Archive for running shoes

Asics DS Trainer 18

Posted in Product Review with tags , , , , , , , on May 16, 2013 by brianestover

Asics’s latest version of their popular DS Trainer series is the DS Trainer 18.

Bold colors, great ride, Asics DS 18

Bold colors, great ride, Asics DS 18

The ABQ Running Shop sent me a pair to test out. When I laced these shoes up I noticed two things right away. The most significant thing Asics did was get rid of the ill conceived Clutch Collar that they introduced in the DS 16’s. They added a Heel Clutching System in the exoskeleton of this shoe. The second thing is the shoe laces are longer, long enough to double knot on my high volume feet.

Asics DS Trainer 18's Heel Clutching System

Asics DS Trainer 18’s Heel Clutching System

Several things carry over with this shoe from previous models. Asics brought the fore and rear foot gel pads and their Impact Guidance System (IGS) over. The DuoMax Support System which is their dual density mid sole comes along for the ride from the 17’s. Asics also incorporated the Propulsion Trusstic system and Guidance Line in the DS 18’s sole as well as their SoLyte Midsole Material in it. This shoe loses just over an ounce from the DS 17’s. Something that is noticeable right off the bat when you run in this shoe.

What’s new is seamless uppers and the Wet Grip Outsole. Many shoes in the lightweight category have gone to seamless uppers giving them a leg up on Asics. This neutralizes that advantage. The Wet Grip out sole though may not be a better thing. I didn’t get to run in the rain in Tucson in this shoe to see how it fared compared to the 17’s but I did make sure to run through some puddles when I was in Asheville. I can’t say for certain the Wet Grip outsole is a step up in wet conditions but it’s a step backward on the type of trails I run daily. This shoe lacks grip on the loose layer of sand and tiny rocks on top of the hard packed dirt trails that I run. It’s lack of grip is so noticeable that I took it out of the rotation when I run on the Rillito River path. If you run on something similar there are better shoes out there for traction and grip.

The soul of the sole

The soul of the sole

When you run in this shoe you notice a few things. It’s lighter. It rides lower to the ground, not much lower, but it’s noticeable and welcomed. It’s softer. Softer in a good way. The DS 18’s possess the awesome Asics ride that you are used to. The transition from landing to toe off is smooth and predictable. When you want to run fast this shoe will go fast with you and you won’t have to think about your shoe choice. I found this shoe to be more comfortable after running four days alternating between the DS 17’s and 18’s.

Asics DS 18's

Asics DS 18’s

I see this shoe as being a great shoe for going to the track, doing tempo or threshold runs or even long runs with fast main sets. This would be an awesome shoe for long course triathlon especially the ironman distance. I’d put it in my top two or three choices for half’s. There is another Asics shoe I’ll be reviewing that I think may be a better half ironman racing shoe if you like certain things from your racing shoes. If you need unparalleled traction on trails, the Asics DS 18’s aren’t your shoe. As a day in day out runner the DS 18’s are a great choice to meet your needs. Comfortable, fast, light, everything you want when it’s time to go fast.

Asics GT-2000

Posted in Product Review with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by brianestover

I’ve finally started running enough to actually put some miles on shoes to test them out. Recently the ABQ Running Shop was kind enough to send me some shoes to run in. I’ve got a few pair to review. Today’s review will be the GT-2000.

The GT-2000 replaces Asics’s long running string of shoes that started with the 2001 about 2 decades ago. Asics had gotten up to the 2170’s. While not every shoe in that string was a success, the overwhelming majority of those shoes sold well and were the go to shoes for millions of runners. You could go to any race or group run and easily find numerous people wearing a shoe in that succession of shoes. The GT-2000 has impressive pedigree to live up to.

Asics GT-2000

Asics GT-2000

Live up it does. In fact, this shoe surpasses the previous generations of Asics shoes. The first thing you notice is the GT-2000’s are lighter than their predecessors. The claimed weight is 11.4oz but they feel lighter when running in them. The ride is a lower to the ground and the shoe feels more flexible. With the previous editions these shoes always needed three or four runs to feel good and progressively felt better over the first 100 miles before settling into that happy spot. The GT-2000’s felt nimble, sure footed and comfortable in the first mile. If you have higher volume feet, Asics recently has been short changing you on lace length. That’s no longer the case, these shoes tie with enough lace to easily double knot. There is enough room for my wider and higher then normal feet in the front of the shoe. No pinching or constriction. The heel is snug around my narrower then normal heels. I’ve got these laced through the second set of eyelets at the top of the shoe to help snug it against my heel.

There are some carryover features that the previous line of Asics’s were known for. The Guidance Trusstic System, the Impact Guidance System, the Dynamic Doumax Support System and gel pads both heel and forefoot are all carry overs and found in this shoe. The outsole continues using AHAR, their version of high abrasion blown rubber with the DuraSponge blown rubber in the forefoot. They use Solyte in their dual density midsole.

The one thing that didn’t carry over was the ride. The ride of the GT-2000’s is even better then the shoes that came before it. The ride of the 2150’s and 2160’s is stiffer and less nimble. The GT-2000’s run much better. They are more comfortable out of the box, no break in period needed. You notice you are lower, more stable and these shoes are more supple in the way they run. I’ve run in many, many brands of running shoes and none of them ride quite like Asics. None of the recent Asics in the GT-2000’s genetic tree ran this well. It’s a noticeable improvement from the previous models which were already superior to most if not all of the shoes in their category in ride.

The number one thing that holds other shoe companies back from being as good as Asics is the ride of their shoes. There is no sweeter ride, no shoe brand that feels better or is as consistent as you go through their line or go from year to year as Asics. Once other companies figure this out, they may go from being a silver or bronze medalist shoe to a gold medalist shoe. But for now, Asics still stands atop the podium. The GT-2000 may have tightened their grasp on gold.

GT-2000 toe box and heel

GT-2000 toe box and heel

The outsole’s seem to be holding up well on the groomed trials I run on. They are covered with a mix of sand and pebbles, outsoles that are soft tend to wear rather quick. These are holding up great, maybe even better than the Asics 2160’s. I’ve not taken them on the really rough trails yet. Everything I’ve seen and felt while running in these shoes gives me the confidence that they will do well on trails that surround Tucson.

My one complaint is with the laces near the very top of the shoe. The first few times I noticed they fell in a different spot on the lateral aspects of my foot. I’ve got them laced up a bit differently then the promo shot on the Asics shoe page. I’ve got the laces going through the lace holder sewn onto the tongue one eyelet closer to the top. Going around corners I found them to dig into the lateral aspects where the laces come out of the shoes from the last eyelet. The only reason I noticed this is it’s something that has never happened before in any shoe that I can remember. After playing around with the lacing some and with over 100 miles on these shoes, I’ve not noticed this any more. Maybe I’m used to it, maybe I’ve got the laces in their sweet spot. This shoe is so good though that it would take more then this, much more, for me to not end up with a second and third pair. If you enjoyed running in the previous editions such as the 2140’s, 2150’s and 2160’s you will be ecstatic when running in the GT-2000’s. This shoe is a far superior shoe to the shoes it replaces. Asics took a step forward with this shoe and maybe put more distance on the rest of the brands that live in the structured cushioning category.

A look inside the GT-2000s

A look inside the GT-2000s

Brooks Launch – Shoe review

Posted in Product Review with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by brianestover

Over the past few years I have found myself drawn more often towards Brooks running shoes. Brooks used to be the shoe that your Dad wore. The big, heavy Beast built up to prevent pronation and anything else, that graced the feet of many a middle age runner. Over the past several years, Brooks has transformed itself from that shoe to That Shoe.

The Brooks Launch continues that evolution. This is classified as a lightweight neutral trainer based on their universal platform. There is a 9.5mm heel to toe offset. For you minimalist low to no offset people this may be too high for you. I gave it no thought after the first four steps of running.

Brooks Launch, a very bright shoe

It’s a colorful shoe, bright, light green with an orange midsole. The first thing you notice is how soft this shoe is. Comfortable with a good fit. My extra high feet found no complaints with this shoe. I can actually double knot the laces with ease, although I’ve yet to have to retie a single knot in any run with with the Launch. The sole provides good traction on the groomed dirt/sand trails I run on. They are holding up quite well to the abrasive nature of the trails.

Medial view and the “soul” of the shoe

This shoe runs quite well. Initially I was worried about how soft this shoe might run. I thought I’d feel like I was running on squishy, wet ground. You know that feeling where it seems every time you push off you sink half an inch. Not the case. The ride is soft and firm (a contradiction I know) but no squish. It runs well, a nice transition from strike to toe off. There is no heel slippage as you run even in my case where my feet are half a size apart. The toe box is roomy, no pinching or compressing toes together. If you have a narrow forefoot this could be an issue. You will want to check out in the store before buying. My high volume, wide feet are rather comfy in these shoes.

My only complaint is there is no hint of a medial wedge. If you pronate at all, this shoe will not slow down that rate of pronation. It’s not enough to cause me concern in the foot that pronates, but occasionally on uneven terrain I could feel a bit of a twist upon impact. 99.9% of the time when I run in this shoe there are no second thoughts as to what is on my feet. This shoe is equally adept at running fast for those threshold runs as it is cruising along just logging miles.

Brooks Launch, Accelerate 3 Coaching

The Launch, toe and heel views

This shoe, along with several other of the Brooks models, shows that they have listened to what the runners have had to say. The Launch is what you want in a running shoe. Comfortable, good fit, runs well, good transition through the foot strike. I can see Brooks making a sizable dent in the market share of other running shoe companies. This shoe warrants a look if you like lightweight neutral trainers.

Asics Gel DS-Racers 9

Posted in Product Review, Triathlon with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by brianestover

Since race season is here, you need some go fast shoes to go fast. With the Asics Gel DS Racer 9‘s you can go fast in a great shoe. One of the great thing about Asics, something that no other company has really been able to replicate in their shoe line, is the feel that Asics delivers from shoe to shoe in their line up. Each shoe is predictable, when you go from the 2160’s or 2170s down the the DS trainers then down to the DS racers there is no question about how it’s going to feel or run. A quicker ride, a quicker transfer from landing to toe off, a little less cushioning, but it’s predictable and consistent. You can grab a pair of Asics’s and know how it’s going to run right out of the box. This predictability and consistency across their line is something other shoe manufacturers have not been able to replicate.

Asics DS Racer 9

These shoes run great. As a light weight stability racing shoe the DS Racers provider a firm but not harsh landing, a quick seamless transition and smooth toe off. Running in this shoe is like driving a very high performance sport car – fast, handles great, and fits like a glove, snug but not too tight, like a slipper with laces. The shoe has a Doumax medial wedge and the high wear points of the sole are shod in Asics’s DuraSponge material. The sole is also perforated in case you happen to dump a cup of water down your leg. Those perforations also help shave a bit of weight off the shoe. The sole is anchored by the carbon Trusstic system. The uppers are well vented and there was no irritation, chafing or rubbing any of the times I’ve worn these shoes.

The DS Racer’s sole

The lacing system is straight forward with two eyelets at the top to make sure the heel cup sits snug on your heel. One of the best things is what is does not have. There is no clutch collar on this shoe. Asics’s does a lot of great things with their shoes but the clutch Collar isn’t one of them.

DS Racers -so pretty & so fast

It’s hard for me to find anything wrong with these shoes. My biggest complaint is that I no longer run fast enough to take advantage of these light weight beauties. This is a great racing shoe for someone who runs neutral or pronates but still wants a light weight racer. Suitable for all distances from the half marathon down to the 5k, although for the average triathlete, there are better choices for you when doing a half ironman. Go out, grab a pair, put them on and then race fast.

Saucony Kinvarva

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 9, 2011 by brianestover

Through the years I’ve tried Saucony shoes. A pair here, a pair there, but I never found them to run as well as most of the other shoes in the rotation. Saucony has hit a home run with their Saucony ProGrid Kinvara.

Kinvarva running shoes

This shoe is Saucony’s answer to the minimalist fad that is vogue now. I picked up a pair of these on a whim in early December. This shoe has a low heel, minimal drop and a wide base in the forefoot. I was a little concerned that the wide base would constantly clip my legs when running. I can not recall a single incident of this happening which continues to be a pleasant surprise.

Wide forefoot base

My first run was a 7.6 mile jaunt or just under 55 minutes of running. About 5 miles into that run, my legs were wishing the run was over. I could feel the added stress that the lower heel induced. Other then that first run, I found no other runs were needed to adapt to the difference between these shoes and any other shoe I have reviewed. Before you rush out to buy a pair of these shoes, you should carefully think about how you run and why you want to run in these shoes. They will not be a shoe for every runner, nor should every runner adopt the minimalist approach to running shoes.

Most of my running is on groomed trails that are free of rocks, thorns or sketchy footing. Saucony has many other shoes that I strongly suspect would be a better shoe to run in on rugged, technical trails. My physician with whom I run with now and then has run these on some trails and said they seemed to do well. I still think there are better shoes out there for rocky trails.

This shoe feels good when you put it on. I find it a bit narrow across the ball of my foot but rather accommodating for those of us with high volume feet. Unlike some other brands, the shoelaces are plenty long on this shoe. The Kinvarva has an aggressive lug pattern on the sole, has a lower ankle notch, less material on the sides then most other shoes and runs quite well. Saucony claims 7.7 ounces, but I think it runs like a shoe that is heavier. The previous pair of shoes I reviewed weigh 2.3 ounces more but run faster then this shoe.

Diamond Lug Design bottom's

The Saucony Kinvarva’s currently are one of the top three pair of running shoes in the rotation handling more then their fair share of the weekly running. It’s not a matter of if I will get another pair of Saucony Kinvarva’s but which of the seven colors will I get.

Asics 2150

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 17, 2010 by brianestover

The Asics 2150 is a shoe you can bring home to momma. It’s just about everything a running shoe should be plus it only gets better with time. Right out of the box these shoes are a little stiff. Give them a few runs to break in. It seems it takes 20 miles or so before they lose that stiffness. After 40 miles they have that comfortable feel good goodness to them. There is a reason why theses shoes are the category leader, for at least the last 10 years or so. I’ve been a big fan of their 20xx and 21xx line up as you can see from the family portrait I took of my last three pairs of this shoe family.

What’s good about these shoes? They hold up well, they run well and more importantly they run well over a wide variety of terrain from rocky trails to crushed dirt and gravel paths to concrete. They fit well, although people with high arched, high volume feet may find they have to play with the lacing system some. Moderate pronators will be happy with the double density midsole for control. You can get a lot of miles out of these shoes. I probably average just north of 400 miles per pair before I demote them to grocery store/dog walking shoes.

What’s not to like about these shoes? The long answer is not much. If I could change anything, and this seems to be a theme on all of my Asics running shoes of late, it would be the laces. I’d make them a bit longer and I’d make them so they stayed tied. If you have high volume feet, like I do, you will find out there isn’t much left over to tie your shoes with. You might also find out, as I do for about a third of my runs, that one or both of my shoes come untied. It is annoying to have to stop at some point that doesn’t involve one of the two traffic lights I encounter on my usual run. It’s not a deal breaker to me. Year after year, the 2100 line gets it’s annual update, the 2160 is the latest model, and year after year it’s a damn fine running shoe that will meet a lot of runners needs and wants.

K-Swiss Blade Light Run

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by brianestover

I really liked the K-Swiss Blade Light shoes from the moment I tried them on. When I say really like, I mean as in let’s date like. Running shoes are something I view as a long term commitment. When you find a pair you like, clean out the store’s inventory and run in them. But never buy multiple pairs before you try. Always give them a few whirls around the block.

The K-Swiss blade lights felt fantastic when you put them on. Slipper like, very comfortable. Smooth insides, seams were where they should be and not were they shouldn’t be, same with the uppers. They ran so well out of the box, it was like a dream. Firm heel cushioning, great cushioning under the foot without being bulky or clunky. They run light, they feel quick, they feel good. I can remember thinking I’ve found a new shoe, time to go grab a few more pair. Some shoes run better after you put 20 or so miles on them, these shoes run great straight out of the box.

But in many relationships, as time goes on, you start to see some cracks at the seams. At first it becomes a shoe for your shorter runs, then you notice you are avoiding that shoe when it comes up in the daily shoe rotation. Maybe you even shun it once in a bit. That’s what I found happening as I got more and more miles on it. Trisports University reviewed the shoe and gave it pretty good marks. I’d be willing to bet that the testers had under 50 miles on the shoes when they wrote the review. As I accumulated more and more miles, I noticed that the shoe broke down pretty fast. Especially compared to some of the other shoes in the rotation. Especially the foot I tend to pronate on. In fact it’s only the foot that pronates that feels like and looks like it’s broken down. Within 50 miles it was noticeable and now after having over 100 miles on the shoes, the breakdown under the ball of my pronating foot is very severe. Severe enough that these shoes are going in the junk pile. I’m sorry K-Swiss Blade Lights but it’s not going to work out. It’s you not me.

There were two other minor complaints I had with this shoe. The first is the sole collects pebbles. If you want to be a pebble hound this is your shoe. The second complaint is it didn’t run well on uneven surfaces like grass and packed trails.

The final complaint I have with this shoe isn’t with the shoe per se, it’s the market the shoe is designed for. My problem is with triathletes who think they need special gimmicks in their training shoes. This shoe has tiny holes to allow water to drain out. I’ve been running for a few years now, have about 10-15000 miles in my legs, a couple of those in the rain or in races where I’ve gotten water in my shoes. It’s rare when I wished my shoes would drain better. The industry joke about triathletes is stick any dog product on the market and put the word triathlon on it. It’ll become a best seller. Sad but true. Triathletes buy more gimmicks then any three runners or cyclist combined.

It’s a shame about this shoe. K-Swiss has dumped a ton of money into R&D and a ton more into sponsorship of some of the world’s top triathletes. Unfortunately until K-Swiss can make up some ground on this shoe compared to the front runners it’s not going to capture significant market share. I was able to listen to Mike Rouse, one of the K-Swiss product managers, speak about the process of designing and building these shoes. He talked about the development that has gone into the shoe and what they are trying to accomplish. They have a lot going right with this shoe, especially with the fit, feel and how blissful it runs right out of the box. If they could improve the durability of this shoe and change the bottoms a bit, they might find themselves latching onto the pack ahead of them.