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Kit Reviews

Salomon Sense Mantra £93.95

by on Aug.14, 2013, under Kit Reviews

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box fresh, they look good. I like the colour scheme

I fancied a change from my usual Brooks shoes & thought I’d give the new Salomon Sense Mantra a go. They look great with the Salomon fancy colour scheme. The shoes arrived in plenty of time before my race (28 days) I ran in them leading up to my race on the NDW100, mainly off-road. The only bit of road I ran on was the first 100 yards to the moors from my front door.

The first thing that strikes you about these shoes is how low they are. At the back I could feel the pull on my Achilles tendon from the low profile but after the first 10-20 miles this eased off. They do take a bit of getting used to and they also need wearing in. I wouldn’t risk wearing these shoes straight from the box on race day, which I do with my Brooks shoes.

I do a lot of training in the mountains of the Lake District & found the Mantra’s a really stable shoe on loose stones & rocks. Looking at the sole I didn’t expect much of the grip but I was wrong. The only time I had a problem with grip was in the wet muddy conditions on the moors around home.

grip well on dry stones & gravel

grip well on dry stones & gravel

Another neat thing about these shoes is the lacing system which folds away neatly into a small pocket. Salomon have used this lace system for a while & it works well.

Salomon laceing system

Salomon lacing system

When I first looked at the Mantra’s before putting them on I thought the inner sock liner which goes down the side of your foot would curl up when the shoe got wet but I never had any problems with this when wearing the shoe.

toe protectors

toe protectors

They have a nice toe protector on the front made from rubber which seems to do a good job of keeping your foot from being hurt when you kick the inevitable stone or root out on the trail. On the theme of protection they have a rock plate in the sole of the shoe which protects from things puncturing your feet from the ground. This is a good idea for a trail shoe, sometimes a sharp stick or rock can cut your foot.

nice design & minimal sole

nice design & minimal sole

Another thing which struck me about the Mantra’s is how light they are. For a shoe with so many features they are pretty light.

So the perfect shoe then, which I’ll be using from now on? Well not quite, about 4 days before my NDW100 race I went for a 20 mile run and they holed in both shoes. On the inside of the shoe just where they bend from the big toe. Holes big enough to let in stones & mud. Thinking about it I should have taken some pictures of the holes & posted them to see if anyone else has had this problem. However I was in a hurry to get new ones before the race & forgot. If these do the same I’ll add an update to the review.

It’s not like I’d done any massive miles in them either, they were 24 days old. Only done around 250-350 miles! They were worn with Dirty Girl gaiters which stops most of the stones & mud from getting inside. Luckily I got them from SportShoes.com who managed to replace the shoes before my race.

Under the same conditions my normal choice of Brooks shoes last around 400-500 miles and cost around £50. So if you don’t mind paying twice as much for shoes that last half as long then maybe these are the shoes for you.

You may also need to try them on before you buy if you have broad feet. They are a bit narrow, so broad footed runners may find them uncomfortable.

What’s good?

nice colour

good design

neat lacing system

excellent grip on dry rocks

What’s bad?

expensive at £93.95 for 24 days!

What’s ugly? 

fell to pieces in 300 miles

Verdict?

4/5

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Hilly Socks MONOSKIN £11.99

by on Jul.30, 2013, under Kit Reviews

Hilly Monoskin Socks

Hilly Monoskin Socks

I’ve worn Hilly socks for about 6 years now on every one of my ultra runs, ranging from shorter 30 miler’s up to 450 miles. I mainly wear the Monoskin in black as I do lots of off-road running on the trails around my home & in the Lake District. I don’t usually wear white as it gets very muddy at times & white is just to impractical for me. I’ve tried other socks over the past 10 years since I started ultra running but some wear out in a single run. If you’re paying £10 per pair they need to last at least 12 months which the Hilly socks do. I’ve even got a few pairs with over 1,000 off-road miles in than & no holes. To me socks are one of the most important parts of my kit. I need to be able to rely on them not to give me blisters or hole during a race. They also need to dry fast during off-road runs as having wet feet for too long can play havoc with your feet. 

What’s good?

last a long time

dry fast

no blisters

very comfy

What’s bad?

can’t think of anything, maybe could be a little cheaper?

What’s ugly? 

nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

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Buff® Headwear from £13.00

by on Jul.20, 2013, under Kit Reviews

 

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Loads of styles & colours

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They also do a very nice T-shirt

Buff® Headwear

If I had to pick one piece of kit which I always take on a run or even when out walking it’s a Buff. They come in loads of different types & lots of colours. My favourites are the Headband Buff to keep the sweat out of my eyes & the Reflective Buff for my night runs. I also use the Visor Buff which is great for keeping the sun out of my eyes & fits in a pocket when not needed, much better than a cap.

On longer events I use a carabiner attached to my backpack & loop one through it to dry while I wear the other one. A good way to keep my head from getting sun burned if I’m going to be out all day. They can also be washed and dried in a dryer, I’m not sure if you’re supposed to dry them in the machine but I’ve been machine drying mine for a couple of years and they still look new.

What’s good?

versatile

dry fast

look good

smaller than a cap

light weight

What’s bad?

price

What’s ugly? 

nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

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UltrAspire KINETIC £94.99

by on Apr.28, 2013, under Kit Reviews

lots of useful pockets

I’ve used this pack for a few months now and have gotten used to where everything is. It seemed to take me ages to remember where all the pockets are on a pack after using my old CamelBak® for so long. Anyway the UltrAspire does have some great features but unfortunately some bad design to.

pack without bottles

First of all lets look at the good points. This pack has a pocket for everything, two even have magnets which snap shut after use. These are the small front pocket which UltrAspire suggest is good for electrolytes.

electrolyte pocket with self-closing magnet

 The second one is the large rear pocket which I use for my head torch & my coat. It’s quite easy to get stuff out of this rear pocket even whilst running. It also has a small drain hole at the bottom, it’s not big enough to lose stuff from though.

rear pocket has a self-closing magnet to

The only problem with this rear pocket is the magnetic bits go rusty & can stain light clothes. This may just be me using it in all the rain recently, but is that not what it’s made for?

notice rust on the metal self close parts

I do like all the front pockets though, after years of struggling to reach the side pockets on my old CamelBak® the UltrAspire is better in this respect. I also like the open rear of the pack which is much cooler than my old pack. The UltrAspire does have material where you need it though, around the kidney area which can make you feel cold if it’s not covered.  I do like the packs weight, very light. Which is good for carrying so much stuff. I get my hat, coat, head torch, gloves, food & other bits & bobs to fit in just fine.

This is a good pocket to put a phone in, just remember to put it inside a ziplock bag though. The pocket is not waterproof.

Why don’t manufacturers put a waterproof pocket on these packs? Most people today carry an expensive smart phone so why no waterproof pocket? A phone is a compulsory carry on most races.

mould grows inside the handles

Now the not so good bits, first up the bottles. After just a few runs mould started to grow inside the finger loops on the plastic bottles. I realise you can get tablets to sterilize the bottles but it’s a bit of a faff when you run sometimes twice a day. Other bottles don’t do this so why can’t UltrAspire sort this out?

This isn’t the only problem with these bottles though. On my first run with this pack I squeezed the bottle to make sure it was shut & the lid came flying off! See the video above. Maybe you’re not supposed to check them like this but it’s something I’ve done for years. I wasn’t a happy bunny having lost all my water 5 miles into a 30 mile training run on a hot day. Never trusted them since & have replaced both of them with some excellent CamelBak® Better Bottle Tritan 750ml. They fit into the bottle holders & the handles make them easier to get out. They cost around £14 each but worth every penny.

Camelbak Better Bottle Tritan 750ml Water Bottle

£14 each but worth every penny

UltraAspire pack with CamelBak® Better Bottle Tritan 750ml

A pack costing £94.99 should come with decent bottles, it would be better to add £10-£20 to the price of the pack than supply a sub standard bottle in my view. Why do the bottles have a magnet in the bottom? Spend the money on decent bottles & keep the magnets!

nice buckle, shame about the fit

The nice shiny alloy buckle on the front of the pack which holds the pack close to your body as you run is another annoying part of this pack. Why spend time making a nice anodised alloy buckle and then spoil it by making it the wrong size? As you can see in the picture above the strap across your chest slips right through the hole & constantly needs adjusting. My son Alex also has this pack and we both have trouble with this buckle coming lose. He tied a knot in his & I have a clip holding mine together.

So the UltrAspire KINETIC really is a bit of a mixed bag (pun intended). On the one hand it has some nice features but on the other most of them are poorly implemented. I like the magnetic closing pockets, but not the rust. I like the bottle placement but not the bottles. I like the anodised alloy buckles but not the loose fit of them on the straps. All these faults would be semi acceptable on a cheap pack but at this price, the best part of £100? I don’t think so, maybe the next one will address these problems and make this the pack it should have been in the first place given a little more thought.

As you’ve probably worked out I have no affiliation with UltrAspire and I didn’t get paid to write this review. Some may think it’s a little harsh, but it’s an honest opinion. I think the most annoying thing about the UltrAspire is the fact it could have been the perfect pack, could have been.

The good?

almost a great pack

bottle access

The bad?

very poor, cheap bottles included

badly fitting front buckle

rusty self-closing magnets on the pockets

The ugly?

it could have been perfect

Verdict

2/5

Happy Running 🙂

 

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MyTinySun Head 1000 Pro Head-torch £253.96

by on Apr.27, 2013, under Kit Reviews

MyTinySun HEAD 1000 PRO 1000 lumens!

It’s taken me long time to write this review as I like to give my honest opinion on everything I test and feel this just isn’t possible after just a quick run. I’ve used this light in runs over 100 miles and in all conditions from -10 temperatures, wind, snow, rain & just about everything in between. I’ve charged it loads of times and given it the usual abuse most of my kit gets in hard use. Up to now its stood up to it all very well, this is partly due to the sturdy box it comes in which is handy for drop bags as it stops the light getting battered around in your bag travelling to and from events.

high quality German built with stainless screws and hardened non-reflective glass

what you get in the box

what you get in the box

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nice strong box for storing the light

If like me you’d never heard of MyTinySun they’re handmade in Germany by a small company with a strong reputation for building very high quality lights. As soon as I opened the box I noticed the way this thing is made, it’s not like most mass-produced head torches on the market. The main components of the light are aircraft quality aluminum. The slight downside to this is that the full light with battery weighs in at 301g which is about double what my old Petzl Myo RXP weighed. This is however not the full story as the actual headlight can be separated from the battery by a wire, this means the battery can be placed in a pocket leaving the headlight which only weighs 197g. This is about the same weight as the Petzl Myo with 3 AA batteries.

Go-Pro mount right side showing thumbwheel adjuster

Go-Pro mount right side showing thumbwheel adjuster

IMG_0017

total weight of head torch with battery 301g

The light comes supplied with a 70cm extension cable, I use this wire to put the battery in the pocket of my UltrAspire KINETIC backpack which it fits perfectly, it’s smaller than the battery pack on the Petzl. The battery can also be fitted to the back of the light in the conventional way. The battery is made by another German company and uses the Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah. Giving a full power maximum run time of 1hr 53min.  At  220 lumens run time is 13 hr 55 mins. Other sizes are available for the light including a 5.8Ah battery which gives a maximum run time of 3 hrs 47 min at max power of 960 lumens & 27 hrs 50 min at 220 lumens. These really are excellent run times for such a bright light. I recently did a race over 100 miles with a friend using a new Petzl Nao & his light went out after 3-4 hours in the sub-zero temperatures. The MyTinySun lasted all night on low, about 220 lumens which is brighter than most head torches on full.

battery fits in a pocket

Battery type/capacity/power/weight/dimensions: Li-ion 18650 2S / 1P / 2.9Ah / 7.2V

The light has  2 main modes of operation – Simple (very easy to use) this has 3 light levels and Expert, with 6 modes and too many light levels to go into here as it would take up the rest of the review! (for the professional user). Also SOS mode, 2-level emergency light and a 4-level battery indicator, using the illuminated switch on the side of the light. This changes colour to show battery condition, going from green to red depending on battery level. The light can be either used as a simple turn on and go or completely customized to meet the needs for any event & run time. It even comes with a full set of Go-Pro mounts for mounting to a bike helmet etc.

a full set of Go-Pro mounts as used on the headlight are included in the price

The MyTinySun also comes with 3 different lenses which are interchangeable for different beam patterns. These are the one on the light when it comes which is a great general purpose (long throw) lens. Then you have one which is good for narrow trails where you don’t need the long throw and just need a narrow tube of light & a wide dispersed beam which is ideal for walking where you don’t need the throw and just want a broad pool of light. This is also ideal for around camp and general use.

17°, 31° and elliptical lenses included

One thing worth noting is the light doesn’t come with a tool for removing the lenses. These can be bought for around £2 from Halfords. I’ve tried all the lenses and they all work well, most will find the lens which comes fitted as standard will be right for the majority of running. It’s always nice to have the choice though.

This tool made by Rolson is handy for changing the lenses, I picked one up from Halfords for about £2

The headband and the weight can hardly be felt in use. I forgot I had it on once & left a checkpoint wearing it when I should have taken it off! The headband is much wider than on the usual headlights so it spreads the weight better. It also has lots of adjustment, I find most headtorches have to be fully extended to fit my large head. The problem with this is I end up with the battery box sticking in my head. I managed to fit this one no problem with lots of room to spare.

the extra wide & comfortable head strap compared to a Petzl

The head strap also has some rubberised lines embossed onto it which stop it slipping around. Also a good thing if like me you sweat a lot. I sometimes wear a hat at night & it stops the light from moving around. The headband is big enough to wear a hat underneath.

rubber embossed onto the headband to stop it moving around

The light is adjustable via a large thumbwheel on this side which is easy to adjust even wearing thick gloves. If you have a Go-Pro camera this will be familiar to you. It’s well made and locks the light in place securely once tight. It never moved once in place, even when I hit my head on a low tree branch.

large thumbwheel can be used with cold, gloved hands

Another useful feature is the light built into the on/off switch which gives the battery status and you can have it slow flashing. This is useful for finding it in your drop bag at night. This feature can be turned off to conserve battery if need be.

status on/off button showing low battery

The battery on the MyTinySun is smaller than the Petzl & easily slips into a pocket. It’s no big deal to carry two of these if you need to but with the light on 220 lumens (low setting) you should never need to. I found myself using this setting most of the time. The quality of the lens is so good it’s plenty enough to run with. You can always switch to 960 lumens for technical bits where a lot more light is needed. The Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah contains 2 18650 batteries which are much more powerful than a standard AA battery & give very good run times as a result.

battery box on Petzl Myo compared to MyTinySun HEAD 1000 PRO

All the fittings are really good quality & most are readily available from Maplins if you ever need to repair the light. Something which can’t be said of the majority of things these days. The light does come with a very comprehensive 2 year warranty though and is upgradable if a new LED comes out. The light comes with the latest Cree LED XM-L U2 & the software inside the light is upgradable, so if an update becomes available you can add it to your light. An option is also available to add even more features to the light including automatic activation when it goes dark and SOS if it detects a jolt from a fall!

fitting from 70cm extension cable lead to head torch battery

As you can probably tell I’m impressed with this light, very impressed. So what’s the catch? Well the not inconsiderable cost of £253.96 at first seems like a lot to spend on a headtorch but if like me you’ve tried most of the ones on the market & just want the best light money can buy then look no further. This is your light, it’s the best light currently available bar none. I tried it next to the Petzl Myo RXP & you couldn’t see the Petzl’s beam even with the Head 1000 on low (220 lumens)   The last few events with this light I’ve been asked “where did you get that light from?” It’s that bright it drowns out the other head torches. I’ll try to get some pictures posted of the light from it, as soon as I get some time.

runtimes for the Head 1000 Pro

light modes

 

As for the backup with this light once you’ve splashed the cash? Just give the guys at Magicshine UK a call and Chris & Bonita will be happy to help. They also compete in endurance events so know what we need from the kit we use. This should be the last light you ever buy. I have no affiliation with MyTinySun or Magicshine & I’m not being paid to write this review. Just a customer who appreciates great products and service. Please mention this website if you call 🙂

http://www.magicshineuk.co.uk/

makes my old Petzl look like a toy

 

What’s In The Box?

  • Head 1000 Pro LED lamp using Cree XM-L U2 Cree LED
  • Remote control unit
  • 3 O rings and advanced helmet mount and head bands for all uses
  • Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah
  • Additional 2 lenses to achieve bespoke beam pattern of your choice
  • Velcro tape to mount the battery
  • Velcro cable ties to fix the cables and connectors
  • Rubber strips to prevent the battery scratching your bike frame
  • MyTinySun Head 1000 Pro UK charger (Euro charger for Euro customers)
  • Advanced helmet mount
  • Advanced head band
  • 70cm extension cable
  • GoPro spare parts grab bag to allow complete versatility of mounting options.
  • GoPro helmet mount
  • 2 year warranty

What’s good?

2 year warranty

build quality

features

after sales service

it’s upgradable via software & hardware

it’s the best light on the market (2013)

What’s bad?

you’ll need a tool to change the lenses (£2 from Halfords)

What’s ugly? 

let me think. . . . . .  . nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

If you have any questions or comments about this light please post them below & I’ll do my best to answer them.

Happy Running : )

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Suunto Ambit HR £399.00 (tested to destruction)

by on Aug.29, 2012, under Kit Reviews

 

Like most people I like gadgets & when the new Suunto Ambit came out I was at the front of the queue. I’d been looking at ways to extend the battery life on my Garmin 310XT which lasted around 20 hours with everything turned off, apart from the mileage.

The blurb on the new Suunto suggested 50 hours battery life! This is in fact only partly true as you still need to change the polling time the watch updated the GPS position from every second to every 60 seconds. This can make the watch inaccurate if you do a lot of right angle turns as I found on the Viking Way ultra which had a lot of running around the borders of fields. The Suunto assumes your running in a straight line and just cuts all the corners off.

I’m not going to go into every feature on the watch as it’s all been covered elsewhere & better than I could do so I’ll just tell you about the problems I’ve found in using the watch over a couple of thousand miles of running in all-weather & wearing it every day. Yes you can wear it every day which makes it much better in my mind than a Garmin as it looks good enough to wear out & about without making you look too much of a running geek. It even has a clever sleep mode which it goes into when it’s left without being moved for a while.

I got the black version which looks to me a little more discreet than the silver one. After a couple of uneventful weeks of using the Ambit I went for a long run on one of the hottest days of the year & noticed the display had begun to bleed from black to gray around the edges. It’s still doing this a couple of months later so needs to be returned to Suunto for a repair.

The second problem happened 50 miles into the Ridgeway 85 ultra when I stopped at a checkpoint and the watch strap fell to pieces. If it had happened a few miles earlier I would have lost the watch. The metal post which goes through the clasp has two screws & one of them came loose and dropped off. Not something you expect from a watch costing £400! I had to resort to using my trusty Garmin 310XT which has (touch wood) never let me down.

This problem could possibly be solved by a couple of drops of super glue on the small screws but should you have to on a watch at this price? I contacted Suunto about the screen problem & they told me to send it back to them & they would repair it. I would then have to wait with no watch for my next couple of events for the watch to be sent back through the post.

If they don’t have a permanent solution to this problem I wouldn’t be able to trust this strap again, it’s only a matter of time before it works loose again & it wont take a normal strap because of the GPS sensor being in the way.

So to sum up, good watch spoiled by lack of development.

UPDATE 1

On the NDW100 it had a breakdown and lost all my runs, it read 147 miles at 82! Sent it back again this morning and it wont be back for another two weeks, my next race (Ridgeway 85) is only 10 days away. So not happy with Suunto.

UPDATE 2

Suunto have just sent me this email description of the work on my watch, which is on its way back from Finland again. . . .

Service Description:

“Dear customer,

Your device has been replaced with a service unit that we have attached your original strap to. This service unit will come with a 3 month service warranty, which applies if the original devices warranty has expired.”

UPDATE 3

Just got back from completing the Brecon Beacons Ultra & as I plugged the Ambit in to download my race I noticed a line of dots missing from the display. I went  the Sunnto site to fill in another service request only to find after filling in the serial number in the online form, the watch I got as a replacement after the last fault was out of warranty! Luckily I have the original receipt of purchase. The watch is still within the 2 year warranty period. Lets see what happens this time. . . .

UPDATE 4

I received an email from Suunto which stated they were going to replace the watch & put a new watch on my old strap as the old one (see above) wasn’t repairable due to the screen fault. When I received the watch from Finland the strap had a screw missing and the buttons on the sides of the watch were sticking. I emailed Suunto again and they said send it back to them again! It’s with them again as I write this, lets see what they do with it this time. . . .

20131206_131432

this is how I received the Ambit back from the Suunto repair center in Finland

UPDATE 5

Suunto decided they couldn’t fix the watch & sent me a new Ambit 2 which is brilliant with no faults so far. Until that is, you try to upload your run data to a Windows 7 64-bit computer when the software falls over & crashes. This is a very well-known fault with the Suunto Moveslink2 software & they (Suunto) don’t seem to be able to fix that either, this is the reply they sent me after 5 different fixes they suggested didn’t work & the last fix left my computer flashing up a fault code every time I started it.

email from Suunto customer support . . . . .

—————————-

Thank you for contacting Suunto Customer Support.

Please accept our apologies for the late reply. 

If the troubleshooting steps do not work we would suggest waiting for a new release of the Moveslink2 application which we hope will solve the issue. 

It should be released in just a few months. 

Should you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

—————————-

So there you have it, that’s Suunto’s idea of customer support & product development. If the watch doesn’t work when you buy it, just wait a few months until they decide to bring out a fix!

Whats Good?

everyday wearable

good battery life (see above)

comfortable HRM strap

good software (Movescount)

Whats bad?

latest software version 2.5.6. crashed the watch during a race & lost my run data & all my earlier run logs. It wont even tell the time now. On its way back to Finland again, update to follow. . .

strap falls apart

display bleeds colour

display on replacement Ambit lost a full line of dots

recovery feature no good for ultra runners (60 hours recovery for a 22 mile run!)

What’s ugly?

having to send the watch back to Suunto to be repaired several times

under developed for a £400 watch, I have a Seiko divers watch & it’s never let me down in 30 years. A watch billed as the greatest adventurers watch shouldn’t fall apart in a couple of months.

Verdict?

1/5

 

 

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Hoka Mafate Unisex Trail Shoes £130

by on Feb.18, 2012, under Kit Reviews

 http://www.hokaoneone.com/

too bright? they do others

I’ve been looking forward to trying these new Hoka shoes. It seems everyone is raving about how good they are & to be honest I had my doubts. They look like some Hi-Tec trainers I had in the 70’s for a start, not like proper running shoes. I normally wear Brooks Adrenalin GTS, they have a good balance of durability, fit & stability. The Hoka’s seem to have no built-in stability & instead rely on the depth of the sole which your foot sits into to stop your foot from twisting.

Cushioning & comfort

This seems like a new concept & it seems to work. The first time I ran in them I didn’t notice the massive amount of cushioning others had mentioned. Maybe this was my weight (12st) or maybe it was my running style (or lack of it). I tend to run more on the middle to front part of my foot on my long runs & only use heel striking on faster 10k type runs & speed sessions. On the faster (heel striking) runs I do feel the extra cushioning over my Brooks. As your foot rolls forward though I think the cushioning effect lessens. One thing you will notice though is the small sizes, I needed a 81/2 & normally take an 8. Even with an extra half-size they still rub slightly on the ends of my toes. I got the unisex version though as these were the only ones available then. I’ll update this review when I get another pair for testing. I do a lot of off-road and trail running & have noticed the Hoka’s are very good at keeping the stones out. This could be down to the height of the sole or the design. I also noticed I’m kicking the sides of the shoes a lot less than I would in other trainers. I checked the width of the Hoka’s along with some of my other shoes & they aren’t as wide as I though, the only place they are wider is in the middle where it won’t matter as much. The fronts don’t stick out as much where your feet would hit, if that makes any sense.

The ultimate test of a pair of trainers is over a long ultra so I’ll update this report after the Thames path 100, see how they do with 100 miles none stop running.

Durability

after 300 miles

I thought they would fall apart pretty soon after taking them on the moors around my home, the mud generally kills a pair of trainers in around 300-400 miles. Even on the road I don’t keep them for over 500 miles which sounds like a lot but during training I do this mileage in a month. After 300 miles in the Hoka’s they’re still very good & look like they could easily do another 200 miles. They do have some wear on the soles but have plenty left. As far as the quality of the shoe goes they are equal if not better than a lot of the well-known brands, which for a new manufacturer is very impressive.

heel wear

Price

The shop I bought my pair from gave me a decent discount which worked out at around £25 & threw in a very nice shoe bag to keep them in. I paid £96 for them which is a lot of money for a pair of trainers. My favorite Brooks cost around £80 a pair. Whether you think they’re worth the extra is your call, I wont be buying them on a regular basis but for races where the extra comfort plays a part they may be worth it. I do like the style & look of them though, maybe not in the colour I got though,

Second thoughts

Having used the Hoka’s  over 80 miles at the weekend & having to finish the 100 mile race at 80 miles due to a knee injury & losing a couple of nails I’ve removed a couple of marks from the final score as I think at least some of the injury is directly attributable to the Hoka’s. At the front of these shoes in the middle is a ridge of hard material which over long distance comes into contact with your toes. Eventually this rubbing gave me blisters and pulled two of my nails off. This is the first time I’ve ever had to finish a race due to injury so I feel this is a fair assessment of the shoes.

I try to be as honest as possible in these reviews as you never know someone may make a buying decision after reading a review. I feel the Hoka’s would be a good shoe for someone who just runs a few miles but to run any distance I’ll be sticking with my Brooks Adrenaline.

whats good?

high quality

very good comfort

keep small stones out

whats bad?

small fitting

take some getting used to

knee injury and lost a couple of nails over 80 miles

whats ugly?

the price £130!

verdict?

2/5

Happy Running!

 

 

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Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra £80.95

by on Jul.26, 2010, under Kit Reviews

I was recently sent a pair of Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra shoes to test from Fitness Footwear & as I’d already entered the Lakeland 100 thought this would be the greatest test for a pair of trail shoes.

Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra

I’d done a recce of the race in a pair of Saucony ProGrid Jazz 12 TR the week earlier & the soles tore off in places due to the large amount of sharp stones on the course. All shoes are a compromise in some way between being hard and lasting longer or soft & wearing out quicker. The XA Pro has a hard sole which adds good stability & pronation control by using triple density EVA. They don’t have the deep tread pattern of a full fell shoe but more of an aggressive road shoe. Salomon have also incorporated some great technology into the XA Pro, I like the lacing system which you can just pull to tighten or slacken & then tuck into a small pocket which is built into the tong. This stops the annoying problem of laces catching on things and coming loose which is not what you want when your feet are covered in mud and wet through! They also have a loop on the back which is big enough to put your finger in to pull them on, I found this useful when at 50 miles into the race I changed my socks & the shoes were muddy. Salomon also do a Gore-Tex version of the XA Pro called the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX exactly the same shoe but with a Gore-Tex upper. The front of the XA Pro has a hard rubber toecap which protects your feet if you stumble or kick any rocks, I seemed to be tripping over large stones quite a lot on the two night sections of the UTLD 100 & made good use of this. Nothing broke on the 104 continuous miles of my race & my feet are in pretty good shape. So overall I liked the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra a good solid shoe which should last well.

What’s Good?

Lacing system with pocket

Loop in the back

Good stability

Hard wearing

What’s Bad?

If you have wide feet you may need the M+ which is wider

Overall 4/5

Happy Running!

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Petzl Myo RXP £65

by on Sep.26, 2009, under Kit Reviews

If your thinking of doing any night runs your going to need a head torch of some sort, they range in price from about £5 to over £250. I needed one for training on the moors at night and the night sections in ultras so this review is based on the research I did to find a suitable light. Most lights these days are L.E.D.’s as they give a very bright light which is also very efficient on batteries. The Petzl Myo RXP at around £65 is the one I went for as it gives a very bright light but has very little weight on the head which is essential when running. If your buying a head torch try to find one with a loop over the head which means you don’t have to have the band around your head too tight, this can give you a headache after a while. You also need to decide on a power source, some have their own battery pack & others use

AA or AAA batteries. The beauty of the latter is you can buy replacement batteries anywhere and wont get stuck with no light. The Petzl Myo uses three AA batteries which gives you enough light to run all night if you need to. It also has another trick up it’s sleeve, with most lights as the battery begins to lose power the light goes from being fully bright to dim over the time you use the light. With the Myo RXP the “R” stands for regulated which means the light is maintained at a very bright level over a longer time before dipping into being unusable.
You also get a very good choice of programmable light settings with 10 in all, even on the dimmest setting the light is pretty bright and will last before dimming due to battery drain about 35 hours. You don’t lose the light even after this time it will stay on at a lesser brightness until 95 hours. On the brightest setting you get around 1 hour and up to 50 hours as the light dims. I generally go for setting 5 or 6 which gives a good compromise between brightness and battery power whilst still lasting the distance. I found the dim setting worked really well for map reading & when at checkpoints so you don’t blind other people. The Myo RXP also has a S.O.S. Setting if you get into trouble, which could be a life saver.
If your going to use the light more than occasionally your going to need to invest in some re-chargeable batteries. The ones I use are from Maplin’s and are 2500mAh Ni-MH. These cost about £22 for 8. These can give you double the suggested burn times for the light as they’re much more powerful than standard batteries. It’s a good idea to always carry a spare set of batteries especially in winter as the cold can cut the power stored in them. Another good feature of this light is the flip down light diffuser which is handy as the spot light can be too intense for running and you sometimes need a more even beam of light. I found this much less tiring than the spot light. Petzl also do a belt version of this light which removes the batteries from the head to a belt to cut the weight on your head, I didn’t get this one as the weight of the batteries on your head is hardly noticeable and most of the time you forget it’s there. The one with the batteries in the head-torch is also lighter and smaller, easier to pack away. I leave mine in my Camelback all the time & hardly know it’s there it’s so light.
The Myo has a battery charge indicator to with 3 L.E.D.’s red, amber, and green telling you how much charge you have left. When the charge goes from one light to the other the main light flashes 3 times also, so you’re in no doubt the batteries are fading. I found it a good idea to mark your light and batteries with a fluorescent pen so you don’t put them in the wrong way round, an easy mistake to make especially when your running all night and you get tired! The light also swivels so you can find the right angle for the speed your running at, when you’re not using it the light swings up and locks the switches so it can’t be accidentally switched on whilst in your bag. It’s also waterproof, though if you do get any water in the battery compartment it can be left to dry and all’s well. It’s not cheap for what is basically a torch but it can make the difference between having to run on the road in the winter & being able to carry on running on the moors! Of course the purists will say why do you need such things but they do give you more options & more chance to keep running when the light fades.

Petzl website
http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/myo-series/myo-rxp

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