to get that done as soon as possible. Since the DS Racer was an out-of-pocket purchase I thought it can wait. Now that I’ve covered 200 kilometers in them, I think it’s time to get this out. While the model is still current!

The DS Racer has come some ways. While it doesn’t have the history of the Kayano and Pegasus, it has been the more popular lightweight trainer from Asics. Not many can wear flats such as the Hyperspeed, Speedstar, Tarther, Piranha, Bandito, Skysensor, but the DS Racer is very much accessible to middle of the packers due to its balance of weight, protection, responsiveness and comfort. As with the habit of shoe companies, the DS Racer suffered the fate of overengineering incurring the ire of the faithful. The Speedstar 5, for example, suffered from breathability issues and the 6 appears to still retain the neoprene-like upper.

The DS Racer 9 (DSR9) however saw the return to a simpler construction of the performance training range. There are still areas for material reduction but the 9 is a return to the right direction.

Drainage/vent ports visible on the outsole

From its appearance, the DSR9 which is meant to complement the DS Trainer 17, looks just like any other supportive/cushioned shoe from the Kobe-based company. Striking colors (consistent with their 2012 range), dual density Solyte midsole with a DuoMax medial post, blown rubber forefoot, high abrasion rubber heel plugs, midfoot trusstic piece. But look closer and you’ll see that the said blown rubber forefoot design mimics the Hyperspeed’s criss-cross construction, only thicker. Also, the upper is now made up of a few thin layers – one that mimics Brooks’ Pure Connect. It’s a beautiful shoe.

I’ve worn the DSR9 from 3K runs right up to the marathon. In fact it was my race shoe at the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon where the wearer didn’t fare as well as the shoe, I might add 😉

Thin layers under the top mesh reminds me of those from the Pure Connect.

I’ve not had a single hotspot in the DSR9. Breathability is good and the shoe can be cushy and responsive depending on the pace you’re running. I’m surprised to have found out that the 7.9oz shoe has an 11mm drop according to Running Warehouse. There’s no traditional beefy heel feeling to it. During my struggles with plantar fasciitis earlier this year, this was my go-to shoe as I laid off shoes that ride too low. If you are seeking something of lower drop from Asics yet offering some lightweight comfort, you’ll have to wait for the Gel Lyte33 (similar weight but at 6mm drop).

Can anyone tell me what those characters mean?

Durability after 200KM has been fantastic. The ride is smooth with no hint of ski-boot feel. While it may not be a shoe you’d take out for 800m repeats, it’ll feel very much at home doing long tempos and long runs, and certainly as a marathon race day shoe. On top of that because of its excellent breathability (8 vents on the outsole) and support, the DSR9 would be a superb shoe for a road ultra or the marathon leg in an Ironman race, certainly more flexible and less bulky than the fluorescent Noosa Tri. Just be sure to pick a full size larger to accommodate swelling feet if ultrarunning is your game. The shoe runs true to size, so I needn’t deviate from my usual US9.5.

The 2 characters again. Anyone?

Up until this point you’ll notice that I’ve very little to complain about the shoe. Sure, I wish the heel is 3mm lower but the ride is superb. I don’t heelstrike that much in the DSR which is why I doubt the 11mm drop. From the many photos posted here, you can see that there’s plenty of room up front. The toebox doesn’t drastically taper and scrunch up the toes. My pinkies have plenty of space to wiggle around and upwards too.

After around 120KM of use. After 200KM, nothing much has changed.
A shoe that just works

I’d recommend the DS Racer 9 for most runners out there looking for a superb blend of cushioned ride and responsiveness in a lightweight package of under 8oz. It’s not a racing flat, and if you’re looking for one from Asics then the Hyperspeed would be it. It’s hard to fault the DSR9 and it definitely warrants a try at the stores. Other performance trainers that offer a little stability are Mizuno Wave Precision, Nike Zoom Elite, Nike Speed Lite, Brooks Pure Flow, and Skechers GOrun Ride.

Now, what are the odds of Asics tinkering with the DS Racer 10? We’ll never know with the way sports companies work but I’d say that if they want to improve the shoe further, make the next iteration a 6mm drop shoe and nothing else.

For:
– a versatile shoe
– a wide population of runners
– flexible and smooth ride
– ultrarunners, triathletes who seek breathability in a light yet supportive package
– the price, considering it’s Asics.

Not for:
– the pure minimalist

Originally published: Aug 7, 2012