Category Archives: Kit

Something About Shoes

Today I have the burning desire to write about shoes, now I’ve written about the shoes I use to race in before, but that was a while ago and I have bought yet more pairs since then, so I thought I would do a little update reiterating my opinions on my Inov8’s and giving my inexpert, but honest, opinion on my Salomon Fellraisers and Icebug Zeals.

My trail shoe selection
My trail shoe selection

 

Inov8 Mudclaws

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300s
Inov-8 Mudclaw 300s

These were my first pair, and I was in love with them, until I wasn’t! I seem to have endless problems with my feet, my husband calls them my princess feet – think princess and the pea, one tiny grain of sand in the wrong place and my feet start to hurt, and I found these shoes fantastic until they unexpectedly started to rub one  day and cause awful blisters.

Despite my personal foot problems, these remain the best footwear that I had for really deep mud, the grip is aggressive and makes short work of extreme mud situations,  this did however mean they could be a little uncomfortable to run in on harder packed ground.

Inov8 X-Talon 212s

Inov-8 X-Talon 212s
Inov-8 X-Talon 212s

Bought to replace the rubbing Mudclaws my love affair with these lasted a lot longer, in fact it endures, despite more “princess feet” issues. The grip is not quite as aggressive but still superb, and I found these much more comfortable to wear.

I did find, like many other people from what I have read, that they could be prone to shrink a little, and I had trouble when they started to push on my Achilles tendon (leading to my third shoe purchase, the Fellraisers) but I still use these occasionally depending on the course I’m running, although they are starting to look a little battered around the edges now, I doubt I’ll stop wearing these until they fall apart completely.

Salomon Fellraisers

Salomon Fellraisers
Salomon Fellraisers 

Despite loving my inov8s for their performance and grip, I couldn’t go on ignoring the problems I was having with my feet so I decided to try a different brand. After some research and personal recommendations I chose to try the Salomon Fellraisers.

On taking these out of the box they looked bigger and heavier than what I was used to, however they felt lighter than they looked. My initial assessment after some training runs was that they were more comfortable, the grip was OK, but that I didn’t really like the lacing system on them, finding that the toggle could get clogged up with mud making them hard to get off your feet.

Having now given these a much more thorough testing at several races, I think my initial assessment was pretty spot on, The grip is good, but not as good as the inov8s in my opinion, they are comfortable (but very occasionally these also cause me blisters on my feet) and the lacing system can be annoying, but does have the benefit of never coming off, loose or undone in a race, the toggle just needs careful cleaning to keep it working once it has been clogged up with mud.

Icebug Zeals

Icebug Zeals
Icebug Zeals

Icebugs are the new kicks on the block and I was bought a pair for my birthday. I had read rave reviews and I wanted to love them, but if I’m honest it wasn’t love at first wear. They have quite hard arch support which didn’t seem to sit well with my feet and it was hello blisters once again, however I decided to try and wear them in a bit before making up my mind, and so along with liberal application of compeed blister plasters I persevered and I do now like these a whole lot.

These shoes are comfortable, despite my initial reservations, and they feel great as soon as you put them on, no stiffness like with the other shoes once they have been worn and cleaned.

I think these are the best all round shoes, unlike the other pairs they are not slippery on concrete and they grip to obstacles like glue. They perform well on grass, trail and soft ground. Where they fall down in my opinion is in deep or thick mud, where I have found the grip then lets them down.

I have seen some people question the drainage on these, and I found that when doing a fun run very slowly they indeed held water (they are supposed to pump the water out as you run) and I squelched around quite a bit, but when running properly I’ve had no problems whatsoever.

Conclusions

All of the different shoes I have for trail running and OCR have distinct merits and drawbacks, and I have good things to say about each pair. I like having different choices for different races, but my current decision making goes like this: Generally I’m favouring the Icebugs at the moment, unless I know it is a particularly muddy course, where I will pick either my Inov8 212s or Salomans, depending on which pair feels most comfortable on my feet on the day. The Mudclaws now live in the cupboard as an extreme worst case scenario shoe choice, I just don’t want to risk the blisters.

All in all, I can write what I like here but what it comes down to, and will always come down to, is personal preference and you need to find what works for you, especially if your feet like to act like the princess in “The princess and the pea”!

 

 

More Cracking Kit

It’s official, I have a real Kit problem, I just can’t stop myself ordering more and more bits for my racing and training. New products come to my attention and I am clearly very impressionable, as it’s not normally very long before I’ve decided to  give it a try.

It has been a while since I wrote a blog about kit, but I have a bit of time on my hands today so I thought I would treat you all to a review of the kit I’ve purchased since the last posts.

New Socks

I’m starting with my absolute favourite addition to my kit bag – socks! I wrote about the Inov8 mudsocks before, but they have been laying unloved for a while now having been upstaged by the mighty prosok.

I was really privileged to get to test a pair of these out before they went on sale in the UK, and they are so good, that I’ve since bought myself another 3 pairs (Yes three – they really are that good!)

Prosok
Prosok

These socks have been developed by athletes for athletes and they are the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn on my feet. As I wrote about in my past kit blog, I was having real problems with blisters, but since wearing these socks I have had no blister issues at all.

The socks are mositure wicking, meaning that your feet stay comfortable even when wet, always useful when you run races that frequently take you through water,  they have something called Hygroweave(tm) which absorbs moisture and forms a virtual gel which gives the socks brilliant cushioning.  This makes them really great for racing in, as you don’t notice all the little bits of mud and twigs that inevitably find their way into your shoes, they have up to 3 day anti-odor (not something I’ve really tested out, they tend to get chucked straight in the wash with the rest of my kit) and they also shrink in the wash then mould perfectly to your feet which again makes them very comfortable.

In the heat we have been having so far this summer these socks have been great at keeping my feet cool, in fact my feet have been the only part of me that was not too hot on several training runs lately.

I have been really impressed with these and tend to wear them both for training and racing. This is one product where you really can believe the hype! They are exclusively available in the UK from Obstacle Kit Ltd

Compression is Where it’s at!

In the post about legs and body I talked about my 2XU calf guards and shorts. I am still completely sold on these, they really do help to keep your legs feeling fresh when you run, avoiding cramps. I also mentioned I had bought a pair of compression tights and was thinking about a top – well I don’t usually think about things too long before they become a reality so a new top was soon on order.

I have run a few times with the compression tights, they fit really well and are really comfortable, but more often I use them after training for recovery. The top again fits really well, I was just on the measurement for a large, but as I wanted the top for recovery purposes I went with a medium (as advised on the size guide) and it is actually a really nice fit, comfortable despite being  tight (which is what it needs to be to do its job). The top has only been worn for recovery so far, but I may use it as a base layer once the winter months roll back around.

2XU compression tights and top
2XU compression tights and top

 

Racing Vest

I’m always getting myself new sports vests for training or racing, as you can never have too many sports tops – especially if you train as often as I do. Having liked the X-Racewear shorts with the bib protector pocket I decided to invest in a vest of the same make for any occasions when I didn’t want to wear the shorts.

X-Racewear Top
X-Racewear Top

This top is quite formfitting, and felt quite low cut to me, although I think this is just because my other training vests are not. It is really comfortable though, and performs really well in races. The bib protecting pocket works well and  I find has less of an issue with crumpled numbers, but I fix that problem with a safety pin in the top of the number inside the pocket anyway. I really like the bright pink colour, I’ve found it has helped me to locate myself in race photos – it also comes in blue.

Shoe Laces

In all honestly my laces aren’t really something I had thought much about, they just come with the shoe – but when I did stop to think about it they can be a right pain in the foot! You have to try and get your trainers laced up tightly enough to not lose your shoe in the mud, but too tight and you cut off the circulation to your foot. They can come untied and cost you time as you stop to re-tie them, and they can be a real pain to untie at the end of a race when they are muddy, wet and you just want to get your shoes off, then along came Xtenex laces.

Xtenex Laces
Xtenex Laces

These laces are elasticated with a knotted design. Basicly what this does is allow you to slip your shoes on and off without the need to tie and untie your laces, once they are on, they keep the shoe snug to your feet, they feel secure and make the shoe fit comfortably. After reading about these I also thought that they would also help with my blister issues along with my prosoks.

I have tested these out at a race last weekend, and they felt great, My shoes slipped on and off really easily and actually saved me a load of time in the morning as I didn’t have to sort my laces out which was welcome since we had a really early start. A word of warning though, don’t leave it to get the laces in at the last minuet – it takes a while to get them laced onto your shoes (I found) but once on your sorted.

That’s it for now – time to go shopping!

(All these products can be found at Obstacle Kit Ltd)

The Importance of Good Kit – Legs and Body

Last weekend with no race to run, I amused myself writing a post about the kit I choose to use on my hands and feet, and I was in all honesty blown away with the response to an article about gloves socks and shoes! This week, with yet another race free weekend to contend with, I’m writing the second instalment, which will basically cover everything else I wear and why.

This time I will start at the top and work my way down.

Top Half

For my first two races, I just shoved on my original RP Combat Conditioning top, without giving it much thought. This was a vest made from cotton, and actually isn’t the best choice for racing. The problem with cotton is that it will absorb water, stay wet, get heavy and leave you cold.

For Warrior Run, on a lovely day in October, this didn’t matter at all, but it was a different story when I did Beat the Bog in November – if I knew then what I know now, I might not have spent an hour blue after that race.

Base Layers

The first thing I have learned is that if its cold, you are going to want a base layer. I got myself a Nike Dri-fit base layer in February before doing a training session on the Nuts Challenge course, and I also have a thinner RPCC long sleeved top, giving me an option depending on the temperature.

Nike and RPCC base layers
Nike and RPCC base layers

The Nike top performed really well in the cold conditions at Nuts, it is very warm and keeps you warm even when you are wet, but would probably leave me too warm as the temperature starts to rise, the other is thinner and a better option if its not freezing. I like having the option, and I use the RPCC top on cooler training sessions as well.

Tops

On your top half you should really wear t shirts or vests made of technical material, something that is going to be breathable and not hold water (You could also run topless, I know a few guys who pick this option!).

I have a range of vests to choose from when I run, which I either wear on their own or over a base layer. Once you have run a few races you will also start to pick up a collection of race tees which you could use – I tend to use mine for training though.

A small selection of my choice of vests
A small selection of my choice of vests

For those of you who might be a little more self-conscious bare in mind that the lighter colours are quite unforgiving on the figure once they have got wet and are clinging to your every lump and bump, the darker colours hide this better – just a little tip. You can pick up a decent t-shirt from any sports shop, or on-line without too much trouble.

Bottom Half

As with every other section of kit I have managed to make some mistakes on my bottom half too. In this case it was only recently that I have made kit errors, I’m still learning too!

Running Tights

In the colder months it’s not too difficult to get it right, don’t wear cotton, wear something that will wick away moisture and keep you warm. I would also suggest nothing too baggy.

I ran my first race in a pair of normal Nike running shorts (more on this later) and my second in a pair of Karrimor leggings picked up from Sports Direct, but preparing for Nuts I wanted something a little warmer, so I picked up a pair of Nike running leggings that were made for winter and had Dri-fit technology. These performed great and I’ve worn them quite a few times for races, although they are reaching the end of their life now, as they are wearing through a bit on the knees now, which I think was a souvenir from the Dirty Dozen race in April.

Nike Running Leggings
Nike Running Leggings

I really dislike being too hot when I run, so once the weather starts to turn a bit warmer I usually opt for shorts.  Now for the problem with my normal running shorts, once they got wet they started to ride up and cause rubbing – not pleasant or convenient when you are part way through a race I can assure you. They would still be OK to wear however over the top of some compression shorts or similar, again this might be something to consider if you don’t like the look of yourself in tight shorts.

Shorts

The first pair of shorts I bought specifically for racing were a pair of X-Racewear ladies run shorts. These include a convenient bib pocket on one leg which stops you losing your race number in the midst of a race – a problem I have had before. These shorts are tight, but there is also a unisex pair if you prefer things a bit loser. I find these really useful for keeping my race number safe, however I have found the number can get a bit screwed up sometimes. I wear these over the top of my running tights, or the compression shorts which will be up next. They are also quite short so I’m not really very likely to wear them without something underneath, but this is really just my own personal preference.

X Racewear Shorts
X Racewear Shorts

 

As I have mentioned above I also have a pair of 2XU compression shorts, which I bought along with some 2XU compression calf guards. I initially got these after suffering some cramp towards the end of the Dirty Dozen race, which was, at the time, the longest distance I had run. I have worn these to my last few races and they have performed really well, no cramp at all, and they also help to reduce recovery time. In fact it’s not unusual to find me at home after a training session sitting around in my compression wear to help aid recovery, and It has worked so well that I have since bought a new pair of full compression tights, and am considering the purchase of a compression top too.

2XU compression shorts and calf guards
2XU compression shorts and calf guards

The compression wear is pricey, but I’m sure I’ve said before that I think good kit is worth it. For me the lack of DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) is totally worth it.

The shorts and compression wear were all purchased from my favourite website for kit – Obstacle Kit Ltd – which I know I plugged a lot in my last post, but they really are very good at what they do.

I think that’s more or less it, the last bit of kit I take to my races is my dryrobe. I have mentioned this before in some of my race blogs, but it is amazing and deserves an honourable mention. After a race you chuck it on, it dries you, keeps you warm, and is big enough to change inside of – very useful at a race, where changing facilities are not exactly 5 star. This was also bought from Obstacle Kit, and I wouldn’t be without it.

Chilling in my dryrobe with Tania
Chilling in my dryrobe with Tania Mellish  at Beast in the East