Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Be Safe. Be SEEN!

One of the worst parts of running during the winter months is the darkness. It's dark early morning and nighttime creeps earlier and earlier. Not an excuse to stop running, however. But, you do need to take precautions.

First and foremost wear a headlamp powerful enough to project a beam about 20 feet head. My headlamp is 90 lumens and works great. You can go with lower lumens, but be sure to buy one made for running or hiking. Less powerful headlamps or handheld lights may be great for checking the fuse box in the middle of the night when the power goes out, but not for running in the dark.

Secondly, wear bright clothing and reflective clothing. It never ceases to amaze me when I'm driving at night and see runners wearing a black cap, black top, and black tights. The only things visible are the whites of their eyes and maybe a little reflectivity on their running shoes.

White and/or bright clothing can greatly increase your visibility. Adding a light-weight reflective running vest is a simple and easy way to make yourself visible to other runners, bikers, and drivers.

Saucony has developed a line of reflective gear perfect for nighttime running--ViZiPRO. The signature bright neon orange fabric of the ViZiPRO is highly visible at night all on its own, but with the added 3M silver reflective strips also incorporated into the gear, your visibility to others is upped exponentially. (The women's version is available in orange and pink.)

Back in 2010 I reviewed Saucony's ViZiPRO Epic Run Vest. This lightweight breathable vest was perfect for nighttime runs. My runners love when I wear it, cause they can tell where I'm at at all times. Recently, Saucony reached out to me to test out their new Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket.

The Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket is similar to the Epic Run Vest in that it's made of the same breathable lightweight but durable fabric. It also has the highly reflective strips and piping. The Sonic HDX jacket, however, had upped the anti on increasing nighttime visibility by incorporating USB_LED piping on the front and across the back of the jacket.

This addition is pretty cool. The USB_LED lights hold about a 2-hour charge. You simple plug the USB connection (which is in one of the jacket pockets) into your computer's USB port for recharging.  The USB charging unit can be removed prior washing without having to remove the LED lights.

Not only is the jacket great for it's enhanced visibility, it's also provides protection from the wind and is water -resistant while at the same time the unique microfiber fabric is breathable so you won't over heat or sweat to death.

While the jacket is priced at the upper end of most running windbreakers, the jacket's durability, breathability, and increased nighttime visibility is well worth the expense.

Stay tuned!!! I'm so impressed with this jacket that in the next week, I'll be doing a giveaway of the Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket! Stay tuned for details on how to enter!!

Note: While Saucony did provide the Sonic ViZiPRO HDX Jacket for review, I was in no way encouraged to write a positive review nor did I receive any form of payment for writing this review. This review is based entirely on my personal experience using the product.

Minimalist Running Shoe Choices

Guest Blogger: Matthew Kyle
Matthew is a representative of Altra Zero Drop Footwear.

We have returned to the time of year that embraces and encourages resolutions for increased fitness. When preparing to start the fitness journey anew, being aware of choices for the best gear is an important first step.

A recent craze in fitness gear is the minimalist running shoe. A dramatic divergence from the traditional running shoe technology, minimalist embraces the idea that we should use and reinforce all elements of the human physiological design.

Since this notion is such a stark contrast from the norm of the traditional running shoe, it can be difficult to determine what may be the best minimalist running shoe choices. Particularly in an industry that enjoys multimillion dollar annual revenues, there are many details to weigh and examine. 

Of course, it is important to keep in mind that any choice from the minimalist running shoe options pool will create a substantially different feel and experience for the wearer. Reduced cushion, and a thinner support structure, can leave an athlete more vulnerable to injury, if runners don't transition into them gradually.

The idea for a minimalist shoe sprang from the recent barefoot running movement. Many runners wanted the benefits of barefoot running but with little more protection and support that would still foster and promote a forefoot or mid-sole foot strike while preserving the freedom and liberty of additional contact with the running surface..

A significantly reduced heel, and lean shoe bottom, is indicative of intent to gain more feeling from the running surface. Again, it is important to emphasize that doctors and sports medicine specialists do not recommend this type of shoe for heel-based runners. If you heel-strike, you’ll need to work at modifying your foot strike to a mid-foot or fore-foot strike. Minimalist shoes won't automatically change your foot strike.

The heel-to-toe strike point was the basis for the original design of running shoes four decades ago. Cushioning and shock absorption were of paramount importance. Avoiding as much impact as possible was thought to preserve the joints, both short and long-term. However, even though there is added cushion, landing with the foot well ahead of your center of mass decreases the body’s ability to act as a shock absorber, causing more stress and impact on the ankles, knees, and hips. It also requires the runner to pull forward before pushing off which is not efficient running. Running should be a push not a pull.

Some enthusiasts believe that there is not yet enough history and data regarding use and results of minimalist shoes to compare their performance accurately with that of traditional running shoes. Interestingly, however, some studies show that minimalist shoe runners tend to be more conscientious and aware of their impact and gait. Therefore, they produce less force against the opposing surface than those who wear traditional running shoes. Minimalist shoes, when utilized correctly, also strengthen the feet and improve stance and form.
Minimalist running shoe choices span the gamut of major brand labels, and vary most with respect to tread depth. Since avoiding injury is the priority of any avid runner, finding a shoe that matches both the style and prevalence of a training routine will yield the optimal overall performance. Talking with your local running store and having them evaluate your running needs will help in matching you to the perfect minimalist shoe for your running needs.

Overall, an advantage among the choices for best minimalist running shoe is that wearing them gradually retrains the runner to develop a more effective stride. One step at a time is the ideal approach with both new resolutions and new gear.