VJ Sport XTRM2 Shoe Review

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A new VJ Sport shoe is always exciting, this time, the XTRM2, which I guess is not really a new shoe but a re-working of a VJ classic. The XTRM has been a popular shoe in the trail, fell and mountain running world for a very long time, sitting in the middle ground of the aggressive iRock and the MAXx.

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The key to any VJ shoe is the outsole and the incredible grip that this outsole provides. The XTRM had 4mm lugs, the same as the MAXx but not as long as the iRock and therefore it was the ideal shoe for say skyrunning.

However, two things were often heard when fellow runners discussed the XTRM:

  1. I just wish there was a little more cushioning.
  2. I wish they could be just a little wider.

Well, the XTRM2 addresses both these issues and brings a couple of newer developments.

THE SHOE

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You should never judge a shoe by how it looks, and yes, some of you may love the look of the new XTRM2, I do not! Red is always great and when combined with black, superb. Look at the VJ Sport iRock HERE – now that is a nice-looking shoe! But this XTRM2 looks like someone had a little too much alcohol and dope in Hawaii and then designed the shoe. It’s a ‘me’ thing. Sorry.

Gladly, I can get past the looks because I know that a VJ Sport shoe will do all that I want and do it well.

As mentioned, the XTRM2 is designed to fit between the iRock, which is a short distance and soft-ground shoe and the MAXx which is a longer distance trail/ mountain shoe. Of course, there is now the ULTRA too. That is for the long stuff.

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Quite simply, if you loved the XTRM, the XTRM2 is going to make you smile. I had no issues with the original version, however, straight out of the box I welcomed the extra cushioning and the slightly rounder, more spacious toe box.

Drop is 4mm with 10mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. For perspective, the iRock has 8/14mm and the MAXx 12/18mm.

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With a reshaped last, CMEVA cushioning and a rock plate, the XTRM2 is the perfect mountain/ skyrunning shoe.

Pulling the shoe on there is a notable difference with the tongue, it is fastened on both sides. One of the issues in the previous XTRM and MAXx for that matter, was the tongue would move when running – often moving to the left or the right. This has now been addressed and in all my test runs so far, the tongue has remained in place and secure.

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Fitlock is a VJ Sport secret weapon and is one of the USP’s of the VJ brand. Once you have put your foot in the shoe, as you tighten the laces, the Fitlock grabs hold of the instep/ arch and holds it tight and secure – exactly what is required in mountainous and technical terrain when you need the shoe to be precise. With the more spacious XTRM2 toe box, this new Fitlock is even more welcome. I was initially worried if I would lose some of the precise feel at the front end, not so, the Fitlock compensates.

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The lacing is classic with 6 eyelets and the addition of a 7th eyelet on both sides should you require to lock lace or similar. There is reinforcement here ensuring that the laces can be pulled tight without causing any issue to the upper.

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The upper is Swiss Schoeller Keprotec® which is more durable than previous incarnations of the XTRM and it is also more pliable, allowing it to fit the foot better. Look at the old XTRM HERE – I reviewed this shoe back in 2018. Notably look how different the upper is… The original XTRM had many reinforced panels on the upper with a solid extension from the toe box and heel area. It’s a major change. I wondered, by contrast, if the new XTRM2 would feel less secure and sloppy – no. Foot hold has been excellent. The upper is excellent and repels moisture, water and mud.

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The heel area is slightly padded but not excessively, importantly it holds the foot and there is no slipping when climbing.

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Toe protection is adequate but could maybe be a little more? Certainly, in a skyrunning scenario when rocks, boulders and hard mixed terrain will be encountered.

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The outsole is a notable difference, the previous XTRM had 4mm lugs, they have now been increased to 6mm and in doing so, they now match the iRock. This is a key and notable change. For me, I would now only need an XTRM2 and MAXx (which has 4mm lugs). I do appreciate though, that the narrower and more precision fit of the iRock would be preferable for some.

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The outsole pattern is newly designed to optimize grip on all terrains and with the 6mm lugs, you now have an outsole that can handle softer ground. There is little to say about the grip of the outsole, VJ have the tagline ‘bestgripontheplanet’ and it is. No outsole from any other brand matches the grip, wet or dry, of a VJ outsole. However, be warned, that grip comes from a wonderful soft and grippy superior contact – it will not last and last and if you run too much road, that longevity will be reduced greatly. You cannot have amazing outsole grip and long life.

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There is a torsional rigidity in the shoe that is very noticeable when running on uneven and rocky terrain. If you have the Fitlock laced up and tight, the XTRM2 gives superb precision.

Flex and life are superb, and the propulsive phase is superb. There is a real ping behind the metatarsals when pushing off.

Weight is incredible, VJ list 250g for a UK8. My UK10 is 289g.

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I am always a UK9.5 in test shoes, however, I have noticed with extended use in VJ that I have often wished I had gone a half-size larger, so, with the XTRM2 and SPARK (review to follow) I decided to go to UK10. It was a good choice; I have found that extra space welcome. So, you may want to check this when purchasing.

CONCLUSION

Fitlock and a VJ outsole and you have a perfect shoe when precision and grip are required. The XTRM2 with a new upper, a new last, more cushioning and lugs increased to 6mm, and you now have the perfect trail/mountain and skyrunning shoe for short to middle distance. There are few shoes out there that can compete with VJ when this combination of elements is required. It is highly recommended.

Are there any negatives? I found prolonged running on hard surfaces (gravel road a good example) eventually tiring, but that is no real surprise. The outsole is soft and sticky and if you use on the wrong terrain, it will not last. I really dislike the look of the shoe, which is a petty thing to say, but the ‘look’ could put some people off before ever having the chance to run in the shoe and then find out how good it is. However, I may be alone in finding the look displeasing?

Ultimately, the XTRM2 is a superb shoe with incredible fit and grip.

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Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT – Shoe Review

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Ask any experienced mountain or skyrunner, what is the ‘best’ race and route, more often than not, the answer will be ‘Kima!’

Trofeo Kima in Italy has long been the dream of many a runner who loves a challenge at the max level. Taking place every other year, the race really gained notoriety when UTMB was hit by bad weather and a certain Kilian Jornet decided to take a fast exit out of France and stand on the start line of Kima the next day.

History was made, Kilian has returned again and again and, in his words, it is one of ‘the’ best races in the world that mixes running and alpinism – skyrunning!

Therefore, any shoe that is named after this iconic route had better be good!

Enter, the Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT.

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Let me just say, from the start, this may well be ‘one of’ the best mountain running shoes I have ever tried. I place it up there with the best that VJ Sport offers in terms of fit, comfort and grip. Trust me, if you read my shoe reviews, you know I regard VJ as the Holy Grail when it comes to perfect shoes. It also matches the best from La Sportiva.

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Scarpa in recent years have gone from strength to strength with shoes and design. A huge contributing factor was the arrival of legendary WMRA and skyrunning champion, Marco de Gasperi. Marco was there on the slopes of Alagna, aged just 16 when skyrunning was born. There are few that know the sport better!

And as for the Trofeo Kima route, he has raced it and in recent years set the FKT (7:53:41) for the completion of the course.

“…mountain lovers who face this technical and very hard route take three days, sleeping two nights in the refuges: a journey that is completed by dancing from rock to rock along with eight alpine passes above 2,500 meters (Barbacan, Camerozzo, Qualido, Averta, Torrone, Cameraccio, Bocchetta Roma and Corni Bruciati) before jumping headlong towards the finish line.”

All of the above can be felt in this remarkable shoe.

I could stop here and just say, go buy them! But at £190.00 a pair, you may take a little more convincing.

The Shoe

Out of the box, a great looking shoe, a mix of black/blue/grey which Scarpa list as Grey-Azure. The women’s version is light grey/ aruba blue here. They are light, especially for such a robust looking shoe. Noticeable is the toe bumper, the cushioning/ outsole and the high heel area that is designed to protect and support the achilles.

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With a 6mm drop, they fit that wonderful middle ground between a 4 and 8mm that will suit most people.

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Cushioning is 22mm at the rear, 16mm (women’s 21mm/ 15mm) at the front and the addition of an enclosed carbon plate only makes the 290g (UK8) weight even more unbelievable.

Carbon plate visible in the middle.

When I saw the carbon plate, I flinched a little. My experience so far with carbon plates in trail shoes has not been good – often it has added weight and made for a lifeless feel with little or no flex. Not here in the Golden Gate Kima, on the contrary, I was not aware of the plate until I ran and then two key things were noticeable: 1. There is a return in energy and comfort, particularly on hard, technical trail/ rock. 2. The plate act as a rock-plate offering increased protection. Quite simply, this is the best shoe I have tried with a plate and in all honesty, I am putting it out there now and saying that the Golden Gate Kima is arguably the best mountain shoe I have ever used… A bold statement!

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There are so many aspects to this shoe that are so right, that the moment you slip them on, you smile. The fit is just amazing. It has a ‘sock-like’ internal construction which when laced up just holds the foot secure, reassured and comfortable. Everything I want in a mountain shoe. Amazingly, even when laced tight, they manage to avoid hot spots or pressure points.

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The heel area is superbly padded and goes high offering the ultimate comfort and protection – a level I have not experienced before in any shoe.

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At the front, the shoe opens up in to a wide toe box, which on a scale of 1-5 (1 being narrow) sits at a 4. This is quite unusual for a shoe that is so obviously designed for technical and challenging running. But it works. There is room for those with wider feet and for those with narrower feet, you get toe splay. Normally this would not work for me in a mountain shoe, I like my foot to feel held, secure and un-moveable, this only confirms how good the middle of the shoe is and how the lacing and sock-like fit gives you all the security you need.

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The upper has a double construction with structure coming from microfibre and anti-abrasion mesh which adds durability but still allows for breathability.

Toe box is superb with arguably one of the most protected front ends I have found in a run shoe.

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The outsole is Scarpa’s own Presa which I must be honest and say in past Scarpa shoes has left me perplexed. Not here in the Golden Gate Kima. There has been a significant re-working and the ‘SuperGum’ 4mm lugs are a dream on rock offering stunning grip. However, on wet UK Lakeland rock they were less secure.

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Cushioning is unusual. They are neither cushioned or firm but sit somewhere beautifully in the middle offering a superb feel for the ground without being harsh. The cushioning allows for comfort but without being squidgy. The combination of elements, which has double density foam wrapped around a 1mm carbon fiber plate gives an amazingly precise, lightweight, cushioned and reassured ride that adds energy to the run. I don’t know how Scarpa have managed it, but they have! This shoe has ground feel, precision, comfort and energy rebound in a package that feels light and fast. Flex behind the metatarsals is superb, so, the propulsive phase is not compromised. It’s difficult to believe a plate is in the midsole, but it is, you can see it.

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In Use

Women’s shoe with 100’s of KM’s and the 65km Transgrancanaria race in them.

It’s one of the best mountain/ skyrunning shoes I have used. The Golden Gate Kima goes head-to-head with VJ Sports XTRM and MAXx and dare I say it, equals them! The VJ’s are the go-to choice for many based on the stunning outsole and superb foot hold. However, many say that VJ are too narrow and are not cushioned/ protective enough. The Golden Gate Kima addresses all those issues and summary provides:

  1. Cushioned comfort without a loss for ground feel or control.
  2. Incredible foot hold with a superb sock-like fit and lacing.
  3. Superb heel protection.
  4. Wider toe box.
  5. Caron plate which adds protection and rebound without compromising ground feel and control.
  6. Lightweight.
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I could go on about how great these shoes are. Out of the box and straight in to a 25km run and I was smiling and a little amazed at how Scarpa have upped their game in the shoe world. There was much talk about the Ribelle Run but for me, this Golden Gate Kima places Scarpa at a whole new level.

Hard trail, rock and even some road, the shoes just perform. The compromises coming on muddy ground, the outsole lugs are not long enough and some types of wet rock. This is a mountain shoe designed for hard trail and rocks, be that wet or dry and they perform.

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Comfort is superb, energy return excellent and importantly precision and control is top-notch. It’s a shoe that can eat time and miles and most certainly, 6-hours in a shoe like this would not be a problem. Of course, this is personal. If you like Hoka-like squidge, bounce, roll and lack of control, this is not a shoe for you. How long could you run in them? It’s so personal it is hard to say, for me a good mountain day out maxing at 12-hours would be a limit.

Although neutral, there does feel to be a little additional support in the arch of the foot. It is noticeable, but not unpleasant. This is no doubt due to the combination of sock-like fit, dual cushioning and carbon plate.

Conclusion

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Buy them! It’s as simple as that… If you are heading to the mountains, running technical trails and want a combination of superb features all wrapped up in a lightweight good-looking shoe, you can’t go wrong with the Golden Gate Kima RT.

I have found it difficult to find fault in the shoe. For some, maybe the cushioning is not enough? But remember, the balance between ground feel, control, precision, and comfort is delicate – these are the best out there that I have found along with VJ. In prolonged runs I got some toe rubbing (2nd toe from the right) on my right foot (only the right) – It is where the toe bumper stops and the upper mesh starts. It may be unique to me, my foot shape etc, but worth noting.

The name ‘Golden Gate’ I find confusing. Scarpa make a shoe called Golden Gate ATR which is highly cushioned and a world away from this Kima RT model. The Golden Gate reference initially made me think it was a development of the ATR model.

It looks as though sizing is whole sizes, EU 40, 41, 42 and so on. This may make a compromise for some. I use EU 44 and they were perfect, true to size for me.

At £190.00 they are not cheap, blame Brexit! Much cheaper in Europe. However, based on how darn good they are, for me, they are worth it.

As always, there are other shoes that offer options and VJ with XTRM or MAXx are definite rivals which maybe get the nod due to the outsole. Also, La Sportiva Akasha are a more robust and cushioned shoe and if I was going longer, wanted more security and more long-term comfort, they would win out. The Goldengate Kima RT is without doubt a shoe that will regularly appear in my shoe rotation.

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Scarpa Ribelle Run Shoe Review

Ribelle Run GTX
Ribelle Run (not GTX)
The Scarpa Ribelle Run and Ribelle Run GTX shoes are designed for harsh terrain. They will protect you and keep you safe and secure on a multitude of terrain, be that rock, scree, snow, ice (with micro crampon), ridges, or rocky single-track.

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Franco Collé and Giuditta Turini join The Coastal Challenge 2022

Following on from the recent announcement that Hayden Hawks and Beth Pascall will join the 2022 The Coastal Challenge, today we announce the participation of Italian duo, Franco Collé and Giuditta Turini.

Short term inconvenience and the sun will shine again.

Franco, a three-time champion (2014, 2018 and 2021) and course record holder legend of the gruelling Tor de Géants330km endurance trail will test himself running along the stunning coastline of Costa Rica, starting in Quepos and concluding in the stunning Drake Bay.
He will be joined by Giuditta Turini, a ski mountaineering star and recently also in trail running. In 2021, Giudy has won Orobie Skyward and Etna Trail and had two significant 2nd places at TDS and 90km du Mont-Blanc.

Franco in Sardinia

No doubt, The Coastal Challenge and Costa Rica’s heat and humidity will bring an early season challenge for the duo.

Franco has a stunning set of career highlights (for trail running) starting  in 2012 with two victories at Gran Trail Valdigne and Cervino X-Trail but it was here that his love affair with Tor des Géants started with a 5th place. In 2013 at ‘Tor,’ he placed 3rd and wonGran Trail Jensen, Gran Paradiso Trail, Cervino X-Trail and Gran Trail Courmayer. 2014 was a key year bringing his first ‘Tor’ win in 71h 49m. What followed is a stunning CV of mountain, trail and Skyrunning results with top-raking places at Transvulcania, Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, High Trail Vanoise and more, culminating recently with a ‘Tor’ course record of 66h 43m.

Giuditta leading her team, Monte Rosa SkyMarathon

Giuditta, known for her ski mountaineering was a late starter in the trail world with significant results starting in 2017. In 2019, she hit a purple patch with 4 victories winning DoloMyths Run Sellaronda Trail, Valmalenco Ultradistance Trail, Adamello Trail and Ultratrack Supramonte Seaside. In 2020 she won SwissPeaks 170 and then has had a stunning 2021 season.

Giuditta Ultratrack Supramonte, Sardinia

In addition, both Franco and Giuditta have used their ski and running abilities to excel at the Monte Rosa Skymarathon, a very unique race by the International Skyrunning Federation.


Considered one of the top trail running races in the world, TCC is much more than that. A supported multi-stage trail running race, every runner will test their mental and physical strength. Participants will traverse jungle and rainforest trails, run mountain trail and single track across ridge lines, pass though highlands and coastal ranges; there’ll be beaches, rocky outcroppings and reefs, river and estuary crossings, and miles of river to wade through. Concluding in Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay is one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world as well as a Unesco World Heritage site.


With two races available, an Expedition Run of 230km and an Adventure Run of 155km – TCC is a race not to be missed!

230km and 10.000m+

Join the race in 2022, February 5th to 12th, registration HERE

Please note, TCC requires full vaccination and documented proof will be required.

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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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.


Talk Ultra needs your help! 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Donate HERE

INTERVIEW : PETTER ENGDAHL

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

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

Instinct XX 20L

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

12 – 24 Week Multi-Day Training Plans now available HERE

100-Mile Training Plan now available HERE

We also have several places that have become available for bespoke coaching and training plans. Like more information? 

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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 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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