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

Lake District Trail Running – book review

Lake District Trail Running is a handily sized book detailing 20 off road runs in the Lake District National Park

The selected routes range from 5km to 17km in length and vary in difficulty in terms of type of terrain and amount of ascent. Each run includes a brief description of the route including distance, ascent, navigational difficulty and estimated time to complete whilst an altitude profile shows you where you will encounter the ups and downs. A more detailed description breaks each route down into legs with easy to follow directions which are clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map extracts.

Lake District Trail Running

Lake District Trail Running

The softback book is well set out with the shortest runs at the front, the longest at the back making it easy to flick through and find the one you fancy. It is useful for runners of all experience and ability and is ideal for anyone planning a trip to the Lakes who doesn’t want to plan their own route. Packed with colour photos it is interesting to read and makes a great addition to any trail or fell runner’s library. It is even small enough to stuff into your bumbag!

Lake District Trail Running by Helen Mort is published by Vertebrate Publishing and retails for £12.95

Also check out the sister publication Peak District Trail Running: 22 off-Road Routes for Trail & Fell Runners.

Peak District Trail Running

Peak District Trail Running

fell running guide

Montane VIA Fang 5 Review

Montane VIA Trail Series Fang 5 Backpack Review

Montane VIA Fang 5

Montane VIA Fang 5

I have used a Montane Jaws 10 running pack for a while now on long training runs, certain long races and for my day to day running work and so I was interested to see what changes had been made for the 2016 updated VIA Trail Series. Here I test the smaller Fang 5 pack.

Features:

The VIA Fang 5 pack comes in two sizes: S/M and M/L. I have the S/M which weighs 270g when empty. The most notable feature of the new Trail Series version is that it no longer uses rigid water bottles affixed to the shoulder straps, but opts for twin 500ml soft-flasks (supplied) instead – so no more sloshing! These are housed in pockets on the front straps of the pack, one of which is zipped, the other an open top stretch mesh. Above these are two smaller pockets, again one with a zip the other open topped stretch material. With the soft-flasks stashed in the lower pockets the upper ones are ideal for storing gels, compass, phone, car keys etc. The zipped pocket contains a small emergency whistle which can be removed if required.

Montane Fang 5 front view

pockets galore!

In addition to the four front pockets there are also two stretch pockets, one on either side of the pack above the hip. These are easily accessible whilst wearing the pack and are ideal for storing hat, gloves, food or a folded map section.

Montane Fang side pocket

accessible side pocket takes hat, gloves etc

Although the Fang 5 comes supplied with two soft-flasks there is also the option of using a bladder (not supplied). A large rear pocket with hanging loop will house a 1.5 litre bladder whilst loops on the right hand side of the pack retain and route the hose. If you choose not to use a bladder, this pocket can be used for additional storage but you’d need to pack it carefully as the mesh material offers little in the way of padding.

Montane Fang bladder pocket

large rear pocket takes a bladder (optional)

Low down on the back of the pack is a zipped, water resistant pocket that is large enough to carry a set of lightweight waterproofs. This ensures that the bulkiest items are carried low down and adds to the pack’s stability. An elasticated bungee cord allows the pack to be cinched down if required although I have never needed to use this. Two smaller bungee loops form an attachment point for carrying poles; not something I would use in fell running although the higher loop makes a handy attachment for a compass lanyard.

Montane Fang water resistant zipped pocket

water resistant zipped pocket and bungee cord

The pack is fastened using a wide, elasticated hook and loop belt at the waist and an elasticated chest strap that can be adjusted by clipping to any of four attachment points on the front straps.

Montane Fang chest strap

adjustable, elasticated chest strap and compass in top pocket

The elasticated waist belt allows the pack to be fastened snugly and because the belt stretches, along with slight elastication in the main chassis, the pack expands with your ribcage rather than feeling constrictive.

Montane Fang waist belt

elasticated hook and loop waist belt

On the top of each shoulder strap a small elasticated tab allows a rolled up map to be carried and forms a retaining point for the optional hose system.

Montane Fang map loop

map can be carried in shoulder loop

What I Like:

The Fang 5 is a very comfortable pack. I like the way the elasticated waist belt can be fastened tightly so that the pack fits snugly and doesn’t bounce around when running quickly or whilst descending. Despite the snug fit the Fang doesn’t feel constrictive, if you bend forwards to adopt a hands on knees approach to attack steep climbs the elastication in the pack adapts to your change of position rather than restricting your movement and breathing.

The amount of pockets and hydration options make it a really versatile pack. There is plenty of accessible storage from the hip and front pockets and using both soft-flasks gives you up to a litre of drink. Take just one soft-flask and you have another spare pocket or add a 1.5 litre bladder and you have enough fluid for a long run or race where replenishing water supplies is an issue.

What could be improved:

Very little. If I was being picky I would say that the hook and loop material sometimes snags on things such as other pieces of clothing and so I find it best to store the pack with the waist band fastened. The chest strap only fastens on the right hand side meaning you need to undo it with your left hand, whereas my older Jaws pack fastens on the left so it takes a little getting used to.

When would I use it:

The new Fang is ideal for long training runs or longer races when I want to carry more kit than I can comfortably fit in a bum bag. It would be a good choice for long days out or 24 hour attempts such as the Bob Graham Round. I used it on the Marsden to Edale “Trigger” race when the bad weather conditions meant that I wanted to carry more kit than on a normal race. The race required frequent use of map and compass which were easily accessible in the front pockets, much more so than with a bum bag.

Montane Fang in use

Using the Fang on the Trigger fell race

Verdict:

A comfortable, versatile pack with lots of storage options. I’ll use it a lot.

fell running guide

 

The Montane Spine Race Film

The Montane Spine Race is arguably Britain’s most brutal race.

Runners have 7 days to cover the entire 268 miles of the Pennine Way.. in the depths of winter.  This film by Summit Fever Media follows the 2015 event and gives an insight into how tough the race really is.

The Spine - Britain's most brutal race?

The Spine – Britain’s most brutal race?

The film follows a number of competitors on their adventure and captures their raw emotions; from despair at having to drop out due to injury, the sense of serenity at being alone in the bleak, wild landscape and the relief and elation on completing their epic journey through remote terrain in harsh, winter conditions.

Interviews with competitors, race organisers, medical and safety crew along with footage from the film crew and competitors (carrying Go Pro cameras) give a behind the scenes look at the logistics and planning as well as showing the extreme conditions that the runners encounter.  For some there is camaraderie as they assist and accompany each other.  For others there is isolation; alone, battling against the elements, their own emotions and sleep deprivation.

It might inspire you to do the race or it make you say “never”.  Either way it gives a fascinating look at the men and women who plan, organise and compete in arguably Britain’s most brutal race.

The Montane Spine Race Film is available as a DVD or a download from Summit Fever

logo best coaching

 

1000 Mile Socks

Socks are just socks aren’t they?  They keep your feet warm and stop your shoes from rubbing.

Well maybe that’s so for some socks but others are a little bit more technical.  Take the1000 mile Ultra Performance sock.  Not only do they have extra padding at the toe and heel where most impact occurs, and airflow channels on the top to help let your feet breathe, they are also made with Cupron copper fibre technology.

1000 mile socks

So, what’s that?  Basically, copper oxide is integrated into the fibres of the sock in order to combat bacteria and fungus and so keep your feet healthy and odour free!

1000 mile running socks

 

Is it a gimmick?  Well fell running comes with the inherent risk of damp or wet feet.  I spend a lot of time with feet that are moist at best, soaking and muddy at worst and no doubt in an ideal climate for bacteria to thrive!  Anything that can help keep my feet healthy is worth considering and at a tenner a pair they aren’t going to break the bank.

The 1000 milers are comfortable and easy to put on (unlike some other brands!)  They also have a clever little touch; the toe seam is a different colour for different sizes – great if you have similar pairs for different members of the family.  I’m not sure if I’ll actually get one thousand miles out of them and I doubt they’ll make me run any faster but at least I won’t have smelly feet!

 

Fell Running Guide

Snowline Snowspikes Review

I love fell and trail running in winter.

Cloudless, blue sky days with lying snow make running a joy.  But what about when the snow gets compacted and icy or melts and then refreezes over night; aren’t these conditions dangerous for running?  If just wearing your normal fell shoes then you will definitely need to slow down and alter your running style to avoid slipping.  There is also a higher chance of picking up an injury due to slipping, even if it isn’t due to a full on fall.

So in conditions like this I use a type of running crampon or micro-spike.  Snowline Snowspikes are Stainless Steel spikes which are attached by chains to an elastomer cradle which simply fits over your normal running shoe.

Snowline Snowspikes

Snowline Snowspikes

Snowline Snowspikes

12 Stainless Steel spikes give a reassuring grip

Snowline Snowspikes Light (there is a heavier version) weigh only 235 grams a pair (UK shoe size 4 – 7) and come with their own small travel pouch which means there’s no risk of the spikes piercing your bum bag whilst carrying them.

Snowspikes Light - 235g a pair

Snowspikes Light – 235g a pair

Snowline Snowspikes

handy travel pouch means no punctures to your bumbag!

They can be put on in seconds simply by stepping into them and pulling the stretchy elastomer over your shoe.  8 one centimetre spikes on the forefoot and 4 on the rear give a reassuring grip on icy ground and if you find that conditions underfoot improve they can be taken off in seconds.  They’re not just for trail and fell running either, they’re fantastic when the streets and pavements are covered in frozen snow.

This video shows how easy they are to put on:

We’ve been blessed by some fantastic winter running conditions in the Peak District over the last few days.  If we get any more icy weather this winter, don’t stop running because of the conditions underfoot, get a pair of Snowspikes and enjoy the snow!

winter running in the Peak District

winter running in the Peak District

It’s A Hill, Get Over It

Fell running is an increasingly popular sport, but have you ever wondered how it all began?

Steve Chilton’s excellent book, It’s A Hill, Get Over It gives a detailed history of the sport; from the early shepherds’ meetings in the 1800’s through to the rise of the Brownlee brothers and the possibility of Kilian Journet tackling the Bob Graham Round!  It describes the expansion of the fell race calendar including how some of today’s classic races came into being and also details the development of the Fell Runners Association.It's a hill, get over it

With chapters devoted to Ladies fell running, Joss Naylor, and the Bob Graham Round along with interviews with some of the greats of the sport past and present, It’s A Hill, Get Over It is a must read book for anyone interested in the sport of fell running.

It’s A Hill, Get Over It is available from Amazon and all good bookshops including Outside, Hathersage.

SplashMaps

SplashMaps Review

SplashMap neck

a map that keeps your neck warm!

Every so often I come across a product that I find really useful, different or interesting. SplashMaps are exactly that.  These lightweight fabric maps are washable, wearable and durable as well as being aesthetically pleasing.  Unlike paper maps they won’t turn to mush if they get wet and whereas laminated maps take up a lot of space these can simply be folded up and carried in a pocket or in your bumbag.

SplashMaps

SplashMaps – what a great idea!

They have a whole host of uses: you can wear them, wipe your nose on them (sacrilege!), clean your bike with them, use them as a table mat – or even use them as a map!  Based on Ordnance Survey and Open Street Map data they are accurate and come in a range of scales including 1:25,000 and 1:40,000 making them ideal for navigating.  You can even mark up your route and then wash it away when you’re done.

SplashMap

studying my SplashMap in the Peak District

The range currently includes the National Parks of Scotland, England and Wales, some areas in the south of England and some specialist events maps including one for the Bob Graham Round!  It is also possible to have one made to order with your chosen area and the title you want.

Bob Graham SplashMap

Bob Graham SplashMap

Novel and quirky they make a great present for trail runners, fell runners, mountain bikers, walkers or anyone who uses or is interested in maps.  So if you see me running around the fells with a map on my head, I’ve not gone mad – it’s a SplashMap!

Splashmap

is it a hat? no it’s a map!