The Arctic Triple Ultra-Trail 2021 Results

The Arctic Triple Ultra-Trail series of races concluded in Svolvær, Lofoten today after two stunning days of racing. With distances at 12km, 24km, 48km and 80km, there is a distance for everyone! The whopping 100-mile race, that journeys the length of this stunning archipelago started with a boat ride from Reine to the races start line in Kirkefjord.

It’s difficult to some up in any meaningful words how truly spectacular this stunning part of Norway is, Lofoten has distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains, peaks, open sea, sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands.

The Arctic Triple races bring a stunning trail and road running experience that links the best of the area with a stunning journey on foot, which for the brave starts in Kirkefjord, a 100-mile journey ahead.

Travelling from the south west, the races encapsulate the entire group of islands from Moskenesøy to Austvågøy. Passing through an amazing scenery of mountain ridges, white beaches, green hills and grey cliffs – almost the entire time the ocean is in view. All the races conclude in Svolvær, next to the ocean with 80km, 48km, 24km and 12km races all taking part of the respective sections of the 100-mile route.

The 100-mile started at midday on Friday June 4th, the 80km at 0900 the following day, the 48km at 1300 and the remaining two races, 24 and 12km at 1600 and 1700. In addition, there is a 100-mile and 50-mile relay.

View the IMAGE GALLERY for The Arctic Triple.

With 24-hours of daylight, darkness was no issue for any runner to deal with and incredible wall-to-wall sunshine made the journey for all, a truly remarkable experience. The only problematic conditions arrived during the nighttime hours when a heavy mist and cooler temperatures rolled in from the sea.

A full report on the journey, the landscape and the race routes will follow in the coming days.

Race Results

100-Mile

Terje Sandness 26:36:43

Lena-Britt Johansen 31:34:16

80-km

Gaute Løset 10:20:46

Tore Bergbjørn 11:09:44

48km

Sylvia Nordskar 5:33:03

Joanes Veka Tretli 6:05:34

24km

Pavel Serov 2:28:39

Marlene Jasund 2:55:46

12km

William Fjellheim Urliksen 1:03:17

Elisabeth Brevik 1:24:49

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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Hypothermia – Be Prepared!

Yading SkyRace China, 2018.

Hypothermia and Hyperthermia

They sound the same, don’t they? But don’t be confused. In the following two articles we will clearly explain the differences and do our best to inform you how to avoid it and what to do should it happen.

This article will be about Hypothermia but before we begin, lets provide an initial explanation to avoid confusion.

Hypothermia – Refers to the cooling of the human body which in severe cases can result in death.

Hyperthermia – Refers to the elevated temperature of the human body due to a failure of thermoregulation and in severe cases can result in death.

The bodies core temperature is normally around 37 deg C. When the core temperature drops, Hypothermia starts to set in. A drop of below 35 deg C signifies mild conditions whereas anything below 33 deg C is considered severe.

“Hypothermia occurs when an individual’s core body temperature decreases to a level where muscular and cerebral functions become impaired. The most common cause of this loss of body temperature is exposure to cold and/or wet conditions. When exposed to cold conditions, the body can lose heat through a variety of routes. These include conduction (contact with cold or wet objects, such as snow or wet clothing), convection (heat being carried away from the body by wind, i.e., wind chill) and evaporation (sweating and respiration). Once the body’s core temperature begins to drop, the symptoms of hypothermia will begin to appear.”

Grainger.com

Let’s be clear here, conditions on the trail, fell or mountain don’t necessarily need to be bad for Hypothermia to set in. Running and moving fast creates heat and a runner can generate a great deal of heat in a short space of time. Imagine a scenario where you are moving fast, and you have been travelling this way for say 2-hours. You are warm, no hot! You are a little fatigued, hungry, a little dehydrated and then disaster happens…. you fall and twist an ankle.

Wear the correct layers to keep warm. Protect the extremities, hands, feet and head.

Suddenly moving becomes impossible and you start to cool.

I probably don’t need to elaborate too much here as it’s very easy to see and visualize the scenario that follows.

Low blood sugar, low energy a cooling body and mild Hypothermia starts to set in. Conditions do not need to be bad or inclement for this to happen! However, bad weather only adds to the situation and can speed up any decline. Imagine the scenario where conditions are bad – rain, wind, snow, ice, windchill and so on. The Hypothermia process is then escalated and speeded up rapidly requiring much faster action from the individual who is impacted by the conditions and those around who can provide help.

As the body cools, certain things start to happen and in mountain running we always warn runners of the possible signs of Hypothermia – Mumbles Grumbles and Stumbles.

A good water poof layer with taped seams and hood is essential.

Look out for:

An inability to make decisions.

Shivering.

Confusion.

A reduction of consciousness.

Slurred words.

Unusual behavior.

In severe cases any shivering may well stop and you will see visual signs of change such as blue lips.

A space blanket is an essential item for any kit list.

ACT QUICKLY

Grainger.com
  • Speed is of the essence with Hypothermia as mild conditions can spread quickly and before you know it, they can become severe and critical quite quickly.
  • If you have additional clothing (you should have, see a post on mandatory equipment) put as many layers on as possible including hat, gloves, warm base layer and windproof. If you or the person are wet from rain, ideally you would remove wet layers and replace with dry.
  • Ideally eat sweet foods. Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol, If the victim can swallow without danger, give him/her warm, sweet liquids to drink.
  • Place warm objects and add heat/ layers next to the victim’s head, neck, chest, and groin.
  • If possible, get off the mountain or out of the bad conditions as soon as possible. If this is not possible, try to find shelter. If you are unable to move add as many layers as possible and seek assistance from the emergency services. A personal tracker such as Garmin InReach is a great addition to a mobile phone when out in remote and isolated environments.
  • Keep a potential Hypothermia case awake if you are looking after someone. If you are suffering from Hypothermia, do everything possible to avoid losing consciousness.

Of course, the above is not a comprehensive and fool-proof guide as mountain conditions and the condition of the casualty should indicate what action to take.

Do not try to evacuate a severe on unconscious casualty. Seek the services of the professionals with an emergency call.

weather.gov

All the above can be avoided with good mountain practice and skills.

The recent trend and desire to move fast and light is all well and good providing that you can move fast. However, when you can’t move fast, that is when problems arise. Personal responsibility, self-awareness and an understanding of the challenge, terrain, and weather, at minimum, requires you take stock of the situation before departing on any adventure and always think of the worst-case scenario.

Ask, ‘Do I have enough items with me should I become immobilized in bad weather and need to wait for rescue or help?’ If the answer is no, you need to reassess your equipment.

Mandatory kit should be something that you take with you on all your adventures, particularly on mountain journeys when in remote and isolated places, be that in training or racing. The more extreme the terrain, conditions or risk of adversity, the more equipment you should take.

Also remember that altitude and going high can impact in multiple ways. For example, it may be warm and sunny in the valley, but the higher you go, weather systems can change completely. For every 100m of elevation gain, temperature can drop by 0.65 (+/-) degrees. 1000m of elevation gain could see 10 degrees cooler temperatures, add wind and other inclement conditions and suddenly, without the right equipment, you are in a difficult situation. Be prepared!

Mamores VK Scotland

As a minimum carry with you: Read winter kit list.

  • A pack that can carry at least 1ltr of liquid with capacity for mandatory kit
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers to protect from the elements
  • A base layer Top and bottom) ideally merino wool.
  • A down or primaloft jacket that will retain heat/ warmth in wet conditions.
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff
  • Space Blanket
  • Liquid
  • Compass (know how to use it)
  • Map (know how to read it)
  • Whistle
  • Mobile phone
  • Spare food – energy bars or similar.

for more extreme conditions, consider the following:

  • Bivvy bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Spot tracker or similar
  • Stove such as a Jetboil
  • Dehydrated meal

The above to some of you may sound extreme, believe me, when you need the above, you will really need them, and you will be more than thankful that you have them with you. Also understand clothing, how it works, how to layer, what garments are best in what conditions. Educate yourself on the pros and cons.

Good Practice

Be prepared!

Ideally always go to the mountains or remote challenging locations with company – buddy up!

Check the weather and make a sensible decision based on you, your ability, your objectives, and skill level.

Know the route that you are taking and tell a friend or family member where you are going, when you are going and when you anticipate returning.

Have a contingency plan with options to shorten or abort a route with quick and easy escape routes.

Have a mobile phone that is charged and contains relevant contact numbers for emergency services.

Can you read a map, take a bearing or do you have a phone or GPS device that will give you a location? This will be essential when requiring help. If you can provide a grid reference you will be rescued far quicker when a rescue party that needs to search for you. what3words is a phone app for this and is better then nothing in an emergency. OS Locate possibly a better option as it provides grid reference.

Look after each other and look after others on the mountain.

Know whistle signals – six blasts every minute signifies an emergency.

Hypothermia can happen to anyone, even the most experienced runners or mountaineers. However, if you are sensible, have the necessary equipment and understand your ability and the ability of those around you, the risk of Hypothermia should be reduced greatly.

In the next article we will look at Hyperthermia.

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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Mandatory Kit for Ultra Trail, Ultra Running and Ultra Marathon

I was notified of the horrific incident in China over breakfast whilst on location in the mountains of Norway.

I immediately typed ‘China’ into a Google search and the headline was everywhere:

Twenty-one dead as extreme weather hits ultramarathon in China”

The Yellow River Stone Forest 100k, held at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu Province in northwestern China was organized by the Baiyin Municipal Committee, Sports Bureau, and local branches of the Communist Party of China.

It was clear that a horrific tragedy had occurred and I, like everyone else asked, ‘How could this happen on such a huge scale?’

On the start line 172 participants toed the line, ahead 100km. Reports outlined cool and breezy conditions at the start. But by 1pm in the afternoon, conditions had changed considerably, and the race was hit by freezing rain, gale-force winds and dropping temperatures. With most participants somewhere between 20 and 32km, the weather continued to become more severe, runners were ill prepared and defenseless against the conditions resulting in the death of 21 souls, the main cause hypothermia.

‘The runners were racing along a very narrow mountain path at an altitude of about 2,000-3,000 meters.’

GT

The race was halted at 2pm after messages were sent out by emergency trackers, cell phones and some runner’s posting on social media. Search and rescue efforts were put in place and somewhere between 700 and 1200 rescuers were called in to action – the exact figures vary depending on which news outlets one uses. Using state-of-the-art technology such as drones, thermal imaging, and radar, 151 runners were eventually confirmed safe despite harsh conditions and delays due to landslides.

There has been much debate, many questions asked, and a great deal of blame fired around on all media platforms. The deaths prompted outrage in China, with many questioning the preparedness of the Baiyin Municipal Committee.

In ultra-running circles, worldwide, Twitter, Facebook and other social outlets had continuing heated debates that pointed blame, questioned mandatory kit and the overall experience level of runners, and organising team. To clarify, Jing Liang was one of the poor souls to lose his life, an experienced athlete who has raced at UTMB and Hong Kong 100, so, not a novice. And the Baiyin Municipal Committee had organized previous editions of the race without problem.

“The tragedy in China has weighed on me heavily. It could have been any of us out there pushing through with the ultrarunner mindset,” said Camille Herron. “Part of being an ultra-runner is being able to trouble shoot.”

The Global Times on May 24th published an article titled Deadly cross-country race exposes hidden yet common safety problems in China’s red-hot marathon pursuit – It was an article that did not hold back.

‘While it’s the hypothermia that directly caused their death, several insiders in China’s marathon business said the organising committee should shoulder the main responsibility for failing to provide enough organisational, tactical, rescue, and security support for the event.’

Global Times

It is only correct questions are asked, and without doubt there is much to learn here, not only by those who organise races but also for those who run them.

As many running friends have commented to me personally, ‘shit happens’ and sometimes you cannot plan for freak occurrences. After all, this is why they are called freak – An incident, especially one that is harmful, occurring under highly unusual and unlikely circumstances.’

However, the required ‘mandatory’ equipment for the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k was at best minimal – cell phone, whistle, water container, headlamp, race bib, GPS tracker, GPX file (I assume on watch or phone) and timing chip.

A jacket, trekking poles, water, energy supplies, first aid, petroleum jelly and Buff were considered ‘recommended’ but not mandatory.

Anna Cometi at Everest Trail Race, Nepal.

It’s fair to say, that even with the ‘recommended’ items, in the freak weather encountered in China, maybe the outcome would have been no different due to the severity of the storm. However, we will never know the answer to this and at best, we should all use this as a lesson to be better prepared.

Remember though, while we tend to associate danger with cold, wet, wind, altitude, snow and ice, the opposite; heat, humidity and sun can be equally as dangerous and fatal. Take for example, The London Marathon. In 2018 the race was hit with 24-degree temperatures which caused havoc; one runner died after collapsing during the race and 73 were hospitalized. Now for some, 24 degrees may be considered a warm day, however, for many British runners who trained through a UK winter, it was exceptionally hot and something they had not trained for.

While mandatory kit is useful, being specific and training for an event is equally, if not far more important than the equipment you will or not wear. An understanding of the event, the challenges it can bring, and the dangers are all part of the process.

“It is essential to adapt yourself and your equipment to your reality, to test it during training outings in various conditions and to bring everything that will be useful and necessary to you for the race.”

UTMB

The nature of an ultra-running event is to push boundaries, go to the unknown and find a new personal level. Safety, to some extent, is an illusion and to assume that because you have entered something ‘official’ does not mean that you are safe. UTMB sum it up well (and they have a great deal of experience in managing route, runners, and weather):

Choose clothing that really provides good protection in the mountains against cold, wind and snow, and therefore gives better safety and performance. In the event of an incident, your equipment must also allow you to wait for help in sufficient safety conditions.”

UTMB

The above sums it up for me, and quite simply I would summarize:

  1. Know the event.
  2. Understand yourself, your limits, and your expected time on the course.
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Prepare and plan meticulously with training that simulates the event and conditions.
  5. Don’t compromise.
  6. Imagine the worst conditions possible and then plan for them to deteriorate even more. Remember, shit can happen!

Make educated decisions about risk.

Learn about the equipment you are using, understand layering.

Act quickly and quite simply, be prepared to turnaround and understand (in advance) what exit routes and speedy options exist.

Physically prepare so that you are in the best position possible to achieve your desired goal – be realistic.

Be mentally prepared for the highs and lows and accept that YOU are ultimately responsible for your own safety.

Understand that yes, one day, you may not return from an adventure… And to clarify, there is no guarantee on what day you will die, it could be tomorrow crossing a road, next week through illness or on the top of the mountain in a race – life is a risk we manage daily.

I personally see mandatory kit implemented to protect runners from themselves. The educated, experienced, and knowledgeable know what to bring, I most certainly do, and I usually carry far more than would be required.

However, racing does change the mindset, particularly at the elite level when every gram of additional weight could be seen as a disadvantage.

Jason Schlarb in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge, mandatory kit here is liquid and electrolytes.

Good friend and elite runner, Jason Schlarb posted on May 24th, ‘This sounds like something that could happen in many, many races or in my own adventures. I know I go as light as I can in races and don’t really prepare to be able to stand around in the cold… it’s a race… I’m embarrassed it took me realizing how this could totally happen to me,’

Choosing the lightest weight clothing possible to gain a few grams is not always the best option, opting for clothing which really offers good protection in the mountains against the cold, wind, and snow, provides better security and ultimately, a better performance.

Therefore, a no compromise approach to mandatory kit levels the playing field and means that every participant should be carrying the same and therefore carrying similar (+/-) additional weight. As UTMB states, ‘All runners must have the mandatory equipment with them at all times or face a penalty.’

In addition, UTMB go one-step further and have options based around kit lists for heatwaves, cold conditions and finally bad weather scenarios. They would implement the necessary list based on weather forecasts pre-race and it is the responsibility of the runner to have all items available.

Contents for ‘winter’ conditions.

Standard UTMB kit list:

  1. Pack destined to transport obligatory equipment throughout the race.
  2. Mobile/cell phone with international roaming allowing for its use in the three countries (load into its memory the organisation’s security numbers, keep the phone on, don’t mask your number and don’t forget to leave with the battery fully charged)
  3. Personal beaker 15 cl minimum (bottles or flasks with lids are not accepted)
  4. Supply of water of 1 liter minimum
  5. 2 torches in good working order with spare cells/batteries for each torch
  6. Recommendation: 200 lumens or more for the main torch
  7. Survival blanket of 1.40m x 2m minimum
  8. Whistle
  9. Self-adhesive elasticated bandage which can serve as a bandage or strapping (minimum 100 cm x 6 cm)
  10. Food reserve, recommendation: 800kcal (2 gels + 2 energizing bars each of 65g)
  11. Jacket with hood which will withstand bad weather in the mountains and made with a waterproof* and breathable** membrane – the jacket must, imperatively, be fitted with an integrated hood or one which is attached to the jacket by the original system designed for that purpose by the manufacturer – the seams must be sealed – the jacket must not have sections of fabric which are not waterproof, but air vents fitted by the manufacturer (under-arm, in the back), since they do not damage in any obvious way the impermeability, are accepted.
  12. It is the runner’s responsibility to judge, with these criteria, if their jacket fits the regulations stated and so bad weather in the mountains, but, during a check, the judgment is made by the person in charge of the check or the steward.
  13. Long-legged trousers or race leggings OR a combination of legging and socks which cover the legs completely
  14. Cap or bandana or Buff®
  15. Additional warm second layer: a warm second layer top with long sleeves (cotton excluded) of a weight of a minimum of 180g (men’s size medium (M))
  16. OR the combination of a warm long-sleeved underwear (first or second layer, cotton exclude) of a minimum weight of 110g (men’s size medium (M)) and a durable water repellant (DWR protection) windproof jacket*
  17. The wind-proof jacket does not replace the obligatory waterproof jacket, and vice versa
  18. Hat
  19. Warm and water-proof gloves
  20. Waterproof over trousers
  21. ID – passport/ID card

You may read the above and consider the list to be an overkill. I personally do not. On considerably more than one occasion, I have encountered conditions where the above was completely required. Please don’t cut corners, technically compliant does not always equate to useful.

Read an article on ‘What goes in my Winter Pack.

Ultra-distance and mountain races are designed to push boundaries, but personal responsibility and self-awareness goes a long way. The above, without a doubt, can help should a situation turn badly, but ultimately, a good understanding of one’s ability is a great place to start. Maybe (?) to stand on certain start lines in the first place is already a bad decision.

Luis Alberto Hernando at CCC

Will Gadd, a prominent Canadian ice climber, paraglider pilot and mountain guide summed his thoughts up so well in a recent article:

‘If we go into the mountains, we are taking a larger-than-daily-life risk. The only way to totally avoid that is to not go… I’ve spent decades in the mountains and have had three serious accidents in my groups in all that time. Pretty good odds, no? But, to my guest who got hit in the arm by a rock while I was guiding her, and to my partner who I dropped a rock on, that record means very little. I also reviewed the avalanche forecasting where, the next day, an amazing woman, who was very close with my family and deeply loved by hers, died. I didn’t’t think any of those outcomes would happen, but they did. I really can’t keep us—you or me—completely safe. That’s my painfully learned truth after thousands of personal and professional days in the mountains. Days sometimes end badly, even with the best practices and motivations.’

The debate will continue and there are no simple answers, but the situation in China should be a learning curve for all and wake-up to a greater understanding for race organizations and runners. Maybe we will see more in-depth mandatory kits imposed on races worldwide? Also, maybe there will be greater vetting so that races can understand if runner has the required experience to participate.

A good friend, Graham Kelly said recently, ‘I am sitting wondering where personal responsibility, vetting and experience sits in the sport we all love. I am at best mid pack these days (more often chasing cut offs). There are races I won’t enter (that I used to enjoy) knowing the burden on race staff/volunteers could be unacceptable in my mind.’

Hillary Gerardi at Glen Coe Skyline

Vetting in races of an extreme nature, such as Glencoe Skyline already happens, ‘The organisers have an obligation to ensure that the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline® is as safe as possible, but without diminishing the nature of the challenge… The nature of the challenge is very severe and there is a risk of serious injury or death whilst participating in this event… Our route features long and sustained sections of scrambling terrain, which is roughly equivalent to moderate standard rock climbingBe under no illusions that a slip or trip on these serious sections of the route could result in death.’

In the above scenario, equipment alone is not enough, so educate, understand and asses.

I for one, like to think I am prepared for most scenarios when going out. I constantly adapt my pack and its contents for the planned adventure, terrain, anticipated conditions, and my expected time out. I also know, through bitter experience, whatever I have planned for, I can expect it all to go wrong, and I then add additional items for the ‘freak’ scenario that unfortunately our runner friends experienced at the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k. I am also never worried about turning around and going home, it can be frustrating for sure, but the trails and mountains will be there for another day.

We can try to plan for every scenario, we can educate and anticipate the worst-case scenario so that we increase not only our individual opportunity to return home but maybe those around us.

Ultimately though, shit happens, and when it does, I want to be as prepared as I possibly can be, I hope you do too.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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INSTINCT XX 20L Multi-Day/ Stage Racing Pack – First Look

It is finally here… I have been waiting to get my hands on the INSTINCT XX 20L pack ever since I laid my eyes on it and now I have one to test.

Unprecedented in design, the XX marks a new beginning for those seeking the ideal solution for multi-day trail races, ultra-distance events or their next self-sufficient adventure.Stunning in function and versatility, the XX’s intuitive design offers easy access to key elements in the most critical conditions. Extreme function allows customization in how gear/ clothing/ food/ hydration can be carried.The XX is evolutive in volume and brings intelligent, segmented storage.

This is not a review, this is a first look and importantly I have done a video that address questions that I have asked and asked…

How much liquid will it hold?

Will it take 750ml bottles both hard and soft?

Do they have different sizes?

Is there a female version?

Over the coming days I will be testing the pack completely and I will video packing and showing capacity and features.

Below shows the pack with a typical multi-stage equipment list.

I will then do a 2-day fastpack carrying all I need, including tent, to see how the pack performs with a loaded weight of 8kg.

Below shows the pack with a typical fastpacking set up.

To show packing flexibility, the above pack is as in the Fastpacking video BUT with the tent split between one of the mesh pockets and the main compartment. All other contents remain the same, just packed differently.

Initial impressions confirm the pack has vest comfort and amazing flexibility and fit. Notably, the pack has the option to adjust in size shifting from 24L to 18L – important in a multi-day like MDS when you eat food and the need for less volume is required.

KEY FEATURES : – Large back door = instant access to main compartment and easy viewing of internal items
– Independent roll-top pocket for increased storage
– Removeable top pouch carries smaller items (first aid kit, knife, etc). A stretch mesh pocket over the top allows instant access to jacket storage or a solar battery panel

COMFORT  & PROTECTION : 
– Entirely made of Cordura© Nylon 6.6 ripstop
– 3mm perforated EVA padding in back panel
– 3D mesh shoulder straps/back panel for ideal sweat dissipation

The XX allows : 
– 2 x 750ml+ bottles/softflasks in front
– 2 XL vertical front zip pockets
– 2 zipped shoulder pockets
– 2 XL mesh front pockets
– 3 fixing options for poles (front/back)
– Ice pick on back
– Shovel fixture
– Easy backside carrying of sleeping mat or other objects (ex: tent)
– Independent 3L water bladder pocket
– X-Large 2-in-1 overlapping stretch mesh pockets on lower backside

Follow here for full review, video and photos.

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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VJ Sport ULTRA Shoe – Shoe Review

Ok A new shoe by VJ Sport is an exciting thing. I will be clear from the very start, VJ Sport produce, in my opinion, currently the three best shoes for fell, skyrunning, mountain and longer-distance trail/ mountain races. I have said time and time again and I will repeat it here, the iRock 3, XTRM and MAXx are a trio of shoes that provide a perfect weapon choice for specific terrain and distance. Although the three shoes are very obviously from the same family, (they look very similar) – They all have ‘Fitlock,’ they all have amazingly durable Kevlar uppers and they all have the amazing Butyl rubber (albeit in different size lugs) outsole that VJ are renowned for, but they do not all fit the same, have the same cushioning or have the same drop. The iRock 3 is narrower, has more precision and aggressive lugs, the XTRM sits between the iRock 3 and the MAXx and the MAXx has been the more recent shoe, offering a wider fit and more cushioning for longer distance trail and mountain races. There is no getting away from the fact that longer-distance races, basically when time on feet is longer, the need for ‘more’ in a shoe can be preferable, but it does depend on the runner. Up until now, the MAXx was the only option from VJ Sport with extra cushioning.

Step in the ULTRA.

As the name suggests, the new ULTRA from VJ Sport is here to address the need and requirement for a trail/ mountain shoe that is ideal for any distance but will come in to its own when going beyond 50km and longer. With the recent announcement by inov-8 of the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max, there is obviously a change happening in the mountain shoe world, VJ and inov-8 have never made shoes with so much cushioning before!

I am fortunate to have had the ULTRA for 5 weeks now and have tried them out on a multitude of terrain and conditions.

The ULTRA immediately looks like a VJ Sport shoe, it has all the usual characteristics, notably the upper and Fitlock. Turning the shoe over, the Butyl outsole is there. But on closer look and inspection, notable things stand out:

  • More cushioning.
  • Different Fitlock.
  • Wider toe box.
  • Different lacing configuration.
  • Different outsole.
  • Different width and shape to the outsole.
  • Heal box more padded.

But first, let’s look at the width of the shoe from the outsole.

The ULTRA outsole is wider from front to back and noticeably in the mid foot, clearly emphasising that this shoe is designed for less technical and more cruise like trails and rocky terrain. The lugs are comparable to the MAXx at 4mm but you see how the outsole is completely different. This wide last also compensates for the higher stack height from the cushioning. This makes the shoe feel considerably less like a ‘Max’ shoe and that is a real benefit.

The ULTRA cushioning was anticipated to be a step up from the MAXx (10mm/16mm) both at the front and rear and designed to provide a more plush and forgiving ride over longer distances. With 27mm at the front and 33mm at the rear of EVA, this isn’t just a step up from the MAXx, it’s another world! We are in ‘Hoka’ territory with this cushioning. Like the MAXx, the ULTRA has a 6mm drop which on a personal level, is a surprise, I expected 8mm. However, 6mm sits nicely and may well keep more runners happy.

The Fitlock, a key characteristic of VJ Shoes and one of the standout USP’s that make VJ so good, is here on the ULTRA but has a different look compared to the MAXx. The MAXx is a harder plastic whereas the ULTRA is lighter and a less aggressive. It’s softer and more flexible and therefore adapts to the foot better.

The heel box on iRock, XTRM and MAXx is quite minimal and really grips the heel, here with the ULTRA, the cushioning/ padding is a little more noticeable but not at the compromise of a firm hold. Your foot really sits inside and is snug and secure.

The upper is classic VJ Sport mixing Kevlar and Nylon (22/78%) to provide a durable and breathable upper. Toe protection is similar to the MAXx but the whole upper package feels like a step up with similar breathability but better durability.

The laminated overlays, while not the same, are comparable with the MAXx but very different to the XTRM and iRock which has stitched on and heavily reinforced layers to reflect the harsh terrain that they will be used in.

The lacing configuration is slightly different to the MAXx but still has the trusted firm and reassured hold that one expects from VJ Sport and Fitlock. There are the extra eyelets for lock-lacing or similar.

The weight of the shoe is a wow, my MAXx in an EU44/ UK9.5 weigh 313g, the ULTRA with considerably more cushioning weighs 286g – I am actually not sure how VJ Sport have made this shoe so much more lighter? Obviously the Fitlock is different and a saving can be made there, but still…? Compare this to the recent offering from inov-8 HERE and each shoe is 100g lighter… So, 200g a pair! Just imagine on an ultra adding 200g to every full cadence, it’s a huge difference and why the inov-8 felt so heavy.

The rear of the MAXx and ULTRA are quite similar, certainly in regard to the overlays, but the noticeable difference is more cushioning in the sole and additional padding for the heel.

The outsole is significantly different. I have already mentioned how from front to rear, the ULTRA has a much wider last, but it also has a different lug layout. On the MAXx it is Butyl rubber all over. The ULTRA is a mix allowing the softer yellow cushioning to penetrate and mix with the lugs designed to provide a more cushioned feel. It is very noticeably difference to the MAXx. There is no compromise on lugs or grip and the new layout with enhanced lug pattern has more grip.

While not a complete departure for VJ Sport, the ULTRA really is something different and only shows how the brand are listening to the customer to bring all they they love from the other shoes and produce something that is designed for longer outings without losing what makes a VJ Sport shoe great. The ULTRA with 27mm/ 33mm cushioning is a head turner, particularly when one considers the MAXx which was ‘the’ cushioned VJ Sport trail shoe was 10mm/ 16mm.

IN USE

I have had the shoes for five weeks and accumulated nearly 300km on them.

The feel of the ULTRA is very similar to the MAXx when slipping on with a noticeable extra room at the front. The lacing is reassured and with the Fitlock, just perfect. It really is my favourite lacing method of any shoe brand. The heel area is noticeably more padded and comes a little higher than the MAXx. The hold of instep and around the Navicular bone is unique and reassured. I found after 50-miles that my foot really started to bed inside the shoe and what was already comfortable, became more so. Particularly around the heal area. On longer runs, I also found the additional toe room welcome.

Sizing is inline with iRock, XTRM and MAXx. I use UK9.5/EU44 in all my VJ Sport shoes but I will hint at a word of caution, this ULTRA ‘may’ size a little smaller. So just be careful, I definitely feel a little less length in comparison to my MAXx but I still have used a UK9.5 with no issues. Read here about how a shoe should fit.

The wider last is really noticeable and provides a much more stable platform on any terrain. It has really grown on me… They are great on snow! Depending on ones individual run style, shoes with a narrower last, as seen on the iRock, XTRM and MAXx can cause some inward foot roll, even with the Fitlock. This is considerably less noticeable on the ULTRA. An important consideration with the extra height from the cushioning too.

Grip is as one expects from VJ Sport, it is superb on trails, wet or dry rocks and obviously, with a less aggressive lug, grip in mud is compromised when it is deep and sloppy.

My first run was intentionally a road run of 14km. I wanted to really feel what that 27mm/33mm cushioning felt like… NOT what I expected! I was really expecting some floaty, bouncy, marshmallow like propulsion with the shoe almost collapsing under my feet and then recoiling and throwing me forward. I got none of this, they felt firm. I said to myself, “new shoe, it will soften,” 14km later, no, still quite a firm feel and I was struggling to believe the 27/33 claim. To be fair, road use in the ULTRA should probably be limited as the Butyl outsole will wear. On my third road run, I started to feel a change and while not bouncy soft, I was feeling a difference both in overall comfort and energy return.

An initial trail run with a mixture of frozen ground, tree roots, rocks, a little snow and occasional ice felt similar to the feel on the road. I need to be clear, it’s not that there is anything wrong with the feel or the cushioning of the ULTRA, it’s just not what I expected from a shoe with 27/33mm of EVA. Surely, the whole purpose of so much cushioning is that it feels cushioned and allows one to run longer with more comfort? But, the more I have run in the shoe, the better the feel has come. Certainly, with over 100km in the shoes, they had bed in and that normal VJ feel has started to come. When in mud and softer terrain, the shoe had the usual VJ traits.

Despite a high stack height, the shoes do not feel like a Max shoe, on the contrary, I questioned ‘if’ there is so much cushioning? VJ have confirmed that there is. On technical terrain, the wider last compensates for the cushioning and while not as agile as a MAXx or XTRM, the ULTRA still has loads of confidence and reassurance on the rough stuff and technical terrain. Arguably, the ULTRA is the best Max cushioned shoe I have tried on trail which has considerably less roll and instability. The ULTRA really does feel like a beefed up MAXx which is superb and consistent with the VJ line-up. No point in changing what works, just adapt it. The control in the ULTRA comes from several factors: 1. The firmer cushioning stops the shoe compressing and collapsing and becoming unstable and therefore roll to the left and right is less. 2. The wider last helps provide a more stable platform on which to land. 3. The VJ Fitlock is awesome and really holds the foot. 4. Flex, particularly in the propulsive phase is till good despite additional cushioning.

with 230km use.

The upper had all the secure and familiar VJ Sport feel and the new Fitlock was holding my foot stable just as the previous incarnations. A notable feel difference comes from the wider toe box and the overall wider feel of the outsole. The heel box is really secure and a confidence booster when climbing. Despite the cushioning, the propulsive phase (flex behind the metatarsals) is still pretty good and reassuring providing some bounce and return when picking up the tempo.

The more I have run in the ULTRA, the better they have become. This not unusual for a VJ shoe, I had a similar feeling with the MAXx. Ultimately, if you like VJ shoes, need more cushioning and wider toe box, the ULTRA is going to make you very happy.

INITIAL SUMMARY

I am a huge VJ Sport fan and the ULTRA is a great addition to the line-up that carries on the tradition of great foot hold with Fitlock and the stand-out Butyl outsole grip. The added cushioning now answers the calling from consumers for a shoe that is ideal for really long ultras be that on trail or in the mountains. Having said that, the shoe works great on shorter runs too, it is just less nimble, particularly in comparison to an XTRM. The cushioning will not be for everyone, but that is fine, it provides an option! For someone who has avoided Max cushioned shoes since 2012 (read here) the ULTRA has made me re-look at my relationship with a heavily cushioned shoe and while I wouldn’t wear them all the time, the option to have them for longer outings is one that I have enjoyed. The cushioning is not as cushioned (soft) as other cushioned shoes, it has a firmer feel initially but does soften with more use. It’s not floaty/ bouncing cushioning, but firmer with a more controlled bounce and this is crucial for me on trail, there is considerably less roll and less of a ‘high’ feel. The wider last also considerably helps providing a secure platform on which to land, only enhanced by the excellent VJ grip. The wider toe box will also be appreciated by many. I feel that the ULTRA is a mountain shoe and therefore more designed for the tougher races that mixes challenging terrain with distance. UTMB a prime example.

Ultimately, the VJ Sport ULTRA is a really solid mountain ultra shoe that is well built, has great foot hold and has one of, if not the best outsoles out there. They are also light! Highly recommended.

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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inov-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G300 MAX – First Look

inov-8 introduce the TRAILFLY ULTRA G300 MAX, the first ever shoe to feature Graphene enhanced foam. Coupled with other new technologies, inov-8 say, “the TRAILFLY ULTRA G300 MAX will be truly unique in the marketplace.”

Let’s deep dive into a first look and appreciation of what on first looks, may look like a Terraultra G270 on steroids.

Quite simply, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX is the most cushioned shoe ever produced by inov-8 and that alone is a huge departure for the brand who have a reputation for grip and a ‘feel for the ground’ approach to run shoes. I will say immediately, this is going to be a ‘Marmite’ shoe for the brand, with many loving it, and equally, many hating it!

Having pioneered the use of Graphene for many years in outsoles, inov-8 now extend this technology to the foam, and based on research, this can provide up to 25% greater energy return, “Featuring the world’s first Graphene-enhanced foam, called G-FLY”. 

As inov-8 say, “Forged in the fells and mountains of the Lake District in 2003, we are a footwear, clothing and equipment brand for committed trail and off-road runners, adventure-seeking hikers and fitness athletes who push boundaries and stretch limits.”

In recent years, that forged in the fells has been developed and rightly so. inov-8 now offer a variety of shoes that encompass a multitude of sports, distances and surfaces. In summary, fell, mountain, trail, park, OCR, orienteering, road, swim run and yes, even CrossFit, training, weightlifting and hiking. The recent success of the Terraultra G260 and now G270 has no doubt allowed inov-8 to look farther afield and this, I am sure, fueled by customers asking for, “…a more cushioned shoe with sweet-spot drop to facilitate comfort over longer running,” has resulted in the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX.

Cushioning will immediately divide an audience and I could debate and debate the pros and cons all day if cushioning is a benefit or not. To clarify, Hoka One One was created in 2009 and up until 2012 I was pretty much using Hoka for all my runs, I had the original Mafate, and Bondi B and I was the first person to bring them in to the UK and sell them… So, I have history with cushioning and I still use cushioned shoes, occasionally. However, in 2012, with chronic knee pain and issues, I defected, stripped myself back to minimal and learnt to run again. Cushioning, or too much cushioning, was not good for me and particularly all the time. I wrote an article HERE that still resonates. 

 ” People actually land softer when they have less cushioning,” says Irene S. Davis, Ph.D., PT, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and director of the Spaulding National Running Center. “Cushioning actually lulls you into thinking you can slam your foot into the ground.”

With the growth of ‘cushioned’ brands, more and more research has been done and I can find documentation that provides 50/50 information on the benefits and lack of benefits of cushioning. In summary, I feel the following (for me) rings true: A more minimal shoe allows me to feel the ground, react with it and adjust my forces and trajectory based on real time feedback. When in a cushioned shoe, I struggled for that feedback and therefore hit the ground harder to get the information I need. On technical terrain, cushioning and stack height causes problems for me, I am less stable and have reduced and impaired information.

“Since recent research has shown that running in maximalist shoes alleviates pressure from the feet, these shoes can be incredibly helpful to runners who struggle with foot injuries such as metatarsal stress fracturesplantar fasciitis, or heel pad atrophy. But runners with knee issues might want to avoid maximalist shoes, as knee loads might be higher… On the opposite end of the spectrum, minimalist shoes increase loads on the 4th and 5th metatarsals, plantar fascia, and Achilles tendon, but they reduce loads on the knee.” – Richard Willy, Ph.D

What works for one, does not work for another and let’s face it, max cushioned shoes are selling in high numbers all over the world. If cushioning works for you, great! inov-8 have addressed this issue and maybe, just maybe, they will bring new eyes and a new approach to the ‘max’ debate.

“Maximizing innovation, underfoot agility & flex this new shoe from inov-8 is packed with energy return zip and also boasts Graphene-Grip rubber and the ADAPTER-FIT upper. Designed specifically for ultra and long-distance running over trails, including technical terrain.”

inov-8

THE SHOE

I said Terraultra G270 on steroids and that is pretty much what the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX looks like. If you don’t see them from the side, you could easily be fooled in to thinking it was the G270 – there are differences in the look and overlays, but in principle they look similar. However, that side profile makes the jaw drop a little… There is A LOT of cushioning and that is exasperated with the hexagonal shapes and at the rear, a green ‘G’ boldly emphasizes the use of Graphene. 

For perspective, the zero drop G270 has 12mm/ 12mm front and rear cushioning, the Trailroc G280 12/20 and the Trail Talon 290 v2 11/19. The latter two shoes with an 8mm drop. The TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX has a 6mm drop and 24mm/ 30mm front/rear cushioning – that is huge! Especially if you add the 6mm ‘Boomerang’ insole making the overall cushioned package 30/36mm. Wow! 

New for this shoe, the cushioning has been enhanced with Graphene, inov-8 say, “Graphene-enhanced G-FLY cushioned foam is more resistant to wear. It retains its thickness and optimum levels of snappy energy return for longer, helping runners feel faster and fresher over greater distances. Incredible energy return AND increased durability, no compromise.” The Powerflow Max used in the G270 has been developed once again and now, in this shoe with G-FLY, apparently gives 10-25% more energy return…

Turning the shoe over the outsole is considerably and notably different. The 4mm Graphene Grip lugs, of which there are 35, look pretty standard, particularly in comparison to the G270 but are well spaced to reduce debris hold. The Graphene grip is excellent and has received praise. However, two notable things stand out. No ‘Meta-Flex’ at the front and in the latter third of the shoe there is a cutaway, splitting the outsole, this is called ‘Adapter-Flex.’

I have to say, I was initially perplexed with the lack of Meta-Flex but then on inspection of the outsole I noticed that there are 4 cutaways that run vertically. Equally, the cutaway had me holding my chin and a ‘?’ hanging over my head. However, when I held the shoe and twisted it, all became clear. These two features are designed to re-think how a cushioned shoe works, and, in my opinion, they are designed to compensate for the stack height and add more flex (left to right) when running on uneven terrain. Quite simply, if you can visualize, as the foot hits the ground, say landing on a rock, the rear of the foot could hold still and secure, the flex allowing the front to go right or left. This in principle, should help make a more cushioned/ higher stack shoe adaptable for technical terrain?

A Boomerang insole adds to the cushioning with 6mm depth and gives, “40% greater energy rebound,” according to inov-8. In principle, the foam structure retains more energy than ever before with TPU beads compressing and then springing back to release energy to help propel you forward.

The upper, as mentioned, carries much of the G270 but it is not the same. The toe box is different, and the overlays start farther back on the shoe leaving the toe area on the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX open. It’s a lightweight upper and breathable.

The lacing system is rock-solid and holds the foot perfectly particularly (Adapter-Fit) on the instep and navicular bone. It’s not a sock-like fit but the tongue is attached to the upper by elastic. The toe box is wide, listed as 5 on the inov-8 scale which is the widest that they do. On a personal note, the G270 is also a 5 fit but for me, they feel just a little wider than the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX. There is the gaiter attachment on the rear of the shoe, always a nice touch from inov-8.

Fit is true to size, my EU44/ UK9.5 is certainly in line and comparable with all other inov-8 shoes and other brands.

Weight unfortunately for me is disappointing. The shoe is called a G300, ‘300’ referring the weight, but this is an ‘average’ weight and for perspective, a UK7 weighs 318g and my UK9.5 382g. Compare this to the new cushioned ULTRA shoe from VJ Sport which are 100g per shoe lighter… I really don’t understand how inov-8 think this weight is ok?

IN USE

The Boomerang insole immediately gives a nice feel when you slide your foot in the shoe, you can feel compression just by adding body weight. I had anticipated a ‘bounce’ feel from the midsole but that was less obvious. The stack height was immediately noticeable, and I have to say, it felt weird.

Lacing the shoes up feels great and the combination of elasticated tongue, lace placement and fit really does hold the instep in a very secure and confident way. There are additional eyelets for lock-lacing or similar if required.

The heel box is well padded and shaped and does exactly what you would want and expect – holds firm and comfortable, especially when going uphill.

The toe box is wide and for me allows toe splay. A 5 fit on the inov-8 scale they do feel just a little narrower than a G270, but it is marginal.

For me, there feels a little arch support, it is really minor, but there does feel just a little more support over other inov-8 models. On closer inspection, the support does coincide with the cutaway from the ‘Adapter-Flex’, and this is maybe what I feel?

They feel big! And they are.

They feel heavy! And they are.

Initial walking around made me feel very stable with a big wide (and high) base beneath me. I most certainly could feel the cushioning beneath me, but I wouldn’t say I felt ‘cushioned?’ Difficult to explain, but the shoe was much firmer than I anticipated and that, I have to say, was a disappointment.

ROAD

My first run was intentionally on road, 21km. I wanted to get a true feeling of the cushioning, the ride and how the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX handled a consistent and hard terrain. The first 3-5km was all about just getting a ‘feel’ for the shoe and the changes such a high stack brings in comparison to my day-to-day shoes. The 6mm drop and an ideal middle ground, particularly for a shoe designed for longer distances.

With the initial adapting/ adjusting phase done I settled and just tried to run as normal. I have to say, I always felt conscious of the shoe, its size did bother me. 

I am a mid-foot runner and the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX kept pulling me towards heel striking, it felt as though the heel was too large/ heavy and therefore getting in the way. Somehow it was adjusting my run technique. Over the 21km I tried hard to keep good form but if I drifted off concentration, I found the heel.

Cushioning was far firmer than I expected, and I found the propulsive phase missing with flex behind the toes a little compromised. I felt flat. As I made contact with the ground, no matter how I tried to roll forward and get the propulsion, I found that I was fighting the shoe. It felt at all times I was really having to work hard to get a return – the shoe was giving me nothing for free! The Graphene may enhance durability and reduce compression with repeated foot strikes, but does it also make for a less responsive and bouncy feel?

Downhill was super, a big wide cushioned heel made for Tigger like happiness.

In the latter stages of the first run, I was feeling over tired and without doubt, the 382g of each shoe was contributing to the fatigue. This wasn’t a fake feeling or the mind playing tricks, the route and my feel on the route is a constant for shoe testing so that I can really notice differences in shoes and their feel. For perspective, a recent shoe test of another cushioned shoe, albeit not as cushioned as the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX had each shoe at over 100g lighter. To clarify, my cadence in the inov-8 was 164 avg, in the other shoe, 179 avg. That is huge and I felt it. I say it again, this shoe is way too heavy!

Comfort and stability were very good though. The shoes felt solid, reassured, bulletproof and I had no doubt that they would get the job done and last and last. Ideal for an ultra? The Graphene grip worked great on road and the 4mm lugs caused no hinderance.

TRAIL

Currently my home trails are a mix of snow, ice, rock, single-track and tree routes, so, a perfect place for the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX. Gladly, mud is at a relative minimum and what is around, is perfectly manageable for the 4mm G lugs.

In contrast to the road, feel was very similar, particularly on hard single-track. Where a difference could be felt was the interaction with the front of the shoe moving almost independently of the rear when required. This was actually very cool and a great plus of the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX. 

The rotational flexibility, vertical grooves and the independent heel via Adapter-Flex was noticeable and without doubt, in contrast to some max cushioned shoes, allowed for more control and adaption to the terrain. A huge problem with max cushioned shoes has been the ease and ability to roll an ankle due to the stack height, this is not removed in the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX, but it is to a percentage compensated for. Ultimately though, the stack height, for me, has me too far away from the ground.

The shoes size and cushioning in one way could help you bulldoze through terrain, but it didn’t provide any confidence or comfort for me. ‘Dancing’ on technical terrain is difficult in the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX due to their size. They are not nimble or light. As an example, when going through a rocky boulder section, the stack height just had me flexing and rotating, my ankles and more importantly knees, where making the compensation for the height off the ground. Of course, flexibility in the ankle and knee is required for all trail running, irrespective of the shoe, but additional stack height and cushioning only exaggerates this.

On snow, the stack height and wider last was great.

Going uphill, foot hold was very good both at the front and the rear, but toe flex was less than desirable almost making me climb with a flatter foot.

Downhill is great, this is when the cushioning and the large heel comes into its own allowing for plenty of protection and a wide base on which to land.

When cruising along on easy trails, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX does allow you to switch off and get on with the job but you are often reminded of the shoes size and weight beneath you and again, I rarely felt that the shoe was giving me anything back… I was working for every mile. Lifeless.

The Graphene grip as we have learnt with the G270 is superb, wet or dry terrain, the only compromise coming in mud – they are not aggressive enough.

SUMMARY

This is a first look at the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX and a huge thanks to inov-8 for the opportunity and a personalized shoe with my name on. I have mixed road and trail miles to get an initial feel. I can’t comment on resilience or longevity, that will come in two or three months.

As I said at the beginning, I think this inov-8 shoe will be a Marmite offering. As someone who doesn’t like Marmite, you may well think I was destined not to like the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX. That is not the case, I had a really open perspective and I do feel that inov-8 have made some interesting advances and used some unique thought processes in developing the max concept to a new and interesting level. Particularly with the Adapter-Flex. The upper, lacing and foot hold is excellent and arguably a highlight of the shoe.

The argument of what cushioning and drop will rage and quite simply, a little of everything is a good thing. It’s one of the reasons I will happily move from say a G270 with zero drop and 12/12 cushioning and then run in a Trail Talon with 8mm drop and 11/19 cushioning. If going to mud, then a Mudclaw with minimal cushioning, 4.5/8.5 and lower drop is ideal. 

Ultimately, I choose the correct shoe for the terrain and for how long I am running. Without doubt, if I am running longer, I will choose a shoe with more cushioning and a higher drop. 

So, when is too much cushioning, too much? That comes down to the individual. If you have been running in and are used to max cushioned shoes with no injuries, this new shoe from inov-8 may well be just what you have been waiting for. It will have all those trusted features from other max shoes, plus some great new additions and the respected and trusted Graphene grip. And for clarity, I do have two shoes in my regular run rotation of 23/29mm cushioning and 18/26mm cushioning and both of these feel lively, flexible and exciting to use, particularly the 18/26 which seems a wonderful middle ground.

For me though, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX is too much cushioning (too much stack height) and unfortunately, they are too heavy. The expected bounce and flexibility I had hoped for is missing, and I wanted that! Normally I would say that the more one runs, the softer and more flexible a shoe will become… But, the Graphene in the midsole is added to stop this and therefore in 2/3/400 miles, the cushioning should be like day one? By contrast, the Terraultra G270 is full of life, flexible, has a great upper and while not ‘the’ most cushioned shoe out there, it has more than enough cushioning for me. I had hope that the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX would be more like the G270… Like a Trail Talon with all the Terraultra G270 features and a 6 or 8mm drop and yes, maybe, just a little more cushioning, say 18/24mm.

Ironically, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX did not ‘feel’ as cushioned as I expected? There are plus points – Graphene outsole, good foot hold but they are horrendously heavy, inflexible and lack any bouncy life. They are lifeless. While it is too early to say, there does seem to be plenty of life in this shoe and the addition of Graphene will only enhance that. This shoe is designed for long days on the trail but I have to say, that for me, the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX felt tiring to use and that comes from the weight, the size of the shoe and lack of any life.

Update May 2021:

I have tried and tried but the Trailfly, IMO, is probably the worst shoe inov-8 have made… I keeping reading quotes on inov-8 channels about ‘how great this shoe is’ and I really don’t understand it? I question what shoes were these people running in before ! The Trailfly is heavy, lifeless, dull and I could go on… They bring no joy to running and are actually harder to run in. The plus side is, every other shoe I own now feels light and fast. Hoka have been doing the ‘max’ thing for a long time. Ultimately stick to what you know. The Terraultra G270 by inov is a great shoe, despite the longevity of the upper. I struggle to see how a G270 developed in to a G300 which is not a G300, in my case, it’s a G380 and for those with EU45 or bigger, it is a G400+

But, inov-8 are excited by this new offering and rightly so, they have gone a long way to develop the max cushioned format, tweak it and adapt it to bring something new. The early Hoka days of 2009 seem a long time ago and for inov-8 to join the party in 2021 signifies how demand has influenced the need to produce a new shoe. While much of the talk in the cushioned world has been about carbon plates, inov-8 have developed Adapter-Flex, Vertical Grooves and the use of Graphene. For that they should be applauded. The TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX for sure will turn heads but for me, it’s not a good shoe I am afraid. One can only hope V2 is considerably lighter, has more life and is flexible. At £170 they are also very expensive.

As per all my shoe reviews, the shoes were provided for free for impartial testing. This is not a paid review.

“It will be the first-ever shoe to feature a Graphene-enhanced foam. This, coupled with other new technologies, make it truly unique in the marketplace. It is also our most cushioned shoe ever, but we have maximized our innovation to retain the underfoot agility & flex that inov-8 shoes are renowned for and which other deeply cushioned ultrarunning shoes lack. It’s packed with energy return zip and also boasts Graphene-Grip rubber and the ADAPTER-FIT upper. Designed specifically for ultra and long-distance running over trails, including technical terrain.”

inov-8

Specs:

  • Weight: 300g (average weight across size curve) UK9.5 382g / UK7 318g
  • Drop: 6mm (heel to forefoot differential)
  • Midsole stack height (midsole only): 19mm heel / 25mm 
  • Full stack height (from bottom of lugs to top of insole): 30.5mm / 36.5mm (24/30 without 6mm foot bed)
  • Lug depth: 4mm
  • Fit: Grade 5 (inov-8 fit scale in the toe box is 1-5, with 5 being the widest). More details.
  • Key technologies: GRAPHENE-GRIP, ADAPTER-FLEX, G-FLY, BOOMERANG, ADAPTER-FIT

RRP £170.00 on Sale from Apr 8 2021.

SUSTAINABILITY – A new inov-8 sustainability strategy, developed in 2020 in partnership with Dr Anne Prahl (an expert at the forefront of sustainable workings and design), will guide every aspect of what we do. Details of the strategy are HERE.

References:

  • Nature.com – HERE
  • Runner’s World – HERE
  • The Run Experience – HERE
  • Healthline – HERE

*****

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 205 – Stephanie Case

Episode 205 of Talk Ultra has a chat Stephanie Case about her inspiring story of war zones, Humanitarian endeavours, running and her NGO ‘Free to Run.’


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

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

ARTICLES

  1. What goes in a Winter Pack? HERE
  2. VJ Sport Xero Shoe Review HERE
  3. adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Shoe Review HERE
  4. adidias Terrex Speed PRO SG Shoe Review HERE
  5. La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE
  6. Moonlight head lamp review HERE
  7. inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE
  8. Review of 2020 HERE
  9. Icbebug Pytho 5 Review HERE
  10. inov-8 Mudclaw G260 Review HERE
  11. inov-8 G270 Long-Term Review HERE
  12. Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE
  13. Winter Running – Hints n Tips HERE
  14. Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review HERE
  15. The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing (updated) HERE
  16. Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket HERE
  17. First look at VJ Sport new shoe HERE
  18. adidas Terrex Two Ultra Parley shoe review HERE
  19. Exped Down Socks and Bivy Booty review HERE
  20. Coros VERTIX review HERE

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? HERE

INTERVIEW : STEPHANIE CASE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player HERE 

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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See the NEW shoe by VJ Sport before anyone else…

A new shoe by VJ Sport is an exciting thing. I will be clear from the very start, VJ Sport produce, in my opinion, currently the three best shoes for fell, skyrunning, mountain and longer-distance trail/ mountain races. I have said time and time again and I will repeat it here, the iRock 3XTRM and MAXx are a trio of shoes that provide a perfect weapon choice for specific terrain and distance. Although the three shoes are very obviously from the same family, (they look very similar) – They all have ‘Fitlock,’ they all have amazingly durable Kevlar uppers and they all have the amazing Butyl rubber (albeit in different size lugs) outsole that VJ are renowned for, but they do not all fit the same or have the same drop. The iRock 3 is narrower, has more precision and aggressive lugs, the XTRM sits between the iRock 3 and the MAXx and the MAXx has been the more recent shoe offering a wider fit and more cushioning for longer distance trail and mountain races. 

Want to see the NEW offering and get an early review?

Available for Patreon subscribers only until the official announcement.

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

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Episode 204 – Ruth Croft

Episode 204 of Talk Ultra has a chat Ruth Croft about winning Tarawera and racing in Covid times. Speedgoat 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

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

ARTICLES

  1. What goes in a Winter Pack? HERE
  2. VJ Sport Xero Shoe Review HERE
  3. adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Shoe Review HERE
  4. adidias Terrex Speed PRO SG Shoe Review HERE
  5. La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE
  6. Moonlight head lamp review HERE
  7. inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE
  8. Review of 2020 HERE
  9. Icbebug Pytho 5 Review HERE
  10. inov-8 Mudclaw G260 Review HERE
  11. inov-8 G270 Long-Term Review HERE
  12. Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE
  13. Winter Running – Hints n Tips HERE
  14. Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review HERE
  15. The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing (updated) HERE
  16. Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket HERE

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? HERE

INTERVIEW : RUTH CROFT

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player HERE 

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

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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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

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