About talkultra

Ian is a photographer, writer, reviewer and blogger at iancorless.com. Ian is currently travelling the world capturing stories from some of the most iconic ultras on the planet. Ian is also creative director and host of an ultra running podcast called Talk Ultra. The show is available every 2 weeks 'for free' on iTunes and talkultra.com.

Episode 217 – The Chamonix Tapes 5 – Robbie Simpson

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.
In The Chamonix Tapes 5, we speak with Robbie Simpson.

“I have always like road and I think there is a place for that… But, I am keen to move towards trail and longer distance events. That feeling of running up a mountain on a smooth or technical trail is magical.”

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Episode 216 – The Chamonix Tapes 4 – Taylor Nowlin

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.


In The Chamonix Tapes 4, we speak with Taylor Nowlin.

My work required if you test positive you need to self-quarantine for 2-weeks. I was working nights and long shifts, so I never felt amazing, when I got Coronavirus I didn’t even know.”

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE 

 ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Episode 215 – The Chamonix Tapes 3 – Sabrina Stanley and Ruth Croft

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.


In The Chamonix Tapes 3, we speak with Sabrina Stanley and Ruth Croft.

“I obviously want to do the best for the people who support me and make them proud. I feel I can do this but I want to look at the 15-20yr picture and I enjoy running healthy and fast and I want to do that for as long as possible…. I plan on coming back in 2022 and doing something special.” – Sabrina Stanley

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Episode 214 – The Chamonix Tapes 2 – Macy and Ekaterina Mityaeva

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.
In The Chamonix Tapes 2, we speak with Macy (Marcel Hoeche) and Ekaterina Mityaeva about shoe design and the new, Agravic Ultra shoe.

“Sustainability, materials and who is the consumer? Everyone deserves a perfect shoe… From the very beginning we knew we were on to something super great. I can’t begin to tell you how many different shapes of the plate we used in so many different materials. If you pair five shapes and five materials this is 25 pairs of shoes we need to test… It was a complex process which was definitely worth it.”

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Pyrenees Stage Run 2021

©Guillem_Casanova

As UTMB week draws to a closure on August 29th, the Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 will start. The 2020 edition, like most races was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, however, the PSR is back!

Fourteen different nationalities will take part in this epic 7-day journey covering 240km and over 15000m of vertical gain. The Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom will be the most represented countries as participants take on the challenge in teams of two or three.

©Guillem_Casanova

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

Starting in Ribes de Freser and finishing in Salardú with two stages in Andorra, the PSR offers the possibility to cross a section of the Pyrenees following the classic GR11 and going through places that you will never forget.

Program for the week.

An adventure, the route will be undertaken as a team, sharing the experience being a key consideration not only for enjoyment but safety. The GR11 is way marked but also GPX routes will be followed.

Daily, all will have dinner altogether and an award ceremony of the day, a briefing of the next stage and a presentation of the photos and videos will be given.

The Route:

Can be viewed in-depth HERE.

Day 1 34.4km 2180M+

Day 2 37.4km 1700m+

Day 3 47.5km 2600m+

Day 4 20km 1900m+

Day 5 39.7km 2680m+

Day 6 26.6km 1820m+

Day 7 32.8km 2300m+

Live Tracking will be available.

©Guillem_Casanova

It is possible to view a Race Book to get an oversight of the PSR but dune in daily to this website for updates, summaries, images and stage-by-stage results as the 2021 PSR gets underway.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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Episode 213 – The Chamonix Tapes 1 – Robert Muecke

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.
In The Chamonix Tapes 1, we speak with the adidas Terrex Team manager, Robert Muecke.

“We are not working together with robots. We are working with humans and a team and a team structure is based on human beings. We are here to support humans to their potential. It’s so much more than winning one race, it’s a process that is set up over years.”

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Episode 212 – Beth Pascall

Episode 212 has an interview with Beth Pascall who won the iconic Western States 100-mile. The show is co-hosted by Abelone Lyng.


Talk Ultra needs your help! 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Donate HERE

NEWS

Firstly, apologies for the lack of a show recently. It’s been one of those periods when life and travel have taken over and after the rollercoaster of the last 18-months, I personally decided to go with the flow and not force anything. Abelone, who is co-hosting with me, has joined me on many and adventure recently and we have enjoyed the disconnect and trail time. We have run many miles, climbed many mountains, fastpacked, camped wild and soaked in the best of what Norway has to offer… July has been a good month to re-connect. I also started to travel again with races, a stunning trip to Lofoten for The Arctic Triple, a race in Hardanger, a four day (the UT4M) in France and just recently, the Stranda Fjord Trail race and this weekend, as the show is released, the Rondane 100.


Next week I head to Chamonix for build up to UTMB and some news on that to follow later in the show.


Scott Jurek is back on the Appalachian Trail and Speedgoat Karl is with him. Scott is once again taking on the 2190-mile journey  travelling south looking to set an FKT for the second time, he departed August 4th at 0730. Scott set the record in 2015 travelling north. Karel Sabbe holds the fastest time of 41-days, 7-hours and 39-minutes. *Update, news came in after recording that Scott had to stop after injury.


Talking of FKT’s, Timmy Olson set a new record on the Pacific Crest Trail, 51-days, 16-hours and 15-minutes for the 2653-mile journey. Supported by his family, Krista his wife heavily preganant, this journey was far more than just running. From the outside looking in, it was a truly inspirational journey. We hoe to chat with Tim soon!


Simen Holvik set a new record for the Norg Pa Langs (road) in Norway, 25-days 15-hours and 20-minutes. 


Kilian Jornet once again the legendary Sierre-Zinal for the 9th time. 31km, 200m of vert in 2:31, the dude is a GOAT. Huge shout to the UK1s Robbie Simpson in 2nd and Cesare Maestri in 3rd. Maud Mathys won the women’s race (already a 2x champ) in 2:46 ahead of Nienke Brinkman and Anais Sabre.


Tromso Skyrace was won by Therese Arvik and Lars Olaf Haaheim, the race usually has excellent competitors from outside Norway, however, the ongoing Covid restrictions impacted on an international field.


Abelone and myself were in Stranda, Norway, for the Stranda Fjord Trail Race – I focussed on the 100km but there was a 48km and 25km. This course needs to be experienced – it is stunning! Please read the race report and view the images.


TransRockies in Colorado was won by Cody Reed and Grace Staberg, the duo running the 6-day solo in 15:59 and 18:35.


Next week the build up to UTMB starts and Talk Ultra is going to be providing in-depth content, behind the scenes of the adidas Terrex Team. We are going to be discussing many subjects and although the full line up of interviews are not confirmed, you can expect chat with the team manager, in-depth chat with one of the shoe designers, emphasis on women in trail running, chats with legends of the sport and of course, chat with up and coming stars.

FKT’s? check the FKT website HERE


NEW REVIEWS


RAB Mythic Ultra Sleeping bags HERE


Hoka One One ZINAL shoe review HERE


Big Agnes Fly Creek solo tent HERE


adidas Terrex Speed Ultra long-term review HERE

OLDER ARTICLES:

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

La Sportiva CYKLON shoe review HERE listen to Episode 208 of Talk Ultra is a special show with DANIEL FEENEY and Jonathan Wyatt discussing the collaboration between BOA and La Sportiva for the new, Cyklon shoe.

La Sportiva Cyklon

INSTINCT XX20L Pack review HERE

Instinct XX 20L

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent 2 Review

La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail Review and Images.

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

12 – 24 Week Multi-Day Training Plans now available HERE

100-Mile Training Plan now available HERE

We also have several places that have become available for bespoke coaching and training plans. Like more information? 

Listen to the show here or via links:

LINKS:

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player HERE 

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

RAB Mythic Ultra 180 and 360 Sleeping Bag Reviews

RAB Mythic Ultra – Great in a hammock.

RAB have produced two state of the art sleeping bags in the Mythic Ultra 180 and Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bags. Utilising the same technology, both bags offer low weight, small pack size, Hydrophobic Down and the ground-breaking TILT technology – Thermo Ionic Lining Technology. The TILT in real simple terms brings elements of an emergency space blanket incorporated into the design of the bags.

Offering best performance at weight for any comparable bag, both the 180 and 360 have been my ‘go-to’ bags since early in 2020. 

Quite simply, amazing levels of warmth for low weight.

Image ©RAB

The RAB Mythic 180 has 180g of 900+ fill power Hydrophobic down and a comfort limit of 0 degrees and a weight of 390g. It’s a perfect bag for warmer weather and any adventure when low weight, small pack size and warmth are important. Perfect for multi-day racing for Marathon des Sables or similar and, is brilliant for fastpacking adventures when travelling in a self-sufficient manner.

The RAB Mythic 360 has 360g of 900+ fill power Hydrophobic down and a comfort limit of -8 degrees and a weight of 620g. This bag utilises all the same technology of the 180 and quite simply is warmer and heavier. Just like the 180, it’s the perfect bag for racing and fastpacking adventures in colder and more challenging conditions.

Please read How To Choose A Sleeping Bag.

IN USE

Mythic Ultra 360

The recent 18-months have allowed me more time outdoors than ever before and almost weekly I have ventured outside on multi-day fastpacking adventures or overnight trips. The 360 and 180 have been on most of these trips offering low weight, small pack size and incredible warmth.

I am lucky, based in Norway, I get to fully experience the cold of winter and in summer, warm and comfortable nights.

An overnight fastpack in February and I was camping in -18 degrees on snow in a small one-man tent. The Mythic Ultra 360 with a comfort rating of -8 was not going to be enough for a cold night, however, I had planned accordingly carrying Merino base layers, down pants, and down jacket. When all combined inside the Mythic Ultra 360 I was cozy warm. This was an extreme test of the 360 and importantly, I think it’s important to understand how layering is an important element to the use of any sleeping bag. It offers incredible flexibility.

But the true test of the 360 has come on regular trips in Autumn and Spring when the temperatures are hovering around +5 to -5. In these situations, the bag has performed flawlessly providing low weight and incredible warmth all in a small package. The groundbreaking TILT really does perform and as mentioned earlier, it’s like adding a space blanket inside the bag. It’s heat reflective and therefore increases the internal warmth for minimal extra weight.

I consider the bag a game changer for its weight v performance but of course, this comes at a price. Expect to pay around £700 for this technology. 

Using 7D ripstop nylon, TILT and excellent design, the Mythic Ultra 360 has been the most comfortable bag I have ever used. One would potentially think that just 360g of down would not be enough, especially for a -8 bag, but that is where the technology kicks in and that is why the price goes up. It’s the perfect bag alpinists, adventurers, and runners.

It has boxwall construction and trapezoidal baffles which allows the down to loft reducing cold spot risk. It has an ergonomically designed collar and hood that closes in around the head and neck reducing cold getting inside the bag and therefore allowing the warm air inside the bag no opportunity to escape. An anti-snag zip guard, angled foot box and short zip are additional features.

As you would expect, internal space is compromised, after all, this helps keeps the weight down. So, this may be a consideration, it’s suitable for someone up to 6-foot tall with comfort. After that, it would come down to personal comfort and needs. Shoulder width is 27 inches, hip width 21 inches and the foot width 16 inches.

FEATURES

The bag comes with a large cotton sack so you can store without compressing the down, it is also supplied with a compression dry bag. It has a ½ length zip on the left only. The down is Hydrophobic, so, it can get wet and retain warmth, an important feature. 7D Ripstop fabric and importantly the TILT technology is a USP to boost warmth thereby facilitating lower bag weight. Tested to EN1357:2016 standards, the Mythic Ultra 360 has comfort of -2, Comfort limit of -8 and an extreme limit of -27 (but I wouldn’t want to be in that situation!)

CONCLUSION

This is a high-performance bag and state of the art. If the cost is no problem and you require small size, low weight, and warmth, the RAB Mythic Ultra 360 should be on your list. It’s an amazing bag!

Mythic Ultra 180

At £550 the 180 has all the features of the 360 above and it has the same measurements: Suitable for someone up to 6-foot tall with comfort. After that, it would come down to personal comfort and needs. Shoulder width is 27 inches, hip width 21 inches and the foot width 16 inches.

It also has all the same features including the cotton storage bag, dry bag, 7D ripstop, TILT, 900+ Hydrophobic down and same great construction.

Quite simply, the Mythic Ultra 180 is a stripped down 360 designed for warmer temperatures and thus bringing even lower weight and pack size.

At 400g, it is perfect for racing or fastpacking when temperatures at night are expected to be 0 degrees or above, as such, it’s a perfect bag for Marathon des Sables or similar multi-day adventures. It’s also ideal for Mountain Marathon events and summer alpinism.

All the pros and cons listed above for the 360 are directly transferable for the 180.

FEATURES

The bag comes with a large cotton sack so you can store without compressing the down, it is also supplied with a compression dry bag. It has a ½ length zip on the left only. The down is Hydrophobic, so, it can get wet and retain warmth, an important feature. 7D Ripstop fabric and importantly the TILT technology is a USP to boost warmth thereby facilitating lower bag weight. Tested to EN1357:2016 standards, the Mythic Ultra 180 has a comfort limit of 0 degrees.

CONCLUSION

Low weight, amazing warmth and small size, the Mythic Ultra 180 is a bag for warmer temperatures when price is no issue and features are paramount. It’s a perfect bag for racing and fastpacking adventures and the Hydrophobic down gives peace of mind in poor weather conditions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The RAB Mythic Ultra 180 and 360 bags are state of the art and work together with each other offering low weight and warmth for any adventure. I am fortunate to have both and therefore can switch between 180 or 360 based on weather conditions. However, all sleeping bags have greater flexibility when one adds layers. The 360 can be used in much colder temperatures with Merino and down layers. You could argue that this adds extra weight to the overall pack, but, if you are out in in -10 or lower, you will be carrying these layers anyway for day use.

The 180 is a lighter bag and again, adding a layer or multiple layers when inside will increase warmth. A prime example being a race like MDS, many take a very light down jacket for when sitting around, add this inside the bag and the warmth increases.

However, here in the RAB Mythic Ultra, remember the TILT works by reflecting heat, so, one would need to test and try what method provides the best warmth.

Ultimately, if you need a sleeping bag the 180 and 360 offer two great starting points and they should be a consideration.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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Stranda Fjord Trail Race 2021 Race Summary

Kristian Aalerud arriving at the first summit at 0500 hours.

The words epic, beautiful and brutal get used a great deal in ultra-running and I get it. For many of us, any journey can entail all those things on a personal level and that is why you toe the line…

However, here in Stranda Fjord, Møre go Romsdal, Norway, one of the most truly spectacular experiences is waiting for you to toe the line.

Missing in 2020 due the Coronavirus pandemic, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race returned with three races, 25km, 48km and the new 100km distance. The latter offering a full and immersive 360 experience of what this magical area of Norway has to offer.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY HERE

Let’s be honest, Norway as a location is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as a runner or outdoor enthusiast, the options and possibilities are endless, be that in the south or north.

Stranda, part of the Sunnmøre region, is a small place located on one of the west Norwegian fjords. Often accessed via ferry from Liabygda, it can also be accessed by road from Grodås. In proximity to Alesund, Åndalsnes, Loen and others, it’s a wonderful and magical area to explore.

No better place for sunrise!

The 25km and 48km races use much of the opening miles of the 100km route, however, after reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m they return to Stranda via Heimste BlåhornetLøfonnfjellet and Rødesthornet. The 25km then concludes in Stranda and the 48km continues for another loop summiting at Roaldshornet at 1230m and then following on to Blåfjellet and Skurdahornet before descending all the way down to the finish line. Both races are tough, challenging, and demanding and should not be underestimated. There is little easy running here, the climbing is hard, the descents can be tricky, and the terrain varies in technicality, at times harsh on the body and mind, the only easy running is in the final sections of road to the finish line. This is reflected in the winning times, Jack Kosky 6:16:21 and Sara-Rebekka Færø Linde 7:14:34 taking top honours in the 48km and Anders Haga and Anita Iversen Lilleskare winning the 25km in 2:31:01 and 3:12:17 respectively.

Øystein Røen

The main event of the weekend, the 100km race. Is for many only a dream. To say it’s tough would not do the course justice, it’s mind blowing in the challenge. Beautifully brutal as one runner said. Offering a 360 clockwise experience of this stunning area of Norway, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race 100km route is quite simply, one of the most stunning routes I have experienced.

Relentless is the only way to describe. The course does contain some areas where you can switch off and just run, but they are few and far between.  The opening miles maybe offering many a false illusion of the severity to come. The hard work starts to really kick in with approximately 20km covered at Liavarden. What follows are walls of grass, rock, scree, stone slabs, technical ridges, vertical climbing and challenging descending.

The race is truly a hands on experience.
Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting to hard.

Reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m, 23km covered, and every runner was under no illusion of the challenge ahead. The terrain rocky, slow and hard, the panoramic views at sunrise quite simple stunning. Following on to Lissje Blåhornet and a technical ridge section offered exposure and scrambling before dropping down to the valley and easier running to the aid station on the road of Dalevegen and 28km distance.

Descending Slogen

A short section of road was followed with more climbing, an out-and-back to another peak and then the Liasætra aid station.

Easy running before Slogen.

Valley running to Patchellhytta DNT cabin and then the relentless out-and-back climb to the iconic Slogen at 1564m. This climb being one of the highlights of the route offers a challenge, especially near the top when hands-on-knee climbing turns to scrambling and easy climbing.

The final push to Slogen summit.
The view from Slogen.

The summit offering a stunning panorama but there is little time to enjoy the view. Descending via the way you came, eventually you turn left in the valley and make your way to Velleseter, Brunstadsætra, Storevatnet, and then the road section that leads to the final section of the course, 80km covered.

Felix Weber approaching Roaldshornet.

The climb to summit Roaldshornet at 1230m is long, the summit at 86km and it would be easy to think it’s all downhill from here. Considering what has gone before, it’s fair to say that it is. Eventually the 100km joins with the final section of the 48km track and the run in to the finish is welcome and hard earned.

Rocks and more rocks.

Be warned, this route is tough!

Kristian Aalerud set a hard pace at the start of the race and while nobody really knew how long this 100km would take, best estimations were 17-hours for the winning time. Kristian crossed in 15:49:31. A spectacular time.

Øystein Røen for much of the day had run in 2nd place, however, Felix Weber moved ahead to take the 2nd podium spot, Øystein settling for 3rd, 17:03:12 and 17:25:38 respectively.

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race, easing in to the day and eventually taking over the lead to finish in 22:25:12. Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting too hard she slipped down the field and eventually finishing in 28:29:34 in 2nd place. They were the only two women to complete the course!

In total, 20 completed the distance reflecting the severity of the challenge. It’s also important to note that the start list was drastically reduced to ongoing restrictions from the Covid pandemic.

One thing is for sure, running 25km, 48km or 100km in this area of Norway is not easy, ask anyone who toed the line of the respective distances.

There is something truly magical here, I can only encourage and emphasise that you ‘need’ to add Strand Fjord Trail Race to your bucket list.

Beautiful and Brutal!

You will not be disappointed with the experience of racing here, BUT come prepared, you are going to earn that finish medal.

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Slogen

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

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Hoka One One ZINAL Shoe Review

Having avoided Hoka One One shoes since 2012 (long story, but insight here) I was tempted to try the Torrent 2 based on the number of recommendations and discussion telling me that ‘this’ is the least ‘Hoka’ like shoe out there… Basically that meant, less cushioning, less stack height and a more conventional run shoe feel.

I was impressed. The Torrent 2 really was a revelation and over recent months has become a shoe I have used on a regular basis, be that for road, trail, or fastpacking trips. At the time of writing the Torrent 2 review, I was aware of the ‘ZINAL’ and the pre-release articles mentioning that it would be Hoka One One’s lightest shoe with an emphasis on agile and fast. It was shoe designed around the iconic Sierre-Zinal race that takes place in August each year – A fast mountain race that requires athletic speed but mountain ability.

The arrival of the ZINAL confirmed all the PR. Light and low-profile with an obvious intention to run fast but with some comfort.

I have to say, the ‘Blazing Orange’ would not be my colour way of choice, but hey, it’s only a colour, the ‘Atlantis/ Outer Space’ option is far more appealing.

Atlantis/ Outer Space’ option is far more appealing.

At £140 the pricing is maybe a little on the expensive side, but in all honesty, run shoes these days all hover around this mark. Using recycled materials and boasting a Vegan tag, the ZINAL also ticks some very important boxes.

THE SHOE

The ZINAL is floaty light with a weight of 242g for the standard UK8/EU42 size. It’s neutral, responsive and has a 5mm drop. The side of the shoe boasts some statistics – S32x19|V490|W242. These stats refer to: Spring Measurement, Volume and Weight. While it’s not new to see stats on a shoe, volume and spring measurement are new on me and while I could understand volume, I did wonder what the spring measurement would mean?

Spring measurement is, ‘Curvature of the shoe, measuring how high the heel and toe are off the ground.’ So, for the ZINAL, this means 33mm at the rear and 19mm at the front. Don’t get confused here with drop, this does not mean a 14mm drop!

Volume relates to the total amount of foam in the midsole.

One would assume that the higher the volume number, the more cushioned or plush the shoe would be, but that is not the case. Here in the ZINAL, the shoe has a lower profile keeping you, the runner, closer to the ground and the cushioning is firmer to provide a more efficient and speedier propulsion in the transition phase. When I wrote about the Torrent 2, the thing I liked and others liked was a firmer ride; less Hoka like, by that I mean less plush and bouncy. Here in the ZINAL that is taken one step farther and the ride is firmer. So, it’s fair to assume that plush ride Hoka fans will find the ZINAL less appealing. Whereas, by contrast, runners who prefer a more conventional shoe who have wanted to try Hoka, will find the ZINAL appealing.

Designed to be minimalist, the ZINAL has very much a race shoe feel. It has enough cushioning and protection from PROFLY but not any extra that would add weight or bulk. Turning the shoe over, this is reflected in the outsole, it has the tried, tested, and loved by many, Vibram Megagrip 4mm lugs, BUT this version does not go the full length of the shoe. It protects the front and the rear. This is called ‘Litebase’ and quite simply it’s lighter because there is less of it.

The mesh upper is similar in many ways to the Torrent 2 and is very breathable and light but at the same time durable. Made from recycled content, it ticks the eco box.

Toe box is a 3 on a 1-5 scale, 1 being precision and 5 being wide. For me it’s ideal and in keeping with a faster shoe. There is a little toe protection from a bumper, but it is minimal.

A gusseted tongue and molded EVA sock liner give a nice firm hold of the foot around the instep which for me is very important, especially when running faster on trails. You want the shoe to hold you with little or no unwanted movement. The heel box is snug and secure.

IN USE

Sizing for me was true to size, I use an EU44/ UK9.5 for all my shoes and the ZINAL slipped on perfectly, however, they do fit different to the Torrent 2 by way of comparison. There seems to be just a little extra length. So, make sure you try them on, a 0.5 size smaller may possibly be better for you?

The low stack height is obvious immediately, and they feel like a normal cushioned shoe, considerably less Hoka like.

The upper is noticeably durable but light and breathable. At times I felt as though there is a little too much shoe, almost too much fabric. It’s hard to pinpoint, but all shoes fit differently and here in the ZINAL I felt there was more internal shoe volume, particularly in comparison to the Torrent 2.

The sock liner and gusseted tongue work well and pulling the laces tight, they give a secure and firm hold of the foot. For me, based on the comment above, I tightened my shoe a little more than normal, however, I did not have the need to lock lace – gladly the additional eyelets are available should that be required.

The tongue is protective but minimal.

The outsole as mentioned has 4mm Vibram Megagrip lugs which are tried and tested, but they are only at the front and the rear of the shoe. The middle of the outsole has no protection or grip and therefore, if running on technical trails such as tree roots or rocks, this can be noticeable as often the whole grip of an outsole can be required, so, this is a consideration. Most definitely, the ZINAL is designed for fast running on trails (and even road) of a less technical nature, just like you would see at the Sierre-Zinal race. When running faster with a mid to forefoot strike, the ZINAL works wonderfully and the Megagrip does its job just as you would want and expect.

The PROFLY cushioning is firm, and noticeably firmer than the Torrent 2. On my first run, I was surprised at how firm this shoe felt. But, when you pick up the pace, that firmness kicks back and propels you forward in the propulsive phase. This is just like how carbon works in carbon shoes – you get nothing for free, the speed and extra propulsion comes from you investing in the shoe with energy and cadence. The spring measurement on the side of the shoe, 33×19, I am still not sure what it means and how I equate those measurements to the feel of the shoe when running? Again, by way of example, on the Torrent 2, this figure was 33×16. 

Volume of the ZINAL V490 and again, by comparison, the Torrent 2 is V395 – I have some confusion here as my understanding of shoe volume related to the following: “If your foot has a medium to wide width and/or a high arch, you have a high-volume foot. If you have a narrow, slender foot and a flat arch, you have a low-volume foot.”

I do wonder sometimes that we can be given too much information. The volume and spring measurement are new on me, and I have been testing shoes for 10-years. I have never worried about these measurements but now I have them, I want to know what they mean and how I should read them so that I can relay back to you…. It’s left me perplexed. Am I over thinking it? Ultimately is the shoe good? Is it fast? Is it light? Is it responsive?

Spring and volume confusion aside, the ZINAL is light and responsive with an excellent ground feel and the 5mm drop works well with the shoe’s intentions. It’s a shoe that wants to go faster and most certainly, the faster you go, the better the shoe feels.

Based on the above, for me, the ZINAL is not an everyday shoe. It’s a shoe for those faster tail runs when you want to push the pace, either in shorter training sessions or if doing intervals or hill work. Of course, the ZINAL will excel in trail races (that are not too technical) when long-term comfort is sacrificed for speed. So, for many, this would be a great shoe for up marathon distance. Beyond that, would depend on the runner, their needs, their run style and so many other factors. For example, Hoka One One athlete, Camille Herron, toed the line at Western States 100 in a pair of ZINAL.

It’s too early for me to comment on the longevity of the shoe, I have no reason to think that the upper will have any issues, my Torrent 2 have had 400km+ and are still going well. However, the stripped back outsole by Vibram may well not last as long? If you take the ZINAL on rough and technical trails, I most definitely can see potential issues with the middle of the outsole and its lack of protection. I will feedback on this.

CONCLUSION

The ZINAL is a notable shoe for Hoka One One and a welcome step in a different direction for the brand who has a reputation for plush ride, arguably, the Torrent 2 paved the way. This is a shoe that is designed for fast (faster) running and as such, it’s not an everyday shoe, at least for me it’s not! The cushioning or lack of it (for some) causes me no issues, actually, the ZINAL for me is still one of the most cushioned shoes I am using, many of my other shoes have considerably less.

The outsole restricts the ZINAL use, and it is most definitely a shoe for groomed trail, smooth single-track and road. A good road to trail shoe! It can handle some technical trails, but I do believe that this will greatly impact on the life of the shoe, particularly from the outsole perspective. Avoid mud, it just would not be able handle it!

Torrent 2 Review HERE

A fun shoe, a fast shoe, a light shoe that brings a smile to your face when pushing the pace or when racing. But, if you want a shoe with many ZINAL similarities and more flexibility, the Torrent 2 is worth looking at IMO. Ultimately, the Torrent 2 and ZINAL would work well together and for me, I’d have the Torrent 2 as an everyday shoe and the ZINAL for sessions and racing.

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