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Monday, March 11, 2013

Race Report: Running Is My High 2013

Just came back from a local 5K in Oakland, CA. Running Is My High is a charity 5K/10K to support healthcare availability in the local Native American community and the atmosphere really reflected the casual exercise + health-centric nature of the race. In fact, the race was open to anyone, regardless if you registered or not. Registration netted you the bib, time chip and a pretty cool hat or bag. There weren't any sporting brands at the "expo," mostly healthcare organization info booths. As someone in the healthcare field with a deep interest in social support and physical activity events as under-promoted strategies to combat chronic health problems, I never really gave it a second thought as to whether I was going to register. I had actually registered last year but got called up to work a shift a the last second and didn't end up running.

Oakland Lake Merritt is one of the more beautiful parts of the city. I know a lot of folks imagine Oakland as an inner-city cesspool, but there are certainly gems to find all over the place and Lake Merritt is one of them. The 5K course is basically a run around the lake and what makes it nice for a competitive runner is that the lake course is USATF certified as a 5K. My GPS read it as 3.28 miles, the extra distance to which I attribute to some recent construction blocking the normal route. Its incredibly flat over 85% pavement with a smattering of packed dirt trails. One rolling hill over a bridge and that's it. I consider it one of my primary training grounds.
Oakland Lake Merritt.
Start time was newbie and recreational runner friendly at 9am. About 450 runners registered, a record for this race. After picking up my bib and running swag (a well made running cap), I started warming up 20 minutes before the gun in my Vivobarefoot Ultras. I picked them up office shoes as my back just can't handle super high heel lifts of dress shoes anymore. Been one of the best shoe purchases I've made and I'll be posting a review on them soon. I noticed the casual nature of the crowd, with only one other person wearing racers (Lisa with the cool looking New Balance 1600s). A few strides here and there and I laced up my Mizuno Ekidens, ready to race and taking a spot right at the front of the pack.

After a few words from guest speakers on the topics of Native Americans and the state of health along with running heritage (which was pretty motivational), we took off. As this was a casual crowd, it was no surprise to see a couple of teens take off at a good 5:30/mile pace. While high school track kids can certainly pull this kind of pace off, judging from the dress of the sprinters (basketball shorts), I made the assumption that they were simply misjudging their race pace by quite a bit and weren't actually trying to establish position. I made the decision to pull back to an early 6:30/mile pace for about a quarter mile before settling into my 7:05/mile target pace. This paid off by the end of mile 1, when just about all the early sprinters began to drop off rapidly. As it was hectic in the beginning, I couldn't tell how many were in front of me. I could see Lisa, whom I had seen at a previous race in which I volunteered and I knew her to be around the 21:00/5K mark. I considered trying to pace her but felt she was probably too fast and would burn me out early. I decided on a steady 7:05/mile even splits race, even though I felt I could push it to 6:50/mile. I was treating this race as a practice run for my real goal: The Oakland Running Festival coming up in two weeks.

Two males began to catch up and slowly pulled ahead of me. I decided not to give chase until I was in the final 0.5 miles of the race. At this point we hit construction, and after nearly getting lost, I found my way up a bridge. This rolling hill caused the last of the teenagers to drop out. At around this point I got to test out some offroading for my Ekidens as I had to make a course correction by running through a severe downhill slope of woodchips. I was expecting lots of pointing jaggies stabbing my foot, but the Ekidens were surprisingly tough.

For mile 2 through 2.5 I was just about alone (or so I thought). I could spot Lisa about 200 meters ahead, a teenager about 100 meters ahead and one male who had passed me keeping a steady 30 meters distance from me. I was never able to catch him, but I did catch up to the teenager as he began to gas in the final quarter mile. At this point in my head I knew there were at least 4 males ahead of me along with Lisa. I had already given up on placing as I couldn't even spot any of the males other than the teenager now pulling away again. I began to gas myself and was entering the "just push it" section of the race. When I spotted the finish line about 100 meters ahead, I put myself into 70% sprint speed, figuring I would just finish it strong but not give it my all to save myself for the Oakland race. The crowd was roaring as I came in, which surprised me a bit. I found out why about 10 meters from the finish line as a teenager sprinted past me at full speed.

I learned from my exacerbated friend 5 seconds later that that teen took 3rd place from me. I hadn't realized that the 2 other adults who were ahead of me were actually part of the 10K race. I guess I'm maturing in my racing career because I just had a little laugh about it. I switched to my Vivobarefoot Ultras, which felt like Heaven at this point. Grabbed some free snacks and introduced myself to Lisa (she won the women's division!). At this point the teen who beat me by a few meters came up kind of upset as he had looked at the printed results and claimed he wasn't on the list at all and wanted me to talk to the organizers. I was a little turned off by how seriously he was taking it, but hey, who knows, making sure he got the recognition for his running achievement might encourage him to get deeper into the sport (he was wearing basketball shorts, so I was assuming he was a newbie like me). Which would be a good thing and very much in the spirit of this particular charity race.

Best. Post-race shoes. Ever.

After a quick talk we corrected it with the timers. I and the organizer who witnessed the "sprint off" held back a chuckle when the timer asked the excited teen how much further ahead he thought he was of me by the finish and he replied with an answer of 12 seconds. My estimate was maybe 0.5 seconds (3 meters at sprint speed), but I went ahead and said 2 seconds. Organizer agreed to that. We discovered at that point that the reason his time didn't registered is because he tied the wrong strip for his D-chip to his shoe. Definitely a newbie.

And that was it. I had a great time, $15 for a timed race was insanely cheap, got to meet a fellow runner whom I expect to meet very often from this point on (I even convinced her to race the Oakland Running Festival with me! I can secretly pace her, haha), got some swag, contributed to a good charity, tested out my Mizuno Ekidens in race conditions and got a good estimate of my abilities for the upcoming Oakland 5K, which holds particular importance to me as it will be my 1 year anniversary racing.

And oh, final time: 23:24. Exactly matching my Oakland 5K time from last year. Except this race was 0.12 miles longer on my GPS watch and I definitely wasn't going all out. Goal in two weeks: sub-22. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tips No One Told Me: Shoe Parts

Below is a list of stuff I always found annoying as a total newbie reading about running and would have to look up. Even then, half the time the definition or concept wasn't spelled out (I like to tell people to explain things to me like I'm five).

Upper: It's the soft "clothey" parts of the shoe that hugs over your feet. Everything that isn't the insole, midsole and outsole. Basically the part of the shoe you're not stepping on. When I was a newb newb I imagined that this only referred to the tongue.

Midsole: It's the part of the sole that does most of the cushioning. Generally shoes have a removable piece of smooth cushioning called the insole. This is the piece you're usually directly stepping on. Under that is the midsole, most often the foamy white "meat" of the sole. When I was a newb newb I thought everything you were stepping on was called the midsole. I was wrong. It was insole-midsole-outsole.

Outsole: This is the "hard" piece of rubber stuff under the meaty midsole. The outsole often isn't one piece, instead made up of patches of hard rubber under the midsole at highly used contact points with the ground, in order to extend the life of the shoe. Otherwise, the soft midsole would wear away quickly. Many minimalist shoes barely have an outsole at all, instead having just a few patches of rubber lugs and leaving the rest of the midsole exposed. This contributes to the relatively short life of minimalist shoes. Personally, I don't like outsole material as I find them to neutralize some of the shock absorbing quality of the midsole. I've actually had cobblers shave off the outsole on some of my shoes (pics to come).

Laces: Yeah, we all know what shoelaces are. The key is that there are generally two main kinds, flat and round. Most people prefer flat laces as they feel it relieves pressure on top of the foot (when the laces are twisted, anyways). Round laces on the other hand, are stronger and last longer, which is why they come on hiking boots. I personally think round laces look cooler, too.

To some people, barbwire.
Toebox: I consider this part to be from the forefoot and on. Basically, the widest part of your foot and on, not just the toes themselves. In "barefoot" style running, often associated with minimalist running, the ability of the toes to splay (spread) onto the ground becomes more crucial in order to dissipate shock and to induce good running form. Eventually, most people prefer to stick with shoes with wide toeboxes once they run minimalist, partly because your toe and footshape itself can start changing (no, really).

This is why some minimalist shoes look so funky. Because they actually follow the shape of a human foot.
Heel counter: The hard thing that keeps the back part of the upper stiff. Shoes have varying degrees of firmness and support to them, which minimalist runners preferring less heel counter (surprise!). The advantage of them is that they give support and heel stability. The disadvantage is that some people hate support and believe it's best to let the body do its own thing. Heel counters also add weight. Lastly, shoes without heel counters feel super comfy (check out the Nike Frees as an example).

Overlay: It's the hard stiff material manufacturers use to add structural support on the outside of the mesh upper. If you were to take a look at the Asics line of shoes, they clearly use the Asics "criss cross" design to double as structural support for the shoe, which helps it hug your foot and give the shoe its shape.
The black lines on the side.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Skechers GoRun Ride - Early Impression

So I decided to exchange my Gorun Speeds and head completely the other way and pick up a pair of the GoRun Rides instead. Reason being that I had already just picked up a pair of the Mizuno Ekidens and was still in the process of breaking them in when my friend purchased the Gorun Speeds for me. The soles were simply too firm for me to run in comfortably (or even safely, as I developed some shin pain early on with those shoes). I figured having four racers in my rotation was a little overboard and what I really needed was a cushioned long run trainer. I decided towards the GoRun Rides rather than the GoRun 2s as the tapered toe-box in the new GoRun 2s really turned me off.

Skechers GoRun Rides brand new out of the box.

This is actually the second pair of Go Run Rides, as the first pair had a manufacturing defect (more on that below). So that made it TWO exchanges I made at the San Francisco Skechers store without any hassle. Have I mentioned how much I love the folks who work there?

They look kind of wide and heavy, but are in fact super light. As light as most racers.

While I wouldn't say the wideness gives you significant stability, the Rides don't feel
nearly as nimble as the regular GoRuns.
My very first impression just slipping them on: COMFY. My mother actually thought they were hospital recovery shoes when I had her try them on. The upper is similar to the regular GoRun 1 but with a more accommodating toebox. You feel a very distinctive "squish" when walking in these. Some have compared it to the Saucony Kinvara, but I feel like these are much cushier than the Kinvaras (note: I have the Kinvara 1s and have heard the more popular Kinvara 2s are a tad cushier). They are by far the cushiest shoe I own. This isn't necessarily a good thing for a lot of people and I personally own mostly firm shoes. But that's why I chose these, to go to the other end of the spectrum and hope they would work for me. And they have so far.

One of the most distinctive traits of the GoRun series is the M-strike technology. Whether this specifically refers to the fact that the mid-sole is thickest in the mid-foot or to the cutaway heel or both, I'm not sure. But the result is a claimed disposition towards a mid-foot strike and for once, a claimed gimmick for a shoe clearly works. Not only do I distinctly feel myself running with a mid-foot stride and strike, the sole wear confirms it.

Sole of the GoRun Ride. The white pillars are super squishy Resalyte EVA compound. The black pillars are much firmer carbon rubber-type compound that are supposed to give your feet tactile feedback and encourage a mid-foot strike. I personally found the pillars a little bit too firm in the GoRuns, but the extra cushioning of the GoRun Rides neutralizes this.

Wear on the sole. Note the clean heel. Most of the dirt on the heel is probably
 from me putting my heel down as I drive my car. Also note that the criss-cross Go Impulse sensor is more towards the heel than in the Go Run 1s. I suspect this may encourage a semi-heelstrike.
I've run a total of about 12 miles on them now. No need to break them in. Any breaking in pretty much occurs within the first mile as I've detected no change since then. They feel just as they're marketed: the big cushy brother of the regular GoRuns. They weigh just a skosh more (a reported 0.2 ounces more), are wider, both on the sole and in the upper, have significantly more cushion, and don't have nearly as pronounced a "hump" feeling on the midfoot like the GoRuns, making these very walkeable (though I definitely wouldn't wear them as casual kicks to walk in). Related to these traits, they also don't feel nearly as nimble and fun as the GoRuns, which made you want to just run faster for no reason all the time like some never ending fartlek. I wouldn't call these slow, but to give you an idea, I just came back from a tempo run today and while I felt a perceived effort of 7:15/mile (close to my threshold pace), I looked down at my GPS to see it clocking at 7:30. If you are looking for a 5K racer, this is not it. The comfy squish sucks away some energy and pop and minimizes ground feel. They are also the lowest in ground feel of any athletic shoe I have (including my basketball high tops). I actually run over these bumps San Francisco places at intersections to compare ground feel in different shoes when I'm running.

This guy. I feel almost no bumps through the sole of the GoRun Rides.
Comfort level is again, high. The upper is reminiscent of the Nike Frees and offer very little support. They are a stretchy elastic polyester-type material with decent breathability and is mostly seamless. The insole is significantly thick and was somewhat rougher as I did develop blisters on the bottom of my feet under the big toes on my first 3 mile run and then again on my second 3 mile run with these shoes. Both times they appeared around the end of the run and continuedly lessened. On today's 5 mile run, I did not get any blisters. I do not wear socks. I also suspect that my first pair was so significantly "off" that they were partly the source of the blisters.

Rear of the shoes on my new pair.
Rear of the shoes on my first defective pair. Note the left midsole's uneveness which I could
feel while running. This  pair also had a tighter toe box.
There are no reflective material on the shoe that I could find, so night runners take note. The laces are flat and do not cut on top of the foot. However, I found the ankle locking ability of this shoe sub-par, even with the "Vari-lock" holes. They are simply too low to offer good leverage even with a lace-locking setup. There is no heel-counter to speak of, but the heel collar runs a tiny bit lower than I would like. I believe 1/2 size up would net me the perfect heel collar height.
I feel like "Vari-lock" is too fancy a name for extra holes that most running shoes already have.
These may be reflective, I'm not sure. It may be enough to stop a Hot Wheel car.
Heel collar is comfy and completely disappear for me on the run, despite being a tad bit low.
The shoe comes with an extra set of different colored laces, in this case an alternate grey.
It's one of those "completely collapsable heel counters" heel counters.
The ride is smooth and these are one of the quietest shoes I've run in, especially once you settle into the mid-foot stride. I find myself "gliding" along the ground even moreso than in my other shoes in which I mid-foot strike cleanly. Impact is low when running in these shoes both due to the ample cushioning and to the mid-foot strike. The mid-foot to toe transition is smooth probably because of the super flexible nature of the shoe itself but not effortless due to the squish and moderate stack height. Some may find it too "squishy." What I mean is I feel that as you land, you go through 80% of the compression very quickly before you finally get to the end where you feel surefooted enough to begin the toe off. On the topic of flexibility, these are one of those where you can fold it into a ball if you wanted to. Less so than the regular GoRuns because of the thicker mid-sole, however.

Unlike the GoRuns, I DO feel like its possible to heel-strike in these, but I haven't naturally settled into that so I could not speak as to what that would feel like in these shoes. I recall that in the GoRun I had to lean forward and almost initiate a fore-foot strike to get the best stride out of them (which I think gave me that "fun nimble feeling" that the GoRuns are known for). I do not have to do that in these.

The insoles. I recall the early production runs being green. On closer inspection, it looks like these are "spray painted" grey. Maybe it'll rub off after some more runs and I can confirm.
Insole is removable. I tried it once. Did not like the odd cushioning feeling and never tried again.
Durability has been reported to be very high, at least 300 miles. In my experience with the GoRun 1s, I believe it as the sole never seemed to ever show any wear. Even my GoBionics have no signs of sole wear other than a gash from something gnarly I ran on. I suspect the upper will be the first to go on these.

Closer view of the GoImpulse units.
I tend to wear out the tip quickly on shoes. I suspect these will be able to resist that.
Weight is reported to be 7.9oz for men size 9 and 5.9oz for women's size 6. Forefoot stack height of 12mm, mid-foot of 19mm, heel of 16mm netting you a heel-drop of 4mm. It should be noted that every millimeter at the smaller sizes nets you a more severe ramp angle than for the larger sizes so that a 4mm in a small shoe will feel more severe than 4mm in a larger shoe. Higher heel-drop seems to be one of the  factors that encourage a heel-strike. I wear smaller than average shoe size but found the M-strike to work just as it claims.

Front. The toe-box is wide enough that I don't have to alter the lacing scheme to free
up toe-box room.

Close up. Note the mesh toe box. It's not super airy but more airy than a
traditional trainer and airy enough for me. I don't recall getting swamp feet in these.
Early impression: I think I've found one of "the" shoes for me (I've given up on trying to find "the" shoe as I have too many needs. Just going to try to find "the shoes" from this point on). For me this will be the long run trainer both for easy runs and higher half-marathon pace long runs. I may occasionally take it out for tempo runs but I think I have better shoes for that. I've found these to be incredibly comfy both in regards to the upper and the ride due to the minimalist upper and non-minimalist mid-sole. And the fact that it still accomplishes the promised mid-foot strike without effort in such a cushy shoe with little ground feel is impressive to me. Style-wise, it's meh, but I wasn't able to snag the Warrior colorway. I've found the price to be as low as $50 if you don't mind hideous colors and as high as $80 for the aforementioned Warrior colorway. It's too early to recommend this shoe yet but I'm having very positive impressions. I'm even starting to think this may be a good "gifting shoe" to get friends to run more.

I would love to hear other people's experiences with this shoe.
Medial side.
Resalyte mid-sole. It's cushy. Definitely one of those "It's like running on marshmallows. I hate it!/I love it!" shoes.

M-strike. The upper overlays do not protrude to the interior of the upper like the regular
goRuns did, which was the source of some arch blisters for me.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Skechers GoRun Speed Unboxing & Preview

So my friend bought me a pair of the Skechers GoRun Speeds for my birthday!

I've uploaded an unboxing and preview video onto youtube (even though I'm not a giant fan of unboxing, but I figured this is kind of unique in that this shoe isn't really being sold widely yet).

Overall impression of the construction is positive, but after my two runs I have to admit the ride is not as positive as I first thought. I think it would work well for certain folks who do really long distances and have excellent bio-mechanics, but I don't think that's me, unfortunately. The sole is really firm. My initial sense of there being significant cushioning when I wore them at the store was probably sensing the stack height along with the give in the hardwood floor. It's like, really really firm. I have the Mizuno Ekidens, a very low to the ground dedicated 5k-10k racer and I feel these GoRun Speeds are much firmer. The stiffness also feels like its fighting me on the heel to toe transition. Again, I think if you've got great form and technique, I think this could actually be a positive thing.

I'm considering exchanging them back at the store or selling them on eBay (my friend fully approves). Or I'll keep them and just run more and put up a full review.

The audio is really jacked up by the way. My voice is not that low. I had to mess with it in post processing to sync up the visuals to the audio.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tips No One Told Me: Shoe Lace Tying

One of the most important if not the most important aspect of a running shoe is fit. If it doesn't fit right, I just don't go with the shoe, no matter how much I wanted to like it. What I didn't know when I first started off was just how much the shoe laces affect fit. It may sound extreme, but I feel like you can control the feel of the shoe almost as much as the original designers just by playing with the shoe laces. Ok, maybe not that much, but I definitely think you can ruin the fit of a shoe enough to be a deal breaker by having inappropriate lacing for your foot.

My go-to lace is the standard Criss-cross lace. I have this on almost all my running shoes. The key is that most shoes out of the box come with Display Shoe lacing, which is like Criss-cross but (and here's the key), the row closest to the toe is inside out. Display Shoe lacing tends to make the toes cramped. Flipping it inside out with the front row starting from under the eyelets frees up a lot of room. It was enough for me to finally keep my Mizuno Ekidens, which originally had Display shoe lacing. I'm even considering taking it a step further and trying it with Parallel lacing to free up even more room.

Lastly, for every single one of my running shoes, I use ankle lock lacing.

Here's another link with video:

And if anyone's tried the Lock Laces and like them, let me know, would love to hear how they are for runners. 

Nike Lunaracer+ : My Review

Nike Lunaracer+ Reissue (thanks to Pete Larson for the composition for this photo)

The Nike Lunaracer+ is the third(ish) iteration of this lightweight racer. The first, Lunaracer (I don't believe the + was out yet) was beloved for its performance. The Lunarlite cushioning received rave reviews for the combination of cushioning without sacrificing performance as a racer. The Lunaracer 2 wasn't as well received. Actually, it was apparently so bad the Lunaracer 1 was reissued. But the reissue had one major change, with the sole converted to the Lunarlon sole. Me, I haven't had a chance to try the original Lunarlite, but supposedly the Lunarlon is a little less cushy, which is good or bad depending on your preference. What's interesting is that it's a two part midsole with a harder outer "shell" and a cushier "meat" filling it. Honestly, the exterior is pretty darn cushy as it is.

Medial (inside) portion of the shoe. Note the Lunarlon sole.
3/4 front
3/4 rear. Note the siping that runs along the sole.  I've heard this makes it  more flexible.
I've run in a pair of reissues for about a year now, putting maybe about 100+ miles on them by now. My final impression: I love them and have been my shoe for almost every single race this year, from 5Ks to my first half-marathon.

Stated weight for a US size 9 is 6.6 ounces, pretty standard for a racer nowadays (this shoe came out back in 2009). But where it still shines is the sole. I've found the Lunarlon cushioning to be perfect for long runs, providing ample amounts of protection without sucking away spring and pop that you want from a racer. Ground feel isn't great as the stack height is significant at 17mm forefoot and 23mm rearfoot, but the low 5mm drop helps me achieve a good mid-foot strike to make up for it. In fact, I feel like my best running form comes from these shoes. It just feels like I get my best footstrike and toe-off from these shoes. So performance-wise, these are my favorite.

It's about average to below average in flexibility for a racer. This is me pushing it to
what I thought was comfortable to bend by hand. Generally with racers, some stiffness is
acceptable as its part of the pop it gives you for speed.
Heel collar is slightly stiffer than I like but has been a complete non-issue for me.
Some folks prefer flexible, some prefer support. If the Nike Frees are a 1 and a traditional
trainer is a 100, I would put these around 40.
Ride comfort is excellent due to the Lunarlon midsole, but overall comfort is significantly hampered by the mediocre upper, something that was addressed in the 4th iteration, the Nike Lunaracer 3+. It's pretty universally accepted that this shoe is too narrow. And I mean even for narrow feet. Everyone buys these shoes at least half a size up and a full size up is fairly common. I went half a size up and after breaking them in and stretching out the upper over the course of maybe 15 miles, they felt a lot better for me. Then along the way I stopped running in socks. At that point the shoe fit great if I did the lacing right. Still, the upper material isn't as comfortable as minimalist shoes or even other new racers on the market. I would describe it semi-breathable and I invariably get blisters on the top of my instep and under my arches after 5 miles. This happens on the same spot in both feet. And always at the 5 mile mark. I wear socks with this shoe now for long runs.

Interior of the tongue. Seamless and comfortable, but tends to slide off to the side almost immediately.
Top of the tongue. The padding design with the padding centered in a bulge like that actually
makes it less comfortable to me than one where its even all across.
Heel collar material and parts of the interior. The heel collar is stiff and irritated my ankle
when I first ran in these. Over time it's disappeared.
Interior of the sole. I don't feel much arch support in these . Racers generally don't have support
and I don't personally prefer it, especially since I train primarily for 5Ks. Insole is moderately thin but
does add to the cushioning.
Removable insole. I have not run like this ever with this shoe. Doesn't look like
its designed to be what with all that exposed stitching that could cause blisters.

The tongue is relatively thin and seamless, a giant kudos to the designers. However, the extra padding in the middle of the tongue causes the entire piece to always slide off to the lateral side of my feet. I mean always and all it takes is maybe 3 minutes of walking to make it do so. The collar can be a little on the stiff side and when I first ran in them I did get ankle irritation. This has disappeared so maybe I've developed callouses in those areas. Despite all these discomforts listed, it's never really been an issue for anything under 3 miles and so most times I run in these shoes sockless.

Style-wise, what can I say? It's Nike and they usually hit the mark here. I love the bright blue colorway on mine. Everything screams space-theme and even the details like the shape of the sole lugs makes you think that this is what an astronaut would wear to a lunar race. I love the style.
Top view. These shoes run very narrow to the point that everyone has to size up at least 1/2 size.
Note the wide base relative to the upper. This can act as a tiny bit of support for a shoe.
Compared to my Mizuno Ronin 2s, which I consider the most perfect fitting for
my feet. The Lunaracers are that much larger to make the width fit. I've been pleasantly
surprised to find the extra length to not be an issue. My foot does not slide around in them.

Front. Those are reflective dots in the front there. No, they don't do anything but look awesome.
Rear with reflective dots and stripes. These look like they may be more noticeable
but its difficult to really check if drivers can see them. I never do night running.
Note the exterior Flywire which acts as an overlay to shape the shoe, support it and take
some of the stress from the laces. The material from the forefoot on back is a semi-rigid
plastic film that is only moderately breatheable. This has apparently been correct
in the new Lunaracer 3+.

Durability is about average for a racer. Most racers last only maybe 150-300 miles. From the looks of the wear on mine, I suspect they'll go another 100 miles before I decide to get a new pair. And the replacement will almost certainly be either the Skechers GoRun Speed or the Lunaracer 3+ with the improved upper. The comfy mesh toebox means I can wear my normal size in them too (yes, I've tried them on at the store and it was probably the single best update of any shoe I've tried)!

Astronaut footprint. Hard carbon rubber replaces some of the exposed foam lugs.
Traction has been good, never had an issue. But I live in sunny California where
traction and weather isn't an issue other than occasional rain.
5mm heel drop. I detect very little wear after 100 miles as I  mid-foot strike cleanly in these.
The front shows signficant wear. The lateral (outside) portion of the foot almost always strikes
first for all runners and can cause some wear there. It shows up clearly here with the nipples of
the lugs just about worn away. The hard carbon lugs are running fine.
Another angle where you can see significant difference between the exposed foam and the
carbon lugs, especially at the tip where it is half carbon half foam. My toes miss the tip of the shoe
by maybe 3/4 of an inch so I'm surprised its wearing all the way up there. Toe-off gives you half
your wear and primarily shows up on the medial (inside) portion of the sole, under the big
toe. I'm surprised its showing up for me all the way to the tip in these shoes.
But it all goes back to the performance. The comfort is not bad, the style for me is excellent and the performance is top notch. Durability isn't an issue for me cuz hey, after one year I'm itching to try a new shoe anyways. Price is about right at $110 retail, but there are a ton of the Lunaracer reissues online for around $60 (I got mine for $40 from eastbay). Final impression: an A-, excellent. Here's hoping the Lunaracer 3+ really earns that plus sign for me.