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/)

How Sitting Can Increase Injury Risk

by John Fiore, PT

Runners are well aware of the importance of strength training to reduce injury risk. Even the most specific strengthening program will fail to produce results, however, if compensatory movement patterns are not addressed. Our modern lifestyle is filled with sitting. We sit at work, sit while driving, sit for relaxation, yet expect our hips, pelvis, and spine to function normally. Hip flexor tightness is synonymous with prolonged sitting. The psoas is in important hip flexor muscle which warrants further discussion to understand the challenge of running injury treatment and prevention.

The psoas is an important core muscle which stabilizes and moves both the lumbar spine and the lower extremity.  Collectively, the psoas and iliacus muscles are referred to as the iliopsoas muscle group. The psoas works in conjunction with the iliacus muscle.  While both the psoas and iliacus insert on the lesser trochanter of the femur (groin area), the iliacus originates in the iliac fossa and iliac crest of the pelvis and sacrum, whereas the psoas originates along the transverse processes of the lumbar spine. The primary function of the psoas muscle is to flex the hip. Secondary actions which are very important for proper lumbar spine and lower extremity function and symmetry include femoral lateral rotation, lumbar extension, and lumbar side bending. In addition, the iliacus tilts the pelvis anteriorly. Both the psoas and iliacus muscles activate unilaterally or bilaterally. Asymmetry between the right and left psoas muscles due to tightness or weakness, therefore, is an important source of one-sided low back and leg pain.  While psoas asymmetry is often overlooked, proper, targeted clinical testing must be included when thoroughly evaluating low back and extremity pain and overuse injuries.

The psoas muscle lifts the hip and leg forward when we walk, run, and climb. Overutilization of the iliopsoas can lead to postural and mechanical issues.  Without the necessary strength in the abdominals, hips, gluteal and small stabilizing lumbar (multifidi) musculature, the psoas becomes shortened, over-active, and irritated.  Gait and postural deviations may present as a laterally-rotated hip, an anteriorly tilted pelvis (unilaterally or bilaterally), or a sway back posture.  An iliopsoas-dominant athlete may develop a myriad of overuse injuries including:  psoas or groin pain, sacroiliac and low back pain, iliotibial band pain, and even knee and foot overuse injuries.

Once a psoas imbalance or overutilization issue is diagnosed, the resulting mechanical asymmetry must be addressed through manual physical therapy techniques. Targeted active release stretching, dry needling, deep tissue release, and muscle energy techniques are effective ways to restore symmetry and proper function to the right and left psoas musculature. Manual therapy alone, however will not “fix” the problem. Strengthening the antagonist musculature will allow the body to maximize efficiency of movement.

Strengthening the weak links in the modern day athlete can be difficult due to ingrained movement patterns.  Strengthening the lower abdominal and gluteal musculature, for example, reduces our reliance on the psoas to “pick up the slack” in lumbar and pelvic stabilization. Functional core strengthening involves the gluteal and abdominal musculature stabilizing in conjunction with sport-specific upper and lower extremity motions.  Sit-ups and crunches alone, however, may exacerbate the problem of tight or dominant psoas  musculature.  It is important, therefore, to include planks (prone and side positions) and single leg weight bearing core exercises to reduce habitual psoas use. Finding your lower abdominals (transversus abdominis) muscles when lifting is key to prevent the anterior pelvic tilt associated with iliacus activation as well as the lumbar sway back associate with psoas activation.  

Our modern day lifestyle of prolonged sitting and very little physical activity other than our “workouts” predisposes us to psoas muscle shortening and dominance.  Sitting inherently shortens the psoas while the antagonist muscle (gluteus maximus) is unable to function the lengthened position of sitting.  The most common area of weakness in present day athletes (based upon my empirical evidence of 24 years in practice) are the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.  No wonder we have difficulty contracting our gluts when much of our day is spent sitting!  In addition to a physical therapy strength and postural evaluation, a video gait or running analysis will reveal muscle imbalances to address to effectively prevent and treat injuries related to a hip flexor or psoas domain state.  

Finally, for an aging athlete or individual, hip joint compression due to excessive sitting and associated psoas tightness can accelerate osteoarthritis.  Balancing proper muscle flexibility with core stabilization and strength will decrease the impacts of prolonged sitting to permit a healthy, active lifestyle for years to come.  

(John Fiore is the owner of Sapphire Physical Therapy in Missoula. You can reach him at john@sapphirept.com or 406-549-5283)

ARTICLE REFERENCES

  1. McGill,S.(2007) Low Back Disorders: evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. P 60-61, 214-217.
  2. Jones,S. Rivett,D. (2004) Clinical Reasoning for Manual Therapists. Elseier Butterworth Hinemann. New York, NY. P 261-274,
    3. Greives. Grieve’s Modern Manual Therapy. Harcourt Publishers Ltd. 19943
  3. http://www.serola.net/research-entry/iliopsoas/

Runner of the Month – September 2017

Nico Composto has only been in Missoula for a year, but has already established himself on the running scene. As a former All-American cross country runner at Columbia, Nico has injected some new speed into local races. So far this year he has won the Bitterroot Runoff, placed 3rd at the Don’t Fence Me In 30k, won the Thunderbolt Creek 30k, won the Snowbowl 15k, and ran a 2:31 marathon solo. He is also the current leader in Montana Trail Crew’s Treasure State Trail Series and just started a master’s program in education. 

Name: Nico Composto

Age: 25

When did you start running? When I was 7. It was third grade. I was a chubby little kid and came in last in all my races.

What has been your favorite race? NCAA cross country championships. It’s just a super competitive race. It brings together all of the best college runners of every distance in the country and it’s one of the deepest races in the world.

What keeps you running? It’s a tangible way to feel happiness. Everytime I go for a run I know that’s going to make me happy. When life is uncertain, it’s the one thing I know that will make me feel better.

How many miles a week do you run? In between 50 and 65.

What’s next on the calendar for you? John Colter Run (part of the Treasure State Trail Series).

What is your favorite thing about Missoula? The mountains. Every single mountain surrounding us. I just love them all.