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Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 Review

Everything you thought you knew about Mizuno will be shattered with the newest edition of the Enigma. The Enigma 5 feels and fits different. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you, I guess.

The out-of-the-box fit is snug and the feel very plush. Working at a specialty running store, I make it a point to surprise veteran Mizuno wearers with the feel and have them try on a pair of the new Enigmas.

I’ve run 50 miles in my pair and have a mixed review of the shoe. I love the cushioned ride and the fit of the heel, but not the snug fit of the forefoot. The softer layer of foam below the heel and forefoot gives the shoe a very cushioned feel. While I love the firmer/faster feel of previous Mizunos (hello Sayonara!), I also love my feet to be caressed and cushioned on the run. This shoe does that. I’d say the shoe is not very responsive and the actual feel of the surface is numbed. Not a bad thing for me as far as how I prefer my long mileage shoes to be. While there is a hint of a bounce on hard surfaces, I would think this would not be felt by most runners. On soft surfaces (I’ve used them on horse trails) the shoe is very squishy.

Parts of the fit of the shoe I like. I like the snugness and firmness of the heel counter (the part of the shoe directly behind your lower ankles and upper heel) and heel cuff (the part that surrounds your ankle and cinches tight as you pull on the laces to tie them). I have a slim heel and skinny ankles and I always appreciate shoes that can secure them. The part of the fit I don’t like is material on both sides of the forefoot Mizuno added to secure the forefoot. While this may be viewed as an improvement in fit for others, it’s a poor fit for me because I like a wider toe box where my toes are free to move and react. The feel in the new Enigma is cramped with some pinching on the pinky toes on the toe-off. I even feel a pinch above the 3-5 metatarsal that seems to go away after a mile or so. The wraparound the foot is very cushioned as well. You’re foot is surrounded by plushness.

While this wouldn’t be a “do everything” shoe for me, it works well in my current shoe rotation along with the New Balance Zante and Wave Sayonara. The Enigma is currently my long mileage (10+ miles) shoe. I’ve run all sorts of paces in them: from fast strides to tempo pace to slow slogs. They felt sloppy and flopped at the faster paces, but felt right at home at my long run pace (8:00+/mile).

The specs are interesting in that the heel cushions are super high (at least for non Hoka wearers – listed at 32mm) and the forefoot cushion is higher than most shoes (20mm) – 12mm offset, the ride doesn’t feel awkward or too sloppy. While I wouldn’t say it’s the smoothest riding premium cushioned shoe I’ve worn (I’ve worn the Glycerine and Triumph ISO), it’s tolerable.

Go ahead and try on a pair at your nearest local running store (support small businesses!) and maybe you’ll love the new feel of the new generation of Mizuno.

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Hydration Bottle Reviews

I bought these bottles and was not compensated in any way by the manufacturers.

10419406_835520959799507_1758108178761869361_nUltimate Direction Fastdraw 2010665919_835520936466176_282894039378198914_n oz.
The best thing about this bottle is it doesn’t leak. Even when you leave the bite valve in the “up” position, not a drip! Two other good thing are the larger zipper pocket that can hold more items from the previous holster (phone, gels, keys…I’ve stuffed it full!) and the thin, chafe-free hand strap. Unfortunately two glaring deficiencies about the bottle and holster need to be addressed.

First, the pull-strap is very thin and twists easily when adjusting on-the-go. With this holster you’ll find yourself having to constantly adjust because the strap doesn’t hold in place and constantly loses tension. The loose strap is very annoying and I found myself having to grip the bottle tighter than I would have liked to (which lead to hand/grip fatigue during my 50k race).

Second, the bottle itself is very firm and hard to squeeze when you need to have a strong flow of liquid. Personally, I had a hard time squeezing out a consistent flow as I bit on the valve, even harder during my early morning runs in the cold when my hand is numb from the cold.

Recommendations:
A wider and calloused pull-strap may help with keeping the holster snug to the hand. Softening the plastic a bit to allow a better squeeze.

10629623_835521703132766_2209032509370364899_nSimple Hydration Bottle – 13 oz.
This is an innovative approach to carrying liquids. Simple deserves credit in trying to design a bottle that is easy to carry in the hand and also stuff in your shorts. I think they saw pictures of ultra-runners stuffing bottles into their tights and were inspired to make something for the masses that would like to have a hands free experience without the need for belts or packs.

After using the bottle on four runs ranging from 4 miles to 14, I found the bottle to be more of a nuisance than a relief. Three things stand out the most.

First off, the bottle cap is hard to pull up. I found myself having to bite down hard and jerk the cap up to start the flow of water. It also doesn’t go back down very easily. In fact, when you push down on the cap you’ll find it doesn’t go back down completely. When I squeeze the bottle while the cap is down a small drip starts. Not what you’d want if you were holding the bottle during a run. (The bottle is a softer plastic and easy to squeeze, which is good for a consistent flow of water.)

Second, the bottle lid doesn’t form a tight seal. When the water sloshes around the bottle, a consistent drip appears. Only when the water level is half full does the leak slow. Very annoying for me during my long run because I can feel the water soak my shorts early on the run.

Third, the bottle will weigh down your shorts! I first wore the bottle with my regular run shorts. While the bottle did fit comfortably on my back, I noticed the weight of the bottle start pulling my shorts down. After running half a block I had to pull the bottle up from my shorts and hold it in my hand because my shorts were well on their way to being around my ankles. The hook on the bottle that is supposed to hang on the shorts slipped from the waistline and the bottle went down my shorts. Only when I wore my running short tights did the bottle manage to relatively stay in place (as it continued to leak). As I ran downhill, the bottle moved around a lot and I found myself having to reach back and realign the bottle vertically while sliding it back to a comfortable position around my waist.

Recommendations:
Smaller bottle size (maybe 10 oz.?) will lessen the tendency for the bottle to weigh down shorts. Lengthening the “hook” while narrowing the gap may help with keeping the bottle on the shorts. Rubber bite valve similar to the Ultimate Direction bottle or adding a rubber gasket to the plastic cap while loosening it may help with the leaking. Softer plastic lid may help fill in gaps around the contours of the bottle where the lid screws onto.


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Nii Bar Product Review

IMG_2089This is an unsolicited product review. I did not receive this product directly from the manufacturer or any PR firm. In fact, I snagged these from the volunteer goodie bags at the race.

I managed to get a few bars that were provided as samples at the Hansen Dam Triathlon: Berry Cashew, Peanut Butter, Cherry Coconut, and Almond Chocolate Chip. I had mixed reviews among the four I tasted, preferring the Berry Cashew and Cherry Coconut. Listed below are my remarks regarding the flavor and digestibility of each flavor:

IMG_2072Berry Cashew – The bar has a distinct cashew and walnut taste. (Note that walnuts are used in all of their bars, but for some reason is most evident in this flavor pairing.) The berry flavor is subtle and is masked by the stronger nut flavor (cashew butter and walnuts), which I actually like. The package I ate was stored inside a backpack I normally use during my bike commutes to and from work. The bar itself was very limp and oily from the heat that had built up inside the bag, which made it undesirable to look at, but tasted good. It had been squished by some of the stuff I keep inside the bag, so it didn’t hold its shape well and made for a challenge in handling it while on the move. I liked this flavor best because of its distinct nuttiness and mild berry flavor.

Cherry Coconut – This is my second favorite. I love coconuts and cherries, so this all made sense to me. There’s a definite coconut flavor which is derived from coconut nectar (whatever that is) and shredded coconuts in the bar. There are little bits and pieces of dried cherries with every bite, which gives just enough tartness to counter the sweetness from the dates and what I’m guessing to be the coconut nectar. This bar, along with the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate chip was stored in a refrigerator (I learned after my first experience to do this to avoid an oily and misshapen bar). Take note new food developers: Cherries and Coconut IN EVERYTHING!

Peanut Butter – By far the most intriguing bar of the bunch and not in a good way. It says peanut butter on the package, but taste more like unsweetened raw coffee. I’m not a coffee fan, so this could be a reason I didn’t enjoy this bar at all. There is no peanut butter flavor whatsoever and the bar tasted bitter, which made it hard to swallow. Only with some water was I able to finish the entire thing. The sprouted quinoa and walnuts (found in every flavor bar) made for a good contrast of texture, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about this particular bar.

Almond Chocolate Chip – Again, not the kind of flavor profile you would expect from a bar called Almond Chocolate Chip. Neither the almond (or any kind of nut flavor) and chocolate flavor can be picked up. Even the chocolate chips weren’t visible and not detectable during the chew. There are definitely chunks of nuts in the bar, but it’s hard to pick up whether they are almonds or walnuts. They taste more like raw peanuts to me. On the back-end of the flavor profile is a bitterness. The bitterness of dark chocolate bars I’ve tasted is usually up front which smooths out to a sweetness. The opposite is true for this flavor. I wasn’t able to finish this bar since I took a while to go through the first half that the heat made it oily and became unpalatable.

Overall Impressions
All bars are either 220 or 240 calories and 7-9 grams of protein. Total carbs. ranges from 20-23g with saturated fat from 11-14g. There is a low sodium profile, the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate Chip actually have no sodium. So, these bars definitely make good in-between-meals snacks and not snacks during a long run.

I’d stick to the two fruit flavored bars and leave your chocolate and peanut butter cravings to other bars that use peanut butter and more conventional forms of chocolate ingredients. The bars are oily because of the oil in the organic butter that are used. While providing some flavor and binding properties, the oils break down with some heat and the bars become limp and oily.

While I enjoyed the two fruit flavored bars, I personally would wait until a lower price point to purchase the bars. I understand the cost of producing new food items isn’t just about the cost of quality ingredients, but also in other overhead and variable costs associated with not only the bar, but with getting the product to market. Start-ups specially have higher costs of entry in the competitive organic whole food nutrition market with added higher expenses for marketing and PR. In the end a great tasting product will always lead me to choose one over another.

This is a commendable attempt at using new organic ingredients for people looking for an alternative to more established brands. I believe there is a growing niche market among endurance athletes looking for something that not only aligns with their athletic lifestyles, but with their environmental and social beliefs also. Kudos to Nii for recognizing that and attempting to fill that void.

Get their story and visit them at www.niibar.com.