Episode 202 – Emily Hawgood

Episode 202 of Talk Ultra has a chat Emily Hawgood who placed 3rd at Bandera 100km and has just joined the adidas Terrex Team.


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NEWS

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

La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE

Moonlight head lamp review HERE

inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE

Review of 2020 HERE

Icbebug Pytho 5 Review HERE

inov-8 Mudclaw G260 Review HERE

inov-8 G270 Long-Term Review HERE

Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE

Episode 201 – Simen Holvik HERE

Winter Running – Hints n Tips HERE

Timothy Olson TCC2021 HERE

Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket Review HERE

Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review HERE

INTERVIEW : EMILY HAWGOOD

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Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket Review

Haglöfs have been a premium brand for more than a century developing outstanding outdoor products that combine a strong sense of Swedish heritage with a commitment to sustainability and innovation. The launch of L.I.M (Less Is More) personified the essence of lightness. In Spring 2020, Haglöfs updated the L.I.M Series – lightweight, high-performance products that deliver uncompromised performance when taken up mountains and into the wilderness, anywhere in the world.

The L.I.M Essens Jacket Men is currently my go-to jacket for any running or mountain adventure, quite simply, it’s the best product I have tried. It combines three key elements perfectly: low weight, small pack size and warmth.

Quite simply, ‘Essens’ is the essence of lightness. The warmth and very low weight is attributed to extremely light and durable material and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling. Importantly, the down is treated with fluorocarbon-free DWR which works so well that the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions. 

This is a game changer… Down has always been known to have the lowest weight and smallest pack size, however, previous incarnations would mean that any wet or damp weather would leave the filling useless.

Now, with fluorocarbon-free DWR, down has all the benefits ans wet weather performance of a synthertic filling such as Primaloft, but with the huge advantages of low weight and packing size of down. The Nikwax Hydrophobic Down can be washed with an appropriate Nikwax (Nikwax Down Wash Direct) product.

Fit is superb both in female and male versions with excess fabric reduced to a minimum. Features are minimal and notably there is no hood, no chest pocket and two hand pockets with no zips, to save weight.

The jacket will fold and compress in to one of these pockets if required.

It has a mini-box quilted construction which ensures the down is spread evenly over the jacket leaving no cold spots. The fill is 800 CUIN. The DWR repels water and dirt making the Essens a perfect all-year round insulating layer.

A full-length zipper allows flexibility in regulatimg temperature and for cold conditions it has a high nick with chin guard. The bottom of the jacket and cuffs have a simple elastic construction to reduce drafts and maintain low weight.

IN USE

The Essens jacket has been with me on all my runs since receiving the product. I pretty much always run with a pack and due to the Essens low weight, small pack size and flexibility in all weathers, there has never been a reason not to take it. My male medium weighs 160g which is up there as one of the lightest down jackets available. The ability to maintain loft and insulation irrespective of conditions has been a game changer, be that on a run from home or more notably on a multi-day fastpack when weight v warmth is key. This is a product that works for any adventure, be that in the snowy mountains or for example on stage race like Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert. Fit is neither slim or spacious, it seems to fit just right with enough flexibility in the arms, the back and sleeve length are optimised for outdoor use. Added to a merino base layer, it provide incredible warmth on cold days. Should you stop for a break, it provides ideal insulation to retain warmth before heading off again. On tough, challenging and wild days, the Essens is a superb insulating layer underneath a waterproof such as Haglöfs L.I.M Jacket which has minimalist design, is easy to pack, light and made from GORE-TEX Paclite® PLUS.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing to dislike in the L.I.M Essens Jacket, in all honesty it is the best I have tried. The warmth and comfort is incredible for such a lightweight jacket. The packing size and weight is difficult to beat. As I said, there is no reason not to take this on any run as it is the perfect insulating layer, irrespective of the weather.

RRP £200 available in 4-colours, sizes XS to XL male and female versions.

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 201 – Simen Holvik

Episode 201 of Talk Ultra has a chat with #phantamsm24h runner, Simen Holvik and we discuss his 2021 July FKT plans in Norway.


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INTERVIEW : SIMEN HOLVIK

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inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270 Long-Term Review

Terraultra G270 with 600km+

Since its release, the inov-8 Terraultra G270 has received acclaim all over the world. Many magazines, reviewers and bloggers hailing it the shoe of 2020. In late July I wrote my review HERE.

Now, with over 600km+ in the shoes it’s time to make a long-term review and assessment.

I am not going into the analysis of the shoe as in a typical post, you have a review linked above that goes through the pros and cons and all the technical jargon. This is a usage review.

First off, the Graphene outsole and 4mm lugs is a 100% winner. The durability has been superb, the grip incredible and the traction has been without equal. Even in mud, the outsole has performed but of course it is compromised. The lugs are just not aggressive enough to grip in very soft or deep mud, but a thin layer of mud and the G270 really does perform. Wet rock grip has been superb and arguably the most impressive aspect. Many have raved and provided a 5/5 review. I can’t give 5/5 because it is compromised in mud, therefore it gets a 4/5 BUT and this is a BIG but, in all honesty, you should not be using the G270 in mud, there are other shoes for that. So, if reviewing for intended purpose, it would get a 5/5. This may sound a little weird, but the G270 has become my ‘go-to’ road shoe, especially with the arrival of Autumn and Winter, the grip on wet roads, pavement and hard-pack trail has been superb. Although not a ‘hybrid’ shoe (road to trail) it performs like one and I would recommend for that use.

The cushioning has really surprised me. It’s plush without being squidgy. It’s super comfortable without losing that all important feel for the ground. It takes 20km hard trail runs in its stride and still allows legs to feel fresh after. The G270 is designed for longer races and as such, it comes highly recommended. An improvement on the G260. There was a mention of a ‘Boomerang Insole’ in the technical jargon that provides extra energy return, I have no idea if this is resulting in the positive feel of the shoe, but something is definitely working better over the previous G260 incarnation.

Zero drop – you are either going to be for or against. I am fortunate, I test shoes all the time and I am regularly mixing up drops from 0 to 10 and all the steps between. With zero I am usually careful not running too long or too often. The G270 changed that, I have been running regularly 3-4 runs per week since November with total distances of 50-80km (per week) just in the G270 and they have been superb. The days between I have been using 4, 8 and even 10mm drop on the odd occasion. Drop is very personal, so, I just warn against potential problems if zero is not normal for you.

The toe box is wide, and I have really enjoyed the extra space and comfort on long road or hard trail runs. With Injini socks, my toes can really splay for comfort. The G270 would be a great fastpacking shoe or multi-day shoe. I can see it being really popular in races like Marathon des Sables. The wide toe box though is too wide for me on technical trail… I don’t have the control or the precision I need, so, it’s not a shoe for me when running on technical terrain.

A major improvement is the upper. After 600km+ I have no signs of wear. The important ‘bend’ area behind the metatarsals that can often split in the corners is still good and showing no weakness. I mentioned the hold of the foot in my initial review and that has been one of the key pluses of the G270, particularly over the G260. The lacing, ‘Adapterfit’ and hold of the instep is reassuring, particularly important for me with a wider toe box.

All things considered, the G270 is one of the shoe highlights of 2020 without a doubt. It’s not perfect, but then again, show me a shoe that is. If you want zero drop, grip, traction, cushioning and a wider toe box, I think you’d find it hard to find a shoe that compares with the G270.

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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Andrea Huser, 2017 UTWT Champion dies while training in Saas-Fee

Transgrancanaria was a favourite race

The trail and ultrarunning world was shocked yesterday, Monday November 30th with the news that 2017 UTWT (Ultra-Trail World Tour) champion, Andrea Huser, was killed while training on Sunday November 29th.

Media resource, 20min.ch reported, “The sports scene mourns Andrea Huser: The athlete and mountain bike European champion from 2002 had a fatal accident while training in Saas-Fee.”

At Marathon des Sables, Morocco.

Rescue workers from the Saastal rescue station found the 46-year-old dead above Saas-Fee in the Oberi Schopfen area around noon on Sunday. Canton police in Valais, have reported, “she wanted to cross a stream several meters long while training. She apparently slipped and fell about 140 meters down a steep slope.”

Andrea, was reserved and avoided the limelight. She let her performances speak for themselves and her reputation within the sport of mountain, ultra and trail running was without compromise.

Gediminas Grinius, a friend and fellow competitor posted via social media, “I was lucky enough to call Andrea my dear friend & though it feels not fair to loose her so sudden and early, sooner or later we once again be playing together on the endless running trails!”

Known recently for exploits as a trail runner, Andrea was also a world-class mountain biker who In 2002, was crowned European champion and was Swiss champion in cycling marathon in 2004. Triathlon, cross-country skiing and of course running, her reputation was fortified in tough mountain races, “Give me steep climbs, technical trails and fast downhills” she told me on the finish line of Transgrancanaria.

“Many of us have had the privilege of meeting Andrea.  She won the UTWT title in 2017. A bright and discreet woman leaves us too fast”

Marie Sammons for Ultra-Trail World Tour via Twitter

“She was an extraordinary ultrarunner, some seasons she literally run everything, linking ultras every week. We’ll miss you Andrea. My condolences to the family and friends.”

Kilian Jornet via Twitter

Key results:

  • Swiss Alpine Davos 78km 2013 2nd
  • Eiger Ultra Trail 101km 2014 5th
  • UTMB 2014 7th
  • Transvulcania 2014 7th
  • Transgrancanaria 2015 4th
  • Eiger Ultra Trail 101km 2015 2nd
  • Swiss Alpine Davos 78km 2015 2nd
  • UTMB – TDS 2015 1st
  • Grand Raid Reunion 2015 3rd
  • Transgrancanaria 2016 2nd
  • MIUT 2016 2nd
  • Maxi Race Annecy 84km 1st
  • Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2016 1st
  • Eiger Ultra Trail 101km 2016 1st
  • Swiss Alpine Davos 78km 2016 2nd
  • UTMB 2016 2nd
  • Grand Raid Reunion 2016 2nd
  • Transgrancanaria 2017 2nd
  • MIUT 2016 1st 
  • UTMB 2017 2nd
  • Eiger Ultra Trail 101km 2017 1st 
  • Grand Raid Reunion 2017 1st 
  • Transgrancanaria 2018 2nd

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.

Episode 199 – Hayden Hawks and Camille Herron

Episode 199 of Talk Ultra we talk with Hayden Hawks and Camille Herron who both won JFK50.

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NEWS

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

Kilian Jornet Phantasm article HERE

La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE

Moonlight head lamp review HERE

inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE 

Silva Trail Runner Free review HERE

How to choose a headlamp article HERE

Layered clothing article HERE

In other news…

INTERVIEW : HAYDEN HAWKS

INTERVIEW : CAMILLE HERRON

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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patreon at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. 

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Kilian Jornet completes Hytteplanmila 10km Road Race in 29:59.

Kilian Jornet with a final push to the line, Hytteplanmila 10km Road Race.

Zerei Kbrom Mezngi ran 28:20 at Hytteplanmila 10km Road Race on Saturday, taking the overall win ahead of Narve Gilje Nordâs and Bjønar Lillefosse, 28:28 and 28:45 respectively. For the women, it was a record day for Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal who ran 30:32 breaking her old course record of 32:25 set in 2017 and the long-standing national record held by the legend, Ingrid Kristiansen set in 1989. It was a huge day for Karoline!

Karoline amongst the men in the opening mile.

The Hytteplanmila 10km Road Race is a big deal in Norway attracting the best-of-the-best. Normally, 1000’s would toe the line but 2020 and Covid-19 changed all that and instead it was an invitation race only with specific criteria,  37.20 (38.20 *) for women and 31.20 (32.00 *) for men (10,000 meters / 10 kilometers in 2019/2020, or equivalent achievements) * If there are vacancies in the heats. The race took place in waves, 1 minute separating each with no more than 25-runners per heat.

The Ingebrigtsen brothers would toe the line, Jakob having won the race and set the course record in 2019 with a sub 28:00 performance. However, eyes were on mountain running legend, Kilian Jornet, who would toe the line in his first ever official road race.

Kilian pre-race

Despite the profile of the race, it’s a low-key affair taking place the community of Hole, close to Hønefoss and approximately 1-hour from Oslo. The morning was cold, grey and mist was low making for an almost ethereal feel ahead of the 1330 start.

Kilian arrived in his camping car and despite having specific media documenting the process, his presence was not acknowledged by the rest of the runner’s. This is a Scandanavian thing but also an acknowledgement that although Kilian maybe a star on the mountain, ultra and trail scene, in a road race, he is unknown…

Kilian used a face mask, a requirement at registration.

Donning a face mask, his number was collected and he returned to his vehicle to prepare. I asked him how he felt ahead of the challenge:

“I feel good but I have been carrying a tibial injury which has impacted on training for the last 2-weeks, but I hope for around 29:30. We shall see…”

Kilian used the new Salomon S/Lab Phantasm road shoe.

The chill in the air was noticeable for all and 30-minutes before the start, Kilian added a jacket and hat and moved to the opening mile of the race route and gently warmed up.

Kilian pre warm up.
Kilian warming up.

Around him, the road was full of runners. Looking on it was apparent, with the exception of one or two, that Kilian was one of the oldest competitors amongst this elite field. His 32-years by no means old, but the average age was late teens or early 20’s. They ran up and down the road striding out, sprinting and looking focussed, almost blinkered. Kilian by contrast looked calm, relaxed and happy to do his own thing.

Kilian doing his own thing in preparation for the start.

At 1345 the sound of a gun announced the start of the first group of 25 and amongst them was Kilian. A lead car showed the time. Several bikes had cameramen to live stream the race and Kilian had his own following bike and live feed.

The elite pack in the opening mile. The Ingebrigtsen brothers leading the way.

Kilian was mid-pack and striding out looking relaxed and focused. No doubt looking around and trying to find his place. He went on to say post-race, “It’s a fun experience to race with so many talented runners but I am not used to having other people so close and I found it hard to find a place and avoid other peoples feet, especially in the early stages.”

Kilian finding his place, speed and stride in the elite group.

Having run 29:42 in training straight after a VK, it was realistic that Kilian could achieve 29:30 or faster. As the race unfolded, the front of the race forged ahead. Kilian, jokingly said before the race, “I am no 9 but I will not finish in this position!”

The brothers did not have their day, Jakob had not looked good warming up and he dropped from the race. His brother, Filip would finish in 29:03.

Filip running 29:03 for 6th place.

Zerei Kbrom Mezngi was the winner opening up a significant gap and powering in the final stretch for the uphill finish crossing in 28:20, 8-seconds ahead of Narve Gilje Nordâs.

Zerei Kbrom Mezngi
Narve Gilje Nordâs

Attention then turned to looking down the road and the arrival of Kilian. Five runners went sub 29:00 and then 8-runners followed to go sub 29:30. The next runner 29:41, 29:44, 29:46 and then Kilian emerged at the bottom of the slope with the motorbike to his right hand side. One runner was ahead of him who crossed in 29:54.

Kilian was now in full flight, both feet off the ground and he was pushing for the line. No doubt desperate to go sub 30:00.

Kilian with 100m to go.

While those around him collapsed to the floor grasping for air, Kilian crossed the line, smiled, his 29:59 did not show… 18th place.

Kilian immediately after the finish.

He looked content, and was soon able to provide comments on his first experience racing on the road.

“I felt the injury, so I am a little disappointed for that. It was very interesting, very different to when you go training, you can keep a steady pace. Here it was fast at the beginning and I am not used to so many people and being so close. It’s difficult to understand my place. The first km was fine as it is downhill. It was a great experience and it motivates me to have another try…!”

Kilian talking about the race and his experience.

“I don’t think the injury is a real problem but I need to rest a little and get rid of it. When I run a VK the effort is typically 30-minutes but this is different. In terms of cardio, for me it was kind of easy all the time. It’s the legs, you need to feel light and keep the speed. It’s very different. The first 4 to 5km with more people was a challenge as you are almost cm’s from the other runners. I need to get used to that. I learned a great deal. I will try again, at least in the short term, but next year I want to climb… I have some specific goals. I just need more experience.”

“I will try again, at least in the short term, but next year I want to climb… I have some specific goals. I just need more experience.”

You can view the race video HERE

Kilian said only 18-months ago that running on a road had no interest for him. But now we see him testing himself over a 10km distance. From conversations, I know he has the desire to toe the line of a road marathon. On paper, that would suit him better allowing him to combine speed with endurance. For now though, we can marvel at 29:59 and speculate what is to come in the future.

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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How to Find Your Running Shoe Size and Fit.

Run shoes should be specific.

It shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. Go on any run forum and I will bet you that daily, someone will ask a question about run shoes.

I want a shoe that will allow me to run muddy trails and road?

Can anyone recommend a shoe for fell running?

I have Hobbit feet and I need cushioning and grip – what shoe?

I could go on and on. The thing is, while it may be okay to ask a couple of question like:

  1. How does a specific shoe perform in mud?
  2. How is the wear and tear of ‘x’ shoe?

Asking for a specific shoe recommendation can be a recipe for a disaster, the reason being, we are all individual and shoes are very personal based on a multitude of factors. Nobody on social media knows you, your needs, how you run and what type of running you do.

So, please do not ask for a shoe recommendation on social media unless you are specific. A good example being:

“I am male, aged 44. I have been running for 23-years and I have extensive history in cycling, triathlon, road running and now I am moving to trail running… I am 5ft 9. A little overweight. In regard to shoes? I am looking for a trail shoe that will provide great grip on muddy trails. I need support for my arch and cushioning but not something as cushioned as say a Hoka. In regard to foot width, I am in the middle, neither needing precision or wide fit. On a scale of 1-5 I would be a 3!’

With the above we have information from the runner and therefore suggestions and recommendations can be specific and targeted. Even then, the runner should go to a run store, albeit now he has a shortlist of options and then try on the shoes to find the one that best suits him, his feet and his needs.

IF THE SHOE FITS

Firstly, and importantly, not all shoes are equal and not all feet are the same.

Measure your foot.
Measure your foot.
  • Foot length.
  • Foot width.
  • Foot shape.
  • Pronation.
  • Supination.
  • Neutral.

Quite simply, the better a shoe fits, the more specific to the type of running one will do in that shoe, the more likely you will feel better. The foot will be happier and the miles you run will be more comfortable.

Our bodies are supported by our feet; they are the first point of contact with the ground and therefore, they are incredibly important. Getting a correct fitting shoe that is specific for purpose is crucial.

When I say specific for purpose, let me provide some simple clarification now and then explain in-depth later. Shoes come in categories; I see the main list broken down as 6 main groups:

  • Road
  • Road to Trail
  • Trail
  • Ultra-Running (with sub heading of Ultra Road and Ultra Trail)
  • Fell Running
  • Mountain Running

Now, one could break down the categories even more with very, very specific needs such as, “I need a mountain running shoe with an aggressive outsole with great grip in wet and dry conditions and superb traction in mud.”

But before we get into the discussion on the shoe for the job, getting a correct fitting shoe is vital.

HOW DO WE FIND A CORRECT FITTING SHOE?

Image ©blitzresults.com

Please don’t fall in with the generic advice that a run shoe should be one size bigger than say your every day casual shoe! For a start, this assumes you have the correct size casual shoe and trust me, from experience, very few people do. The recommendation for sizing up also comes from the assumption that a foot swells when running. From experience, feet rarely go longer but can go wider with repeated impact and stress; think of races like Marathon des Sables when a runner is in a hot/sandy environment. So, one may need a wider shoe but not a longer shoe. This comes down to getting the specific shoe for the job.

©custom fit.me

I wear the same size run shoe as my casual shoes (typically) but to clarify, I go for the ‘same fitting’ shoe.

Shoe sizing between brands is variable and inconsistent, an EU 44 in say Salomon is not necessarily the same as an EU 44 in inov-8. So, first and foremost, always try shoes on!

Length and foot width does change so it can be a good idea to have your feet measured if you are new to running with little experience. Some specialists suggest getting feet measured yearly, but for me, this still only gives a guideline to shoe size as comfort, feel and specificity come in to play.

Foot shape and how you get the thumb nail of space.

“As a rule of thumb,” I have consistently found that a thumb nail of space above one’s big toe is usually ideal for sizing. This is classic for an ‘Egyptian’ foot shape (D). I say usually because I have seen some feet where the second toe is longer than the big toe, known as ‘Greek’ foot shape (C), so, this would require an individual approach. There is also ‘Square’ foot shape and the thumb nail width above the big toe usually applies here, but, a wider toe box may be required.

Remember, both feet are usually not the same size, so, take this in consideration. Go for fit and feel with the bigger foot!

NOTE: Specifics come in to play such as foot width and specificity of the shoe. As an example, If you are running technical trail, you will need a more ‘precision’ fit. If running long/road ultras, you may well prefer a wider fit that will allow toe splay. More on this later.

Wear socks that you typically run in and if you normally wear two pairs of socks, then wear two pairs when testing and trying. Two pairs of socks may require you to go a half or full size larger depending on the sock thickness. Note:nYou may wear the same shoes for Summer and Winter, but in Summer you use light and thin socks but for Winter you use thick Merino socks. This may well mean you need a different size shoe for Summer in comparison to Winter.

Insoles can give a good indication of the shoe size and its width. As a guide, the insole should match the shape and size of your foot.

With the insole back in the shoe, place your foot inside and firstly check for the space at the front. If you have the required space, lace up and tighten. On the top of the foot you have the ‘Navicular Bone’ and the shoes should be tight here but not so tight to restrict blood flow.

Stand up and move around. Key checkpoints are: 1. Thumbnail width between longest toe and edge of shoe. 2. Check pressure on your little toe. 3. Check pressure and feel on your big toe.

Ideally, you want to be able to run in them and most good run shops have a treadmill to try out shoes. Key checkpoints: 1. No slippage in the heel area. 2. No pressure on toes. 3. Instep feels secure and pain free. 4. You have support or a lack of support as needed.

If you see material bulging because of tightness you may need a bigger shoe, or you have the wrong width. If you see an excess of fabric, you may have a shoe that is too large or too wide.

Check the fabric of the shoe and the seams. Will they be breathable for your needs? Will they protect you for your needs? Does the toe bumper have enough protection?

Remember shoes flex when you run. In the propulsive phase, the shoe will bend behind the metatarsals and this can be a troublesome area if the shoes are the wrong size. Often a sign of a shoe that fits incorrectly is this area will crease and often tear causing failure in the shoe upper. If running uphill, think mountain, fell and trail running, this area of a shoe gets a great deal of stress.

A good running store with professional staff will help you with shoe choices and they should discuss the pros and cons of the specific brands and models available. However, gut feeling and how you feel goes a long way. Always be careful of ‘sale’ shoes! Don’t be influenced in buying the wrong shoe just because it is a good price.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

Marathon des Sables has some foot horror stories and the general story is because of the heat, the sand and how brutal the race is. The truth is, the issues (usually) arise through runner’s choosing the wrong shoe and the wrong size. 

Old advice has said size up, go bigger as your feet will swell.

However, a shoe that is too big allows the foot to move inside the shoe. A moving foot causes friction. Friction causes blisters. The rest is self-explanatory. In addition, with each sliding of the foot, the toes may impact with the front of the shoe and result in bruising. Think of running downhill with shoes that are too big, your toes will be crammed at the front with room behind the heel.

Having said this, feet can swell through impact and heat. So, using Marathon des Sables as an example, one consideration may be going for a shoe with a wider toe box but still that thumbnail of space at the front. What often happens is a runner has a favourite shoe and decides they need more room, so, they just buy a larger shoe (than needed) because it increases the width/ space. Actually, what they should do is change the shoe. It goes back to specificity.

Shoe that are too tight and/or too small will result in black toenails but more importantly can damage ligaments and possibly result in damage to the metatarsals. Stress fractures are a real risk. Also, you will have foot fatigue and pain. The foot is full of nerves and bones. As an example, the soles are extremely sensitive to touch due to a high concentration of nerve endings, with as many as 200,000 per sole. *The foot receives its nerve supply from the superficial peroneal (fibular) nerve, deep fibular nerve, tibial nerve (and its branches), sural nerve, and saphenous nerve. These nerves come from peripheral nerves that arise from the L4 to S3 nerve roots and contribute to the somatic motor function, general sensory information, and the cutaneous sensation of the foot. In regard to bones, each foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.

If you require stability shoes, the wrong size shoe may well put the support in the wrong place and instead of providing help, it will create onward issues and problems. Plantar Fasciitis is a risk.

Quite simply GET THE CORRECT FITTING SHOE!

IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER

Okay, so we have given a guide to how you find the correct size of shoe. But now we need to be specific and address and look at some fundamental questions before going to any run store:

GAIT

Supinate – Your weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot.

Pronate – Your weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.

Neutral – Your weight is distributed evenly.

Foot arches, low, medium and high.

You need to know which of the above you are, as all brands and manufacturers produce shoes to answer these three specific needs. If you do not know the answer to this question, look at the soles of shoes you have worn for some time – you will see how they have worn. In a proper stride, your foot should roll forward and pronation should be neutral. Shoes that are geared towards supination or pronation are designed to bring you back to neutral.

Side view.

Many runners who need specific support often see a Podiatrist and have Orthotics made that are transferable to any shoe. In this scenario, you should purchase neutral shoes. 

**If you supinate, it can cause excess strain on your ankles. It may lead to shin splints, calluses, or bunions on the outer side of your foot, and pain in your heels and balls of your feet. Excess over pronation, means that as you walk, your foot rolls toward the inside and your arch tends to flatten out. Your shoe will show uneven wear on the inside part of the sole.

CUSHIONING

Hoka One One are very cushioned.

From barefoot running to bouncy marshmallow shoes, there is a plethora of cushioning options available to choose from and what is best may just come down to personal taste…

However, I beg to differ. I feel cushioning or a lack of cushioning should be applied based on what type of running one is doing and what conditions.

Examples:

Fell running – Fell running often takes place in soft, boggy and wet ground. A feel for the ground is essential so that you can respond with ever-changing terrain. A shoe with too much cushioning will remove that feel, place you higher off the ground and may well increase the risk of injury. A sprained ankle being one of the most obvious.

Road running – Road is hard, it can jar the body, muscles and tendons and therefore a shoe with a little more cushioning may be preferable. For some, they require sofa like comfort. Others prefer some cushioning but not at the expense for the feel for the ground.

When purchasing shoes, look at the cushioning typically shown as, for example – Midsole Stack 8mm/ 14mm. This is 8mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. The higher the numbers, the greater the cushioning.

Some shoes include a rock plate which offers protection from sharp objects, useful when trail running.

DROP

Image ©rei.com

Shoe drop is essentially the difference between the height/ thickness of the midsole under the heel compared to the same measure under the ball of the foot. Years ago, drop was not a consideration. On a personal note, thinking back say 8-years, I never considered shoe drop. Now, it’s all important.

Importantly, do not be confused by cushioning here. You may well look at say a Hoka One One and think it has a high drop. On the contrary, they typically have a low drop of 4mm. ***Drop refers only to the difference in thickness between the front and back of the shoe and is not a narrative on the magnitude of the thickness.

From experience, I do not consider that any runner has an ideal drop. I see drop as something that can played around with based on the needs and requirements of the shoe and the conditions it will be used. But I must clarify that I have been testing shoes for 8+ years and switching drop on a daily basis has been no problem, on the contrary, I actually consider it to be beneficial.

As a way to explain, I use 0 drop shoes all the way through to typically 8mm. I do have one pair of shoes at 10mm, but they are an exception.

Zero drop or barefoot advocates will argue and argue that zero is the only way to go and if you are adapted and have no injury issues, that is awesome. However, most people have not experienced zero drop and suddenly to do all runs in zero will almost certainly result in some injury. Zero takes adaptation.

Pure Sports Medicine are clear, “What we do know is that human tissues can be sensitive to sudden changes in the way they are loaded, and that it is biologically coherent (and in keeping with the laws of physics) that differing shoe drops may load certain tissues differently. As such, if you are currently uninjured there is no justification for changing the drop of your shoe, but should you want to then be mindful of allowing the body time to adapt to such changes (although many runners may be able to interchange between shoes of different drops we would usually advise being over cautious if this is not something you have done before).

So, if you typically run in 8mm drop shoes without injury, it makes sense you purchase shoes with 8mm drop. Equally, if 4mm is your thing, purchase 4mm.

Specificity of drop.

I personally (and others like me) see drop in conjunction with cushioning, or, a lack of cushioning as a tool to get the most from my body and my runs. For example, if running a muddy fell run, I will use a lower drop, say 3 or 4mm with less cushioning. By contrast, if I was doing a long trail run, I would prefer 8mm drop and more cushioning. 

A certain drop may be beneficial in reducing sensitivity and complementing your overall management strategy – so consider this. ****Changing the drop of your shoes (or using multiple shoes which have varying drops in a rotation system) is not to be discouraged or feared, but be sure your body’s tissues can tolerate this, and are given the necessary time to adapt and attain the capacity if needed.

GRIP

The outsole of a shoe is key as this is the point of contact with the ground on which you are running. Again, specificity is key. There is no one outsole that will do all jobs well and therefore the need for multiple shoes with specific tasks is an essential armory to a runner’s shoe cupboard.

Road shoes – Typically need little grip, just a good rubber.

Road outsole

Trail shoes – Typically require a good outsole that is durable and has grip, say 4mm studs.

Trail outsole

Fell shoes – Typically will be aggressive and on first looks may look like football boots with 6 or 8mm studs.

Mud/ fell outsole

Mountain shoes – Typically will be a mixture of trail and fell shoes and the outsole will be sticky to provide good grip in wet and dry conditions.

Mountain outsole

In an ideal world, if you ran all of the above scenarios, you’d have a pair of shoes for each scenario. However, shoes are expensive and many runner’s need to make some compromises. Brands realised this and for example, some offer road to trail shoes that provide a best of both worlds’ scenario. The inov-8 Parkclaw is a great example. “the perfect shoe for runners wanting to run on paths and trails, or those looking to make a transition from road running to trail running.” – inov-8

If you need grip for mud, you need to be specific, there is no compromise.

WIDTH

Like drop, shoe width can create many an argument. Simply put, if you have a slimmer/ slender foot, you can probably wear any width shoe providing you have the correct size and they hold you securely.

Image ©wive.com

But if you are a Hobbit, shoe choice may well be compromised as you will need to look for a wider fitting shoe.

Shoe width is also a consideration based on other factors: 1. What terrain are your running on? 2. How long will you be running?

On a personal note, if I am running on technical and challenging terrain, I want a shoe that fits and holds my foot. I am not worried about toe splay – precision is a priority. By contrast, if I was running on groomed trail for multiple hours, a shoe with more width may will be preferable to allow my toes to splay and relax.

Like drop and cushioning, I mix the width of my shoes based on my needs.

Some companies, inov-8 for example provide a width guide to steer runner’s to shoes that will specifically answer their personal needs. This a great system that takes some guess work away. The system is simply rated 1-5; 1 being a tight/ precision fit, 5 being wide and spacious.

Brands such as Altra only offer one foot shape and believe that a wide toe box is essential, in conjunction with 0 drop. It is a toe shape foot box that allows toes to relax and splay. The big toe has space and in principal, this foot box helps reduce overpronation and increases stability. On a personal note, Altra has a place for long road, ultra or trail runs, but when the terrain gets challenging, they feel way to sloppy for me – but this is a personal thought. Altra fans or wide toe box fans will disagree.

WEIGHT AND FABRICS

Shoe weight can be an important consideration. Certainly, when racing, a runner may well prefer a lighter shoe so that they feel faster. However, if running an ultra, added cushioning and a little more weight will be worthwhile for comfort.

Shoe fabrics, seamless uppers, sock-like fits, Gore-Tex and other considerations may influence a shoe choice. Make a decision based on specificity.

A lighter shoe will typically not last as long – this may be an important consideration too.

The correct shoe is one that fits correctly and is specific for the job.

CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY

Be specific.

Is choosing a run shoe really THIS complicated?

I suppose, yes! But once you understand the basics purchasing new shoes should not be too complicated. Below is a summary and process to follow:

  1. Measure your foot.
  2. Use a conversion chart to get your shoe size.
  3. Understand gait and what you need. If using orthotics, you need neural shoes.
  4. Ask yourself what terrain the shoes will be used on – This refers to what outsole.
  5. Ask yourself how long typically you will run in these shoes – This refers to cushioning.
  6. Do you need the shoes to be more precision fit or wider?
  7. Look at brands/ options and based on the above make a shortlist.
  8. Use socks.
  9. Try the shoes on using the size provided from points 1 and 2 but then size up or down based on the thumb nail space rule.
  10. Check the heel for slipping.
  11. Check the instep and confirm a good foot hold.
  12. If possible, try the shoes running.
  13. Reduce the choices down to 3, then 2 shoes and then make an informed and educated decision.
  14. Do not be influenced by the colour or the price.

Lacing can make a huge difference to how a shoe holds the foot. Lock lacing for example is very popular for off-road and challenging terrain as the shoe holds the foot more securely.

FINALLY

Compromise is a killer when it comes to run shoes. The more specific you can be, the better the shoe will be. But, if you have correct fitting shoes with appropriate cushioning, correct width and a good outsole, you will be able to head out the door and enjoy the process.

And yes, there are exceptions to the rule and somebody will use shoes that are too big and get away with it. Just as someone will run in sandals and get away with it. These are exceptions to the rule and not the norm.

Reference – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537292/

** Reference – https://www.healthline.com/health/bone-health/whats-the-difference-between-supination-and-pronation#the-foot

*** Reference – https://puresportsmed.com/blog/posts/what-is-shoe-drop-and-why-is-it-important#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%8B’drop’%20of%20a,the%20ball%20of%20the%20foot.

**** Reference – https://puresportsmed.com/blog/posts/what-is-shoe-drop-and-why-is-it-important#:~:text=The%20%E2%80%8B’drop’%20of%20a,the%20ball%20of%20the%20foot.

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Embrace Winter for New Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMBRACE THE WINTER

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

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

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

Monte Rosa Skymarathon

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

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

CLOTHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xante

Arctic Talon

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

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

Top Tips:

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

SAFETY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I then add equipment based on:

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

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

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

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

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

Specific equipment:

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

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

WHAT OPTIONS EXIST IN WINTER

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

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

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

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

Night Running.

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

Snow Running.

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

Ice Running.

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

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

Climbing.

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

Ice Climbing.

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

Snow Shoeing.

Fimbulvetr Hikr-X

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

Fast Packing.

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

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

Hiking.

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

Training Camp.

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

Other options:

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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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RED-S Syndrome – What Athletes Need to Know

Mimmi Kotka (far left) at the start of the 2020 Transgrancanaria – (c)iancorless.com

Mimmi Kotka broke silence just last week after a string of below par performances and has acknowledged it is time to take a break from sport. In an open and honest post on social media, she clarifies:

“I have been suffering with my body since the end of 2018. I have finally connected the dots between my low immune system, anaemia, fatigue, stomach problems, lack of menstrual period, inability to run fast and my body always running in reserve: it is RED- S, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport.”

Now for many, RED-S may well be a new term, however, the list of symptoms and problems Mimmi lists are not. In recent years we have witnessed the rise of many a runner, particularly in the ultra-world for them only to slowly disappear.

Caroline Chaverot at Limone Extreme, Italy – (c)iancorless.com

Recently, Caroline Chaverot, a dominant force and some would have said unbeatable in trail running, slowly removed herself from the sport with a string of below expectation performances. In an interview with Damian Hall for IRunFar, Caroline said, “…I want to be better. Everyone else is training a lot, so I will train like them.’ Maybe I did too much? Or maybe too soon? If training becomes like a competition, then you get tired. I probably trained too hard and fast.”

The story of Geoff Roes and his dominance, for a period over the 100-mile distance, who now runs for fun, forever fighting a battle with fatigue. “It seems like I take two steps forward and one step back. I can’t really do what I want physically, I still get pretty fatigued.” said Roes talking with Justin Mock in an article on IRunFar dating back to just April 2020.

To be clear, I am not saying that Caroline or Geoff had RED-S, I am merely pointing out that our sport, the challenges it brings, without close attention can be far more negative than positive. No runner or athlete intends to get RED-S or OTS, quite the contrary. As Mimmi says:

 “I never had the intention to lose weight, nor do I have an eating disorder. I ended up with RED-S by mistake.”

The great thing about trail and ultrarunning is that it is a sport for all. All body types are welcomed and RED-S can happen to anyone at anytime. It can creep up without your realising.

“But a mysterious training condition is suddenly plaguing its ranks, robbing a generation of top athletes of their talents and forcing victims to wonder: Is it possible to love this sport too much?”

Mike Wolfe at The Rut, he is co race director with Mike Foote – (c)iancorless.com

The above is from an article, “Running on Empty” by Meaghen Brown that starts with the story of Mike Wolfe at the 2012 Transvulcania. I was there, I witnessed the day unfold. The article goes on to say:

“The past seven years have seen the rise and decline of at least a dozen elite competitors, including Anna Frost, who won the women’s division of the North Face Endurance Championship in 2011; Anton Krupicka, two-time winner of the Leadville 100; Geoff Roes, who set a new record at the 2010 Western States 100; and Kyle Skaggs, who demolished the Hardrock 100 record in 2008. Each of them reached the pinnacle of the sport only to mysteriously struggle to repeat their best results. Transvulcania was the start of Wolfe’s own precipitous fall.”

Now the context of the above article was OTS, (Overtraining Syndrome,) but the similarities with RED-S are noticeable.

What is RED-S?

Relative energy deficiency in sport, known as `RED-S `is the result of insufficient caloric intake and/or excessive energy expenditure. For Mimmi, it was the latter, excessive energy expenditure. The condition can alter physiological systems such as metabolism, menstrual function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, and cardiovascular and psychological health.

For many, RED-S was known as the Female Athlete Triad and is often directly related to not eating appropriately for the amount of energy one extends. This can be a particular problem for the ultra-distance runner. “Furthermore, the RED-S model includes both male and female athletes – so if you are a male athlete, please do not stop reading! Low energy availability can impact male and female exercisers of all levels and of all ages.”

Food restriction is a worrying scenario, both for male and female athletes. A simple analogy is taking a car and restricting the fuel you add to the car. Do not add enough fuel and the car will eventually grind to a halt, the body is no different. While the condition was often thought to be one for female athletes, medical professionals are now seeing similarity in male athletes and the usage of the RED-S term now applies to male and female.

Mimmi continues to write, “I have plunged myself into this condition over the last few years. I have simply put in more and more hours of training without adjusting my calories accordingly, dragging me towards incredible fatigue.”

Mimmi was eating healthy and good quantities, however, the balance was off. Her training volume was too high and calorie intake insufficient. It was not an eating disorder of any sorts, more a miscalculation of energy burnt/ calories in.

Mimmi, was the winner of CCC and TDS and for a period of time, was considered unstoppable. A force to be reckoned with. But as she says, since 2018 she has continually suffered to find the same performance levels. This in turn brings a negative cycle that only perpetuates the problem.

I will train more.

I will lose weight.

Two common scenarios that gradually add more issues and one cannot ignore pressure from peers, fans and sponsors. In the case of Mimmi, she trained more to get better. She had no intention to lose weight.

While eating habits are an indicator of RED-S, the overall picture is much more complex and of course, the differences between male and female are marked.

The BMJ (British Medical Journal) list several key notable factors as an indicator, the first is missed periods or no menstrual cycle. Now of course, this is specific to women, but what other factors should be considered?

Stress Fractures.

Low BMI.

Strange eating habits.

Increase training.

Inability to recover.

The long-term impact if unchecked can be devastating with affects on the health system staying with the body for the rest of the athletes life.

When hormone levels are altered, the impact is potentially far reaching and why it may be common to know and understand that immunity is impacted, recovery, growth, concentration and an impact on endurance, the cardio vascular system can also be impacted which could lead to heart disease.

This is not a condition just for the “elite” of the sport, quite the opposite. We look up to our idols and we copy them. We hear stories of mega training sessions, we hear about fasted runs and we hear stories of specific diets to maintain race weight… A picture builds and is one that many try to copy and emulate. For some and in the case of Mimmi, it was about being fitter, therefore adding more training. But for others, the pressure to be thin is very real and fad diets contribute leaving a myriad of question marks that few find the answer to.

Going back to the car analogy, sports people need energy and that energy comes from food full of nutrients and variety. One should not have a troublesome relationship with food but unfortunately, sport is littered with athletes who do. How often have you heard someone say, “I need to run to earn my calories!” 

This mindset is the start of a potential problem and it needs checking.

As Mimmi says in her honest post:

“…I’ve dragged myself deeper and deeper into this condition during the last years. Just loaded on more training hours, not adjusting my calories accordingly and slugged through incredible fatigue. Being able to ignore the physical body is what makes a good ultra runner but it’s also what brought me down.”

Nutrition specialist, Dr Nicky Keay confirms in an article, “Fundamentally there is a mismatch between food intake (in terms of both energy and micronutrients) and the demand for nutrition required to cover expenditure, both of exercise training and for basic “housekeeping” tasks in the body to maintain health. If there is insufficient energy availability, then the body switches into an energy saving mode. This “go slow” mode has implications for hormone production and metabolic processes, which impacts all systems throughout the body.”

We train to get fitter, faster and stronger. But a complete athlete should look at all aspects to make a perfect picture. Food and nutrition is a key building block and without it there will be an inability to improve as expected in response to training and the risk of injury will increase. It´s a downward spiral we have seen all too often in the sport of ultra-running.

Counting calories rarely has a benefit in the long-term, however, in the short term, keeping a training diary that records food intake v expenditure can be useful. If an athlete consumes fewer than 2500/2000 calories (male/female) after taking energy expenditure in to account, your intake is likely to be inadequate

There are many fad diets out there but find a balance with nutritious food that has plenty of variety. Periodise food intake to coincide with training. For example, there is a time and a place for carbohydrate. Equally protein and fats. Eat fresh, minimally processed foods that include plenty of servings of vegetables and fresh fruit. Try not to avoid certain food groups unless advised otherwise by a medical professional and if vegan or vegetarian make sure you understand how to maximise calories paying attention to Protein, Fat, B12, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Iodine and D Vitamin. “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook” by Matt Frazier is a great resource for all sports people

Post exercise, make sure you replenish your body with protein and carbohydrate. Protein will help repair lean muscle and carbohydrate will help restore glycogen for the next training session. How much carbohydrate you eat depends on what training you have coming up… This is where the help of a coach and nutritionist will help keep you honest.

Be sensible with training volume, less is sometime more!

To conclude, who is at risk of RED-S?

The reality is, RED-S can occur in any age or level of athlete but the greatest risk comes for those who are involved in sports that require high power. Power to weight ratio is a fickle beast and those most at risk are cyclists, climbers, triathletes, runners – yes, runners!

Ultimately, find a healthy balance between training, nutrition and rest. Go through the warning signs below and be honest with yourself. If in doubt, ease back, eat healthy and seek the advice of professionals who can help get you back on the correct path.

Warning signs:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Illness
  3. Repeated injury
  4. Mood changes
  5. Broken sleep
  6. Below par performances
  7. and of course, an unhealthy relationship with food.

 

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References:

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:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com