Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Inov8 F-Lite 230 review

My brief review on the Inov8 F-Lite 230 was also in the December issue of August Man magazine, and I’d promised the lovely peeps at Inov8 Singapore that I’d post a more in-depth opinion on my blog, as well as my experiences with the Road-X 233 which I used at the 2011 Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon. It does seem like I’m reviewing a lot of shoes at the moment, but I’m fallen behind on updating my posts so now everything’s coming at once!

The F-Lite 230 is classed as a fitness shoe on the Inov8 website, though I’m not really sure why. It’s a 2-Arrow Shoc-zone, which is Inov8’s measurement system of how close to a natural running position (Zero-Arrow) the shoe is. It’s got a 6mm differential, so not quite barefoot running, but not far off. I’ve found I’m best with a minimal amount of cushioning and the 2-Arrow shoes suit my tastes.

The advertised weight is 230g for a pair in size UK8, and therefore in my size they don’t amount to much weight at all. On my feet, they’re a sleek fit and feel ultralight. These come in a unisex sizing, but the performance fit suits my feet well and they lace up nice and snug in the midfoot area. I tried running sockless in these and they were chafe-free as Inov8 have made them velvety soft and seamless inside. No hot spots during my runs, not even without socks. The electric blue colour is easy on the eyes as well, its always an added boost when the shoes look good!
The tread on the 230s doesn’t seem particularly aggressive, but I know from my older Inov8s (Flyroc & X-Talon) that the sticky rubber outsole is surprisingly grippy on all sorts of off-road terrain. When I trialled these, it was a pretty wet few weeks and so I had a good chance to get down and dirty with them .. I reckon trail shoes always look better with a little mud on them.

Out on the trails, the sticky rubber outsole made up for the less aggressive tread, and gave good traction on wet and muddy sections. With the low profile and aerated mesh upper, it felt like a natural racing flat just begging to go fast.

On medium and long runs, the 230s provided a decent amount of cushioning and stability for the Macritchie trails in both wet and dry conditions, but I’m not sure how they’d fare on a more aggressive trails. My connecting run from home to the trail (about 3km) is on concrete pavement and tarmac, and it felt like I had a pair of road racers on.

Bottom line? The F-Lite 230s are a bit of a speed demon on both tarmac and hard-packed trail. They work well on both surfaces and would be perfect for breaking the speed limit as a mixed-terrain racer. 

These are $198 from Inov-8 Singapore. Inov8 is distributed in S.E.A. by Base Camp Venture Pte. Ltd.  For enquries on Inov-8 products, email info@basecampventure.com or call (65) 6779 0424

Monday, 30 January 2012

Hoka OneOne review (Bondi B, Mafate & Combo XT)

Ok, this post has taken me a long time to put up .. but it's finally done. I've been trialling Hoka OneOne shoes since November last year, and here's my two cents worth.

I had a pair of Mafate, Combo XT and Bondi B on trial, and reviewed the Mafate for August Man magazine in December. The Mafate is the trail shoe from Hoka OneOne, whilst the Combo XT is their 'cross running' shoe, which just means that it's aimed at runners on mixed terrain (road and trail).
Combo XT
I've mainly been running in the Bondi B, which is a road shoe, but seems to cope fine on the Macritchie trail. The Bondi B has the narrowest fit of the three models so that's my main reason for favouring it. I've had runs in all three and my review is based on the general concept and technology of these shoes.
Bondi B
When you see a pair of Hokas for the first time, they look massive. With the current fixation on minimal shoes and barefoot running, the Hokas buck the trend and take shoe technology to the opposite end of the spectrum.

On the website, Hoka provide an explanation of the key technology concepts with their shoes. The key words from Hoka are Rolling, Oversized, Control, Stability, Grip and Lightweight.

The shoe is designed with a "50% rockering profile, which is meant to provide a unique rolling motion to deliver superior underfoot performance". Whilst this may sound like a load of hype, right from my first run in the Hokas, the rockered profile made me feel like I wanted to keep moving forward. There certainly is a rolling motion that takes some getting used to, but once you do, it feels good! It really does propel you forward and that can't be a bad thing unless you're trying to run backwards!

One of my concerns was how enormous my feet looked .. yes, vain and very superficial, but I'm so used to wearing lightweight trainer/racers that I felt like I was wearing huge skater boy shoes. The oversized technology is unique to Hoka, and the blurb reads: "using up to 2.5x the volume of EVA in the midsole compared to standard running shoes, they offer outstanding impact absorption and a highly comfortable underfoot feel. This oversized approach to design ensures a natural stride whether on smooth road surfaces or the most uneven trails." 

Looking down, my feet look massive, and I'm worried about exacerbating my natural propensity for clumsiness in these clown shoes. Once I've started running, I forget about how big these shoes look. They are very comfortable and deceptively light for their size. I'm bouncing off stuff and purposely running over rocks and branches and taking a line I wouldn't normally take it I had my normal shoes on. These shoes are serious fun! It's like monster truck running .. I feel almost invincible in the Hokas, like I could step on anything and it'd be fine. They provide a great deal of enjoyment on a trail run in particular, and on the road they boost the comfort factor sky high.
Hoka OneOne is the monster truck of running shoes!
I had no hot spots of chafing with the Hokas even on long runs, no real complaints at all. They are very comfortable to run in, and grip pretty well in the wet or dry. I have to say I really enjoy running in the Hokas, especially downhill. I could bomb down the trails like my pants were on fire without worrying about the impact on my knees/ankles/etc. And the best part? Significantly less fatigue after long runs. Seriously, I'm not kidding. These are great shoes, and the bonus of reduced fatigue is something that can't be ignored. My legs felt less tired after a long run in the Hokas and I ran better the next day as well. 

My feet are size 5 .. honest! ;)

Bottom line, I don't have any grievances with the Hokas .. apart from maybe they make my feet look like Ronald McDonalds .. but that's nothing to do with their performance. They are a little on the pricey side .. about $290 for a pair, but they're meant to be very durable, and for the comfort, reduced fatigue and enjoyment they provide while running, that's not a bad deal, really.

I've come to like the Hokas a lot, and find myself choosing them over all the other shoes I have at my disposal for training runs.
So many shoes, so little time ..
I wouldn't be averse to running ultras in them either, but the best fit for me is the Bondi B (currently the smallest size available in all models is UK7.5) and as a road shoe, isn't suitable for the trails I race on. For shorter races I still prefer my Inov8 F-Lite 230s (review coming soon too!), as I think psychologically I still feel the Hokas are a little clumsy (in terms of size) to run fast in.

Of the three Hoka models, the Combo XT is my favourite, but I'd need a smaller size (it's a unisex fit) for it to fit right, especially for longer runs. The width is between the Bondi B and the Mafate, and would suit most runners. The Mafate is generously sized and would also suit runners with wide feet.

The Hoka mantra "Time To Fly' is really quite apt .. you'll need to try them for yourself and then you'll know what I mean. :)

For a trial or sales contact Jennifer Lee (+65) 9765 2278, or email SgpEastCoastTrading@hotmail.sg.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Happy New Ears!

It's nearly the end of January 2012, both New Year and Chinese New Year have passed, and I've only just gotten round to my first post of the year! It's been a great start to the year so far though, with the first two days of 2012 being spent kitesurfing in Bintan.
Kiting at Agro, Bintan. (Photo: Outer Quadrant)
Then I headed out to Milan and Paris for Men's Fashion Week and got the lowdown on the catwalk trends for Fall/Winter 2012/13. It was freezing in Milan, much milder in Paris and generally a good couple of weeks with fashionista du jour Janie Cai, Fashion Director at August Man magazine (Singapore).
Janie gets papped in Paris. Photo: Michelle Jun
I then swapped the lovely boys on the runway for some fresh powder on the pistes of Chamonix. So I saw in the Water Dragon Lunar New Year on the slopes of Les Houches and Vallorcine. Can't believe I've left it this long .. I think it's been more than 8 years since I last went skiing! I'm loving it though, it's a great kickstart and perfect cross training before I get back into my running regime for the year.
View from the breakfast room at Hotel Richemond .. record snowfall this year!

Race schedule for the year is still to be confirmed, but stay tuned for some interesting developments next month!
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