If you are a fellrunner, and you have any presence on any type of social media, you cannot help but have noticed (or, indeed been overwhelmed) by the huge marketing push for Inov8s latest offering. X-talon “sticky grip” in various shapes, forms and sizes. You’ll probably also have noticed that there is the whole Graphene thing coming as well - that is shoes with a new, expensive material that has generally been used to make mobile phones thinner (amongst other stuff), which will apparently revolutionise the fellrunning shoe market.
What to make of all this. The new stuff, the claims, the market bombardment?
InnovationIt has to be said that I am not the best one to complain about being bombarded by news of better shoe grip.... There have been various times where I’ve opened my mouth and moaned about lack of grip on fell shoes, especially on wet rock, and openly wondered when, oh when will someone create a shoe that ACTUALLY grips on stuff (as opposed to *saying* it grips to stuff). So, if inov8 have genuinely created a rubber that is excellent on grass and mud, and still performs well on wet rock, wow, they really do have something to shout about, and shout they should.
I remember when the x-talons originally came out. An amazing racing shoe that was far ahead of the pack. All the best runners wore them, all the top places in fell races were taken up by runners wearing them. Yes, a load of them got given the shoes to wear, but they were a decent shoe. It puts me in mind of the Kayak rodeo events of the early 2000’s. If you couldn’t cartwheel, you were stuffed, and the best kayak for the job at that time was the pyranha Storm. You wouldn’t get into a top 10 without one. And the best guys got given them.
Will the grip make me a better runner?2 years ago I stood on the start line of Teenager with Altitude. It is a long race in the Lake District across some fairly challenging terrain. There is a lot of up and down, a bit of bog and it is generally somewhere you want a decent amount of grip. I had mudclaws on. Adam Perry - yes- he of Helm hill - stood there at the start line in a pair of terraclaws - which are lovely on trail, but on out and out fell? Not so much. I wasn’t going to say that I didn’t expect him to do well - I’m not that naiive… but I expected him to perhaps struggle a bit. We set off, I got to the top of the first hill before him. Then he nailed me on the next 14 miles and came 4th. I was 12th. Did the perceived lack of grip hold him back? Not a bit of it. If you’re a good enough runner, you’ll just get on with it…. Which brings me to….
Will they make me faster?Let’s just think about this for a moment. In sports like cycling, kayaking etc, yes, to a point, the kit does make a difference. Im not saying that I’d beat Geraint Thomas up a hill on a bike if I was on a Pinarello and he was on a Chopper, but the kit does make a bit of a difference. This is why I enjoy running, it is more about your physiology and the amount you train than the kit. Although there *is* kit choice, at the end of the day, whether you are better or worse does not come down to what you are able to afford, it comes down, pretty much entirely to how much you train. Another short anecdote… summer fell race, everyone is on the line. Someone turns up in a pair of sandals, baggy shorts and a cotton t-shirt. Destroys the field. Comes 1st. (I believe he might have been British Champ at some point - or maybe Im misremembering the story). Anyhow, there wasn’t a massive rush out to buy the new Inov8 Jerusalem running sandals. It was just accepted that he was an excellent runner and, dammit, he could run in whatever he damn well wanted and he could still win.
So when the likes of sponsored runners start winning races in these shoes, and say they are the best things since the original x-talon came out, and that wow- these will revolutionise your running experience, personally, I’d be holding my head to one side and wondering a bit. Are they winning because of the shoe? Is it because they are a fairly decent runner anyway?
I suspect the latter.
And damn, if I was given a new shoe to try, develop and demonstrate, I would probably be ranting and raving about how good it was as well.
Is the grip all that good?To be fair - never touched it - I don’t know. I do have this perspective though… sticky rubber tends to be short lived. That seems to be what makes it sticky. 5:10 C4 rubber on climbing shoes has always been awesome. My perception is that it used to be even stickier than it is now, but the amount of shoes you had to buy was absurd because the rubber wore out so fast. You could walk up walls in them though…. If Inov8 have made a really sticky rubber that doesn’t wear out in 6 months, I’ll be proper impressed. If they’ve made a shoe that actually holds together for that long, again, I’ll be impressed. I haven't seen that kind of workmanship on inov8s for quite a while.
Worth the cash?This is entirely my ill-educated viewpoint. From a person who has not worn, or even touched a pair of sticky grips, I have to say, I really don’t know how they fit, what the grip is like, or anything like that. Personally, I recently had some money and the need to buy a new pair of shoes. The choice -£110 on a pair of sticky grips, or £50 on a pair of old school mudclaws and £60 on old school x-talons.
I must be turning a bit Yorkshire. I went for the 2 older pairs instead of the new tech.
At the level I am running at, for the moment, a snazzy pair of “cutting edge” shoes is not going to make me any faster. It won’t make me enjoy my runs any more than I currently do, and 2 pairs of shoes will tide me over for more running than a single pair.
The bottom line…I might buy some when my current shoes wear out, but until then, I think I’ll cope. The whole Graphene thing is going to be interesting, if only because I’ve heard prices of £150 and £160 being bandied around. Jeez… I like the idea of innovation - but not at any price…. That just seems a bit much. (I may be wrong about the price point though - tis just rumour).
If this is a game changer, then yes, inov8 will have the right to shout from the roof tops… call me a cynic, but the whole massive ad campaign just seems a bit too contrived to me.
|a thing of the past?|