In search of the perfect running sock

I run in minimalist shoes. While some minimalist runners run without socks, I really dislike the sensation of my shoes.  However, running with thick, padded socks doesn't really work for the minimalist runner.  Plus, it's HOT down here in Texas, so I wanted socks that wouldn't make my feet too warm.

I tried a variety of thin running socks, but in invariably wore a hole over my big toe within a few weeks of regular use.

Then I ordered some Balega "Hidden Dry" socks. If there is a sock Nirvana, these are it. 

First, they are incredibly thin.  I mean, nearly nylon-stocking thin. They are ingeniously constructed to follow the contour of the foot without a bulge, wrinkle or snag.  Firm, but not tight or constricting.  As I pulled on my first pair, I thought, "my toenails are going to tear these up."  Now, nearly 18 months later, I still have the same pair.  No snags, tears or holes. 

Lastly, these socks come in S, M, L and XL.  That means they can easily fit your foot, from size 2 all the way to 15. 

The company, based in Cape Town, South Africa, prides itself on its workmanship and quality.  On their website, they profile all their employees and you can even see a photo of the person who inspected your socks! If you, as I am, are concerned about US jobs, the high-quality, synthetic fibers used in the socks are made in the USA.  

Comfort, durability and superb fit make these socks the best I've worn. They currently retail for about $12 on their site.  Check them out.

 

Finally... a great running hat for my noggin

I love a good hat.  It covers my head if I've gotta rush out first thing in the morning and need to tame my bed-head. It helps keep me cool and shield my pale scalp from getting burned when I run.  I love a good hat.  However, I have an enormous noggin.  As in, huuuuuge.  When I was in the military I always had to special order my headgear.  Needless to say, finding a hat that will ensconce my massive cranium is challenging. Until recently, I contended with hats that were too-tight or perched atop my head like a beanie with a bill.

Then I found JackRabbit Caps.  I stumbled across their site while Googling for "big running hat" and quickly fired off an order for one which arrived a few days later.  JackRabbit Caps are made in the US, just outside San Diego. They use high-quality materials including a very light-weight wicking material for the body of the cap.  The build quality is impeccable. The seams are all sewn over with no stray threads. The inside of the cap is lined with a stretchy headband that easily and comfortably accommodates my sizable skull. Not only that, but the cap was large enough to fit down over my head all the way to my ears -- no more beanie cap look!

So, how does it perform?  Very well. As I've previously mentioned, I sweat a lot.  This hat handles it with no difficulty.  The technical fabrics do a great job wicking away the moisture and helping everything evaporate. I ordered my first JackRabbit cap about eight months ago and my second about three.  I've worn both on long runs and short.  I've started wearing my black one as a daily wear.  They really are that comfortable.  No tugging, sliding or pulling.  I scarcely feel them at all. I've washed both caps, in my washing maching, at least a half-dozen times and they look as good as the day I received them. (Note: the instructions recommend hand washing)

JackRabbit offers their warm weather caps in two varieties: wicking and visibility. The visibility caps are just the wicking caps with reflective piping and other accents to help make you more visible at night.  They also offer a visor.  Furthermore, they offer a wide variety of wool and synthetic winter running caps.  Since it rarely gets that cold down here in San Antonio, I haven't had an opportunity to test their warmer head covers.

Overall, I'm delighted with my JackRabbit caps.  They're comfortable, fit well, provide exceptional performance and are unexpectedly durable.  JackRabbit offers a "Take It For A Run Guarantee": If you aren't delighted with their cap, they'll refund your money. Check out their website at www.jackrabbitcaps.com

Have a JackRabbit Cap or any other suggestions on runners with giant heads?  Leave a comment below!

Stay hydrated with the SPIBELT H2O Companion

SPIbelt, the purveyors of a fantastic line of belts to carry your necessities during your runs, recently sent me their newest accessory to test: the H2O Companion.  This 6 oz bottle is specifically designed to attach to any SPIbelt belt, with quick access and absolutely no bounce.

Typically, on my longer runs, I carry a hand-held bottle with my water.  While this generally does the trick, I would prefer to have my hands free.  I examined belt mounted water systems, but was reluctant to leave behind my awesome SPIbelt and really didn't like the plastic brackets that Amphipod or FuelBelt use.  I'm pretty picky about how my belt should feel and I didn't want have to mess with adjusting the brackets to makes sure the bottles didn't annoy me while running.  Plus, I've invested in SPIbelt, really like their product and don't want to give that up.

The H2O Companion is designed to address these concerns.  I used the bottle on three runs this past week and found that, for the most part, it performed as expected.  The bottle itself is a BPA free plastic with a detachable bracket and cap. The cap has a small silicon valve, similar to a kid's sippy cup or CamelBak.  No pulling or pushing to open an close a valve here.  The neck of the bottle is angled to ease drinking that very last drop at the bottom.  After rinsing out the bottle for its first use, I did not notice any nasty, chemical taste in my water, as you see in lower quality bottles. 

Using the bottle is easy.  Just put on your SPIbelt, position the bottle on the belt and off you go.  I ran a recovery run, a interval run and a 10 miler with this bottle and barely noticed it was there. No bouncing, no shifting. Many of the promotional materials from the company show the bottle positioned on the front, but I found that my leg tended to push the bottle around. So I positioned it near my back instead, where it was scarcely noticeable. It was a cinch grabbing the bottle for a drink, although putting it back on generally required me to use one hand to pull the belt away from my body (creating a small gap) and the other to put the bottle back on the belt.  I did not have to look down, however.  Then I just slid the bottle back into position.  I estimate that I could fit up to four bottles on my SPIbelt.  The valve worked well when drinking.  Give the bottle a squeeze and you'll get about a mouthful of water.  The bottle is fairly rigid and squeezing more than a mouthful at a time resulted in some minor leaking around the threads of the cap.

The only issue I really encountered with the bottle was that it tended to leak around the cap when not in the upright position.  I typically fill my bottles at home and found about a teaspoon worth of leakage in my trunk from the bottle.  Not sure if this is common to all bottles or just my tester.  

Overall, I am very pleased with the SPIbelt H2O Companion water bottle.  It is a bit on the small side, so I'll be ordering another one soon. Despite the minor leaking issues, it performed marvelously and now gives me a hands free option to carry up to 24oz of water for those long runs away from water sources.  

Check out the SPIbelt H2O Companion on their website. $9.99 + shipping.  4 out of 5 stars (Recommended, minor flaws).  

Do you have an H2O Companion or other hydration system?  Tell me about it in the comment section!

 

Halo Headband: Halo V -- Salvation from face dribbles

So, as I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, I live in San Antonio and it's hot.  And I sweat.  A lot. Today, in early November, I needed to run at 4pm.  It was 91.  Degrees.  Yuck.  

Several weeks ago, my wife taunted me ("you are sweaty") into buying a Halo V headband that we saw while at the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo.  I grabbed one figuring I'd give it a shot. Now, I never run without it.

The folks over at Halo really nailed it with this product.  The design is deceptively simple:  take the stretchy goodness of Dryline® fabric, put a little strip of rubber along the bottom seam the folks at Halo call, "Sweatblocker" and tell folks it'll keep the sweat from running down their faces and into their eyes / on their glasses.  With the Halo V, throw a little Velcro® to make it adjustable and *poof*, new product.

And it works exactly as advertised.  

I've probably put in around a hundred miles with my band and have yet to get a drop of sweat running down my face or glasses. The silver Halo incorporates into the fabric to help keep the stink down also works as advertised.  A side effect of all this sweat-blocking goodness is that you are left with a rather prominent red dent on your forehead after a run that can take a little while (less than an hour) to fade.  Small price in my book.  

All in all, I love my Halo V band.  Works well under hats, visors, helmets (for you cyclists or triathletes out there) or, for that 70's vibe, all by itself. 

Have a Halo product or an alternate suggestion?  Leave a comment below!

SPIbelt: Endurance Edition

Straight from the "Why didn't I think of that?" files, came the SPIBelt.  For the unfamiliar, this line of belts, the brainchild of Kim Overton, is a fantastically convenient way to carry your necessities while you run, exercise, play or whatever.  Kim was frustrated by having to carry her key tucked in her bra and in a flash of brilliance, conceived the SPIBelt. 

Thousands of runners wear her gear today.  The belts are small, securely hold the contents, but most important, they do not bounce.  At all.  In fact, I barely notice mine.  I had one of the early models, but recently with my increasing mileage as I prepare for my first marathon, I purchased one of the Endurance edition belts.

 The SPIBelt Endurance Series

The SPIBelt Endurance Series

Several features make the Endurance Series different from the regular SPIBelt.  First, the elastic belt is wider, 1.5 inches, for better comfort and to better distribute the increased carrying capacity of the larger pouch.  This larger pouch, the second new feature, easily accommodates my iPhone 6 Plus, my wallet and my car key.  Third, they sewed a total of six loops to the elastic band to carry gels and fourth, there are elastic loops with toggles for your race numbers.  Fourth, they use a contrasting color inside the belt to help you locate those small items.

I've put in about 100 miles on this belt and rarely notice it until I need to fish my phone out and look at a map.  The new wide elastic band really does comfortably distribute the weight of the belt and its contents. The gel loops work exactly as you would expect.  One of the nice design features is that the larger contents of your pouch, such as you phone, will stay in the pouch when you unzip it. So you can open the pouch without spilling everything everywhere.  

SPIBelt goes to great lengths to say that their pouches are not waterproof.  If you immerse it in a swimming pool or take a dunk in a stream, your stuff is going to get wet.  However, it did keep my phone and stuff completely dry in a driving rainstorm recently.  So it is quite water resistant.

If you're looking for a small, simple running pouch with a bit more capacity and tons of comfort, check out the SPIBelt Endurance Series.  Available in a variety of colors, it will serve you well on your runs or other adventures.

Any thoughts?  Please leave comments below. 

Sport Hooks -- the stylish way to show your medals

I really haven't been running all that long.  Yet, after my first race or two I was really puzzled how to display my medals.  At first, they just got piled up on a book shelf, forgotten, unseen.  Then, while I was at the Disneyland Half Marathon, I came across Sport Hooks at the Expo and found the answer to my quandary.

Sport Hooks is the brainchild of Marcey, owner of the company.  As an avid marathoner (putting that mildly -- she's finished nearly 100!) she was faced with the same issue as I, albeit at a somewhat larger scale.  With her husband, she created a series of really snazzy hooks that you hang on your wall to display your hard-won metal.  The hooks come in two main sizes:  five and ten, and each hook can hold up to five medals.  The hooks come in a myriad of designs and you can commission your own custom design.  

Run out of room?  Add on a bar, either below or next to your original hooks. 

The hooks are made from sturdy metal and include two color-matched screws to attach your swag to the wall.  I found the screws to be too small, however, to work with drywall anchors and ended up using non-color matched screws. However, the hooks work exactly as advertised and they function exactly as advertised.

Lastly, I had the pleasure of speaking with Marcey and her husband about their business and running.  They are really terrific people who love what they do.  They gave me some great advice on my running.  Check them out at www.sporthooks.com

 

 

 Yes, yes I do.

Yes, yes I do.

 A 10-hook add-on bar

A 10-hook add-on bar

 Note the add-on bar below the 26.2 hook. photos courtesy of www.sporthooks.com

Note the add-on bar below the 26.2 hook.
photos courtesy of www.sporthooks.com