The Best and Worst Trail Shoes of 2021

adidas Speed Ultra

I get to review and test a great deal of shoes and 2021 has been no different. Some shoes really stand out and get used all the time and others fade to a dark and lonely place in my shoe cupboard.

So, what has been the highlights and low points of 2021?

First and foremost, I need to clarify that I haven’t tested ‘every’ shoe that is out there to be tested, so, this is very much an opinion post. Importantly, what I have done is tested shoes from zero drop to 10mm drop and shoes with minimal to maximal cushioning.

For perspective, I am happy to run in shoes with varying drop as I really believe that not only is it good for the body, but I also believe that certain drops and better for certain distances and terrain. A good example being, if I were to be running longer, I’d prefer a higher drop, say 8mm. But if running shorter and faster, I’d be more than happy to be in a lower drop, say 4mm. The same applies for cushioning, I am happy with les cushioning for shorter distances and a little more cushioning for longer distances.

Outsole varies considerably and therefore when considering ‘the best’ one must caveat that the shoe is the best for a typical type of terrain and conditions. However, some shoes can be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and manage to do a little bit of everything.

I am a neutral runner, so, the shoes listed fit in that category. Regarding shoe width, I am fortunate that I can squeeze my feet in most shoes and I accept and am happy to have my toes a little cramped for a very specific shoe that needs to excel on technical terrain. I appreciate that for some people, that is not an option or a choice, so keep that in mind.

Read an in-depth article about How to Find Your Running Shoe Size and Fit.

Finally, you may well agree and disagree with my shoe choices below. Perfectly normal, gladly there are many, many shoes out in the marketplace with different drops, cushioning, fit, outsoles and so on.

THE BEST TRAIL SHOES

adidas Speed Ultra

This shoe has been a revelation in 2021. It has managed to encompass so many key elements that make a shoe stand out. They are light, responsive, fun to run in, offer a great fit, have a wider toe box and are cushioned. Designed in conjunction with Tom Evans, Adidas and Tom wanted a shoe that could excel at Western States. So, the shoe had to be good for 100-miles but did not require an aggressive outsole. The Continental outsole is almost road like and for some, potentially too minimal. However, the grip is superb and for trail running; superb. On dry and wet rock, the grip has never faltered, in mud grip is compromised. The Speed Ultra has been my ‘go-to’ shoe of 2021 and has been on many varied terrains and always provided a superb ride. They have even been an excellent road shoe. There are few downsides to the Speed Ultra, but the lack of a rock plate does mean that occasionally you can feel the ground beneath you a little more than desirable. Read the full review HERE.

Hoka One One Torrent 2

I was the first person to bring Hoka in to the uk, way back in 2009. I used them constantly for many years but in 2012 I defected. It has taken almost 10-years for me to lace up a pair of Hoka’s again and it was actually the adidas Speed Ultra that tempted me to try the Torrent 2. I was told by many that the Torrent 2 was the least cushioned and potentially most ‘normal’ type trail shoe that Hoka made. They were right. Out of the box the Torrent 2 has excelled, and they have been in a constant rotation with my Speed Ultra. The outsole is more aggressive than the Speed Ultra and therefore open a few more options when it comes to varied terrain. However, I will say that on wet rock the grip is bad. I wished Hoka had used Vibram MegaGrip instead of their own outsole. But if you stick with dry trail or even muddy trail, the Torrent 2 performs exceptionally well. Despite the stack height (still low for a Hoka) they give great ground feel and stability. The toe box has good space and the foot hold is superb. Read the full review HERE. I will make a note here that the Zinal was also a consideration. It has many Torrent 2 features but for me a firmer and harder ride. I preferred the Torrent 2 but you may well think the Zinal preferable.

THE BEST MOUNTAIN/ AGGRESSIVE SHOES

VJ Sport ULTRA

When you need grip, no other brand offers an outsole like VJ Sport. The soft and grippy butyl is just superb. Over the years I have constantly raved about their shoes, be them the iRock, XTRM or the MAXx. However, the one downside (for many) was a fit that was too narrow and not enough cushioning. Enter the Ultra. VJ listened and came up with a light mountain shoe that instantly felt like a VJ but with that wider toe box and additional cushioning. Many would never consider running UTMB or similar in a VJ MAXx but the Ultra now gives that option. You get the best of both worlds, cushioning and the best grip on the planet. I will say that the cushioning is not as plush as I would have maybe liked, however, they do bed in a become a little softer with use. Read the review HERE.

adidas Speed Pro SG

The soft-ground terrain that inov-8 excelled and dominated in has now been impacted upon by many brands offering their own incarnations of grippy and aggressive outsoles to tackle sloppy terrain. The VJ Sport iRock is without doubt a consideration when looking for an SG shoe. Constantly, one of the biggest complaints from many runners is that most SG shoes have narrow toe boxes. Step in the adidas Speed Pro SG. This shoe has a wide toe box, lightweight upper, cushioning and 7mm lugs for the muddiest and gnarliest terrain. The fit and feel is excellent and the grip superb. It’s not a shoe you’d want to spend all day in but if moving fast over technical, muddy and challenging terrain is your thing, this shoe is a great addition. Read the review HERE.

THE BEST RUNNING BOOTS

La Sportiva Cyklon

The La Sportiva Mutant has been a long-time favourite for many a trail runner and the Cyklon is very much a development of this shoe. It manages to combine many elements of classic La Sportiva and then push new ground with the addition of BOA. Designed to excel in mountain terrain, they are more than a shoe but not as much as boot. They fit this wonderful middle ground of combining shoe like feel and comfort but boot-like security. It has an aggressive outsole and some stability (not too much) to ensure mountain days pass without problem. The sock-liner fit, and the new BOA dynamic cage has provided me with arguably the greatest foot hold of any shoe I have ever tried. It is superb. All these plus points do come with a couple of downsides: A little extra weight and they retain warmth/ heat. The latter a good point in winter but less so in summer. Read the review HERE.

adidas Terrex Tech Pro

This is a late addition to my 2021 shoe line-up and what an addition! For many, this would just be too much and too specific, but for me with Norwegian winters, it’s a boot to put a smile on my face. It’s almost two shoes as there is an inner Agravic shoe inside the Tech Pro outer all fastened together by a zip and BOA fastening system. Comfort is superb, warmth is excellent, and the outsole has wonderful grip. There is a downside (for me) though… I really wish adidas had added winter studs to this boot so that they could handle ice. Had they done this, it would be the perfect winter boot. However, I do understand why they haven’t, usage becomes very restrictive with studs. As it stands, you have a boot that you can use all year and if required, add a micro crampon to tackle ice. Read the review HERE.

THE BEST WINTER SHOE

Asics Gel Fujisetsu 3 G-TX

I have tested a great deal of winter studded shoes in the last couple of years and VJ and Icebug have provided me with many great runs with excellent grip. However, there was always a compromise to be made until I got hold of the Asics Gel Fujisetsu 3 G-TX. This shoe has been a revelation… A Gore-Tex upper, wider toe box, cushioning and 14 studs in aggressive outsole to handle snow and more importantly ice with aplomb. They have been superb over short distance runs and recently a 6-hour outing in -10. Read the review HERE.

MY WORST SHOE OF 2021

inov-8 Trailfly G300 Max

Normally I would find it hard to pick a shoe to go here as today, shoe technology and development means that most brands make good shoes. It’s fair to say that me adding the Trailfly as the worst shoe will cause controversy as for some it has been hailed a revelation…! Not so for me. It’s a Frankenstein shoe that is a pure horror. They are heavy (mine over 380g!), lifeless, clumsy, and well, just plain awful. There are some positives which I tried to give credit to in my initial review, but the more I have used them, the more I dislike them. This shoe had the potential to be a more cushioned G270 with a higher drop. They are not even close! Even the Graphene outsole doesn’t feel as good? But one of my coaching clients uses them and loves them. I said in my review they would be a Marmite shoe and I don’t like Marmite. In fairness, if you are a bigger and heavier runner, the Trailfly may well offer a level of protection not found before. Read the review HERE.

CONCLUSION

The best and the worst? Fully accept that they are ‘my’ best and worst and you may well agree and completely disagree with my thoughts. Ultimately though, it may well introduce you to a potential new favourite shoe that you hadn’t considered before.

I have seen some brands stand still in the most recent 12-18 months, arguably over 2+ years when you consider how long it takes to develop a shoe. But adidas (never a leader in the trail world) has grabbed trail and mountain running by the horns and pushed forward with some great development and shoes with their Terrex brand.

Scarpa Spin 2

Another stand out has been Scarpa, a well-established mountain brand who with the influence of Marco De Gasperi has started to make some excellent trail/ mountain shoes, the Spin 2 almost making this list. I need to test the Ribelle!

Hoka One One have diversified from the max cushioning and while the Zinal didn’t make my list, it very nearly did and for those who do prefer more ‘cush’ between them and the ground, the Speedgoat (now 4) always gets rave reviews.

But what about Altra, Brooks, Salomon, Nike, Topo and more…

Well, the Nike Pegasus has been a favourite of mine in past years and it’s still a great shoe with a plethora of great features, especially comfort for long trail days. However, my choice was always the Wildhorse. But Nike always had to tweak and change it, we are now on version 7 I think?

Altra unfortunately just don’t do it for me. I know, I know… Some of you will be holding your head in your hands. But the zero drop and super-wide toe box is a no for me. However, I have many friends telling me I need to try the Olympus 4 or the Lone Peak 5.

Salomon have not been on my radar in 2021, I very much feel that as brand they stood still. They released a Speedcross 5 but it’s a Marmite shoe (for me) and the grip although aggressive has always been horrendous on wet rock. The previous incarnations also had arch support which I didn’t like. The Sense Ride 4 with 8mm drop is maybe worth a look?

All shoes were provided for free as test samples. The exception being Asics which were purchased. In addition, many shoes in 2021 were provided for testing that do not appear here.

adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

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adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro with BOA Winter Shoe Review

2021 has been the year of adidas for me. The three stripe brand with the distinctive TERREX logo has made great progress in the trail, mountain and ultra world with some stand out shoes.

Early in the year, I called out the Speed Ultra as not only my favourite shoe but arguably, one of the best shoes I have ever used. Three pairs on and I still think the same. Without doubt one of ‘the’ shoes of 2021.

Recently, I received a pair of the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro with BOA.

Now I have to say, I was initially frustrated, here in Norway we still had ‘decent’ weather and this boot would have just been way too much for the conditions… Gladly though, winter arrived in November and we have plenty of snow, ice and temperatures well below -10. A perfect testing ground.

The adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is distinctive! The shoe does come in a more sedate and classy looking black with hints of red, I received the ‘stand out’ look at me colour way of black, Mesa and Halo Blue.

Let’s be clear, this is a shoe for very specific use and that I love! Far too often when it comes to winter, I am compromising trying to make the best os shoes that are not specific for the task. Here in the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro you have shoe that is designed for harsh, rough, wet and cold conditions. And trust me, when it is -20 snow and ice, warm feet make a very happy runner.

The adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro has some really incredible design and engineering. Inside the boot is a Terrex Agravic shoe with the usual adidas comfort, continental outsole and Boost cushioning. The shoe is wrapped in a water repellent envelope with durable front closure zipper and on the outside the BOA dial to provide tension and security.

The BOA brings a welcome development. Often winter boots like this incarnation by adidas have a laced shoe inside. Therefore, you put the boot on, lace up the shoe inside and then zipper the enclosure. The downside of this, is that when out on the trail, should you need to adjust the lacing, you must unzip the boot and then do the lace… Maybe no big deal you think? Trust me, if it is below zero, freezing cold and your hands are already feeling somewhat numb, the last thing you want to do is take gloves off and tie laces. Here in the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro

That problem is solved as the whole shoe, inner and outer is tightened and released by the BOA on the outside of the shoe. It’s push in/ twist and pull out/ twist for less or more tension is just perfect even with gloves on. It may well be one of the most practical and logical reasons to use a BOA adjustment. It really is spot on! Using the L6 platform, with a L6 dial and TX4 lace, this is a perfect winter shoe fastening system as it protects against dirt contamination. You may well wonder about durability and strength, but the L6 uses a bayonet and cartridge system which is designed to release without breaking. If it releases, you can insert the cartridge back into the bayonet. The TX4 lace is also flexible and light weight with low friction. It’s the best BOA system I have used thus far.

As the number on the side suggests, ‘420’ this refers to weight in a standard UK8 size, 489g for my UK9.5/EU44 . This is not a lightweight running shoe, but what it is is a durable beast to offer support, warmth and protection in the harshest environment. Be that running in snow, climbing, running trail or even crossing a glacier (with the appropriate cramp on).

You may think it’s a boot and to an extent it is, however, because a running shoe is inside, the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro has a completely different feel. It has the best of both worlds!

An 8mm drop sits perfectly in a shoe like this providing the potential for all-day comfort. Protection both at the fore and rear is excellent, there is some stability in the shoe but flex, particularly behind the metatarsals is great, important for when running and climbing.

Cushioning is Boost which is durable in could and challenging conditions, importantly it does not harden in the cold. There is an EVA frame for stability. Front rock protection is good and the outsole is grippy Continental with 4mm lugs.

The outsole does leave me perplexed. I am not complaining about the grip, BUT I would have liked to have seen winter spikes on a shoe like this. In soft snow the spikes cause no hindrance but if you hit ice, they are a life saver. I understand why adidas would choose NOT to add winter spikes: it basically narrows the market. So, this boot would require one of two options for me:

  1. Add a micro crampon that could be taken on and off as required.
  2. Add studs myself.

Currently I have used a micro crampon which provides the grip I need BUT the running experience is nowhere near as good as an outsole with studs. With a studded outsole you have the best of both worlds, the outsole grip and the stud. With a crampon, you have just the metal spikes which can provide a much harsher run.

IN USE

You need to invest a little more time putting this shoe on. Make sure you slide your foot in to the inner shoe correctly, adjust your socks and make sure the heal feels correct. On a sizing note, I use an EU44 and I would say these are arguably a little larger. This is a good thing! I have used these with Merino liner socks and Sealskinz over sock and the sizing has been great. So, keep this in mind.

Once the foot is inside and comfortable, zip up the outer. It has sock-like fit. This can be a little challenging to start but once closed, it already provides a snug fit. One thing to note, I wouldn’t want to be trying to zip up the shoe, outdoors in -10.

There is a velcro adjust collar which you tighten, this helps stop or reduce anything going in via the top of the boot. Now adjust the BOA. You do this by pushing in the dial and then rotating. The more you rotate, the tighter the hold. It hold really well and importantly this can be adjusted ‘on-the-go’ with just a quick turn. No messing with laces, just turn. A really important feature for cold conditions when hands are not functioning as normal.

On paper, the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is a heavy run shoe BUT it feels and acts much lighter. It’s a pleasure to wear. It is agile, has bounce, feels extremely protected, is snug and warm. You really feel as though you have bullet proof protection.

The toe box has width and plenty of comfort. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being wide), I would say they are a 3/4.

One note on BOA, I always feel as though I need to over tighten to get a score feel. It’s no different here in the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro BUT I advise getting tension ‘close’ to how you want it and then run for say 10-minutes or so. Then stop and adjust. Why? Quite simply, in winter and cold conditions, you don’t want to over restrict blood flow. Feet and hands get neglected to keep the core warm in winter, no need to add to the problem with over tightened shoes. BOA is great for this as you just turn to tighten, takes less than 1-second.

While water resistant, they are not waterproof and therefore over prolonged use, partially if you submerge in water, you will get some seepage.

Warmth is good especially with merino socks. This is an active shoe and therefore is designed for the user to be moving at pace, either walking, running or climbing and therefore generating blood flow and warmth. Standing around in snow doing nothing, the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro eventually allows the feet to feel chilly; any shoe/ boot would!

The midsole is firm and cushioned but not plush. As you would imagine, this shoe is trying to balance comfort and protection and it does it extremely well. They are stable and predictable and he Boost works exceptionally well, even in extreme cold with the EVA frame adding extra security. It’s not a fast and light shoe, to be honest I never expected that. The adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is all bout durability, protection and comfort in harsh conditions and it excels at this. The alternative would be a boot which would not have any of the unique characteristics of this shoe, especially for a runner.

Outsole is Continental and having used countless adidas shoes, I know is tried and tested. The 4mm lugs sit in that perfect middle ground providing traction on trail and work well on road if required. I did wonder if the outsole lugs should be more pronounced, say 6mm? This would certainly help in snow. I have already mentioned the omission of winter spikes which for me is a disappointment BUT I fully appreciate that I may have specific and selfish needs.

I have tried the shoe with Snowline Chaisen Trail (as photo) and also Camp Ice Master which is a more substantial  crampon, ideal for glacier and steeper travel. Please note, all micro crampon/ boot combinations have limitations, the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is NOT a mountaineering boot.

CONCLUSION

If you have rough winter weather, be that wet, cold and muddy or snow, ice and freezing temperatures, the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro is a great addition to your run shoe collection. Only you can decide if the cost (£220) is worth it. For me, they are most definitely worth it and if they had studs, I would use them for every winter run.

The combination of a proper run shoe inside a protective gaiter is not new, but adidas have done a great job in making this a durable, warm and protected package. The BOA adds to the USP as it allows for constant adjustment ‘on-the-go’ with no need to remove gloves.

Versatility is a key feature. You can use them for winter hikes, running, add a micro crampon and you can handle ice and due to the build of the shoe, they will take snow shoes too. This is a great alpine shoe and here in Norway, it’s almost THE perfect shoe. You can mix hard and rock terrain, transition to snow and then add a cramp on to cross ice on with excellent comfort and security.

The comfort, secure hold and cushioning is all excellent and they feel considerably more lively and agile than the weight would suggest.

There is little not to like in the adidas Terrex Agravic Tech Pro. Weight will always be an issue BUT this is not a normal run shoe and there has to be a penalty for all the added comfort and protection. When you take that in to account, this is not a heavy shoe, especially when you consider the options. It certainly runs considerably lighter than you would expect.

adidas Terrex website 

BOA website

Options:

  • La Sportiva Crossover 2.0
  • Salomon X/Lab X Modular
  • Dynafit Sky Pro
  • La Sportiva Blizzard GTX – This boot has AT Grip Fixed Spikes

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.

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adidas INFINITE TRAILS 2021 Summary

Three runners. Three loops. One Team. The concept of the adidas Infinite Trails is a bold one. Take three run routes of varying distance, take three runners, each running their own loop varying in distance from 15km to 40km. Quite simply, add the three individual finishing times together to see who the fastest team can be.

Now in its third edition, 2018 being the first followed by a hugely successful 2019 edition that elevated the event to a whole new level. As such, 2020 was hugely anticipated edition rolling on from the growth of 2019, unfortunately, a certain pandemic changed those plans.

Working within very specific parameters, the 2021 edition had less runners, new loops for the relay race of 20, 30 and 40km, a new solo 65km/15km race and a smaller athlete village. It would be easy to think that the 2021 version would be disappointing… Not at all! Mike and Sonja of Planet Talk, with the help of a truly dedicated team, once again managed to pull off an event that sets the benchmark for all running events.

Incredible organization and planning are at the hub of adidas Infinite Trails and it’s why the event is a success. No stone is left unturned, every eventuality is looked at and planned for. It’s a dream event to run and work on. 

The weekend started with a very controlled registration process meeting COVID guidelines. Race briefing was done digitally, and one has to wonder if race briefings in the future will always be done this way? It’s time efficient and arguably more thorough.

The ‘Market Run’ started in the afternoon and with it, racers of all ages tackled shorter distances around Bad Hofgastein. Of course, the highlight was the children. It’s so special to see kids run and run fast with no thought of pace. 

Saturday was race day and this is where the format changed to previous editions. In 2019, runners ran the first loop only first and then passed the timing chip to their teammate on completion at the finish. The second runner would then go on their own loop of a new distance to repeat the process once again. The third loop would follow the same process and the conclusion at the start/finish area would provide a total accumulative time. 

For 2021, all loops started at the same time with the three team members lining up and then departing on their respective loops at 0700.  The 65km solo loop started 30 minutes earlier, the solo 15km starting at 0900. The format worked extremely well and provided a plethora of finishes starting firstly with the 15km loop and lastly with solo runners arriving at darkness for the 65km loop. 

Austria and Gastein is a playground for trail runners, the three loops providing a perfect showcase for the highlights of the area. Only the 65km loop provided a full 360 journey including the highlights of Gamskarkogel, Graukogel and Tischkogel.

Races within a race bring an exciting element to adidas Infinite Trails. There is individual accolade as each runner passes their own finish line, but it’s only at the end that three runners will know if they have won the event; the three individual times added together to bring one finish time. 

The adidas Terrex Team fielded a star-studded line up, even more impressive coming so soon after hard efforts at UTMB. As always, the #oneteam ethos was paramount and for those who would not race, they would crew and support the others. 

Importantly though, the 2021 edition was all about inclusion and participation, of course, there were individual and team winners, but importantly, there were no losers. The adidas Infinite Trails was full of achievement, happiness, and pride. It was good to all come together again, enjoy the trails, a great atmosphere, and all glory in a combined stunning weekend of running joy, very much the #oneteam ethos working for a whole community of likeminded people who wanted to celebrate the sport!

Bad Hofgastein provided a perfect hub for a weekend like this and the after party achieved a whole new level of awesomeness as it moved to the Alpentherme for water, music, drinks, and food. 

2021 may well have been a transition year for the adidas Infinite Trails, one thing is for sure though, we all received a resounding confirmation that the race is here to stay. Something this good should be a must for all. 

I said this in 2019, but I’d love to see other brands field teams to go head-to-head to see who the best with three runners over three loops can be. And you? Plan now, find two friends, create a team name and join us in Bad Hofgastein next year for the adidas Infinite Trails. Or if you fancy the full and immersive 360 journey, why not contemplate the 65km solo run, it’s a toughie, but very rewarding. 

Race website 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.

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Episode 218 – The Chamonix Tapes 6 – Emily Hawgood and Petter Engdahl

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 6, we speak with Emily Hawgood and Petter Engdahl.

“This summer has been amazing, from not being able to travel to being here in the Alps for 2-months has been superb! The big goal for this Summer has been OCC. So far the adidas Terrex Team support has exceeded my expectations… The team is growing and we will have some really good years ahead of us, adidas Terrex have the aim to move the boundaries of trail running in a new area of professionalism without losing the sport ethos.” – Petter Engdahl

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

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

adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Long Term Review

I have just retired my adidas Terrex Speed Ultra shoes…. Looking at the photo above, you may well be thinking that this is going to be a harsh look at how the shoe has lasted long term! For perspective, please read my adidas Terrex Speed Ultra shoe review first.

Look different when new – adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

I received my Terrex Speed Ultra in February and now 4-months on and 834km later they have given up! A recent 5-day trip to the mountains of Jotunheimen in Norway and 168km of rocks, snow, ice, mud and harsh terrain pushed them to the limit and over. Even on the final day of 33km with the right upper torn, the shoes performed perfectly.

Recent fastpacking trip to Jotunheimen, Norway – Perspective on the terrain.

I am reluctant to retire them!

Without doubt, the Speed Ultra have not only been a highlight shoe of 2021, but they are a highlight shoe in my collection of run shoes, and trust me, I have many, many pairs.

Until the recent run trip, the Speed Ultra was holding up really well, the upper showed little deterioration and the Continental outsole, while showing wear on key strike points, was still good.

Outsole after 800+ km

Some may say that they want more life out of shoes than 800km. Not me, I am super happy with 800km and especially when the ride and feel is as good as it is in the Terrex Speed Ultra.

Terrex Speed Ultra in action

I have not found a shoe yet that comes close to the Terrex Speed Ultra that manages to combine grip, comfort, flexibility and pure enjoyment. No matter what terrain, this shoe has been awesome.

On road, they have excelled. Modelled on the Boston 9 road shoe, you can feel the adidas road shoe experience here, but, I would go as far to say that on road, I have preferred the Speed Ultra over the Boston. Alternating them, the Speed Ultra gave me more fun and more bounce – a real winner.

On trails, the Continental grip has been superb offering secure confidence on rocks, roots, and hard trail in the wet or dry. It’s not an aggressive outsole, so if you encounter lots of mud, there is a compromise to be made.

The toe box was wide allowing for toe splay but it did not compromise precision and this is no doubt due to how well the Speed Ultra holds the foot via the lacing and excellent fit. The 8mm drop is just superb for comfort, and the cushioning of 18/26 was perfect in managing long-term comfort with no loss for a feel for the ground.

The upper was extremely breathable and as such allowed feet to remain cool, allows water to disappear quickly, however, running through snow and water, I certainly had less insulation.

GOOD and BAD

GOOD

The Terrex Speed Ultra been a joy to use and without doubt are my favourite shoe. So much so that I have now ordered two pairs to replace the sadly retired test pair. Comfort, grip, great design and a shoe that makes you want to run longer, farther and faster.

BAD

After a complete smashing up, the upper has torn and the outsole has split. However, both these failures came at the shoes life expectancy end and on some of the most harsh terrain and conditions you can put a shoe through. I really have thrown everything at this shoe, plenty of road miles to wear down the Continental grip and then mud, snow, ice and rocks. In all honesty, I used the Speed Ultra for the last fastpack as I knew at the end of it I would be saying goodbye. While the upper and outsole tearing could be seen as bad, I see it as just the end of the shoes. However, had this come early, then without doubt I would be asking questions about life/ durability.

Conclusion

The adidas Terrex Speed Ultra is my shoe of 2021 so far and the shoe I want to use on a daily basis, irrespective of the conditions. Light, responsive, fun, fast and great grip. I want nothing more from a shoe and yes, they look pretty darn good too!

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.

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Episode 210 – Petter Engdahl

Episode 210 has an interview with Petter Engdahl and Speedgoat Karl co-hosts.


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INTERVIEW : PETTER ENGDAHL

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

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inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

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La Sportiva Cyklon

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Instinct XX 20L

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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.

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Mandatory Kit for Ultra Trail, Ultra Running and Ultra Marathon

I was notified of the horrific incident in China over breakfast whilst on location in the mountains of Norway.

I immediately typed ‘China’ into a Google search and the headline was everywhere:

Twenty-one dead as extreme weather hits ultramarathon in China”

The Yellow River Stone Forest 100k, held at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu Province in northwestern China was organized by the Baiyin Municipal Committee, Sports Bureau, and local branches of the Communist Party of China.

It was clear that a horrific tragedy had occurred and I, like everyone else asked, ‘How could this happen on such a huge scale?’

On the start line 172 participants toed the line, ahead 100km. Reports outlined cool and breezy conditions at the start. But by 1pm in the afternoon, conditions had changed considerably, and the race was hit by freezing rain, gale-force winds and dropping temperatures. With most participants somewhere between 20 and 32km, the weather continued to become more severe, runners were ill prepared and defenseless against the conditions resulting in the death of 21 souls, the main cause hypothermia.

‘The runners were racing along a very narrow mountain path at an altitude of about 2,000-3,000 meters.’

GT

The race was halted at 2pm after messages were sent out by emergency trackers, cell phones and some runner’s posting on social media. Search and rescue efforts were put in place and somewhere between 700 and 1200 rescuers were called in to action – the exact figures vary depending on which news outlets one uses. Using state-of-the-art technology such as drones, thermal imaging, and radar, 151 runners were eventually confirmed safe despite harsh conditions and delays due to landslides.

There has been much debate, many questions asked, and a great deal of blame fired around on all media platforms. The deaths prompted outrage in China, with many questioning the preparedness of the Baiyin Municipal Committee.

In ultra-running circles, worldwide, Twitter, Facebook and other social outlets had continuing heated debates that pointed blame, questioned mandatory kit and the overall experience level of runners, and organising team. To clarify, Jing Liang was one of the poor souls to lose his life, an experienced athlete who has raced at UTMB and Hong Kong 100, so, not a novice. And the Baiyin Municipal Committee had organized previous editions of the race without problem.

“The tragedy in China has weighed on me heavily. It could have been any of us out there pushing through with the ultrarunner mindset,” said Camille Herron. “Part of being an ultra-runner is being able to trouble shoot.”

The Global Times on May 24th published an article titled Deadly cross-country race exposes hidden yet common safety problems in China’s red-hot marathon pursuit – It was an article that did not hold back.

‘While it’s the hypothermia that directly caused their death, several insiders in China’s marathon business said the organising committee should shoulder the main responsibility for failing to provide enough organisational, tactical, rescue, and security support for the event.’

Global Times

It is only correct questions are asked, and without doubt there is much to learn here, not only by those who organise races but also for those who run them.

As many running friends have commented to me personally, ‘shit happens’ and sometimes you cannot plan for freak occurrences. After all, this is why they are called freak – An incident, especially one that is harmful, occurring under highly unusual and unlikely circumstances.’

However, the required ‘mandatory’ equipment for the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k was at best minimal – cell phone, whistle, water container, headlamp, race bib, GPS tracker, GPX file (I assume on watch or phone) and timing chip.

A jacket, trekking poles, water, energy supplies, first aid, petroleum jelly and Buff were considered ‘recommended’ but not mandatory.

Anna Cometi at Everest Trail Race, Nepal.

It’s fair to say, that even with the ‘recommended’ items, in the freak weather encountered in China, maybe the outcome would have been no different due to the severity of the storm. However, we will never know the answer to this and at best, we should all use this as a lesson to be better prepared.

Remember though, while we tend to associate danger with cold, wet, wind, altitude, snow and ice, the opposite; heat, humidity and sun can be equally as dangerous and fatal. Take for example, The London Marathon. In 2018 the race was hit with 24-degree temperatures which caused havoc; one runner died after collapsing during the race and 73 were hospitalized. Now for some, 24 degrees may be considered a warm day, however, for many British runners who trained through a UK winter, it was exceptionally hot and something they had not trained for.

While mandatory kit is useful, being specific and training for an event is equally, if not far more important than the equipment you will or not wear. An understanding of the event, the challenges it can bring, and the dangers are all part of the process.

“It is essential to adapt yourself and your equipment to your reality, to test it during training outings in various conditions and to bring everything that will be useful and necessary to you for the race.”

UTMB

The nature of an ultra-running event is to push boundaries, go to the unknown and find a new personal level. Safety, to some extent, is an illusion and to assume that because you have entered something ‘official’ does not mean that you are safe. UTMB sum it up well (and they have a great deal of experience in managing route, runners, and weather):

Choose clothing that really provides good protection in the mountains against cold, wind and snow, and therefore gives better safety and performance. In the event of an incident, your equipment must also allow you to wait for help in sufficient safety conditions.”

UTMB

The above sums it up for me, and quite simply I would summarize:

  1. Know the event.
  2. Understand yourself, your limits, and your expected time on the course.
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Prepare and plan meticulously with training that simulates the event and conditions.
  5. Don’t compromise.
  6. Imagine the worst conditions possible and then plan for them to deteriorate even more. Remember, shit can happen!

Make educated decisions about risk.

Learn about the equipment you are using, understand layering.

Act quickly and quite simply, be prepared to turnaround and understand (in advance) what exit routes and speedy options exist.

Physically prepare so that you are in the best position possible to achieve your desired goal – be realistic.

Be mentally prepared for the highs and lows and accept that YOU are ultimately responsible for your own safety.

Understand that yes, one day, you may not return from an adventure… And to clarify, there is no guarantee on what day you will die, it could be tomorrow crossing a road, next week through illness or on the top of the mountain in a race – life is a risk we manage daily.

I personally see mandatory kit implemented to protect runners from themselves. The educated, experienced, and knowledgeable know what to bring, I most certainly do, and I usually carry far more than would be required.

However, racing does change the mindset, particularly at the elite level when every gram of additional weight could be seen as a disadvantage.

Jason Schlarb in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge, mandatory kit here is liquid and electrolytes.

Good friend and elite runner, Jason Schlarb posted on May 24th, ‘This sounds like something that could happen in many, many races or in my own adventures. I know I go as light as I can in races and don’t really prepare to be able to stand around in the cold… it’s a race… I’m embarrassed it took me realizing how this could totally happen to me,’

Choosing the lightest weight clothing possible to gain a few grams is not always the best option, opting for clothing which really offers good protection in the mountains against the cold, wind, and snow, provides better security and ultimately, a better performance.

Therefore, a no compromise approach to mandatory kit levels the playing field and means that every participant should be carrying the same and therefore carrying similar (+/-) additional weight. As UTMB states, ‘All runners must have the mandatory equipment with them at all times or face a penalty.’

In addition, UTMB go one-step further and have options based around kit lists for heatwaves, cold conditions and finally bad weather scenarios. They would implement the necessary list based on weather forecasts pre-race and it is the responsibility of the runner to have all items available.

Contents for ‘winter’ conditions.

Standard UTMB kit list:

  1. Pack destined to transport obligatory equipment throughout the race.
  2. Mobile/cell phone with international roaming allowing for its use in the three countries (load into its memory the organisation’s security numbers, keep the phone on, don’t mask your number and don’t forget to leave with the battery fully charged)
  3. Personal beaker 15 cl minimum (bottles or flasks with lids are not accepted)
  4. Supply of water of 1 liter minimum
  5. 2 torches in good working order with spare cells/batteries for each torch
  6. Recommendation: 200 lumens or more for the main torch
  7. Survival blanket of 1.40m x 2m minimum
  8. Whistle
  9. Self-adhesive elasticated bandage which can serve as a bandage or strapping (minimum 100 cm x 6 cm)
  10. Food reserve, recommendation: 800kcal (2 gels + 2 energizing bars each of 65g)
  11. Jacket with hood which will withstand bad weather in the mountains and made with a waterproof* and breathable** membrane – the jacket must, imperatively, be fitted with an integrated hood or one which is attached to the jacket by the original system designed for that purpose by the manufacturer – the seams must be sealed – the jacket must not have sections of fabric which are not waterproof, but air vents fitted by the manufacturer (under-arm, in the back), since they do not damage in any obvious way the impermeability, are accepted.
  12. It is the runner’s responsibility to judge, with these criteria, if their jacket fits the regulations stated and so bad weather in the mountains, but, during a check, the judgment is made by the person in charge of the check or the steward.
  13. Long-legged trousers or race leggings OR a combination of legging and socks which cover the legs completely
  14. Cap or bandana or Buff®
  15. Additional warm second layer: a warm second layer top with long sleeves (cotton excluded) of a weight of a minimum of 180g (men’s size medium (M))
  16. OR the combination of a warm long-sleeved underwear (first or second layer, cotton exclude) of a minimum weight of 110g (men’s size medium (M)) and a durable water repellant (DWR protection) windproof jacket*
  17. The wind-proof jacket does not replace the obligatory waterproof jacket, and vice versa
  18. Hat
  19. Warm and water-proof gloves
  20. Waterproof over trousers
  21. ID – passport/ID card

You may read the above and consider the list to be an overkill. I personally do not. On considerably more than one occasion, I have encountered conditions where the above was completely required. Please don’t cut corners, technically compliant does not always equate to useful.

Read an article on ‘What goes in my Winter Pack.

Ultra-distance and mountain races are designed to push boundaries, but personal responsibility and self-awareness goes a long way. The above, without a doubt, can help should a situation turn badly, but ultimately, a good understanding of one’s ability is a great place to start. Maybe (?) to stand on certain start lines in the first place is already a bad decision.

Luis Alberto Hernando at CCC

Will Gadd, a prominent Canadian ice climber, paraglider pilot and mountain guide summed his thoughts up so well in a recent article:

‘If we go into the mountains, we are taking a larger-than-daily-life risk. The only way to totally avoid that is to not go… I’ve spent decades in the mountains and have had three serious accidents in my groups in all that time. Pretty good odds, no? But, to my guest who got hit in the arm by a rock while I was guiding her, and to my partner who I dropped a rock on, that record means very little. I also reviewed the avalanche forecasting where, the next day, an amazing woman, who was very close with my family and deeply loved by hers, died. I didn’t’t think any of those outcomes would happen, but they did. I really can’t keep us—you or me—completely safe. That’s my painfully learned truth after thousands of personal and professional days in the mountains. Days sometimes end badly, even with the best practices and motivations.’

The debate will continue and there are no simple answers, but the situation in China should be a learning curve for all and wake-up to a greater understanding for race organizations and runners. Maybe we will see more in-depth mandatory kits imposed on races worldwide? Also, maybe there will be greater vetting so that races can understand if runner has the required experience to participate.

A good friend, Graham Kelly said recently, ‘I am sitting wondering where personal responsibility, vetting and experience sits in the sport we all love. I am at best mid pack these days (more often chasing cut offs). There are races I won’t enter (that I used to enjoy) knowing the burden on race staff/volunteers could be unacceptable in my mind.’

Hillary Gerardi at Glen Coe Skyline

Vetting in races of an extreme nature, such as Glencoe Skyline already happens, ‘The organisers have an obligation to ensure that the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline® is as safe as possible, but without diminishing the nature of the challenge… The nature of the challenge is very severe and there is a risk of serious injury or death whilst participating in this event… Our route features long and sustained sections of scrambling terrain, which is roughly equivalent to moderate standard rock climbingBe under no illusions that a slip or trip on these serious sections of the route could result in death.’

In the above scenario, equipment alone is not enough, so educate, understand and asses.

I for one, like to think I am prepared for most scenarios when going out. I constantly adapt my pack and its contents for the planned adventure, terrain, anticipated conditions, and my expected time out. I also know, through bitter experience, whatever I have planned for, I can expect it all to go wrong, and I then add additional items for the ‘freak’ scenario that unfortunately our runner friends experienced at the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k. I am also never worried about turning around and going home, it can be frustrating for sure, but the trails and mountains will be there for another day.

We can try to plan for every scenario, we can educate and anticipate the worst-case scenario so that we increase not only our individual opportunity to return home but maybe those around us.

Ultimately though, shit happens, and when it does, I want to be as prepared as I possibly can be, I hope you do too.

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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