Product Reviews

Below are a number of products that I have used as a runner and are listed here for your information and consideration.

I am always happy to review running related products and services. Any companies that would like me to review their products please contact me by e-mail and I will give an honest opinion of your  product.


Adidas Sennheiser CX 680 Sports Earphones

When I am training I love to run listening to music or pod casts on my IPOD nano . However how many of us take the care to actually buy a decent pair of earphones so that we can enjoy the best quality sound? I know I have been guilty of this but it is daft when you think about. You can have the best MP3 player or IPOD in the world but if you have a poor set of earphones what's the point?
An example, when I bought the IPOD nano which I absolutely love and is great for running it came with a set of those white ear buds. The sound from these earphones was tinny and they were useless for running as they immediately fell out again and again . I know as I tried it and had to give up listening to the IPOD because I was thinking more about the earphones than my run.

In the past year or two I  have been through a succession of earphones none of which seem to last very long.  All of them in the budget price range so perhaps I shouldn't expect too much. Most of them failed within 6 months usually due to one of the earphones no longer having any sound. Most recently I bought a pair of JVC HA-FX34-BE - In Ear Marshmallow Headphone.  . However whilst I am sure these are adequate for walking they will fall out if you run and there was a lack of bass sound.

I have tried neckband headphones, ear buds and clip on earphones. My preference and it is personal is the in ear canal earphones.

I was looking for some new earphones for running when I stumbled upon the Sennheiser 5 for Sports Running Song Charts. My post at the end of June on this blog recommended you pop by and vote on your fave running songs. Have you done so let me know who you voted for?

I was impressed by the Adidas and Sennheiser campaign to promote their products for runners and the song competition was fun to enter and after talking further to the folks at Sennheiser in Wedemark in Germany I agreed to do a product review of their CX 680 Sports Earphones.

After two weeks of running with the the CX 680 Earphones I would have to say these are "simply the best headphones I have ever used when running".
In short if you want a pair of  sweat resistant, high audio quality, earphones then the CX 680's won't let you down.

I have managed to run 4 times over the last week all of these short runs between 2 and 3 miles as I test my injured foot. My son also gave them a try and gave them a big thumps up.

If you are a runner then the reasons why you should consider buying these are:-

1.They don't fall out !

Ahhh the frustration of running with earphones which fall out is as bad as your shoe lace coming undone. You just don't need it. I want to run and focus on what I plan to do be it a training run or an interval session.  

The CX 680's come with a what I guess is a fairly unique feature - Ear Fin pieces!  They look a little like Dr Spock's ears in miniature form but in fact these are flexible rubber hooks . When you insert the phone into your ear canal you slightly bend the ear fin to fit under the fold of skin just above your ear canal. This might sound difficult but describing it is more difficult then the actual action which is extremely simple.

You can remove the Ear fin pieces entirely from the earphones if you so wish to do so when listening with your feet up in your home. However they are comfortable and in practice I am not sure I would worry about doing this but you have the option.

In the packaging you are provided with 3 pairs of ear adaptors and 3 pairs of ear fins in small, medium and large size to cover all sizes of ears. Again Adidas and Sennheiser have thought through this product with the runner in mind and given you choice.

2. Great Sound !

I have to tell you that that when  listening to a range of tracks from many different rock, reggae, pop , punk, folk and classical artists in some songs I heard both words and instruments that I have never heard before. Perhaps that is  partly a reflection of the previous earphones I have purchased but listening with these earphones is a pleasure as you instantly recognise that this is a quality product with dynamic sound giving a wide range of bass and treble. The frequency range is from 18 to 20,000 Hz.

3. Volume Control and Isolation from Ambient Noise

The  ear canal style of headphones offer isolation from ambient noise. In my runs this week in the town centre I have been careful to ensure the volume is not on full. As an experiment when putting these up to full volume you won't hear people talking nearby , birds and most traffic noise. This does give you the opportunity for a complete focus on yourself and your running but if like me you run sometimes in busy town centres then there is volume control on the extension cable. Changing an IPOD which might be attached to the side of your arm and in a Velcro case can be difficult so this is a handy feature.

4. Cable Management System

From experience when running, I have found it oh so easy to knock the ear phones out of an ear when turning suddenly or getting my arm and hands in the way and accidentally pulling the cable. Once again with the CX 680 earphones you are given choice. You have the option of two set ups either to just use the short yellow Kevlar cable to connect to your IPOD attached to your upper arm. I have tried running this way and as the lead is short you do need to position your IPOD well up above your elbow or the short lead will pull the earphones out when your turn suddenly. 

As long as you do this the earphones remain put in your ears and as an added option you are provided with a cable clip which is designed to attach to the cable and I like to clip to the top of my running top under the neck for added security and to keep the cables tidy as I tend to flap my arms around when running!

The second option I mentioned before is to use the supplied extension cable with volume control. There is a large clip on the extension cable and I have found that you can run well with this clipped to the side of your waist. You then have the volume control for your IPOD easily accessible and the longer cable doesn't have to flap as you have the additional cable clip to secure to your running top.  The cables are reinforced with Kevlar and will hopefully ensure greater longevity.

5. Lightweight 

The earphones and cables are lightweight and you forget you are wearing them.

6.  Water & Sweat Resistance 

If you are like me as a runner you are outdoors in all weathers . In the UK we have just come through the coldest winter in 30 years but have enjoyed a decent summer. With the sunshine comes good honest sweat. The CX 680 earphones are said to be uniquely water resistance. The earphones are supplied with diaphragm guards which are small foam filters which help ensure the quality of the sound. Your are provided with a spare set of diaphragm guards and a tool to remove and replace old diaphragm guards.

You can apparently rinse the earphones under the tap to remove any built up grime though I haven't tried this.

7. Two Year Warranty 

As I have mentioned before previous earphones I have bought have only lasted around 6 months. The CX 680's have a 2 year warranty. Along with an instruction manual and all of the spares you are also provided with a handy Velcro storage pouch. With other cheaper earphones I have bought any spares had to be kept somewhere in a drawer or cupboard and without any pouch could often go missing.

Any negative points? Not really but minor points are as follows:-

The packaging was quite tough and I resorted to scissors to get the product out of the plastic in the box. However at least the product was secure safe and undamaged.

The left and right ear are marked with a  small L and R on the earphone. This is in the same black colour as the earphone and in the dark this is quite difficult to see and I would have preferred the L and R to be in bright yellow as per the cables.

The bright yellow cables might not be every ones cup of tea but not a big issue for me.


How much will you have to pay  for the CX 680's? As ever shop around on the Internet. They are available from Amazon for £44.60  This is the best price I could currently see which is about double what I have paid in the past for previous earphones . Can this be worth it? For the reasons I have stated above I think it most definitely is . Check them out as I doubt for this price there is a better pair of earphones.

North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR Product Review

After a long week end away at the Latitude Festival I returned home to find a box had been delivered. Who doesn't like a surprise or two and as a runner this one was gratefully received. Inside the box was a pair of the latest North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR shoes. I recently contacted the folks at and indicated that I would happily review these shoes if chosen to do so and luckily I was selected.

So this is my product review so far based on just a couple of runs to date.

Looking at the shoe box you cannot fail to take in the logo Never Stop Exploring. Combine this with the company name NorthFace and you are immediately thinking this must be an off road pair of shoes designed for trail or cross country running.

The North Face to me conjures up images of Mount Everest and survival. Here in Bury St Edmunds we certainly don't get any mountain conditions but for a county that is comparatively flat we do have plenty of hills.

Personally I like nothing better than to get off the roads and to run along paths and trails across farms and fields. I also like variety and I like to run new trails that I haven't visited before as a way of exploring whats on my doorstep in Suffolk. So the shoes should be ideal for wherever you live.

Inside the box the shoes themselves are not as bright as many a running shoe the colour being charcoal grey and sage green.

The laces also remind you more of a walking or hiking shoe . This along with the logo has set my initial thoughts on this shoe that it is somewhat of a crossover between a
hiking and running shoe. I know a lot of people who like to combine walking and running on a long day out in the hills and whilst this might be the ultimate use of these shoes I am going to see how they fare as an everyday running shoe both on the road and on the trail over the next few weeks.
Looking at the soles of the shoes they are  vibram outer soles with plenty of tread. Presumably where the Hedgehog name comes from!

As regular readers will know I haven't been able to run much recently due to a plantar fasciitis injury. I still have the injury but thought it time to give it a try out with the new shoe.I slipped on the shoes which were immediately comfortable. As a runner who is slightly over my recommended BMI ideal weight these  shoes seem to provide some  good support. There is a footbed in the shoe called a Northotic which is designed to give stability , support and cushioning on the trail.

Living in town I initially set off running on the pavement but the shoes felt comfortable and within half a mile I was off road and heading along a pathway besides a field. With the recent weather having been dry and warm I am probably not testing the shoes against their full capability as I suspect they would really cope well with wet and muddy conditions come the Autumn and Winter. However as I ran up hill over undulating conditions the hedgehogs give you a lot of confidence knowing that the tread gives good grip.

I didn't suffer from any blisters  after the 1st couple of wears which has happened with one or two pairs that I have had in the past. I also have wide feet but  the standard size 9 shoes felt comfortable with plenty of toe room. 

I have been able to complete a couple of short runs in the shoes below 5 miles without my plantar fascitiis in my left foot really bugging me. During the run I felt the odd twinge but nothing to prevent me from running.


Time will tell how durable the shoes are but given the tough looking treads I suspect if you are after a pair of shoes to run on the trails then these may be for you. I have tried many different running shoes since 1982 and believe it or not I was then running in a pair of Dunlop Green Flash! Since then I have used New Balance, Asics,Saucony , Reebok and Nike. All of these shoes and the North Face Hedgehogs are available at  the Fitness Footwear site . These are the 1st pair of North face shoes that I have had and so far so good.

didn't notice during the run but compared to many running shoes they weigh in slightly heavier than some at 862g. This is another aspect which leads me to conclude my initial thoughts that these shoes are ideal as I say for long distance trail running or hiking and would certainly lend themselves to be durable over the winter and it will be interesting to see how they cope in snow as the tread might be ideal for this.

If you don't know who Fitness Footwear are and haven't bought from them before then take a look at their blog. There are some useful guides to running shoes brands which will help you when making your next purchase.

I will let you know how I get on with them and give an update  in a few weeks time.


Update July 29th 2010

One month on since buying the Fitflopsfascitiis but I have found that they relieve the aching pain that is felt when wearing other shoes. At the recent Latitude Music festival on the first day I wore a pair of Karrimor walking shoes. After a long day I limped back to the tent in some pain after a lot of standing. The Karrimor are normally a fine pair of walking shoes but with my current plantar fasciitis pain in my heal  they left me in agony. Day 2 of the festival I switched to the Fitflops and wore these for the rest of the festival which involved 3 days with long periods of standing. The Fitflops got me through the week end though the majority of the crowd at Latitude were wearing wellington boots and not open sandals!

Initially I had a blister caused by the post rubbing on the inside of my big toe on just one foot. However this quickly past and they are a pleasure to wear.

For British weather conditions I hope that there will be a an enclosed Fitflop shoe with the same wobble board technology rather than a sandal that will get me through the winter and that I could wear to work.

I no longer wear slippers around the house and just wear the fitflops indoors and in the garden.

I haven't looked if there is anything available but would the wobble board technology transfer into a running shoe. Anyone doing any research on this ? If so these would be amazing and I would definitely buy a pair if they could overcome my very frustrating plantar fasciitis.

Where can you buy Fitflops? They are very widely available in many high street stores including Intersports and Scarlet in Bury St Edmunds. But you can also buy from, John Lewis, Fitness Footwear, Sole Trader to name a few. On line retailers are detailed here 

Original Post 28th June 2010

Bought a pair of Fitflops today from Intersports in Whiting St Bury St Edmunds . Willing to try anything to help overcome plantar fascitiis. Fitflops contain a wobble board which supposedly give you a workout while you walk.

I am a little sceptical as to whether these will greatly help but after reading many reviews of folks with sciatica and plantar fascitiis problems benefiting from using these shoes I will give them a try and let you know my verdict in due course.

The official blurb on the Fitflop web site says
"Dass sandals are widely reported to almost instantly reduce pain in the knees, ankles and lower back, to reduce plantar foot pressure, and to help speed recovery from sports injuries. Recommended by physiotherapists and leading podiatrists for injury recovery and realignment, they’re wearable relief for sports warriors everywhere™"

Since April I haven't been able to run and even walking leaves me limping at the moment . Following a visit to my GP early in June she confirmed that I have plantar fascitiis. She said I had two choices  to wait and eventually it will go of its own accord but it may take up to a year! Or my other option would be to have a cortisone injection though this doesn't always work and carries some risks of permanent damage to the heel.

So I am going for the slow wait and see option and doing a range of exercises such as the rolling the golf ball under the foot , pulling a towel back with the toes and foot rises on the stairs!

In the meantime I haven't  been cycling since early June , it does act as a substitute though I much prefer running. I guess I will have to get back on to the bike in the short term. I would prefer long distance walking if I could but this seems to aggravate the heel pain in my left foot. Perhaps the new fitflops will give me sufficient support to do some longer walks in comfort.

Orthaheel Gel Heel Orthotic for Plantar Fasciitis

July 2010

To be fair I haven't used the product too much since I purchased them as I haven't run as much as I would have liked. I purchased the product as I have plantar fasciitis but for me they didn't make a difference that would mean that I could run and not feel pain. I will be using them once I am fully on the mend as a preventative aid. 
17th May 2010 Original Entry

On Saturdays run I inserted 3 insoles in my left shoe to try and help absorb some of the shock when my foot hits the ground. It didn't work but was slightly better. So after the festival a trip to Boots the Chemists resulted in the purchase of a Scholl Orthaheel Gel Heel Orthotic.

According to the promotional material Scholl Orthaheel is an innovative biomechanical solution made from the highest grade materials and technology available to help realign the lower limbs through to the hips, to restore the feet and body back to a neutral position just as nature intended. The soft flexible moulded gel reduces impact and fatigue.

I removed one of my insoles and inserted both of the gel orthaheels although I am only feeling pain in the left foot. I suppose this is the right thing to do so that I am balanced on both sides and don't cause an injury to my right foot.

I repeated another 3 mile run this afternoon and will now see if there is any reaction. Initially it did feel a little odd as if I was running on stiltes and I wondered if the inserts would slip out of position.  The Scholl Orthaheel isn't cheap and cost £16.99 but if it works it will be worth every penny. Time will tell if I am limping tomorrow!

Saucony Pro Grid Jazz 13
 16th April 2010

I got some new running shoes in the post today! These are a pair of Saucony Pro Grid Jazz 13's and will replace my worn out Asics Gel Stratus 2's which may have been the cause of the pain in my left foot heal which is plantar fasciitis.

This is only the second time I have ever bought Saucony running shoes but these shoes suit my running foot gait which is a high arch neutral foot with some underpronation. I once before had a pair of Saucony MC5's but they were worn out after 356 miles which I didn't think was great value.

I tend to buy on line as there are very few decent stores which sell running shoes locally. Buying on line is also a far better deal if you know what you want but a first time runner buying shoes should always go into a store and have their running gait analysed.

I also bought my shoes for the first time from a company called  They offered the best price and free postage. They also came with some free More Mile London Running Socks. When I opened the box today there was also a free Running Diary which has a year's page to record runs along with training schedules for 10km and pace charts. Very handy and a nice touch by the company.

The marketing scientific blurb on the shoe includes:-

has been named "Best Buy" by Runner's World UK in their Spring 2010 shoe Guide. The reviewers "praised the plush heel cushioning" explaining "they felt properly fitted fresh from the box - there were no uncomfortable seams and they didn't need wearing in".

Great responsive cushioning using heel progrid, an SRC Impact Zone to soften landings and HRC in the forefoot for a smooth toe-off. An air mesh upper provides lightweight breathability. The ProGrid Jazz 13 comes in men's sizes 7 - 12 and 13, and women's sizes 4-9.

What I can tell you is that once they arrived within an hour I was out of the door on an 11 mile run to give them a test drive. What I immeadiately noticed was how light and comfortable they felt. There was no rough seams or edges. Often with new shoes I find them a bit to rigid and springy and I feel the support bounces me off the road until they are worn in.

These shoes immediately felt comfortable which is great. The doubt that passed through my mind was how long will they last. As they feel light perhaps I will wear them out quickly. Time will tell.

The shoe colour blue and yellow may not be everyones cup of tea. They are certainly bright but I like them. I don't tend to buy shoes based on their colour.

For my run today I did an 11 miler and my splits were

8.25,8.13,8.35,9.01,8.34,8.33,8.32,8.27,8.39,8.29 and 8.59 Total 1.34.22 for the 11 miles.

So a good start to these shoes.

The Cygnett Action Sports Armband

Update July 2010

I still use these all of the time when wearing my ipod touch - great product does what it says . A little wear and tear but the velcro is fine and there is a lot more use left in these.

Original Post 24th March 2010

If you are like me, then when you are going for a training run  I like to enjoy listening to music or podcasts. This has especially been the case as I have spent more time out running than usual since the beginning of the new year as I have trained for a half marathon.

So it still surprises me that when I am out running that you see so many people holding an mp3 player or an IPOD  in their hands. Or worse still and I have been there and done this, have thier phone or IPOD tucked in the waistband of their shorts. From experience it doesn't stay in place and you end up fishing inside your shorts to remove your phone or IPOD. This can get some funny looks if you time this badly and someone just happens to spot you doing this!

The answer of course is a sports armband and today I tried out my new Cygnett Action Sports Armband from

My review of this product is as follows

 I was doing a fast tempo run today but regardless of this when running if you buy a sports armband above all you want peace of mind. By this I  mean you can basically forget all about it because it is secure and it isn't going to come loose from your arm. The velcro tabs provide a nice tight fit . For those of you with big biceps I am not sure how big an arm this would fit . My biceps are apparently spot on with the average which is 13 inches and these armbands could certainly fit a lot larger size than me.

Secondly my IPOD touch fitted neatly into the see through pouch on the armband . During my run I had no problems when I wanted to skip a tune in accessing the touch screen menu. I don't have very long earphone cables but I know this can be a problem. This armband allows you to wrap any slack cable through the holes in the top and bottom of the armband.

 During the run I had no problems with sound quality as my IPOD touch was secure on my arm and the design of this armband is said to give good shock absorption .

We have finally got some better weather and as I say I was doing a fairly fast tempo run so I got somewhat hot and sweaty. I have had sports armbands where if you run 6 miles and get warm you find your IPOD is incased in its own little sauna. The inside of the  pouch can get wet and you wonder if this is doing your IPOD any good. Obviousy only my first use of the Cygnett Action Sports Armband but when I returned home the IPOD was still fairly dry. The neoprene material must be fairly breathable and this is a big plus.

All in all a super little product which comes with  a 1 year warranty.You can find other iPhone accessories here.

The manufacturers blurb on the product is as follows

Go the distance with this lightweight & weather resistant armband for iPhone & iPod.
Move without restriction & without sacrificing performance. From track to trail, on a bike or on foot, this sports armband frees your hands for action. Made from a breathable, easy-clean, quick-drying & sweat-resistant neoprene fabric, the Cygnett Action armband protects your phone whilst your working out by adding additional shock absorbtion.

The case also features a removable cable management system to add greater comfort for you and your iPhone or iPod.
  • Removable cable management system
  • Suitable for walking, running, cycling, climbing etc
  • Comfortable design that moves with you
  • Protects your iPhone and iPod with added shock protection
  • Breathable, easy-clean, quick-drying & sweat-resistant neoprene fabric
The product is compatible with all iphones, IPOD touch, IPOD classic and IPOD video  all generations

 Free Spikes Magazine

July 2010  

Regular as clock work I receive my free copy of Spikes Magazine - can't think of a reason not to get a copy . Full of great articles for runners and sports fans and it is free!

3rd Feb 2010 Original Post

Last year I signed up for a free magazine called Spikes. Three free issues full of great athletic,track and running news for nothing. Click here for the link . You do have to pay postage outside of the UK though but worth considering.

The Body Shop Simply Purify

30th December 2009

In the current sales the better half bought this product from the Body Shop which is labelled as a refreshing body gel. The price had been reduced from £4 to just £1.50.

The product contains wasabi, menthol and bladderwrack seaweed.  Don't let either the thought of bladderwrack seaweed or the fairly uninteresting tube put you off! After my 8 mile run yesterday I wacked some on my legs particularly on the  calfs and thighs which can get tight after a long run.

What is wasabi? I recently had a bag of wasabi peas but didn't manage to eat them. I guess you either love or hate them  - a bit too peppery/ spicy and the peas were hard like bullets. Wasabi is a member of the cabbage family and is green in colour. Used to garnish noodle dishes but also known for its medicinal benefits to support the immune system and for detoxification.

Bladderwrack seaweed was the original source of iodine and is found in the North Sea of the British Isles. It is often found in kelp tablets and is eaten in some parts of the world as part of a salad. It is said to have many medicinal benefits including being an antioxidant.

In using the product what immeadiately hits you is the menthol. There was a fairly long term revitilising feeling in the legs which were grateful for a little stimulation and reward after a long run . I will certainly use this over the large winter months to come.

Definitely worth hunting down for any runner especially now as this is just £1.50

Christmas has come slightly early as I have bought myself some new running shoes. Namely a pair of Asics Gel Stratus 3. With there being no specialist running shops within a dozen miles of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk as per usual I buy on line and surf for the best bargins.

I am never worried about buying the latest model of a shoe but nor do I want to spend hours combing dozens of on line retailers to save a fiver. I often buy from offering as they do with most shoes a free technical t shirt. Their service is always good with prompt delivery .

Asics Gel Stratus 3

The Asics Gel Stratus 3 suit my high arched feet as I tend to under pronate. As I tend to land on the outside of my heel this is where I found shoes wear out. I need shoes to have a hard carbon outer otherwise I can find the wear is too grea.I can end up chucking shoes out even the rest of the shoe may be in good condition because the outer heel has become like a cliff edge.

If you have any doubts about the type of shoe you should wear for running you should go to a decent shoe shop for a gait test. This is a check on how you land your heel and whether you roll your foot to the left or right or stay neutral.

You can also do a water paper test at home. Wet the sole of your left foot and lay it on a white piece of paper for a few seconds. If you are like me the water will leave an inprint as shown above. Visit Runners World for a complete range of types of feet and how to choose a shoe.

I also like to double up my running shoes so that I alternate usage. I do think you can give your shoes a chance to recover and dry out if you alternate usage so at the moment I also have a pair of Asics Gel Stratus 2 on the go with a hundred or so miles of wear.
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Running in Suffolk