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.”

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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.

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La Sportiva Cyklon Review

The La Sportiva CYKLON is here. Renowned for shoes that perform in mountain, challenging and arduous terrain, La Sportiva have moved up a level with the CYKLON collaborating closely with BOA® Fit System to provide a new mountain running shoe with a difference.

Available in multiple (4) colour options, the standout for me is the classic and directly recognizable La Sportiva colours on black/yellow/red which has always been pleasing to the eye and one that grabs attention.

The CYKLON on first impressions could almost be mistaken for a lightweight boot due to the built-in sock-liner which comes higher up the leg, to beyond ankle height which has two purposes: 1. It keeps out debris from entering the shoe. 2. It provides additional support.

The CYKLON has slightly unusual sizing, I take an EU44 (UK9.5) in all my shoes, the same applies here in the La Sportiva, but this comes out as a UK9.5+ – I guess a 9 and 2/3rds. It works fine and, in all honesty, I would say that little extra room was welcome.

They are not the lightest shoes, 340g for an EU44, but on the foot and running they feel superb, secure, and strong. They certainly don’t feel like a 300g+ shoe. The weight is listed as 315g for ‘standard size’ which is typically UK8/ EU42.

Drop is 8mm and cushioning is 20mm at the front and 28mm at the rear providing excellent protection for tough and challenging terrain.

Designed to excel in mountain environments, 6x world mountain running champion, Jonathan Wyatt (who works at La Sportiva) has been closely involved with the development of the shoe with all important athlete feedback. In his words, the CYKLON is the next step from the extremely popular MUTANT. While similarities can be seen, particularly in the outsole, the CYKLON moves the shoe design on significantly. The addition of BOA® significantly changes things too and the two brands have worked together to develop and tweak to ensure that the shoe is as perfect as it can be.

It’s often easy to get bogged down in jargon when discussing a shoe and all brands have their names to describe key features, here in the CYKLON ‘Dynamic Cage’ is a buzzword and one of the key USP’s of the shoe. Working with a supremely comfortable and secure sock-like fit, the Dynamic Cage holds the foot like no other shoe I have tried, it is as good as VJ Sport ‘Fitlock’ but at the same time, completely different.

The midsole is EVA Memlex which helps absorb shocks, offers protection through double density and it also has stabilization inserts.

The outsole is FriXion XF 2.0 with 7mm lugs which clearly shows what the CYKLON is for – challenging mountain terrain that includes mud, snow and/or ice.

The upper has 4-way mesh and has a multi-layer side panel overlay. It’s all about foothold and protection and while it’s too early to comment on longevity and life, the CYKLON upper screams durability. This is only emphasized at the form of the shoe with a real sold toe bumper and the rear where the overlay gives way to the sock-liner.

THE SHOE

The CYKLON is actually a little tricky to get on, a little like putting neoprene socks on. It is worthwhile just taking an extra minute to ensure you have your foot in the shoe correctly and that the sock-liner is adjusted, a yellow tab helps you pul them on. The sock liner does come above ankle height, so, you may want to consider what sock length you use.

First impression is the incredible hold of the foot. This is even before the BOA is adjusted. It’s like sliding your foot in to shoe gloves. Turning the BOA, the shoe tightens to the foot via 4 key points. The bottom one is fixed, the other 3 are independent and move according to foot shape and applied tension from the BOA – this is the Dynamic Cage. Quite simply, the more you turn the dial, the more secure the foothold. I have tested multiple shoes with a BOA system before and one of my constant complaints was that I often felt I couldn’t get the foothold I wanted, not so in the CYKLON. The foothold here as stated previously, is up there with the best and this is due the sock-fit and the Dynamic Cage working in harmony.

I was worried at the rear of the shoe where the overlays for the heel stop and the sock-liner starts. Hold for the heel is excellent but I did wonder if I would have an issue? The answer was no. Hold and comfort was superb.

There does feel just a hint of arch support in the shoe. It’s nothing crazy and for someone who uses neutral shoes, it caused me no issues or problems. As mentioned, there is some stability added to the midsole and this all comes down to La Sportiva making sure you have a secure and resilient shoe that can handle the terrain that the shoe is designed for.

Width up front is a 3 on a 1-5 scale, 1 being narrow/ precision and 5 being wide. For me, a 3 fit it about right based on the intended use – technical and challenging terrain of mid distance.

The 20-28 cushioning is more than I anticipated as is the 8mm drop. When running on mountain, skyrunning and technical terrain a shoe with more ground feel and lower drop is usually preferable, say 18-24 with 6mm drop! However, the CYKLON excels on the rough stuff giving a very confident and secure feel and they adapt to quick changes of direction. The FriXion outsole with 7mm lugs works superbly. Interestingly. AT Grip Spike can be added to the outsole for use on icy ground. The footbed is Ortholite and specifically designed for mountain running.

IN USE

I have 124km in the CYKLON and this is a first impression review. There are two key features which I want to rave about:

The sock-like fit is superb.

The BOA system Dynamic Cage is incredible and holds the foot like no other.

The 2 features above are stand out and on all my runs, this security and foot hold has put a huge smile on my face. Tree roots, rocks, mud, climbing, descending and so on, the CYKLON just holds the foot and gives complete confidence. The downside is that all these layers and hold make the shoe run hot! I could feel that the heat generated when running had difficulty to escape despite the breathable upper. Quite simply, the anti-abrasion mesh and TPU reinforcements all add up. I did a challenging and technical 26km run that had me out for 2h 45min and while I had no pain, irritations or discomfort, my feet were noticeably hotter than in other shoes.

BOA is always going to turn some people off, I get it, laces work, are simple and you snap one, you can easily replace it… BOA has come a long way in recent years and here on the CYKLON I can see the advancement and in all honesty, I don’t think the foot hold in the CYKLON would be as good if provided by laces – the BOA brings a whole new dynamic to the shoe and I am completely sold. For perspective, BOA do offer a full guarantee on the system. Here they use a L6 dial and TX4 lace and I asked the question, ‘what if a lace breaks?’ Quite simply, BOA replied, ‘A lace snapping is highly unlikely, however, should it happen, you can just tie lace together (as you would with any lace), and this will work.’ One of the great things about BOA is the ability to adjust quickly on the go, especially useful in cold weather. We all experiences laces coming undone, it’s a pain to stop and do them up again. With BOA they will not come undone and if you need to tighten, you just stop, bend down, turn the dial and off you go.

Cushioning in the CYCLONE is on the firm/ protective side and considering the intended use, probably comes as no surprise. However, I did expect a little more bounce? However, with 50km on the shoes, I found them more responsive – they are not plush or bouncy. They are solid, secure, and reliable and trustworthy. Again, this is a shoe designed for mid-distance and not long distance. Certainly, I found 3-5 hours perfectly comfortable. I haven’t gone beyond that time in the CYKLON yet. There is some support in the shoe and that can be felt when the terrain becomes very challenging, it helps guide the foot, not control it.

The outsole is solid, reliable, and durable. It’s ideal for mountain terrain and excels on rock and technical terrain, particularly in conjunction with the foot hold and BOA system.

SUMMARY

The CYKLON is somewhat unique in that it almost occupies its own category, almost a crossover between mountain running shoe and boot. It excels in challenging terrain with incredible foot hold, protection, and a great outsole. Standout features are the sock-like fit in conjunction with the BOA/ Dynamic Cage which provided me with arguably one of the most secure footholds I have experienced.

Intended for mid-distance, I see the CYKLON as a great shoe for any mountain adventure, long or short. It’s crossover capabilities and weight would have me choosing this shoe over a boot, particularly if I wanted to hike fast in the mountains.

Climbing and descending is solid and reassured.

All-in-all it’s a great shoe and La Sportiva fans, particularly those who have used the Mutant are going to love.

The downsides for me are that the shoe runs hot and particularly in summer months this could prove to be an issue? It’s not the lightest shoe and despite the amazing foot hold, it probably doesn’t feel like a nimble and light race shoe, so, if looking to race, another shoe may be preferable? Day-to-day mountain adventures, fast or slow, the CYKLON will be a great addition to any shoe rotation.

Website here

Price 185 euro

The shoes were provided free for testing purposes and this is not a paid review or promotion.

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 204 – Ruth Croft

Episode 204 of Talk Ultra has a chat Ruth Croft about winning Tarawera and racing in Covid times. Speedgoat co-hosts.


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! 
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NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

ARTICLES

  1. What goes in a Winter Pack? HERE
  2. VJ Sport Xero Shoe Review HERE
  3. adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Shoe Review HERE
  4. adidias Terrex Speed PRO SG Shoe Review HERE
  5. La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE
  6. Moonlight head lamp review HERE
  7. inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE
  8. Review of 2020 HERE
  9. Icbebug Pytho 5 Review HERE
  10. inov-8 Mudclaw G260 Review HERE
  11. inov-8 G270 Long-Term Review HERE
  12. Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE
  13. Winter Running – Hints n Tips HERE
  14. Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review HERE
  15. The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing (updated) HERE
  16. Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket HERE

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? HERE

INTERVIEW : RUTH CROFT

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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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adidas Speed Pro SG Shoe Review – First Look.

Following on from the launch of the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra (HERE) available from March 1st, 2021. Terrex now unveil the adidas Terrex Speed Pro SG.

7mm lugs, 19/23mm cushioning and Continental outsole.

Quite simply, adidas are shaking up the ‘off-road’ running scene with new products that are going to make even the most skeptical trail, mountain, ultra or fell runner, stop and look again.

This is a first look at the new Terrex Speed Pro SG and not an in-depth review, quite simply, I need more time on the trails in them…

If you like mud, if you like fell running, if you like mountain adventures mixing rock, bog and mud or if you like skyrunning, this is a shoe that you need to look at.

225g (UK8.5) and 4mm drop

As the side of the shoe says, these weigh 225g in a standard UK.8.5 (240g for my UK9.5/EU44 test size) and the drop is 4mm bringing that all important close feel and connection to the ground.

Cushioning is 19mm at the front and 23mm at the rear which brings a significant addition to cushioning in comparison to like-for-like from other brands. This is a real plus, especially when transitioning from soft ground to hard rock or gravel trail. Using ‘Lightstrike’ and not Boost technology, the Terrex Speed Pro SG has great movement, feels dynamic and of course is super-light. Flex behind the metatarsals is very good and the propulsion phase is superb. The ride is firm and assured and the cushioning kicks in when required.

The lugs are 7mm providing that important claw like grip that is required to penetrate and hold in mud or any soft ground. The grip is provided by the excellent rubber compound of Continental which from experience and testing provides excellent traction on wet or dry rock.

Core Black / Cloud White / Solar Yellow and a flash of pink.

The upper is quite unbelievable, I don’t think I have ever witnessed something so airy and breathable. It’s like a sieve which allows water to escape immediately. There are several extremely thin reinforced layers on the outer – toe, side, heal and instep. Inside there is an additional thin layer (in yellow) that contrasts with the black mesh upper to create the two-tone black/ yellow look of the shoe and additional support structure.

True to size, the toe box is much wider than I had anticipated without losing a precision feel. For those who have been looking for an aggressive shoe that can handle mud/ rock and fell but still need space up at the front, this may well be the shoe for you?

Lacing is superb and holds the foot extremely well and continues to hold firm when on the trails and constantly switching direction. Hold at the rear comes from a minimally padded heal box that for me provided no slip going up or downhill.

There is no insole and internally there are no seams or stitching on the upper, so, the risk for any abrasion, blisters or hot spots is greatly reduced.

INITIAL SUMMARY

The Terrex Speed Pro SG will turn heads through its striking looks, the Core Black / Cloud White / Solar Yellow and a flash of pink looks great! The features listed above are stand out, while there are some similarities to other soft ground shoes from other brands there are some notable differences that will make this shoe appeal.

  • Cushioning.
  • Low drop.
  • Wider toe box.
  • The lightweight upper.
  • The overall weight of the shoe.

Initial runs have been excellent and for me personally, the combination of wider toe box (but not too wide), cushioning and the 7mm lugs will make this shoe a ‘go-to’ for when grip is required.

It’s too early to tell on longevity, wear and so on as I have less than 100-miles in them. However, check back for a full and in-depth long-term test/ review in a month or so.

To clarify, the shoes were provided to test, as are all the shoes that I review. But this is not a paid review.

*****

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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How to Find Your Running Shoe Size and Fit.

Run shoes should be specific.

It shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. Go on any run forum and I will bet you that daily, someone will ask a question about run shoes.

I want a shoe that will allow me to run muddy trails and road?

Can anyone recommend a shoe for fell running?

I have Hobbit feet and I need cushioning and grip – what shoe?

I could go on and on. The thing is, while it may be okay to ask a couple of question like:

  1. How does a specific shoe perform in mud?
  2. How is the wear and tear of ‘x’ shoe?

Asking for a specific shoe recommendation can be a recipe for a disaster, the reason being, we are all individual and shoes are very personal based on a multitude of factors. Nobody on social media knows you, your needs, how you run and what type of running you do.

So, please do not ask for a shoe recommendation on social media unless you are specific. A good example being:

“I am male, aged 44. I have been running for 23-years and I have extensive history in cycling, triathlon, road running and now I am moving to trail running… I am 5ft 9. A little overweight. In regard to shoes? I am looking for a trail shoe that will provide great grip on muddy trails. I need support for my arch and cushioning but not something as cushioned as say a Hoka. In regard to foot width, I am in the middle, neither needing precision or wide fit. On a scale of 1-5 I would be a 3!’

With the above we have information from the runner and therefore suggestions and recommendations can be specific and targeted. Even then, the runner should go to a run store, albeit now he has a shortlist of options and then try on the shoes to find the one that best suits him, his feet and his needs.

IF THE SHOE FITS

Firstly, and importantly, not all shoes are equal and not all feet are the same.

Measure your foot.
Measure your foot.
  • Foot length.
  • Foot width.
  • Foot shape.
  • Pronation.
  • Supination.
  • Neutral.

Quite simply, the better a shoe fits, the more specific to the type of running one will do in that shoe, the more likely you will feel better. The foot will be happier and the miles you run will be more comfortable.

Our bodies are supported by our feet; they are the first point of contact with the ground and therefore, they are incredibly important. Getting a correct fitting shoe that is specific for purpose is crucial.

When I say specific for purpose, let me provide some simple clarification now and then explain in-depth later. Shoes come in categories; I see the main list broken down as 6 main groups:

  • Road
  • Road to Trail
  • Trail
  • Ultra-Running (with sub heading of Ultra Road and Ultra Trail)
  • Fell Running
  • Mountain Running

Now, one could break down the categories even more with very, very specific needs such as, “I need a mountain running shoe with an aggressive outsole with great grip in wet and dry conditions and superb traction in mud.”

But before we get into the discussion on the shoe for the job, getting a correct fitting shoe is vital.

HOW DO WE FIND A CORRECT FITTING SHOE?

Image ©blitzresults.com

Please don’t fall in with the generic advice that a run shoe should be one size bigger than say your every day casual shoe! For a start, this assumes you have the correct size casual shoe and trust me, from experience, very few people do. The recommendation for sizing up also comes from the assumption that a foot swells when running. From experience, feet rarely go longer but can go wider with repeated impact and stress; think of races like Marathon des Sables when a runner is in a hot/sandy environment. So, one may need a wider shoe but not a longer shoe. This comes down to getting the specific shoe for the job.

©custom fit.me

I wear the same size run shoe as my casual shoes (typically) but to clarify, I go for the ‘same fitting’ shoe.

Shoe sizing between brands is variable and inconsistent, an EU 44 in say Salomon is not necessarily the same as an EU 44 in inov-8. So, first and foremost, always try shoes on!

Length and foot width does change so it can be a good idea to have your feet measured if you are new to running with little experience. Some specialists suggest getting feet measured yearly, but for me, this still only gives a guideline to shoe size as comfort, feel and specificity come in to play.

Foot shape and how you get the thumb nail of space.

“As a rule of thumb,” I have consistently found that a thumb nail of space above one’s big toe is usually ideal for sizing. This is classic for an ‘Egyptian’ foot shape (D). I say usually because I have seen some feet where the second toe is longer than the big toe, known as ‘Greek’ foot shape (C), so, this would require an individual approach. There is also ‘Square’ foot shape and the thumb nail width above the big toe usually applies here, but, a wider toe box may be required.

Remember, both feet are usually not the same size, so, take this in consideration. Go for fit and feel with the bigger foot!

NOTE: Specifics come in to play such as foot width and specificity of the shoe. As an example, If you are running technical trail, you will need a more ‘precision’ fit. If running long/road ultras, you may well prefer a wider fit that will allow toe splay. More on this later.

Wear socks that you typically run in and if you normally wear two pairs of socks, then wear two pairs when testing and trying. Two pairs of socks may require you to go a half or full size larger depending on the sock thickness. Note:nYou may wear the same shoes for Summer and Winter, but in Summer you use light and thin socks but for Winter you use thick Merino socks. This may well mean you need a different size shoe for Summer in comparison to Winter.

Insoles can give a good indication of the shoe size and its width. As a guide, the insole should match the shape and size of your foot.

With the insole back in the shoe, place your foot inside and firstly check for the space at the front. If you have the required space, lace up and tighten. On the top of the foot you have the ‘Navicular Bone’ and the shoes should be tight here but not so tight to restrict blood flow.

Stand up and move around. Key checkpoints are: 1. Thumbnail width between longest toe and edge of shoe. 2. Check pressure on your little toe. 3. Check pressure and feel on your big toe.

Ideally, you want to be able to run in them and most good run shops have a treadmill to try out shoes. Key checkpoints: 1. No slippage in the heel area. 2. No pressure on toes. 3. Instep feels secure and pain free. 4. You have support or a lack of support as needed.

If you see material bulging because of tightness you may need a bigger shoe, or you have the wrong width. If you see an excess of fabric, you may have a shoe that is too large or too wide.

Check the fabric of the shoe and the seams. Will they be breathable for your needs? Will they protect you for your needs? Does the toe bumper have enough protection?

Remember shoes flex when you run. In the propulsive phase, the shoe will bend behind the metatarsals and this can be a troublesome area if the shoes are the wrong size. Often a sign of a shoe that fits incorrectly is this area will crease and often tear causing failure in the shoe upper. If running uphill, think mountain, fell and trail running, this area of a shoe gets a great deal of stress.

A good running store with professional staff will help you with shoe choices and they should discuss the pros and cons of the specific brands and models available. However, gut feeling and how you feel goes a long way. Always be careful of ‘sale’ shoes! Don’t be influenced in buying the wrong shoe just because it is a good price.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

Marathon des Sables has some foot horror stories and the general story is because of the heat, the sand and how brutal the race is. The truth is, the issues (usually) arise through runner’s choosing the wrong shoe and the wrong size. 

Old advice has said size up, go bigger as your feet will swell.

However, a shoe that is too big allows the foot to move inside the shoe. A moving foot causes friction. Friction causes blisters. The rest is self-explanatory. In addition, with each sliding of the foot, the toes may impact with the front of the shoe and result in bruising. Think of running downhill with shoes that are too big, your toes will be crammed at the front with room behind the heel.

Having said this, feet can swell through impact and heat. So, using Marathon des Sables as an example, one consideration may be going for a shoe with a wider toe box but still that thumbnail of space at the front. What often happens is a runner has a favourite shoe and decides they need more room, so, they just buy a larger shoe (than needed) because it increases the width/ space. Actually, what they should do is change the shoe. It goes back to specificity.

Shoe that are too tight and/or too small will result in black toenails but more importantly can damage ligaments and possibly result in damage to the metatarsals. Stress fractures are a real risk. Also, you will have foot fatigue and pain. The foot is full of nerves and bones. As an example, the soles are extremely sensitive to touch due to a high concentration of nerve endings, with as many as 200,000 per sole. *The foot receives its nerve supply from the superficial peroneal (fibular) nerve, deep fibular nerve, tibial nerve (and its branches), sural nerve, and saphenous nerve. These nerves come from peripheral nerves that arise from the L4 to S3 nerve roots and contribute to the somatic motor function, general sensory information, and the cutaneous sensation of the foot. In regard to bones, each foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.

If you require stability shoes, the wrong size shoe may well put the support in the wrong place and instead of providing help, it will create onward issues and problems. Plantar Fasciitis is a risk.

Quite simply GET THE CORRECT FITTING SHOE!

IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER

Okay, so we have given a guide to how you find the correct size of shoe. But now we need to be specific and address and look at some fundamental questions before going to any run store:

GAIT

Supinate – Your weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot.

Pronate – Your weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.

Neutral – Your weight is distributed evenly.

Foot arches, low, medium and high.

You need to know which of the above you are, as all brands and manufacturers produce shoes to answer these three specific needs. If you do not know the answer to this question, look at the soles of shoes you have worn for some time – you will see how they have worn. In a proper stride, your foot should roll forward and pronation should be neutral. Shoes that are geared towards supination or pronation are designed to bring you back to neutral.

Side view.

Many runners who need specific support often see a Podiatrist and have Orthotics made that are transferable to any shoe. In this scenario, you should purchase neutral shoes. 

**If you supinate, it can cause excess strain on your ankles. It may lead to shin splints, calluses, or bunions on the outer side of your foot, and pain in your heels and balls of your feet. Excess over pronation, means that as you walk, your foot rolls toward the inside and your arch tends to flatten out. Your shoe will show uneven wear on the inside part of the sole.

CUSHIONING

Hoka One One are very cushioned.

From barefoot running to bouncy marshmallow shoes, there is a plethora of cushioning options available to choose from and what is best may just come down to personal taste…

However, I beg to differ. I feel cushioning or a lack of cushioning should be applied based on what type of running one is doing and what conditions.

Examples:

Fell running – Fell running often takes place in soft, boggy and wet ground. A feel for the ground is essential so that you can respond with ever-changing terrain. A shoe with too much cushioning will remove that feel, place you higher off the ground and may well increase the risk of injury. A sprained ankle being one of the most obvious.

Road running – Road is hard, it can jar the body, muscles and tendons and therefore a shoe with a little more cushioning may be preferable. For some, they require sofa like comfort. Others prefer some cushioning but not at the expense for the feel for the ground.

When purchasing shoes, look at the cushioning typically shown as, for example – Midsole Stack 8mm/ 14mm. This is 8mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. The higher the numbers, the greater the cushioning.

Some shoes include a rock plate which offers protection from sharp objects, useful when trail running.

DROP

Image ©rei.com

Shoe drop is essentially the difference between the height/ thickness of the midsole under the heel compared to the same measure under the ball of the foot. Years ago, drop was not a consideration. On a personal note, thinking back say 8-years, I never considered shoe drop. Now, it’s all important.

Importantly, do not be confused by cushioning here. You may well look at say a Hoka One One and think it has a high drop. On the contrary, they typically have a low drop of 4mm. ***Drop refers only to the difference in thickness between the front and back of the shoe and is not a narrative on the magnitude of the thickness.

From experience, I do not consider that any runner has an ideal drop. I see drop as something that can played around with based on the needs and requirements of the shoe and the conditions it will be used. But I must clarify that I have been testing shoes for 8+ years and switching drop on a daily basis has been no problem, on the contrary, I actually consider it to be beneficial.

As a way to explain, I use 0 drop shoes all the way through to typically 8mm. I do have one pair of shoes at 10mm, but they are an exception.

Zero drop or barefoot advocates will argue and argue that zero is the only way to go and if you are adapted and have no injury issues, that is awesome. However, most people have not experienced zero drop and suddenly to do all runs in zero will almost certainly result in some injury. Zero takes adaptation.

Pure Sports Medicine are clear, “What we do know is that human tissues can be sensitive to sudden changes in the way they are loaded, and that it is biologically coherent (and in keeping with the laws of physics) that differing shoe drops may load certain tissues differently. As such, if you are currently uninjured there is no justification for changing the drop of your shoe, but should you want to then be mindful of allowing the body time to adapt to such changes (although many runners may be able to interchange between shoes of different drops we would usually advise being over cautious if this is not something you have done before).

So, if you typically run in 8mm drop shoes without injury, it makes sense you purchase shoes with 8mm drop. Equally, if 4mm is your thing, purchase 4mm.

Specificity of drop.

I personally (and others like me) see drop in conjunction with cushioning, or, a lack of cushioning as a tool to get the most from my body and my runs. For example, if running a muddy fell run, I will use a lower drop, say 3 or 4mm with less cushioning. By contrast, if I was doing a long trail run, I would prefer 8mm drop and more cushioning. 

A certain drop may be beneficial in reducing sensitivity and complementing your overall management strategy – so consider this. ****Changing the drop of your shoes (or using multiple shoes which have varying drops in a rotation system) is not to be discouraged or feared, but be sure your body’s tissues can tolerate this, and are given the necessary time to adapt and attain the capacity if needed.

GRIP

The outsole of a shoe is key as this is the point of contact with the ground on which you are running. Again, specificity is key. There is no one outsole that will do all jobs well and therefore the need for multiple shoes with specific tasks is an essential armory to a runner’s shoe cupboard.

Road shoes – Typically need little grip, just a good rubber.

Road outsole

Trail shoes – Typically require a good outsole that is durable and has grip, say 4mm studs.

Trail outsole

Fell shoes – Typically will be aggressive and on first looks may look like football boots with 6 or 8mm studs.

Mud/ fell outsole

Mountain shoes – Typically will be a mixture of trail and fell shoes and the outsole will be sticky to provide good grip in wet and dry conditions.

Mountain outsole

In an ideal world, if you ran all of the above scenarios, you’d have a pair of shoes for each scenario. However, shoes are expensive and many runner’s need to make some compromises. Brands realised this and for example, some offer road to trail shoes that provide a best of both worlds’ scenario. The inov-8 Parkclaw is a great example. “the perfect shoe for runners wanting to run on paths and trails, or those looking to make a transition from road running to trail running.” – inov-8

If you need grip for mud, you need to be specific, there is no compromise.

WIDTH

Like drop, shoe width can create many an argument. Simply put, if you have a slimmer/ slender foot, you can probably wear any width shoe providing you have the correct size and they hold you securely.

Image ©wive.com

But if you are a Hobbit, shoe choice may well be compromised as you will need to look for a wider fitting shoe.

Shoe width is also a consideration based on other factors: 1. What terrain are your running on? 2. How long will you be running?

On a personal note, if I am running on technical and challenging terrain, I want a shoe that fits and holds my foot. I am not worried about toe splay – precision is a priority. By contrast, if I was running on groomed trail for multiple hours, a shoe with more width may will be preferable to allow my toes to splay and relax.

Like drop and cushioning, I mix the width of my shoes based on my needs.

Some companies, inov-8 for example provide a width guide to steer runner’s to shoes that will specifically answer their personal needs. This a great system that takes some guess work away. The system is simply rated 1-5; 1 being a tight/ precision fit, 5 being wide and spacious.

Brands such as Altra only offer one foot shape and believe that a wide toe box is essential, in conjunction with 0 drop. It is a toe shape foot box that allows toes to relax and splay. The big toe has space and in principal, this foot box helps reduce overpronation and increases stability. On a personal note, Altra has a place for long road, ultra or trail runs, but when the terrain gets challenging, they feel way to sloppy for me – but this is a personal thought. Altra fans or wide toe box fans will disagree.

WEIGHT AND FABRICS

Shoe weight can be an important consideration. Certainly, when racing, a runner may well prefer a lighter shoe so that they feel faster. However, if running an ultra, added cushioning and a little more weight will be worthwhile for comfort.

Shoe fabrics, seamless uppers, sock-like fits, Gore-Tex and other considerations may influence a shoe choice. Make a decision based on specificity.

A lighter shoe will typically not last as long – this may be an important consideration too.

The correct shoe is one that fits correctly and is specific for the job.

CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY

Be specific.

Is choosing a run shoe really THIS complicated?

I suppose, yes! But once you understand the basics purchasing new shoes should not be too complicated. Below is a summary and process to follow:

  1. Measure your foot.
  2. Use a conversion chart to get your shoe size.
  3. Understand gait and what you need. If using orthotics, you need neural shoes.
  4. Ask yourself what terrain the shoes will be used on – This refers to what outsole.
  5. Ask yourself how long typically you will run in these shoes – This refers to cushioning.
  6. Do you need the shoes to be more precision fit or wider?
  7. Look at brands/ options and based on the above make a shortlist.
  8. Use socks.
  9. Try the shoes on using the size provided from points 1 and 2 but then size up or down based on the thumb nail space rule.
  10. Check the heel for slipping.
  11. Check the instep and confirm a good foot hold.
  12. If possible, try the shoes running.
  13. Reduce the choices down to 3, then 2 shoes and then make an informed and educated decision.
  14. Do not be influenced by the colour or the price.

Lacing can make a huge difference to how a shoe holds the foot. Lock lacing for example is very popular for off-road and challenging terrain as the shoe holds the foot more securely.

FINALLY

Compromise is a killer when it comes to run shoes. The more specific you can be, the better the shoe will be. But, if you have correct fitting shoes with appropriate cushioning, correct width and a good outsole, you will be able to head out the door and enjoy the process.

And yes, there are exceptions to the rule and somebody will use shoes that are too big and get away with it. Just as someone will run in sandals and get away with it. These are exceptions to the rule and not the norm.

Reference – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537292/

** Reference – https://www.healthline.com/health/bone-health/whats-the-difference-between-supination-and-pronation#the-foot

*** Reference – https://puresportsmed.com/blog/posts/what-is-shoe-drop-and-why-is-it-important#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%8B’drop’%20of%20a,the%20ball%20of%20the%20foot.

**** Reference – https://puresportsmed.com/blog/posts/what-is-shoe-drop-and-why-is-it-important#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%8B’drop’%20of%20a,the%20ball%20of%20the%20foot.

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

Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia 2020 Preview

Coronavirus has pretty much wiped out the 2020 racing calendar, but in recent weeks, we have seen the emergence of some events, albeit in a new format with measures in place to help reduce the risk of infection.

Scandinavia has had multiple events, we have witnessed events in France, Switzerland and even the USA.

So, it’s a great relief to see the 2020 Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia (UTS) taking place with very strict protocols and an ‘invitation’ only 50km, 100km and 165km.

Michael Jones of Apex Running Co is a runner himself, so, he has understood the need and desire to race, but also abide by government guidelines and provide a safe race – a thankless task one may think!

The 50km has a 14-hour cut-off, the 100km 33-hours and the 165km a whopping 50-hour limit. Needless to say, 3 very tough events in a tough and challenging part of the world.

Paul Tierney

The 165km event will see 10 women and 30-men toe the line with the Wainwrights record holder, Paul Tierney heading up the field. Most participants are UK based, but the event does have entries from Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Philippines, France and Hungary.

The 100km event has 9 women listed, headed up by fell and mountain running legend Nicky Spinks. Harry Jones is the stand out name in the men’s field of 22-runners.

Georgia Tindley

The 50km event has a very interesting line-up with Georgia Tindley, Carla Molinaro and Kasia Osipowicz the leading names amongst a field of 14 women. Damian Hall fresh from setting a record on The Pennine Way heads up the men’s field of 22.

Kasia at Snowdon Skyline

UTS Facebook HERE

UTS Instagram HERE

UTS Twitter HERE

The events, are designed to bring Alpine style racing to the UK on a scale of the UTMB. Each of the three events are extremely challenging and bring 3300, 6700 and a whopping 10,000m+ of vertical gain for the respective 50/100 and 165km distances.

Originating in 2018, the 50 and 100-mile races were an instant success and with huge demanding, three races are now on offer providing a distance and challenge that all can undertake. But as Jones’ says, ‘Beautiful beyond belief. Savage beyond reason.’

The UTS 165 is the stand-out and flagship event offering a stunningly brutal and beautiful tour of the Snowdonia National Park. Starting in Capel Curig, the route takes in the most notable peaks of north Wales.

UTS 100 has technical trails, epic views and is a highlight tour of north Wales.

Arguably, the UTS 50 is an entry level race but still requires respect for the challenges that Wales and its mountains can bring.

Route information is available here and relevant GPX downloads are available.

Race director, Michael Jones of Apex Running

 

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VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review

Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.

The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.

IROCK3

The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.

 14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.

The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.

Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.

The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.

Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.

Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.

Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose. 

I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.” 

That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.

Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.

Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.

Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.

At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.

Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.

In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?

The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.

On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.

Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.

The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for many years, but now the secret is out. 

VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.

If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!

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 192 – Kim Collison

Episode 192 – Has a great an interview with Kim Collison on his Lakeland 24hr FKT
*****
Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
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
Following on from the last shows FKT list, here is an update on what has happened since…
 
* Franco Colle new FKT on Monte Rosa from Gressoney
* Nadir Maguet – Gran Paradiso FKT 2:02:32
* Erik Clavery GR10 9 days 9 hours and a few minutes
* Davide Magnini Ortles FKT 2:18:15
* Kim Collison 24h Lakes achieves 78 Peaks
* Sabrina Verjeee Wainwrights (wishes not to claim)
* Dylan Bowman Loowit Trail 5:11:49
* Josh Pulattie Oregon Coast Trail 12 days 10 hours 25 min
* Candice Burt Tahoe Rim Trail 2 days 12 hours 47 min
* John Kelly Pennine Way 2 days 16 hours 40 min
* Sarah Hansel (57:43) & Joey Campanelli (41:00) for Nolans 14
* Tom Hollins Dales Mountain 30 (130 miles, 30 summits) 41 hrs
*****
In other news…
Asif Amirat in the UK is creating a stir with his 100-marathons in 100-days. Many have been questioning his runs and becoming very vocal on social media. I have reached out to Asif for an interview. At first he was cooperative, however, after I asked several probing questions, he blocked me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
*****
RACES THAT WILL HAPPEN (tbc)
  • Montreux Trail Running Festival – Switzerland
  • Speedgoat 50k – USA
  • Fjallmaraton – Sweden
  • Rondane 100 – Norway
  • Pyrenees Stage Run – Spain (now postponed to 2021)
  • Marathon des Sables – Morocco
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INTERVIEW : KIM COLLISON
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SCOTT Supertrac RC 2 Shoe Review

Scott have progressed year-on-year with the development of their trail running shoes. Notably, the interaction and feedback of their elite/ sponsored athletes have been instrumental in fine tweaking the range of shoes. 

I have been fortunate to work with the brand as a photographer on multiple occasions, often photographing new shoes and apparel before they are released to the general public. It’s important to clarify here that when reviewing shoes/ apparel, I do so impartially.

I started using Scott in 2012, the original Kinabalu was a shoe I loved. Eight years on, the present day Kinabalu has little resemblance to the original, gladly, it has progressed and what was a good shoe years ago, is now, in my opinion, a top-quality trail shoe. Follow here for a review of the new Kinabalu Ultra RC which will be available in late July.

I first witnessed the Supertrac RC in 2016 and wrote a first impressions in November of that year, here.

The black and yellow look then was striking and now, 4-years on, it is still striking and as such, Scott athletes, Scott apparel and Scott shoes are easily identifiable on the trail. It was a smart move by the brand.

As great as the original RC was (is) it was not the perfect shoe for me. I had some issues with how low the lacing came and in the propulsive face, I would some minor irritation. I also found the shoe a little lifeless. The cushioning did not give me the bounce I had hoped for. Despite these points, the shoe was an incredible performer in mountain terrain providing grip, a responsive feel and the seamless upper were all winners! It was designed for skyrunning. 

When Scott asked me to test out the new Supertrac RC 2 I was excited. I was surprised, to be honest, that the new incarnation had been so long coming. I had great expectations and although hopeful that the look/ integrity of the original shoe had not been changed, I had hoped that I would feel a notable difference.

Out of the box, I was happy. Black and yellow and this new shoe looked like the Supertrac I know. It was a great start. Flipping the shoe over, the 6mm lugs of the original were there, but the arrangement was different with a noticeable gap in the midfoot. I also noticed that the toe box was wider. The upper had several bales hanging off it, ‘3XDRY’ and ‘coldblack,’ so, it was apparent that the shoe had had an overhaul.

As a note, the new Kinabalu Ultra RC is being released in July and this, along with the Supertrac RC 2 is significant. The two shoes are very similar, the exception coming with the outsole and a more breathable/ mesh upper on the Kinabalu. In simple terms, the Supertrac RC 2 is for mountain, mud and rough terrain. The Kinabalu Ultra RC is a trail shoe.

Supertrac RC 2 on the top and the Kinabalu Ultra RC below – the difference in upper is significant. But fit/ feel is very similar.

The Kinabalu Ultra RC on top is less aggressive.

THE SHOE

I use an EU44 (UK9.5) for all my test shoes and weirdly, the Supertrac RC 2 although an EU44 says UK9 inside? I was perplexed initially thinking that the shoe would be too small. It’s not. So, if purchasing, just be careful with sizing. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy between EU and UK size.

At 298g for an EU44, this is a lightweight, but not the lightest mountain shoe.

One of the great attributes of the original Supertrac was foothold and here in the Supertrac RC 2 that foothold is equaled and bettered. Surprisingly, there is still no sock-like fit but when you slide the shoe on, you don’t even think about it. The seamless upper, tongue and lacing configuration hold the foot wonderfully tight. So, on technical terrain, there are no worries of one’s foot moving inside the shoe.

Key changes come in the upper with SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® and 3XDRY® which provide more protection and comfort. I was initially worried that the upper looked unbreathable and therefore potentially making the shoe hot, not so. The SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® reduces heat buildup and increases wearing comfort. The 3XDRY® is water and stain resistant and from the inside, it absorbs and distributes moisture.

The heel area is padded, snug and importantly when climbing does not allow for any slipping.

Notably, the toe box is wider allowing a little more toe splay than the original shoe and this is welcome. Toe protection is adequate and what is immediately noticeable is how the outsole rises up placing one lug almost on the toes – perfect for climbing.

Cushioning is notable. I found the original Supertrac lacking life and bounce, not here in the version 2 with the AEROfoam+. The bounce is notable even without running. The drop is 5mm. 

Scott have always used eRide (rocker) to help with technique and cadence. In some models, it has been very noticeable. Here in the Supertrac RC 2 it is less noticeable, and the curvature is reduced.

The outsole has always been a selling point with ‘radial traction.’ The 6mm lugs fit the middle ground off aggressive, but not too aggressive and the lugs now have been spaced differently to help dispel mud and reduce clogging. Particularly noticeable in the middle of the outsole.

If you wanted a shoe just for mud, then a more aggressive outsole would be better. But the Supertrac RC 2 quite rightly wants to provide a great all-rounder that handles mud, technical terrain and can still be comfortable when cruising some single-track.

IN USE

This is Scott’s best shoe so far in my opinion. The changes they have made addressed all my minor niggles from the original Supertrac RC and they have packaged them in a version 2 that is magical to wear.

I have given mine a real battering and in the space of a couple of weeks managed to get well over 100km in them in the mountains of Norway. Mud, trail, rock, wet and dry, at all times the shoes were performing at the highest level.

From 3-hour faster runs to 7-hour+ adventures, at all times, the shoes were comfortable and secure.  

In the previous Supertrac RC, I would only use them for shorter/ faster outings, the v2 is so much more cushioned that even on continually hard and rocky terrain, I had all day comfort.

The outsole performed as expected offering secure grip on rocks both in the dry and wet. I had one issue of slipping continuously on a particular type of rock, however, it became clear that the green slime over it was an issue for any shoe and not just the Scott. Confirmed by a run friend who was in a pair of inov-8.

In mud, I was happy with the grip knowing only too well that if I got in continuous sloppy and deep mud that grip would be compromised a little due to the 6mm lugs. But, the new spacing of the lugs did the job of expelling mud. This was perfect in guaranteeing a more consistent grip for all the time.

When on technical and demanding trail, you need a shoe that holds the foot so you can be 100% sure. Many brands call this ‘precision’ and often one of the downsides of a precision shoe/ fit is that the toe box will be narrower. The Supertrac RC 2 has a wider toe box and it is noticeable. I was therefore worried that some of that firm hold and reassurance may be lost. No! The lacing and fit are so good, that you can adjust and tweak making sure that you have 100% security. Even the insole grips one’s sock.

I ran through a great deal of wet/ muddy and boggy ground and here is maybe one downside of the shoe. I felt drainage was compromised. I always wear Merino socks and so therefore had no issues with cold feet, even when running through a great deal of snow. However, I do feel water retention was more noticeable.

CONCLUSIONS

The Supertrac RC 2 is a great shoe and for anyone who loved the original Supertrac RC, I think now they will have an even bigger smile on their face.

For those who were tempted by the black and yellow shoes previously but decided that the toe box was too narrow, the cushioning compromised, or the feel was a little flat, you should now go back and check these out.

It’s rare I compare shoes to other brands and models, however, for those who have read my reviews, they will know that VJ Sport are my ‘go-to’ shoes for the mountains, be that the XTRM or MAXx models. Now, I firmly believe that Scott have a shoe that can compete. 

I have 98% of good things to say about the Scott Supertrac RC 2 and the only negative is the potential for retaining water… To clarify, it does not stay in the shoe, it does dissipate. It just dissipates slower than I would have liked.

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