Friday, 26 August 2011

Shoe Choice

Always a fun one.
Inov8 alone now has somewhere around 38.. no, sorry, now 39 different shoes to choose from in terms of grip, shape, weight, look and price. Its almost a good thing that I only have 2 pairs of fellrunning shoes to choose from when it comes to races or else I might end up just sitting there contemplating which shoes to wear long after everyone else has run off into the distance.

The Chunal race was a case in point. It had been dry for the most part leading up to the day, and the ground was rock solid. No amount of big lugged grip was going to help dig into the soil in this race. It was going to be more about cushioning the feet and making sure that I didn't bruise the bottom of my heel on hard surfaces by wearing something with a crazy amount of grippiness on hard unforgiving dirtpack and track (like in Bamford).

Therefore the only choice was to go for the Roclite. Grippy and robust, with enough of a heel counter to enable me to fling myself down hills regardless of whether they are ankle deep in bog, or tarmac hard dirtpack. I found with the Baregrips, that no matter how much I try, when heading downhill, I heel strike no matter what. The rest of the run I have no issue with them at all, but downhill I find myself holding back because of the inevitable pain that I'll feel through the heel.
I'm evidently either not running downhill properly in Barefoot shoes, too scared to lean foward, or don't move my feet fast enough. Whichever one it is, I know that unless the ground is squidgy or bouncy, I'm going to run slower downhill in the Baregrips.

Interestingly, the vast majority of people at recent races that I have run at are wearing Inov8 x-talons 212s. It would seem that they have the requisite grip and enough differential for painfree downhill running. They have a pretty thin sole unit, so like the Baregrip they may well be quite painful on sharp rocky sections, but they do have a large following. I have the f-lite 220s which are much the same shoe, but with a road sole- I use them for work, and I can feel pretty much everything that is underfoot. Yes, it gives me good proprioception, but I get the feeling that it might take a bit of getting used to and a few bruised feet to get used to them in an offroad situation.
I have seen a few more people wearing the red x-talon 190s recently as well- they have less cushioning than the 212's and I suspect are a little more like the Baregrips- though they retain 3mm differential from heel to toe as opposed to 0mm in the Baregrips case. (I think I'm right in saying this, please correct me if I'm not)

There was a racer out there who was running in the 190s who had one shoe slightly different to the other, it seems like there may be a new type of 190 or a new design of sole unit being tested out there. No idea whether it is more grippy/ more durable/ less differential, but there is something (ahem) afoot.

Whatever it is, I probably need to get my hands on a pair of X-talons at some point to try them out and see how they compare in terms of grip and comfort to what I already have. I've thought about looking at the La Sportiva range, but from what I've heard from speaking with other runners is that they just don't grip well at all in any conditions. I certainly can't justify forking out £70 for a pair of shoes that don't grip just so that I can say yup- they don't work as well as you would want them to.

There is of course the new Salomon Fellcross coming out, at £120 its quite a mark up. Yes, there has been a lot of research into this shoe, and yes I'm sure that it is amazing and whoever uses it will rave about it. But thats 2 pairs of other shoes. It will be the sponsered athletes that wear them, and those that can afford them. I'd just be afraid of destroying them in a single race... I'll keep a close eye out for them at races, and do my damndest to beat them in order to prove to myself that its not to do with what you wear on your feet, but how you run in them.

That being said, if Salomon want to send me a pair to try, I'll gladly let them know if they help me run faster...!
Please note that this is very much focussed on the Peak district racing scene... I know that the Lakes, and indeed Wales are much rockier and can be much harder on the feet and shoes. Next year, I hope to have enought petrol money to be breaking my shoes out there as well.


  1. I have used the X-Talon 212's for 2 (summer) seasons racing now and love them for their combination of lightness and fantastic grip on almost any surface*, wet or dry. Definitely money well spent. I fancy the 190's, but they'll have to wait until the 212's wear a bit more otherwise my wife will have something to say!
    I did run a 21 mile (trail) race in them earlier in the year, but I wouldn't do it again - more because of rubbing than underfoot soreness though.
    I also have Bare Grips. I've worn them a handful of times in training and for the Burbage Skyline race, in which they were excellent - despite the hard-pack, stony, downhill trail run at the end. No bruising at all, but then again I'm not as fast as you!
    Anyways, I'd highly recommend the 212's, but try them for fit first!

  2. Oh, and as for the * above: greasy limestone is the exception, but I've not found a shoe or boot that does grip on that surface. That said, the 212's don't appear to slip quite as much as other shoes.

  3. Thanks for that, I'd agree that when someone finally manages to create something that grips to wet limestone they'll have quite a winner on their hands. (I had high hopes for the Baregrip, but it was not to be).

    I'd imagine that the 212s fit in much the same way as the 220s. Of course, fit is king.

  4. I moved to Xtalon 212s this year from Mudclaw 330s - no problem with adjusting to the cusioning (but then again I started wearing them in Jan when the ground was a bit softer). I also raced the Trunce in a pair of Adidas Kanadia a few times - but at one it was a bit damper than I though and I lost a fair chunk of time mincing down the slightly slippery wooded section - for me grip is king so if there's likely to be a chance of slippery conditions I go safe and wear Xtalons. The Mudclaws are normally saved for training (although with the amount of contouring trods at Sedbergh I wish I'd worn then for that race) and muddy Orienteering races (ORoc for most forest O)

  5. Baba, just out of interest, why would you not wear Orocs for fellrunning? Ive not actually seen them in the flesh. Do they just not have the grip?