Asics DS Trainer 21

Summary:

The easiest way to learn to run faster is to run on a solid surface and this means you need to train on the road. When I first started running I ran in the Asics GT2000 series shoes, then as my running evolved I found that DS trainers were better suited to me. As a lightweight runner, I was suited to a lightweight shoe and managed to get just as much durability out of them as the old GT series of shoes I was running in. Since then I haven’t looked back and these are now my third pair of DS Trainers.

The DS trainer is a lightweight training shoe, built for speed. They are comfortable for pounding the pavement and best of all feel fast when you start running in them. The lightweight construction does mean that they do not last quite as long as a regular running shoe, however the construction is still solid and I have had a good amount of use out of them. In particular the heal cup is always very sturdy in Asics shoes. An area of improvement in the version 21 is the flex point in the toe box, which I found always used to “hole” at this point in my previous Asics shoes. The DS trainer is a specialist training shoe and as a result you will have to go to a specialist running shop to pick them up. And… as with any specialist piece of equipment you will end up paying up at the top end of the price range at around $250-$300 NZD but it is good value for money if you want to train hard and fast.

Brand: Asics
Where to get in NZ: Shoe Clinic, Front Runner, various other specialist running shops
Typical Retail price: $250-4300

Function: 5/5

The DS trainer 21 is the ideal shoe for running training on the roads. It is lightweight fast and responsive, and most importantly it makes you feel fast too!  Designed as a road shoe specifically for training, they have a bit more cushioning than its cousin the DS racer, and are a lot more hard wearing. I have mostly used these shoes on the roads, and flat grassy areas for intervals training. They have a good amount of grip for these surfaces and even can handle a little bit of off road. Unfortunately, and they are not designed for this, they are a little bit lacking in grip for mud and the durability of the tread suffers a little bit on gravel surfaces.

They are mainly a training shoe but I have used them for racing too, particularly in instances where I haven’t spent enough time on hard surfaces beforehand to pull out the racers. I have seen some runners using these as ‘racing’ shoes to, just to give them a little more support. I have found them to be the ultimate training shoe for me, and since these ones are coming close to the end of their life, the next edition is currently being broken in my running shoe garage!

Comfort: 4/5

I will admit that my feet have grown into Asics shoes, and I am aware that not everybody has the same shaped feet, but when I put these shoes on, they fit like a glove every-time. They are a very comfortable shoe for training in on the roads. On gravel, the sole is soft enough that you can feel the stones under your foot, but again they are not designed for this type of terrain. They also seem to have a habit of making quite a bit of ‘slapping’ noise when I run down the road!

One drawback from the fit of these shoes is the tongue. Every-time I put my foot into them, the edge of the tongue rolls over and folds on top of my foot creating extra pressure, and a sore spot. I do have the shoe laces quite tight, and I have tried setting the tongue up properly before putting my foot in but still this does not help! The design of the tongue definitely could be improved, at the moment it is too wide, and where it attaches, the stitch point is quite narrow. The wide tongue with the narrow stitch allows for considerable movement of the tongue within the shoe.

Durability: 3/5

I am up to around 400km on this pair of DS trainers and they are pretty much at the end of their life now. This is about on par with most of my other shoes. Previous Asics I have owned the upper has worn – particularly at the bend point at the edge of the toe box – but this pair of shoes are showing no such signs of wear in this place. The inside of the heal cup has suffered the most amount of damage and the upper material has worn through on both shoes. Following the trend of previous versions of the shoes the heal cup is made of a bit more solid plastic and has held its shape well, and thats possibly why the heal in the inner side has worn so significantly. The tread pattern features the lightweight raised bumps that have proven to be not so robust on other Asics shoes I had had. These bumps have worn out rather than rubbed off on this pair so Asics have put in some work t make the tread stronger. The mid sole has suffered a little bit from a hard life and now the shoes are starting to ‘banana’ a bit!

Appearance: 5/5

When these shoes came out at the end of 2015 begining of 2016, the bright almost fluro yellow was all the rage. Because they are high end training shoes its important that they look good, and look fast and certainly this is the case. The bright orange works well with the bight yellow and is complemented with the black laces. As I have said before, they look and feel fast when you put them on and that is probably the most important feature for a top end racing/training shoe!

Cost: 4/5

As these are a specific high end training shoe they are a little bit harder to get your hands on them. You will have to go to a specific sport shoe store to pick them up and often you have to ask for them too. Because of the extra service from the shoe store you are probably going to end up paying a bit more as a result. But you will get the best shoe for you! For a new pair and the latest model you can expect to pay between $250 to $300 for these shoes. As this DS trainer 21 is now obsoleted by 22 you can probably pick up the ‘last years’ model for quite a bit cheaper. Not much has changed, mostly just the colour scheme and hopefully the tongue!

Overall Rating:

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Inov8 X-Talon 225

Summary:

In my search of the perfect replacement of the Roclite 243, I tested out the X-Talon 225. I have a pair of the original X-Talon 212 as well as the lightweight version the X-Talon 180, and although they are now retired they do come out every now and then for the odd jog around. The desgin of the the X-Talon is best suited to off-trail running and in particular in the mud. As result they are a polpular choice of shoe for orienteers! I remember 1 event looking around in the start box and seeing 15 out of the top 20 elites wearing them!  The 225 version is a little more refined, a little heavier and I thought it may be a good shoe for trail races. That was partially the case and I found them best suited to grassy or muddy trails rather than hardpacked trails, probably because of the aggresive tread pattern. This is a good shoe for shorter races, the lightweight sole doesnt handle too long of a race but it was a perfect shoe for racing around in the wet muddy hills this winter.

Brand: Inov8
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, see https://inov-8.co.nz/pages/stockists
Typical Retail price: $200

Function: 3/5

I got these shoes for the Luxmore Grunt, as a potential replacement for the Roclite 243. The thread pattern is slightly less aggressive than the original 212 but still has some big knobbles on it which give good grip in the mud. Unfortunately for the specific purpose of the Luxmore Grunt, which was largely on hard packed gravel they didn’t quite cut it. I had quite sore feet afterwards, with the thread creating pressure points in a few places on the sole.

It is probably already emerging that the thread pattern of these shoes is an important feature… So when I travelled to china with these shoes, I had a tough few lessons as I thought it was going to be largely off trail and turned out to mostly be on roads. The pattern which makes them so good for mud and wet grass is not so good on slipperly and well polished rock stairs, in fact it was almost like being on ice skates! Then a flat trail run turned out to be a half marathon on a road surface, the ultimate test! They had good grip on this surface, but cushioning was very minimal and although they were mostly comfortable I again had some sore spots on the soles of my feet from the thread.

Alas, I finally found the optimum terrain for these shoes this winter, and it turns out they are great for soft muddy and wet ground. The grip is perfect for these conditions and were perfect for running around the damp winter trails. Perfect for off road travel, and for park orienteering, probably not in the forest as they can be a bit slipperly on logs and rocks, but great for that sprint around the park.

Comfort: 4/5

The X-Talon 225 is built as a racing shoe and as such comes in the precision fit. I like this fit as it seems to fit me well, but everyone I talk too has a differing opinion on how there shoes fit to them! For the perfect terrain these shoes are great, super comfortable with the perfect grip. For terrain that is not as ideal as they could be they are not too bad. I was able to run a half marathon on the road in them with minimal damage to my feet, however on hard ground the stud like features of the thread do create pressure points on the sole of your foot.

Durability: 4/5

As far a X-Talon shoes go these are the most robust version I have owned. The toe box has good covered protection and again the heal has a good solid base for anchoring your foot in place. The mesh upper does connect directly to the sole which on other Inov8 shoes tends to be a weak point. So far the upper mesh material has been fairly strong and has shown minimal signs of wear. Again Inov8 has used the plastic overmoulded reinforcing around the laces, but this time they have got it right, or at least better and more durable. The thread pattern has also lasted well, now worn down a bit but still very function in the mud.

Appearance: 5/5

These shoes arrived in a combination of red and black, which look good together. The colour scheme is simple and subtle, the ultimate combination for a racing shoe. They look and feel fast when you put them on and that is probably the most important feature for a racing shoe! The contour type stylisation of the heel material is again subtle but a nice touch to fit in with the off road racing feel. Going on looks alone these are one of my favorite looking Inov8 shoes.

Cost: 4/5

For a specific racing shoe you can always expect to pay a little bit more. These are a little bit higher priced than you will get a Inov8 training shoe, coming in around $200. Compare this to a pair of racing flats for the road this actually seems pretty reasonable for what you get. Inov8 have also done some work to make this shoe a bit more robust, so there is a bit of a weigh increase as well, but I think you will get a longer life out of these X-Talons when compared to previous versions. I think these increases in the function and durability justify the cost being up around the $200 mark.

Overall Rating:

Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX

Brand: Adidas
Where to get in NZ: http://www.wiggle.co.nz
Typical Retail price: $140

Summary

I got these shoes specifically for the World Rogaine Champs in Alice Springs in 2016. The terrain for the World Champs was covered in a large amount of Spinifex grass, a relatively tough spiky plant found across the Australian outback.  The specific requirement of this shoe was to have no mesh upper which would allow for the needle sharp points of spinifex penetrating the shoe. This is a difficult task in itself and many of the suitable shoes for this type of race pride themselves in their breath-ability…. Breath-ability = mesh! In the absence of mesh the next go to material is Gore-tex. Gore-tex just happens to be quite a tough material and did the job in keeping the spikes out.  Besides the spiky grass to contend with the terrain was quite dry and rocky also so I needed a shoe with a solid base so that my feet would not get too sore over the course of 24  hours on my feet.

After a good thrashing around the race course, I felt these shoes provided good value for money and served their purpose well. They did a great job at protecting my feet from spinifex and kept my feet dry and comfortable for many hours of racing. Their bulky shape and fit meant that they did feel a bit heavy and slow and as a result I would recommend them for longer slower type racing. Definitely not the shoe to set a 5 km PB in the park but perfect for a longer race such as a 24 hour Rogaine in wet terrain.

Function: 4/5

The Gore-tex outer did exactly as expected and kept the water out of my shoes. This was good for the terrain that we were running around in as the ground as hard and wet soft feet could have really taken a hammering in these conditions. On the other hand I’m not sure that this was ideal in the desert as my feet did get quite hot! Gore-tex is supposedly breathable but over a prolonged period of time exposed to a large amount of sweat, the toe bend point showed signs of saturation. I was able to fully test the waterproof-ness out at the end of the race, and sure enough they kept the water out….until my whole foot was submerged and then they acted like a gumboot. The water did not drain out very quickly at all.

The main reason I was after these shoes was keep the Spinifex out and they did a pretty good job at that, they prevented all but about 2 or 3 spikes to my feet. In comparison my legs, protected by gaiters (or so I thought…) took a hammering from the Spinifex and I was left to pick the spines out for months afterwards. I was pretty happy I didn’t have to do the same for my feet!

The stiff sole of the shoe provided good support for my feet across the hard ground and many rough rocks. After a considerable amount of wear I only took them back out for one more trip back home in the NZ winter. Here they did a great job keeping my feet warm and dry in the snow. The only downside was the tread pattern and sole construction was a little slippery in the mud and on the muddy trails

The shoe laces consisted of a thin cord with a toggle type closing and a system for holding the lace end in place so you wouldn’t trip over! One downside of this lace system was the length, it seemed to be very long and when doing the laces up tight the length of leftover lace was too long to capture properly in the lace system.

Comfort: 4/5

These shoes were quite large and bulky, compared with the lighter weight shoes I am a bit more accustomed to racing in. I found just going for a causal run around the block a little bit difficult, the bulki-ness made me feel a bit slow and gumby-ish. The sole was quite a lot wider than the shoe which gives you better support but as a result you do lose a bit of control over them. When the inevitable walking sections of a 24 hour Rogaine kicked in they came into their own. Walking in them was quite comfortable.

The Gore-tex in the heat was not so comfortable, especially in the heat of the day where my feet got quite hot and sweaty as a result. The hard ground can be quite damaging to feet over a long period of time and these shoes did help the pain to an extent, they were not entirely perfect on preventing sore tired feet. During the night, they were great at keeping my feet warm and perfect in the snow.

One feature of the tongue is that there is a fold to prevent water getting in, with the shoes done up tight the fold did create a bit of pressure point. The tongue did not cover the top lace hole either which seemed a bit silly as water could get through here too. The lace and lace hole also came in direct contact with my feet causing another little hot spot.

Durability: 5/5

24 hours on hard and quite abrasive rocks was a really good test of the durability of these shoes. The soles took a real hammering and the tread remained fairly well intact compared to my team mates Hoka’s which were completely wrecked! Although the majority of the tread pattern remained it had worn down a bit. The one piece moulded sole is great for durability in comparison to a composite sole where the tread “dobbs” can quite easily get ripped of.

The Gore-tex upper also survived really well, after being subjected to many needle pokes and movement across rough terrain they remained waterproof and good enough for future use. The upper provided good protection from the rocks, and the moulded over toe cap saved my feet many time I accidentally kicked a hard rock.

The lacing system kept the shoes fitting tightly (how I like them) for the entire 24 hours and were untouched until the end of the rogaine. This was not a great test for the endurance life of doing and undoing the laces up tight but a good test of them being in one position for a long time.

 Appearance: 3/5

This version of Terrex came out in two colour variants, Black and Orange and Black. I chose the bright orange version over the black option, mainly because I thought it would be much more exciting to have bright orange shoes. I thought the orange, black and white worked quite well together and drew a few comments as they were quite noticeable. The black version would probably a bit more subtle and less “out there” I would think.

The general look of them was quite bulky, and chunky, also quite noticeable, maybe exacerbated by the colour scheme too. This gave the impression that they were big tough shoes for moving through extreme terrain. However the bulky look to them detracted a bit from the speediness, and they didn’t look like a fast shoe. What was worse was that when you put them on you didn’t feel fast in them, almost one of the most important factors!

The lacing system in contrast was quite sleek and compact looking! This didn’t quite fit with the tough look to the shoe, but was highly effective and made the shoes look a bit sleeker.

Cost: 5/5

I picked these shoes up online, so it was a bit of a stab in the dark to find a pair of shoes that were going to protect my feet from Spinifex! At this cost I thought it was worth the risk as I felt it was a good price for a solid looking shoe. What turned up was better than I expected and at under $150, I got a tough, waterproof shoe that was robust and fast hiking type travel. They were good value for money and lasted for a good duration. For about the price I would expect to pay for a pair of Inov8’s, the lifetime of this pair of Adidas Terrex shoes would equate to about double that of the Inov8’s

Overall Rating:

Inov8 Roclite 295

Brand: Inov8
Where to get in NZ: Various Outdoor Stores, see https://inov-8.co.nz/pages/stockists
Typical Retail price: $140

Summary

The Roclite 295 is a good shoe for doing some basic off road, heavy trail and some minor off trail running. They are a good, reasonably durable all around shoe for a mixture of terrain. I wouldn’t use them for much longer than 4+ hours as they lacked the cushioning for that sort of duration of race. I didn’t like that they only came in the standard fit size, this meant I wasn’t as confident off trail as I would have been in the 243’s. They also lack the speedy look and feel that the 243’s had so they are not what I would see as a replacement for the 243’s but maybe a level back from a race shoe to a more general and training type shoe.

Function: 3/5

I got these shoes initially for a 12 hour Rogaine, having run in the Roclite 243’s religiously and with a bit more weight behind the 295’s I thought they might be a little bit more solid for spending more time on my feet . The 243’s were a little bit hard on the feet over the four hour mark, and as it turned out the 295’s didn’t perform much different to the 243’s. The bigger toe box area meant that the shoes were not as tight around my foot, which possibly made them feel a little flatter and harder?

These shoes have the standard Roclite tread pattern, exactly the same as the previous 243’s. I really like this sole for a mixture of trail and “route” type terrain, not quite a track but not quite full on off road. The lower profile of the studs allows for good traction in the mud but also good grip on wet rocks. With this tread pattern I have the confidence to know that 85% of the time I am not going to slip when I jump onto that rock in front of me.

Comfort: 3/5

These style of roclites only come in the standard fit size range. I prefer the precision fit as I like have a tight fitting shoes especially for off road running, but for a wider foot they probably fit quite nicely. The standard fit has a bit more room in the toe box so your foot can be a bit freer which is nice over a long distance. The sole is still quite low profile and I did start to get sore feet from the lack of support after around 8+ hours. I did another trail run in them over about 5-6 hours I thought they were pretty solid for that distance, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to run too much longer in them but was just comfortable for that length of time.

Durability: 2/5

This version of roclite 295 has a good durable lip above the sole connecting it to the upper of the shoe. In particular the toe box area is very robust and the sole has shown no signs of peeling away from the upper like previous shoes of its type. The heal area is again very sturdy and made of good material that has lasted the distance quite well. The downfall of the upper is that in an effort tot keep it light the mesh is not super tough, and again the plastic shoe lace straps are not enough to maintain the structure. I had a blow out at the inside on the right shoe between the rubber lip and the upper. The mesh tore and the plastic strap like material eventually also tore creating quite a large opening.

Appearance: 3/5

These shoes came out in NZ in mid 2016 in bright blue and yellow, looking quite similar to a pair of Hoka’s I have seen floating around about the same time. They have some good looking stylised contours on the black part of the shoes. I thought the combination of the colours with the style of shoe worked well together and made them stand out but also look good at the same time. The general shape and look to them doesn’t scream out “fast” however, the upper part of the sole is quite high and round when new and the general feel doesn’t make me feel fast in them either!

Cost: 4/5

The cost was about standard for an Off-road, trail type shoe, originally retailing at around $200. You can now pick up a pair for about $140 and in my opinion this is probably more what they are worth, they are not going to last forever due to their lightweight nature but if you are looking for that edge with speed and comfort over terrain than they are probably perfect.

Overall Rating:

Inov8 Trailroc 245

Brand: Inov8
Where to get: Bivouac, Torpedo 7, Shoe Clinc, 
Frontrunner, and many other outdoor store
Typical Retail price: $154 NZD

Summary

The TrailRoc 245 is a designed as a trail training shoe with a bit more room to move.  It is lightweight for a training shoe, reasonably durable and still performs well in a variety of conditions. I have found this shoe to be best suited to 2-3 hour training runs. Note: You can still buy the trailroc line of Inov8’s but this range has not been continued in 2016, the most similar shoe I could compare it to would be the terraclaw range.

Function: 4/5

Designed as a training shoe, this is exactly what I used it for. It has a bit more cushioning than the Roclites and quite a unique tread pattern.  It is light weight with lots of grip. They are not great for the road, and your feet take a bit of a pounding on the pavement. They seem to repel mud and remain grippy on slippery trails, even when clogged a bit.

Comfort: 2/5

These shoes have quite a big toe box, i.e. lots of space for your toes. A bigger toe box is something that has been touted as great for training as opposed to racing where you want a nice tight fit. I remain sceptical however, and I didn’t like the wide toe box. There were great for trails, but off track they were not ideal, largely due to the wide toes! the thin soles mean that on hard ground there is a bit of load not absorbed by the shock of impact.

Durability: 3/5

The low profile soles on these shoes are joined with a light mesh side and upper, which saves on weight but can wear quite easily. Ironically with the wide toe box this is exactly where the shoes start to wear. The plastic lace reinforcing is a particular weak point again, common among certain types of Inov8 shoes.

Appearance: 3/5

I quite like the combination of blue and yellow on these shoes, they seem to go well together. However, the overall look of the shoe I find looks a little strange. They are quite square and don’t look all that racy, which isn’t bad for a training shoe.

Cost: 5/5

As far as shoes go this are middle range price wise. Inov8 shoes are not known for being super robust so are generally priced accordingly.  At around $150 they are a good training shoe.

Overall Rating:

trailroc245