Route 40 Graduated Compression Socks

Route 40 claim that their graduated compression socks are the world’s most advanced!

The socks, with their different levels of compression throughout, are purported to increase circulation, reduced soreness and lead to faster recovery. I must admit that I’m always pretty cynical when I read claims like this, for a couple of reasons. Firstly I’d like to read the scientific study that backs up the claims and see it reported in a recognised Sports Science or Sports Medicine journal. Secondly, if true I’d expect to see all of the world’s top runners wearing them!

runner wearing Route 40 Graduated Compression Socks

Route 40 Graduated Compression Socks

Having said that I do wear long socks for running so if I don’t believe that they will improve my performance would I wear them? Two reasons mainly; warmth and protection.

In winter or on cold days I like to try to keep my calves warm and so long socks are my choice. I find that a decent pair of long socks works better, even if wearing shorts, than a pair of ankle socks under a pair of tights. In summer I’d still wear long socks if I knew I was heading into deep heather on my run. On navigation courses we often seek out the more remote and pathless parts of the Peak District and this inevitably means some “heather bashing”! Here long socks are vital to prevent scratches. Another problem with running on the fells in summer is the bracken which not only scratches your legs but also is home for ticks whose bites can cause serious illness.

runner wearing Route 40 socks in bracken

long socks for bracken bashing!

And then there is the dreaded midge. I remember waiting for the start of a race one warm, still, summer evening and being eaten alive, wishing that I was more covered up. So again long socks are a good idea and you can always roll them down once you are out of the vegetation or away from the midges.

runner wearing runner wearing Route 40 socks on a path

you can always roll them down

The Route 40 socks are a Polyamide, Elastodiene and Spandex mix and have a nice soft feel to them. Unlike other compression socks that I’ve worn they don’t feel too tight and they are easy to get on and off. They look good (well I think so), I thought they were black at first but as they stretch the blue / teal color shows through. I found them very comfortable, the flat toe seam prevents rubbing and the anatomical shape means that the socks hug your feet so there is less likelihood of your foot sliding around in the sock. I do like them and will wear them throughout the year, I just don’t expect them to lead to improvements in my running!

Route 40 socks

long socks – big claims!

Pros
Comfortable, offer warmth and protection, easy to put on, reasonably priced.

Cons
Not sure about the claims of increased performance!

RRP £29.99

Available from https://route40.co/

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360Dry Waterproof Socks – Black

Fans of waterproof socks will be pleased to know that 360DRY® have added to their range with a version of the ankle sock in black.

photo of 360Dry waterproof socks

360DRY® waterproof ankle socks in black

These waterproof and breathable socks have the same soft feel as the blue Merino wool version but in a different colour. Like the blue ankle socks they are slightly thinner and softer than the full length version and I like how they don’t “feel” like a waterproof sock. I choose the long, slightly thicker socks for really nasty conditions or if I know I’m going to be out for a long time. The shorter version are good for less severe conditions such as wet grass and snow rather than deep, waterlogged ground, although I gave them a stern test in bad weather recently. My feet were slightly damp afterwards but I did run through a stream where water came over the top of the socks! Even so my feet stayed warm and there was no sensation of the heat being flushed away when running through cold water, as is often the case with non waterproof socks.

photo of 360Dry waterproof socks in a bog

360DRY® waterproof ankle socks in a bog!

My previous review of both versions of the sock can be seen here https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/360dry-waterproof-socks/

RRP:
Ankle socks £24.99

360DRY® are a small online retailer based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
Website: https://www.360dry.co.uk/

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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/

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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/

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Mud and Blood Windproof Jacket Review

Mud and Blood trail running clothing is designed and developed in North Yorkshire.

In a market dominated by international brands I was interested to hear about Mud and Blood and put some of their products to the test and the cool autumn conditions were ideal for trying out their windproof jacket.

photo of man running in the Mud and Blood windproof jacket

running in the Mud and Blood windproof jacket

Made of ripstop nylon with a durable water repellent coating the smock style jacket is very lightweight (my size Small weighed exactly 100g) and packs neatly into its own zipped pocket.

photo showing weight of Mud and Blood jacket

exactly 100g (size small)

This makes it easy to store and it takes up little room in a bumbag or running pack. Features include a fold away hood which fits into the collar and is secured with velcro, a two way zip, elasticated cuffs with thumb holes and a rear zipped pocket.

On Test:

I wore the jacket for most of my runs over a two week period in both dry and showery conditions. I liked the fit (although fit is always subjective depending on your body shape), style and colour scheme; an understated grey with red trim (also available in neon yellow or white). The hood is a basic design and can’t be tensioned or adjusted in any way and so tends to blow down if you’re running into the wind, a problem I’ve found with several more expensive jackets.

photo of Mud and Blood jacket

stowaway hood

The thumb loops allow you to pull the cuffs down and prevents the sleeves from riding up and so helps to keep your wrists warm. The jacket didn’t feel as breathable as some other windproofs that I’ve used and there was a bit of moisture build up on the inside during a couple of runs. Having said that the DWR coating did help prevent me getting wet during a couple of short, sharp showers although I would always choose a fully waterproof jacket in heavy rain.

photo of Mud and Blood jacket

thumbs up for thumb loops

The thing I found least useful on the jacket was the rear pocket which is situated on the lower back like you would find on a cycling top. This made it fiddly to unzip whilst wearing it and I found that I had to stop completely when I tried to put my gloves away mid run as it was impossible to reach behind me and unzip whilst on the move. It you only intend to use the pocket for your car keys this isn’t a problem but it isn’t very useful for gloves, map, compass, gel etc that you might want to access during your run. Also the shape of the pocket is quite shallow (think mobile phone shape) and so it doesn’t hold much. I think a much better design would be to have the pocket on the breast.

photo of Mud and Blood jacket

rear pocket is hard to reach

At RRP £40 the jacket is cheaper than several of the more well known brands and so offers good value for money.

Verdict:

Neat, lightweight and affordable. Pity the zip isn’t on the front.

More details of the Mud and Blood clothing here: https://www.mudandblood.com/

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1000 Mile Trail Socks – Review

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.

photo of 1000 Mile trail socks

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.

photo of 1000 Mile Trail Sock

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.

1000 mile trail socks

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.

RRP £12 (twin pack)

More info about 1000 mile socks here: https://1000mile.co.uk/

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Aussie Grit Flint Shorts Review

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

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

Aussie Grit Apparel – Flint shorts

photo of Aussie Grit Flint shorts

Aussie Grit Flint shorts

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

photo of trail runner wearing Aussie Grit shorts

ideal shorts for chilly conditions

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

photo of phone pocket on Aussie Grit shorts

phone pocket on internal shorts

photo of headphones on Aussie Grit shorts

hole for headphones

photo of Aussie Grit Flint shorts pocket

or more useful as a gel or map pocket

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

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

Verdict

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

runner wearing Aussie Grit Flint shorts

Aussie Grit – the Formula One of shorts!

For more details visit the Aussie Grit website

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Iffley Road Thorpe Running Top – Review

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

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

photo of Iffley Road running top

Classy kit – Iffley Road Thorpe top

Iffley Road Thorpe coutour

the contours are optional

photo of Iffley Road zip

high neck with zip

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

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe cuffs

fold down cuffs for cold hands

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe pocket

side pocket just big enough for a gel

photo of Iffley Road Thorpe top

the neat hanging tag adds a touch of colour

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

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

photo of Iffley Road bag

Iffley Road packaging – a stylish touch

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

photo of runner wearing Iffley Road top

luxury running in Iffley Road!

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

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

More information here: Iffley Road

Inov-8 Stormshell Jacket Review

The Inov-8 Stormshell waterproof jacket has been around for a few years but it got an updated design in 2017 – so what’s it like?

wet weather run wearing the new Inov-8 Stormshell

wet weather run wearing the new Inov-8 Stormshell

First Impressions

The Stormshell is designed as a lightweight and easily packable jacket for racing and training in wet weather, and it certainly is light. My size Extra Small Men’s weighed in at 163g. It packs neatly and easily into its own chest pocket allowing it to be carried in a bumbag or race vest with ease.

Inov-8 Stormshell on the scales

lightweight Stormshell (size XS)

Packed size can be seen compared with a £20 note (although the jacket costs considerably more!) and can be compressed even further if needed.

Inov-8 Stormshell pack size

not much bigger than a £20 note (but costs a bit more!)

The fit is athletic, it’s not designed to be worn over lots of layers making it ideal for racing and faster training and well done to Inov-8 for making it in a size that fits us smaller than average chaps! First glance also shows that weight hasn’t simply been saved by doing away with useful features.

Features

The Stormshell now comes with a full length zip rather than as a half zipped smock. This allows greater ventilation, for example when the rain stops but you don’t want to take the jacket off. There is also a small press stud just above chest height that prevents the jacket from flapping if it is unzipped in windy conditions.

Stormshell's press stud to prevent flapping

press stud to prevent flapping

The external zipped chest pocket (that the jacket packs in to) just about fits a map section if folded small. It could do with being a little bigger to take an A4 laminated map folded in half.

Inov-8 Stormshell zipped chest pocket

zipped external chest pocket

The elasticated cuffs have thumb holes and material that extends to cover the palm and back of the hand thus adding a bit more protection to the hands in cold conditions.

Inov-8 Stormshell cuffs

good cuffs

The hem doesn’t have a drawcord but is elasticated to prevent the jacket riding up. My biggest complaint with lightweight waterproof jackets usually refers to the hood, i.e. why pay over a hundred pounds for a technical jacket that has a hood that doesn’t stay up!? I’m happy to say that I’ve no complaints about the Stormshell – an elasticated drawcord on the back of the head allows the hood to be tightened nice and snug and a wired peak can be shaped to fit. This means that the whole hood moves with your head when you turn it and you can run into strong winds without the hood blowing down.

Inov-8 Stormshell elasticated hood

elasticated hood adjuster

The zip comes right up over your mouth so that you can keep out the elements in really bad weather and the Inov-8 logos are reflective making you more visible in the light of a head torch or to vehicles on unlit country lanes.

Inov-8 Stormshell hood

the hood can be tensioned to give a tight fit

The Technical Stuff

Material: Pertex Shield 2.5 layer fabric with fully taped seams.
Waterproof Rating: 20,000 mm
Breathability Rating 20,000 g
RRP £170

My Verdict

I’ve worn the new Stormshell whilst running in a variety of conditions including several short runs in the rain and a two and a half hour run in strong winds and frequent heavy showers. I like the fit and features of the jacket particularly the hood which actually stayed up in strong winds. The pocket could do with being a touch bigger to take a folded map. On short runs in the rain I stayed dry with water still beading on the jacket although at the end of the long run my base layer was quite damp in places. However I must add that I have yet to find any waterproof that keeps the rain out and allows sweat to escape whilst running fairly quickly for much more than an hour in heavy rain.

runner wearing Inov-8 Stormshell

wet weather training in the Stormshell

At £170 it’s certainly not cheap and I’d be tempted to “save it for best” i.e. use it only for races and specific training runs rather than my everyday winter training jacket. This way I’d hope to prolong its life.

The Inov-8 Stormshell is a lightweight waterproof with some good features. It is ideal for training and racing in bad conditions and as a lightweight race jacket that is going to stay in your pack on dry races.

Learn more about the Stormshell here:
https://www.inov-8.com/stormshell-waterproof-running-jacket-mens-red

Waterproofs: Jacket or Smock, which is best?

A decent waterproof running top is an expensive investment so it’s best to make the right choice; but which is best, jacket or smock?

There are plenty of waterproofs on the market specifically designed for runners and all having different features. Obviously you need something that fits and keeps you dry, but should you choose a top with a full length zip i.e. a jacket, or opt for a shorter zip i.e. a smock? Each has its pros and cons.

smock or jacket, which is best?

smock or jacket, which is best?

Jackets vs Smocks

There are a couple of advantages of having a jacket with a full length zip: Firstly it is easy to take on and off unlike the slightly inelegant procedure of taking a smock off over your head! Secondly you can unzip it much further to vent and cool off if it stops raining but you don’t want to take the top off. Last year on the High Peak Marathon it had stopped raining and was fairly warm and I was overheating in my smock. My mate was able to completely unzip his jacket in order to cool down whereas I could only unzip to chest level.

photo of taking off a smock

the inelegant battle to take off a smock!

On the down side a zip is a weak point so is more likely to let in water than the waterproof material of the jacket itself. If you are really unlucky the zip might even fail. Another disadvantage is that you have to fiddle to get the ends of the zipper to marry up before it zips up. This can be tricky even with warm hands, let alone if your hands are cold and wet or if you are wearing thick gloves or mittens. With a smock the zip is already “mated” so there is no faffing about trying to insert the end.

fastening the zip can be tricky with gloves

fastening the zip can be tricky wearing mittens

For anyone seeking marginal weight gains a top with a full length zip may be ever so slightly heavier than a smock, but there will be very little in it.

So there are advantages and disadvantages to each and it’s hard to choose a clear winner. I use both, and to be honest don’t have a preference. The reality of the situation is that most people’s decision will probably be dictated by cost.

winter running

opting for a jacket in winter conditions