Trail Runner’s Top Gear Picks from Last Month’s Reviews
Shoes, socks, tights, jackets, therapy and nutrition—our tester's top picks from the past month's reviews
The CTM Band
Real recovery can be an elusive and time-consuming process. Sometimes the true discomfort of the foam roller is not the actual myofascial release, but the time it takes to elicit it. Life tends toward a hectic schedule: running, climbing, training and work bite into recovery time. That is where the CTM band comes into play. At first look, it seems like a therapy band with golf balls attached, but man does it work. CTM stands for Compression, Tension and, most importantly, Movement. The band has attached knobs at one end (that look like golf balls) that are removable so you can target the release point without aggravating other areas.
For general use, wrap the band around the tight muscles for the recommended two minutes (no longer) and go about your business. For this reviewer, I do a recovery “circuit.” I start high on the quad, then above the knee, then upper calf, then lower calf, then upper and lower hamstrings. I just walk back and forth between the cutting board and stove, do some light stretching and it really seems to get the muscles moving well. When I take the band off I feel relieved, and especially notice it when I tie up my laces up the next day.
Do not use the CTM band for more than the recommended time. See here for more details.Buy Now
—Tim Nooney runs 60 miles per week, typically with a new piece of gear that Trail Runner makes him take along and review.
UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest
Weight: 7.2 oz
Upon receiving the UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest, my first thought was, “Woah—this is light and has very little structure.” To give an idea of the size and structure, this entire vest folds down to the size of a 350ml soft bottle.
It is a small lightweight race vest (7.2oz) that still has enough storage options to carry trekking poles, variable weather gear (gloves, hat, buff and light rain shell all fit comfortably), food, liquids and a cell phone. I see this vest being great for a technical mountain marathon or 50K effort.
Once loaded and on my back, the bottles and gear provided additional structure to the vest. The vest clips together with elastic straps and metal hooks. I like the smaller front pockets above the bottle sleeves—one has an easy pull-tab zipper that I used for storing trash and the other has a magnetic close that I see as being very helpful for quick access.
The side pockets fit gels, solid food, a wallet or phone nicely. These pockets are challenging to access because of the size of the vest—it takes a real chicken wing maneuver to access the pocket with the arm on that side.
The rear mesh pockets can store additional hydration or nutrition—I used them to store my hat, buff and gloves while climbing. Neither of the rear mesh pockets have a cinch strap, but again, with the minimalist design, everything stayed in place well. The main rear pocket has an easy-pull zipper tab that made pulling out my rain layer manageable while running. The entire vest is designed to be low-profile so the Houdini jacket I had easily fit over the pack.
The trekking pole carry is the only area of the pack that could be improved. While accessing the lightweight poles and cinching the poles back to the pack while running was manageable, running with the poles on the pack was uncomfortable. The poles attach by two cinch straps and sit just below the pack against the lower back. The straps have to be tightened to prevent the poles from moving and then the tails of the straps swing and tap against the poles. After 60 minutes of running with the poles on the pack, I chose to carry them in my hands to feel the pack without the poles: an overall improvement.Buy Now
— Jeff Colt, an avid mountain runner, lives in Carbondale, Colorado. He seeks trails, tele turns, freshly baked bread and high mountain huts.
Munk Pack Protein Cookie
Price: $17 for pack of 6
When the package of Munk Pack Protein Cookies was delivered to the Trail Runner office, there was a blurred frenzy of activity. Before I could choose a flavor for myself, they were gone.
Not just bored editors in need of something to nibble while scrolling Facebook, these cookie hounds were pumped to try a new healthy snack for the coming weekend’s adventure, be it trail running, climbing or skiing. Without one of my own, I had to ask my co-worker, who snagged my preference, the Double Dark Chocolate Flavor, his thoughts.
“Most ‘healthy’ cookies taste like cardboard,” he said. “But that one tasted like some straight-up Otis Spunkmeyer! [Read: A good thing.] And, after reading the label, I like the mega calories it packs. I hate energy bars, but, I’d stuff my hydration pack with these.”
The vegan Protein Cookies come in four flavors, and pack a punch—each three-ounce cookie contains 18 grams of plant protein and around 350 calories. Additionally, they are non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, dairy free and cholesterol free, and contain no sugar alcohols.Buy Now
—Megan Janssen is the Assistant Editor of Trail Runner. She is currently cookie-less.
Salewa Ultra Train 2
Weight: 11.04 oz
Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm
The Salewa Ultra Train 2 is a very supportive, comfortable, all-terrain shoe, and a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Ultra Train. At first glance, the shoe seemed a bit stiff, with its supportive Michelin OCX outsole, 3F System that cinches the upper, arch and heel with one pull of the laces and stretch gaiters. However, on the trail, the shoe felt immediately comfortable.
On a Colorado springtime run—i.e. snowy, muddy, slippery—the Ultra Train 2 kept my feet warm and dry and held fast on all surfaces. Despite the aggressive tread, the mud sloughed off easily and the gaiters kept the dirt out.
Back at the trailhead, I encountered a fellow recreationalist who needed help getting his car unstuck from a bank of snow, ice and mud. As my face and shoulders got splattered with mud from his squealing tires, I couldn’t help but notice the shoes’ grip and support.
If you have a wide foot, these may not be the best fit. Otherwise, these rugged Salewas are great springtime, all-weather companions.Buy Now
—Megan Janssen is the Assistant Editor at Trail Runner.
Injinji Midweight Trail Crew
Material: 39% Coolmax, 58% Nylon, 3% Lycra
The first thing that comes to mind for many folks looking at toe socks is, “That it is going to take forever to put on my feet!” However, put your concerns to rest. These socks are awesome, and it doesn’t take that long to fit all your toes in them.
Once on your feet, these Injinji socks feel a little foreign if you are not accustomed to having material in between your toes. This may take some getting used to, but it’s worth it. They are totally seamless and soft, and limit blister potential. The mid-weight style is great for the springtime, where the mornings are still brisk and a little extra warmth is needed.Buy Now
—Jacky Thompson is an avid mountain and desert trail runner. When she isn’t rock climbing, running, foraging or frolicking outside in some way, she can be found practicing yoga and playing music.
La Sportiva Lycan
Weight: 9.3 oz, size 8.5 / 41
Stack height: 18mm heel, 12mm toe
The new Lycan by La Sportiva raised immediate interest around the Trail Runner office, with its bright-blue midsole, bold SPORTIVA logo, black mesh upper, techy overlays and matching blue laces. Out of the box, the fit was comfortable with a roomy toebox and cushy mesh upper. It runs about a half size small, which is typical for many people in La Sportiva shoes.
The shoe has a bit of an exoskeleton design, leaving a uniform, almost seamless inner. This feature seemingly decreases blister potential on long runs that involve quick transitions over various terrain like rocks, sand, slickrock and trail. The lacing system locks in the fit and accommodated this tester’s high-instep well.
The midsole is pronounced, cushioned and protective. The relatively low-profile outsole lugs provide security, and the practically seamless inner is excellent.Buy Now
—Mike Benge is the Editor of Trail Runner Magazine.
GORE-TEX Shakedry R7 Hooded Jacket
Material: Outer: GORE-TEX®Membrane. Inner: 100-percent Polyamide.
April showers are just around the corner, and now is the time to prepare for the rain and wind of springtime! Specifically designed for runners, the GORE-TEX Shakedry R7 Jacket in men’s and women’s is a worthy consideration for your mud-season closet.
Weighing in at 4.1 oz, the jacket is feather light and packs into the tiniest of running vests and packs. It feels light and breathable on the body as well. The fabric is smooth (not like some “crunchy” running shells), and there is not a single bulky seam or button to be found—the whole design screams svelte practicality.
The fit lays smoothly on the torso, the zipper pockets are discrete and functional and the wrist cuffs feature a super-soft elastic band that keeps water out without the need for velcro straps. Even the reflecting stripes are flattering, allowing you to be seen by traffic on the way to the trailhead.
The Shakedry Jacket is named for its new GORE-TEX technology. Made up of two layers constructed to prevent the outer layer from wetting out (causing a chilling effect), the outer membrane beads water on the surface, allowing you to quickly flap (or shake) the surface dry.Buy Now
—Jacky Thompson is an avid mountain and desert trail runner. When she isn’t rock climbing, running, foraging or frolicking outside, she can be found practicing yoga and playing music.
SNEAK PEEK: Janji Women’s Uganda Crazy Crop
Material: 88% polyester, 12% spandex
The Uganda Crazy Crop tight, released TODAY, April 4th, are lightweight, ultra soft, high-waisted, thick-banded, fun-to-wear tights. Despite the patchwork of breathable fabrics, they’re sleek and the seams don’t rub.
These tights don’t have a drawstring but a thick elastic band that keeps a solid purchase high on the hips, and a single rear-zip pocket big enough for a bar and small-to-medium-sized cell phone. These are the kind of tights you can wear for a shake out run, then to yoga and brunch. Best suited for short to middle distances in cool to warm weather.Buy Now
Janji donates 10% of the sale of each piece from the Uganda line to clean-water projects in Uganda.
—Megan Janssen is the Assistant Editor at Trail Runner.
WINTER GEAR KITS: Running in a Winter Wonderland
This is a special advertising section 1. BLACK DIAMOND EQUIPMENT Distance Spike Traction Device $100 The Distance Spike is Black Diamond’s pinnacle trail-running traction device, built for fast mountain travel, … Continue reading “WINTER GEAR KITS: Running in a Winter Wonderland”
Stocking Stuffers Under $50
Taco Socks $16 We love these fun socks by Moxy & Grit. Technical, crew-height socks are playful and performance-oriented for the taco-powered trail explorer on your list. Snag these for … Continue reading “Stocking Stuffers Under $50”