I hate running.
I suck, at running.
CrossFit seems to be the fitness program people that hate running gravitate towards because our cardio is really just lifting weights faster. Sometimes you’ll see some gymanstic movements thrown in there, some kettlebells, maybe some rowing and hell, maybe even some short runs; but nothing really long enough to warrant the use running shoes. Except one workout, that is more like a CrossFit holiday than a normal holiday, that happens every Memorial Day. You guessed it – “Murph”, if you’re not quite sure what the workout is, then you’ve never done it before. It consists of 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squat, finished by another mile run (with a weight vest). While that doesn’t sound like a ton of running, to Crossfitters it is; especially ones that suck at running.
Typically, I do my running in training shoes that just have a little bit more cushion and flexibility. My current favorites being the Strike-Movement Intervals, Skechers Go-Train Endurance, and Inov-8 F-Lite 195’s. I caught on to the barefoot thing early on and while I don’t consider myself a great runner but I do my best to run with mid-foot strike, and avoid heel striking, though I over-supinate a little. It wasn’t until maybe a couple years ago when the Reebok Cushion 3.0’s came out, that I bought into another pair of actual running shoes. They were what I did “Murph” in last year and they were okay, but I thought they lacked a little bit of structure (I’ve heard of durability issues as well). This year, I decided to set out to find a good pair of running shoes to make my workout more, “comfortable”. I could definitely do the workout in training shoes like most people do, but this gives me a good excuse to buy another pair of shoes. Luckily for me, Reebok had just dropped the Harmony Road, a shoe that was designed to cement Reebok as a legitimate contender in the running shoe world.
Running shoes will look like running shoes and the Harmony Road are no different. There are luxury “running” shoes out there that are more style than substance, but they don’t count if you’re not going to actually run in them. The bulbous looks of the HR’s are not going to win any style contests but that’s not really the aim of the shoe. The current selection of colorways go from meh-fine, to hell no. I initially went with the alloy/wild orange, but when I got them I knew immediately I’d never wear them so I held off a bit until they released the slightly more palatable solid grey/solar yellow. To be fair, most running shoes just aren’t very pretty shoes in general. At least the reflective bits serve a purpose in upping your visibility at night so drivers won’t hit you.
Where the Harmony Road lack in looks, they make up in comfort and build quality. The Smoothfuse seamless synthetic mesh upper feels robust and gently envelops your foot. I haven’t tried it, but you could probably go running in these shoes without socks on without tearing your feet up. Other than their CrossFit line of products, some of the shoes that Reebok makes can sometimes have lower quality materials. The Harmony Road does not fall victim to this and I would say that this might be one of the best built shoes they make, period. There’s no loose glue, the stitching is perfect, and the materials seem like they’re meant to take a beating. I didn’t try the OSR Sweet Road, but I think it’s safe to say that these are Reebok’s flagship running product.
Typically, I wear a size 10 in Reebok CrossFit Nano’s, but I’d say my normal shoe size is more of a 9.5, which is what I got my Harmony Road’s in. The fit is dead on with about a thumbs distance from the front of the shoe to my toes; plenty of room for my toes to splay without touching the front. There’s plenty of width in the toe-box and not much of the way of contouring inside the shoe so these shoes should suit a number of different shaped feet. It’s really easy to get a nice locked down fit with the simple lacing system but there is also the option to lace lock if you needed a little bit more security for your heel; though I never had any issues with heel slip. These shoes run true to size and I would recommend sizing them as you would your normal running shoes, or half down from your Nano’s. Here are my sizes for reference:
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 9.5
- Speed TR – 9
- NMD/Ultraboost – 10
- New Balance – 9.5
- Inov-8 – 10
Here’s where you can take my advice with a grain of salt if you’re a runner, but if you’re a Crossfitter, you might take some of this to heart.
The key feature of the Harmony Road is their tri-zone midsole with “Kooshride”, in which it basically absorbs shock through it’s three layered zones. If you look under the shoe, you can actually see the “Kooshride” layer, that looks like those beads kids used to iron designs with. Another thing to notice is just how much heel cushioning there is, that combined with a 10mm offset really make these shoes look like they’re geared towards heel striking. Coming from running in training shoes, the Harmony Road’s are like heaven on my feet, even with a mid-foot strike. They provide excellent cushioning and energy return, but still feel like there’s structure and stability to the shoe. It actually didn’t take me a ton of effort to adjust from wearing trainers with a flatter drop to the much larger one of the Harmony Road.
I started running a 5k every Sunday for the last month in preparation for Murph, and while I’m still not a great runner, I can at least go the whole 3 miles without stopping, which is a pretty big accomplishment to me. The ride in the Harmony Road’s is smooth and feels consistent with each step. The best way I can make the analogy is that running in the Harmony Roads feels like driving a Honda Accord: reliable, designed to be driven at normal speeds, but has excellent response and handling with superb comfort. I did notice is that the size of the heel and drop can actually drive you to heel strike if you get lazy, but you get much better propulsion running off your mid-foot, which almost feels rewarding when you’re tired. It’s almost like having a built in form check.
Some people have said the “Kooshride” feels like Adidas’ Boost, but I don’t actually think so; it’s much more stable and less squishy feeling. Stable enough so that I got through the 300 squats in Murph without being annoyed that my feet didn’t feel planted, which is one of my pet peeves in shoes. While there isn’t a ton of lateral stability since they’re a bit tall and the drop is gigantic, I still feel like I could do most metcons in the Harmony Road’s. I wouldn’t go as far as to do any kind of Olympic or power lifts, but they should be fine for swinging kettlebells, jumping on boxes or doing burpees. Traction seems best on asphalt, which is befits the name. I tried the HR’s on a tightly packed dirt trail and they didn’t seem to “catch” as well as they did on the sidewalk, making me have to expend a little more energy.
I weighed the shoes at 11.08 oz per a men’s 9.5, which sounds heavy for a running shoe, but is pretty normal coming from training shoe. The shoes even have a heavy look about them because they just look like there’s a lot of material on the shoe. These shoes aren’t designed to be racing shoes, though they do make a version for that, which I had initially tried, but they were too narrow and the quality seemed sub-par. Since they are running shoes, I shouldn’t have to say they’re extremely flexible, but just in case you were wondering, they are! The flexibility makes the Harmony Road feel a lot less lighter and less clunky than they actually are.
The Harmony Road’s go for the pretty standard performance shoe rate of $120, which is around what I was ready to spend. I know a lot of people are still shocked to see Reebok shoes that aren’t CrossFit shoes go for over a Benjamin, but these shoes are ones that are actually worth it. The build quality is among the best in the shoe world and the performance has far exceeded any running shoe that I’ve used (to be fair, not many). Though I still think that they’re in need of some MUCH better colorways, the Harmony Road’s fit comfortably, are built like tanks, and are the best performing running shoe I’ve had the chance to wear. Maybe I’m getting better at running because I kind of look forward to it now. Hell, maybe I’ll run an actual marathon.
If you’ve been following the 2017 Regionals, these are the shoes that most of the Reebok athletes have been wearing for the variation of Murph. They’re probably better athletes than me, and out of all the shoes they have access to, they picked the Harmony Road; so I must not be the only one that’s impressed. Oh and back to “Murph”, I PR’d my time at 46:28 from somewhere around an hour, granted I did it partitioned with a weight vest versus straight up without. The thing I’m really proud of is not stopping during my runs. I’m not dropping CrossFit for running any time soon, but having a great pair of shoes to run in makes me hate running a lot less. If you’re looking to improve your running game, give the Harmony Road’s a shot, you might end up wanting to run more often too.
I have to admit, my experience with plate carriers is (was) somewhat limited as this is the first one I’ve ever owned. Over the years, I’ve used different kinds of weighted vests for workouts, but never a real plate carrier. In my defense, it never really became a popular thing until they did “Murph” at the 2015 CrossFit Games. Who really needs a plate carrier instead of a weight vest anyways? Isn’t it technically the same thing?
Well…yes and no.
To say that weight vests and plate carriers are the same thing is like saying oranges and apples are the same thing. The latter are both fruits, they’re both round, but when you eat them, they taste much different. The same things can be said about plate carriers v.s. weighted vests; except I don’t recommend trying to eat either of them.
All of the weighted vests I’ve used in the past have been bulky, cumbersome, didn’t fit well, got too hot, were uncomfortable after some time, or all of the above. Sure, most the ones I used don’t typically cost as much as a plate carrier does either, so I guess you get what you pay for. Plate carriers were designed for practical use, and other than looking really tacticool, they’re meant to be equipped in the most realest of scenarios, the ones where people live and die. When so much is on the line, you’re going to want something comfortable, and that you can move around pretty well in.
There are no options for sizing, but there are plenty of adjustments on the Invest carrier. The cummerbund is elastic, totally removable, and is accompanied by two buckles that are adjustable. If you feel like the carrier is too high or low, the shoulder straps are two adjustable buckles that are covered with some nice removable pads. I don’t foresee being comfortable doing “Murph” in this carrier, or any carrier or weight vest for that matter. Its just part of the workout I guess, but for the most part, I found the Invest carrier pretty breathable. Inside the vest, there are ventilated and padded sections that keep you as comfortable as you possibly could be wearing a plate carrier. Since it is a real world plate carrier, the sides have two pouches for side armor, but in the future I would like to see these removed for a little more ventilation. Also, some more color options would be nice! Maybe ACU or OD Green?
The plates that come inside of the Invest Fitness carrier aren’t designed to stop bullets, but they’re the same 11×10″ sized ones you’d typically find in a normal plate carrier. Normal weight vests have weight cartridges in various locations on the vest or bunched up in one spot, whereas the Invest Fitness carrier has just two plates that are pretty evenly balanced across your frame on the back and on the front. Each plate weighs 8.75lbs and the vest weighs 2.5lbs, totaling out at 20lbs for the male’s variant.
Most movements with the Invest plate carrier are fairly comfortable to do, as much as they can be while wearing a weight vest. Strapped down, the vest doesn’t bobble too much when you run, but in the future I would like to see an internal lockdown system to hold the plates in place better. When it came to doing gymnastics movements, wearing the Invest carrier didn’t hinder any of my movements; there’s a lot of range of movement for your arms to be dynamic. The only movement I really struggled with was bar muscle-ups, because of the inability to “wrap” yourself around the bar; you really have to pull close to your hips. Surprisingly, I could also do a few kipping handstand push-ups before gravity kicked in and the carrier clocked me in the chin.
Now the real reason I never bothered with a plate carrier in the past was because they’re fairly expensive, and typically don’t come with the plates included or shipping. Invest Fitness sells theirs altogether with carrier and plates for either $170/14lb or $180/20lb, with free shipping and a t-shirt! If you’re looking for a plate carrier, there is not even remotely close to this price point. Sure you can get a cheaper weight vest, but then you wouldn’t be reading this review either.
I’ve since gotten the 5.11 Tactec plate carrier, which is what they use in the CrossFit Games and probably is the standard (I had to compare to something). It’s definitely a little nicer, mainly because it’s smaller, but fully loaded from Rogue plus tax and shipping costs $280…and it doesn’t perform $100 better than the Invest Fitness one does. The Invest Fitness plate carriers are high performing and definitely the best value of all the plate carriers available. Unless you’re a Games athlete (in which case, you have a 5.11 already), I highly recommend Invest Fitness.
If you head to Amazon and search “CrossFit Grips”, you’ll be bombarded with a TON of brands that are usually just all the same ones with different branding on them. The problem about the sport of fitness growing is that everyone wants a piece of pie and it just over saturates the market. Another problem is that it confuses the shopper and leaves you with a sub-par item.
Vulcan Strength’s supplier for gymnastics grips is a company that specializes in gymnastics equipment, Bailie. Their grips are also made in the United States, so you can rest assured they’re not a cheap import rebrand and they’ve been used in serious gymnastics competitions (read: Olympics). Vulcan is a company I’ve worked with for a long time and if there’s anything I know about them, it’s that they don’t stock junk.
Right out of the box, you’re going to notice that the leather on these grips is extremely stiff while thickness is pretty much on par with any other gymnastics grips. The break in process is not for the faint of heart, the edges of the grips are pretty sharp initially and it takes a few workouts for that to go away. Instructions per Vulcan’s website say that you should roll the grips around before you use them, which I did and made the grips much more pliable.
Another difference between the Vulcan grips is that they taper in the middle of the grip, which is actually pretty nice as it sheds some of the bulkiness away of having grips on, though I think the top of the grip could be slightly narrower. I still would not use these grips for any kind of barbell movement because they’re just a bit stiff. Fortunately it’s really easy to just take them off and flip them over when you head to the barbell. The velcro strap isn’t too out of the ordinary and has enough to go over a set of wrist wraps.
Once you get past the strenuous break-in process, the Vulcan grips provide some of the best holding power to be found on any set of grips. Put a light dusting of chalk on your hands and these things keep you locked down to the bar, coated, bare steel or even wood gymnastics rings. I usually have issues with too much leather bunching up in the middle of my palm with grips for ring muscle ups, but since these taper, that isn’t an issue I’ve had with the Vulcan grips.
The best thing about the Vulcan grips is that they’re also one of the best deals when it comes to grips. You don’t have to sacrifice performance for price because a pair of grips will only set you back a cool $20 shipped; which is pretty much in line with the junk you’re going to find on Amazon. They’re a bitch and a half to break in, but the performance for the price is unbeatable and based on that alone, I recommend the Vulcan grips.