Sunday, February 24, 2013

Keeping Warm & Dry On the Trail In Vasque Snowburbans - My Review

The nice people at Vasque sent me a pair of their new Snowburbans. They released 3 insulated
boots in the fall of 2012 and along with the lighter Snow Junkie and Snowblime, The Snowburban is
the behemoth of the three.

Let's back up a bit. I've been using Vasque boots and shoes for quite a while now. I feel they're
the toughest to hit the trail. I've worn and wear other brands, but my dogs always feel most at
home when I'm wearing Vasque. My go-to hikers are the Vasque Breeze GTX and I've run in the
Aether Tech, Velocity VST, Mindbender and Transistor. Add the Velocity, Blur SL, Mantra and even the Watergate when I'm paddling and you could say I'm a little biased about wearing the shoes with the golden logo with the V on the mountain. Yes I'm a huge fan, but this was my first chance to wear an insulated boot by Vasque.

Right out of the box, The Snowburbans were ready to go. There was none of that stiff/needed to be
broken in feeling about them. I loved the fit, especially the extra-high ankle support. We hadn't
gotten any "real" snow falls in my area, but have had some pretty cold temperatures. Pretty cold
in Pennsylvania this winter means temps below 20. I've been out for extended periods, both hiking and simply standing around at the muddy dog park in temperatures in the low teens and the 3M™ Thinsulate™ Ultra Insulation kept my feet toasty warm. I've worn them with a basic boot sock from Gander Mountain. The thinsulate does a great job of keeping your feet warm, but not too warm. I thought that if my feet were warm simply standing around in frigid temps, what would happen if I
were hiking? Were these boots going to get too hot? I was pleasantly surprised when hoofing it out
across a mountain trail with my dogs, my feet weren't cooking. Instead of sweating they were
comfy and warm as they should be at 16°F.

Snow, rain, freezing rain and freeze and thaw makes for a sloppy mess on my favorite nearby
trail, I've worn the Snowburbans through snow, ice, mud and water. Yes, the are "Ultra-Dry" and I
would welcome the Venture out sole tread on tires for my Jeep. The Snowburbans will slop through
a stream and stay dry and cross rocks with confidence.

Snowburbans On The Rocks With Mojo & Mollie

Probably the coolest thing about this monster boot is that it isn't a monster. I've worn other
insulated boots that are apparently trail ready and you get that Napoleon Dynamite moon boot
feeling from them. The Snowburbans fit like a hiker. I could easily see backpacking wearing these
in the winter. Vasque lists the weight at 3lb 3oz and says the Snowburbans are built same
articulated hardware as their backpacking boots. Although I haven't used it, they have a handy D-ring at the base of the lacing to hook gaiters. The toe cap that Vasque calls a toe rand (must be shoe industry jargon) is super tough protection for coordinated hikers like me who are especially skilled at catching a toe on a rock.

Guess I Should've Used Gaiters

The pair I got are Beluga and Old Gold so they even look cool. The only negative I've found on
this boot is that they're a bit too big to fit in my particular type of snow shoe. I have the MSR
Evo Tour Snowshoes and the Snowburbans just don't seem to fit. That's ok, my Vasque Breeze fit in
them just fine.

I admitted my bias for Vasque boots and shoes early on, but please believe that I've used these
boots and I've given my honest review. I'm not a hunter or a snow mobiler, but I would recommend the Snowburbans to my friends who are. Don't let cold temperatures and snow keep you off the trail when this new warm dry boot by Vasque can take you there.

The ground hog has predicted an early spring and dreams of summer trail running are already dominating my thoughts. Until that permanent thaw I'll be hiking in my Snowburbans.
Speaking of trail running, Vasque has just released their new trail running shoe, The Pendulum.  I plan to be running the trails this season wearing Vasque Pendulums, so look for my review when I do.

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 2/24/2013 06:21:00 PM

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Minimalist Start To 2013 - Mizuno Wave Universe 4 Shoe Review

Last fall The Hershey Medical Center announced they needed runners to participate in a barefoot
running study. I'm not a barefoot runner or even a minimalist runner, but I thought it could be fun
so I offered up my services. The study requires that you run 30% of your mileage barefoot or in a
minimalist shoe and complete a survey monthly answering specific questions posed by the
facilitators. The questionnaire focuses on whether or not you've experienced different running
related injuries since running barefoot/minimalist.

I was surprised to find that the study would not be providing the minimalist shoes for
participants. They did however provide a pretty complete list of shoes they approved of for the
study. All the shoes cost around $100 or more and I really wasn't interested in explaining to
Janice that I needed to buy another pair of running shoes so I could be a barefoot running lab rat.
I decided to take a different approach and contacted every shoe company on the list and even some
retailers and explained my situation and asked for their support. I got some responses that seemed
positive, but went nowhere and others that were flat "no". I won't share any of them, but I was
really amused by the response of one of the companies who's shoes are notoriously expensive -
totally cracked me up... I was getting ready to email the facilitator of the study and tell him I
was pulling myself from the group when I got an email from Mizuno. To make a long story short, the
kind folks at Mizuno provided me with a pair of Mizuno Wave Universe 4 minimalist shoes to use for
the study. They arrived the day after Christmas! Thank you Mizuno!

I focus my running on the trail, trail events and longer distances like 50k, 50 miles or more, but
I do about half of my training on the road simply because of schedule and life constraints. Joining
this study and adding the Wave Universe to my stable of shoes, I decided that my road mileage would
be run as a minimalist.

Right out of the box, the Wave Universe are eye catchers, nothing is lost on their design. They
come in different colors, but the pair Mizuno sent me are Royal Purple with Lime Punch trim. I
could see the LSU Cross Country team running in them or for us Pennsylvanians, a West Chester Ram
would be proud in these purple speedsters. Mizuno presents the shoe as a racing flat, but with only
a 4mm drop from heel (18mm) to forefoot (14mm) and a feather weight of 3.8oz, it's no surprise they
were listed as one of the approved shoes for the minimalist study. That light weight is the next
thing you notice when taking them out of the box. I think I own heavier socks. Putting them on,
they give the feel of a laced up bedroom slipper. I must say, my first few steps in them made me
wonder what the heck I was in for with this minimalist running thing. I used one shoe previously
that was scaled down in its support and protection, but nothing like this. That 14mm's of rubber
under my forefoot seemed like nothing, but I already run with a forefoot strike so I was confident
these shoes wouldn't adversely affect my stride.

I didn't ease into this change, I simply replaced my aging road shoes with the new minimalist
shoes. Probably not smart, but hey that's how I did it. I do have to admit my first steps were quite
awkward. The start of the route is a slight downhill and I'm sure I looked like a chicken
scratching downhill. One of the first things I noticed was the semi-slapping sound with each foot
fall. Secondly and I'm sure that real minimalist runners already know this, but if you step on
debris, man you really feel it - yep it even hurts sometimes! The 6 mile road route I run around
Carlisle PA has a short stretch of rugged dirt trail through a local park so I have technically
used them for trail running too. I like the feel of the minimal sole on dirt. Maybe it's the soft
surface respite from the 4 miles of black top that lead to that trail. The shoe does have that 18mm
heel and I find myself using and appreciating it on a steep little downhill where I guess I use a
heel plant for stability. Of the 212 training miles I ran in January, 104 of them were on the road
in the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 in rain, snow, mud and extreme cold. The sole wear is minimal and the
upper is showing no signs of give.

The Wave Universe has been the perfect minimalist shoe for me, I'm a bigger/older runner who has
had my share of running related maladies so I think having at least that 14mm of protection was
just what the barefoot doctor ordered. If you're looking to try minimalist running and you're not
sure you want to go barefoot or the five finger route, give the Wave Universe a shot. If you're one
of those "fasties" who crowd the start line at your community 5k/10k, these shoes feel like wings!

After a solid month of minimalist running, I submitted my questionnaire with pride. As January came
to a close though I developed a little tightness in my left calf after a snowy 10 mile trail run.
It feels like all the other running related calf strains I've experienced, so I'm not going to
attribute it to the minimalist running. Unfortunately the stiffness in that calf muscle comes just
a couple of days before The Squirrely Tail Twail Wun Trail Half Marathon. I'm sure I'll still have
a fun time running around the lake at Gifford Pinchot State Park with all the other crazies even if
I am a bit gimpy. Stay tuned for my race report coming soon.

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 2/01/2013 09:31:00 AM