A Multi-Day race or a long-distance ultra is a huge undertaking. For many, it’s a 12-month project (or longer) that slowly but surely can consume every available day, hour, minute and second.
I get it, a long-distance race over multiple days in an unfamiliar terrain can leave more questions than answers. However, don’t panic, it’s not that complicated – read HERE.
As your key adventure looms, it’s time to focus the mind, body, and equipment so that you can plan for and anticipate all that may go wrong and right while undertaking this key target.
Quite simply, the old saying, ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail’ does and can ring true.
So, what can be done?
Luck can have a place in any success; however, it should never be relied on. In multi-day events, particularly self-sufficient ones, the need to fine tune everything is a key element.
All of the above have very important roles to play in success.
Get the training wrong, you may not have the fitness or an injury that will result in you not achieving the finish line.
Get the kit wrong, be it too heavy, not durable or inappropriate may impact on your ability to achieve your goal.
Many say the mind is a key and an integral part of any success. Often, the body can be willing, but the mind can be weak, get the mind focused and prepared.
You need to be prepared for whatever your multi-day adventure will throw at you.
In the final phase of training, 6-8 weeks before your adventure starts, is a great time to start working on the final phases and plans that will help ensure success.
THE PREPARE PHASE
If we assume that tapering will take 2 to 3-weeks, this key ‘Prepare Phase’ should be in weeks 4, 5, 6 and 7 before D-Day.
First and foremost, understand the challenge that you are undertaking. You may feel that you already have a grasp on this, but there is no harm sitting down and going through all they key aspects. Terrain, weather, mandatory kit, distance, and conditions. Look at the October 2021 edition of Marathon des Sables, the race started with a series of protocols to manage Coronavirus. Ultimately, Coronavirus was not a consideration, it was extreme heat, sickness and stomach problems.
Walk, WALK, WALK! – Walking will (for most) be an absolute essential skill to complete any multi-day adventure. You may think you will run most of the distance… But experience confirms that walking is a key to success. Walking, and walking with purpose is a skill. Practice. Consider poles, they may enhance your walking experience, if so, practice and use them.
Without doubt you will have long days, and some will go in to the night and through the night. Take time and plan and include a session like this in the ‘Prepare Phase!’ Understand here that this is an opportunity to test kit, not only yourself. Is your head torch bright enough, how do temperatures vary, how does my appetite and requirement for fluid change etc. By doing this in training, you do it in a safe environment. If it all goes badly, you can always make a call and get picked up or get a taxi. You can’t do that in your race or event. Darkness and nighttime can play tricks.
Back-to-back runs may well have featured in your training but running/ walking tired is a skill. However, be careful how you plan this in training. You want adapt body and mind, not break them.
Perform training with rationed water and race/ event food. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s all very well going for a long run and then getting home and eating chocolate and drinking Coca Cola – can you do that in your event? Mentally this can be a real tough challenge – be prepared.
Your pack will be with you for the duration of your event. It must be as light as possible and also sturdy enough to last the challenge without breaking. Be minimalist on equipment and purchase the lightest equipment possible. Remember though, lightweight can often mean less durable, less warm, less functional and so on… Better to break or damage equipment in training so that you can make changes ready for the important challenge ahead. Modify and adapt.
Be specific. Snow, mountains, altitude, heat, or cold. Understand the demands that will be placed on you in your challenge and plan for a specific phase (typically in the 2-3 weeks before the event) to help acclimate. This could be a heat chamber, it could be arriving early before an event and adjusting to high altitude, it could be some specific cold, ice or snow training.
Plan an ‘event simulation’ that will require you to run for a specific distance, be self-sufficient overnight, sleep in a similar scenario/ situation to your event and then get up and run the next day. This can be a key element in understanding what does and does not work. Is your sleeping mat comfortable? Is the sleeping bag warm? Did your food taste good? How easy was it to cook? How about snacks, did they work? How was the pack weight and distribution of contents?
Train with your pack and add weight, however, be careful NOT to do too much training with too much weight. This can result in injury. In addition, learn how to pack your bag so that it sits comfortably with minimal bounce. Understand where to put snacks so that you can access them on the go.
Feet and shoes. Please do not ask. ‘What shoe shall I use for ‘X’ Event?’ Runners are individuals and what works for one does not work for others. Gait, foot shape, foot width, foot length, toe length, run conditions and so on all impact. Read THISarticle on how to find the correct run shoe.
Food glorious food. Calories are essential for an event, so is what they weigh. Understand food and its nutritional values and make sound educated choices that balance fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Also understand that taste changes. Sweet may be ok early on but typically savory is better as time passes. Is beef jerky better than nuts? What food rehydrates quickly or with cold/ warm water? Should I take bars? What about protein drinks? So many questions… They need answering!
You only have to do three things at most multi-day events:
All three impact on each other, so, make sure you have all of them dialed.
Finally, remember, we are all individual. What works for one person, will not work for another. It is your responsibility to take ownership of yourself, the challenge you are undertaking and the challenges it will bring. Ultimately, that is why you signed up, no?
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:
How does a specific shoe perform in mud?
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.
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 to Trail
Ultra-Running (with sub heading of Ultra Road and Ultra Trail)
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?
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.
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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trail shoes – Typically require a good outsole that is durable and has grip, say 4mm studs.
Fell shoes – Typically will be aggressive and on first looks may look like football boots with 6 or 8mm studs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY
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:
Measure your foot.
Use a conversion chart to get your shoe size.
Understand gait and what you need. If using orthotics, you need neural shoes.
Ask yourself what terrain the shoes will be used on – This refers to what outsole.
Ask yourself how long typically you will run in these shoes – This refers to cushioning.
Do you need the shoes to be more precision fit or wider?
Look at brands/ options and based on the above make a shortlist.
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.
Check the heel for slipping.
Check the instep and confirm a good foot hold.
If possible, try the shoes running.
Reduce the choices down to 3, then 2 shoes and then make an informed and educated decision.
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.
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.
Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE
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 StatesHERE
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!
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
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
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:
The adidas shoe is a much better fit and therefore this makes the work of the Boa® so much easier.
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!
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.
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.
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 objective. 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.
First of all though, lets answer that burning question, ‘Was the 2016 Marathon des Sables ever?’
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Food – 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.
Water 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.
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
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upper Synthetic, TPU
Drop 6mm (2 arrows)
Sole X-Talon (Sticky)
Midsole Injected eva
Fit Precision and now Standard
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.