Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review

We all have that one piece of gear that is our go-to. Whether or not we’ve replaced it along the way, that piece of gear is so solid, so consistent, and bulletproof that it becomes the workhorse of our arsenal. Today, the shoe that I’m going to be looking at is just such a piece of gear. It’s not necessarily something that blows you away, but it’s such a solid performer that, even on bad days, you can slip it on and go for it. Today we’re taking a look at the Challenger ATR 3 from Hoka One One.

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As usual, let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. Hoka has used carbon rubber in the heel and forefoot with the midfoot being exposed foam. We saw this done on the Bondi 5 as well so we know that with this, you get the cush of the foam as well as a durable rubber where you need it the most. The lugs, which are not hugely aggressive, are 4mm deep.

I found the traction of the Challenger ATR 3 to be very solid and open to a wide variety of trails. However, for my taste, the traction and performance stand out more on smoother, more groomed-feeling trails that on technical and rocky/rooty terrain. The Challenger ATR 3 is a good hybrid shoe with lugs that have done well on pavement for me when it’s called for. Having run 100 miles in this shoe on both trails and pavement, I’ve found very little wear or breakdown of the rubber.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review | Gearist

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With a stack height of 29mm in the heel and 24mm at the metatarsal heads the Challenger ATR 3 has a net drop of 5mm. Like other Hoka shoes, the foot actually sits down in the midsole a bit in kind of a bathtub of sorts which adds a feeling of stability and security. The cushiony feel of the Challenger reminds me a lot of the Clifton, which I love. I have also read that many nurses and people that are on their feet all day are enjoying the comfort and softness of this shoe. When running long distances in the Challenger ATR 3, I really like the cushy feel along with the early stage rocker shape that keeps me moving forward. The less discomfort you feel the more miles you can go, and that’s what I need from a shoe.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review | Gearist

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The upper is made of a dual-density mesh which seems to be a bit more burly than previous generations of the Hoka Challenger ATR. The overlay design is Hoka’s 3D Puff Print frame and I’ve got to admit, I’m still not sure why it’s called that as the print is completely flat. The Challenger is reasonably breathable but on hot days, I noticed some heat build up so be aware and adjust expectations accordingly if your feet tend to get warm. There is a good amount of foam cushioning around the heel cup and the tongue as well.

The durability of the upper has been great and I have no wear showing after my 100 miles apart from a bit of dust and such – but what true trail runner doesn’t want to get their shoes dirty? I have read that some people have seen excessive wear at about 100 miles, which is disappointing, but I haven’t experienced that at all. If I had any criticism of the upper, it’s the lack of reflective features. There is the one small loop on the lacing at the front and a loop at the heel. I would love to see more especially with daylight hours lessening with the change of season.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review | Gearist

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I always go up in size with my running shoes and with that in mind I do feel this shoe runs true to size expectations, although I have read where some people feel it runs a bit small.

I had compared the Challenger to the Clifton when talking about the midsole, but as far as fit goes, I have found the Challenger to have a little more room in the toe box which, being a very forefoot runner, I like. The fit is great with a solid midfoot feel that doesn’t require any adjustments once underway. The foam around the heel cup and tongue kept things in place without me having to use the top eyelet. I have a narrow heel so this was great for me in getting that locked down feeling. Bottom line is that I was comfortable and comfort is good when going long distances (any distance, really).

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review | Gearist

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The Challenger ATR 3 is my first trail shoe from Hoka. I have found the ride in this shoe to be very stable and enjoyable. I was a bit hesitant at first at the thought of running trails in a shoe with such a high stack height, but like my other Hoka road shoes, I was relieved to experience the same stable feeling. I have run on mostly buffed-out trails here in VA in wet and dry conditions. The lugs are not very aggressive so they feel comfortable to me when I have to run on pavement to a trail from my house. The ride is smooth, easy and grippy. Weighing in at 7.9 oz in a women’s size 7 they are nice and light. Training for a few ultra distance races, most of my runs in the Hoka Challenger ATR 3’s have usually been 10+ miles. My feet are never sore and I haven’t had any issues with blisters, etc. It’s a comfortable, cushiony shoe.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Review | Gearist

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The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 is the shoe that I grab when I need to go on long, slow training runs. It has also been in my drop bag in case I have any issues with my feet during an ultra race. I know I can rely on this shoe when times get tough and that is very comforting to have. The Challenger may not be that exciting shoe that I want to go blazing up and down the trails in, but it is that “workhorse” that will get me through the miles in comfort. It’s a consistent guarantee when I need it and that is some fantastic peace of mind.

Coming in at $130 originally, it’s a bit pricey but we have found it for about $100(CHECK THE LINKS BELOW AND HERE). The Challenger ATR 3 is a solid shoe that I feel is worth the price. A consistent training shoe that will get you through the miles in comfort.

Thank you for supporting Gearist by checking out the Vazee Pace at our partner links below!

New Balance Vazee Pace Review | Gearist

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review

If you’re a longtime reader of Gearist – and especially of my reviews – then you know that one of my favorite things is when a piece of gear is versatile enough to go confidently and comfortably outside of its ostensible purpose to be used in other activities. Today, I’m taking a look at the Terrex Fast GTX Surround which, by all appearances, is a mid-height, fast hiker. However, with the technology and construction beneath its veneer, this boot is a lot more than just a hiker.

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The outsole of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is identical to that of the adidas Terrex Boost GTX which we reviewed a while back. It’s the same material, same layout, and same design and, for me, performed the same. So, in lieu of throwing a new bunch of words on the page – and after having read through the outsole section of the Terrex Boost GTX for accuracy – here’s what I thought of that outsole:

So before I get into talking about the outsole of this shoe, I think this is one of those times where I should mention that what I’m about to say may sound like hyperbole to some but I that is not the intent. Sometimes, things are just so good at their job that you’ve just got to come out and say it and such is the case with the outsole of the Terrex Boost GTX [Terrex Fast GTX Surround].

For years now I’ve been a huge fan of Continental bike tires because of their traction and durability – and whenever I veer away (usually because there’s a FAR cheaper option) I always come back. With that said, imagine my delight when I opened the box of the Terrex Boost GTX and I found the outsole marked with the familiar Continental logo. Right away, the influence of a mountain bike tire was clear in the lug setup and the stickiness.

A full-contact outsole makes for a smooth transition from mid or rearfoot, forward. For increased front end protection, the outsole comes up over the toe forming a solid, though kind of minimal, bumper – which I used far more than I’d like like to admit. The lugs themselves are 5mm deep though in spots where the outsole is contoured away from the ground the edges of the lugs can be as tall as 7mm. For ascending and descending taking charge of different parts of the shoe the lugs are laid out accordingly for maximum traction in each situation.

You know, sometimes you get a shoe that does well on one type of terrain and not another, for instance, a shoe that can handle really well on jagged or angular rocks but just doesn’t grip as well on smooth, flat rocks. In the case of the Terrex Boost GTX, I have yet to really find a terrain where it doesn’t excel. On smooth rocks it was like having suction cups on my feet and on jagged rocks the outsole stuck just as well, enhancing the overall handling of the shoe. On smoother trail it obviously handled well and even when the material underfoot got a bit more loose, the 5mm deep lugs held very well.

With regard to durability, the Terrex Fast GTX Surround went with me and Baby Gearist up Gray’s Peak and several other, very rocky mountains over this past summer and in that time, there is little to no wear of the outsole of this shoe. In fact, to even see any real wear at all I had to turn on some bright lights and look very closely at the outsole. Having put probably about 50-60 miles on the Terrex Fast GTX Surround, this is beyond impressive and my love affair with Continental continues!

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review | Gearist

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The midsole of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is something that really stands out in this shoe due to a very cool partnership between adidas Outdoor and Gore-Tex. First, the midsole foam has some obvious channels cut into it as you can see in the below image. These channels feed into a sort of network of crosshatched channels which run under the foot – and wouldn’t be visible unless we tore the thing apart. These channels are meant for ventilation in 360° to keep the foot relatively sweat-free and comfortable. “But Brandon!” you might say. “If these have Gore-Tex surrounding the foot, how are they breathable?” Well, adidas worked with Gore-Tex to use a technology where the material under foot is a bit thinner – but no less waterproof – than most other Gore-Tex. In this way the underfoot, midsole channels allow air to flow through the midsole and keep the overall temperature of the foot lower and more ventilated.

This boot came with me on hikes of several hours over this past summer and into the early fall, over terrain that went from wet and slick to rocky and scrambling to loose and covered with scree. In each case, the midsole kept me comfortable and agile – even in cases which you’d think would call a more burly boot. As for temperature regulation and comfort, I was very impressed with my feet never really getting hot and the added bonus of being able to stand in water and feeling the cool liquid pass underfoot was super refreshing.

 

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review | Gearist

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Once again, with the upper of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround, I find myself with a ton of comparison to the Terrex Boost GTX and this is where I want to submit an idea to you guys. This is not necessarily a new idea, but one that can be controversial because of the exclusive categories into which we like to put gear. That idea: the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is a boot, to be sure, but it is also a running shoe. Now, before we get all up in arms, hear me out.

The main body mesh of this shoe is almost (again) identical to the Terrex Boost GTX with its very durable and beefy mesh, which is also surprisingly flexible. Additionally, as with the Terrex Boost GTX, the Terrex Fast GTX Surround sports a welded rand which both protects the sides of the feet to an extent, but it also solidifies construction and cohesion to the midsole. The minimal toe cap does its job without being too constrictive or beefy while relying on structural elements to reinforce its purpose. The rear of the shoe is definitely a departure from the aforementioned shoe in that is has a very built-up heel counter which is further reinforced by heavy welded material and a bit of a plastic cradle coming up from the midsole. Of course, there is the internal Gore-Tex which I mentioned above to keep things dry and

Of course, there is the internal Gore-Tex which I mentioned above to keep things dry and the speedlaces from the Terrex Boost GTX also appear on the Terrex Fast GTX Surround. The thing that creates the most visible and functional distinction between the shoes I’ve been talking about it the collar of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround or, the part extending around the ankle, giving this the appearance of a “boot”. This section of the upper is well-padded and has a comfortable, interior mesh. Rounding out the upper is the tongue, which is gusseted to the top of the foot, right where a normal shoe would end. The tongue itself is made from a combination of synthetic leather and foam-backed mesh.

Now, with all the information in mind, here’s why I think that the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is a solid trail running shoe and it’s actually pretty simple; until you get to the collar which surrounds the ankle, this IS the Terrex Boost GTX (without the BOOST foam in the midsole, of course). In my experience with this shoe, I made sure to include some running after I noticed on my first time out just how similar the fit and feel was to the Terrex Boost GTX. That actually turned into a couple of shorter trail runs in some early-season snow in the high country. Each time, the shoe performed wonderfully although due to some rubbing on my leg of the higher tongue, I would strongly recommend wearing socks that come above the collar.

As far as durability, as with the outsole of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround, I had to basically bust out a microscope (no, not really) to know that this thing had been worn at all. I’d add again that this isn’t something I was simply wearing around to go on coffee runs and the like; this is a shoe which I beat the hell out of and the upper has heald up wonderfully.

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review | Gearist

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Once again, after having tried on the Terrex Fast GTX Surround and the Terrex Boost GTX at the same time, I’ve come to realize just how similar they are and that certainly extends to the fit of both. The fit of the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is rather aggressive and makes for a very agile performance. With that said, there are varying opinions on the fit of this shoe. I happen to think it fits my average foot perfectly, but if there were a wide foot trying to get into it, it may not be so easy. However, in reading some customer reviews online, I’ve found that while some agree with me there are others who feel as though this fits a wider foot just fine. With all that being the case, I’d strongly recommend trying it on first.

As for sizing, these fit me perfectly in my standard men’s size 11 without a problem. I’d also add that while the collar is very supple and moves well with the leg, it’s worth wearing a higher sock to avoid and rubbing.

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review | Gearist

The performance of this shoe, from both a “ride” perspective (a term I’d normally reserve for a running-specific shoe) and with regard to more hiking-based activities is quite impressive but is also one of the places where the Terrex Fast GTX Surround most stands apart from the Terrex Boost GTX. The main reason for this is that the latter has a Boost foam midsole and this one does not.

First, as a hiker, this shoe is excellent. The grip on such a wide variety of terrain is impressive and both the outsole rubber and the design/layout are big wins for me, They clear mud well and are very agile over pretty much anything you can throw at them. This includes some pretty intense scrambling (Class 3+) as well as looser terrain. As for longer hikes, I found them to be quite comfortable, though I would like to see a wee bit more room on the lateral side of the toe box for when feet get tired and swollen.

As a running shoe, the grip and agility are very similar to that of the Terrex Boost GTX. As far as the cushioning goes for running, the channels in the midsole give quite a bit of flexibility to the midsole which is deceptive in just looking at the shoe. I’d venture to say that there may even be a hair more forefoot flexibility in the Terrex Fast GTX Surround than in its running counterpart. It is a bit strange running in what looks and sometimes feels like a boot and I probably wouldn’t do it too much in warmer weather (if it weren’t for the fact that the majority of the testing of this shoe came in warmer months with some high-altitude cold thrown in for good measure). For winter though, I could easily see this being a shoe to come along on those runs that start out quick and end up as snow-covered slogs.

The downside for this as a running shoe/boot is actually kind of an upside for it as a boot and that’s the weight. In my men’s size 11 the Terrex Fast GTX Surround tips the scale at 15.7 ounces (450 grams).Yes, it’s a bit heavy for a trail runner, but not THAT much heavier than some other, beefier trail shoes out there and only ONE ounce more than the Terrex Boost GTX.

Terrex Fast GTX Surround Review | Gearist

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To be honest, I’m really not sure if anyone else will really look at this as anything more than a light and fast hiking boot and in that it certainly excels. The materials and construction of this shoe are very solid and they should last a long time. This is a very good thing especially in light of the price tag which comes in at a rather steep, $225. Again, the materials, construction and overall quality of this boot make that tenable for the right person and with its versatility and ability to actually work as a runner as well, the Terrex Fast GTX Surround is a shoe worth checking out.

Check out the Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Surround at our partner links below!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Video Review

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Video Review

I recently had a conversation with someone from the U.K. who was wearing Inov-8 running shoes. He was under the impression that they hadn’t really made too much inroads into the U.S. market as they had in other parts of the world. However, I assured him, that while they may not have as much volumes as some more widely carried brands, they absolutely have a very dedicated following. With that said, and as odd as it may seem, the shoe I’m taking a look at today will be the first ever Inov-8 product to be reviewed by the Gearist crew. Based out of Crook, County Durham in the U.K. Inov-8 is a company who makes a point of building products that truly keep runners in touch with the ground. Without any further ado, let me introduce you to the Trailroc 285 from Inov-8.

Now we come to the price of the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 which comes in at $150 (PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS BELOW FOR DIFFERENT PRICING). This is a bit steep in my opinion. With that said, I do think this shoe offers a lot but I think that the feel of simplicity in function may leave some people wondering about the validation of the price. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I just think that it’s a shoe that may turn off some with the price and I think that many of that same number may actually love the shoe if they just had the chance – at a lower price point – to try it out.
This is a good shoe and I’ve really enjoyed my first time in a pair of Inov-8 running shoes. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this, and other shoes in the brand’s lineup evolve and get even more visibility in the U.S. market.

Do you run in Inov-8 running shoes? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

When you’re looking for a trail shoe, do you like a lot of material to go with your cushioning or do you prefer a bit less underfoot? Tell us in the comments!

Check out the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 at the links below!*

*when you shop through these links, you get the best price and the retailers show Gearist some love with no cost to you – it’s a win-win!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review

I recently had a conversation with someone from the U.K. who was wearing Inov-8 running shoes. He was under the impression that they hadn’t really made too much inroads into the U.S. market as they had in other parts of the world. However, I assured him, that while they may not have as much volumes as some more widely carried brands, they absolutely have a very dedicated following. With that said, and as odd as it may seem, the shoe I’m taking a look at today will be the first ever Inov-8 product to be reviewed by the Gearist crew. Based out of Crook, County Durham in the U.K. Inov-8 is a company who makes a point of building products that truly keep runners in touch with the ground. Without any further ado, let me introduce you to the Trailroc 285 from Inov-8.

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Before I get into anything else, allow me to take a second to give you the skinny on the naming of Inov-8 shoes. Not just a randomly coded number, the “285” in the Trailroc 285 refers to the average weight of all the shoes in a particular model. My men’s size 11 comes in at 11 ounces (310 grams) even. It can be a tad confusing but keeping the formula in mind is a good way to give you an idea of where the weight fits within the Inov-89 lineup. Fun, huh?

The outsole material of the Trailroc 285 is made using Inov-8’s Tri-C sticky rubber which is a system of three different sticky rubbers combined to add traction and durability to the shoe. In the heel, we find the hardest and most durable rubber. Running up the center of the outsole (which you can see by the color variation) we can see the softest rubber on the outsole for additional traction in a typically low-friction area while on the outer edges of the shoe we find a medium-soft rubber.

The lug layout of the outsole is made using what Inov-8 refers to as a series of 4mm-deep “studs” which are spaced so as to not allow a ton of debris to get caught up in the shoe while providing good traction. The lugs are also meant to be so plentiful (86 of them on my size 11’s) so as to provide a softer landing feel in addition to any midsole material.

With the lugs on the Trailroc 285 and the reputation of Inov-8 being so solid I decided to take the shoe on their maiden voyage in a summit attempt of the 14,255 foot tall Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Now I know that this was not necessarily a “run”, per se but I like to push products outside of their general comfort zone and since the Trailroc 285 is made for rocky, hardpack trail I wanted to see how it could do. On top of that, I’d certainly be putting the out-of-the-box comfort to the test since this hike would take over 5 hours.

First, the traction on the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 is excellent. While on my way up Long’s Peak I played a sort of game with myself to see how far I could make it without using my hands. While this isn’t challenging on the trail part of the climb, once you get to the boulder field it becomes VERY difficult to go without hands since you’re climbing up a 45° pile of boulders. On more traditional trails – and then I was actually running –  I found the traction of these similar to some other shoes which opt for a high number of smaller lugs rather than larger, more abstract. While both can be good, I certainly see a lot of value in smaller, more adaptive arrangements. As for durability, I’ve seen very little wear in the outsole material of the shoe and I could easily see the Trailroc 285 going for 400+ miles for me.

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review | Gearist

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The midsole of the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 is made from the brand’s Powerflow+ material which “delivers 10% better shock absorption and 25% better energy return than standard midsoles” –  I take “standard” to mean traditional EVA foam. Stack heights on the midsole are 21.5mm in the heel and 13.5mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 8mm. Embedded in the midsole is Inov-8’s Dynamic Fascia Band rock plate which, apart from keeping the underside of the foot safe from various pokey things, also flexes with the foot and is meant to give a bit of pop as the foot is on its way off the ground.

If you’ve read my reviews for a while now then you probably know that I’m a fan of lower geometry and more minimal-ish shoes a lot of the time. What’s interesting about the Trailroc 285 is that the shoe’s stack and geometry belie its actual feel and function. First, by looks and by actual stack you’d think that the ride may be a bit too harsh in the way of ground feel but I didn’t notice that at all. In fact, the amount of cushioning relative to the amount of underfoot material is quite impressive. Perhaps it’s the lugs themselves adding some additional cushion or perhaps it’s simply the Powerflow+ material but either way, the ground feel lets you know what’s going on underfoot without being harsh.

On my long hike/scramble up Long’s Peak the midsole held up and delivered some good comfort and while I rarely recommend doing something that long out of the box, these held their own. The rock plate does a good job of protecting the foot without deadening the feel and I think that these are a solid option for those looking for more underfoot protection without a more bulky shoe on their feet.

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review | Gearist

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The main body of the upper of the Trailroc 285 is made from a dual-layer mesh which, internally is not seamless, but what seams are there are very smooth and didn’t aggravate my bare feet on the couple of times I took them out for a quick, sockless jog (which I typically don’t do in trail shoes). The support structure on the upper is a bonded overlay which appears as a rand around the front half of the shoe and then blends into the Met-Cradle+ in the midfoot. The Met-Cradle+ is an additional, beefier mesh which appears to overlay the main mesh and connects the midsole all the way up to the laces by way of bonded overlays. In the rear of the shoe, the heel counter has been taken from the inside to the outside of the shoe in an external structure around the heel. Finally, there is a toe cap at the front of the shoe which is limited to just the toes (as opposed to some which may go over the top of the toes and others which may go as far back as the metatarsal heads) and is made from a semi-flexible rubber.

I’ve beaten the hell out of this shoe in the ~55 miles I’ve put on it and in the time the only evidence of any hardship is a small pick in the fabric on the right, pinky toe area – and even then, I had to look super close to find it. The mesh of the Trailroc 285 has held up very well and is breathable to-boot although in the midfoot where the Met-Cradle+ appears the extra layer of mesh does limit the breathability a bit. The toe cap does a good job when those as clumsy as me may find themselves trying to punt rocks but I would not be opposed to seeing it be a bit larger (which would, of course, add weight) to protect a bit on top of the toes and a bit further back but it’s not a deal-breaker.

The security of the upper has been generally quite good for me though I did have to pause during a few outings to tighten up my laces after things heated up just for the added security of fit. The tongue is gusseted and does a nice job of keeping out debris as does the mesh itself, excepting super-fine dust. As for the external heel counter, it doesn’t feel any different to me if I’mn being honest but I suppose if you have sensitivity in that area of your foot it could be a good change of pace.

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review | Gearist

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This being my first time in a pair of Inov-8 shoes and having seen so much positive reception of them in the past, I was very curious as to whether the fit would live up to what people had said since many of them were European and, as we know, Euro sizing and fit can be a bit different from American standards. Well, in terms of fit, I’m happy to report that the sizing runs true to U.S. sizing. As for fit, the toe box is good but not overly roomy. In the midfoot, the Met-Cradle+ does a nice job of keeping things in place, although this is the spot where I found myself having to snug down the laces after getting warmed up. For me, the heel was probably one of my favorite spots. While, as I mentioned above I didn’t notice much of a difference with the external heel counter, I did find the fit and heel lockdown in that area to be really nice and secure. while the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 doesn’t come in a wide model, I do think that those with slightly wider-than-average feet could find enough play in the laces to accommodate their feet.

If you’ve got wide-ish feet and have experience with this shoe, please let us know in the comments!

 

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review | Gearist

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The Inov-8 Trailroc 285 is one of those shoes which I’d group in with some of my favorites from Topo Athletic. The reason I say this is that there is a sense of simplicity in the ride of this shoe which doesn’t feel like it’s trying to do too much – it just kind of is. I know I’m using some kind of intangible ideas there but I think that something like this which gets out of the way and works with you rather than trying to control the way you move is something well worth trying.

The Trailroc 285 has good ground feel while at the same time giving a good amount of cushioning. I would say that if you’re looking for a larger, more beefy shoe – whether that’s for real or just placebo purposes – this probably isn’t going to be a shoe for you. The amount of comfort over longer miles combined with the very good traction is something that makes this a shoe good for some pretty technical terrain. Is it going to have the same grip in looser terrain as something with deeper lugs? No. However, as a shoe that can handle technical hardpack and more general trails, this shoe excels.

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Review | Gearist

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So now we come to the price of the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 which comes in at $150 (PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS BELOW FOR DIFFERENT PRICING). This is a bit steep in my opinion. With that said, I do think this shoe offers a lot but I think that the feel of simplicity in function may leave some people wondering about the validation of the price. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I just think that it’s a shoe that may turn off some with the price and I think that many of that same number may actually love the shoe if they just had the chance – at a lower price point – to try it out.

This is a good shoe and I’ve really enjoyed my first time in a pair of Inov-8 running shoes. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this, and other shoes in the brand’s lineup evolve and get even more visibility in the U.S. market.

Do you run in Inov-8 running shoes? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

 

Check out the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 at our partner links below!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review

There is gear that is designed on a drafting table or a computer by a designer or engineer. Sometimes the results are great but there is still no substitute for bringing together the minds and experience of the actual athletes who know exactly what they want to see. Today, I’m taking a look at a hydration vest designed for racing by the super-fast trail runner Stephanie Howe and designed in concert with the folks at Nathan Sports. This is the VaporHowe.
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Soft. I’m sure I’ll be using this word a lot throughout this review. The VaporHowe is built using a very soft fabric – which is perforated in spots – rather than a more traditional mesh. Whereas many if not most hydration packs go-to material is ripstop, I found this to be just as durable. To be fair, this never got torn, so I’m not sure how it would perform with regard to arresting a tear once it starts like ripstop would. It has proven to be quite durable in many situations and conditions (mud sliding and briars, etc).

The vest is made using 2 main fabrics. Everything against the skin feels a bit thicker with a feel that seems like it would shed water ostensibly to cut down on sweat and moisture absorption. The external or outward facing fabric is a bit thinner yet has the same very soft feel. It actually resembles the softness and malleability of a tech shirt. All of the fabric has areas of perforation for better ventilation.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist

Looking at the front of the VaporHowe, there are two sternum straps which are both vertically and horizontally adjustable. The top right strap is fitted with a magnetic contact point for hose attachment and also includes a removable magnet for your hose. (The VaporHowe does not come with a bladder – more on that later) There are two additional adjustment straps at the love handle area which are hidden in a pocket area so the straps are not flapping around.

Storage on the front is plentiful. There are so many pockets. The right shoulder strap has three. The top is a small narrow stuff pocket that could hold, for example, a lip balm. The middle is the pocket that holds one of the included 12oz ExoShot soft flasks. The bottom is again a small stuff pocket but is topped with a hook & loop closure. The elastic strap at the top (above the top small pocket) is meant to keep the extended bottle straw under control.

The left shoulder also has three pockets. The top is a zippered pocket not quite large enough for a phone) but great for securing keys, I.D. or a credit card/cash and has an additional smaller pocket within for things like salt pills. There is an emergency whistle inside as well. Again, the middle pocket is for the soft flask and the third is identical to the right side stuff pocket.

Moving around to the back of the back of the VaproHowe, the upper half has a hook & loop closed pocket which measures ~8” x ~6” perfect for things like a phone or whatever else you can shove in there. Below this is a fairly large and stretchy pass through pocket that is accessible from each side. This open pocket goes across the lower back and is a good place to shove a jacket or other items that you would like easy access to, without having to remove the vest to get to them. Each of these pockets is easy to reach.

The bladder pocket is large enough to fit a 1.5 liter bladder. There is a hook & loop hanger strap at the top and hose routing options on each shoulder depending on your preference. Though a bladder is not included with the VaporHowe they do provide two ExoShot soft flasks. These flasks hold 12 oz and have straws attached that allow you to drink from them without removing them from their pockets. They also have a plastic spine so that they are easy to get back into place after refilling them and hold their shape as they are emptied.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
I typically wear a size Small of Extra Small in tops and went with a size small in the VaporHowe hydration vest. I decided to go with the larger size because I would rather have it be too large than too small. I found the fit to be spot on and with all of the adjustment straps I was able to get a good snug fit even with the pack empty.
Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
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The feature that really stood out in my mind during the testing of the VaporHowe was its comfort. There are many straps for adjusting the vest to get a great fit which eliminates bouncing and chafing from rubbing, even when loaded down with gear. The fabric is incredibly soft, and with all of the perforations, very breathable as well. It is quite light weighing 6.4 oz/ 181 g (without Soft Flasks); 10.4 oz/ 295 g (with Soft Flasks).

Storage and accessibility is another important feature of this vest. There are numerous pockets on the front, sides, and back of this vest and all of them are accessible while wearing. Being able to reach things easily is, of course, a huge plus when racing.

HYDRATION SITUATION:

I would love to address the VaporHowe’s hydration at this point. As I mentioned above the vest does come with two 12 oz  ExoShot flasks that have a straw in the lid. This is such a great idea that makes drinking from the flask easier, however, the threading on the neck is tough to line up just right and requires some patience to get it on correctly, otherwise, there is leakage. I have heard from others that unfortunately had the same issue. It is for this reason that I do not use the ExoShot flask with the VaporHowe during races. It would be a huge hassle at the aid stations. Another flask (hard or soft) will fit just fine. I do, however, use this vest (sometimes with the ExoShot) on many of my training runs. It has the capacity to comfortably carry the 1.5 liter bladder as well as the two 12 oz flasks. This capability has gotten me through some longer unsupported runs.

DURABILITY:

The longer I use this vest, the more impressed I am with its durability. When I first started wearing this VaporHowe, I thought I had to be careful with it and use it on gentle runs in nice weather (because of the incredibly soft fabric). Over the months, through different seasons and so many training miles, I have really put it through the ringer. It has been filled with gear, stretched to the max, rained/snowed on, taken through briars and down mudslides of the Barkley Fall Classic and still looks and performs the same as it did on day one. I have washed it in the machine, the sink and hosed it off multiple times. It still looks fine including the orange color and all of the reflective accents. This pack is durable.

Nathan Sports VaporHowe 4L Race Vest Review | Gearist
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I have to say that I had my doubts about this vest at first. I was not sure how something with open pockets that was very soft and seemed so fragile could be a worthy partner on my crazy adventure runs. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, but I have to say it’s now the pack I use on most of my runs.

Yes, this pack is pricey at ~$150 (PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS BELOW FOR MUCH BETTER PRICING!!  |. LINK) but I’d say it is worth it. When we are paying upwards of $120 now for a good pair of running shoes, why would you expect to pay less for a piece of essential equipment that will last just as many, if not more miles? With that being said, I do think at that price, a bladder should be included.

The VaporHowe is a very durable, capable and comfortable pack that fits like a piece of clothing. You can go for miles upon miles in this vest and it will last probably longer than some shoes would. I have worn it for hundreds of miles and it has held up like a champ. On a side note, I do love the orange color and have nicknamed it my life vest…it has saved me many times.

Check out the VaporHowe 4L Race Vest at our partner links below!

(and when you buy stuff, the places where you buy it show us some love!)

WAA Ultra Equipment Ultra Carrier Shirt Review

WAA Ultra Equipment Ultra Carrier Shirt Review

A shirt that functions like a bag sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what WAA has created. “What An Adventure” is an ultra-equipment brand from Paris. We recently reviewed WAA’s most simple running pack, the Ultra Bag Pro 3L, which is the complimentary gear to the Ultra Carrier Shirt. Head on over here to find out what we had to say about the pack. The Ultra Carrier shirt comes in both short and long sleeved and we tested the short sleeved option. It’s named for the many pockets to carry nutrition and small pieces of gear.

The Ultra Carrier short sleeve shirt is like having a small running pack and absorptive shirt in one. It sells for 85 Euro (about $95). At first look, this seems like a lot to pay for a shirt, but given how many bells and whistles it has, this is a pretty fair price. I know that my gear requirements change from a 5K to a Marathon and this shirt is a one-stop shop for almost every distance.

Do you have a piece of gear you’ve picked up while overseas that you love but can’t find in your home country? Tell us in the comments!

Check out the WAA Ultra Carrier Shirt at the link below!

 

Tanya Slosberg

Born in Colorado, Tanya was raised in both the US and Switzerland. She’s a biologist who loves playing in the water and up in the mountains. Tanya now lives with her husband, Ben, and dog, Angel, in Lucerne, Switzerland.

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