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iRunFar | Gear by Kristin Zosel - 2d ago

The post Scarpa Spin Ultra Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

These are the golden days of the neutral, ‘all-arounder’ trail shoe, and I’m particularly enjoying the Scarpa Spin Ultra ($149). This is the most cushioned option in their Spin line, and it is by far my most favorite. It feels light on the foot at 7.8 ounces (women’s 7.5) and 9.3 ounces (men’s 8.5), yet the protection offered by the 25mm stack height courtesy of the thinner Vibram Litebase outsole and the dual-density layers of midsole EVA allows it to provide a really well-protected, responsive ride. The Spin Ultra has a 6mm drop that, to me, feels like an 8mm-plus drop because my hamstrings and Achilles are staying perfectly happy even while wearing them multiple days in a row on all types of terrain. So for those of you on the fence about trying ‘lower-drop’ shoes, these are pretty magical even for me and my 10mm-preferring body. I plan to wear these shoes for an upcoming 12-hour, 5.5-mile loop race at a ski resort in a few weeks, and I’m confident they’ll get me through.

The Scarpa Spin Ultra. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Scarpa Spin Ultra Upper

The upper is constructed of a uniform mesh through the forefoot and midfoot backed by a smooth polyester lining which does an excellent job of keeping debris out. This lining is part of Scarpa’s Sock-Fit System which enhances the shoe’s comfort and fit. The mesh is overlaid by micro-nubuck criss-cross patterns which integrate with reinforced lace loops thus facilitating a snug midfoot wrap once the no-slip laces are tied. The micro-nubuck extends into the reinforced TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toecap in the front—excellent at warding off attacking rocks, roots, errant dog paws, and cacti—and provides the outer cover for the well-structured but still accommodating heel cup in the back of the shoe. The padded Achilles notch and ankle-bone cutouts are perfectly contoured which kept these parts happy for me even on off-camber rocky sections. The tongue is just perfect in its amount of padding and length. It’s not too thick, not too long or short, and it’s gusseted through the midfoot which keeps it in place. It has a lace garage which runs the full width of the tongue, but I never felt the need to use it. The upper of the Spin Ultra strikes the perfect balance between the need for quick drainage and temperature control with the need for a snug and supportive fit given the type of varied and technical terrain the shoe excels on. My Birkenstock-shaped foot (wider forefoot/narrower heel) finds the fit roomy yet secure.

The Scarpa Spin Ultra lateral upper.

Scarpa Spin Ultra Midsole

The midsole employed is similar to the Spin RS model in that there are two densities of EVA layered on top of each other. Where it’s much improved from the Spin RS, in my opinion, is the enhanced level of cushioning. It’s still firm enough to transfer energy well from foot strike to push-off, but you’re well protected whether you’re running a shorter daily run or racing 50 miles. To the touch, it seems the higher-density EVA is closest to the foot while the softer EVA is nearest the outsole. I couldn’t find exact technical specs on the website supporting this, so this is my interpretation based on the feel of my shoes. I have about 250 miles in them at this point, and I continue to be impressed with how responsive they feel at different points in my runs. Wonky rocks, ‘doll heads,’ and sharp-angled fins? No problem with this shoe’s ample protection. Hard-packed dirt trails winding downhill and in need of some moisture? Cruise on down and focus on turnover because the cushioning allows it. Steep uphill with a mixture of rock, grass tufts, and trail? Enough stiffness to keep the feet ticking away at the vertical. Ending a run with a half-mile of pavement? The Spin Ultra has that covered, too, as it can roll like a road shoe whisking you speedily back to your car.

The Scarpa Spin Ultra medial upper.

Scarpa Spin Ultra Outsole

The outsole of the Spin Ultra is constructed of varying angles of moderately aggressive, rectangular lugs familiar to the Spin line. The new Vibram Velox Litebase Max/Megagrip compound is used in this shoe which allows for a reduction of 40 to 50% in thickness and 25 to 30% in weight of the outsole, per Vibram’s website. This thinner outsole is no less durable and still has fantastic purchase on all surfaces except maybe significantly muddy or snowy trails. At 250 miles, there’s the slightest bit of wear showing in the heel lugs which is perfectly acceptable to me as I’m a solid heel striker, and I’ve been using the shoes extensively throughout Colorado’s Front Range trails where rocks abound. If anything, I feel that this Litebase technology gives the shoe a more agile feel than some other shoes with the more traditional Vibram Megagrip while not sacrificing an ounce of protection.

The Scarpa Spin Ultra outsole.

Scarpa Spin Ultra Overall Impressions

I’m thoroughly impressed with the Scarpa Spin Ultra. It’s truly a quiver-of-one-type shoe for me, and I’d happily take this down and up (and down and up) in the Grand Canyon in Arizona, on a tour of Hardrock 100 country in Colorado, or out my door on the rolling, smooth singletrack of the edge-of-suburbia trails where I commune with the coyotes. I love the way the shoe tackles the steep rubble and uneven slopes of the mid- and high country. I love how they protect me from slickrock and pounded-out desert trails. And I love how they roll over hilly dirt roads and easy ribbons of dirt. There’s really nothing I’d change about the Spin Ultra, and I’ll definitely stock up on another pair or two before something does change. Well done, Scarpa, on hitting the sweet spots for traction and outsole durability, midsole cushioning and responsiveness, and an accommodating yet snug-fitting, quick-draining upper. This is a shoe for the long and short adventures on your calendar.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run in the Scarpa Spin Ultra? What are your overall thoughts about the shoe?
  • Have you run in any of the other shoes in the Scarpa Spin line? If so, how would you compare the Ultra with the other models?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Scarpa Spin Ultra view from the top.

Scarpa Spin Ultra Review by Kristin Zosel.

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iRunFar | Gear by Kristin Zosel - 2w ago

The post La Sportiva Lycan GTX Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

The 2019 winter and spring will go down as one of the snowiest in recent memory here in Colorado where I live and many parts of western North America. Even Colorado’s lower-altitude Front Range has had significant snowfall several times in May. The rain won’t stop falling in places around the Northern Hemisphere, either. All this goes to say that it’s never too late in the season to test out and absolutely love the burly La Sportiva Lycan GTX ($140) trail running shoes.

The ‘GTX’ in the name means that this is a shoe with a Gore-Tex membrane. To be completely transparent, I’ve been slow to the party in embracing Gore-Tex shoes. Earlier-model Gore-Tex membranes lacked breathability and stretch, and the membrane went all the way around the foot, rendering them hot, stiff, and generally uncomfortable in all but a narrow range of conditions. One of the biggest problems of earlier Gore-Tex membranes was that water spilling in over the top of the shoe through the ankle opening tended to stay inside, bathtub-style. The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining, which is in the Lycan GTX, solves a lot of this conundrum by allowing the shoe to retain fairly impressive breathability while not sacrificing comfort or the waterproof benefits.

Interestingly, the Lycan GTX is similar to its namesake, the Lycan, perhaps only in the Tempo Last, the 6mm drop (18mm at the heel/12mm at the toe), and the wide, roomy fit as compared to other La Sportiva models. Other than that, there’s very little else that makes you think of the Lycan when you lace it on and power up the trail in adverse conditions. The Lycan GTX shoes are two to three ounces heavier per La Sportiva’s website at 10.5 ounces (297 grams) for women and 12.5 ounces (355 grams) for men. Instead of the relatively smooth outsole of the Lycan, the GTX version has a very burly, lugged outsole which is brilliant for winter conditions in my region. This shoe also has a stiffer ride than the original Lycan which decreases foot and ankle fatigue on steep, variable climbs especially in softer snow and exposed tundra. I still love the ride and appreciate the protection and traction the Lycan GTX provides, but to me, they’re very different shoes than the original and shine in completely different aspects.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

La Sportiva Lycan GTX Upper

The upper of the La Sportiva Lycan GTX is a breathable mesh with variable-size pores and microfiber reinforcements wrapping about two-thirds of the shoe. The reinforcements wrap the midfoot, with the exception of some mesh vents medially and laterally, as well as the sturdy heel counter and integrate with the stiff, protective TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toe cap. The heel counter and toe cap on the Lycan GTX provide really stable attachment points for microspikes or running snowshoes with no deformation of the toebox or pinching noted at either point of contact.

What really sets the Lycan GTX apart in performance, however, is La Sportiva’s use of the three-layer Gore-Tex Extended Comfort system within its upper. The membrane clearly offers a second line of defense for keeping dirt and sand out, as well as water. At the same time, the breathability of this whole system is excellent. When paired with appropriate gaiters, my feet have remained completely dry for up to four hours of postholing in snow, running through slush and powder of every texture, and running down a super-muddy logging road. My feet were literally dry at the end of that adventure which I’d not thought possible. Truly, as long as the water doesn’t get in over the top, the breathability allows body-generated moisture to escape without a trace while running in up to 60-degrees-Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) ambient temperatures.

The gusseted tongue feels a bit more padded and has mesh in the distal half with the microfiber overlay on the proximal half nearest the ankle. This provides significant protection from the laces and any gaiter hooks you might attach to the laces. Some have noted the laces are challenging to keep snug in cold weather, but I didn’t have issues with this in our relatively mild winter temperatures.

Lastly, the ankle collar is well-padded and unobtrusive to my medial and lateral ankle bones as well as my Achilles. The webbing hook attached to the back is handy when putting the shoes on in the cold or over slightly thicker winter socks. I also found it handy for clipping to the outside of gear bags with a solid carabiner.

The upper does have a more substantial feel than a non-GTX upper, but it snugs up comfortably to the foot without any strange folds or ‘bend’ points that are common to other waterproof shoes. The wider fit allows for ‘winter socks’ to be used alternately with more typical thicknesses of trail socks, yet never feels sloppy or loose on my foot regardless of the terrain. Overall, La Sportiva really has nailed the comfort of the upper on these Gore-Tex shoes.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX lateral upper.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX Midsole

The midsole of the Lycan GTX is an injection-molded EVA with a very similar external structure, look, and feel to the original Lycan’s midsole. The cushioning is fantastic without being boggy and is very protective over rocks and roots. The midsole is something I really enjoyed in the original Lycan, and I was glad to feel similarly about this version. Over 200 miles in, the midsole shows no cracks or compression lines medially or laterally. The accompanying 4mm Ortholite Mountain footbed is removable, but I found it to be adequately supportive of my arch and metatarsal heads over the miles.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX medial upper.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX Outsole

The outsole is perfectly suited to adverse trail conditions whether it be snow, ice, mud, or even rubbly rock. The Rock Ground outsole has pronounced, multidirectional, geometric lugs several millimeters deep and is formed with the FriXion AT 2.0 compound. True to the compound’s reputation, this outsole has demonstrated exceptional durability while feeling grippy and comfortable over any terrain I’ve run or powerhiked. The lugs are all perfectly intact even with a few hundred miles on the shoes. The Impact Brake System mitigates the pounding of downhills somewhat while maintaining excellent responsiveness in both flat and uphill terrain. I really love the beefy nature of this type of outsole on the Lycan GTX. It’s the perfect complement to the exceptional upper and the tried-and-true midsole.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX outsole.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX Overall Impressions

La Sportiva’s Lycan GTX is an expertly designed mix of comfort and protection, waterproofness and breathability, and stiffness and responsiveness. It genuinely provides a secure ride in all types of burly trail conditions and adverse weather. I haven’t noticed the increased weight simply because it’s negligible given the conditions in which I’ve typically worn them. Though the original Lycan shoes are great on smooth, buffed trails and can hold their own on a door-to-trail outing with some pavement, the only road I’d really choose to wear the Lycan GTX on is a rugged jeep road with mud and snow. They’re burly trail shoes, and terrific ones at that. Overall, I can honestly say I’m now a fan of a Gore-Tex shoe. I love lacing these up as I head out on yet another mixed-conditions run.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Are you wearing La Sportiva’s Lycan GTX on your bad-weather runs? How do you find the Gore-Tex membrane performs and how the does upper feel overall to you?
  • Do run in both the Lycan and Lycan GTX? How would you compare the two models?
  • What do you think of the Lycan GTX’s outsole? What types of conditions does it perform well in for you?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

La Sportiva Lycan GTX view from the top.

La Sportiva Lycan GTX Review by Kristin Zosel.

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iRunFar | Gear by Travis Liles - 1M ago

The post Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

Salomon gear holds a special place in my heart. There’s just something about the brand that makes me want to use it. Salomon makes shorts, packs, shirts, water bottles, shoes, and other items that are specific to trail running and ultrarunning. Pair that with their stable of top athletes and inspiring videos, and it is easy to see why Salomon has such a high profile in our niche community. So when they drop an update to a shoe focused specifically on the ultrarunning crowd, I want to see what it is all about. The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 ($180) weighs in around 10 ounces, has an 8mm drop, and features a unique color way representing sun up to sun down. In this video review, we go in depth to show off its features and discuss how this shoe performs.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review - YouTube

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review Transcript

Welcome to Trail Trials, the video-review section of iRunFar. My name is Travis Liles and in this video we’re taking a look at the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2.

As its name states, this is the second version of the S/Lab Ultra. It weighs 285 grams (10 ounces) in a men’s size 9. It’s a unisex shoe, which means that if you want to go out and grab the women’s weight–I couldn’t find it. I looked on Salomon’s website and other websites. It would be less than 285g (10 oz). There’s an 8mm drop from heel to toe. The sole measures 26mm at the heel and 18mm at the toe.

This shoe is directed mainly at the ultrarunning crowd, which I find interesting because this is another shoe from a major trail running brand that is focusing on that subsegment of the market. The shoe is part of Salomon’s S/Lab line, which is the highest caliber in terms of their materials and research and development. It’s what all of their major, professional athletes wear. In fact, this one was designed in conjunction with François D’haene, a major mountain athlete.

Even the colors of this shoe are about long distance and wearing it for a long time. That’s what the faded look is [the shoe is red at the toebox and fades to black at the heel]. It’s day to night, or night to day: that’s what they’re trying to convey with this color way. This is a shoe that you can wear for a long time for long adventures.

With those things in mind, let’s get up close and personal and see what this shoe is all about.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Outsole

Let’s start off by looking at the tread. This shoe uses what’s known as the Contagrip MA compound. This compound is meant to cover a wide variety of terrain and distances. It’s designed for durability and to be the best of everything. What I found in my testing is that the outsole is a little bit sticky, a little bit soft, and a little bit rigid. It’s supposed to hold up over time, and so far I don’t see a lot of wear patterns from it. It’s supposed to work across a lot of different terrain types. That’s done by being this middle-of-the-ground compound. It’s not really focused or specific to anything.

The lugs aren’t really deep; they’re sort of shallow but there are a lot of them. Whether you’re in a long-distance race or adventure, you’re going to encounter rocks, roots, mud, gravel, streets, pavement, a whole lot of stuff. This is a tread pattern and lug depth that work well in a lot of different scenarios, with a compound that’s supposed to hold up over a long amount of time. In my time of testing the shoe, I haven’t seen a lot of breakdown or anything anomalous.

If you’re a Salomon user, you’re probably noticing some pretty common things [with this outsole], lots and lots of lugs with this bladed look. In the back we have the reverse lugs, for braking and going downhill. Up front you’ll see the lugs are pointed and meant for climbing. They provide traction when you’re going uphill.

In the middle, you probably noticed this window that looks into the midsole. What we have here is Profeel Film–try saying that one twice. Profeel Film is a rock plate, sandwiched in the midsole. It’s not hard and a traditional plastic like a lot of rock plates you see. In fact, if you push your finger on it, you will feel it bend in there a little bit, and that’s the point. The idea is that it deflects obstacles as they poke into the bottom of it. A lot of times, a rock plate is a large, hard piece of plastic that sits there [gestures under the forefoot and midfoot]. The downside of that is when you land on things, you’re sort of forced to rock one way or the other [mimics the movement of a foot tilting at the ankle] because it doesn’t have a lot of give. This Profeel Film is meant to kind of absorb [a rock], deflect it, and push it away without being a really hard impact. You’re less likely to roll an ankle, slip, or fall because it’s not quite as aggressive a movement.

You’re going to have some feel to the ground. Even though this is an ultra shoe, this is not a max-cushion shoe and it doesn’t have a hard rock plate. You have a little ground feel. It will be muted, but it’s not a tank-like shoe where you can’t even feel what’s underneath you.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 outsole.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Midsole

As we move onto the midsole, what you’ll notice is a pretty standard foam all around. You won’t see any blocks or breaking or anything that’s meant for pronation control. That’s not really in here–it’s very much a neutral shoe. This is the Energy Cell+ foam. The intent of this midsole is to be a general-purpose foam that works for a lot of things. Again, it’s designed for long distance, so the midsole is designed for comfort and durability.

Salomon is really pushing the idea of [the shoe being intended for] ultras. It’s not a max-cushioned shoe, but in terms of Salomon’s world, this is a thicker-cushioned midsole than you’re going to find on a lot of the S/Lab stuff. A lot of the S/Lab stuff is luggier or designed for a specific kind of event, whether it’s muddy terrain or VKs [vertical kilometers] where you want speed and a precise fit. This shoe is meant more for that middle ground. If I was to classify this midsole, this is more of a classic type of midsole. It’s not really thin, and it’s not overly thick. It’s that standard type of midsole in terms of impact and cushioning and it does well in a lot of scenarios.

I wore this on some really rocky stuff. And my first 20 miles on these shoes was actually road running and they felt good, they transitioned well. The midsole is a little firmer than a Hoka One One shoe, or if you’re used to something with a lot of squish to it. This is a more responsive type of midsole. Even though it’s cushier than some of the other S/Lab models, you’re still looking at a slightly firmer, speedier feel when you’re running in these. Depending on your style, that could be exactly what you’re looking for.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 lateral upper.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Upper

Moving on to the upper, it starts with EndoFit. The EndoFit is a bootie-type construction, almost like a slipper. If you look inside the shoe, you’ll see a black [piece] down in the corners. From the top eyelet down to the bottom eyelet, this is all one [piece] wrapped inside of the shoe. The tongue is attached to a bit of a gusset on the inside. That gusset extends down all the way to the midsole. It wraps itself around and is on the other side of the midsole as well. When you slide in, one of the first things you notice is that it’s a really good fit in terms of hugging your foot and it feels sock-like. Because of that and the lack of stitching, there aren’t a lot of hot spots to be had on the inside from rubbing. Your foot really is protected inside the shoe.

Here along the sides is what’s known as the Skin Guard. The Skin Guard is this TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)-injected mesh. You can see this spiderweb all along the sides, both medial and lateral. This is meant for reinforcement of the [upper]. Instead of being just for a straight-up mesh design, this is meant for durability in high-abrasion areas. I would say it also adds some support to your foot. When you’re moving laterally, you don’t feel like you’re blowing out of the side of your shoe, which can happen sometimes in the more all-mesh types of shoes.

Moving onto the front, you’ll notice this toe bumper. Salomon continued this TPU [along the sides of the shoe] and thickened it up along the sides to a toe bumper, and that’s where the outsole comes up and connects at the front for a fairly good toe bumper. Again, it’s not a bomb-proof tank shoe, but it has enough protection to protect you from those big hits and bumping and kicking of things.

As we move our way to the back, you’ll notice that the mesh really starts to disappear and it starts to be a lot of this molded, TPU kind of rubbery material. That’s what makes up the entire heel cup. This heel cup is really interesting because there’s not a hard piece of plastic in there [demonstrates by squishing the heel of the shoe downward with one hand]. It’s really easy to fold down, but it keeps its structure from these TPU overlays.

One of the things I was not sure about when I put this shoe on was this aspect. I wasn’t sure how well it was going to be able to hold my foot in, but it does a really awesome job. It almost feels like it suction cups to the back of my heel. Depending on the heel, your results may vary. It fits the heel very well; it’s soft at the top of the heel cup. Going downhill, I didn’t feel like there was a bunch of pressure on my Achilles tendon. Because the heel cup is flexible yet sticky, it felt like it moved with my heel really well.

Moving up here to the laces, this is the classic Salomon Quicklace fit. You’ve got your lace; it’s one, big piece of lace that runs throughout the shoe. The eyelets are made of fabric–there’s nothing hard or plastic. It’s all very soft and pliable materials throughout. You get the shoe on and it has a nice, bootie-like feel. You’ve got the heel grip, you pull the lace tight, and it should hopefully cinch your foot down.

One of the things I was worried about was that because of this Quicklace system, you can’t really adjust your shoelaces up one more notch. You’re stuck with what this is, but with the heel cup along with this upper, it actually does a really awesome job of locking your foot in.

When you look slightly further forward, you see these wings that are meant to keep the upper part of your midfoot in place. This is a really sticky shoe. What I mean by that is when you put your foot in it, it feels fast and it grips. It’s able to manage hitting tough turns and downhills really quite well. If you are a previous owner of the S/Lab Ultra, what you’ll note is that one of the pairs of wings was removed [gestures toward the front of the shoe, near the bottom eyelets]. It seems there were complaints online that those were adding some restrictions in the upper. So, to give a little bit more space, Salomon removed those [second] wings and only kept the ones at the top. I would probably say that’s beneficial to more runners because this is a narrow-fitting shoe.

If you look at the shoe, it’s streamlined. If you look at the bottom, it’s not like a platform. It’s got a fairly narrow toebox and a fairly low-volume toebox as well. This is one of those things where, I would say, it’s built for speed more than comfort. You can get both, of course, it’s always going to depend on your foot type. This is definitely a slim-fit shoe.

The last thing I’ll call out on the upper is the Quicklace garage. You put the shoe on, you lace it up, and you slide the lace lock directly into the garage and it keeps them from getting snagged.

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 medial upper.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Overall Impressions

I have a couple of dislikes. One is that it’s a pretty narrow fit. Because of that, you have a low toebox; it’s a little bit narrow. The shoe itself is a little bit narrow–it’s considered a slim-fit shoe. Depending on your foot type, this just may not work for you. It could also depend on how much your foot swells over the course of an adventure. That may be something to look out for.

Another thing is that the shoe is long. What I mean by that is, I wear a size 9 in just about everything. This [gestures to the shoe he’s holding] is a 9 and I feel like a size 8.75 would be about right, but an 8.5 would be too small. Maybe it’s the unisex sizing, I’m not sure. For me, this shoe is just a little bit long but I don’t think I could do anything different because it has a low toebox and it is a little bit narrow. If I pushed my foot back more, I just don’t think I’d have enough room for my toes to wiggle.

Quickly, the laces, I just don’t feel like I have the ability to dial in the fit the exact way that I want. And the sock liner, this insole got wet and it curled up under my foot as I was descending down a steep hill [pulls it out of the shoe and tosses it over his shoulder]. That’s not great. You can glue it in with some shoe glue; I’ve done that on other shoes in the past and it works fine. It’s just annoying.

Lastly, the outsole, it works pretty well in most cases, but one place I found where it’s not so great is on really slick stuff. I’m here in Portland[, Oregon], out in the [U.S.] Pacific Northwest. Stuff gets slimy and mossy, and these things slide. There were even times where I was running on a road or a sidewalk and if it was a smooth, wet sort of area, these shoes had a little bit of slide to them that was not super-confident feeling.

Let’s look at what I do like. Well, secure fit, when you put this thing on, you feel ready to go. It’s a shoe you put on and you go, “Yep, I can run fast in this.” It’s got a smooth ride on trails and roads. I’ve worn this for a bunch of road running and trail running and it works really well on both. You feel confident and fast. When you’re on pavement, it doesn’t feel slappy or out of place. It just works for a lot of different cases.

Lastly, it looks cool. That’s a preference of mine. Not all trail shoes do. Maybe they’re really tall or they’re really bulky looking; they’re not great for just wearing around after you’ve retired them to your closet.

Call for Comments

So with that, questions? Comments? Thoughts of your own? Leave them below this video. Thanks for watching and we’ll catch you next time.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 view from top.

Salomon S/LAB Ultra 2 Review by Travis Liles.

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The post UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

It’s officially spring and time to begin dialing in the gear for long training runs, ultramarathons, and general outdoor adventures—then again, when is it NOT time for that? The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest ($99.95) is a well-designed all-around pack I’ve had the privilege of testing the past several months in conditions ranging from raging blizzards on foot and fat bike to warm, spring desert long runs. At just under $100, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more versatile, top-quality, lower-riding hydration pack that will survive about any adventure you conjure up while comfortably and securely carrying enough gear, food, and fuel to satisfy even the contingency packers among us. I have other UltrAspire packs dating back many years, and the quality of construction on the Legacy Race Vest is on par with the best of them.

The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest. All photos: iRunFar/Kristin Zosel

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Construction and Fit

The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest is a 10.4-ounce (295 grams) hydration pack that comes in black with grey mesh and red pocket liners. It’s cheaper than other similar packs on the market, but it doesn’t come with fluid containers which, on the positive side, gives you the option of ‘building it out’ as you wish. The materials used in construction maximize comfort whether you choose to wear it against more or less skin as the honeycombed, large-pore mesh material is softer than it looks and wicks sweat and moisture away really well–maybe not quite as well as the Alpha, but it’s still not an overly hot pack for as much surface area as it has for that 10 liters of gear storage.

Overall the Legacy sits a bit lower on the back than newer vest styles but cinches effectively around the body with sweat-proof webbing straps on each side (that are very easy to adjust on the fly) and two front closures utilizing metal hooks on one side and long, looped bungees on the other. A pull tab helps the user grab the front bungee cords to loop over each hook but neither side is adjustable vertically.

The top hook is relatively easy to secure, but the bottom hook on my pack tends to hide in its little location outside the front stuff pocket inside the pack’s edge (rail), so it requires bare fingers and some finagling to attach the bottom bungee. This has not gotten easier with time and use, rather the hook seems to dive inward with its placement on the pack a bit more. I’d love to have more comfortable hook mechanisms to eliminate the metal digging into my torso, particularly on the lower hook. Simply opening the hook up a bit more and placing it on the same level as the rail would likely do the trick.

The fact that they are immovable didn’t affect my comfort or fit, but having them on sliding rails might dial in the fit better for others, especially given the ‘unisex’ style. Speaking of the edges or rails, all of them are encased in a really soft micro-fiber polyester which eliminated any chafing at my neck, shoulders, or chest with the exception of the lower hook location.

The Legacy is built on the universal one-size-fits-most style not uncommon to UltrAspire’s hydration packs. The chest range listed on the website is 26 to 48 inches and in my experience, I wear it almost fully cinched at all adjustment points with my 34A chest when the pack isn’t full over a single shirt layer. This does lead to some flapping bungees while running, so I do my best to tuck or wrap them to eliminate the annoyance. I expand out the bungees in front as the load gets close to the maximum and the side cinches if it’s going on over winter layers. My husband who wears extra-large shirts comfortably used the pack on a variety of hikes and was only able to attach the top front bungee closure comfortably with a near-empty pack and the side cinches let all the way out. There’s definitely a lot of room to play with here in sizing, but those with barrel chests still may find it tough to squeeze into.

The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest back view.

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Storage and Hydration Options

The UltrAspire Legacy pack has a capacity of 10 liters/610 cubic inches of gear space and the ability to carry a two-liter reservoir in the insulated bladder compartment in the back as well as a wide variety of bottles in four different places on the pack—two pockets on either side of the back of the pack and two positions up front. As mentioned before, none of the fluid-storage options are included with the initial purchase, but because the pack comes in at a lower price point than most, you can then choose the reservoir or bottle styles and sizes you wish and add them to your purchase or just use what you already have around the house. I found the two rear pockets well able to hold standard issue 12- to 20-ounce water bottles, the UltrAspire Human 20 2.0 bottles, and other softflasks from various brands. Shorter, wider, and firmer flasks stayed secure better than tall/thin ones in the rear holders. The location of the two back side pockets is excellent from a load-balance and comfort perspective. For me, the primary challenge was getting things in and out. I’ve read several reviews stating there’s a learning curve to accessing these pockets, but for me, I’d need significantly more mobility in my shoulders. It’s still a great option, I just have to slide the pack off to get to what I’ve placed there.

The right front pockets on the UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest.

The front left side of the vest has an obvious stretch mesh bottle sleeve that keeps taller softflasks or structured bottles secure, like so many packs. Tall straw bottles work well here as well because of the two stretchy bands that sit horizontally further up that keep straws and bladder tubes controlled. Above this and between the two bands is a mesh zip pocket great for keeping keys, sunscreen, or other items secure though they are fully exposed to the elements.

The right-side front of the vest has a smooth, nylon ripstop, water-resistant burrito pocket for zipping a smaller bottle into, but I found it much better suited to my iPhone 7 (with its protective case) and some food items. Just above this pocket is the proprietary magnon pocket with a new full-vertical-length opening for super-easy access to a pill pouch or gels even with gloves. This is a great improvement over the small magnon pocket openings in the past. The magnetic pocket flap closes automatically once you remove your fingers which works well in literally any type of weather conditions.

The left front pockets on the UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest.

Overlaying both of the pockets on the front are two stretchy pouches that expand well over a pair of gloves, beanie, or almost any type of fuel. The full-length access across the top of each pocket makes it very easy to get items in and out without breaking stride. Another detail I do appreciate on this UltrAspire pack is the firm zipper tabs. They are super easy to grab while running even with gloves, and they’re weighted just enough that they don’t bounce around while running. For those who love front-storage access to all the things, the Legacy does it well.

On the back of the pack, if you choose not to use the two bottle holders for fluids, you can stuff an inordinate amount of clothing items, headlamps, food, medical supplies, and course-marking materials into the pouches and then cinch the tops with the attached bungees. Things just don’t bounce out. Lying flat against the back is a separate full-length insulated two-liter bladder pouch with routing options over both shoulders for the tube. The sleeve feels padded against your back which gives the pack a slight structure. It still folds up really well inside a carry-on pack, but there’s definitely an added level of comfort if you’re maxing out the carrying capacity of the pack for a big adventure.

The main body of the back of the pack is a large stuff pocket with a half-moon-style zipper on the top. The inside is lined with red fabric which is rather helpful when you’re rushed and searching for your black gloves, black rain shell, and black headlamp strap. The fact that I need to branch out on color schemes notwithstanding, everything is easier to find with a red background, so stuff it all here including your thin puffy coat and you’ll still be able to find it easily at an aid station. Overlying this pocket is one more lesser-volumed pocket with a long vertical zipper. It’s also lined in red and has a clip for keys or other important things. It easily holds a shell and several other items you want quick and easy access to. Nothing back here is waterproof, but there’s enough water resistance from the silicone and polyurethane-coated nylon fabrics that misty rain will stay out of the pack for a while.

Lastly, there’s a very effective way for storing folded poles horizontally across the bottom of the pack via two looped bungees with easy-to-manipulate toggles. The loops are tacked down to the bottom of the pack at the bottom of each loop with a strip of webbing further enhancing the security of your poles while stabilizing any tendency for bounce. I was able to get my poles in and out of these bungees while running, but as I tend to catch a toe now and then, I preferred to stop for the few seconds it took to get them in or out.

All of the pockets on the back of the UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest.

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Overall Impressions

This UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest is a one that can literally go all day with you in the mountains, on trails, as you mountain bike, or even as a small run-commute pack (an iPad would fit well). It bridges the old-school fit—sitting lower on the back—with newer vest-style hydration and fuel-storage options on the front which blends really positive aspects of old and new. For the most part, the Legacy really does accommodate a wide variety of sizes from women’s small to men’s extra large. There are still those, however, at either end of the spectrum who might find the sizing still lacking. The only changes (besides a more options in sizing) that I’d personally want to make to the UltrAspire Legacy involves the hook closures on the front as stated earlier. All in all, the Legacy is a well-constructed, comfortable, durable, bounce-free hydration pack for all-around adventures of varying distances and modes of travel in any season. It’s worth your time to investigate.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run in the UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest? If so, what are your overall impressions of the pack?
  • How does the unisex sizing work for you?
  • What specific features of the pack do you really like, and what do you think could use a little work?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces packs, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest.

UltrAspire Legacy Race Vest Review by Kristin Zosel.

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The post Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

I see the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 ($140) on a lot of feet these days, including on my local, groomed trails and trudging through the mud and technical terrain of an island in the Pacific Ocean. The Speedgoat has certainly gained a following for its versatility. In this third version of the do-it-all trail shoe, we see only slight tweaks to version two’s formula. The tread and midsole stay exactly the same save for the drop changing from 4.5 to 4mm. For those unfamiliar with this bottom-package combination, this means a maximal shoe with responsive cushioning and a very capable tread pattern built on the Vibram Megagrip compound. The upper sees changes to provide better midfoot lockdown and some more comfort in the toes and heels, at a cost of an extra ounce of shoe. Watch the video to learn more about the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Review - YouTube

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Review Transcript

Hey and welcome to Trail Trials, and on today’s video we are going to take a look at the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3. This is a 10.3-ounce (men’s size 9) and 9.1-ounce (women’s size 7) shoe. It has a 4mm drop and some updates to the upper. With that information, let’s get into it and see what this shoe is all about.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 3. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Outsole

I think the best place to start is on the tread. If you are someone who has worn the Speedgoat 2, if you look at it from the bottom, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the 2 and the 3. To illustrate that, here’s the 2 and here’s the 3 [shows both models]. You can see they are identical or practically identical. You’ve to a little bit [of variation] maybe in the designs here, but for the most part, you’re looking at exactly the same types of lugs, lug depth, and material, which is the Vibram Megagrip.

I like this tread pattern. I like this lug depth. I like this compound quite a lot. It works in a variety of different areas. This summer, I wore the Speedgoat 2s crossing half the state of Oregon via the Pacific Crest Trail. I wore Speedgoats on all dry trail, rocky, sandy, and a little bit of everything, and these shoes held up great. In January, I ran a race over in Hawaii, and it was muddy, wet, lots of rocks, and lots of roots, and I think these things did as well as just about anything else I could have worn. The nice thing about that is you just have a really good go-to tread pattern that works well across lots of different types of terrain. I think they’ve done a really nice job with that.

For specifics, you have your uphill lugs here, your downhill lugs in the back for braking—grabs here and grabs there [pointing to the front and back of the outsole]—some various patterns in the middle for varied terrain and those types of things. There are cutouts in the areas where maybe you don’t need a lug because it’s in an area where you’re not toeing off of or braking with that middle part of your heel, so they’ve removed that for weight-saving purposes.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 outsole.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Midsole

Let’s switch over to the midsole. The midsole is listed by Hoka as a neutral midsole. There are no other compounds in here or different types of foam with different hardnesses to create a post or anything like that. This is listed as a neutral shoe. In terms of between cushion and hardness, this shoe stops right there in the middle. It’s not overly cushy, and it’s not overly hard. What does that mean? That means it’s not going to be the most cushion you can get from Hoka, but it’s also not the hardest. You’ve got a little bit of responsiveness, and you’ve got a bit of cushion for the long haul, which that’s what this shoe is built for. This is the Speedgoat. It’s named after Karl Meltzer. Karl is the 100-mile guy with a lot of 100-mile wins to his name. That’s the intent here. This is a shoe that is built for comfort, agility, speed, and the best of everything.

As we work our way around, you can see it’s a very simple foam. There is no rock plate in here. I will say based off of wearing this shoe a lot and being in varied terrain, from very extreme stuff to regular, the lack of rock plate is not really noticed. I think that’s going to be the case on most maximal-cushioned shoes because it takes a lot for a rock or a thorn or anything like that to poke through the rubber. If it does happen to poke through one of these types of spots, it has a long way to go before it actually gets into the shoe itself. No rock plate, but I don’t really notice it at all.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 lateral upper.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Upper

Where this shoe is really different from the Speedgoat 2 is in the upper. The upper has had, I would say, some nice changes, which is this little area right in here [points to cutout notches in the midfoot part of the upper]. It’s really just these cutouts here. The point is, it really grabs and makes a little better pull onto your foot with a little more midfoot stability. Hoka actually says the difference between the 2 and the 3 is improved midfoot and improved heel. I always liked the 2 and thought the 2 locked down the foot pretty well, but this goes just a little bit farther and gives even a little more snug of a feel to it, which I really like. Again, it’s not overly noticeable or an overly tight-fitting shoe compared to the Speedgoat 2, but there is enough refinement to warrant a nice little upgrade.

The heel, I don’t really notice a whole lot there. I didn’t have any problems with the heel, but they’ve said the heel has a little bit of a better fit in this version over the other.

The place where I struggled with these and where I still continue to struggle is this little piece of fabric right here [points to fabric area in toebox part of upper]. I don’t know why it’s there, and I wish they would take it away. However, there is a little bit more room in this toebox over the last version, just a little bit taller than it was before. But this piece of fabric here, I feel like my toe is always getting caught a little bit on it. It’s really just on my right foot. My left foot doesn’t have it, but all feet are different. My only sort of ding on this shoe is this little thing here.

Overall, it’s really good. You can see this rand runs all the way around the shoe does a nice job for mud and keeping gunk from being in there while also creating a bumper to make sure when you’re kicking toes on rocks and stuff you’ve got a little bit of solid material to keep it from coming in.

In my previous Speedgoat 2 review, one of the things I noted was that I was having early signs of wear in the very early miles on the shoe. They actually updated that in the second round of color release in the Speedgoat 2 and made a very similar pattern in what we see in this overlay and they removed some of the pinch points that existed before. What I can say in my testing of this shoe to date, which is quite a bit, we aren’t seeing any of that premature wear that I experienced with the last ones.

A couple other things I’ll point out here is a slightly refined tongue—a little more smoother and a little wider and wraps around the top of your foot better. It’s still not gusseted, which I wish they would do, but it’s not the case here. So again, it’s a really, really minor update, I would say, to this shoe overall, but it is enough to warrant a nice little upgrade because it does wrap around the foot a little bit better and again, it does—for those who are looking for it–have a little more refinement in the heel and just a bit more room in the toe.

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 medial upper.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Overall Impressions

In closing, if you liked the Speedgoat 2s, you’ll like the 3s. There isn’t a whole lot that has really been changed here. You have a slightly better-fitting upper. It’s a little more streamlined. You have a little bit better-fitting heel and a little bit more room in the toebox here. If you were someone who were in on the early parts of the Speedgoat 2s before they made the update around the toe and had some of that blowing-out area, this seems to be doing just fine. I wore the Speedgoat 3s for a pretty rough race at the HURT 100 Mile, and they look fine. They survived some pretty nasty conditions there. I’m super pleased.

What I would say about this shoe, if you haven’t worn the Speedgoat before, this is a pretty good all-around trail shoe. If you want a little bit more cushion, obviously you know what you’re getting into with the Hoka, but this thing does well with a lot of things. I travel a lot for work, and this is the shoe that tends to go with me because it’s not that heavy. The tread and the grip isn’t so deep that it affects running on the road. It works well in technical and rocky conditions. I’ll wear it on the treadmill. It works in a lot of places. That’s why it’s the shoe I generally grab for when I don’t know what I’m getting into.

Call for Comments

Questions, comments, your own experiences? Leave them below this video. Thanks for watching, and we’ll catch you next time.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 view from the top.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 Review by Travis Liles.

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The post Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

Patagonia is known for incredibly functional, technically innovative, outdoor-adventure gear, but trail running packs have perhaps been further down on the list. I don’t believe they’ve had a new running pack on the market since 2016, and I can’t say any of those prior packs worked well for me. This has all changed, though. Just released are two new packs for this spring, the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L ($169) and the Patagonia Slope Runner Vest 4L ($139), and both are well worth your attention.

This review focuses on the Slope Runner Pack 8L, which I can confidently say that I love. This snug, low-profile vest-style pack is well-suited to a long, self-supported day in the mountains or rugged ultramarathons where three or more hours between aid stations is common. The ride is smooth with any volume of gear; the pockets are easily accessible; and its ample storage allows me to pack for contingencies as I am wont to do.

The Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L. All photos: iRunFar/Kristin Zosel

Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Construction and Fit

The Slope Runner Pack 8L comes in a cave-grey color with yellow almost-padded piping around the edges. Its lightweight construction consists of 1.3-ounce 100% nylon ripstop with a polyurethane coating and durable water repellant (DWR) finish for the pack’s main body–this feels like an uber-light rain-jacket-type material–and 6.1-ounce highly breathable 100% nylon high-flex monofilament mesh for the smooth panels lying next to the body. These materials allow it to weigh in at an advertised 7 ounces/200 grams for 8 liters (488 cubic inches) of storage. Stretch mesh makes up the rest of the storage pockets, which gives the entire pack an airy feel. No matter what layers I wear beneath the pack (usually at least a short-sleeve shirt but often more layers this winter), I’ve never had the slightest chafing anywhere. My treadmill test with the pack over only a sports bra confirmed just how well the body-mapped monofilament mesh—with strategically placed ‘bumps and ridges’ through the back panel—breathes and wicks moisture and how comfortable the pack truly is next to the skin.

The unisex pack comes in four sizes (XS, S, M, L) with significant adjustment options in the chest and torso closures and the two lateral cinches located in both side pockets to further personalize the fit. Patagonia simplified the front closures down to a sleek, thin bungee that allows for seven heights of attachment loops on the right side to which the two opposite-side webbing cords latch onto via a simple plastic hook. It took me a few times to get adept at efficiently hooking the closure, especially with gloves on, but once my preferred loops were used a few times, they stood out a bit and it was simple and easy to close.

Though the Slope Runner 8L is a unisex pack, it feels and rides like a women’s-specific pack to me, which is really exciting because more often than not packs that are advertised to have unisex fits still feel like they are made more for men than both men and women equally. It hugs in all the right places yet doesn’t restrict wide ribcage movements during mountain-running-sized breaths as I climb up high. In fact, the pack doesn’t feel restrictive anywhere even though it rides a bit higher than some packs. I received a size medium which I wear very comfortably with a 34A sports-bra size, but I like my packs to have ample room for cinching due to the harsh four-season climate we have and my tendency toward wearing several layers on top. I could also size down to a small and still have plenty of room for my neck/upper shoulders while getting the pack on and off without strain.

The Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L back view.

Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Storage and Hydration Options

Patagonia ensures you have multiple options when it comes to hydration storage. It comes with a two-liter HydraPak reservoir that fits smoothly into a roomy hydration sleeve inside the large back clamshell pocket. It is very easy to get the bladder in and out on the fly. The bladder and top closure create no pressure or discomfort against my back even with a fully loaded pack on steep, grinding climbs. Tunnels route the reservoir tube over either shoulder and into guides that keep the tube on one side or allow for crossover to aid in drinking ease.

Just above the hydration sleeve within the large rear pocket is a small zip-closure pouch perfectly sized for keys (clip included), credit cards and cash, or even a phone. I use this every time I wear my pack to stash my small essentials securely with no bounce on the run. It’s not a waterproof location, so I use a Ziploc baggie for protection. The large rear zip pocket easily carries a bag of Microspikes (with no jingling), a synthetic puffy, extra hat and gloves, headlamp, and/or many food items. Overlying the main portion of the pack is a stretchy mesh pocket for a shell or other thin layers. Whether the large compartment is completely full or nearly empty, the pack rides close to my body and remains bounce free at any pace.

The last feature on the backside of the pack worth mentioning is the ability to lash poles or even an ice axe via the webbing loops with pull tabs which are continuous with other loops near the bottom of the pack. I didn’t use this feature during my runs and tend to prefer my poles on the front of my pack for quick, shoulder-friendly access.

The front of the pack offers added hydration-storage options. Two stretchy sleeves—one on either side—hold 16- to 20-ounce softflasks with ease. I found the tall, more tubular flasks to work significantly better than ones with a shorter and wider profile. The smoothness of the soft stretch mesh means the bottles are easy to remove and replace, while elasticized openings keep the bottles from migrating out even while running downhill. Layered over the bottom half of the water-bottle sleeves are two pockets for fuel options and miscellaneous smaller items. One thing to note: the only time the filled softflasks are mildly challenging to place in the sleeves is if these pockets are full of bulky items such as bars or large packets of chews. If speed is of the essence, I often find it more efficient to take the items out, drop in the bottles, then reload the pockets. This eliminates the need for significant dancing around.

An ingenious zippered phone/electronics pocket lies behind the left flask sleeve flush against the chest. It’s a snug fit for my iPhone 7, but I absolutely love it because my phone is on the front of my body yet not stealing room from anything else I prefer to have in the front of my pack. Once I’m running, I don’t feel it at all and it’s relatively protected from a ground fall by the softflask in front of it. Of note, the pocket isn’t moisture proof.

The front pockets of the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L.

One more roomy stash pocket runs along each side of the vest-style pack connecting front to back. The stretchy pockets have upward-facing openings that keep contents secure yet allow same-side hand access. I did find this opening took some time to ‘break in.’ The first month I had the pack, I could barely get my thumb and finger into the opening, which made getting gels or chews out nearly impossible without removing the pack. With frequent use, I now have no issues getting small bars, ear bands, or trash in and out while on the run yet everything remains secure. I’m liking these two side pockets more every time I use them.

One of the two side pockets on the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L.

Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Overall Impressions

I’m really excited Patagonia is back in the ultrarunning hydration-pack competition. This is a superbly comfortable, all-day, self-supported running pack with enough easy-to-reach storage options to keep racing efficient and aid-station time to a minimum. I love the way the pack silently carries Microspikes, a puffy layer, and extra snacks for the variable icy and snowy conditions our ‘long run’ trails can’t seem to shake with this legitimate winter we are having, and I love how the low-profile, breathable pack remains stable when the pockets are barely filled during those glorious-weather days that peak out and reassure us that spring is indeed coming. Well done, Patagonia!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run in the Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L yet? If so, what are your overall thoughts on the pack? Or, have you tried its ‘little sibling,’ the Slope Runner Vest 4L?
  • Both men and women, how has the pack or vest fit you with its unisex sizing?
  • What are your thoughts on the various storage options on the front and back of the pack?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces packs, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L.

Patagonia Slope Runner Pack 8L Review by Kristin Zosel.

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The post NordicTrack X22i Treadmill Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

I know what you’re thinking… what on earth is iRunFar doing? It isn’t lost on us that reviewing an indoor exercise machine is the farthest thing from exploring the natural beauty that this website’s community lives for. But most of us also know that a treadmill can give us an opportunity to maintain and build fitness when outdoor running isn’t recommended or possible due to weather, life logistics, and more.

When I was first approached to test the NordicTrack X22i Treadmill ($2,999), I snickered at the idea that I could possibly build mountain-running fitness on a treadmill. My past experiences on treadmills ran the gamut from using incredibly expensive Woodway treadmills in college to being forced inside due to frigid temperatures when I lived in the midwestern United States. It never gelled, and the most I could ever bang out was around eight miles. I felt awkward on the treadmill, and any attempt at fast running made me worry that I’d face plant.

The NordicTrack X22i Treadmill is not your normal treadmill, though, and it’s become a useful tool for both regular run training and training for mountain running–especially for mountain-running training. What follows is my experience with the X22i Treadmill over the course of the last year as I trained for both mountain ultramarathons and a road marathon. I’ll discuss what I’ve enjoyed about this treadmill in particular as a training tool, and I also have some criticisms for some of its shortcomings. Additionally, I reached out to professional ultrarunner Kyle Pietari to discuss his experiences with the treadmill over the past few years and how he incorporates this tool into his busy life and training.

The author on the NordicTrack X22i Treadmill at home. Photo: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan

Nordic Track X22i Treadmill Physical Components

I can honestly say that running on the NordicTrack X22i Treadmill is the first time I’ve enjoyed training on a treadmill. Its wide and long belt (22 inches x 60 inches) feels secure, even while doing things like strides at 5:00/mile pace, and NordicTrack’s Reflex Cushioning technology means that I end workouts feeling less beat up than I would if I had done the workout on the roads. The treadmill itself is large and feels solid all around. It shakes very little, even when I’m running at a high incline, and I haven’t experienced any durability issues in a year of consistent use.

Did I mention that it goes up to a 40% incline? Let’s talk about this incline a bit, because it’s no joke and it’s what makes this treadmill a real tool for mountain runners. In fact, at 40% I can barely stay on the treadmill at a hiking pace without using the sidebars for balance. However, the fact that you can train at such ridiculous inclines is really valuable and translates well to hiking up the steeps in races. The treadmill’s decline goes to a much more normal -6%.

Another feature that sets this treadmill apart from others is the ability to select specific speeds and inclines with the push of a button. On the right side of the console are 12 buttons for speed, one to 12, and if I want to run 8:00/mile pace I just hit the ‘7’ button followed by the ‘5’ button for 7.5 miles per hour. This works great on the fly and the treadmill’s speed ratchets up and down more quickly than other treadmills I’ve tried, making intervals a bit more real feeling. On the left side of the console are 12 more buttons to select your incline and decline, everything from -6% up to the dreaded 40%. Although there are also the typical up-and-down arrow buttons to change the speed and incline, being able to press a button once to go up to 10% is really quick and convenient. The touch screen allows one to toggle through various settings in manual mode to see pretty customized data including total ascent, distance, time, pace, heart rate, and more.

I was thankful for the dual fans at the bottom of the console that I’ve used for every single run. They actually work and I haven’t managed to short any of the electronics out with excessive sweating.

NordicTrack makes four models of basically the same treadmill, but with different-size touchscreens. The X22i, the model I tested, has a 22-inch screen. The smallest screen, on the X11i, is 10 inches, and the largest screen on the X32i is, perhaps you guessed it, 32 inches. You probably can also guess that the models get much more expensive as the screens get larger.

Image: NordicTrack

Nordic Track X22i Treadmill iFit Software

Okay, let’s start with the screen upon which you interact with the treadmill’s software. The 22-inch screen on the model I tested was absolutely beautiful with a clear picture and snazzy graphics. The first thing you do when you’re programming the treadmill is to connect it to wifi, but, for whatever reason, NordicTrack did not include a web browser! So, don’t plan on streaming or even accessing YouTube. At first this seemed incredulous, so I called NordicTrack last year and customer service told me that this update had not come out yet. If NordicTrack did include a web browser this would be a huge upgrade, as the high-quality touchscreen and speakers do provide a nice viewing experience.

NordicTrack’s proprietary software is called iFit and is touted as an ‘all-in-one’ coaching service. For a $15/month subscription, you can access studio classes, virtual coaching, and destination workouts. I explored some of the free guided runs, including a three-mile jaunt through some of Silverton, Colorado’s trails, and as I ran the treadmill changed grade quite quickly on the rolling trail. It is fun to be able to look at actual scenery of the beautiful trail, however, the whole experience seems a bit wonky as the scenery does not stream past, but rather provides screenshot-style Google images. While NordicTrack clearly believes that users are in the market for ‘professional trainers’ and ‘personalized’ run training, I never found the urge to pay for the iFit service to be able to access the 16,000 on-demand workouts. Instead, I used the treadmill in manual mode and did my normal training.

iFit also has an app that pairs with the treadmill to see your training data. I found this app fairly useless as it doesn’t communicate with any popular training logs such as Strava. If I wanted to upload a workout from iFit to Strava, it involved downloading and converting a file and then uploading it to Strava.

The treadmill also comes with an iFit heart-rate monitor that works very well as far as immediately picking up my heart rate when putting it on and it seems very accurate in tracking quick increases and decreases in my heart rate during intervals. Unfortunately, I’ve had major issues with the iFit heart-rate strap which, for whatever reason, seems to cut into my skin a bit and has left some welts. I’ve tried putting various lubes on the chest strap, but this keeps happening. It could be completely particular to my body, but I don’t have this issue with my Suunto chest strap and I think the fabric of the iFit strap is more abrasive.

Image: NordicTrack

Nordic Track X22i Treadmill Overall Impressions

I started training on the NordicTrack X22i Treadmill last February while training for a 100k race with about 16,000 feet of climbing. Starting with little mountain fitness, I practiced getting my legs under me by jacking the incline up above 20% and trying to maintain a little over three miles per hour. I was amazed at how my pulse shot up to 160 beats per minute and I was able to build mountain legs, all while my kids played on the floor next to me.

Since then, the NordicTrack X22i Treadmill has really helped me keep my training consistent. After a long day at work and facing a run in the cold and darkness where I live in Colorado, the ability to just throw on shorts and shoes and feel like I’m doing some parenting means that I’m much less likely to bail on the run. This has been the case this winter as I’ve been training for a marathon. With slick conditions and frigid temperatures in the mornings, I’ve moved most of my speed workouts to the treadmill. Despite Jack Daniels’s treadmill-conversion formula, I find that fast paces on the treadmill are actually quite difficult for me, but those paces transfer with ease once I get outside.

If you’re struggling with balance in your family, work, and running, this treadmill can be a valuable tool that has really acted as a reason to not skip runs when I’m struggling with going out in the dark. While the retail price may seem daunting, NordicTrack offers 0% financing options so you don’t have drop $3,000 all at once.

NordicTrack X11i Treadmill Feedback From Kyle Pietari

If per chance you follow the ultra-consistent ultrarunner Kyle Pietari, then you know that treadmill training is common practice for him. His social media shows several photos of him literally wearing two of his children while hiking on his NordicTrack x11i Treadmill. As a competitive ultrarunner, Kyle has been involved with NordicTrack. Kyle received an X11i Treadmill from NordicTrack in 2017 in exchange for his honest and unbiased feedback. As previously mentioned, the X11i is in the same incline-trainer group of treadmills at the X22i reviewed in this article, but it has a smaller touch screen.

I reached out to Kyle to get his thoughts about training on the X11i and to assess the durability of this hefty investment. “I’ve had my X11i Treadmill for nearly two years. The hardware has always seemed well built, and provides a great feel. I’ve had no issues with the hardware,” he said.

I was surprised by Kyle’s take on treadmill training in general, “I’m a big proponent of treadmills for ultra training. I think for trail runners, using steep incline grades on a treadmill is the best way to practice powerhiking. I learned from my treadmill that 30 minutes at a 30% grade is brutal for me, which means I have a lot of room to improve my powerhiking.”

When talking more specifically about his thoughts on uphill training, Kyle says, “I typically do my interval/speed sessions on uphill grades, whether outside or on a treadmill. I think being able to avoid the downhill during many of those workouts is key to optimizing my cardiovascular strength and avoiding injury. In general, I think trail/ultrarunners would ideally run a lot more uphill than downhill in training. Downhill training is important, but a little bit goes a long way. Uphill training, however, can be done very frequently to maximize fitness. The injury risk and cumulative damage to the body is lower with uphill running than flat or downhill running, but the cardio benefits are greater. Using a treadmill to do more uphill and less downhill, especially at high intensities, might improve longevity as a runner. Just think about Kilian Jornet, who hammers steep uphills during ski-mountaineering season, but gets none of the downhill pounding since he glides down the mountains on skis. Then, when he transitions to running season, his cardio fitness is already world-class, but his legs are fresh from a long period with minimal pounding. Most people can apply this skimo-inspired principle using a treadmill.”

The ability to work training into a busy career and family schedule is also a bonus to Kyle, “Aside from being useful for powerhike training and optimizing my uphill-to-downhill ratio, having a treadmill helps me fit my training into my busy schedule. I usually can’t run outside when I’m responsible for all three of my kids, but sometimes I can hop on the treadmill. I also love doing uphill hikes wearing my kids on my back and/or chest (weight-vest training). Finally, running takes less time out of my day if I use my treadmill instead of running outside, since I don’t have to worry about bathroom stops, packing water, or dressing for the weather.”

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run on any of NordicTrack’s incline-trainer treadmills, such as the X22i? If so, what are your overall impressions on the experience of running on them?
  • And how about the treadmill’s specific features, such as its incline and decline, belt, screen, iFit software, and more? How have all these specific parts of the treadmill performed for you?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Photo: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan

NordicTrack X22i Treadmill Review by Tom Caughlan.

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The post New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

New Balance released a new all-purpose trail shoe last July, and it’s been on heavy rotation in my trail-shoe collection since I received it in the late fall. I’ve enjoyed the New Balance Summit Q.O.M. ($119.99) as my all-around shoe here in the Front Range of Colorado and in the desert-mountain parks outside Phoenix, Arizona. It’s been a comfortable option on jeep roads, crushed gravel, off-camber red rock, and mountain singletrack. It’s not an aggressive mud/snow shoe, and it’s not a racing flat, but it’s like a jump shot around the perimeter—easy to put up (on), typically on target (the right choice for the usual conditions), and you can count on them to do the job (score the miles).

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. women’s shoe, and the K.O.M. shoe for men, makes me think of a trimmed-down version of the discontinued Leadville shoe or even the 910 v4. True to New Balance’s history, the shoe is available in B and D widths in men’s and women’s which should allow those with a wider foot a solid opportunity for a proper fit. At 9.2 ounces for the U.S. women’s size 8 (10.9 ounces in U.S. men’s size 9), the Summit Q.O.M. is sturdy enough to hold up over tough miles and distances while not being so heavy as to weigh a runner down. The 8mm drop and a stack height of 16mm forefoot/24mm heel are gentle on the Achilles tendons and low enough to the ground that you can respond easily to the variations underfoot without being surprised or beat up by them. For me, it’s enough ground feel to avoid awkward ankle turns and twists at any pace but there’s plenty of cushioning and protection so my foot bones are happy even 20 rocky miles later. There is also a GTX model available at $134.99.

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Upper

The upper gets the most attention in this review because unlike some shoes, there’s a fair amount going on. The bumper has been reinforced with Toe Protect, a sturdy, structured strip with an extended rand which continues as one of the thinner overlays in the forefoot. There is nothing flimsy about this protection, and it would absolutely hold up against anything Black Canyon, Arizona or Moab, Utah might throw at you. The bulk of the upper is constructed with varying thicknesses and densities of mesh that do a great job of keeping sand and grit out. Most of that mesh is covered by significant overlays through the heel that also wrap around the midfoot into the lacing. While this isn’t a ‘stability shoe’ per se, there is a fair amount of support for the midfoot and heel present. Those who notice midfoot fatigue or increased pronation when the miles and uneven terrain take their toll may feel that this is just enough added support that some of fatigue-related changes are averted. Interestingly, the wraps also add significant protection if you run in areas with a lot of jagged rock or cactus. The overlays even successfully fought off multiple attacks by the evil cholla that litter every trail I seem to choose outside of Phoenix. With all this protection does come some decrease in moisture drainage. Creek crossings and slushy snow tend to stay inside the shoe for awhile once they’ve made it past the barriers, so if I were to use these in a race with several water crossings, I’d likely have a second pair of shoes for later in the race.

The heel counter is very structured which further enhances the stability of the shoe, yet it never seems forceful in its presence. There is a relatively low-profile Achilles notch and padded ankle collar. The sock liner inside the shoe extends up and over this which provides a smooth surface interacting with the ankle bones if you choose lower socks. The moderately padded tongue is gusseted to the uppermost lacing hole and stays exactly where you put it when you first tie your shoes. The laces also have a bit of a sausage-style look which also ensures they stay tied the first time you tie them.

Two minor drawbacks within the upper are as follows. The removable insole provides the standard bit of extra cushioning, but overall I found it somewhat underwhelming due to the minimal arch support provided. Over 15 to 20 miles, my high arches were wishing for more support. Secondly, although widths are offered, the shape of the toebox is noticeably tapered medially and laterally which likely means going up a half size for many people. I’d love to see a slightly more natural foot shape to the end of the toebox. That plus a bit more support through the insole and arch would make these shoes unstoppable over any distances for me.

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. lateral upper.

New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Midsole

The midsole of the Summit Q.O.M. is constructed from New Balance’s innovative foam compound called REVLite. The cushioning is lighter weight than standard EVA yet provides a significant amount of responsive cushioning while remaining on the firmer end of the spectrum. I absolutely love the ride on anything from dirt and jeep roads to singletrack with solid elevation change. With the ROCKSTOP layer beneath the midsole (a semi-flexible rock plate), I also felt well protected when running on rock slabs in slickrock-style running and on the pointy-rock desert trails.

My love of this ride lasted about 250 miles and then the midfoot flex point, where there’s a cut into the outsole (also aligned with where you push off), seemed to fatigue and ultimately break down. This resulted in some midfoot pain in both beet upon push-off due to a lack of midsole support at the flex point (or point of push-off) that was only present in these shoes. I’m not certain what the ‘easy fix’ is here, but the upper and outsole are absolutely bomber and made to last significantly more miles, so if this aspect was improved, again, these shoes could be unstoppable.

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. medial view.

New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Outsole

Multidirectional triangular lugs of approximately 4 to 5mm depth cover the entire outsole and are made from the high-performance rubber compound well-known in the ultra-trail world—Vibram Megagrip. It’s really the perfect choice for the outsole of a shoe designed to be the only one in your closet. The balance between stability and ground adaptation is noticeable when you get on the more rugged trails, and the excellent traction on both wet and dry ground is remarkable especially in our stormier seasons here. The durability is unmatched and even at 300 miles, there are almost no signs of wear on the outsole. The beveled heel is apparent when looking at the sole and is designed to ease the heel-toe transition. I found it to be very effective and comfortable.

As a side note, I found the comfort of this shoe’s ride to vary with the wide temperature changes we have this time of year. The shoes were most comfortable and responsive in the 45-plus degree Fahrenheit range but felt much stiffer below 40 degrees. This is a marked change compared to my other trail shoes. I store my current trail-shoe quiver in the house (sorry, family) to mitigate the effects of low temperatures on midsoles, but it didn’t seem to help with this. I’ve been of the opinion for a few years now that the Vibram Megagrip sole also generally feels stiffer below 30 to 40 degrees, so perhaps this was a primary contributing factor.

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. outsole.

New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Overall Impressions

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. is a burly, everyday trail and mountain-running shoe with excellent grip and traction for most conditions. It is relatively lightweight for the protection and durability offered and is designed to be a contender for a ‘quiver of one.’ For the most part, it fits the bill… but I’d love to get more than 250 miles out of it from the midsole flex-point perspective. As I mentioned earlier, making the toebox more foot shaped will allow a larger range of runners to be happy in the shoe especially since it is offered in B and D widths. Though there’s not as much ‘stability’ built into the single-density midsole, I think those who miss the New Balance Leadville shoe can still find their support needs met thanks to the well-engineered overlays. Overall, it’s a great option for those looking for a workhorse shoe.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run in the New Balance Summit Q.O.M or K.O.M.? What do you generally think of the shoe?
  • What details of the shoe do you really like, and what do you think could be improved?
  • Have you noticed any problems with the midsole breaking down at its flex point, like Kristin has?
  • What do you think of the Vibram Megagrip outsole performance?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The New Balance Summit Q.O.M. view from the top.

New Balance Summit Q.O.M. Review by Kristin Zosel.

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The post Ultimate Direction Utility Belt Review appeared first on iRunFar.com.

Running waist belts are not a new idea or technology, but they have certainly gotten more streamlined and usable over the past year or so. While ‘fanny packs’–or ‘bum bags’ as they are known in fell running–have long been a part of some runners’ kits, several companies have most recently adapted the idea into the functional and minimal ‘waist belt.’ These belts have really expanded on the possibilities of waist belts in functional carrying capacity and lightweight comfort, and they have become a very functional way to carry a bit of extra gear for medium-long runs and foul-weather outings.

In the last half year, I’ve tested out several belts from industry leaders, choosing them for their custom sizing, light weight, and their ability to carry poles. You see, I still haven’t found a pole-carrying option on a pack to my liking (though I haven’t yet tried the Salomon custom quiver), and being able to store poles on a belt theoretically seems like the easiest option. After a lot of testing, one belt has emerged as a piece of daily essential gear, the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt ($39.95)

The front of the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt. All photos: iRunFar/Tom Caughlan

The first thing I noticed about the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt is how lightweight (2.25 ounces) and wide it is. A size medium (28.7 to 31.8 inches) felt barely there, and once I started loading the belt it felt even more secure. The width of the belt really seemed to spread the weight of what I was carrying well and kept the belt from bunching up around my midsection. The combination of a very soft nylon/spandex mix and flat seams means that I didn’t experience any skin irritation while wearing this belt underneath my shirt and directly on my skin.

The durable stretch mesh has a simple, four-pocket pocket design with the outer lip of the belt significantly higher than the lower lip. This helps things like phones, keys, and gels stay secure, but it also makes sliding things in and out while running much easier. There are multiple pockets which can accommodate a 500-milliliter soft flask and it isn’t difficult to get the flask in or out on the run. Previously, I’d enjoyed carrying a flask in the Nathan VaporKrar WaistPak, but found it difficult at times to get a flask back into the belt after drinking. With the Utility Belt I can stuff a flask into the front or back pocket without issue.

The back of the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt.

The Utility Belt is also the first system and only belt I’ve tried that securely carries poles without any bouncing. Nothing can make you feel more like an over-geared fool than your poles flailing out of their straps. With my poles secure in the Utility Belt, I hardly noticed them while running. I tested the security of these loops while running at faster paces and down hills to see if they would bounce out, and no matter which brand of poles I used, they stayed in place. I like being able to twist the belt around my body on the run to secure the poles and then store the poles on my back so they are out of the way. Ultimate Direction seemed to nail the design on these belt loops by keeping them closer together and making them elasticized just enough to not require a great struggle to get them in and out. After about four months of use, the loops aren’t wearing out or fraying.

A side pocket on the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt.

Overall Impressions

I do really like the concept of the waist belts as they allow us to free our backs from the burden of a pack. You have better ventilation with a belt on, and I feel like my center of gravity is better without a pack. It’s a great combination with a handheld bottle, and this is a set-up that will work well for most runners aside from their longest runs and races.

Out of the three belts I tested, the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt is the only one I can recommend. Its simplicity in design and function has made it a go-to piece of gear for me this fall and winter. Being able to throw my phone, some food, and my keys in this barely there belt keeps me from caring what shorts or pants I’m running in and whether or not they have pockets. I’m not showing any wear or tear on the belt and it seems incredibly well made and equally comfortable over or under my shirt directly on my waist. My only small request would be to put a thin, waterproof membrane on the inside of one pocket against the skin to protect electronics like a phone from sweat and grime. I typically have quite a bit of condensation on my phone and inside the case after a run, and it would be nice if this were remedied. The Utility Belt is a great piece of gear, and if I misplaced it I would certainly buy another.

An Ultimate Direction Utility Belt pocket close-up.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Have you run in the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt? If so, what are your thoughts on its overall fit and feel?
  • What do you think of the pockets and what you are able to comfortably carry in them?
  • Do you store poles on your Utility Belt? How does this feature perform for you?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Poles stowed on the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt’s elastic straps.

Ultimate Direction Utility Belt Review by Tom Caughlan.

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The post Patagonia Women’s Winter Clothing Roundup appeared first on iRunFar.com.

If you’re looking for a way to elevate your reputation as the best last-minute-holiday-present-giver-ever, or if you’re looking for options to apply that Patagonia holiday gift card you received to some fabulous chilly weather running gear, read on. Patagonia has some excellent options this year for your running gal, and I’m sure the men’s versions rock equally as well.

Patagonia’s outdoor gear is truly the gift that keeps on giving because their gear, although on the higher end cost-wise, lasts and lasts, and 1% of their sales goes back to environmental causes, thus helping to ensure we have beautiful wild places to play for years to come. One of my all-time favorite Patagonia running fleeces is still going strong and dates back at least 13 years with regular multiple-times-per-week use—does anyone remember the Patagonia R.5 half zip? It’s got a teeny hole from an excitable dog’s claw but other than that, it works just as well as it did brand new.

But, back to the present! I’ve spent the last few months testing some great pieces of running gear in temperatures from the wintery teens Fahrenheit through the upper 50s and in bright sun, snow squalls, light freezing rain, and sideways winds gusting to 40 miles per hour. I’d not hesitate to take each of the four pieces of gear with me on my next run, especially if real winter returns to the Colorado Front Range.

The Patagonia Women’s Mission Peak Jacket and Tights on the trail in Colorado. All photos: iRunFar/Kristin Zosel

Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Jacket

The Patagonia Peak Mission Jacket ($199) (213 grams) is a really fantastic piece that takes the concept of a soft shell and elevates it significantly by greatly reducing weight and improving the jacket’s overall stretchiness and mobility. This gives it fantastic breathability even with high-output endurance activities (like a hard tempo effort on grinder hills) even when there’s not a lot of wind to assist air flow through the jacket. Warmth is not significantly sacrificed by the ultralight nature of the garment because hybridized microfleece has been strategically bonded to the interior aspects most directly facing the elements—the front torso panels, the tops of the shoulders, and along the outside aspects of the arms. The jacket itself is made from 1.9-ounce 100% recycled polyester stretch ripstop with DWR to enhance water resistance. All interior seams are taped which allows the jacket to slide smoothly over wool and fleece layers alike and all chafing points are thus eliminated even if worn with a short-sleeve shirt or under a hydration pack.

The Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Jacket.

As with so many Patagonia jackets, the piece fits easily into its chest pocket which also has an internal phone sleeve and headphone port for convenience. The pocket itself has a reinforced carabiner loop for attaching it to the outside of your pack or similar. I’m more likely to stuff the jacket into the back of a hydration pack, so I didn’t use this function beyond testing it to make sure it works. Another thing I really like is Patagonia’s half-elastic cuffs. They hold the sleeves close to the wrists without creating any constriction yet still allow the sleeves to glide over the top of large GPS watches or gloves which effectively seals out the wind. Brilliantly, the arms are long enough for me to get my whole hand up inside the sleeve while walking or running when my hands need the extra help to stay warm. This adds major functionality points in my opinion! The thin, unlined, brimless hood has the easy-to-use one-pull toggle that allows for complete coverage without sacrificing peripheral vision, and I found it to be manageable with a gloved hand as well. The hood is just perfect for adding that extra bit of shelter particularly over a Buff, brimmed cap, or beanie on colder or windier days. It also breathes well and doesn’t restrict the head or neck during normal running and biking motions.

The Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Jacket from the back.

In my experience, the jacket runs larger than expected. It’s considered a ‘slim fit’ but I ordered a size up for my in-between-sizes self and found it to be large enough that I can wear it over my three- to five-liter hydration packs without difficulty. If I were to order it again, I’d go down the size for a bit more of a form-fitting profile, but that being said, with the wisely designed drop tail and overall length, I can layer this jacket over a thin synthetic puffy and be very comfortable into the single digits while running and into the low teens on a fat bike. I love this ultralight, thin soft shell so much more than I expected for our dry Colorado wintry chill. I no longer have to sweat it out under a not-as-breathable-as-I’d-hoped outer wind layer in order to stay warm when the temperature drops. My last Patagonia soft shell running jacket lasted 15 years in my closet and is now making another runner equally as happy, so I have big hopes for the longevity of this piece.

 Patagonia Women’s Capilene Air Crew

This Patagonia Capilene Air Crew ($129) (147 grams) is one of the most versatile pieces of ‘outdoor gear’ I now own—it’s definitely one of two ‘gear of the year’ winners from my personal, non-published ranking system. It’s absolutely beautiful and nothing about it says, “I just wore this while working really hard up and down three mountains.” I pair this with a wool skirt and feel dressy and then cruise to the trailhead, switch the skirt for running tights, and hit the dusty (or snowy) mountain trail. It can be an against-the-skin layer or easily glide over another thin base layer. It warms like wool but dries like tech material yet doesn’t retain odors. So regardless if my dressy attire needs come before or after running on any given day, no one is the wiser, and I get to benefit from a non-stinky, highly technical performance piece throughout my day.

The Patagonia Women’s Capilene Air Crew.

The seamless 3-D construction is very form fitting yet somehow not at all restrictive thanks to the gender-specific zigzag knit that allows the garment to move easily with you no matter which sport or daily activity you’re tackling—pilates, yoga, running, climbing, skiing, kid-wrangling, or speaking at a conference. The higher crewneck is not at all itchy yet adds a bit of warmth especially behind an outer wind layer.

What is this magical garment made of? The material itself is 51% 18.5 micron-gauge lofted merino wool and 49% recycled Capilene polyester. In plain speak, this innovative textile is really soft, not at all itchy, at least twice as warm as it looks, and wicks moisture exceptionally well. Stretchy elastic knit is employed at the cuffs and hems which seals the breezes out yet doesn’t at all bind or constrict. You can hand wash this in a hut sink and it will be dry and ready to roll by morning, but it’s machine washable as well—so key. The Capilene Air Crew is truly a joy to wear. I will be ordering another of these in either the crew or hooded version when they hopefully make it onto the web specials on Patagonia’s site later in the season.

The Patagonia Women’s Capilene Air Crew from the back.

Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Tights

The Patagonia Peak Mission Tights ($119) (213 grams) are very comfortable chilly weather tights thanks to some key design details. First, the wide, flat, elasticized waistband provides support and a snug fit without restricting the midsection. Fit can be further adjusted via the drawstring that sits completely on the outside of the garment—yay, no chafing the belly! The recycled nylon, polyester, and spandex blend has a really smooth face for gliding easily under a waterproof layer or post-run sweatshirt dress, but even better, the micro-terry backing (with added miDori bioSoft) feels like a brushed-fleece interior which provides a sense of extra warmth and comfort against the skin without being hot or restrictive. Polygiene is added for exceptional odor control, and the fabric wicks moisture extremely well even with splashback from the trail.

The Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Tights.

The smooth elastic ankle opening has just enough stretch to fit easily over a foot (not over a shoe) and the lack of zipper or grip strips means nothing can irritate the skin even when damp and wet from weather conditions or a slush fest. The 27-inch length fits my 5’5” body perfectly but there’s room for longer legs in there for sure. I bet women over 5’10 might appreciate a ‘long’ size option, however. A small zip pocket integrates unobtrusively on the back waistband and accommodates a key fob, a gel or two, and some cash if needed. I found the pull cord for the zipper easy to operate with close-fitting gloves. A reflective logo accents the front left hip and there is a reflective hit on the back of each calf. I’ve worn the tights for a pilates class, a few-hour run, and then added a skirt over the top for errands and not once did I have to tug them up for a better fit even though I have a fairly straight build. Thank you, gusseted construction!

The Patagonia Women’s Peak Mission Tights from the back.

The Peak Mission Tights are thin enough that you can wear them when the temperatures are going to start cold and move into capris or shorts territory by the end, and they’re so smooth such that they glide perfectly under a down skirt when a bum cover is required to maintain warmth. For my body, they’re not true cold-weather tights, which I’d define as under 20 degrees Fahrenheit, because there’s not enough thickness or wind protection particularly through the hips and thighs (hence the down running skirt), but if ‘cold’ where you are is in the twenties to forties and full tights are your jam, these are a must try. If you find yourself between sizes when you order—I am forever between sizes—I went down on this one and it fits perfectly.

Overall Impressions

Overall, if you’d like to invest in a complete cold-weather outfit for high-energy-output activities that will last you for years to come, you surely must check out the Patagonia Mission Peak Jacket and Tights as well as the Capilene Air Crew. I’ve been impressed with Patagonia’s quality and attention to detail for the 25 years that I’ve been using their gear. I love that they incorporate recycled materials as much as they do while elevating them further to highly technical, innovative, bomber garments that are fun to wear and that you can trust your safety and comfort to while adventuring in the wilds.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • Are you wearing any of Patagonia’s winter 2018 running clothes, including any of these pieces? What do you think about them overall? And how about the details?
  • Are there any men out there running in the men’s version of these models? What can you tell us about them?

Patagonia Women’s Winter Clothing Roundup by Kristin Zosel.

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