Runner's Tech Review reports on new running technologies, gear and nutritional products. RTR is part of the Emerging Runner websites and our mission is test and occasionally recommend products that meet our high standards. Please feel free to ask questions or send comments to: Editor(at)emergingrunner.com
Running provides tremendous benefits but the rigors of any given workout can take a toll on the body. It's always a good idea to ice your muscles after a run and if you are experiencing joint or muscle pain from inflammation it's especially important to do this. Before a workout it helps to apply heat to tightened muscles. This, along with stretching, can help prevent injuries during a run.
Active Wrap is a company that produces heat and cold wraps that are designed for specific body parts: ankle/foot, back, elbow, knee, shoulder and wrist. The clever thing about these wraps is that they use patented (per their website) "soft, non-migrating hot/cold packs to be adjusted and positioned anywhere throughout the wrap for targeted relief." These packs look very different from the usual gel packs that are sold for this purpose. The pack is filled with a substance that resembles rice pudding that, unlike gel, does not pool at its lowest point due to gravity. The pack is much more stable than gel and it consistently maintains its placement of heat and cold exactly where it was originally positioned.
After receiving samples of the Active Wrap for knee, foot and ankle I spoke to Shawn Hickling, the president and founder of the company. Shawn is an interesting person who used his background in physical therapy to design these unique products. Shawn said that the clear advantage of his wraps comes from the reusable packs that can be frozen or heated (via hot water or microwaved). It was very easy to prepare the wraps and slip the cold/heat packs into the generously large sleeve openings. I was able to set up the two wraps in less than 5 minutes and this was helpful because I'm often racing against time with my workouts. The cold packs are even easier, going from the freezer to the wrap in seconds. I have used the knee wrap numerous times after racing.
Using the Wraps
I don't use heat or ice as much as I should but when I do I really appreciate the benefits. I most often use the wraps to heat my knees and quadriceps prior to the longer runs that I do on weekends. I have noticed that this really helps my flexibility at the beginning of a run compared to just stretching. After the Cape Cod Marathon relay in October I used the wraps to apply cold to my knees and legs and that clearly lessened my recovery time. I find that the design works well for isolating, cooling or heating muscles on all areas of the body.
The wraps are designed with long flexible straps that can be tightened to optimally position the device on any muscle or joint. The positioning of the sleeves that hold the cold/heat packs is well thought out and the packs naturally move into place with little adjustment.
Compared to other solutions I found Active Wraps to be a good value. With prices ranging between $26 and $69, depending on the product, it is easy to afford and the benefits are clear. The quality of construction is good and the wraps hold up well under rough use.
Active Wraps are well designed and innovative tools that provide both preparatory and therapeutic benefits. The price is competitive and you get a lot for your money. Additional cold/heat packs are also available for under $20. This would be an excellent gift for a runner or for any athlete who can benefit from cold or heat therapy.
The Moji Knee is is an innovative system for athletes who are looking for a way to ice a knee injury without giving up any mobility. We received a sample unit from the company so that we could perform a field test during race and then test under less rigorous conditions.
Our original plan was to field test the Moji cold compression system during a 180+ mile relay run over a 24-hour period. We quickly encountered a problem keeping the Moji's frozen gel cold cell frozen as it needed to be transported without a cooling source for three hours prior to the race. Over this duration, the cell thawed and it was no longer cold enough to use. So, the first lesson is that it's important to use the Moji system within 20 to 30 minutes of removal of the cell from the freezer.
Due to this limitation the first Runner's Tech Review field test with the Moji was performed a week later, by two women who had completed a grueling hike/run. One of the reviewers was suffering from severe knee pain and the other utilized the system solely for preventative joint maintenance. Let's call the first reviewer A and the second B.
A had been using frozen ice packs off and on throughout the day before transitioning to Moji. She immediately declared it a significant upgrade and remarked that she particularly appreciated the simultaneous application of cold to both sides of her knee. In addition, A found she was able to comfortably move around the house while wearing the Moji. As someone who experiences chronic knee pain, A indicated an interest in investing in a Moji (or two -- as she experiences pain in both knees).
B used the Moji after hiking, running, and playing soccer. She cautioned against wearing the Moji on a bare knee without first thawing the gel pack a bit. Since B used the Moji as a preventative measure only, it was difficult to judge its effectiveness over a short duration of time, but, like A, she also indicated it evenly distributes cold temps across the entire knee, except for the backside. Since B's leg is slim, she didn't feel comfortable walking around because the Moji tended to slip down her leg, but it is important to note that the sample that was provided was sized for a larger person.
Both reviewers had difficulty correctly putting on Moji without referring to the instructions and both agreed that the device is made of very high quality materials. Other observers remarked about the quality and 'professional' appearance of the Moji Knee. The packaging was attractive and the reusable storage bag was useful for easy and clean transport.
The third test was performed by an active runner who used it to treat some minor knee pain and as a preventive measure after distance runs. The Moji Knee was easy to set up and it provided excellent cooling around the entire knee for the first 30 minutes. Once the gel began warm up from contact with the knee it became far less effective. It was also difficult to tighten the brace enough to keep the cold directly on the targeted part of the knee, especially when walking. Another benefit for the design is that it can be wrapped around the upper thigh to provide support and cooling to the quadriceps muscles.
Overall, we recommend the Moji as a high end therapeutic tool for those with chronic knee pain. Anyone undergoing physical therapy for the knee will find it extremely useful, and it could surely be worn during electro stim treatments. Just be aware that it won't be adequately cool for use after more than an hour outside of the freezer. For those who'd like to use Moji in situations where access to a freezer isn't available there is another product we didn't review, called Moji to Go, that might fulfill your needs.
MixMyGranola can be described as Web 2.0 for food. Consumer generated content on the web that you can eat. Interesting yes, but is it a good experience? I took it to the Emerging Running Advisory Board to see what they thought about this product. The raters were me, Sedentary Man and Adventure Girl and our rating criteria were based on quality, taste, freshness and value.
According to their website, the company started when the founders concluded "none of the ready-made granolas that [they] could find in supermarkets and grocery stores really fulfilled all of [their] granola dreams. They created MixMyGranola.com to allow customers to custom-make their own granola mixes.
I was happy to try it out. Raoul from the company provided a gift certificate that allowed me to create a pound of mix. There was a dollar limit so I needed to constrain my choices to allow me to choose a combination of ingredients that added up to less than the amount of the gift certificate so I could reserve for shipping. The MixMyGranola website is attractive and the process is made very clear. You choose your base granola and then choose dried fruits, nuts and grains. You can even choose non-traditional mix-ins like gummy bears although I can't imagine a person who is so interested in good granola would make such an unhealthy choice. But the Emerging Runner is not here to judge the customers, just the company.
The selection process was simple and I liked the fact that, with each step, you understand both the cost and the nutritional makeup of your choices (calories, fat, fiber, etc.). I chose a mix with a muesli base, dried strawberries, dates, walnuts and pecans. I entered my personal data, the certificate code and then submitted. I received an acknowledgement of my order and my mix showed up a few days later by Fedex in an attractively designed tube.
I divided the mix up and gave portions to SM and AG and asked them to rate it based upon the above criteria. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being best) the three of us scored it as follows:
Quality: 4.7 Taste: 3.7 Freshness: 4.3 Value: 2.3
OVERALL (ER) “I liked that I could specify every ingredient and I also liked the quality of the ingredients. Flavor (muesli) was slightly bitter and would have benefited from some balancing sweetness (dried fruit helped a little). I wished that I had chosen a granola base. Value questionable - can you justify paying $12/lb to get exactly what you want versus paying $8-9/lb at a high end market for a good quality mix?”
(AG) “Good website, fun process, nice packaging. Excellent fruit and overall quality. I think MixMyGranola is something I’d purchase as a treat or for consumption during a special race or event, not for everyday consumption and training.”
QUALITY (AG) “Definitely top-notch, as reflected in the below comments regarding taste and freshness.”
(ER) “I don’t have many points of comparison but this seems to be very good stuff. The pecans were huge and there was a generous amount of mixed-in ingredients.”
TASTE (AG) “The muesli had a pleasant, oaty flavor that helped to counteract its dry, dusty nature. The fruit contributed the most vibrant flavors. The dates and strawberries alike were perfectly sweet, although I might have preferred more of both. The pecans were very good and counterbalanced the sweet fruits, although might have been better if toasted (roasted?).”
(ER) “I did not care for the muesli’s flavor but the rest of the ingredients tasted great. I added some brown sugar and heated the mix and I liked it much better.”
FRESHNESS (AG) “Here MixMyGranola surpassed any other granola I have had recently. The fruit, in particular, wasn’t overly desiccated as you often find with dried fruits. Instead, they were moist and almost reminiscent of the texture of gummy bears. The strawberries were a quite surprisingly jewel-toned red that didn’t deviate too far from the natural color of a strawberry to be suspicious. The oats were too dry, but I think this is their nature. I added half of my portion to milk, and that improved the experience dramatically.”
(ER) “Certainly fresh, no complaints about that.”
VALUE (AG) “The price is prohibitively steep. I think silver is trading at approximately $12 a pound, and this granola exceeds it by a few dollars. I might be willing to pay $15 for an entire pound of the delicious strawberries, but I think the sticker price is too high for a mix.
(ER) “Unless you are a dedicated granola fan with very little free time I question the cost against the work to buy high quality ingredients like these and mix them yourself. All the same, it’s a fun experience and a high quality product.”