360Dry Waterproof Socks

This winter I will be wearing waterproof, breathable, Merino wool socks from 360DRY® for some of my runs.

Should you wear waterproof socks for running? Ask a group of fell runners the question and you’ll probably get a divided opinion. Some will swear by them whilst others will tell you that you don’t need them and to stop being such a wimp!

photograph of runner and puddles

waterproof sock weather!

Notice I didn’t say that I would be wearing them for all of my winter runs, so when would I choose them over a standard running sock?

Why wear waterproof socks?

For me the issue isn’t necessarily about keeping my feet dry it’s more about keeping them warm, so in summer and autumn even if I knew I was going to get wet feet I’d not bother with a waterproof sock. Even in winter if I’m doing a harder training session such as intervals or hill reps where I will be running fast and I won’t be out for very long then I don’t worry too much and would wear a normal sock. Likewise for a short winter race, unless the temperature was very cold I’d just wear a wool sock. Where I would “wimp out” though is on longer runs in cold weather or even on short runs in snow melt conditions.

photograph of runner 's feet in snow

wimping out in the Merino ankle socks!

I also opt for a waterproof sock if I’m teaching navigation skills when I might be out on the moors moving at stop / start pace for over 5 hours (that’s a long time to suffer with cold feet!) And I also choose them for coaching in winter where I am stood on a wet playing field for an hour doing nothing more strenuous than looking at a stopwatch and blowing a whistle! It doesn’t take long for your feet to get cold if you aren’t moving, even more so if they are wet.

360DRY® are a small Yorkshire based firm offering two versions of a breathable, waterproof sock made with Merino wool and a waterproof membrane. The ankle length version has a soft feel and doesn’t appear that much different to just a thick woolen sock. The full length, calf sock feels a bit thicker and more robust. Unlike compression socks the calf length socks aren’t very tight, I find them snug enough that they don’t fall down yet they aren’t a struggle to get on and off. The full length socks are quite thick so if your shoes are tight fitting then you might find that putting your shoes on is a bit of a squeeze. Both pairs feel comfortable, there is one seam across the toes but I haven’t experienced any problems with rubbing.

360Dry waterproof, breathable socks

choice of two lengths of sock

As with other makes of waterproof socks I’ve found that my feet do get a bit clammy. I don’t think that there is any way that sweat can escape if the outer of the sock is wet. As a result my feet will be warm but damp after a prolonged run – a much better scenario than cold and wet!

It pays to look after the socks to prolong their life so it is recommended that you hand wash them in warm water rather than throwing them in the machine on a hot cycle. Any grit in your shoes will lead to abrasion of the waterproof membrane so your socks will last longer if you wash your shoes and keeping your toenails short will help prevent from wearing holes in the toes. Unfortunately the big toe on my left foot always wears through my socks! It’s not the end of the world if you do eventually wear a hole in them, yes a small amount of water will get in but I’ve found my feet still stay warm thanks to the Merino wool.

The 360DRY® socks are good value for money compared to other well known brands.

RRP:

Ankle socks £24.99
Calf socks £27.99

For an additional 15% off use code FELL15 at checkout

Website: https://www.360dry.co.uk/

fell running guide logo

Sawyer Mini Filter Review

I’ve started to take a Sawyer Mini water filter on some of my runs. Here I look at how and when it can come in useful.

For most of my runs I don’t take any drink with me, I’m happy to hydrate before and immediately afterwards. However for longer runs (2 hours plus) or on very hot days I tend to take a soft flask or maybe two. In high upland areas such as Scotland and parts of Wales and the Lake District I’m happy to refill or drink straight out of flowing streams but I wouldn’t do this in the Peak District.

This summer I did quite a lot of running on the Pennine Way where there were plenty of water sources although not many that I’d be happy drinking from without first treating it. I also supported on a couple of Bob Graham rounds where I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the quality of the water that I could refill with on route. As a solution to this I bought a Sayer Mini water filter, a neat little filter that only weighs 65g and comes complete with a straw, 490ml pouch and a cleaning syringe. Larger pouches can also be purchased if needed.

photo of Sawyer Mini with pouch, straw and cleaning syringe

Sawyer Mini comes with pouch, straw and cleaning syringe

There are several alternative filters such as the Katadyn Be Free and Salomon XA where the filter is housed within the soft flask itself. These are great if all you want to use them for is drinking from the soft flask but they aren’t as versatile as the Sawyer which can be used in a range of different ways. With an “in flask filter” such as the Katadyn and Salomon if your flask springs a leak then your filter system stops working (unless you have a spare flask). These systems rely on the filter being used only in conjunction with the soft flask. Also, with the Salomon XA be aware that the filter cap doesn’t fit onto Salomon’s existing wide mouth flasks! The threads are slightly different so you can’t just buy the filter, you need the dedicated flask too. In comparison the Sawyer Mini is much more versatile.

The Sawyer Mini is very versatile:

If you want to just take a quick slurp as you go past a water source then the Sawyer with straw attached lets you do that. You could drink straight from a puddle or trickle of water if you were desperate! I can think of a situation on the 2018 OMM Mountain Marathon where I would have done just that had I had the filter!

photo of Sawyer Mini filter and straw

drink straight from a source with the straw

For hill walking or mountain biking or where you prefer to use a conventional bladder system rather than a soft flask then the Sawyer mini can be used with your existing Platypus, Camelback or similar. Simply remove your bite valve and plug in the filter. You could even cut the tube and fix the filter “in line” if you still wanted to use the bite valve.

photo of rucksack and Sawyer Mini filter

using the Sawyer with a conventional bladder

 

photo of Sawyer filter with a bladder

swap the bite valve for the filter

 

photo of Sawyer Mini used "in line"

using the filter “in line” with a bladder

For wild camping or similar where you wanted to filter a larger amount of water you could fill up a large bladder, attach the filter and drink from that as well as using it for cooking. The Sawyer Mini screws directly onto plastic bottles too so these can be used in place of a bladder. To filter water simply invert the bottle or bladder and gravity will do the rest. I haven’t used the Sawyer 490ml pouch yet as I prefer the methods mentioned here instead but it is very lightweight and rolls up easily so is handy to take along if needed.

photo of Sawyer filter with plastic bottle

filter screws onto standard plastic bottles

You can adapt the Sawyer to be used with soft flasks if you have flasks with straws – just remove the bite valve and plug the filter in. If you push the straw down into the flask then the filter will be positioned in an ideal position to drink from. Obviously this depends on your running pack / vest but I found that my Ultimate Direction vest holds the filter snugly in place with no bouncing as it has an elasticated loop that can be used to hold the filter against the shoulder strap (see photo).

photo of Sawyer Mini filter and soft flask for running

using the Sawyer with soft flask on Ultimate Direction vest

 

photo of Sawyer Mini filter on running pack

elastic loop fits over top of filter

Pros:

Versatility – the Sawyer Mini can be used in a wide range of scenarios.
Size and weight – easily fits into a small pocket and weighs only 65g.
Easy clean – comes supplied with a plunger to rinse the filter.

Cons:

Not as easy to use as a dedicated soft flask filter.
Doesn’t screw directly onto Platypus bladder or branded soft flasks.

RRP £35

Can be found cheaper here https://amzn.to/2HY7L9j

Verdict: A really lightweight and versatile piece of kit that is useful for a range of situations, not just fell running.

Full details of the Sawyer Mini here

Note affiliate links: I get a small payment if you purchase via these, it doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

fell running guide logo

Anquet Outdoor Map Navigator (OMN)

Outdoor Map Navigator (OMN) by Anquet is a digital mapping platform that allows you to access maps on your phone and computer.

An annual subscription gives you full GB OS 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger maps whilst Harvey 1:25,000 Superwalker and 1:40,000 British Mountain Maps can be purchased individually. Once the free OMN software is downloaded and you set up a cloud based account you then have access to all of the maps on your PC and also on your phone via the OMN app. There are lots of benefits to having mapping on your computer and phone, here are some of the ways I use it.

image of Anquet route planning

Screenshot of Anquet OMN software

On a Computer

Printing Maps

Rather than take a full map out on your walk or run Anquet allows you to select and print the relevant section and just print that. You can print to accurate scale or enlarge it if your eyesight requires. I tend to print the section I need on A4 paper and either laminate it or seal it in a plastic wallet to prevent it getting wet. That way there’s no battling in the wind trying to find the right bit of the map and it is easy to fold and carry the map or put it in a pocket. If the section gets tatty I just print another rather than having to buy a whole new paper map.

photo of map section

Printing the section you need is easier than battling with a full map

Planning a Route

The OMN software is excellent for planning routes on a computer. It’s easy to find accurate grid references and so create waypoints (for example race checkpoints or hill summits) and draw routes between them. The software automatically calculates distance and elevation for each leg so you can decide which route suits you. You can enter your estimated pace (with additional time for climb as with Naismith’s rule) so that you can get an accurate idea of how long a run or walk will take. The software shows you the bearings for each leg which can be really useful as it saves you having to take a bearing off the map – if you were trying to do this in bad weather or whilst in a race there’s more likelihood that you’d make an error than if you’d plotted the bearing beforehand. This picture shows a comparison of two route choices; the long way round or a shorter but steeper direct route with distance, ascent and estimated time for each.

picture of Anquet maps

Comparing route options for Edale Skyline

In 2015 I was course planner for the Rab Mountain Marathon in Snowdonia. I did most of the planning using Harvey maps on Anquet software. One great thing about having the maps on a PC was that I could zoom right in to identify subtle features and get accurate (10 figure) grid references which I plotted as waypoints on the map. At a later date I went out to visit these locations to see how viable they were as “Controls” for the event. Once all the controls were marked it was then possible to plot the most likely routes that competitors would take and thus get a fairly accurate distance and elevation for each course. It was also possible to then predict the winning times.

picture of map with checkpoints

Control planning for the 2015 Rab Mountain Marathon

Reviewing a Route

Another use of the software is the ability to look back on a route, maybe a walk or run and see exactly where you went – it might not always be where you had planned to go! OMN allows you to import a GPX trace, e.g. from a Garmin or similar sports watch and the trace will show your exact route. This image shows 2 routes (downloaded from my Garmin watch) of different ascents of Elidir Fach on Paddy Buckley rounds. These were both done at night and it is interesting to see slightly different route choices each time. Sometimes at night you don’t know exactly where you’ve been!

picture showing different routes on a map

Slightly different routes on the Paddy Buckley Round

Map Updates

Depending on the subscription level you take out you can get Ordnance Survey map updates as often as every 3 months meaning that your map never goes out of date. The new fence lines shown on the updated map below would be really useful if you were navigating across Cartledge Bents in the fog!

comparison of 2 Ordnance Survey maps

Spot the difference? New boundaries and paths on the updated O.S. map

Any map updates, plotted routes or imported routes can be synchronized with your cloud account so that they are available on different devices such as your smartphone.

On a Phone

Note – please do not rely on using just your phone to navigate by, especially in remote areas. Learn to use map and compass and use the phone alongside these.

As well as using OMN on computer you also can use it on a smartphone via the OMN app. With an internet signal you can access everything in your account; maps, plotted routes, waypoints, tracks etc. As you wouldn’t want to rely on having internet access whilst out in the hills you can download the maps that you need to your phone and use them without an internet or mobile signal. With your phone’s location settings enabled you can get an accurate fix showing your current position and grid reference (I opt for 8 figure in settings) and you also can record a tracklog which draws a trace on the map showing where you have been. Be aware that having your phone’s screen on for prolonged periods will drain the battery as will using it in cold weather – see note above!

Planning a Route

As on a computer, it is possible to plot a route by using the touch screen on your phone although for ease and accuracy it I’d recommend doing this on your computer then uploading it to your phone. Cold, fat fingers are a lot less accurate than a big screen and a computer mouse!

Recording a Route

If you want to go for a walk or run and look back afterwards to see exactly where you went you can record a tracklog on your phone. You simply open the app and start recording when you set off. The route (track) that you take will appear as a line on the map. When you finish, stop the tracklog and details such as time, distance elevation etc will be saved and you can look at the traced line to see where you went. This image shows me using the phone app during a run – the red circle is my current position and the pale blue line shows my route.

photo of map on a smartphone

Using OMN app on smartphone

Following a Route

If you have uploaded a route to your account, either by plotting it on the map or uploading a GPX file, it is then very easy to follow it using your phone. The route will show up as a coloured line on the map as will your current position (via satellite) which shows if you are on the route or have deviated off it. I work on events such as Skyline Scotland where all the race routes are marked out with flags for the runners to follow. This involves placing flags over many kilometres of mountain terrain, sometimes in bad weather yet it is vital that the race route is marked accurately. Having the exact route on a phone which can be checked whilst placing the flags helps ensure that the race route gets marked correctly. This picture shows the Ring of Steall race route (purple line) loaded onto my phone for use whilst course marking.

photo of map on mobile phone

Ring of Steall race route shown on phone

Race Recces

Being able to see an accurate trace of where you’ve been and where you are can be very useful in helping you prepare for certain races. The High Peak Marathon is an overnight race across some remote and pathless Peak District terrain and “reccying” the route by trying out different route options can make the difference between getting a dry line and ending thigh deep in bog. This image shows how I looked at two different route options for one particular section of the race. As the use of GPS is not allowed during the race I needed to know accurate bearings and timings which I was able to take from the tracklog I recorded.

picture of map and GPS route

Looking for a dry line! Trace showing recce of different routes

As a Learning Tool

GPS devices and maps on phones get a lot of negative press but if used correctly they can be valuable learning tools. They can actually help you improve your navigation. I use phone mapping on my navigation courses to allow people to review their decisions and check the accuracy of their navigation. The following image is from a night navigation course where the participants were trying to follow a bearing from A to B across open moorland. They should have been heading on a southwesterly bearing at all times but the blue circles show that on two occasions they were actually heading due west. Being able to show them their actual route immediately afterwards was quite enlightening for them as they swore that they had constantly been heading SW. The satellite doesn’t lie!

image of GPS trace on a map

Using GPS track to review a navigation exercise

Using the Map

Although you are somewhat limited by the size of the screen you can simply use the map on your phone as you would a paper map. Putting the phone into airplane mode will prolong the life of the battery. I actually use an old phone without a sim card that has maps installed onto it that I use when practising or teaching navigation. One advantage is that you can really zoom in to see subtle contour features, particularly useful if you usually need reading glasses. This image shows a screenshot from my phone where I’ve zoomed in to see fine detail compared to the same area on a paper map.

photo of map on smartphone

You can’t zoom in on a paper map!

Anquet Oudoor Map Navigator is great for printing maps, planning routes, reviewing walks or runs and to aid navigation. It can also be very useful as a tool to improve navigation skills. Various subscription levels are available, click on banner image below for full details:


Harvey Map extracts used with permission are the 1:25,000 Superwalker map of Snowdonia 

 

fell running guide logo

Short Runs in Beautiful Places

Short Runs in Beautiful Places is a guidebook of 100 trail runs on land maintained by the National Trust.

Known for their previous trail running guidebooks, Jen and Sim Benson have produced another well researched and beautifully presented guidebook. It is full of colour photographs and each route has details of how to get there (by car and public transport), easy to follow route descriptions, maps and some interesting facts and bits of history along with suggestions of other things to do or places to visit in the local area.book - short runs in beautiful places

The guidebook covers Great Britain with routes ranging from the coastal paths of Cornwall through Wales, Scotland and even includes a couple in Northern Ireland. There are routes for everyone from parents with buggies to those seeking more challenging technical trails. Woods, parks, meadows, beaches and more remote uplands are all included.

Short Runs in Beautiful Places is a great book for planning runs in new places and is ideal for families who want to plan a day out that maybe combines a run with other attractions.

RRP £12.99 Published by National Trust Books

 fell running guide logo

The Rise of the Ultra Runners – Book Review

Until relatively recently completing a marathon was seen as the pinnacle of a runner’s achievement.

Once they had completed the 26.2 miles runners tended to then strive to do it faster, but not many chose to run further. However recent years have seen a boom in “Ultra Running” with runners swapping tarmac for trails and often covering 30, 50 or 100 miles and in some cases even further over several days. In his book The Rise of the Ultra Runners (A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance) Adharanand Finn looks into what is behind the desire to go further, to push on for longer and to endure what was not long ago thought to be mad or even impossible.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners book

The Rise of the Ultra Runners

The author was already a fairly experienced road runner when his work as a journalist led him to take the step into ultra running; The Financial Times wanted an article about the Oman Desert Marathon, a multi day stage race and Finn decided that it would be an adventure. This led him on a journey to find out what motivates people to take part in such events and also, having survived 100 miles in the desert, to wonder how far he could push his own physical boundaries. So from there he set about accumulating enough qualifying points to enter and then complete the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc. Along the way he delves deep into the ultra running scene, interviewing and spending time with some of the sport’s top runners and competing in races in the UK, Europe, South Africa and the USA.

The book gives an interesting insight from two fronts  – there’s the journalistic aspect where Finn interviews some of the sport’s biggest names (including Kilian Jornet, Sage Canaday, Zach Miller, Elisabet Barnes, Damian Hall) and also a personal one as he recounts the highs of finishing and the lows of pain, suffering and hallucinations that he experiences whilst taking part in various races. Finn touches on the questions around doping in the sport and also discusses why – when the marathon running world is dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian runners – there are no East Africans on the Ultra Running scene.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners gives a fascinating insight into the world of ultra distance running. You don’t need to be an ultra runner yourself to enjoy it but it will certainly appeal to anyone interested in running further than 26.2 miles.

 

fell running guide logo

Inov-8 X-Talon G235

Inov-8 have now added the popular X-Talon to its range of shoes with a Graphene enhanced outsole.

Other shoes in the Inov-8 range including the Mudclaw and Roclite have been available with graphene infused soles since 2018, now it’s the turn of the X-Talon. The X-Talon has had quite a few guises since it was launched in 2008 with slightly different weights and a “sticky grip” rubber compound version in 2018. December 2019 sees the addition of the latest incarnation, the G235.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon G235

Inov-8 X-Talon G235

Features

The new X-Talon like it’s predecessors is a lightweight shoe with an aggressive sole. The distinctive tread pattern has changed little over the past 11 years, the 8mm studs are still spaced sufficiently wide to afford excellent grip whilst shedding mud. The studs give fantastic grip when new but their small surface area means that previously they tended to wear down and become blunted fairly quickly and whilst this doesn’t diminish the grip on rock it means they are less effective on wet grass and mud. I’ve had several pairs of X-Talons and tend to save them for racing then relegate them to a training shoe once the studs have lost their bite! Hopefully the graphene outsole will add some longevity to the studs. What has changed in the G235 is the upper which does away with stitching and is now a seamless, one piece unit constructed from ballistic nylon, with a printed rubber rand adding some protection to the toes. The midsole is only lightly cushioned but a flexible rock plate gives underfoot protection whilst still retaining flexibility. The 6mm drop gives a close to the ground, racing feel and the width size 2 “precision fit” adds to the shoes suitability for running fast over technical terrain.

rear view photo Inov-8 X-Talon G235

no stitching on the ballistic nylon upper

What struck me, other than the lurid orange colour, is how light the X-Talons are. Admittedly mine are only size 6.5 but 187 grams per shoe is light! The “235” in the name reflects the weight of an average sized 8.5 shoe. As with the previous X-Talon versions these feel “light and racy”, it will be interesting to see how the graphene affects the sole wear compared to previous models.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon G235 on scales

lightweight size 6.5

Technical

Average Weight:235g. Drop: 6mm. Stack height: 13mm at the rear/7mm at the front. Outsole: Graphene-Grip rubber with 8mm studs. Midsole: POWERFLOW+technology Flexible META-PLATE adds underfoot protection. Upper: Seamless, hard-wearing ballistic nylon material with rubber-printed rand.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon G235 flexibility

a rockplate gives underfoot protection without losing flexibility

Use

X-Talons have long been a shoe that is popular with fell runners and they would also be suitable for orienteering, cross country and obstacle course racing. I’ll use the new X-Talon G235 as a racing shoe where light weight and running fast over muddy and technical terrain are important factors.

RRP:£140

This video gives a very quick look at the G235 

Click link for more details about the Inov-8 X-Talon G235

fell running guide logo

 

Proviz Reflective Clothing

Proviz Sports make reflective clothing for running and cycling.

Not just slightly reflective but really bright, light up the night, dazzlingly reflective!  The sort of reflective that gets picked up by a torch from a hundred metres away. I first came across Proviz when a runner turned up to my winter training session wearing the Reflect360 jacket – we literally could see him coming! Their clothing covers a wide range of sportswear – socks, hats and gloves, shorts and tights, long and short sleeved tops, gilets and waterproof jackets. The reflectivness ranges from small logos and decals to the fully reflective jackets.

photo of Proviz Reflect360 jacket

Proviz – highly reflective kit!

But do trail and fell runners need to wear reflective clothing? You could argue not but if some of your night time runs cross or include short sections of road then being visible to drivers is a good thing, especially if they are approaching you from behind. And yes you do in that worse case scenario where mountain rescue are shining their searchlights looking for you. Lots of runners are also cyclists too and will want kit that they can use for both sports and it really is important to be easily seen whilst riding in the dark. The Reflect360 jackets and gilets really are good all-rounders for both cycling and running.

photo of runner wearing Proviz jacket

spot the runner in the Proviz top

I’ve got the Reflect360 beanie with its highly reflective trim which I use as an everyday running beanie and as mandatory kit for fell races.

photo of Proviz beanie

that’s not a head torch it’s a reflection!

photo of reflective decals on the Proviz beanie

reflective decals on the Proviz beanie

So be seen and be safe this winter with Proviz clothing, see link for more details of their kit:
https://www.provizsports.com/

fell running guide logo

Last Women Standing – The Barkley Marathons Film

The Barkley Marathons is a notoriously tough, ultra distance race which only 15 people have ever completed since it was first staged in 1986. No Woman had ever completed it.

Last Women Standing is a film by Summit Fever Media following Inov-8 ambassador and ultra-running record holder Nicky Spinks as she takes on one of the world’s most notorious and secretive sporting events.

The 100+ mile race takes place in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee and requires the competitors to navigate 5 laps, each involving around 10,000ft of brutally steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland and vicious, spiky undergrowth that shreds both clothing and skin. The park surrounds Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a now derelict maximum-security prison. The impenetrable surroundings have accounted for several failed jail breaks.

The film gives an insight into Nicky’s build up, from the unique application process to the hours before the race where her preparation is made more difficult because runners don’t know the exact time the race will start. Competitors are told of a 12 hour window during which race organiser “Lazarus Lake” will blow a conch – that signifies one hour until start time. Competitors then have 60 hours to complete the 5 laps, ripping out pages from books en-route as proof that they have visited the correct checkpoints. Asked by the film crew if he thinks this will be the year that a woman completes the race Laz replies with a chuckle “No!”

image from Barkley Marathons film

Laz checks Nicky out at the start of a lap

Frozen Head is notorious for its bad weather but the race begins in hot conditions before nightfall sees the temperatures plummet and the runners battling against wind, rain and snow. As other runners drop out (signified by the sound of a bugle) Nicky teams up with fellow female ultra-runner and Barkley veteran Stephanie Case from Canada and the race “virgin and veteran” work together in an attempt to become the first women to complete the grueling challenge. Will they be successful or will the bugle sound for them?

You can watch a trailer of the film here:

The film will have its online international premiere on Tuesday November 19th. Sign up now with inov-8 to watch the free online film premiere: www.inov-8.com/last-women-standing

Boa® Fit – a new lacing system for trail running shoes?

Boa® Fit – a new lacing system for trail running shoes?

There have been numerous design changes to running shoes over recent years; lighter materials, sticky rubber, Graphene infused outsoles etc etc but the method of keeping them on your feet has pretty much been the same – laces. You pull them as tight as feels comfortable, tie them in a knot that won’t come undone (you hope) and forget about them. Simple. So is there any scope for changing to a different system? Is there room for improvement or if it ain’t broke should we not try to fix it?

Boa® Fit System trail running shoes

Boa® Fit System on the Adidas Terrex Two

I hadn’t really given the topic much thought so I was interested when given the chance to test a pair of shoes with the Boa® Fit system. Basically this is a dial on the shoe which can be turned to tension the laces and pulled to release or undo them. The system isn’t new, it was developed almost 20 years ago as a method of fastening snowboard boots and has since been used on sports footwear such as cycling shoes, but I hadn’t come across it used for off road running shoes. The shoes I tested are the Adidas Terrex Two (GTX) and whilst I was interested in the shoe I was most keen to see how the Boa® Fit System performed.

photo of quick release Boa® Fit System

quick release Boa® Fit System

On Test

I wore the shoes for over two months, clocking up over 150 miles in a range of conditions from the hot and dry September to the more recent wet weather. As these are a trail running rather than fell shoe most of the runs were on harder or rockier trails and short grass. They aren’t designed to tackle rugged, boggy fell type terrain.  I wore them for different types of run ranging from long, fairly easy runs of up to 90 minutes to for more intense training such as hill repeats on rough ground and 1 kilometre fast intervals on hard packed trails. I used the Goretex version of the shoe, a non Goretex version is also available.

hill reps with the Adidas Terrex Two Boa® Fit System

hill reps with the Adidas Terrex Two Boa® Fit System

Impressions

To be honest I was rather skeptical at first with a couple of concerns; one that the system was a bit “overkill” and that laces are perfectly fine, and two that the system might fail by getting mud and grit into the mechanism. After a couple of months of testing I have changed my mind slightly. Yes the system is more than you “need” and an ordinary lacing system is fine but the Boa® Fit System does have it’s advantages.

Pros

  • Getting them on and off is really quick! Ok, but you might say that if you can’t afford to spend an extra minute at the start and finish of a run then you’ve got other things to worry about!
  • Adjustable on the go. Occasionally I will go for a run and after a few minutes realise that I’ve either tied my laces too tight or too loose and need to adjust them. Again in the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal but in a race situation it could make a difference. With this system it takes seconds to adjust the tension.
  • Your laces don’t come undone. This is a big plus. Yes it is possible to tie your laces so that they don’t come undone but that often means that when you do want to undo them it is a bit of a struggle – especially with gloves on or with cold fingers. With the Boa® Fit System one pull on the dial releases all the tension and you’re out.
  • Easy to undo. As above, the quick release mechanism makes taking them off very quick and easy. No fumbling around with cold fingers trying to undo those double knots that you tied.

On the issue of the mechanism failing I never had any issues despite deliberately running through muddy puddles. The fact that the system is used on mountain bike shoes indicates that it can stand up to much worse conditions than found during trail running. The dial does stand proud of the shoe so it would be possible to catch it on a rock if running on very technical trails but I didn’t experience any problems.

Adidas Terrex Two GTX in wet conditions

testing the shoes in wet conditions

Cons

  • The Adidas Terrex Two with Boa® Fit System does cost £30 more than the same shoe with standard laces. Comparison here and here.
  • If the lacing system did fail the solution wouldn’t be as simple as replacing the laces.

Conclusion

Despite my initial skepticism I really got to like the Boa® Fit System. Admittedly it is more expensive than the same shoe with a standard lacing system but that isn’t being forced upon you, those on a tighter budget still have the choice. The ease at putting them on and off was probably their biggest attraction. I found myself slipping them on as I left the house to drive out to the Peak District then tightening them up whilst sat at traffic lights (out of gear and with the handbrake on obviously!)  The fact that they can be undone in seconds, even whilst wearing gloves or with cold fingers will be very useful as winter approaches – remember tying that knot that you didn’t want to come undone?!  As the shoes were designed for trail running rather than fell running it wasn’t possible to test whether or not the Boa® Fit System would stand up to the more rugged conditions of say the upland fells in winter conditions. However the fact that the system is successfully used in both mountain biking and ski / snowboarding suggests there is no reason why not.

This video shows just how easy it is to tighten and undo the shoes:

 

Adidas Terrex Two (GTX) Boa – Review

As for the shoes themselves they are a reasonably lightweight trail running shoe, my pair of the Goretex version size 7 weighing 625g. Given the choice I would opt for the standard over the Goretex version – Goretex works well for short durations but if you are out for any length of time or in heavy rain I find that your socks get wet and water soaks down into the shoes. Also any deep puddles that create splashes have the same effect with water getting in through the foot hole rather than soaking through the fabric. Once water gets in, because the Goretex doesn’t allow the shoes to drain freely, you end up running around with water sloshing in your shoes!

The fit is fairly wide and obviously suits that particular foot shape, it might not suit those with narrower feet particularly for example when descending technical trails. The outsole with Continental rubber gave a good grip on hard packed and rocky ground even in wet conditions but the lugs aren’t deep enough to cope with muddy conditions. These are a trail running rather than fell running shoe.

photo of Adidas Terrex Two sole

good grip from the Continental rubber

The Terrex Two have a 5 mm drop (heel 24.5 mm / forefoot 19.5 mm) which feels quite responsive and good for moving quickly on rough ground yet with enough cushioning to make faster paced running comfortable. I have found them to be a good choice for faster paced interval training on hard packed trail terrain.

RRP £129.

Not the cheapest shoe on the market (the standard lacing system is £30 cheaper) but in line with the likes of rival brands such as Salomon and Inov-8.

fell running guide logo

Osprey Duro 15 Review

The Duro 15 is the largest of Osprey’s three backpacks designed for trail running.

Having already tested and used the smallest pack, the Duro 1.5, I was keen to look to the other end of the size scale to see what the 15 litre version had to offer.

Features:
The first thing I noticed about the Duro 15 was the number of storage options; the pack has no less than 8 zipped pockets and 5 mesh pockets, all of various sizes! The main zipped compartment on the back can easily hold items such as spare clothes, emergency shelter, waterproofs etc. whilst a rear stretch mesh pocket with clips gives faster access to items; useful when it’s an on – off waterproof day. A smaller rear, zipped pocket has a retaining clip for keys and can fit a wallet or phone. Two decent sized side zip pockets are big enough for hat, gloves and food and are just about accessible without having to be double jointed! I found that these side pockets are also deep enough to hold rigid water bottles without them bouncing out whilst running.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

rear side pockets can be reached without being double-jointed!

The zipped pockets on each hip are easily accessed on the run and provide another option for smaller items such as snacks, gels, compass, car keys etc. Finally a zipped pocket on one side of the chest is just large enough to fit a phone although it’s a tight fit if you have a full soft-flask on the same side.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

zipped hip pockets are easily accessible

 

photo of Osprey Duro 15

2 mesh pockets and a zipped chest pocket holds a phone

On the front straps there are two deep, mesh pockets that house the soft-flasks or can be used as storage (another option for accessible phone storage). They also have elastic retainers for the soft flasks and an emergency whistle. Two smaller mesh pockets below these would hold a compass, gels, electrolyte or salt tablets etc. There are also two elasticated pole loops on the top shoulders for carrying lightweight hiking poles when not in use. To be honest I didn’t try to use these as I don’t have any poles, but I can’t see that they would be particularly easy to access whilst wearing the pack.

The Duro 15 offers versatile hydration options coming supplied with two 500ml soft-flasks with straws and a 2.5 litre bladder that fits into a dedicated zipped pocket with clip to keep the bladder in position. The bladder has a wide mouth which makes refilling and adding energy or electrolyte powder easy and the hose has a clever disconnector which allows the bladder to be removed whilst keeping the hose in place. This is really useful for mid run refills and stops you having to unthread and re-thread the hose and also makes for easier cleaning. The hose has a bite valve with a twist closure to prevent accidental leakage. Whilst running the hose can be kept in place by a strong magnet that attaches to the sternum strap. This does a surprisingly good job at keeping the hose in place but has the downside that you need to keep your compass well away from it! The magnet is easily removable if this is an issue and I’d recommend taking it off if you are using a compass.

photo of Osprey Duro 15 bladder

wide mouth 2.5L bladder and hose connector

If you don’t want to use the bladder, then two 500ml soft-flasks (supplied) can be stored in mesh pockets on the front of the pack on the lower chest. The long straws make drinking on the go fairly easy, however I found it quite difficult to get the full bottles into their pockets as the fit was too tight. Also it wasn’t possible to put the straws behind the straps designed to keep them in place without bending them in half (something I’m not sure is good for the straws). Osprey do make smaller 250ml flasks which are a better fit.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

500ml soft flasks: tight fit and the straw is difficult to position

The Duro 15 is a unisex pack that comes in two sizes, Small / Medium or Medium / Large, mine being the smaller version. There is lots of scope for adjusting the pack with tensioning straps on the front, hips and waist plus elasticated straps across the chest that can be unclipped and attached in a number of positions.

photo of girl wearing Osprey Duro 15

unisex fit in 2 sizes

photo of Osprey Duro 15 adjustment straps

straps allow the pack to be adjusted to fit

The elasticated straps allow your ribcage to expand and so don’t restrict your breathing. The chest straps can be unclipped single handedly although I found them a little tricky to fasten at first. The back is slightly padded with a mesh design to help breathability and I found the pack comfortable, although as with any pack without a “back plate” you need to pack carefully to ensure that nothing hard digs in and causes discomfort.

photo of Osprey Duro 15

adjustable, elasticated chest straps and magnet for hose

At a touch over 500 grams the Duro 15 isn’t a super-light pack, but this means it is more comfortable and has more features than a lighter pack. With an RRP of £140 it isn’t cheap, but it feels like it is built to last.

What would I use it for?

The Duro 15 isn’t designed as a lightweight race vest, it is more suited to longer days on the hill where you need to carry more equipment, for example mountain running in winter or in bad conditions. It would also be a good choice for multi day races and it has become my go to pack or for supporting long distance challenges, using it on the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley Rounds where I needed to carry equipment for someone else as well as my own. I would also use it as a summer walking pack.

wearing the Duro 15 on Bob Graham support

wearing the Duro 15 on Bob Graham support

Pros:

Loads of storage, good hydration options, comfortable, durable.

Cons:

Not cheap. Difficult to get the 500ml bottles into their pockets!

Verdict:

A comfortable pack with lots of storage and hydration options. Ideal for long, remote runs, multi day events or runs where slightly more carrying capacity is needed.

RRP £140

Available from Osprey https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/duro-15-2019

fell running guide logo