Sunday, January 26, 2020

Aonijie C962# 12L Hydration Backpack - Product Review (First Impressions)

So this entry is purely first impressions - I've yet to take this pack out for a run & I've just condensed my evaluation to 3 things.. 
  1. Material and finishing - similar to Salomon S-Lab Sense Set
  2. Sizing and fit - similar to Salomon Advanced Skin 12, but not as flexible (details below)
  3. Pricing - one must not forget pricing of the C962 is around say one-third of the Salomon packs 

Left: C962 / Middle: S-Lab Sense Set / Right: Adv Skin 12
Material & Finishing

Hopefully you can see from the pictures that the C962 feels more similar to S-Lab Sense Set - which is generally softer to touch than the Adv Skin 12. The Adv Skin 12 seem to use different type of material and finishing which seem to suggest it to be potentially longer-lasting..

Once again, these are just my first impressions - we'll only know how the pack holds up with time.. at least material wise, they're all using the same stuff - Nylon/Polyamide + Spandex/Elastane + Polyester.. 

Top: C962 / Mid: S-Lab Sense Set / Bottom: Adv Skin 12

Sizing & Fit

So my chest measures 93cm landing me in the M/L sizing. I've followed the size guide provided for the Aonijie products & below is a copy of that guide. First impressions fitting is that it feels a bit small. The C962 doesn't flex as much as the Salomon brands - mainly due to the front straps (not stretchy type), and I've actually decided to get a L/XL sizing instead.

The M/L pack actually fits my wife far better, and she is actually in the 80cm bracket (ie. S/M according to size guide).

So when I wear it, 2 particular areas feels a bit tight - the underarm armpit area and the front. You can see in the pictures how very stretched the pack looks - the lower front strap is already maxed out and I had to move both straps up 2x notches from its default position. This is all still with an empty pack, nothing loaded yet! Perhaps its my bulky top frame.. or maybe I'm just fat :P

And the following pics shows the underarm armpit compartment is tucked right under the armpit which could be fine if the overall pack flexes when I rotate shoulders/stretch out my arms, you can feel this area just rubbing in and not quite flexing together with the body, once again this is all with an empty pack.. I can only expect it to feel tighter in a full pack. So hopefully going with one size-up, this concern will go away.

In comparison, the Adv Skin 12 at size M has the stretchy cords as front straps, and which the underarm compartments are similarly placed (right under the armpits), the pack flexes with you and it doesn't feel like it's ribbing in at all..

With the S-Lab Sense Set size M/L - you get stretchy front straps as well plus the underarm armpit compartment is further away from the armpit, as a result no ribbing at all.. a very comfortable pack as a result.

Next up, waiting for the L/XL pack to arrive - hopefully the fit will improve & we'll take it out for a spin & see how it holds up..

So at this stage my first recommendation would be to consider getting one size-up especially if you believe that your body frame looks anything like ours.. 

Stay tuned folks..

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Altra Olympus 2.5 - Product Review

As always I'm not going to talk about things you can read about on other websites. I would want to share pointers which are not out there at the moment wrt this shoe.

Fit - Get Half-Size Bigger!

Straight up - I found out that the fit is indeed a bit smaller than the standard US9 for my feet - so if you've had confusion & doubts because you read different reviews from different websites, trust me get half-size bigger than your normal sizing. Having said that it's a bit interesting for my case actually because my left foot is actually half-size smaller, it was perfect for the left... the right, however, yearned for a shoe half-size bigger.

My solution is just to wear thinner socks. (I would recommend injinjis or stiegen)

And with such fitting, my poor right foot has been suffering bit more toe-crushing during the hill descends compared to my left - and I kept tightening the shoe-laces to ensure the mid-section is as secured as possible, holding the feet in place & not the toes keep jamming into the shoes, give the toes room to splay.

Having said that the uphill grip is actually pretty damn fantastic. The foot/shoe synergy was fabulous during the uphill climbs because the shoe/feet are more aligned.

But with the extra half-size, one could wear thicker socks and the toe-crushing during downhills won't be as bad.

The shoes will feel a bit puffed up cushiony from the box as well - and everything would feel a bit tight. I even contemplated wearing the shoes without the insert at first - it was THAT fluffed. New shoes I suppose. As I finished up my 3rd run in these shoes, I know the material has been stretched and the cushioning dampened by a fraction... and it is now slowly moulding to my sole/feet a bit more & hopefully I continue to develop that synergy between feet & shoes. All this, in addition to the half-size issue, made me think hard & long whether I've made a mistake with the sizing and the choice of shoe!

Heel Cushioning - Going Downhill

So I circled out the area where it was causing skin abrasion during the downhills. The extra heel cushioning held the feet well during uphill, however during downhills, this extra cushion would jab into the back of your feet and cause abrasion. Which was what happend to me. Way round it? wear sufficiently protective socks! Thin injinjis didn't cut it. I would probably need to add extra tape on my ankle as well around that area.

Grip - Muddy Terrain

So I'm hoping the pictures will show that yea it was pretty muddy - and yea the grip was SUPERB. I guess many shoes with deep talons would do well in these conditions, it wasn't as if it could grip even on a log or stone with slippery surface.. (yet to find a shoe that will!)

Compared to TOPO MT2

I do feel that TOPO does feel a fraction snuggier. hmm.. perhaps its because TOPO uses softer material, the Olympus does feel much hardier in terms of overall material. The few times the VIBRAM sole brushed against my legs, it felt rough and tough.. like it would last forever. I wouldn't be able to say the same about the TOPO's sole..

The shoe-shape design is very similar but not 100% the same as welll..

I've yet to fully test how well both shoes drains, and whether the upper material dries out quick. But judging from the material itself, my guess would be the TOPO.

Still early days to be honest.. and that's all I have for now, hope you've found this early review useful anyhoo.. thanks for reading.

Happy running folks!


So with the increasing mileage I'm gathering with these shoes - I am finding the INSERT is adding another layer of cushioning & thickness that's pushing the overall feet against the upper. And it has been uncomfortable to say the least - downhill especially. The toes get jammed way too much etc. So with all the above factors combined, ie. smaller sizing, jabbing heel support... the best workaround so far I have is simply...

Remove the insert
Wear protective socks

The roominess of the shoes for my overall feet is absolutely improved when I remove the insert, its just the shape of my feet vs the design I suppose. So if you have similar challenges, you can try this method too..

By removing the insert it also means the feet is closer to the ground, and for a maximalist shoe - this is going to help with the tech downhills where you want cushioning but also not lose that ground-feel too much - for better stability & control.

As for socks, I splurged further & bought these Drymax Lite Trail Run 1/4 Crew online - thinking the fold-down or turn-down would add the extra layer of protection against the jabbing heel cushion... we shall see whether my theory works after this weekend.. (update: it worked! however hotspots were developing at heel area during technical descents.. the lack of sole locking in heel movement would be the likely reason ~ will need to resort to taping to overcome that.. )

The insert is decent quality & provides extra cushioning.. 

Shaving that extra few millimetres for the toes were absolutely necessary in my case.. 

Just a pic to show what I think is a normal feet that I own.. 
Drymax.. unfortunately only found online in Aus (as far as I know)

UPDATE - almost a year later.. (yes I haven't been running much so help me God!)

So almost a year later.. this shoe has been through 600++km now & I thought it would be a good idea to share how it now looks like! Never mind that there's already 2 version of Altra since 2.5 - it might serve as a good reference of how recent versions would wear out.. :)

So the wear-out points for me were...

  1. Big toe joint area - my left foot is smaller so it's only the right shoe that has suffered in this area.. pretty big tear on the side upper.. I've done a bit of DIY sewing to hold it in place (don't judge me!))
  2. Little toe area - both shoes have similar tears showing.. and will continue to tear
  3. Heel cushioning area - natural wear & tear.. it has made the area softer & no longer jabs painfully into my heel like it used to.. 

Pretty obvious these tear points were due to the shape of my feet, so if yours measure similarly against mine - it's worth noting that the upper of 2.5 will wear out in these areas..

Few more 20ks & I should be retiring them for neighborhood runs (still plenty of cushioning left!) - I must say the grip/cushioning has remained the plus point throughout.

And the only minus point I can think of would be the narrow heel base = less stable - which they've fixed in later versions. And make sure you get a half-size up. I've heard that version 3.0 fits similarly to the 2.5. And the 3.5 fits differently again.. might be good idea to hit the shops if you're shopping for the Olympus.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Topo Athletic MT-2 - Product Review

You read this website on this shoe & you would go like... yea this shoe looks pretty good, from the pictures it looks well-cushioned, should be a comfy ride..

You buy the shoe & then try it out... and you go like.. wow, everything on the website is true, except maybe the shoe needs more cushioning man..

Perhaps its me. And my old bones needing some cushioning love..

But damn that 23mm heel sure feel bit thinner than that.. I'm fairly sure it's a combination of me & my chunky self & my running style but perhaps I've been a bit pampered by the likes of HOKAs & maximalist cushioning ..

Yea so be warned if you're a bit like my case.. all the reviews online are stating the cushioning is great etc etc but guess what I did - I replaced the thin Topo shoe insert with a gel insert (bought from shoe shop) + an Ortholite insert (from one of my old Salomon shoes) - just to make it work for myself.

Yea so be warned..


What I do love? The shoe does fit LIKE A GLOVE - absolutely a joy to wear & I'm thrilled to find this, I would say, the PERFECT fit? Roomy toe box + snug secured middle.. very very nice. It is also not 'swimmy' as one review stated (as compared to an Altra - can't testify against that but I do agree wrt the one Altra Lone Peak v1.0 I own)

The profile is simple & straightforward with some comfy lacing going on at the top - fits very well even if I don't wear socks. It is LIGHT as hell. I definitely feel the 3mm drop aiding my gait & to be honest quite a revelation to me, I mean I finally understand all the rage surrounding low drop shoes. (Also shows how much I know about running!)

The outsole has not given me any issues on light trails or road so far. Feels & look moderately grippy but I have not brought it for the super technical trails just yet because of the missing rockplate but I will.. eventually.

So far if that cushioning was perhaps closer to the 26-29mm range I'm sure my feet would absolutely be in heaven. And if it pushed to 30-36mm range I'm sure I would gladly surrender my credit card.

There's another model in the 25mm range actually = Terraventure. More rugged & suited for technical trails. Don't think that extra 3mm & rockplate would suffice for what I'm looking for though - certainly would be an improvement. (Vain note: looks less appealing too colour wise)

Sizing wise - I've bought a US size 9 - fits right for my measurements.

I'm keeping the MT2 as my training shoes for the shorter local neighbourhood runs & park-runs - a shame because I would love to bring them on my longer runs but the missing cushioning that my legs need is holding me back.

What can I say... except that I hope my legs do get stronger and that this review has helped provide further insight into this lesser known Topo which I'm sure will be making a big splash in the coming years.


Tested them in a more technical run recently - held up well, you will feel the missing rockplate on the sharper edges - but overall not too bad.

Essentially you adopt a different running approach when wearing different shoes, ie. probably can't bomb the downhills as you would with maximalist shoes, instead just go with smaller faster gait etc. and you would perhaps avoid sharp edge rocks and hunt for soft grounds more often. And hence once you do that, it ain't too bad.

Another plus with trails, the thinner cushioning you don't feel as much coz you're on soft grounds most of the time. You would feel the impact more once you're back on roads.

Happy running folks!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Salomon Sense Pro Max - Product Review

So after much deliberation... I have chosen Salomon Sense Pro Max to be the successor of my go-to trail shoe after the retirement of my much celebrated Hoka Challenger ATR...

This shoe caught my attention only because it was on sale. :) I have been reading up on Altra, Topo shoes & constantly monitoring prices of Hoka Challengers/Speedgoats etc.. but with events looming I knew I couldn't wait forever to secure new pair of go-to trail shoes ..

I knew nothing of the the Sense Pro series after deciding to stick to the generally wider & cushioned range of shoes which Salomon is not exactly known for...

But lo & behold.. I was most intrigued when I read that the Sense Pro Max is Salomon's first stab into maxi-shoes... that's a first. And with stack height higher than the Challenger, it was also in line with my search for cushioned shoes.

I was further convinced when I read on more than one website it was suitable for wider feet as well...... it was an easy choice from then on.

I've only really run 10km to date in them, but it was enough to tell me this:

What I absolutely love:
  1. The snug-fit 'endofit' sleeves that all websites been going on about, truly feels awesome.. in fact it's so nice that I prefer to wear these shoes barefoot! This also means you can more or less forget about pairing them with thicker trail socks.. 
  2. The trademark quality Salomon upper with quality lacing.. its a fact - Salomon care about quality & I always feel I am paying for something with quality whenever I buy Salomon.. I love it.
  3. The maxi-ness of it all.. 
  4. The road-trail combi... 
What I don't quite love:
  1. It's not exactly wide....? bit narrow for the toe-box section in fact.. I was a bit let down because I was expecting the same wide fit as XT Hornet... and whilst it doesn't feel restrictive like most Salomon shoes and the upper does stretch... I feel that what some websites are stating ie. they are good for wide feet is a tad misleading?... or perhaps people need to fully aware that all these terms of very much relative.. ie. your wide is not the same as my wide... or maybe explain that the upper will accomodate wide feet? so I would highly recommend for people to check your feet against my measurements - and then make a call on these shoes. In all fairness these shoes are likely to start stretching & moulding to my feet - and in fact time will tell whether I have more to say re the fit for wider feet.. 

You can see Hornet is the real wide here... SPM not so much..

See the difference in fit? 

You can see how the upper stretches & mould to the shape of your feet... Just hope they will stand the test of time
What I have yet to love:
  1. I have yet to discover how they feel over longer distances & on fully technical trails.. 
  2. I have yet to see how long-lasting the upper material is.. especially where the sides of my feet are stretching against.. 
What is worth remarking:
  1. The sizing for Sense Pro Max is indeed true to size.. compared to other Salomon's - very very very confusing for online buyers & I hope Salomon starts aligning their product sizing to have some consistency across their range. The picture above shoes SPM at UK8.5 and XT Hornet at UK9.5 - and as it turned out, they felt about the same to my toes... one really needs to be mindful with this one.. 
  2. Sole - it's no longer by Ortholite... it's by good ol Salomon.. eventhough it states on the tongue that there is some Ortholite involved here .. see below

Maybe a deliberate call to keep the sole thin ... 

I will certainly have more to yak about on these shoes as I hit some serious trails with them... stay tuned folks!!

Other reviews:


I've done about 200km on these shoes to date - on the technical trails the shoe does feel a bit stiff on the little rocks & edges - and my old ankle injury have been tested few times I must say. It isn't as cushioned as compared to the Hokas. So despite its 'maximalist' title, this shoe does feel more like a normal cushioned shoe. Slightly on the stiff side to be exact. Sorry Salomon but its true. On the plus side, the stiffness of the outsole would also means is that the shoe will certainly be tough enough to last a while. Certainly not great news for old bones like mine.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Baw Baw Trail Run Festival

Yup. Did the 21k 2 years ago & just getting a bit nostalgic tonight of my fitter days & felt like writing something :)

Overall recollection of the 21k event is... I shat myself, I remember panting a lot .. I recall running this event knowing I would suffer due to lack of training, so yea... make sure you train your elevations! It is a mountain event afterall.

Overall route impression was.. challenging undulations & mixed bag wrt terrain, runnables + single trails + semi-technical to technical.. one would want to ready running through certain sections that have undergrowth covering one's view of the single-trails that are laden with roots & rocks.. going fast along these sections (esp downhill) would require nimble feet, strong ankles (& decent flexible shoes - stiff shoes will likely result in rolling one's ankles)..

Or one could go slow :)

Expectedly this wasn't my best run in my best form. I ran simply to satisfy my trail-running-in-mountain itch :)

Would I recommend the event - absolutely. If you're pretty seasoned trail runner.. this event would make a decent challenge. I heard from friends the marathon distance is sweetly brutal as well. If you've just started to love trail-running, then take it easy on yourself for this one & just soak in the beautiful Baw Baw when you're out there..

Happy running folks! Need to get back on my feet soon.

*Pant pant pant.. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Shoe Sizing (Personal Ref)

Feet measurement - 23.5cm long/11cm wide..

Hoka Challenger ATR3 - US10 = just right
Hoka Clifton 3 - US10 UK9.5 = toes bit roomy/long
Hoka Rapa Nui - US9 UK8 = toes just fitting, narrow

Salmon Sense Pro Max - UK 8.5 = bit narrow + length OK.. 
Salomon XT Hornet - UK 9.5 = just right
Salomon Fellraiser - UK 9 = bit narrow + toes ok
Salomon XA Pro 3D - US8.5 UK8 = toes just fitting, bit narrow

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 - US10.5 UK9.5 = too big, too roomy
Altra Olympus 2.5 - US9 UK8 = need half-size more.. 

NB MT610 - US10 UK9.5 = toes bit roomy
NB  MT876 - US9 UK8.5 = just right, toes just fitting
NB RC900 - US9 UK8.5 = OK, bit narrow

Brooks Pureflow - US10.5 UK9.5 = too big
Karrimor - UK8.5 = OK

Wide roomy shoes (in general) = UK8.5
Hoka - depends on shoe shape.. = UK9 ?
Salomon = UK9.5? (if you can find roomy shoes)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hoka One One Challenger ATR - Sizing & Product Review

I know this model is pretty much 2015 and Challenger ATR 2 is already out, but I read somewhere the versions are pretty much the same between the two so I'm hoping to contribute my quick insights & a bit of guidance re sizing & fitting :)

I took a chance with the fitting as I couldn't find this model anywhere in the local stores.. and as it turned out, it does fit well with my wide-ish forefoot! Hoorah!

So if you have feet like mine - see HERE - then this fits well - choose size US 10.

I think if you're researching to buy this shoe, you pretty much know all the pros of this shoe & Hoka shoes in general.. personally for me, I like the fact that it is giving me maximal cushioning protection (my joints are getting old!) with minimal clunkiness & weight. And of coz the fact that it fits!

And on the point of old joints - that is the only reason why I have chosen Hokas over Salomon.. it's the long-term I need to think about as well, so one should really start protecting one's joints before it is already damaged.. having said that I have swapped the Hoka standard insoles with Salomon's Ortholite insoles as it was more comfy. The Hoka ones were way too thin for my liking..

This shoe fits really differently to my previous Hoka Rapa Nuis.. where the toe box was just much tighter.. see here how the shape is different:

Additionally I've circled the area where it has made a great difference for my type of wide-ish fat feet.. the upper material is softer & more flexible allowing a better fit in that particular area. You can imagine with the big toe & bunion bone having more room - the overall feet has more toe space to splay.. here's a closer pic.. showing how I can tuck my finger underneath the bunion & how the upper allows that stretch:

The traditional laces are also a welcome design.. easier to lace & adjust like.. any other shoe? :)

I like the thin upper & tongue.. how it has been kept to a simple design & very breathable. Here's some 'inside' shots showing how airy they are:

The toe guard isn't much of a toe guard which is fine - having said that it is hardier material & pretty flexible as well.. so your toes won't be jamming into something overly stiff. Your toes are sitting couple of centimetres above ground most of the time anyway..

Perhaps one particular area lacking in sewing finesse is just this part of the shoe.. not sure what you call this part of the shoe, nonetheless pretty sure it could've been a bit more professionally finished up..

I should mention I have had symptoms of sesamoiditis (big toe joint pain) during some runs which I thought were caused by this shoe.. but as it turned out it was due to placing too much pressure on my big toes (usually happens during steep climbs).. so in fact the cause was running technique, not shoes.. (you can read more here about this symptom & how to fix it: )

Welp.. hope you found this quick review helpful, I certainly think this will be my go-to shoes from now onwards (I know I've been saying that for most of my shoes, but this time it's for real!)

Take care & happy running.

Some other reviews can be found here:


21 Jan 2018

RIP my good friend ... with my limited running it has taken me nearly 1.5 years to take this shoe to close to 500 miles / 800km.. whilst there is seemingly plenty of outsole left (it is HOKA afterall), the bounce is no longer there, I took it out for a final 10k lap of honour last night - I could feel the weariness of the shoe after so much pavement pounding..

the upper is finally disintegrating too, I have adamantly hung on to them to a technical trail run few weeks back I rolled my ankle as the upper support was no longer there... but it is REMARKABLE the upper has lasted this long (compared to what I read about later models..)

why you ask..

coz they were THAT awesome, that's why..

RIP my good friend - you have served me well.. my only regret is I've never taken you on an ultra journey that you truly deserve.. I hate to say goodbye ~ but wow, what good times eh? :)