New Balance MT/WT10 v4 vs Topo Athletic MT-2 vs Inov-8 Terraclaw 220
The latest version (v4) of the New Balance MT/WT 10 has added 3mm of stack height to its underfoot protection. This has resulted in us moving the shoe from a minimal stack height classification to a low stack height classification. Low stack height trail shoes include the ASICS FujiLyte, Brooks PureGrit 4, Pearl Izumi Trail N1 v2, and the Salomon Sense Pro 2. In comparison to these shoes, the MT/WT10 v4 still feels more minimal underfoot. So while the shoe has gotten thicker, it still remains true to its Minimus pedigree in terms of feel. The fit is also consistent with the Minumus ideal of natural foot shape, as the toebox is rounded instead of pointy. Lastly, the MT/WT 10 v4 maintains the 4mm heel-toe drop found in all iterations of the MT/WT 10.
When looking for a comparison of low stack height trail shoes, the search is initially a bit challenging. A comparison shoe should be within an ounce of overall weight and plus or minus 2mm of drop. The shoe should also have a rounded toebox. The Salomon Sense Mantra 3 has a somewhat rounded toebox and 6mm drop, but it’s almost 3 ounces heavier. The Pearl Izumi Trail N1 also has a somewhat rounded toebox and a 5mm drop, but is also almost 3 ounces heavier. I normally don’t like to pick on weight, but in this case, these two shoes certainly feel like a lot more shoe than the MT/WT 10 v4. Alas, we have a competitor: the Inov-8 Terraclaw 220. It has a rounded toebox, 4mm drop and is just a little heavier. But there have to be more options, right?
Not really. However, the relatively new brand Topo Athletic has a shoe to fill the void. The MT-2 has a truly rounded toebox, 3mm drop and is 1.5 oz heavier. Granted, this is more than an ounce heavier – but let’s not nitpick, it’s close enough. Especially since there is nothing else to meet the specific criteria for this comparison. The Altra Superior 2.0 is close, but it’s a medium stack height shoe, zero drop, and 2 ounces heavier.
Now that we have our contenders, let’s get into the comparison.
The fit and the upper
While all three shoes have rounded toeboxes, the Topo MT-2 definitely has more length near the outer toes (pinky side) than the other two models. The NB MT/WT 10 V4 and the Terraclaw 220 are nearly identical in shape. In regards to toebox height, all three models skew toward the shallow side. The MT/WT 10 v4 is the most shallow, followed by the Terraclaw 220 and then the Topo MT-2. I found it odd that all three of these shoes have rounded toeboxes for natural toe splay, yet have a low height that could interfere with how the big toe lifts during stance and prior to ground contact.
Along with the lower toebox heights, the MT/WT10 v4 and Terraclaw 220 have lower midfoot volumes but can also fit a medium volume foot quite well. The Topo MT-2 has a more versatile midfoot fit. It’s a medium fit that expands nicely for a larger volume fit, yet can be tightened without bunching on a lower volume foot. The upper of the Topo MT-2 also has the ability for a refined fit. The gilly lacing loops are in an offset pattern of close then spread, which allows for a precise and secure fit. The MT/WT 10 v4 has a burrito-style tongue. The advantage is a seamless interior, which means you can go sockless. The disadvantage is the top fabric of the tongue bunches a bit as the lacing is tightened. And since it’s a thin tongue, the bunching may irritate the top of some feet. The Terraclaw 220 has an asymmetrical tongue and row of eyelets. It’s well executed, which is not always the case with asymmetrical styles. However, it only works well for low to medium volume feet. The interior is nearly seamless and soft, so going sockless is an option here as well. The more rugged upper of the Topo MT-2 is best with socks.
Speaking of the rugged upper of the Topo MT-2, let’s get into upper performance. The Topo MT-2 has a very good toe bumper built into the upper. It’s not a steel-toed shoe, but it’s a nice addition for added protection that actually works. The welded overlays provide a perimeter mud guard. Additional overlays in the midfoot provide protection from protruding objects that may rip less protective uppers. The Topo MT-2 upper is definitely built to go almost anywhere and this is why the shoe weighs a bit more than the others.
The Terraclaw 220 has the most minimal upper. As such, it is best suited to open trails. The upper of the MT/WT 10 v4 does a good job of keeping dirt and debris out, but it’s the least breathable of the three. The Terrclaw 220 is the most breathable followed closely by the Topo MT-2.
The Ride and Traction
As mentioned earlier, the MT/WT 10 v4 is thicker than its predecessors yet it still has a minimal feel under foot. The Terraclaw 22o also has a minimal feel underfoot. As such, both shoes feel like an extension of your foot. They are both nimble, flexible shoes that are great for picking your way through technical trails. The Topo MT-2 has a more cushioned feel. There is some initial give and then a well-grounded feel. If you remove the insole from the Topo MT-2, it feels very much like the other two shoes. But with the Topo MT-2 insole in place, you get a little more of a forgiving ride, that is finished with a great sense of connection to the trail. All three shoes performed well on trails with dirt over hard-packed and looser terrain. If the trail gets softer, the Terraclaw and MT/WT 10 v4 dig in better. But on hard trails and dare I say road, the Topo MT-2 is the clear favorite. The MT/WT 10 v4 does okay for short stints (500m) on harder ground and the Terraclaw is not recommended for harder ground.
Contributing to the overall feel of the shoes is weight. Perceived weight is different than actual weight. The Terraclaw 220 is a little heavier than the lightest MT/WT10 v4, but it feels the lightest on foot. The simple, minimal upper of the Terraclaw 220 feels light on the foot. The shoe also has a built-in flex plate called Dynamic Fascia Band, which seems to help with propulsion and makes the shoe feel faster. The Topo MT-2 is more than an ounce heavier than the MT/WT 10 v4, but it’s a more protective shoe. If you encounter protruding rocks where protection is welcomed, the Topo MT-2 is the shoe of choice. The MT/WT 10 v4 does feel lighter than the Topo MT-2, so if you don’t need rock protection, and you want a light, minimal feel for training, the MT/WT 10 v4 fits the bill.
The Topo MT-2 is the most versatile shoe of the three. It will fit the greatest range of feet and performs better, on average, over a broad range of surfaces. It’s more comfort-oriented but still keeps you connected to the ground. The other two shoes are a little more nimble, but not by much. The Terraclaw 220 is the most specialized of the bunch and skews toward faster running over loose to soft terrain. Even though the MT/WT 10 v4 is the lightest, it doesn’t feel as fast as the Terraclaw 220. The MT/WT 10 v4 shines as a minimalist, regular use trail shoe for loose terrain.
Happy National Jelly Bean Day, runners. And in keeping with the spirit of the day, let’s take a closer look at the jelly bean’s more active cousin; Sport Beans by Jelly Belly. Yes, you can get all the yum of a jelly bean in a package that is completely appropriate for fueling your run.
You’ve probably heard about those jelly beans that people eat on the run, and maybe you just assumed they got them off the discount candy rack at their local grocery store, or maybe raided a small child’s Easter basket. There’s more to these beans than just the fact that they resemble the culprit of your springtime sugar rush.
So how exactly are the ingredients in Sport Beans different from traditional jelly beans?, you might ask. The difference might seem little, but it’s all about how it’s sweetened. Traditional jelly beans use sugar, corn syrup, and modified food starch (vegetable starch, usually). Sport Beans use a healthier alternative to these sweeteners, like evaporated cane juice and tapioca. Like most gels, Sport Beans also include electrolytes like potassium and sodium, helping to replace what you lose as you sweat. For reference, one pack of Sport Beans is an equivalent amount of fuel to one pack of most gels.
When comparing Sport Beans to gels, you’ll find them to be much more sugary… we’re talking more than double the grams of sugar. This makes Sport Beans a higher Glycemic Index food. Foods with a higher GI are a good option to eat while you run because they get into your blood system quickly. Your muscles burn glucose (sugar) as fuel and need it ASAP. So when you feel like you’re bonking or crashing, Sport Beans will deliver the quick energy you need. Sport Beans provide simple carbohydrates (derived from glucose, fructose, or a combo of both) with a high GI, and those carbs are easy to break down and use for energy when you need it, stat. The other side to this is the possibility of a sugar high followed by a sugar crash, but this depends on the individual consumer.
There are also Extreme Sport Beans which have the same ingredients as regular Sport Beans, but with the addition of 50mg of caffeine (equal to about half a cup of coffee) per serving, which can be beneficial for sustaining endurance performance.
Sports beans are made by Jelly Belly, need we say more?! These things taste like that familiar candy we all know and love, and that’s one of the major draws. With a variety of flavors, there’s something for every runner with a sweet tooth.
Sport Beans are especially great for instances when, for example, you might require the nutrition that would be equivalent to 1/3 of a gel. Where consuming part of a gel might be messy because you have to stow the remaining gel in your pocket, Sport Beans provide a resealable bag that closes nicely when saved for later. Only eat as much as you need, save the rest for your next run.
…is up to you. One positive attribute to these Sport Beans is that some runners just like to take one or two beans at a time and let them dissolve in their mouth during the run. It’s easier to do that with a bean than a chew, for example, which doesn’t dissolve as easily.
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Topo Athletic is a fairly new running footwear brand that we are carrying here at Running Warehouse. Topo has garnered a following among runners seeking a natural, open toebox shape, low heel-to-toe drop, and simple, lightweight cushioning. We caught up with Tony Post, founder and CEO of Topo Athletic, and asked him a few questions about his brand, and running in general.
Tell us about the name Topo Athletic.
Topo is a nickname I had in college, short for Tony Post. I was on the track and cross country teams at University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and a few friends and folks on the team coined that nickname. It stuck — and later, when I was at Rockport in the 80’s and 90’s a few folks also called me Topo or Mr. Topo. It was never intended to be our brand name, but trademarks can be very hard to clear. After the first few didn’t pass, we discovered Topo did clear. It felt worn in and familiar, so we went with it.
Can you tell us more about your running background?
I was a golfer and a skier growing up, but in college I had a roommate who ran. I started running with him, eventually going 5-8 miles every afternoon. I found I really liked it. I loved the bodily sensations it gave me, I loved the movement itself. But I was always attracted to competition, so I decided to train for an intramural track meet. I won the mile and two-mile, and decided to enter a regional AAU meet. I won the regional AAU mile in 4:16, the Tulsa track coach was there, and he invited me to walk onto the track and cross country teams. I joined the team, but soon realized a 4:16 mile wasn’t going to cut it in D1, so he bumped me up to the 5K where I would eventually run a few races in the 14:20’s. After college, I moved to Boston in hopes of training with better runners, competing in road races and a few track meets. I won a few local and regional races, but I could never break through to an elite level. I got a full-time job and eventually just started running for fitness and fun. It’s been a big part of my life for almost 40 years now.
How much do you currently run?
Depends on the season- I probably run 25-40 miles a week these days. I also mountain bike, road bike, and ski as much as I can. In the winter, I’m also at the gym 3 days a week. I travel a lot for work, so I love running in a different city or in a different part of the world — I get a strong visceral feeling when I run in a new place; it helps me feel more settled and more connected.
How did your experiences with competitive running translate into Topo Athletic?
My family tells me I’m competitive in everything I do, so I guess that carries over into my work life. But like most competitive sports, this is a team effort. I know it’s a cliché, but no one really succeeds alone in business, it’s always a coordinated effort requiring lots of collaboration and execution across disciplines. Besides, it’s always more fun to win as a team.
When did you start Topo? Why?
We started Topo a little over 3 years ago, but ‘why’ is probably the more interesting question.
First off, it’s a huge challenge and I love pulling a team together to create something new or solve a problem. Having been involved with sparking the natural running movement, I wanted to explore that idea more. Despite there being a lot of great running shoes out there, something was always missing for me: too narrow, too sloppy, too thick, too heavy…I wanted to create a footwear brand that could bring together all the key ingredients that I like, while delivering a better, more natural running experience.
What did you do to help spark the natural running movement?
Back in the early/mid 2000’s a lot of running shoe companies were creating shoes with more structure and support, using stability and motion control technologies to cast the foot. Candidly, I felt like a lot of those technologies were gimmicks designed to make people believe that shoes could ‘fix the way you run.’
I became interested in a different approach: instead of making products that treat the pain symptoms, we tried to develop constructive methods and products to help address the root causes of the problem. We brought more attention to the idea of improving running form, which not too many people were talking about back then. We became interested in improving strength and mobility throughout the body. We started making footwear with less ‘stuff,’ so your body could move more naturally – feel the ground, and feel yourself in space. In many ways, the work we are doing with HealthyRunning.org and ACU-Running today is an extension of these early ideas.
What makes Topo unique?
Our fit is one of those things that stands out. We’ve worked hard to create a fit that’s roomy in the toes, but snug and secure through the waist and heel of the foot. I want the shoe to feel connected to your body so you feel nimble and agile — but I want those toes to spread and splay naturally for balance, power, comfort, and better muscle activation up the kinetic chain.
Another thing I hear often is that our shoes are a great value. There’s a trend in footwear to keep adding “stuff” to a running shoe. In many instances, these parts and pieces are talking points for marketing, but don’t add much functional value. As a result, the cost of shoes can get as high as $200, which just isn’t necessary. We’ve worked hard to responsibly source materials and produce products that deliver both functional and economic value to the end user.
What do you like about running a new company the most?
There are so many exciting and daunting challenges in building a company- start-ups are a roller coaster! But of course I love product creation —I love everything that leads up to that, and everything that follows. I love the team collaboration, getting and sharing feedback, testing ideas; it’s most rewarding when you see someone using a product and thinking back to when that finished product was just an idea. It’s amazing to realize how many people it took to get that product on that one person’s foot.
I also love any event that puts me/us in direct communication with consumers. We do a lot of demo events and quite a few race expos; I love getting feedback from users, or, strange as it sounds, discovering a problem to bring back to the team so we can try to solve it.
Finally, and anyone who’s a manager already knows this, it’s so satisfying when you see the growth and execution start to come together in a new team. It’s like running in a relay —always more rewarding than competing alone.
Has Topo seen big media attention thus far in 2016?
2016 has been kind of a breakout year for Topo. While we’ve always won some critical acclaim, this year we’ve been recognized by bigger publications. Outside Magazine featured us in their article “Coolest New Running Gear for 2016.” Runner’s World named our MT-2 the “Best Buy” in all trail shoes this spring. And National Geographic picked the Topo Athletic Hydroventure for their “2016 Gear of the Year.” The year is still young, so we are hoping for a few more! It inspires the team when we get recognized like that.
Anything new from Topo we should get excited about?
Always! We get lots of great feedback from customers, all of which only inspires us to create more, so stay tuned! 3 more new shoes coming in 2016 alone!
What is your favorite Topo model?
Oh, they probably told you to ask this question! It’s been the same answer for 30 years now… the next one!
If you’re running long and running fast, chances are you’re racing a marathon. HOKA has a shoe for that! The HOKA ONE ONE Tracer is built to be both a trainer and a racer, but much like the name itself, the “Tracer” is mostly “racer”.
When you’re running a race, you need your shoe to have a snug fit, and the Tracer has that on lock. With a narrow, close-to-foot fit, your shoe will stay put as you turn corners and make moves on the run.
What makes the Tracer different from other marathon racing shoes? When we compare them to shoes like the New Balance 1400 and adidas Adios (which both have a 10mm heel-toe offset), the Tracer stands out with a 4mm offset. This results in the Tracer having a thicker forefoot, meaning more forefoot cushioning material for its low weight. And when you’re running fast, you tend to be more forward on your foot, so the added padding is welcomed.
Don’t take our word for it. Try the Tracer yourself, courtesy of Running Warehouse and HOKA ONE ONE. In honor of the release of the HOKA ONE ONE Tracer, we are giving away a free pair of HOKA Tracer running shoes to two winners. Entering the contest is easy – just fill in your name, email address, and answer a few questions in the form field below and you’re entered to win. Contest ends April 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm PST. See Contest Rules for more information.
Heel-toe drop is a popular topic of conversation among many runners. The discussions often include type of footstrike (heel, midfoot, forefoot), running efficiency, and natural running. One view is lower drops are better, particularly if one has a mid or forefoot strike. As such, there are runners who are adamant about buying shoes with a specific heel-toe offset. Based on our sales and search results on our website, the 4mm offset is the most popular low drop platform for consumers (10-12mm is generally considered a traditional drop and 6mm or less is a low drop). Many who tout the lower drop shoe also state that pronation control is not necessary. At the time of this writing, there is not enough scientific evidence for sound conclusions on recommending a specific drop for all runners (the American College of Sports Medicine recommends shoes with 6mm drop or less). Also, we don’t see enough data to confirm whether pronation control is necessary for runners in low drop shoes or in running shoes in general. So, it comes down to some trial and error and what works for you, as an individual.
If you have been considering trying lower drop shoes and you classify yourself as an over-pronator, there are a few options to consider. The Brooks PureCadence 5, Hoka One One Infinite, and New Balance Vongo all have 4mm drops and features to reduce pronation.
The PureCadence 5 uses a Guide Rail system for a small amount of pronation reduction. While most Hoka shoes are inherently stable and work well with some degree of over-pronation, the Infinite is built with a wider platform, higher medial side wall, and a Late Stage Meta Rocker for mild pronation reduction. The Vongo is a much more supportive shoe than the other two. It uses a split midsole/outsole design for lateral release. A varus-wedge inspired shape (higher on the medial side) helps keep the foot tracking along the lateral half of the shoe. More foam is injected into the medial side of the midsole. Concave shapes on the lateral side of the midsole and a “lattice” design on the medial side provide added support. Hence, we classify the PureCadence 5 and the Infinite as minimum support shoes and the Vongo as a maximum support shoe.
The Infinite has the highest volume shape, offering the most spacious fit of the group. The toebox is somewhat deep and the midfoot is somewhat high making the Infinite a better fit for medium to high volume shaped feet. Due to the roominess in the Infinite, some may find a need to go down a half size. In contrast, the Vongo has a lower volume shape. The toebox is shallow and the midfoot is on the lower side. The supportive overlay and bootie construction further contribute to a snugger overall fit, making the Vongo better suited for low to medium volume shaped feet. The PureCadence 5 has the most universal fit of the bunch. Although it skews a little to lower toebox height and midfoot volume, the shape adapts well to a moderate range of foot shapes. In regards to widths, the Vongo is made in both medium and wide, while the PureCadence 5 and infinite are only available in medium widths. The Infinite is roomy enough that most people with a wide foot will find the Infinite can also be a good fit. The wide option in the Vongo will not accommodate an extra wide width but the standard width Vongo will also fit a narrow foot well. The PureCadence 5 does a good job of fitting feet from slightly narrow to slightly wide.
All three shoes fall near the middle of the soft-firm spectrum. The biggest difference among the three shoes is related to the overall stack height (amount of shoe under the foot). Since all three shoes have a 4mm offset, let’s look at the forefoot height. According to our measurements, the Infinite is 26mm, the Vongo is 21mm and the PureCadence 5 is 18mm. With the thicker Infinite, there is a feeling that the foot sinks into the shoe during the ground contact phase. In contrast, the PureCadence 5 feels faster under foot with less give. The Vongo splits the difference. If all three shoes had the same stack height, we believe they all would feel the same or at least very similar.
All of the shoes are fairly light for support shoes, but they don’t necessarily feel light during use. The Vongo is the heaviest (Men’s 10.0 oz / Women’s 8.8 oz), but the Infinite feels heavier. With it’s higher stack height and high volume fit, the Infinite feels like more shoe on your foot. The Vongo feels like an average weight shoe, but considering it’s best suited for runners coming from, say an ASICS Kayano, Saucony Hurricane or even a motion control shoe, it may feel light to those runners. The PureCadence 5 is the only shoe that actually feels somewhat light.
I don’t know about you, but the entire fate of my run can be determined by what I’m wearing up top.
I can hear you rolling your eyes, so hear me out! There is something to be said about the positive psychological affect of wearing something that makes you feel powerful, fast, and super fly – it’s a big confidence boost, if nothing else. Personally, I never run better than when I feel sure of myself, and usually the foremost component of my running outfit is my top.
These running tanks are new for Spring 2016, and they are going to be key in some of your best runs this season. Check out a few of our favorites.
New Balance Women’s M4M Seamless Tank – MSRP: $45.00
This. Feels. Amazing. The buttery smooth fabric feels luxurious next-to-skin, and the seamless construction ensures that you won’t get chafed by any pesky seams. A subtle engineered jacquard pattern adds a touch of style, while mesh panels in key areas allow for extra ventilation and keep this tank feeling lightweight and airy.
The North Face Women’s Better Than Naked Singlet – MSRP: $45.00
Let’s face it, running a race naked is generally frowned upon. So the next best thing is to find a lightweight tank that feels so effortless, you can almost forget it’s there. Enter, the Better Than Naked Singlet. It’s incredibly lightweight design with ultra silky soft fabric is body-mapped to provide enhanced breathability. The sleek lines of the construction add a feminine flair.
Oiselle Women’s Lux Shimmel – MSRP: $60.00
What would you do without your sports bra? Uhhh, probably not run, that’s for sure. Well, some days you need a little extra support, and this is where the Lux Shimmel comes in. The built-in shelf bra with removable cups provides added support and modesty when paired with your high-impact sports bra, and while the support of the shimmel alone may not be enough for your run, it works well independently for post-run errands or your cool-down yoga sesh after a workout.
Janji Women’s Ethiopia Patterned Tank – MSRP: $42.00
Running tank, or fashion tank? Do we really have to choose? Nope. Not with this tank. The strappy back adds a unique detail, and the vibrant pattered fabric will really pop with your gym shorts, or your favorite cut offs. You’ll enjoy this fashion statement even more knowing that in the purchase of this piece, you’re helping provide one year of clean water to a person in Ethiopia who needs it. I’m hip to that.
Lucy Women’s I Run This Tank – MSRP: $55.00
A veritable kaleidoscope of colors, this Lucy tank is not one for the timid. If you’re wearing this piece, you’re definitely not trying to blend in, but why should you? With all the technical features you crave in a running tank (including a mesh panel in back for added breathability, racerback design for freedom of movement, and moisture-wicking fabric), you’ll stand out for all the right reasons.
adidas Women’s 3-Stripe Performer Tank – MSRP: $22.00
This daily training running tank top is all about value. You get all the basics you need for a quality, technical running piece, without the bells and whistles that jack up the cost. And you don’t need to sacrifice style, either, because this tank is full of it. With a flowy design with a scoopneck, and fun, striped elastic straps, you’ll feel like a million bucks.
Shop all Women’s Running Tank Tops.
It is true that gels are a great way to get a dense amount of fuel in a quick-absorbing manner while on the run. It is also true that gels are an acquired taste. For those who don’t like gels, energy chews are a great alternative that provide a different taste and texture.
Chews are basically gummy blocks that provide the nutrition (carbohydrates and electrolytes, even protein sometimes) of a gel but in a different, more universally pleasing consistency. It’s this “gummy-bear” texture that helps make chews a popular choice for fueling. Yet, some runners don’t like to chew while running, so to use a gel or chew is up to you.
How do you tell one chew from another, though? It’s really a personal preference, but here are a few of the chews we carry and their standout features.
Clif Shot Bloks are the OG chew. They are also the best easy-access chews, designed with “Fastpak” packaging for easy intake on the run. Simply snip the end before you take off and when you need a chew, squeeze one block at a time out of the top. Fold the end of the wrapper over for easy stowing until you need another dose.
Honey Stinger Energy Chews are the sweetest chew around, so if you enjoy a sweeter flavor for your nutrition on the run, this is the chew for you. These chews are also known to resist sticking to your teeth.
Honey Stinger Protein Energy Chews provide the same carbs and electrolytes as the original Energy Chews, plus a dose of protein. These chews are ideal for runs of 3-hours or more, because when it comes to strenuous efforts or runs longer than 3 hours, it can be beneficial to take protein with your carbohydrates.
Gu Energy Chews come in smaller packets, providing a serving size similar to a typical gel in terms of calories. This is nice for portion control or if you’re going for a shorter run.
Shop all Energy Chews.
For a few years now, shoe companies have been creating limited edition shoes for key running and triathlon events. Whether it’s the ultra competitive Boston Marathon, the hugely attended NYC Marathon, or the extremely selective Hawaii Ironman, at least one company is producing a special edition shoe inspired by the event.
This year Brooks and Saucony have produced special edition shoes inspired by the Boston Marathon. Brooks drew inspiration from nearby Nantcuket for a wild-looking, plaid Adrenaline. Saucony looked to the Boston transit system for inspiration and has two Green Line shoes with the Kinvara 7 and Triumph ISO 2. The Boston Marathon is America’s oldest annual marathon and the subway system is also America’s oldest, so it’s a natural fit.
Check out all three special edition shoes below. Available at Running Warehouse for a limited time.
Our stance on Stance socks? These running socks might just steal the show from the rest of your outfit. But you won’t mind.
Stance’s founders come from a unique place – they were in search of a market that was lacking pizazz. When looking at socks, they saw black, white, solid colors, and very little creativity. And so they set out to not only create a product that shook up the sock design status quo, but also to create the highest quality sock on the market. Stance was born.
Stance provides us with an appealing blend of art and science. Art? Because they are just plain stylish. Science? Because these socks are built to perform while you run, and have the technical features you demand in running socks. If running socks went to high school, Stance socks would definitely be the cool kids. So artsy, but in an accessible way that somehow matches brilliantly with any pair of running shoes, Stance has found that art-to-science balance that makes them hip without sacrificing what makes them run worthy.
With a proprietary process called INprint, Stance sublimates images directly on to the yarn, allowing for crisp lines, striking designs, and a distinctly unique look from other brands. This process includes a 360-degree direct sock dying process that permeates the fibers on a deeper level, so when you stretch the fabric, you don’t see the elastic on the inside. Their manufacturing does not include the process of heating the sock material to the point where the fibers become brittle and stiff. This not only makes the aesthetics more brilliant and bold, but also increases the elastic fit of the socks.
If there’s one thing besides their looks that Stance is known for, it’s for their high quality construction. It’s the type of thing you kind of have to feel to believe, but slip on a pair and chances are you’ll never go back. When Stance began developing product, they purchased two thousand socks to try on, picking and choosing materials and designs they liked as inspiration. They fine tuned what makes a good sock and worked from there.
Stance makes socks for a wide variety of activities, but the ones that we carry here at Running Warehouse are designed specifically for running. Built with an anatomical, left foot/right foot specific design, mesh panels, arch support, breathable vents, and moisture-wicking materials, these socks will stand up to your toughest runs.
Hoka One One now has four lightweight shoes in their line-up: Tracer, Clayton, Clifton 2 & Odyssey. While they may seem similar in some respects, there are subtle and major differences.
For starters, the Clifton 2 and Odyssey are built as very similar shoes. Both shoes use essentially the same midsole, with only slight cosmetic differences. However, the outsole rubber/EVA configurations are different between the two shoes. The Odyssey has more rubber outsole coverage than the Clifton 2. As a result, the Odyssey feels a touch firmer than the Clifton 2. It’s still on the soft side, but seems to have a little less give underfoot than the extremely soft Clifton 2. The fit is nearly identical between the two shoes, as is breathability in the upper.
Moving onto the Clayton and Tracer, the differences are much greater. The Tracer is the first Hoka shoe to be built without an Active Foot Frame. The Active Foot Frame is a design feature in which the midsole material wraps up above where the foot sits and thus creates a “cup” that the foot sits in. So, in essence, the foot is being cradled by the midsole, which adds inherent stability to Hoka shoes using an Active Foot Frame. Another big difference with the Tracer is the base of the shoe is not nearly as wide as the base of other Hoka models, including the Clayton. Since the Tracer has a lower stack height than other Hoka shoes, it was not necessary to incorporate the stability features of a wide base and Active Foot Frame.
So what makes the Tracer a true Hoka shoe? It’s the cushioning-to-weight ratio. Hoka has always been about covering a given distance as fast as possible. What many people don’t know is the distances Hoka shoes were initially designed for were ultra marathon distances, like 100-milers and 100k races over varied terrain and gradients. When it comes to the Tracer, the race distance is the marathon.
So like all Hoka shoes, the Tracer delivers a great amount of cushioning material relative to its weight. The Tracer is more than a half ounce lighter than the popular adidas Adios and New Balance 1400 v4 marathon racing flats, but is 5mm thicker in the forefoot than either of those shoes. However, the Tracer has a 4mm heel-toe offset compared to the 10mm offset Adios and 1400. This means the Tracer is best suited for forefoot and midfoot strikers. A low heel-toe offset is a common theme through all Hoka shoes and it makes sense that the Tracer is also built this way.
Since the Tracer is really intended as a racing shoe, the fit is quite snug. The narrow fit keeps you connected to the shoe, so the foot stays secure when rounding corners in a race course. And while the name Tracer is a combination of the words trainer and racer, the shoe is mostly a racer, just like its name is 5/6 “racer”.
With the Tracer, Hoka has introduced a new construction concept called Pro2Lite. The design has a softer heel that blends into a firmer forefoot. This results in a much firmer feel for forefoot and midfoot strikers than that found in the much softer Clifton 2 and Odyssey. If you are a rear midfoot striker the shoe feels semi-soft, but not as soft as the Odyssey. Regardless of footstrike, the forefoot firmness is great for fast propulsion.
Moving on to the Clayton, we find elements of both the Tracer and Clifton/Odyssey. Like the Tracer, the Clayton also uses the Pro2Lite design concept and thus feels soft then firm, from heel to forefoot. At just around one quarter ounce heavier, it would seem the Clayton could be used just like the Tracer. But there are differences that make the Clayton better suited to training, albeit uptempo training.
For starters, the Clayton sits higher off the ground than the Tracer. The Clayton has the same forefoot stack height as the Clifton/Odyssey. Offsets are nearly identical as well, with the Clayton at 4mm and the Clifton/Odyssey at 5mm. And like the Clifton/Odyssey (and most other Hoka shoes) the Clayton uses an Active Foot Frame and wide base for inherent stability. However, because of the Pro2Lite, the Clayton has a firmer feel in the forefoot.
In conjunction with the Pro2Lite design, the Clayton has an RMAT sole. The RMAT has more rebound than the EVA/rubber sole combination of the Clifton/Odyssey. Also, the forefoot matrix pattern of the RMAT enhances the dynamic aspect of the material. So the Clayton feels more lively underfoot, and with the Pro2Lite design, it has more propulsion at toe-off than the Clifton/Odyssey. On the other hand, the Clifton 2 and Odyssey maintain their respective underfoot feeling no matter where you land and throughout the entire time the shoe is on the ground. Compared to the Tracer, the Clayton is more relaxed. Overall, the Tracer feels taut like it has been wound up and ready to pounce. The Clayton is 4mm thicker than the Tracer, the RMAT has more give than the thin rubber of the Tracer, and the result is the shoe is more compliant under foot than the Tracer. This makes the ride better suited for tempo runs than pure speed.
The fit of the Clayton is much more accommodating than the tight fitting Tracer, making it suitable for faster efforts. In fact, I argue the Clayton is the best fitting Hoka shoe to date. The midfoot fit is a true medium volume, which means it fits a broad range of foot shapes. Older Hoka shoes had really high volume midfoots. However, many Hoka models have moved to this type of fit. Where the fit of the Clayton shines is the toebox. It’s more open (rounded) than the Clifton 2 and Odyssey but it’s not sloppy like some shoes. There is plenty of room for toe splay and the medium-low height feels just right.
In summary, the Clifton 2 is the softest feeling of the bunch followed closely by the Odyssey. And no matter where you strike the ground, the Clifton 2 and Odyssey will feel consistent underneath the foot. The Tracer and the Clayton have softer heels and firmer forefoots. The Tracer is the lightest, closest-to-the-ground, snuggest-fitting, firmest and fastest shoe. And the Clayton sits between the Odyssey and the Tracer, but leans closer toward the Tracer.
If you owned all four models, here would be the recommend use: Clifton 2 – recovery days. Odyssey – daily training. Clayton – tempo runs, fartlek. Tracer – long races and intervals.
If you only want to own one pair of shoes, you should change your wants (smiley face). But here are some additional recommendations. If you’re all about soft, then it’s all about the Clifton 2. If you want a versatile racing shoe that could do double duty as a trainer for an efficient runner, get the Tracer. If you want just one shoe for a broad variety of paces, get the Clayton.