Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Asics Gel Tarther Review

The Tarther is making it's US debut this year, previously only being sold in Japan. However while Japan is usually famous for their love of minimalist shoe styles, I'd peg the Tarther as a more conservative flat. It's a great lightweight shoe for someone looking to do more running in flats ,but too intimidated by the more minimalist Asics Gel Hyperspeed 4's, Asics Piranhas, or Adidas AdiZero Rockets.

It actually ties the Hyperspeed's for weight at 7.2oz, but there are some key differences to notice. First, it has a very rigid arch support structure. Personally I like my shoes as flexible as possible so I'd avoid this, but for someone transitioning from a heavier, even more supportive shoe, this might be a good place to start. Second, the bottom forefoot of the shoes uses a harder material often used on racing flats. While it saves weight compared to rubber I've always found these types of grips to make an annoying noise early on, and wear out much quicker than a more traditional bottom. It might work well for races but if you're looking for an everyday flat to wear as a trainer keep this in mind. Lastly, the heel to toe difference is very noticeable compared to the Hyperspeeds - the Tarther sports a 9mm difference compared to the Hyperspeed's 5mm drop. Again if you're a minimalist runner who likes as much achilles & calf flex as possible, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. However if you're looking at this as a transition shoe to get you ready for less support, or you'd like to stay on the cautious side, this might be the perfect shoe for the job. I see this as a middle shoe between switching from trainers to Hyperspeeds. 

Pros: Lightweight (7.2oz)

Cons: Hard tack instead of rubber for the grip.

Pros & Cons (depending on who you are): More arch support than the average flat, and a medium heel to toe differential at 9mm.

Asics Gel Hyperspeed 4 Review

Asics didn't update much this year with the release of the Hyperspeed 4, so just about everything mentioned in my Asics Gel Hyperspeed 3 review still applies. According to the stats they added .1 oz of weight to the shoe, but I doubt your feet will notice.

The Hyperspeed is still one of my top recommendations. It has a little more cushioning than some of the most extreme flats out there like the even lighter Asics Piranha's, but it maintains a low heel to toe raise difference (just 5mm) and a very light weight at 7.2oz. It's also kept a rubberized bottom which I highly prefer over the hard tack surface a lot of flats use, and the lack of any rigid arch support keeps the entire length of the shoe very flexible. The biggest downside is still the odd pattern Asics chose for the bottom of the shoe which seems to be designed to pickup pebbles. Once they're broken in the gap gets a little smaller so you pickup fewer, and they're usually easy enough to kick out, but it's still annoying that they'd keep those pebble pockets around at all.

Pros: Light (7.2 oz), Flexible, Low Heel to Toe Differential (5mm), Rubber Bottom for better wear & tear

Cons: It's a great midrange flat but if you're looking for pure speed (or hate ride-along rocks with a passion) it can be beat. There's slightly lighter, more flexible, and even lower heel to toe difference shoes out there like above mentioned Piranha. However if you're transitioning to training in flats, or looking for one of your first pairs, this could be just what you're looking for.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Barefoot Hits Boston

With the Boston Marathon taking off tomorrow morning the momentum behind minimalist is as strong as ever. Competitor.com has a good article up on a minimalist clinic going on as part of the pre-marathon events. Chris McDougall was on hand and had a quote I can't agree with more:

“You can’t just take off your shoes, go out the door and run five miles. There is a technique to it. The best way to relearn this thing is to shut down the brain and listen to the feet.”

Can't wait for more people to start figuring this out. I'm already seeing some positive changes in my friends who have been experimenting with minimalist methods.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Asics Piranha SP 2 Review

The last 5 years I've been constantly flipping between Asics and Adidas - I've tried Tiger Paws, Gel Magic Racers, Rockets, AdiZero Pros, AdiZero Manas, AdiZero RCs and they've all lead me to one shoe at this point: the Asics Piranha. (I threw one pair of Nike's in there and they were fine, but not compelling).

I've had my eye on the Piranha's for awhile now but I always thought they looked too light and flimsy (even for me). However a few months ago I decided to give them a try anyways. After one run I was thrilled, but now after 300 miles I'm sold. They've held up great - the rubber wears down but it's still a fine surface to run on, and there's barely any padding to begin with so there's not much to break down. I've never had a shoe feel so much like an extension of my foot. 

At 4.2 oz (size 9) they're definitely the lightest flats I've got. And the flex is great since there's no hard plastic areas for flex control. There's minimal rubber on the bottom so they're not going to win any awards for traction, but I've had no problems whatsoever (disclaimer: I've run in 0 ice or snow during the 300 miles). Also, while the Rocket's tended to have too much stitching that dug into parts of my feet, the Piranha's have a very minimal seaming system which I've never noticed any blisters, cuts, or bruises from. In fact my feet are looking the best they ever have on that front. 

I've been training exclusively in these for a couple months now and while they definitely took another adaptation period (the heel to toe differential is only 4mm) now I don't think I could go back to heavier flats. 300 miles I also haven't detected any signs of shoe malfunction - they're still comfortable, they still have plenty of traction, and besides the stink they still have plenty of miles left in them. The padding is so minimal I think I'll even try tossing them in the washing machine. 

Pros: As light as it gets in the USA @ 4.2 oz, flexible, rubber bottoms (no hard tack), great stitching, lowest heel to toe differential I've seen.

Cons: The even lower than normal heel will take a little extra getting used to.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon

Ran in the Kaiser half for the second year, and had much better results this year. This race was a real wakeup call last year to the fact that I had pretty much just hibernated for the winter and the 1:18ish time I ran (just under 6 pace) gave me something to improve on.

I'm happy to say this year I got a much better start and dropped my time down to 1:14:32 (5:41 pace per mile) which I was pretty psyched about. Ran the race in my Piranha SP 2's and the weather was perfect besides a heavy headwind in the last 3 miles but that's not much to complain about. The race unfolded about as I expected. The plan was to run about 5:40's to give me some buffer towards the end and the splits turned out to be:

10:53 (missed mile 6)
6:36 (3.1)

Next stop: figure out how to break 1:12 (sub 5:30 pace).