Monday, July 15, 2013

Saucony Kinvara TR2

Saucony Kinvara TR2

     A few weeks ago, Saucony offered me a free pair of shoes. I looked through their shoe collection and decided on a shoe that I wouldn't normally buy. I chose the Saucony Kinvara TR2 in hopes that it would be a good short distance trail racing shoe. I have lots of running shoes including trail shoes, but I don't have many options for lightweight trail shoes. Like many trail runners, I often do distance runs in Cascadias. I also like Inov8s and New Balance. These shoes are all very nice, but I was looking for a shoe to race in on the trails.
     Last weekend I signed up for a 7.5 mile trail race. This was the perfect place to try out the Saucony Kinvara TR2. The course was not too technical, but it had a lot of different terrain. It had some elevation change, roots, rocks, deep mud, and a few stream crossings. The shoe performed as well as I had hoped it would. For me, this is a shoe with a purpose and the purpose is short distance trail racing. It felt fast while still providing enough protection. I felt nimble running down steep hills. It also drained water well as one of the stream crossings was over my knees.
     I chose this color because I loved the way it looked. I was looking for a fast shoe to trail race in, so I wanted a shoe that looked fast. They call this color navy/citron/orange. It also comes in blue/black. To me, the blue/black looked a little plain, but I know everyone doesn't like a flashy shoe. A friend of mine ordered a pair of the women's Kinvara TR2 in the red/gray/white color (shown below). This color looks really nice also. I wouldn't describe it as red though. It's more of a dark copper color. The women's shoe is also available in gray/blue/citron. In both the men's and women's shoes, there are little opalescent accents on the shoe if you look closely in the right light.

     Since I knew there was going to be stream crossings in this race, I was sockless in the shoe. The upper was comfortable and presented no problems to me. Even when wet, it dried quickly and did not cause any blisters on my feet. It has two layers of mesh with flexfilm overlays to hold the shape. Sometimes when I run sockless, my toes eat through the mesh. I believe this dual layer of mesh will be fairly durable. That being said, I wish the upper had a little elasticity to it. It felt loose in some places and tight in others. The tongue is "bootie-constructed". This is supposed to keep rocks out of the shoe. I don't think they hit a homerun with the tongue. It connects between the two layers of mesh and leaves a pocket to hold rocks. My only real complaints about this shoe are with the upper. I think these are minor issues for most runners, but they can easily be fixed by Saucony.

     Some runners will find this shoe to be too narrow, while others will like the snug fit. I usually like wider shoes, but liked the fit of this shoe, at least for trail racing. The shoe fit tight in the midfoot, which I liked when going down hills with speed. I felt sure footed and did not slide inside the shoe. Te heel collar held my foot well. I saw two other runners lose a shoe in the calf high mud while my shoes stayed on my feet fine.
     The midsole is cushioned with powergrid and ssl eva. I think some runners would like a little bit more cushioning perhaps from the ssl eva, but it was enough for me. I typically run in racing flats or similar shoes, so I don't expect a lot of cushioning. The midsole also features a nylon fiber mesh rock plate. You can see it through holes in the outsole. It provided plenty of protection from the sharp rocks. The shoe was flexible enough for me, but some runners may find it a bit stiff. I'm not sure if the stiffness will loosen up or not since I've really only run 7.5 miles in this shoe.
     The outsole provided plenty of traction. It performed well on loose rocks and also in the mud. The heel is beveled. I'm not much of a heel striker, but I guess it probably hits the ground when ground down steep hills. The rubber is soft, but still looks to be durable. This outsole works great on a number of different surfaces.

     Saucony lists the weight as 7.8 oz for the men's shoe and 6.8 oz for the women's version. They list the heel height as 16.5mm, the forefoot height as 12.5mm and the offset as 4mm.
     After the race was finished, the Saucony Kinvara TR2s looked almost new thanks to the stream crossings. Most of the trail races I sign up for are 50ks. I don't think I would wear this shoe for a 50k, but you never know. I do like this shoe for shorter distance trail races. For me, I would wear this shoe on 15 mile or less trail races that I thought I could run fast. It felt fast and responsive on all parts of the trail. I think there is some room for improvement in the upper of this shoe, but all in all, it will be a good trail racer for me.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Last Ronin

I bought my last pair of Ronins this week, the Mizuno Wave Ronin 5. I wrote about this shoe in my post on the Hitogami. This is a shoe that a lot of runners aren't familiar with, but it's been my favorite for the last few years. I'll miss it, but I do like the Hotogami which will be replacing it.
The Ronin has been an all occasion shoe for me. I use it to train in most days and also race in. There's really nothing special about the shoe, I just liked it. This pair should last me 6 months or so then I'll move on to another shoe.
I never ran in the original Ronin. The Ronin 2 pictured above is the first one I tried. I liked everything about this shoe. It's still my favorite Ronin for multiple reasons. This shoe was wider than the rest of the Ronins. Most lightweight shoes are narrow and don't fit my wide foot well. The Ronin had an outsole that griped different surfaces well. It didn't look like it would hold up well, but it did. I don't think I ever got less than 400 miles out of Ronins and had one pair go over 600 miles.

From left to right in the picture above is the Ronin 2, 3, 4, and 5. The Ronin 2 was my favorite. I liked the fit and feel and even liked the yellow. I wanted to like the Ronin 3. I live in Baltimore and this shoe is black and orange, Oriole colors. For some reason, I didn't like the shoe as much. It felt too tight in the forefoot. I liked the Ronin 4 much more than the 3 despite its looks. The shoe felt great. The Ronin 5 is very similar to the 4. I don't feel quite as secure in the shoe. I prefer the lacing on the 4 better than the 5.
Speaking of lacing, the Ronins always had sparkly laces. I'm not sure why, but people always comented on them. The laces on the Ronin 4 and the Ronin 5 were way too long for my taste. I don't double knot my shoes and these sometimes drag the ground.
After the Ronin 2, the Ronin 4 was my favorite. I thought this was a good durable training and racing shoe. I hated the way it looked. To me it was like wearing a pair of rental bowling shoes. The white on the side is a plastic section that was supposed to look like leather. It looked cheap to me, but was still comfortable.

Mizuno changed the bottom of the shoe also. The Ronin 4 and 5 had flex controllers. I never noticed them one way or another, but I heard some runners say they didn't like them. It seemed like the rubber on the 4 and 5 was also harder. I wish the outsoles were made of slightly softer rubber. The shoe was very durable. I would have been willing to sacrifice a little bit of that durability for better grip.
I know runners that stock up on a shoe they really like. I like and will miss the Ronin, but I'm not stockpiling any. I'm sure I'll like the replacement, or find something else I like.  Mizuno will have the Hitogami. Asics is bringing back the Hyperspeed. I like trying new shoes anyway. This will give me an excuse to try a few new pairs.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mizuno Wave Hitogami

Mizuno Wave Hitogami

For the last few years, the Mizuno Wave Ronin has been my go to shoe. I ran in the Ronin 2, 3, 4, and 5. I've liked some versions better than others, but I put a lot of miles on all versions. I wore them for short distance races and long training runs. I have never stocked up on a shoe in the past, but I considered it when I heard the Ronin 5 would be the last. The Ronin and the Musha will be replaced with the Wave Hitogami.

Tonight I saw the shoe in person and ran a very short run in it. I will not have to stock up on the Ronin. This shoe will be my go to running shoe when it is available for purchase. The shoe fit comfortable and had a light flexible ride. This shoe made me feel fast.

The upper appeared to be very breathable. It was light and flexible, but I expect it to be very durable. The heel collar did a good job of locking down my heel. The midfoot was tight leading to a roomy enough forefoot. I would like a little more room, but it has more room than many shoes in this category.

This midsole is the new U4ic with a small wave plate. The Ronin 4 had AP and the Ronin 5 had AP+ for cushioning. To be honest, I don't notice a difference between AP, AP+, and U4ic. They all appear to do their job to me. I'm told the U4ic is lighter for the amount of cushioning it provides. It had plenty for my taste. It had enough cushion for long distance runs, at least for my taste, without feeling squishy.

The Hitogami has a listed weight of 7.4 oz. for men and 6.2 oz. for women. I was told the heel toe differential was 9mm. These numbers are very close to the Ronin and Musha.

The men's shoe came in two color options. In the picture above it is the white, red, and yellow, and below it is the black, blue, and pink shoe. The women's is the white, blue and yellow shoe above, and the pink, blue, and yellow shoe below. I'm not sure I care for the black, blue and pink men's shoe. I don't mind a flashy shoe, but this is not my style.

One of the things I've always like about the Ronin was the aggressive outsole. It had small pieces of rubber attached to the outsole. These provided a good grip on many road surfaces. It was also a very durable rubber. The outsole on the Hitogami was a softer rubber. It was sticky and gripped the road well. The flex grooves that were on the Ronin and other Mizuno shoes are not present on the Hitogami. I didn't miss them.

The lateral edge of the shoe is rounded, I noticed this on my run in a good way. When I run, I supinate. I land on my forefoot and usually wear out the lateral edge of the shoe. This shoe puts the rubber where I need it. I believe this will benefit many runners. This feature is also on the Wave Rider 17.

On a design note, the shoes are meant to look like a Japanese mask. The mask is pictured behind the shoes. When two of the shoes are turned on their sides next to each other, they look like the mask. I like the effort put into this design. The Precision 12 had great graphics. Unfortunately only the women's shoe had the graphics. The Hatogami has graphics that you'll have to take your shoes off to show someone. Maybe good, maybe not great, but it might be a conversation starter.

Hopefully I've typed Hitogami enough times in this to be able to remember the name. I'm not sure why, but it doesn't roll off my tongue like Ronin.  I'll miss the Ronin. It was my go to shoe for a few years. I have a feeling the Hitogami will make me forget how much I miss the Ronin. This looks like a good replacement.
I like running shoes. I don't care for a lot of running gadgets, but I do like the shoes. I'm not sure why I like them so much. I usually run in the same shoes, which is weird because of how many different shoes I have. I always look foreward to new shoes coming out, but then I end up running in the same shoes I always have. I have three or four pairs of running shoes that I wear for most of my miles.

I have all types of running shoes. I have shoes for the street, shoes for the track, and shoes for the trail. I probably have too many trail shoes for someone whoe lives in the middle of a city. I mainly only wear my trail shoes for races, but I'm glad I have them.

This summer, I'm going shoe shopping for a pair of dress shoes. I have a room full of shoes and not one pair that is appropriate to wear in a business environment. Hopefully I can find a comfortable pair.