Stuff! (product roundup)

I’ve acquired some new stuff. Let me tell you about it.

First, some shoes.

Right before I got injured a month ago I ordered a pair of the Saucony Type A5 (because I’m a Type A kind of person). My inherited racers, the Asics Hyperspeed 3s, aside from being man shoes, were going on three years old. So the Sauconys, which are ultra light and are not man shoes, are meant to replace those. Even though I raced today, I opted not to wear them because I have yet to have done more than a 4 mile easy run in them. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my horrible running lessons, it’s that you should never try out a brand new model in a race. I’ll give you the lowdown on those after my next couple of speed workouts. I sized up a half size from my usual running shoe size, incidentally.

Today, instead, I wore my other new pair of shoes, the Brooks PureConnect. I wore these for my semi-fast 10 miler in Central Park last weekend, so I figured it was safe to wear them in a 10K over the same course. I am not brand loyal at all. I will try any model of shoe by any maker if it looks like it will fit my foot shape and is light. The lighter the better, in fact. When I first looked at the PureConnect I worried that it would be too narrow in the toebox and that it might break down quickly. They look narrow on my feet, but they fit very well nevertheless (I had to go a half size up in these as well). They are very comfortable, light (though not as light as the new Sauconys) and they suit my midfoot strike. The purple color paired with raspberry-colored laces is way rad. I don’t know how long they’ll last, but I typically replace my shoes after about 300 miles anyway. They have been good for easy runs and they were outstanding in a race situation today. I’ll bet they would make a good marathon shoe. Not that I’m ever going to run one of those again.

Next, outergarments. Or an outergarment.

I couple of months ago I realized that my two midweight fleeces (Mountain Hardwear) were looking very shabby indeed. I have been racing and training in them since 2007. It was time to replace them. So I bought the Nike Dri-Fit Wool Half Zip and let me tell you, this shirt is the bomb. It’s a mix of wool and (inner lining) polyester fleece. It’s not too heavy, and it breathes very well, so it’s versatile. I wore it over a thermal base layer on 25F days this winter and it was fine. But it’s also worked well over a tech tee in 45 degree weather. It has thumbholes and, for when I forget my gloves (which is frequently), these handy little retractable finger-covering flaps. Nothing up your sleeve? I don’t think so! Top it off with a zip side pocket, reflective highlights and a zip neck that’s actually comfortable and we have a winner. It’s on sale now too, so I’ll probably pick up another one. Also, the colors are not the usual garish, barfworthy shades that seem to be all the rage.

Finally, undergarments.

This is not my ass, nor is it my (possibly Hebrew?) tramp stamp.

For my birthday I received Oiselle’s Rundies from a runner friend who knows how important and gratifying it is to wear your love of running even in places where no one except your significant other (or, depending on how drunk you get on the weekend, a few strangers standing on the sidewalk as your cab speeds by) can see it. You can wear your heart on your sleeve. Or you can wear your workout on your ass. It’s your choice. With Rundies, you’ll have underpants to cover all seven days of running and underpantsing. I like the retro look of some of them (I’m wearing the very 70′s yellow-with-blue-piping model today, the one that says “race” on the ass). Rundies are comfortable and well made. They are 100% cotton, so they’ll shrink a little bit in the first wash. But the colors don’t run, even if the panties do. I am happy in my Rundies.

Review: Saucony Kinvara

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a shoe review. This is primarily because I’ve found a few models that I’ve been happy enough to stick with over the past 18 months or so: the Pearl Izumi Streak and the Saucony Fastwitch 3. They are covered on the reviews page (the Streak being pretty much identical to the Peak XC reviewed there). I used to use these for just racing or faster running, relying on another Saucony shoe, the Grid Tangent 3, as my daily training workhorse.

I was never totally thrilled with the Grid Tangent. This isn’t obvious, since I’m on my eighth pair. I kept buying it because it didn’t cause problems, and that is reason enough to buy a shoe. But I’ve been phasing those out as I’ve moved to doing my daily training in what I used to consider “speed” shoes (the Streak and the Fastwitch), and racing in even lighter shoes, such as the Asics HyperSpeed or the Adidas Adizero Ace, the former of which is a true racing flat. To give you a sense of how often I run in what, I’m on my sixth pair each of the Streak and the Fastwitch. The Adidas shoes (I also sometimes run in the Adizero Tempo) are slightly too narrow, so I won’t buy those models again.

This isn't even all of them.

Anyway, the net of all this is that I have been a runner in transition, and my shoe choices reflect it. I have not jumped on the minimalist bandwagon (and you should probably put some space between me and barefoot running enthusiasts at parties). I’ve merely found that I’ve gotten more comfortable in lighter and lighter shoes. At this point, even the Grid Tangent, at 7.9 oz. each, feels too heavy. Add to this that I’ve discovered that, despite my feet falling into the “slight overpronator” category, I’ve found that neutral shoes are more comfortable to run in. The lighter shoes typically fall into the neutral category, so this has been a happy discovery.

Here I am today, doing most of my training runs in the Streak or Fastwitch. The Streak’s problem is that it’s just slightly too big (but if I half size down it’s slightly too small). So unless I wear thick socks, it can feel a little floppy. I wear very thin socks in the summer, so it gathers dust for 3-4 months a year. And the problem with the Fastwitch is that it’s a shoe designed for the slight overpronator. Which means it’s a little stiff around the arch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great shoe — at 6.6 oz. each, very light and fast, and it held up under the demands of a full marathon. But I am aware of the shoe while I am running in it. I don’t like to be aware of my shoes.

Sorry for the long preamble. There is a point to all of this. Saucony recently came out with a new model, the Kinvara. They have billed it as a “minimalist trainer.” It’s got a low heel-to-toe drop (meaning the heel is only 4mm higher than the toe). But this is not a racing flat. If anything, the sole is on the thicker side, and it’s flared out a bit, so there’s lots of lateral coverage. This design does not equal “heavy,” however. The Kinvara is only slightly heavier (meaning a few tenths of an oz. each) than is the Fastwitch.

It’s a great shoe. I think it may be the best trainer I’ve tried, and I’ve tried many. It’s light, but solid. You can feel the road, but it’s not “feel every pebble” thin like a flat. And it’s flexible and even feels a bit springy. I am months away from doing 20 milers, so I can’t say how it holds up over distance. But on 10-12 milers it’s been fine. Even though Saucony doesn’t bill it as a racer, I suspect it would perform very well at at the marathon distance.

One quibble: the colors. Do women really want pastel-colored running shoes? I don’t. The available colors are straight out of one of Estelle Getty’s polyester leisure suits from The Golden Girls. I am actually tempted to size down the men’s model (although I’m worried that the heel won’t be narrow enough for me) so I don’t have to wear Easter colors on my feel. They also conveniently don’t go with any of my other running clothes.

Here’s Saucony’s video about the Kinvara.

I’ll still experiment with doing speedwork and racing in lighter and lighter flats. But in the Kinvara I’ve found my new daily trainer for all of those other miles.

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