Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Best of the Best: Compression wear

Some of these categories made it very hard to pick a winner.  Some of them I was torn while writing.  This one and the next one (coming in a few days) were very, very easy.

Best Compression Company:

SKINS Compression.  Despite also winning the funniest (and scariest if you're typing it in a work and thinking to yourself "oh this could end really badly...") web address:  SKINS Compression is hands down the leader in compression gear.

From biometric 3D scanning that gathers 800,000 measurements for each athlete scanned to make the fit just right to endless research and peer reviews, Skins is simply unrivaled.  

I have reviewed the short tights and long tights and they continue to be my number one, hands down, go to compression wear.


There is a Lot of technology crammed into these things while fitting/wearing very simply (good technology without bulky bells and whistles).  They include highly researched gradient technology in all of their compression gear.  

Additionally, the full length tights include a knee pocket (my term - not theirs) that was a huge plus for me, as most of you know!  The pocket (seen in the picture) is bio-mechanically placed Memory MX fabric that surrounds the knee, the IT band, and the TFL muscle group to provide even better constant, controlled compression while allowing for truly unrestricted movement (which of course is very important around the knee - and a place where many companies screw this up).

The pants and shorts both feel fantastic, no rubbing, no felt seems, no irritation of any kind.

The compression is nothing short of perfect.  
Many lower quality 'compression' companies simply squeeze you to death (thereby destroying what they are claiming to help), others fit so loose there is also no benefit at all.  With the Skins (they tout their "unique BMI/anthropometrical algorithm" fitting process), the fit is truly second to none!  

I wore these tights and shorts during runs as well as post run (even to sleep in post long run) and always felt comfortable and I truly felt better on my runs and less DOMS.

For this last part, ladies forgive me for TMI - the crotch on these makes them.  Really.  The fit, comfort, and support in the crotch fixes everything about that... region that makes me dislike (and some runs Hate) compression gear.  Their purpose designed "comfortably shaped crotch for better ball control" is a Huge benefit of the Skins line!

In Tennessee, like most places this year, we have had a crazy 'winter' so far.  As such, over the course of one week alone we had a day of 28 and a day of 67.  Remarkably enough, Skins claim of being able to wear these in any weather proved true - the long tights were great in the cool, but even on the 67 degree day, the long tights did not feel overly hot and did an excellent job at regulation temperature - largely due to the fact (I'm sure) that they transfer (wick) moisture extremely well.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the Skins long tights is their sizing.  As most of you know, I am a towering 5' 6" (on a good day...), so, needless to say, getting gear that fits properly is exhausting, if not impossible.  Skins has solved this issue (thank you. Truly.) by implementing their Size Matters sizing system that offers their tights in short, regular, and long configurations in every size!

  • Best sizing system of any company I've seen (S, R, and T options in all sizes)
  • Best (and very accurate) sizing chart (as seen above) of any line I've seen so far
  • Gradient Compression technology throughout
  • Memory MX fabric
  • Comfortably shaped crotch (ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)
  • Excellent temperature and moisture management
  • 50+ UV protection built in
  • Lifetime antimicrobial treatment

In conclusion, I think the Skins line of compression gear is truly world class.  They Are expensive.  As the company puts it,

"Why should I choose SKINS over a less expensive pair of tights?
Because no -one's invested as much time or money into research - or been able to replicate the benefits SKINS have been proven to deliver.  SKINS' unique engineered gradient compression has been developed by leading sports physicians over years of scientific research.  And the medical benefits that SKINS provide are backed by independent testing."

What I can say, is that for me, these shorts and tights have become my go-to staple on every run -  I love them

For more information, check out Skins own FAQ page: 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Best of the Best 1 Shoe Wonder:

Today I tried to look at "If I could only have ONE pair of shoes to do EVERYTHING in" What would it be?

To clarify, I really mean everything.  One pair of shoes.  To concrete run in, trail run in, sprint interval in, long distance in, wear casually out with blue jeans to the game/party/bar/church/date, to hike in, boulder in, climb ropes in, Crossfit in.
One pair of shoes.  The perfect jack of all trades.  Not necessarily The best in any one specific category, but when looked at as a whole... untouchable.

Enter the Skora Form

The perfect all purpose do everything shoe.  Leather, waterproof, breathable, light, wide toe box, sexy, solid flat bottom.
I Love this shoe.  I love it with jeans, I love it on the trails, I love it around town, I love it on the track, and I absolutely Love it in the gym.  At home on roots, box jumps, pavement, and ropes.  I've worn them camping, I've worn them working on a roof, on dates, preaching, through hundreds of miles of trail.... they really are THAT shoe.

From the first time I touted these shoes:

If you’ve never heard of Skora running, don’t feel bad, I hadn’t either.  
But if you choose to not immediately go find out more about them, I can assure you, you will regret it.  I'm quite confident that this is only the beginning... (boy was a right about that! ;)

Skora is a new company (as most of you know I have a huge soft spot for start-ups!) and they are bringing a fresh look to the market as they enter.  Their mantra is “Run Real” and I must say, they’re making great strides (see what I did right there?) towards that end.

The Skora Form is one of their first 2 shoes they are bringing to market (now shipping) and with it, they did a lot of things right.

Skora is immediately setting their entire company around minimalism and their idea of “Run Real”.  Their shoes are zero drop, minimal in cushioning, no support, stitch-down construction (more on that later), anatomical last, outsoles mimic foot shape, no heel counter, and a sole made to fit the natural shape of your foot and encourage medial to lateral movement.

Check this out this product Video (less than 90 seconds)

I’ll go ahead and say one thing right off the bat, the shoes look fantastic!  My first thoughts upon unboxing were that they were almost Too pretty to run in!  I Love shoes, and as a pure minimalist in that department (I only wear zero drop shoes:  running, casual, dress, hiking, mowing the lawn, everything) I really miss my old shoes style – these fit the bill!  Not only are they a great running shoe, they look great underneath a pair of bluejeans.

  • The FORM is a lightweight shoe (tipping the scales at about 8oz) – much lighter than traditional shod shoes.
  • The anatomical last, curved outsole forefoot, curved outsole heel, and absence of a heel counter make this shoe fit very well – the whole shoe is built… like a foot.
  •  Skora has really differentiated themselves in the material of the shoe.  One of my favorite things about this shoe is the fact that it’s made of Pittards Goadskin leather with their “WR100X” leather lining.  This stuff is Awesome!  It’s genuine leather, super soft and supple (feels like old perfectly broke in leather right out of the box) feel, all while being extremely breathable (was thrilled about that part) And water resistant!
  • The entire shoe, sole and all, is completely flexible!
  • Ground feel:  I actually expected to be unsatisfied with the ground feel and was pleasantly surprised.  There really is good ground feel, but not as much as you would experience in a pair of Nadas or VFFs.
  • The stack height is still quite low (9mm all the way across) and so it offers substantially better ground feel than say an Instinct or an A86, but again, not as much as The Most minimalist shoes I’ve tested (and this is a choice by Skora’s design team).  The sole itself is quite thin and it doesn’t have excessive padding and sports no extra hyped up support or protection (which is great)
  • I, personally, really like the aesthetics of the “cool” lacing design, but also appreciate the functionality of being able to choose the level of “snugness” a little better as well.
  • Another + for this shoe is the fit.  They wanted to focus on a glove like fit and I think they really achieved it.  I like that it has a narrow “snug” heel and then it widens just a bit as it goes forward.  The toe box is wide (all the way out to the end of the toes-not just where the toes join the foot) and allow for good toe splay.  Excellent foot fit.  I will say that I feel they probably run about a ½ size large, so keep that in mind when ordering.

So, on the conclusion end of things:

I really appreciate what Skora is trying to do and I Love new companies!   I knew I would like this shoe, but didn’t really expect to love it as much as I did.  I’m running in it (makes a good trail running shoe as well), doing some Crossfit in them, and they are also my go to casual shoe everyday now.  You will Love the goat Leather.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Product Review: SLS3 / SLSTRI Compression Socks

In today’s review we’ve got SLS3 (SLSTRI) – a team dedicated to triathletes .  
As we’re all aware, I have a crazy soft spot for companies with a good story and SLS3 hits it out of the park.  Are you ready for this?  SLS3 Literally started when 2 professional German triathletes met, fell in love, and started a small company together.  Dead serious.  Beat that!

So, after falling in love and starting a new company together, 9 years later they are a thriving world renowned company making top of the line compression gear.

Today, we’re taking a look at their FXC Compression Socks

I tested these socks in several different ways (running, recovery [sleep], Crossfit [rope climbs]).

On my first run the socks felt great, stayed put, with no bunching, sliding, rolling, etc.  They fit tight, but not restrictively (I Loved that they were compression based all the way around the foot), excellent ‘second skin’ feel.  The socks weren’t too hot, no hot spots or sweating.

I slept in the socks after a couple of hard days and had excellent results in diminishing DOMS and no ill effects from long term dormant wear (no tingling, no cutting lines from the compression, etc.)

For the Crossfit workouts they performed amazingly well!  I use calf sleeves or compression socks on rope climb days and put these through the paces on a 10 ascent day.  After 10 15’ ascents they had not only done an excellent job of protecting my shins/calves, they also showed No signs of wear at all from gripping and sliding up and down that rough rope – no loose fibers, abrasions, nothing!
This picture shows the ‘wear’ mark on the socks after using them for a month of rope climbs:

Also worth noting, I washed the socks and saw No change in elasticity/compression or fit.

Lastly, looks obviously have nothing to do with performance but…. 

These things look like a formula 1 race car – they really do look awesome!  The piping and attention to detail, while not helping their function, is really cool (there… I said it).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Best of the Best 4: Boots

This was a category that was largely empty for a very long time (way too long).  Minimalist boots just could not be found.

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to test out several different ones that have come to market within the last 2 years, some good, some bad, 1 terrible, 2 fantastic.

Today I want to hit on the first of those 2 completely fantastic ones (the other I'll write up on the next blog - very excited about it!).

First on is one I reviewed back in June, the

Russell Moccasin Thula Thula

Russell Moccasin makes completely custom (and 100% by hand) shoes and boots to Your exact measurements - you measure your foot, heel, length, width, height, etc, send them in, and they build You your own perfect pair.

  • ·       The sole is Vibram, very thin, slip and oil resistant.  It's flat and does not take any mud at all while still providing excellent traction. 
  • ·       The leather is very nice, good looking, abrasion resistant, tough, waterproof, absolutely top of the line
  • ·       The bullhide mudguard around the edge (overlapping the sole to the leather upper) provides excellent protection against nicks, cuts, and scratches while also helping provide an added layer of protection from the elements (in water proofing).
  • ·       The tongue/collar is gusseted for water proofing and is so soft you won't believe it
  • ·       Speed lacing hooks provide stability and varied level of tension
  • ·       The 1/16" midsole provides good ground feel and superb flexibility while offering just the right amount of 'rock plate' protection and the sole is extremely flexible  - just what you would want and expect in a minimalist shoe of any kind.  The boot will roll up toe to heel and will also roll and torque side to side.  There are no stiff points, no stability webs or the like (perfect)
  • ·       There is, of course, no heel-to-toe drop (zero drop).  This is only the second ‘boot’ that I’m aware of that offers a zero drop (and the only one of this quality)
  • ·       The boots are very light weight, weighing in at only 1.5 pound!  For reference, my Vasque Sundowners weigh in at just under 3 ½ pounds (so the pair weights almost 1/2 pound less than a single standard hiking boot).
  • ·       One of the most important features of this boot to me is the fact that they are waterproof – and they really are, completely!  There are so many times where I require a waterproof platform but can’t stand my traditional (heavy, stabilized, and substantial heel drop) boots and these offer me a completely waterproof platform to fit my needs.

    Overall, hands down, the best minimalist (or otherwise for that matter) boot on the market.  That said, it's one draw back is a huge stopper:  as a custom, 100% handmade, American boot the price tag for these is $366.00

    Since this time I've had the opportunity to test out a brand new minimalist boot from Lems that I absolutely love.  Had I had it a bit earlier it would have even given these Russell boots a run and the Lems Boulder comes in at less than 1/3 of the price 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Best of the Best 3: Crossfit/Gym specific shoe

Here's entry number 3 in the best of the best series:

Crossfit/Gym specific shoe  (EDIT:  since the writing of this review I got a pair of Reebok Nano 3.0s and I really like them a lot!  I didn't care for the originals or the 2.0 but the 3.0 is a great Crossfit specific shoe and the one that I use daily now.  The only time I don't use the Nano is if it's an all running day, in which case I go for one of my more minimal running specific shoes)

This was an interesting one because it was largely a "process of elimination" task.  I tried lots of shoes that I didn't like (sole tore up, sole too 'squishy' and then not enough (for coming down off of AMRAP box jumps), to being too slick for rope climbs, to just getting torn all to pieces from rope climbs).

Here's what I found:

Right now, my default Crossfit shoe which I am mostly happy with is the

Inov8 Bare-XF 260

It has a perfectly flat sole, zero drop, reasonably 'sticky' sole for in the gym, super thin, and flexible in the Right places.  For that flexible part, the sole is stiff from the heel to the front pad of your foot (how you need it for power/OLY lifting) and then flexes from their to the end (to make them still reasonably nice for running).  The huge rubberized/plastic sides make them indestructible on the rope climbs.  Now, they also claim that it makes them grip better and thus make climbs easier but I have not found that to be true (the grip                                                   great... but no better than most other shoes).

My one knock on them is the dang velcro straps.  Why they did that?  According to them it's so you can get them 'super tight'... because apparently I lack the dexterity in my opposable thumbs to do that with laces?  There's the basic "I like laces better" but the big thing is is that these shoes are nearly entirely built around rope climbs.  Nearly every regrip (and certainly every climb) the velcro straps come undone.  This is bad.  If they had laces, or even a hook & loop closure I would like them immensely more.
That being said, the velcro is my one real knock, other than that, I DO find them (even with that) to be the best Crossfit shoes I have tried.
Here's the caveat:  I have tried Nike, Adidas, Saucony, 2 kinds of Inov8, Skora, and others for the purpose of this test but I have Not ever tried a new pair of the Crossfit specific Reebok Nano 3.0.  It looks like it would be a great one and I'd like to try it someday to compare.