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New year, new gear

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Killian Byrne signs off this unique year as he means to continue – with some of the best gear on the market, to keep us going this winter and beyond

Killian Byrne

Asics Gel Kayano 27 AWL

I put a lot of stead into the initial impression of any new product we review here in Irish Runner. When you see a product for the first time, you are as close to judging a book by its cover as you can be. And with the Gel Kayano 27 AWL, I very much got a ‘wow’ feeling straight out of the box. 
I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never seen this version of the Kayano before and it is something to behold. It is akin to a fine, fitted tuxedo while everything else has an off-the-hanger vibe. First of all, ‘AWL’ refers to ‘All Winter Long’ and that means you get a close-to-waterproof shoe with a secure lock-lace system and reflective detail on the Asics branding for low-light conditions. A smooth upper material completes the sleek look where traditionally we are used to a knit or mesh system to assist with breathability.
Available in male and female fit, these are very comfortable shoes but I felt they were a little ‘snug’ so consider going half a size up if it means you get what you need. Remember, your winter running socks may be thicker than normal and your feet may swell throughout any run. The lock-lace system is very common on trail and hiking shoes and is a feature you will get used to over time. It is very handy for mid-run adjustment and is as secure as any double knot we learned in primary school. There is no tongue in these shoes which helps with the waterproofing and completes the snug feel. It’s almost like you are putting another sock on your foot.
To get into the technical side of things, these are stable shoes. The Dynamic Duomax technology works to assist in correcting any pronation and the Asics Flytefoam sole works well in pushing off during your run. The Kayano 27 aren’t heavily cushioned (not many Asics shoes are) but there’s enough gel to make them very comfortable, providing plenty of shock absorption.
All these benefits come at a price but €190 buys you a lot of shoe. If you can afford it, the Kayano 27 AWL will get you right through the winter and beyond.

Elverys Intersport (nationwide)
www.elverys.ie RRP: €190

Brooks Levitate 4

We reviewed the first Levitate way back in the early days of Gear & Gadgets and, over the years, Brooks has developed this shoe into one that is building up a firm following among today’s running community. The knit upper material makes for quite a tight feel, initially, but when out running you forget it immediately. The upper becomes soft and breathable but you begin to realise after a few miles that all the technology in this shoe is in the heavily designed sole and surrounds. Claimed to be 20 per cent lighter than before, the traditional Brooks DNA Loft material provides the now expected super cushioning associated with all previous iterations of the Levitate 4.
Brooks claims that the new arrow system on the sole of the Levitate 4 will ‘let your foot move from heel to toe quickly which enhances the springy feel’ and they might be right. I felt incredibly efficient (which is a new one for my style of running), the shoes practically pushing me forward with every stride. These are ‘responsive’ shoes, which, for me, means shorter, speedy runs but for others these are the ideal marathon trainer. The DNA Loft cushioning will definitely see you through your long runs.
This is a well-designed shoe with a grippy, cushioned sole and comfortable upper. It is lightweight enough for those who want every extra benefit they can get and cushioned enough for anyone looking for a good, well-rounded everyday trainer. If you’re someone who prefers a running shoe with a secure engineered mesh upper, then the 4 Levitate will feel very different, but give them a chance. Brooks and Elverys will honour a 90-day guarantee – put the Levitate 4 through their paces and if you’re not entirely satisfied then bring them back. You can’t get fairer than that.

Elverys Intersport (nationwide)
www.elverys.ie RRP: €170

Asics Lite-Show clothing

‘Winter miles make summer smiles’ they say. But with its dark and long evenings, and unpredictable weather, winter can very often dampen our motivation. With this in mind, Asics’ range of Lite-Show clothing does its bit to get us out the door on a winter evening run in as much comfort as possible. 
For this review we ran with the men’s tights (€65), the Icon long-sleeve half-zip top (€42.95) and the Lite-Show men’s jacket (€100). There are women’s versions of all the ranges on trial here this month.
The tights were fine, there is little more I can say. One of the features I like about running tights is the compression value they provide and these tights were great in that regard. They have washed well with no stretching or losing shape and most importantly there were no ill effects from seams at all. A rear pocket is large enough for a mobile phone but I would be wary about a key bouncing out. One stand-out for these tights is that they were warm without being oppressive. We trialled these before things got really cold, but I would have no qualms about taking these out for the Christmas turkey trot. Reflective details behind the knees and ankles allow for good visibility in low light.
The Icon top is very much a running top for dry, cold weather. This is an excellent ‘pullover’ with comfortable sleeves and no restrictions for swinging arms. For the more generously proportioned runner, the top stayed in place without riding up like other tops can tend to do. Perhaps it’s just me but I don’t think I could wear this top and a jacket at the same time, things would be just too hot but I’d happily wear this both out running and casually, and priced at a reduced €42.95 it is excellent value.
The jewel in the crown in this range though is the Lite-Show yellow jacket (orange in women’s range). The obvious bright colour is accentuated with numerous reflective details for low-light visibility, but the light material made it easy to wear without feeling constricted. It is water resistant, has two zipped pockets, and a generous and comfortable hood. This is an excellent running jacket, and at €100, an excellent price.

Available: www.elverys.ie - RRP: Various

Up Reflective Hats & Gloves

Ultimate Performance make great running accessories. You can traditionally find them on that display we all love to browse (you know, when we could visit running shops) full of all the ‘knick knacks’ we love to hoard but only use once in a while (be honest, how many rolls of strapping do you own?). But for Ultimate Performance, their products are much more than simple running desirables, they make quality running accessories that all have a place on our list of needs and wants.
Right now, running hats and gloves are as essential as our shoes and socks when out training so it makes sense to wear what could arguably be the best on the market. Offering a combination of warmth and breathability, these are top of the pile when it comes to a practical accessory. Whether you run at dawn or dusk, the reflective detail on both the hat and gloves will add an extra layer of visibility and the easy-care fabric offers excellent heat insulation without overheating the wearer.
They’re not the only benefits of the gloves though: soft thumb fabric on both hands offer an opportunity to comfortably wipe away sweat and a silicon grip pattern on the palms offers a non-slip surface so you can grip your mobile devices with confidence. There is no need to take your gloves off to use your device either as a specially designed touchpad on both index fingers makes scrolling easy.

Elverys Intersport (nationwide)
www.elverys.ie RRP: From €24

SAXX running underwear

‘These pants will change your life’ is not something I hear every day but when the statement in question came from someone who had just worn them in a 240km multi-stage ultra-run, then you sit up and take notice.
Running underwear is of vital importance but is little considered in the greater scheme of things. But once you find a pair designed specifically as a compression fit with anti-chafing capabilities then we’re into magic territory. Female athletes will attest to the problems that ill-fitting and badly designed underwear can bring and it wasn’t long before things caught up for men.
Made for up-tempo training, cardio work and pretty much all recreational activity the briefs incorporate comfort, style and security to enhance movement. The ‘built-in’ tech centres around a performance-based pouch – basically we’re talking a bra for your balls. With a semi compression fit, the shorts hug the body without ever feeling restrictive so you can deliver the performance you need. These are super comfortable to wear both running and just for day-to-day wear. 
With a moisture-wicking fabric, everything stays cool, allowing you to run when and where you want with no fear of odours or chafing. Will they change your life? That’s up to you but I can attest to the comfort and design, these certainly are great – I’m already looking forward to my ‘socks and jocks’ dad gifts this Christmas.

Available: www.hokaoneone.eu
RRP: €160

Garmin Forerunner 245

In our recent smartwatch special, the Forerunner 245 was highlighted as probably the best running watch available right now when price, features and functionality are considered. The Forerunner 245 does all the basics very well – distance, speed, pace, heart rate, GPS are top notch. The ability to sync to the Garmin Connect service brings a host of further benefits that many running watches twice the price don’t offer. You can use the Garmin Coach adaptive training plans, where you not only have access to running metrics but profiles for cycling, pool swimming, indoor rowing, stairs machines and much more.
If you have a compatible heart-rate monitor, the Forerunner 245 offers a host of running metrics like cadence, stride length, contact time and, for those that are looking to train smarter, a built-in VO2 Max assessment will give you a good indicator of how you can expect to perform over various distances. With Garmin’s training effect you can see how your development of endurance, speed and power are progressing and you get immediate feedback on your aerobic and anaerobic training effect too.
Along with your activity monitoring, your forerunner will keep track of many health benefits such as abnormal heart rate alert, sleep tracking, body battery, stress monitoring, hydration and oxygen saturation if that’s what you need.
Finally, the Forerunner 245 comes in a music and non-music version. The music version is probably where things fall down as I found excessive battery use can disappoint but with many still bringing their smartphones out running, a smartwatch that plays music may not be essential. These are very surmountable concerns and it wouldn’t put me off buying the Forerunner 245 one bit.

Elverys Intersport (nationwide)
www.elverys.ie RRP: €260

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