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Product Review: Squirrel’s Nut Butter

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race
and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked Sean to review a new anti-chafe product called Squirrel’s Nut Butter. Read his review below and you can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

Squirrel’s Nut Butter is a newer line of anti-chafe and skin care products with an all natural ingredient list. At first glance I had to wrap my head around the fact that this product was not food. With nutrition products on the market like Clif Bar’s Nut Butter Bars it can be confusing. That said, the Squirrel’s Nut Butters list of ingredients does not read like a chemistry textbook and would more than likely be just fine to eat. The product’s invention was intended as a treatment for eczema for one of the founder’s children. It would appear that the uses of this salve are far reaching beyond athletic purposes.

I tested the Anti-Chafe Salve in the stick format (it also comes in a small tub container). The primary ingredients are coconut oil and beeswax. Any endurance athlete knows the discomfort that chafing can cause and the invaluable proactive benefits of a product like this. I used Squirrel’s Nut Butter primarily on my two problem areas, the nipples and inner thighs. The butter applied easily and was scentless. For anyone running medium to long distances, this is a must-have product.

Other products like Body Glide, Gold Bond and Chamois Butt´r have been around for a while but neither have the simple, hypoallergenic ingredient list like Squirrel’s Nut Butter does. It should be noted that there is a vegan option as well.

I like the “deodorant-stick” style application method. It helps to keeps your hands free from the product directly and also limits the amount of mess and waste created from applying it. The all natural ingredient list is an obvious winner for people with sensitive skin or allergies, and in this day and age of space-age polymers infused into every product we buy it’s great to keep it simple with “real” ingredients.

I’ve used Body Glide for years now and by comparison the Squirrel’s Nut Butter product was just as effective, if not more so. The anti-chafing quality was excellent and it did not lose its effectiveness after prolonged effort and sweating. I’d strongly recommend this product to any athlete. It’s inexpensive, made from a simple list of natural ingredients and it works as promised. The Squirrel’s Nut Butter Company also offers products for cycling and skin restoration, all boasting the same all natural ingredients.

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Product Review: Brooks Cascadia 13 GTX

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. As an avid trail runner, we asked Sean to review one of our waterproof shoes, the Brooks Cascadia GTX. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

Brooks Cascadia 13 GTX

Wt.: 12.3oz

Drop: 10mm

Category: Trail

 

As the daylight fades and temperatures start to drop, many of us are forced inside to the treadmill. While the treadmill is not an all-bad, the allure of a shoe that is aimed at keeping you running outside no matter what the conditions is very enticing. The Brooks Cascadia has always received high praise as a trail running shoe and the Gore-Tex version is a nice adaptation to an already solid shoe. I was excited to test a pair of these this month, in what promises to be apt conditions for testing a waterproof shoe.

Fit:

After lacing up the Cascadia 13 GTX my feet felt completely at home. The cascadia hugs the heel very snug and tightly. The lace cage compresses evenly, distributing the pressure of the tongue super comfortably on the top of the foot. The super tight weave of the mesh upper is pliable yet durable and allows the foot to move where and when it needs to. The toe box is on the narrow side but it did not feel cramped at all. The sizing is true to fit. The shoe felt a little rigid at first but after three runs in the sloppy Missoula conditions they have begun to loosen up nicely.

Performance:

While a lot of Gore-Tex running shoes carry weight like a tank, the Brooks Cascadia is pretty light (12.3 oz) compared to other Gore-Tex trail runners I have experienced. Other leading brands weigh in between 14 and 20 ounces. Advances in Gore-Tex fabric technology make it lighter and less rigid than older versions. These shoes are light and nimble and sit right in the weight range of other non-GTX trail runners. While some waterproof trail runners look more like hiking shoes, the Cascadia presents like a true running shoe with the added waterproof bonus. The Gore-Tex fabric is remarkably breathable. Not once did I feel as if my feet were dampened by their own sweat.

My first run out in these shoes saw some of Missoula’s classic “not sure if it is fall or winter” weather. The messy mix of slush, water and snow was a perfect test for a Gore-Tex shoe. The Cascadia 13 was impressive in these conditions. The waterproofing and breathability of the shoe performed flawlessly. My feet were dry and happy the entire time. The Cascadia shed water nicely and did not hold on the water like some shoes might.

The sole of the Cascadia is burly to say the least. The sole provides a nice wide base for added stability on slippery surfaces. The outer hexagonal studs offer an excellent lateral cleat on both sides of the forefoot.

Brooks uses its proprietary BioMoGo DNA technology in the midsole and it’s both responsive on the trail and cushioned enough to make the longer efforts less impactful. On the first few runs that I did in these shoes I felt very connected to the road and trail surface but cushioned enough to push as hard and as long as I wanted to.

The rugged 3D rubberized mud guard that extends from the toe box to the heel is nothing short of armor. It is tough and pliable at the same time. While protecting your foot from the lashing of ice and other trail debris, the mud guard does not sacrifice the flexibility of the shoe one bit.

 

Brooks uses what they call a rock shield guard to improve stability and disperse the impact of those more pointed encounters  your sole might have on the run. This combined with the cushion of the DNA midsole make for smooth and confident ride. The triangular Pivot technology allows for targeted flex in just the right spots on the sole of the shoe.

 

The Cascadia 13 GTX has the added bonus of a gaiter attachment on the heel of the shoe which will be nice for really sloppy spring conditions or deep snow. There is also a well thought out small pouch on the tongue of the shoe that you can tuck your laces up into.

           

Overall:

The Brooks Cascadia 13 GTX is a great choice for the runner who is not willing to move things indoors when it gets cold and sloppy. Gore-Tex, the industry standard in waterproof technology performs just as promised with the Cascadia, waterproof and breathable. The comfort and quality of the Brooks brand really comes through in this shoe. It’s light, responsive, waterproof and solidly constructed. At an MSRP of $160.00 the Cascadia is worth every penny. The Cascadia 13 GTX is certain to keep you running outside regardless of what the seasons throw your way.

 

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Product Review: Smartwool Merino 150 Mammoth T-shirt

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the Smartwool Mammoth T-shirt and talk about the benefits of wearing wool. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

First Impression
At first glance the Smartwool Mobile Mammoth t-shirt appears to be just a shirt with a clever graphic. This of course appealed to my inner child, having dug countless holes in various backyards and parks hoping to unearth a wooly mammoth or dinosaur skeleton. Furthermore, what kid, or adult for that matter, would not be ecstatic about the idea of having their very own Mammoth that doubled as an enviro-friendly, Paleo-RV? Once on, the shirt easily ranked as one of the most comfortable t-shirts I own, if not the most. Any prejudice one has toward wool being itchy and skratchy is quickly dispelled by this garment. The shirt fabric is light and extremely soft to the touch. I slipped this on after a chilly fall run and was instantly comforted by the warm and bulk-less shirt.

Properties of wool
The use of wool in clothing fabric dates back as far as 10,000 B.C. Wool used to be the industry standard when it came to anything outdoors. The earliest explorers donned wool garments as they pioneered through the uncharted wildernesses of our world. From Shackelton in his heavy wool gabardine icebound in Antarctica, to Hillary on the summit of Everest, wool was the explorer´s choice. Of course, the traditional wool garments were heavy and bulky. The advent of modern synthetics in the 20th century removed wool from center stage providing the consumer with a bevy of choices. However, the wool products of today are neither bulky, nor heavy as refinements in textile production and technology have helped to produce some remarkable products.

Unlike other non-synthetic fibers used in clothing, wool harbors some unique properties. These set wool apart from cotton and other natural fiber.

➢ Wool is extremely good at wicking moisture. The unique physical structure of the fabric
allows it to hold warmth even when it is wet. The coil-like structure does not matt down
like cotton.
➢ Wool fabric is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial (due to the lanolin found in it).
Therefore, it does not require the harsh chemical treatments that some modern fabrics
use.
➢ Wool is a renewable resource. In this age of petroleum based hi-tech fabrics, it's nice to
know that wool is sustainable and easy on the environment.
➢ Wool fabrics stand the test of time. While a wool garment might initially be a bit more
expensive, it´s durability and longevity pay off in the long run. Wool´s longevity far
outlasts that of cotton, silk and rayon.
➢ As an added bonus wool is naturally UV resistant and somewhat fire resistant.

(photo credit: Mia Kiffe)

Merino Wool
Smartwool uses Merino wool which is obtained from a specific breed of sheep. The Merino sheep were originally found in Spain but are now bred all over the world. Merino wool has a finer, softer feel to it, and it has been prized for its superior texture since the 1700´s. The tight crimp of Merino wool is what makes it so fine and supple. In the world of wool, the finer the crimp the pricier the wool, such as Cashmere. The fine nature of Merino does make it less durable than other wool types, but it makes up for that in comfort. Some companies are using

Merino/synthetic hybrid fabrics to increase the durability of their products. While it is possible that early Bronze age inhabitants might have used mammoth wool for warmth, I think it reasonable to assume that Merino wool is much more comfortable.

Overall
Smartwool has been around for 20+ years, most notably for their socks. From hiking, to skiing to running to everyday wear the Smartwool name has become synonymous with quality. Their shirts and other garments are no exception to this. The Mobile Mammoth T-shirt is light and refined. The soft weave of the Merino wool make it a comfortable choice for running, backpacking, kicking back at home, or getting a burger with friends after a day of adventure. Make no mistake, this is not your great grandpa´s WWII era, inch thick heavy wool garment. As a casual t-shirt this product rises above others. I look forward to exploring more of Smartwool´s range of products in the future. There definitely more to this company that just socks.

 

Product Review: ON Cloud X

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the ON Cloud X, and you can find his thoughts below. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

The ON brand of shoes was one that I looked at hard this past winter and seriously considered buying. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found out that I was going to get to review a pair.

Weight: 8oz
Drop: 6mm
Stack Height: 6mm

Once on my feet the ON Cloud X felt super light. The bulkless, minimal construction of the upper shoe hugs your foot like a glove. The super thin tongue conforms willingly to the shape of your foot. This shoe feels airy and fast from the second you put it on. Weighing in at 8 ounces the shoe is one of the lighter shoes on the market. Categorized by ON as a ¨running remixed¨shoe the Cloud X is intended for runners who have a diversity of training activities in their week. My first run out of the box was a 12 mile run around Missoula and included asphalt, light trail, paved pedestrian paths and gravel. From my front door the Cloud X felt nimble and responsive. The shoe runs like a racing flat but with just enough cushion to be forgiving. The shoe felt great on the short climbs, with no evidence of heel-slip. The ON website boasts that the heelbox is a bombproof fit and my experience was nothing short of that. I’ve now put a little over 70 miles on these shoes and the entire construction is holding together extremely well.

One of the ingenious features of this shoe that really caught my eye was the way it minimized weight and bulk with a couple unique features. First, the shoe uses injection molded padding at key spots at the ankle collar instead of the stuffed traditional style padding common in most other shoes. This makes for a lean fit with padding in just the right spots. It really helps to avoid the bulk that can act like a sponge in wet conditions. The second feature is a hard plastic footplate that runs throughout the shoe. While most shoes achieve the rigid footplate by laminating thin layers of foam and plastic together, ON uses a single lightweight high density plastic piece which eliminates the extra weight of the glue and multiple laminated layers in a traditional shoe. The entire upper is made of what ON calls ¨new-generation materials,¨ and these are truly very thin and lightweight. The mesh of the toe box is well constructed and ventilates nicely.

One downside of the Pod system used by ON is that rocks get stuck in the tread pretty easily. While I did not notice the feel of the rocks in my shoe, I could hear them once I got back on the pavement. To be fair though, ON is very clear about the fact that this is not a dedicated trail shoe. So with that in mind this might not be a problem when on packed gravel pedestrian trails. Other reviewers commented on the fact they experienced low traction on wet running surfaces. This was not my experience on the runs that I did on wet roads. The ON Cloud X felt just fine to me on the wet Missoula streets.

The cushioning of the Cloud X is just right. For a shoe that has a minimalist feel it is cushioned enough so when you hit that unfortunate rock, pothole or when your form falls apart for a few seconds (or miles) you are afforded some cushion to ease the blow. Make no mistake, these are not ¨plush¨ pillow-like shoes such as many Hoka One One models but the Pod technology does offer a decent amount of cushion.

As a general shoe that might be used in a gym setting, a spin class, zumba, crossfit or some other indoor aerobic pursuit the ON Cloud X gets high praise from this reviewer. I gave it a shot at the gym that I usually am absent from all summer and fall and really liked the feel that they had. The On Cloud X will be my gym shoe choice for the coming winter.

Overall this shoe is a great addition to my gear closet. The ON Cloud X is very light, responsive and cushioned just enough. The colors are simple and attractive and the design is appealing to the eye as well. I look forward to putting more miles on these shoes around Missoula, racing some fall 5Kś in them and using them at the gym when the unfortunate winter treadmill sessions are called for. I´d recommend these shoes to anyone who is looking for a super light, versatile all-around training shoe. At an MSRP of $140.00 they are a bit spendy, but in my opinion they are well worth it.

Product Review: uCool Towel – More Than Just A Wet Rag!

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the uCool Towel, and you can find his thoughts below. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.

When I was asked to review the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel I was initially a little doubtful. The concept seemed a like a gimmick marketed to the zealous gearhead who had to have everything in their arsenal. A little research revealed that the technology has been around for a while and that there are multiple brand options out there. So there must be something to it, right? Ever the skeptic I had to see for myself. As they say, the proof’s in the pudding.

The Science
The science of the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel and other similar brands is pretty simple. The concept is called adiabatic cooling, or evaporative cooling. In a nutshell, water takes energy to evaporate. Cold water takes more energy than hot water does. Putting a cold wet towel on your head or your neck uses the heat energy from your exercising body to help the water evaporate from the towel and thus drawing the heat away from your body. The concept is nothing new and does work. The question that remains is does the towel hold up to its claim of achieving this effect longer than a standard towel and achieving a 30 degree fahrenheit cooler surface temp.

Field Test
I used this towel on two separate runs. The first run that I did was a 14 mile run from Missoula up into the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. While it wasn’t a crazy hot day, the temperature was in the high 80’s by mid-run. At mile 8 I stopped near the creek and soaked it for a minute, wrung it
out and snapped it (per the instructions). Wrapped around my neck the towels cooling effect was noticeable right away. The towel was comfortable and I barely noticed that I was wearing it. I checked back on it by hand about every 10 minutes to evaluate its coolness. The towel held up to it’s cooling promise for a good 30 minutes but after that I could no longer feel the coolness of the towel. However, the overall impact of cooling my body temperature was noticeable, and the last couple miles of the run felt great. While I lacked the technology to see if my body surface temp was 30 degrees cooler where the towel was applied, it was without a doubt cooler. *the small silver tag allows you to lace the opposite end through and securely fasten the towel. Makes a great ascot if that’s your thing!

The second test run was conducted in Wisconsin while visiting family. On a 20 mile run on a very humid day I pulled the towel out at mile 13 when I passed a city park. I soaked the towel in the sink and applied it in the same fashion. Of course, the towel felt cold to the touch initially, which felt nice. However, there was one significant difference. The cooling effect didn’t seem to be there. The towel warmed up but failed to move the heat from my body. This made sense to me. The humid day limited the evaporative potential for the towel to move heat away from the body due to the high amount of water vapor already in the air. So while the cold felt good the towel was not wicking the heat from my body as fast as before.
*could be worn as a dew rag if that’s how you roll…good for hot headed people!
Pros
❖ The uCool Ultra Cooling Towel is well constructed. The fabric is durable and super
lightweight and far less bulky than a standard towel. It was easy to fit in may waist pack,
vest or the side pocket of my shorts.
❖ On a hot day and a long run a cold towel is a welcomed asset and the cooling effects
might be the difference between quitting early or pushing a few extra miles.
❖ At $14.99 this towel is not going to break the bank.
Con
❖ The cooling effect, in my opinion, does not last as long as I would have liked it to.
❖ Does not perform well in humid conditions.
Summary
The uCool Ultra Cooling Towel is an affordable and useful tool for managing heat on long runs in dry conditions. The technology works as promised just not for as long as one would like it to. While a damp dish rag might achieve the same cooling affect, the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel’s packable size, durable fabric and anti-odor technology make it a much better choice. I could see using this towel in a variety of situations from distance running, backpacking or even hot yoga.

Product Review: lululemon Surge Short

Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the lululemon Surge Short and share his thoughts. You can follow Sean’s adventures @seankiffe.

Having run in a few different brands of shorts this season I was excited to try out something totally new.  I’ve become a bit picky about my short choice over the years. The lululemon Surge Short is a simple and enjoyable addition to my running wardrobe.

Fit

The Surge 6” short has a super light feel. The Swift four-way stretch fabric is very thin, but sturdy and silky to the touch. I found the shorts super comfortable while running with an almost airy quality. I especially liked the OOM (out of mind) liner. After a few runs in these shorts I have come to love the boxer style liner and it’s ability to thwart the “insta-wedgie” that is sometimes created by brief style liners. The smoothness of the fabric and the OOM liner also help to eliminate inner thigh chafing which I sometimes experience on longer runs.

Construction / Durability

The Surge Short is well constructed. The elastic waistband is comfortable and secures with an inner drawstring. I barely notice the combination against my skin while running. The lightweight Swift fabric is very comfortable, but I am curious to see how well it will withstand the repeated friction of hundreds of miles of running. LuluLemon really adds a nice touch by adding seam reinforcements in just the right seam joints. The seams themselves are adequately stitched but then reinforced at each terminus.

These are positioned exactly where other shorts fail after repeated use.  I’ve run a few times in these shorts and they’ve been washed and dried a few  times. The proprietary Swift fabric seems to hold up well in the laundry.

One aspect of the design that seems unnecessary is the faux-fly. The attempt to mimic the zipper portion of a pair of pants with no discernable function is a waste of fabric in my opinion.

Functionality

The Surge Short has a single outer pocket on the backside. I was impressed by how secure the pocket was even though it has a flap closure instead of a zipper.

The elasticity of the Swift four-way stretch fabric holds items securely in place. However, the pocket’s volume maxed out for me at either my iphone 6s, one Clif bar, or my car keys and two gels.

An especially ingenious feature of the Surge Short is the electronics pocket on the leg of the liner. My phone rides snuggly, completely concealed on my thigh and the internal conduit manages your earbud cord nicely. The outer short’s fabric hides the phone or ipod. The internal phone storage sleeve helps maximize the volume of what you can carry on a single run.

The elastic side straps on the shorts that are touted as storage bands baffled me a little.They are flexible but  don’t tighten or loosen, and I worry that they would end up losing whatever you would store there (extra top, gloves, reflective band, etc) before you even realize they are gone.

The bottom edge of each leg features a small reflective safety strip. While this is not uncommon in running apparel, I feel that it’s noteworthy in that unlike some other brands it is subtle and very flexible. Some other brands that I I’ve used have this feature and it ends up creating a stiff edge on the fabric which can be a little annoying.

Overall, I was impressed with the LuluLemon Surge Short. While it’s not the short I would select for super long efforts, marathons or ultras, it does have its place in my running repertoire. The Surge Short is a touch spendy at $68.00, but quality build of the short seams to say that it will be around for a while. The Surge short’s combination of comfort, function and simplicity make it a winner. It will definitely be one of my go-tos for shorter runs around town, yoga or hiking.