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Archive for the ‘gear’ Category

The Only Apps You’ll Ever Need: Mobile apps for the Serious Trail Runner

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Everyone has their own reasons for trail running. Some do it for fitness, while some do it just to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and to get in touch with nature and feel the wind in their hair. Whatever their reasons, you’re not likely to find a trail runner who’s attached to their phone. The following apps, however, could change all that.

While most runners use their phones and other portable media devices to listen to music, smartphones can actually help trail runners get more out of their runs! The past few years have seen smartphone usage climb to unforeseen rates, and while sports apps currently rank as the least popular category for downloads on iTunes right now, the sheer number of people adopting smartphones has been enough to prompt sports enthusiasts to develop new apps. Gaming Realms, operators of online gaming website, has noted that growth in mobile internet “is one of the most powerful trends in the internet landscape and the global smartphone and tablet installed base is expected to exceed the PC installed base during 2013.” Because of this, even FIFA turned to mobile internet to increase fan engagement for this year’s World Cup.

Your phone can be more than just a tool for playing music. With the right apps, it could rival an experienced trainer or running buddy. To turn your phone into the best trail running tool you could ever ask for, try downloading the following:

1. RunKeeper












Although not made specifically for trail runners, Runkeeper has everything you’d ever need in a running app: GPS, lap timing, activity recording, goal-keeping, and route-keeping.

2. Endomondo
























Looking for an app that lets you share your trail runs with the world? Endomondo does just that, allowing runners to tag and assign photos to certain trails and keep track of your abilities. The app is even integrated with various sports watches!

3. Strava
















If you’re still not sold on the idea of bringing your mobile phone with you out on runs, you can try Strava, an ingenious app that can be used with a variety of watches, and even Garmin devices.

New Balance Warrior Prequel Running Shoe Review

Friday, October 11th, 2013

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New Balance gave me the chance to check out the new Warrior Prequel Running Shoes and I couldn’t wait to lace these babies up and take them for a spin around town. The Warrior Prequel is the first in it’s series and is a shoe built from the ground up without any creative constraints.

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The first thing I noticed when putting on the shoe was the molded tongue for a tight fit in the upper part of the shoe. I personally haven’t run in any shoes with this kind of support in the tongue and I was pleasantly surprised at how it cradled my entire foot. The upper is seamlessly welded for unmatched fit in any type of runner. This also lends itself for high performance for all types of foot shapes and sizes. The Warrior Prequel combines comfort, stability, and is ultra-light speed all in one package.

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The external stability cradle maintains the foot positioning in the center heel which helps all types of athletes. New Balance was also able to add rev-light material in the heel which is 33% lighter than other shoes with the same amount of cushioning.

I ran in these shoes but New Balance wants you to know these shoes are perfect for anyone playing team sports, crossfit, or anybody. New Balance tested them with recreational athletes and professional athletes to show it can work for anyone. I think they are great all around shoes but if you are looking for a running specific shoe you may want to try another New Balance running shoes.

Check out this video on how they designed the shoe.


Soft Star RunAmoc Minimalist Trail Running Shoe Review

Monday, February 27th, 2012


Several months ago I acquired a pair of RunAmoc trail running shoes/moccasins from Soft Star shoes. If you would like to skip all of the details of the review below, I will cut to the chase: I highly recommend these shoes. If you are a barefoot road runner who wants to transition to trails, these would be an ideal choice. If you are a minimalist runner, and want a truly minimal shoe for road or trails, these probably trump any other product on the market when it comes to minimalism.

The sole of the shoe is a composite produced by Vibram, with a very light tread. The thickness is completely uniform and only about 3mm thick. Soft Star also makes a version of the RunAmoc with a thicker sole and aggressive tread, but given my bias towards absolute minimalism (bare), I ordered their ‘street’ shoe. The upper is 100% leather and is perforated throughout for great ventilation. A simple drawstring around the ankle allows the shoe to be secured at the front with a typical knot.

Until a few months ago, I was running between 30 and 60 miles a week (I had to quit running at the end of 2011 while I finished my doctoral degree and searched for a job). Since 2007, I have been a barefoot purist, running without anything on my feet and disliking the way many have used ‘barefoot running’ as a substitute for ‘minimalist running‘. This, of course, has made winter running a bit difficult, as I’ve always been too proud to cover my feet, even when temperatures are sub-freezing (the two exceptions being for December marathons with start temperatures in the 20s). Aside from the two winter marathons that I ran in Land’s End slippers (similar to leather-bottom moccasins), I have run one marathon barefoot, as wells as some 5k and 10k races. I also enjoy summer all-comers track meets, and typically compete in the 1500/mile. To keep myself fit for track racing, my weekly running typically incorporates short intervals at the track (400m) and tempo runs. The majority of my running over the past few years has been done in Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, but I have also run barefoot as I’ve traveled within the U.S. and abroad.

Benefits of the shoe:soft-star-runamoc-minimalist-trail-running-shoe-review

1. Foremost, these shoes have enabled me to begin trail running. Although I love to mountain bike, I didn’t realize how exhilarating trail-running would be. I’ve used the shoes both for casual runs and for one 15k trail run. In all cases, they performed excellently.

2. The sole of the shoe is truly minimalist. Unlike other minimalist running shoes on the market, the sole of this shoe has a uniform thickness and is quite thin. Even Vibram FiverFingers or Fila Skeletoes add additional material in certain areas around the heel, ball, and toes. The sole uniformity is beneficial because it ensures that the shoe will be less likely to cause problems in a proper barefoot stride, meaning that moving back and forth between barefoot running and RunAmoc running will be as seamless as possible. For me, this means that I can easily interchange days running barefoot on the road and using RunAmocs on the trail, or wearing RunAmocs on cold days and running barefoot on warmer days.

3. The shoes are very lightweight and durable. After a few months of running, they have shown very little wear.

4. The perforated upper makes the shoe very breathable (as well as contributing to the lack of weight). With plenty of air gliding across your foot, you really don’t feel like you’re wearing a shoe.

5. The shoe is quite wide at the ball of the foot, and is not restrictive around the foot – it allows plenty of room for the foot to expand naturally while contacting the ground. Despite this, the shoe never felt too loose while trail running. It always maintained contact with the foot without shifting.

Downsides of the shoe:

1. The shoes left a black residue on my feet during the first few weeks of running. This was not a major problem – just an annoyance.

2. In my personal opinion, the shoes aren’t nearly as cool looking as other products on the market. Soft Star has partly rectified this issue, as they have introduced a number of new moccasins in the latter part of 2011.

3. Given their light weight, and the perforated upper, these shoes are not ideal for very low temperatures (low, of course, is a subjective assessment). They are definitely much better than running completely barefoot on cold pavement, but other shoes on the market would provide more warmth.

I should emphasize one aspect of these shoes: I have found these shoes ideal for trail running, but for many other runners, the sole would be too thin. In particular, if you are a barefoot road runner, seeking to transition to trails, these shoes would probably suit you perfectly. If you are simply looking for a minimalist road running shoe (whether or not you have any experience with minimalist running) these shoes would also probably suit you perfectly. However, if you are looking for a minimalist trail running shoe and don’t have any experience with barefoot running, I believe the RunAmoc with thicker ‘trail’ sole would be better.

In conclusion, I absolutely love my RunAmocs. They have performed well in a variety of conditions and are the most minimal shoe that I have put on my foot. There is no doubt that I will be a long-time Soft Star customer as I will continue to use their products off-road and in cold weather.

Zensah Trail Running Socks Review

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

zensah-trail-running-socksI’ve never really been into which type of socks I wear trail running but got the opportunity to try the Zensah Trail Running Socks so I went for it.  Man, did I realize how much I was missing by wearing my generic Puma ankle socks from Ross.  These socks actually made my feet feel better after a long run!

At first feel I thought the Zensah trail running socks were too thick.  I was nervous that they would be too warm, leading my feet to sweat more, which would result in more blisters.  I’m personally blister prone and have been waiting for about 20 years and 10,000 miles for my feet to toughen up.  If rucking hundreds of miles in Army boots haven’t done it, I don’t know what will.  It’s just something I live with; but I didn’t get any blisters in the Zensah trail running socks!  Zensah says they are, “thermal regulating so your feet don’t  get too cold or hot” and I’ve found that to be true, running in both cold and extremely hot weather.

Starting from the top of the sock, when pulled up it goes to the middle of your shin.  If you want to wear them lower they squish down easily like they were made for 90s wear.  The top has a bit smaller circumference than the rest of the sock and has thicker netting which helps it hold in place.  I didn’t have these fall down my leg at all when running!  The black portion just below the top of the sock is the thinnest material and made of fine, cris-crossing thread.  I think this is to increase breathability in the spots where support isn’t as important.  The front part of the ankle is a vertically woven pattern which hugs closely to your shins.  The back of the sock from the upper ankle to the heal is the thickest part of the sock.  This portion reminds me a lot of hiking socks and I believe is for increased blister protection.  From the middle of the heel to to top of the forefoot is the same material used at the top of the sock for increased breathability.

The midsole of this sock is what sets it apart from any other sock I’ve worn.  When holding this sock you can actually see that this portion is smaller than the rest of the sock.  This is to give a tighter fit on your arches.  The bottom is tightly woven and runs horizontal across the bottom of your foot.  The top is made of a mesh type pattern but is very durable.  This is where you feel the difference in the Zensah sock.  Zensah says it is a, “patented knitting technique that creates a support zone around your arch and ankle that adjusts to your foot shape to increase comfort and enhance support while trail running.”  Wow, patented knitting technique?  That must be some knitting technique if no one else has come up with it since humans started wearing clothes!  The toe is made of the same thick material as the heal for blister prevention.

Overall I really like these socks for trail running.  If you are looking for some trail running socks you should definitely check them out.  They aren’t too hot but are able to protect my legs from sticks and briars.  Wait, I thought it was cool to have scratches from trail running…

Running with multiple iPhones: Citizen Broadcasting

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

marthon-running-with-gearI came across this article about Joseph Tame, 33, who completed an “online” marathon in Tokyo last week.  He ran the race in 6 hours and 28 minutes.  The first thing I thought was, “He could have probably run the race in 6 hours without all that junk strapped to him.”  He had 4 iPhones in his contraption:  1 pointed at his face, 1 at the pavement in front of him, another using the GPS feature so people could track his progress, and a 4th for typing out tweets.  Oh, and there was an iPad on his back displaying his tweets, seems only natural.  He said, “It’s citizen broadcasting.  Can we take live sports events coverage to the next level?”  He had 3,000 people following his progress at one point so apparently there is some demand for this type of media, but were people really watching his race or his gimmick.  Joseph was also wearing bright pink plastic toy windmills on his helmet and pink bunnies on his sneakers which had nothing to with the run or his broadcast.  So I began to think, is there a market for this?  Do people want to watch races?  Are competitive runners willing to strap on gadgets so we can watch what they see and feel during a race?  We know Joseph said he won’t do it again, that 10 pounds of gear was too much for him!  Good idea dropping the equipment, maybe you can finish under the 6 hour mark next time.

I recently met a very good ultra runner who takes video of his races and shares them online.  He said, “I usually finish in the top 10 but I’m never going to win a race, those guys are on a whole other level, so I figure it doesn’t hurt me too much if I stop and pull out the camera for a bit.”  I see his point, I’m in the same boat, I’m never going to win a race, but I still want to try to get 2nd or 3rd.  If I stopped to pull my camera out it would really slow down my efforts.  If I’m unwilling to do it I assume most competitive runners feel the same way.  In addition, do people really like to watch a video of a race?  I assume there is a reason why there are as many races televised as bowling tournaments.  I know a lot of runners like to share their race recaps on blogs and other places online, but do other people like to read them who don’t have any relation to the runner? has been able to bridge this gap by combining “friendships” with running feats, but does anyone ever search for a race recap?  My experience has been no; that’s why I stopped writing race recaps. However, I have found that people want information about races, it’s just usually before buying a race entry, but not after the race.  Oh yeah, and they don’t care that I got tired at mile 5, so I ate one gel, then I stepped in some mud…

I mean, I’m a 21st century digital boy, but I hate trail running with any unnecessary gear strapped on.  I don’t trail run with an iPod, iPhone, shirt ( if temp above freezing), or even water belt (if under 20 mile run).  However, I do run with a GPS watch so I can make up my path as I run.  I guess that’s the point, I trail run to be free to roam where I want to and get away from my digital life.  I run to clear my mind and don’t want an iPod blasting noise into my head.  I trail run to get away from my cell phone.  My voicemail message actually used to say, “I’m probably on a run right now…” because 90% of the time that was true.  Running was the only time I was away from it!  Trail Running is about connecting with nature and the enviroment and I find it difficult to do so if I’m connected to anything else at the time.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like tweeting while running!

Overall, I would watch elite runners if they were to broadcast themselves running a race, but I understand why they wouldn’t want to strap a camera to their head.  I definitely have no interest in watching someone trudge along at a 14 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles and think many other runners would agree with me.  Maybe we could get some cameras mounted in trees or something, until then I guess we’ll just have to watch more bowling…

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race turns Epic (5 of 5)

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

twin-mountain-trudge-inside-of-snow-shelterHawaiian Shirt Ray shares how his Epic experience ended up:

The temperature inside the shelter was warmer than the outside temperature but was still very cold.  I knew that I could not fall asleep so I set my alarm on my watch to go off every 30 minutes.  To stay warm I did sit-ups and moved my legs and toes vigorously.  At this point I knew that I would survive the night but I was going to be miserable.  I knew that as the temperature dropped that I would start shivering uncontrollably and that I might lose toes to frostbite, but I would survive.

The Rescue Finally Came

As I laid in my shelter trying to keep warm I heard in the distance two snow mobiles.  I did not want to immediately punch out of my shelter just in case they did not come close because I would then have to reseal myself in and I would lose the little heat that I had generated.  To my relief they came right to my shelter and stopped in front of my ski poles.  It was Search and Rescue and the Sheriff.

When I came out of my shelter they did not think I was the person they were looking for since I was still a functioning twin-mountain-trudge-inside-snow-shelterperson and seemed to be fine.  They asked me if I’m the person that needed to be rescued and after I gave them my name they were convinced I was the right guy.  I have a feeling they were thinking they were on a body recovery mission and not on a real rescue mission.  Once we were back to the start/finish line they made a comment that they have never had such an easy rescue.

The Bottom Line – Be Prepared, Always

My epic adventure could have turned out to have a really sad ending.  Because I took the seriousness of the adventure event and Alec’s advice I was prepared and survived my epic ordeal.  I saw other runners that took less than the minimum requirements set by Alec.  If they would have gotten lost their Epic tale would have been of a recovery and not a rescue.  If you are not educated on survival skills you should not even think about attempting The Trudge.  If you are not willing to take the proper gear because it will weight you down and you are more concerned with “racing” you should not think about attempting The Trudge.  Unfortunately I see people going into the wilderness unprepared all the time and my friends in Search and Rescue are the most frustrated with the people who are not prepared.  Don’t be one of those unprepared people.

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race Turns Epic (2 of 5)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

2011-twin-lakes-trail-race-hawaiin-shirt-rayHere’s how Hawaiian Shirt Ray prepared for the Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race.

How I Prepared for the Trudge


I knew what I was signing up for when I entered the Trudge again this year.  Beacuse I knew I was in for a long tough day I started out eating a hearty breakfast of:  2 breakfast burritos, a large smoothie, banana bread (see my banana bread recipe), and a few cups of coffee.  For the race I had packed two chicken sandwiches, two chicken and rice burritos, pretzels, and granola bars.  Plus, I planned on eating hot soup at the start/finish aid station before running my second lap.


For hydration I carried 80 ounces of energy drink on each lap.  Yes, that is a total of 160 ounces for a 22 mile race.  My plan for the event was to drink the entire 80 ounces each lap.  This event is a Trudge and it takes double if not more effort to run the same distance on dry trails.

What some people do not realize is that when it is is cold outside you still need to drink and eat as much as you would during a warmer day.  For distance runners, dehydration can complicate and accelerate the onset of hypothermia.  Remember, that when the temperature outdoors is lower than your body temperature, you will give up heat to the environment.  Your natural metabolism is usually enough to maintain your core body temperature.  However, when conditions become extreme your body’s metabolism may not be able to protect you from heat lose.  The result is hypothermia.  Staying hydrated helps your natural metabolism to regulate your body’s temperature (see my story Cold Weather Running).


I came ready for any conditions.  I signed up for two laps and I came prepared to run nothing less than two laps.  Once I was at the start/finish line I assessed what gear I was going to take with me on each loop.

Here is what I took:  a running backpack with a hydration system, arm warmers, neck gaiter, ear warmers, extra wool hat, chapstick, salt tablets, ginger, Tums, Imodium tablets, Acetaminophen (not Ibuprofen), toilet paper, plastic rain poncho, sunglasses, Photo ID, long sleeve wicking shirt, wicking vest, wind jacket, ski poles, Gore-Tex jacket, headlamp with fresh batteries, and a plastic bag to put my clothes in to keep them dry.

Yes, I carried all that gear plus my food and water.

What I Wore

A Hawaiian Shirt; heck it’s an extra layer (fashionable, not too functional), a long sleeve wicking shirt, a long sleeve resistant full frontal zipper jersey, wicking underwear, mittens, running tights, over the tights a waterproof and windproof shell, running shoes, neoprene socks, neoprene shoe covers, hiking gaiters, and micro spikes.

Read more tomorrow to find out why Hawaiian Shirt Ray was glad he had all this gear.

Christmas Gifts for Trail Runners – REI’s Cyber Monday Sale

Monday, November 29th, 2010 is having a Winter Sale that ends today, Cyber Monday.  We sifted through all the items to find the trail running gifts you want and need.  Please Mom!  Please Mom!  But I neeeeeeed it!

petzel-tikka-xp-2-led-headlamp-trail-runningPetzl Tikka XP 2 LED Headlamp (was 54.95, sale price 41.99) For trail runners that are looking for a light, durable, bright light, this is the one for you.  Don’t let the small size fool you with this headlamp.  The Petzl Tikka XP 2 headlamp has a powerful and adjustable beam with tilt head that can guide you down the trail as fast you can run it.  I guaranteed you’ll never catch up to this light, this white light reaches up to 60m out.  For those foggy nights there is a spring-assisted, flip-up diffuser lens which changes the beam shape from spotlight to area light.  It also has a red LED light positioned to the side in case your buddies are running in night vision goggles.  This light can last all night long, oh yeah, giving 160 hours of white light and 80 hours of light on the high intensity setting.  Not that it matters, you wouldn’t be able to last that long on the high intensity setting anyway.  Honey, it’s getting dark outside!

Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon Hat(was $30.00, now $20.99) Trail Runners aren’t different from anyone else, mountain-hardwear-dome-perignon-hat-trail-runningthey loose their heat through their heads too, but they don’t have to.  They can stay warm with less bulk by donning the soft Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon hat made from Polartec 200 fleece and Gore Windstopper fleece.  That’s science keeping you warm.  This hat is unique because of the fleece earband which blocks the wind and keeps your ears toasty warm.  For the egg head in your life there is a stretch fleece insert in the back of the head to give a nice fit for any mishaped head.  If you have a big head (literally) then this is the hat for you.

smartwool-midweight-wool-long-underwear-trail-runningSmartWool Midweight Wool Long Underwear(was 70.00, now 59.99) Keeping the lower extremities warm while feeling uninhibited is important to every trail runner and this long underwear allows you to have the comfort of both worlds.  The SmartWool Midweight Wool Long Underwear Bottoms offer natural stretch and breathability for when temperatures fluctuate, like before you run and during your run.  The underwear bottoms are made of 100% super-fine (like me) merino wool to help maintain your comfort in any climate.  The flatlock side-seam construction and the covered waistband prevents chafing as you move your legs back and forth down the trail.  They are easy to wash too, throw them in the washing machine and dry on cool temperature to avoid shrinkage.  We all know how bad shrinkage can be…

So take some time this Cyber Monday and get some Christmas shopping done.  I know you are at work but you can’t just jump back in after your holiday hibernation.  Take some time to ease back in, like an old man getting into a warm bath.

Christmas Gifts for Trail Runners

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

santa-runningCyber Monday is going to be as hot as it sounds, so we’re here to make life easier.  No more pushing users, crashing virtual shopping carts, or waiting in long pageview load lines this holiday season.  Here are three gift ideas for your favorite Trail Runner.  Or your boss, who is probably also a trail runner.  Like a boss.

The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running:  If you want in print then this is the book to get.  Nancy Hobbs tells you everything you need to know about trail running.  Nancy is an original trail runners who has been an ambassador to the sport for many years.  She is the Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association, a writer for both Running Times and, and a chairperson for the Mountain Ultra Trail Council.  She knows what she’s talking about in this book.  Learn from an expert.  trail-running-fuel-belt

Fuel Belt:  Keep your trail runner running by giving them a fuel belt.  In the belt they can carry water, GU, and toilet paper.  The toilet paper is more for comfort than fuel though.  This one is tight fitting and has space for 4 water bottles along with two pockets.  Perfect for any runner traveling more than 10 miles and not too bulky for those 25 milers.

vibram-five-fingers-womens-kso-trekVibram Five Fingers:  These are the hip, new ‘Tickle me Elmo’ for the running community this Christmas.  They are sometimes difficult to find in retail stores but they are here on the Internet.  So powerful.  If your trail runner hasn’t tried running in Vibram Five Fingers yet I guaranteed they have thought about it.  If you want to get them the gift that they want but would never buy themselves, then this is it.

We hope this helps.  We based this list on items that we currently don’t own but would love to have.  Hear that Grandma?  We’ll keep supplying you with ideas this holiday season as we survey how much we really don’t have.  Window shopping is fun!

New Balance Headphones

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

new-balance-headphones-for-runnersNew Balance has announced they are teaming up with iHome to launch a sport/fitness headphones for runners and endurance athletes.  I personally never wear headphones when I go running, especially when trail running.  How can you connect with nature if you can’t hear it?

At any rate, from the article, “New Balance is dedicated to offering innovative products to help athletes of all abilities perform at their best,” says John Cullen, general manager for licensing at New Balance. “iHome’s experience and expertise in the audio solutions industry will allow us to offer a range of innovative sport headphones to complement our existing line of performance footwear, apparel and accessories.”

“Listening to the right type of music while running, training or competing in an endurance-style event can have a very positive effect on performance,” said Evan Stein, vice president of marketing for iHome. “Merging iHome’s ability to create compelling audio devices with New Balance’s expertise in the world of athletic products is sure to be a winning combination, and we hope many athletes will soon be beating their personal bests with the release of our New Balance Sport Headphones this holiday season.”

The New Balance 439 headphones have removable ear-hooks and detachable cables of varying length and will retail for $34.99.  The New Balance 447 will be foldable and sit on your ears but also feature the interchangeable cables along with an in-line player remote for iPhones and iPods; it will retail for $34.99.  Lastly, the New Balance 467 will be behind the neck headphones (neckphones?) with interchangeable cable links and sell for $24.99.

We’ll have to wait and see how well a shoe company like New Balance can manufacture and market headphones for runners with their partner iHome.  Maybe we’ll start seeing more of these partnerships in the future.  I however think New Balance should stick to its core competency; making those laidback grey sneakers that everyone used to like so much….