Friday, 2 August 2013

New shoes - Kalenji Kiprun HM review

I've been sent a pair of trainers to try out and they're the best kind - they're free. They're called the Kalenji, not heard of them before, but they sound kind of Polish, so I was expecting them to be hard working, but for the male versions to be somewhat unattractive ... casual stereotypes over I was asked which pair I'd like - the 10k, half marathon or full marathon version.  The range is Kiprun and the concept is that each pair is designed to suite each distance - more support and cushioning the greater the distance.  Nice idea and certainly far easier to decide which shoe is right for your needs than having to decode the usual marketing language. Wanting the best of both roads I of course opted for the half marathon version and soon enough a lovely new pair were delivered:

I give you the Kalenji Kiprun MD
They looked pretty good and most importantly the lime green matched my Inov8 running bag - turn my swag on!

To help you understand my review it's worth stating that I am a neutral runner and a massive shoe whore. I was lucky enough to win 8 pairs of trainers during the Nike Grid and have managed to win or been given several other pairs of Adidas, Saucony, Brookes or Asics since, so haven't bought a pair of trainers in 4+ years. I therefore do not have one preferred trainer to compare against. I also seem to be blisters free, no matter the shoe, which allows me to whore my feet about so readily (like a gigolo immune to stds) or something like that.

I was heading to Portugal that weekend for a friend's wedding, so I put them in my hand luggage and psyched myself for some hardcore running. The wedding was intense - 30C heat, serving unlimited booze, pre-poured and lined-up into 15 or so different spirits - far too many to choose between, so I systematically worked my way down the line; the weekend run wasn't looking that realistic.

Sweetheart at the top of Estrada de Serra 

The morning after my friend Sweetheart was insisting that instead of running along the coast, finishing where our friends would be surfing, we should instead head for trails. Being too hungover to disagree we jumped in a cab and half an hour later, lost and fed up of driving round in circles looking for a dam, the taxi driver dropped us off in the middle of a national park. It was 38C, we were in the middle of nowhere and having been unable to navigate our taxi driver to anywhere of note, I had no idea how we were going to find a taxi to eventually take us home. Sweetheart started us running aimlessly until we saw some flour on the floor - he'd brought me to the Lisbon hash (I run with city hash in London). We still had no idea where the start was, so he thought it wise that we run up the hill until we find them. 4.5 miles later and 1000ft of ascent, there was still no sign of them. So we decided to take some action shots of the shoes.

Definitely going to be the next cover shot of Runners World
Happy that we'd not looked too pretentious to any hidden doggers (we saw no one the entire time we were here and believe me sweetheart went looking) we headed down the hill and put the trainers to the test.

We raced down, passing some walkers who turned out to be the Lisbon hash. There were 12 of them, they were lovely, but they were all walking due to the heat. 8 miles later having had to run every checkpoint and loop (they called them rambo trails) by myself, I was pretty broken and delighted to find a platter of crisps, nuts and drinks to welcome us back. They then handed out beers for people to down (in a ritual known as the circle, will have to explain in a later post) when I realised that they had been eyeing up my trainers. One of the rules of the hash is that you never wear new trainers - if you do, you have to drink a pint out of them. Aware that I was already in the middle of possible the worst debut review ever, to then end it with a beer covered trainer was nearing disrespectful. After some negotiation and explanation of the review they compromised, allowing me to drink out of a cup from the shoe.

Possible a half of Tanglefoot - get it!
Unbeknownst to Sweetheart (hash name) and myself it was gay pride in Lisbon that weekend. We then found out that having two males arrive, both fairly camp, called Sweetheart and Princess (my hash name) they had made one conclusion too many and we were the gossip of the hash. So not to disappoint, Sweetheart and I left arm in arm, catching a ride back with one of the local hashers.

I had found it hard going in the trainers, but in their defense they weren't designed to be warn in 38+C heat, running down steep descending trails as a first outing. All I conclude was that they weren't great trail shoes - worse reviewer ever. I also concluded that weekend that chocolate was not a great material to make a teapot out of and that razor wire isn't a great product to build seat belts from (that was awkward.)

Review part two

The following week I went for an interval session with heathside running club on the heathside extension

I was running on a mixture of road, woods and fields, with a few inclines, so it was a good mix of terrain to try out the shoes. There was plenty of cushioning and they felt comfortable, with a lot of space at the front for people prone to blisters on your toes. New trainers tend to feel very springy, but the Kirpun do not give a huge amount of bounce. I'm not sure whether they're intended for training for or racing a half marathon.

For me there is too much cushioning and not enough spring for me to consider racing in them. Even half marathons can be quite a quick pace and I've always opted for a lighter/faster shoe on race day than the Kiprun. I'm not sure I'd even wear them for a marathon for the same reason, so I'd be interested to find out how the Kiprun marathon trainer feels. I do often race in Adizero's though, one of the lightest shoes on the market, so maybe I'm just an extreme.

As a training shoe these would be very good for your longer runs with plenty of support to reduce the impact on your knees and lots of space at the front of the shoe to reduce the onset of blisters. The good thing about a training program is that the race is at the end, so if you're looking for a mid-range shoe to train and possibly race in, give these a go, you can always drop down to the 10k pair if you want to a faster shoe come race day.

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