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.

Embrace Winter for New Adventures

The passing of September and the arrival of October can signify dread and a sense of despair in many as daylight disappears and the weather changes. However, one of the secrets of ‘surviving’ this new season is to embrace it. Don’t look at the negatives, on the contrary, the perceived negatives are actually positives. Seasons exist for a reason.

Lethargy, low mood and the perceived feel to hibernate are all characteristics we feel during the winter months and first off, don’t fight it, accept that winter brings an opportunity to recharge, relax, read a book, catch up on some movies, light a fire, get a blanket and yes curl up on the sofa and relax. There is no harm or guilt in this.

SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) is something we all can feel and yes, some feel it considerably more than others, particularly if Serotonin is reduced and this is often treated with drugs. But light, or the lack of it, is a great contributor. Top tip – Look at changing the bulbs on your lights to ‘daylight’ balanced and when required, adjust brightness throughout the day to help simulate the natural passing of light. It’s a great and easy way to help simulate the variable light intensity changes in one normal day.

Mindset is a key factor to a successful winter and once you get the mind tuned, you will soon appreciate and embrace the possibilities that the winter season can bring, especially as a runner or someone who enjoys outdoor life and activity.

As in all things, we are individuals and as such, we all treat circumstances and changes in different ways. I personally see winter as an opportunity to do things I could not do in spring and summer. I see the challenges that winter will bring as a test, both physical and mental and I look upon it as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Resources and circumstances do go a long way in making my ability to adapt successful, so, to start off, look at these aspects and put yourself in a good place before the cold, wet and dark hits.

In a discussion with a friend over a glass of wine, I was surprised to hear our discussion begin to deteriorate…

“I just hate this time of year. The daylight is leaving us earlier and earlier each day, the light is already arriving so late in the morning and I can feel the damp starting to creep into my body. It will be only a matter of weeks before I am in perpetual cold and dark, I cannot wait for spring!”

It is easy to see from the above quote that before winter has begun, my friend is defeated. I smiled and laughed with him and turned the conversation around.

“Yes, the darkness is coming as is the cold, the wet, the snow and the ice,” I replied. “But what a remarkable opportunity this brings. Just think about it. Cozy nights at home with candles and a movie. Adventures in the snow. Running with a head torch. Learning a new skill. Reading and yes, I could go on and on. Winter for me is just a wonderful opportunity and I cannot wait for it to begin.”

I already felt like a winner as mentally I was prepared and excited for the opportunity, whereas my friend, was already starting the hibernation process.

EMBRACE THE WINTER

I strongly believe that embracing winter and making the most of the season starts with mindset. With a good mindset as outlined above, you will already be in a great place to start.

Marino Giacometti, founder of skyrunning also made the summit on race day – ‘for fun!’

As runner’s and outdoor enthusiasts, we are all at different abilities and yes, we all have different reasons why we do what we do. A great example being an elite runner may well look at winter as an opportunity to address weaknesses and maybe spend more time in a gym working on strength and core.

Monte Rosa Skymarathon

A running enthusiast may well just want to tick over, keep fit and maintain a healthy weight during winter months. And then there is the outdoor enthusiast who may well accept that running is something that will go on a back burner for the coming months and accept that walking, indoor cycling, skiing, gym work and so on is the way forward. Whatever group you fall in, take a couple of hours with a pen and paper and self asses how the last year has been and what you want to achieve the following year, this will help provide some specific goals over the winter to keep focused. This planning and assessment can be as simple as complicated as you wish.

As an example, mine is to embrace the season and the weather and to seize every opportunity. I will hone my head torch running. I will practice my ice and snow running. I will experience my first snow shoeing and I look forward to multi-day snow adventures that will carry me from one point to another in a self-sufficient way. But I also want to write more. I want to read a couple of books that I have never found the time for and I also want to embrace the downtime to rest and recover. My connection with nature and breaking from the digital world is integral to a healthy existence and that cannot stop just because the season has changed.

CLOTHING

We have all heard it before, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” It’s true I am afraid. Clothing is one of the key essentials that makes any winter adventure not only bearable and enjoyable. As outdoor people, we have never been as lucky. Technology in apparel has now progressed to a level that we can be warm and dry in super-light products. The downside of course is cost and yes, gearing up for winter can be expensive.

Layering is key with apparel, starting with warm layers against the skin, insulating layers on top and then waterproof and windproof layers as the final touch that will protect from the elements. Merino is great as a base layer and I have a long sleeve top and legs as a starting point. Now of course, I may or may not use them as this depends on the outdoor exercise I am doing. As an example, I would wear the top if running but not the legs. A mid-layer is more often than not either Primaloft, down or synthetic. Each has its place but if you could only choose one, Primaloft (or similar) would be the most versatile due to its ability to retain warmth when wet and still be lightweight. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof with taped seams and again, it is essential to have jacket and trousers.

The above looks at the core, but if you are like me, the extremities are my most vulnerable in winter and after getting frost nip both in my toes and fingers on the summit of Monte Rosa several years ago, I know need to ensure that I have multiple options for keeping my feet and hands warm. I use Merino base layer socks and gloves which are very thin. For my feet, I then add thicker Merino socks over and inn certain scenarios I have even used Gore-Tex or Neoprene over socks. For my hands, mitts always provide the most warmth and I will use them as first choice. If I need finger dexterity, I often purchase gloves several sizes too big that will allow for multiple layers to retain warmth.

A hat, buff and glasses add the finishing touches. A good hat is one of the easiest ways to retain heat inside the body. A Buff is perfect for around the neck, pulled over one’s nose and mouth to keep out cold air or you can use as a hat. Glasses are an essential to keep out the elements from my eyes and particularly essential if doing any outdoor activity in snow.

Finally, footwear is an absolutely key element to make any outdoor activity successful. There is no one-stop solution here and as a runner, your everyday trail shoes may be ideal for a bulk of your runs, however, specific conditions require specific shoes.

 

Mud/ Wet – You need an aggressive outsole that will grip and gain traction not only of sloppy wet mud but also on tree routes, rocks, gravel and a multitude of other surfaces. Top recommendations are VJ Sport and inov-8 who have been producing shoes to handle the elements for years. Personal favorites are the XTRM (here) and X-Talon(here.)

Snow/ Ice – In soft snow, the shoes that you use for mud/wet will usually work fine providing adequate grip. However, ice brings new challenges and many runner’s avoid ice at all costs. However, products exist that allow for running in such conditions. Firstly, you can micro-crampons (Snowline or Nortec as examples) that simply adapt any running shoe for ice.

I personally prefer a specific shoe, such as the VJ Sport Xante (here) which as all the attributes of my favorite trail shoes and the added grip from 20 studs. Or the Arctic Talon (here) by inov-8.

Xante

Arctic Talon

As a final note on footwear, I use boots and more substantial crampons when venturing in to more alpine and challenging terrain. Read about a trip to the Atlas Mountains here. There is no one answer here but if moving fast and light, the new inov-8 Rocltite Pro G 400 (here) is a great cross over and then I use two specific mountain boots, La Sportiva G5 (here) or the Trango Extreme (here.)

There is no one solution here and having the options to adjust clothing based on weather conditions is key.

Top Tips:

  • Carry a pack that will allow you to carry options of clothing. For example, it may well be dry when you leave but rain could come at any time, make sure you have waterproof layers with you.
  • Take off and add clothing as you exercise. When it’s cold, we often start with many layers as the first 15 min can feel uncomfortable. However, our core soon warms up. Take the layers off early to avoid sweating. Sweating is not your friend in cold climates. Be prepared to add and take off as required. One of the many reasons many people do not, is because it can disrupt the flow of exercise, however, a little time stopping pays dividends in the long term.
  • Avoid getting base or mid layers wet.
  • Carry an extra base layer.
  • Protect extremities – hands, feet, nose, ears and lips.
  • Protect skin with sun block as and when required and post-exercise use a moisturizer – winter is hard on exposed skin.
  • Start easy and build into any outdoor activity allowing for a gradual warm up.
  • Have appropriate footwear.
  • Don’t forget to drink.
  • Take snacks/ food and even a flask or consider the option to obtain hot drinks.

SAFETY

Even at the most basic level, winter brings extra challenges and risk. A simple road run has increased danger due to increased challenges not only for you as a runner, but for those who are sharing the outdoors with you – drivers! Reduced visibility, challenging conditions under foot and on the road can make that simple road run feel like an assault course, so, accept that sometimes staying indoors and or going to the gym is a better option. But we don’t want to be forced to stay indoors and why should we? If you have the correct apparel and footwear, all is good, yes? Well, nearly… Running on the road and I would most definitely consider adding the following:

  • Wear bright clothes or wear a reflective vest such as the Ultra Performance (here) which is minimal and light.
  • Add a flashing light to your arm and ankle. Example here.
  • Use a head torch.
  • Take a phone.

Moving from road to trail and the risk from traffic is reduced greatly especially if one can start immediately on trail with no road running involved. Therefore, the need to wear reflective clothing can be reduced. But the risk of falling is greatly reduced and depending on where you are, that risk can be potentially life threatening. So, adjust safety measures based on:

  • When you are running.
  • Where you are running.
  • The duration of the run.
  • If running alone.

Running for 1-hour on a local trail is very different than a multi-hour adventure. I personally have a standard kit list and I take the basic on every run. It’s an overkill for the 1-hour runs and for the longer sessions, I add to it as required and dictated to by location and conditions.

  • Spare Merino base layer.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket.
  • Lightweight waterproof pants.
  • Space blanket.
  • Head torch.
  • Mobile phone.
  • First aid.
  • 500ml water.
  • Snack

The above, is my absolute basic kit that will go in a lightweight pack.

I then add equipment based on:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

The above is a great start point. Even a local run has great risk if one is alone. Imagine running in the forest with snow on the ground, the temperature is just below zero and you are at least 30-minutes from anyone else. If you hit the deck, sprain an ankle, break a bone or whatever, you are suddenly stationary in subzero temperature. This is high risk.

Adapting to the environment, conditions and challenges is not something to be feared. It is actually fun! I go back to the mindset approach at the beginning, I see this as an opportunity, an experience to learn and a great potential to be taken out of my comfort zone.

What equipment/ advice can make a run/ adventure safer and address the list of questions above?

  • If possible, share any trip with another person. It’s more social and you have a backup.
  • Check weather conditions.
  • Tell a friend/ family member where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Have a phone and if necessary, an additional charger. It’s worth considering purchasing a phone that is not a smartphone – battery life is usually amazing.
  • Carry a tracker such as Garmin InReach or Spot.
  • Think layers and have base layer, warm layers, waterproof layers, hat, gloves and buff. On a personal note, I take spare gloves, socks and a base layer should I get wet and need the comfort and warmth of dry layers.
  • Know where you are going and have a map and compass. A GPX file is also a great option for watch/ smartphone.

Specific equipment:

  • Carry micro-crampons if you think snow/ ice is high risk.
  • Carry a bivvy bag which can be a life saver if stuck in a remote location with an inability to move.
  • Goggles are better than glasses if you are in a blizzard or strong winds.
  • Carry an ice axe if venturing anywhere with winter conditions.
  • Hand spikes for ice (more details below).
  • Snowshoes (more details below).

In many scenarios, common sense comes in to play and quite simply, a little extra weight and safety is far better than the alternative. Accept in winter that you will move slower and in a different way.

WHAT OPTIONS EXIST IN WINTER

This question can be asked in two ways, firstly, one’s head can be lowered, shoulders dropped, hands below the waste, a look of desperation on the face and, “What options exist in winter…?” The person asking this question has already decided that the answer is none!

For me, the way to ask this question is standing upright, huge smile on my face and the question, “What options exist in winter?” Already has me ready and primed to list a plethora of activities to keep even the most hardened sport enthusiast occupied for quite some time.

  • Night running.
  • Snow running.
  • Ice running.
  • Road running.
  • Climbing
  • Ice climbing.
  • Hiking
  • Fastpacking
  • Snow shoeing.
  • Learn something new.
  • Spend time with family and friends.

And the list goes on! Location, finances and available time all have a bearing on what is and what is not possible. One thing is for sure, possibilities are endless.

Night Running.

Quite simply, you need your run apparel and appropriate equipment as listed above. Importantly you need a head torch. Not all head torches are the same and an investment in the right kit early on saves money later. If you are running in the city with a great deal of ambient light and just the odd foray on trail, you may well get away with a budget torch and something around 200 lumens would work. However, if you are heading into the pitch black, running in forest, venturing into the mountains and pushing the darkness envelope, you are going to need a specific tool for the job. As an example, Norwegian lighting company Moonlight (here) provide head torches from 700 to 7000 lumens. Be specific on your needs and requirements and importantly consider autonomy, beam direction and spread, options for spare batteries and the option to keep the battery in apparel while still using the head torch, especially important in very cold environment when warmth will make the battery last longer.

Snow Running.

Layer up so that you have the flexibility to reduce heat and get warm as required. In many scenarios, particularly soft snow, a good aggressive trail shoe will work. However, consider the risk of ice so carry micro spikes. If in the mountains, knowledge and experience of snow conditions would be advisable. Be prepared with additional equipment such as poles and ice axe. Needless to say, gloves are really important.

Ice Running.

Use micro spikes for specific shoes as mentioned previously to ensure that you have grip and traction. In some places, Norway and Canada a good example, summer lakes freeze over and they become an incredible playground. Caution, safety and experience is required and if you have never run this way before, take advice from those that have. Importantly run with hand spikes (pictured below) available at all times should a disaster happen – these help you get out of a situation.

  • Measure the ice.
  • What is a safe thickness? 4 inches or more is ideal.
  • Check the ice colour – clear blue or green is good.
  • Fresh ice is best.
  • Know rescue techniques.

Climbing.

Mountains in winter offer an incredible playground and if you are new or inexperienced, the first option would be to sign up for a weekend trip with experienced professionals. The equipment requirements, techniques and safety measures vary considerably.

Ice Climbing.

No need to venture outside. In 2019 as an example, I started on a series of indoor ice climbing lessons which has now set me up for experiencing ice climbing outdoors. There is obviously a need for specific equipment: helmet, glasses, harness, ice axes, boots and crampons. However, most places, indoor or outdoor, offer the option to hire equipment as part of the lessons.

Snow Shoeing.

Fimbulvetr Hikr-X

A great winter exercise that provides an alternative to skiing or snowboarding that is an extension of running. Snowshoes basically allow you to float and not sink in the snow. But there is a difference to snow hiking and snow running, both in the shoe used and the type of snow. Run snowshoes are smaller, allow for a more natural gait and require the snow to be har packed. Whereas in soft snow, you need a much larger snowshoe to stop you sinking in the ground. Either option provides a great challenge and workout. Of course, races exist that require snow running both with and without snowshoes, so, if you are signed up or plan to race like this in the future, seize the opportunity. Abelone Lyng (here), winner of the Ice Ultra does winter snow shoeing trips in Norway.

Fast Packing.

Peak Design Field Pouch attached to a Montane Pack when Fastpacking in Nepal.

Snow, ice and cold weather doesn’t mean that multi-day adventures need to stop, on the contrary. Find a route, plan accordingly, have the correct equipment and off you go. These adventures can involve winter camping (you need a 4-season tent, appropriate matt and sleeping bag) or you can run/ hike form hut-to-hut or hotel-to-hotel. You are only limited by your imagination. Accept that you will move slower. Nepal is a magical playground for winter adventures.

Hiking.

Wrap up and include the family. Sport and our pursuit of it can often be selfish, not purposely, but we can get engrossed in challenge and adventure and often exclude the ones we love. Share the journey.

Training Camp.

Consider a training camp, maybe this could be something in warm weather to break up the winter months. I have been organizing a warm weather camp every January in Lanzarote for over 10-years, info here.

Other options:

  • Sign up for a challenge.
  • Make it social.
  • Add variety.
  • Train in the home.
  • Rest.
  • Learn something new.
  • Enroll in a class.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, don’t letter winter get you in a spiral of mood swings, depression and locked indoors. It’s all about the mind and understanding that the variety winter brings is actually far more exciting and challenging than good weather and dry predictable trails.

Seize the conditions. Plan accordingly. Have the correct equipment. Test yourself with something new and trust me, by the time Spring comes around you may well be a little disappointed.

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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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Lanzarote Training Camp 2020 – Day 7

It was a cloudy day but the anticipated rain never came, thank goodness! In some respect, today was an easier day with just two run sessions and no talks.

But… the day did include the in-famous Volcano Hill Reps.

This kicks off with an easy 5km along the coast and then ideally, 6 repetitions of a loop up and down a volcano. It’s a perfect session that requires strength, running skill, an ability to handle technical terrain, good lungs and at time, nerves of steel.

The climb is approximately 100m up a narrow path of stoney sand. It requires commitment and depending on ability, some strong will and nerve.

The descent is very stoney with lots of loose rock, sand and gravel. As Elisabet Barnes said post the session:

“🌋 Volcano hill reps in a moody landscape was on the menu today. I’ve been nursing a cold so if I’m honest this shot was more a case of posing for the camera 😂🙈, but the others did work hard! 💪💪 I love this session. Some people just fearlessly bang out the reps and thrive on the technical terrain, but for others it’s a huge challenge and they may need to overcome fear of heights, fear of slipping or falling on the technical trail, step outside their comfort zone, and hopefully they leave a little more confident as a result.”

Elisabet nailed it in her words. It was great to see confidence increase along with speed on loops, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Several even did a 7th and even an 8th loop.

Back at Club La Santa, Shane Benzie was doing some one-to-one coaching sessions using his skills to improve running technique.

An extended break for lunch was followed with an ‘easy’ run for all groups to shake out the legs after what has been an intensive block of running.

2021 Training Camp dates and information will be available HERE soon.

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Seven Sisters Skyline 2019 Summary

Kasia Osipowicz and Damian Gielty take victory in the Seven Sisters Skyline, the third race in the 2019 Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series.

Despite a heat wave and glorious sunshine for a week, Ireland was shrouded in mist and light rain for the 2019 edition of the Seven Sisters Skyline. Some did say, ‘It’s Ireland, what did you expect?’ But for the skyrunner’s, the cooler temperatures and light winds were almost certainly preferable to the intense heat of the previous week.

The 50km route is a beast of a race that has very little obvious paths to run along, boggy ground and a great deal of vertical ascent. From the 0700 start, Adam Quinn, Jonny Steede and Damien Gielty dictated the pace opening up a substantial gap by the halfw point from Marek Wojnarowski, Lonan O’Farrell and a string of other close contenders.

The rocky and relentless climb to Muckish providing a challenge for all and it was the end of this section were the runners re-traced and headed via and out and back course, the two significant changes coming at the end with a circumnavigation and climb of Errigal and then a route around the River Clady before finishing in Dunlevy.

Damien Gielty proved too strong for the competition going solo and taking a strong victory in 6:32:56 ahead of Jonny Steede in 6:49:38. Initially it looked like Adam Quinn would place 3rd and after Errigal he held that position. However, he had sustained a serious head wound in a fall and took time out at the final checkpoint before carrying on to place 5th. This opened the doorway for Lonan O’Farrell who rounded the podium in 7:12:04.

For the women, Kasia Osipowicz was head and shoulders ahead of the the other women running the race solo from the start to the finish. Her time 8:42:47 providing her with victory and now the overall female lead in the 2019 Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series. Kasia has shown great consistency placing 2nd in the previous two races in the calendar and now a victory. Her points tally is 260.

Rachael Nolan and Bernadette O’Kane placed 2nd and 3rd, both producing solid and consistent runs to finish in 9:06:51 and 9:17:29.

Post-race, much of the comment was about the toughness and severity of the course. “I loved this course, it suited me with all the wet and boggy terrain,” said Kasia. “The mist kind of worked in my favour, you can’t see what is coming so you put your head down and get on with it. I loved the final climb up to Errigal, it was magical!”

IMAGE GALLERY HERE

The next race on the calendar is Snowdon Skyline in September and importantly, the male and female winners will not only get valuable points for the Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series but they will also be granted entry in the SkyMasters which will take place in Limone, Italy towards the end of October.

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VJ XTRM Shoe Review – VJ Sport

Last year I finally got my hands on a pair of VJ Sport IRock 2 (HERE). I was blown away by pretty much everything about the shoes. The upper, the way they held one’s foot, the durability of the materials used, and the outsole was just incredible – the most amazing grip. The only reservation that I had, was how long I could run in these shoes… They are pretty minimal and although cushioned, the cushioning for me would probably only take me to 3-4 hours of running.

OCR World Champion and Skyrunner World Series Champion, Jonathan Albon, agreed. In some of the longer races, Trofeo Kima for example where the terrain is hard, rocky, muddy, has snow, maybe the odd glacier thrown in and when the male winning time is over 6-hours, although the IRock 2 was perfect on grip, the cushioning made a really long run like this tiring for the feet.

With Jon’s feedback, VJ Sport went back to the drawing board, took all the best elements of the IRock 2 and created a new shoe:

VJ XTRM.

The king is dead, long live the king!

Let me just say in simple terms everything that was brilliant in the IRock 2 has been transferred to the new VJ XTRM and what VJ Sport have done, in my opinion, they have created the most perfect mountain running shoe for when the trails are demanding, rocky and throwing all sorts of variables at the runner.

So, what is new in the VJ XTRM.

  • Two new cushioning units have been added to the front and rear.
  • A full-length RockPlate.
  • A medium last.
  • A little extra room in the toe box.
  • New Fitlock.

As I mentioned, much of the IRock 2 crosses over. For example, the outsole is the amazing Butyl Rubber which for me offers the best grip I have encountered on any mountain shoe. The outsole studs are 6mm which offers a good compromise between grip on muddy/ wet trails and excellent grip on smooth and easy single-track.

At 250g for a standard UK8, the shoe is light and 4mm drop sits in a comfortable middle ground for the zero drop fanatics and those who like a more comfortable and relaxed 8mm drop.

Kevlar and Polyester make the upper and the IRock 2 has been the most durable shoe I have ever used, so, I don’t anticipate the VJ XTRM to be any different. There is also Fiberclass stability control.

THE SHOE

Slipping one’s foot into the VJ XTRM one immediately feels the snug and precision fit. However, the slightly wider toe box is noticeable. Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a wide and spacious toe box, so, if that is what you personally need, this may well be not the shoe for you. Please remember though that this is a specific mountain/ skyrunning shoe that will be used on technical mountainous terrain, so, a shoe for this type of running should be precision.

Pulling the laces tight, the FITLOCK takes hold and provides the most secure and comfortable hold of my foot. It is the best I have tried, no question. The laces are excellent, they pull tight and stay tight.

The upper is a mix of materials and is extremely durable. Although it is too early to comment on longevity of the VJ XTRM upper, the materials and comparisons with the IRock 2 are very close. My IRock 2 have been through everything and are still going strong. The heel box has minimal padding but holds the foot secure and is extremely comfortable. The toe box is well protected and ideal for mountain terrain.

The colours of the upper are a little bright. They wouldn’t be my choice, I certainly loved the red & black combo of the IRock 2, but colours are just colours and after a good muddy run, the colours soon become muted.

Like the IRock 2, the VJ XTRM looks heavy, pick them up and you realise they are not, they are super-light!

The bottom of the shoe is what helps VJ Sport stand out amongst the competition and why they have such a following. The Butyl Rubber they use is the best outsole I have ever tested and on rock terrain, dry or wet, they are the most reassuring footwear ever! The 6mm studs are the same as on the IRock 2 and this is significant, the IRock 2 provided the best grip ever, so, to see this transferred over to the XTRM is superb.

IN USE

The IRock 2 last-year was the best mountain shoe I have ever used. This has now been replaced by the VJ XTRM and for me, moving forward, I would always purchase the VJ XTRM and not the IRock 2. For me, VJ Sport may well have killed the IRock 2 because the VJ XTRM is so good.

 sport

WHY?

To all intents and purposes, the IRock 2 and VJ XTRM are very similar shoes. One difference is 6mm drop for the IRock 2 and 4mm drop for the VJ XTRM, this may be a decision maker for some? However, the new additions to the VJ XTRM just make it a much more versatile shoe without compromising what made the IRock 2 great, no, superb!

  1. The added cushioning doesn’t compromise feel for the ground, control, stability for faster shorter mountain running but what it does allow is more cushioning and comfort for longer runs.
  2. The RockPlate is a no brainier, it is added protection and added comfort for little to no additional weight.
  3. The new Fitlock holds the foot as well, if not better than the Fitlock on the IRock 2.
  4. The toe box has been widened to allow for a little more room and toe splay when running longer but not at the compromise of precision and feel.
  5. The upper is as the IRock 2 with Kevlar and outstanding durability.
  6. The outsole is the same, 6mm studs in the amazing Butyl Rubber.

The additions make the VJ XTRM the perfect all-round mountain shoe be that for short or long outings. Whereas, the IRock 2 was a shoe that I personally would not want to be out in for much longer than 4-hours.

SUMMARY

This is the best mountain running shoe I have ever used. For skyrunning, it is THE perfect shoe and for me, all other shoes that I test for that intended use will be compared to the VJ XTRM. Jonathan Albon’s influence can be felt in this shoe and I am sure his feedback with VJ Sport has been paramount in retaining all that was brilliant in the IRock 2 and then tweaking it to add what Jonathan and many other runners wanted; more cushioning, a RockPlate and a slightly wider toe box.

I personally am unable to find any negatives.

Obviously, the Butyl Rubber outsole works so well because it is soft and grippy, so, if you start running on roads and pavements, be aware, the outsole won’t last.

But the VJ XTRM is a formula 1 shoe and not a Ford Escort or similar. Maybe the VJ XTRM should make an appearance for those special runs or races?

However, if you are like me, I think the shoes are so awesome that if I am going to run anything technical, wet or dry, I want these shoes on my feet.

VJ SPORT website

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Ultra Mirage© El Djerid #UMED 2018 Race Package

Join Marathon des Sables champions, Rachid El Morabity, Elisabet Barnes and the Ultra Mirage© El Djerid 2017 champion, Mohamed El Morabity for the ultimate 100km desert experience. Soft sand, rocks, small dunes, dried river beds, oasis and a multitude of soft-sand, Ultra Mirage© El Djerid is a single-stage race to test the minds and legs of runners who are looking for a new adventure.

The Ultra Mirage© El Djerid (UMED) is the first 100km Ultra Trail taking place in the stunning Tunisian Sahara Desert. A 20-hour time limit, five checkpoints, medical and technical help to ensure safety, the UMED is open to all runners. Importantly for the fleet of foot, prize money is available totaling 10.000 euros split equally between the male and female fields.

Rachid running at the 2017 MDS Peru which he won.

Tunisia and in particular the area of the Djerid was the background of famous movies including Star Wars and the English Patient just to name a few. The diversity and the beauty of the Djerid makes it a major attraction for tourists from all around the world. Tozeur is the main city of this area, it is very well known for its stunning surroundings with a mixture of Rocky Mountains, valleys, salt lakes and desert dunes and most of all for the generosity of its people.

Elisabet Barnes at the 2017 Marathon des Sables.

“Ultra Mirage© El Djerid 100K’s first edition was full of emotions! It was one of those moments where total strangers gather in a single event to release the best humanity has to offer: friendship, kindness, camaraderie, sport, courage, endurance, perseverance, love, compassion, respect, just to name a few, and all of that in the most amazing surrounding of the Sahara Desert! For 2018, we are looking to build on that outstanding success, organizing a race which will be bigger on all fronts, from the number of runners which should top 300, to a more diverse path and scenery! Hope to see you at the starting line on the 29th of September 2018!!” Amir Ben Gacem, Race Director.

The race will take place on September 29th 2018, and a special package price has been arranged for 350 euro:

  • Domestic flights from Tunis
  • Ground transport
  • 2 nights’ accommodation in a 4* hotel
  • Race entry
  • Race Shirt, cap, bag, medal and certificate

It’s an incredible package at a stunning price. Runners expected to fly into Tunis Carthage Airport (connected to all major European cities) at their own cost. Departure will be on Friday 28th September from Tunis to Tozeur international airport. Return on Sunday 30th September late afternoon.

Planning schedule:

Friday 28th September

16:00 Meeting at Tunis-Carthage Airport

17:30 Departure to Tozeur

18:40 Arrival at Tozeur-Nefta Airport

18:45 Transfer to Hotel

19:00 Check-in / Dinner / Race Briefing

 

Saturday 29th September

05:00 Breakfast opens

05:45 Departure to start line by bus

06:00 Last bus departs

06:30 Arrival at start line / Ultra Mirage village

07:00 Race starts

 

Shuttle buses will assure runners transfer from Ultra Mirage village to hotel every hour.

 

Sunday 30th September

03:00 Race finish

06:00 Breakfast opens

11:00 Closing ceremony

14:00 Transfer to Tozeur-Nefta Airport

16:00 Departure to Tunis

17:10 Arrival at Tunis-Carthage Airport

 

WIN A FREE PLACE

In conjunction with Amir Ben Gacem and Ultra Mirage© El Djerid we are offering readers of this website and listeners to Talk Ultra podcast the opportunity to win a 350-euro package place.

The winner will need to cover return costs to Tunis.

QUESTION:

Name the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie?

Race Information and entry

Race website HERE

Enter the race HERE

Facebook page HERE

TRAIL TALON 250 and TRAIL TALON 275 by inov-8 – SHOE REVIEW

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06494

The Race Ultra when first released by inov-8 turned heads. It was certainly a departure for the brand who had built a history and reputation for out-and-out fell running shoes. For the brand to release a shoe that appealed specifically to the ‘ultra’ market was an interesting move.

I have to say, the first incarnation of the shoe was pleasing to look at and although it gained rave reviews, I didn’t like it. It felt sloppy, lacked feel and in all honesty, it was a shoe I didn’t want to use.

The second incarnation was a huge improvement and it has become a regular shoe for me when running long on flat, relatively un-technical and non-muddy trail. It was a shoe that proved hugely popular at races such as Marathon des Sables for example and the combination of two options, 4mm and 8mm drop; the Race Ultra suddenly became a really popular shoe.

I was therefore somewhat surprised when inov-8 told me that the Race Ultra 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) are no longer in the range as of AW16. Really?

I have had many emails from runners in the community expressing a concern about this. Yes, the Race Ultra really has become ‘that’ popular and as such, many are asking, but what shoe an I know going to wear?

Take a breath, take out your credit card and go and order yourself a pair of TRAIL TALON 275 (8mm drop) or TRAIL TALON 250 (4mm drop).

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon275-06476

©iancorless.com_inov8_TrailTalon250-06497

Yes, folks, stop worrying, the new TRAIL TALON is all that the Race Ultra was and so much more.

I could actually stop the review there as I have very little negatives to say about the shoes. Yes, both really are that good. But I know you have a need for more information so here goes.

In brief, the TRAIL TALON offering in either 275 or 250 versions directly relates to the 270 or 290 versions of the RACE ULTRA. So first off, think about if you need or prefer 4mm or 8mm drop shoes (or both). The plus side from the off, is the two new TRAIL TALONS are offering weight savings over the previous models: 15g +/- for the 8mm drop and 20g +/- for the 4mm drop. For reference, inov-8 always refers to the weight of the shoe in the name, so, a TRAIL TALON 250 will weight 250g+/- in a standard UK8.

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Both the TRAIL TALON 275 and 250 shoes use the same standard fit last as the RACE ULTRA but they both offer improved grip with deeper cleats and better cleat configuration. It’s a marginal improvement and don’t start to think that the new shoe will now handle more mud – they won’t. The TRAIL TALON is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.

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Tthe TRAIL TALON has a wide ‘standard fit’ toe boxbut I don’t think it is as wide as the RACE ULTRA?. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model. When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, they have room to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased in ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. For me, this can be where some compromise comes in with the TRAIL TALON, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain the shoes excel but if the terrain becomes technical and inconsistent, I find my foot moves a little within the shoe due to the wider fit. This is not a criticism of the shoe, what I am saying is (as I always say) is that it is rare that one shoe can do all things well. For technical running I prefer a precision fit.

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A notable difference is the new POWERFLOW midsole for a more cushioned ride. Both the 250 and 275 feel more cushioned. In particular, the 275 feels super cushioned, almost a little ‘too’ cushioned at times and I think this is where the most notable difference will come for RACE ULTRA fans. You will either prefer the additional cushioning or not. On my first runs in the 275 I noticed the cushioning over the RACE ULTRA. To confirm my thoughts, I went back out for a run in the RACE ULTRA and yes, the new shoe has more cushioning and it feels that way too. This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long distance shoe. Of course it’s all relative, the 4mm drop 250 has less cushioning than the 8mm drop 275. For many of you this will not be an issue as you will either run in 4mm or 8mm drop shoes. This is not the case for me, I often and regularly switch between 4mm and 8mm drop shoes. If I am running for 30mins, 60mins or even 2-3 hours I can happily run in 4mm drop and still retain good form. However, if I am going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, I will always go 8mm drop. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 275 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.

I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON has more cushioning and better mid-foot comfort.

When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 275 I had less ‘feel’ for the ground due to the additional cushioning but this proved a real bonus for longer sessions and when the ground became more irregular. The 250 version with lower drop and less cushioning in comparison to the 8mm drop version felt really sweet on all runs.

Both shoes, 4mm or 8mm drop definitely provided more feel, better cushioning and more ‘return’ when running than the RACE ULTRA.

Like the 290 and 270 RACE ULTRA’s the TRAIL TALON will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.

RACEULTRAGAITER

Two huge improvements for me come with the lacing system on the 275 and a gusseted tongue on both the 250 and 275. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense. I don’t know why it isn’t standard on all run shoes. It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.

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The lacing on the TRAIL TALON is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the font to swell within the shoe. In the past, I have had issues with inov-8 lacing and I have had to use a ‘lock lacing’ technique to feel secure in the shoe. Not know, this lacing method works.

Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. Keeping in mind the intended use of the shoe, it’s fit for purpose. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.

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Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON is not intended for this type of terrain. The 4mm deep studs work great on all dry trail, rocks and yes road. When wet, the grip is also good. Ultimately, the TRAIL TALON would be a great ‘all-rounder’ for most runs. If you are heading to the fells, a muddy trail run, or mountains with mixed/wet trail then choose a different shoe.

Finally, RACE ULTRA fans are going to be really happy with the TRAIL TALON. I have found it difficult to really find any negatives. The only negative (and it’s not really a negative) is that some of you may find the new incarnation a little ‘too’ cushioned. Sizing is true to size and relates directly to the Race Ultra.

As per usual, inov-8 have created two ‘visually’ appealing shoes with great colours and styling.

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Drop is personal and for me, 8mm drop is the sweet spot in run shoes and is my ‘go to’ drop for any run. If you prefer a lower drop, then you will be happy with the 250 and 4mm version. If you can afford two pairs of shoes, I really recommend the 250 for shorter and/ or faster runs.

This TRAIL TALON is a winner and is now one of three shoes that I choose on a daily basis, the other two shoes for comparison are The North Face Ultra Endurance and the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.

Specs from inov-8

DFB

The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) mimics the ‘Windlass Effect’ delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to move faster and more efficiently

STANDARD FIT 

Our standard fit offers a close-fitting heel that locks the shoe in position, while a wider toe box allows the toes to splay when running naturally or lifting weights. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and athletes using the product for long sessions.

ARROW 

Arrows refer to drop, 1 arrow = 4mm, 2 arrow – 8mm

Glen Coe Skyline™ – Skyrunning comes to Scotland

Glencoe-Skyline

Skyrunning will be coming to Scotland in 2015 with a world-class course based around Glen Coe. Aptly named the ‘Glen Coe Skyline™’ this race has already caused a storm of speculation as rumours of its launch swept through the mountain running community earlier this year.

The provisional route starts at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and, via the West Highland Way, reaches and ascends Buachaille. A full traverse of Bidean nam Bian ensues before dropping down into Glen Coe to then climb up to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. There is then an extended traverse of the entire Aonach Eagach ridge, before rejoining the West Highland Way and descending into Glen Coe Pass via the Devil’s Staircase and returning to Glencoe Mountain Resort. The provisional route statistics are approximately 45km with 4500m of ascent.

As many experienced hill walkers and climbers have pointed out, this route covers some of the most challenging mountain terrain in the UK with long sections of exposed and serious Moderate standard rock climbing. 

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Shane Ohly

Race Director Shane Ohly explained:

 “I am not trying to create another fell or trail race, but bring to the UK World class Skyrunning and a course that has World class challenges. It is not meant to be easy, and a course of this caliber has inherent risk. We are not creating another mass participation running event, rather, a world-class course for experienced and competent participants. The Glen Coe Skyline™ is a fusion of mountain running and alpinism where competitors need to be skilled at both disciplines to negotiate the course.” 

Indeed, there has been a hotly debated forum thread about the Glen Coe Skyline™ on the popular UKClimbing / UKHillWalking website, and in response, Ohly has provided a detailed Q&A about the race, which is available HERE.

http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=7189

Leading British Skyrunners were quick to endorse the route with Tom Owens from the Salomon International Team saying,

 “Wow – This will be a seriously brilliant and challenging route,” whilst teammate Any Symonds said, “Excellent! Glen Coe Skyline. Couldn’t get much of a better setting and route for a Sky Race in the UK.”

Ohly continued, “The Glen Coe Skyline™ follows in the finest tradition of the most prestigious Skyrunning races and competing on such challenging and technical terrain is not without precedent.” 

For an event that has not even happened, the Glen Coe Skyline™ is already one the most talked about races on the UK calendar and it is clearly challenging many observers’ perceptions of what mountain running is.

Ian Corless from Skyrunning UK provided further context to the race, “The UK may lack high mountains but we have unique terrain and what we lack in altitude can be compensated for with challenging routes as we have seen at the V3K and the Mourne Skyline MTR. The Glen Coe Skyline™ however takes Skyrunning UK to the next level! Having experienced the iconic Trofeo Kimain Italy in 2012 and 2014, I was inspired to extend that experience to a UK and worldwide audience but on UK soil. Shane Ohly and his team have put my dream into reality. The Glen CoeSkyline™ will arguably be the toughest race in the UK and takes it inspiration from the Skyrunner World Series races such as the Dolomites, Zegama-Aizkorri and Tromso SkyRace’s®. The Glen Coe Skyline™ will not be for everyone though; it is a challenging race over a tough and technical course. It harks back to Marino Giacometti’s vision of Skyrunning that was created on the slopes of Monte Rosa in the late 80’s.” 

The organisers have been careful to consider the impact the race may have on other recreational users of Glen Coe and have been working with the National Trust for Scotland who are the major landowner.

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Gary Tompsett

Rebecca Amiel, Individual Giving Manager, from the National Trust for Scotland said “We are delighted to be involved in Scotland’s first skyrunning event at Glencoe.  We look forward to welcoming participants who may never have visited Glencoe to take in its beauty as they complete this challenging event. The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity and relies on membership and donations to care for these wonderful places.  The magnificent landscape of Glencoe is loved by so many, yet cared for by so few which is why it’s so important to raise the profile of our conservation work. Find out more about the Footpath Fund and mountain conservation at www.footpathfund.org.uk

Ohly added, “Each year Ourea Events™ (the company organising the Glen Coe Skyline™) donates 1% of its total income to charitable environmental organisations at the forefront of the protection of the mountain environment. The business has been a member of 1% of the Planet since day one because, whilst we always seek to mitigate our environmental impact, we understand that we do still have some form of impact, but our policies over the years have given some very attributable payback”.

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Entries will open at 9pm on Monday 13th April 2015

 

For further Information about:

Ourea Events visit www.OureaEvents.com or contact Shane Ohly on 07771516962 or ShaneOhly@OureaEvents.com

Glen Coe Skyline visit www.GlenCoeSkyline.com

SkyrunningUK visit http://skyrunninguk.com or contact Ian Corless on 07725813457 or iancorless@mac.com

 

Key Event Information

Website: www.GlenCoeSkyline.com

Date: Saturday 22nd August 2015

Venue: Glencoe Mountain Resort, Scotland

Entries Open: Monday 13th April 2015

Courses: 45km with 4,500m ascent (TBC)

The North Face Single Track Hayasa

TNF Single Track Hayasa

Fresh out of the box, The North FaceSingle Track Hayasa‘. I am a real fan of TNF products, the ‘Flight Series‘ in particular offers a great range of products that transfer to so many disciplines. Light, functional, well fitting, breathable and ultimately great quality. It’s nice to remove them from the packaging, put them on knowing that they will do the job.

In regard to run shoes, The North Face I guess are still ‘newbies’ and in the past they have received mixed reviews about the footwear they have created. I have to say I had the original ‘Single Track’, you know, the really great looking shoe… black, red & white. Not only did it look good but it felt good.

The ‘Single Track Hayasa‘ is a shoe designed for speed. Greatly influenced by TNF athlete  Tsuyoshi Kaburaki from Japan, Hayasa actually means ‘Speed’ in Japenese.

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki

It is a shoe ready for racing and as such sits low to the ground with a 10mm heel to toe drop (8mm toe /18mm heel). Weighing in at just over 8 oz for such a lightweight shoe protection has not been compromised.

At the front of the shoe we have a puncture resistant toe cap and on the tip of the shoe, you do have additional rigidity. This will add some protection from kicking rocks etc. But in real terms and in comparison to other brands the toe bumper is relatively small. When we move to the rest of the upper, we can see that there is basically a lot of mesh. The shoe will drain really well and breathability will be excellent as you might expect.

TNF Single Track

Seams are extremely low in the upper and the TNF have used welded seams. The lace loops attach to an internal cage (see the silver/white). This fabric is on both sides of the shoe. When you lace up, it pulls on the fabric in and it wraps around your foot to create support.

The shoe when on with laces adjusted feels very snug and the tongue is gusseted and attached to the upper. It is very padded and in conjunction with a plush heel box the shoe is a pleasure to wear.

The toe box is wide and has plenty of room. Maybe too much room for some so it would be wise to check on sizing to ensure that you get the correct feel. I personally went a half size larger but I do wonder if I may well have been better going ‘true to size’.

TNF Hayasa

Starting just behind the toes and going to the back of the shoe is the ‘Snake Plate‘ (green). The snake plate is an alternative method to the standard ‘rock plate’ that you find in many trail shoes. Instead of one large plate, as the name suggests this one snakes in and out. The idea being increased flexibility. Ultimately, protection and flexibility combined that also means a saving in overall weight. The rear of the shoe has a ‘cradle‘. The cradle is created, like a bucket I guess for your foot to sit in. It provides stability and security. I have to say this is one key feature I initially like. Just walking around you immediately notice a firm hold.

Without doubt a neutral shoe with a 10mm drop. You have 8mm of foam at the front and 18mm at the rear of the shoe. In this ‘low drop’ and ‘minimalist’ environment 10mm may very well be snubbed by many but this shoe sits low to the ground and as such provides a very natural feel with protection and cushioning.

My initial concerns with this shoe are with the outsole. It has low profile lug which is ideal for road, hard pack trail and/ or rocky trail but in any mud they will be pretty much useless.  The front of the shoe has directional grip so when going uphill you have traction as and when required. In the heel the lugs are reverse facing which will add grip when going downhill (if required). The middle of the sole is void of grip.

Testing?

Well, that is to come.

I have been provided with these shoes to test in a Jungle environment so please keep an eye on my blog for an update in February. Until then I will be running on some road, hard trail and even some mud to see how the Hayasa perform before heading deep into a rainforest…

SPECS

Upper:

  • Lightweight, minimal upper construction
  • TPUwelded support overlays
  • Lightly protective toe cap
  • Perforated EVA Northotic™ footbed

Bottom:

  • TPU and EVA CRADLE™ heel-cushioning and stability technology
  • 18 mm/8 mm heel/forefoot heights
  • Dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsol
  • Blown rubber forefoot
  • High-abrasion rubber heel
  • TPU Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

Shoe Technologies:

NorthFit: The mission of NorthFit™ is to scientifically provide the outdoor athlete with the most precise fit between the human foot and a footwear last, as they both relate to the demands of the specific activity for which the shoe is worn

Snake Plate: The Snake Plate™ consists of a plate that winds back and forth in the forefoot, allowing the foot to flex in a natural manner while delivering protection and rigidity.

Northotic: Biomechanically engineered Northotic™: The North Face® has taken the conventional footbed and elevated it to a superior level with enhanced stability, support and cushioning.

Cradle: The North Face® CRADLE™ technology is engineered to naturally absorb impact, stabilise the foot and promote an anatomically correct stride by supporting the perimeter of the heel and ensuring the fatty tissues under the bursa are biomechanically positioned. CRADLE™ achieves the perfect balance of protection, control and comfort to inspire confidence for any foot on any terrain.

Tenacious Grip: Tenacious™ Grip is a high-abrasion, sticky rubber designed for maximum off-trail traction that will also withstand the rigors of rough off-trail surfaces.

X-Dome: X-Dome™ functions as a heel-cushioning and propulsion mechanism that propels the foot from heel-strike into the subsequent stride stages.