Monday, January 30, 2017

Kinematix Tune Review

I love running, running gear, and new technologies.  If you are looking for a newer product that would fit into all three of those categories, the Kinematix Tune might be that product.  Kinematix was founded in 2007 by Paulo Ferreira dos Santos.  Paulo has a Degree in Computer Sciences applied to Management and a Master in Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship.  He has started 5 different companies and is based out of both Porto , Portugal and Austin, Texas.

Kinematix has spent the past eight years taking its expertise in the movement of the human body and designed a product to help runners move better.  The Tune provides meaningful information about how your body moves during your run.  It breaks down that information into several key areas and then provides exercises to help improve your movement.  This can help you become a stronger, more injury-free runner.  Let’s start by taking a look at the Tune.

You get two boxes when your Tune arrives.  There is a long flat box that holds your two insoles with sensors in them.  There is also a rectangular box that has the sensors, instructions, charging port, and cables. 

Before your run, you should download the app, either on iTunes or Google Play.  You will also need to charge the sensors.  Once you have done that, you put the insoles in your shoes, under the shoe’s insole.  The thickness of the Tune's insoles will not cause a problem, although I had issues when using a pair of orange Superfeet insoles.  This is due to the fact that they have a hard plastic bottom with elevated ridges under the heel.  The insoles didn’t provide contact at all points on the Tune's insole.  Once the insoles are in, you slide the clip on and twist the sensor.

Now that you have your Tune in place, you need to connect it to your smartphone, via the app.  It is really easy to setup.  I did have an issue once or twice where it only recognized one of the two sensors, but upgrades to the app in late November fixed the problem.  Once the sensors are connected, you are ready to go on a run.  Let’s look at the information that you get after a run.

Gait Cycle Time
The gait cycle is how long it takes for you to complete a set of strides.  So let’s say your gait cycle starts with your right foot on the ground.  The cycle would end again when your right foot contacts the ground again.  There are two phases of the gait cycle.  The “Stance” is the period when your foot is in contact with the ground.  The “Swing” is the period when your foot is in the air.  Flight time is when neither foot is on the ground, which happens twice per gait cycle.  The faster your run, the shorter your gait cycle time. 

Steps, Cadence, and Step Length
The steps are simply the amount of steps that you took during your run.  The cadence is your average steps per minute.  The step length is also known as your “stride length” which is the distance you cover in a single stride.

Stance Time
The stance time, or ground contact time, indicates how long your foot is on the ground.  The reading also breaks it down into the percent of time that your heel is in contact with the ground.  The shorter the heel percentage, the shorter the stance time.  

This uses an index to measure the time in propulsion during the stance phase.  The higher the stance dynamics, the better you are at using the ground to move forward.  Basically, Stance Dynamics is the ratio between the time in propulsion (no heel contact) and the ground contact time.  A higher Stance Dynamics number means, the less is the time you spend moving from the heel to the forefoot (braking effect).

Heel Strike
This shows the amount of times (in a percentage) where you land on your heel first.  Heel striking  is not necessarily a bad thing unless you are overstriding , which could lead to injuries.  I always land on my heel, but my strides are short and it doesn’t slow me down or create excessive impact like overstriding  would cause. 

There is also a chart where you can evaluate each of these characteristics at specific times during your run.  You can change the parameters and see how you are performing while running up a large hill versus flats or downhill. 

My Experience
I first got my Tune quite a while ago. I started to test it out and unfortunately injured myself (and had to take some time off of running) from over training in pursuit of a marathon PR.  I had some issues with the Tune, mainly connection issues and some things I didn’t like about the app.  After I started running again, I updated the app and it fixed all of the issues I had.  The app became more user friendly as well.  I love the feedback and how it breaks down the movements into something I can understand.  The voice feedback is great too.  It will give you cues along the way to keep you motivated and let you know if your form is off.  Each of the readings has an “i” that provides more information about that stat.  I have 8 logged runs so far.

Once you get to 10 runs, the Tune app will suggest exercises that will help you improve your form based on the readings it has taken.  While I haven’t seen these exercises yet, I have read quite a few reviews from other people.  They not only like the exercises, but see improvements based on the recommendations.  Kinematix has been more than accommodating with my injury and delayed review so I want to get the review up.  I will update this post in about a month with my experience of the exercises. 

My only complaint at this time is that the Tune clips onto the side of your shoe.  If you run in no-show socks or no socks at all, it can cause irritation below your ankle.  I have only experienced this one time though, but it is something to be aware of.  All in all, this is an awesome product that can really help runners improve their form.  It has been featured in numerous magazines like Competitor as well as online write-ups.  It has also received high marks from professional athletes, coaches, and every day runners.

The Tune costs $199.  You can choose between a blue, grey, or red sensor.  You can also choose to purchase an additional pair of insoles for $49.99 in case you don’t want to take one set out and transfer them between shoes.  I just transfer them, but the option is there.  You can purchase yours at the Kinematix website.  The battery lasts for about 10 hours according to the website.  I think that number is a little high, but the battery life is decent.  You can charge both sensors at the same time with the charging port that is included and it doesn’t take too long. 

Kinematix is also coming out with myTune, which is a desktop version of their app.  It will provide even more information and will allow you to share that information with a coach/trainer so they will be able to better assist you on reaching your goals and overcoming imperfections in your gait.  This sounds like an amazing feature and I can’t wait until it comes out.

Provides a great deal of information
Suggests exercises to help improve form
Data can help you reduce risk of injury
8-10 hours of battery life (30 days in sleeping mode)
Decent price $199

Can cause irritation if you don’t wear socks

Kinematix’s Social Media Links

I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of the Kinematix Tune to be honest with you.  While I started out skeptical, I am very pleased with the results and information that I can gather from the Tune.  I can already see this making me a stronger runner and I am anticipating the exercises will help me become less injury prone.  I will provide an update in about a month.  If you get a Tune, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew Shirt Review

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love Merino wool.  SmartWool has been knitting American-made socks for over 20 years and their multi-generational sock makers have the knowledge to design and manufacture some amazing socks.  SmartWool makes much more than just socks now though.  They make products for running, cycling, skiing, and hiking just to name a few sports.  What are the benefits of Merino wool though?

Merino wool does a great job at transporting moisture away from your skin, which will help you to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  As your body heats up, the moisture vapors will be absorbed by the wool fiber and released, keeping you dry and comfortable.  Merino wool can actually retain up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch.  That is not true with most of your technical fabrics.

Wool has a natural shape to it that traps dead air, which helps insulate you in the cold weather.  The moisture wicking qualities of the wool help you stay cooler in the warmer weather.  That is why sheep don’t overheat, even when they have a thick coat of wool and it is hot out.  (Hey, I just learned something new there).

Wool is extremely durable and can be stretched in any direction 30,000 times or more without damage.  This includes stretching out.  Do you had socks that stretched out over time?  With wool, it will take longer for that stretching to occur.  Also the way wool has a natural curl, or “fiber crimp” also improves the elasticity and resiliency of the fibers.

One of the coolest qualities of wool though is its natural odor fighting qualities.  Because of wool’s ability to transfer moisture, odor-causing bacteria doesn’t have the moist environment that it needs to thrive, therefore you can participate in intense activities for longer periods of time without having to worry about how bad your clothes smell.

I always had this perception that wool was itchy and stayed away from it for years.  The reason it itches is that larger diameter fibers are less flexible and don’t have the ability to bend.  That in turn pricks your skin.  Those larger fibers can often be found in those old wool sweaters; you know the ones I’m talking about.  The ones your parents made you wear for family pictures when you were a kid.  The thinner fibers that are used in many of the wool products now are more flexible resulting in extremely soft and comfortable clothing.  I tested the SmartWool PhD 7” Shorts, PhD Ultra Light Short Sleeve Shirt, and PhD Run Light Elite Low Cut Socks, last July (click here for review).  I got the NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew Long Sleeve Shirt a while ago and have loved testing it out.

The NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew is SmartWool’s best-selling and warmest baselayer.  They added the subtle pattern, improved the fit, and made the seams chafe-free.  The best part is that the shirt is made with 100% Merino wool. 

SmartWool utilizes flatlock seams to make sure that there is no chafing and used shoulder panels to eliminate seams on the top of your shoulders.  They use an interlock knit technique to make sure that the shirt will stand up to whatever you throw its way and is form fitting.  The shirt does fit true to size.

One thing I really like about the NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew is that it looks really sharp (and I am not a trendy guy, just ask my wife).  I wore it to Thanksgiving Dinner at my dad’s house.  The funny thing is that I walk through the door and guess what my Dad was wearing… the same shirt with a slightly different pattern.  We had no idea that the other person owned SmartWool products.  We all had a great laugh about it. 

Don’t let the good looks make you think that this shirt is not made to perform.  This is now my cold weather shirt.  I have used it on every long run since I started testing it and there are a few reasons why.  The first reason is that it keeps me warm, whether it is under a light jacket or by itself.  The second reason is that it wicks moisture like few shirts can.  I never feel how wet the NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew is, even when it is drenched from the rain or sweat.  The third reason is something that the other SmartWool (Merino wool) products share, the anti-odor characteristics, which keeps my shirt from smelling nasty, even after some really tough runs.

Great guarantee
Excellent breathability and moisture management
100% Merino wool - Natural odor fighting qualities
Feels amazingly soft and comfortable
Looks great (for casual use or while training)
Decent price ($105)

A little more expensive than some of the other brands (but totally worth every cent)

SmartWool’s Media Links:

So not only do you get a comfortable Merino wool running product, but you get a killer guarantee.  If you are not satisfied with your SmartWool purchase for any reason, simply return it within two years of when you purchased it and they will make it right.  That’s right…two years!  You can pick up your SmartWool products on their website or at a local retailer near you (click here for locations).  I am a huge fan of SmartWool products now and am so glad that I got to test them out.  While the price may be slightly higher than some other brands, it is well worth the price.  The superior construction and natural qualities of the Merino wool will keep these products in your rotation longer.  The NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew is simply amazing and if I had to pick one winter running shirt, this would be the one.  Pick up one for yourself and let me know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Topo Athletic Terraventure Review

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I really like Topo Athletic shoes.  They offer shoes with a low heel drop and wide toe box.  This allows your toes to spread out instead of feeling claustrophobic like in most shoes.  The durability of the materials that they use is excellent as well.  The MT is one of the first pair of shoes that I reviewed on my blog.  It is still one of my favorite trail shoes because it is so light, comfortable, and really flexes with your foot.  The Hydroventure is an amazing trail shoe with a waterproof eVent material that keeps the water out but is still breathable.  Topo Athletic also has some amazing road shoes.  My favorites are the Runduro, Magnifly, and the UltraFly.

If you are not familiar with Topo Athletic shoes, they fit snug in the heel and midfoot, while it they are loose in the toebox.  The wide toe box allows your toes to spread out, which has several benefits.  This will not only help you be more stable, but will also reduce foot injuries commonly caused by shoes that compress your toes. 

I have tested 11 shoes from Topo Athletic and have been impressed with every one.  Here are some of my past reviews.

Topo Athletic just upped their game in regards to their trail shoes.  While the Hydroventure is waterproof, which I love, the Terraventure is made with more aggressive lugs than in the past to provide better traction and a rock plate to protect the bottom of your feet.

The Terraventure features a 3 mm heel drop, which will put your body in an ideal alignment.  If you aren’t used to a low heel drop, you should ease into using them over a few weeks to get your calves and Achilles tendon use to the extra stretch.  I love my low drop shoes and can’t recommend them enough.   

The Terraventure has a total stack height of 22 mm in the back and 22 mm in the front.  It breaks down to 6 mm of rubber outsole, 14/11 mm (rear/front) of midsole material, and a 5 mm footbed.  This is more of a minimal trail shoe compared to some other trail shoes out there, but it provides a very nimble and supportive experience while still providing some cushion.  It weighs in at only 10.4 ounces (men’s size 9).

The upper material is made up of mesh with overlays and a sturdy toe cap to protect your toes from rocks and branches.  The ESS forefoot rock plate protects your foot from stone-bruising which is a really nice feature.  The ghillie lacking system ensures that you have a secure midfoot fit that still allows your forefoot to be open so your toes can spread out. 

The big difference between this and the other Topo Athletic shoes is that this has the more aggressive lug design.  I took these out on a really wet and muddy run.  It had been raining hard (record setting rains) for a few days.  It was also raining during my run.  I was able to run through muddy areas, on wet grass, and over slippery rocks with ease.  I never slipped one time, even on areas where other people were slipping.

The fit of the Terraventure was great, in fact it’s one of the best fitting shoes in the Topo lineup thanks to the ghillie lacing system.  I am really pleased with these shoes and will be using them a lot more in the near future. 

Lightweight (10.4 ounces)
Wide toe box allows toes to spread out
Low (3 mm) heel drop allows for better form and posture
Great price ($110 at the Topo Athletic website)
Extremely flexible
ESS rock plate protects your feet from stone-bruising
Ghillie lacing system locks in your midfoot for a great fit

Topo Athletic’s Social Media Links:

Topo Athletic ups its game with each release of a new shoe. I love the aggressive lug and rockplate.  This is a great trail shoe that can handle dry trails as well as muddy ones.   The fit and function of the Terraventure is only bested by the $110 price tag).  You can get a pair at the Topo Athletic website, or check the Topo Athletic Store Locator for a store near you.  Give them a try today and let me know what you think.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.