Article by Cheng Chen, Derek Li, Adam Glueck, Jeff Valliere, Peter Stuart, and Renee Krusemark
Derek Li’s Zurich Marathon Report, Fixing Freedom 5, Brooks Hyperion Elite 3 & Divide 3, Fuel Cell SC Pacer, Garmin inReach Mini 2 & Epix 2, Terrex Agravic Pro Shoe & Apparel, and Much More!
‘Fixing’ the Saucony Freedom 5
I like to put at least 50+ miles in shoes before reviewing them in detail. Sadly, I was not ready to contribute my thoughts by the time we published the Saucony Freedom 5 review (RTR Link). However, in looking back to both ours and other reviews, I believe I have an updated, unique perspective to offer.
Overall, the consensus of the latest Freedom was, more or less, “Meh…” with a mix of run and gym training the seeming focus of the shoe. (RTR Review) Many were expecting a phenomenal ride given the hype around the implementation of a PWRRUN PB midsole. This is supposedly the same foam as that in the Endorphin Pro/Speed’s. It is – however, one could not tell from the ride itself. Somehow, Saucony managed to not only mute the sensation of a bouncy and reactive PEBA foam, but also turn the Freedom from a roomy, flexible ride to a tight-fitting, rigid one for many. What was the culprit?
I like to analyze a shoe’s ride in the contextual entirety of midsole, outsole, and insole. Upon pulling out the latter, the aforementioned culprit was literally glowing in fluorescent green. As it turns out, this was another implementation of Saucony’s classic glued-in topsole, something the brand has been implementing since the EVERUN days. I have analyzed Saucony topsoles before, and they worked well in the past. This green variant, however, is rather different and produces some noticeably unwelcoming effects.
After carefully peeling the layer off, the original stitched-in strobel layer becomes exposed. Immediately, it’s clear this updated topsole (3mm thick) is different from previous versions. Not only is it significantly thicker compared to the topsoles of EVERUN, but it also bulges up, taking up additional volume. The end result is as RTR founder Sam and many others note: this shoe is oddly tight despite the quite visually high volume and flexible upper.
After removing the topsole, I then re-inserted the original insole. Testing the ride side-by-side against an unmodified Freedom 5, it almost feels like a new shoe. Volume went from too tight to nearly Altra-roomy. The muted ground contact feel was gone. Finally, the ride felt not only softer, but also more responsive ala-ZoomX.
I highly recommend removing the topsole from Saucony’s latest Freedom 5. It is easy to remove and put back in if you choose. Mine has found a new home in a pair of New Balance 1500v5, a truly stiff racing flat that could benefit greatly from the added plush.
Cheng is a CrossFitter turned runner, lifting in the winter while racing in the summer with a personal best of 1:20 in the half marathon. He passionately brings an engineering stance to analyzing running, shoes, and tech. Follow him on Instagram (@MrChengChen) and Strava (link) for more outrageous commentary!
Adam Glueck (New Hampshire, USA):
I’ve gotten the opportunity to test a lot of awesome gear recently.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 3:
With a high stack height of 35/27, responsive foam, carbon plate, light weight, and refined upper, the Brooks Hyperion Elite 3 has all the ingredients of a super shoe. This shoe is essentially an upper update to the Hyperion Elite 2, but as I have not tested that shoe so these are my first impressions of the Hyperion Elite series.
Brooks calls the upper QuicKnit, but compared to other knit uppers I’ve tested, it has fantastic lockdown and comfort at low weight. The fit is true to size, and the laces have a serrated locking design exactly like the Vaporfly Next% 2. The midsole foam is dense and smooth, with a comfortable step in feel, but does not have a bouncy or propulsive sensation like the Metaspeed Sky or Vaporfly. It is a firmer foam, but not harsh, resulting in an extremely stable and efficient feel.
I’ve taken this shoe on some easy test runs, sustained smooth intensity, and 600m track intervals. When running easy, it’s almost hard to tell that the Hyperion Elite 3 is plated. It rides remarkably smoothly and feels like a relatively stable neutral trainer, like an Adios 6. When running short track intervals, the Hyperion rewards smooth consistent strides and when you can relax, the plate and foam help reduce the harshness and increase the rebound through the stride.
Putting more power into the shoe doesn’t give the same trampoline-like effect or aggressive plate rocker as the Metaspeed Sky does, but it drastically reduces the harshness and smoothly propels you through your stride anywhere from 10 minutes/mile to 5 minutes/mile.
For those looking for a shoe that feels predictable, stable, and versatile and combines the familiarity of a daily trainer with the leg-saving and fast cruising of other super shoes, the Hyperion Elite 3 is worthy of consideration.
Nathan Vapor Air Lite Hydration Vest
I recently received and have been testing the Nathan Vapor Air Lite Hydration Vest. I’ve been a long time user of hydration vests, primarily the Salomon ADV Skin series, which I’ve found essential for carrying water and layers on long mountain runs. The Vapor Air Lite has some unique design features that I’ve really appreciated. First, the vest features a prominent mid-chest strap that wraps around the lower portion of the vest, this is wide enough that it distributes the force around the body. The best feature here is that the bottom of the straps attach to the back of the vest via velcro, allowing a high degree of adjustability for the fit of the straps.
The fabric is less flexible than the Salomon Skin and Sense vests, so having the ability to adjust this makes the vest work better for a lot of different fits. Additionally, the two chest straps created a stable fit, and there’s a cool magnetic hose attachment that keeps the hose from the water bladder from hopping around. I do have some concerns about the design, primarily that the strap on the top of the chest is tight. I’ve loosened it all the way and if I had a chest any wider, it would be too tight. I do have a relatively wide chest for a runner, but the adjustability for the lower section of the straps is not equaled by the other portion. The other is that the straps over the shoulder are on the thinner side, but I have not had any issues with fit or chafing as a result of my testing so far. The longest run I’ve taken the vest on so far is three hours, so I will test it more extensively before completing my review.
New Balance SC Pacer (RTR Review)
I’ve been testing the New Balance SC Pacer for the last few weeks and just completed my review of it. New Balance has taken their most responsive FuelCell foam (as in the Rebel v2 and RC Elite 2) and combined it with a cambered carbon fiber plate and foam cutout underneath it at the rear called Energy Arc. This design should allow the plate to compress down into the gap with foam sides bowing out then rebound up. The Pacer is a low stack height 5/10km flat, which I found very responsive and lightweight. There is noticeable propulsion and snap at high turnover from the plate, but it doesn’t have the same propulsive rebound of the Metaspeed Sky or sublime cushion of the RC Elite 2. While the plate contributes to turnover at high speeds, this is a harsher shoe than a the Rebel V2, and while exceptional for track intervals and race distances up to 5km, don’t expect it to share the same sensations as higher stack super shoes. For more of my thoughts and those of the rest of our review team, check out the full review.
Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT (RTR Review)
I also completed my review of the Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT this week, it’s a fantastic trail shoe featuring a flexible carbon plate, excellent outsole grip, and a dual density midsole with relatively dense but still responsive foam. It’s the best implementation of a plate for trail running that I’ve tested, and runs much lighter than it’s weight. This is a shoe I’d be comfortable taking for aggressive mountain running that still gives you a sensation from the plate when speeding up on flatter terrain. Check out the rest of my thoughts and those from the rest of the team in our full review.
I’m currently testing some Odlo trail running clothing including the Zeroweight Waterproof Jacket, Essential Two in One Shorts, and theEssential light print jacket.
They’ve all felt exceptionally comfortable with fantastic build quality and comfort. I’m continuing to test them in the mountains and in inclement weather, but have found the Zeroweight Waterproof jacket particularly great as it’s the softest feeling fabric for a 2.5 layer rain jacket I’ve ever tested, yet stays light and breathable when running. Stay tuned for a full review of these soon.
Jeff V (Boulder, Colorado)
The trails are just melting out in the foothills of Boulder and aside from a few lingering patches of snow on N. facing slopes at 8,000 feet, Spring has sprung (at least until I do my winter to summer clothes closet conversion, then of course winter will return again). Things have been busy on the review front and below are a few current items I am working on.
adidas Agravic Windweave Pro Wind Jacket – $160
Conditions have been perfect for testing the adidas Agravic Windweave Pro Wind Jacket, which is a pull over hooded windbreaker made of adidas’s non dyed, recycled fabric Windweave fabric that utilizes two different styles and body mapped design that enhances durability and breathability in key areas.
Perfect for an added wind barrier over base/mid layers on those chilly, early morning runs, or just to add a bit of warmth starting off, the WW Pro weighs just 73 grams / 2.6 ounces and mashes up small enough to easily fit into a small running shorts pocket or run vest pocket (just about any pocket), so is really easy to bring along with hardly any penalty. I find that for the minimal design, it provides a remarkable amount of wind protection and warmth and I appreciate the perfect fit and effective hood (given there is no drawstring).
adidas Agravic Pro – $220
adidas’s entry into the carbon plated trail shoe market, the Agravic Pro is a bit of a mixed bag. I expected a shoe that was lighter, faster, more responsive, agile and was initially disappointed that they are not. Once I wrapped my head around that fact, recalibrated my expectations and intentions, I came to like them more and more.
Definitely not a speedster, the Agravic Pro weighs in at 350 grams / 12.4 oz. in my US men’s size 10 and you feel every gram of that on the foot and when combined with the exceptional stiffness (fore/aft and lateral), they are somewhat lumbering and awkward when trying to move fast over technical terrain (for which they appear to be built and marketed for).
While I have exceptionally strong ankles and almost never have a twist, I rolled these once pretty impressively and had numerous close calls when running downhill on rocky technical terrain and I soon let go of any PR aspirations in this shoe.
I do however really appreciate them for hiking or slower paced adventure outings over rough terrain and off trail. With remarkable protection underfoot, secure and protective upper, very good Continental rubber with an aggressive tread design, they are a worthy all mountain adventure shoe. The BOA system is a nice, convenient touch, but I have noticed a lack of heel security.
Brooks Divide 3 – $100
I have been impressed with the previous two versions of the Divide, but will confess that much of that revolved around the $100 price point and I rarely, if ever ran in them again after reviewing.
The Divide 3 has been completely rebuilt from the ground up with an accommodating, but very well held upper, Loft v1 midsole and a new, very versatile, effective outsole This combination makes the Divide 3 not just a worthy shoe for $100, but instead a legit contender for one of my favorite shoes this year at any price point.
They feel light, responsive, comfortable, agile, stable and protective. While not designed to be a speedster, if you are having a great day and feel on top of your game, the Divide 3 will certainly perform and even surprise. Available September 2022.
Garmin inReach Mini 2 – $400
The inReach Mini 2 is a nice upgrade over the first version, with improved battery life, improved reception, built in compass, stand alone navigational capabilities and improved user interface. All in the same tidy package at just 100 grams. I carry it on most runs and especially when cell coverage is iffy and I have the family along.
Shop for the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) at our partners:
Epix 2 available now!
Epix 2 available now!
Garmin Epix Gen 2 Sapphire White-Titanium – $999.99
This is far and away the most amazing GPS watch I have yet to strap on my wrist and maybe the most exciting and anticipated (for me) piece of electronic gadgetry, certainly in the running/outdoor sports realm.
The vivid 416 x 416 AMOLED display is a masterful stroke of genius by Garmin, making for a very pleasing user experience with much improved visibility in all but the most blindingly bright sunshine. With such a vivid and bright display, I feel as though I am getting away with something and there must be some sort of penalty (well, besides the whopping price tag), but the battery is very impressive, even better than my Fenix 6S Pro, which I have found to be more than sufficient for my needs.
Beyond the display, accuracy on all counts is proving to be fantastic and has such a wide array of health, training and fitness features,
I am just cracking the surface. Full review very soon. Sam’s Video Review
Shop for the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) at our partners:
Epix 2 available now!
Epix 2 available now!
Epix 2 available now!
Epix 2 available now!
USA SHOP HERE
Derek Li (Singapore)
I did my first official race since 2019 recently, at the Zurich Marathon on April 10th . Mass participation events, including park runs, are still off-limits in Singapore at the moment, so I’ve had very few opportunities to test my fitness in the last couple of years. This was probably the longest sort of build i had ever done for a race. You see, we initially had a national marathon trial scheduled for June 2021, but it got postponed multiple times due to covid-19 outbreaks until it was postponed indefinitely some time in late July 2021.
I had gotten myself into decent marathon shape by the end of July and so while the race didn’t happen, I managed to carry the fitness over to some shorter distance focus in the second half of the year, culminating in a 16:42 5000m in Sept 2021.
After that, I turned my attention to doing another 5000m at the Singapore Open, which would ultimately be canceled by inclement weather. By then, I could feel that my form was starting to tip past my peak and was ready to go back and do a bit of low intensity mileage at the end of the year.
In December, Nils (fellow RTR contributor from Germany) posted on IG about doing the Zurich marathon. I checked out the course and decided I wanted to run it too. I even roped in a couple of fellow Singaporeans to come along. (spoiler alert – they ran 2:48, 2:49, 2:53, 2:53 including an AG 3rd in 2:53 for our local 52yo super vet; 2:53 is a PB for him by the way)
Unfortunately, Nils got hurt earlier in the year and had to scratch from Zurich. He will be running the Copenhagen marathon in a couple of weeks, and just blitzed a 36-min 10km in training so look out for his race.
Back on topic, because I had such a long run of uninterrupted training leading into this race, I was actually feeling a bit overcooked by November and really wanted to back things off so that I could build up again in the new year. However, coach Dave Ross Running whom I’ve worked with since 2017) had other ideas, and although my run volume was on the lower end at around 75-80 miles/week, I was still doing lots of high quality workouts and long runs.
Jan-Mar 2022 saw some crazy good workouts and long runs, and I think I only averaged 4:30/km once for a long run (waterlogged and running in heavy Adidas Boston 10’s); every other long run was significantly faster yet controlled at the same time. Training was very consistent with maybe only 3 bad days between 1st Dec and 31 Mar. I didn’t always time it right between the mileage and the intensity but I can safely say I’ve never run faster in training. All this while, we managed to walk the fine line between peaking at the right time, and overcooking it too early. Again I have to say the coach did a superb job here of nursing me to peak in April rather than January.
Injury risks are always lurking in the background, although I consider myself a fairly durable runner with relatively few issues with high mileage training. I developed some right heel soreness from around the new year and it still persists to this day, though fortunately it was never bad enough that it prevented me from running. The presumptive diagnosis is fat pad syndrome. Well at least it’s not PF.
Taper week was a mixed bag for me. It coincided with some incredibly warm weather in Singapore, and I ended up recording a relatively high heart rate during the easy runs and even the taper workouts. It messes with your mind a bit and I had to consciously shrug it off and just focus on the body of training I had done in the weeks prior.
I arrived in Zurich on Friday morning, 2 days before the race, and managed to get in a short jog in the afternoon to shake off the heaviness from the 12-hour flight (and 17 hours wearing an N95 mask!) The effort was decidedly easy in the frosty weather but the heart rate was still a little higher than what I would expect for cold conditions. Not much left to focus on except hydration and carbs.
After the disastrous wardrobe choices at the wet and cold 2019 Tokyo marathon, this time I was well prepared for cold conditions. I would suppress the inner weight weenie and focus on comfort and maybe something more insulated. I went with the RunRabbit Champ Lite singlet, which is a slightly thicker but breathable material, and sports a very generous racerback cutout design which I prefer. I wore short tights for this race, and it’s the first time I’ve ever gone with tights in a competitive marathon, having always favored the traditional split shorts regardless of weather. I capped it off with a fleece headband, lycra arm sleeves and surgical gloves tucked with chemical heat packs.
(Warming up pre-race)
Race day weather could not have been better. Clear skies with low wind, and temps around 40-45 F (4-7 C). The ground was still a little wet from overnight precipitation, but things would dry up nicely during the race.
The one thing I didn’t plan for was the dulling of my internal pacer from not having run a cold ideal weather race since March 2019. The gun went off and I clicked through the first KM in 3:24 min/km pace. Waayy too fast. I just focused on telling myself to settle in and settle in, but this part was tricky. Knowing how windy it could get along the lake, I felt it was important to settle into a group rather than risk running the entire race solo. It took a good 10km of back and forth for a group of us to form.
5km – 18:07.4
10km – 18:14.4
From the 10km mark it was a straight out and back to the U-turn point at 24km. I was conscious that I really should have started conservatively with 18:30-18:50 but I looked behind and there was absolutely nobody behind my little group of about 7 guys. And we were a well-oiled machine clicking off 3:37-3:39/km in a single file. It just feels so much easier following a paceline compared to running alone. I know, because there were times when this train chose NOT to run the tangents, and I was running way left of them to cover the shortest line before they eventually merged back with me from the right. To this day, I still don’t quite understand why people choose not to run tangents in a race. It was not like there was a big imperative to keep to the right. There was plenty of daylight in front of us to the next group.
15km – 18:12.5
20km – 18:30.5
It was around the 18th or 19th km that I had decided the pace was just too hot to sustain and decided to back off and run the rest of the way on my own. I settled into my own rhythm and tried to stay loose and smooth.
I went through halfway in a GPS timed 1:17:10 and an official time of 1:17:50 (the above 5km splits are from my watch by the way and not the official splits as they didn’t have timing mats at exactly 5km intervals during the race)
The U-turn finally arrived after rounding multiple gradual corners along the lake, and while I was expecting a cone of sorts to turn round, I was surprised to find that there was a short and steep hill to climb there. It was quite miserable as it really broke the momentum of my run, but coming down the hill, I felt renewed energy to anticipate the finish.
25km – 18:48.7 including the big hill at the 24km U-turn
After that I found myself starting to tire, but decided not to worry too much about pace, but focused on staying smooth and efficient. There was always the possibility of picking up the pace at the end.
KMs 24-38 were essentially a backtrace of the route back towards the city center and it has relatively scarce support, which is fine. I focused on keeping the miles ticking on and running tall.
30km – 18:37.3
35km – 18:54.6
Sadly, around the 37-38km mark, I really started to tire and could feel the pace beginning to slip and it became more a matter of survival. I went through the math multiple times in my head. Sub-2:40 was pretty much in the bag barring a massive implosion, but it was more a matter of whether I could still salvage a 2:38. Incidentally, I managed to pass two people from the earlier group that I had lost contact with, along the way. A couple of runners also passed me, and I could not help wondering if maybe if I had decided to go out more conservatively in 1:19, things might have turned out differently.
40km – 19:38.4
42.5km – 9:59.8
The last 30 minutes were really tough, and eased only by the chill weather and my completely numb feet. There was a very annoying sharp U-turn we had to do 400m from the finish, (which again destroyed all momentum), and even with a last ditch surge of adrenaline, the clock just managed to tick past 2:39 as I crossed the line. After crossing the line I found an empty spot on the ground and just sat there, waiting for the next Singaporean to come through. 2:39:01 was a 2-minute PB for me, yet I can’t help but feel like it’s a B- type of performance. The big takeaway for me is re-learning how to pace in cold conditions, remembering how to be patient, and knowing that there’s still a lot of potential left to uncork. We have a few more big races on the calendar and the next big one is a half marathon at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia in July.
Peter (Austin, Texas)
Nathan Vapor Air 2.0 7 liter vest.
I’m working up a review of this vest. So far so good. The Vapor Air 2.0 features a very adaptive fit system that helps dial it in for a great, comfortable fit. Plenty of pockets, both zippered and not. More to come.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 3:
Still getting my head around it, but in a world of exciting super shoes, I’m not yet convinced that the Hyperion Elite 3 will dethrone any of my current favorites.
Skechers Razor Excess 2:
A great, and much needed, update to the original Razor Excess. A terrific light daily trainer/tempo shoe.
Saucony Xodus Ultra: The Xodus loses weight, keeps its rock plate and features a bootie fit upper. How does it ride? Stay tuned.
Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review): Puts the best features of the Speedgoat Evo into a Speedgoat. Great ride, great comfort, great looks. A nearly perfect trail shoe.
adidas Terrex Agravic Pro Gear
Spring running has been here for one month, which for most of us means running with winter gear some days and spring gear other days. The new adidas Terrex gear arrived in good timing. I was lucky enough to receive the women’s Terrex Agravic Windweave Pro Wind Jacket (same as Jeff V), the women’s Agravic Pro Skirt ($75), and Terrex Agravic Pro Top ($60; but on sale NOW at $42).
If you often run in windy conditions, the Terrex Agravic Windweave Pro Wind Jacket is probably worth its $160 price tag. Jeff V wrote about the details, and although he and I are running different terrain, I have similar impressions of the jacket. Yes, it costs $160, which is pricey to me, but I’ve ran with it 5 to 6 days each week since it arrived almost five weeks ago. I think it’s a useful piece of gear for late winter through early summer and then again from fall until winter when temperatures are well below freezing. I have been running in consistent winds. Rarely, in the past two months, has the wind been below 20mph, and a few days a week, the gusts are 35-50mph. The Windweave Pro is comfortable over a base layer in high teen temps ℉ to above freezing temperatures. I don’t have any wind break on my normal country road/field runs and the wind has made feel-like temperatures 10 to 15 degrees colder. The Windweave Pro has no insulation and it is air/thin, but it does cut out the wind. The hood is tight (but comfortably) fitting around my face thanks to the elastic. Unlike many hooded jackets, the hood fits up and over my hair when I run with my hair in a high bun. Even when I unzip the jacket a few inches so I can breathe, the hood does not fall down, and I had one day of running into 50mph gusts. The Windweave Pro is according to adidas 50% lighter than the standard Windweave. The jacket is so light it’s unnoticeable. The jacket is easy to carry and fits in most pockets. There are no air holes, so it will become hot after some time, but it’s so light that I can’t think of any other jacket that cuts the wind and rain out as well as this jacket. For sizing, I wore a size small. For my size/height, I have a longer torso, and the length is perfect (it’s not a women’s specific “short” cut), and the volume and arm length are enough to wear base layers underneath. Using the adidas sizing guide was accurate for me, although the model in their website photo is 3” inches taller than me and also wears a small.
The Agravic Pro Top is currently on sale at adidas.com for $42 instead of $60, which I think is a relatively good price. The top is super lightweight and breathable with mesh panels that allow for good air movement, even if you’re wearing a hydration vest.
The front is longer than the back for easy access to pocket storage around the waist (which works for me because I wear the Agravic Pro Skirt and Shorts a lot). The fit is “regular” although the cut/length is very women’s specific. I wore a size small, and the volume is loose, but the length is a bit short. That’s the style and purpose for breathability. I haven’t had hot weather conditions in spring, but the material and fit should work great for humid, high summer temps. At $42 on sale now, I think it’s a good purchase for ultra trail runners during humid weather while wearing a vest. I suggest true-to-size, just know the length is meant to be shorter (women’s specific cut) and the volume is loose. For tops, I can wear a women’s medium at times (for length) but usually wear a small. I wore a women’s size small for Pro Top.
The Agravic Pro Skirt is my first running skirt, and I must say it’s very freeing. The tights are very comfortable and the mesh sides have great breathability and stretch. I have the Core Agravic Trail Pro Shorts too and I wore them for a road half marathon race last year and a 30 mile trail race in the fall because I love the pocket storage. The Pro Skirt has the same storage: mesh pockets along the waist with a zipper pocket in the back (the shorts have leg pockets that the skirt does not). The Pro Shorts became hot for me during summer months and sort of rode up my thighs; however, the tights on the skirt are much more comfortable and have more stretch. The skirt itself has a lot of volume, which is great for mobility. At times, the volume/material felt like too much, but that’s not noticeable on trails when the inclines and declines are consistent. I wouldn’t wear it for road running for that reason, however. If you have big climber thighs and legs, the skirt is worth checking out. Sizing is true to size.
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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