Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gear Review: Merrell Bare Access 3 & Newton Distance 3

This is both old models. As I always do, I get it when the model almost obsoleted. The Bare Access 3 (BA3) was at 20% discount, not typical stock clearance price, but MYR240 for running shoes is very reasonable now. For Newton Distance 3 (ND3), I got it at around MYR350 (which is stock clearance price for Newton which usually start from MYR500++).

As the VFF built quality deteriorated, I am looking for some shoes to replace them. It’s a hard decision because I was running in Komodo Sport for the past 4 years, or 80% of my running career if you want to exaggerate a bit. I had a pair of Bare Access 1, which I had some problem to run in it when I first got it. But recently I think as my core and running gaits improved, I have no problem running in BA1. I even complete a 20km trail run and a 68km road ultra with it. This is the main reason I go back to Merrell, now BA3. For ND3, I really based on the comment from other running friends and also the discount. I don’t do the usual lengthy open box review. I will just descript shortly my experience in both.

For BA3, the fit is slightly narrow with hard insoles and nice durable Vibram outsoles. After my fair share of running, my feet actually expanded into size 9 (I usually wear US8, or Europe 41, before I start running). I found it a bit narrow in both toe box and the arch area, but not until the type of fitting that will create hot spots and blisters. So far the longest distance in 1 run is 19km. And I had completed few speed intervals with it at around 4:30min/km pace. My opinion, you can basically take it as racing flat shoes, with very durable outsoles. The shoes have great response on the speed and a solid built. I can clock lots of mileage in it without worry to get another replacement really soon. It should last for about 1500km, and I plan to ramp it up for marathon in Kuching and SCKLM.
For ND3, the fit is great with soft insoles and the special 5 lugs outsoles. The toes box is only typical D width, but the upper top used the soft material that doesn’t squeeze your toes together. The sizing is a bit weird and I took a US size 10. The 5 lugs outsoles needed some time to getting used to it, and I really enjoyed the running in it. My last running shoes with soft insoles was 4 years ago, you can imagine my feet have some great time running in pampering mood. The insoles absorbing part of the impact hence the response over the speed were poorer compared to BA3. But mind you when I said poorer response doesn’t means ND3 is a slow shoes. The popping from this shoe really worked wonder, and you are speeding without knowing it. Only problem is the 5 lugs system didn’t lasted very long if racing and toes off. This makes ND3 good racing shoes but durability really off. I only clocked around 100km in this pair of shoes, but some part on the EVA plastic on the lugs showing bad wear and tear. The ND3 only have the EVA plastic on the lugs section, the rest of the outsoles are constructed with the soft material which usually used in midsole, and these parts wear off even faster. Don’t think it will last until 500km, and probably the EVA lugs will finish before SCKLM. May be my running gaits and the speeding put lots of pressure to those lugs, but I can’t help cause it’s really difficult to slow down in ND3.
When I first started in these 2 pairs of shoes, BA3 is only for short distance and ND3 for longer distance. Now it slowly changed to BA3 for all distance plus speed works, and ND3 for easy run only. It may be more to my personal taste and preferences. I only have limited experiences on running shoes. When I ran more in shoes then I may have a more objective taste, or may be that never will be the case. Anyhow, running is very personal. Your take, your preference, your experience all played an importance role in how you perceived certain issue. Like my barefoot running journey.

If you follow my running journey, I seem to moving away from barefoot running? Nope, I still belief in barefoot running, but I corrected or adjusted my take on why I run barefoot. Barefoot running to me is more like a drill or a tool to correct my running gaits. Do I need to barefoot run in a whole marathon? I actually prefer not to do it. One may argue that if I can’t barefoot for a race, my PB is not my body really tuned to do, and one day the body will be overly stressed and injury is inevitable. I won’t argue that may be the case, actually if you run long enough without a balanced training intake involved cardio, core, muscles, skeleton/bone strength, and recovery (you can analogue this example with your diet), injury is really inevitable. Barefoot give some stimulus in both physically (the soles, the muscle and the sensitivity of our body response to the running) and emotionally (the feeling, if you ran barefoot before). Your current running capability is a summation of the above. The injury rate will skyrocket only if you pushed too far from it. My body had enough restriction to limit my speed, and I listen to them (do I?). Hence I just don’t need another limit switch to tell me to slow down.

Meanwhile, I will continue to have fun with my running shoes and looking forward the half marathon 3 weeks later.

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