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

 

Asics Stripe Tights and Top Review

It’s Spring! Time to ditch the thick winter leggings, take off a few layers, forget the waterproof jacket and run in something a bit more lightweight for a change. I’ve had a few weeks trying out the Asics Stripe running tights and half zip, long sleeved top. Here’s what I found:

Asics Stripe running clothing

Asics Stripe – ideal for cool, spring training runs

Asics Stripe Tights:

I tested the small men’s tights which weighed 169g on my scales. They Polyamide / Elastane material is soft and stretchy and gave a tight, almost compression like fit. Fit around my 28 inch waist was fine (I often find a small men’s size to be too baggy but not these) so I didn’t need to tie the internal waist band to get them to stay up. Length wise I’d say they were slightly too long for me with a bit of spare material at the ankle (but that’s more to do with my tiny legs than anything else!) The athletic fit makes them ideal for both training and racing and I found that the material shed moisture rather than soaking it up.

Asics Stripe tights

the tights have an athletic fit

A small zipped pocket on the back right is just big enough to take a car key or gel and a mesh panel behind each knee allows a bit of ventilation. This is useful for faster paced running but you do notice a chill if the wind is particularly cold.

Asics Stripe zip pocket

does my zip look big? just enough room for a gel!

Asics Stripe leggings

mesh behind the knees allows ventilation

Reflective logos on the bottom of each leg are a useful feature for night time road running allowing you to be easily illuminated by car headlights and a short ankle zip makes it easy to put the tights on and off.  The zip is particularly useful if you’ve been for a run in muddy conditions as you’re less likely to flick mud everywhere as you take them off. The zip also locks to prevent it opening whilst running.

Asics Stripe reflective leggings

reflective logo on legs, useful for dark country roads

Asics Stripe tights

zips make taking off muddy tights much easier

Recommended retail price is £40

Verdict:

A comfortable pair of tights with an athletic fit, ideal for running in cooler temperatures. I’d use them for winter races and for training in cool conditions and also for mountain running in bad weather.

Available from Millet Sports:
https://www.milletsports.co.uk/product/black-asics-stripe-mens-running-tights/260148_firstsport/

Asics Stripe Half Zip, Long Sleeved Top

Again I tested a men’s small which weighed 156g with the 100% Polyester top having a soft, slightly stretchy feel to it. The size small gave a fairly loose rather than athletic fit although the slight stretch would still allow a good fit for a larger – small runner. The high neck keeps the chill off your chest in cold conditions but then the deep zip allows good venting if the going gets hot and you need to cool down. A zip guard keeps the zip from rubbing when it is fully done up; a nice touch.

Asics Stripe LS Zip top

features: high neck, deep zip and zip guard to protect delicate skin

A reflective logo and pattern on the shoulders means that you can easily be picked out by car headlights if running on roads at night.

Asics Stripe LS zip top

reflective logo and shoulder pattern

The sleeves were easily long enough to cover the wrists and not too tight at the cuff which means that you could roll them up if you got too hot. The “Motion Dry” material is breathable and so wicks away moisture from the skin. I quite like the understated light grey with a hint of colour in the reflective yellow Asics logo – a nice match with my shoe laces!

Asics Stripe Half zip top

enough length in the sleeve and loose enough to roll up

Recommended Retail Price is £29

Verdict:

An affordable, comfortable, long sleeved top with a useful long zip. I’d wear it for chilly conditions that are too cold for a tee shirt or under a windproof or waterproof in colder, wetter conditions.

Available from Millet Sports:
https://www.milletsports.co.uk/product/grey-asics-stripe-half-zip-mens-long-sleeved-training-top/260145_firstsport/

Rooster Sailing Neoprene Sock Review

Fell running in winter results in wet feet, there’s no avoiding it!

Over the years I’ve tried different brands of so called “waterproof” socks but found that after a couple of outings they cease to be waterproof, water that does get in stays in and you end up with a heavy, soggy sock. Yes your feet stay relatively warm but they certainly don’t stay dry. Also, waterproof socks are expensive so when I threw my last pair away I wanted to replace them with something cheaper that would keep my feet warm if not dry.

running through puddles

winter running means wet feet! (photo Fell Running Guide)

Someone recommended Rooster Sailing neoprene socks as a cheaper alternative to waterproof socks so I thought I’d give them a try. (I got the 3mm neoprene Superstretch Wet Socks) As the name suggests, these socks are designed for sailing rather than running and my first thought on seeing them was that the stitched seam that runs under the heel would be uncomfortable. However I needn’t have worried as it was much less noticeable than I feared. The extra thickness of the 3mm neoprene means that your shoes will feel tighter than normal and so you might struggle if your shoes are already a tight fit. The stretch of the material makes the socks easy to get on and off and the top extends to the lower calf and gives a snug fit.

Rooster Sailing sock

3mm stretchy neoprene

On short runs I was pleased to find that my feet were warm and damp at the end but the real test would come on longer runs in very cold conditions. Luckily the Trigger fell race provided an excellent testing ground; 24 miles across high moorland with melting snow!

runners crossing river

ideal testing conditions! (photo Mossienet)

After four and a half hours with wet feet from the numerous river crossings I was very happy that I could still feel my feet! Other runners were complaining that their feet felt like blocks of wood, mine were fine. Since then I’ve used the socks for long runs in bad weather and always found that my feet end up warm and damp rather than cold and wet.

The Verdict

The Roosters aren’t the cheapest of neoprene socks, (a pair will set you back about £20) but they feel robust and well made and they are still significantly cheaper than a well known brand of waterproof socks. The super stretch material fits the shape of your foot without any baggy areas and so gives a comfortable fit.  It is worth keeping your big toenails trimmed to avoid wearing a hole in the socks – which I seem to have done with previous waterproof socks – although unlike waterproof socks a hole in the toe won’t compromise the effectiveness of the sock.

runner crossing stream

another wet run! (photo Fell Running Guide)

I can certainly recommend Rooster Sailing Neoprene Wet Socks, I’ve worn them in some pretty harsh conditions this winter and I haven’t had cold feet!

runner in snow

cold weather, warm feet (photo M. Scotney)

Like the review? Click buttons below to share on your social media

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

Inov-8 AT/C SOFTSHELL PRO FZ Review

Windproof running jackets are usually very thin and lightweight and offer little thermal protection to the wearer. The Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ is different.

It is made with a mix of materials; Pertex Quantum® which is the type of fabric you expect to find in a windproof and Pertex Equilibrium® which is a stretchy softshell fabric. These materials are zoned so as to give both protection from the wind and offer more warmth than in a traditional windproof. It is designed for cold, windy days when you need more protection from the cold than your regular windproof allows.

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

First Impressions

“I’d wear that every day!”  Rather than being a shapeless windproof the Softshell Pro FZ has a tailored look and it wouldn’t look out of place if you wore it down the pub. The 4 way stretch  softshell allows a nice snug fit without feeling restrictive. The jacket feels more substantial than a flimsy windproof and my size XS (well done Inov-8 on catering for us small folk!) weighed just over 300g.

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ on scales

304g for the extra small jacket

Features

The full zip (FZ) makes the jacket easy to get on and off. Two zipped waist pockets allow easy access to map, compass, gloves etc and a drawcord hem allows the jacket to be tightened at the bottom. There is also a small internal hole that allows you to route a cable from each pocket to inside the jacket. This means that you can carry a battery in your pocket and run the cable of your head torch up the inside of the jacket. (oh and you could do the same with your phone and listen to music if you weren’t a fell runner!)

photo of Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ features

nice features: hem draw-cord, 2 pockets & internal cable routing

One of the things I like most about the jacket is the hood. Often jackets have a hood but no way of tightening it which means that in very windy conditions it flaps around at best or even blows down. No such problems here as the hood has a rear volume adjuster and two elasticated tensioners at the front allowing it to be fastened down nice and tight. This also lets you twist your head and still see where you are going.

inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

adjusting the hood

AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

a hood that stays put!

When not required the hood can be rolled back and kept in position by a small press-stud to prevent it flapping around.

photo of AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

hood rolled and secured

The cuffs can be extended to cover the back of the hands and held in place with a thumb loop. This results in a tight fit which is great for keeping draughts out of your sleeves but if you wear a watch you’ll need to put it on over the jacket if you want to look at it!

photo of Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ cuffs

extendable cuffs

On Test

I’ve been wearing the AT/C Softshell Pro FZ for a few months and in a range of conditions including cold, cloudy winter days and crisp, frosty winter mornings. I’ve worn it with the hood up and down and in both still and windy conditions.

Runner wearing Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ

on test on a cold winter day

Runner wearing Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ

and on a frosty morning

The Pertex® material wicks moisture away even when running fast and the close fitting, stretchy material gives an athletic fit that hugs the body and doesn’t billow in the wind unlike some windproof jackets. The softshell material certainly adds a bit of warmth, so much so that one morning after early fog had burned off I felt a bit too warm.

What would I use it for?

The softshell is not designed as a super-lightweight windproof, it is intended as a more substantial running jacket to be worn in colder, windy conditions. It is great for winter days when you know that you want added protection from the cold. It would also be good for longer runs when you might not be moving particularly fast and thus not generating as much heat, for example on something like a Bob Graham round. It is also ideal for cold days out in the mountains and will work well under a waterproof as an additional mid layer. It is also good for wearing pre or post race and will even look good worn as a casual jacket.

Verdict

The Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ is an ideal jacket for cold, dry winter days or for mountain running in cold, windy conditions. It is comfortable and well designed with useful features. It looks good too and it almost seems a shame to wear it for running – I’d happily be seen wearing it to the pub!

More details about the jacket can be found on the Inov-8 website

runner wearing Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ

ideal for a cold, winter morning run


fell running guide

waterproof running jackets

Waterproof Running Jackets

It’s the UK, it’s winter, it’s wet – you’re going to need a waterproof jacket.

For anyone heading out for a run on the fells in winter a waterproof jacket is essential. Even in the middle of summer the weather can be wet or unpredictable, where sunny summer mornings can lead to heavy afternoon showers, especially in the mountains. And if you’re planning on entering a fell race you’ll need to carry waterproofs for certain races even if there’s a heatwave. With such a wide range of choice it can be difficult to know the best jacket to buy and I often get asked for advice on what’s best. Here I compare five jackets specifically designed for running and look at the pros and cons of each one.

Note: the weights are for a size small and were measured on my kitchen scales rather than giving the manufacturer’s figures.

waterproof running jackets

choices choices

When looking for a waterproof ask yourself a few questions:

What will I use it for?

If the jacket is going to be used mainly for fell races, often being carried in a bumbag rather than worn, then light weight and a small pack size are probably your priorities. However if the jacket is more likely to be worn on a day to day basis then a slightly heavier, more robust top might be a better choice. A very lightweight, minimalist top might not stand up to being worn under a running rucksack on a regular basis and so again a heavier, more durable one would be better.

Smock or Jacket?

A smock is a top with a three quarter length zip whereas a jacket has a full length zip and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. A full length zip may be a little heavier and give a larger area where water can get in (i.e. through the zip itself and the associated stitching). If you stop to put a jacket on mid run and suffer with cold hands you might struggle to do up the zip (whereas with a smock the zip never separates at the bottom). It is easier to put on and take off a jacket as you don’t have to pull it over your head and a full length zip allows greater venting (e.g. when it stops raining and you want to avoid overheating but don’t want to take the jacket off).

smock vs full length zip

smock vs full length zip

Fixed Hood or Roll Away?

Some jackets allow you to roll the hood away when not in use. If you prefer to run with the hood down this is a good feature, particularly in windy conditions, as the hood doesn’t blow about and whack you in the face.

rolled away hood on waterproof jacket

rolled away hood

Pockets and Adjustment Cords – do you need them?

I find a zipped, chest pocket to be a great feature; ideal for keeping map, compass, food etc close to hand and accessible whilst on the run. However you may be happy to use a bumbag or rucksack for carrying such items. Also think about the placing of the pockets; for example will your rucksack strap prevents access to them?

Montane Minimus smock

handy chest pocket

Some jackets allow you to tension the hem and hood, usually via elasticated cords. The ability to get the hood nice and snug is great in wild and windy weather – but if the adjustment toggle then whacks you in the eye the feature loses its appeal!

Inov-8 Stormshell Jacket

tensioning the hood

Five Waterproof Jackets Tested

Inov-8 Stormshell 150 (weight 205g including stuff sack)

nov-8 Stormshell pack size

Inov-8 Stormshell pack size

Features:

3/4 length zip (adjustable at top & bottom)
Chest pocket.
Wired hood can be tensioned for volume and size around face. Roll back using velcro tab.
Elasticated cuffs with thumb loops.
Draw cord hem.

What I like:

Great hood that can be adjusted to get a good, tight fit for really bad conditions.  Feels a bit more substantial than some other lightweight tops.

What could be improved:

The chest pocket is a bit small.

What I use it for:

Longer runs or races when I need to carry, rather than wear a waterproof or for wearing when racing in prolonged wet conditions.

Inov-8 Stormshell in the rain

Inov-8 Stormshell in the rain

Montane Minimus Smock (weight 144g including stuff sack)

Montane Minimus pack size

Montane Minimus pack size

Features:

3/4 length zip.
Large horizontal chest pocket.
Elasticated hood which can be rolled back using velcro tab.
Elasticated cuffs.
Elasticated hem.

What I like:

Very lightweight and packs to a tiny size. Huge pocket swallows larger maps and other items.

What could be improved:

The hood can’t be tensioned and so flaps in strong winds. Hood roll back system doesn’t work very well and tends to come undone. Hem can’t be tensioned and so rides up.

What I use it for:

This is my preferred waterproof for most races where a top needs to be carried to comply with race rules. I also use it for shorter training runs in wet conditions.

Montane Minimus in bad weather

Montane Minimus in bad weather

Mammut MTR 201 Rainspeed Jacket (weight 160g)

Mammut MTR 201 pack size

Mammut MTR 201 pack size

Features:

Full length zip.
Chest pocket.
Elasticated hood which can be rolled back using a small hook.
Elasticated cuffs.
Draw cord hem.

What I like:

Very lightweight and packs to a tiny size.

What could be improved:

The hood can’t be tensioned and so flaps in strong winds. Small chest pocket.

What I use it for:

This jacket is very similar in weight and size to the Minimus and tend to use it for short, wet weather training runs or occasionally as my racing waterproof for packing into a small bumbag.

Mammut MTR 201 waterproof

Mammut shedding the rain

Raidlight Raid Shell Jacket (weight 351g)

Raidlight Raid Shell pack size

Raidlight Raid Shell pack size

Features:

Full length zip.
Twin waist pockets.
Roll away hood with toggle tensioning around the face.
Elasticated cuffs with thumb loop.
Elasticated hem.

What I like:

The Raidlight has a soft-shell feel and is slightly stretchy which makes it comfortable to wear.  It feels more like a top that you would wear all day regardless of if it was raining and I like to wear it on colder days even if it is dry. It offers more warmth than the other waterproofs reviewed here. The twin pockets are good for carrying bits of kit but get covered up by a bumbag or rucksack strap.

What could be improved:

The hood is tensioned by toggles which then become lethal whipping implements in strong winds if not adjusted correctly!  Waist pockets can be hard to access when wearing some bumbags or rucksacks. Not sure about the fluorescent yellow!

What I use it for:

This is the jacket I use for work in cold weather as a wear all day item, regardless of if it is raining or not. I also wear it for easy runs in cold weather. I wouldn’t consider the Raidlight as a race waterproof due to its size and weight but this does make it more suited to conditions when I know I will be wearing it all day.

Raidlight jacket

the Raidlight is a good cold weather jacket

OMM Kamleika Smock (weight 266g)

OMM Kamleika Smock pack size

OMM Kamleika Smock pack size

Features:

Deep 3/4 length zip (adjustable at top & bottom)
Chest pocket.
Hood can be tensioned for volume and size around face. Roll back using velcro tab.
Elasticated cuffs with thumb loops.
Draw cord hem.

What I like:

Slightly stretchy material gives a snug, comfortable fit. Feels both light enough to use as a race top yet robust enough to wear day in day out. Good adjustable hood can be fitted tightly for bad weather. Slightly more robust than some of the other lightweight jackets reviewed here.

What could be improved:

Adding a wired visor would make the hood even better.

What I use it for:

I’ve had version 1 of the smock for over five years and it’s still going strong.  It is my preferred top for running work which usually means wearing a running rucksack.  It has stood up well to the abrasion of shoulder straps and general use. On the original version the chest pocket was on the inside (a terrible idea as you had to unzip your main zip to access it and thus let the rain in!), but OMM have now placed this on the outside of the jacket. For me the Kamleika is my work jacket although I would consider it as a race jacket if I didn’t have others.

Kamleika on night navigation

Kamleika on night navigation

Conclusion

As with many things there is an element of personal choice when it comes to features and there is always a balance or compromise to be found. Your super-light, minimalist top might be good for a short fell race but less so for a full day on the hill. A thicker jacket might last longer and keep you warmer but is too big to get into your bumbag. It might be that you can convince yourself (and less understanding significant others) that you need more than one jacket!

I have yet to find “the” best waterproof for trail and fell running, just some that do some things better than others in different conditions. When running in heavy rain I still get damp, either by water getting through the membrane or by sweat failing to escape. Brand new jackets work well, with water “beading” on the surface for a few runs but soon lose their water repellency and tend to “wet out” even despite regular cleaning with the manufacturer’s recommended products.

So there is no perfect solution – unless you stick to running on days like these!

sunny running

no jacket required!

fell running guide

 

 

Montane Litespeed Windproof

Montane Litespeed Windproof Review

There’s one single piece of trail running and fell running equipment that I use more than anything else: my windproof jacket.  To be more precise, my Montane Litespeed windproof jacket.

I’ve had one for over 6 years now and although I wrote it’s obituary on a previous blog post, I couldn’t bring myself to retire it and so kept on using it.  But now I’ve finally bitten the bullet and replaced it.

Montanr Litespeed jacket

out with the old, in with the new!

What do I look for in a windproof?  Basically three things: it has to be small, lightweight and not least needs a pocket to stow a section of map and a compass for when I’m racing, training or working.  (The need for the pocket is why I prefer the Litespeed over the slightly simpler Featherlite jacket).  So how well does the Litespeed meet these criteria?

Size (I’ve got the small): Packed in its own stuffsack it’s about the size of a large orange .  I rarely use the stuffsack, preferring to simply stuff the jacket into my bumbag or rucksack in order to best fill the available space.

size of a big orange

size of a big orange

Weight:  The jacket feels light and the small version tips the scales at 177g including the stuffsack.

lightweight Litespeed

lightweight Litespeed

Pocket: The Litespeed doesn’t disappoint here, the chest pocket on the new model is even bigger than on my original, and easily swallows a printed section of map without the need to fold it.  The new version lacks the little tab attached to the zipper which makes it tricky to locate the zip (especially if wearing gloves), a minor flaw that I can fix myself.

Montane Litespeed

big pocket easily swallows a map section

Other Features:  The jacket also has an adjustable, stowaway hood; to be honest I rarely use this as I either wear a hat / buff or if it’s really hammering down wear a full waterproof.  However it’s good to know that the hood’s there for the odd occasion I might get caught out.

Montane Litespeed

little red adjustable hood!

Elasticated cuffs give a snug fit and keep the weather out whilst the adjustable hem can be cinched tight to prevent the jacket flapping whilst running.

adjustable hem prevents flapping

adjustable hem prevents flapping

Based on my experiences with my old jacket I can say that the ripstop Pertex is very durable; after 6 years use and abuse it is showing signs of wear on the shoulders under where my rucksack straps go, but there are no holes or snags despite numerous encounters with trees, bushes and other foliage.  The durable water repellency has long since worn off, but that is to be expected.  The once bright red fabric is now faded but the zip is fine and it’s still windproof – it just looks a bit tatty that’s all, so in the true spirit of fell running I’m still going to use it, just not for best!

So my fading star has been replaced by a bright new light – the Montane Litespeed, my favourite piece of running kit.  Here’s to another 6 years!

Montane Litespeed - my favourite bit of running kit

Montane Litespeed – my favourite bit of running kit

Berghaus Voltage Jacket

Berghaus Voltage Jacket Review

Depending on what type of running I’m doing I use different waterproof jackets.  For fell races I go for as small and lightweight as possible and use the Montane Minimus smock. However for day to day use on navigation and guided running sessions or for more serious outings in the winter months I’m prepared to compromise: a little more weight and bulk from something that is a bit more robust.

There are plenty of jackets that fit into that category and one that I would recommend is the Berghaus Voltage

Berghaus Voltage waterproof

Made from Goretex Active fabric the jacket has a full length waterproof zip, two generous sized pockets, volume adjustable roll away hood, elasticated hem and elasticated cuffs with an additional velcro adjuster.  At 365g (Medium jacket) and a small pack size it shouldn’t pose too many problems packing into your running sack.

The 3 layer Goretex feels comfortable on the move yet sturdy enough that it won’t de-laminate when worn under a rucksack (a problem with some super-light jackets).  It also feels a bit more reassuring than more lightweight jackets: you feel like it will keep you dry!

If I could change one thing on the Voltage waterproof I would add an external chest pocket for map & compass etc that is easy to get at when wearing a rucksack or bum bag (the two side pockets are good but you need to be careful not to cover them up with your rucksack if you want access to them).  Other than that it looks a great jacket if you want something a little more durable and protective than a super-light race jacket.   See more of the jacket in my video review:

Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket

The Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket is a very lightweight windproof top.

First off, I was really impressed by its weight – or lack of it – the small clocking up only 81 grams on the scales!

Mammut MTR 201

Mammut MTR 201 – very light!

The jacket features a full length zip with a small chest pocket, (a feature I really like for stowing compass, cut down map, gloves etc.)  The pocket has an internal hole for headphones (so that you can take your “multi media device” with you to the hills and listen to man made sounds rather than birdsong, the wind in the trees, the tinkling stream etc!) There are elastane mesh panels below each armpit to assist breathe-ability (I think these will be good whilst running but a compromise to the jacket’s wind proofing and thus not so good if using the jacket whilst standing around), a hem draw cord and something called finger gaiters in the cuffs (basically an extra bit of material that might, at a pinch, keep your fingers warm although I can’t see how these would do the job of a pair of gloves!)  It is DWR treated to make it shower as well as wind proof and time will tell how long lasting and effective this proves to be.  Reflective lettering and logo give a little bit of increased visibility at night.  The jacket easily fits into its own chest pocket for storage.

I tested it out whilst trail running on a breezy but sunny October day.   In action the jacket was very comfortable and whilst the close fit of the small wouldn’t allow it to be worn over bulky layers, as a running wind proof over a long sleeved base layer the fit was excellent.

Mine is a fetching bright green which matches the MTR 141 trail shoe although it should also be available in black.

MTR 201

MTR 201 – very green!

Overall I was very impressed with the jacket, it fits well (I usually find small men’s size to be a bit big!) and is ideal for wearing on a chilly day when you know it isn’t going to rain.  It looks good too – if you like green!

fell running guide

Injinji – Gloves for your Feet

The great thing about fell running is its simplicity.

No expensive kit is needed, there’s no need to keep updating to the latest design, it’s just a case of get dressed and go.  So there’s nothing much to consider when it comes to choosing a pair of socks, right?

Well that’s what I thought until I went to a talk by experienced Ultra Running athletes, sharing their knowledge with runners hoping to complete the Mammut Ultra Tour of the Peak District.  The fact is that during an ultra distance race your body has enough to deal with and so avoiding anything that could slow you down is crucial, things like blisters for example.

An ill fitting sock might not cause you too much trouble on a short run or race but what if you’re on the go for 10 hours or more?  That little ruck in your sock, that little bit of skin rubbing on skin is going to cause a problem.  That’s where Injinji toe socks come in.

Injinji toe socks

Injinji toe socks

What are they?

Injinjis are designed as left and right foot specific socks with each toe having its own little bit of sock – just like gloves but on your feet!  The anatomical shaping helps keep the toes correctly aligned and prevents them rubbing on each other.  Sweat is also removed from the toes and thus the chance of getting blisters is reduced.  The material is a mix of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra giving a snug fit with increased reinforcement at the heel and toes where most of the wear is likely to occur.

What are they like to wear?

My first thought on seeing them was “they look odd!”  Having had thousands of pairs of socks I have got used to what they look like – and these look different, but that’s no reason not to wear them.  The main thing you notice is when putting them on.  After decades of putting socks on without thinking you have to actually concentrate on what you’re doing and line up each toe with its own compartment.  This was a little bit fiddly and certainly not something that you could do in the dark whilst still half asleep!

Injinji toe socks

Strange but comfortable

Having got them on they felt a little unusual around the toes although I soon got used to this.  I first tested them out with my usual fell shoes on a hard hill rep session in the Peak District.  My concern was that as there was more material in the toe box they might make the shoe too tight, but this wasn’t a problem and once my shoes were on I felt just as comfy as usual.  The run had me on my toes on the way up whilst the steep downhill sections was the sort of terrain that forces your feet to the front of your shoes.  The Injinjis were comfortable and supportive (although they didn’t make the hills any easier!)

Overall I liked the Injinji toe socks and will be using them for long days out fell and trail running in the Peak District where the real test will come – but it will take more than gloved feet to turn me into an Ultra runner!

Montane Minimus Smock

I really rate Montane jackets for fell running & mountain walking.

I have a Superfly jacket for long days on the hill where I’m likely to be walking rather than running and my most used piece of running kit is my trusty Litespeed windproof jacket.  So I was keen to get my hands on the Minimus Smock, reputed to be one of the lightest, truly waterproof jackets on the market.

My first impression was Wow – that’s light!  The kitchen scales showed it to be 144 grammes (for the small) including stuffsack. Take off the weight of the sack and you get 136g.  I then weighed my Litespeed which was 145g without sack so the Minimus is actually lighter.

Montane Minimus Smock

Wow – it’s light!

So it’s minimal in weight but what about features?

The material is Pertex Shield, a highly breatheable, lightweight waterproof fabric with micro taped seams.  The zips are YKK (if you’re precious about your zip manufacturers!) Aqua Guard with storm flaps.

When I’m leading a run or teaching navigation I need constant access to map & compass so a pocket is a must.  The smock has a handy chest pocket that easily swallows a section of map, compass, gels etc.  The interior of the pocket is mesh so you can open the zip to vent if things get too warm.  It has an elasticated hood, cuffs and hem (which I prefer to a drawcord) and gives a snug fit when worn over a simple long sleeved base layer.

Handy zip for map & compass

Handy zip for map & compass

My first chance to try it out was on a group guided run in the Peak District.  The weather was cold and foggy with a threat of rain, conditions when I would have normally worn my Litespeed.  A few runners commented on the good looks – a distinctive electric blue with orange zips.  The day was a stop start affair, frequently pausing to look at the map and so with the chance of getting cold. The Minimus certainly kept out the chill wind and pulling up the hood and running for a few moments made a real difference and I found I quickly warmed up again.

group run

Distinctive colours

I like the idea of a smock; no faffing around trying to do up the zip on a windy day with cold or gloved hands and also less weight and less to go wrong.  The zips do have extenders making gloved use more easy.

A second, more rigorous test came when I was caught out in squally shower with hailstones mixed into the almost horizontal rain.  It was great to have a hood to prevent rain going down my neck and the Minimus did a great job of keeping out the weather.

dealing with bad weather

The Minimus dealing with bad weather

One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is what to use on a windy day with the forecast of rain.  The Litespeed is great in wind but is mine has long since lost its DWR coating and so I need a waterproof as well.  I have a Kamleika smock which is great but quite a bit bulkier than the windproof.  It seems that the Minimus answers the problem – it’s as light and compressible as the Litespeed and waterproof too so could be the “one size fits all” solution.  Whilst supporting a recent Bob Graham round I knew I would be on the go for 8 hours or more and that saving weight in my pack was crucial so the Minimus was the obvious choice.

Races run under Fell Runner Association (FRA) rules stipulate that windproof / waterproof clothing must be carried on certain races.  Again the dilemma of “what to take?” is a common discussion point between runners on the start line.  For me from now on it’s a simple answer “the Minimus” it’s as light as a windproof but it’s also waterproof.

Any downsides?

There’s no such thing as a waterproof, breatheable jacket! – if you’re running hard in wet conditions your sweat will condense on the inside to some extent.  This is true of the Minimus, but no more so than with my OMM Kamleika smock or a Lowe Alpine top I used previously.

The super light fabric seems that it might not be very durable, but only time and repeated use will tell.  As with any waterproof it needs to be looked after; washing with soap and reproofing occasionally with Nikwax TX Direct.

My one gripe is that having used the Litespeed for years I am used to reaching for the pocket zip with my right hand but the Minimus zip closes left to right (as worn) so needs the left hand!  I’m sure I can live with that.

So for me it’s a winner; racing, training, guiding runs – from now on I’m going Minimus!

Putting the Minimus through its paces

Putting the Minimus through its paces

Fell Running Guide