Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dash RunAmoc Minimalist Shoe

One of the shoes I used to train for my half marathon at Fall Creek Falls State Park was the Dash RunAmoc from Soft Star Shoes.

I predominantly run in Vibram Five Fingers, but as all VFF enthusiasts know, they do little to protect your feet from the cold, and a walk through dewy grass in them results in instantly soggy toes. So last August I started searching for a solution for winter running. After much research, I found the Dash RunAmoc with 5mm trail sole (rather than the 2mm option) and decided it was the shoe for me.

Having used this shoe for six months, I'm ready to give a review of the long term use of this shoe.

Reasons I Originally Chose This Shoe

I chose this shoe for several reasons:

It keeps feet dry on dewy or rainy mornings, (and the rare Kentucky snow).
Since I could wear any type of socks with it, I knew I would be able to keep my feet warm.
It looks good. It passes for a casual shoe, and with a little care as a quasi dress shoe (try that with a VFF).
I liked Soft Star's commitment to their community and to the environment.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed was just how nice this shoe looked, then I put it on sockless and noticed just how good it felt. The soft leather upper felt so indescribably good on my foot. I felt like I was being pampered. I had had some concerns over the idea of leather rubbing against my skin, but once I felt it all concerns were allayed.

There is a double layer of leather on the tongue, giving a little more thickness under the shoe laces, this is a great feature of this shoe. There is a very slight heel cup sewn in to the back of the shoe. this prevents the back of the shoe from feeling floppy. The 5mm sole had these little nubs built in, They don't give aggressive traction, but it has been enough for most of my purposes so far. This structure in the sole also allows more flexibility than 5mm of smooth rubber would have.

First Run

I took them out for a spin, and loved them. The feel of the upper was looser than I was accustomed to thanks to the glove like feel of VFFs, but after about a half mile I stopped noticing. Ground feel was more muted than my VFF Bikilas, more similar to my TrekSports, with the exception of all the toes being in one toebox. The Dash toebox has plenty of room for toe splay, I was simply used to the toes moving with the shoe.

Long Term Impressions

What a fabulous shoe! Good ground feel, (which would be even better with the 2mm sole), lightweight, long wearing, good looking, and so comfortable. When the house is cold, I wear them like a slipper, they keep my feet dry on dewy mornings or on a rainy run. I've worn them for the last six months running on muddy trails, salty roads, in cold weather and in warm weather. Even without socks they keep my feet warm in temperatures down to 20 degrees, (it didn't get much colder than that here this winter), but also feel fine in the warmer weather. They are easy to take care of, mine still look good, and if I want to wear them somewhere nice, I just clean them up a bit. I wore them to my wife's graduation and on an 11 mile run that included asphalt, gravel, and muddy trails and am duly impressed with the performance of this shoe.

The best feature of this shoe. My VFFs came shaped like a foot, whereas my Dash RunAmoc, after a couple of months was shaped like MY foot.

The one thing I would change would to be adding another pair of eyelets for the laces so I could snug the back of the shoe a little more without tightening the rest of the shoe.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Half Marathon Trail Race Report

Yesterday, I ran my first trail race, at half marathon distance it was also my first race longer than 5K, as well as the longest run I've ever done.

Driving out to Fall Creek Falls State Park on St. Patrick's Day, the scenery was breathtaking. It was reminiscent of the sorts of scenery you see in the opening minutes of every movie about Ireland. Except of course "The Commitments" Rolling hills, vast valleys, livestock grazing in areas steep enough to make you wonder if two of their legs were longer than the other two. In some areas the fog was so thick it looked as if I would drive over a hill and off a cliff into the ocean. Even though I'm fairly certain there is no ocean front in Tennessee. We missed our turn and stopped at an old store with four men sitting out front.
On asking for directions the first response was, "Oh, no, you can't get there from here." Then the four put together directions that were more precise than any GPS system I've ever heard of and we made it to the park with less than half an hour to start time.

Quick! To the registration table. Quick! to the bathroom. Quick! Get your water bottles and energy gels ready and packed.

As I look around at other racers at these things, I always feel as if everyone else looks so much more confident and experienced than I feel. It turns out at this one it was because so many of them really were much more confident and experienced than I am.

Up the paved road, to the gravel fire road in my Vibram Five Fingers Treksports. I was concerned that the fire road would be about two miles of gravel, and it was. It was however, also heavily worn, resulting in the gravel being pretty much unnoticeable to my Nearly Bare Feet. Next onto the trails.

Trails are hard. Trail running is hard. The difference in my stepdaughters half-marathon time on the road last year and on the trail this year is nearly a 2 minute per mile deficit on the trails.

Trails are fun. Trail running is fun. Running for 2 hours on the road gets pretty boring, on the trails, the ever changing scenery and terrain keep things alive, leaping over logs, ducking under branches, gingerly stepping through streams, crossing bouncy suspended bridges, slaloming among big rocks all lend to keeping things exciting. And hard.

While dodging through some closely growing hemlock trees, I heard another runner coming near me. On a road race I would expect this person to talk a little bit to me. "Passing on your left." and "Good run." This guy was a trail runner though, and as my wife, my stepdaughter, and I learned independently, trail runners are different than road runners. This guy, who later left me eating his dust, had a twenty minute conversation with me while running down the trail. We talked about racing, trail running, our choice of race nutrition, how we started running. . .

The Upper Loop Trail at Fall Creek Falls is beautiful, running it is incredible. Up hills, across streams, sideways on hills so that you feel like you have to run sideways. I stopped at one point to grab a pine cone to bring home to my daughter. Eventually the single track trail spilled out into an area that appeared to be cleared wide enough for cars. I stopped and looked around. There was a wooden sign that said, "Upper Loop Trail" and pointed to the right. I turned right and ran. Up ahead the entire path was blocked by a ten foot tall pile of sticks. I slowed down. Two runners came back towards me through the sticks. I said, "Am I going the right way?" They said, "Apparently NOT!" I followed them back to the trail, and got back on track. It probably cost me four or five minutes.

Back on the trail, I made an effort to pick up the pace, I'm not sure if I picked up the pace, but I definitely picked up the effort. I drank some water and took my third energy gel and hustled past the aid station located a little past nine miles down the trail. On the trail, I had another conversation with a guy doing the 50K race, then he ran on past me.

At about the last two miles, my old friend Plantar Fasciitis decided to pay me a visit.

I ignored him.

He didn't like being ignored, so he stabbed me in the right foot.

My new run cadence became left, ow, left, ow, left, ow.

My foot was hurting, my legs were aching, then I heard the second most wonderful sound of the race.


The last mile of the race was on the park road, the sound of traffic meant I was almost to the last mile. I headed downhill (blessed, blessed downhill) towards the finish, thinking that this would be the first race I ran in which I did not kick into high gear and sprint to the finish. Then I heard the most wonderful sound of the race, music playing at the finish line. I kicked into high gear and ran as hard as I could to the finish. Two hours and twelve minutes after I started, I was finished.

For my first trail race, and my first half marathon, I think it was a wonderful finishing time. Fifteenth place overall, second place in my age group which means I got to bring home a finishers medal and a top three water bottle. Strange I know, medals for everyone and water bottles for top three in each division, but I like it.