inov-8 – Race Ultra™ 290 – Shoe Review

Race Ultra 290 1[2][2]

inov-8 release their first ever ultra running shoe and we were lucky enough to get hold of a test pair 3-months ago, albeit in a UK8. That ruled myself out of any run testing but Niandi Carmont stepped up to the mark and gave the new Race Ultra™ 290’s a beating in the build up to Comrades. Here are her thoughts.

The Race Ultra™ 290’s is a first for UK shoe manufacturer, inov-8 but definitely not the last based on my testing of them. I picked up these shoes in the middle of March, so, I have had them for exactly 3-months; a perfect test period for any shoe!

In preparation for the 2014 Comrades I was reluctant to do all my training on road. Funny really, I used to be a ‘roadie.’ However, like so many others, after finding trail I have been reluctant to go back to the hard stuff… Road running was going to require a lot of motivation so I decided to alternate between trail and road just to get the miles in and to keep my motivation going. The Race Ultra™ 290’s proved to be the perfect shoe when mixing things up.

Usually it takes me a while to get used to new shoe models never mind new brands. I was a little anxious this time as this was my first experience of inov-8 footwear. I was pleasantly surprised – I required no adaptation or transition. The shoe has a slipper-like feel and is a perfect compromise in terms of cushioning and weight (290g/UK8). The gusseted tongue is padded, holds the foot firm and the thin laces pull tight, stay tight and provide reassuring security to my foot irrespective of the conditions. The toe box is wide, spacious and certainly has room for swelling feet should the need arise from multiple hours of running. Toe protection comes from a reinforced area that actually extends all the way around the shoe.

Prone to foot injuries I need cushioning but usually find it hard to get a trail shoe that is able to offer:

  • Cushioning.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good grip.

The Race Ultra™ 290 ticks all these boxes. Yes I know you can get lighter shoes. Yes I know you can get more cushioning and yes I know I can get a shoe with more grip. The secret of the Race Ultra™ 290 is that it has averaged all these elements and comes up with a great all round package. So much so, that I would say if you were looking for one shoe to do all things, you wouldn’t go wrong with a pair of these!


Injected with EVA, the footbed is 6mm with 10mm at the front and 18mm at the rear offering a heel to toe drop of 8mm. Inov-8 as a brand have pioneered the transition to a lower drop shoes for 11-years and the Race Ultra™ 290 may well provide ultra-runners seeking to transition say from 12/13mm drop shoes towards a more minimalist drop a perfect opportunity. Equally, if you run in 6/4/3 or zero drop shoes, the 8mm may well provide you with a more ‘relaxed’ day on the trails. After all, this is the purpose of the Race Ultra™ 290. It’s all about making hours on trail and/ or road more pleasurable and less tiresome but this depends on your own run style and preferences. For me 8mm sits very well for longer runs. The flatter outsole ensures a stable ride without the loss of proprioception and as the hour’s pass and fatigue sets in, the 8mm drop and added cushioning are welcome.


Transitioning from road to trail is not an issue as obviously this shoe has been designed specifically for this purpose. It’s without doubt an all round shoe that excels on hard pack trail events that may include road and rocky sections. Tested on dry sun baked French trail that incorporated a mixture of hard clay, stones and rocks the Ultra 290 excelled, in softer / grassy sections the ‘Tri Endurance’ compound provided confidence. Should the trail become very boggy and/or muddy, grip is compromised. This is to be expected in a shoe that is trying to be all things in one package. However, if these sections are short and provide a very small percentage of your run (say 10-20%) this is a compromise worth making for the comfort and security the shoe will provide for the remainder of your run.

Race Ultra 290 2[1][2]

On UK trail it proved to be a good all-weather shoe offering good grip for a multitude of conditions. Door-to-Trail is a term that is being used quite considerably at the moment and I do feel that the Race Ultra™ 290 fits well in this bracket.

A nice little non-negligible feature for the runner with smelly feet is the patented X-STATIC® foot bed, ensuring that the bacteria feeding on sweat will be kept at bay! I’ve had these shoes for a while, they have been through mud, wet and grass and I guarantee they are completely odourless!

The shoe also has the option to take custom Race Ultra™ Gaiters (available separately). They clip onto inov-8’s unique on-the-shoe attachment system. This is very cool. The shoe has attachment points built in and thus allows the gaiter to be added or removed as required with minimum fuss. I don’t use gaiters very often, however, having tried these I think I will use them more. They stopped mud and stones entering the shoe from the top and to be honest, once on, I didn’t even know I was using them. I can see this feature being added to more shoes in the inov-8 range. Should you wish to use the gaiter with other shoes, a fastener is supplied to make this possible.

A feature I would have liked is a more trail-friendly lacing system that offers a place to secure or store excess lace when the shoes are tied. It’s a minor quibble and may very well have been an omission as this would be redundant if the gaiter was worn.

In conclusion, inov-8’s new Race Ultra™ 290 shoe will be a hit. I am sure of it. If you are already an inov-8 user this may well be your new ‘go to’ shoe for your daily runs when an ‘all rounder’ is just what you need. If you are new to ultra running and only want one shoe, this will be perfect place to start. I really can’t find any negatives about this shoe other than the obvious…. If it’s really muddy you won’t have enough grip but that isn’t a criticism of the shoe, it’s more about having the wrong shoe for the job.

Check out inov-8 HERE

Shoe will be available from July 2014


Niandi Carmont

Niandi Carmont – Niandi is South African born, a former resident of Paris, she now lives in the UK. A runner for over 20-years; Niandi has completed Comrades Marathon 13-times, Washie 100 2-times and has finished well over 100 marathons and ultras  all over the world. Currently residing in the UK, Niandi splits her work life between the UK and France.


If you like the content on this website you can support us by making a donation

Click HERE


Epic Marathon Camps – Morocco


Another year will soon be over, it will be January and you will be feeling the effects of all those extra calories and you will realize that you are way behind with your training… yes, Spring is just around the corner and irrespective of your 2014 events distance, your are going to need to kick start your training and get in shape! What better way to get the ball rolling or should I say, the legs running than a week in Morocco.


Epic Marathon Camps are ideal for runners of all ability and provide the opportunity to train and learn with like-minded individuals in a fantastic location, close to Marrakesh, Morocco.

The foothills of the Atlas Mountains will become your playground. Alice Morrison and Charlie Shepherd will be your hosts for the week along with coaches, Holly Rush and Karl Zeiner.

rsz_prvenuerun3 Combining excellent facilities with superb views and a high level of comfort. The hotel for the week has two swimming pools, a spa, and numerous different areas in which to exercise or relax. The venue’s style and philosophy fits perfectly; to offer a traditional Moroccan experience in comfort and style and with access to some superb scenery that is perfectly suited to physical training.

‘It’s quite simple, both Charlie and myself have entered the Marathon des Sables for 2014. Charlie has great experience of Morocco and has already coordinated multiple camps in the area, it seemed logical that we should extend our portfolio to a run specific camp,’ explained Alice.

Holly Rush is a TeamGB athlete and in 2013 placed 7th lady at the highly competitive Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa. In addition to this, Holly won a Bronze medal at the World Mountain Marathon Championships.

Karl Zeiner recently placed 16th overall at the ‘Ring of Fire’ in the UK and brings an extensive knowledge of marathon and ultra marathon training to the camp.

I asked Holly about her expectations of the camp and what participants can expect…

‘We are specifically targeting runners who want to get away from the January blues at home and get stuck into some focused, specific endurance training with like minded people in beautiful surroundings.’ Holly said with a look of eagerness on her face, ‘The January camps will be a great way to kick start the New Year with a possible eye on a spring marathon or ultra.’


Morocco is the ideal place to enjoy some winter sun without a long haul flight and yet once you arrive it will feel like you could be in another world. Participants will have the opportunity to train on a variety of surfaces, road, trail, sand and of course hills so every run can be different.

The camp can be as involved as each individual person requires. The team will offer plenty of easy running, all guided of course so that it’s possible to investigate the surroundings. Specific session will be mixed in to the week, threshold, marathon race pace, reps and hill repeats will keep everyone literally on there toes.


A unique selling point of EMC (Epic Marathon Camps) will be the magnificent location, high-end accommodation and facilities and of course the knowledgeable staff with quality training.

‘The camp will provide the perfect running experience allowing each and every person with one-to-one sessions with Holly and Karl.’ Explained Charlie. ‘It doesn’t stop there… days are based around running, core building, stretching and in the evenings lectures will be available about specific subjects to help progress each participants individual progression in the sport they love. Tired and aching bodies will be eased with in-house massage as required.’


Running is not only about miles, it is also about the food we eat and how we can enhance food choices so that we become efficient in every aspect of the sport. To that end, a nutritionist will be available for the whole week (a keen runner and cyclist herself) inspirational, balanced and incredible cuisine will be provided. You know you are on to a winner when the chef says, ‘I would never sacrifice taste for calories’.


Places are limited for the January training camps, January 11th to 18th/ January 19th to 26th.

The price for the all-inclusive week (transfers to-and-from the airport in Morocco, food, soft drinks, laundry and all services from the coaches) will be £1,495 for seven days (excl flights)

Please use the enquiry form below to receive a special £50 discount from the Epic Marathon Camps team.


  • Training Camp Dates HERE
  • You can view the website HERE
  • Follow on Twitter @EpicMCamps
  • And ‘Like’ on Facebook ‘Epic Marathon Camps’

*This is an advetorial post on behalf of Epic Marathon Camps

Arc’teryx Squamish 50



(VANCOUVER, BC) Aug 10 2013 – No longer a fringe sport, ultra running attracts not only top athletes but marathoners who want to push to the next level and challenge themselves on uneven terrain. This weekend, 600 such runners are arriving in Squamish BC, for what is slated as one of the toughest ultra races on the trail circuit.

ARC_SQ50_Image 2-small

It feels like survival. The Arc’teryx Squamish 50 ultra run is a really TOUGH race.  There’s even disclaimer on the sign up page to discourage first time racers!

The 50 mile course, 85% of it single track, has 3800m/12,000ft of climb and descent. Technical and wild, it’s also grueling, remote and punishing terrain, albeit with stunning views. Welcome to ultra running, Canadian style.

But in only its second year of existence, the Arc’teryx Squamish 50  sold out in its first two weeks.  And this weekend, August 10, 2013 an international roster of 600 runners from 9 countries will put themselves through the paces, running courses of 50 miles, 50km and 23km.

The event is sponsored by Arc’teryx, based out of North Vancouver, BC, a brand that is no stranger to extremes.

Relatively new as a sport, ultra running covers distances longer than a marathon. The runs are uniquely about pushing personal limits, pushing those limits hard and pushing them far.  At Squamish, the back half of the 50 is more difficult than the first. To reach the finish line is victory.

ARC_SQ50_Image 3-small


Gary Robbins, one of the two main organizers of the Squamish 50 and no stranger to Ultra Running himself, credits the striking surge in popularity of these races to an

“Experienced road running/marathon community that’s looking for a new challenge and a younger generation that’s going straight onto the trails. In addition there is a growing mainstream culture with an intense focus on personal journeys and fitness. Ultra running is no longer looked upon as a fringe sport pursued by extremists, as much as it’s an extreme challenge that is doable by the vast majority of the population.”

Having a local high performance outdoor brand sponsor the event underlines the intensity of both the course and the event. Robbins is quick to note that.

ARC_SQ50_Image 1-small

“Arc’teryx was the very first brand Geoff (Langford) and I approached about coming on board as our title sponsor. Arc’teryx has a heritage of quality, innovation, style, and mountain culture that instantly helped our event gain international exposure and credibility.”

Lawyer and local Arc’teryx athlete Adam Campbell describes ultra runs this way; “There are certain races that you do to see how you stack up against the rest of the world and then there are certain races where you’re looking at this incredible scenery under insane fatigue. Your senses become quite heightened.” Campbell, one of the world’s top flight runners, will be competing in this year’s event. Also in the exclusive field are Americans Karl Meltzer, current World Record holder of the most 100 mile victories of all time (34); and Krissy Moehl, ultra running superstar and recent winner of the Mt Fuji 100 miler in Japan. Canadians David le Porho, Lisa Polizzi, Nicola Gildersleeeve, Catrin Jones and Jason Loutitt are strong contenders, as are dark horses Nathan Barrett of Vancouver and Stacey Cleveland from Penticton.

“This is our home turf and it’s this tough terrain that we design our products for, ”says Laura Fergusson, North American Events and Athletes Manager for Arc’teryx. “We have athletes participating who are true competitors and working with Geoff Langford and Gary Robbins on this event is a positive partnership for our brand. It’s a huge win.”

The 50 mile course begins at 5:30 am, Saturday August 10, with a final cut-off of 9:30pm. That is 16 hours of suffering. Not quite true. Suffering implies there is no benefit, no reward and with these views, challenges and the camaraderie of going to the brink and surviving, that is simply not the truth.

Race start times:

5.30 am = Start for the 50 mile race – start line is Ocean front.

8.00 am = Start for the 23km race – start line is Quest University

9.00 am = Start for the 50km race – start line is Alice Lake Provincial Park

Expected first race finishers:

23km – about 9:45am

50m – about 1:15pm

50k – about 1:30pm

*All races finish down town Squamish from about 9.30 am* onwards

PRESS RELEASE provided by Arc’teryx

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

NO, it is the ATV 19+

Copyright Reebok

Copyright Reebok

Just when you think you have seen it all… run shoes with five toes, run shoes that look like a goat hoof or shoes that are built on inches of marshmallow and then Reebok bring us the ATV 19+. Lets face it, Reebok don’t really have a great reputation for ‘great’ run shoes. Will this nippled alien beast change that?

I haven’t seen these shoes yet. But they are about to be released onto the world on Feb 1st. Are we ready for it? I have no idea…

Bill McInnis, head of advanced innovation at Reebok thinks we are. Apparently he is a former NASA scientist! He says:

“The ATC 19+ has 19 bumps (hence the name) on the bottom of the shoe which are designed to grip as much terrain as possible each time you move. ATV? ‘All Terrain Vehicle’ – In other words, the shoe is designed to  mimic how a real ‘ATV’ grips any terrain that is put beneath its wheels. The shoes ‘dig’ through the top layer of the surface and get traction on the layer underneath”

Jury is out on this one… on first impressions I can’t imagine it working too well in the wet, particularly on roads/ pavements or in the mud. But hey, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions… just because they look weird doesn’t mean that they wont perform.

Lets see what happens after Feb 1st!

Reebok ATV19

Copyright Reebok

As a footnote. I have just seen this YouTube clip. Oh dear… any credibility that Mr McInnis gave the shoe in his ‘clip’ above seems to disappear rather quickly here.

Salomon Sense Ultra

The long awaited ‘Sense Ultra‘ has arrived. THANK YOU Santa……

As many of you will know, the ‘Sense‘ has become the shoe of choice for those who are wanting to run on trail with a minimalist and responsive shoe. However, we can’t all be as efficient as Kilian Jornet or Andy Symonds.

The Sense Ultra offers a little more but holds true to all the elements that have made the ‘sense’ so popular.

The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Racing is one of the lightest trail shoes ever made. It is heavier than the Sense but has added strengthening of the sole for longer and harder races.

It has the new lacing system: Quicklace this reduces the weight of Sense.
Dynamic Traction:  allows the Salomon S lab Sense  optimum grip in all conditions. It wasdeveloped by Solomon with the greatest athletes without any compromise. It has different grip and texture which has been designed to optimize grip when it is necessary.
EndoFit: has an inner liner to the shoe designed for positioning the foot optimally.
Drop: a low 4mm drop to provide a natural contact and feel with the ground.
OS TENDON: Thanks to this system inserted in the sole of the S lab intermediare sense, there is a natural flow with excellent energy return.
Profeet Film: is a protection film that will protect your foot area from angular or sharp objects that are on the trail. The Sense offers maximum protection despite its lightness.
Weight: 240g in 8.5 U.S.

When you lift up the box you think wait a minute… they forgot the shoes! Not so. These ‘runners’ are super light.

The lacing system as with all Salomon in reassuring and holds the foot firm.

The addition of the internal ‘Endofit’ makes the shoe more comfortable than you would ever imagine. They can be a little tight to get on at first and you may initially think; uh oh, wrong size. But once your foot is it is snug and supremely comfortable. The most comfortable shoe I have ever worn.

I am not a small guy and the therefore I always felt the original ‘Sense‘ was maybe just a little too minimal for me… certainly on longer runs! not so with the ‘Ultra’. The additional cushioning is immediately apparent.

The sole has grip but nothing like the ‘SLab Softground‘ or ‘Speedcross‘. The shoe is therefore certainly more suited to road and hard pack (or rocky) trail. If your running in soft ground they perform perfectly but if you are a great deal of mud the added grip of the Soft Ground or Speedcross may be a better choice.

In use they are a dream to wear. On the roads they are light, responsive and provide that feel that I have had with traditional racing flats. The bonus with the ‘Sense Ultra’ is the hold of the foot. The speed lacing and Endofit provide supreme comfort. On the trails this becomes even more apparent as the foot moves from left to right with changes in terrain.

It’s early days in testing but this shoe will not be of my feet for a while… they are so comfortable I would even be tempted to use them as slippers.

Now then, I need to go run…..

As a foot note, (no pun intended) Spring/ Summer 2013 will see a new Sense model – ‘Mantra

I saw this shoe earlier this year at Cavalls del Vent. A couple of the Salomon runners tested the shoe (Emelie Forsberg and Philipp Reiter) By all accounts a great edition to the range but too early to provide some detailed feedback.

The Mantra will be an everyday trainer in the same mold as the Sense and Sense Ultra. It’s a door-to-trail hybrid. With it’s 16mm heel and 10mm front (6mm drop as opposed to 4mm) and 260 grams weight, it looks to be a featherweight trainer without requiring the user to go to a 4mm drop shoe. Salomon has been heavily delving into exactly how different heel-to-toe drops effect actual stride speed which has resulted in their “Natural Motion Construction.”  A lower heel drop supports a mid-foot or forefoot strike that in turn better enables muscles, instead of joints, to absorb shock. Ultimately, their argument is this builds greater balance and overall running efficiency. More to follow….

Sense Mantra

Sense Mantra

Royal Parks Ultra

The inaugural Royal Parks Ultra took place today on a sunny and warm day in the capital. London really is quite a beautiful place when the sun shines on it!

A misty cool morning gave away to blue skies and warm temperatures.

I was at the race with the very kind help and cooperation of Salomon who had two star athletes taking part;

 Dimitrios Theodorakakos and Silvia Serafinii

They both won! Silvia running so quickly that she was 4th overall and this may very well have been a top 3 had she not been of course multiple times through poor course marking and complacent marshalling. Dimitrios ran 3:25:19 and Silvia 3:39:15.

Dimitrios almost lost the race due to errors from course marking and marshalling…. from a comfortable lead he ended up being neck and neck with 2nd place Julian Rendell  and then pushed away again in the closing stages to secure victory!

Dimitrios said “the course markings are terrible and the marshals are too busy on phones… by the time they realised I was there it was too late… six times I went of course. The organisers seriously need to look at some significant improvements for next year!’

Silvia confirmed “I went off course so many times… it’s terrible! If I am running a ‘marked’ course I want it to be marked. Today was too stressful. It as all very well when running slower and you have the time to look around but if you are racing I just want to concentrate on speed and effort… not worrying if I am course”

Not great! Considering the ultra had a small field in comparison to the Half Marathon (12,000) the race had some great pluses. A wonderful course around the parks of London, post race massage, good food provisions post race and a great setting. If only they could get the course marking to that standard… in addition, each runner got a wooden medal; a nice touch!

This race has great potential and will be a perfect race for those venturing up from marathon distance. It includes road and easy trail and at 50k it is the perfect step up distance.

Here are images from the day.

Hoka One One news


I have just spent a day with Mark and Steve who are the distributors of Hoka One One in the UK. Always great to catch up with these guys and look at what is coming up from the land of Hoka. In this case, 2013.

The big news; TWO NEW SHOES!

A stripped down trail shoe called RAPA NUI COMP is the first highlight. It has all the benefits of the Hoka One One range such as the rocker profile and bucket seat but this shoe has ‘less’ cushioning to give more ‘feel’ under the foot. In contrast to conventional trail shoes this new shoe still offers great cushioning but NOT to the extent of the Stinson Evo or Mafate 2.

On the trail now you have three choices: Mafate 2 for the rough tough and muddy stuff, Stinson Evo for a more refined trail shoe with less grip and a more streamlined feel than the Mafate 2 and of course now, the Rapa Nui Comp which is an out and out trail racing shoe for hard trail.

Following the ‘stripped down’ feel is a NEW road shoe, the KAILUA COMP.

The shoe shown here is currently a prototype and will change slightly for 2013. Basically the ‘glossy’ effect on the toe box and tongue will go and be replaced with a ‘matt’ finish. As with the Rapa Nui Comp this is a stripped down Hoka One One with rocker profile and bucket seat but with a little less cushioning to provide an increased feel for the road. This will be a great shoe for marathon or below. Again, Hoka One One will now have three shoes for road. Bondi B is a great long distance road or even hard trail shoe, the Stinson Evo Tarmac is a long distance racing shoe (see below) and the new Kailua Comp offers a lighter weight and lower profile shoe for the out and out road racer.

Finally, available now! is the NEW Stinson Evo Tarmac

The Stinson Evo Tarmac is an evolution of the Stinson Evo Trail shoe but with a road sole. It is a fast shoe for distance road running. As with the Evo it comes with two insoles and two lacing options; speed lacing or conventional. The shoe offers a more precise fit over the Bondi B and is a little narrower in the toe box. Availability in the UK will be very limited with just 50 pairs  until delivery of 2013 sock expected March.

You can purchase or order Hoka One One here