The lead up to the Boston Marathon is always a long weekend of events, shopping, dining and sightseeing. The bib pick-up and Expo is a crowded high-energy bazar of running novelties and necessities from special edition T-shirts and shoes to companies introducing new tech. Here are some gear highlights from the 2017 Boston Marathon Expo.
Humon Hex, $295 (Available September 2017)
Humon presented their oxygen saturation sensor, the Hex. Oxygen saturation sensing gets at the status of your blood flow’s oxygen content while you run. Humon claims it can be a more reliable indicator of true effort than heart rate, which is a proxy for the body seeking that oxygen to power you. The sensor disk and strap can be placed anywhere, but for running, the big engine and location is on the thigh. To help make all the data easy to understand, Humon uses a color-coded percentage based score. We put Co-Founder and CTO Daniel Wiese to the test asking him, while at a robust pace on the treadmill, to crank up the incline. The sensor rapidly detected the effort taking him into the red zone, and when he stopped and caught his breath, the recovery. We see great potential for this new approach to tracking effort, particularly for intervals, climbs and pacing race efforts. The score will be available visually and via audio cues in the app and via screen views on selected Garmin watches. Initially, you will need to carry your phone with you for the system to work.
Newton Distance 6, $155
The Newton Distance 6 was released for sale at the expo. Featuring a new Newtonium midsole, the 7.9-ounce performance trainer has a 21mm heel, 19mm forefoot stack. We tried it on and found the light mesh upper particularly comfortable, and we suspect very breathable.
Polar M430, $229 (Available May 2017)
We tried on Polar’s new M430 GPS and wrist heart rate watch. At $229 it is a great value. We found it to be tight and form-fitting on the wrist, with a soft, comfortable strap. A 6 LED array, double or triple the usual amount, should provide solid, reliable wrist-based heart rate—particularly for smaller wrists. Polar’s broad array of training features will also be included.
Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, $150 (Available June 8)
We had the opportunity to try on a single Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. The 4% represents the design goal of making the Vaporfly 4% more efficient than Nike’s previous top marathon shoe. Prototypes of this eagerly awaited racing shoe were worn in the Rio Olympics with great results. (Nike athletes Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay wore them in their Boston Marathon debuts on Monday.) The ZoomX midsole, with a 30mm heel and 21mm forefoot stack, has a full-length curving carbon plate embedded 10mm under the foot. The feel underfoot was distinctly cushioned yet responsive from this very stiff shoe. However, the stiffness was not noticeable as there is a distinct and pleasant “drop” forward to toe-off. They fit true to size with a roomier, softer upper than most conventional racing shoes.
Vi by LifeBeam, $249
Vi from LifeBeam is a bold new approach to bio-metric sensing, music, and coaching. Focused initially on coaching beginner runners with lots of natural-sounding audio motivation (configurable for less), the Vi collar-style wireless earphones also pack an in-ear aero-space grade heart rate sensor, crisp Harman Kardon sound, a barometer for elevation, 6 axis accelerometer and gyro meter, along with a voice recognition system powered by an Intel chip. After approximately 120 minutes of running, Vi will use its artificial intelligence and your pace and heart rate data to come up with five effort zones and will continue to adapt to your progress. Out on the run Vi will let you know which effort zone you are in based on your heart rate and other data. It can provide not only a cadence metronome but is also supposed to connect to music platforms to provide selections adapted to your pace. The hardware is designed with soft materials on the collar, a magnetic hold for the earpieces when not in use, and easy-to-reach control buttons. Vi is a promising training tool and accessory for all runners, but especially for beginners.
Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 2, $110 (Available May 15)
Topo will release the Fli-Lyte 2 on May 15. With a 3mm drop and stack height of a 23mm heel, 20mm forefoot, it weighs 8.4 ounces. Featuring Topo’s roomy toe box and a refined, secure upper, we tried it on and loved the fit and energetic underfoot feel of the new midsole foam, which is now compression molded instead of injection molded.