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shoeporn: The North Face – Flight Vectiv

Something that these days is part of the shoe business, is the rumor mill. Since months Alameda, California grounded outdoor powerhouse The North Face, was set to drop a carbon plated shoe. Well, it seems that all major shoe corporations are on the outlook to apprise their respective top range models with this technology. But suddenly it was a brand that is not necessarily known for its shoe building skills, that joined the hype.
Since 1968 The North Face distribute and produce outdoor equipment. It all started with climbing gear and then grew into a brought variety of accessories, clothing and footwear. Personally, I have tested more than a few of their off-road running shoes in the past. Although their jackets, vests, caps and technical gear have been a stable in my wardrobe over the last decade, none of the shoes have majorly impressed me and it seems that technical clothing was more the focus then suitable footwear. Now they released a performance oriented trail running shoe that goes by the name of Flight Vectiv, merging a 3 D carbon fiber footplate, midsole rocker geometry and SurfaceCTRL grip into the first trail specific shoe using the prominet carbon technique.
I had a chance to spot the Flight Vectiv last April as Spaniard and The North Face athlete Pau Capell wore the shoe throughout the 2020 version of the Fjällmaraton around Åre, Sweden where he came 2nd in the 100 kilometer distance. Pau was part of the development process of the Vectiv equipment range and mostly this shoe. TNFs VP of Global Footwear, Jean Marc Djian aimed high when the company took on this project. The company recognized that another try into the footwear market had to be an innovative and exciting.
The Flight Vectiv is the top model of the novel TNF shoe assortment. It is the one shoe that contains full-length carbon plate combined with a rocker geometry. This combination is intended to upsurge the energy return and I was more than keen to see how this mix turned out in a shoe that is intended to be used off the road, a setting where the carbon technology is more to be seen in up-to-date shoe releases. On the picture above some details of the carbon plate are teased on the external.
Even though the sock-like silhouette of the shoe looked like a pleasing feature, I was quite staggered how rigid it was to get into the shoe. The opening is rather small and that undoubtedly created some matters to me. As soon as you’ve entered the shoe, there is not a tense sensitivity. It just appears that the entering part of the shoe is pretty close-fitting. After a while I got used to it and know how to enter as the reinforced, breathable-knit upper is pretty strechable. Running this shoe throughout wintertime, I have the feeling that the body-hugging fitting also stops all sorts of muck to enter the inside. To me something that is very helpful particularly with the heavy use of salt and sand on the local streets. Frequently the small particles find a way to enter a shoe. Not so in this one. Generally the one piece upper that is elasticated and hugs your upper foot and ankle is super nice and fits around the foot like a glove.
With the Flight Vectiv, The North Face planned a shoe for the longer and ultra-distances. The company paid attention to durable ingredients such as kevlar, polyamide and matryx materials that they also tested and used in other equipment. This time it seems that The North Face was able to familiarize their extensive knowledge from mountain equipment into footgear. The Flight Vectiv is an overall quality shoe that is very well made. Till now I spend somewhat over 100 kilometers in this shoe and I’m constantly surprised how it tackles different grounds and weather situations. The picture shows the 3D-molded heel counter for a better fit, another nice detail in a well build shoe with a quality finish.
There were times when The North Face allowed their sponsored athletes to use different shoes and switch from their very own models to the ones that the competition offered. This has clearly changed now with the new shoe range. Several athletes have been smashing FKT’s last year. One of my favorite runs has been the record setting Grand Canyon R2R2R-alt FKT effort by TNF legends Mike Foote and Rob Krar. Check their video here. Time for these two to tackle some SwimRun competitions i guess.
Without a doubt, the climax of this shoe must be the so-called 3D Vectiv plate. It offers momentum and in combination with the stability Rocker shape, the foot placement is optimized. The shoe is not super soft as many other carbon running shoes, but this is something that aims the runner while running on technical ground. At the start it feels like the shoe is rigid as it does not provide much flexibly, especially to the sites. Although it feels stable and the feel for the ground is certainly given. Officially The North Face labels the Vectiv technology as “revolutionary soling architecture.” Fundamentally what they are describing are the layers beneath the feet. These are all the different foams and treads that work together to deliver a cushioned, safe and springy sensation.
Despite the fact there is a lot of advanced and new material that has been incorporated in this shoe, the outsole is known from previous models. Grip on wet and dry terrain has been the attention in the development procedure. If you expect a super aggressive and “deep” outsole, you will be dissatisfied. The lugs are well and smartly placed but come in with 3.5 mm which is not a standard in trail shoes. After some sketchy situations, the design and traction really grew on me. To me it is a great mix of traction and control. The lugs are places in proper distance and that means that snow, dirt, or whatever sticky stuff you encounter, will not get stuck. I try to break in shoes on the treadmill. Until now, this tradition has never been used with trail shoes. It was different with the Flight Vectiv. It certainly is a versatile sole.
A detailed look at the outsole construction that protects the 6 mm toe-to-heel offset. This shoe facilitated 14 North Face sponsored athletes to set FKTs wearing different Vectiv prototypes during a nearly race free 2020.
To me, the Flight Vectiv delivers a high level of comfort and proper cushioning that still allows to feel the ground but not the pounding. Combined with the securely sensation of the sock-fit paired with a minor, cushioned padding at the upper heel region, this shoe ensures thoroughgoing comfort and support.
Throughout the punitive dark and slushy time of the year and now, when all the lovely white stuff is about to dissolve, this shoe has really gotten to me. It’s fun to run due to the pleasant and well thought cushion, the ground feeling is excellent and joint with a well-planned outsole, it generates a certain security during the cold season. I ran the shoe a lot on icy and wintry streets but also took it around the local, technical, trail system. I get to treasure a well thought out shoe that I never saw coming from The North Face. Having run plenty of carbon-based road running shoes, I really valued this innovative tactic and the way it was shifted into a running shoe aimed to hit he paths. It can be discussed if it makes sense to issue a trail shoe that has a white upper, but at the end I felt it was enjoyable that the daily run was able to produce the color line. A very philosophical slant to this debate, I know. Its some sort of a minimalistic approach, even from the design. Typically trail shoes do look a bit unlike. The Flight Vectiv seems more like a road shoe. Yet, I have the feeling the shoe will continue in my daily rotation for a bit longer.

Tune of the day: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – It’s Not a Game (Instrumental Version)

Read of the day: Cathal Dennehy: Welcome to the age of the super shoes

shoeporn: La Sportiva – Helios

The Helios just appeared right on time. As the season got worse and worse, my daily runs got a bit out of control. Snow and frost on the streets and challenging trail situations made up for some dodgy actions while training.

With a fine heel-toe drop of 4mm the Helios could be perceived as the bigger, bulky brother to La Sportiva’s Vertical K trail running shoe. I jogged the Vertical K and treasured the shoe for it’s minimal style and the forceful sole. With the Helios La Sportiva established an additional lightweight (8.1 oz, 231 g) shoe which can be seen as a day-to-day workhorse and light racing shoe for runners who can handle just about the perfect extent of cushioning and nothing more. We are talking about a light and steadfast trail shoe by any means. I found it hard to slow down while cruising the trails with this reliable partner. On muddy trails I found the grips to be utterly astonishing. The inner of the Helios is made up in a sock-like style. Besides a comfortable feeling it helps to pretend from slipping or sliding.

Being a admirer of an minimal approach to shoe design, I have to say that La Sportiva did a fantastic job with the Helios. I used the shoe in rain, snowfall and on dry days, on the road and on the trails. I never was dissatisfied by any means. The comfortable mood stayed with me all the time without loosing the aggressive style and touch for the soil. For me the Helios is a complete training partner and flawless racing shoe for longer trail competitions. Having a wide foot I found this shoe to be a perfect fit. Well done, La Sportiva!

Prego – 231g of italian trail running funk.

HyDrain Mesh on the outside. Feels good.

This sole goes by the name of FriXion. I dont know what it means but i know that it works. Pretty well.

Grip as you need.

Ciao Bella! Another red italian race car?

Straight outta Ziano di Fiemme.

Slick design.

Trail jogging made easy with the Helios.

#shoeporn: Ecco Biom Ultra GTX

Since 1963 Karl Toosbuy’s company creates shoes. Somewhere in Denmark he began to craft unique footwear. Still they are the only major shoe company to own and operate their own production and retail facilities. Only in the last couple of years Karl’s business went into the creation of running shoes. However the collection is still fairly little, Toosbuy’s people entered the trail running market just a while ago. Now they further increased their line with a fresh model – The Biom Ultra.

Ecco’s Biom Running shoes have a pretty distinctive look. All their current models do stick out of the competition. The simple and clean style is something that Ecco is easily recognized for. And with the Biom Ultra they keep this pretty straightforward. I receive a test model and I’m instantly stunned by the quality of the shoe. The typical Ecco craftsmanship is obvious. The sewing, the material, the sleeves… all well finished and manufactured. This feels special and finishes the high-class look.

Ecco’s Lead Designer, “Bartie” Bikowski, authoritatively declares: “By pushing the core elements of our BIOM NATURAL MOTION system — flexibility, low-to-the-ground design, anatomical fit and biomechanical support — we have created a one-of-a-kind trail running experience. This is how it should feel to run in nature.” Ecco also states that they designed this shoes “…as our dream trail shoe”. This is unquestionably somewhat to look forward to. So how do Danish people think their fundamental off-road jogging shoe would be like? I’m ready to find out.

I lace them up and head out. As I look at the watch to find out that I’m out the door for 5 minutes it starts to drizzle and eventually it is raining. German winters do pay off but perfect weather for the Biom Ultra I tell to myself. The Gore-Tex-Membrane is one of the key characters of this piece. There is also a cheaper version available that comes without the waterproof material. The first muddy trail is just about to start. Rain has previously slogged the earth the last couple of days and weeks. A clean shoe does not longer exist as I cross around the trees and through the mud and puddles.

The first experience is not really tremendous. This one has enough cushions but a bit too much for my likes. For my style of running it does not really feel dynamic to run with this shoe. Grip is certainly there with the well-constructed sole and brilliant outsole but I cannot get the movement out of these kicks. On one of my favorite downhill parts I do not feel comfortable and lack the feel for the ground.

While the midsole is pretty adaptable it does not help me to support my usual stride. Ecco states that an anatomical fit but my feet do not really fit in. I feel to high up and not comfortable with the ambiance. Not connected enough and therefore not relaxed. It could be the support that the midsole provides that I’m not used to or the weight (330 grams) that would be a bit too much for my likes.

The Biom Ultra is undeniably a well-made shoe for longer distance racing and training. For my likes it misses the energetic feel and the effortlessness that a typical running shoe should offer. The more I run in this shoe the better I feel. As stated above the quality of the shoe is great. The inner sole and the tongue are in a good shape. I continue testing the shoe and get more pleased. Maybe I’m not used to that kind of shoe or maybe it is simply “too much shoe” for my likes.

I never ran in the Racer or Trainer Biom models that Ecco offers, but I guess the more minimal attitude with these shoes can be joined in a more dynamic and minimal trail shoe. While the Gore-Tex outer functioned incredibly well and also the heel part of the Ultra is pretty impressive, the overall feel is something that can be further enhanced. I can see potential in the Ultra. Currently I think it is something between a hiking and a running shoe. Toosbuy and crew know how to make shoes so I guess they will come back with a real dream trail shoe.

#shoeporn: Haglöfs Gram XC

Swedish outdoor enterprise Haglöfs is not really a trademark you would associate with foot gear. Since a couple of years they build some pretty nice alpine and hiking shoes besides their key range of clothing. Recently they paired up with Japanese footwear powerhouse Asics to please the booming trail running market. The distinguishing presence of their main model Gram XC is nothing to oversee. This shoe is red. Just red. Funky.

Appearance is a lot for me when it comes to running shoes. If I don’t like the look of a shoe I would not really use it. Indubitably taste is something that is interpreted in a lot of special ways. For me this shoe looks good. I like the shape of the shoe and the little gimmicks that come with it. It is well build and pleases the eye with its individual monochrome design. Something new in a very special way.

It is raining and storming when I lace up the Gram XC to go out in the forest for a test ride. The first couple of kilometers lead me past the local farm roads and through grass tracks. The shoe feels solid on tarmac. Sometimes trail soles feels awkward running on normal, even ground. This one is a bit unalike. The lightness of the shoe is a main feature according to the product information. Yes, the shoe is light but not any different to comparable models. It feels good and for a shoe with this amount of cushion it certainly is not heavy.

Just when I take a sharp turn into a soaky grass trail I get to feel a nice feature this shoe has to offer. The grip is pretty awesome for a sole of that style. A very sweet foam mixture of the sole and the shape makes it nice to move aggressively in corners and on technical trails. A very responsive feeling is something you really appreciate with this shoe. I continued on some slippy trails through the local forest. Hurdled some trees and cruised along rock sections that generally make a road running shoe scream. Not so the Gram XC. Very straightforward performance by this guy.

I continue to wonder about the flexibility of the Gram XC and certainly feel that this shoe obviously does have a Rock Protection in the AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Resistance) sole, as I land on some sharp gravels. The Asics Gel system nevertheless works nice and for a forefoot runner like me the cushioning is well placed in that shoe. As always I could do with a bit less plastic on the back. After running the shoe for a couple of weeks now I have to say that the sole material looks pretty “run down” at some parts. Something that other shoes in my rack don’t.

As you will see the pictures the Gram XC has some mesh covering the lacking. They say it is a ‘lace pocket’. I could not really fit the laces in there, as it is cut way to short and rigid. I tried it twice but lost the interest in that feature pretty fast. Other then this feature it is a nice protection against rocks and sand. Not so against water and rain. I found the shoe to get soaked pretty fast. Even with light rain and misty trails. The lacing system does come across a bit thin but feels good and holds the feet in a secure position. Also the cut of the shoe in the back gives a nice and secure feeling and all kind of undergrounds.

So did I like this shoe? I certainly did. Despite being a shoe designed for trails and off-road running the Gram XC pleased me on all king of terrains and weather conditions. It is a nice and well build all-day training shoe. For me the highlight is the sole and the way it supports you and keeps you on track. I’m exited to see what Haglöfs has on offer for the next round of trail running models. The start was ok. Lets see what the future holds.

Racereport 2014-01: 48. Fleiner Cross – Serie

Straight at it. Initial competition of the season. Some true classic – the 48th version of the Cross Series at the Haigern. A ‘lil highland just outside my hometown.

Some formats are in place as the organizing TV Flein 1895 take the fields of kids, seniors and juniors through 525 m, 750 m and 1075 m loops across the forest alleyways and trails. No better way to get used to running hard and legitimately fast.

I selected the 6k possibility and was content with my 23:42 time (Strava). I knew that I miss some leg pace and a bit of strength but nonetheless it was some proper testing. You never kick as solid as you would in a racing situation.

Completed a 115km week with some cool-down shaking, sausage, Frankenmeister burden and proper home-grown Glühwein with the lads. You got to love this kind of winter contesting. Handsome atmosphere.

Tune of the day: Ladi6 – Diamonds

Racereports

2015
01 – 43rd Dreikönigslauf Dielheim
02 – 33rd Rheinzaberner Winterlaufserie -15k
03 – 48th Fleiner Cross Serie – 1st Race
04 – 29th Mitja Marató de Granollers
05 – Trail du Hohrodberg
06 – Summer Biathlon Hüffenhardt
07 – Trollinger Marathon Relay
08 – Utö SwimRun

2014
01 – 48th Fleiner Cross – Serie
02 – Dirty Race
03 – Baden Württembergische Crossmeisterschaften AKA County XC Champs
04 – Ecco Indoor Trail
05 – Rome Marathon
06 – Hammer Trail 50K Bornholm
07 – Trollinger Marathon Heilbronn
08 – Zegama Marathon
09 – Engadin SwimRun
10 – Stimme 5K
11 – Ö Till Ö
12 – Tuttlinger Silvesterlauf

2013
01 – Dirty Race

04 – German Wintertriathlon Championships

15 – Trail Marathon Heidelberg

2012

20 – Silvesterlauf Forchheim

2011
01 – Eircom XC, Dublin

02 – Raheny 5

2009

01 – Naas Wheelworx Dirty Duathlon, Naas
02 – 25th Annual Raheny Five, Dublin
03 – 32nd Annual Gate River Run, Jacksonville, USA
04 – Marathon Rotterdam, Netherlands
05 – BHAA RTE 5 mile, Dublin
06 – Belfast City Marathon
07 – Hellfire and Brimstone
08 – Leixlip 5k
09 – Three-Rock Ticknock
10 – Trollinger Half-Marathon Heilbronn
11 – Lisburn 10K
12 – Irish Runner 5 Mile, Dublin
13 – St. James’s Hospital Run, Dublin
14 – Frank Duffy 10 Mile, Dublin
15 – Dam tot Damloop by night, Amsterdam, Netherlands
16 – Adidas Series Half Marathon, Dublin
17 – New York City Marathon, USA
18 – La Saintelyon, Lyon, France

#shoeporn: Adidas Adizero Adios Boost

Pioneering sole material sporadically get’s on the market. A firm quantity deserves the brand “groundbreaking”. In the case of the latest “Boost” midsole fabric it deserves the use of this mark. Developed by German chemistry powerhouse BASF and utterly used by the three-stripe brand from Herzogenaurach it seems to be the latest material tale these days. 



Adi Dassler’s descendants prepared one of their finest models with this power returning stuff (it is made of TPU instead of the conventional EVA). In the midst of the release they issued a new-fangled edition of the “Adios” as well as a number of other new running or updated models. The improvement on the “Adios” comes with a fresh & distinct color blend and a comprehensive tune-up of the by now well done fit of the performance lightweight racing shoe.

A 10mm drop is maybe a bit too much for my likes as a fore-to-midfoot runner but makes the rigid hell feel a bit better and nevertheless brings across a high-quality “run fast” sensation in a well shaped setup. As common with adidas shoes the toe box seems a bit slim for my foot but was not a real problem with the “Adios” (I tested the shoe in size US 13). 



First of all we need to look into this miraculous wonder material quickly. Adi’s people say that the material provides a “industry leading” energy return as well as being not so temperature sensitive and basically longer lasting. Without going into further facts by discussing the data sheet they provide there is no discussing on the energy return data gathered in all the lab testing they did. But there is no real data available that provides any benefit on the actual physiological performance of an athlete. You could argue that heaps of adidas sponsored distance runners make use of the shoe as the go-to model when it comes to any road race distance. But the amount of data that talks about the new material is not backed up by any testing with athletes.

I wanted to experience it myself and had the chance t snap a media sample from adidas. So I got this newbie on the street as soon as I received it. 

The “Adios Boost” is a competition shoe without any hesitation. Minimal and simple design makes the “Adios” a classic since years. One of my very first racing flats where some pretty green ones ages ago. I recalled them as soon as I got them out on the way.

This time the shoe does feel a bit more cushioned and way more flexible as the first impact on the secretive midsole was very positive. A direct, simple feeling backed up with some cushioning that just does the job instead of slowing down the stride. I’m not sure if it was a good choice to read through the product description before going out but I was waiting for that light bouncy emotion. And I did get a bouncy feeling. It jog’s very smooth and gives enough flexibility without being too clumsy. Saying that the real sensation comes more from the heal part. I usually strike in the front or the middle so the effect was still there but is more apparent when pushing more in the rear part.

The heel could be a bit lighter and less inflexible but did not cause me any problem during my test-phase over approximately 150 kilometer in this shoe. I tried to take the shoe through all kinds of training runs. From track workouts to long runs. Always positive and dynamic towards my jog. When it comes to off-road running on trails and wet dirt surfaces the sole can be delicate. But this shoe is not made for anything beside the road or track.

It was fun to take the Adios Boost through the paces. The direct feeling of the shoe together with the snappy responsiveness produced by the mysterious “Boost” material make this shoe a really nice racing flat even with a 10mm drop. Be aware of the toe box when you consider the shoe as this could be a problem with a racing rifle like this.

▪ Weight: 220 g (size UK 8.5)
▪ Clover-shaped Coolever mesh upper for heat and sweat management and increased performance; Synthetic overlays for added support
▪ Non-slip lining for comfort and performance
▪ Extended TORSION® SYSTEM for midfoot integrity
▪ boost™’s energy-returning midsole keeps every step charged with an endless supply of light, fast energy; Moulded responsive EVA sockliner for anatomical fit and great step-in comfort
QUICKSTRIKE outsole decreases weight and increases flexibility and durability; Continental™ Rubber for optimal grip in wet conditions

Tune of the day: Midlake – It’s Going Down

#shoeporn: Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra

#shoeporn: Brooks – Adrenaline ASR 10

It is not an easygoing mission to find the accurate shoe for this kind of damp and rainy climate. You never really know what to expect when you go out for a run these days in the middle of Europe. The day-to-day training bounces amongst dull roads, misty forest paths, muddy farm-tracks and your splashed home-grown single trail.

Most of the time I’m just so impatient to go out running that I simply do not want to think about the shoe I’m going to wear. Unquestionably in summer it does not really matter what you wear. The difficulties and undergrounds do not ask for to much during daily exercise. Suddenly in wintertime this changes. Not only to the best.

So when you jog along in the early morning or evenings you need some comrade out there. You need somebody who can do it all. Someone who is an “a jack of all trades”. Just call it an “a jack of all tracks” – the polymath of running. Let’s call it: Adrenaline ASR 10

It is not the first time I run this shoe and it surely wont be the last. In this kind of season he is man. The Adrenaline comes with a humble but efficient and well positioned „MoGo“- cushion that still give you enough sensation for the environment your leaping past. Together with the new outside that features the well-known Gore- Tex Membrane nothing really speaks against this shoe.

With the 10th version Brooks still opted the game for this role-model that set the standard. Merged with this new ADR sole. Well, they created a true polymath for daily running training.

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