Category Archives: Gear Review

New Balance Minimus MR00BS: Verdict


I have been meaning to write a longer review on these trainers following my first impressions post ages ago, I have run a marathon in them (my first in zero drop shoes) and several medium distance road runs since, I have come to a painful (literally) conclusion; “Not for me”.

This was not the decision I wanted to come to, I love the Minimus trail range of shoes and really wanted to like their road focused brother but it was not to be. In terms of the design I love some of the tweaks that New Balance have put in place over their other Minimus shoes, such as the tongue being attached one side. I also really like the feel when you put them on, almost like wearing a slipper they do feel really comfortable which makes the issues I have had with them all the more surprising.

Wearing such a shoe for the first time on a marathon probably wasn’t the best idea, but having run in other Minimus trainers (including the trail zero drop version of this one) I was reasonably confident that blisters wouldn’t be an issue. I was mistaken in this belief, and about 3 miles into my run noticed a sore point occurring under the ball of my left foot, this progressively got worse as the race went on and although it didn’t prevent me from finishing, I was left with a rather angry blister at the end.

Post-race I put this down to the socks that I had been wearing, I couldn’t believe it would be the shoes as I had never had this problem with the others from the range. With this in mind, my next run (after blister recovery!) I wore them again with some socks that I knew were never going to give me a problem (I wore these for my Ultra) but again, same spot on my left foot a blister started forming. I persisted with the shoes for a few more runs but with no respite from the blistering I have had to shelve these for running completely.

I am still not sure why this problem occurs, it could simply be the fit of the shoe, the repetitive nature of road running over trail running, or a combination of both which gives me the issue; although I have run in the MT00 trainers on the road and have not had any blisters so I am more inclined to think it is the trainer. As I have said it is a shame because the trainers themselves from an aesthetic point of view are really nice, well designed, light weight and made with good materials.

I guess that a lesson here is that just because you have no problems with other trainers in a range, you can’t assume that they will all be alike. I am still going to wear them, as I say they are comfortable to wear so I will continue using them as casual wear.

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First Impressions: New Balance Minimus Road (MR00BS)


So far my runs have always been either completely trail or mostly trail and as such I didn’t own any road specific trainers. With the Snowdonia Marathon looming and my birthday a few days before I took the opportunity to get some road trainers.

The familiar look of the New Balance box, I have many of these in my cupboard (much to my wifes annoyance)

Having fallen in love with the Minimus range (on my 3rd pair of MT10, first pair of MT00 and second pair of MT110) I asked for the Minimus road zero drop shoes. Getting my hands on them today, these are my first impressions:

Ah that new trainer smell

Immediately looking at them I notice that the material that they are made out of is more akin to the MT10 rather than the MT00, a thicker yet breathable upper with a bit more substance to it rather than the bare minimum of the MT00

The trusty Vibram sole

When comparing the MR00 to the MT00 , although they are both zero drop shoes the MR has significantly more cushioning under foot, with a thicker sole giving a more protective feel. Trying them on I notice that my foot arch feels more supported, which given the repetitive foot strike on the road could be a good thing. The Vibram rubber feels tough, hopefully meaning that they will be hard wearing and able to put in the miles

This shot shoes the thicker sole designed for the road, while retaining the zero drop
The tongue on the shoe has been redesigned

My biggest gripe on the MT00 is the tongue, it’s a thin piece of material that has a habit of folding over on itself and causing tight spots on the foot and its a real pain to adjust, even a pain to simply get flat when putting the trainer on. This looks like it will not be a problem on the MR00 with a wrap around tongue which is part of the shoe on once side (as per photo). It is also thicker and retains its shape so I don’t foresee any movement at all when running.

So, first impressions are good. I am looking forward to giving these a good test on the Marathon (I know not the done thing really but I have faith in the shoe) I will give a full review of the shoe afterwards.

 

Gear Review: Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set


So, last week my wife bought me this backpack as our anniversary present and I took it out for a 19 miler yesterday in the blazing sunshine.

So firstly, what does Salomon say about there pack?

From Salomon Website: This ultra form-fitting hydration pack for intense trail running comes in two sizes for the most precise fit possible. Sensifit construction reduces abrasion, ultra breathable stretch material to comfortably and securely hold bladder and essential items in the most demanding conditions

More often than not you read a description and think “sounds good but really?”, well this is pretty much spot on.

So what’s it like?

In this photo you can see the various pockets on the Salomon
You can see in this picture the main compartment, as well as the side (rear) pockets. In the bottom left hand side (of the photo) is the 4D pole holder strap
This is the bladder that comes with the backpack, the Hydrapak 1.5 litre replaces the Source bladder on the older versions of the S-Lab 5. Next to it is the insulated sleeve that the bladder sits in.
Also on the newer version is the wider clips for securing the back on the body, these have been made more substantial to prevent snapping, although I still take the pack off with kid gloves because they still feel like they could snap at any point
The included saftey blanket and pocket to store it in (the second velcro chest pocket was also found in here)
Detail of the empty saftey blanket pocket also showing the Hydrapak inside
The two pockets which fit to the left hand strap and can be swapped out as and when
The Hydrapak insulated hose doesn’t actually come with the pack, the older version came with an insulated Source hose but this came with a normal (all be it shorter) hose, this I purchased as an addtion.
Just an example of the size of the pocket, the packet is designed for fast and light running, so you can’t get that much in it. I managed to fit a super light first aid kit and a lightweight jacket
The Sensifit logo, and this thing does indeed fit like a glove
There aren’t a lot of photos on the various websites showing in detail what the water bottle/chest pockets can hold. I used both these for my run, 625ml Camelbak Podium Chill bottles, they fit fine and are easy to get in and out.

What’s it like to run in?

Simple really, I will never run in a normal rucksack again!! This is the future, gone are shoulder straps and waist belts, gone is having to constantly adjust  the straps, gone is not being able to breath properly due to no give, this solves all the issues.

I have tried a number of small light backpacks, the Haglofs Stamina 5, the Olmo 5, Inov8 12 litre and the OMM 15 litre. Being an average sized guy (96cm chest, 85 cm waist/38inch, 33inch) I have had trouble finding a backpack that fits comfortably, so was sceptical of the Salomon until trying it on. The thing fits like a glove and more importantly flexes with your body, so you never feel constricted when running.

From never wearing it to running 19 miles I haven’t got one sore point, at no point did I have to stop and adjust it, even as the water in the hydration bladder drained it still sat snug to the back.

I did find with the two podium bottles in the chest pockets forced me to adapt my running style, as the bottom of the pocket would hit my biceps as I ran, but I think this is partially me being on the upper limit of the M/L sizing.

What could be improved?

Not a great deal really and its more personal opinion, I would like some more pockets on the front. Maybe combine the front fastening points into one mesh clip with pockets on it. Also there doesn’t seem to be anyway to add more modular items, such as a front pack.

Should I buy one?

If you are looking for a fast and light hydration pack which fits snug, then yes, if you have ever used a hydration pack and suffered from the straps not fitting quite right, a waist strap and chest strap that put pressure on your breathing then this is the one for you.

Its fairly pricey at £120 rrp, but you can find it cheaper. One thing to be sure of is the sizing, it comes in XS/S and M/L, I have the M/L and I don’t think it would fit someone much bigger than me.

See the Salomon website for more detail (note they only have images of the older version)

Salomon.co.uk

On a side note, they now do a 12litre version 🙂

Gear Review: New Balance MT110, first impressions


So I have had these trainers for a couple of days, today being the first outdoor test (it is a sunny day so thought I would take the opportunity).

First Impressions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firstly, I quite like the colours (que ginger/orange shoe jokes), the black, orange and blue works well. The synthetic material on the upper works well, with an inner mesh which lets the feet breath and water drain away.  Putting the shoe on (size 8) the fit is snug, similar to the New Balance Minimus Trail, the shoe is designed to be worn with or without socks although even with there is a reasonable gap for my toes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath is the real reason I bought these shoes, the sole. With a 4mm drop heel to toe and a slightly increased stack height over the Minimus these shoes are designed to give a bit more cushioning for the long runs, while still keeping the feel of a minimalist/barefoot transition shoe.  The tread is a vast improvement over the Minimus, proper lugs which  should give good grip on the trail, made of a sticky rubber to give traction on wet rock. A toe plate on the front protects against hitting your foot on roots or rocks (something which after Offa’s Orror I will be thankful for)

On the run:

For my test it was a short  3 mile run around Lloyd Park, on the road heading up to the park the first thing I noticed was the increased cushioning from the slightly increased stack height. Upon transferring to grass the grip started to come into its own, and with the park still being sodden from the rain I was able to give them a test on proper mud, and even they draining ability from running through what effectively was a marsh!

I did notice a bit of a roll inwards when I was running, something which I didn’t get from the Minimus. I am hoping this is just the EVA sole bedding in and will go after a few runs, also the laces will have to go and I will replace them with Lock Laces sooner rather than later.

I should get a better feel for them as the week goes on and the real test will be the long run on Saturday, however they do seem to be keepers and I will probably get a second pair.

Gear Review: Salomon XR Sensibelt


I have been using this running belt for quite a while now and overall I am really impressed. There are some really nice design touches which make it perfect for those shorter runs.

First up is the water bottle, it only carries 600ml of fluid but for most things thats all you really need. The Salomon 3D bottle is designed to fit flush againsy your back while wearing the belt to prevent bouncing around and actually works really well, even if the shape is a little unconventional

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The belt itself is made from 210D Double Ripstop fabric with an airvent backing to let sweat through, and has a good feel of quality to it. Rather than a normal clip to fasten the belt it uses velcro to ensure that you always get a secure fit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see from the photo that it only has the bottle holster and a zipped mesh pocket which can just about fit a phone, keys and a gel. I would have preferred that the pocket was waterproof rather than mesh, particularly with British weather, but I am guessing the this was mesh to keep breathability high.

With the bottle inserted, even full to the brim the whole belt sits nicely on the lower back and doesn’t really bounce. I generally wear the belt lower around my hips opposed to around the waist and have used it in conjunction with the OMM Ultra to give me the capacity to carry about 3.5 litres of fluid, the whole let fitted together well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full specs for the belt from the Salomon Website are:

Features:
– Belt: Sensifit belt
– Pockets & compartments: Zipped belt pocket
– Carrying system: 4D bottle holder
– Hydration: 3D bottle included (600 ml/20 oz)
– Back systems: Airvent Comfort
– Fabrics: 210D Double Ripstop PA PU / 100D PA honeycomb
Specifications:
– Volume (l) 0.5
– Weight (g) 190

Overall pretty impressed and will keep using this for those runs that don’t require too much kit, one gripe is the mesh pocket but you can get around it my using a small waterproof bag for things like phones etc, and you can pick one up for about £25.00 so doesn’t break the bank either.