adidas Terrex Agravic Boa Shoe Review

adidas have been making Terrex shoes for years and Luis Alberto Hernando has been flying the adidas flag for most of them. It’s fair to say, that a runner such as Luis always gave the Terrex brand credibility.

However, I always felt he was a lonely figure fighting the big brands and teams from Salomon, The North Face, La Sportiva, Scott and so on!

Well, that is all changing. adidas with the Terrex brand are moving in to the trail world in a big way. Certainly Dmitry Mityaev and Ekaterina Mityaeva were the start of that process. Then Timothy Olson. Now, with the closing of 2018 and the start of 2019, Tom Evans, Holly Page, Sheila Avilés and many more are joining the line-up.

Listen to Tom Evans talk about his 3rd place at Western States HERE

 

I witnessed adidas’ plans at the recent Infinite Trails (here) in Austria and here did I not only get to see and try the new apparel, I also got to see some of the new shoes.

One of those shoes being the Terrex Agravic Boa. I was intrigued with this shoe as my initial test/ use of a previous adidas Boa shoe left me somewhat unconvinced.

I spent time at the Boa® stand (at the Infinite Trails expo), discussed the development of the Boa system and got a hands-on- feel of the Agravic. The development was marked but I couldn’t try the shoe as sizes were limited. Gladly that was rectified when Boa sent me a pair in the post.

First off, I love the look of the shoe is stealth black. This broken by a  camouflage black/grey/white section before the stark white of the shoes Boost cushioning. The black colour comes from a special dye process (see below) that is more ecologically sound.

They are light shoes with a wide toe box, reinforced toe protection and then a complex series of overlays that give the shoe structure which is all pulled together by the Boa® lacing system.

A notable feature is the shoes sock liner. This is arguably the most immediately comfortable shoes I have slipped on. One could easily use these shoes without socks the liner is so good. It is completely seamless so the risk to rubbing/ abrasion is greatly reduced. This also extends to the heal – a firm hold without rubbing is a winner.

Cushioning comes from adidas Boost technology and one can feel adidas’ road pedigree in these shoes. The cushioning is plush and responsive with 15mm at the front and 22mm at the rear. This gives an unusual 7mm drop. I say unusual as 6mm or 8mm is ‘standard’ in shoe drop across all brands.

The outsole is the amazing Continental rubber. The tread is by no means aggressive and this is certainly a trail shoe designed for fast running on non-muddy trails. But on hardpack trail and rocks, wet or  dry, the grip is excellent. I must add here that in my cycling days, Continental were always my tires of choice!

Specs:

  • Sock-like construction hugs the foot
  • Weight: 285 g (size UK 8.5)
  • Midsole drop: 7 mm (heel 22 mm / forefoot 15 mm)
  • Product colour: Core Black / Cloud White / Active Red
  • Regular fit
  • Boa® Closure System for micro-adjustment and secure and consistent hold
  • Abrasion-resistant textile upper
  • Continental™ Rubber outsole for extraordinary traction in wet and dry conditions
  • Responsive Boost midsole; Moulded sockliner

IN USE

These shoes are wonderfully comfortable. They feel so good as soon as you slip them on and this all comes from the sock liner. There is an immediate notable feel that the toe box is wide and spacious allowing for good toe splay. So, if you need wide trail shoes, add the Agravic to your check-out list.

My previous adidas Terrex shoes left me undecided or should I say, unconvinced by the Boa closure system. Have to say, the Terrex Agravic Boa® has changed that. The Boa® works great here and that is for two reasons:

  1. The adidas shoe is a much better fit and therefore this makes the work of the Boa® so much easier.
  2. The overlays that add structure are well placed and designed allowing the Boa® to pull tight, hold the foot and keep it secure.

I am experienced with the Boa® system, it has been the ‘go to’ on cycling shoes for years and my first experience with run shoes was way back in 2008, I think?

There will always be an argument that laces are easier, and yes, laces do a great job and it’s hard to argue against the tried and tested method. But the Boa® here has me hooked. Speed both on and off is great. Quite simply slide the shoe on, push ‘in’ the Boa button and turn. The laces pull tight and continue to pull tight until you stop. To loosen, pull the Boa® button and voila, the laces release immediately.

I had problems before getting a firm hold on my foot. Not here. The shoes have three lace points on left and three lace points on the right. As you tighten, they pull in. I really like my foot to be held well, especially on technical terrain and here in this Terrex Agravic Boa® I am very happy.

Toe box is roomy, but not too roomy. They are very comfortable upfront and the toe protection is adequate with a good bumper.

Boost cushioning is popular the world over and here one can really feel the plush comfort from adidas’ technology. The cushioning is in two sections : the camouflage section and the white section. I have to say, these are the most ‘road like’ trail shoes I have run in. On hard trail they just bounce along giving a great feel for the ground. It may come as no surprise, road miles are super comfy and I’d have no hesitation to run a road training session or race in these. The outsole may not thank me though!

The outsole by Continental is superb offering great grip and feel, wet or dry, on hard trails and rocks. The outsole is not aggressive though, so forget mud!

SUMMARY

The Terrex Agravic Boa® is a really great trail shoe for those looking for great comfort, cushioning, 7mm drop and a roomy toe box. It’s the type of shoe you can slip on and spend all day in without ever thinking about foot comfort.

Stand out features :

  • The sock liner – darn it is so comfortable.
  • The Continental outsole.
  • The Boost cushioning.
  • The shoe design, particularly in the overlays that hold the foot.
  • And yes, the Boa® system really shines here. For me, it’s a turning point (pun intended) that convinces me that I would happily use these shoes and this system on a regular basis. My laces never came lose. Adjusting on the go was quick and fast – faster than any other lacing system. But importantly my foot was held secure and tight when I needed it.

The shoe is for everyday trail running and happily takes road too. It’s not a shoe for mud, but that is obvious when one looks at the outsole.

This is a great adidas shoe and I am in no doubt that shoe has benefited from feedback from the ‘elite’ adidas Terrex team. It’s an exciting time to see what else adidas have in the line-up for 2019 and 2020.

adidas TERREX HERE

Terrex Agravic Boa HERE

BOA® HERE

adidas Terrex Agravic Boa information:

  • Boa® Fit System adjusts on the go. Sock construction keeps feet snug and comfortable.
  • Boost cushioning for mountain ready energy. All-day comfort on the fastest trails.
  • Continental™ Rubber outsole takes hold, even in wet conditions.
  • Dope dye colouring process saves at least 10 litres of water per product. Dope Dye is a coloring process which uses an innovative twist in manufacturing to conserve water and energy. By injecting color directly into raw materials, the Dope Dye process substantially reduces the eco-footprint of manufacturing, saving at least 10 liters of water for every pair of Dope Dye shoes made. The fibers and filaments are fully impregnated with pigment at the very beginning of the manufacturing process. Starting form a deep black raw material means there is no need to dye the product: less water, fewer chemicals and less energy are needed.

Top Tips To Better Multi-Day Running

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Is the last edition of the Marathon des Sables always the toughest? It would appear so? You always hear as the race concludes, ‘Wow, that was the toughest race ever!’

Of course many variables come into play when one says it’s the toughest. First and foremost, you most certainly need to have done at least one other edition to be able to compare, but in truth, multiple editions or experiences must count to be able to claim any edition of a race as a toughest. Also, age, fitness, condition, state of mind and so many other variables impact on a decision. It’s not always easy to be ©iancorless.com_MDS2016-2441objective. I have often considered myself to be fit going into a race, only to find that my fitness is not where I thought it was and therefore a race has appeared harder! Truth is, the race was the same, it’s just that I wasn’t up for it. Let’s be clear, I’m not providing excuses, on the contrary, I am trying to provide perspective.

I’ve been at the MDS for the past 4-years, not as a runner (although I have 30-years of experience) but as a photographer and journalist. I like being on this side of the camera, for sure, there are days when I look at the race (or any race) and I wish that were me, once again fighting the terrain and fatigue to achieve a goal. My goals have now changed and as my good friend and photographer (who sadly has passed away) Mark Gillet used to say, ‘I sometimes think it’s harder working on the race than running it! Perspective once again…

I actually don’t agree with Mark, working on the MDS or any multi-day race is hard, stressful and the long 18-20 hour days do have an impact. Yes, I get out on the course and cover the terrain on foot but I get to change my clothes, I get to eat two times a day and although I sleep in a bivouac, it does usually have sides to it which blocks out the wind.

So with the 31st MDS in the bag, I wanted to reflect on the race and provide an objective overview from the outside looking in of what I consider worked and what didn’t work at MDS and provide some key pointers that anyone can take away and apply for a future MDS or other multi-day race. I must stress, these are my thoughts and on some points you will agree and on other points you won’t. That’s ok! It’s called opinion and we are all entitled to one.

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First of all though, lets answer that burning question, ‘Was the 2016 Marathon des Sables ever?’

No!

It was a tough one for sure, it ranks with the toughest but I don’t really think anyone can hand on heart say that any one edition is the toughest.

Each year, Patrick Bauer and his team work a little Sahara magic and as many MDS runners who have participated in previous editions will tell you, the race always covers some familiar terrain. It’s the nature of the Sahara and the complex route of access trails dictate where the race can go and where it can’t due to the huge convoy of vehicles that daily move the ‘circus’ from one place to the next. For example, the 2016 route had much of the 2014 route but in a nod to the tough course, the 2014 route was also considered a tough one with a very big drop out rate on day one.

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Having said all of the above, the 31st edition was a serious toughie and here is why:

Day 1 kicked of with the huge Mezouga dunes that are tough for any runner, even experienced ones. The day also concluded with a tough section of dunes but to add to the difficulty and complexity, midway during the stage winds increased and increased causing severe sandstorms that hampered navigation, onward progress and resulted with a chunk of DNF’s and those who finished were left exhausted.
At 257km, the race was the longest edition ever making all stages close to marathon distance. This impacts greatly on every runner as recovery time is reduced. The long day was not as long as many anticipated at 84km, especially after the 30th edition 90+km day. However, the long day was a tough one with plenty of climbing and loads of soft sand. The final charity day is usually a jog to the line and a way to exit the Sahara and get back to the buses, this year, the charity stage was 17km – too long!
Sand, sand and more sand. I know it’s the Sahara and therefore one would expect sand to be everywhere but in reality, MDS usually only has around about 30% soft sand. This year it was considerably more and that impacted on everyone.
Wind came and went but it’s impact on the racing and bivouac life was notable.
Temperatures rose just in time for the long day and then stayed very high for the remainder of the race.
Day 2 dropout rate was very high which reflected a tough stage but also the knock-on effects from a very tough day 1.
The overall drop out race once the race concluded was over 10%, a sure sign of a tough edition of the MDS.

There you have it, some solid points on why the 31st edition was a tough one and of the many runners who completed the race, I am sure they could add so many more points to my brief synopsis above.

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OVERVIEW©iancorless.com_MDS2016-8488

It’s funny how everyone is now looking to 2017 and the 32nd edition of the race. Questions are being asked – what, how, why, should I, can I, will I and so on…

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MDS is not complicated:
Let’s get one thing clear, Marathon des Sables is a simple race that is over complicated by too much information and too many people saying WHAT SHOULD be done. Let’s hark back to Patrick Bauer’s pioneering days and simplify the process of running the MDS. I interviewed and chatted with many runners in bivouac who had done just that, they had applied simple logic and worked out what would work for them. Yes, they had taken advice, looked at websites, processed information but importantly they had found out what worked for them. They realised early on that they were an individual and as such, they needed a personal approach to MDS and not a generic one. When you break the race down, key things are really important:

Pack – must fit, have enough room (but not too much) for all your equipment and provide easy access to fluid and you must make sure that your numbers are visible as per race rules.
Sleeping bag – lightweight, packs small and warm enough. I would always recommend a sleeping bag and jacket as opposed to a ‘combi’ as it offers more flexibility, reduced weight and reduced pack size. Popular sleeping bags this year were PHD, Yeti and OMM. There is a review on my website that compares all three. The Raidlight Combi was also popular, certainly with a small selection of the British contingent; it worked well and those who used it were happy – all about what works for you!
Clothes – you just need what you will run in. However, a spare pair of socks was commonplace and many runners had one or all of the following: a warm base layer, a lightweight down jacket or waist coat, buff and many had lightweight pants.
Sleeping Matt – It’s an optional one but a good nights sleep is important and those who hadn’t taken one were wishing they had in most scenarios. Two options exist – inflatable and roll out solid foam. The choice is yours. The inflatable ones offer more comfort, more flexibility in packing but with poor admin, you do run the risk of a puncture. I’ve used inflatable for the past 4-years with no issue. A solid foam Matt will last the week with no risks of problems but they roll large and need to sit outside the pack.

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Shoes and Gaiters – Shoes (more below) are personal, just make sure they have a good fit, appropriate drop for your needs and and suit your run style with enough durability for you. I say ‘you’ because Rachid El Morabity will complete the whole race in 21-hours whereas most people won’t even do just the long day in that time – his shoe shoe choice will and can be very different to what most of us need! Get your Velcro sewn on your shoes and make sure that when you get the shoes back the fit has not been altered. Plan in advance, don’t leave this to the last few weeks.

©iancorless.com_MDS2016-2288Food – You need a minimum amount of calories per day specified in the race rules and how those calories are made up are up to you. This for many is a difficult one. It raises many questions and yes, it’s good to find out what other people do and use but ultimately, YOU have to eat it. The decision to use a stove is another question mark but it would appear that most runners like that hot water option. Remember though, you can make a fire from twigs, shrub and branches that surround bivouac. Also note here that food choices and what you eat during running varies greatly depending on how fast you run. For example, the top runners are done and dusted on the marathon stage in 3-4 hours and they are using carbohydrate as a fuel, they therefore can get away with 1-2 gels. If however, a typical day for you will be 6, 7, 8, 9 or even longer, gels are not going to be a good choice. Fat and real food are going to be essential. Understand this now and you can start making the necessary adaptations in training so that food choices will work for you. Training on limited calories and getting fat adapted is a key element for a successful MDS for many runners. Food is also the heaviest and most bulky thing you will carry, think about repacking in smaller packs and making everything as small as possible.

©iancorless.com_MDS2016_Day0_0003Water and Salt Tablets – These are provided by the race and it’s easy really, take the tablets as recommended and drink the water. Dehydration in 2016 once again was a huge issue.

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Feet – Look after them, along with dehydration, blistered and damaged feet are a key reason for failure in any multi-day race.

Extras – Mandatory kit is as one would expect, mandatory! So purchase what is on the list. You can save weight by shopping around. Simple rule; the lighter and smaller, the more expensive it will be! Optional extras are very personal and my advice would be take nothing extra other than a MP3 player and earphones. The Apple iPod Shuffle is super small, super lightweight and holds plenty of music for MDS (you can even take two). They cost about £40 and music may well just pull you through when the going gets tough. Anything else is a waste in my opinion. Embrace the isolation, embrace a simple life and you will find you have a new perspective at the end of the race.

Hints and Tips to make your race better

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You:
You signed up for the challenge, you wanted to be on the start line and therefore you are responsible for the outcome. Believe me, the you that leaves the Sahara is not the same you that entered. Arguably, you change the moment you pay the deposit, the transformation process begins. Embrace the journey and apply yourself. Most of us can loose a little weight and believe me, pounds shed in training make the race easier. Pointless striving for a 6.5kg pack and then to be carrying an extra 2, 3, 4 or more kg on your body. But keep perspective, the MDS journey is an enhancement of you as a person. It’s easy to become obsessed, ultimately the majority of runners at MDS are enthusiasts, if you keep that in mind the journey will be a complete one.

Training:
Plan ahead, formulate a long term plan and don’t rush. The sooner you start this process, the greater your chance of success and the less chance of injury. Plan stepping stone races and don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to run marathons day-in and day-out. You don’t! Training is about ALL the training you do and not about anyone run.

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Walking:
If we exclude the top 50-100 runners (who also walked) the majority of the 1000 strong field spend a huge amount of time walking. Learn to walk! Believe me, it’s a huge tick in the MDS box and rest assured that if you are able to walk at a good consistent pace (barring injury or dehydration) you will finish MDS. The 31st edition at times (from my perspective) seemed almost like a walking race and this can directly be attributed to more soft sand and longer days. Countless runners I spoke to said, ‘If only I had walked more. I trained to run and now I am here, I am finding that running is a luxury.’

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Poles:
If you are looking to race MDS, figure in the top 100 and are able to run in ‘most’ scenarios, poles will not help your MDS experience. However, once we get out of the top-100 and in particular, once you start to look at the mid to back of the pack, poles may well provide a huge advantage. They provide stability, momentum, drive and in soft sand, they are a little like 4-wheel drive. My recommendation would be try training sessions with and without poles and see what works for you. Don’t get poles 3-4 weeks before a race and think it will be okay… Poles require technique and yes, they will impact on your shoulder, arms and neck. In 31st edition with so much soft sand, poles were a god send for many. They are like Marmite though, some love them, others hate them. For me, they are something I would take. Just make sure you get good ones that are light and that will fold small so that you can pack them when not needed. A good example of this is the big Jebel climb with ropes at the top, some participants struggled up with poles when in reality they needed both hands free for the terrain.

Shoes:
Dare I open this can of worms? Shoes are personal and first and foremost you must consider your own run style – gait, pronation, width, drop and so on. NEVER take advice from anyone online that tells you that ‘X’ is the shoe to wear for MDS unless they know you and your run style. Having said that, certain considerations come into play which help narrow the selection process down. In previous editions of MDS I have seen Hoka One One shoes almost melt with the soft sand, this year, Hoka were one of the most popular shoes and during the race I photographed multiple pairs and saw none of the horror stories from previous year. Brooks have been a popular MDS shoe in recent years and I saw three pairs with horrendous soles that had started to fall apart, however, many runners have commented how well the Cascadia version of Brooks shoes performed. Altra with very low drop and a super wide toe box worked excellently for those who required a minimalist shoe and the re-vamped inov-8 270 (4mm) and 290’s (8mm) had rave reviews from those who used them. Mizuno, adidas and Scott also featured in MDS bivouac amongst others and what was reassuring is how well they all performed. The key here is that runners had found the shoe that worked for them. Make sure you do the same. It’s good to ask for thoughts but ultimately, ask 10-people, you will get 10 view points. Despite all this, there were plenty of foot horror stories. There always will be horror stories and certainly considerable more soft sand added to people’s issues this year. Notably, going back to the walking point, MDS participants often come to MDS prepared to run with shoes that work for running, in some scenarios, these shoes don’t work as well for walking. Think about this and walk in your run shoes! Also shoe size, forget the advice about going up a size or two sizes. It’s a recipe for disaster unless you know that your feet swell? A shoe that is too big will allow your foot to move, a moving for causes friction, friction causes blisters and the rest of the story speaks for itself. General advice is that if you have a ‘thumb nail’ of room at the front of the shoe above the big toe, this generally works. Notice I say ‘generally’ – there are exceptions. One thing that may happen, is your foot may get wider (rarely or never longer) with the heat and additional time on feet, therefore a shoe with a wider toe box often works well for many runners.

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Equipment:
Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg plus water, get as close to this as you can. Additional weight is additional stress and just makes the journey harder. Luxuries are ok if they improve the journey and make it easier, music is a good example of an additional extra. I can’t really think of anything else…

Friends:
You are going to share bivouac with 7 other people and you are going to have some serious highs and lows. These tent mates will pull you through and motivate you. They will become friends for life. Ideally find tent mates before you head out to the Sahara.

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The Mind:
The legs, lungs, heart and feet will only get you so far. The mind is what will get you to the finish. On the long day I was at CP5 with 54km covered and 30km to go. I stayed there all night from 9pm till the early hours of the morning when the last person left with the camels. I saw broken individuals with bodies in tatters but mentally strong. It was amazing to watch people leave with a smile, hobbling at a snails pace and then to see them cross the line later in the day. Despite the hardships and pain, they embraced the journey and mentally where superior in strength. It was the mind that got them to the line.

Laugh:
If you laugh, you are having fun. Laugh when you hit rock bottom, why not. Laugh when you are going the toilet in a brown plastic bag and most of all laugh with and at your tent mates and fellow runners. The comradeship of MDS is quite unique, embrace it.

Admin and preparation that you may not think of:

  • Take essentials on the plane and wear your run apparel and shoes. That way, should a baggage disaster happen your chances of racing improve.
  • Take food with you for the travel and on the plane. If I were running, I wouldn’t eat plane food!
  • The journey from the airport to bivouac 1 is always lengthy, MDS will provide a picnic and water but I would still have my own supplies.
  • Night 1 and night 2 in bivouac are NOT self-sufficient so take extras such as an inflatable bed, food and luxuries that you are happy to give away to the berbers. May as well have 2 comfortable nights and a comfortable day before the racing starts.
  • Food before the race starts in recent editions has been provided by a French catering team. It has always been excellent. For the 31st edition, Moroccan caterers were used for the first 2 nights to provide an ‘authentic’ Moroccan feel and experience. It was potentially food that could increase the chances of going to the toilet. Personally, I’d take food with me that would at least allow me a ‘safe’ option. This is food in addition to your ‘mandatory’ requirement so it can be as much as you require and it can weigh as much as you like.
  • Admin day was a lengthy multi-hour experience in previous editions, in the 31st it was slick and streamlined and seemed to take most people 30-45mins which was great. Just make sure you take some water and a little snack food.
  • Keep sun screen on and keep hydrated. No need to drink vast volumes – drink to thirst before the racing starts.
  • Have additional items such as a base layer, sleeping bag liner and other items that may be on a ‘question’ list for the race. On night 1 and before you go to admin, you can make final decisions of what to and what not to take. Particularly important if you think you may be cold at night.
  • Remember that after bag drop and check-in you have no access to any additional items, however, you only become completely self-sufficient when you start the race. With that in mind, you can have additional food and luxuries with you until day 1 kick-off, it’s a useful tip and does mean that you can have additional comfort for a good 12-hours.

Conclusions:

Marathon des Sables is a magical and life changing journey as are most if not all multi-day races. It really is a true challenge of mind and body to race over many days, irrespective if you complete the race in just over 20-hours or 60+ hours. It’s a hark back to a more primitive time, a time without clutter and modern technology. Embrace this. Embrace the silence of the surroundings and the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the other, eating, resting and sleeping and then doing it all again.

As I said previously, MDS and other multi-day races are all relatively simple in process, you need a minimum of kit, some food, regular water and a level of fitness to complete the challenge. Yes, it is THAT simple.

Plan ahead, do some research on kit but it’s not rocket science. Just find out what works for you and then pray the the multi-day gods are on your side. Drop out rates are relatively low considering the challenge, however, shit happens that you just can’t plan for.

Ultimately get the mind in the right place and the body will follow. A plan ‘A’ is great but have a plan ‘B’ and ‘C.’

Finally, set yourself a realistic goal (that may just be to finish) so that you manage not only your expectations but pace. Way too many start off too quick and most dropouts come on days 1 and 2.

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Join our MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP IN LANZAROTE with 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, ELISABET BARNES info HERE

If you need any specialist equipment, Iancorless.com partners and recommends MyRaceKit for expert advice on an multi-day racing equipment requirements.

inov-8 X-TALON 212 Review

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If Wolverine™ were going to go running on the trails, he would pair up his incredible hands (and blades) with a pair of X-Talon 212’s.

Irrespective of what type of running you do; road, trail, mountain, fell or even treadmill, the X-Talon 212 has that distinctive look that not only sets it apart from the competition but also makes one take a second look and ask the question, “is that a run shoe or a football boot?”

It’s a winning shoe that combines minimal weight, low drop, stability and awesome grip for when conditions are muddy, boggy, slippery or basically just downright awful.

I doubt that inov-8 needs an introduction but let’s have a recap just in case.

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The company is just 11-years old and the creation of South African, Wayne Edy. You can sum up inov-8’s growth in just one quote from Wayne, “I’m not a follower, I never will be. I like to carve a new way. I thrive to innovate.”

inov-8 shoes are all about being at one with the terrain and in the UK they have become the ‘go to’ shoe when you need grip.

inov-8 say, “We believe in natural running. Natural running involves taking running back to its most innate form, letting nothing alter the natural biomechanics of the foot and body. Natural running relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe. The foot controls the shoe, not the other way around.”

inov-8 were very much at the forefront of minimalist running and right from the off the offered a very structured and methodical approach to getting ‘lower’ to the ground.

This system was a series of arrows (on the rear of the shoe) that signified the shoes drop in 3mm increments: 3 arrows = 9mm, 2 arrows = 6mm and so on. This arrow system informed runners immediately of what drop a shoe was and importantly allowed runners to make an informed and structured progression to get lower (if required). The shoe naming was also quite innovative. You had the model of shoe, for example: Trailroc, Roclite or X-Talon and then a number afterwards, so, in this scenario X-Talon 212. The ‘212’ refers to the weight of the shoe in grams.

Lightweight, minimal and functional, inov-8 have pioneered running shoes for trail, rock, fell or mountain and in simple terms have endeavoured to keep runners low to the ground (with grip) via a plethora of shoe models providing a selection of drops, cushioning and grip. The recent addition of the Race Ultra 290 (Review HERE) is a prime example of how the company are looking at the growing ultra market and the need for a more cushioned shoe but still with a low drop (6mm) and a flatter outsole for extended hours running.

2015 will see many new additions to the already expansive range. (*see below)

X-TALON 212

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Firstly, big news! The X-Talon is now available in a standard fit in addition to the normal precision fit. This is important news for many a runner who would have loved to use the 212 but found the tight and narrow fit of the precision just too tight for their Hobbit like feet.

As mentioned previously, the 212 may well be one of the flagship shoes in the inov-8 range and you can expect to see the shoe in Trail, Mountain, Fell, Orienteering, Cross Country, Obstacle and Skyrunning races all over the world.

The 212 is an out and out off road shoe and as the name suggests, the grip is Talon like.

The Shoe 

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I used the standard fit in my normal shoe size UK9.5 so it would be fair to say that the 212 is true to size. However, even though this shoe is standard fit it still fits super close in the toe box, you almost certainly would want to try this shoe on before purchasing. Please remember that the 212 are an out-and-out off road and soft ground shoe, so it is important that your foot has minimal movement within the shoe. This is why the shoe was originally designed in precision fit only. A close fitting shoe is ideal when climbing, descending or contouring when on soft or uneven ground. The lacing system allows you to pull the shoe tight to your foot and cradle it offering more support. Spend a little time tweaking the lacing and you will be rewarded with a wonderful close and natural contact to the ground.

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First off, the shoe is super flexible. You can bend it anyway, fold it in half and the shoe does not resist. The shoe upper is tough and quite thick and I have heard criticism saying the upper is too thick! Of course this all comes down to personal preference but if you are bombing up and down wet and muddy terrain everyday, you need an upper that can withstand that sort of abuse… I have had my 212’s for 6-months (probably 3-runs a week) and I have well and truly abused them without failure. That’s a plus in my book.

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The shoe has Meta-Flex™ and Meta-Cradle ™, which provide a flex groove and upper webbing support at the metatarsal heads. In all honesty I am not fully sure what that means but if that means good flex and support then I agree.

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The sole of the 212 looks like a football boot with a series of spaced out rubber nodules that are made of soft ‘sticky’ compound rubber as one would see on some climbing shoes. What makes this shoe work so well off road is the fact that the grip is spaced out and this therefore stops soft ground filling and clogging up the grip of the shoe. The soft rubber works really well on rocks, gravel and other dry surfaces and should the rocks become wet, grip is still highly impressive allowing you to run with confidence. One downside of the soft rubber is that if you go on the road it will wear down. This is not a criticism of the shoe. It’s basically just a heads up to warn against excessive road use. I should point out that my everyday run requires at least a couple of miles on road or pavement to get to the trail and yes, my sole has started to show wear and tear but that is after 6-months of regular use.

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Cushioning is minimal and the drop (2 arrows) is 6mm; this provides a great contact for the trail beneath your feet. Ironically, the shoe feels very comfortable on hard trail and even road. I would say it feels surprisingly cushioned despite its minimal looks. inov-8 do not use a rock plate to protect your foot against small and/ or sharp objects and therefore you can sometimes feel these objects when running.

Th front of the shoe has a rubber bumper but toe protection is minimal. The rear of the shoe holds the foot well and if you have the right size shoe and the laces adjusted correctly, you have have little or no movement when running.

IN USE

Pros

The 212 are all about gaining grip on soft and boggy ground. If you use the shoe in these conditions you will be over the moon by the grip, feel and security offered. The upper is durable and the lacing perfect. The addition of a standard fit in addition to the long established precision fit now ensures that you can have comfort despite your shoe size or width. The combination of these elements makes the 212 my ‘go to’ shoe for anything that resembles fell running or soft ground running (including snow.) I have used the shoe for 6-months, accumulated 100’s of hilly miles and the shoes have performed perfectly. They have also been my preferred shoes when running Vertical Kilometres™ particularly when the terrain has been grassy and steep. The low drop allows great feel for the terrain below and although relatively minimalist from a cushioning perspective, they do offer great comfort for runs of 2 to 3-hours. This comfort is extended if the ground remains soft and boggy.

Cons

It’s a very specific shoe for a very specific use and therefore this would be an ‘addition’ to your shoe collection. It’s almost unfair to say this is a con but for some, they want a wonder shoe that does ‘all things,’ the 212 is NOT that shoe.

The lack of a rock plate does mean that you can feel small and sharp objects occasionally.

The shoe is very flexible with minimal cushioning and therefore one would need to be attentive to how long one runs in them. Of course this is very personal to the user… one person may find 60-mins enough, another 3-hours. Certainly, the more you use them, the more time you will be able to spend in them.

Specs

  • Weight 212g
  • Upper Synthetic, TPU
  • Lining Mesh
  • Drop 6mm (2 arrows)
  • Sole X-Talon (Sticky)
  • Midsole Injected eva
  • Fit Precision and now Standard

Conclusion

The X-Talon 212 really is a top quality shoe with a very specific use. If you are looking for a shoe to do several types of running (road and trail), the 212 is not for you. However, if you are looking for grip on off road terrain then you would be hard pressed to find a shoe that does the job better than the 212. The addition of a standard fit to the long established precision fit should mean that if you have tried the 212 in the past and found them too narrow, they may very well fit you now! Both models are unisex.

Note

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If you prefer a more minimalist shoe with lower drop, inov-8 make the X-Talon 190, which has 3mm drop, a stripped back upper and the same talon like grip.

*New for 2015

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inov-8 are strengthening the  X_TALON off-road running shoe range (212 & 190) with the addition of the new X-TALON 200. Available in early 2015, the shoe looks set to be a huge hit with off-trail runners and obstacle racers.

Berghaus Trail Chase 2014 – Summary and Images

Berghaus Trail Chase Logo

The inaugural Berghaus Trail Chase took place at the weekend in the North York Moors National Park. Organised by Shane Ohly and the team from Ourea Events, this race offered a unique format that was suitable for all abilities and experience.

Three courses: Black (white flags), Red and Blue offered three distances of varying difficulty over 2-days on way marked courses.

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A full set of race images are available to view HERE

The event HQ was located in Thinmbleby, Osmotherley. This location provided a hub for runners to assemble, register and prepare and then on the stroke of midday buses arrived to transfer runners to three different starts.

Using ski piste colour coding, runners participating in the black route would run 32.8km with 1012m elevation on day-1 and then 21.3km (814m+) on day-2.

The red route covered 25.3km (801m+) and 17.4km (582m+)

And the blue route provided an entry level race that could appeal to all abilities covering 16.6km (326m+) on day-1 and 10.1km (291m+) on day-2.

Logistically, all races on day-1 would finish at the same campsite in Chop Gate and then on the following day, black and red races would start from the overnight stop and the blue runners would be transferred to Locker Wood for the shorter last day. As one would expect, all races finished at the race HQ in Osmotherley.

©iancorless.com_IMG_2189BerghausTrailChase_2014_Vibrant heather, lush green fields, dense bracken and rugged trails along with lush green forests and bridle paths provided a stunning backdrop to all 3-races. Despite heavy rain during the overnight camp, the weather gods played ball providing everyone with a couple of excellent days running. Add to this live music, flowing beer and some excellent food in the Chop Gate village hall and Ohly and the Ourea team have the makings of a great event.

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Day-1 for all three races started as one would expect with mass starts for each respective race. The sting in the tail and the unique nature of this event became clear on day-2 when the CHASE began. Starting in finishing order of day-1, runners would leave in order with exact time gaps adhered to. The objective? Catch the runner in front and you gain a place. It brings a whole new meaning to running scared and the cat and mouse scenario adds a real element of excitement to the event.

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Post race, not only had the Berghaus Trail Chase race format provided a challenging experience for each and every participant but it had also been fun! The atmosphere was very relaxed and the whole experience had been a real positive.

Of course, racing did take place over the 2-days and some hard fought battles were run out on the trails of the North York Moors. However, it very much felt that racing was secondary to fun and enjoying the moment.

The Berghaus Trail Chase will be back in 2015. Bigger, better and I can only hope that Ohly books some great weather once again. I for one will be back.

RESULTS:

Black

  1. Duncan Archer 4:36:54
  2. Charlie Sharpe 4:47:42
  3. Steve Coates 5:07:34
  1. Stephanie Kitchen 6:06:32
  2. Michelle Hetherington 6:07:42
  3. Sam Scott 6:23:34

Full BLACK results HERE

Red

  1. Simon Jones 3:47:51
  2. Madeleine Robinson 3:56:43
  3. Alistair Nash 3:57:29

Full RED results HERE

Blue

  1. Christian McGill 2:32:25
  2. Peter Downes 2:33:22
  3. Martin Done 2:35:31

Full BLUE results HERE

 

A full set of race images are available to view HERE

Race website HERE

Final results HERE

A full set of race images are available to view HERE

 

Image Preview #inov8retreat

An incredible and inspiring weekend in the heart of the English Lakes with a committed team of athletes and employees of inov-8. It’s been a real pleasure to spend quality time discussing the brand, apparel and shoes. Watch out in 2015, inov-8 have some seriously quality products coming your way!

Here are just a small selection of images as a teaser….

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No reproduction please.

Check out inov-8 at http://www.inov-8.com

inov-8 athlete retreat #inov8retreat

No sooner had I arrived in the English Lakes and in minutes I was dropping my bags and immediately turning around and heading out on the trails with inov-8 athletes for a 2nd run of the day. It was just an hour… up and then down in true fell running style.

It’s just the start, currently 12-athletes have arrived but later today, more runners will arrive and an intensive weekend will start in full.

Back at inov-8 HQ, breakout session are in progress, talking about new apparel, new run shoes and how the products are designed and why!

It’s all about being specific and appropriate to the required purpose. Innovative and committed are two words I hear repeatedly.

Leaving the HQ, our weekend will commence at a Youth Hostel deep within the English Lakes; keeping us close to the trail and at the heart of what we all love… being at one with nature.

More to follow as the weekend unfolds!

Follow on twitter #inov8retreat

All images and content ©iancorless.com