Inov-8 Stormshell Jacket Review

The Inov-8 Stormshell waterproof jacket has been around for a few years but it got an updated design in 2017 – so what’s it like?

wet weather run wearing the new Inov-8 Stormshell

wet weather run wearing the new Inov-8 Stormshell

First Impressions

The Stormshell is designed as a lightweight and easily packable jacket for racing and training in wet weather, and it certainly is light. My size Extra Small Men’s weighed in at 163g. It packs neatly and easily into its own chest pocket allowing it to be carried in a bumbag or race vest with ease.

Inov-8 Stormshell on the scales

lightweight Stormshell (size XS)

Packed size can be seen compared with a £20 note (although the jacket costs considerably more!) and can be compressed even further if needed.

Inov-8 Stormshell pack size

not much bigger than a £20 note (but costs a bit more!)

The fit is athletic, it’s not designed to be worn over lots of layers making it ideal for racing and faster training and well done to Inov-8 for making it in a size that fits us smaller than average chaps! First glance also shows that weight hasn’t simply been saved by doing away with useful features.

Features

The Stormshell now comes with a full length zip rather than as a half zipped smock. This allows greater ventilation, for example when the rain stops but you don’t want to take the jacket off. There is also a small press stud just above chest height that prevents the jacket from flapping if it is unzipped in windy conditions.

Stormshell's press stud to prevent flapping

press stud to prevent flapping

The external zipped chest pocket (that the jacket packs in to) just about fits a map section if folded small. It could do with being a little bigger to take an A4 laminated map folded in half.

Inov-8 Stormshell zipped chest pocket

zipped external chest pocket

The elasticated cuffs have thumb holes and material that extends to cover the palm and back of the hand thus adding a bit more protection to the hands in cold conditions.

Inov-8 Stormshell cuffs

good cuffs

The hem doesn’t have a drawcord but is elasticated to prevent the jacket riding up. My biggest complaint with lightweight waterproof jackets usually refers to the hood, i.e. why pay over a hundred pounds for a technical jacket that has a hood that doesn’t stay up!? I’m happy to say that I’ve no complaints about the Stormshell – an elasticated drawcord on the back of the head allows the hood to be tightened nice and snug and a wired peak can be shaped to fit. This means that the whole hood moves with your head when you turn it and you can run into strong winds without the hood blowing down.

Inov-8 Stormshell elasticated hood

elasticated hood adjuster

The zip comes right up over your mouth so that you can keep out the elements in really bad weather and the Inov-8 logos are reflective making you more visible in the light of a head torch or to vehicles on unlit country lanes.

Inov-8 Stormshell hood

the hood can be tensioned to give a tight fit

The Technical Stuff

Material: Pertex Shield 2.5 layer fabric with fully taped seams.
Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm
Breathability Rating 20,000 g
RRP £170

My Verdict

I’ve worn the new Stormshell whilst running in a variety of conditions including several short runs in the rain and a two and a half hour run in strong winds and frequent heavy showers. I like the fit and features of the jacket particularly the hood which actually stayed up in strong winds. The pocket could do with being a touch bigger to take a folded map. On short runs in the rain I stayed dry with water still beading on the jacket although at the end of the long run my base layer was quite damp in places. However I must add that I have yet to find any waterproof that keeps the rain out and allows sweat to escape whilst running fairly quickly for much more than an hour in heavy rain.

runner wearing Inov-8 Stormshell

wet weather training in the Stormshell

At £170 it’s certainly not cheap and I’d be tempted to “save it for best” i.e. use it only for races and specific training runs rather than my everyday winter training jacket. This way I’d hope to prolong its life.

The Inov-8 Stormshell is a lightweight waterproof with some good features. It is ideal for training and racing in bad conditions and as a lightweight race jacket that is going to stay in your pack on dry races.

Learn more about the Stormshell here:
https://www.inov-8.com/stormshell-waterproof-running-jacket-mens-red

Inov-8 X Claw 275. 500 mile Review

My Inov-8 X Claw 275 fell shoes have just clocked up 500 miles – how are they doing?

Whilst it’s good to review kit straight out of the box it’s also really useful (probably more useful) to know how it stands up to the wear and tear of everyday use. I usually expect to get at least 500 miles out of a pair of fell shoes depending on the type of shoe and the type of terrain that I use them for. So how have the X Claws stood up?

SportTracks gear info

warning – no life remaining!

My training diary warned me last week that after almost exactly a year the shoes had reached the end of their expected life, the picture of the shiny new shoes reminding me of how they used to look! The X Claws were my go to training shoe last winter and into spring and I have just started to wear them again after their summer break. They were also my race shoe for tough winter races such as the Trigger and the High Peak Marathon and I wore them for several recces of both races. As such they spent much of the time soaking wet and covered in acidic, peaty mud and having to cope with the rough gritstone and abrasive heather of the Peak District uplands.

river crossing on the Trigger race

wet shoes on the Trigger race

I also wore them whilst supporting on the Charlie Ramsay Round in Scotland which included a couple of rough, scree sections which are always tough on shoes.

As might be expected the harsh conditions have taken their toll and it is the uppers on the X Claws that have suffered the most. The outer layer of the upper has worn away in places, particularly on the instep, revealing a softer material beneath. This has led to the shoes becoming much less water resistant.

X Claw shoe damage

abrasion to outer layer

In order to eke out a bit more mileage I applied some Shoe Goo to the worst affected areas!

Shoe Goo on running shoes

not so new now!

The rest of the uppers including the stitching have stood up pretty well with just a small area of wear on one heel cup. Although there has been some wear on the studs there is still plenty of life left in them. I tend not to wear out the studs on my shoes, a benefit of being light and in this case due to the fact that most of the miles covered have been on soft ground.

photo of X Claw heel cup

only slight wear on the heel cup

photo of X Claw tread wear

still plenty of tread left

Summing up:

The X Claws have lasted pretty well considering the harsh conditions in which they’ve been used. I have had shoes that have done more mileage before showing similar wear and tear, but they haven’t been used in the same type of terrain. They have been almost constantly wet and muddy and to be honest I haven’t always washed them after use – does anyone? The shoes aren’t totally knackered just yet and I reckon I will get another couple of month’s wear out of them although I’ll probably relegate them to training rather than racing.

photo of runner crossing stream

tough life being a fell shoe!

Waterproofs: Jacket or Smock, which is best?

A decent waterproof running top is an expensive investment so it’s best to make the right choice; but which is best, jacket or smock?

There are plenty of waterproofs on the market specifically designed for runners and all having different features. Obviously you need something that fits and keeps you dry, but should you choose a top with a full length zip i.e. a jacket, or opt for a shorter zip i.e. a smock? Each has its pros and cons.

smock or jacket, which is best?

smock or jacket, which is best?

Jackets vs Smocks

There are a couple of advantages of having a jacket with a full length zip: Firstly it is easy to take on and off unlike the slightly inelegant procedure of taking a smock off over your head! Secondly you can unzip it much further to vent and cool off if it stops raining but you don’t want to take the top off. Last year on the High Peak Marathon it had stopped raining and was fairly warm and I was overheating in my smock. My mate was able to completely unzip his jacket in order to cool down whereas I could only unzip to chest level.

photo of taking off a smock

the inelegant battle to take off a smock!

On the down side a zip is a weak point so is more likely to let in water than the waterproof material of the jacket itself. If you are really unlucky the zip might even fail. Another disadvantage is that you have to fiddle to get the ends of the zipper to marry up before it zips up. This can be tricky even with warm hands, let alone if your hands are cold and wet or if you are wearing thick gloves or mittens. With a smock the zip is already “mated” so there is no faffing about trying to insert the end.

fastening the zip can be tricky with gloves

fastening the zip can be tricky wearing mittens

For anyone seeking marginal weight gains a top with a full length zip may be ever so slightly heavier than a smock, but there will be very little in it.

So there are advantages and disadvantages to each and it’s hard to choose a clear winner. I use both, and to be honest don’t have a preference. The reality of the situation is that most people’s decision will probably be dictated by cost.

winter running

opting for a jacket in winter conditions

Petzl Nao+ 750L Headtorch Review

The Petzl Nao is a great headtorch for serious off road running so is the upgraded Nao+ with 750 lumens even better?

I’ve had the second generation Petzl Nao headtorch (the 575 lumen version) for a couple of years and have had chance to get the most out of it on long overnight runs. I used it on the Charlie Ramsay Round and the High Peak Marathon where long battery life was vital and the reactive lighting setting was really useful when using a map and compass. I’ve been fairly impressed with it so wondered if the updated Nao+ is even better.

photo of Petzl Nao+ headtorch

Petzl Nao+ head torch, distinguishable by its red trim

What’s new?

Looking at the Nao alongside the updated Nao+ the most obvious difference is the colour scheme with the Nao+ having a red, black and white head unit as opposed to the old light grey and white. Also the battery compartment is changed to red and black from the old grey.

photo of Petzl Nao+ battery pack

Red and Black on the Nao+ battery pack

Shape and size are still the same but there is a change to the attachment system with the non elastic black cord being replaced by elasticated red bungee type cord. I feel this gives a slightly better fit and is more comfortable. Other than that the versions appear the same.

photo of Petzl Nao head strap

elasticated bungee replaces static cord on the head strap

Cosmetics aside it’s the performance and operating system where the main differences lie. The Nao+ has the same Reactive Technology which senses the ambient and reflected light and brightens and dims the torch accordingly. Some people don’t like this but if I find that it is very useful if doing a lot of navigating, especially with a plasticated or laminated map as it significantly reduces the glare. Yes the Reactive function is affected by fog and even condensation from your breath on a cold night, but one twist of the large button switches to constant mode. Although still powered by Petzl’s own 3.7 V 2,600 mHa USB rechargeable Li-ion battery, output has increased from 575  to 750 lumens (actually I found the existing power to be perfectly adequate, even in the Mamores in the wee small hours). What is more useful is the increased battery life which now gives a claimed 12 hours in Reactive mode at 305 lumens. Whilst I’m generally sceptical of manufacturer’s claimed performances I can say from experience that it does have great battery life. I used the Nao+ on the Bob Graham Round using the low (305 lumen) Reactive setting and after 6 hours use the LED indicators still showed 2 bars (3 bars being fully charged). My old Nao only just got me through the night during the High Peak Marathon as it dimmed to reserve mode just as dawn was breaking, the Nao+ is able to last all night.

One new feature on the Nao+ is the addition of a rear red LED. This is very useful if leading a group or running along a dark lane with your back to traffic but it’s not a feature I want for racing as I don’t want people following me! So you would think “easy, just turn it off” but therein lies a problem; you need to use Petzl’s Bluetooth app to do so. Yes, if you want to turn the red light on or off mid run you have to fish out your smartphone, turn on Bluetooth, open the MyPetzl Light app and then change the settings. Oh and it’s probably raining and you’re wearing thick gloves. Great technology or a bit of a faff? You decide!

photo of Petzl Nao rear light

new for the Nao+ a rear red LED

The big difference

Which leads to the main difference between the latest version of the Petzl Nao and the previous incarnations. Now, to change any of the preset modes on the torch you need to use the “MyPetzl Light” Bluetooth app. Petzl market this feature saying that this makes it easy to change the settings in remote locations, so for example if you haven’t been able to recharge the battery you can reduce the brightness and thus prolong battery life using your phone. Hmm, not sure if I buy that! To me it’s just another app to bloat my phone and for some people who don’t bother to update their phones the app might not even be compatible!

photo of My Petzl Light app

Petzl’s Bluetooth app – great idea or a gimmick?

On the earlier Nao models you changed and customised the settings by plugging the torch into a computer and using the Petzl OS software, but the software doesn’t work with the Nao+ so you’re forced to use the Bluetooth app or stick with the factory settings (the latter have worked fine for me). Another annoyance is that the battery from my Nao isn’t compatible with the Nao+; so if you did want to do an event where a spare battery was needed you’d have to fork out for a spare (around £50) as the new version doesn’t allow for the use of AAA batteries as an emergency backup either.

Petzl Nao battery chart

Petzl website shows earlier batteries aren’t compatible

Petzl claim that the batteries aren’t interchangeable even though the connections look identical so I had a try at swapping them around.

photo of Petzl Nao battery connections

identical connections?

Oddly the Nao+ battery pack does fit onto the older Nao and the torch works, but annoyingly not the other way round. The connector doesn’t accept the battery and I’m reluctant to force it and damage something.

photo of Petzl Nao battery

the new battery works on the old torch but not vice versa!

I’d hoped that the Nao+ would have a strobe mode but alas no (although you can programme a Morse Code signal using the Bluetooth app). So whilst almost all cheap head torches can simply be switched to give an emergency signal the one torch that I am most likely to take with me to remote locations and runs where the consequences of injury are serious doesn’t!

Good Points

Just like the previous version of the torch the Nao+ gives a great spread of light and now has even longer battery life. The big switch is easy to operate even with bulky gloves. Reactive lighting means that you don’t get dazzled when looking at a map and it preserves battery life. If you don’t like the feature then one twist switches it off. The new bungee cord on makes it slightly more comfortable than the previous version.

Things to improve

The Bluetooth app isn’t for everyone! No problem if settings could be customised using Bluetooth as well as the existing OS system, but not instead of. Compatibility with the existing Nao battery packs would be a welcome feature (particularly for anyone upgrading from the Nao 575 lumen torch). The need to use a smartphone app just to turn the rear LED on and off is just too much hassle. An easily accessible emergency / strobe function as available on budget head torches should be a standard feature.

RRP £140

Verdict

The new Petzl Nao+ retains the great features of its predecessor and adds even more brightness and battery life. It is certainly my first choice torch for long overnight runs involving navigation. However it is over complicated by reliance on a smartphone to change some of its basic settings. Sometimes simplicity rather than complexity is a selling point.


North Wales Trail Running – book review

Following on from the successful Peak District Trail Running and Lake District Trail Running books there is now one for North Wales.

Written by experienced runner Steve Franklin, it follows the same format as the previous books detailing 20 trail and fell runs of various length and difficulty. Each route is described with easy to follow directions backed up by Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map extracts. A brief overview of each route shows distance, ascent, estimated time it will take to run, the type of terrain you’ll encounter and how easy it is to navigate; whilst a graph shows the route profile so you know where the steep sections are!

photo of North Wales Trail Running book

North Wales Trail Running

The guidebook is set out with the shortest route at the beginning and the longest one at the end which makes it easy to thumb through and select a route according to your preferred distance, and its small size means that you can easily slip it into a bumbag or pack if you want to take it with you on the trails.

The colour photographs help give a flavour of what to expect: everything from easy forest trails to sea cliffs and more remote mountain terrain, and with routes ranging from 4km to 20km there is something for the beginner trail runner and the hardened fell runner alike.

North Wales Trail Running by Steve Franklin is published by Vertebrate Publishing RRP £12.95

Other books in the series: http://fellrunningguide.co.uk/lake-district-trail-running-book-review/

CEP Compression Socks Review

Compression socks are a bit like Marmite; some people love them, some people hate them (even if they’ve never worn them!) There are plenty of claims by manufacturers that wearing compression clothing can result in: “increased blood flow, faster clearance of lactic acid, reduced swelling, reduced post race soreness, faster recovery times” etc etc however it is hard to find any scientific studies that prove that compression socks actually improve your performance. So why wear them?

I’ve recently been using CEP compression socks and calf sleeves for some of my runs. I must admit that a couple of years ago I was in Marmite camp 2 – thinking that compression was for the European Ultra runner and was worn more for fashion rather than function. Now though I can seen some instances where wearing compression socks is beneficial.

blue sky, blue CEP socks

blue sky, blue shoes, blue CEP socks

My first impression on opening the packet was “wow, funky colours!” Most compression socks I had seen before had been black but not these. Lime and Hawaii Blue “great they’ll match my Trail Talons” Sunset and Hawaii Blue “yep got some X-Talons in orange and blue” Lime and Pink!!… (yes they do women’s and men’s versions) A cursory glance through the accompanying literature had me smiling when I saw that there were instructions for putting them on; I’m an adult, they’re a pair of socks, how hard can it be! Ten minutes later I was rummaging through the bin looking for the instructions as I was having difficulty getting them on! The trick is to start with them inside out – obvious now. Once on (eventually) the 85% Polyamide & 15% Spandex socks give a snug fit around the foot, being shaped to fit left or right feet and there are compression bands around the midfoot, ankle and calf that target the compression to specific areas. They feel snug, comfortable and well made. It’s important to get the correct size by measuring your calf’s circumference rather than shoe size.

CEP compression socks

matching shoe / sock combo – very important!

The first few runs with them I was a bit self conscious, I noticed adults having a surreptitious glance at my legs whilst young kids just openly stared. (they are available in plain black if you are really that concerned) So other than wanting to be the brightest clad runner in the Peak District when else would I choose to wear them?

Chilly mornings. I prefer to run in shorts rather than tights, even in winter unless it’s really cold and a knee length compression sock helps keep the calf muscles warm. This is especially important if I’m planning on running fast or steeply uphill where the calf muscles will be contracting more forcefully.

CEP compression socks

CEP compression on a chilly spring morning

Extreme weather. At the 2017 Marsden to Edale “Trigger” race I wore a neoprene sock over compression socks. This combination gave some protection to my feet and lower legs from the numbingly cold snow melt streams that had to be crossed. Thankfully this meant that once across the streams I could run straight away as I was still able to feel my legs and feet. Long socks also give protection against the cold and abrasions when running in snow.

Montane Fang in use

cold legs! definitely not ideal for racing

Long mountain days. I wore compression socks when completing the Ramsay Round and also whilst supporting others on their rounds. The long climbs take a toll on the calf muscles and I like the feeling of a tight sock (I don’t claim that the sock makes the climbs any easier though!) They also offer protection from stones whilst ascending and descending scree and whilst negotiating pathless sections of knee deep heather! Also they can help guard against ticks especially in areas of Scotland where they are prevalent.

wearing CEP compression on Ramsay Round support

wearing CEP compression on Ramsay Round support

Recovery runs. I often get sore / tight calves especially after races or hard, hilly training so I often wear calf compression the following day on an easy paced recovery run. This isn’t down to believing that wearing compression will speed my recovery – it might or might not – it just feels comfortable.

CEP compression on an easy paced run

his and hers CEP compression on an easy paced run

As well as  compression socks CEP also make Calf Sleeves. What’s the difference and why would I choose one over the other? The socks offer compression around the foot and ankle, the calf sleeves only around the calf. The calf sleeve is a bit easier and quicker to get on. The socks get wetter and sweatier and so need washing more often whereas the calf sleeves can be worn a few times before they need washing. Calf sleeves can be combined with neoprene or waterproof socks for winter running whereas the sock would be too thick. The calf sleeves are cheaper.

CEP full sock and calf sleeves

CEP full sock or calf sleeves? – your choice

The case for CEP compression socks:

Well made
Comfortable
Supportive
Protective
They look great!

The case against CEP compression socks:

Expensive
No firm scientific evidence to prove enhanced performance / recovery
Tricky to put on – read the instructions!
Tan lines!
They look ridiculous!

The verdict:

CEP compression socks and calf sleeves offer support and protection in a range of funky colours. Other compression products may be cheaper but CEP feel like a quality product and made to last. They may or may not enhance your performance but they are guaranteed to enhance your appearance (fell runners take their appearance very seriously!)

RRP – CEP Run Socks 2.0 £39.99 CEP Calf Sleeves 2.0 £29.99

CEP compression socks and calf sleeves are available from Millet Sports

 

There Is No Map In Hell – Review

Most people who climb the 214 Wainwright fells in the Lake District do so over a number of years. In 2014 Steve Birkinshaw managed to complete a continuous circuit of them; over 300 miles and many thousand metres of climb, in just over six and a half days. There is no Map in Hell is Steve’s written account of his tremendous achievement.

There is no Map in Hell

There is no Map in Hell

Legendary Lakeland runner Joss Naylor had completed the round in the 1980’s, taking just over seven days and it was thought that the feat would never again be attempted let alone bettered. However Steve’s background as a highly experienced fell runner specialising in ultra distance challenges (including winning the 2012 Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race) meant that he more than anyone had the fitness and determination to give it a go.

In the book Steve gives an insight into his family background and previous long distance adventures before he moves on to explain what the Wainwrights are and recall some of the history of early attempts by runners to complete the challenge. He describes the huge logistical task of planning the route, calculating a schedule and recruiting a team of helpers. He also discusses his training in preparation for the run.

Steve then gives the reader a day by day account of his progress including details of each leg of his route and recounts his feelings, both physical and mental which unsurprisingly deteriorate as the week goes by. There are also short accounts from Steve’s wife Emma and support crew which give a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes and the highs and lows that they too experienced along the journey.

Steve Birkinshaw during the Wainwrights attempt

Steve during the Wainwrights attempt (from community.berghaus.com)

Finally he describes what he calls “The Aftermath”; the physical and mental toll of running the equivalent of two marathons with over 5,000 metres of ascent a day, every day for a week.

There is no Map in Hell will appeal to any fell runner who is familiar with the Lakeland fells or those who have experienced or are planning their own long distance challenge. Rather than being purely full of facts and statistics it gives an insight into the human side of a determined, family man who pushed his body to extraordinary lengths to achieve a running feat that many thought impossible.

There is no Map in Hell is published by Vertebrate Publishing.

fell running guide

Shoe Cue Insoles Review

Shoe Cue insoles look like an interesting concept designed to prompt runners into adopting a more efficient running technique. They look like a standard insole but with a textured plastic heel plate covered in small pimples which the wearer can feel. The idea is that by being more aware of how your feet are contacting the ground the insoles act as a prompt or “cue”. This encourages you to favour the ball of your foot rather than the heel and thus reduces over striding. That all sounds plausible so I decided to test them out using a bit of sports science technology.

Shoe Cue insoles with the pimpled heel plate

Shoe Cue insoles with the pimpled heel plate

The first thing I did was to go for a short, easy run wearing the insoles to get used to how they felt. I even wore one shoe with a Shoe Cue insole and the other with just the standard insole so that I could compare how they felt.

How do they feel?

You can definitely notice the pimples under your heel, they don’t feel uncomfortable, just unusual and you do get used to them the longer you have them on. Obviously the thinner your sock the more aware you are of the textured heel plate. My first run was on gently sloping, hard packed trail wearing them inside a pair of Inov-8 Trail Talons. I was aware of the insoles although didn’t find them uncomfortable. On my next run I used the same shoes but over terrain with some short, steep up and downhill sections. On the steep downhills the insoles were uncomfortable, especially at a fast pace as more impact was taken through the rear of my foot. (To be fair the insoles probably aren’t designed for that type of terrain)

testing Shoe Cues with Inov-8 Trail Talon 275s

testing Shoe Cues with Inov-8 Trail Talon 275s

Scientific testing

It would be a subjective guess to say if the Shoe Cues made any difference to my running technique so a bit of science was needed. I asked the kind chaps at Front Runner in Sheffield if they could help and they offered carry out a test using their treadmill and RunScribe technology. RunScribe uses small devices attached to each foot which measure data such as Stride Rate, Ground Contact Time (GTC), Braking Force and Footstrike Type (forefoot, mid-foot, heel).

treadmill testing using RunScribe technology

treadmill testing using RunScribe technology

Test protocol

Indoor treadmill wearing Inov-8 Trail Talon 275 shoes. After warming up I ran for 5 minutes at a pace of 10km per hour without the insoles then repeated the 5 mins at the same pace with the Shoe Cue insoles.
I then repeated the 5 mins without / with the insoles but this time at a faster pace of 15km per hour.
The RunScribe data was taken for the middle two minutes of each run.

The results

Shoe Cue test data

10k per hour without insoles

 

Shoe Cue test data

10k per hour with Shoe Cue insoles

The RunScribe data shows that for the slower paced run there is very little difference in stride rate (cadence) and GCT with a slight reduction in braking force with the insoles. The foot strike type (lower number = more heel strike) shows that I actually went a little closer to heel striking whilst wearing the Shoe Cue insoles.

Shoe Cue test data

15k per hour without insoles

 

Shoe Cue test data

15k per hour with Shoe Cue insoles

The RunScribe data for the faster paced run shows almost identical stride rates and GCT with and without the Shoe Cue insoles. As for braking force it decreased on my left foot but increased on my right foot when wearing the insoles (work that one out!) A similar discrepancy with foot strike type saw no change in my left foot whereas my right foot landed closer to the heel whilst wearing the insoles.

Do they work?

That is the big question! The scientific data here certainly doesn’t point to a big change in my own running metrics whilst wearing the insoles, however there could be a number of reasons for this:

  • I’ve been running regularly for many years, performing fairly well in competitions – maybe I already have a reasonably efficient technique?
  • Although I could feel the Shoe Cue insoles I didn’t actively try to change my technique – maybe I also subconsciously resisted changing.
  • It might take a longer period of time to adapt to using the insoles.

A less experienced runner or someone who over strides (having a cadence closer to 160 steps per minute) might find the insoles more beneficial. It is difficult to over stride and still land on your mid-foot, hence how the sensation of feeling the pimples under your heel can help overcome this.

However as with the recent popularity of barefoot, minimalist and zero drop shoes, any change should be made gradually. There are lots of stories of runners who actively tried to change their running technique to a more “efficient” mid-foot landing only to suffer from calf and achilles problems. Anyone trying Shoe Cues should avoid making radical changes to their technique.

Personally I probably won’t use the insoles although I may use them as a coaching tool to lend to clients to enable them to become more aware of their own running technique.

More information on Shoe Cue insoles can be found here: https://www.shoecue.com/

Footnote:

What I also found interesting was that I landed more on my heel the faster I ran whereas you would expect the opposite to be the case. Attentive readers will also note some Left / Right discrepancies particularly regarding pronation (I’ve been told by different physios that I have one leg slightly longer than the other which may explain it)

Thanks to Ali at Front Runner for providing the RunScribe data.

fell running guide

The Protein Ball Co. Review

The Protein Ball Co. are a UK based company producing healthy, high protein snacks using natural ingredients. Neatly packaged in a range of six interesting flavours (I like the Goji and Coconut best!) each 45g bag contains six bite size balls. They are all gluten free and vegetarian with a couple of vegan choices too.

Protein Ball Co.

six interesting flavours

As well as being high in protein they also contain a decent amount of carbohydrate; a 45g bag of Lemon & Pistachio balls contains 187 kcal for example.

Protein Ball calorific content

plenty of calories to fuel long runs

This means that on long events like Ultra races or 24 hour Rounds such as the Bob Graham these would be ideal “hill food”. They are much more palatable than sickly sweet gels and satisfy your hunger unlike a gel. The high protein content also means that they make a great snack immediately after a hard training session or race or following a long run.

Protein Ball Co. each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

At £1.99 for a 45g bag they aren’t particularly cheap and at the moment they aren’t available in supermarkets although they can be found in Holland & Barrett and also purchased online. So if you fancy something healthy, tasty and made in the UK to fuel your running these bite sized little balls are worth a try.

For more details and to find a stockist visit the Protein Ball Co.

fell running guide

Osprey Duro 1.5 Review

Osprey, the Californian company renowned for their packs and rucksacks have introduced a new range of trail running backpacks for Spring 2017 – the Duro. Available in three sizes; 15, 6 and 1.5 litres, here I review the smallest, the 1.5L version.

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

Features:

The Duro 1.5 is a unisex, minimalist vest type pack, available in two sizes; S/M or M/L. It comes supplied with two 250ml soft-flasks with straws. The pack I tested was the S/M version which weighed 283g on my scales (without flasks)

The back of the pack has two zipped pockets with large zip pulls making them easy to open. The smaller pocket has a handy key clip and will just about fit a windproof or minimalist waterproof top whilst the slightly larger, deeper pocket is designed to carry a bladder (not supplied). I found that I could easily fit a set of lightweight waterproofs into the larger pocket.

pockets on Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

2 rear pockets for kit & optional bladder

On the top of each shoulder there is a small elasticated bungee that is designed to hold a pair of folded walking poles.

There are also two stretch mesh pockets at either side / back of the pack. These can easily take hat, gloves, food etc and I even managed to stuff a small windproof into one.

Osprey Duro 1.5 pack

2 decent sized stretch rear side pockets

On the front there are four stretch pockets, two on each side. The larger, top pockets house the 250ml soft-flasks that come supplied with the pack and have small elasticated retainers to keep the flasks from moving around (these also make a handy attachment point for a compass). The two lower, smaller pockets are again handy for hat, gloves, food and compass. There is also a whistle attached to the inside of one of the upper pockets.

There is also a vertical zip pocket on the front left which is big enough to take a phone or sections of map.

Osprey Duro 1.5 pack

zipped pocket for phone, maps etc

The pack is fastened by two elasticated sternum straps that clip across the chest and can be removed and re-positioned in 6 positions. One of the straps has a magnetic clip designed to hold the drinking tube on the optional bladder. This can be easily removed if you don’t intend to use it. I would take it off so that it doesn’t interfere with your compass. The straps can be easily adjusted to fit your chest size.

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack front view

stretch pockets and adjustable straps

There are two more adjustment straps on the side allowing the pack to be tensioned according to size of the wearer and how much kit is being carried.

Osprey Duro adjustment

side adjustment strap

The whole frame of the pack is slightly elasticated with a ventilated mesh fabric on the inside where the pack is in contact with your body. The graphics on the pack are reflective which is a useful feature if you find yourself running on unlit roads in the dark.

How it performed:

I wore the Duro 1.5 over a couple of weeks, with and without the soft-flasks on runs of up to 10 miles at different paces and also lent it to clients on group runs to get their feedback. My first impression was that it was very comfortable to wear, fitting snugly without being too restrictive as the material stretches slightly as you move and breathe. The bottles didn’t bounce excessively even when running at a fast pace. I was impressed by the amount of storage there is despite the pack’s small size; hat, gloves, map, compass, whistle, food, drink and phone are all accessible without having to take the pack off.

If you intend to use the large rear pocket to carry items you need to pack it so that nothing digs into your back (just as you would with other lightweight packs) and the rear / side pockets are difficult to reach whilst wearing the pack. I found a way of reaching round the back with both hands that helped me remove and replace things from these pockets – ok at easy jog pace but difficult to do whilst running quickly!

Osprey Duro 1.5

reaching the rear side pockets was tricky!

The supplied soft-flasks are only 250 ml each. This has pros and cons – the weight is more evenly distributed, particularly if you only take one flask but at the price of not being able to carry much drink. I would prefer larger flasks (I tend to only take one flask as it’s less hassle – only 1 to fill and clean etc – plus extra storage space in the spare pocket) I found that it is possible to swap in a long, thin 500 ml flask although the elasticated retainer doesn’t fit (this wasn’t a problem).

soft flasks on Osprey Duro

250ml flasks supplied or find an alternative 500ml

I found that fastening the chest straps could be a bit fiddly, especially when wearing gloves. The plastic clips need to line up to locating points on a plastic rail and if you don’t line them up exactly they don’t clip on. A simple buckle would have been easier to fasten.

Osprey Duro chest strap

the clip was fiddly to fasten

I don’t use poles whilst running so I didn’t test the pole holders. I certainly think you’d have to be either very well practised or a contortionist to stow and remove them without taking the pack off!

The pack looks really neat, the bright yellow and black is a nice colour combination but mine came with grey chest straps that look a bit out of place (am I being too fussy?)!

What would I use it for?

The Duro 1.5 is just the right size for when you can fit all your kit in your bum bag but doing so makes it really big and bulky. So for example on runs when I want to carry waterproofs and a drink, yes I can fit it all into a bumbag but the bumbag then bounces around whilst I’m running. I would use the Duro 1.5 on long summer runs when I need to carry water but little in the way of clothing or on races where full kit is needed which makes my bumbag too bulky.

Recommended Retail Price is £60

Verdict:

A comfortable, well designed running pack with plenty of storage options despite its small size. Ideal for runs or races where you need to carry just that bit more than comfortably fits into a bumbag.

runner wearing Osprey Duro 1.5

a comfortable pack for racing or training

Available from Osprey https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/duro-1-5-17