Winter 2022 and 2023 has witnessed a surge in specific shoes to handle challenging terrain. I recently reviewed the La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX and now the SCARPA RIBELLE RUN KALIBRA G.
Both these shoes are very specific for demanding winter, mixed terrain and extreme condition runners, especially when it is muddy, cold, wet, snowing or a combination of all four.
Both shoes offer greater protection and enhanced reliability in harsh environments.
Built around the very popular and well received Ribelle Run shoe, the Kalibra G has a full gaiter and BOA® Fit System closure.
There are many similarities to the La Sportiva and it’s hard to write this review without constantly referencing the Cyklon Cross GTX as a comparison. Ultimately, if you are after a specific shoe like this, these are the two you will look at!
On first looks, they both offer great outsoles for harsh conditions, all weather protection and the BOA closure.
However, there are differences:
The gaiter comes higher on the Scarpa and the zip wraps-around in contrast to offering a more straight closure on the La Sportiva. There is also a velcro cuff at the top to add enhanced tightness/ closure.
The toe box is wider offering more toe splay.
There is extra cushioning offering a more plush and bouncy ride.
The BOA system offers a wrap-around the foot with increased foot hold and security.
The drop is lower at 4mm with 20.5mm at the front and 24.5mm at the rear.
The upper includes Polartec® Windbloc® for additional warmth.
Subtle differences but they are significant and certainly offer a choice.
Blue and black, the Scarpa is a great looking shoe and when on the foot they immediately scream that they are a shoe that means business. Scarpa say that the shoe is ideal in summer or winter, however, like the La Sportiva, as much as I would like to use a shoe like this all-year around, they will just be too hot for summer! My feet have actually sweated in -4 degree walks in snow while using the Scarpa.
It’s a technical shoe for soft-ground, snow and mountain adventures. Like the La Sportiva, I had hoped for spikes, but alas no! Unlike the La Sportiva, there is no real option to ‘add’ spikes, so, in ice, you’ll need to use a micro crampon.
Fit is superb. They are true to size and maybe a touch on the larger side, but that is okay for a winter shoe as you will use thicker socks. I strongly recommend a higher sock that comes well above the ankle and is ideally made from merino wool. The Scarpa comes up high!
Lacing in both the La Sportiva and Scarpa is superb and here, the ability to adjust tightness is done from the outside, so, there is no need to open the gaiter once running. Micro adjustment is ‘on-the-go,’ via the L2 BOA – perfect for a winter shoe and yes, you can keep gloves on. The lacing, even though similar, is different. Scarpa use a Wrap360 Lace System which really does hold the foot without pressure points.
The upper of the Ribelle Run is light and breathable with mesh, TPU and a microfiber structure. It’s wrapped in a Polartec® Windbloc® polyurethane membrane that offers protection and warmth. Closure is via a waterproof zip and velcro cuff and of course the shoe is tightened via the BOA once the gaiter is zipped and closed. It all works perfectlty. In contrast to the La Sportiva, there is additional fabric that offers some space and expansion, whereas the La Sportiva is snug, secure and sleek.
The outsole is Scrapa’s own PRESA® TRN-04 which has been specifically designed for challenging terrain. The lugs are 5mm in contrast to 7mm on the La Sportiva and quite simply, the La Sportiva wins on grip. Scarpa say that the SUPERGUM W runner will grip ice and snow – no! They work in snow great, but not ice. Studs work on ice and that applies for the La Sportiva too.
Great looks and great fit. The Scarpa is a pleasure to wear on the trail irrespective of conditions and with or without a micro-crampon. Warmth is excellent and resistance to water is superb. I had dry feet on every run. A ´WINTHERM` layer provides excellent breathability and insulates the feet from the cold. It also is designed to reflect heat in summer… They are NOT for summer! They are a very warm shoe!
It’s difficult to say how far I could run in this shoe, it’s comfortable and adequately cushioned with a constant feel for the ground. There is more room than the La Sportiva and certainly feel like an ‘all-day’ shoe. If running in mud, soft-ground and snow, you could keep going and going as the ground adds to the cushioning. On harsh, hard and rocky terrain, I still had plenty of comfort. Within the midsole is a Dynamic Stabiliser Torsion frame made of TPU. This enhances rear foot stability by wrapping under the arch, it also brings torsion control.
The grip is excellent on a multitude of terrain but in contrast to the La Sportiva, not as secure or convincing. The shoe takes a micro-crampon perfectly. I used the Camp Ice Master in really challenging conditions and the lighter/ faster Nortec Trail when conditions required. Run feel is great BUT it is never as good as a specific studded shoe. However, if fresh snow, you don’t notice any difference.
It’s a solid shoe with loads of protection. They are bulletproof and surprisingly light considering how well made they are! 384g for an EU44.5.
The inner shoe is supportive and secure (it’s excellent), and a thick gusseted tongue protects. Heel area is also great. They are supremely comfortable.
Toe protection is superb.
The Scarpa is a superb shoe that does the business in harsh, winter and tough conditions. They are so good, they make a great mountain shoe at any time of year. Even if they will be too warm in spring and summer. There are so many positives that it’s hard to find any negatives, however, in comparison to the La Sportiva, the outsole is not as aggressive. By contrast though, the Scarpa has more toe space, arguably a better foot-hold (but both are excellent) and more cushioning. It’s all down to personal preferences and in reality, you would need to try the La Sportiva against the Scarpa and make a decision. Both put a smile on my face and I am happy I can switch between the two! I have no problem using either shoe and during winter I have alternated between the two. If I had to make a choice, I’d struggle. The La Sportiva is great on faster runs, the Scarpa a great all-day shoe. You decide what you need!
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.”
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.
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.
Look out for:
An inability to make decisions.
A reduction of consciousness.
In severe cases any shivering may well stop and you will see visual signs of change such as blue lips.
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.
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!
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.
Compass (know how to use it)
Map (know how to read it)
Spare food – energy bars or similar.
for more extreme conditions, consider the following:
Spot tracker or similar
Stove such as a Jetboil
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.
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.
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It shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. Go on any run forum and I will bet you that daily, someone will ask a question about run shoes.
I want a shoe that will allow me to run muddy trails and road?
Can anyone recommend a shoe for fell running?
I have Hobbit feet and I need cushioning and grip – what shoe?
I could go on and on. The thing is, while it may be okay to ask a couple of question like:
How does a specific shoe perform in mud?
How is the wear and tear of ‘x’ shoe?
Asking for a specific shoe recommendation can be a recipe for a disaster, the reason being, we are all individual and shoes are very personal based on a multitude of factors. Nobody on social media knows you, your needs, how you run and what type of running you do.
So, please do not ask for a shoe recommendation on social media unless you are specific. A good example being:
“I am male, aged 44. I have been running for 23-years and I have extensive history in cycling, triathlon, road running and now I am moving to trail running… I am 5ft 9. A little overweight. In regard to shoes? I am looking for a trail shoe that will provide great grip on muddy trails. I need support for my arch and cushioning but not something as cushioned as say a Hoka. In regard to foot width, I am in the middle, neither needing precision or wide fit. On a scale of 1-5 I would be a 3!’
With the above we have information from the runner and therefore suggestions and recommendations can be specific and targeted. Even then, the runner should go to a run store, albeit now he has a shortlist of options and then try on the shoes to find the one that best suits him, his feet and his needs.
IF THE SHOE FITS
Firstly, and importantly, not all shoes are equal and not all feet are the same.
Quite simply, the better a shoe fits, the more specific to the type of running one will do in that shoe, the more likely you will feel better. The foot will be happier and the miles you run will be more comfortable.
Our bodies are supported by our feet; they are the first point of contact with the ground and therefore, they are incredibly important. Getting a correct fitting shoe that is specific for purpose is crucial.
When I say specific for purpose, let me provide some simple clarification now and then explain in-depth later. Shoes come in categories; I see the main list broken down as 6 main groups:
Road to Trail
Ultra-Running (with sub heading of Ultra Road and Ultra Trail)
Now, one could break down the categories even more with very, very specific needs such as, “I need a mountain running shoe with an aggressive outsole with great grip in wet and dry conditions and superb traction in mud.”
But before we get into the discussion on the shoe for the job, getting a correct fitting shoe is vital.
HOW DO WE FIND A CORRECT FITTING SHOE?
Please don’t fall in with the generic advice that a run shoe should be one size bigger than say your every day casual shoe! For a start, this assumes you have the correct size casual shoe and trust me, from experience, very few people do. The recommendation for sizing up also comes from the assumption that a foot swells when running. From experience, feet rarely go longer but can go wider with repeated impact and stress; think of races like Marathon des Sables when a runner is in a hot/sandy environment. So, one may need a wider shoe but not a longer shoe. This comes down to getting the specific shoe for the job.
I wear the same size run shoe as my casual shoes (typically) but to clarify, I go for the ‘same fitting’ shoe.
Shoe sizing between brands is variable and inconsistent, an EU 44 in say Salomon is not necessarily the same as an EU 44 in inov-8. So, first and foremost, always try shoes on!
Length and foot width does change so it can be a good idea to have your feet measured if you are new to running with little experience. Some specialists suggest getting feet measured yearly, but for me, this still only gives a guideline to shoe size as comfort, feel and specificity come in to play.
“As a rule of thumb,” I have consistently found that a thumb nail of space above one’s big toe is usually ideal for sizing. This is classic for an ‘Egyptian’ foot shape (D). I say usually because I have seen some feet where the second toe is longer than the big toe, known as ‘Greek’ foot shape (C), so, this would require an individual approach. There is also ‘Square’ foot shape and the thumb nail width above the big toe usually applies here, but, a wider toe box may be required.
Remember, both feet are usually not the same size, so, take this in consideration. Go for fit and feel with the bigger foot!
NOTE: Specifics come in to play such as foot width and specificity of the shoe. As an example, If you are running technical trail, you will need a more ‘precision’ fit. If running long/road ultras, you may well prefer a wider fit that will allow toe splay. More on this later.
Wear socks that you typically run in and if you normally wear two pairs of socks, then wear two pairs when testing and trying. Two pairs of socks may require you to go a half or full size larger depending on the sock thickness. Note:nYou may wear the same shoes for Summer and Winter, but in Summer you use light and thin socks but for Winter you use thick Merino socks. This may well mean you need a different size shoe for Summer in comparison to Winter.
Insoles can give a good indication of the shoe size and its width. As a guide, the insole should match the shape and size of your foot.
With the insole back in the shoe, place your foot inside and firstly check for the space at the front. If you have the required space, lace up and tighten. On the top of the foot you have the ‘Navicular Bone’ and the shoes should be tight here but not so tight to restrict blood flow.
Stand up and move around. Key checkpoints are: 1. Thumbnail width between longest toe and edge of shoe. 2. Check pressure on your little toe. 3. Check pressure and feel on your big toe.
Ideally, you want to be able to run in them and most good run shops have a treadmill to try out shoes. Key checkpoints: 1. No slippage in the heel area. 2. No pressure on toes. 3. Instep feels secure and pain free. 4. You have support or a lack of support as needed.
If you see material bulging because of tightness you may need a bigger shoe, or you have the wrong width. If you see an excess of fabric, you may have a shoe that is too large or too wide.
Check the fabric of the shoe and the seams. Will they be breathable for your needs? Will they protect you for your needs? Does the toe bumper have enough protection?
Remember shoes flex when you run. In the propulsive phase, the shoe will bend behind the metatarsals and this can be a troublesome area if the shoes are the wrong size. Often a sign of a shoe that fits incorrectly is this area will crease and often tear causing failure in the shoe upper. If running uphill, think mountain, fell and trail running, this area of a shoe gets a great deal of stress.
A good running store with professional staff will help you with shoe choices and they should discuss the pros and cons of the specific brands and models available. However, gut feeling and how you feel goes a long way. Always be careful of ‘sale’ shoes! Don’t be influenced in buying the wrong shoe just because it is a good price.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Marathon des Sables has some foot horror stories and the general story is because of the heat, the sand and how brutal the race is. The truth is, the issues (usually) arise through runner’s choosing the wrong shoe and the wrong size.
Old advice has said size up, go bigger as your feet will swell.
However, a shoe that is too big allows the foot to move inside the shoe. A moving foot causes friction. Friction causes blisters. The rest is self-explanatory. In addition, with each sliding of the foot, the toes may impact with the front of the shoe and result in bruising. Think of running downhill with shoes that are too big, your toes will be crammed at the front with room behind the heel.
Having said this, feet can swell through impact and heat. So, using Marathon des Sables as an example, one consideration may be going for a shoe with a wider toe box but still that thumbnail of space at the front. What often happens is a runner has a favourite shoe and decides they need more room, so, they just buy a larger shoe (than needed) because it increases the width/ space. Actually, what they should do is change the shoe. It goes back to specificity.
Shoe that are too tight and/or too small will result in black toenails but more importantly can damage ligaments and possibly result in damage to the metatarsals. Stress fractures are a real risk. Also, you will have foot fatigue and pain. The foot is full of nerves and bones. As an example, the soles are extremely sensitive to touch due to a high concentration of nerve endings, with as many as 200,000 per sole. *The foot receives its nerve supply from the superficial peroneal (fibular) nerve, deep fibular nerve, tibial nerve (and its branches), sural nerve, and saphenous nerve. These nerves come from peripheral nerves that arise from the L4 to S3 nerve roots and contribute to the somatic motor function, general sensory information, and the cutaneous sensation of the foot. In regard to bones, each foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.
If you require stability shoes, the wrong size shoe may well put the support in the wrong place and instead of providing help, it will create onward issues and problems. Plantar Fasciitis is a risk.
Quite simply GET THE CORRECT FITTING SHOE!
IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Okay, so we have given a guide to how you find the correct size of shoe. But now we need to be specific and address and look at some fundamental questions before going to any run store:
Supinate – Your weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot.
Pronate – Your weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.
Neutral – Your weight is distributed evenly.
You need to know which of the above you are, as all brands and manufacturers produce shoes to answer these three specific needs. If you do not know the answer to this question, look at the soles of shoes you have worn for some time – you will see how they have worn. In a proper stride, your foot should roll forward and pronation should be neutral. Shoes that are geared towards supination or pronation are designed to bring you back to neutral.
Many runners who need specific support often see a Podiatrist and have Orthotics made that are transferable to any shoe. In this scenario, you should purchase neutral shoes.
**If you supinate, it can cause excess strain on your ankles. It may lead to shin splints, calluses, or bunions on the outer side of your foot, and pain in your heels and balls of your feet. Excess over pronation, means that as you walk, your foot rolls toward the inside and your arch tends to flatten out. Your shoe will show uneven wear on the inside part of the sole.
From barefoot running to bouncy marshmallow shoes, there is a plethora of cushioning options available to choose from and what is best may just come down to personal taste…
However, I beg to differ. I feel cushioning or a lack of cushioning should be applied based on what type of running one is doing and what conditions.
Fell running – Fell running often takes place in soft, boggy and wet ground. A feel for the ground is essential so that you can respond with ever-changing terrain. A shoe with too much cushioning will remove that feel, place you higher off the ground and may well increase the risk of injury. A sprained ankle being one of the most obvious.
Road running – Road is hard, it can jar the body, muscles and tendons and therefore a shoe with a little more cushioning may be preferable. For some, they require sofa like comfort. Others prefer some cushioning but not at the expense for the feel for the ground.
When purchasing shoes, look at the cushioning typically shown as, for example – Midsole Stack 8mm/ 14mm. This is 8mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. The higher the numbers, the greater the cushioning.
Some shoes include a rock plate which offers protection from sharp objects, useful when trail running.
Shoe drop is essentially the difference between the height/ thickness of the midsole under the heel compared to the same measure under the ball of the foot. Years ago, drop was not a consideration. On a personal note, thinking back say 8-years, I never considered shoe drop. Now, it’s all important.
Importantly, do not be confused by cushioning here. You may well look at say a Hoka One One and think it has a high drop. On the contrary, they typically have a low drop of 4mm. ***Drop refers only to the difference in thickness between the front and back of the shoe and is not a narrative on the magnitude of the thickness.
From experience, I do not consider that any runner has an ideal drop. I see drop as something that can played around with based on the needs and requirements of the shoe and the conditions it will be used. But I must clarify that I have been testing shoes for 8+ years and switching drop on a daily basis has been no problem, on the contrary, I actually consider it to be beneficial.
As a way to explain, I use 0 drop shoes all the way through to typically 8mm. I do have one pair of shoes at 10mm, but they are an exception.
Zero drop or barefoot advocates will argue and argue that zero is the only way to go and if you are adapted and have no injury issues, that is awesome. However, most people have not experienced zero drop and suddenly to do all runs in zero will almost certainly result in some injury. Zero takes adaptation.
Pure Sports Medicine are clear, “What we do know is that human tissues can be sensitive to sudden changes in the way they are loaded, and that it is biologically coherent (and in keeping with the laws of physics) that differing shoe drops may load certain tissues differently. As such, if you are currently uninjured there is no justification for changing the drop of your shoe, but should you want to then be mindful of allowing the body time to adapt to such changes (although many runners may be able to interchange between shoes of different drops we would usually advise being over cautious if this is not something you have done before).
So, if you typically run in 8mm drop shoes without injury, it makes sense you purchase shoes with 8mm drop. Equally, if 4mm is your thing, purchase 4mm.
Specificity of drop.
I personally (and others like me) see drop in conjunction with cushioning, or, a lack of cushioning as a tool to get the most from my body and my runs. For example, if running a muddy fell run, I will use a lower drop, say 3 or 4mm with less cushioning. By contrast, if I was doing a long trail run, I would prefer 8mm drop and more cushioning.
A certain drop may be beneficial in reducing sensitivity and complementing your overall management strategy – so consider this. ****Changing the drop of your shoes (or using multiple shoes which have varying drops in a rotation system) is not to be discouraged or feared, but be sure your body’s tissues can tolerate this, and are given the necessary time to adapt and attain the capacity if needed.
The outsole of a shoe is key as this is the point of contact with the ground on which you are running. Again, specificity is key. There is no one outsole that will do all jobs well and therefore the need for multiple shoes with specific tasks is an essential armory to a runner’s shoe cupboard.
Road shoes – Typically need little grip, just a good rubber.
Trail shoes – Typically require a good outsole that is durable and has grip, say 4mm studs.
Fell shoes – Typically will be aggressive and on first looks may look like football boots with 6 or 8mm studs.
Mountain shoes – Typically will be a mixture of trail and fell shoes and the outsole will be sticky to provide good grip in wet and dry conditions.
In an ideal world, if you ran all of the above scenarios, you’d have a pair of shoes for each scenario. However, shoes are expensive and many runner’s need to make some compromises. Brands realised this and for example, some offer road to trail shoes that provide a best of both worlds’ scenario. The inov-8 Parkclaw is a great example. “the perfect shoe for runners wanting to run on paths and trails, or those looking to make a transition from road running to trail running.” – inov-8
If you need grip for mud, you need to be specific, there is no compromise.
Like drop, shoe width can create many an argument. Simply put, if you have a slimmer/ slender foot, you can probably wear any width shoe providing you have the correct size and they hold you securely.
But if you are a Hobbit, shoe choice may well be compromised as you will need to look for a wider fitting shoe.
Shoe width is also a consideration based on other factors: 1. What terrain are your running on? 2. How long will you be running?
On a personal note, if I am running on technical and challenging terrain, I want a shoe that fits and holds my foot. I am not worried about toe splay – precision is a priority. By contrast, if I was running on groomed trail for multiple hours, a shoe with more width may will be preferable to allow my toes to splay and relax.
Like drop and cushioning, I mix the width of my shoes based on my needs.
Some companies, inov-8 for example provide a width guide to steer runner’s to shoes that will specifically answer their personal needs. This a great system that takes some guess work away. The system is simply rated 1-5; 1 being a tight/ precision fit, 5 being wide and spacious.
Brands such as Altra only offer one foot shape and believe that a wide toe box is essential, in conjunction with 0 drop. It is a toe shape foot box that allows toes to relax and splay. The big toe has space and in principal, this foot box helps reduce overpronation and increases stability. On a personal note, Altra has a place for long road, ultra or trail runs, but when the terrain gets challenging, they feel way to sloppy for me – but this is a personal thought. Altra fans or wide toe box fans will disagree.
WEIGHT AND FABRICS
Shoe weight can be an important consideration. Certainly, when racing, a runner may well prefer a lighter shoe so that they feel faster. However, if running an ultra, added cushioning and a little more weight will be worthwhile for comfort.
Shoe fabrics, seamless uppers, sock-like fits, Gore-Tex and other considerations may influence a shoe choice. Make a decision based on specificity.
A lighter shoe will typically not last as long – this may be an important consideration too.
CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY
Is choosing a run shoe really THIS complicated?
I suppose, yes! But once you understand the basics purchasing new shoes should not be too complicated. Below is a summary and process to follow:
Measure your foot.
Use a conversion chart to get your shoe size.
Understand gait and what you need. If using orthotics, you need neural shoes.
Ask yourself what terrain the shoes will be used on – This refers to what outsole.
Ask yourself how long typically you will run in these shoes – This refers to cushioning.
Do you need the shoes to be more precision fit or wider?
Look at brands/ options and based on the above make a shortlist.
Try the shoes on using the size provided from points 1 and 2 but then size up or down based on the thumb nail space rule.
Check the heel for slipping.
Check the instep and confirm a good foot hold.
If possible, try the shoes running.
Reduce the choices down to 3, then 2 shoes and then make an informed and educated decision.
Do not be influenced by the colour or the price.
Lacing can make a huge difference to how a shoe holds the foot. Lock lacing for example is very popular for off-road and challenging terrain as the shoe holds the foot more securely.
Compromise is a killer when it comes to run shoes. The more specific you can be, the better the shoe will be. But, if you have correct fitting shoes with appropriate cushioning, correct width and a good outsole, you will be able to head out the door and enjoy the process.
And yes, there are exceptions to the rule and somebody will use shoes that are too big and get away with it. Just as someone will run in sandals and get away with it. These are exceptions to the rule and not the norm.
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The Race Ultra when first released by inov-8 turned heads. It was certainly a departure for the brand who had built a history and reputation for out-and-out fell running shoes. For the brand to release a shoe that appealed specifically to the ‘ultra’ market was an interesting move.
I have to say, the first incarnation of the shoe was pleasing to look at and although it gained rave reviews, I didn’t like it. It felt sloppy, lacked feel and in all honesty, it was a shoe I didn’t want to use.
The second incarnation was a huge improvement and it has become a regular shoe for me when running long on flat, relatively un-technical and non-muddy trail. It was a shoe that proved hugely popular at races such as Marathon des Sables for example and the combination of two options, 4mm and 8mm drop; the Race Ultra suddenly became a really popular shoe.
I was therefore somewhat surprised when inov-8 told me that the Race Ultra 270 (4mm drop) and 290 (8mm drop) are no longer in the range as of AW16. Really?
I have had many emails from runners in the community expressing a concern about this. Yes, the Race Ultra really has become ‘that’ popular and as such, many are asking, but what shoe an I know going to wear?
Take a breath, take out your credit card and go and order yourself a pair of TRAIL TALON 275 (8mm drop) or TRAIL TALON 250 (4mm drop).
Yes, folks, stop worrying, the new TRAIL TALON is all that the Race Ultra was and so much more.
I could actually stop the review there as I have very little negatives to say about the shoes. Yes, both really are that good. But I know you have a need for more information so here goes.
In brief, the TRAIL TALON offering in either 275 or 250 versions directly relates to the 270 or 290 versions of the RACE ULTRA. So first off, think about if you need or prefer 4mm or 8mm drop shoes (or both). The plus side from the off, is the two new TRAIL TALONS are offering weight savings over the previous models: 15g +/- for the 8mm drop and 20g +/- for the 4mm drop. For reference, inov-8 always refers to the weight of the shoe in the name, so, a TRAIL TALON 250 will weight 250g+/- in a standard UK8.
Both the TRAIL TALON 275 and 250 shoes use the same standard fit last as the RACE ULTRA but they both offer improved grip with deeper cleats and better cleat configuration. It’s a marginal improvement and don’t start to think that the new shoe will now handle more mud – they won’t. The TRAIL TALON is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.
Tthe TRAIL TALON has a wide ‘standard fit’ toe boxbut I don’t think it is as wide as the RACE ULTRA?. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model. When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, they have room to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased in ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. For me, this can be where some compromise comes in with the TRAIL TALON, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain the shoes excel but if the terrain becomes technical and inconsistent, I find my foot moves a little within the shoe due to the wider fit. This is not a criticism of the shoe, what I am saying is (as I always say) is that it is rare that one shoe can do all things well. For technical running I prefer a precision fit.
A notable difference is the new POWERFLOW midsole for a more cushioned ride. Both the 250 and 275 feel more cushioned. In particular, the 275 feels super cushioned, almost a little ‘too’ cushioned at times and I think this is where the most notable difference will come for RACE ULTRA fans. You will either prefer the additional cushioning or not. On my first runs in the 275 I noticed the cushioning over the RACE ULTRA. To confirm my thoughts, I went back out for a run in the RACE ULTRA and yes, the new shoe has more cushioning and it feels that way too. This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long distance shoe. Of course it’s all relative, the 4mm drop 250 has less cushioning than the 8mm drop 275. For many of you this will not be an issue as you will either run in 4mm or 8mm drop shoes. This is not the case for me, I often and regularly switch between 4mm and 8mm drop shoes. If I am running for 30mins, 60mins or even 2-3 hours I can happily run in 4mm drop and still retain good form. However, if I am going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, I will always go 8mm drop. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 275 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.
I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON has more cushioning and better mid-foot comfort.
When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 275 I had less ‘feel’ for the ground due to the additional cushioning but this proved a real bonus for longer sessions and when the ground became more irregular. The 250 version with lower drop and less cushioning in comparison to the 8mm drop version felt really sweet on all runs.
Both shoes, 4mm or 8mm drop definitely provided more feel, better cushioning and more ‘return’ when running than the RACE ULTRA.
Like the 290 and 270 RACE ULTRA’s the TRAIL TALON will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.
Two huge improvements for me come with the lacing system on the 275 and a gusseted tongue on both the 250 and 275. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense. I don’t know why it isn’t standard on all run shoes. It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.
The lacing on the TRAIL TALON is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the font to swell within the shoe. In the past, I have had issues with inov-8 lacing and I have had to use a ‘lock lacing’ technique to feel secure in the shoe. Not know, this lacing method works.
Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. Keeping in mind the intended use of the shoe, it’s fit for purpose. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.
Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON is not intended for this type of terrain. The 4mm deep studs work great on all dry trail, rocks and yes road. When wet, the grip is also good. Ultimately, the TRAIL TALON would be a great ‘all-rounder’ for most runs. If you are heading to the fells, a muddy trail run, or mountains with mixed/wet trail then choose a different shoe.
Finally, RACE ULTRA fans are going to be really happy with the TRAIL TALON. I have found it difficult to really find any negatives. The only negative (and it’s not really a negative) is that some of you may find the new incarnation a little ‘too’ cushioned. Sizing is true to size and relates directly to the Race Ultra.
As per usual, inov-8 have created two ‘visually’ appealing shoes with great colours and styling.
Drop is personal and for me, 8mm drop is the sweet spot in run shoes and is my ‘go to’ drop for any run. If you prefer a lower drop, then you will be happy with the 250 and 4mm version. If you can afford two pairs of shoes, I really recommend the 250 for shorter and/ or faster runs.
This TRAIL TALON is a winner and is now one of three shoes that I choose on a daily basis, the other two shoes for comparison are The North Face Ultra Endurance and the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac.
Specs from inov-8
The patented Dynamic Fascia Band™ (DFB) mimics the ‘Windlass Effect’ delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping the athlete to move faster and more efficiently
Our standard fit offers a close-fitting heel that locks the shoe in position, while a wider toe box allows the toes to splay when running naturally or lifting weights. Standard fit suits those with wider feet and athletes using the product for long sessions.
Following on from Marc Laithwaites’ series of articles (HERE) that covered many aspects of our sport (butter in coffee? Posture? Hydration?) we now have series of articles on ‘Tips for the TRAIL’ – from Marc and Ian.
TRAIL Tips 1: Choose the Shoes
We get a lot of questions about footwear for trail running. There is no single pair of shoes which will be suitable for every race. Fact! You may have to compromise grip for cushioning, or cushioning for grip and your shoe selection will be based various factors such as the following:
The kind of terrain you are running or racing on.
The distance you are racing and the time on feet.
Your running style.
Risks to injury
Minimal or maximal?
Here’s our simple guide to selecting shoes:
1. Shoes can generally be split into ‘TRAIL’ or ‘FELL/MOUNTAIN’. Trail shoes tend to have more cushioning and are designed for hard packed trails such as canal towpath and forest track. Fell/Mountain shoes tend to have less cushioning but a more aggressive grip and are more suited to muddy tracks or running ‘off the paths’ on rough terrain. Wearing Fell/Mountain shoes could potentially cause problems on hard packed tracks due to the repeated impact and Trail shoes for example could potentially have insufficient grip and stability for severe ‘off track’ running.
2. Stability (how likely are you to twist your ankle) is better in Fell/Mountain shoes as they are lower to the ground (less cushioning), thereby improving balance, control and feel. However, Trail shoes don’t always need the same level of stability and control as a fell shoe as hard pack tracks and trails provide a more even and predictable surface than rocky, ‘off track’ routes.
3. Minimalist or ‘barefoot’ shoes have been popular in recent years, due largely to the book ‘Born to Run’. There is a current shift by shoe manufacturers away from the minimalist trend, towards over-cushioning. Minimalist shoes were popular as a means of encouraging runners to land on their forefoot, rather than their heel. But think carefully before going to an ‘over’ cushioned shoe or a minimalist shoe! This article may add perspective HERE.
4. You don’t need to buy ‘minimalist’ shoes to encourage forefoot running. Forefoot running may well be natural for you but a shoes ‘drop’ will encourage and promote a running style. The drop is the difference between the thickness of the heel and the thickness of the forefoot. For example, if the heel cushioning is 12mm thick and the forefoot 8mm thick, the drop is 4mm. The lower the drop and the more likely you are to run on the forefoot. The higher the drop, the more likely you are to heel strike. It’s not the amount of cushioning (minimal or maximal) which dictates forefoot or heel strike, it’s the difference between heel and forefoot. But be careful, don’t fall in to the trap of thinking low drop is best just because you see so many elite runners using this type of shoe. If in doubt, go for a 8mm drop shoe which sits nicely in the middle ground.
5. The current trend for over-cushioned shoes can include the ‘rocker system’. This encourages heel striking and a smooth roll onto the forefoot, rather than a harsh braking normally associated with heel striking.
6. Road shoes (and some trail/ mountain shoes) tend to fall into 2 distinct categories: Neutral V Support. People who pronate (roll in) excessively wear support and those who don’t wear neutral. Trail and Fell shoes tend not to come in both options, almost all are neutral and there are very few support options (but some do exist, the Salomon Seedcross a good example). If you are running over uneven terrain, your ankle position is rarely neutral, it’s only when you are repeatedly running on hard/flat surfaces (road or treadmill) that you can control your foot by choosing support or neutral shoes.
So when you head off to the store to purchase a pair of run shoes for off road, ask yourself some key questions.
What terrain will I be running on?
Do I require good cushioning or less cushioning?
What drop do I want (zero, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 are standard) ?
Do I require a ‘precision’ fit in the toe box which provides more control or do I require a roomy toe box?
How far am I going to be running in these shoes?
Do I require any stability and support?
Remember, no one shoe will do all things well. That is why so many different shoes exist on the market. However, we don’t all have an unlimited budget. So in many scenarios, we often look for a one shoe fix. Some shoes are out there that do fit that ‘one shoe does all scenario,’ you just have to remember that usually when the trail gets very wet, very muddy or very technical, this is when the biggest compromise is made.
You only need to look at the recent ‘City Trail’ shoes or ‘Door to Trail’ shoes that are available and it doesn’t take long to realise that manufacturers also want to help you with that magic one shoe does all.
This website has many shoe reviews and here is a few of our most recent favourites: