Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021 Summary #UTS

Josh Bakker-Dyos

Persistent rain, low cloud, poor visibility, mud, bogs, wet rocks, climbs and descents that made even the most adapted legs scream in pain, yes, that was Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021.

Missing in 2020 due to the dreaded ‘C’ word, the UTS returned in 2021 to Capel Curig as part of the Ultra Trail World Tour and supported by Hoka One One to confirm the dream of Michael Jones of Apex Running – A big UTMB style weekend of racing in the heart of Wales.

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With distances of 50km, 100km and the whopping 165km, one word was touted pretty much everywhere all weekend, brutal! And it was… A savage weekend of racing but as Michael says, ‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

Despite the rain, despite the lack of views, Wales was a stunning playground for trail running. Let’s be clear here, there is no ‘easy’ running at UTS. The 50km is a wonderfully challenging route that may well have surprised many with some of its technical challenges, particularly the climb from Ogwen up to Carnedd Dafydd, compensated for what could be then considered a ‘relatively’ easy run in to the finish via Lyn Cowlyd and Blaen-Y-Nant.

The 100km route followed the early miles of the UTS50 all the way to Pen-Y-Pass but then headed along the Miners’ Track for an extended loop to return via the Pyg Track heading off to Y Garn, a loop around Tryfan and then head up to Carnedd Dafydd via a different route to the 50km and then follow the same run in to the finish.

The 165km is well, just a monster! As expected, it created carnage amongst the competitors. It’s a relentless beasting of mind and body that passes through the whole of Snowdonia. The 100km and 50km routes all utilizing sections of this all-encompassing journey but only the 165km giving the full perspective of how beautiful and hard the Welsh mountains are. As with all races at UTS, it started and concluded in Capel Curig. Heading off to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Croesor it then picked up the 50km and 100km routes to Pen-Y-Pass. Nantmoor, Moel Hebdog, Llyn-y-Gadair and then after Yr Wyddfa it followed the Snowdon Ranger Path for an extended loop before returning via the Snowdon Massif and Pyg Track to Pen-y-Pass. From here, the 100km and 165km routes were identical all the way back to Capel Curig.

Tremayne Dill Cowdry summed it up:
“45 hours to do just over 100 miles and every minute of that was a hard slog.
Mountains, bog, wet rock, tough nav on a marked course, sleep deprivation, mist, rain and the terrain!! Very little was even runnable. I can’t imagine a 100 miler more difficult than that. Easily the hardest I’ve done and definitely the hardest in the UK. I was going ok although I would have happily dropped given the chance but my feet succumb to the permanent wet and I had to hobble the last 20-ish miles…

Stunning landscape

As with all races, someone has to cross the line first, and of course there was stunning performances all weekend. However, the real sense of achievement came firstly from toeing the line and being in with a chance of completing a journey. The second came from completing the journey. Every medal was hard earned.

Josh Bakker-Dyos

In the 165km event, Josh Bakker-Dyos lead from the start and while many expected him to blow up, so fast was his pace, he never did. He was relentless and consistent crossing the line in 28:51:43. It was easy to say, ‘he made it look easy!’ But for every other runner who crossed the 165km line, it was very clear, there was nothing easy on this route! Toby Hazelwood was less than 60-minutes behind in second, 29:45:17, another stunning run! Adam Jeffs rounded the podium with 34:09:54. Alice Sheldon and Becky Wightman were the only female finishers, 45:09:55 and 47:41:06 their hard-earned efforts stopping the clock – a brutal two nights and days out in the Welsh mountains. Only 32 completed the race.

Mark Darbyshire

The 100km route was won, but not dominated by Lakeland 100 champ, Mark Darbyshire ahead of Josh Wade and Jack Scott. Mark crossed in 14:25:47 with 14:33:36 going to second. It was 16:02:05 elapsed before the third crossed the line. Sarah Stavely (21:41:03) won the women’s race with Kajsa Holgersson and Julie Finn in second and third, 22:28:49 and 22:44:53.

Lauren Woodwiss

Harry Jones flew around the UTS 50 route and looked as strong at the finish as when he started, his 6:13:33 a stunning time. It was 6:56:54 elapsed before second place Will Simmons crossed ahead of Spencer Shaw in 7:14:53. Lauren Woodwiss, like Jones, lead from the start dictating an excellent pace over the 50km route and completed her journey in an excellent 7:54:18. Celia Waring placed second in 8:36:18 and Abelone Lyng from Norway, moved up from outside the top-10 women to eventually finish third in 8:43:16 after sprinting for the line ahead of Jenna Shail who was just 13-seconds behind.

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Abelone Lyng

As Capel Curig slowly returned to some normality on Sunday, it was easy to see that the UTS will become one of the ultimate trail running events not only in the UK but the world. It may not have all the glamour and glitz of Chamonix and the UTMB. It’s a much more grass roots event, some would say a ‘true’ trail running event. Ultimately though, Wales was the hero of the weekend offering stunning routes. This landscape combined with the vision of Michael Jones of Apex Running and a team of dedicated volunteers and supporters will make UTS a ‘one to do!’ However, if you are thinking about the 165 event? Think long hard and without doubt, train hard, it’s a beautifully brutal beast.

‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

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.

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Episode 210 – Petter Engdahl

Episode 210 has an interview with Petter Engdahl and Speedgoat Karl co-hosts.


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INTERVIEW : PETTER ENGDAHL

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

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Latest Reviews

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

La Sportiva CYKLON shoe review HERE listen to Episode 208 of Talk Ultra is a special show with DANIEL FEENEY and Jonathan Wyatt discussing the collaboration between BOA and La Sportiva for the new, Cyklon shoe.

La Sportiva Cyklon

INSTINCT XX20L Pack review HERE

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La Sportiva Cyklon Review

The La Sportiva CYKLON is here. Renowned for shoes that perform in mountain, challenging and arduous terrain, La Sportiva have moved up a level with the CYKLON collaborating closely with BOA® Fit System to provide a new mountain running shoe with a difference.

Available in multiple (4) colour options, the standout for me is the classic and directly recognizable La Sportiva colours on black/yellow/red which has always been pleasing to the eye and one that grabs attention.

The CYKLON on first impressions could almost be mistaken for a lightweight boot due to the built-in sock-liner which comes higher up the leg, to beyond ankle height which has two purposes: 1. It keeps out debris from entering the shoe. 2. It provides additional support.

The CYKLON has slightly unusual sizing, I take an EU44 (UK9.5) in all my shoes, the same applies here in the La Sportiva, but this comes out as a UK9.5+ – I guess a 9 and 2/3rds. It works fine and, in all honesty, I would say that little extra room was welcome.

They are not the lightest shoes, 340g for an EU44, but on the foot and running they feel superb, secure, and strong. They certainly don’t feel like a 300g+ shoe. The weight is listed as 315g for ‘standard size’ which is typically UK8/ EU42.

Drop is 8mm and cushioning is 20mm at the front and 28mm at the rear providing excellent protection for tough and challenging terrain.

Designed to excel in mountain environments, 6x world mountain running champion, Jonathan Wyatt (who works at La Sportiva) has been closely involved with the development of the shoe with all important athlete feedback. In his words, the CYKLON is the next step from the extremely popular MUTANT. While similarities can be seen, particularly in the outsole, the CYKLON moves the shoe design on significantly. The addition of BOA® significantly changes things too and the two brands have worked together to develop and tweak to ensure that the shoe is as perfect as it can be.

It’s often easy to get bogged down in jargon when discussing a shoe and all brands have their names to describe key features, here in the CYKLON ‘Dynamic Cage’ is a buzzword and one of the key USP’s of the shoe. Working with a supremely comfortable and secure sock-like fit, the Dynamic Cage holds the foot like no other shoe I have tried, it is as good as VJ Sport ‘Fitlock’ but at the same time, completely different.

The midsole is EVA Memlex which helps absorb shocks, offers protection through double density and it also has stabilization inserts.

The outsole is FriXion XF 2.0 with 7mm lugs which clearly shows what the CYKLON is for – challenging mountain terrain that includes mud, snow and/or ice.

The upper has 4-way mesh and has a multi-layer side panel overlay. It’s all about foothold and protection and while it’s too early to comment on longevity and life, the CYKLON upper screams durability. This is only emphasized at the form of the shoe with a real sold toe bumper and the rear where the overlay gives way to the sock-liner.

THE SHOE

The CYKLON is actually a little tricky to get on, a little like putting neoprene socks on. It is worthwhile just taking an extra minute to ensure you have your foot in the shoe correctly and that the sock-liner is adjusted, a yellow tab helps you pul them on. The sock liner does come above ankle height, so, you may want to consider what sock length you use.

First impression is the incredible hold of the foot. This is even before the BOA is adjusted. It’s like sliding your foot in to shoe gloves. Turning the BOA, the shoe tightens to the foot via 4 key points. The bottom one is fixed, the other 3 are independent and move according to foot shape and applied tension from the BOA – this is the Dynamic Cage. Quite simply, the more you turn the dial, the more secure the foothold. I have tested multiple shoes with a BOA system before and one of my constant complaints was that I often felt I couldn’t get the foothold I wanted, not so in the CYKLON. The foothold here as stated previously, is up there with the best and this is due the sock-fit and the Dynamic Cage working in harmony.

I was worried at the rear of the shoe where the overlays for the heel stop and the sock-liner starts. Hold for the heel is excellent but I did wonder if I would have an issue? The answer was no. Hold and comfort was superb.

There does feel just a hint of arch support in the shoe. It’s nothing crazy and for someone who uses neutral shoes, it caused me no issues or problems. As mentioned, there is some stability added to the midsole and this all comes down to La Sportiva making sure you have a secure and resilient shoe that can handle the terrain that the shoe is designed for.

Width up front is a 3 on a 1-5 scale, 1 being narrow/ precision and 5 being wide. For me, a 3 fit it about right based on the intended use – technical and challenging terrain of mid distance.

The 20-28 cushioning is more than I anticipated as is the 8mm drop. When running on mountain, skyrunning and technical terrain a shoe with more ground feel and lower drop is usually preferable, say 18-24 with 6mm drop! However, the CYKLON excels on the rough stuff giving a very confident and secure feel and they adapt to quick changes of direction. The FriXion outsole with 7mm lugs works superbly. Interestingly. AT Grip Spike can be added to the outsole for use on icy ground. The footbed is Ortholite and specifically designed for mountain running.

IN USE

I have 124km in the CYKLON and this is a first impression review. There are two key features which I want to rave about:

The sock-like fit is superb.

The BOA system Dynamic Cage is incredible and holds the foot like no other.

The 2 features above are stand out and on all my runs, this security and foot hold has put a huge smile on my face. Tree roots, rocks, mud, climbing, descending and so on, the CYKLON just holds the foot and gives complete confidence. The downside is that all these layers and hold make the shoe run hot! I could feel that the heat generated when running had difficulty to escape despite the breathable upper. Quite simply, the anti-abrasion mesh and TPU reinforcements all add up. I did a challenging and technical 26km run that had me out for 2h 45min and while I had no pain, irritations or discomfort, my feet were noticeably hotter than in other shoes.

BOA is always going to turn some people off, I get it, laces work, are simple and you snap one, you can easily replace it… BOA has come a long way in recent years and here on the CYKLON I can see the advancement and in all honesty, I don’t think the foot hold in the CYKLON would be as good if provided by laces – the BOA brings a whole new dynamic to the shoe and I am completely sold. For perspective, BOA do offer a full guarantee on the system. Here they use a L6 dial and TX4 lace and I asked the question, ‘what if a lace breaks?’ Quite simply, BOA replied, ‘A lace snapping is highly unlikely, however, should it happen, you can just tie lace together (as you would with any lace), and this will work.’ One of the great things about BOA is the ability to adjust quickly on the go, especially useful in cold weather. We all experiences laces coming undone, it’s a pain to stop and do them up again. With BOA they will not come undone and if you need to tighten, you just stop, bend down, turn the dial and off you go.

Cushioning in the CYCLONE is on the firm/ protective side and considering the intended use, probably comes as no surprise. However, I did expect a little more bounce? However, with 50km on the shoes, I found them more responsive – they are not plush or bouncy. They are solid, secure, and reliable and trustworthy. Again, this is a shoe designed for mid-distance and not long distance. Certainly, I found 3-5 hours perfectly comfortable. I haven’t gone beyond that time in the CYKLON yet. There is some support in the shoe and that can be felt when the terrain becomes very challenging, it helps guide the foot, not control it.

The outsole is solid, reliable, and durable. It’s ideal for mountain terrain and excels on rock and technical terrain, particularly in conjunction with the foot hold and BOA system.

SUMMARY

The CYKLON is somewhat unique in that it almost occupies its own category, almost a crossover between mountain running shoe and boot. It excels in challenging terrain with incredible foot hold, protection, and a great outsole. Standout features are the sock-like fit in conjunction with the BOA/ Dynamic Cage which provided me with arguably one of the most secure footholds I have experienced.

Intended for mid-distance, I see the CYKLON as a great shoe for any mountain adventure, long or short. It’s crossover capabilities and weight would have me choosing this shoe over a boot, particularly if I wanted to hike fast in the mountains.

Climbing and descending is solid and reassured.

All-in-all it’s a great shoe and La Sportiva fans, particularly those who have used the Mutant are going to love.

The downsides for me are that the shoe runs hot and particularly in summer months this could prove to be an issue? It’s not the lightest shoe and despite the amazing foot hold, it probably doesn’t feel like a nimble and light race shoe, so, if looking to race, another shoe may be preferable? Day-to-day mountain adventures, fast or slow, the CYKLON will be a great addition to any shoe rotation.

Website here

Price 185 euro

The shoes were provided free for testing purposes and this is not a paid review or promotion.

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.

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Snowdon SkyRace joins Skyrunner World Series 2021.

We lack altitude in the UK & Ireland, however, we have an abundance of wonderful technical terrain that is very unique and an envy of many a skyrunner. The Snowdon SkyRace is not only the personification of what a skyrunning race in the UK is but also what a skyrunner race should be on a world-stage. This has now been recognised with the race being added to the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) for 2021. 

3150m of vertical gain over 40km, the race is a brutal challenge that equals and surpasses the best of what Europe has to offer. The iconic exposed arête of Crib Goch and the climb of Tryfan bring that all desirable element that makes the Snowdon SkyRace one that must be experienced.

In 2021 the SWS features 14 races in 11 countries and is supported by Merrell, also the presenting partner of the Snowdon Skyline weekend.

Snowdonia is widely regarded as a paradise for scrambling and technical trail running, boasting stunning scenery and terrain that can rival the skyrunning playgrounds of France, Italy and Spain. 

A figure of eight route, it starts and concludes in Rhyd-Ddu with four key highlights, Snowdon, Glyder Fawr, Tryfan and Crib Goch. It’s a beautifully brutal route that challenges even the most talented skyrunner. Technical, tough, and a race that must be experienced.

“Since 2018 it has been our goal to host a round of the Skyrunner® World Series here in North Wales and show the skyrunning world what Snowdonia has to offer. The route is simply phenomenal, taking in the area’s most iconic ridges and Grade 1 scrambles, it’s sure to become an international classic and a very worthy addition to the World Series. I’m super excited by the prospect of the world’s best skyrunners racing over Crib Goch this October!”.

Michael Jones, RD.

Kasia at Snowdon Skyline

This October, the world’s most technically adept Skyrunners from far and wide will descend upon Snowdonia to battle it out at the Snowdon SkyRace® for Skyrunner® World Series points, a unique 3D printed dragon trophy by DesignReal and a share of the following generous prize pool: €1,500 – €1,000 – €500 – €250 – €125 for 1st-5th female and male overall finishers, respectively!

Entries for the Snowdon SkyRace® are now live and with over half of them already snapped up, this race is likely to reach capacity well in advance of October! More event info and entry available here: www.snowdonskyline.com

Apex Running https://apexrunning.co

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.

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adidas Speed Pro SG Shoe Review – First Look.

Following on from the launch of the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra (HERE) available from March 1st, 2021. Terrex now unveil the adidas Terrex Speed Pro SG.

7mm lugs, 19/23mm cushioning and Continental outsole.

Quite simply, adidas are shaking up the ‘off-road’ running scene with new products that are going to make even the most skeptical trail, mountain, ultra or fell runner, stop and look again.

This is a first look at the new Terrex Speed Pro SG and not an in-depth review, quite simply, I need more time on the trails in them…

If you like mud, if you like fell running, if you like mountain adventures mixing rock, bog and mud or if you like skyrunning, this is a shoe that you need to look at.

225g (UK8.5) and 4mm drop

As the side of the shoe says, these weigh 225g in a standard UK.8.5 (240g for my UK9.5/EU44 test size) and the drop is 4mm bringing that all important close feel and connection to the ground.

Cushioning is 19mm at the front and 23mm at the rear which brings a significant addition to cushioning in comparison to like-for-like from other brands. This is a real plus, especially when transitioning from soft ground to hard rock or gravel trail. Using ‘Lightstrike’ and not Boost technology, the Terrex Speed Pro SG has great movement, feels dynamic and of course is super-light. Flex behind the metatarsals is very good and the propulsion phase is superb. The ride is firm and assured and the cushioning kicks in when required.

The lugs are 7mm providing that important claw like grip that is required to penetrate and hold in mud or any soft ground. The grip is provided by the excellent rubber compound of Continental which from experience and testing provides excellent traction on wet or dry rock.

Core Black / Cloud White / Solar Yellow and a flash of pink.

The upper is quite unbelievable, I don’t think I have ever witnessed something so airy and breathable. It’s like a sieve which allows water to escape immediately. There are several extremely thin reinforced layers on the outer – toe, side, heal and instep. Inside there is an additional thin layer (in yellow) that contrasts with the black mesh upper to create the two-tone black/ yellow look of the shoe and additional support structure.

True to size, the toe box is much wider than I had anticipated without losing a precision feel. For those who have been looking for an aggressive shoe that can handle mud/ rock and fell but still need space up at the front, this may well be the shoe for you?

Lacing is superb and holds the foot extremely well and continues to hold firm when on the trails and constantly switching direction. Hold at the rear comes from a minimally padded heal box that for me provided no slip going up or downhill.

There is no insole and internally there are no seams or stitching on the upper, so, the risk for any abrasion, blisters or hot spots is greatly reduced.

INITIAL SUMMARY

The Terrex Speed Pro SG will turn heads through its striking looks, the Core Black / Cloud White / Solar Yellow and a flash of pink looks great! The features listed above are stand out, while there are some similarities to other soft ground shoes from other brands there are some notable differences that will make this shoe appeal.

  • Cushioning.
  • Low drop.
  • Wider toe box.
  • The lightweight upper.
  • The overall weight of the shoe.

Initial runs have been excellent and for me personally, the combination of wider toe box (but not too wide), cushioning and the 7mm lugs will make this shoe a ‘go-to’ for when grip is required.

It’s too early to tell on longevity, wear and so on as I have less than 100-miles in them. However, check back for a full and in-depth long-term test/ review in a month or so.

To clarify, the shoes were provided to test, as are all the shoes that I review. But this is not a paid review.

*****

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.

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La Sportiva VK Boa® Shoe Review

Italian brand, La Sportiva, take running shoe specialization to the next level with the VK Boa®, a shoe that is specifically designed to go mountain as quickly as possible in the lightest package available.

To understand the shoe, you need to understand its purpose.

Dolomites VK, Italy.

The VK in the name refers to Vertical Kilometer® a sport created on the slopes of Monte Rosa in 1994 by Marino Giacometti, the founder and creator of the sport, Skyrunning. Governed by the ISF, the International Skyrunning Federation, the sport is simple in concept – To cover 1000 vertical meters in a course that is less than *5km long with average incline of 20%. Double (2000m) and triple (3000m) VK’s also exist.

Initially created for scientific research the VK concept grew and it has become a staple in the calendar of skyrunning with its own specific calendar and relative world and European champions. Often, a VK would be added on to a race weekend that included another longer race, the Dolomites being a prime example where a VK would take place on Friday and a SkyRace on Sunday. Competitors often do both races. The world record stands at 28-minutes 53-seconds by Philip Goetsch set at one of the steepest VK’s in the world, Fully, which covers the 1000 vertical meters in a course that is only 1.92km long. The finish line is 1500m altitude.

The VK sport was created in Italy and the La Sportiva brand was born in Italy, the synergy between the two is obvious.

To create a specific shoe for VK not only shows the demand, especially in Italy, for such a shoe, but also the enthusiasm for the sport. The 2020 the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit, managed by SkyMan, was cancelled however, the ISF have confirmed the sport will continue and recently they announced a new 2VK circuit – HERE

La Sportiva VK Boa®

Like track spikes, the VK Boa is a very specific shoe.

It’s all about minimal weight, secure foot hold, grip and a package that turns the eye. I have to say, the classic black/yellow/red of La Sportiva has always appealed and here in the VK Boa® that is taken up a notch to make what I think is a really ‘sexy’ shoe.

The striking look pulls you in and then you pick the shoe up, at sub 200g for a standard UK8 (230g for a UK9.5) this shoe is amazingly light.

The upper is just one seamless sock with a narrow opening from which one inserts the foot. Three wide straps come across the shoe to create the foothold and structure and conventional laces have been removed to be replaced with the Boa® rapid closure system.

A minimal toe bumper offers toe protection.

The outsole is a story of two halves: the front using a black semi-aggressive grip with relatively small lugs (25) the rear has a different configuration in red.

Cushioning, as one would expect is minimal but surprisingly more than I expected.

Drop is 4mm.

The shoe is described as being ‘universal’, but I do feel some support under the arch.

Sizing is true to size.

The Shoe

Firstly, getting one’s foot into the shoe is a little tricky. This shoe is designed like a Formula 1 car and as such, excess is taken away. One you have your foot inside, take time to wiggle your foot, make sure your heel is in the correct place and ensure that you pull the upper up, just like a sock.

There is no tongue. Tightening the shoe is done from the Boa® closure by turning the dial. Do this slowly making sure the laces sit where you want them. Taking time here will ensure a great foothold, particularly on the important Navicular bone.

The heel box is really impressive and rightly so for a shoe that is designed for going uphill. A lack of secure hold at the rear and it would prove really problematic. I’d go as far to say that the VK Boa® has the most secure and tight-fitting heel box of any shoe I have tried.

The toe box area, just like socks, is free of any reinforcement and extremely slipper like. It is not narrow and not wide, but the freedom of movement offered by the bi-elastic mesh would make this shoe work for most people. La Sportiva call it Low Volume which is designed for a tight fit following foot shape.

The outsole is very clever, La Sportiva know that when doing a VK, the front of the shoe is used almost 100% with only occasional use of the shoe rear. The outsole reflects this with two different grips and notably there is ‘rock-guard’ only at the front of the shoe. The outsole is designed to have as many contact points as possible. Frixion Red is a combination of grip, long-lasting wear and shock absorption. VK’s take place on grass, rock, stone, scree, mud and even ice, the outsole does a great job of handling each of the conditions.

The cushioning is compressed EVA and I was surprised how much cushioning was in the shoe, but it is designed for softer ground where the requirement for shock absorption is reduced. Completely understandable for a shoe designed for VK’s.

In Use

This is a very specific shoe and as such will have a very reduced market. It’s not a shoe that can-do multiple tasks, having said that, they VK Boa® may work exceptionally well on a short mountain race but downhill support and comfort would be compromised.

This shoe is designed to go up.

Considering that most VK’s are completed in 30-minutes for the elite men, around 35/40 minutes for the elite women and then 60 to 90-minutes for mortals, you get a picture that this shoe needs to be light.

Light they are; super light! They really do fit like gloves and I am still surprised at how well they hold the foot. I have had mixed experiences with Boa® closure systems previously but on this shoe it all clicks together. The Boa® (L6 type) system is a logical closure step allowing the top of the shoe to be free of seams and additional stitching and the three straps, just like in cycling shoes, comes across the foot to create a really superior hold. It’s all about efficiency and it makes a really nice aesthetic.

The shoes are extremely flexible and notably they excel in three areas. 

  1. The hold in the heel area is superb, no, it is brilliant! The lack of slipping in the heel area for a shoe designed for going uphill is absolutely crucial and the VK Boa® may well be the best I have tried.
  2. The soft and flexible upper manages to provide enough structure and support but allows the foot to move and bend in the propulsive phase without restriction. Crucial for a VK when pretty much the entire race or run will be undertaken on the front of the shoe.
  3. The outsole is designed for purpose and I love the specific grip and rock-guard just for the front of the shoe where it is needed.

Precise, reactive, great foot hold, excellent proprioception and extremely flexible, the VK Boa® really is beautifully designed for the task it was created for.

Conclusion

This shoe is not for everyone and I applaud La Sportiva for creating such a specific shoe. Light and minimalist, they excel for the designed purpose and there is little to fault.

They look great, the Boa® system is a superb addition to the shoe that maybe is the best use of this product I have seen in a running shoe.

RRP is 170 euro, so, they are not cheap. However, such a specific shoe will have a long life as they will only be used for VK racing or training. More often than not, VK’s are located close or near cable cars, so, the need to run back down is not required. Having said that, if one does need to run down, the VK Boa® does lack some of the structure a conventional run shoe would have, so, that needs to be considered.

If VK’s and going uphill as fast as possible is your think, the La Sportiva VK Boa® are most definitely worth checking out.

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

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Episode 196 – Kristian Morgan and Jon Albon

Episode 196 – Kristian Morgan talks about setting an FKT on the South West Coast Path and multiple World Champion, Jon Albon, talks about ‘Finding My Feet’ for Endurancesports.tv.

*****

Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE

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****

NEWS
FKT’s posted on last show:
* Franco Colle new FKT on Monte Rosa from Gressoney* Nadir Maguet – Gran Paradiso FKT 2:02:32* Erik Clavery GR10 9 days 9 hours and a few minutes* Davide Magnini Ortles FKT 2:18:15* Kim Collison 24h Lakes achieves 78 Peaks* Sabrina Verjeee Wainwrights (wishes not to claim)* Dylan Bowman Loowit Trail 5:11:49* Josh Pulattie Oregon Coast Trail 12 days 10 hours 25 min* Candice Burt Tahoe Rim Trail 2 days 12 hours 47 min* John Kelly Pennine Way 2 days 16 hours 40 min* Sarah Hansel (57:43) & Joey Campanelli (41:00) for Nolans 14* Tom Hollins Dales Mountain 30 (130 miles, 30 summits) 41 hrsAdam Kimble new FKT on Tahoe Rim Trail, USADamian Hall new FKT for the Pennine Way, UKAdam Jacobs new FKT for Hertfordshire Way, UKCarla Molinaro new FKT for the JOGLE, UKBeth Pascall new FKT for the Bob Graham Round, UK and set 5th fastest time.Rhys Jenkins sets new FKT on the Wales Coastal Path #fkt! 870 miles. Time TBC but 20 days 9hrs 35 mins – 2hr 20mins off the record. Lindsey Ulrich new FKT Pacific Crest TrailMarilyne Marchand-Gouin new FKT Clorado TrailMikaela Osler new FKT Colorado TrailWouter Berghuijs new FKT Via Alpina SwitzerlandChristof Teuscher new FKT Eagles 33
Pau Capell runs UTMB in 21:17Finlay Wild runs the Ramsey Round 14:42Carol Morgan 24hr Lakeland record with 65 topsWonderland Trail in the USA, Kaytlyn Gerbin set a new female FKT. Dylan Bowman (16:58) set the FKT only to have it broken 1-week later by Tyler Green, now 16:40:55Kirsty Hewitson Steve Parr Round 62 fells 117mDiego Pasoz on the Via Alpina new FKTDan Lawson JOGLE 9d 21h 14mRyan Sandes 13 Peaks Challenge 13:41:10Donnie Campbell continues his Munro challengeKilian does a VK in less than 30 min and then follows up with 10km on the road in sub 30 min

NEW UPDATES: Check FKT website for latest updates https://fastestknowntime.com/

ARTICLES:

Embrace Winter HERE

*****

INTERVIEW : KRISTIAN MORGAN

*****

INTERVIEW : JON ALBON

endurancesports.tv

With the NEW documentary featuring Jon Albon (Finding my Feet) live on www.endurancesports.tv as of Friday 2nd October.

We’ve created a special code so that our listeners can access the documentary, and everything else on the channel using a limited edition 50% offer lasting 6 months, click this link http://bit.ly/50offReward and enter the code “50_Reward”.

*****

Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage. 

*****

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VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review

Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.

The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.

IROCK3

The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.

 14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.

The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.

Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.

The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.

Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.

Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.

Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose. 

I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.” 

That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.

Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.

Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.

Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.

At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.

Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.

In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?

The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.

On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.

Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.

The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for many years, but now the secret is out. 

VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.

If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!

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.

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SCOTT Supertrac RC 2 Shoe Review

Scott have progressed year-on-year with the development of their trail running shoes. Notably, the interaction and feedback of their elite/ sponsored athletes have been instrumental in fine tweaking the range of shoes. 

I have been fortunate to work with the brand as a photographer on multiple occasions, often photographing new shoes and apparel before they are released to the general public. It’s important to clarify here that when reviewing shoes/ apparel, I do so impartially.

I started using Scott in 2012, the original Kinabalu was a shoe I loved. Eight years on, the present day Kinabalu has little resemblance to the original, gladly, it has progressed and what was a good shoe years ago, is now, in my opinion, a top-quality trail shoe. Follow here for a review of the new Kinabalu Ultra RC which will be available in late July.

I first witnessed the Supertrac RC in 2016 and wrote a first impressions in November of that year, here.

The black and yellow look then was striking and now, 4-years on, it is still striking and as such, Scott athletes, Scott apparel and Scott shoes are easily identifiable on the trail. It was a smart move by the brand.

As great as the original RC was (is) it was not the perfect shoe for me. I had some issues with how low the lacing came and in the propulsive face, I would some minor irritation. I also found the shoe a little lifeless. The cushioning did not give me the bounce I had hoped for. Despite these points, the shoe was an incredible performer in mountain terrain providing grip, a responsive feel and the seamless upper were all winners! It was designed for skyrunning. 

When Scott asked me to test out the new Supertrac RC 2 I was excited. I was surprised, to be honest, that the new incarnation had been so long coming. I had great expectations and although hopeful that the look/ integrity of the original shoe had not been changed, I had hoped that I would feel a notable difference.

Out of the box, I was happy. Black and yellow and this new shoe looked like the Supertrac I know. It was a great start. Flipping the shoe over, the 6mm lugs of the original were there, but the arrangement was different with a noticeable gap in the midfoot. I also noticed that the toe box was wider. The upper had several bales hanging off it, ‘3XDRY’ and ‘coldblack,’ so, it was apparent that the shoe had had an overhaul.

As a note, the new Kinabalu Ultra RC is being released in July and this, along with the Supertrac RC 2 is significant. The two shoes are very similar, the exception coming with the outsole and a more breathable/ mesh upper on the Kinabalu. In simple terms, the Supertrac RC 2 is for mountain, mud and rough terrain. The Kinabalu Ultra RC is a trail shoe.

Supertrac RC 2 on the top and the Kinabalu Ultra RC below – the difference in upper is significant. But fit/ feel is very similar.

The Kinabalu Ultra RC on top is less aggressive.

THE SHOE

I use an EU44 (UK9.5) for all my test shoes and weirdly, the Supertrac RC 2 although an EU44 says UK9 inside? I was perplexed initially thinking that the shoe would be too small. It’s not. So, if purchasing, just be careful with sizing. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy between EU and UK size.

At 298g for an EU44, this is a lightweight, but not the lightest mountain shoe.

One of the great attributes of the original Supertrac was foothold and here in the Supertrac RC 2 that foothold is equaled and bettered. Surprisingly, there is still no sock-like fit but when you slide the shoe on, you don’t even think about it. The seamless upper, tongue and lacing configuration hold the foot wonderfully tight. So, on technical terrain, there are no worries of one’s foot moving inside the shoe.

Key changes come in the upper with SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® and 3XDRY® which provide more protection and comfort. I was initially worried that the upper looked unbreathable and therefore potentially making the shoe hot, not so. The SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® reduces heat buildup and increases wearing comfort. The 3XDRY® is water and stain resistant and from the inside, it absorbs and distributes moisture.

The heel area is padded, snug and importantly when climbing does not allow for any slipping.

Notably, the toe box is wider allowing a little more toe splay than the original shoe and this is welcome. Toe protection is adequate and what is immediately noticeable is how the outsole rises up placing one lug almost on the toes – perfect for climbing.

Cushioning is notable. I found the original Supertrac lacking life and bounce, not here in the version 2 with the AEROfoam+. The bounce is notable even without running. The drop is 5mm. 

Scott have always used eRide (rocker) to help with technique and cadence. In some models, it has been very noticeable. Here in the Supertrac RC 2 it is less noticeable, and the curvature is reduced.

The outsole has always been a selling point with ‘radial traction.’ The 6mm lugs fit the middle ground off aggressive, but not too aggressive and the lugs now have been spaced differently to help dispel mud and reduce clogging. Particularly noticeable in the middle of the outsole.

If you wanted a shoe just for mud, then a more aggressive outsole would be better. But the Supertrac RC 2 quite rightly wants to provide a great all-rounder that handles mud, technical terrain and can still be comfortable when cruising some single-track.

IN USE

This is Scott’s best shoe so far in my opinion. The changes they have made addressed all my minor niggles from the original Supertrac RC and they have packaged them in a version 2 that is magical to wear.

I have given mine a real battering and in the space of a couple of weeks managed to get well over 100km in them in the mountains of Norway. Mud, trail, rock, wet and dry, at all times the shoes were performing at the highest level.

From 3-hour faster runs to 7-hour+ adventures, at all times, the shoes were comfortable and secure.  

In the previous Supertrac RC, I would only use them for shorter/ faster outings, the v2 is so much more cushioned that even on continually hard and rocky terrain, I had all day comfort.

The outsole performed as expected offering secure grip on rocks both in the dry and wet. I had one issue of slipping continuously on a particular type of rock, however, it became clear that the green slime over it was an issue for any shoe and not just the Scott. Confirmed by a run friend who was in a pair of inov-8.

In mud, I was happy with the grip knowing only too well that if I got in continuous sloppy and deep mud that grip would be compromised a little due to the 6mm lugs. But, the new spacing of the lugs did the job of expelling mud. This was perfect in guaranteeing a more consistent grip for all the time.

When on technical and demanding trail, you need a shoe that holds the foot so you can be 100% sure. Many brands call this ‘precision’ and often one of the downsides of a precision shoe/ fit is that the toe box will be narrower. The Supertrac RC 2 has a wider toe box and it is noticeable. I was therefore worried that some of that firm hold and reassurance may be lost. No! The lacing and fit are so good, that you can adjust and tweak making sure that you have 100% security. Even the insole grips one’s sock.

I ran through a great deal of wet/ muddy and boggy ground and here is maybe one downside of the shoe. I felt drainage was compromised. I always wear Merino socks and so therefore had no issues with cold feet, even when running through a great deal of snow. However, I do feel water retention was more noticeable.

CONCLUSIONS

The Supertrac RC 2 is a great shoe and for anyone who loved the original Supertrac RC, I think now they will have an even bigger smile on their face.

For those who were tempted by the black and yellow shoes previously but decided that the toe box was too narrow, the cushioning compromised, or the feel was a little flat, you should now go back and check these out.

It’s rare I compare shoes to other brands and models, however, for those who have read my reviews, they will know that VJ Sport are my ‘go-to’ shoes for the mountains, be that the XTRM or MAXx models. Now, I firmly believe that Scott have a shoe that can compete. 

I have 98% of good things to say about the Scott Supertrac RC 2 and the only negative is the potential for retaining water… To clarify, it does not stay in the shoe, it does dissipate. It just dissipates slower than I would have liked.

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.

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Scarpa SPIN Shoe Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN USE

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION 

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

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

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

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

Specs: 

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

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.

Follow on:

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