Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Taper Madness: The Final Episode

If you've endured the tapering period before a race, then you've undoubtedly heard the phrase "taper madness".

Is taper madness real?

Is it psychosomatic?

Is it made worse by discussions of taper madness?

I don't know.

But, if anyone were to create an 11-plus-minute cartoon that metaphorically illustrates the facets of taper madness, such a cartoon would probably exist in the guise of a Ren & Stimpy episode and go something like this:

The button symbolizes an 8-mile run on the eve of your race.

That is all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let's Compare the Bare-X 180, Bare-X 200, and Bare-X 150

Inov-8's Bare-X line is enticing to those of us with an affinity for lightweight minimalist-ish running shoes. And, while I've already written about the Bare-X Lite 150 at great length, it seems appropriate to continue our observations of the product line with a brief comparison of the three Bare-X options currently available:

Why You'd Want Any or All of Them

One of the most attractive features that these three shoes share is the zero differential between the forefoot height and heel height, Inov-8's Zero Arrow Shoc-Zone. This zero drop element of the design is highly desirable in the minmalist and barefoot shoe market, and for good reason. Look it up if you don't believe me.

An equally awesome attribute of these shoes is the Anatomic Fit [last] on which they're built. As I mentioned in my 150 review, the Inov-8 Anatomic Fit offers more girth for a roomier forefoot area without being all loose and floppy.

Another reason you might be wondering whether the Bare-X shoes are the ones for you is because of their lightweight, no-nonsense construction. With the heaviest Bare-X option weighing in at just 6.7 oz (in a US men's size 9), the racers and minimalishists would be hard pressed to ignore this line of shoes. Sure, the 150, which weighs 6.1 oz (US men's size 9), isn't he lightest shoe out there. But, it's features and fit may outweigh the benefits of being the lightest on the market.

Inov-8 Bare-X 200 logo side
Inov-8 Bare-X 180 logo side
Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 logo side

One of Them is Not Like the Others

It's fairly obvious that the Bare-X 180 and Bare-X 200 are pretty much the same shoe with minor differences between the two. And, those minor differences are really what inspired this comparison post. But, let's first point out the primary difference between the Bare-X Lite 150 and the heavier shoes in this comparison. (Hint: It's cushioning)

The Bare-X Lite 150 is the least heavy running shoe in Inov-8's lineup (not counting the Bare-X Lite 135 for the ladies). But, the 150 isn't Inov-8's most minimal shoe!

Yes, I know; it's counterintuitive to say that the lightest shoe is not the most minimal. But, through miracles of modern textile technology, the 150 has a cushioned midsole while the 180 and 200 do not. And, most minimalishists will likely agree that the cushioning in a shoe is inversely proportionate to that shoe's degree of minimalism.

So, that's the most notable difference between the Bare-X Lite 150 and its two non-Lite counterparts: The lighter one has more cushioning. Looking at the shoes in profile, you can see that the 150 appears to be thicker on the bottom than the 180 or 200.

And, that difference in cushioning should inspire the question: Do I want a cushioned shoe or one that's pretty much tantamount to running with a few millimeters of rubber between my feet and the street? Think about it, would-be-Bare-X wearer.

Now, let's make this non-review even more lengthy by nitpicking all of the other details.

The Sole of the Matter

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 Outsole
Bare-X Lite 150 outsole
Inov-8 Bare-X 180 Outsole
Bare-X 180 outsole
Inov-8 Bare-X 200 Outsole
Bare-X 200 outsole

The Bare-X Lite 150's outsole is somewhat less groovy than the 180 and 200 outsole. The latter two are clearly the same aside from the color.

The 150's outsole is more or less a composite of the midsole "Fusion Sole" material. It's a surprisingly durable combination of injection-molded EVA and hard rubber, which means the shoe feels less flexible if you're bending the 180 or 200 with your other hand.

The 180 and 200 have no midsole, as I wrote earlier. And, their outsole rubber is a hard, durable type of some sort that does a good job of keeping pointy little rocks from hurting your feet. Big, pointy rocks are another matter, thought.

Inov-8 Bare-X 180 after a muddy run

The tread pattern on all three is optimized for man-made terrain. And, of course, running on crushed gravel is fine, too. But, taking these shoes for a run over anything soft or technically trail-like would require you to expend a little more energy than necessary just to maintain balance.

If you had to pick one of these shoes for a run on varied terrain, I'd pick the 180 or 200, because they bring you closer to the ground with more flexibility; which, I think, allows for better stability.

It's important to keep in mind that, although I say the 150's outsole is less flexible than the 180 or 200, these are all very flexible shoes compared to other minimalish shoes on the market. None of them are especially rigid or cushy.

Another Look

I can't believe I've managed to type so many paragraphs about this already. This was supposed to be a brief comparison with a few images. Sorry. Let's just start listing things:

The Differences Between the Bare-X 200 and Bare-X 180:

  • The Bare-X 200 has more TPU (plastic lacing support) on the upper, which creates a different sort of fit. I opted for the 180 instead of the 200 due to this different sort of fit.
  • The Bare-X 200 has a loop on the heel
  • The Bare-X 200 is only available in white/silver at this time
Inov-8 Bare-X 200
Inov-8 Bare-X 200
Inov-8 Bare-X 180

Some Other Features Shared by All Three

  • Flexible, well-ventilated mesh upper
  • Comfortable heel cup
  • Removable 3mm insole/footbed, which provides a bit of cushioning and a slight curve under the arch for a closer fit
  • Seams on the interior so that runners who don't like wearing socks have something to complain about
Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 in blue/red/white

Features of the Bare-X Lite 150 That I Wish Were on the 180 and 200

  • The quick-lace system on the Bare-X Lite 150 is too awesome not to put on the other shoes.
  • The Bare-X Lite seems to have a slightly different shape in the last. I like it slightly better than that of the 180 and 200.

Which One is for You?

  • If you are a barefoot runner looking for some protection against sharp pointy things, like sweet gum balls or gravel, get the 180 or 200.
  • If you're wanting a shoe that's really close to being barefoot, get the 180 or 200.
  • If you're anyone else intent on trying one of these three shoes, get the Bare-X Lite 150.
  • If you still can't decide, get the 150 and 180.

Okay, That's Enough

I'm sure I could find other differences to describe and analyze. But, this has gone on long enough. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. Thanks to RunningWarehouse for supplying such excellent pictures for this comparison.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Richland Creek Trail Review or: The Other Side of Loblolly

Richland Creek Trail

Trail Location:Richland Creek Loblolly Trail
Schenck Memorial Forest | Raleigh, NC

Trail Distance:
4.3 miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:

Run Map >>

When I run Loblolly, I typically do so during my lunch hour. So, I lack the extra time to explore beyond the gate just past the Umstead border. I know there's more trail there. I've read about it's extension through Schenck Forest and all the way to the RBC center.

But, there seems to be dearth of info about Schenck Forest's trails on the Web. Click that Schenck Forest link to the left. And, you'll see what I mean. So, I've been hesitant to devote the time to see where else I could go from the edge of Loblolly.

Then, I noticed that the handy-dandy course plotting map on RunningAhead had the Richland Creek Trail mapped as if it were a regular old city greenway. So, I could finally see where it ended and how to get there without having to first run the entire length of Loblolly inside Umstead.

So, the other day, I drove the four minutes from my office to the RBC Center trail head and went for a run.

Running the Trail

Cross the little creek
Yes, you should cross these rocks and the water trickling between them.

If you start from the parking area outside the RBC Center, the southeast end of the trail, your first few steps will be on a paved section of greenway. This paved path will abruptly end in front of a chain link fence. And, as you approach, you might be wondering what the hell is going on.

Don't worry. You'll see that a subtle path through the grass to the left continues the trail. Follow this path along the fence and cross any rocky ditches or bodies of water you happen to find. (This is the general rule of thumb for this trail, by the way: When in doubt, cross it)

Cross the sidewalk
Do not follow the sidewalk or cross the bridge. Keep going into the grass.

You'll come upon another piece of paved greenway and follow it under Edwards Mill Road. As you emerge from the tunnel, you'll want to ignore the fancy little footbridge at the end of the sidewalk. That takes you nowhere you want to go. Cross into the grass again and scramble over another rocky ditch.

This next section of wide, grassy trail is definitely prone to flooding. Large puddles will wait for you if there's been rain within the past 48 hours. Consider your footwear carefully before embarking on this run.

A reassuring trail marker directs you through another tunnel. This one might be a little forboding, though, because it's at the same level as another tunnel right beside it, a tunnel full of water. Just look before you start running through, okay. You'll be fine. There are lots of lights.

Cross the sidewalk
View of the Wade Ave. Tunnel from the northeast side. Careful on that ledge.

Once you complete the scary tunnel run, you'll want to be careful as you traverse the ledge that leads you over to the rest of the trail. There's another little creek to cross here, too. (See the lower left of the photo)

The Richland Creek trail continues as a wide, puddle prone path along the creek with westbound Wade Ave. a few meters away. This portion is flat and easy to navigate. And, you'll feel pretty comfortable if not a little unsure about where you're headed.

Fortunately, the path veers to the right a bit. And, you'll see a tree with white paint on the trunk. And, that's gotta be some sort of trail marker, right? So, you continue your run onto a narrower, more single-track-like section of the trail.

Richland Creek Trail along Wade Ave.
Flatness punctuated with puddles. Richland Creek turning single-track
Richland Creek Trail becomes narrower here.

Richland Creek Trail's single-track portion skirts along the western edge of Schenck Forest, leading you over subtly technical terrain with a mild hill here and there. Most of your footing will be rather steady with relatively few rocks and roots to dodge.

Actually, I found the spots of mud to be the most challenging aspects of this trail, since my rather smooth-soled road shoes were especially prone to slipping in the squishy, wet dirt during this run. I'm not used to slipping.

A Loblolly and Richland Creek Trial intersection
This is how the "Loblolly" intersection will appear to you if you're heading southeast from Reedy Creek Road. Continue to the right if you're intent on following the Richland Creek Trail to the RBC Center.

At one point in the trail, there's a somewhat confusing array of trees and matted leaves on the ground, making the trail a tad tough to discern. So, you might find yourself turning around in circles and wondering which way to proceed. Look for the city greenway trail marker.

Also, a bridged intersection with a sign pointing two directions for "Loblolly" might inspire a degree of doubt in your navigation abilities. Ignore the sign and just concentrate on where the creek is pointing. So, if you're heading northwest, continue northwest, not northeast. Reverse those instructions if your heading southeast.

My Favorite Features of the Richland Creek Trail:Richland Creek Trail Mud

  • That tunnel under Wade Avenue is cool, albeit a bit dangerous at night, I suppose.
  • Water crossings and mud are always nice features of a trail.
  • The proximity of the RBC Center trail head to my office is definitely nice.
  • A good distance for an easy lunchtime run.

Features I Dislike:

  • The lack of trail maps within Schenck forest is disappointing. (Maybe there's one at the main parking lot. But, that doesn't help me here)
  • Hearing the cars on Wade Ave. while trail running isn't very appealing. But, that's the price you pay for urban convenience, I guess.
Richland Creek turning single-track
About as technical as it gets on Richland Creek Trail

Getting There

Easy! Take your favorite route to Edwards Mill Road and turn onto RBC Center Road. Watch for the parking lot on the left just before RBC Center Road intersects with itself. There's a greenway trail head sign on the little hill at the corner of this parking lot. Access to this lot may be challenging when the RBC Center is hosting some sort of event.

Alternatively, you could park (at your own risk) in one of the office building lots near the area I just described. The paved greenway along Edwards Mill Rd. is easy to spot. And, you should be able to find the tunnel under Edwards Mill pretty easily.

If you want to tackle the trail from the northwest end, I can't recommend a parking spot on Reedy Creek Rd. Maybe some of you know about such a spot. But, I don't.

Or, if you have oodles of time, why not tack the Richland Creek Trail onto your next Loblolly run through Umstead? Sure, I couldn't really tell you at this time what's between Umstead's boundary and Reedy Creek Rd. I haven't traveled that part of the trail yet. But, lots of people do, right? And, it's not that much further.

Richland Creek turning single-track
Richland Creek Trail from the Reedy Creek Rd. Trail Head


So, with the exception of a couple of questionable direction markers on the trail, the Richland Creek Trail takes you on a pleasant trek from the RBC Center to Reedy Creek Road (and back if that's your plan). There are few technical trail challenges and only two or three hills to climb. Plus, the view of the creek for much of the journey is rather nice.

The Richland Creek Trail Map and Elevation Profile.

This is the map I created with RunningAhead's map tool, which already had the trail plotted as a greenway. So, it should be fairly accurate. As you can see, there's not a lot of climbing on this trail:
Richland Creek Trail elevation and map

Richland Creek Trail along Wade Ave.
Plenty of creek views

More Triangle-Area Trail Reviews >>

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Bit About the Blogger


Can you tell the readers a bit about your running past, maybe something about you, the perpetrator of this blog?


At this moment, I'm using Spotify to find new music that sounds like the kind of music I currently like most, but different, slightly — bands labeling themselves with a "the" in the name.

I have a tendency to over think things, especially direct questions. And, that's why I just started this response with a seemingly off-topic and evasive statement. Essentially, I tend to keep myself to myself. But, something about February makes me feel a little less reserved, I guess.

The band playing right now is called The View. With the exception of two tracks, they're rather low-key and poppy, not at all what I was looking for. Spotify indicated that they were related to The Vaccines, which is a slightly more punkish band. I think I'll go back to The Vaccines and start the search over.

My consistent running habit began in March of 2010, because my brother said he was going to train with his wife to run a half marathon in October of that year. My brother had never been a runner. I'd been a fair-weather runner with a vulnerable right knee for a few years. Naturally, I couldn't let my brother, the non-runner, run a half marathon without me running one, too.

The Vaccines albumThe Vaccines became part of my music collection after Spotify (henceforth to be called the music source) suggested that the band would delight my aural interests as much as Alex Turner's work on the Submarine soundtrack did. I don't find the two musical acts to be remarkably similar. But, it was a better recommendation than anything iTunes (henceforth not to be mentioned at all) ever listed for me.

In high school, as a senior, I joined the cross country team and promptly suffered a stress fracture, which meant that I was the guy wearing off-white carpenter jeans and a t-shirt in the team's yearbook photo while everyone else looked like an actual athlete. I wasn't fast, anyway.

Submarine Soundtrack by Alex TurnerI've already listened to the Alex Turner album twice today. There are just six tracks on it. So, I'm hesitant to listen to it again. But, I want to listen to something aside from The Vaccines, too. I've played their album too many times over the past couple of weeks. Funny how there's a tipping point for getting tired of a certain band's music. Oh, the dilemma. Okay, one more time for Mr. Turner while I think about who else to hear.

College required me to take a Physical Education course. So, I signed up for "Beginning Jogging". The instructor was a tennis player, which left me feeling kind of short changed. If I wanted to take a class taught by a tennis player, I'd have signed up for "Beginning Tennis"! In spite of this lost illusion (the first of many lost in college), I managed to pass the course. The grade was not based on average pace per mile.

Alex Turner's songwriting on this album is quite different from his band's usual work (see Arctic Monkeys). I won't describe the contrast for you, since we're supposed to be talking about me. But, it's really something to be heard. If you listen to Arctic Monkeys for the first time, make sure your introductory samples are from their earlier albums, especially "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not". Good stuff there.

After college, in the real world, running became a way to not get fat while avoiding the gym. (I loathe the gym) But, I lived in a very cold place then. And, I was not the hardcore runner that I am now. So, I just went to the gym and didn't run. Besides, I tried running and hurt my previously-stress-fractured hip again, which forced me to stop running.

Then, we (oh, yeah, there's been a "we" since college, folks) moved to another, slightly less cold place with few open spaces to run. And, the gym that we could afford to join was really dismal. So, I didn't do much in the way of dedicated exercise in the less-cold place. But, thankfully, the less-cold place was very conducive to walking, which was a good thing, since we didn't own a car.

"...If you're gonna try to walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes..."

Let me sum up: Run. Stop. Run. Stop. Gym. Move somewhere new. Stop. Stop. Gym. Run. Move somewhere new.


I'd never really trained until that indirect challenge from my brother came to me over the phone in 2010. And, having a schedule helped. Running in a race helped. Running different distances and noticing improvement helped. So much helped me enjoy running more in 2010. And, that's when I decided I'd spend more time running.

that's me in the marathonI didn't actually run that October 2010 half marathon with my brother. Halfway through training, I got the bright idea that I would rather run a trail marathon instead. I ran with my brother in May of 2011, though. He doesn't enjoy the activity as much as I do, not at this time, anyway.

I'm listening to Hanni El Khatib on the music source now. He's quite different from the aforementioned musicians. If you've ever wished that the Black Keys had a little more diversity to their oeuvre, you should give Hanni El Khatib a listen. He has a song called "Loved One" that's a lot of fun.

After that first marathon in 2010, I decided that my experience was worthy of internet immortality. So, I created this blog. Then, I ran some other races so that I could blog about them, too.

The National just keeps getting better, don't they?

By now, you've probably figured out that I'm not really going to disclose anything overtly personal in this post. Or, maybe I've done so unwittingly. Or, maybe I'm just posting this so that I can write about something other than shoes.

Here are some additional running-related truths about me:

  • In spite of my love for music, I do not run with music.
  • I do not race as often as some other runners. I have to be selective.
  • I am a family man. If you're a family man or woman, you'll know how that relates directly to a passion for running.
  • I'm saving my definitive opinion about barefoot running and minimalish shoes for another post.

And, if you've made it this far, you're probably bored to tears. So, I'll leave you with this marvelous advertisement for Chipotle, which features Willie Nelson's rendition of a decent Cold Play song. The ad is creative and well done, and the music really gets to me in a nice way. (Suddenly, I have a craving for a burrito)

Thank you for reading.

Monday, February 13, 2012

12athon Run Report for February 12, 2012

The Distance so Nice I Ran it Twice

Being that this month's 12athon date landed on a Sunday, I had grand plans for incorporating a bunch of bonus challenges. But, then my training plan's long run landed on the 12th, too. And, then it got really cold outside.

So, before heading out for my run, I accepted the fact that planning for bonus challenges, in addition to faking my way through a long run in frigid winds, would be overly ambitious for me. The run was frustratingly slow in spite of my peanut butter M&Ms serving as fuel.

I chose to complete my run on the Crabtree Creek Greenway with a spur to Shelley Lake thrown in. It was a nice tour through Raleigh. And, I'll probably write more about that greenway in another post.

By chance, the sun went down while I was roughly four miles from the end. So, that garnered bonus points for the Sunset Challenge. And, it so happened that I decided to wear my zer-drop Bare-X Lite 150s on this run, which meant I could claim points for the Naturalist challenge, too.

Here's the photographic evidence:

02122012 route
The Route for the Run: 24.96 miles through the backyards of Raleigh
The Sunset
From the Crabtree Creek Boardwalk

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to Train a Running Dog - Step 2: Take the Dog for a Run With You

In our previous lesson on training a canine running partner, we completed the first step: Acquiring the dog.

"Step 1B: Do a Bunch of Research on When and How to Begin Training Your Dog to Run With You" was implied. And, if you didn't complete step 1B already, you should be sure to do that.

So, now that Charley is almost 10 months old, his joints and muscles are ready to start going for more than a sprint around the backyard, I think. And, since we've temporarily forbidden the poor guy from accessing the majority of the backyard due to landscaping improvements, today was as good as any to leash him up and take him out for part of my run.

My intention today was to take Charley for a short C25K-style introductory run, something like walk for a few, run for a few, repeat. As you can imagine, things didn't work out according to plan:

Apologies for the whiplash-inducing cinematography. I was using my phone for this.

So, instead, the run went: walk a bit, sprint, jog, walk, sprint, jog, stop, sprint, jog, walk...

It would have been useful for me to teach Charley some basic leash-related commands prior to this adventure, though. He has no idea what "heel", "wait", "whoa", "you're pulling me", "slow down", "slooooow down", and "not so fast" actually mean in the context running with me.

But, regardless of my incompetence as a dog trainer, our first 2 miles together worked out fairly well. Charley didn't yank my arm off. I didn't injure myself keeping up with him. There were other dogs passed without confrontation. And, we had no close calls with automobiles.

Charley is definitely weary of overpasses, though. Can't say that I blame him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Attention Runners with Running Buddies

Want to enter a contest that might result in a free pair of limited edition Mizuno Wave Riders for you and your buddy?

ruby red
crystal cranberry

Well, a friendly representative from alerted me to this contest on the retailer's blog. Essentially, you brag about your running buddy in the comments of this post.

(Not this post, the one here. And, by "here" I mean the post you get to by clicking the word "here" in the previous sentence. You know how the Web works...)

If your comment most effectively and entertainingly answers the question (What do you love about your running buddy?), you might win a pair of these Valentinesque Mizuno shoes for yourself and your running buddy. The lady version is dubbed "crystal cranberry" and the men get "ruby red".

So, good luck, you social runners!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 Update Review: Durability and Colors, Too

Now that the Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150 is showing up in a variety of colorways across the shoe retailer webosphere, you may be curious about the shoe's level of awesomeness. Lucky for you, I'm in a position to provide a 100-plus-mile update review.

Bare-X Lite 150

In my initial review of the Bare-X Lite 150, I wrote pretty positively about the shoe. (And, why wouldn't I? I mean, it's not like I'm going to waste much time reviewing a shoe that I'm sure I won't like as soon as I see it.)

It turns out that the Bare-X Lite 150 remains fantastic for pavement running well after 100 miles. And, I'd even venture to say that it's more awesome after 100 miles than it was when brand new. I'll explain.

Smarter Than the Average Sole

Bare-X Lite 150 Outsole Durability The majority of shoe retail websites, as well as the Inov-8 site itself, describe the Bare-X Lite outsole and midsole in vague terms—rubber, compound, fusion—without betraying enough detail for us to really know how the shoe's going to endure several hundred miles on pavement.

And, as is often the case with many shoes touting lightweight awesomeness, durability comes into question.

The Natural Running Store's Patton Gleason does a really nice job of explaining just how durable the Bare-X Lite 150 is after a bunch of miles. And, I'll agree with him. The outsoles of my 150s could easily last a few hundred more miles.

'Course, it's important to note that we're not expecting these shoes to take us over special terrain. They're made for pavement. And, that doesn't require much in the way of tread. So, as long as these don't wear down to smooth, slippery plastic, the cleverly compounded outsole material should remain sufficient for pavement running.

A unique aspect of this EVA-rubber-fusion-compound midsole/outsole is that it's a bit more rigid at first than one might expect. I based my expectations for this shoe on the f-lite line, which has a great degree of flexibility right out of the box. But, the Bare-X Lite's rather uniformly compounded, flat sole makes the shoe a smidgen more resistant to folding in half than the f-lites.

Bare-X Lite 150 outsole brand new
Bare-X Lite 150 outsole
when it was brand new

This doesn't impede running form at all. It's still delightfully more flexible than some other minimal-ish shoes. It's just not the most flexible shoe out there. And, some people looking for a barefoot replacement shoe might be disappointed by this one's somewhat rigid platform. (see instead the Bare-X 200 or Bare-X 180 [review forthcoming])

However, I should add that the subtle rigidity goes away after 50-or-so miles of running. And, I find that I enjoy the "ride" in the Bare-X 150 more now than several miles ago, especially while running up hills.

I'll point out that my right heel feels some special sensitivity to the ground when I'm walking in these shoes. I don't know why that is the case. It's as if I feel the outline of the curved margin that you see in the photo, the line delineating the shape of the heel in the tread. I don't have this sensation when running. Although, I might if I landed squarely on my heels. And, that's not the way to run in zero-drop shoes, now is it?

Bare-X Lite 150 outsole after about 100 miles
Bare-X Lite 150 outsole after about 100 miles
of running on asphalt and concrete

The Things You Think You Will Like Will Be the Things You Like

That "quick lace system" I pointed out in the initial review is better than I expected. My concerns about the securing tab working itself loose during a long run have not come to fruition. And, there's something so satisfying about simply slipping on the shoes and not tying the laces. (Does that make me lazy?)

I imagine that this quick-pull-tab lacing system will be especially useful to triathletes who have to change from biking shoes to running shoes as efficiently as possible. (If I have the order of that shoe change wrong, it's because I know practically nothing about triathlons)

When you see a tying system that involves this sort of pull-tab-noose thing, the laces are usually elastic. But, that's not the case with the Bare-X Lite 150. These laces are made of the stuff that most laces are made of. So, you don't have to worry about elastic material becoming overly stretched and useless after a while.

Bare-X Lite 150 Features a Quick Lace System

Likewise, the tongueless, one-piece upper is a dream! Without a tongue shifting to the side during your run, you'll wonder why other shoes don't employ this sort of design.

Inov-8 Anatomic FitAnother Bare-X Lite 150 feature that exceeds my expectations is the Anatomic Fit (or last). This is Inov-8's answer to popular demand for wider toe boxes on minimalish shoes. And, they've responded in spades, I say. The last is not so wide as to be sloppy and loose, but not too narrow as to be just another toe-scrunching shoe.

Moreover, the TPU lacing support works especially well in conjunction with the Anatomic Fit, because your midfoot remains secure in the shoe without feeling especially compressed.

I can't wait to try a trail shoe with the Anatomic fit.

Colors for the Rest of You

Bare-X Lite 150 front and backI remember my first visit to a specialty running shoe retailer several years ago. A home-made sign on the wall of this store proclaimed that "You can't choose a running shoe based on color!" The notion, of course, was that running was about exercise and health in lieu of fashion and aesthetics. So, a sensible person would wear whatever the salesperson handed him.

In a way, we're still at the mercy of fit preferences over color options. And, that's why I was willing to try the Bare-X Lite 150 in spite of the fact that Inov-8 released it first in bright white (not just white, bright white).

There are two kinds of runners: Those who like white shoes and those who don't. If you're of the latter persuasion, be advised that it takes more than 100 miles to get used to the bright whiteness. You'll accept the fact that you're wearing super white shoes. But, you won't be a bright-white-shoe convert.

Fortunately, the Bare-X Lite 150 is now available in three other brilliant colorways. So, those of you who are adverse to white shoes have a reason to try out the 150 without having to worry about people staring at your shoes as you run by them on the greenway. (And, you'll swear they're staring at your shoes).

Bare-X Lite 150 in Orange Bare-X Lite 150 in Blue Bare-X Lite 150 in Lime

In Short

The Bare-X Lite 150 is a great road running shoe after more than 100 miles of use. It fits comfortably and with versatility. And, it serves its purpose very well as a zero-drop training and racing shoe for paved terrain.

I think the hardened barefoot runner, or someone who prefers an especially minimal shoe with the flexibility of a moccasin, will want to look at other options. (Again, I'll suggest the Bare-X 180 or 200). I say this because the outsole and midsole composite on the 150 is more rigid than ultra-flexible shoe lovers would prefer.

But, what the Bare-X sole lacks in flexibility is more than compensated for in durability. Inov-8 managed to create a very lightweight racing shoe that lasts for (at least) hundreds of miles. That's pretty significant. And, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bare-X Lite 150 becomes almost as cultishly popular as the f-lite 195s and 230s.

Bare-X Lite 150

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove Review: First-ish Impressions

Merrell Road GloveOnce again, I'm fashionably late to the shoe-review party. While the other running bloggers have already reviewed and re-reviewed the Merrell Road Glove, I'm just now posting my own insights on this groovy shoe.

For those of you who prefer not to read through my typical drivel, I'll go ahead and give you the conclusion to my review now (Don't expect this kind of Brechtian courtesy in forthcoming shoe reviews, though):


After running 60-or-so miles in my pair of Merrell Barefoot Road Gloves over the past couple of weeks, I can confidently confirm that what you've already read about the shoe is all you'll need to know. The other reviewers got it right, especially the ones who corrected the more critical ones. The only thing left to do is pick a color, try on the shoe, and make a final decision.

Still Reading?

Ah, thank you reader! I'll be sure to make the rest of this post extra wordy and full of superfluous remarks encased in parentheses (just for you).

Merrell Makes This

The numerous Road Glove reviews already in existence online are a testament to Merrell's marketing strategy. For instance, when I first read about how Merrell "gets it" on Jason Robillard's blog, I thought he was just being nice to his sponsor.

But, if you pay attention, you can see that Merrell strives to maintain a palpable connection with their customers. The Merrell facebook posts are frequent and friendly, making fans feel valued. And, the overall approach Merrell is taking to crafting their Barefoot line seems enthusiastically well planned.

And, of course, the fact that so many bloggers have already reviewed the Road Glove at least once indicates to me just how much value Merrell attributes to virtual-word-of-mouth marketing, so to speak.

With that kind of attention to quality and grass-roots promotion, It's no wonder that Merrell is so highly regarded. I mean, who doesn't like Merrell? The company is practically synonymous with outdoor activities. And, the name—"Merrell"—rolls off the tongue as if one were speaking to a loyal dog.

Disliking Merrell is like hating trees and mountains. What kind of person hates a tree?

In my mind, Merrell's corporate policy mandates that offices close early when the weather's nice. The coffee is probably always awesome. And, every employee is exposed to natural light for no less than 100% of the day. Even the bathrooms in Merrell offices have a skylight so as to allow for appreciation of the outdoors.

There's a video about barefoot running, too. But, this one's more amusing.

More importantly, or, perhaps equally so, Merrell wants people to have fun. Would a company make a commercial like this if they didn't rank fun and humor up there with breathing and general well being? No, such a company would not.

And, that's an important thing to consider, the promotion of fun. The fact that a fun-loving company like Merrell makes the Road Glove is a big deal.

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove lateral right and bottom

Barefoot is Best, Especially with a Barefoot Shoe

The irony of describing a shoe with a term that means the exact opposite of what that descriptor means probably strikes several people as strange. Rightly so. How many of us would want a "shirtless shirt" or "commando underwear"? (Okay, the latter is pretty funny, now that I think about it)

But, there's already been a discussion or two about the appropriateness of using the term "barefoot shoe". And, I'll leave that to the authorities. My point is that irony ads a good dose of fun to this particular shoe.

I mean, Merrell also calls it a glove, when, in fact, it looks more like a mitten minus a thumb. (Coincidentially, one of Merrell's primary offices is in Michigan; which, as everyone knows, also resembles a mitten)

So, really with at least two contradictions in the name of this shoe, Merrell is practically daring you not to give it a try!

"Barefoot? Pfft, it's a shoe. How can a shoe make you barefoot? Lemme see that!"

"Road Glove? Pfft, VFFs are more like gloves. This is just like a regular ol' shoe! Lemme try that!"

See? It works, the contradictory product naming. The counterintuitive adjective-noun combo breaks down your mental defenses. And, you're open to putting these bad boys on your feet for a run, because, really, they happen to look damn good.

And, then you put them on. And, you run for a bit. And, you find that all that natural form stuff you've been practicing is easier than ever in the Road Gloves.

But, you're uncertain about the grip that the shoes have around your midfeet. Yet, your toes splay wildly and securely and happily. So, the grip around your midfoot makes sense. And, you just start running further until you realize that the store employees are chasing you, because it looks like you're trying to steal the shoes. But, you're not. (You swear)

Honestly, more than any other minimal-ish shoe I currently wear, the Road Gloves are the ones that make me want to kick 'em off at the end of a run and finish the last mile or so running barefoot. That's a good thing, not a negative remark about the shoes.

The Road Glove's zero-droppedness and flat outsole make running on pavement with proper form fun and efficient. And, for me, this really makes barefoot running more accessible. (Bold text intentional)

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove bottom view

The Road Glove's Arch Enemies

Let's just talk about this arch thingy for a moment: If you've read more than one review of the Road Glove already, you've read something that's either negative or defensive about the "arch support" built into the shoe, comments denouncing the shoe for being far from minimal.

See, there's a smooth bump on the insole that conforms to a person's arch rather snuggly. And, at first, the sensation might make a runner think his arch is being overly supported.

I was concerned about my arch area, too, at first. But, that's because I was not used to the way Merrell's barefoot shoes are made to embrace the foot. After a few minutes of running in the shoe, I realized that this arch security exists to allow the toes to enjoy that roomy toe box without having to endure a sloppy fit.

This is where the "glove" part of the name applies. This snug midfoot area makes the shoes fit "like a glove." They don't fit like a mitten. No one says something fits like a mitten. And, if they did, they'd probably be talking about a mitten.

Consequently, this glove-like fit can make taking the shoes on and off a bit of a challenge. People who wear the Trail Gloves are familiar with this quality of the design. And, well, hey, at least the shoes don't fall off your feet.

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove front view

The Trail Runner's Road Shoe

Most people might think of naturey stuff first when talking about Merrell. But, most people are also aware that the company has been making urban footwear for a while. So, the Merrells are no strangers to pavement.

But, thanks to the success of the Trail Glove, I think that Merrell was a bit hesitant to take too much away from their original barefoot outsole. (MGBG thinks something like this, too) Either that, or they're just incredibly practical shoe designers who consider the fact that a person buying this for road wear might like to take it off pavement for a few miles.

Due to the density and exceptional grip of the Vibram outsole, the Road Glove is well made for trail running. That "specialized forefoot plate" and tough Vibram rubber stuff protect the feet from pointy things on the ground. And, I've seen numerous pictures of a fellow Merrell Road Glove wearer traipsing over wet rocks and loose leaves. Even I've had a chance to test the Road Glove's muster over some lightly technical trail with splendid success.

Granted, the Road Glove is probably not going to be my first choice for a trail run. But, that's because I have an abnormal number of shoes in my arsenal. So, I can be picky about my shoe-to-terrain decision. (Essentially, I'm partial to the more flexible, plateless trail shoes that allow my feet to bend over pointy things. That's just me)

Not the Conclusion

I like the road glove. Lots of other reviewers like the Road Glove.

Some shoes fit people perfectly. Some shoes are the exact opposite of what a person needs.

Feel free to ask questions below. And, as always, Thanks for reading!

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove again

Product provided by Merrell.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...