If winter’s thaw isn’t here yet, it’s certainly right around the bend. So what better way to anticipate the arrival of spring than with running's latest, most intriguing gear? We scoured the aisles of The Running Event—the annual Texas trade show dedicated to unveiling the sport’s newest stuff—and compiled our wish list. We think these picks will match your wants and needs as you run into the warmer months.
When two companies that both make iconic products pair up, the result is usually pretty good.
Portland-based Beckel Canvas Products—which has been making canvas-wall tents and bags since 1964—and footwear manufacturer Danner recently announced their collaboration on the Danner Light Beckel boot. Based on Danner’s classic Danner Light, each boot is handcrafted with premium full-grain leather and Beckel’s durable, water-resistant duck canvas quarter panels.
This boot is lighter than the traditional Danner Light, and it features a grippy Vibram Gumlite sole and a highly breathable Dri-Lex liner that won’t trap sweat. The EE last is stable and supportive, and ideal for hikers with wide feet.
The boot is available in four styles—three for men and one for women. While the women’s boots won’t be available until May, you can buy the men’s products now. The shoes are all made in Portland, Oregon.
Most outdoor apparel comes with few written instructions—usually nothing more than an attached tag. But a new line from Mountain Athletics by The North Face goes beyond the clothes, offering an extensive web training program with video guides and a mobile app. Plus, you can tap into the training even if you haven’t purchased any of the gear.
The training materials are designed to make sure you get the most out of the new Kilowatt collection, which includes a jacket, shoes, shorts, and shirts. The $50 Ampere Hoodie features a new, layered ventilation system, while many of the products use FlashDry technology with its microporous additive to remove moisture. The $120 Ultra Kilowatt shoes are designed for rugged mountain trails and weigh about half a pound.
The web training is designed to get you in shape for a host of activities, including skiing, climbing, and running. You might start out with a few quick push-ups, then work up to a short run. The Train Smarter videos—essentially demonstrations with fitness tips—follow a real athlete pushing to meet goals. And this summer, you’ll be able to use an iPhone app to record results and track your fitness.
Most of the training material comes from a partnership with the Wyoming-based Mountain Athlete gym that serves as a home base for TNF athletes. There’s even a Mountain Athletics outdoor tour with hands-on demos set to roll through eight cities including Denver and San Francisco.
Integrating a training plan with an apparel line is a good step forward—it means you'll be buying more than just a trendy jacket and shorts. There’s also an element of accountability because you can print out the guides and record your progress. The complete package is shaping up to be a pretty great training ally, and we’re excited to put it to the test.
The entire clothing line, web series, and several videos are available now.
Do you remember the last time you pitched a canvas tent, lit a gas lantern, or strapped on a beavertail snowshoe? Neither do I. Outdoor gear has changed a lot in the past 30 years—we now have tents made with aircraft-grade aluminum poles, high-tech LED headlamps, and carbon snowshoes. And all these items in our gear shed are poised to keep evolving over the next three decades.
Take smartphones, which are rendering basic point-and-shoots obsolete, and new synthetic insulation materials, which are competing with traditional down. Products that were once prevalent are going extinct, getting replaced by newer and (we hope) better designs.
Here’s our list of seven endangered species of gear. We predict they might disappear from shelves in the next few decades. But fear not: some pretty great innovations are starting to fill any voids.
You have nothing to whine about when it comes to cold weather running. Moments after giving a gushing interview about running in the snow, a Portland woman wiped out—on television. Epic fail.
Needless to say, you don't want this to ever happen to you. And there are, thankfully, products designed expressly for the purpose of providing traction on icy, snow-covered streets. Oregon runners would be wise to take note of the two main options: Yaktrax and MICROspikes. But which product should you buy for winter running?
Long answer: Yaktrax use steel coils to provide traction while MICROspikes (made by snowshoe manufacturer Kahtoola) use chains and teeth (sounds kinda like a torture device, huh?). Both products fit easily and securely over the bottoms of your shoes.
Yaktrax work best on a variety of terrain, including hard surfaces. That last part is key. Including hard surfaces means you can run on pavement. “We promote the Yaktrax Pro and the new Yaktrax Run for running in urban and rural environments in which a person may encounter ice, snow, slush, and potentially transition across bare asphalt and cement,” explains Jay S. Couder, national accounts manager at Yaktrax. “Our innovative design provides traction from heel to toe, and there are no pressure points that may bother a runner when running on hard surfaces.”
But if you’re hoping to hit the trails—and possibly encounter some deep powder or ice along the way—opt for MICROspikes. Even Couder will endorse the competition for running off-road in harsh winter conditions. “For runners who prefer to run on trails or deep snow, I think MICROspikes would be a better option due to their aggressive tread design,” he says.
Jared Scott, elite mountain runner and a member of the U.S. National Snowshoe team, agrees. “Yaktrax work fine on the roads where there is an occasional icy spot here and there,” he explains. But when he encounters steep, icy, or snow-packed trails, frozen-over puddles, or a wintry mix of snow, ice, and mud, Scott prefers MICROspikes. “When these conditions exist, I get out my MICROspikes and go at it with no fear of slipping or cracking my skull open,” he says. “They can take on the most extreme conditions, and they have amazing durability.”
MICROspikes have heavy duty teeth and, unlike Yaktrax, are not intended to be worn on roads. If you wear MICROspikes on hard surfaces, you’ll likely feel pressure from the spikes through the soles of your shoes. “When I encounter a situation where I need to wear my MICROspikes for a majority of the run but have to run occasionally on a dry road, I just simply take of my MICROspikes and carry them in hand or stuff them in my waistband until I need to use them again,” Scott says. “MICROspikes are so easy to take on and off that this is no problem to do repeatedly during a run.”
One last note: Starting at $30, Yaktrax are slightly less expensive than the competition; MICROspikes will set you back $60.