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.

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!

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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
*****
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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Scarpa SPIN Shoe Review

I have used Scarpa shoes and boots in the past and have always been impressed with the mountain pedigree the brand has. So, I was very welcome to receive the SPIN and the SPIN ULTRA for testing. 

The SPIN, in the words of Scarpa say, ‘… with more cushion and protection than the Atom, but a lighter, lower-profile design than the Neutron, the new Spin is the Goldilocks of our Alpine Running collection, for those who want both support and simplicity on rugged trails and craggy ridge lines.

I will discuss and write about the SPIN ULTRA at a later date.

The SPIN is noticeably light (252g for EU42) and flexible. From the first look one can immediately see that this is a race or fast training shoe designed for a mountain environment. For sure, it’s a trail shoe, but I would extend that to be a mountain/ alpine shoe. It has ‘skyrunning’ written all over it and certainly from initial outings it immediately felt like VK’s and SkyRace (sub 42km) terrain would sit perfectly in the SPIN list of ‘go to’ uses.

The upper is mesh and therefore very breathable, structure and support of the upper comes from welded PU overlay. One of the plus sides of this, as in other shoes using this method, there are no seams that can cause irritation or rubbing inside the shoe.

 The lacing is substantial with 5 sets of eyelets and the additional 6th eyelet should you wish to lace-lock. With a comfortable and padded auto fit tongue which extends slightly higher than other shoes I have tested, this is perfect for stopping any discomfort where the top of one’s foot joins the lower leg. There is a ‘lace-garage’ which is so obviously great, I have never understood why all run shoes do not use this method, or at least something similar.

 The heel is padded and plush and really holds the foot with comfort and security. Very noticeable when running or hiking uphill is the hold the shoe gives; it is very reassuring.

It has a ‘sock-like’ fit (SOCK-FITLW by Scarpa) which is just perfect as it provides a wonderful, secure and comfy hold of the foot.

The toe box is well shaped, allows for toe splay but the SPIN is more of a ‘precision’ shoe designed for technical trail and as such it has a narrower fit but not very narrow. Certainly, if you need or require a wide toe box, the SPIN is unlikely to be for you, but you should try it… It has a toe bumper which provides some protection from contact with rocks or debris.

With a 4mm drop one needs to be a more efficient runner. It’s a shoe with cushioning (24mm/20mm) but not excessively so, hence I see that is a shorter/ mid-distance shoe. The midsole is EVA and I would say is on the firmer side, but after several runs one can feel it soften without compromising the shoe. It has a rock-plate, and this works really well offering great protection via a H-EVA Plate.

 The outsole is Vibram which is known throughout the world. MegaGrip is extremely popular and although aggressive, it is not extremely aggressive. It can handle mud but not really sloppy stuff. Then again, very little shoes can do well at everything. If running in lots of mud, there would be better outsoles than this. But the MegaGrip is perfect for the SPIN intentions – mountains, ridges, trails, rocks in wet or dry conditions. The lugs are 4mm and quite spaced out. Grip is very good on a wide variety of surfaces, but it works best on rock, ridges, loose gravel and soft ground. You will see the the SPIN has cut outs in the sole and here you can clearly see the rock-plate. The cut aways help reduce weight and increase the flexibility of the shoe. This is noticeable, especially in the propulsive phase.

The SPIN comes with two foot beds. One minimalist and the other providing more cushioning and structure. This is a great idea! I personally used the more structured foot bed which secured the rear of my foot more. Switching between the foot bed really changes the feel of the shoe, so, if you prefer something more minimal. You will prefer the thinner of the two.

 Sizing is true to size, I use an EU44 and these fitted as expected.

IN USE

 The SPIN has great comfort and the sock-like fit is just perfect. The lacing system is superb at holding the foot and it is easy to adjust should you need. For example, I have a high instep, so I like to loosen my laces but not at the compromise of a secure foot hold. The addition of the the 6th eyelet allows for different lacing options; I didn’t need to lock lace as the foothold form the SPIN is so good. The lace garage is perfect for getting laces out of the way. One of the revelations is the heel area. It’s plush, extremely comfortable and is arguably the best hold I have had from any shoe. Climbing there is no movement or slipping. 

The upper is very breathable and my feet were comfy in either wet conditions or hot conditions. Drainage is good. The welded overlay is adequate and provides good stability. Toe bumper could be better, but it is a minor complaint.

On technical trail, foot roll is minimal, but the SPIN does have a wasp like (figure of 8) shape and so depending on your foot shape, you could have some roll? I had no roll at all. I got no issues with the SPIN rubbing my ankles, a problem I have had with other shoes on technical terrain, this is a real plus!

Cushioning is on the harder side and lacks life and bounce but that is compensated for with great flex, especially in the propulsive phase. Also, you have two foot bed options and the more padded/ supported option was a real boost for me. They are very comfortable shoes. 

The MegaGrip outsole works really well on a whole mix of terrain, wet or dry. But it works best on soft-ground, rocks and technical trail. Protection is very good but occasionally, you may find a stone getting in one of the gaps in the cutaways of the sole. It will not stay there, but if it is sharper, you may just feel it through the rock-plate.

CONCLUSION 

I have been using Scarpa for many years, the Charmoz a personal favourite. But I have never used a run shoe from the brand. The SPIN has been a revelation and certainly for runs up to 4-hours on technical/ mountainous routes, it’s a shoe I will use time and time again. The overall package is excellent combing lightweight, responsiveness, feel for the ground, cushioning, great comfort and excellent grip in most scenarios. It’s a shoe for faster training or racing in the mountains.  

Highlights come from excellent lacing, the sock-like fit, the shoes weight and the heel box.

There is little not to like in the SPIN. It is more of a precision shoe, but the fit is not as narrow as others, so, you would need to try them on to find out if they would work for you.

The only negative, for me, is the cushioning is a little hard and lacks a little life. It is a minor point and actually does not impair how the shoe performs, however, for some, it may influence how enjoyable the SPIN is to wear. 

Specs: 

  • 4mm drop
  • 252g for EU42
  • Upper Mesh w/ welded PU overlay
  • Insole H-EVA Plate
  • Midsole EVA-CM
  • Outsole Vibram Fixion/ MegaGrip
  • Cushioning 24mm/20mm
  • Sock like fit
  • Lace storage
  • Medium cushioning and protection
  • Choice of insoles

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Episode 187 – Ben Bardsley, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD

Episode 187Ben Bardsley talks about his 2500km journey on the Norge Pa Langs, Norway. We speak with new ITRA President, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD updates us on Covid-19.
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00:10:54 BEN BARDSLEY 
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00:56:04 BOB CROWLEY – ITRA here
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01:39:00 STEPHEN GOLDSTEIN PHD
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Please listen to the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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I’m Ian Corless and she is Speedgoat Karl
Keep running
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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 14 : Hal Koerner

Hal Koerner is a legend in the world of ultra-running who was one of the early pioneers of the sport. He has victories at Kettle Morraine 100, The Bear 100, Angeles Crest, Western States hardrock 100 and so many more…  He is the owner of a specialty running store, Rogue Valley Runners, located in the mountainous Southern Oregon town of Ashland. Hal featured in JB Benna’s feature-length documentary “Unbreakable: The Western States 100”. In 2014, he published  “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning” and was released by VeloPress. The book details training for an ultra marathon; from 50k to 100 miles.
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Recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
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Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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RAB KAON Jacket Review

When it comes to mountains and outdoor terrain, UK brand RAB have been a ‘go-to’ for any outdoor enthusiast, whether that be for the Himalayas, mountaineering, trekking, climbing or a leisurely walk in the outdoors.

2020 will see RAB launch a series of new products under the heading of SKYLINE a range of products made up of ultra-lightweight clothing that does not compromise on protection. Intended for ‘fast and light’ days that blur the line between running and technical scrambling.

It’s a significant movement for the brand and as a firm RAB fan, the SKYLINE range has already gained my attention and no doubt, it will grab the attention of anyone who likes to move faster in the mountains.

I will be introducing element of the new SKYLINE range over the coming weeks, notably, the SONIC SHORT SLEEVE TEE, PACER JACKET, CHARGE JACKET and PHANTOM PULL ON.

Image ©RAB

But first, the KAON jacket. 

The new KAON jacket personifies and sets out the stall of the new direction and although it does not come under the SKYLINE banner, it certainly ticks all the boxes offering minimal insulation with low-weight and packing size. Balancing lightweight, warmth and protection, the KAON uses a combination of 800 fill Goose Down and Synthetic Status insulation. Concentrating on the core, the Kaon retains warmth where it is needed, while ‘Pertex Quantum Air’ allows complete freedom of movement under the arms.

The Kaon offers zoned insulation allowing a balance between warmth without compromising movement. It mixes down for the core and ‘Stratus’ synthetic fill on the shoulders, hood and cuffs. 

The down in the core is 800FP hydrophobic down (70g in the men’s and 65g for the women.) This is significant as down, while warmer and lighter, cannot get wet – it loses warmth! However, hydrophobic down is treated with a durable water repellent that allows for quicker drying and the ability to resist water for longer. In a nutshell, it makes the Kaon far more usable in a variety of situations.

The Stratus synthetic fill is significant as it allows the jacket to be more breathable, dry out faster and is 20% less absorbent to other rival insulation. Synthetic is effective at keeping one warm, even when wet, so, it is ideal for damp/ wet conditions. RAB have added this to key areas of stress, either from the weather or equipment or a combination of the two. For example, on the shoulders, synthetic insulation will be far more durable with pressure from rucksack straps. Also, when compressed, it retains warmth, unlike down which requires loft.

The Atmos outer shell will still allow for loft while reducing down leakage making a perfect combination of warmth v weight.

Under the arms and down the side of the torso, Pertex Quantum Air is used which allows heat to escape and therefore allowing for body temperature regulation, always a difficult balance when moving fast and light.

IN USE 

The KAON is a wonderful crossover jacket for mountain runs and alpinists who want to move fast and light but be prepared for any potential inclement conditions that the mountains can throw at you. 

On first look, it is a simple jacket with a full-length zip, hood (that will allow for a helmet), high collar for warmth, one chest pocket, no side pockets and the sides and under arms use a different more flexible and breathable fabric. It has stitch through construction that provides a small square look to the jacket which ensure the insulation stays put.

The fit is slightly tailored, RAB say ‘slim’ but it is not super tight. Movement is not compromised. The arms are a normal length with a simple elasticated cuff. The jacket length sits just below the waist and for me, covers my backside. When zipped up, the neck goes nice and high and sits just below the chin keeping out drafts. The hood fits perfectly and has no adjustment – as mentioned, you can wear a helmet if required.

Image ©RAB

Needless to say, it is very light (240g +/-) and packs small and comes with its own stuff sack.

It is available in 3 colours, ebony (blue), firecracker (red) and dark sulphur (yellow).

I normally wear medium and medium is perfect in the KAON, size options are XXS to XXL.

 Having used the jacket as we transitioned from Winter to Spring, I have found it perfect or everyday use. On chilly days I start with it on and then remove when my core is warm. It packs away small and fits in the side pocket of my Osprey Talon 11 pack (to provide an example.) On warmer days, I have added the KAON to my pack in the assurance that should the weather change, I have an excellent light layer that will work. In conjunction with a lightweight jacket, such as the PACER (here) – I have warmth and waterproof for well under 500g.

SUMMARY

The KAON is one of those essential kit items when going to the mountains. It’s size and weight make it a ‘mandatory’ item for me – there is no reason not to take it! Warm, lightweight and packs small = perfect.

RAB HERE

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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 13 : Max King

Max King born February 24, 1980, is an American ultra-marathoner. He was the winner at the 2014 IAU 100 km World Championships and the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships. King earned the bronze medal at the 2016 NACAC Cross Country Championships / Pan American Cross Country Cup.
He has also won numerous national titles at various distances ranging from track to ultra marathon. He has also excelled at OCR becoming Warrior Dash World Champion. In addition, he has won multiple national runner of the year awards.
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First recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
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Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
Apple Podcasts HERE
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Stitcher
*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
*****