Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trust Special Ops Liners Review (by Mark Pollard)

Review done by Mark Pollard (Inverted at the AMall message board)

By now everyone knows that these exist, I figured I would post a review for anyone who is curious about these liners. Just a disclaimer, I purchased both sets of these liners, I did not receive them for review so this is as unbiased as I can make it. They can be purchased from your local skateshop, AMall, RW, and rolltrust.com for around 80 bucks. I purchased the white pair the second RollerWarehouse got them in stock, both are size 9. I liked the feel of them so much, and was worried about future availability that I purchased a black set about a week later. I have been on a quest to find the perfect skate liner ever since I got back into skating. I have tried a few aftermarket, and several stock liners: Jug Black Sox, Blank, Trust Catalyst, multiple Razor and Valo liners. These liners were tested in 8/9 Valo JJ Lights.

Description (taken off of RollTrust.com)

The Special Ops liner was developed to meet the fit requirements of narrower skates and exceed them in most full hard boot skates allowing skaters to unlock and explore a new world of options in their skates.
Construction started with an unconventional one piece design as a base that was improved upon using high density foam which allowed for less than 4 mm of material to be adequate in most areas. Strategically placed visco-elastic memory foams were used in the cuff, tongue and ankle areas to increase support and comfort all while maintaining the heel lock and durability that Trust liners have become renown for.

Other features include an anatomically shaped foot bed with an integrated heel pad and an optional 3 tier lacing system. Tacky PVC waves were printed on the bottom and sides of the exterior to reduce slippage and liner lift. A large elastic neoprene toe area was added to prevent your toes from being confined to the shape of the liner which also enables the Spec Ops to be highly versatile and accommodate a wider variety of feet that may be in-between sizes. The overall minimalistic design and careful selection of materials helped to reduce the weight to half of a traditional thin liner making the Spec Ops by far the lightest aftermarket liner ever made.

The end result is a carefully refined and fine-tuned product that goes above and beyond what you have come to expect in a liner.

Design characteristics:

Probably the single most attractive aspect of these lines is the design. I started skating in 1994, and stopped around 2001, then started back up again about 7 months ago. During that time, liners were very basic, and similar. There were no aftermarket liners that I remember either. When I picked up skating again I was happily surprised to find there skate innovation had come, but quickly became surprised at the lack of innovation in skate liners. Namely the tongue, I remember always having comfort issues specifically with the tongue, and todays stock liners are not much better, although there is some improvement. The split tongue design looks really cool, and is also a manufacturing benefit of the one piece design of the liner. I was initially worried about comfort issues as were many people, but as soon as I put them on those worries were extinguished. You can't feel the split tongue at all, in fact you can't feel anything in the way of overlapping fabric, seams, and other things commonly found in todays liners. This is the most comfortable liner I have found. Feeling seams has been one of my gripes, as well as overly padded lines. An easy bandaid for manufacturers is to just pad the hell out of liners. While this does good things for comfort, it takes away from the tactile feel of your skates. I like a fine balance of comfort, feel and fitment, with being able to feel grinds, feel where my skates are in relation to my feet, and not feel disconnected from my skates with an overly padded liner. The single seam on the bottom of the liner runs lengthwise from toe to heal, with another seam for the toe box area. When JH said you can't feel the seam I was very skeptical, but again, once I put my foot in I was shocked. You can't feel anything about that seam, very cool design feature. These liners were designed to be a lower profile liner, that allows you to downsize your skates, or upsize the liner depending on how you look at it. In plain terms, if you are a size 10 skate, you could in theory(depending on the model of skate) get an 8/9 shell, and the liner will fit fine. This is a huge benefit to people who are on the edge of a 9/10 skate, you can then downsize to the better looking 8/9 shell of your favorite skate. There is a sizing chart on rolltrust.com and on the retail packaging of the liners. There is a height change in the liners from size 8 to size 9. While I don't have an 8 to compare, you can see from the pics how the size 9 sits in the 8/9 carbon Valo shell. My guess is that the size 8 would be nearly flush.

Another really nice aspect of these liners is the bottom traction system. Trust incorporated PVC to the bottom of the liner to prevent sliding inside the shell. This is something I rarely thought about until I skated Valo Lights. The bigger shell design, in addition to it being a very slick surface, can make the liner slip and slide if you don't really tighten the inner lacing system. There is no sliding even if you try, and even if you keep the inner lacing system really loose, there is no movement.

The split tongue design:

The bottom seam and PVC:

As I said already, these are the most comfortable liners I have skated. A better way to describe these liners would be to call them foot wraps. They don't feel like a skate liner, which is something that is a little different to me. The memory foam padding the liner incorporates feels a little different than the standard cardboard, foam and fabric liners we are all used to. They feel "harder" than typical overly padded liners. At first I thought this might get uncomfortable after a while, but the liners mold right to your feet, then they just feel like a custom molded liner that has been shrink wrapped around your foot. It fits the contour of the foot perfectly. It really feels like a foot wrap of sorts, where you feel the liner all over the foot, in a good way. I am a true size 9, and already had 8/9 Valos. My interest in these liners wasn't to size down a shell, but that doesn't mean its not a real cool feature of the line. The size 9 Spec Ops fits very true to size. The toe area just grazes my big toe, but after about 15 minutes of skating, the liner has truly formed to your foot, and you don't feel anything unnecessary. There are no pressure points, no areas of discomfort, yet at the same time, I have a new found feel for my skates. Its really the best of both worlds. I can compare the feeling to how my friends have told me the USD Carbon 2 feels after skating traditional skates. You feel everything more, but there is no discomfort. I can feel grinds locking on better than before. Yesterday I skated for quite a long time, and was excited to see how these hold up over long sessions. I really liked my blank liners, but after a few hours I would get fatigued from soreness in my feet. Not with the Spec Ops, there are no seams to slowly wear your feet down from movement, making them raw. That was my biggest complaint about the Blank liners, there are 2 very pronounced seams inside the liner on either side of the foot that are not padded, and you can feel them right away. After a while they would hurt my feet so much that I would have to take the skates off.

The Spec Ops, following their thinner design profile, come with very thin insoles designed specifically for these liners. This was just about my only negative feeling about these liners. They are real thin, which causes problems inserting the insoles in the liner. You have to spend time to position them in the liner correctly. They aren't rigid like standard insoles. I actually put my Blank insoles in the Spec Ops because I liked them a bit better. Mostly due to the fact that a thicker insole will shape the bottom of the liner like a foot. It was hard to put my foot in the liner with the stock insoles, and not have them bunch up on me. I do like the way the insoles feel, but because the bottom of the insoles don't have a defined shape, your foot shapes the liner, and a thin insole can bunch up. Its hard to tell from the pics, but the Trust insoles are much easier to bend and are thinner. The heel pad looks adequate enough for gaps and normal skating comparable with other insoles.
Trust insole and Blank insole comparison:

It is obviously too soon to tell how these will hold up in the long run, but the build quality, quality of materials used, and the craftsmanship look amazing. Stitching is nice and thick, there is definite attention to detail. Its a shame you have to stick these in a shell because they look really nice. When I compare the quality to my Blanks, I can see that Trust went a little extra further. Thats not to say that Blank liners are not quality liners, they are, but you can see that whatever was cutting the materials wasn't as precise. I am also more impressed with the stitch quality of the Trusts.
Things I like:
[*]Innovative design
[*]Comfort longevity
[*]Build quality
[*]Single seam
[*]PVC traction design

Things I don’t like:
[*]Lacing system

I feel like I need to explain the lacing system gripe. It is totally personal preference, but I like having a traditional lacing system rather than the pull/secure string type of lacing. Again this is totally a personal thing, the stock Trust system works just fine.

Overall I am very impressed with these liners. Finally there is a fix for that seemingly never ending tongue shift issue we have all experienced. Its almost weird not having to constantly readjust anything on these liners. I can't see anyone not liking these liners, being that this liner truly forms to your foot, it really doesn't matter if you have an oddly shaped or sized foot, the liner will be just fine.

Here are some pics comparing a size 9 Blank to a size 9 Spec Op:

Size 9 black in my 8/9 Black and Wines:

Size 9 white in my 8/9 JJ Lights

White and black side by side comparisons:




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