Moving Comfort for women: a review

Words by Ms. Dionne Allen

Recently the team behind Moving Comfort, owned by Brooks, invited simonfreeman.co.uk to have a look at the latest collection of apparel and accessories for women. Wanting to provide the best possible review, it seemed logical to ask Dionne to go along and see what it was all about. Here are her thoughts:

6a778537f00848343eda87452dc05347With 70% market share in the US run market, Moving Comfort, sister company to well established run brand Brooks is gradually taking a hold on the Central European and UK female run market, and after being invited to their spring/summer product launch it is easy to see why.

Moving Comfort is a company geared towards designing female sports bras and apparel that compliment the woman’s figure, no matter what shape or size. Their products are designed to make women feel both fashionable and feminine, giving them the confidence and motivation to get active as a

fit woman is a powerful woman (Moving Comfort Slogan).

Moving comfort is a brand that takes women’s needs to heart and the key to every women’s exercise performance is a “good quality sport’s bra” which is something many of us females take for granted thinking any old bra will do. However as the five points below show a properly fitting and comfortable bra is key to exercise performance and comfort:

  1. Sports bras are an essential piece of kit: as important as a quality pair of running shoes to a woman.
  2. Regardless of size all woman need to wear a properly fitted sports bra.
  3. There are no muscles in the breast meaning that skin and Cooper’s ligaments are the only supporting structures, so wothout proper support the breast will be liable to stretch and may cause irreversible sagging. Once the breast tissue is damaged it CANNOT be repaired!
  4. Exercise related breast pain is believed to effect 70% of active women due to inadequate support.
  5. Wearing an un-supportive or ill fitting bra is likely to affect the female athlete’s running style and performance.

With a sports bra being key to the active female’s comfort and performance, Moving Comfort have committed themselves to high quality product development that meets the needs of every active woman. A key element of their product development is biomechanics, where each and every individual product is vigorously scientifically  tested in the lab, using their individualised ‘Head’ and ‘Heart’ strategy explained below-

  • HEAD means scientific testing to ensure that their bras provide the ‘best’ support and fit that is unique to the woman’ s body.
  • HEART means design through development of a product that looks and feels great; designed and tested by women for women and geared towards ensuring that they produce a fashionable and practical product that is true to their technical roots but fits, flatters and delivers

At the spring/ summer launch I was very impressed on the variety of  Sports bras they have to offer no matter of shape, size or sport. Moving Comfort have a bra for everyone. On a more personal level I particularly loved the Juno Bra which is their number one selling bra in both the UK and Central Europe. This provides maximum support and comfort, reducing vertical and side-ways motion of the bust. This makes this bra perfect for running and as it also comes in a variety of colours to suit every taste – another key selling point which should ensure that a Moving Comfort bra is in every woman’s kit-bag. It is evident that Moving Comfort has every active woman at its heart and are a brand dedicated to providing sports bras that in their words

make women feel fit, powerful and kickassy

… and I could not agree more!!!

One note of caution, though: prior to buying a sports bra, Moving Comfort do recommend going to one of their stockist so that you can get properly fitted to ensure that you get the perfect bra that fits well and gives maximum support. You can find their product range and your nearest stockist here.

So now you have no excuse – what you waiting for? Go get yours!

ASICS autumn/winter running apparel review

While I was out on my run this morning, I started thinking about how fed up I am with the weather. We have had a couple of nice days, but generally it feels as though it has been weeks and weeks since I got ready for my morning run and didn’t open the front door to be greeted but another cold, wet and windy day.

But things were not all bad, I thought as I ran along. I had run a decent half marathon yesterday and I was going home to a lovely lunch. And I had on some really pretty comfortable kit, thanks to the people at ASICS.

Crying’s not for me, Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’

Running in winter can look this effortless, honestly!
Running in winter can look this effortless, honestly!

For me weather is an immutable force and whilst I will have a moan about it from time to time, I am sensible enough to realise that there is nothing that can be done to change it. The good people at the London marathon are not going to change the date of their race because I’d rather be training in nicer weather. So what can I control? Well, the gear I wear, for one thing.

The ASICS kit that I have been given to try out consists of the Gore Jacket, the Windstopper Softshell tights, a long-sleeve half-zip top and the DS Trainer and Marathoner socks. A real capsule wardrobe for the winter.

The ASICS Gore Jacket

ASICS GoreThis really is a superb bit of kit and has already become one of my favourites. It is a beguiling mix of high-technology and understated simplicity. Sometimes I will run in a jacket and I can’t help wondering about all the stuff that has been built into it – pockets all over the place, draw-strings, hoods, LED lights (I kid you not!). The ASICS Gore Jacket has two hip pockets and that is it. There is a high collar, no hood and the inside is lined with a mesh which seems to do a really good job of keeping the sweat to a minimum. Being made of Gore fabric, the jacket is completely wind-proof which is a real bonus, especially on longer runs when wet material and wind = bloody cold miserable runner.

The sleeves, which are cut at an angle so they sit slightly lower over the back of the hand, have an inner-sleeve with thumb-loops. I did use this on really cold days when I would put my thumbs through the thumb loops and put my gloves on top. But that was really only necessary when it was well below zero. I do think that it is a nice touch though and I sometimes use the inner-sleeve when I start a chilly run and then pull my hands out of them when I warm up, which saves having to carry gloves when you take them off. The other thing I like about the sleeves is that the underarm has a strip of soft-shell material running from the armpit to the cuff which really improves the breathability and flexibility of the sleeve.

The body of the jacket is longer than many other brands’ jackets. I actually quite like that, not least because when it is very wet, the longer back of the jacket stops some of the water that I kick up as I run. There is a drawstring at the hem, but the jacket is quite slim and doesn’t need to be synched at all. There are highly reflective strips on the sleeves, back and chest and around the openings of the hip pockets. And there is a storm-flap behind the zip and flaps covering the front, which seals the jacket from some rain and almost all wind.

All in all, I think the ASICS Gore Jacket is a simple, effective piece of kit that will do a great job of keeping the wind at bay and some of the rain off. If you’re thinking of investing in a jacket to see out the miserable weather, you could do much, much than this one.

Windstopper softshell tights

The ASICS Windstopper softshell tights are another great bit of winter kit. They are not the usual fare, using Windstopper fabric, and as a result they are a good deal warmer than most of the tights on the market.

Much like the jacket, the tights have a really simple design – little pocket at the back, zips at the ankle, drawstring at the top and rubber grippers at the other end. But the slightly thicker Windstopper fabric does make quite a difference. I found that even in light rain when the tights get damp, the wind didn’t seem to rip through to my legs. So far I haven’t had the opportunity to wear these tights on anything other than pretty cool days, but I imagine that as soon as the temperature rises, they would become rather too warm. Still, for the cold, damp British winter, they are great.

Long-sleeve half-zip top

The long-sleeve top feels great – it is 100% polyester, but the material is super-soft and non-abrasive. It is also not particularly light, but I have found that for easy and recovery runs, when I am looking for comfort over weight, this top is idea. It has the same long sleeves and body as the jacket, which means less drafts and the material is extremely good at wicking away sweat, so I have worn this top of 10 mile runs and returned almost as dry as I left.

Overall impressions

My thoughts here are really simple – good kit makes running so much more enjoyable. As Seth Godin writes almost weekly, if you enjoy doing something and you have the right kit/environment then you will do it more often and to the best of your ability, which means you will get better and better at it, eventually mastering it and becoming an unstoppable force!

I know that a jacket, a pair of tights and a long-sleeved top on their own are not going to turn you into Haile Gebrselassie, but these new bits of ASICS kit do make going out in the horrible weather, that we seem to be having our fair share of, more pleasant. If that is all they do, and as a result you go out more regularly and stay out for longer, then they have done their job and they are well worth the investment. So… any more excuses?

The weather outside is frightful… which is just great! Nike Elements review.

One of my favourite DVDs is ‘On Thin Ice’, the story of James Cracknell and Ben Fogle racing to the North Pole with Ed Coates, a doctor they chose from hundreds of applicants to join them on the adventure.

The story is a bit like an epic A-Team adventure, with a challenge set at the start, set-backs along the way, the characters all being somewhat different from one another and yet gelling into a powerful team and, in true A-Team style, plenty of preparing for the challenge ahead. This is one of my favourite parts of the DVD: the kit coming together, pouring over maps and charts, the logistics and the training. The training is the best bit.

One aspect of the training involved Cracknell and Fogle going into a climactic chamber and living for 18 hours in -35C with a snow canon and a gale throwing out blizzard-like conditions. That really looked tough and as soon as I saw it I really wanted to have a go. But I accepted that wasn’t likely to happen… until Nike called!

Was Nike going to put us through this...?

My chance to try a climate chamber

The team from Nike and their PR agency Freud took a group of journalists and bloggers to MIRA, a testing facility near Rugby where all sorts of climatic conditions can be created in warehouse-sized sheds with heat exchangers the size of aircraft hangers. Even the security was impressive, demanding our smart-phones and cameras so they could have the lenses taped over to stop us taking photos of prototypes of things!

We were invited along to try out the Nike Elements range and to ensure it was given a thorough testing, we were going to run in the very same climate chamber where Cracknell and Fogle had endured their first taste of arctic conditions. Sadly we were not going to get as extreme as they did, but the guys behind the controls were going to make sure that we ran in pretty challenging conditions.

The Nike Elements range

Eeeee...KINS!

We met two of the EKINs who gave us our kit and took us through the range –Nike Free Run+3 Shield men’s running shoe (£85), Nike Element Shield Max Jacket (£130), Nike Element Thermal running tights (£50), a Dri-FIT Elements Jacquard Print Half-Zip top (£38), a Nike Speed Short-Sleeve t-shirt (£40), a pair of Nike Elite Storm-Fit Tech run gloves (£25) and a rather fetching Nike Cold Weather Reflective running beanie (£18). It was obvious we were not going for jog on a treadmill in a warm gym!

The main thing that I took away from the session is that Nike have used their technological might to build two things into their new collection – safety and comfort.

Reflections on safety

The safety aspect of the Elements range comes in the form of strips of reflective material. By which I don’t mean the half-hearted hi-vis stuff that is usually sewn onto jackets and gloves. This is an unassuming dull silver material that simple explodes in a lightening flash when a light source hits it – a car headlights would have the panels on the jacket and shoes shining like a supernova!

Take comfort

And comfort comes in the form of waterproof material on the shoes, meaning that any liquid that hits them simply beads and rolls off. And in a stretchy wind-proof and water-resistant membrane on the jacket. We were ready for anything the chamber could throw at us…

The chamber was set up so that three of us could run abreast on treadmills facing a huge funnel that would blow cold air at us while the ambient temperature was reduced.

As we started, I thought it would be interesting to see how the kit would perform at a decent clip, so I whacked the treadmill up to marathon pace – 6 min/mile – and tried to concentrate on how each item felt.

The Nike Elements range

To start with, I was a bit worried that I had a pair of Nike Frees to run in. I have owned a couple of pairs before and I love them, but not really for doing much running in. I tend to think that they are a bit too squishy for anything other than a very easy recovery run and so my Frees tend to be used for walking around as much as for running. But the new Free Run+3 Shield is a very different feeling shoe. It seems to be all in the upper. The sole retains the multiple decoupled blocks which makes them super-flexible. But the upper is much more supportive. The water-proof material and what looks like a new lacing system, really holds the foot tight and suddenly I felt that I was wearing a light, flexible and comfortable running shoe. I’m not sure is the firmer upper is an intended side effect of making the shoe ‘winterproof’, but it made the shoe much more usable as far as I am concerned.

The tights were great – they always are. Apart from a pair of very thread-bare Sugoi tights that are at least five years old now and a pair of ashmei tights that I save for ‘best’, I have three pairs of Nike tights and I love them. Simple and uncluttered, with a neat little zipped pocket at the back, just big enough for a set of keys or an iPod shuffle, I think they are great, with a deep enough crutch and rubberised strips around the ankle to make sure no flesh is exposed at either end.

The t-shirt and half-zip top were stylish looking and really comfortable. But really only there as a support act for the main item – the Element Shield Max Jacket.

This is very much like a soft-shell jacket that anyone who does outdoor activities like climbing or hiking will be familiar with. Not especially waterproof and nowhere near as useful in a downpour as a waterproof shell, this jacket is however shower resistant, windproof, light, warm and flexible. I did find that the built-in gaters in the sleeve that have a thumb-hole were a bit fiddly to manage and I got my hand stuck in a fold of fabric at least twice. But the main innovation is hidden in the hood.

In a slit in the back of the hood is a snood. I don’t know how else to describe it. Held between the lining and the outer of the hood is a piece of fabric which can be pulled over the head so that it sits around the neck like a buff and pulled up over the nose bandit-style. I have a concern, of course, that with the hood pulled over the head and the bandana/snood pulled up over the nose, I would start to resemble some hoodlum hanging around outside McDonalds, but at 10 mph on a treadmill, that was not my main concern. As I started running, with the chamber at 10°C, there was no need for anything over the face, but as the wind speed picked up and the temperature dropped, I thought I’d give the snood a go. The problem is, which I had seen from other people on the treadmill with the snood over their nose and mouth, that hot breath quickly gets the fabric damp which then makes it difficult to breathe. But if it was really cold and you were not working too hard, then it might be a rather good way to avoid chapped lips and a frost-bitten nose.

The climate chamber experience

On a treadmill in a windstorm!

The treadmill exercise involved the team dropping the temperature and increasing the wind speed. What I found interesting is that because I was working reasonably hard, with full-length tights, two tops, a jacket, a hat and gloves on, I was getting warm very quickly – after all if I race a marathon or half marathon in the autumn and the mercury sits at 7 or 8°C I might wear gloves, arm-warmers and a vest, but nothing more. But there was a point – around 5°C and a 50kph headwind, when the kit really came into it’s own – I suddenly felt right: not too hot, not too cold, not sweating particularly and still able to move fluidly at my marathon race pace. The gear continued to perform really well until we reached 4.7°C and 65kph wind-speed at which point the team turned off the fans and the temperature returned to normal.

Conclusion

And that was the end of our climate chamber adventure. I was really impressed with how well the kit performed:

The tights, t-short, top and accessories are typically good quality and wicked sweat well while keeping me warm in the chamber as well as in several runs afterwards.

The Free Run+3 Shield shoes were a revelation – they felt firm, light and comfortable. Despite being waterproof – and they are really waterproof: I ran them under the tap at home and after several minutes, not a drop of water got through – my feet didn’t get hot and if you’re out running in the rain, I’m sure the Free Run+3 Shield will prevent soggy socks which could help you elongate a run and keep you blister-free.

The Nike Element Shield Max Jacket is great: slim fitting, well designed with useful pockets, highly reflective in places and warm as well as breathable. I would have to say that this is a jacket for very cold conditions and I question the usefulness of the snood if you’re running (and breathing) hard, but for a slow run in the depths of winter, this jacket is just the ticket

After the running we tried on the Nike Flash running vest (£150) – although it was a bit too big for me, making me look like a highly reflective mushroom, but if you want a gilet that will make sure you’re seen on your run, this is worth a look.

And with that, we were on our way back to London. It was a great day and a very good way to try out the kit, which I am sure will be on many a runner’s Christmas list, who can look forward to the onset of real winter weather with relish!

The thigh’s the limit

Before I get started, I apologise for the terribly cheesy title to this review: I love thinking up snappy and catchy titles for the articles I post on here and sometimes a groan-inducing one will pop into my head. Normally I try to replace it, but in this case, it stays… so sorry about that.

The review today is about quad-guards, specifically the Compressport ForQuad product that Tim at Compressport in the UK was kind enough to send me to review.

What are quad-guards?

Ordinarily I don’t wear quad-guards. I tend to find that compression socks and tights work best for me as a recovery aid after a tough session, a race or a long run. But this summer was the ‘Summer of Ultras’ in my household as my wife Julie and I took on two ultra marathons and all the training that goes with that.

I found that after long training runs – for example a 6 hour run from 10pm to 4am on New Year’s Eve – I would have two issues: sore feet and sore upper-legs, the hamstrings and quads (front of the thighs) in particular. I tried running in compression tights but they were too restrictive around the waist and too hot after a while. So Compressport came to the rescue with a pair of the ForQuad for me to try.

They are essentially a tube of material, the right size to go around the thigh, that is tight and elastic enough to offer support and compression.

Do they work?

These little unassuming tubes of fabric were a God-send! They fit perfectly, with enough compression to make you know that you are wearing them and they are holding everything firm, but not so much that they cut off the blood supply below the knees. They miraculously stay up and I mean they really stay up – after 4 or 5 hours of running and sweating and pouring water on myself, they were still perfectly in place. And during and after my runs, my legs felt great. There was decidedly less fatigue and little or no D.O.M.S, which I can only assume is due to the fact that they hold the muscles in place and reduce damage that way. The fact that they also cured my propensity to get some chafing between my thighs after 4 or 5 hours of running, was a massive bonus!

So there you have my review: I think the Compressport ForQuad guards are brilliant. They definitely reduce fatigue, they eliminate chafing and, possibly best of all, they make you look like an ultra-marathon runner! Worth every penny, just for that…

Compression reviews

For the last few years I have tried a few different compression products to try to reduce or manage the impact of tough training sessions. In the last couple of months I have been given a couple of products to try – by RunBreeze and Skins – a had one product bought for me by my wife. So I thought I’d review all of these great products at once in a video. Which you can see below:

Products are available from –

 

Put a sock on it…

Up to November last year, I never really thought much about my feet, much less the socks I was wearing when I went for a run. Generally I’ve been blessed with low maintenance feet and aside from the odd toenail lost though a lazy lack of adequate trimming, I have not suffered from blisters of dry skin or athletes foot or any other afflictions that seem to blight runners so commonly. Lucky me.

However last November, as I stood in the start pen waiting for the gun to signal the start of the Florence marathon, I didn’t know that my feet would become an area of deep concern and long-standing contemplation just 26.2 miles later. In case you are interested, my race report is here, but the salient point for this piece is that it rained very heavily for most of the race and I, along with every fellow runner, got soaked. Not least my shoes.

When feet become an issue

Needless to say, by the time I finished soggy socks and shoes had conspired to give me some pretty whopping blisters. My area of concern was not actually anything to do with the effect of the blisters in the race – they didn’t slow me down at all. But 10 days after the race, when I started running again, there were still some rather sore spots and this got me thinking. What would I do if I got bad blisters during a crucial training phase? How do you continue to train if your feet become increasingly painful? So suddenly I decided to focus a little more on socks in order to make sure that my feet were in the best possible shape they could be.

I bought decent socks but often with a sense of resentment that I was shelling out what I felt was quite a lot of money for something as uninspiring as a pair of socks. And I didn’t always get the right thing; some socks would be too small, some a big baggy. Some were rough after being washed while other seemed to shrink while I was on a long run. Some were too hot or thick for my racing flats. Socks became an annoying complex subject that I had to concentrate on.

RunBreeze – sock saviours?

In light of all this, I was rather pleased to find out about RunBreeze from a forum that I and one of the two-man team behind the brand had both posted on. Here was a company that seemed to offer a no-nonsense approach to socks and a promise of good quality at an affordable price. A few days after contacting Richard and Jamie, I was invited to their offices/distribution centre in south London to meet them and learn more about their aims.

You can read about the team behind the brand here. What I discovered is two individuals who are extremely driven and passionate, with clear goals in mind. I must admit that initially I was a little skeptical about their stated aims which coalesce around helping to motivate people to run more or faster or longer (in their words):

If we can help you make your runs more enjoyable, a little less painful, snip a bit of time off your personal best and save you some money, we will have met our objective and will be very happy with ourselves

But on reflection I think RunBreeze is absolutely right to have such lofty aims. The more runners I get to know, the more I realise that inadequate kit is a barrier to personal success. I must admit that on the one hand I am slightly disdainful of those who seem to think that they can buy their way to better performance simply through the power of their credit card, but I also know that not having the right kit can be enough to stop people enjoying their running and that without enjoyment, training becomes a chore, which itself becomes a limiting factor.

Kit test

So given all that, I was intrigued to put the RunBreeze kit to the test. Would it be as good as I hoped? Would it lift me to a new level of effort in my training? Well, I can report that whilst I am always of the opinion that no kit, however good, is going to make up for inadequate mental toughness or a lack of hard-won fitness, the socks I tried did have a pretty positive effect.

The lightweight sock

I remember reading once that some pro-athletes find that if they have a psychological dip in training then a new pair of shoes or a new t-shirt will give them the tiny boost they need to make the extra effort required to nail a session. Well for me, the RunBreeze lightweight socks that I pulled on for my track session were just the boost I needed to get over the malaise that had descended on me thanks to a tough day at work and the thoughts of Christmas just round the corner. The ‘liner’ style socks were really light weight and comfortable in the very light racing flats that I was wearing for the session. I really liked the tab of material that protects the achilles tendon from the shoe rubbing on a very low-profile sock (which looks pretty cool as well) and the socks didn’t slip around or ruck-up at all. I had comfy, dry feet for the duration of the session.

The anti-blister sock

The next day I went for an hour’s run in the anti-blister sock. This time the benefit of a lovely new pair of socks was less psychological – after all I love longer runs! – but I did really enjoy the feeling of the double layer. Unlike other double layer socks I have tried, my feet did not get hot and sweaty which was the thing that put me off double layer socks when I first tried them. Again, despite taking on quite a bit of muddy trail during the run, there was no slipping and my feet felt really snug without the socks feeling tight in any way.

So there you have it: I think that the bah-humbug old-skool attitude that I have to running gimmicks will remain in force and I think that no bit of kit will ever replace hard, consistent training. However I really value having comfortable feet and I know that every care should be taken to ensure that hard-earned fitness does not leak away while waiting for blisters to heal. And most importantly, in these times of austerity measures, at £7 (for the lightweight sock) or £8 (for the anti-blister version) I think that every runner can now afford to treat their feet as well as possible, while they get on with becoming the best runner they can be.

The Spider and the Fly

The famous poem, The Spider and the Fly, was written by Mary Howitt (1799-1888) and published in 1829. It is the story of a spider using flattery to capture and eat a fly, which has become blinded to the dangers the spider posed, by its own vanity. It is a tale that a designer I used to work for would have liked, because he was obsessed with the phrase ‘form follows function’ which was coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan in 1896 to describe his approach to architecture. Sullivan and my ex-boss were not people who would be blinded by vanity – it was all about function for them.

Form follows function

I think that the same should apply to running shoes and apparel; form should be secondary to function. It is all well and good looking cool, but that is less useful than feeling good and having the right kit for the conditions. That said, heaven for me would be kit that is functionally excellent which also looks great and I know that all the major brands intend to produce great looking functional kit, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in my experience, the stuff that is the best to run and race in, is the stuff that I am least likely to want to wear in the rest of my life. However sometimes form and function seem to come close to being aligned in perfect harmony and I might have discovered something like that in Nike’s Gyakusou range for end-2011/start-2012.

I have been excited about some news that I heard at a recent Nike event about the launch in the UK of a new racing shoe – the LunarSpider. What I didn’t know was that I would get my hands on them in the form of a Gyakusou shoe. This could be the perfect combination of function (the LunarSpider) and form (from UNDERCOVER LAB which heads up the Gyakusou International Running Association).

Nike LunarSpider

My initial trial of the shoe is really positive. I was worried that the shoes are quite narrow but the flywire technology does seem to allow a bit of ‘give’ to the upper although the sole is not going to feel any wider. Overall this gives the shoe a real race-y feel. The shoes are very light indeed – 201g according to my scales – and they are very low profile. There is a really good amount of grip, but if you are looking for support or cushioning, this is probably not the shoe for you. These shoes compare favourably with all the racers I have tried recently – the ASICS Tarther, Mizuno Wave Ronin and the Brooks ST5 Racer – although I think that whilst they probably have a little more under the foot than the Mizunos and therefore might not offer enough cushioning for the marathon, they are a perfect shoe for everything up to the half marathon.

I was also lucky enough to get my hands on a very lightweight running jacket with a zip-off hood and sleeve unit which leaves a gilet for those cool autumn days that we are enjoying now. The jacket is not water- or even shower-proof and I must admit that I have only very, very rarely worn a hood whilst running, but I think that very lightweight jackets are great especially for long runs when the weather might be changable. And again, thanks to the UNDERCOVER LAB input, I think the jacket looks great.

The Gyakusou range

The whole range will soon be available and the video at the bottom showcases quite a few of the pieces whilst firmly positioning the brand in its cultural homeland; it is worth checking out.

And so I am left thinking about Nike’s Spider and how the new range might help you to ‘fly’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) I have only been able to try a couple of pieces – the LunarSpider shoes and the jacket. But I am impressed. These are both highly technical pieces and the LunarSpider shoes are a really great addition to the Nike racing shoe range and I will enjoy running in them, purely from the point of view that they are racing shoes. The fact that in my opinion they also look great is an added bonus. I would still say, however that we should still always choose our kit based on practicality first and foremost. But if you are not convinced, I’ll leave the last word to Mary Howitt;

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=–sJnZmvJis

Adidas’ new range for 2012

First of all a confession – I haven’t ever really run in Adidas footwear before (I did have a pair when I very first started running, but I can’t really remember them and they were consigned to the bin fairly quickly after I discovered I had bought a size too small for me). The reason for this is rather ridiculous, but is something that I hope many runners will understand; I had a bad retail experience and then never went back to the brand I was annoyed by.

After I started running I always went to a specialist running shop for my shoes, but after a few years, I started to think that I knew what felt good on my feet. So I went to a huge Adidas shop on Oxford Street, in London’s West End, with the intention of trying on, and buying, some Adidas racing flats. After all these were the shoes that Haile Gebrselassie had worn when he and I ran the Berlin marathon earlier in 2008; he set the then world record of 2:03:59 and I ran a PB in 2:51:52.

The problem is that I am not good at shopping. I don’t like hanging around and I don’t like what I perceive to be bad service. So after waiting for a preposterously long time to be served and for the shoes I wanted to try to arrive, the sales assistant dropped the shoes on the floor at my feet and started serving another customer… and I left and walked straight into the arms of ASICS, where I remained until earlier this year.

But I have always liked the idea of Adidas. My favourite racing shorts are Adidas. My favourite t-shirts, long- and short-sleeved, are Adidas. And so many runners I know love their shoes, I often felt I was missing out. But I can be a bit stubborn and there wasn’t really a good reason to stop racing in my ASICS.

But now I might relent and finally succumb to the lure of the three stripes. Why? Well I have stopped wearing the ASICS that I was so faithful to and started trying different brands. And the new Adidas range looks pretty interesting.

Shoes for racing

Being shown around the Adidas shoes today by Kirstyn from the KTB PR agency, I finally grasped the different ranges that Adidas have and who they are aimed at. There is the Response range, aimed at the beginner and designed to provide a choice of entry level shoes. Then there is the Supernova range, offering slightly lighter and rather sleeker-looking shoes with lower profiles and an overall racier feel, aimed at the ‘improver’. These shoes include Adidas’ torsion system in the sole along with a larger area of Formotion cushioning but without any extra weight. Next up is the adiStar range, which is considered to be for the serious runner with further technical additions and even lighter weight. And finally there is the adiZero range which contains Adidas’ racing flats, as worn by Gebrselassie and, perhaps more significantly, Patrick Makau in this years Berlin marathon, when he set a new world record for the marathon: 2:03:38.

The Adidas adiZero range

There are two shoes in the new adiZero range that I am really keen to try; the adiZero Adios and the Feather.

The Adios is the shoe that I think could become one of my favourites. Handling the shoe, it is undoubtedly light and feels well balanced and with just the right amount of flex. The innovation in this shoe that I think is really interesting is the link-up between Adidas and the tyre manufacturer Continental, who have supplied rubber that has been incorporated in key areas of the sole to aid grip. The areas of rubber are quite small to ensure the shoe remains extremely light, but the rubber is exactly where my racing flats always wear the fastest – mainly at the front of the toe-box – and if the Continental rubber adds traction (the KTB PR team informed me that some boffins somewhere have estimated that the rubber saves 1mm of ‘slip’ per 1 meter, which over a marathon adds up I guess!) and longevity, then I think Adidas could be on to a winner.

The other interesting shoe in the range, that caught my eye, is the Feather (see right). As the name would suggest this is a very light shoe indeed and has something that I haven’t seen in a long-distance shoe before. The ‘sprint frame’ that the shoe is built around is a full-length rigid plastic base – similar to the sole of a track spike – that the upper is bonded on to (thereby saving stitching which might make the shoe  more attractive to those who prefer running without socks) and onto which is stuck the adiPRENE cushioning material. I must admit that I am not convinced that a shoe that has such rigidity in the sole is going to be a good idea, but I hope I’ll get a chance to try them out and report back.

Adidas adiZero and Supernova apparel

The other things that caught my eye were the adiZero clothing range and the official London marathon apparel.

As I have said before, I really am a big fan of the Adidas adiZero clothing range. The latest offerings feel really great; super-light, well made with body-mapping technologhy which means that different materials are used in key areas to aid moisture management or improve ventilation. Oh and they are orange (and I mean really orange – see left!) I know that personally I am highly likely to end up adding to my already considerable collection of running wear with some items from this range and as soon as I do, I will post some reviews.

The final items I had a look at were the Supernova pieces that will make up the official London marathon range (at the time of writing this they are not available, but you can have a look by following the link). Again, orange is the colour of choice – see right – and I think that the collection looks good and really is high quality, so if you are keen to show-off that you have run the London, then this kit is the way to do it and is also pretty good technically.

So I would say that from what I have seen, Adidas have some pretty exciting products coming out in the next few months. I hope that I will have a chance to try at least a few out and I will put something in the review section. In the mean time if anyone reading this wants to add a review of some kit they are currently using please let me know (and that goes for any brand, not just Adidas) whilst I am going to pull on my new trusted Mizunos and head out for a little run.    

There’s no ‘arm in trying something new

I am afraid to say that the weather is turning towards autumn. It is September and now, during early morning runs or late evening runs, there is a distinct chill in the air. It is not cold, not by a long stretch, but I am tending to find that I want to add a little bit of warmth without breaking out the winter gear. This is why I have dug out and started wearing my arm-warmers.

What are arm-warmers or arm-sleeves?

Basically a tapered tube of technical fabric, arm-warmers cover the arm from the armpit to wrist, gently gripping the arm at the top. They provide an effective barrier against the wind and cool temperatures, whilst having the enormous benefit of being removable. A pair of arm-warmers gives me a little bit of extra comfort when I head out of the door, but can be pulled down to the wrist or removed completely and shoved in a pocket when I warm up.

When I started wearing arm-warmers it was during cycling training for triathlons. But soon enough I was wearing them for chilly runs and now that I am focused completely on running, I still pull them on when it is too cool for just a t-shirt, but not cold enough for a long-sleeve top or even a jacket. They can also have other uses, when it comes to pure fashion, which Ben Moreau wrote about here, but I am not sure that is what they are intended for!

What sort of arm-warmers are available?

For such a simple piece of kit, there is quite a wide range of arm-warmers on the market. By far the most extensive range is amongst the cycling stock. However due to the higher speeds that cyclists tend to achieve (because they use wheels which is cheating, but that is a different story!) the arm-warmers designed for cycling tend to be made of thicker and more wind resistant material. They also tend to have rubber or plastic grippers at the top and sometimes at the bottom, which most running-specific versions don’t have. That said, they are easy to find and therefore might be a good option, certainly if you are thinking you might use them for cycling and running.

Amongst running-specific arm-warmers, the price is often lower than that of cycling arm-warmers, simply because there is less work involved in manufacturing them if they don’t have arm-grippers and as mentioned before, the material is often thinner. However I have found that it is more important to make sure that running arm-warmers need to fit really snuggly in order to ensure they don’t fall down, which can happen if there are no grippers.

My favourites

With a plethora of products on the market, I am not going to attempt to provide a comprehensive review here. However of the arm-warmers I have, my favourites by far are my Nike ones. They fit, ahem, like a glove. They are quite thin but give just enough protection on a cool morning run and, despite not being in any way water resistant, they are great for reducing the chill when I wear them in the rain. They are also pretty good value in my opinion.

My other favourites are the Assos pair that I wear. I did initially buy them for use on the bike, but they are great for running. The extra weight of material, which means they are the ones I reach for when the temperatures really drop, is off-set by the grippers at the top which are just enough to hold the arm-warmers up without being irritating. The only downside is that, like all Assos kit, they are pretty expensive.

Other products that it is worth considering include those made from wool, which many runners believe are more comfortable, warmer and more perma-stink resistant than technical fabric versions. One example of this is the product from Smart Wool which you can see here.

And if you want to avoid the ‘long cocktail gloves’ look that I was rocking at the Florence marathon last year (see left) there are arm-warmers that are not black, although there don’t seem to be many interestingly designed options in the UK at the moment. However if you can find some or you have a trip to the US planned, these ones look great. Finally, I really like Kalenji kit from Decathlon stores because it tends to be so simple and good value. Their offering might be worth checking out which you can do here.

As I have written before, being comfortable is crucial when it comes to training and racing well and for that reason I would recommend arm-warmers as a useful and practical addition to any runners’ kit-bag. And just ignore the odd looks you might get wearing them with a vest; your arm-warmers simply mark you out as a serious runner!

 

 

How to tackle the perma-stink with Halo Proactive Sports Wash

It’s true that most people training for a marathon will run several times a week. There are people I know who are training for a chance to run for their country who manage twelve runs per week and even I have nine or ten runs a week. One of the challenges we all face is keeping on top of the laundry, especially in winter when the pile can grow at an alarming rate.

The issue of laundry mountains is made worse in my case by my tendency towards frugality – put simply I quite like to get the maximum possible wear out of my kit (except for shoes which I do replace regularly). This miserliness however leads all too often to the dreaded perma-stink, where kit never really loses the pungent odor that builds up. By the middle of last year I was finding that almost every item of kit I owned has a musty smell even straight after washing. The worse bit of this was that the kit that I liked the most and therefore wore the most, suffered the most.

That is where Halo Sports Proactive Sports Wash came in. I think this stuff is great! I must admit that the first time I used it, I was a little disappointed because the kit that I washed, whilst definitely more palatable, still retained a background whiff. But I washed it all again and the second time was a revelation! Gone was the perma-stink and in its place there was a light, fresh fragrance, which is even better than the floral smelling regular liquid detergent I had been using. Even when holding the armpits of my favourite tops close to my nose, there was not a trace of lingering perma-stink. It seems that after the first double wash, the years of ingrained pong have gone and I now use the Halo Sports Proactive Sports Wash every time I wash kit. The kit always smells great and comes out completely clean, even the dirtiest vests, shorts and socks from cross-country races.

I always like to give a balanced review and that often means finding a downside or two. For Halo Sports Proactive Sports Wash the only things I can think of are; one, the relative difficulty of getting hold of it (but there is a link to stockists on their website) and two; it is relatively expensive – £5.50 for 1 liter vs around £4 for a normal liquid detergent.

However I don’t think that either or indeed both of the negatives that I have mentioned outweigh the benefits of Halo Sports Proactive Sports Wash and any extra cost will almost certainly be saved by extending the life of those items of kit that you thought would have to go in the bin (or if you’re really mean to the charity shop!) that will now last for several more seasons. If like so many of us runners, you are dealing with a weekly laundry-mountain, I’d say give it a go (for everyone’s benefit!)