Best of Product Reviews

Prize-winning product reviews written by RW readers


Posted: 31 May 2007

Wondering what makes a great product review? Look no further than the examples below.

Written by some of our past prize-winning critics, they're sure to fill you with all the inspiration you need to get writing your own.


Garmin Forerunner 205 (JBSurrey)

In Short: A must have for the serious runner!
Strengths:Comfortable and simple design, very accurate data, instantaneous downloading and the ablilty to not only display your runs on a map or Google Earth but to analyse your performance in depth on the PC software. Excellent software in watch allows you to personalise display screens, pace zones, distance units, time zones as well as a fantastic function for changing disciplines e.g. cycling or skiing, and custom sports. Usually can find signal within two to three minutes (though I do live in a more rural area and built up areas can be a bit longer wait). The PC software also allows you to either download a training plan (e.g. the RW marathon training schedule) onto the calendar or create your own plan on the calendar which will then synchronise with the watch on connection. These plans can be as in-depth or vague as you like (for example, run at 10mm pace for one mile, then 10 intervals of 400m at 8mm pace followed by two minutes at 12mm pace, then one mile cooldown at 14mm pace).
Weaknesses: Bit chunky and the rubber strap doesn't allow for many fitting adjustments. Would perhaps be more comfortable with a fabric strap with a clasp so could be fitted at any size. If you have travelled a significant distance since you last had the device on it can sometimes be a five-minute wait for signal. Although the feature may exist I haven't yet found a way of displaying a simple distance/time graph - runs are all shown on pace graphs (this feature may well exist as the software is so immense I am still finding my way around).
Overall: I won't run without my Forerunner - the customisable screens are so handy (e.g. I don't like to know my distance covered for a race - just time and pace so i have a screen that shows just this). Software is simple to learn the basics and then compatible with many other programs to allow serious analysis of run data. If heart rate is of any concern to you, go for the 305 but i don't like HR training so I didn't see the need for it. I cannot stress enough the handiness of this tool and I have no doubt I will still be finding out new things to do with it in a few years time.
Read all the reviews...


Falke RU4 Attack (Velociraptor)

In Short: A picturesque addition to the RU4 range
Strengths:Very lightweight socks, but with a little cushioning at the heels and toes where it's needed and a beautiful anatomically-shaped fit. Ideal socks for summer training and longer races. RU4s have been around for several years and I've found mine extremely comfortable and hardwearing. The Attacks perform every bit as well as the standard white and black RU4s.
Weaknesses: None.
Overall: Falke make a fantastic range of sport-specific socks, and the RU4s are probably the most popular of their running socks. They're a good all-purpose lightweight sock, but if you're looking for something even less bulky to shave off those crucial few grams in races, there's the RU5 and the anatomically shaped but uncushioned RU6.
Read all the reviews...


Suunto T4 (Thomas Styles)

In Short: Excellent HRM that helps you train more efficiently
Strengths: Suunto Coach is an excellent addition to the Suunto HRMs. It helps you plan training sessions and more importantly recovery sessions. Using the Training Effect meter it is easy to work out how hard you have trained. What is particularly good as well is the watch's looks. It is not as big as the Suunto Altimeter watches and looks just as good when not training.
It's compatibility with the Foot POD is a big strength and this allows you to accurately log runs without getting maps and pieces of string out. I haven't tried it with the PC POD but this is something I will be investing in soon.
The heart rate belt is comfortable and uses the Suunto ANT system which means it will not interfere with other HRMs in close promximity./br /> Perhaps the real bonus for this watch is the that you can change the batteries yourself with small cell batteries that are readily available.
Weaknesses: The menu system does take a little bit of time to get used to but once you do it is relatively straightforward.
It is expensive but one thing you can guarantee with a Suunto watch is that it is built to last and represents the best workmanship in the business.
Overall: A very good and fashionable HRM that has great features and compatibility with other Suunto products.
Twin with the Foot POD for the most benefit to your training.
Read all the reviews...


Berlei Shock Absorber Silver Bra top (Zoe Reynolds)

In Short: Excellent support, sporty looks
Strengths: Not having rear fasteners that dig into your back during any floor work is a huge benefit. Great looking, never feels hot or wet and never rubs. Offers just about enough support for a medium-sized pair of breasts if running, and plenty of support for other activities. Very nice sporty look.
Weaknesses: Would need slightly more support for running/jumping if larger chested. Side fasteners, although excellent, can sometimes be fiddly when the bra is new. If you have even a small amount of fat on your upper back, the bra may cause a slight bulge over the racer back.
Overall: An excellent all-rounder which is extremely comfortable to wear. This is their 'level 2' support model, so well-endowed women will need a 'level 3' for running and other high-impact activities such as jumping etc. I find this adequate for light jogging and cycling, but wear a 'level 3' for boxing and running.
Read all the reviews...


Inov-8 Terroc 330 (Richard Spooner 2)

In Short: Excellent buy for the speculative newbie
Strengths: Flexible enough to provide you with lots of grip on rough paths when hauling up hill, but thick enough to stop large stones and tree roots hurting your feet. Excellent all-round performance considering this is a more general off-road shoe. Lots of heel grip for descents.
Weaknesses: Needs to be thoroughly worn in before using them to run off-road or else the firmness in the heel and the high sides will likely hurt you. Not all shop staff will be aware of this.
Overall: If you are new to trail running and want an all-round shoe to dip a speculative toe in the water, this is it. It's intended as the all-rounder, so isn't meant to have the outright specialist surface performance of say a mud shoe. But as such you can easily use it to tackle lots of surfaces to see if you want to go down the trail running route more seriously. It just eats up woodland paths and loose gravel, with pretty good grip on wet rocks too. Nice fat heel gives lots of confidence for quick descents. You'll need to take it easy if you encounter roads, for this is a trail shoe after all. Good value-for-money for the intended use (especially when put next to Salomons), made all the better as they are an excellent crossover shoe for cycling and more general wear should you decide trail running isn't for you.
Read all the reviews...


Saucony Progrid Triumph 4 (Welsh Alex)

In Short: Triumph performs, performs then performs some more
Strengths: A great shoe for the neutral runner, the Triumph is flatter than many other cushioning shoes and easily outperforms all that I have tried, which believe me is a lot. The shoe holds you steady on the road and is equally at home if you are a heel-striker, if you run mid-foot or on your toes. The shoe is very well ventilated and surprisingly supple in the middle, which does make sprinting and climbing hills on the balls of your feet easy. My Triumphs have now done over 800 miles, so have outlasted comparable models by other manufacturers by quite a margin.
Weaknesses: The shoe comes in a few different colour styles, one of which is gold and black. Be warned, people keep stopping me to ask where to buy them, which actually becomes a bit tedious after a while. Look out for a small flaw, a fold, in the manufacture of the toe box and make sure it doesn't rub your big toe if your shoe has this common fault. One other odd problem with this shoe is that it is so well ventilated, it fills with sand really quickly if you run on the beach, so sand is really not much of a go-er if you are out in your Triumphs.
Overall: This shoe will run and run, Saucony's best neutral shoe yet. This shoe will eat up the miles and still deliver every time.
Read all the reviews...


Adidas Adistar T-shirt (moonferret)

In Short: The T-shirt that does all that a T-shirt realistically can!
Strengths: I'm a great fan of Adidas clothing, and this T-shirt (specifically designed for running) from the premium Adistar range is no exception. The fit is excellent in terms of length and chest size, although I found myself having to move up a size from my normal Adidas size! From a cosmetic point of view, the designs are great (with the trademark "3 stripes" less conspicuous) and match with other products in the range (I have matching shorts and jacket) which look neat and co-ordinated. The fabric is very lightweight and breathable, and allows great freedom of movement (thanks to "Formotion" technology apparently), despite being closer fitting than some shirts. I was concerned that the thin fabric could tear easily, but a collision with a gatepost, whilst grazing my skin, left the shirt totally unscathed. The ClimaCool sweat-wicking and ventilation is as good as any other shirt available. Washing (and especially drying) couldn't be easier. The design really does seem to reduce odour, despite my cynicism. There is no chafing, and it remains comfortable throughout runs of all distances and in all conditions, especially the treadmill - the acid test!
Weaknesses: The price is an obvious drawback, but as with other items, the T-shirt can be found cheaper by shopping around or buying last season's colours. In very wet/sweaty conditions it clings a bit more than the Nike Sphere Dry shirts. There seems to be quite a lot of seams and stitching, which is no doubt required by the design, but has personally caused no problems. Available in fewer variations/colours than other T-shirts, and this season's bright green offering will certainly make you stand you out from the crowd!
Overall: f you're serious about running and looking for a premium product from a top brand that does all you'd hope for, and maybe more, this is it. Looks good, fits well, has matching products and performs excellently in all areas. It is one of the most expensive T-shirts available (at full price), but look around. I have around ten running t-shirts, and this one gets more than its fair share of usage!
Read all the reviews...


Nike Sphere T-shirt (alsoran)

In Short: Great fabric,long lasting and fantastic comfort
Strengths: The top has flat-sewn seams to prevent chafing and rubbing, and even though I always run with an hydration pack I have never suffered with chafing caused by the shirt. It has reflective strips at the back which aids running in low light conditions. There are also perforated inserts at the armpits to help with air flow in that area. The main body is shaped to fit, with the tail end being slightly longer and it has great wicking capability. The top is warm in the winter and keeps you cool in the summer.
Weaknesses: The only reason someone might not like this top is because it is 'fitted' (i.e. body-shaped) and it might not hide the more prominent belly!
Overall: When I started running, like most beginners I simply used an old cotton T-shirt. The Nike Sphere Dri-fit top was the first technical shirt I ever bought and I’ve never regretted the decision to buy it, even though I paid full price for it! In fact it was bought on the day of my very first race (a number of years ago) and as you can imagine the top has developed its own distinctive aroma but, and this is the point, it is still going strong - a testimony to its manufacture! In short, a great T-shirt.
Read all the reviews...


Ronhill Aspiration Crew (Abi Griffey)

In Short: The perfect T-shirt?
Strengths: Comfortable fit, moves extremely smoothly over the skin and you barely notice it's on. It has fantastic wicking properties, never seemingly getting sweaty no matter what the intensity of exercise, but also offering protection from the elements. It's lightweight, comes in a range of colours for the fashion-conscious - and all at a fantastic price.
Weaknesses: None that I've found, although I can imagine for larger sizes it may be a little short, but it fits me (an average size) perfectly. Best to try one on before buying.
Overall: Fantastic product that does exactly what a running T-shirt should do. Not only that, but it's wearing brilliantly and looks and performs just as well as it did when I first bought it (and I've used it a lot!).
Read all the reviews...


Ronhill Aspiration Powerlite T-shirt (Pengwin Rock)

In Short: Very comfortable material but shame about the fit
Strengths: I've worn this shirt in 35ºC heat and still felt comfortable. It also stands up well in humid conditions. No chafing, never feels damp and dries quickly. Also comfortable in colder weather.
Weaknesses: I have a very curvy figure which these shirts just aren't cut for. Sizes that fit around the bust gape too much around the armholes. Still, surprisingly, I haven't had any problems with chafing around the armholes.
Overall: It's hard to find a good fitting running shirt for more curvaceous figures and this one isn't it but it does provide enough wicking performance to still make it one of the more comfortable shirts to wear.
Read all the reviews...


Polar RS800SD (Dan77)

In Short: A serious training tool
Strengths: Packed full of features including cadence and distance travelled. Simple to get going with basic monitoring. Comes with decent software that generates detailed reports of your stats. Lightweight, waterproof and durable design. Allows you to create a full training program using customised heart rate zones and has numerous displays and beeps to ensure you stay within limits.
Weaknesses: Supplied documentation is not always clear. Software help is not always clear either. Software only PC compatible. Footpod is consistent over a set pace, but changing your pace can cause it to lose accuracy. Uses IrDA instead of bluetooth. Can be a bit complex when first trying to set up a customised training exercise. Excessive price in UK compared to the US.
Overall: Despite some of it's weaknesses, the RS800SD is a serious bit of kit that will definitely help your training. You can keep it simple and just use a basic mode to record your run data. Or if you are prepared to put in the effort, create customised heart rate training zones and exercises to match. The wrist unit itself is quite easy to use, but the complementary software can be confusing at first due to the simplistic documentation. However once you've got the hang of it, it's really not that bad.
The RS800SD may have more features than you require, but if you want the best and can get it for a decent price, this is one to consider.

Polar RS800SD (Dave Cochrane)

In Short: Outstanding!
Strengths: Light weight, cadence and stride length feature, ease of use, comfort, ability to customise each exercise display, large memory, seemingly scratch resistant outer casing in daily wear, small footpod, easy setup.
Weaknesses: No Mac OSX software! Sort it out Polar, seriously! Clunky diary software with well documented redraw problems, IR interface often problematic, soon to be available GPS add on will not allow route downloads (stupid omission), no comprehensive printed documentation or pouch provided as with the S625X.
Overall: An excellent tool that has improved my running an enormous amount - a feature I'd never have expected to use (cadence) has been the best, teaching me to stay lower to the ground and conserve energy. This in itself is taking 30-40 seconds a kilometre off my time. As I wrote though the software could be a lot better and there is still no Mac version, which is astonishing.
Buy one, but only from the US - the UK price is a joke. I got mine on eBay the week it came out for about 165 pounds. It's now around 350 I think.
Read all the reviews...




The Competitive Runner's Handbook (Eugene Nyunt.)

In Short: The crème de la crème - once tasted, never forgotten
Strengths: Approachability is the big one, but readability and coverage of all the crucial topic areas gallops in next. This makes it highly impressive.
Weaknesses: You've got to remember that this is very much a book designed for a mass audience. Consequently it'll be lacking in the kind of anatomical detail which fill the pages of other publications. And as with all specialist tracts know-how definitely does evolve.
Overall: I've got a few of these types of books at home, and the Glovers' book is one I just keep coming back to. Irresistible! Coverage extends from preparation for shorter runs to the mighty marathon, and there's a harmonious balance between detail and flexibility in the training schedules. Diet, rest, and other running-related matters are also amply dealt with. This A5-sized tome certainly won't scare you off - unless you're of a squeamish disposition. If you need any more convincing before purchasing a copy for yourself or an intimate, I suggest you inspect it at your local public library beforehand. Hej då!
Read all the reviews...


Asics Gel Kayano XIII (Lyra O'K)

In Short: Almost run for you
Strengths: Built around an Impact Guidance System (I.G.S) these are a good choice for mild to moderate overpronators. Designed with natural foot motion in mind - a combination of Gel pads and the Space Trusstic (the plastic bit in the arch of the shoe) cushions landing and propels you smoothly into the next stride. These give a speedy and responsive ride. I’ve been injury free so far in these and even in the last mile of a run I still feel I have springs in my legs, so I guess there’s something in all the technology they put into them. This shoe is packed with features, and although the Gel Kinsei have taken over as ASICS flagship model, for me, Kayano still remains the stability shoe of choice.
Weaknesses: With all that (sometimes frankly confusing) technology, the Kayanos don’t come cheap. Whilst I love mine, I am considering trying the cheaper Gel GT-2120, especially for racing as they are 27g lighter. I do find that decent socks are needed for long runs, because my feet start to threaten me with blisters.
Overall: Responsive, speedy and technology packed. Give the GT-2120 a go if you don't fancy forking out the dough for these - and get something lighter into the bargain.

Asics Gel Kayano XIII (Kev Hall)

In Short: The best Kayano yet!
Strengths: Well made, comfortable, responsive and more solid feeling. The biomorphic fit is great, especially for those with wider feet such as me. They also have a nice colourway, which makes a nice change.
Weaknesses: This shoe is the best Kayano I have worn so far, although I imagine that they are still not a particularly high mileage runner as Asics claim.They are also very expensive.
Overall: The Kayano XIII is Asics' latest shoe, although the Kayano XIV is due out in the next three weeks. This shoe has only very subtle differences from the S/S version, but that said feels like a much more competent shoe. The whole thing feels more solid and the cushioning now provides a little more feedback than previous versions of the Kayano. My feet really benefit from Asics' biomorphic fit which is a great feature of these shoes. Excellent!
Read all the reviews...


Mizuno Wave Creation 8 (Recovery Runner)

In Short: Stunning
Strengths: Fantastic fit, superb cushioning. Fit is a little roomier than earlier version, forefoot pretty much the same as before but with new infinity wave in heel. Feel firm underfoot, not at all pillowy but after running my legs can tell the impact has been soaked up very well.
Weaknesses: Pretty expensive and horrible colours. Been running in these a while and they are softening a bit, but still very firm. Getting a little knee pain which is worrying. Fit is also very roomy compared to Version 7. May look for something else....
Overall: Hard to see how they could improve on the Creation 7 but they have. Maybe too firm for smaller, lighter runners but for big, neutral people (like me !) they are top notch.
Read all the reviews...


Garmin Forerunner 305 (Unicorn)

In Short: Good tool.
Strengths: You have a constant display of how far you have run. Due to the accuracy of GPS, the pacing can vary a bit - but average pace over longer distances is good. Virtual partner is brilliant, except when the GPS satellites change the delay slightly and your virtual partner suddenly gains or loses 50m!
Lots of functions and options - enough for most users. Can set up sessions and routes and download to watch. Brilliant.
Weaknesses: Slow to find satellites sometimes, and worst when it is raining and windy, forcing me to stand in the rain for 2 mins before a run!
Screen not all that clear at times.
Sometimes completely fails to log a run, even though it showed the data as I ran. Poor at logging short distances (<400m).
Poor at pace calculation. I wonder if this is due to being mounted on my wrist, which is, of course sometimes going faster than me, and sometimes slower, I've got to try a run with it in my pocket, to see.
Use any alarm function to show how unreliable the measurement really is. Set Max/Min alarms at a pace of 8min/mi and 7min/mi for instance, run at a constant 7:30/mi and listen to the alarm going off again and again.
Overall: Not perfect, but invaluable as it is. Training centre software is poor. (FastTracks is better and free). Takes data off watch but fails to work as a training log.
My perfect watch would have maps, accuracy to the inch, 100ms update rates, colour screen, phone for emergencies. It would switch on instantly.
The 305 is on the way there.

Garmin Forerunner 305 (Dark Knight)

In Short: Blew me away.
Strengths: Very clear display. The ability to upload to the Web and overlay my route on a Google street map is priceless, I can print them off and keep them for future use. Also allows me to save courses so I can run them again in the future.
Weaknesses: A bit big, a little fiddly to use on the run but nothing I can't get used to.
Overall: I decided to upgrade from my Ironman Bodylink which has served me well for a couple of years, but I was getting a bit fed up with having to remember to reset the meters, hit go on the GPS, then forgetting to hit go on the Data Recorder and ending up with nowt. This is a nice all in one package (apart from the HRM strap of course) which is in my opinion far better than the Timex.
The Motion-Based website that Garmin have created is truly a masterstroke, extremely user friendly and very informative.
Highly recommended.
Read all the reviews...


Mizuno Wave Inspire 2 (Big_Kev)

In Short: Surprisingly good.
Strengths: Feel light (compared to my Asics Kayano's).
Comfy, even for my skinny feet and long toes. No black toe nails yet!!
Feet don't get hot, no hot spots or areas that rub.
Cushioning is good. Not overly spongy, but feels better than my Kayanos.
Works well with my slight overpronation/gait.
Cheaper than Kayano's.
Weaknesses: The heel to toe (responsiveness) isn't as smooth as the Kayano's, but still feels natural.
The gap in the heal part of the tread can create noise (sad that I actually notice this). Most people now hear me running a good 40m before I reach them. No more sneaking up and scaring old ladies....lol.
Why are the laces so long?
The colours aren't the best. Mainly white! Now mainly grey/dirty.... (I know, I know, I should care more for my shoes...or buy a different colour).
You will need to work out the best method to put it on and do it up too! I start with one hook at the top then the bottom then "fill in" the rest!
Overall: I used to run in Asics Gel Kayanos (had 3 pairs in succession), but when at a running specialist shop I tried a good selection and the Mizunos instantly felt great (ran on a treadmill in shop).
In short, try these shoes out if you have a selection available. You might be suprised just how good these shoes are at a cheaper price than other makes.
Try not to buy the white ones until summer!
Read all the reviews...


Suunto T3 (Andrew Fowler)

In Short: Stylish, lightweight, simple
Strengths: Polished Black version stylish, easy to use HRM (can display HR as % :), used with Foot Pod gives speed/distance(can display miles/min :), records a training logbook, weekly/monthly totals, Training Effect simple to understand. Also can set speed limit alarms good for setting your pace and tempo runs.
Weaknesses: The negative LCD display looks good but can be a little hard to read in poor light, can't use just as a stopwatch without recording a training log (when you press start it assumes you are training)
Overall: I would recommend this HRM + Foot Pod combination to anyone looking for a simple, good looking entry level HRM, this was the first HRM I have trained seriously with, and I feel it has helped me improve my running a lot.
Read all the reviews...


Previous article
RW Personal Best Awards - The Winners
Next article
RW Running Sunglasses Test

shoes stability, watches
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.