Gear Reviews That Don’t Suck: DC Rainmaker

I decided it’s time to get a new GPS watch, as my foray into cheapies was pretty disastrous. It’s a big investment to drop a couple hundred bucks on a watch, so I like to do my homework before I plunk down my coin. While the Interwebz is full of useful info, it’s also full of a lot of crap. So, when I come across useful info, I like to share it.

Last night I found DC Rainmaker’s website and boy was I blown away. The dude does his homework, and shares all the information. And I do mean “all.” While I could do without the blow-by-blow photo sequence of how a particular watch unboxes, his reviews are methodical, detailed, and imaged to provide as much information as possible about the item in question.

I think it’s safe to say he’s a techie. According to his blog, he owns five smartphones, just so he can test out any fitness app he desires. Wow. Anyway, if you’re looking at a new running watch, check out the link above. I guarantee you’ll get as much info as you can process. While I think my reviews definitely Don’t Suck, DC Rainmaker might just be the Original Gangster of Gear Reviews…

Gear Reviews That Don’t Suck: Arc’teryx Eon SLW

Eon-SLW-T-Shirt-Black-BlackI’m not sure when I got my first “technical” shirt. Probably sometime in college, although, at USAFA we were issued sweet cotton throwback shorts and tees as our mandatory PT gear. No, I probably bought something on my own at some point after realizing that synthetic fibers tended to breathe and dry faster than the old cotton tee. I’m not sure, but my dresser tells you need to know about how I have dressed over the past decade of running. More shorty shorts than you can toss a stick at and scads of technical shirts. Race shirts, specialty shirts, tank tops, tee shirts, long sleeve, crew-zipped, mock turtle – you name it, I probably have it.

What I did not have until this past year was anything that wasn’t born in a lab. What do I mean? Synthetic fibers are just that – man-made. Most tech shirts these days are a blend of some kind polypropylene base and something stretchy. So, your average tech shirt is pretty much plastic.

In the past few years, natural fibers have made a comeback in the sporting apparel industry. For one, and not to be cynical, but companies recognize “green” is a market from which there is money to be made. Natural fibers can be far more green due to the low(er) carbon footprint needed to produce the material (got sheep and some scissors?). Secondly, natural fibers tend to be more durable. Thirdly, companies like Ibex and Icebreaker have figured out how to engineer technical apparel using natural fibers like Merino Wool. In short, this ain’t your granddaddy’s pair of heavy wool pants/lederhosen. The clothing being produced is uber-high quality and looks no different from your favorite pair of running tights or best zip-up running top. Finally, Merino wool has natural antibacterial qualities, which has obvious advantages when it comes to clothes in which one might run.

So, how did I test this shirt? Well, in many ways, when it comes to running, a shirt is a shirt is a shirt, right? Not much different from one to the next in terms of design. It does feature flatlock stitching, which is important to avoid chafing when you wear a pack, but less important for runners. But really, the most important thing to test with a shirt is the material. In this case, I was most interested in both the breathability and odor-resistant properties of the Merino Wool.

Breathability – it’s important to note here that the thickness of the fabric in question is a key aspect, and you should toss out the idea that wool garments are heavy, thick, and cumbersome. Merino wool allows designers to things with wool, like thin out the material without losing durability. The Arc-teryx shirt is pretty thin – think of your favorite tech shirt, how thick that is, and that’s about the thickness you’ve got here. I layered it under a jacket in AK, and wore it solo on runs in CA and it did well in either case. Merino wool fibers wick naturally, as they are hydrophilic at one end and hydrophobic on the the other; when worn next to skin, the shirt literally wants to move perspiration away from your skin, keeping you more dry.

Odor-resistance – I wore this shirt for two weeks straight without washing it, for every workout. Towards the end, I even wore it throughout a day of skydiving just to see if I could overwhelm it with a bunch of weirdness. Nothing, which is more than impressive. Try that with a synthetic shirt and you’ll be divorced/the Smelly Guy at the Gym before you can say “The Future is in Plastics!” So here’s the deal, folks – I pushed several pounds worth of sweat and corresponding funk through this shirt over two weeks without washing, and it didn’t even flinch. When I say it smelled like nothing, I mean nothing. I couldn’t even pick up traces of my own deodorant. Now, I will say that the shirt, when wet with sweat, smells slightly “wooly,” but it beats the alternative, which is…smelling like nasty ass BO. Seriously, is there anything worse than running behind someone with out-of-control funk? Other than actually being that guy?

Bottom Line: Approved. Frankly, it better be, at $90 a pop. Like I’ve said in other reviews, I want what I pay for. This shirt delivers what I want from a base layer/performance tee.


Gear Reviews That Don’t Suck: Brooks Pure Flow

Well, after putting in a few hundred miles, I feel safe saying I can fully review the shoes. I’ve run everything from a couple of miles to 10+, and some long threshold work as well. I’ve run just about every type of surface you could encounter with these shoes, and every type of speedwork short of dead sprints.

This is going to be necessarily short, because I don’t have a ton of positives to relate, but I guess we can start with those:

1) Comfort. I’ve got a wide foot, low arch, and I’d call it a mid-volume foot. The shoe fits glove-like and well. No slop on a fairly straight last. I’m sure you could go sockless with them, although I never really tried it. They are an extremely comfortable shoe to be sure. The cushioning is plush, and I’ll get to the drawback that relates in a bit. But as far as how comfy it is, I found it to be a very comfortable shoe. No obvious features in the shoe that I’d call design flaws, like seams that rub too much or funky sole features that cause serious discomfort.

2) Weight. The shoe strikes a great balance between weight and comfort. When it comes to minimal shoes, I believe the industry recognizes that there is no such thing as “One Shoe to Rule Them All.” It’s clear this was apparent to Brooks with the entire Pure line, which runs the gamut from chunky to lean, based on what you’re capable of handling. These shoes do a great job balancing weight with comfort. If, as a designer, you go too light in the name of minimalism, you take away from the cushion of the shoe. Go too heavy, and it won’t be minimal enough. It’s really a fine line, and I firmly believe it all comes down to midsole material. The Pure Flow balance the two fairly well.


1) The shoes are just too damn squishy. Maybe it’s my weight/height (180lbs/5’11”), but I feel like every stride, I’m looking for the ground. If minimalism is about getting your body in touch with the ground, the Pure Flow run too much interference in the midsole. Yeah, cushioning is great, but the midsole is too cush. I can’t feel the ground. If I can’t feel the ground, I can’t get my body in touch with it. It’s like running on blue sponge cake, if you ask me.

2) How the shoe fits my foot. Having a wide foot with little toes that are hammered down and out from years of tight-fitting shoes means the fit in the toe box is critical. While the toe box is plenty wide for my type of foot, I consistently get hot spots on the knuckles of my little toes. This is a deal breaker for me – I simply refuse to deal with shoes that give blisters.

So in the end, it’s just not the right type of shoe for me, which doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’d recommend this shoe for someone fairly new to minimalism AND someone who’s lighter weight. The midsole is just far too squishy for the amount of kilonewtons I happen to generate during the foot strike. I’d be curious to know if the industry conducts any kind of force plate testing with shoes to see how runners of different styles (heel strikers vs. mid-forefoot strikers) and weight interact with the shoe. It stands to reason that if the midsole doesn’t change between a heavy runner vs. a light runner, then all that changes is the amount of force the ground sees during the respective runners’ footstrikes.

But for me, I’ve stopped even running in my Pure Flows. I tried giving them a go for the days when I’m just commuting in/out of work (6.5M each way). But I got tired of fighting the shoe for feel. I’d finish a day and feel like I put in 13M of beach running. That may sound like a lark for the uninitiated, but it can put a lot of fatigue into the stabilization muscles of the lower leg, and that’s not what I’m looking for when I’m putting in 70-80M a week and running a couple of hard workouts a week.

Brooks, let me know when you work on your midsole design. Until then, I won’t be running in your shoes…