Aussie Grit Flint Shorts Review

Aussie Grit Apparel wasn’t a brand that I had heard of until recently, they were set up in 2018 with a range of high quality trail running and cycling clothing.

As the name suggests they are an Australian company and actually have ex Formula One racing driver Mark Webber behind the concept. Their motto “No Stone Unturned” refers to the excellence and attention to detail demanded by Formula One and this is reflected in their clothing.

Aussie Grit Apparel – Flint shorts

photo of Aussie Grit Flint shorts

Aussie Grit Flint shorts

My first impression was of a high quality product, even the wrapping paper was classy! The Flint shorts are a double layer short comprising of a nylon and lycra compression inner and a polyester and elastane outer. The stretchy inner shorts are constructed with flatlock seams making them comfortable against the skin and reduce the risk of chafing. The outer layer has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish and is quick drying, handy for the British climate! whilst numerous small perforations allow air to circulate thus enabling cooling. The elastane allows the material to stretch slightly which gives unrestricted movement and the reflective piping and logo make you more visible in the light of car headlights and head torches when running at night.

photo of trail runner wearing Aussie Grit shorts

ideal shorts for chilly conditions

One interesting feature on the shorts is a hidden pocket on the inner that is big enough to take a mobile phone and a discreet eyelet in the outer short lets you route your headphones. I don’t personally listen to music whilst running but the pocket is useful for other items such as a gel, compass, section of map, car keys etc.

photo of phone pocket on Aussie Grit shorts

phone pocket on internal shorts

photo of headphones on Aussie Grit shorts

hole for headphones

photo of Aussie Grit Flint shorts pocket

or more useful as a gel or map pocket

The shorts are very comfortable and the size small gave a reassuringly snug fit whilst not being too tight. I’m very small so I’m guessing that the men’s medium might be better suited to anyone on the cusp of small / medium. I’ve worn the Flint shorts for long runs of over 2 hours in warm conditions and for interval training on cold spring days when I didn’t want to wear full leggings but wanted some protection for my hamstrings. I’ve worn them in rain and shine and whilst they might be too warm in full summer conditions I think they make a great 3 season short. I’d also choose to wear them in summer if venturing into higher terrain such as the Scottish mountains.

The only downside I can see is that they are quite expensive with a RRP of £79. This means that I wouldn’t want to be wearing them in rough, steep fell races where I was likely to end up on my backside!

Verdict

Aussie Grit Apparel Flint shorts are a high quality, comfortable 2 in 1 compression short for runners seeking a little luxury. Inspired by Formula One they might even make you run fast!

runner wearing Aussie Grit Flint shorts

Aussie Grit – the Formula One of shorts!

For more details visit the Aussie Grit website

fell running guide logo

Copper Clothing Compression Socks

I’m a fan of compression socks, so was interested to come across these from Copper Clothing Ltd which have copper infused into the fabric.

Although there is mixed evidence that compression clothing leads to a performance benefit and aids recovery (see here and here), I still think that the jury is out, however, I choose to wear compression socks or calf guards for certain runs. In cold weather I find that they help keep my calves warm, particularly important if I’m doing faster training or hill repetitions. They also help protect my legs if running through bracken or heather and they can also help prevent tick bites in summer where the advice is to cover the skin in known tick habitats.

photo of runner wearing Copper Clothing compression socks

Copper Clothing compression socks

What’s so special about copper? According to Copper Clothing’s website copper has anti-microbial properties which can kill off any bacteria and so help prevent problems such as fungal infections and athlete’s foot. If you’ve ever left a pair of damp running shoes in a warm place for a couple of days the smell will tell you that there’s something starting to fester in there! Wet feet are a fell runner’s occupational hazard all year round, whilst in summer, sweaty feet and moist shoes are are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – have you ever seen a fell runner with nice feet?! So a pair of socks that help keep your feet healthy sounds like a good idea.

photo of running in puddle

wet feet – a fell runner’s occupational hazard

On test – I’ve been testing the socks for a couple of weeks now and have worn them in some pretty soggy conditions. I like the fit which is snug but not too tight and they aren’t too tight across the foot which makes them easy to get on. I had three wet runs in them before washing them, I just hung them on a chair near the radiator to dry out and they didn’t smell! Copper Clothing claim that washing the socks doesn’t diminish the properties of the copper so hopefully the benefits will last for the lifetime of the sock. Time will tell how durable they are.

photo of Copper Clothing socks

snug fit but not too tight

When would I wear them? As well as in the conditions previously mentioned I think these socks would be worth using on long runs when your feet are going to get damp – that could be most of the time in the UK. Or on long runs when your feet are going to get sweaty – which is the rest of the time! They would be ideal for a long “Round” such as the Bob Graham, pity I didn’t have them last year on the Bob Graham Round where I spent 21 hours in the same pair of wet socks!

RRP – £15.99 available here:


 

Verdict – Although I’m not convinced of the benefits of compression in itself, I do like to wear long socks for certain runs. These Copper Clothing socks are comfortable and affordable and hopefully will help keep my feet healthy – quite a challenge considering the amount of time I spend running in wet, muddy conditions.

fell running guide logo

Inov-8 X-Talon 230 Review

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is the latest addition to the brand’s renowned range of fell running shoes.

I know lots of fell runners who choose X-Talons as their preferred race shoe; the aggressive grip, precise fit and light weight making them ideal for fast running over loose and wet terrain. I’ve had several pairs of X-Talon 212 in their various guises and use them for both racing and winter training –  so what’s different about the new X-Talon 230?

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Features:

The 230 model now features a different rubber compound on the sole with Sticky Grip rubber designed to give a better grip than on previous X-Talons. (Note this is not the Graphene rubber due to be released later this year). The sole unit is visually identical to that on the 212 with the familiar pattern of 8mm aggressive lugs but the sole now also contains a rock plate that gives underfoot protection from sharp stones, a handy feature if racing down loose rocky paths. The shoe uses the Powerflow+ midsole which is designed to give better shock absorption and energy return than on previous models.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon soles

soles L – R 230, 225, 212, 212

The 230’s have a 6mm heel to toe drop as indicated by the two arrows on the heel unit, the same as the 212 version and come with Inov-8’s new width rating of 1 (1 being the tightest, 5 the widest) which replaces the previous “precision” and “standard” width measurements of the toe box.

photo of X-Talon 230 upper

heel and toes: 6mm drop

The uppers are water resistant with an all round rand and toe bumper offering good protection to the foot. They are also designed to accommodate the Inov-8 Gaiter which is useful for preventing the ingress of snow or small stones (e.g. if scree running).

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

protective rand for feet and toes

As the name suggests the 230’s are slightly heavier than the previous X-Talons which range from 190 to 225 grams, however this is still very light compared to many fell shoes.

On Test:

I’ve had the 230’s for a few weeks now and have had chance to test them in some pretty horrible winter conditions including snow, mud and on wet gritstone. My first thought on hearing about the rock plate was that they would have a rigid sole and although they aren’t as flexible as the 212 model they certainly aren’t stiff. They seem to have a little less twisting flexibility but front to back flexibility is still good. The uppers felt a little stiff at first and it seemed like the shoes needed a few wet runs to “bed in”.

photo showing Inov-8 X-Talon 230 flexibility

still flexible even with the rock plate

What I do find difficult to judge when testing shoes is grip; is it possible to gauge if the new Sticky Grip rubber is better than the previous version? Obviously it would be easier to compare different tread patterns in mud but what about identical tread patterns on wet rock? that’s a bit more subjective. So I decided to conduct a not so scientific test – running with different models on each foot!

photo comparing grip on Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

scientific comparison!

Whilst running I couldn’t tell for certain if one shoe offered better traction than the other so I tried a spot of easy “bouldering” on a wet slab of rock where I attempted to use first one foot then the other on the same “hold”. Other testing included hopping up and down on either foot on the same area of sloping rock. The bouldering test definitely felt like one shoe offered more grip.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

comparing grip on steep wet rock

I tried left and right foot with both shoes in order to eliminate any imbalance in my balance / coordination etc. The result – the 230’s definitely felt stickier! However during the testing they still felt slippy on wet rock with green lichen so don’t buy these thinking that they will grip on ANY wet rock. Smooth wet limestone would still be a challenge for any shoe!

photo of runner wearing Inov-8 X-Talon 230

testing on greasy rock

See how I tested them in the video:

Verdict:

I don’t see the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 as a replacement for the existing X-Talon 212 which is still available. They offer a little more protection and thus are a little heavier and a little stiffer so might not be the shoe for the runner seeking a very light, low and responsive fell racing shoe. If that is you then the stripped down, speedy little brother the new X-Talon 210 is probably for you.

However if you want a lightweight shoe with excellent grip and some underfoot protection that is suitable for both training and racing then check out the X-Talon 230.

See link to Inov-8 website for more information about the new Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX Review

Salomon Speedcross are quite a well recognised shoe in trail running and fell running circles, here I look at the Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX version.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX

Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX

Speedcross 4 Nocturne – Features

As with other Speedcross models the Speedcross 4 Nocturne is a neat looking shoe. It appears robust with a firm, water resistant upper, protective rand and sturdy toe bumper all of which give protection to the foot when running on loose, rocky terrain. The upper is double stitched rather than laminated / glued. I normally take a size 6.5 shoe and these 6.5s  felt fine with a reassuringly snug fit.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX

plenty of toe protection

The shoe also offers a decent amount of cushioning with a midsole height of 30mm to 20mm giving a 10mm drop. The sturdiness of the shoe means that it isn’t the lightest on the market – my pair of size 6.5 tipped the scales at a fraction over 600g.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 on the scales

a robust 600 grams (size 6.5)

Salomon use their Quicklace™ system; the shoe is tightened by pulling the laces taught and sliding a fastener down then tucking the excess lace away into a neat little flap on the tongue. This system works well, I haven’t found the need to re-tighten the laces mid run and it makes the shoes easy to undo even with cold fingers.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 laces

the Quicklace™ system works well especially with cold fingers

The outsole uses Salomon’s Contagrip® rubber and distinctive, aggressive chevron lugs which give good traction in wet and muddy conditions.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 grip

Contagrip® chevrons are good for mud

The Nocturne version of the shoe are so called because they are made with reflective material on the uppers. This shows up very well in car headlights and is a useful safety feature especially if your night runs have sections of unlit country road. They are also very reflective in the light of a head torch which may or may not be good for someone running behind you at night.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne

ghostly figure with reflective shoes!

The main difference between these and the standard version of the Speedcross 4 is that these have a Goretex® membrane. This gives even greater protection to the feet, preventing water from soaking through the uppers. I tested the shoes over winter in both wet and snowy conditions and although not completely dry at the end of the runs my feet were a lot drier than if I’d been wearing standard shoes. I think the slight dampness I experienced was from sweat rather than from water getting into the shoe through the fabric.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX in snow

Goretex® gives good protection in snow

Some people dislike Goretex shoes because once water gets in it can’t drain away freely and also sometimes your feet can get too hot. However I think they can be useful if you use them in the right conditions. If you know that you aren’t going to be immersing your foot completely and so can prevent water getting into the shoe that way then I think they have a use. I found them to be useful in snow, especially with a gaiter to prevent snow getting in and they would be a good choice of footwear if running on grass on spring or autumn mornings where there is a heavy dew. I deliver a coaching session every week on a grass playing field where the grass is frequently wet and I’d often end up with cold, wet feet (wellies aren’t an option when you’re trying to demonstrate drills!) These are now my shoe of choice for these sessions.

Speedcross 4 Nocturne – Verdict

The shoes perform best in wet, muddy and snowy conditions. The grip is very good on mud and wet grass, however not as effective on wet rock – but what is!? Personally the 10mm drop is a little too much for my liking, I prefer something with less drop that feels closer to the ground, certainly for racing or fast training runs – however that is personal preference. The fit feels snug and the construction feels robust with plenty of cushioning and protection. The Goretex version lends itself to wet or snowy conditions (as long as it’s not so deep that it goes over the top!) whilst the Nocturne uppers allow you to be seen more readily at night.

photo of Salomon Speedcross 4

at home in wet, muddy conditions

RRP £140

More details on the Salomon website here

Iffley Road Thorpe Running Top – Review

Some items of running kit just ooze class and the Iffley Road, Thorpe long sleeved running top is one of them.

I could tell this straight away when I opened the packet to find a cloth, drawstring bag containing the top – no cheap plastic packaging here. Made from 100% Merino wool the Thorpe top looks great, its classy features include a large printed design on the back in the shape of a running man (the top is also available without the design), a high neck zip with the Iffley Road logo on the zip pull, long cuffs with thumb holes and a small, discreet pocket on the lower side hem that is just big enough for a car key or gel. A neat little hanging tag on the back adds a touch of colour to contrast against the black of the shirt (it is also available in Damson or Granite).

photo of Iffley Road running top

Classy kit – Iffley Road Thorpe top

Iffley Road Thorpe coutour

the contours are optional

photo of Iffley Road zip

high neck with zip

The Italian Merino wool felt soft and comfortable against the skin and the fit is generous enough to allow it to be worn over a base layer in colder conditions. The properties of Merino wool are well known; warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s warm, highly wicking and resistant to odour making it an ideal top for a range of conditions. I haven’t had chance to test it in warm weather but it feels great on chilly winter days.

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe cuffs

fold down cuffs for cold hands

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe pocket

side pocket just big enough for a gel

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe top

the neat hanging tag adds a touch of colour

The Thorpe is the kind of top you could wear pre, during and post run and look good in all three situations. I’ll certainly wear mine socially, it’s just too stylish to restrict it to running!

Iffley Road is a small UK company run by a husband and wife team both of whom are keen runners. It is an upmarket brand and so their clothing isn’t cheap, but it makes a refreshing change from the man made fibre running kit mass produced in the Far East.

photo of Iffley Road bag

Iffley Road packaging – a stylish touch

So if you want to treat yourself to a little running luxury take a look down Iffley Road.

photo of runner wearing Iffley Road top

luxury running in Iffley Road!

Iffley Road Thorpe (contours) long sleeved Merino wool running top:

Designed in UK, made in Portugal from Italian Merino wool
Weight – 250g size small
RRP – £125

More information here: Iffley Road

Adventure Medical Kits – Emergency Bivvy

If I am running in a remote area or in winter I carry an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy with me.

photo of Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

This small, lightweight sleeping bag type bivvy bag is a great piece of kit which will take up hardly any room in your bumbag or pack. If the worse thing should happen and you or a mate gets injured whilst out running in bad weather then this could really help prevent hypothermia whilst you wait for mountain rescue.

The bivvy is basically a large bag made of heat reflective polythene that you can get in to. As it is a bag rather than a blanket it traps heat effectively and is totally windproof thus creating a protective environment for anyone who is immobilised. Note that it is not breathable and so condensation will build up in it over time so it is not suitable as a sleeping bag!

photo of Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Unlike the traditional plastic orange bivvy bag, this version is made of much thinner polythene meaning that it packs far smaller and so is suited to packing into a bumbag or similar. They are available in different sizes i.e. one or two person, I use the smaller version.

Some mountain races and long winter races such as the Trigger have emergency bag /  bivvy on the mandatory kit list. the AMK one is ideal. At around £15 it really is an essential piece of kit for anyone running in more remote areas.

river crossing on the Trigger race

imagine waiting for Mountain Rescue here!

Kahtoola & Chainsen Snowline Microspikes Review

Running in icy conditions can be hazardous but thanks to Microspikes you can still enjoy those cold, crisp winter days.

What are Microspikes?

Basically they are a form of crampon designed for walking or running rather than climbing. They consist of a set of small, stainless steel spikes connected by chains and attached to a piece of tough rubber (an elastomer). They are designed so that they can be worn on your footwear simply by stretching the rubber cradle over your shoes.

photo of Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes held in place by a strong rubber cradle

Kahtoola microspikes are probably the best known brand but I also have some Chainsen Snowline Snowspikes which are virtually identical (but a bit cheaper!) I have the Light version which only weigh 235g for a Medium sized pair. The Kahtoolas are slightly heavier at 338g. They are available in different size ranges, I’ve found that you need have them quite tight to prevent them coming off whilst running through deep snow.

Chainsen Snowline Microspikes on scales

The Chainsen Snowline spikes, 235g size Medium

What conditions are they for?

The sharp spikes grip really well on smooth ice and hard packed, frozen snow. It takes a bit of time to build up your confidence but after a while you realise that you can run at your normal pace, even on the iciest of surfaces. Whilst they can be worn in snow they don’t really offer much more grip than a running shoe with a good tread.  They also work well on frozen ground such as grass and mud, even if there is no ice cover. You tend to find that you alter your stride slightly and land more flat footed than you would ordinarily do. Whilst they aren’t uncomfortable initially they can start to hurt a little if running for long periods on very hard surfaces. I once ran for about 15 miles wearing a pair and the soles of my feet were a bit sore afterwards!

photo of runner wearing Microspikes

Microspikes work best on hard ice

Most winter runs involve a variety of conditions; you might be running through fresh snow where few people have been but then encounter a well walked path where the snow has been compacted and refrozen. The first part wouldn’t require spikes but the second bit could be pretty treacherous. The good thing about both Kahtoola and Chainsen Microspikes is that their size and weight means that they can easily be carried in a bumbag or running pack and it only takes a few seconds to put them on. So you can take them on a run, put them on if you encounter any icy stretches and quickly take them off afterwards. The Chainsen spikes even come in a tough little pouch to prevent the spikes from damaging your bag.

photo of Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

I have used them for winter running in the Peak District and also on a recce of the Charlie Ramsay Round in spring when conditions were still wintry. (note Microspikes are not suitable for ice climbing!)

runner wearing Chainsen Snowline spikes

I used Chainsen Microspikes whilst recceing the Charlie Ramsay Round

Are they worth it?

At around £40 a pair they are worth getting if you intend to continue running outdoors throughout the winter. They don’t need to be confined to running, they can be worn over walking boots and even shoes meaning that you can tackle the icy pavements with confidence. I know people who’ve worn them for a trip to the pub!

So, if we continue to have cold winters a pair of Microspikes are a good investment, allowing you to enjoy running safely in conditions like this!

photo of running wearing microspikes

safe running wearing microspikes

The video below shows how easy the spikes are to put on and how effective they are on icy terrain:



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!

See Inov-8 website for more details of the Inov-8 X Claw 275

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