Archive for the ‘Reviews’Category

Ampla Fly Carbon Fiber Running Shoes Review

Ampla Fly Running Shoe Review

The Ampla Fly carbon fiber running shoe. (AMPLA)

AMPLA compensated me for the time it took me to test their product, write about it, and share it on this blog. Compensation I receive from any company is not compensation for my good opinion. I only share products I think readers might find interesting.

Ampla Fly, the first shoes from nascent running company AMPLA, are so far outside the proverbial (shoe)box that I had to try them for myself. I put them to the test on the road and the treadmill.

When I first heard of the new Ampla Fly carbon fiber soled shoes, I assumed they were cycling shoes. Carbon fiber soles are de rigueur in the cycling and triathlon world. Simply, the stiffness of the soles helps transfer more force from your legs to your pedals than a softer material that loses energy when it flexes. The result? You pedal farther and faster with the same amount of effort.

But au contraire mon frère. The Ampla Fly are not cycling shoes. They’re running shoes. Yes, you read that right: carbon fiber running shoes. Predicated on the idea that “Force is your friend,” Ampla Fly aims to use force to train you to become a more efficient runner. They sell for $120 in men’s and women’s sizing and in two colors, red and black. If you want to try a pair, use code RunKarlaRun for 10 percent off at AmplaSport.com.

Ampla Fly Running Shoe Review

The Ampla Fly running shoe collection (AMPLA)

Ampla Fly Design

Why carbon fiber? “When a runner lands on the ground the force can equal upwards of 8x their body weight; we needed a material that could handle that weight, absorb that force and return the energy. Carbon fiber was our only choice.”

Folks not familiar with carbon fiber cycling shoes might worry that a “plate” in the midsole might make them heavy. Worry not. Carbon is both stiff and lightweight. Weighing in at 10.1 oz. in the men’s shoe and 9.8 oz. in the women’s shoe, the Ampla Fly are comparable to the Asics Gel-Nimbus or Brooks Glycerin weight wise.

This isn’t a minimalist shoe; it isn’t a maximalist shoe, but something wholly different. The 4 mm drop might lend itself more toward the minimalist end of the spectrum. But when you consider that drop comes from a 20 mm heel to a 16 mm forefoot, you realize this is an elevated shoe.

The seamless mesh and micro-suede upper are pretty standard. The Ortholite sockliner, EVA sub-sockliner, and EVA Lite top midsole provide a nice, but not overly soft, amount of cushioning.

Ampla Fly Running Shoe Review

Ampla Fly’s design (AMPLA)

The Amply Fly midsole, however, is what makes this shoe unique. The carbon fiber plate stretches the full length of the shoe, sandwiched between the single piece top midsole and EVA foam bottom midsole. But it’s not just a uniform piece. The plate includes a tab or tongue that moves with each footfall—effectively, a spring.

The EVA foam bottom midsole is then split into two pieces to cover the plate. The foam heel is fixed in place to cover the rear of the plate. The foam forefoot covers the toe off and tab of the plate.

What does it all add up to? The design promotes a midfoot strike, gathering the force of your step, and then channeling the energy into your forefoot at push off, AMPLA says.

No, heel striking itself isn’t bad. But studies show that overstriding—often a result of heel striking—might lead to more injuries. That midfoot strike encourages runners to shorten their strides and land with their feet beneath, not way in front of, their bodies.

Does the Ampla Fly work? I slipped them on to find out.

Ampla Fly Running Shoes Review

Karla tries Ampla Fly (RunKarlaRun.com)

Ampla Fly Performance

Wearing the women’s size 9, I took the Amply Fly on the road and treadmill.

Fit & Feel

First, the toe box is on the snug side. This is a common complaint of mine about many of the running shoes I try, and the Ampla Fly is no exception. Overall, I’d call this a close-to-the-foot fit. The heel is locked in place and ball hugged, even if the toes are a bit squished. Sizing is comparable to Nike or ASICS. Read the rest of this entry →

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit Running Shoes Review

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit

Updated 3/10/16

The Nike LunarEpic Flyknit will certainly turn heads. With its high-top bootie design, the running world hasn’t seen anything like these neutral, cushioned running shoes.

The newest entry to Nike’s “Run Easy” category, the LunarEpic Flyknit shoes are meant for going long, running easy, or kicking it up with a progression run. In other words, this is a cushioned trainer designed with comfort in mind. The men’s size 10 weighs 8.3 oz and the women’s size 8 weighs 6.55 oz. Both have an 8.5 mm drop from heel to toe, with a retail price of $175.

I first tried the Nike LunarEpic Flyknit shoes, courtesy of Nike, during an interval workout with Nike trainers. I’ve since taken them on the road and trail. Here are my initial thoughts.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Testing the shoes, far left (Nike)

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit Design

If the Nike LunarEpic Flyknit embodies one buzzword, it’s “sensation.” Inspired by Nike soccer boots that earned great feedback from players, Nike Running’s design team set out to create a shoe the evoked a similar sensation. Namely, a sense of seamlessness from toe to ankle. Where does your body end and your shoe begin? The Nike LunarEpic Flyknit wants to erase that transition. Nike calls it a “virtually vanishing fit.” Is it? Yes and no.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Shoe or bootie?

Upper

The shoe’s upper is a single-piece of Nike Flyknit, featuring the material’s signature support, with a closer fit at the forefoot, arch, and heel, plus FlyWire cables to cinch the fit midfoot. The ankle collar, sewn more elastic than the boot, exists to anchor the shoe to your leg. The cuff might also eliminate some pressure points around the heel.

The laces? They may seem redundant, but actually help to perfect the fit, a Nike designer said at the shoe’s New York City launch I attended.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Rear view

Midsole

This is a glue-free shoe. Instead, Nike used heat to fuse the Lunarlon foam to the platform, thereby eliminating some weight and hardness. The platform itself is contoured, not flat, with laser-cut grooves on the side for flexibility. They collapse when you land, cushioning each foot strike.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Outsole

Outsole

The Lunarlon foam outsole is completely rubber-free, with laser-cut pads placed at high-pressure points. Each pad moves independently, depending on how your foot falls. How precisely? You can actually feather the grooves with your fingertips. Combined with the foam of the midsole, the outsole pads help make the ride smooth and soft.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit First Impressions

Liking them so far (Nike)

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit Feel

I’ll start with this. I’m a huge fan of Nike Flyknit. I wore my Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 shoes ragged and Nike Free 4.0 are one of my go-to pairs.

At first look, these might be my favorite Nike shoes I’ve tried in the last two years, and I’ve worn the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32, Nike LunarTempo, Nike Flyknit Lunar 2, and two iterations each of Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit and Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit.

Nike LunarEpic Flyknit Review

Post-workout debrief (Nike)

Fit

This is a shoe you really need to try for yourself, simply because it is so different from anything you’ve put on your feet before. Certainly, some runners will hate the high ankle collar. Like the first iteration of the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, some folks will find it too tight or too constricting. Thankfully, Nike.com offers a 30-day trial period, during which you can return worn shoes, “dirt and all.”

I actually like the fit and the feel and the ankle bootie. If you surf or do triathlons, the ankle collar is more comfortable than the ankle strap of surf board leash, a triathlon timing chip band, or even a wetsuit cuff. When you first slip the shoes on your feet, the collar feels a little strange. But it’s incredibly stretchy and elastic. Once I got moving, I didn’t notice it all. I was too focused on the workout. Read the rest of this entry →

Running Tights & Capris For The Long Run

Running in Hawaii

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (RunKarlaRun.com)

Keeps your legs rockin’ in style with these 10 running tights, capris, and warm-ups from seven different brands. They range from $20 to $120, so there’s something for every price point.

If it’s on this list, I officially own it and love it. Companies send loads of samples my way, many unsolicited. I try them all so you don’t have to. And I only keep, wear, and post about the ones I love. For each pair of running tights you see here, there’s another pair (or two) that didn’t make the cut.

Many of the products I highlighted in the days of yore are still available and among my go-to faves. (Gore Running Wear Mythos 2.0 Windstopper Soft Shell Tights, I’m talking to you.) So here are my gift guides from 2014 and 2013, which also have some of my perennial favorite running tights and capris. You’ll find affiliate links in this post to help keep RunKarlaRun.com running.

Happy Shopping!

Running Tights & Capris

Nike Epic Lux Tights, $79-$120

Epic and lux is right. I’ve long been a Nike running tights evangelist and these are the best of the best. Yes, you’ll pay a pretty penny, but the quality is top of the line. Silky, second skin fabric, a wide flattering waistband, mesh panels behind your knees, these are the tights I wear again and again and again. Plus, I get compliments every time I wear them. Solid or print, you can find them in both in a range of colors and prints. I can’t say enough good things about these tights—and most Nike tights in general.

Running Tights & Capris For The Long Run

Nike Epic Lux Tight

Running Tights & Capris For The Long Run

In action in Oslo

2XU Elite MCS Compression Tights, $120

If you want to werk it, these compression tights are uh-may-zing! I wear them on long runs and tough workouts all the time to help reduce soreness the next day. Targeted compression reduces muscle vibration where you most need it. The waistband is a touch tight, but oh so worth it! These are the next level of compression from the 2XU Women’s Compression Tights I wrote about last year. You can’t go wrong with either pair. I wear both of them just about every single week. Plus, they come in tall sizes too. Cue angels singing. Read the rest of this entry →

Race Report: Gore-Tex Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Race Report: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

They colored my green shirt purple for this green screen pic! (Island Photos)

I ran the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015 with race sponsor GORE-TEX, returning to the City of Brotherly Love for the third time as a runner. I’d scored a personal best at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2012, ran my third fastest 13.1-miler at the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2014, and I was back to give the half-marathon another go on Sunday, November 22.

Nearly 22,000 runners finished races at the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon Weekend, with 10,899 finishers in the half-marathon, another 9,159 in the marathon, and 1,910 in the 8K. And approximately 60,000 spectators lined the course to cheer us on. My husband, Phil, joined me, along with a bunch of our running teammates.

Race Report: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

We are the champions! (RunKarlaRun.com)

The event is a big city race with a small town feel. Unlike more crowded marathons in New York and Chicago, runners wander into corrals just 15 minutes or so before the race’s 7 a.m. start. The vibe is relaxed and unhurried. It feels like the city simply wants you to relax and have a good time. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is at the start and the finish passing out high-fives to runners, setting the tone for a friendly race experience.

Race Report: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Expo fun! (RunKarlaRun.com)

The Expo

The Comcast Health & Fitness Expo at the Pennsylvania Convention Center has a great selection of vendors. Last year, I bought some last minute race items. This year, I picked up some Clif Shots and a Christmas present for Phil. Plus, it’s fun to try some GORE-TEX shoes and splash around in the water pools at the GORE-TEX booth.

Race Report: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Comcast Health & Fitness Expo (RunKarlaRun.com)

Seriously you guys, if you run in the rain or snow, you need a pair of these shoes. They’ve been a game-changer for me. New Balance, Brooks, Asics, Saucony, The North Face, Salomon, and La Sportiva all make running shoes with GORE-TEX lining. Just look for models with GTX in the name.

How does it work? The GORE-TEX lining has more than 9 billion pores per square inch. Each pore is 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water. That means rain, puddle water, snow, and the like can’t get into your shoes (unless they spill over the top). At the same time, those pores are 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule, so sweat can get out.

Your feet stay dry, your shoes stay breathable. It’s a win-win. If you’re among the 75% of runners who head outdoors in cold and wet weather, have ever run in soggy shoes and waited days for them them to dry out, check out some GORE-TEX kicks. I’ve genuinely become an evangelist for this brand. I love it.

Race Report: GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

We’re ready to run! (RunKarlaRun.com)

The Start

Phil and I left our hotel—1.5 miles to the start—at 5:45 a.m. and found a cab within 5 minutes. We were on site by 6 a.m. How’s that for no muss, no fuss? That’s what I mean about Philly being a low-key race. You could never do that in New York. Don’t get me wrong: the New York City Marathon is my favorite race ever, but it’s refreshing to run a big-city race where getting to the start isn’t an ordeal.

Despite heightened security at all of the start area entry points, we waited less than 5 minutes to get into the staging ground.

We found a bank of port-a-potties close to the entrance that no one seemed to be using. So we didn’t have to wait in line at all. Love that! The bathrooms near the corrals closer to the start time are much more crowded.

Baggage was easy to find, and by the time we’d used the bathroom and dropped off our bag, we still had 35 minutes to kill before the start. Read the rest of this entry →

27

Nov 2015

Brooks Running Gear Rundown & Giveaway

Brooks Running Gear Rundown For Fall & Winter

In the Dash 1/2 Zip & Streaker Capri at Runner’s World 5K

Now that the days are shorter, it’s time to bust out my all-weather running gear. I had a sneak peak at fall elements while running in Norway and Sweden in late August and early September, and winter running while shivering at the Runner’s World Half & Festival in October. Running in temps between 40 and 70 degrees— with varying degrees of sun, cloud, wind, and rain—reminded me that fall running can mean anything and everything.

Brooks Running Gear Rundown For Thank You Thursday

Streaker Capri & UpRise Bra carried me through Sweden (RunKarlaRun.com)

These Brooks Running pieces (all freebies) have become a go-to part of my wardrobe. They’ve traveled the world with me in the last few months. I brought them with me to the Turkish desert—where the days were hot and the nights were cold. They carried me through Sweden and Norway. And most recently, they kept me warm at the unseasonably cold Runner’s World Half & Festival. Why? They perform and wash well, and they’re crazy cute.

Here are my picks from top to bottom, and scroll all the way down for a chance to win some Brooks Running winter gear for yourself!

Brooks Dash 1/2 Zip

Brooks Dash 1/2 Zip

Dash 1/2 Zip, $75
Available in 5 colors

This is my new fave long sleeve. You’ve seen me wear it in Sweden, Norway, and Pennsylvania. Basically, I take it with me everywhere I go. Why? First, the zip has a really cute geographic pattern that gives any running outfit a pop. I even pair it with patterned tights.

Second, the thumbhole cuffs and sleeves are actually long enough for me. In long-sleeve tops and jackets, I usually need to size-up to get the arm length I need, but then the fit is often too boxy. This fits perfectly; no sizing-up needed.

Third, a small flap pocket in the back is big enough for a credit card. (The website says it’s a zip pocket; it’s not.)

Finally, it’s the perfect weight to cut the chill without making me hot—lightweight and soft. Honestly, there isn’t a thing I don’t love about this one.

A photo posted by Karla Bruning (@runkarlarun) on

Brooks Running Gear Rundown For Fall & Winter

LSD Jacket

LSD Jacket, $98
Available in 5 colors

This is the windbreaker that has it all. Most notable? It packs into its own pocket with an elastic strap to slide onto your hand or arm while you’re not wearing it. Cue angels singing! In September, I ran the Fjord Norway Half Marathon–which crossed a series of windy bridges—in a different windbreaker. The windbreaker packed into a pocket but was missing a strap. Once through the worst of the wind, I ended up carrying the darn thing in my hand and kept thinking, “I really wish this had a strap.”

The LSD Jacket is also crazy light and has an adorable split side-hem that looks like overlapping flower petals, allowing for a free range of motion. Throw in front and back reflectivity, a zipper pull that locks headphone cords in place, and water-resistant fabric, and you’re ready for just about any element night or day.

My only complaint is that, unlike the Dash 1/2 Zip, the sleeves are a tad short for my long, monkey arms. In my perfect world, the LSD Jacket would also have longer sleeves with thumbholes. But when I pair the two, it isn’t a problem. Either way, I’ll be wearing this beauty for many a run to come.

Brooks Running Gear Rundown For Fall & Winter

Fly-By SS VNeck

Fly-By SS VNeck, $60
Available in 4 colors

I’m not a big running tee wearer. Nine times out of 10, I reach for a tank instead. But I appreciate that the Fly-By short sleeve is much more than a basic tee, with two different strategically placed performance fabrics.

The coolest feature is a fitted bottom band that keeps the tee in place when you run—no bouncing or wind blowing up your shirt. In the fall, that’s half the battle for me.

The cut is on the boxy side. So if you like a more fitted top, this might not be for you. But if you’re looking for something to split the difference between a tank and a long-sleeve, the Fly-By fits the bill. Read the rest of this entry →

05

Nov 2015

Runners Are Like Wine, Says Brooks Running Report

Runners Are Like Wine, Brooks Running Report Says

Brooks Run Happy Nation Report

We already knew that runners like wine. My roundup of 10 Wine-Themed Runs To Get Your Drink On at Shape.com has more than 11,000 Facebook likes. But a new report from Brooks Running found that runners are like wine. That’s right, 44% of runners say they get better with age, just like a good bottle of vino. While 24% of runners tied to say they’re more like beer, with a little hop in their step, or more like a cocktail, shaking up their routine.

That was just one of the fun tidbits unearthed in the third annual Brooks Run Happy Nation report, a survey of 1,000 runners in the U.S., Canada, and Germany, commissioned by Brooks Running. Here are some of the results.

Training Partners
  • 32% of Americans say they choose a friend as their go-to training partner
  • 24% pick a digital fitness tracker
  • 20% would rather hoof it with their dog
Business Time (Flight of the Conchords fans, you know what I’m talkin’ about)
  • 48% percent of Americans under 40 like to get it on pre-run
  • 41% of Americans reveal they feel “frisky” after hitting the pavement
  • 35% say a pre-race horizontal rhumba improves running performance
Runder Wear
  • 62% of American women prefer briefs, compared to 72% of German women
  • 8% of American women go full commando, versus 11% of Canadians
  • 47% of runners prefer racerback sports bras
  • 39% like crossback sports bras
  • 14% prefer front closure sports bras 
Movie Time
  • 32% of respondents say Forrest Gump inspires them the most among running movies
  • 26% connect with Rocky‘s eye of the tiger
  • 18% love Silver Linings Playbook’s wackier take on running
Running Locales
  • 47% of respondents say trails are their favorite place to run
  • 27% of respondents pick running around the Grand Canyon as their dream runcation destination
  • 24% choose the Romantic Road of Germany
  • 23% dream about running the Great Wall of China

Read the rest of this entry →

Testing 3 New Balance Shoes: Zante, Boracay, 890v5

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes For Spring

The Fresh Foam Boracay and Zante in action (Photo: New Balance)

New Balance shoes have been a part of my running shoe rotation for two years now. Last fall, I included the 890v4, 1400v2 and Fresh Foam 980 in my Guide To Neutral Running Shoes. In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying out the three newest New Balance shoes in the neutral running category: Fresh Foam Zante, Fresh Foam Boracay, and 890v5. How does each pair stack up? I’m happy to report that these are three excellent updates that will suit different types of neutral runners.

The shoe vitals are as listed by New Balance for the women’s version. I tried each pair in a women’s size 9, courtesy of New Balance, and listed them from lightest to heaviest.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Zante

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante

MSRP: $100
Weight: 6.4 oz
Drop: 6 mm
Colorways: 3 standard

The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante is for folks who want to run—or feel—fast. The lightweight shoe rivals the New Balance 1400 in responsiveness, but with feel-so-good cushioning and an insole that cradles your arches like your favorite pillow. The Fresh Foam’s midsole design of interlocking convex and concave shapes means the shoe gives where you need flexibility and holds firm where you need support, much like the Fresh Foam Boracay. But New Balance used biomechanical data from faster runners to build the Zante.

Testing 3 Neutral New Balance Shoes: Fresh Foam Zante, Boracay + 890v5

Fresh Foam Zante

The result? A shoe that rides like a dream—a dream where you’re setting PR after PR. You may not run a 5-minute pace, but you can imagine what that feels like in these shoes.

Springy and speedy, the Zante promises a quick heel to toe transition with an “aggressive toe spring.” It delivers. The shoe is light, supple, and downright fun to run in.

The upper is a soft and flexible mesh bootie that hugs in all the right places—at the heel, arch, and outer ball of the foot—while leaving breathing room in the toes. In short, this shoe fits like a glove and responds like a race car.

The stripped down design has just what you need and nothing more. Best of all, it has enough cushioning to take you on long runs too.

I love everything about this shoe, and don’t have a singe critique for it. I totally see why Competitor Magazine named the Fresh Foam Zante the 2015 Road Shoe of the Year. It’s earned a spot in my personal shoe rotation and might even be my favorite pair of New Balance shoes yet.

Will you love it as much as I do? Yes, if you like to feel the road under your feet in a light and soft ride. Maybe not if you prefer a beefier or more plushly cushioned shoe. Read the rest of this entry →

Testing Nike LunarTempo Shoes at Mile High Run Club

Testing Nike LunarTempo at Mile High Run Club

The Nike LunarTempo Shoes (Photo: Nike)

I’m a runner who loves ultra lightweight running shoes and ultra soft cushioning. I want to feel like I’m running on clouds and I want my shoe to weigh something in the range of clouds. So I was excited to try the new Nike LunarTempo shoes at a media workout at Mile High Run Club, a treadmill studio in New York City. Nike has billed the Nike LunarTempo as a shoe with “ultralight cushioning for high-speed miles.” The workout at Mile High Run Club would put that tagline to the test.

Nike LunarTempo Shoes

Testing Nike LunarTempo at Mile High Run Club

Nike LunarTempo in action. (Photo: Nike)

When I arrived at Mile High Run Club, a locker with my name on it was waiting for me, filled with complimentary running gear, including the new Nike LunarTempo shoes.

How did they fare in one treadmill run? The neutral shoe is a bit like running on clouds.

Nike used their Lunarlon foam midsole, which is indeed one of the cushiest rides in town. I currently wear the Nike Flyknit Lunar2 with Lunarlon. That oh-so-soft landing under the heel is one of my favorite things about that shoe, and the Nike LunarTempo didn’t disappoint.

But this time around, Nike has re-engineered the Lunarlon foam to make it even lighter at 6.2 oz for a women’s size 8, more responsive and just as supportive. After a few short wears, I can confirm that this shoes feels fantastic underfoot if you love a soft ride like I do. Read the rest of this entry →

Koss FitClips & FitBuds Earbuds For Running Giveaway

Earbuds For Running

Koss Fit Series featuring Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres

Like many runners, I love listening to music when I workout. While I don’t always run with music—leaving them at home for races, track workouts, and busy roads—I’d say I run with them most of the time. I do the bulk of my running in parks, car-free rec paths, and the treadmill.

But I’ve blown through many different earbuds for running—earbuds that don’t fit or constantly pop out, earbuds with clips that hurt or tug on my ears, earbuds that soak up my sweat and stop working, getting crackly or cutting in and out. I’ve never fallen in love with a pair of earbuds for running or included them in my annual gear roundup—until now.

Favorite Running Gear of the Year

Koss FitClips

Enter Koss FitClips and FitBuds, headphones made for women, by women in five fun colors and two styles. I stumbled upon the Koss Fit Series at a press event for a different product. But after trying each of the FitClips and FitBuds, it was love.

The FitBuds are just six millimeters in diameter, 33 percent smaller than most Koss earbuds. With three included ear cushion sizes, Koss’s earbuds for running fit my ears perfectly and stay put during sweaty runs.

Plus, they’re comfortable. I barely notice they’re there, even the clips around my ears. The key? A soft and very flexible clip that hugs in the right places and doesn’t squeeze where it shouldn’t. And they’re super light too with a sweat resistant coating.

Once I got the Koss FitClips and FitBuds, I handed my old black and red headphones to my husband with a, “Here. You can have these.” FitClips are it for me now!

Earbuds For Running

Win it!

Giveaway: Koss FitBuds and FitClips Earbuds For Running

I’m excited to give away two sets of Koss earbuds for running, courtesy of Koss. Two winners will each get both the Koss FitClips and Koss FitBuds, which each retail for $29.99.

The giveaway is open now until 9 a.m. Eastern on Friday, February 6. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below! Enter via the options you want and skip the ones you don’t. You get one entry for each. Read the rest of this entry →

Best Running Gear Of The Year: Karla’s Favorites

Favorite Gear of the Year

Running in some of my favorite gear of the year. (Phil Hospod)

Christmas is right around the corner and New Year’s isn’t far behind. Putting together a wish list for your running resolutions? Still need a gift? Here is my favorite running gear of 2014.

The products on this list are the best clothes, gadgets and running gear that I’ve tried this year. There are more than 50 items from more than 25 brands. For every item here, I’ve sampled another two or three things that didn’t make the cut, including products in every category. Companies send me loads of samples, many unsolicited, and I often receive products in swag bags at races and events. So I didn’t buy anything you see here. I also don’t keep most of what I receive.

But if it’s on this list, I officially own it and love it—I don’t list anything I haven’t used myself. In clothing, I’ve tried the women’s versions, but many come in men’s options too. And I’ve included the list prices, though you’ll find many items for less than that.

Also, if it’s been in a past gift or gear guide of mine, I didn’t include it here. But many of the products I highlighted in the days of yore are still available. So here are my gift guides from 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2009.

Looking for running shoes? The Best Running Shoes? A Guide To 10 Neutral Pairs.

Looking for triathlon gear? Triathlon Gear List For Runners, Beginners and Beyond.

Without further ado, here is all of my favorite running gear of the year.

Favorite Running Gear of 2014

Digital Gadgets

Favorite Running Gear of the year

Bia Multi-Sport GPS Watch

Bia GPS Sports Watch, $279

Bia is a new two-piece device consisting of an ultra-light, slim wrist piece paired with a GPS “Go Stick” that clips onto your top, waist-band, visor or anywhere else you want to wear it. The Go Stick is the brains of the operation with an SOS safety alert, fast-connecting GPS, automatic uploads to your training log, and multi-sport functionality.

Run, swim, bike or do all three in one workout. And with live tracking, your friends and family can follow you on race-day or when you’re along in a remote area. I tested it while I ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco, and it worked wonderfully. Best of all, Bia comes in six fun colors. I have it in purple. Stay tuned for my full review.

Favorite Running Gear of the Year

Timex Ironman Run x20

Timex Ironman Run x20 GPS, $100

Are you looking for a small, simple, and streamlined GPS watch? Look no further than Timex Run x20. In three bright colors plus basic black, this watch is the antidote to the big, bulky, expensive GPS watch with features you never use.

Instead, you get the features you really need: reliable GPS workout timing with speed, pace, and distance; run/walk timer; interval timer; stopwatch; automated pace alerts; night-light; alarm; and water resistance up to 50 meters. The interface and menus are supremely easy to use. Plus, it’s really easy on the eyes.

Best Gifts For Runners 2014

Nike Fuelband

Nike+ Fuelband SE, $99

The Nike+ Fuelband SE is the first fitness tracker that I’ve tried, so I have no basis for comparison. That said, I love it (and I’ve tried a few other watches and gadgets this year that I can’t say the same about).

I work from home, so I don’t take nearly as many steps in my daily “commute” as most folks. In other words, if I’m not running, I barely move from my desk chair. Wearing the Nike+ Fuelband has shown me just how little activity I really have in a day unless I make a conscious effort to get up and move more. Thankfully, the Fuelband reminds me when to move, tracking my steps, Fuelband “points,” calories, and more. It’s motivated me to make my days more active outside of my workouts. That’s a win!

Favorite Running Gear of the Year

Koss FitClips

Koss FitClips and FitBuds, $30

Headphones made for women, by women in five fun colors and two styles—clips or buds. With three different ear cushion sizes to choose from, Koss FitClips fit my ears perfectly and stay put during sweaty runs. The FitBuds do too. Plus, they’re comfortable. I barely notice they’re there, even the around-the-ear clips. And they’re super light too. Once I got these, I handed my old black and red headphones to my husband with a, “Here. You can have these.” FitClips are it for me now! Read the rest of this entry →

The Best Running Shoes? A Guide To 10 Neutral Pairs

The Best Running Shoes? A Rundown

New Balance Fresh Foam Trail shoes in action at Machu Picchu in Peru. (Phil Hospod)

One of the most common questions people ask me is: “What are the best running shoes?” Variations include: “What running shoes do you wear?” “What’s your favorite brand of running shoes?” and “Who makes the best running shoes?”

My answer is always the same. There is no one best kind, or pair, or brand of running shoes. What works for one runner might not work for someone else. And what worked for one runner a year ago may no longer work for them now. We all have different foot shapes, sizes, gaits, body weights, stride lengths, form, muscle weakness, imbalances, strengths, injuries and all the other things that affect how we run. And even then, it’s good to rotate your shoes and wear different types of shoes for different types of workouts. Brian Metzler at Competitor wrote a great column about it: Why You Should Have A Quiver Of Running Shoes.

And yet, we’re all on the quest for the perfect shoe. I’m no exception. I was once fiercely loyal to Mizuno’s Wave Rider, until they dramatically changed the shoe and it was no longer my personal glass slipper. Since then I’ve worn other pairs of Mizuno, ASICS, Nike, New Balance, K-Swiss and Saucony searching for that perfect pair. Here’s what I’ve found in 2014.

The Best Running Shoes? A Rundown of 10 Pairs: New Balance runDisney Shoe

New Balance 890v4 runDisney Cinderella shoes

Karla’s Best Running Shoes of 2014

I’ve tried 30 pairs of running shoes in the last year. What can I say? I really like shoes. I am a Cinderella runner after all. Athletic companies sent complimentary pairs of some for me to try. Others I purchased myself. Some I took for a treadmill run or two only to return them because they didn’t work for me. Others, I kept to test on the road. Among those, I give some away once I decide they’re not for me. But I keep the best of the rest.

These are the 10 best running shoes of the bunch for me. Keep in mind that these are all neutral shoes and I am a neutral runner with high arches. If you have low arches, wear a stability or motion-control shoes, these may or may not work for you. (Need to learn more? Read: Gait Analysis For The Nike Women’s Half Marathon SF)

All the shoe vitals are for the women’s version as provided by each respective manufacturer. I tried each pair in a women’s size 9 and I’ve listed them by brand. Happy shoe shopping!

The Best Running Shoes? A Rundown

ASICS Gel-Kinsei 5

ASICS Gel-Kinsei 5

MSP: $200
Weight: 9.4 oz
Drop (from heel to forefoot): 10mm
Colorways: 8

I bought the Gel-Kinsei looking for a sturdy trainer for marathon and half-marathon training. I got more than I bargained for. Read the rest of this entry →

Triathlon Gear List For Runners, Beginners and Beyond

Triathlon Gear List For Beginners. At the Wild Dog Triathlon

Coming out of the water at the Wild Dog Triathlon. (Phil Hospod)

As I stare down my sixth triathlon— Triathlon Valleyfield in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec on Sunday, August 24—I realize that I have fully fallen down the multi-sport rabbit hole. In that hole is an assortment of athletic equipment that I’ve accumulated to help me swim, bike and run my heart out. Before every race, I write out a triathlon gear list to be sure to pack for race day.

Triathlon Gear List For Beginners

Biking my second triathlon. (Capstone Photography)

Unlike running, triathlon is incredibly gear intensive. All that “stuff” is the main barrier to entry for runners who are interested in dabbling their toes in the open waters of the sport. Buying everything at once can be intimidating and expensive. I’ve staggered my purchases over the course of three years, reached out to sponsors, and still don’t have all the gear a truly competitive triathlete calls their own, like a tri-specific bike, areobars and the like. But that hasn’t stopped me from getting into the sport and it shouldn’t stop you either.

So here is my triathlon gear list. Some of these items are essential, some merely nice to have. But once you know that the sport of triathlon will be part of your regular racing routine, you’ll want each of these items in your gear bag.

I’ve listed the full price for each item, but in many cases I found them on sale or got them for free, and have indicated where that was the case. Where gender specificity is a factor, I’ve listed the women’s gear. But most items are available in men’s options too.

Triathlon Gear For The Entire Race

Tri Kit

Your tri kit is the outfit that takes you through all three events. Ideally, you can swim, bike and run in it. You don’t have to buy a fancy tri kit. I certainly didn’t. Here’s what I use to race and train. Both of my kits have two things in common: 1) They’re designed and tested by female triathletes for female triathletes, and 2) They’re from American companies that manufacture the majority of their products in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry →

WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards Make Workouts Simple

WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards Make Workouts Simple

WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards

WorkoutLabs compensated me for the time it took me to test their product, write about it, and share it on this blog. Compensation I receive from any company is not compensation for my good opinion. Consider this an advertorial where I have complete editorial control.

I travel a lot. And while I do my best to squeeze in runs wherever I go, sometimes I’m traveling in an area or at a time when I don’t feel safe running alone; can’t stomach the tiny, windowless gym in the hotel basement; or might not have access to a gym at all.

I’m also a fan of calisthenic workouts. I’ll often roll-out my mat in front of the TV to squeeze in 30 minutes of exercises while I watch an old Friends or Seinfeld episode. But my rotation of exercises often gets stale, and I’m constantly losing the pages of exercises I’ve clipped from magazines over the years.

Enter WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards.

WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards Make Workouts Simple

Deck contents

WorkoutLabs Exercise Cards: The Basics

The concept is simple—a deck of cards, the size and shape of playing cards, depict an exercise or stretch per card. Each deck has 40 exercises that don’t require any equipment, nine stretches and five workouts plus a stretching routine. A blank exercise card and workout card are also included, so you can create your own favorite routine among the included exercises or add an exercise of your own. Read the rest of this entry →

Disney Hotels For Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney)

I’ve gotten this question a lot and in many varieties: What Disney hotels are best for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend?

There is no “best” hotel for any runDisney race. The best hotel for you for any race depends on many factors: what you want to do while you’re at Walt Disney World, who is in your party, and what your price point is, among other things.

I’ve stayed at eight different Disney hotels (four of which Disney comped for me during runDisney events) and three off property hotels while visiting Walt Disney World. But my hotel recommendations for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend are based on two main factors: Whether or not you have spectators in your group and what you want to do while you’re not running.

If Your Group Includes Runners Only

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Walt Disney World Half Marathon finishers. (Photo: runDisney)

If everyone traveling with you is running a race, all the Disney hotels are great.

All the Walt Disney World Resorts are official “host” hotels for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and offer event buses to shuttle runners to and from the start and finish of each race. The buses are comfortable and efficient, both before and after the race.

Having stayed at Disney hotels on the Monorail loop, on the BoardWalk and elsewhere on property for runDisney events, there’s not much of a difference from a runner’s perspective. The event buses got me where I needed to go and back every time from all those different areas.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando also offer free race transportation for marathoners and half-marathoners staying with them as part of their Marathon Weekends packages. The hotels are inside the Disney gates, have complimentary park transportation for their guests, and offer another great option for racers booking a Disney runcation. Check out my full post about their offerings.

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

A Dopey Challenge runner races around the BoardWalk. (Photo: runDisney)

So if all the people in your group are runners, I would pick the hotel that makes your days easiest and meets your price point.

Are you looking for a great pool to rest your legs each day while doing Dopey Challenge? Is there one park in particular where you want to spend most of your time? Do you want to be close to the Expo to stalk runDisney New Balance shoes? Different hotels are better suited for each of those scenarios.

Parks
Chooming among Disney hotels at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

The Wishes Nightime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom. (Photo: Disney)

Magic Kingdom

If it’s Magic Kingdom you’re after, any resort on the Monorail loop is fantastic: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Resort, soon to become Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as it undergoes major renovation.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground also have water taxis to the park.

The perks of each? The Contemporary Resort has my favorite quick-service restaurant, Contempo Cafe, and Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing from the hotel. Plus, it’s the next stop after Magic Kingdom on the Monorail. So at the end of a long day in the park, you’re home in a jiffy. Read the rest of this entry →

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit Running Shoes Review

Nike 3.0 Flyknit Running Shoes

The Nike 3.0 Flyknit shoe. (Photo: Nike)

Last week, I popped over to Niketown in New York City to try a pair of the new Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes. They’re an update to the Nike Free 3.0, a shoe that previously did not have a Flyknit upper. Nike gave me the shoes to keep and a spot in one of the Nike Free Stride treadmill sessions taking place at Niketown in New York City.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

I’m warming up in the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit shoes. (Photo: Nike)

The 32-minute Nike Free Stride workout focused on curating a more efficient and natural stride in the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit shoes. A gentle warm-up and mini-stride clinic preceded a butt-kicking hill interval workout, as a DJ pumped throwback jams into the multi-story atrium of Niketown.

I’m not usually one for exercising on a stage while shoppers watch, but I was curious to try the shoes.

Nike had previously given me a pair of Nike Free Flyknit+ shoes, which came out in summer 2013. They were similar to the Nike Free 5.0, but with a Flyknit upper. I ended up not reviewing them and not including them in my Holiday Gift Guide for one simple reason: I didn’t love them.

I found them too tight around the ankle, to the point of being constrictive. Another runner I know even cut his Flyknits to reduce pressure on his Achilles tendon. While I like my shoes to fit well, I like my laces tied loosely. With no functional laces, the Flyknits are more like a supportive sock. With a tight top, they just weren’t the shoes for me.

Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes

That’s me giving the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknits a try. (Photo: Nike)

So I’m happy to report that the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit running shoes have a much more comfortable fit in this newest version of the Flyknit upper.

Altogether, Nike made three major changes to the 2014 Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit from the previous versions of both the Free 3.0 and Free Flyknit. Read the rest of this entry →

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