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New year, new gear! If you’re in the market for some new buys, then our resident gearhead, Killian Byrne, has some runners’ delights for you this month

Killian Byrne

Altra Torin4

While this may not be a brand that jumps out at you, Altra footwear has been making good shoes for both social and speedy runners for a while now. If there is one thing to set this brand apart from competitors, it’s the wide fit. I’m not talking cavernous but there is noticeably more room in these Torin4 trainers compared to other brands. With space to move, but not slide around in, the trainers are a very decent shoe. These felt good right out of the box and would be comfortable and responsive enough for a 5km run but still have enough cushioning for someone looking to get their marathon or long-run training in.

There is plenty of grip on a hard-wearing sole and the mesh upper is strong enough to withstand the dreaded big toe poking through but soft enough to be very comfortable, allowing considerable ventilation and breathability. With an attractive design, they are light, strong and comfortable. The Altra Torin4 would be worth searching out as an alternative to the big brands that are more readily available.

Available: www.altrafootwear.co.uk
RRP: €140

Leguano Aktiv

Minimalist running. We’ve all heard about it, but what is it? The introduction of Leguano shoes to the Irish market might help shed some light on and change perceptions of a movement many of today’s runners swear by. The bottom line is that most modern shoes are loaded with cushioning. This padding limits the amount of work the foot has to do to drive forward, balance and work to the best of its ability – minimalist shoes have minimal cushioning, forcing the feet, muscles and joints to do what they’re designed to do.

But, this isn’t a case of either/or. Leguano Ireland says it’s perfectly acceptable to combine these shoes with modern trainers but it is recommended to wear these for between three to six months before getting used to going ‘flat’. Wearing them around the house, during gym sessions and/or lunchtime walks, are all advised before taking these shoes for a spin and you’ll feel the body working immediately: calf muscles get stretched, Achilles work harder, knees and hips work together. The body is settling back to where it wants to be. Honestly, I found it a strange transition and there was a lot of stretching required. But, after time, I felt comfortable wearing the Leguanos and knowing that I can combine them with my ‘regular’ shoes, I will certainly keep them on a few times a week. This might just be the option you need to help your aches and pains and with a lifespan of up to 1,000 km, the Leguanos may just be right up your street.

Available: www.leguano.ie
RRP: €140

Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones

Here at Irish Runner, we have always advised against zoning out with music while road running. But when bone-conducting technology used by the US Army was mentioned, it piqued our interest and a test was needed to see if these really did perform as well as everyone suggested.For those not familiar with the technology, the ‘speakers’ on the headset sit in front of the ear, not on them and use the bones in the head to conduct your music to the ears. Not actually covering the ears means the user remains aware of ambient sound and any possible dangers that may occur.

First off, the sound. The music quality was excellent, you wouldn’t compare it to a live orchestra but for the purposes designed, the Trekz Air are 10/10. Crisp, clear and loud if required.

Secondly, the safety. Could I hear ambient noise? Yes. Was I distracted by the music playing? Yes. If you’re listening to music, you will be distracted by music – simple – but, with these, you are certainly more aware of what’s going on around you.

These are a great pair of headphones, the Bluetooth connection to your player is very good and I would wholeheartedly recommend them – just be careful when wearing them and choose where you wear them wisely.

Available: lverys stores nationwide
RRP: €120

NewBalance FuelCell Echo

The idea behind New Balance FuelCell shoes is that they are designed to help you go faster. They take technology from several different shoes, combining them in various amounts depending on which shoe in the range you’re looking at. The Propel is an unashamedly comfortable shoe, the Rebel is the speedster and our test, the Echo, is the most commercial of the three – the shoe that takes a little of everything to suit as many people as possible.

Despite the middle-of-the-road positioning, the Echo performs excellently as a shoe and there is no falling between stools here. By taking the speed and performance design and putting it in an ‘everyday’ shoe, you’re getting the best of many worlds. This is a daily-wear running shoe made to build the mileage and get your training done with minimal fuss. I wouldn’t be running big distances in these daily but they’re ideal to throw in the gear bag for a gym workout, treadmill run or lunchtime session.

These are fashionable trainers with a strong performance pedigree that is widely available nationwide. If you’re someone who likes to keep two sets of shoes on the go for training and racing, then these fit the bill.

Available: www.newbalance.ie
RRP: €120

Hoka Speedgoat 4

We reviewed the Hoka Speedgoat 3 last year and it was one of our first jumps into the world of trail and mountain running. These shoes need to be light, stiff, water resistant and prevent you from slipping, tripping and falling and Hoka are getting a really good name in the trail world for making the best of everything that’s required.

The Speedgoat 4 has a wider fit compared to the Speedgoat 3 and it makes a difference in comfort and performance but where this shoe announces itself is in its Vibram Megagrip outsole. With 5mm lugs designed to add traction on wet ground, there is no slipping anywhere in these shoes. The tight mesh protects well and maintains a very good barrier to the dirt and moisture leak that the Irish trails will inevitably bring.

The unmistakable Hoka rocker sole is slightly less pronounced on the Speedgoat 4, but it still provides the cushioning and comfort that the brand is famous for. In fact, if you don’t trail run (or run at all) then these would be very decent walking shoes; either for the hills or just for a walk in the park. They’re comfortable, look good and will wear well.

Available: www.hokaoneone.eu
RRP: €140

Asics Cumulus 21 Knit

This shoe contains ALL the technology. Flitefoam midsole, gel cushioning in the heel, rubber and ‘durasponge’ in the sole, a dual-layer mesh and a sock liner. These shoes are stuffed to the brim with all the best that Asics can offer, and it all makes a difference. You don’t bring out 21 versions of a shoe unless it’s popular and it’s not hard to see why the Cumulus is back again. This is not a middle-of-the-road shoe; this is a shoe that will let you perform to your best whatever your distance.

Did I mention that it’s comfortable? Because it is. A newly designed collar on the heel protects the Achilles and locks the foot in, the sock design limits slipping and is solid. The Cumulus isn’t the lightest trainer on the market but let’s not argue over a few ounces – there is plenty of stiffness, lots of grip and these shoes will provide the casual runner with a good season’s worth of decent mileage. A workhorse of a shoe.

Available: lverys stores nationwide
RRP: €140

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