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David’s Year in Review: Best Shoes and Gear from 2016

End of the first day at the Fat Dog 120 mile. Enjoying the high alpine section at evening before what would be my biggest struggle of the year through the night resulting in my only DNF for the year.

End of the first day at the Fat Dog 120 mile. Enjoying a high alpine section on a perfect evening before what would be my biggest struggle of the year through the night resulting in my only DNF for the year.

Yes, unfortunately it is now February and a best of 2016 post is old news, but better late than never. While things were a little lighter on the blogging front for me, I still had a full year of running, racing, and got to try out tons of new shoes and gear in the process.  I ran the Carlsbad Road Marathon in January, Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April, Quad Rock 50 mile in May, Bighorn 100 mile in June, Fat Dog 120 (DNF at mile 80, 25 hrs in) in August, and the North Face 50 mile in San Francisco in December.  All in all, it was a good year of improvement and continuing to learn more about my self as a person and runner. Some big goals on tap for this year and hoping to start things off well at the LA Marathon in March (despite a recent injury setback last week, my first in 3 years).

I’ve done a “Best of the Year” post every year and thought I’d put together another one with the addition of some great gear that I’ve used a ton as well.  Hopefully this won’t be too long and some will find it useful!

Best Shoes of 2016

-Road Shoes

From Bottom to Top: Skechers GORun Forza, adidas adizero Boston 6, and Salming Miles.

From Bottom to Top: Skechers GORun Forza, adidas adizero Boston 6, and Salming Miles.

  1. Skechers GORun Forza – The Forza didn’t blow me away when I first tried it in February last year, but it has really hung on in my line-up and is on the short list of road shoes I turn to for most road runs other than really fast days.  The shoe holds up super well, fits and feels like a lighter shoe and offers great structure without ever getting in the way.  Such a great shoe from Skechers and foreshadowing of some big improvements that are just now coming with their 2017 lineup (See GORun 5, GOMeb Razor and GOMeb Speed 4 all of which are fantastic!).
  2. adidas adizero Boston 6 – It took me a long time to get around to trying the Boston 6 despite my affinity for v5 on dry trails.  While the Boston 6 is still great on trails, adidas really improved it’s feel on the road with a softer feeling forefoot due to a new outsole which is softer and yet still very durable; great stuff from Continental.  The new seam-free toebox is a great change as well.  The Boston 6 is one of the best all around shoes out there that will literally almost do anything well.
  3. Salming Miles – Salming was a big surprise for me last year and ended up with my road shoe of the year in the Distance 3.  They didn’t really revamp their mainline models much in 2016 other than some new midsole material on them, but did launch a new road shoe in the Miles.  All of my complaints about durability in the Distance and Speed have been completely abolished with the Miles.  It is probably one of the more durable shoes I’ve ever used and feels completely natural riding in Salming’s usual style and feel.  Great high mileage (likely a 750+ Mile shoe) trainer particularly if you don’t want a higher drop training shoe.

Honorable mentions: adidas adios 1 Haile (great re-issue of the adios 1 and super versatile shoe…can’t find it anymore so hopefully they re-issue the re-issue :) ), adidas adios 3 (incremental update, but still a great shoe) and Nike Pegasus 33 (light and versatile; great on trails),

-Trail Shoes

From Bottom to Top: Nike Zoom Wildhorse 3, Skechers GOTrail Ultra 3, and New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi.

From Bottom to Top: My modified Nike Zoom Wildhorse 3, Skechers GOTrail Ultra 3, and New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi.

  1. Nike Zoom Wildhorse 3 – Yes, I know this shoe was out in 2015 even (hard to believe) but I really didn’t begin to use it till this last year and actually ended up using it in most of my races this year at some point or another.  The biggest reason it took me so long was that it took modifying the midsole profile to narrow the shoe up, which transformed the shoe and quickly made it much more nimble and it made a world of difference in the overall feel.  The upper on the Wildhorse 3 is also second to none on the market it my view.  It is light, breathes well and dries out quickly while allowing me to run very long in them sock less with zero issues.  One of the best, well rounded trails shoes ever made.  Version 4 is on the way in April and very much looking forward to that update as well as the Kiger 4.  Take a look here from a preview pic of both of them from Kaci Lickteig’s twitter.
    Unmodified Wildhorse 3 on top, modified on bottom. Basically I've shaved the midsole down to a narrower more nimble profile and really like the results.

    Unmodified Wildhorse 3 on top, modified on bottom. Basically I’ve shaved the midsole down to a narrower more nimble profile and really like the results.

    Doesn't affect the shoe in any negative way and really tightens up the ride while being an ounce lighter. Win, win.

    Doesn’t affect the shoe in any negative way and really tightens up the ride while being an ounce lighter. Win, win.

  2. Skechers GOTrail Ultra 3 – The Ultra 3 was a real surprise for me and after logging quite a few miles in it (in a couple different versions: standard, Climate All-Weather and a custom version with the GOTrail rock plate in it which is amazing).  It has become a very nice tool to reach for in my rotation and the just released GOTrail Ultra 4 is even better with an improved upper in nearly every aspect as well as a bit firmer midsole which is also nice.  If you haven’t tried the Ultra 3 or 4 grab a pair, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and it offers a very unique ride that isn’t really similar to much else in the market.
  3. New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi – I waited till November to try the Gobi and that was too bad.  After feeling that the Zante was loosing some of its initial luster for me due to some subpar (in my view) foam that breaks down way too early.  The Zante also had an upper that isn’t quite as supportive as I’d like to see.  Well the good news for me was the Gobi has a great upper with much more support in addition to the added lugs to the outsole which really improve the feel of the ride in my view.  The foam still breaks down too soon, but really at the price they go for (under $100) there isn’t much to fault in them.

Honorable Mentions: Hoka One One Speed Instinct (best Hoka to date for me; well cushioned yet still enough pop to run fast and the best fit by far in any Hoka for my foot…like a Nike Kiger with more plush feel), Topo MT-2/Hyrdroventure (great light minimal-esque shoes and fantastic update to original MT…there is a new version of the MT-2 with an updated upper material that just came out) , Skechers GOTrail (good new entry for Skechers that runs well in a variety of conditions with a faster/lighter feel than the Ultra 3, but similar fit and finish), Montrail Caldorado (solid all-around new shoe from Montrail…really looking forward to the Caldorado 2 upper update which could address biggest issues with first version), Montrail Trans Alps (super burly, durable and surprisingly runnable beast of a shoe; also looking forward to upper update)

-Mountain Shoes

From Bottom to Top: Scarp Atom, Scarpa Neutron, and Salming Elements.

From Bottom to Top: Scarp Atom, Scarpa Neutron, and Salming Elements.

  1. Scarpa Atom – Scarpa really nailed their 2016 launches and overall came out with the best technical mountain footwear of the year in my view.  Other than some overly wide heel profiles which, while not a deal breaker, could be narrower in my view, the shoes are remarkably well made with sticky Vibram Megagrip, low drops and secure uppers.  The Atom, being the most minimal of the lineup fits snug but comfortable and creates a mountain slipper like feel in both the upper and ride.  Such a fun shoe to run technical terrain in.  I do think it could be improved with a forefoot rock plate to help with the occasional sharp rock and extend the length of outings it could handle, but even so it is still very good and one of my top 3 mountain shoes of all time….I rarely buy 2nd pairs of shoes these days and I’ll be buying another pair of Atoms.
  2. Scarpa Neutron – The Neutron is a burlier and more luggy option from Scarpa and despite needing just a bit narrower midsole profile in the heel, it is a really sweet mountain option with tons of protection, a decent ride, secure upper and great traction.  Check Scarpa out if you frequent some technical or mountain terrain and keep a look out for the forthcoming Scarpa Spin that aims to strike a balance between the Atom and the Neutron and has tons of potential.
  3. Salming Elements – Salming’s first entry into the mountain running scene and they got a lot of things right.  The upper needs just a bit of work in cleaning it up from stitchingand making it a touch more secure and the shoe could use a forefoot rockplate with its relatively low forefoot stack height, but the grip is quite nice in mud and loose terrain and it is one of the best non-UK designed (i.e. inov-8 or Walsh) fell running shoes I’ve come across.  Hopefully, Salming doesn’t give up on the shoe and makes a few tweaks in the direction they appear to be going with their forthcoming Trail 5 and Snowrace with improved uppers and Vibram outsoles.
Descending near of the top of Mt. Olympus outside of Salt Lake City in August.

Descending near of the top of Mt. Olympus outside of Salt Lake City in August.

Best Gear of 2016

-Hydration Gear

From Top to Bottom: Ultimate Direction Mono and Stereo (Hi-Fi fronts on both), Salomon Sense Set and Sense Ultra Set and Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0.

From Top to Bottom: Ultimate Direction Mono and Stereo (Hi-Fi fronts on both), Salomon Sense Set and Sense Ultra Set and Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0.

  1. Ultimate Direction Mono and Stereo waistbelts – I would have never thought waist belts would make a post of any sorts let alone top my list of hydration products but UD blew me away and totally revived the waist belt as a useful running tool.  I used the Stereo which holds two 500 ml soft flasks (the Mono holds 1 500 ml flask) at the Bighorn 100 in the heat and it was incredible to have my torso clear to vent heat and yet still carry enough water comfortably.  The Mono is something I use multiple times a week in training and literally you can’t even feel it on. I can carry a phone and multiple gels (with Hi-Fi front pouch, which comes with Stereo…they are interchangeable) in the front and 500 ml of fluid in the back without even noticing (used this setup at the North Face 50 and it was flawless).
  2. Salomon Sense Set and Ultra Set – What UD did for waist belts Salomon did for hydration vests…I’d almost not call these vests but hydration shirts or apparel they fit so close to the body.  Great versatility and can carry a fair bit without any encumbrance.  When I needed more gear than the UD belts could carry I used one of the Sense vests (i.e. nighttime at Bighorn or other races or training outings where jackets and lights were necessary).  Salomon is revamping the line this year with new bottles with wider caps/opening (yes!) that should go back into the vest easier and upping the capacity from 1 and 3 to 2 and 5 for these vests in addition to adding a new 8 L model (see new line here).
  3. Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0 – The AK vest moved from the most minimal of UD’s vests to a more robust 10L capacity and includes extra pockets and features like ice axe loops for more ambitious outings.  I used the vest at the Fat Dog 120 mile in Canada which had a pretty large mandatory gear list and it was great for that heavier load which would have been too much for the Sense Ultra.  Great for adventures and more involved races and offers a nice blend of capacity and streamlined design.

-Other things I Liked this last Year

Altra Casual shoes, Buff and Dynafit running hats and GU Hydration and Nutrition products.

Altra Casual shoes, Buff and Dynafit running hats and GU Hydration and Nutrition products.

  1. Altra Casual Shoes – Altra released the Tokala and Desert boot and they really hit a nice balance of lightweight design and comfort, while still looking like a normal shoe and feeling like a running shoe.  They’ve been great especially going to work after runs where they have plenty of room for feet to spread, relax and recover.
  2. Light running caps from Buff and Dynafit – the Buff Cap Pro and Dynafit React Cap have been awesome this last year.  They are super light, very packable and both allow the bill to be flipped up when you are climbing steeper trails or otherwise want more visibility.  Great design, particularly in more mountain environments.
  3. GU Energy  – I used to not be that picky about energy and hydration products in the past and felt that sugar was sugar, but after making some effort to dial in my nutrition for 100 milers (after some issues with hydration at Western States in 2015), I needed to deal with sodium levels better as well as have a wide variety of gels and chews to keep things interesting for calories.  The GU Hydration (formerly GU Brew) product had become a go to for electrolyte replacement for long outings and it also contains 70 cals per serving so there is some added sugar there too.  The big difference for me is that the GU Hydration doesn’t have a super sweet taste or aftertaste that many others do for me and this is huge when going through lots of volume of liquid.  GU Roctane drinks are also great for workouts in training where I want to simplify my calories and hydration into one drink.  GU gels, which are now offered in bulk with a GU designed soft flask (yes!) have a wide variety of flavors with many being very palatable for me (some favorited are Salted Chocolate Roctane, Cucumber Mint, Root Beer, Salted Watermelon and Salted Caramel but many other good flavors). I still will use Clif Shot Bloks, Clif gels and Honey Stinger Gels to mix up the type of sugars here and there, but I’ll use GU the most and their drink is by far the best in my view (Clif’s Hydration drink mix is also decent).
Another shot near the bottom of the Mt. Olympus trail.

Another shot near the bottom of the Mt. Olympus trail.

Hope you all found something of interest with this post and hang in there with the site as we try to figure out how to balance everything out with our busy family lives and careers.  Doesn’t mean we aren’t getting out running and trying new things still!  I’d love to read any comments you may have on any of the shoes or gear I mentioned and always on the lookout for new things that work well for folks.  I like good design of all sorts and always curious for new innovations and ideas that work well.  Happy running in 2017!

Recent marathon training conditions....not exactly ideal for a SoCal marathon!

Good luck in 2017 everyone! Pic of some of my recent single digit F marathon training conditions….not exactly ideal for a SoCal marathon, but that’s part of the challenge!

About David Henry

David Henry is a 31 year old husband and father of 3 young children. He has completed over 23 ultra marathon events as well as many other shorter races. Some of the notable races he has completed include The Pike’s Peak Marathon, Speedgoat 50k, The Rut 50k, Gorge Waterfalls 100k and Bighorn 100. He has raced in diverse environments ranging from Alaska in winter to the Arizona desert. David appreciates well-crafted running shoes and running on any surface and distance. If interested you can follow my running on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/davidjonhenry

Comments

  1. Hi, David. I’d be interested to know how you go about modifying your shoes. I have the Wildhorse 3 and wouldn’t mind following your lead. Also, did you have trouble with the UD Stereo belt riding up your waist at all? That was my only complaint. Thanks for the write-up!

    • David Henry says:

      Hi Dustin. I basically took a razor and cut the excess width off the entire perimeter of the shoe to make the midsole more vertically oriented rather than flared out like it currently is. Then I have a rotary tool (Dremel 4300: link to dremel.com) that I use with the sanding attachment to buff it out so it looks halfway decent. Then end result is the profile is more like a racing shoe in sole width (similar to old Kiger 2 which is one of my favorites) but with all the cushion and protection you’d expect from the Wildhorse. It’s almost an ounce lighter too!

      As far as the UD belt goes…never had any problem with it riding up…you might have to play around with where you put on your waist…I have it below my hip bones and keep it pretty snug -David

    • David Henry says:

      Note: Updated post to show a few pics of the modified Wildhorse 3s. Hope that helps! -DH

  2. Thanks for the post, David. On your advice, I tried the Topo MT2 after having durability and rock plate issues with my favorite shoe, the Altra Superior 2.0. Okay, actually I’m cheap so I tried the Topo MT on clearance first. I was in love–it was like a better-fitting, slightly more cushioned Merrell Trail Glove/Pace Glove. Then I got the MT2, which really was like a less-flexible, more durable Altra Superior 2.0 with more foot protection. I love these shoes, so thanks for the recommendation.

    One more question for you: how wide is the toe box on the Hoka Speed Instinct? Given the price of Hokas, I have never ventured beyond the original Mafate. I find the Mafate a bit constricting in the toe box, and end up with hot spots on my pinkie toes. But they’re great shoes when my joints hurt!

    • David Henry says:

      Thanks for comment Gill. Glad to hear you like the MT-2…you’ll might like the new Terraventure which is like a lighter version of the Altra Lone Peak…same great feel as the MT-2 with just a little more cushion and rock protection for longer outings (plus more traction with deeper lugs)…I’ll be review those more fully in the coming months.

      Regarding the Speed Instinct, it is a wider fit in my view. The volume is on the lower side but the toebox width is medium/wide to me…similar to the Nike Kiger in fit…it’s a nice shoe and one of the only Hokas I actually enjoy running in. -David

  3. Jesus! What have Nike done to the Wildhorse 4 upper? The upper of v3 is pretty much perfect. The midfoot stability wrap seems unnecessary as v3 already holds the foot beautifully, and removing the toe overlay seems like it would compromise durability. I’ll wait for the reviews to arrive, but in the meantime I’ll buy a spare pair of v3s while they’re still available. Gee, there goes my favorite running shoe.

    How would you compare the Salming Trail T2 to the Wildhorse in fit, durability, and terrain/use? Thanks!

    I really like your picks this year. There isn’t a single shoe I wouldn’t like to try and, by the look and reviews I’ve seen, probably would enjoy a lot.

    • I’ve seen more pictures and there is a toe overlay in the Wildhorse 4. I’m still not convinced about the midfoot madness, but it’s not all bad.

      Btw, what’s your take on the Kiger? I’d imagine you’d pick it over the Wildhorse.

    • David Henry says:

      Nelson,

      Sorry for the delayed response. I’m not getting notifications from WordPress for some reason and missed this comment. Quick answers to your questions.

      I haven’t tried the Wildhorse 4 yet and I’m concerned as well. The WH3 upper wasn’t lacking in hardly any way in my view so not sure why the drastic overhaul. I’ll definitely be trying them out soon and I do actually prefer the Wilhorse 3 over the Kiger 3…mainly because of the full outsole and rock plate. To make it perfect I’d like them to add a forefoot zoom to the WH but that’s getting more in the ideal…they are still fantastic and still my go to race shoe for 50 miles and up.

      In regards to Salming Trail 1 and 2 vs. WH…Salming fits a bit narrower, the upper is heavier/ more protective and ride is firmer/faster feeling. Really the T1 or T2 is closer to the Kiger in most respects.

      -David

      • Thanks for the reply, David. I was wondering about the Salming T2 because you’d given it a very good review and I found it around 60% off. Also because I wasn’t sure of how the upper of the Wildhorse 3 would hold up after hundreds of km, and the T2 looks pretty bomb-proof.

        But kilometres (some of them pretty rough) have passed and the upper of the Wildhorse looks almost like the first day. And the outsole is super durable too. What a great shoe. I haven’t tried the Kiger to see if a forefoot zoom air unit would be an improvement in the Wildhorse, but I like the flexibility and protection of the current setup. It’s a shoe I can put on when my feet are sore, go run for a couple of hours, and my feet will actually feel better afterwards.

        The reviews I’ve seen so far consider the new upper an improvement. We´ll see. Regards.

        And thanks for that comparison between the Salming and the Kiger. I’m not completely sold on the Kiger, and the Salming T3 seems like it could be a good, nimbler companion to the Wildhorse.

  4. Brad Patterson says:

    Great reviews, David!! I especially enjoy reading about “newer” (to me, at least) brands like Scarpa and Salming.

    I am curious about the mono and stereo belts. I tried an older version UD belt a few years ago (with the hard bottles) and it seemed to shake around on my waste too much. Do the mono and stereo ride pretty well on the trail with full water bottles installed? Also, how difficult is it to slide the soft bottles in and out of the belts while running if they are say 1/2 empty? Thanks!!

    • David Henry says:

      Thanks for the comment Brad. Like I mentioned to Nelson above, I’m not getting notifications from WordPress like I used to so missed this comment. Hope the delayed response is still helpful. Regarding the UD belts, they’re fantastic (and I wouldn’t recommend them in my year end post if I felt they were only so so). They don’t bounce really at all (especially the Mono…basically disappears on the run). This has always been a problem with most waist packs but UD has fixed this on these IMO. The Stereo is awesome on longer runs/races in the heat where you can have 2 bottles but not have a hot vest on your core. I don’t find any difficulty sliding the bottles in either.

      Hope that helps. -David

  5. hi david–thanks again for all the great reviews. i ended up getting the trans alps fkt and the zoom streak 6 a while back, and have liked both a lot. i wondered if you could compare boston 6, gomeb razor, and zoom elite 9. also, i’m thinking about the forza, even though it doesn’t seem like the sort of shoe i would like (though that may have been true for you as well). have you tried the forza 2? would it be hard to get a snug fit on a narrow foot? true to size? have any neutral runners you know of had trouble with the stability aspects? your help is always appreciated.

    bruce

    • David Henry says:

      Hi Bruce…glad those worked out for you. The three shoes you list are some of my favorite road shoes! I use both the Boston 6 and Elite 9 on trails regularly too. I’d say they are pretty similar with the Boston being the least cushioned/protective. The new last on the Elite 9 is great (same as streak 6 I believe) as is the outsole coverage and forefoot zoom. I like all of them and basically would recommend them all…just look and pick them up when the old colors get cheaper :). RE: Forza 2, I feel they are pretty well structured in the uppers and don’t think you’d have problems with security in fit…they are more secure than the Forza 1. I haven’t heard of any neutral runners with problems with them and, while I usually always run neutral shoes, I really enjoy the Forza (and Nike Structure 20 too)…I’d recommend them pretty highly for easy/long road runs…they actually even handle some speed pretty well for how much shoe is there. -David

      • thanks, david. any issues with heel fit on boston or razor? i’ve seen some reservations on that, and i prefer not to lace-lock.

        i’m also thinking about topo (no experience at all yet), mainly mt-2 and ultrafly. have you run in ultrafly?

        • David Henry says:

          Boston is probably better in heel fit but Razor isn’t problematic by any means. Best Topo shoes for me are the MT-2 and new Fli-Lyte 2. Ultra Fly is decent (and better than Magnifly in my view) but still think Topo does the lighter more nimble shoes better at this point.

  6. actually, i might also be interested in magnifly if they’re still around. any thoughts?


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