Product Review: Brooks PureGrit 6

Jesse Carnes is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/2018. He is an accomplished triathlete and trail runner and recently ran all three rut races in the same weekend (VK, 28K, 50k). Jesse has been in the endurance world for years and has used a variety of nutrition products over  so we asked him to give us a brief run down on differences in a few of the products on our shelves. You can follow Jesse’s adventures here.

This review starts long before it should, but you know, there is always a back-story for everything, and even a simple shoe review can’t escape that fate on occasion. So bear with me, it’s relevant (sort of).

So we begin around the turn of the century, when soon-to-be high-school freshman Jesse went into his local running store to purchase some shoes to train for his upcoming cross country season. I was excited to try on all the shoes I could, and find something that fit just perfectly, so that I could be fast and comfortable and never get injured. But mostly fast. Let’s be honest, the rest of that stuff was all kind of an afterthought, just because my parents and the guy at the running store told me they were important. Bear in mind, if trail-running specific shoes could be found at all at the time, they were a strange hybrid of clunky hiking boots and running shoes that looked something like this.

Anyway, I was excited to try on a pair of fancy new Brooks shoes, because a couple of the super-cool, super-fast seniors on the team wore Brooks, and they must be the best. After the guy at the running store pulled them out of the back, I excitedly slipped them on, but to my dismay, they felt awful on my foot. The midfoot was too wide, the arch too flat, they felt clunky. I hoped maybe they would feel better running down the sidewalk, but everything was all wrong. I tried another pair, and felt the same way about them. I ended up finding myself a nice pair of Mizunos and deciding that Brooks shoes just weren’t for me.

That’s how my ill-advised mental block against the entire line of one brand of shoes began, and it has been a difficult thing to escape. However, it has been nearly two decades, and the time has come for Brooks and me to sort out our differences and find common ground.

And so, about a month ago, I cautiously laced up a pair of Brooks PureGrit 6’s, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. As it turns out, a lot can change in two decades. Here are my takeaways from trying out the PureGrit 6’s, divided into categories.

Purpose

With 4mm of drop and relatively little cushioning, the PureGrit 6 is a fairly lightweight, minimal training or race shoe. If this isn’t your cup of tea, it might be worth looking into something with more substantial support and cushion, like the Adrenaline or the Cascadia.

Fit

When I first slipped these shoes on, they felt pretty decent. If anything, the toe box is a hair tighter than what I am used to, but not uncomfortably so. The heel is very secure, which I really like. I have a particularly narrow foot, and finding a shoe that efficiently wraps my arrowhead of a heel can be a challenge. It is worth noting that the more I run in this shoe, the better the fit gets. They use a proprietary midsole they call BioMoGo DNA, and the whole point is that it molds to your foot shape to provide a comfortable and responsive fit. The more I run in these shoes, the more I am convinced it works.

Also of note: after receiving some negative reviews on the tongue, upper, and laces, of the PureGrit 5 in relation to their ability to spread out pressure on the top of the foot, as well as some durability issues, it seems they have made some big changes in this iteration. I found the upper, tongue, and lacing system to be supremely comfortable. They also have a very nice little pocket on the tongue for your laces, for those who prefer not to have them flapping in the breeze. I cannot speak to the durability of these shoes yet, as I have not put enough miles on them yet to wear anything out. Ask me in a couple months (if the smoke ever lets up) and I’ll let you know.

Uphill Performance

This is the most impressive characteristic of this shoe, and I noticed it immediately on my first run. While they are fairly light, the weight is nothing revolutionary. Mine weighed in at 8.65 ounces, which is very comparable to most shoes in this category in my size. What gives these shoes the edge, I think, is again the midsole, which has a certain amount of spring that I felt put more pep in my step than most shoes I have tried.

Downhill Performance

On faster, non-technical descents, I felt this shoe did well. The heel shape effectively rolls the foot forward, which means heel-strikers may experience less jarring. If the shoe lacks somewhere, it is in aggressive technical descending. The grip on the outsole is not bad, but the overall stability could be better. Where I notice this most is on off-camber corners or rocky sections of trail where you never know what angle your foot might hit the ground. The saving grace on rocky terrain, though, is that the rock plate in this shoe is very effective. I found that when I did hit those unavoidable sharp rocks (okay, maybe for the sake of this review I aimed for them on occasion), the pressure was spread out effectively and the shoe was quite comfortable.

Aesthetics

Hey, it matters. It’s one of the sleeker-looking shoes on the market, but it only comes in one color each for men and women, so hopefully these color schemes do the trick for you.

Final Thoughts

While I wouldn’t immediately reach for this shoe for an overly technical race where off-trail, kamikaze-style descending is particularly beneficial (think The Rut 28k or 50k), I think it makes a phenomenal shoe for hill climbs or races with hard-pack trail descents (think Bitterroot Runoff 10-miler or possibly Snowbowl 15k). It does feel like a race shoe, but I would also use it for lighter training runs. I think this is the perfect shoe for doing variable-grade intervals in the North Hills. And who doesn’t love that?

Product Review: Rollga Foam Roller

Angie Partain is very involved in the Missoula Running Community as both a runner and frequent volunteer despite being a busy mom. You can follow her adventures at @jnapartain. As a RErun Ambassador we asked her to review the Rollga foam roller and share her findings with us…

This month, the Runner’s Edge asked me to review the Rollga Foam Roller. When I think of foam rolling, I picture Tony Horton saying “I hate it…but I love it” right before his rigorous P90X ab workout. I know I’m not the only one out there with a love/hate relationship with their foam roller. I also know I’m not the only one that tends to ignore recovery in my daily routine. All of us (runners especially) know how important recovery is, and yet we so often put it off until we find ourselves on the brink of injury– or in the waiting room of our Physical Therapist. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Physical Therapist, she’s awesome and has gotten me back to running time and time again. But I think we would all agree, that an injury averted is the way to go!

Why I love the Rollga!

Contour Zones

It’s unique, caterpillar-like shape sets it apart from other rollers. Let’s be honest, traditional rollers are painful…who wants to go through more pain after intervals…or while you are injured and already in pain? The different zones on the Rollga really change that aspect of rolling, by enabling you to completely avoid direct contact with the muscle. Instead, by nesting the muscle inside a contour the muscle is massaged at an angle (which eliminates a lot of pain and is safer for the muscle). If you want a deeper massage you can move to the inner zone to massage at a tighter angle, or move to the outside bubble for full contact, like a traditional roller. Who doesn’t like options?

Full body massage

I just gave myself a head to toe (actually, it was toe to head…but that sounds weird) massage in my living room. I never had to say: “hey, that hurts, can you go easier on that spot?”. I had total control and could adjust my positioning or the pressure as needed. Rolling my IT Band never felt so good…and hamstrings– Ahhh-mazing! I also found it more effective and efficient (15-30 seconds) when targeting problem areas (like glutes or calves) that needed a little extra attention. The contours also nest your spine and shoulder blades perfectly, for a safe upper back massage. The Full body massage took about an hour, but with consistency it could be split up over the week and your full body could get a great massage in a few minutes a day.

Website and App

Rollga.com is a great interactive website that’ll walk you through the full body massage as well as show you specific stretches and exercises…some of which I never would’ve thought of. They also have a free App that has some great tutorials and workouts. When you buy your Rollga, check it out… It’s a space saver! It’s the foam roller to replace all foam rollers. Kidding—don’t go buy this and then toss your other 3 rollers. They all have their place. But If you’re a minimalist (like me) then you’re always looking for the most functional and essential item if it’s going to take up space in your life. If that’s you, this item is for you! If that’s not you and you love to fill your space with all the great products under the sun, this item is for you too! It’s compact, measuring at 18 inches long—wide enough for your body, but perfect for taking it along with you. It also comes with an easy removable shoulder strap!

Obviously, I’m completely sold on the Rollga. It costs $40, has a 60 day money back guarantee as well as a 2 year warranty! There’s no reason to not give it a try…your future more-relaxed- with-less- pain-and- strong-cored self will thank you!

-Angie

Product Review: Brooks FineForm Bra

Rachel Brumfield can been seen racing anything from the Resolution Run to Eleven Miles to Paradise, but also likes to explore and recently spent some time in the mountains around Banff. You can follow her adventures on instagram @rachbrums. As a 2017/2018 RErun she tested the Brooks FineForm Sports Bra and gave us her thoughts.

Brooks FineForm: A Very Versatile Sports Bra

I chose the Brooks FineForm off the shelves of Runner’s Edge because it was different. Unlike most sports bras, it clasps in the back and has convertible straps. It looks like a hybrid between your everyday bra and a sports bra. At first I thought, “This is a little much.” As someone who can (almost) go on a run without any sort of support at all, the security of the Brooks FineForm felt a little excessive. But after wearing it for a couple weeks, I’m sold.

Reasons I thought this sports bra outperforms others:

1. Material: This bra is made out of a magical material that all undergarments should be made
of. According to the tag, it’s called DriLayer® fabric. I wore the bra for hours without
noticing it was there. On particularly sweaty runs, it remained soft, moisture-wicking and
chafe-free.

2. Zero-Chafe: It’s music to the ears of any lady runner. The FineForm’s bonded, seamless
neckline, straps and back prevent friction in all the usual spots – under the straps, band and
underarms. I’m often the victim of a chafing on the inside of my arms after long runs – not
the case here. Huge points in my book.

3. Overall Fit: The FineForm fits snug without being rigid. There are no perceivable cups held
between two layers of fabric, like many other sports bras. This makes the whole thing more
manageable – especially after machine-washing. No digging around trying to straighten the
cups or untangling the straps. Yet, it still has the right amount of coverage and padding to
offer significant support.

Another win are the adjustable straps. Converting between the racer back and open back
styles is easy and comfortable. You choose the length of the straps, ensuring the perfect fit
every time.

4. Style: The dual-option straps make this bra more versatile than any I’ve ever worn. The
strappy racer back style is fun and sleek enough to wear on it’s own. It also works perfectly
with most running tanks. The open back entices you to make this your everyday, go-to bra.
It works well under professional attire (I tested this, too), making an after-work run that
much easier.

As with most sports bras, it comes in a wide variety of fun colors. Even the plain ol’ black
version features stripes to mix it up. I’d give the Brooks FineForm a 10/10 for versatility, comfort and design. It’s great for runs and for the workday. It’s comfortable when hiking with a pack and swimming in the river. The bra’s unique multi-functionality makes the $50 price tag worth every penny. For someone like me, who spends 9+ hours in the office then hits the road or trail, it’s the perfect hybrid.

PS – Here’s a shameless, but very honest plug for Runner’s Edge… If you’re looking to buy the
perfect sports bra, RE is the place to do so. They have handy fit guides, specific to running bras, in their dressing rooms and will help take your measurements. Super helpful.

Product Review: Altra Trail Gaiters

Jenna Lyons is part of the 2017/18 RErun Ambassador team. She recently completed the Rut 28k as well as the Kendall Mountain Sky Run. With a few more Sky Running races on her 2017 calendar she has experience with rocky, loose terrain. You can follow all her adventures at @littleyoness. We asked Jenna to try out the Altra Trail Gaiters and tell us her experience.

ALTRA TRAIL GAITERS: WHAT A FEELING!

I was asked to review the Altra Trail Gaiters. Like my last review, I will evaluate them in terms of design, functionality, fit, and looks. But first, a little bit of fascinating history.

BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF THE GAITER

Originally, gaiters were made of leather. In World War I and World War II, the American Army wore gaiters made of canvas. A form of gaiter called jambieres were worn by the Zouaves, a class of the French Army’s light infantry regiments which served between the mid 1830s until about 1960. Gaiters were also part of the everyday attire of bishops and archdeacons of the Church of England until the mid-twentieth century when they stopped riding horses around.

DESIGN

The Altra gaiters have a strapless design, like a tube top for your feet. Everyone loves tube tops! The gaiters are breathable, thin, and light. Therefore, they won’t chafe your feet. The takeaway: Tube tops = good. Chafing = bad.

These gaiters are perfect for some of the steep, gnarly, shale runs that exist in and around Missoula. The descent off of Lone Peak in The Rut is a prime example of where these gaiters are the most helpful, as there are millions of tiny fragments of rock that can jump into your shoes. These gaiters prevent them from getting in your shoes and causing little blisters or places of discomfort in your shoes.

FUNCTIONALITY

When running in rocky, snowy, sandy, or muddy conditions, the Altra gaiters are like having windshield wipers on a rainy day. Or a corn dog at the fair. You simply can’t go without them. The package says they shield feet from dirt, sand, mud, rocks, and snow.

However, it is my opinion that if you were to run through a field full of Nerds™ then these gaiters would prevent little hard pieces of candy from getting in your shoes and ruining your day.

They would also be wonderful when you are frolicking in the snow on a silent Missoula morning and would like to keep snow out of your shoes and Christmas spirit in your heart.

FIT

The gaiters are unisex, and supposedly fit blokes and dames. But, being a petite little Oompa-Loompa, these were actually kind of baggy on me. So, if you are a petite female, I’d make sure these fit before you buy or go with another female-specific gaiter.

The package says the gaiters attach to all Altra shoes, but I wore them with my La Sportiva Mutants and they worked just fine. I assume they’d attach to all trail shoes or other shoes. But not Danskos. Because that would be weird anyway???

LOOKS

In the looks department, these score a little lower in my book. I’ve always had Dirty Girl gaiters with leopard and butterflies on them. So black gaiters with little silver sporty stripes on them don’t really get me going. With that in mind, the great granddaddy of these gaiters has made a famous cameo appearance in 1983. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXQeVqLMr9Q

So retro.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

This may seem intuitive, but you have to put your gaiters on before your shoes. Like you have to put your pants on before your shoes. Or your underwear before your pants. I seem to fail to realize these things many, many times even though I am an “adult.”

These seem a little more durable than the Dirty Girl gaiters I have always worn. And although they don’t have leopard print or butterflies on them, they will probably last longer! They are harder better faster stronger.

CONCLUSION

These gaiters are a must have for your running wardrobe. I don’t think I will do another run in the Missions or up Holland Peak etc. without them. I’ll certainly be wearing them for The Rut next year. They are easy to wear, compatible with all trail shoes, and they’ll run you just under $20. They feel great, and will protect you from nuisance rocks, sticks, ticks, and other little objects. What a feeling!

Sources:

Gaiters, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaiters)

Henry, Mark (2003), The US Army of World War I, Oxford: Osprey.

Through the Years With Gaiters, Anglicans Online (http://anglicansonline.org/special/gaiters/)

Product Review: Nathan VaporKrar 12L

Tim Mosbacher is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/2018. We asked him to test out the Nathan Vapor Krar 12L hydration vest as a potential option for the Rut. You can read more of his reviews and stories from running here. 

Prior vest experience: The Nathan VaporKrar is my third running vest.  My first running vest was a Nathan HPL 020. The vest was a huge upgrade from the old hydration packs that were not designed for running. The HPL was a dream come true because the vest did not move all over my back during a run. The vest was light, but on 50+ mile self-supported runs, I struggled with the pack’s lack of room (3.6L). My second vest was an Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek (9.2L). This pack definitely had better pockets and more room than the Nathan HPL. I wore the Ultimate Direction during my one attempt at a 100-mile trail run and on a number of self-supported 50+ mile trail runs.

The Nathan HPL was so comfortable I could wear it shirtless. On the other hand, the Ultimate Direction Jurek rubbed my neck the entire run, which drove me crazy. When I first saw the VaporKrar I thought this vest could be the answer to my personal trail running issues. I needed a pack that did not rub, but had room for all my food and drink.

Fit: 

This vest fits like a glove. There is no rubbing and no uncomfortable spots. I even wore the vest with a racing singlet and had no rubbing.

Hydration:

I usually prefer not to use a hydration bladder. I tend to drink less water when I use one.  The weight on my back, the water sloshing, as well as the difficulty in filling the bladder has made me a big fan of hand held bottles. The VaporKrar pack eliminated the sloshing water. The unique shape of the hydration bladder as well as wave reducing material located midway make this bladder one I would use. The front pockets held my 17oz soft flasks and can even fit my 20oz hard bottles. The one modification I need to make is to trim about 4 to 6 inches off the bladder tubing.

Storage:

The description of the vest is an ultra-light racing vest, yet it comes with plenty of storage. I loved the flexible material of the pockets in the front.  On different days I would pack a phone, soft flasks, gels, and Clif Bloks in the front pockets.  I did struggle with the largest zippered pockets on the shoulders. These pockets are large enough for a phone, but since a phone does not bend with your body, it was a little uncomfortable as well as a struggle to put the phone back into the pocket without taking off the vest.  In addition, if I placed Clif Bloks in the pockets, they crinkled so much a few inches from my ears that I eventually removed them.  Nice pockets, but I just need to find the perfect item for them.

A large storage sleeve runs the length of the rear bottom of the pack. I used this to store quick items on the go and it was excellent. There are a total of three huge rear pockets. Only one has a zipper, while the other two are secured by a small piece of Velcro. This worries me a little since rain will easily go into the tops of the Velcro pockets. The pack also holds poles conveniently on the back, but one would need to take off the pack to insert the poles into the attached loops. The poles do not interfere with ones running form. There are no shock chords on the rear of the pack for additional exterior packing.

If the VaporKrar has too much storage, Nathan has a similar pack with no bladder that has only 4L of storage.

Overall I love the vest. It rides comfortably and does so no matter how much is stored in it.  It will be my go-to vest on short or long trail runs. This vest would be perfect for the Rut!

Product Review: 2XU Compression Socks

Grady Anderson is relatively new to the Missoula running scene, but is quickly making his mark. As a former standout runner at North Dakota State (don’t hold that against him), he can be easily spotted at the front of most races in town. Grady is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/18 and we asked him to review the 2XU Compression Socks for us….

2XU has many different color options. I have red ones because I get lost a lot.

For most running addicts there comes a time when life follows this simple pattern of Run. Eat Sleep. Repeat. This slogan is popular, and true in many instances. There’s been stages of my life where the only thing on my mind is the next run, or more frequently…the next sleep. But that makes sense. These basic building blocks of running are the simplest, and honestly the most enjoyable activities for many of us on any given day. But one thing I’d like to add to the slogan is the word…Recovery.

Recovery is a bit harder than simply going out for a run, stuffing our faces full of food, or hitting the snooze alarm 10-20 times in the morning. It takes discipline, and it takes time. To do preventative maintenance on yourself seems like a burden for most people. Foam rolling, ice bathing, and stretching can be strenuous and downright painful! (Whoever invented the art of bathing in ice is an absolute sadist) So we are in this pickle right? We love to run, we love to eat, we definitely love to sleep, yet to keep this lifestyle constantly churning we need to recover, and recover fast! So this month I’ve spent my days and nights testing out the 2XU compression sock, because if I can’t get in a session of stretching, foam rolling, or dip in the ice bath, I’d better do something to recover!

First off I want to give a little precursor, I’ve never really worn compression socks before. Sure, I’ve tried them on, and entertained the thought of buying a pair over the years, but always come to the conclusion of…eh, I can do without. And it’s true. I think most of us can do without them, but wow, what you can do with them is what blew me away.

Shackleton the cat modeling the 2XU compression sock as a scarf. Prrrrfect!

My first impression of compression socks culminated in two words…too small. The 2XU seems to have a pretty backwards view of sizing. I wear a size 10 and have always thought of my calves as being a umm…healthy size. But somehow, when trying on the socks I was a size Small, which was surprising as I feel like I’m the most average built person in the world. Just a very Medium dude. But then again, maybe it’s like the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants with the pair I’m wearing. (In that case, the answer is no. You still can’t wear them just because they’re going to fit you). Anyhow, the socks miraculously fit after some struggling to get them on (which seems to be a good sign that they’re fitting correctly), and I felt the Power Surge Through My Veins…not quite. Actually, at first, they were a bit uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to something squeezing my calves so tight, and though the compression felt good, I was constantly worried about it being too aggressive and losing circulation. The first night I wore them, I actually had to take them off at some point because it felt like my calf was being squeezed into a raisin. But over time the socks wore in and I could sleep through the night or wear them running without pain.

The thing I like most about the 2XU compression socks is their streamlined fit. They aren’t bulky, or thick like some styles. They’re fairly easy to get on after some practice, and they even have a L and an R so you know which foot to put them on! (This still poses a potential issue for those who are learning the difference between left and right) They’ve got pretty cool color schemes, always vital, and I really enjoy running in them. I think for long runs and easy recovery days they’re perfect. I’m still used to the free-flowing calf muscles in workouts so I don’t think I’d use them on high intensity days.

I think with compression socks the biggest kicker is not what you notice, but what you don’t notice. I didn’t notice what the sock was necessarily doing for me, other than I felt like I had a lot of good training days in a row, without ever feeling really sluggish or drained. Obviously, it’s a mental trigger too. Simply the compression feels wonderful on the legs. You just feel extra stable or something. It’s kind of a nice boost that gives you a bit more “pop” on the days when you need it. For me, the coolest thing about compression socks is just the ability to change things up. Running is wonderful, but the monotony during certain seasons or stages of training can be hard to push through. Slapping on compression socks once in a while is one of those changes that helps a lot in the fight against injury and the fight for recovery. The absolute best part about compression socks is their versatility and time consumption. They take no time to put on, and you can literally wear them whenever you please. Now I can Run. Eat. Sleep. All while Recovering! Which is good, because I wouldn’t want anyone to have to change their t-shirt slogans.

-Grady