Physicool Cooling Bandage Review

Physicool Combination PackI’ve been following Physicool on Twitter for quite some now, so was thrilled when they offered to send me a sampling of their product to test and review.

Thankfully [touch wood], I’m running injury free at the moment, although my right shin/calf has been a little tender of late. What better time to test the physicool Cooling Bandage?

How it works:

The concept is a novel one – instead of pushing cold in (such as ice), physicool draws heat out for instant cooling. physicool is a unique cooling bandage infused with a coolant. The coolant draws heat away from the affected area by evaporation. As the deep tissues cool down, the compression effect of the bandage modifies the inflammatory response to soft tissue, helping healing and recovery. Each bandage cools for up to 2 hours and can be re-used by applying more coolant.

physicool explain the science of cooling by rapid evaporationon and cooling with open-cell technology on the How it Works section of their website and their excellent “How to Apply” video (below) is a useful resource too.

physicool currently sell 4 products:

  1. Size A Bandage ($14.95) – suitable for wrapping wrists and elbows.
  2. Size B Bandage ($19.95) – suitable for torso, thighs and shoulder areas.
  3. 16.9oz Coolant Spray ($26.95) – used to recharge either of the physicool bandages for many more uses.
  4. Combination Pack ($20.95) – a Size A bandage and 5oz bottle of coolant.
Combination Pack

Combination Pack

The product I received was the Combination Pack containing a Size A bandage and bottle of coolant – enough for a couple of recharges according to the bottle label.

I like the fact that no refrigeration is necessary and that the product can be used right out of the self-seal packet. User instructions are clear and concise, and printed on both the large outer Combination Pack and inner Size A bandage pack. Coolant recharge instructions are clearly visible on the coolant bottle label as would be expected.

Application on my lower leg was quick and easy.

Does it Work?

Cool Shin

Cool Shin

I have to say the physicool experience is far more comfortable and convenient than the traditional bag-of-ice-on-the-injury treatment that most athletes tend to favour.

Within seconds of wrapping the bandage on the affected area, the cooling sensation kicks in and you get to enjoy a nice tingly sensation. In the case of my sore shin, the relief was pretty much instant.

The first time using the product, I kept the bandage on for probably 90 minutes. The bandage stayed cool/cold the whole time and was not uncomfortable at all – in fact it was quite a soothing sensation. The only slight downside to the initial application was the smell of the coolant. No smell would be ideal, but it is what it is I guess. Results were similar to better than traditional ice treatment in that the shin responded to the treatment, but the whole experience is far more pleasant and sustainable than applying an ice pack to the affected area.

“Cool” things about the product are that you can apply coolant to the bandage in situ to recharge the cooling effect, the cooling technology works, it’s completely portable and is very easy to apply. physicool is definitely something I’ll be packing in my race gear bag and keeping close to hand for those little niggles that crop up from time to time.

Links:
physicool website
Follow physicool on Twitter
Like physicool on Facebook
physicool on Amazon.com

(Disclaimer: the product reviewed in this post is a media sample provided free of charge by physicool).

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 Shoe Review

On Sale at Sierra Trading Post!

As mentioned in my recent review of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0, I’ve been racking up some good mileage in the EM Road N1 too. With about 50 miles on my 2nd pair of N1s, I figured now was as good a time as any to share my thoughts.

To start with, here’s a short Pearl Izumi marketing pitch on the E:Motion Road N1:

If you’d rather skip the video, highlights are as follows:

For me, the best thing about this shoe is the fit and the level of comfort the stretchy, seamless upper provides. The soft mesh fabric hugs the foot perfectly and is smooth enough for sockless runs if you’re that way inclined. Initially, I was concerned that the shoe looked narrow in the forefoot, but thanks to the stretchy mesh, the toe box is deceptively roomy with just enough give in the upper to keep toes from feeling cramped.

The heel cup is padded, flexible and thankfully sits at just the right ankle height with no irritation whatsoever. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned an insole in a shoe review before, but this one cradles the foot nicely, and even after several hundred miles still has a bit of spring in it. Overall, I couldn’t really ask for a more comfortable shoe.

At 8.5oz, weight is pretty good for my size 9.5, although it is almost an ounce heavier than the Newton Distance III and a fraction heavier than another of my favorite shoes, the Saucony Kinvara. No big deal though – it doesn’t “feel” heavy when you’re running.

Similar to the EM Road N0, one thing I’m a little confused on is the heel-to-toe offset of the shoe. Pearl Izumi quote the N1 as having a 1mm offset, whereas RunningWarehouse.com states there is a 7mm difference in stack height between the heel (22mm) and forefoot (15mm). Honestly, neither of those figures seem accurate, but if I were to estimate the offset based on feel, I’d put it in the 3-4mm range. Probably not a big deal, but worth mentioning all the same.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Out of the box, the first 2 or 3 runs were slightly disappointing. Despite feeling super comfortable on the feet, for want of a better description, the shoes felt slappy – foot strikes felt weird and I struggled to get into a decent rhythm. Thankfully, on the 4th or 5th run, everything clicked, and now it feels like I’m in cruise mode when I wear the N1s. Interestingly, Pearl Izumi claim that their Dynamic Offset technology offers a “lively and smooth ride that eliminates forefoot slap”. Maybe it just takes a short break in period to get there?

With all its exposed midsole EVA, the sole visibly appears to wear quite quickly, but the four strategically placed carbon rubber pads (2 in the forefoot/2 in the heel), and the s-shaped rubber strip down the middle, work well to preserve the life of the sole. I logged just over 400 miles in my first pair of Road N1s and probably could have squeezed another 50-100 out of them if required. Not too shabby.

Pearl Izumi claim the shoe is ideal for any distance from a 5K to a marathon. Personally, I think they’re a bit bulky for a 5K or 10K, but I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them in a half or full marathon. Actually, I rate the shoe so highly I’m seriously considering the EM Road N1 as my starting shoe in the upcoming 24 Run/Walk for Cancer on April 26th/27th.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Pearl Izumi EM Road N1

Worth a quick mention, I love the color options for the EM Road N1. The Electric Blue/Screaming Yellow (pictured above) is my favorite, but I also like the Black/Red and the Black/Screaming Yellow.

A couple of other quick comments.

  1. The laces are a bit thick and, in my experience, need a good double-knot to keep them securely tied.
  2. The rubber bumper at the front of the shoe works well – soft and flexible, yet protects the toes well from rocks and other objects you may kick.

To summarise, the EM Road N1 offers a very balanced ride in a super comfy package. Whether the Dynamic Offset technology is a bit gimmicky, I’m not sure, but Pearl Izumi seem to have nailed a great shoe in the Road N1. The N1s are very versatile and perform just as well on easy recovery days as they do during tempo efforts and long runs. For rubber-track work, you may need a slightly stiffer shoe though.

From the Pearl Izumi website:
Our lightest road style, the Project E:Motion Road N1 is designed for the runner seeking an ultra-smooth, light-as-a-feather, running experience. Perfect for race day, our E:Motion midsole promotes a smooth and quick running sensation giving you the liveliness you need for maximum speed.

Neutral Race
Sizes: 7–13 in half sizes, size 14
Weight–Size 9: 8.2 oz / 232g

Let me know if you have any questions about the Road N1, or feel free to leave a comment about any of the other shoes Pearl Izumi are selling right now.

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 are available for purchase at OnlineShoes.com, Amazon.com and are currently on sale for just $79.95 at Sierra Trading Post! [Price correct 4/17/14 and subject to change]

Road Runner Sports


The RecoveryPump System Product Review

RecoveryPump System

One leg of the RecoveryPump System

The RecoveryPump System is, in simple terms, a compression device that helps circulate blood in your legs. The uniquely designed system is easy-to-use and works by sequentially compressing four air chambers from your foot up to your thigh. One cycle compresses both entire legs in just 30 seconds.

I first tried the RecoveryPump System at a Trail Camp hosted by PRS FIT in Colorado last summer. Training runs were varied and challenging enough to warrant some evening recovery time in the RecoveryPump System – much more convenient than a full massage and definitely a lot less painful than an ice bath. In fact, the RecoveryPump System was so relaxing that several of the athletes at Camp fell asleep whilst wearing the recovery boots.

RecoveryPump System

RecoveryPump System

I was so impressed with the product, that on returning to Virginia Beach later that week, I decided to cancel my monthly Massage Envy membership and splash out on a Size Medium RecoveryPump System made up of the RecoveryPump power unit, set of 80-95cm RecoveryBoots (with plastic hoses) and travel bag.

I figured that by cutting out a twice-monthly massage, the unit would pay for itself within just a few months, plus I’d be able to use the RecoveryPump system daily instead of having to wait for massage day to roll around. Makes total sense, right?

What is the RecoveryPump System?
RecoveryPump is a massage system intended for people in good physical health. RecoveryPump simulates the kneading and stroking action of manual massage by use of an inflatable garment that fills and deflates, applying a directional compress-and-release massage. This action increases circulation and temporarily relieves muscle aches and pain caused by fatigue and overexertion.

The Massage Cycle

RecoveryPump System Power Unit

RecoveryPump System Power Unit

The RecoveryPump takes air from the room environment and sends it through plastic hoses into four individual chambers inside the RecoveryPump garment. One by one, the chambers fill with air, moving the massage area upwards from the feet to the top of the thighs.

After all four chambers have been filled with air, the RecoveryPump deflates the garment for a brief pause, then, the massage wave cycle repeats.

Note: both the pressure level and pause time can be adjusted if desired.

How to use the RecoveryPump System
The RecoveryBoots are easy to put on. I find it best to zip the boot closed about one third of the way up before inserting my leg. Insert the foot first, then pull the top of the boot toward your torso, extending the garment to its maximum length. Zip the boot fully closed and repeat for the other leg if desired. The RecoveryBoots are designed to fit on either the left or right leg.

Tips:

Once the boots are on, make sure the hose bundle connectors have been inserted into the air outlets on the main RecoveryPump unit, adjust the Pressure and Pause settings if desired, then press the On/Off switch to start the first cycle.

It may take a few cycles to figure out the optimum pressure level. I typically set the pressure at 60mmHg with a pause interval of 30 seconds. Naturally, a lower pressure setting will apply a lighter massage, while a higher pressure will apply a more intense massage. The pause interval can be adjusted between 10 and 70 seconds, and there’s also a Lock Knob which you can turn to prevent an inadvertent change to the pressure settings.

Depending on the type/intensity of workout I’ve completed that day, a typical evening recovery session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. You can also use the RecoveryPump system before exercise to increase circulation to help get into a workout more quickly.

Summary
The RecoveryPump System is by no means cheap (currently on sale for $1295), but if you’re serious about your training, it’s definitely a great investment. Being able to reduce recovery time to just a couple of hours is a huge benefit to the busy athlete, and by recovering each day and starting your workout with a replenished muscle, your fitness level will increase incrementally.

I like the fact that the unit is portable and can be used pretty much anywhere where there’s power and enough space to extend your legs. I packed the system on my trip to Oklahoma last year where I competed in 24 The Hard Way. Back at the hotel after the race, I remember having to reduce the pressure of the massage cycle down from my usual 60mmHg to about 45mmHg, but after an hour or so in the boots, amazingly my legs felt quite refreshed. The blisters on my feet are another story however…

Also, the system is very easy to use and doesn’t require any complex programming. The boots can be zipped up in less than a minute, and with a quick press of a switch, the massage cycle begins. Unlike many similar products on the market, the RecoveryBoots are available in 5 different sizes (see below). I plumped for the Medium 95s and they fit great. They fit wife Ally perfectly too, so at night, it’s usually a case of who’s going to get in the “Pumps” first.

Naturally, the best place to find more detailed product information is over on the RecoveryPump website, but if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, please leave a comment below.

Stop Press: In addition to the Limited Time Spring Special Offer where you can purchase the RecoveryPump System for $1295 with Free Shipping, use code SPEIRS on their website to save an additional $100. I’m not 100% sure when the Spring offer ends, but the SPEIRS code should be good indefinitely.

Shop Now!

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 Shoe Review

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0

One of my favorite shoes over the last 3 or 4 months has been the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 – an extremely lightweight, flexible racing flat utilizing the E:MOTION midsole. Pearl Izumi describe their midsole as follows:

A simply shaped midsole designed to deliver a smooth running experience.

Having racked up several hundred miles in two of Pearl Izumi’s other E:MOTION shoes – the Road N1 and the Trail N1 – I’d say this is a pretty good descriptor.

The Road N0 is a great example of less is more. My size 9.5 weighed in at just 6.5oz, making it one one of the lightest shoes in my current rotation. However, just because it’s light, doesn’t mean that it’s a harsh ride – the Road N0 delivers a smooth, responsive ride with a perfect balance of cushioning and comfort. The upper is seamless in construction and hugs the foot like your favorite slipper. In fact, the synthetic mesh upper and padded tongue are so comfortable I’ve successfully completed several sockless runs in the Road N0 with zero blisters or hot spots – quite a rarity for me.

The sole is approximately 80% exposed midsole with the other 20% coming from two “strips” of blown rubber (see photo below) – one in the forefoot and one in the heel area. The combination makes for a very flexible shoe with just enough firmness for the ride. Traction is excellent for a racing flat and after 70+ miles, durability seems to be pretty good.

Another thing I love about the sole – no drainage holes like one of my other favorite racing flats, the Saucony Grid Type A5. To be honest, I’ve never really understood those holes; they may shave an ounce or two off the final shoe weight, but (a) they let in far too much water during rainy conditions, making for soggy socks and potential blisters, and (b) during drier conditions you’re almost guaranteed to pick up numerous stones/rocks in at least one of the 18 drainage holes.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0

Back to the Road N0. The fit is fantastic, with just enough width in the forefoot compared to many of the typically narrow racing flats on the market. The heel cup is soft and flexible, and in my opinion, just the right height for zero irritation. Most of my runs in the Road N0 have been in the six to eight mile range, but I have logged a windy, solo 5K time trial in just over 18 minutes and completed a brisk 10 mile run on the local roads. I’m thinking of testing them out at the fast & flat Dismal Swamp Stomp 1/2 Marathon this coming weekend, but haven’t completely made up my mind. Watch this space…

The Road N0 are available in the Black/Mykonos Blue colorway (pictured above), or a Fiery Red/Black option. Both are sharp looking shoes and are bound to attract some attention at the local race scene.

Finally, one thing that is a bit confusing, is figuring out one of the first questions asked by a potential shoe-buyer; the heel-to-toe drop of the Road N0. Pearl Izumi quotes a Dynamic Offset of 1mm at initial contact to 4.5mm at mid-stance (what does this mean?), but I much prefer the common sense measurements from King of the Calipers, Peter Larson, of Runblogger.com fame. Peter, in his excellent review of the Road N0, states that:

The N0 is pretty much a straight-up 6mm drop shoe. I measure stack at about 22mm in the heel, 16mm in the forefoot.

That’s good enough for me! By the way, Peter loves the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0, which is probably about the best recommendation one can get.

Here’s what Pearl Izumi have to say about their most minimalistic road style to date:

From the Pearl Izumi website:
Our lightest weight and most minimalistic road style, the new Road N0 is designed for the bio-mechanically efficient runner seeking that sweet spot of cushioning plus connection to the ground. A barely there seamless upper and a silky smooth E:MOTION midsole make the N0 feel slipper-like, light and flexible. In turn, you’ll feel smooth as butter as you flow through those speed workouts, tempo runs and shorter distance races.

Weight–Size 9: 6.0 oz/170g

Let me know if you have any questions about the Road N0, or feel free to leave a comment about any of the other shoes Pearl Izumi are selling right now.

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 are available for purchase at OnlineShoes.com and Amazon.com

OnlineShoes.com

Newton Running Gravity III Shoe Review

Newton Running Gravity III

Newton Running Gravity III

Following on from my recent Newton Running Distance III Review, I figured now would be a good time to pass on my thoughts regarding the Newton Running Gravity III which I recently purchased at our local specialty running store, Running Etc.

Just like the Distance III, the Gravity III are built on the highly responsive 5-lug POP1 platform which offers a broader base and, in my opinion, a much more stable ride than previous Newton shoes. The yellow, red and black colorway is okay, but kind of reminds of a certain fast food establishment I’d rather not mention. To be honest, I much prefer the citrusy orange Distance IIIs.

My size 9.5 Gravity III weighed in bang on 9oz which is only marginally heavier than the 7.7oz Distance III. To be honest, I don’t really notice the weight difference during training runs, but I guess over the course of a long run the extra ounces could take their toll.

3mm Heel-to-Toe Drop

3mm Heel-to-Toe Drop

At 3mm, the heel-to-toe drop is slightly greater than the 2mm of the Distance III, but unless you’re really switched on to the feel of a shoe, you probably won’t notice a difference.

However, the relatively low drop is definitely something to consider if you’re NOT used to running in this style of shoe – your calf muscles and achilles tendon WILL need some adjustment time.

For the record, I’m already pretty much conditioned to a low drop shoe as most of my current rotation are in the zero – 4mm range.

So far I’ve logged roughly 50 miles in the Gravity III, and I must say I’m very impressed. Naturally, being built on the same platform, the ride is very similar to the Distance III, although, with the extra weight, I don’t quite feel as fluid in my stride. Therefore, in my opinion, the Gravity III is much better suited for slower recovery runs or longer training runs where speed isn’t quite as important.

The mesh on the upper of the Gravity III is a slightly tighter weave than on the Distance III. I haven’t noticed anything so far, but wonder if this will make for hot feet during the summer. The heel cup is slightly taller too, but is soft and flexible enough to not be an issue as I’ve unfortunately experienced with recent versions of the Saucony Kinvara.

The Gravity III utilises the same semi-flat lightweight laces as the Distance III and from a safety aspect contain a similar amount of 360 degree reflectivity. The strips on the front of the shoe could be a bit more noticeable (see image below), but that’s just a minor criticism on my part.

Newton Running Gravity III

Newton Running Gravity III

The Newton Running video below describes both their Speed Trainers (Distance III & Distance S III) and Mileage Trainers (Gravity III & Motion III). Kristen explains it well, but the main difference between the Gravity III and the Distance III is the extra durability and action/reaction technology in the heel of the Gravity III.

As noted above, both the Gravity III and Distance III are based on the all-new POP1 platform and are ideal for daily training runs – with the Gravity III being better suited for longer runs, and the Distance III being perfect for shorter, faster efforts. The Gravity III retails for $20 more than the Distance III, but as I’d expect to get more miles out of the former, I’m not that concerned with the price point.

From the Newton Running website:
Retail Price: $175
Weight: 8.9oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 3mm
Upper

Outersole

Midsole

The 2014 Gravity III are available for purchase at Amazon.com and CleverTraining.com