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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

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

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Winter Running and Adventure Essentials – What Goes In The Pack?

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risks and I discussed this in an in-depth article on Winter Running HERE

Following on from the article, I have had many questions to elaborate on the pack and the equipment I would use for day-to-day adventures and then how I would expand that equipment list for more adventurous and specific trips.

Firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. I write about this in the article above, but it is worth emphasizing that no two people are the same. The ethos of ‘fast and light’ is great if you can go fast… BUT and this is a big BUT, what happens if you can’t go fast? What happens if you fall, are immobilized, waiting for help or a rescue?

Imagine a scene, stuck on a mountain side, you have broken your leg. You were moving fast and so were warm. But now you are still, the temperature is dropping well below zero and you are unable to move or generate heat. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and THIS is the scenario you MUST think off when packing for an adventure.

I have a simple attitude of it’s better to carry it and not needed it.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. However, in winter the changes are often far more extreme, Hypothermia can hit in minutes and it is deadly.

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

The equipment list below are my personal choices, and I must stress here that I have tested many variables and brands to come up with the list below. Importantly, there is most definitely multiple ways and solutions to any problem, so, while my list below could be seen a perfect shopping list, it’s also fun to find out what works for you.

YOU AND WHAT YOU WEAR

What you wear for a run/ adventure should come as second nature, but it can often be a real dilemma understanding how to balance the layers so that you don’t overheat or equally, get too cold.

Read about GETTING LAYERED HERE

Personally, I find the most difficult temperatures around 0 to +5 degrees C (32-49 Fahrenheit.) It’s cold enough to make you feel chilled (often will feel damp too) but within 15-minutes of running you feel warm.

inov-8 ambassador, Abelone Lyng

The starting point for me is a merino wool base layer, it naturally helps regulate body temperature, remains warm when wet, transports sweat away from the body, and is very good in regard to odors. Icebreaker is my product of choice and they have a simple system of 150/175/200 and 260 products, the higher the number, the thicker and warmer the product. I personally find 150 ideal, especially for running and active sports.

My jacket will balance warmth, breathability and protection from the wind, Haglöfs L.I.M Hybrid Hood manages to balance all these elements in a really lightweight package. It can even be worn directly against the skin. The inov-8 Technical Mid Hoodie is also a good choice.

Leg wear will depend on the weather and arguably I would potentially look at 3 scenarios. On milder winter days hovering around 0C I would use my standard inov-8 run tights. 0 to -10C I would use a thicker winter tight, potentially with wind block panels on the front by Swix. Below -10 and I would use Icebreaker 150 merino underneath the thicker Swix tights.

Keeping feet warm is essential in winter and again, based on weather, temperature and conditions. I will go with one of three scenarios: Merino woolneoprene socks or Sealskinz. My default is neoprene as it works well in most conditions. It’s not unusual to wear two pairs of socks in winter, say a merino liner and thicker over sock or a merino liner inside Sealskinz, keep this in mind when getting winter run shoes, you may need a half-size larger shoe?

Hands, like feet, need to be warm. I use Icebreaker liners, with either inov-8 Extreme Thermo Mitt which is incredibly warm.

I wear a Buff or similar product around my neck, and I use a Haglöfs Fanatic hat which manages to be always warm, but not too warm!

Vj Sport Xero 5 here

Shoes will depend on conditions but for me, once winter arrives, I usually require a winter shoe with studs to provide grip, particularly in ice. The VJ Xero 5 works exceptionally well. Of course, in most scenarios you could use your favourite trail shoes and carry micro crampons which you can add and remove as required. However, if you know you will be in snow/ ice all day, a specific winter shoe provides a much more enjoyable experience.

Finally glasses with a specific winter lens are often essential to protect from cold air, snow and reflected brightness from snow. I use Oakley Radar.

THE PACK

Black Diamond Distance 15 is a somewhat unique pack that manages to appeal to trail runners and alpinist/ climbers who have discovered that all important link-up of sports coming together for unique adventures and/or fastpacking. These adventures tend to entail a bit of easy climbing, some scrambling, some fell running and some walking – or just about whatever you can string together.

Black Diamond Distance 15 balances running and alpinism perfectly.

A hybrid between running and climbing pack, the Distance 15 fits snug to your body and is stable with minimal bounce. The main compartment of the pack includes a quick draw-string main opening which Black Diamond say is waterproof – it is not! Please use a waterproof bag inside like those provided by Sea to Summit. A zippered security pocket inside is ideal for a wallet and there is a stretch mesh divider that will hold a bladder, or it can be used for storing nylon or dyneema.

Elasticated compression straps either side of the main bag are ideal for reducing the volume of the pack and keeping everything tight together and they can be used to secure a pair of ice axes that also have specific storage at the bottom of the back and security buckles that pass through the ice axe head. Integrated into the main compartment (on each side) are ‘Quiver Sleeves’ for Black Diamond Z-folding walking poles. The front of the pack has a vest fit with two adjustable straps and two 4-way stretch zippered pockets and four front stretch pockets that will hold soft flasks, snacks or any other essential ‘on-the-go’ items.

IN THE PACK

Icebreaker 150 top and bottom

Spare base layer, top and bottom – These would be duplicates of the Icebreaker 150 as worn.

Spare socks – Merino run sock.

Jacket

Mid layer/ insulation – In winter, I will already be wearing a mid-layer, either the Haglöfs or inov-8 as mentioned above. My additional insulation would be down and the Haglöfs Essens is an incredible all season product. It has warmth, very low weight and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling that it is DWR treated – the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions.

Barrier shorts

*Barrier Shorts – Haglöfs make an excellent, light and packable barrier short for the extreme cold.

Haglöfs Gore-Tex Paclite

Waterproof jacket – The inov-8 Ultrashell Pro is an excellent very lightweight waterproof jacket but in winter I will usually take a heavier duty Gore-Tex Paclite L.I.M jacket by Haglöfs.

inov-8 Trailpant

Waterproof pants – inov-8 Trailpant waterproof and breathable designed for really cold, wet conditions.

Icebreaker liner gloves

Liner gloves – I would carry an additional pair of Icebreaker merino as mention above.

Sentinel by Mountain Equipment
Black Diamond waterproof over mitt

Outer gloves – I would typically carry two outer gloves as I suffer with cold hands, a warm Sentinel mitt by Mountain Equipment and a waterproof over mitt by Black Diamond.

Hat – Spare hat as above.

Buff – Spare as above.

Food and hydration – In winter, a main issue can be frozen bottles, so I carry one or two small Thermos flasks with coffee, sweet tea or hot chocolate. It can make a big difference to have this option. For snacks I will use energy bars, Kvikk Lunsj or similar. Always a good idea to plan a cafe stop on longer runs too!

Phone – I use an iPhone and I make sure I have mapping software such as Footpath and what3words for emergency use.

Petzl e-lite
Silva Trail Runner Free

Headtorch – A simple Petzl e-lite as a ‘just-in-case’ for all runs but if running at night I use a Silva.

Small knife

Knife – Victorinox.

Mountain wipes

Wipes – Wipes.

Waterproof liner bag

Waterproof liner bag – (maybe 2 depending on needs) – Sea to Summit make excellent lightweight bags to make sure all spare clothes etc remain dry.

Survival bivi

Bivvi – Terra Nova Survival bivi that is fully waterproof, breathable and has a simple drawcord closure. It packs away into a small stuff sack.

Hand and feet heat pads

Heat pads – An essential back-up for hands and feet by Nevercold or similar.

First aid – Lifesystems small emergency kit in waterproof protection.

Additional power.

Batteries/ Battery pack – Modern tech doesn’t last long in extreme cold so carrying a back-up battery can be a good idea, Goal Zero make good products.

Map and Compass – As applicable.

Garmin inReach

*InReach tracker – Garmin.

Folding Z Poles

*Poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole Carbon.

Micro crampons

*Crampons – You need to be very specific with crampons and the shoes you use them with, however, a pair of Snowline are a good back-up.

Camp Corsa

*Ice Axe – Camp Corsa – lightest ice axe out there for low angle glacier travel, ski mountaineering and adventure racing.

Atlas Race 22

*Snowshoes – Atlas Race 22.

*Hand Ice Studs – Isvidda Isdubb If you are running on the ice, it is important that you use ice hand studs both for your own and others’ safety. (These are often sold for those ice fishing.)

All items with * are only applicable based on the adventure, the type of terrain, weather conditions and personal experience. The inReach is a wonderful security blanket that is arguably ideal for any run/ adventure but if you have a phone (with power) at least you have one emergency back-up. However, phones don’t always have reception.

Running across a frozen lake, Norway.

LIGHTERPACK is a great online tool that helps you manage equipment and keep track of pack weight and contents, HERE is an example of what is listed above.

SUMMARY

Winter adventures are incredible and exhilarating. On a personal level, I find them more challenging and exciting than many Spring/ Summer trips due to the added complexity. However, that complexity can prove to be fatal.

Don’t compromise in winter. Be prepared.

The above list of equipment is designed to show you what is possible and how to make weight as minimal as possible without losing efficacy of the items. You could go away and purchase this list of items and you’d have all you need for winter running.

However, if you are like me, looking around, testing items and comparing is part of the fun… It’s actually what I have been doing for years, that is how this list came about.

So, do the research, make sure you not only have what you need for an adventure but make sure you have all the extras needed should a situation arise leaving you vulnerable.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking 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

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

VJ Sport Xero 5 Winter Studded Shoe Review

If you read my shoe reviews on this website, you will already know how much I appreciate VJ Sport shoes, the trio of iRock3, XTRM and MAXx for me, set the bar when it comes to running shoes for mud, rock and mountain terrain. I have yet to find shoes by any other brand that matches them… Admittedly, Scott and inov-8 do come close with some recent offerings, in particular the Supertrac RC2 and the Terraultra G270.

In October 2020 I reviewed the Xante by VJ Sport, a winter studded shoe that excelled in snow and ice bringing all the many attributes seen in the MAXx and providing an awesome winter shoe. My only negative of the shoe was a 10mm drop BUT in all honesty, it never impacted on my running experience. I did mention however that a lighter, 8mm drop shoe was available, the XERO 5.

The Xante was a fit 4 with 10mm/20mm cushioning and 20 carbon steel studs, 5mm lugs and weighs in at 336g for my EU44/ UK9.5.

The Xero 5 is a fit 3 with 10mm/18mm cushioning and 20 carbon steel studs, 5mm lugs and weighs in at 294g for my EU44/ UK9.5. A significant weight saving between the two shoes considering the cushioning is only marginally different.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE

The XERO 5 first off looks great in black and orange with a hint of red. Although listed as a fit 3, I personally have found little difference between the Xante and Xero and in all honesty, I would even say the Xero may be a little wider in the toe box? Feels more like a MAXx.

Light, agile and responsive, the Xero are a real pleasure to run in and not at the compromise of comfort.

Like the Xante, the upper is windproof and has a water-resistant upper but it is not insulated. While insulation is not absolutely necessary, it does make more sense, particularly for a winter shoe. Having said that, I compensate by using neoprene socks by inov-8 or Sealskinz. This ensures warm feet, even in the coldest and trickiest conditions.

VJ uses FITLOCK on the upper which provides the most secure and reassuring hold. The upper feels like a part of the foot and not something extra making sure there is no unwanted movement, especially important when running on any technical terrain. Integrated with the shoes lacing system, the FITLOCK tightens the shoe on the inside of the arch and provides incredible hold. It’s the best there is!

The 5mm Butyl outsole lugs grip both in the wet or dry and the addition of the 20 carbon steel studs provides the ultimate reassurance when running in snow and particularly ice. The secret of winter running is to trust the shoe, the outsole and the studs. The studs perform superbly gripping as and when required, the only time for caution is after rain and then a quick freeze. If the ice looks shiny and like water, take care, I have yet to find a winter stud that grips 100% in these conditions. In 99% of cases, the reassured application of your body weight pressing through the shoe and making contact with the ground is what provides the grip.

Sizing is true to size; I use an EU 44 for all VJ shoes and the Xero 5 sizes the same even when using a neoprene sock or thicker merino sock. The lacing system is so good, there is incredible flexibility to loosen or tighten and there is the option to lock lace if required.

Toe protection is excellent and the heel box, as on all VJ shoes is relatively minimal and unpadded but has superb and reassured hold.

IN USE

You need to trust studded shoes and once you do, you will just love running in winter conditions. Don’t be shy, make sure you plant your foot firmly and let the studs with the addition of applied body weight allow the shoe to grip.

The Xero 5 as with all VJ shoes just holds the foot wonderfully and there is an extra comfort in this incarnation that I have not found in the XTRM or MAXx.

The cushioning is balanced and the 8mm drop ideal. The 10/18 works well allowing feel for the ground without any compromise. Ice running can be tiring but I have found the Xero 5 a pleasure.

The upper does its job protecting from wind and water but insulation would be nice.

Summary

There is nothing not to like in the Xero 5, well, ok, maybe a lack of insulation… Other than a lack of insulation, this VJ offering is everything the Xante was and is but in a lighter and lower-drop package. Of course, winter shoes for many are a luxury, it all depends on how much snow or ice you get. But trust me, if you get regular ice, a specific bespoke shoe for winter running is so much better than any ‘add-on’ micro spikes. You get a true real run feel, and the Xero 5 give me everything that a XTRM would give me but with 20 carbon steel studs. I personally get to run for 3-5 months on snow/ ice so I can expect a pair of winter shoes to last one or two winters, for many though, winter shoes will last several years basically down to the fact that snow and ice does not really impact on the outsole. Just make sure you clean the shoes and dry correctly after use. And don’t worry if you see the studs go rusty, that is normal! 

I have been using five pairs of winter shoes with studs over the last 3-4 months and two are standouts, the Xero 5 being the winner and the Icebug Route a close second.

Light, agile and responsive, the the VJ Sport Xero 5 are a real pleasure to run in and not at the compromise of comfort. The 20 carbon steel studs provide grip in snow and ice conditions all with great cushioning and an 8mm drop. They are a winner!

These shoes were purchased to test, 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

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Running On Ice – A Guide

Abelone Lyng using the Artic Talon by inov-8

Depending on where you live, the arrival of Autumn and Winter can put fear in many a runner. Snow and more importantly ice, are not a runner’s friend.

I get no traction cause I’m running on ice

It’s taking me twice as long

I get a bad reaction cause I’m running on ice

Billy Joel – Running On Ice

Imagine a scene, the snow is on the ground, the sky is blue, and you just can’t wait to get out. Within 10-strides you are on your butt… ice was under that wonderful white powder.

However, it doesn’t need to be that way. It’s perfectly safe to run in winter and contrary to what you may think, it’s fun and exciting. Read an article HERE about preparing for winter.

Firstly, snow is fine to run on and in all honesty, a good trail running shoe with a good aggressive outsole will work fine, providing no ice is underneath. Look at shoes that perform well in mud and they will provide great grip in soft snow. Think about how you will keep your feet warm? A Merino sock is essential as they still keep feet warm even when wet. However, if you anticipate feet to be constantly wet, the use of a barrier sock in addition to a Merino sock is a great idea, SealSkinz being a good example. Importantly, take into consideration that your winter shoe may need to be a half size larger to accommodate for extra sock width.

The use of a gaiter is a good idea as this may stop or delay snow going in the shoe around the ankle. As an example, inov-8 produce specific fixture points and gaiters on many of the shoes they make.

Accept that in snow you will move slower and that runs will be more demanding. You naturally get a harder work out, so now is not the time to try speed or intervals.

Fresh snow is great to run on providing it is not too deep. Constantly sinking into deep fresh snow is exhausting, look for footprints or flattened snow, this will make moving easier. If you do wish to run in soft and deep snow, snow shoeing is a great option.

Think about when you run, early morning and evening you run the risk of more ice, then you need to consider the information below. Ice forms around dawn and late evening, when temperatures are typically drop. The ground temperature causes precipitation to freeze, thus creating ice. Of course, some places have permanent ice due to consistent sub-zero temperatures, in many ways, this makes shoe choice easier as you know what to expect. Darkness can make ice and particularly black ice difficult to see, so, be careful. A good headlamp is essential and a waist/ chest lamp in conjunction with a headlamp really makes viewing the ground optimal.

Trail is often better than the road, so if you have the chance, use trails. Trail has a naturally rough surface making traction and the risk of slipping reduced.

Snow running is a little like running in sand. You will use more muscles, get fatigued in a different way, you will use your core more and mentally you will be constantly engaged, it’s difficult to just switch off when snow or ice running.

Needless to say, layer clothing (article HERE) and make sure you use long tights and higher socks. You do not want to get snow burn!

Once snow becomes packed down, hard and frozen, you need to re-think and consider ICE running.

ICE

inov-8 Artic Talon winter shoe has 14 studs for grip.

Have you ever been running, hit some ice and had that feeling of the world going into slow motion? Your core engages, your arms go high, your feet go in different directions and somehow, you stop yourself from falling… Or you hit the deck! It’s an awful feeling and one that stops you in your tracks forcing you to move at a snail pace afterwards. It doesn’t need to be like that though.

You have 3 options when it comes to running outdoors in ice conditions:

  1. You stay inside and do not run opting for treadmill, gym, cross training or other exercise options.
  2. You use your normal run shoes and are prepared with the addition of nano or micro spikes.
  3. You use specific winter shoes with studs OR you add studs to your run shoes. 

Option 1 is easy – a treadmill is safe if not a little boring and yes, cross training is a great addition to any training plan. However, you do not want to be indoors all the time.

Option 2 is a difficult one from the perspective of I would only use nano or micro spikes if I was expecting the road or trails to be mostly runnable BUT there may be a chance of ice. The main reason for this, although these spikes work great, they are not ideal if used for prolonged periods of time as they are not as comfortable. So, these spikes tend to be in my run pack and then used for short periods of time as and when road or trail conditions dictate.

Option 3 is dictated by permanent ice on roads and trails and quite simply it makes shoe choice easy. I personally dislike that transition period hovering around zero when ice may or may not be around. Give me cold temperatures and ice any day over the question mark conditions. With ice everywhere I use specific winter shoes that have studs embedded into the outsole that create grip and provide security. Once you have used a specific shoe like this, you will never go back.

TECHNIQUE

Like anything, you need to learn to run on ice and the biggest tip I can give is, trust the shoe! If you are using a winter shoe with studs or a normal run shoe with nano or micro spikes, accept that it will do the job and trust them!

Body weight and force is a friend with ice. Don’t fear it and hold back, run with force and really plant your foot. Pressure (with body weight) sticks the studs into the ice and that is what gives you the grip.

A shorter stride, firm foot placement and confidence.

If possible, try to land on the middle of the foot, this will allow more of the outsole to have contact with the ground, again, this gives more grip and security.

A shorter stride and higher cadence works in most scenarios and look ahead, typically 2-3 meters and plan a route.

Going uphill the front of the outsole will be used, run strong and forceful. Downhill, trust the shoe and try to place your foot flat optimising the whole of the outsole and its studs and/ or nano/micro spikes.

Accept that ice running is tiring, many consider it to be harder on the body even in comparison to road running.

PRODUCTS TO HELP YOU RUN ON ICE

MINI NANO or MICRO CRAMPONS

Kahtoola Nano Spike ©khatoola

These are low-profile ice spikes (varying sizes and types) which enable you to run or walk on slippery frozen surfaces with confidence. Typically, they have an elastomer harness that stretches over any run shoe and they come in sizes, just like socks.

Kahtoola Nano Spikes offer studs that are very similar to specific winter run shoes like those listed below. They have 6 studs at the front and 4 at the rear. They come in XS, S, M, L and XL. I personally go down one size when using any of the ‘add-on’ spikes as I feel that they are more secure. 

Yak Trax offer several options and the ‘Pro’ is recommended for running as the ice grips have stronger, shaped-edge, coils and a retaining strap which goes over the top of the footwear for extra security.

Nortec are specialists with ‘add-on’ spikes and they have three distinct models. The Corsa is very much like the Khatoola spikes with a 6/4 configuration. The Trail has spikes just at the front and rear and are more aggressive. The Nordic are ideal in more mountain and severe environments when one is encountering Alpine conditions.

Nortec Nordic.

Snowline like Nortec produce many ‘add-on’ crampons, a personal favourite is the Chainsen Pro.

WINTER RUN SHOES

VJ Sport Xante has 5mm lugs and 20 carbon steel studs.

Specific winter run shoes offer the best run, the most secure grip and the most comfortable ride when running on ice. Many brands produce specific shoes as part of their range to offer an excellent winter running experience.

Karin Franck-Nielsen using the Asics Gel-Fujisetsu 3 GTX

Top tips: Low temperatures don’t go well with a narrow-fit shoe so a roomy toe box may be worth considering. Also, ice running is tiring, more cushioning may well prove to be advantageous. Finally, you may wish to wear two pairs of socks and/ or barrier socks, so, keep this in mind, sometimes a half or full size bigger may be a consideration BUT make sure you try the shoes on with the socks you expect to wear.

Read a guide HERE.

Recommendations:

VJ Xante

VJ Sport Xante is a cushioned shoe and very comfortable for longer runs. It has a 10mm drop and medium fit. Cushioning is 10mm/20mm with 5mm lugs and 20 carbon steel studs.

Arctic Talon inov-8

inov-8 Artic Talon has a 4mm drop, 7mm lugs, great cushioning with 17.5mm at the front and 21.5mm at the rear, excellent weight, a more precision fit and 14 studs that are longer than those offered by VJ and Icebug.

Abelone in Artic Talon, Ian in VJ Sport Xante
Newrun by Icebug

Icebug NewRun BUGrip GTX – includes a BOA adjustment which works really well in cold conditions when gloves could hinder adjusting laces, they have 17 steel studs that adapt to the surface, a wider toe box, 7mm drop and good cushioning.

Other recommendations:

Vibram Artic Grip has no studs.

MAKING YOUR OWN ICE SHOES

One option is to make your own winter shoes. Maybe you have a favourite trail or road shoe that you’d like to adapt? I’d recommend that you use a shoe that has seen some use, say 2 to 300-miles. If you were using a new pair of shoes, it would make better sense you purchased a specific shoe as listed above. However, this way you breathe life into a shoe that would soon not be used due to wear.

Purchase Hex Head Screws from a DIY store. Be careful on size, typically 3/8 or 1/4 is best.

Screw the shoes into the outsole of the shoe using an electrical screwdriver, makes things much easier. I suggest you mark the areas with a pen first. Think about foot placement and where you want grip. Ideally 10 at the front and 6-8 at the rear.

Tighten the screw into the outsole until the head is flush with the shoe. The head of the screw provides the traction. Be careful not to screw too far and go through the shoe and into the insole.

Job done.

Elite runner, Jeff Browning wrote and article on this.

Jeff Browning adapted his Altra shoes for ice running. Image ©jeffbrowning

*From experience, I do feel that a hex screw does not give as much grip or confidence as a specific winter stud. Also, you will find that you will need to replace them regularly.

CONCLUSIONS

Snow running is great fun, provides a great workout and provides a great change from your typical Spring and Summer runs.

Ice running is often feared, but if you follow the tips above, there is no need to fear the conditions. If you have a specific product that will provide grip, that can be a Nano Spike, a specific winter run shoe or even a *homemade run shoe, then you can be confident that you will have grip.

Only you know your needs.

If ice running is something you will do only now and again, I recommend using a product like the Khatoola Nano Spike for roads and trails with ice. If heading off-road where ice will be mixed with snow, a more aggressive spike such as those by Nortec or Snowline would be better.

If snow and ice running is going to be a day-to-day occurrence, investing in a specific winter shoe is a great choice. The comfort levels and grip are considerably better.

Have confidence and enjoy the running.

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

Episode 197 – Finlay Wild, Speedgoat, Kilian Jornet, Stephen Goldstein and the Covid Interviews

Episode 197 of Talk Ultra brings an interview with Finlay Wild. Speedgoat discusses his 19-years of 100-mile victories. We have a sound bite from Kilian Jornet after his road 10km. Stephen Goldstein talks Covid-19 and we bring you Clay Williams, Ian Radmore, Richard McChesney and Miriam Gilbert with their Covid stories.


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


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

Speedgoat Karl wins his 43rd 100-mile race and completes 19-years, consecutive, of winning a 100!

Kilian Jornet runs 10km on the road in 29:59 read HERE

Listen to Kilian 00:26:50 post the 10km race.

Winter Running HERE

Winter Fastpacking HERE

VJ Sport XANTE winter running shoe HERE


THE COVID INTERVIEWS


00:38:50 CLAY WILLIAMS – In 2017 I was one of the runners in Canada’s first 200 mile trail race. Unfortunately I didn’t finish and was only able to run 150 miles in that event (long story). That DNF planted a seed, and I have had this need to finish a 200 miler ever since. So I registered to run Three Days at the Fair in New Jersey in May. Of course it was deferred from May until September due to Covid. And then I couldn’t cross the border to get there. I’m 60 years old so I can’t keep putting this off, so I made my own arrangements. With local crew support I ran “Three Days in the Park” starting at 9am October 1st. My raced director friend Tony Martin plotted out a one mile course for me, and I ran it at 200 times. It took me 75:46 to finish, and I’m happy with that  As always, I’ll be carrying The Flag (ask me about The Flag), and dedicated the run to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada’s Defeat Depression campaign.  


01:02:50 IAN RADMORE – Going into lockdown back in March had the idea that we should & would support each other, along with building a training program that involved running as well as various workout activities. We looked to do something different every other day so to keep our minds & bodies active. It’s about having the correct attitude & not allowing the four walls of our home to take over. Inspiration was also taken from Captain Sir Tom Moore who before his 100th birthday decided to raise money for the NHS by walking around his garden. If that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is!!Damian Hall who broke the long time standing Pennine Way set by John Kelly. With these in mind they motivated me & drove me on the complete my half marathon training. This I ran on Sunday 4th October 2020 finishing in a respectable time 2hours 44minutes & 58seconds. Then the very next day entered the Inverness/Lockness marathon next October 2021 fingers crossed. 


01:19:40 RICHARD MCCHESNEY – In September, inspired by the recent FTK’s for the Wainwrights, I decided to see how long it would take me to visit all 270 London tube stations on foot.  I’m a walker rather than a runner due to a long term impact related injury, but I managed to complete the 325 mile journey in 5 days and 20 hours.  This has now been recognised by FastestKnownTime.com as the fastest self-supported time for this adventure and sets the bar for someone to try and beat it. Like the people doing the Wainwrights and similar FKT’s, I spent plenty of time mapping out what I thought would be the most efficient/shortest route but I think there is probably still some improvement that can be made here.  I also did about 15-20 bonus miles due to some getting lost and also a tunnel closure.


01:47:20 MIRIAM GILBERT – My experience as a cancer caregiver to my husband Jon after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in March 2018 inspired me to create Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers, a GoFundMe campaign to benefit cancer caregivers and provide them some joy and respite during their difficult journey as a caregiver. I named my GoFundMe campaign Ultra Care for Cancer Caregivers because I am also an ultra runner. I combined my running ultra miles and fundraising to raise money for cancer caregivers. I kickstarted my fundraising by running the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24hr 50K+ Solo Challenge in my neighborhood in May. Then on June 1 I began running the Tip to Tip Great Florida Traverse 128 miler. And I have 161.5 miles to go at the All the Way 901 mile. I am happy to say my husband Jon was declared in remission in May. He joins me on my virtual miles on his ElliptiGo.

02:11:52 INTERVIEW : STEPHEN GOLDSTEIN

02:55:00 INTERVIEW : FINLAY WILD

03:58:43 End

Episode 197

Spotify HERE 

ITunes HERE  

You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE Libsyn – HERE 

Tunein – HERE 

Website – talkultra.com

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

VJ Sport XANTE Winter Running Shoe

VJ Sport XANTE

Winter often creates apathy in many a runner. Especially when the white stuff starts to fall from the sky and when the temperatures drop, ice is not the friend of a runner. It actually forces many to turn indoors for cross training or treadmill running as the fear of cold and a potential fall is not something to be contemplated.

There is no such thing as cold. Just bad clothing. Winter is actually a great time to run, so, don’t be put off. Read an article HERE for inspiration.

Shoe choice however is a serious consideration for winter, and it may come as a surprise to find out that brands such as VJ Sport produce specific winter running shoes.

Combing the best elements of the XTRM and MAXx trail and mountain running shoes, VJ Sport have produced the XANTE, the ultimate winter off-road running shoe when snow and ice play a key factor on a run.

Xante has 20 metal studs and 5mm lugs.

Just like the MAXx which is designed for a more cushioned ride with a slightly roomier fit (fit scale 4) for long miles, the XANTE brings cushioning 10mm front and 20mm front (10mm/ 16mm on the MAXx,) 5mm lugs (4mm on the MAXx) and the addition of 20 carbon steel studs to guarantee grip in the trickiest conditions. While there is room in the toe box, it is not super-wide as this would compromise on what makes VJ great off-road shoes; precision! However, in comparison to say iRock or XTRM, there is a little more room for toe splay.

VJ Sport Xante with Nylon/ Polyamide upper.

The upper is Nylon/ Polyamide and although not 100% waterproof, it is designed to protect against the wind, wet and extreme conditions one will encounter during winter months. It is extremely durable and resilient, as with all trail shoes, cleaning after use will ensure that they last longer.

Fitlock offers the best foot hold of any shoe I have used.

As with the iRock, XTRM and MAXx, the XANTE uses FITLOCK which of all the run shoes I have used, provides the most secure and reassuring hold of one’s foot. It feels like a part of the foot and not something extra. This is especially important when running on any technical terrain. You do not want any question marks when it comes to foot hold and precision. Integrated with the shoes lacing system, the FITLOCK tightens the shoe on the inside of the arch and provides incredible hold. It’s the best there is!

5mm lugs and 20 studs.

VJ have the tag line, #bestgripontheplanet and anyone who has used a VJ shoe for mountain, ultra or trail running confirms, the Butyl outsole VJ produce really is the best out there. It grips pretty much anything, wet or dry and the addition of the 20 metal studs provides the ultimate reassurance for tricky winter conditions. The secret of winter running is to trust the shoe, the outsole and the studs.

Superior contact.

The XANTE requires you to run with confidence and it’s the reassured application of your body weight pressing through the shoe and making contact with the ground that provides the grip. The more confident you are, the better the shoe grips. Taking inspiration from the car industry, the carbon steel studs are not round, but star shaped thus guaranteeing better grip in trickier scenarios. Protection to sharp objects and rocks is superb.

At 300g for UK 8, the XANTE is a light shoe. My UK9.5 (EU44) is 330g.

The 10/20 mm cushioning is plush and welcomed. Winter running, particularly on hard packed snow or ice can be tiring, especially with a studded shoe. The XANTE manages to combine the best of both worlds and although a 10mm drop may seem high, especially these days, it does provide a more relaxed run without a compromise on grip or the ability to handle technical trail.

Sizing is true to size; I use an EU 44 for all VJ shoes and the XANTE sizes the same. I rarely size larger for shoes and the XANTE adequately takes a Merino sock which guarantees foot warmth even when wet.

A solid toe bumper.

The toe bumper is reinforced and offers great protection against obstacles and elements without adding bulk. The heel box on all VJ shoes is relatively minimal and unpadded, the XANTE is no difference. The hold is superb. I get no slipping or movement, even when going up the steepest of hills.

Summary:

If you have used VJ before, particularly iRock, XTRM or MAXx you will already be sold on the XANTE. In terms of comparison, the MAXx is the closest to feel but the grip and foothold is across the board superb. The cushioning is superb for longer winter runs, particularly on ice. The studs just grip – superb! The 10mm drop is relaxed and works well, out of choice, I would have preferred 8mm, but it is a minor quibble.

Should the XANTE offer too much, the XERO 5 is worth looking at. This has a slightly narrower fit (3) less cushioning, 10mm/18mm (8mm drop) and still has 20 studs and 5mm lugs.

If you have not used VJ before, do yourself a favour and try them out.

If you have not used winter shoes before, take the plunge. A specific winter shoe will suddenly open up running opportunities that did not exist before.

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

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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Episode 193 – Damian Hall Pennine Way FKT

Episode 193 – Has a great an interview with Damian Hall on his Pennine Way FKT.
*****
Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
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
*****
ARTICLES:
Read about Fastpacking HERE
A review of the NEMO Hornet 1P Tent HERE
FREEDOM in a Pandemic HERE
Shoe reviews of the VJ Sport IROCK 3 HERE and the inov-8 TERRAULTRA G270 HERE
*****
Tips for the TRAIL:

*****
NEWS:
FKT’s posted on last show:
* Franco Colle new FKT on Monte Rosa from Gressoney
* Nadir Maguet – Gran Paradiso FKT 2:02:32
* Erik Clavery GR10 9 days 9 hours and a few minutes
* Davide Magnini Ortles FKT 2:18:15
* Kim Collison 24h Lakes achieves 78 Peaks
* Sabrina Verjeee Wainwrights (wishes not to claim)
* Dylan Bowman Loowit Trail 5:11:49
* Josh Pulattie Oregon Coast Trail 12 days 10 hours 25 min
* Candice Burt Tahoe Rim Trail 2 days 12 hours 47 min
* John Kelly Pennine Way 2 days 16 hours 40 min
* Sarah Hansel (57:43) & Joey Campanelli (41:00) for Nolans 14
* Tom Hollins Dales Mountain 30 (130 miles, 30 summits) 41 hrs
UPDATE:
Adam Kimble new FKT on Tahoe Rim Trail, USA
Damian Hall new FKT for the Pennine Way, UK
Adam Jacobs new FKT for Hertfordshire Way, UK
Carla Molinaro new FKT for the JOGLE, UK
Beth Pascall new FKT for the Bob Graham Round, UK and set 5th fastest time.
Check FKT website for latest updates https://fastestknowntime.com/
In other news…
Asif Amirat in the UK is still creating a stir with his 100-marathons in 100-days. Many have been questioning his runs and becoming very vocal on social media. I have reached out to Asif for an interview. At first he was cooperative, however, after I asked several probing questions, he blocked me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
RACES:
Montreux Trail Running Festival – Switzerland COMPLETED
Full results are online here https://montreuxtrail.livetrail.net/ in the main event 112km Jean-Philippe Tschumi and Ragna Debats were crowned champions. Remy Bonnet and Maud Mathys won the 30km.
Speedgoat 50k – USA COMPLETED
Noah Brautigam pipped Hatden Hawks and Anthony Costales to the top slot with Michel Hummel placing 6th on GC and winning the women’s race. Kristina Trystad-Saari and Lelly Wolf were 2nd and 3rd.
Fjallmaraton – Sweden – COMPLETED
Simen Hjalmar Wästlund (Norway) took a surprise victory of UTMB Champion, Pau Capell. In 3rd, Johan Lantz. Times8:50:04, 0:04:49 and 9:35:38.
Azara Garcia took the top slot for the women and placed 9th overall in 10:37:52. Anna Carlsson and Lena Trillelv were 2nd and 3rd.
In the 43km, Tove Alexandersson and Olle Kalered took the top slots
Rondane 100 – Norway – August 15h
Pyrenees Stage Run – Spain (now postponed to 2021)
Marathon des Sables – Morocco (now postponed to 2021)

*****

Top ultramarathon runner Damian Hall has set a new record time for the 268-mile Pennine Way – while also cleaning the trail of litter at the same time.

The 44-year-old inov-8 ambassador completed the iconic route from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders to Edale, Derbyshire, which includes a section along Hadrian’s Wall, in an incredible time of 61 hours 34 minutes, beating the previous record by more than three hours.

The Pennine Way is Great Britain’s oldest – and arguably toughest – National Trail. Much of it is over remote, boggy hills, with a total ascent that exceeds the height of Mount Everest.

Popular with hikers, who usually complete it in 16-19 days, Hall did it in just two-and-a-half, battling sleep exhaustion and all manner of tough weather conditions along the way.

Damian and his team of pacers also helped clean the famous trail of litter as they ran, stuffing it in their packs before handing it to support team members at road crossing meet-up points.

“I feel overwhelmed, really. I remember writing about Mike Hartley’s 1989 record in the Pennine Way guidebook before I got into running and thinking ‘That’s insane, I could never do that!’It was a huge team effort and I couldn’t have made it happen without the support of my road crew, pacers and the people we met along the way. I had the inevitable low spells, but the incredible team got me through them. I felt hugely motivated by three things and had FFF written on my arm in permanent marker as a reminder. They stood for Family, Friends, Future – the latter relating to our need to protect the planet. There wasn’t lots of litter on the trails, but we picked up anything we saw. The road support crew did likewise from the places they met me at along the way. Also, the whole attempt has been certified as ‘carbon negative’ by Our Carbon, as has all my running and my family’s lifestyle for 2020.”

The record Hall beat had previously been set just a week earlier by his friend John Kelly (64 hours 46 minutes); an American ultramarathon runner now based in England. Listen to John Kelly on EP182 HERE – Before that it had stood unbeaten for 31 years, belonging to legend of the long-distance running sport, Mike Hartley, who ran 65 hours 20 minutes in 1989. Kelly ran the route south to north, starting in Edale, while Hall followed in the footsteps of Hartley by doing it north to south. Either way, the route is regarded as one of the toughest in the UK.

Damian, has achieved a great deal in recent year’s and notably finished 5th at UTMB as well as setting other FKT’s. This FKT was fuelled without animal products or plastic waste, while raising more than £4,000 on a JustGiving page for Greenpeace UK.

*****
INTERVIEW : DAMIAN HALL
*****
Please listen to the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
ANCHOR app on Apple HERE and Google HERE
Download links will be added in due course.
Apple Podcasts HERE
Breaker HERE
Castbox
Google Podcasts HERE
Overcast HERE
Pocket Casts  HERE
RadioPublic HERE
Spotify HERE
Stitcher
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
*****
Share us on Facebook – Talk Ultra FB HERE
Tweet us on Twitter – Talk Ultra on Twitter HERE
Instagram – HERE
And use good old word mouth.
Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein. We are also on Spotify too.
Our web page at www.iancorless.com has all our links and back catalogue.
Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
*****

Spotify HERE
ITunes HERE
Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Libsyn – HERE
Tunein – HERE
Website – talkultra.com

VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review

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

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

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

IROCK3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com