For runners, hikers, climbers and adventure enthusiasts of all stripes, last month’s Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Market in Denver was a celebration of the outdoor sports industry. Buyers, sellers and industry leaders came together to showcase the newest apparel, gear, footwear, nutrition and technology designed for the active lifestyle. Attendees strolled the bustling aisles rubbing shoulders with ultrarunning legends like Courtney Dauwalter, Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes while rubbing ankles with the occasional furry four-legged friend sporting its own official show credential.
With over 1,000 exhibitors from nearly 30 countries, our first OR Summer Market felt like the New York City Marathon Expo on steroids. For four days we explored the latest offerings from some of our favorite brands and hunted for cool new products geared specifically toward the running community. And while this year’s show featured enough variety to excite any outdoor aficionado, here we highlight 9 innovative brands and products that promise to make your running (and racing) life better — plus one more we simply couldn’t resist.
(Disclaimer: Our choice of featured products is entirely our own; sadly, we were not compensated for their inclusion here. All prices listed are MSRP.)
With its focus on comfortable, durable footwear designed for active lifestyles, the OR Summer Market featured several brands that cater to both road and trail runners.
Altra (MSRP varies by model)
Since introducing its FootShapeTM and ZeroDropTM technologies less than a decade ago, Altra has been a game-changer for the running community. The company now offers gender-specific neutral and stability versions of its popular foot-shaped shoes to tackle any terrain. Spring 2019 promises updates to its rugged-ready Superior and Timp 1.5 trail models, plus the newest addition to its lineup of road shoes with the Kayenta, a responsive performance trainer that features minimal cushioning and two-layer adaptable upper construction. On the other end of the cushioning spectrum, we’re intrigued by the recently released Duo, which at 7.9 oz and 30 mm stack height is a lightweight road shoe for runners who prefer maximal cushioning without the pillowy softness. If you’re in the market for a firmly cushioned HOKA-style shoe created for wider feet, the Duo is a dynamic option. Give it a shot, and don’t make us say we toe-d you so. (Updated and newer models available spring 2019)
OOFOS (MSRP starts at $49.95 and varies by model)
If you’re a marathon or ultramarathon runner, you know how good it feels to shed your shoes after a race. And that’s where OOFOS takes over. With its lineup of recovery footwear featuring OOfoam technology, OOFOS absorbs 37% more impact than traditional footwear to reduce stress on your feet and joints while providing significant arch support. In addition to sandals and clogs, the company just launched its new OOmg Fibre for those who prefer a more traditional closed shoe. For us, though, the proof is in the piggies, and ours have been thrilled to “feel the OO” in our OOFOS sandals after hard efforts like June’s 90 km Comrades Marathon. And we’re not alone: 2018 Western States 100 women’s champ Courtney Dauwalter is an OOFOS ambassador, and talk about a testimonial — if anyone knows how to recover, it’s someone who once ran 155+ miles in 24 hours. For road and trail runners alike, OOFOS will help speed you along the road to recovery. (Available now)
Like many innovative products, the first time we saw Skinners we weren’t sure what to make of them. Were they socks or were they shoes? Turns out, they may be both. Born in Norway and produced in the Czech Republic, Skinners combines a moisture-wicking and antibacterial three-layered StretchKnitTM upper with a thin (2 mm) polymer outsole that lasts up to hundreds of miles depending on use, according to the company. Weighing just 2.8 oz and priced at less than $60, we envision a range of possibilities for Skinners among outdoor sports enthusiasts and even frequent travelers who want lightweight, eco-friendly footwear that combines the freedom and portability of socks with the basic protection of shoes. As science fiction author William Gibson once wrote, “The street finds its own use for things.” Skinners may be just such a product. (Available now)
One advantage to running is that the sport doesn’t require a lot of gear. That said, we’re always on the lookout for new products to upgrade your running experience.
Aftershokz Trekz Air ($149.95)
If you’re a runner, cyclist or gym rat with an Internet connection, you’ve probably heard of Aftershokz. Since 2012 the company’s proprietary bone conduction technology has revolutionized the way athletes listen to music on the go. Following up the success of its popular Trekz Titanium model, Aftershokz last year introduced Trekz Air, a remarkably lightweight (1.06 oz) and sweatproof pair of wireless headphones that uses bone conduction to transmit sound waves simultaneously through the cheek bones and ear canal, while leaving the latter open to ambient noise. The result, to use the company’s own words, is “unrivaled situational awareness,” an important consideration for many runners and particularly for women who run alone. Not only that, but the Trekz Air offers a welcome escape from the annoyance of earbuds. So you’ll forgive us if we’re in no hurry to return to our previous in-ear wireless headphones. (Available now)
BioLite HeadLamp ($49.95)
For nighttime and early morning runners, wearing a bulky and front-weighted headlamp can feel like a necessary evil. The more we gaze at the ground to track our footing, the more the lamp inevitably slips down on our forehead — and tightening the strap only invites headaches. Enter the ultrathin, rechargeable BioLite HeadLamp, the first headlamp you may forget you’re wearing. BioLite’s first-generation HeadLamp features proprietary 3D SlimFit Construction combining a low-profile, composite molded lamp housing that sits flush with the forehead and a power source positioned behind your head to balance the weight. The HeadLamp is lightweight (2.3 oz) and delivers an impressive 320 lumens, with a micro USB-rechargeable Li-ion battery that supports pass-through charging (e.g. via a power bank stored in a hydration pack) for extended battery life on longer runs. Prepare to kiss your bouncy, unwieldy headlamp goodbye. (Available Spring 2019)
HydraPak SpeedCup ($20 per 4-pack)
Among the endless shelves, walls and displays of hydration packs and water bottles at OR hung unassumedly the one new hydration product that caught our eye — the HydraPak SpeedCup. Reusable and collapsible, the SpeedCup epitomizes the outdoor industry’s increasing emphasis on lightweight, portable and eco-friendly. This makes it ideal for summer training runs or as more running events elect to go cup-free. The SpeedCup holds 6 fl oz and is made of durable, BPA-free Thermoplastic Polyurethane, meaning it’s easily crushed flat for storage in your pocket, so you can rehydrate at any potable water source without having to carry your own bottle or hydration bladder. And a handy integrated finger loop enables easy holding or even hanging from a running belt or vest. Check out the SpeedCup, and become your own hydration station sensation. (Available now)
From old favorites like CLIF and GU to a variety of healthy, tasty upstarts, OR featured the latest advances in on-the-go nutrition to help fuel your training.
Kate’s Real Food ($2.99 each, one dozen for $34.99)
With entire sections of the supermarket now dedicated to the overcrowded and uber-competitive nutrition bar industry, the question always springs to mind: “Does the world need another energy bar?” Thanks to self-proclaimed ski bum Kate Schade, the answer is a definitive “YES.” Unlike other bars whose eerily smooth and shiny texture makes no promises, with Kate’s Real Food you can see the ingredients, all of which are USDA organic, gluten-free, soy-free and hand-rolled in small batches using raw honey as a sweetener. After sampling their delightful (and addictive) crunch, we can vouch that hand-rolling makes a happy difference. Kate’s Real Food bars are available in six flavors including Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate (their only non dairy-free selection), Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond and Mango Coconut. Try ‘em yourself, and discover how good real food can taste. (Available now)
OWYN ($16.99 per 4-pack, 12- and 24-packs also available)
We’re fans of protein smoothies as between-meal snacks and even meal replacements. And we’ve tried many of the big-name prepackaged options, most of which taste like something that can’t possible be good for you. So we were thrilled to introduce our taste buds to OWYN (Only What You Need), a lineup of vegan protein shakes containing over 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 20 g of plant-based protein derived from pea, organic pumpkin and organic flaxseed. Maybe more impressive, though, is what they don’t contain — no sugar alcohols, and all OWYN products are tested independently before and after each manufacturing run for the presence of the top 8 allergans (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, shellfish, fish, egg and gluten). OWYN’s four inviting flavors taste so smooth, you won’t even notice the blend of organic kale, spinach and broccoli in every bottle. (Available now)
Tailwind Rebuild ($3 each, 15-serving bag for $38.99)
With its promise of “All-in-one race nutrition” and “No gut bombs,” Tailwind has gained popularity as an all-day fuel source among endurance runners and especially ultrarunners. In fact, Tailwind was our fuel of choice for last year’s Run Rabbit Run 50 Miler. Now the company (re)builds on its success with Tailwind Rebuild, a great-tasting sports recovery drink designed to be consumed within 30 minutes of a hard workout. Available in chocolate or vanilla, Rebuild contains electrolytes, carbohydrates, healthy fats from coconut milk, and 10 g of vegan rice protein supplemented with essential amino acids. And though it may sound like marketing-speak, the “great-tasting” label is our own because unlike many other recovery drinks, Rebuild is legitimately tasty. The directions suggest mixing with water, but we recommend almond milk for best results. (Available now)
Admittedly we’re tech nerds at heart, always on the hunt for cool new gadgetry. And amid the GPS accessories and smart devices in Denver, one inspired innovation stood out.
SiOnyx Aurora ($799)
Remember dreaming as a kid of having superpowers like flight or invisibility? Seeing the SiOnyx Aurora night-vision camera in action feels like a superpower for grown-ups. Billed as “the world’s first action camera with real night vision,” the Aurora uses ultra low-light sensor technology (originally developed for military use) to capture color and motion for 720p high-definition imaging of both day and nighttime activities. And it does so while weighing less than 8 oz and fitting in the palm of your hand. Not only that, but the Aurora’s dustproof and waterproof chassis means it can accompany you almost anywhere. Though runners aren’t SiOnyx’s target demographic and its price point may intimidate all but the most avid enthusiasts, the Aurora reminds us that the world doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. (Available now; check out THIS footage comparing night-vision performance of the Aurora vs the GoPro Hero5.)
Find this rundown informative? We want your feedback — let us know which running products and services you’d like to see featured on our new Resources page, coming soon!
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