Product Review: Nathan LightBender RX

So there we all were, enjoying a nice fall. The leaves were making their lazy journey from their high perches down to the ground below, where we would put off raking them until the very last minute, under the guise of there being fewer left to fall after said raking was done, but really just because we are lazy and like to procrastinate. there was a nice coat of larch needles on all the trails around town, still just enough light in the mornings and evenings I didn’t yet have to ride my bike in the dark, at least not every day. A nice coat of snow covered everything just in time for the Elk Ramble 15k, and we all got to trudge around in the snowiest race of the year. We all thought it was winter then, but fall came back.

As November wore on, though, it wasn’t the cold or the snow that drove home the point that winter is quickly on its way. No, the real, consistent proof of that fact, the part that never changes from year to year depending on the current season’s weather patterns, is the darkness. Soon, it will just barely be light when I leave for work in the morning, and it has already been dark for a solid hour when I go home in the evening.

All this is to say, if I want to keep running through the winter, and I do, a good bit of it will be happening in the dark. And that brings me to my main point: lights!

I have always been a headlamp kind of guy in the past. They have the advantage of increasing the visibility of the runner while also allowing you to see that rock or curb quickly approaching. As a side note, they by no means guarantee that you won’t trip over that curb. It’s possible that a certain unnamed individual did a faceplant after tripping over a snow-covered curb doing intervals in the dark in Greenough Park last winter. It’s also possible that individual was me. Not saying one way or the other for sure.

Headlamps have their downfalls, though. The most obvious: vehicle drivers can’t see them from behind. Also, many people find them uncomfortable. This necessitates a search for other lighting options. The most recent one I tried out and am reviewing today is an arm band. Specifically, the Nathan Lightbender RX.

I had never used an arm band before, and my first thought was that I would prefer something that wrapped around the arm more snugly. The Lightbender essentially forms kind of a D-shaped loop, and, at least if you have little chicken arms like me, it fits fairly loosely, even when tightened down all the way. While I was worried this would bounce around an be obnoxious, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. It did work its way down to my elbow as I ran instead of staying up higher, but it was still comfortable and didn’t feel like it was flopping around all over the place.

The unique (and fun) feature of the Lightbender RX is that you can change the color of the light. There are three options (red, green, blue), so you can pick whichever one suits your mood that day, or you can really geek out and try to research which color is the most visible to passing motorists. The internet has less to say about this than I thought it might, but the overall consensus seems to be somewhere between green and yellow. Since yellow isn’t one of the choices, one might choose green. Then again, green means go, so perhaps red would instill more caution in drivers. Or, maybe you don’t want to blend with a sea of traffic lights, so you choose blue to stand out a bit more. As you may have gathered, there is no right or wrong choice, and that’s why there are three of them.

The method of changing the light color was not immediately intuitive for me, and the instructions didn’t help. They said to turn on the light, then double tap the power button, but what they really meant was, turn on the light and then hit the button again right after the light turns on. Maybe I’m crazy, but to me that means two different things. Anyway, I eventually figured it out and happily flipped my way through the color options.

One last factor with any kind of light that is worth paying attention to is battery life. Nathan advertised the battery life as 8 hours on steady mode or 16 hours flashing. I would definitely encourage any user to pay attention to how long it’s been since the light was last charged, because like fall turning to winter, waning battery power is a gradual process. If you’re not careful, before you know it, you’ll be in the dark.

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Product Review: Feetures Plantar Fasciitis Relief Socks

Product Review: Feetures Plantar Fasciitis Relief Socks

There are a few pains that, being a runner, are very hard to escape at some point in your life. A stubborn IT band, shin splints, achilles tendonitis; we are all familiar with the list, if not from personal experience then at least from conversations with fellow runners. No list of such ailments would be complete without a mention of plantar fasciitis, the crippling pain at the back of your arch and your heel that seems to appear without warning and stick around way longer than it should.

I have only really had one bout with plantar fasciitis in my life, a couple years ago, and not a particularly awful one. Like many runners, I ran through it for the most part until it became unbearable, took a little time off, and luckily within a few weeks the pain was almost entirely gone. Not everyone is so lucky. What I didn’t know at the time is that there are actually products out there to help relieve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

One product I tried recently that I think could help for those who have pain when simply standing is the Oofos recovery sandal (see my previous review), which provides extra arch support and cushion. As I mentioned in that review, though, it turns out those aren’t much good for actually running. Who knew?

Anyway, for those who just can’t help but get out for the occasional run even when their plantar fascia is flaring up, there is something out there that might help ease the sting a bit: Feetures Plantar Fasciitis Relief Socks.

PFBlack

The defining characteristic of these socks is a compressive band that runs across the back of the arch and around the heel. The idea is that the compression “lifts, stretches, and stabilizes” the plantar fascia, which helps to keep the pain at bay. Having worn the socks while running, walking around the house, and for a day at work, I can definitely see how they provide some relief. I would certainly wear them anytime my arches are feeling a bit sore.

For me, there was one downside to these socks, and that was the heel band that wraps around the achilles. Specifically, I found it to be a bit rough-feeling and after a 2-hour run my heel felt a little raw. I did not get any blisters, but it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, either.

The thing is, I believe that the tight heel band is necessary to the physics of how the sock works. It seems that it provides extra tension to help pull the arch band into place. Therefore, my takeaway is that in the unfortunate event that these socks become necessary, the minor heel rub might be the least of your concerns. At that point, anything that will get you back out and running is pretty great, and these socks might just help make that happen.