Review: Zoot Ultra TT 6.0

Usually, I don’t write reviews first because I always find something to nitpick about, and second because that’s not my job (i.e. I’m not paid to do that). However, every so often, a company listens to customer feedback, and actually improves their product. A couple of years ago, I tried the first iteration of Zoot shoes (I forgot which model). Zoot clearly focuses on the triathlon market with its laceless shoes and their various versions. Their original shoes had an incredibly high back of the shoe, going way over the Achilles tendon. It included some cutout to quickly put the shoes in. However, it proved to be a not so great idea. There were numerous reports of people getting irritated Achilles, even in a non-injury prone crowd and in my case, one run was enough to convince me that my old injury would flare up in no time (and it did!)

Then came the 2012 season. The line up included only shoes with much lower back, but still that triathlon oriented design, no laces (Ultra Speed 3.0), or just an elastic (called QuickLace in the case of the Ultra TT 6.0):

photo

Zoot actually listened to the feedback and modified the back part of the shoe. Doesn’t it feel nice when a company listens to the feedback its customers provide? Bottom line is: it’s a great running shoe for training, for tempo training, and for long course racing, although heavier athletes or athletes with heavier strides may also want to use this shoe for short course racing. The drop (11mm front – 21mm heel) is a bit more than I typical like, but still very acceptable. Plenty of room in the toebox even for those with wide feet, and a 9oz verified weight in size 9.5. The ride is comfy with a good compromise between cushioning and dynamics. Additionally, with these colors (and a bright pink/blue combo for the women’s model) you’re easy to pick out at a race. My only slight issue is that I like to run trails, and usually with the same shoes I use for the road, and the elastic lacing system is not well suited for that, as anything that gets stuck in the QuickLace system will make it go loose. And since I need to nitpick a bit more, the outer sole is a tad fragile and will not tolerate much trail running, if you leave in the Southwest, and have access to rocky trails only. But then I could just listen and run trails with…trail shoes.

Happy Running!

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MyFitnessPal iPhone App.

In a previous article on losing weight, I discussed the general issue of people overestimating how much they burn, and underestimating how much they eat. Well, the good news is that there is a tool that will help you correct these issues relatively easily. The bad news though is that you still have to make an effort if you want to lose weight. It’s a tool that helps you, not a magic pill that does it for you.

Anyhow, I have been testing the MyFitnessPal application for iPhone over the past few days. The application is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, and as a web application also. For free. You can’t beat free. You need to download, create an account, and then you’re set to go.

When creating a profile, you will enter some data (e.g. age, gender, current weight, height, etc.) and will also enter a target weight and a date for reaching your target. My first test was to check if the app. warns you when trying to lose weight to quickly. And thankfully, it does. If you say you want to lose 10lbs in one week, you will get a message suggesting that it isn’t recommended. Check 1.

The app. allows you to enter what you eat, and the exercise you do. You get to choose if you add a food entry, or an exercise entry, through a nicely designed interface:

Data Entry

When it comes to exercising, it separates cardio and weight activities. I only tested the cardio activities. It comes preloaded with many options, and for the most part, you will be able to get a pretty good estimate of your calorie expenditure. When it comes to food, this is where the app. is really great. It comes with a large library of foods, a search function, a very large selection of meals from various chain restaurants (Starbucks, Chilis, BJ’s, etc.) and a scan function, which lets you scan a bar code, and enter the value direction. The phone locks in very quickly, and therefore, you have no search to do. If requires the bar code to be intact, so do this before tearing the pack.

Entries

Not only does it enter the calorie intake, it also enters the nutritional breakdown in terms of carbs (separating sugars and dietary fibers), fats, proteins, nutrients, etc. This is especially useful for people who need to monitor their sugar levels, their calcium, and iron intake, etc. You can see daily and weekly summary, and evaluate how you are doing in with respect to your target weight, but also whether you are eating a balanced diet, as it indicates if you are over or under the current dietary guidelines set forth by the FDA. Of course, take this with a grain of salt since these recommendations vary per individual.

Weekly nutritional intake

You can also choose to get a pie (pun intended) chart of your food breakdown, and you can also see how well you are doing with respect to your target weight, and target date.

The app. also provides some pretty good insight into your nutrition and how it relates to your training, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight. For instance, I tend to train very well from Monday through Thursday, and hit a bit of a wall on Friday, to jump back on Saturday and Sunday. I always assume that it is due to a combination of work, workout, and shorter nights. However, looking at my daily nutritional intake during the week, I have noticed that I tend to not eat enough during the week (I know some are already laughing at this preposterous idea), with some days before short of 1500kcal to just maintain weight. On Friday, I tend to not train as well, and eat a lot more. So, it seems that the poor training on Friday may well be due to a less than adequate intake during the week, which accumulates until Friday, when I end up having to rest, and eat more.

So, all in all, a very easy to use app. with not much of a learning curve, a simple, well-designed interace, with all the components you’d expect to see for a fitness app, which will be useful for both those who want to lose weight, and those who want to eat healthy, and exercise.

Shoe review: Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150

With all the craze about barefoot running, it’s not a surprise that more people have been mentioning this UK based shoe company. Without going into a (necessary) lengthy discussion about barefoot running, let’s look at the Bare-X Lite 150.
Here is the short version of the review: really cool shoe, I like it a lot, I run well in it, it’s functional, and, most importantly, it matches my outfits.

So, what’s cool about this shoe? First, if you like minimalistic shoes, you will love this shoe. It has a 0-rise between the forefoot and the heel

Second, it’s very light (6oz or so, which to me means nothing, since I don’t use these weird units, but it’s pretty light).
The sole is very flexible in every possible way, which is great if you like a very quick dynamic foot strike. The forefoot of the shoe is rather large. That will please runners with large feet. And hobbits. Another really cool feature is the lacing system. Something triathletes will be happy to have. That said, it’s probably not an ideal shoe for heavy runners (at least beyond 5-10km) given the minimal cushioning. And you surely don’t want to try it on the road in rainy conditions. The sole has very little grip. It will work fine on a dry road, but on wet roads, you’ll feel like you’re in the NHL. And you’ll probably hit something and go face down. That’ll make for a great facebook picture though.

Anyhow, beyond the looks, I actually took them for a run. Little warm up, followed with a 5x1mi descending from 11mph to 11.5mph, 3min easy jog in between. The shoes felt amazing. Light, responsive, and I really enjoyed the true 0-rise shoe. They are probably fine to run in without socks. All in all a great shoe. At just over $100, it’s a little bit on the expensive side. Blame it on the current exchange rate between the $ and the £. Stay tuned for a review of the trail counterpart of the Bare-X 150 lite. It’s red. It’s flashy. And it still matches my outfits.