Thursday, January 15, 2015

Super cold? Get Super pants! Sporthill Super XC Pants Review

Brr!  I don't know about where you are, but we have some pretty darn cold days up here in the mountains of Colorado.  And, no.. it's not a big surprise, and after a lot of cold running last winter, I've been working towards finding ways to be better prepared to run in the cold, especially since I'm trying to work in longer runs!

To that end, I've been working up reviews on a lot of winter running gear... enough to fill up a weeks worth of "Winter Warrior" reviews... so stay tuned for that!

But before I put that together, I wanted to put up a quick review on some amazing running pants (or slogging, walking etc) from Sporthill!  And uh.. no, that's not me in the pic ;-)

I had not heard of the Sporthill brand, but I was happy to have a chance to give these a go.  Last winter when it got cold, I primarily wore running tights of various thicknesses and some worked good.. some not so much.  So, I was interested to see what made the Sporthill Super XC pant any different than other stuff I had run in.

It's probably easiest for me to share the specs directly from the Sporthill website and then do my best to explain some of it!

  • Windshield™ (100%Polyester back with 100% polyester knit)
  • SwiftDry™SwiftPro™(92%Polyester/8%Spandex)
  • Flat front contoured elastic waistband with drawstring
  • Back zippered pocket below waistband
  • 9-inch zippers at ankles with hem gusset
  • Double articulated knee overlap with stretch panel overlay
  • Embroidered SportHill logo and other accents

Ok... So what's kind of cool (or warm I guess), is the usage of different fabric blends and design in different parts of the pants. 

Forgive me for the weird colored photo, but what I am showing is the pant turned inside out, and along the inseam.  The right hand side is the front panel of the pants, and is the water-repellent "Windshield" fabric that blocks out up to 40mph wind!  The fuzzier back panel is the SwiftDry Swift Pro fabric that allows moisture to wick away, while still providing 25mph wind protection. 

Also, the pants sport an articulated design over the knee, with an upper and lower panel that allow for some nice mobility, and less of that pinching feel over your knee. 

The bottoms have a zipper that is gusseted, so that you can unzip if you needed to pull on over boots etc, without leaving an opening...  great feature. 

Finally, the pants have one pocket, on the right rear hip.  While it is a decent sized pocket (phone or wallet would fit), especially compared to those "key" pockets,  I sure wish these pants had front pockets!  Ok, I realize as a plodding ultra trail runner, pockets are probably more important to me. I love to have a place for trash, extra gels, signal flares, tent/stove etc etc..  but I'm probably in the minority.   Anyway....

The net of all these great features is...   these pants just plain work!  I've run a few times in the low-teens, with a decent wind, and the Super XC's are by far the warmest pants I've run in.  I really noticed the wind blocking effect because I could certainly feel the difference in impact on my upper body, versus my legs.  Now of course, if you find something of outstanding quality and performance, they don't come cheap.    The Super XC's retail for $129.95 on the Sporthill site, but I've also found a few deals online ranging from $90-$100.    While still a bit high, I look at it as one of those investments, like in a good ski jacket etc.  These seem to be built for long term use, and they perform very well.  I think money well spent...    

Ok.. thanks for tuning in, and stay tuned for a big week of winter gear reviews once I log more snowy icy miles!

As always, feel free to leave comments/questions/snarks below, or on the Barefoot Inclined Facebook page.. thanks!

Happy trails!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Sporthill XC Pants for free from Sporthill as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Retailer Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy and Healthy 2015!!

Hard to believe another year has already gone by!  I kicked off 2014 with a bang, and am looking to do so again for 2015!   With a full year of blogging since that post, I can't tell you how much fun it has been. I've really enjoyed reviewing and sharing running gear that I really like, and also doing what I can to share healthy eating related topics and recipes.

And, I have really appreciated all of you that have been following my blog for the past year, following on Twitter, and liking the Barefoot Inclined Facebook page. Which is why I am so excited to host the ultimate giveaway to get 2015 off to a great start, showcasing my favorite gear and vendors from 2014!

But, before I jump to the giveaways, I just wanted to give a little recap of the year.  I had a number of goals for the year, but first and foremost was to continue my journey to better health through clean eating, and also to make the leap into ultra running.  Over the year, I've maintained my weight, and continue to eat clean.  I've lost more pounds than I care to think about over the course of my life, but it has always come back. This is by far the longest I've maintained, and that feels great.  How did it happen? Simply by no longer dieting.  Dieting implies a short term plan, whereas a change in lifestyle is forever.  I know I have a ways to go, but focusing on whole, organic, non-processed foods as much as possible has made this change possible. My goal for 2015?  I am hoping to move forward another step by slowly working my way down another 20 lbs or so... I know I will certainly feel that in my quest for longer distance running.

First Ultra! Greenland Trail 50K, May 2014
Back in 2011 I never dreamed I would develop a healthy obsession for running, but somehow that has happened and in 2014, my goal of becoming an ultra runner was reached. I ran my first 50K at the Greenland Trail in May, followed by another 50K in September at the Tommyknocker's Ultras here in Woodland Park.

3 weeks after my 2nd 50K, I took the plunge and ran my first 50-miler at the Bear Chase Trail Race...   Wow...  that was one of the toughest things I have ever done... especially in the near 90 degree weather...   but 14 hours of physical and mental battles paid off with a finish and and great sense of satisfaction.  So what's up for 2015?  Longer of course!  Besides a number of 50K's, I have my mind set on completing a long 100K (67 miles) at the Tommyknockers Ultras (HPRS) in September, and then seriously look for my first 100 miler!

Oh... and how could I forget! In 2014 I had the great fortune to continue on as an Ambassador for INKnBURN!  I love this company, their products, and all of the people involved, including owners Megan and Rob. AND.. I am also proud to have been selected as an Ambassador for Fuel 100 Electro-Bites, Orange Mud, and the Human Potential Running Series! I can't tell you how great it is to be involved with these companies, the amazing products/races they have, and the incredible fellow ambassadors I've got to know...   I am very lucky indeed :-)

SO.... Let's get this New Year started with a bang!  The following is a summary/highlight of some terrific gear and stuff I reviewed last year, along with some amazing swag provided by these vendors. I've had the privilege of working with some terrific people from equally great companies and I want to take a minute to thank them as well! 

In the following sections, you can click on the links for the products mentioned to see the full review I did earlier this year. In each section below, you are welcome to enter for any/all of the gear/products noted. The contests will run from January 5th, 2015 until 10PM MST on Monday, January 12th. A winner for each prize will be selected randomly from the entries received.  Contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada (unless otherwise noted) 

Here we go... and good luck!

In order to participate in each of the individual giveaways, please complete this easy step first! (Mandatory to participate in additional giveaways below).   Also note that each contest entry includes an entry by leaving a blog comment... if you want to combine your comments into one entry, that works!  then just check the "I commented" box for each individual entry.  Also, besides just visiting each Facebook page, if you could "like" them as well, that would be awesome (but not required). Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OK!  First out of the chute, I wanted to showcase INKnBURN.  They were the first company I became an ambassador for in 2013, and I love their tech shirts! Basically they are all I wear, and they all still look new...  high quality construction, super comfortable, and the best designs! Rob and Megan are so great to work with, and I love that everything is made in So Cal!  And, they are about to release a whole new series of designs for 2015, so make sure to follow them on Facebook!  And, if you are a new customer, create a free account on their site, and use the code "jefftoldme" to get 15% off your first order and a $10 credit to future orders!

Enter below to win a tech shirt from last years design collection (will no longer be available, so this would be great to grab!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Next up, Fuel-100 and Electro-Bites..     I did my first review on Electro-Bites almost exactly one year ago... check out the full review HERE.   Needless to say, I was sold..  I love fueling with Electro-Bites for the clean ingredients, and a welcome break from sweet, sticky, messy gels..   If you are looking for a way to add variety to your long-run fueling.. check them out..   And use code "jefftoldme" to get 20% off your order.

And, be sure to enter below for a baker's dozen variety mix of Electro-Bites!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

use code "barefootinclined" for 10% off

Orange Mud!!  Need I say more?  If you aren't familiar, Orange Mud has rewritten the book on trail running hydration and gear. This last year I've reviewed the Hydraquiver Single Barrel, Double Barrel, and the Vest Pack 2 (VP2).   These packs helped me through my ultra training, and all of my ultra races this year..   I can't say enough about how much I love these packs, and that is why I applied to be an Am-badass-ador! I am currently working up a review on their insulated bottles, new handheld, and accessory pack for the Double/VP2, so stay tuned!

To help "wrap" up 2014, Josh and the fine folks at Orange Mud are giving away "The Wrap"..  A transition towel/seat wrap to help you keep all that trail mud and grime to yourself!  Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And finally, one of the coolest things to happen to me last year was discovering the Human Potential Running Series..   Race Director "Sherpa" John Lacroix has been working extremely hard to develop a true grass roots ultra running community in Colorado and I can't wait to see what 2015 brings.  You can read up on what HPRS is all about in my post HERE.   I am really proud to have been selected as an ambassador to help spread the word and to get more people involved!  This year I'll be running the South Park Marathon, TommyKnockers 100K (my first), and the Indian Creek Fifties..  Check out all of these races, along with the FREE Fat Ass series this winter by clicking HERE. 

Now.. this is really awesome... Sherpa John is offering a FREE entry to ALL 5 races in 2015! This includes the South Park Trail Marathon & Half, Sheep Mountain 50 miler, Silver Heels 100 mile, Tommyknockers Ultras (50K and 100K), and the Indian Creek Fifties (50K and 50 mi). I will give these out to 5 individual winners. These entries are valued from $85 to $275 depending on the race..   want to run your first ultra?? Enter to run free, and I'll be there to cheer you on!  Please note which race/races you would like to be entered for.  I will randomly select winners for each available race from these entries..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you have been reading BI for awhile, you know how much I love running in huaraches, and one of my favorite companies has been Earth Runners... I started working with Michael Dally and Earth Runners since October 2012 when the first Kickstarter project was launched.  Since that time I've been fortunate to have tested/reviewed a variety of models and to provide feedback into new designs.  I love that about working with smaller companies here in the US.


 I am currently working on a review of one of the the latest models, the Circadian-X.  The review is not done yet, but I'll spoil it now by saying I LOVE these sandals.....   and I'm excited to be able to give a pair of these to one of you, so enter below and follow Earth Runners to see what is up for 2015!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Switch Sunglasses is another great company that I have been working with for a while now.  I reviewed the H-Wall trail running glasses (interchangeable lenses) back in October 2012, and they are still my go-to trail runners... check out the full review HERE. 

Then, this past August, I had the opportunity to test out the Stormriders with the activity/climate guards... they are amazing, and you can see the full review HERE,   And thanks to Switch, I am stoked to give away any pair of Switch Sunglasses of your choice!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And last, but certainly not least....  Carson Footwear!    I am really excited for the official launch of this 100% Made in the USA company that makes amazing minimalist trail runners!

I just completed a review of the Iguana Racer 10/10, and you can read about them HERE.  I love these shoes, and I am really excited to see where 2015 takes Carson Footwear...   happy to be a part of their launch and future development!   So, if you can't wait for the 1/15/15 launch, then enter below to win a pair of Iguana's before anyone else has them!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So.. here's to a Happy and Healthy 2015 to you and yours!  Thanks again for being part of my journey and following Barefoot Inclined!  It's been a blast this last year, and I look forward to an even better 2015!

Happy trails!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Look out Nike and Adidas! Carson Footwear Iguana Racer 10/10 Review

8/24/2015 Update!!:  I am now a Carson Footwear ambassador, and couldn't be happier... these shoes are incredible, and more styles are available! If you have question about Carson Footwear, email or message me!

Ok... one more shoe review before I kick off 2015 with the "Happy and Healthy 2015" post!  Hard to believe the year is already gone.  Anyway, today I'm excited to review a new shoe company in Milwaukie, OR...   yes, the land of Nike and Adidas..

Carson Footwear Iguana Racer 10/10
If you've been following, you know that I love start-up shoe/sandal companies.. especially those with a focus on "Made in the USA", like Carson Footwear is.  So I was honored to be able to beta test the Iguana Racers this fall/winter.

So what makes Carson unique? Well.. besides the rad iguana print?   First of all, I have to say that they are hands down some of the most comfortable shoes I've put on my feet! Much like the Run Amoc Dash-lites from Softstar.. these shoes feel like putting on your favorite slippers for the evening...   soft, supportive (but not overly structured), with just the right fit.

Ok... before I get into the details, here are the specs on the 10/10:

  • 10mm stack height, and a true zero drop (see below)
  • 9.6 oz (at time of testing for a size 10)
  • Polyurethane (PU) sole (versus typical EVA)
  • 100% USA made and 99% raw materials from the USA

So.. the stack height is really nice..  not as thick as many shoes I have, but also not ultra thin.  Carson Footwear as arrived at that sweet spot for stack height found in many trail running sandals (i.e. Earthrunners, Luna, etc..).  Carson Footwear notes that the Iguana Racer 10/10 was "built for trail runners who have discovered the benefits of barefoot running but want just a bit more than a sandal".

From that perspective, they are right on. The true zero drop and stack height gives these trail runners the feel of a responsive sandal, but with a super comfortable upper for added protection.  The PU sole is really cool as well. As you can see above, they are very flexible, and what is great is that they twist just as easily as they bend.  This makes for a responsive shoe with a level of proprioception that belies its stack height. 

The tread pattern is not super aggressive, but it performs well.  I think that the combination of the flexibility in the sole, as well as the slight "tacky" feel of the PU, they combine to provide some good traction when needed, without picking up a lot of build up.  My only suggestion in this area would be the possible addition of a thin (1 mm nylon) rock plate, much like what is in the Merrell Trail Glove 2, or the VFF Spyridon.   That is not to say that the protection on the Iguana's isn't good...  the 10 mm stack height does well to minimize a lot of the trail sting, but like most minimalist shoes, you have to pay attention to foot placement.  I think a rock plate would come in handy for those missteps.. especially in ultra distance runs when form falls apart :-)  

As I noted earlier, the upper is really soft, and comfortable, and so far proving to be pretty durable as well.  I like the wide tongue and the way they feel when lacing up as well.  What is interesting is that although these come in at 9.6 oz, they feel lighter on my feet when running, compared to shoes that weigh an ounce or more less. I think much has to do with the weight distribution in the design, and the overall feel.   Again, when you are 30 lbs over weight, what's an ounce here or there?  These make me feel light and airy!  :-)   Actually, owner Everett Carson said it best in an email to me today..  " I just love the way they get out of the way...and the run becomes about the run not the SHOE!!" Well said! 

As for durability, we will see how they hold up (I have 60 trail miles on them and they still look new), but Everett Carson is working towards 1,000 miles on his test pair by February..   I think the PU sole and quality construction will make these very long wear trail runners.

Besides trail running, I also put the 10/10's to the test running an aid station at the Human Potential Running Series Indian Creek Fifties race this last fall.  Running an aid station?  How hard is that?  Well, in this case I ended up logging over 11 miles, including hand trucking in all the gear (with a lot of help of course), and 40 gallons of water up some steep climbs...  so yeah, I put a lot of strain on these shoes, and they performed well! 

Finally today, I put them through one more run.. this time a 5 miler in a lot of fresh snow we got yesterday...   traction was decent, and the shoe remained flexible, even when cold.  Finally, the shoe itself was surprisingly warm, considering the breath-ability of the upper...  had no issues at all.  It was around 20, so I'm guessing I'll feel it when it gets to single digits, but we shall see.

Ok... so how do you get your hands on some Iguana Racer 10/10's?  Well this guy, Everett Carson (an avid trail runner of course, all around good guy, and founder of Carson Footwear), is going to launch the Carson Footwear website on 1/15/15 and start taking orders... better yet, whole sizes will be available for $60 a pair (retail will be $100), so this is a great time to grab some!

ALSO... I will be putting up my Happy and Healthy 2015 in the next day or so, which will feature a lot of great companies I've worked with in 2014, and you'll be able to enter to win a pair of Iguana Racer 10/10's as well!   So stay tuned!

As always, if you have any questions/comments, or if I forgot to mention anything, leave them below, or on the Barefoot Inclined Facebook page..    Thanks!

Happy trails!