Who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of putting on a new pair of socks?
Ones that hug you and feel soft beneath your feet rather than those mis-shapen, threadbare and holy things that you seem to have been running in recently! 1000 Mile Trail Socks are my new socks; a blend of acrylic and Merino wool that are anatomically shaped offering different amounts of padding to different parts of the foot.
1000 Mile trail socks
The forefoot, heel and toes have more padding for comfort and this extends up the achilles to reduce friction and offer more protection. The top of the foot and under the arch has a thinner construction allowing more ventilation and the elasticated top hugs the calf, without being too tight, and prevents the socks from riding down.
padded achilles and elasticated top
I found the socks comfortable and soft and I liked the fact that I couldn’t feel the toe seam meaning there would be no friction issues on long runs. They are quick drying and the Merino wool helps keep your feet warm when wet whilst its antibacterial properties means that they are likely keep your feet fresher that purely synthetic socks, especially when damp or sweaty.
different padding for different parts
Comfortable and affordable the 1000 Mile trail socks are ideal for cooler months when you might want a slightly thicker sock and for runs where you don’t mind having wet feet.
Veloforte offer a range of energy bars designed to fuel endurance athletes whilst using natural ingredients.
I’m always keen to try different products to fuel my long runs and races and I much prefer to eat things with “real food” in them rather relying on gels. Veloforte offer just that, tasty products using natural ingredients. Inspired by the Italian Panforte – a special food that was reputed to fuel the Roman Legions – Veloforte bars are now hand made in the UK. The bars come in three flavours; Classico, Ciocco and Di Bosco and each have their own distinctive taste. The Classico has a slightly Christmas cake taste with its candied peel and orange zest, the Ciocco a deep cocoa whilst pistachios and berries flavour the Di Bosco bar. (I personally prefer the deep, dark yet not too sweet chocolate taste of the Ciocco bar.)
Veloforte, Italian inspired energy bars
The bars come individually wrapped as a 70g serving with just less than 300Kcal per bar so contain plenty of energy to fuel long days on the hill. The bars are quite dense and chewy so are more suited to use on ultra type events or long training sessions rather than as a quick fix during a shorter race. All three bars also contain almonds and have around 5g of protein so make a good post run snack to help recovery.
datey, nutty, chocolatey – tasty!
As well as being available as individually wrapped bars Veloforte also offer a Mixed Bites bag. This contains all three flavours of bar but pre cut into bite sized pieces. This is ideal if you want to eat little and often and solves the problem of what to do with a half eaten, unwrapped bar. The bite sized pieces come in a handy zip lock type bag which is ideal for stuffing into your bumbag or running pack pocket for easy access on the go.
handy bite sized lumps in the Mixed Bites bag
Verdict – Tasty with good blend of Carbohydrate and Protein and using natural ingredients, Veloforte bars are ideal for fueling long distance endurance events. I’d include them in my nutrition for events such as the High Peak Marathon or the Bob Graham Round where the pace is slow enough in places to allow you to chew and breathe at the same time! They also make a good post race snack.
Aussie Grit Apparel wasn’t a brand that I had heard of until recently, they were set up in 2018 with a range of high quality trail running and cycling clothing.
As the name suggests they are an Australian company and actually have ex Formula One racing driver Mark Webber behind the concept. Their motto “No Stone Unturned” refers to the excellence and attention to detail demanded by Formula One and this is reflected in their clothing.
Aussie Grit Apparel – Flint shorts
Aussie Grit Flint shorts
My first impression was of a high quality product, even the wrapping paper was classy! The Flint shorts are a double layer short comprising of a nylon and lycra compression inner and a polyester and elastane outer. The stretchy inner shorts are constructed with flatlock seams making them comfortable against the skin and reduce the risk of chafing. The outer layer has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish and is quick drying, handy for the British climate! whilst numerous small perforations allow air to circulate thus enabling cooling. The elastane allows the material to stretch slightly which gives unrestricted movement and the reflective piping and logo make you more visible in the light of car headlights and head torches when running at night.
ideal shorts for chilly conditions
One interesting feature on the shorts is a hidden pocket on the inner that is big enough to take a mobile phone and a discreet eyelet in the outer short lets you route your headphones. I don’t personally listen to music whilst running but the pocket is useful for other items such as a gel, compass, section of map, car keys etc.
phone pocket on internal shorts
hole for headphones
or more useful as a gel or map pocket
The shorts are very comfortable and the size small gave a reassuringly snug fit whilst not being too tight. I’m very small so I’m guessing that the men’s medium might be better suited to anyone on the cusp of small / medium. I’ve worn the Flint shorts for long runs of over 2 hours in warm conditions and for interval training on cold spring days when I didn’t want to wear full leggings but wanted some protection for my hamstrings. I’ve worn them in rain and shine and whilst they might be too warm in full summer conditions I think they make a great 3 season short. I’d also choose to wear them in summer if venturing into higher terrain such as the Scottish mountains.
The only downside I can see is that they are quite expensive with a RRP of £79. This means that I wouldn’t want to be wearing them in rough, steep fell races where I was likely to end up on my backside!
Aussie Grit Apparel Flint shorts are a high quality, comfortable 2 in 1 compression short for runners seeking a little luxury. Inspired by Formula One they might even make you run fast!
I’m a fan of compression socks, so was interested to come across these from Copper Clothing Ltd which have copper infused into the fabric.
Although there is mixed evidence that compression clothing leads to a performance benefit and aids recovery (see here and here), I still think that the jury is out, however, I choose to wear compression socks or calf guards for certain runs. In cold weather I find that they help keep my calves warm, particularly important if I’m doing faster training or hill repetitions. They also help protect my legs if running through bracken or heather and they can also help prevent tick bites in summer where the advice is to cover the skin in known tick habitats.
Copper Clothing compression socks
What’s so special about copper? According to Copper Clothing’s website copper has anti-microbial properties which can kill off any bacteria and so help prevent problems such as fungal infections and athlete’s foot. If you’ve ever left a pair of damp running shoes in a warm place for a couple of days the smell will tell you that there’s something starting to fester in there! Wet feet are a fell runner’s occupational hazard all year round, whilst in summer, sweaty feet and moist shoes are are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – have you ever seen a fell runner with nice feet?! So a pair of socks that help keep your feet healthy sounds like a good idea.
wet feet – a fell runner’s occupational hazard
On test – I’ve been testing the socks for a couple of weeks now and have worn them in some pretty soggy conditions. I like the fit which is snug but not too tight and they aren’t too tight across the foot which makes them easy to get on. I had three wet runs in them before washing them, I just hung them on a chair near the radiator to dry out and they didn’t smell! Copper Clothing claim that washing the socks doesn’t diminish the properties of the copper so hopefully the benefits will last for the lifetime of the sock. Time will tell how durable they are.
snug fit but not too tight
When would I wear them? As well as in the conditions previously mentioned I think these socks would be worth using on long runs when your feet are going to get damp – that could be most of the time in the UK. Or on long runs when your feet are going to get sweaty – which is the rest of the time! They would be ideal for a long “Round” such as the Bob Graham, pity I didn’t have them last year on the Bob Graham Round where I spent 21 hours in the same pair of wet socks!
RRP – £15.99 available here:
Verdict – Although I’m not convinced of the benefits of compression in itself, I do like to wear long socks for certain runs. These Copper Clothing socks are comfortable and affordable and hopefully will help keep my feet healthy – quite a challenge considering the amount of time I spend running in wet, muddy conditions.
The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is the latest addition to the brand’s renowned range of fell running shoes.
I know lots of fell runners who choose X-Talons as their preferred race shoe; the aggressive grip, precise fit and light weight making them ideal for fast running over loose and wet terrain. I’ve had several pairs of X-Talon 212 in their various guises and use them for both racing and winter training – so what’s different about the new X-Talon 230?
Inov-8 X-Talon 230
The 230 model now features a different rubber compound on the sole with Sticky Grip rubber designed to give a better grip than on previous X-Talons. (Note this is not the Graphene rubber due to be released later this year). The sole unit is visually identical to that on the 212 with the familiar pattern of 8mm aggressive lugs but the sole now also contains a rock plate that gives underfoot protection from sharp stones, a handy feature if racing down loose rocky paths. The shoe uses the Powerflow+ midsole which is designed to give better shock absorption and energy return than on previous models.
soles L – R 230, 225, 212, 212
The 230’s have a 6mm heel to toe drop as indicated by the two arrows on the heel unit, the same as the 212 version and come with Inov-8’s new width rating of 1 (1 being the tightest, 5 the widest) which replaces the previous “precision” and “standard” width measurements of the toe box.
heel and toes: 6mm drop
The uppers are water resistant with an all round rand and toe bumper offering good protection to the foot. They are also designed to accommodate the Inov-8 Gaiter which is useful for preventing the ingress of snow or small stones (e.g. if scree running).
protective rand for feet and toes
As the name suggests the 230’s are slightly heavier than the previous X-Talons which range from 190 to 225 grams, however this is still very light compared to many fell shoes.
I’ve had the 230’s for a few weeks now and have had chance to test them in some pretty horrible winter conditions including snow, mud and on wet gritstone. My first thought on hearing about the rock plate was that they would have a rigid sole and although they aren’t as flexible as the 212 model they certainly aren’t stiff. They seem to have a little less twisting flexibility but front to back flexibility is still good. The uppers felt a little stiff at first and it seemed like the shoes needed a few wet runs to “bed in”.
still flexible even with the rock plate
What I do find difficult to judge when testing shoes is grip; is it possible to gauge if the new Sticky Grip rubber is better than the previous version? Obviously it would be easier to compare different tread patterns in mud but what about identical tread patterns on wet rock? that’s a bit more subjective. So I decided to conduct a not so scientific test – running with different models on each foot!
Whilst running I couldn’t tell for certain if one shoe offered better traction than the other so I tried a spot of easy “bouldering” on a wet slab of rock where I attempted to use first one foot then the other on the same “hold”. Other testing included hopping up and down on either foot on the same area of sloping rock. The bouldering test definitely felt like one shoe offered more grip.
comparing grip on steep wet rock
I tried left and right foot with both shoes in order to eliminate any imbalance in my balance / coordination etc. The result – the 230’s definitely felt stickier! However during the testing they still felt slippy on wet rock with green lichen so don’t buy these thinking that they will grip on ANY wet rock. Smooth wet limestone would still be a challenge for any shoe!
testing on greasy rock
See how I tested them in the video:
I don’t see the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 as a replacement for the existing X-Talon 212 which is still available. They offer a little more protection and thus are a little heavier and a little stiffer so might not be the shoe for the runner seeking a very light, low and responsive fell racing shoe. If that is you then the stripped down, speedy little brother the new X-Talon 210 is probably for you.
However if you want a lightweight shoe with excellent grip and some underfoot protection that is suitable for both training and racing then check out the X-Talon 230.
Salomon Speedcross are quite a well recognised shoe in trail running and fell running circles, here I look at the Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX version.
Salomon Speedcross 4 Nocturne GTX
Speedcross 4 Nocturne – Features
As with other Speedcross models the Speedcross 4 Nocturne is a neat looking shoe. It appears robust with a firm, water resistant upper, protective rand and sturdy toe bumper all of which give protection to the foot when running on loose, rocky terrain. The upper is double stitched rather than laminated / glued. I normally take a size 6.5 shoe and these 6.5s felt fine with a reassuringly snug fit.
plenty of toe protection
The shoe also offers a decent amount of cushioning with a midsole height of 30mm to 20mm giving a 10mm drop. The sturdiness of the shoe means that it isn’t the lightest on the market – my pair of size 6.5 tipped the scales at a fraction over 600g.
a robust 600 grams (size 6.5)
Salomon use their Quicklace™ system; the shoe is tightened by pulling the laces taught and sliding a fastener down then tucking the excess lace away into a neat little flap on the tongue. This system works well, I haven’t found the need to re-tighten the laces mid run and it makes the shoes easy to undo even with cold fingers.
the Quicklace™ system works well especially with cold fingers
The outsole uses Salomon’s Contagrip® rubber and distinctive, aggressive chevron lugs which give good traction in wet and muddy conditions.
Contagrip® chevrons are good for mud
The Nocturne version of the shoe are so called because they are made with reflective material on the uppers. This shows up very well in car headlights and is a useful safety feature especially if your night runs have sections of unlit country road. They are also very reflective in the light of a head torch which may or may not be good for someone running behind you at night.
ghostly figure with reflective shoes!
The main difference between these and the standard version of the Speedcross 4 is that these have a Goretex® membrane. This gives even greater protection to the feet, preventing water from soaking through the uppers. I tested the shoes over winter in both wet and snowy conditions and although not completely dry at the end of the runs my feet were a lot drier than if I’d been wearing standard shoes. I think the slight dampness I experienced was from sweat rather than from water getting into the shoe through the fabric.
Goretex® gives good protection in snow
Some people dislike Goretex shoes because once water gets in it can’t drain away freely and also sometimes your feet can get too hot. However I think they can be useful if you use them in the right conditions. If you know that you aren’t going to be immersing your foot completely and so can prevent water getting into the shoe that way then I think they have a use. I found them to be useful in snow, especially with a gaiter to prevent snow getting in and they would be a good choice of footwear if running on grass on spring or autumn mornings where there is a heavy dew. I deliver a coaching session every week on a grass playing field where the grass is frequently wet and I’d often end up with cold, wet feet (wellies aren’t an option when you’re trying to demonstrate drills!) These are now my shoe of choice for these sessions.
Speedcross 4 Nocturne – Verdict
The shoes perform best in wet, muddy and snowy conditions. The grip is very good on mud and wet grass, however not as effective on wet rock – but what is!? Personally the 10mm drop is a little too much for my liking, I prefer something with less drop that feels closer to the ground, certainly for racing or fast training runs – however that is personal preference. The fit feels snug and the construction feels robust with plenty of cushioning and protection. The Goretex version lends itself to wet or snowy conditions (as long as it’s not so deep that it goes over the top!) whilst the Nocturne uppers allow you to be seen more readily at night.
Some items of running kit just ooze class and the Iffley Road, Thorpe long sleeved running top is one of them.
I could tell this straight away when I opened the packet to find a cloth, drawstring bag containing the top – no cheap plastic packaging here. Made from 100% Merino wool the Thorpe top looks great, its classy features include a large printed design on the back in the shape of a running man (the top is also available without the design), a high neck zip with the Iffley Road logo on the zip pull, long cuffs with thumb holes and a small, discreet pocket on the lower side hem that is just big enough for a car key or gel. A neat little hanging tag on the back adds a touch of colour to contrast against the black of the shirt (it is also available in Damson or Granite).
Classy kit – Iffley Road Thorpe top
the contours are optional
high neck with zip
The Italian Merino wool felt soft and comfortable against the skin and the fit is generous enough to allow it to be worn over a base layer in colder conditions. The properties of Merino wool are well known; warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s warm, highly wicking and resistant to odour making it an ideal top for a range of conditions. I haven’t had chance to test it in warm weather but it feels great on chilly winter days.
fold down cuffs for cold hands
side pocket just big enough for a gel
the neat hanging tag adds a touch of colour
The Thorpe is the kind of top you could wear pre, during and post run and look good in all three situations. I’ll certainly wear mine socially, it’s just too stylish to restrict it to running!
Iffley Road is a small UK company run by a husband and wife team both of whom are keen runners. It is an upmarket brand and so their clothing isn’t cheap, but it makes a refreshing change from the man made fibre running kit mass produced in the Far East.
Iffley Road packaging – a stylish touch
So if you want to treat yourself to a little running luxury take a look down Iffley Road.
luxury running in Iffley Road!
Iffley Road Thorpe (contours) long sleeved Merino wool running top:
Designed in UK, made in Portugal from Italian Merino wool
Weight – 250g size small
RRP – £125
If I am running in a remote area or in winter I carry an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy with me.
Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy
This small, lightweight sleeping bag type bivvy bag is a great piece of kit which will take up hardly any room in your bumbag or pack. If the worse thing should happen and you or a mate gets injured whilst out running in bad weather then this could really help prevent hypothermia whilst you wait for mountain rescue.
The bivvy is basically a large bag made of heat reflective polythene that you can get in to. As it is a bag rather than a blanket it traps heat effectively and is totally windproof thus creating a protective environment for anyone who is immobilised. Note that it is not breathable and so condensation will build up in it over time so it is not suitable as a sleeping bag!
Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag
Unlike the traditional plastic orange bivvy bag, this version is made of much thinner polythene meaning that it packs far smaller and so is suited to packing into a bumbag or similar. They are available in different sizes i.e. one or two person, I use the smaller version.
Some mountain races and long winter races such as the Trigger have emergency bag / bivvy on the mandatory kit list. the AMK one is ideal. At around £15 it really is an essential piece of kit for anyone running in more remote areas.
Running in icy conditions can be hazardous but thanks to Microspikes you can still enjoy those cold, crisp winter days.
What are Microspikes?
Basically they are a form of crampon designed for walking or running rather than climbing. They consist of a set of small, stainless steel spikes connected by chains and attached to a piece of tough rubber (an elastomer). They are designed so that they can be worn on your footwear simply by stretching the rubber cradle over your shoes.
Microspikes attached to a running shoe
Microspikes held in place by a strong rubber cradle
Kahtoola microspikes are probably the best known brand but I also have some Chainsen Snowline Snowspikes which are virtually identical (but a bit cheaper!) I have the Light version which only weigh 235g for a Medium sized pair. The Kahtoolas are slightly heavier at 338g. They are available in different size ranges, I’ve found that you need have them quite tight to prevent them coming off whilst running through deep snow.
The Chainsen Snowline spikes, 235g size Medium
What conditions are they for?
The sharp spikes grip really well on smooth ice and hard packed, frozen snow. It takes a bit of time to build up your confidence but after a while you realise that you can run at your normal pace, even on the iciest of surfaces. Whilst they can be worn in snow they don’t really offer much more grip than a running shoe with a good tread. They also work well on frozen ground such as grass and mud, even if there is no ice cover. You tend to find that you alter your stride slightly and land more flat footed than you would ordinarily do. Whilst they aren’t uncomfortable initially they can start to hurt a little if running for long periods on very hard surfaces. I once ran for about 15 miles wearing a pair and the soles of my feet were a bit sore afterwards!
Microspikes work best on hard ice
Most winter runs involve a variety of conditions; you might be running through fresh snow where few people have been but then encounter a well walked path where the snow has been compacted and refrozen. The first part wouldn’t require spikes but the second bit could be pretty treacherous. The good thing about both Kahtoola and Chainsen Microspikes is that their size and weight means that they can easily be carried in a bumbag or running pack and it only takes a few seconds to put them on. So you can take them on a run, put them on if you encounter any icy stretches and quickly take them off afterwards. The Chainsen spikes even come in a tough little pouch to prevent the spikes from damaging your bag.
Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch
I have used them for winter running in the Peak District and also on a recce of the Charlie Ramsay Round in spring when conditions were still wintry. (note Microspikes are not suitable for ice climbing!)
I used Chainsen Microspikes whilst recceing the Charlie Ramsay Round
Are they worth it?
At around £40 a pair they are worth getting if you intend to continue running outdoors throughout the winter. They don’t need to be confined to running, they can be worn over walking boots and even shoes meaning that you can tackle the icy pavements with confidence. I know people who’ve worn them for a trip to the pub!
So, if we continue to have cold winters a pair of Microspikes are a good investment, allowing you to enjoy running safely in conditions like this!
safe running wearing microspikes
The video below shows how easy the spikes are to put on and how effective they are on icy terrain:
The Inov-8 Stormshell waterproof jacket has been around for a few years but it got an updated design in 2017 – so what’s it like?
wet weather run wearing the new Inov-8 Stormshell
The Stormshell is designed as a lightweight and easily packable jacket for racing and training in wet weather, and it certainly is light. My size Extra Small Men’s weighed in at 163g. It packs neatly and easily into its own chest pocket allowing it to be carried in a bumbag or race vest with ease.
lightweight Stormshell (size XS)
Packed size can be seen compared with a £20 note (although the jacket costs considerably more!) and can be compressed even further if needed.
not much bigger than a £20 note (but costs a bit more!)
The fit is athletic, it’s not designed to be worn over lots of layers making it ideal for racing and faster training and well done to Inov-8 for making it in a size that fits us smaller than average chaps! First glance also shows that weight hasn’t simply been saved by doing away with useful features.
The Stormshell now comes with a full length zip rather than as a half zipped smock. This allows greater ventilation, for example when the rain stops but you don’t want to take the jacket off. There is also a small press stud just above chest height that prevents the jacket from flapping if it is unzipped in windy conditions.
press stud to prevent flapping
The external zipped chest pocket (that the jacket packs in to) just about fits a map section if folded small. It could do with being a little bigger to take an A4 laminated map folded in half.
zipped external chest pocket
The elasticated cuffs have thumb holes and material that extends to cover the palm and back of the hand thus adding a bit more protection to the hands in cold conditions.
The hem doesn’t have a drawcord but is elasticated to prevent the jacket riding up. My biggest complaint with lightweight waterproof jackets usually refers to the hood, i.e. why pay over a hundred pounds for a technical jacket that has a hood that doesn’t stay up!? I’m happy to say that I’ve no complaints about the Stormshell – an elasticated drawcord on the back of the head allows the hood to be tightened nice and snug and a wired peak can be shaped to fit. This means that the whole hood moves with your head when you turn it and you can run into strong winds without the hood blowing down.
elasticated hood adjuster
The zip comes right up over your mouth so that you can keep out the elements in really bad weather and the Inov-8 logos are reflective making you more visible in the light of a head torch or to vehicles on unlit country lanes.
the hood can be tensioned to give a tight fit
The Technical Stuff
Material: Pertex Shield 2.5 layer fabric with fully taped seams.
Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm
Breathability Rating 20,000 g
I’ve worn the new Stormshell whilst running in a variety of conditions including several short runs in the rain and a two and a half hour run in strong winds and frequent heavy showers. I like the fit and features of the jacket particularly the hood which actually stayed up in strong winds. The pocket could do with being a touch bigger to take a folded map. On short runs in the rain I stayed dry with water still beading on the jacket although at the end of the long run my base layer was quite damp in places. However I must add that I have yet to find any waterproof that keeps the rain out and allows sweat to escape whilst running fairly quickly for much more than an hour in heavy rain.
wet weather training in the Stormshell
At £170 it’s certainly not cheap and I’d be tempted to “save it for best” i.e. use it only for races and specific training runs rather than my everyday winter training jacket. This way I’d hope to prolong its life.
The Inov-8 Stormshell is a lightweight waterproof with some good features. It is ideal for training and racing in bad conditions and as a lightweight race jacket that is going to stay in your pack on dry races.