Hmm An Armoured Personnel Carrier we use at work, all terrain vehicle, and a pair of Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes. Couldn’t resist the opportunity to take pictures with shoes and tank, and think about jokes to do with running on tracks , all terrain tank versus all terrain shoe – actually the XT4’s win hands down, I know for a fact that the tank got stuck in the local salt marsh whereas the shoes just skipped on over…
Adidas XT4 – 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier – o
Here I am somewhere East of the Caspian sea and West (Just) of the edge of the fast shrinking Aral Sea. This little spot is cold and bleak, although not quite Siberian temperatures as yet!!
It super flat ( Concave ) and I am pining for the mountains again.
12 hour drive from Atyrau including 250km along very rough dirt tracks, and an interesting selection of old vehicles and ex-Russian missile battery accomodation units … All made back in early 60’s and 70’s, including the vehicles.
Work has me pretty busy to be honest but I am managing to get out and run abit, aorund 5 mile s a day just to keep the legs ticking over. Its below zero often and I am not inclined to get into any interval stuff as yet, I am going to wait until I am bored of running along the flat for 10km at a time, on rough dirt tracks and tufty scrub.
The Steppe itself is littered with umpteen Gerbil holes and there are tales of wolves and foxes roaming ( seen some big paw prints in the snow around the camp…
I have been using my ADIDAS ADIZERO XT4 trail shoes, and these have ben great. The terain although very flat is super rough and goes from bogging slippy mud to proper frozen iron hard soil or snow on the groun all in the space of a day – the change is hard to believe…These shoes grip all the way through the wide range of underfot conditions and are still so comfortable, light and inspiring.. The nimble feel on the cart track rutting and stability of the shoe on my foot is great, no foot slip whatsoever and ever step is a positive enggement with the ground… There is not much to see so you can telll I am thinking about what the shoes feel like a lot!!!
On my runs the highlights are a road sign about 2.4 km from camp, an ancient graveyard about 2.3km from camp, and I discovered the highest point in the area today, its about 8 metres above the plain, and is a climb of about 60 metres…. Drastic stuff indeed…
So anyway, wrapped up in warm gear, the thermal stuff I got from V12 is awesome too. I am a big fan of the BRINJE range of thermal stuff for arctic conditions ( Long Johns, balaclava and L/S top) and I am also getting some great use out of my ODLO tops and thermals..
My NORTH FACE EVEREST DUVET JACKET and NORTH FACE EXTREME MITTS are amazingly warm. For general wandering and work, I have the NORTH FACE CHILLKATS, these boots are amazingly grippy, super light to wear, commfortable, not like alpine boots – the flexibility is awesome, and they are so toasty warm its a pleasure to be out in the cold in them….
So off to bed. 5hrs ahead of the UK, and an early start for work in the morning. Semolina for breakfast or omelette then chicken, cabbage potatoes and pasta for lunch and tea… voila. Oh and of course now and again some beetroot salad……
The pair I have now are my second pair of these shoes and are doing great, as did the last ones.
As I sit in my trailer in Kazakhstan, somewhere between The Aral Sea and The Caspian, miles from any hills or even slight bumps, I thought it a good time to reflect on what it is that I liek about my shoes and whether there are any things that could be improved on them too.. I have the XT4’s in my bag and am just waiting for the opportunity for a run in the dusty steppe landscape that surounds me. There are apparently wolves here ( saw a paw print of a wild dog / possible wolf just earlier this afternoon) and gofers/marmots and apparently this part of the world has a bit of a reputation for outbreaks of the bubonic plague….Fortunately the weather is getting cold so I reckon the likelihood of outbreaks of any disease is well diminished, and things like ticks, fleas and snakes and other biting creatures are lessened in numbers – hiding in holes etc..
Anyway I digress:-
These shoes look light and feel light at first glance and first touch, and sort of lok like they may well wear out pretty quickly. However from the pounding that they get on a variety of surfaces, and the amount of we, sandy, dusty, rocky terrain they travel through, the appear to be super resilient..
Dont let the bright colours put you off. if they are not your thing, then there is a choice some twin coloured or single coloured. These bright materials are superlight synthetic uppers that seem to drain water out of themselves a treat and dont soak it up. The mud soon covers any visual disturbance and the great fit and feel of the shoes soon washes away any colour issues you may have had
The upside of the super draining materials is that even on a 6 hour run recently, the shoes remained really light feeling and comfortable for the day despite geting soaked through within the first 10 minutes of starting out – I crossed a bog on the way up towards Moel Hebog on a scouting trip along part of the Paddy Buckley Round from Aberglaslyn back to Llanberis.
Time after time, bog after bog the shoes shake off the wet and don’t stretch, so once the laces are adjusted in the first place they don’t need fiddling with to adjust the fit on the shoe as the stretch is totally minimal.
The laces themsleves do take a bit of geting used to – they are fairly old style lace eyelets and require a bit of work to adjust, but once sorted at the start they keep the shoe firmly on the foot and with a reliable pressure..The thin tongue on the shoe obviously saves some weight and despite being skeptical of the lack of padding I m always surprised at the comfort levels of the shoe.
The non stretch uppers also mean that the shoes remain feeling fast , precise and stable all day – The last few weeks have seen a good number of forays onto the hills that re-confirm this, and the XT4’s don’t rol on the ball of the foot when traversing sloping ground.
Some of the superlight and more minimalist aimed shoes have left my feet feeling slightly delicate at the end of a good few hours on the hills. However, time and again, the Adizero XT4 sems to keep my feet feeling good, without any of the bruised feeling that I occasionally get on the balls of my feet with other shoes. After 3.5 hrs on the Moel Hebog/Nantlle section of the Paddy Buckley, and the climb up onto Craig Wen and Yr Aran on the way up Snowdon, my feet felt great as i hit the hard rock steps and trails on Snowdon itself. Through all this the shoes maintain a good ground feel and really grip well on mixed rocky/muddy/ loose stones and grass trails.
I guess the Adiprene and other cushioning materials in the shoe are responsible for this great protection and superb ground feel and I am well happy with the shoes on any terrain for any length of time.
The outer sole has some pretty good lugs poking out of it and my first thoughts of this were that perhaps there are not enough of them ( some of the Inov8 shoes bristle by comparison) and that they may also wear quickly.
In both these cases I have found that the lugs are great and sufficient for sure. They maintain traction at speed and on descents, and the shape of the shoe seems to help one run on the forefoot on descents, particularly improving speed and control, and lessening impact on the legs, despite the minimal heel cushioning.
The sole and upper combination just seems to lend itself to light and faster feeling more effortless descending, allowing great foot placement and encouraging / generating lighter footwork without one thinking about it.. quite impressive for a shoe i think…
The insole of the shoes stays firmly in place too and doesn’t creep towards the front of the shoe, even on steep and wet descents. I have a few pairs of other makes of shoe that have this problem, but not these..
I have a couple of ideas about how to potentially improve / extend the use of the shoes to a wider audience:-
One would be to increase the number of aggressive studs on it to appeal to the super steep and super short genre of fell racers out there for a short blast and who are usually convinced that only their Inov8 Talon shoes will do what they need – If they tried the XT4 as is they would find that the XT4 is great for this as it is but a few more lugs woud tempt them further and also add some grip although this would compromise weight a little.
I personally would love a pair of XT4 style adidas shoes with a flatter sole, with a lower profile tread for the more buffed trail days out or when there is more of a road and trail mixture, I think this would complement the XT4’s I currently have , extending the life of them and giving an option in the shoe range tht would be more of competitor to the likes of the Salomon Sense… I know my shoes feel great on the roads but I am sure they will wear faster with some extended road running miles in them that one needs when getting to the climbs out of the pass and in other valleys that necessitate tarmac miles
All in all I am well happy with theAdidas Adizero XT4 shoes and will be having a few more pairs I am sure, they really are great…. I wonder if Adidas can improve on such a brilliant shoe still further?
These are going to remin my favourite shoe for my longer mountain days and for Paddy Buckley Route scouting trips where I need to be on my feet for 6 hrs plus at a time… They are definitely going to be my choice for a PBR attempt when I can get it sorted, and also for some of the long things that I have planned for 2014…
First things first though, I need to get some speed sessions and a few flat runs in, here in Kazakhstan….
The Betws Trail Challenge 10km race on saturday was a great event.
The 10km run starts in the fields iin the centree of town and heads up tthe hill behiind Betws and around Llyn Elsi, on a great mix of forest roads and wiggley single track.
The first 1.5 km is a sharp climb after a fast start through town , followed by some great undulating singletrack towards and around Llyn Elsi before breaking out to the right and charging downhill into Beewtws on a seriously fast fire road descent where you can hear pepople chasing you down.. The last 1km is onto a level(ish) road and then turns onto a single track finish into the Waterloo Hotel car park.
Start and finihhs was announced by a large bang ( Cannnon like) – really made me jump….. and Baangor Bacchana were on hand to drum everyyone out and baack, great atmosphere.
Dont miss it next year, Noovember 8th 2014… Great.
I had a greaat run with my mates and managed to comee in 6th place overall and first in 45+ category after a hard fought baattle trying to keep up with Daydd Roberts and keep ahead of the guys around me, a great race and very pleased to finish how I did..
Thanks very much Trail Chhallenge Betws… See you next year…
I havee beeen rather slack with keeping on top of the blog for the last couple of weeks but I have been up to all sorts locally (North Wales) so I shall recap below:-
At the end of October I ran the Snowdonia Marathon, unfortunately I had left it too late to enter myself but my mate Anthony had an entry and couldn’t run so I stepped iin and ran under his name… A bit naughty I know but I just had to be a part of the event seeing as how I was in the village at the time and its a home race.
With plenty of long mountain running and just a small amount of sprinty work, I knew I was lacking on the tempo run training department. Last timee I ran it, I hhad done a lot of 4.5minute to 5 minute km long run training to get used to sustained effort, and managed 3hrs 26 finishing time… This time I managed 3hrs 27minuttes and was well pleased, I stopped at aid stations to drink and recover each time so must have run generally a bit quicker than last time, even though I was slower on the ascent of the Llanberis Pass due to wind and a hheadwind doown the Gwynant.. So even tho’ I was a minute slower, well pleased with my result and generally swift recovery afterwards..
Afteer the marathonn, I ran a 95km week all told, with Eilio horseshoe , a few laps of the lake and a couple of hits going up from the slate museum to the surge pool directly.
Adding onto that some good bikinng trips, both road and mountain and it was a good 10 days for exercise..
The mountainns have been wet and windy, my legs have been alternatively sluggish and very peppy. My energy levels have been a bit haywire too, post marathon recovery issues I suspect… A few days back I woke up with such heavy legs and energy failure that I did nothhing for 2 days physically speaking, and this as ever rechrged my batteries. It has become a common feature and can happen any time, almost irrespecttiive oof whether or not I have done a lot or a little in the preceding weeks. It only occurs every couple of months and so it is a useful recovery….
Earlier this week I headed late uup onto Snowdon and then down over Moel CYnghorion. As evr my legs felt empty on the way up the Llanberis path. I find this ascent so difficult as it should be so runnable, but always takes lomger than I think it ought… Tired legs or not warmed up properly who kknow’s… The legs were great however heading down the Snowdon Ranger patth and up Cynghorion and I knoocked a minute off my previous best time to the top.
With the clouds boiling around below me and snow on the ground on top, the trip out was great and I raced the darkness back into the village ( Ihad a head torch but I din’t want to stop to get it out. A great 2hrs 20 mins spin out…
Thanks to V12 I have had a number of Odlo thermals , gilet, gloves, and underwear to use and test since mid winter.
The conditions in which I ave used all this stuff range from nice cold and wet winter days in North Wales, icy cold days on the tops in snow, and then in a variety of cool humid locations such as North Vietnam on my run up Mt Fansipan and around the hills there.
More recently I have been in the alps giving everything a good work over sweating buckets low down on runs and getting prettty chilly high up. Northern Italy had everything from hot sunshine to 40cm of snow overnight… The Odlo kit has been in it all and has always kept me comfortable and warm, as it is quick drying and super wicking of moisture…
So for this Odlo Review I will start with the base layers I have been using:-
Odlo Evolution Long Sleeved top:-
I have 2 of these, a warm rated one and a lighter weight version, both of which are really great to wear. Out of the box they look a bit futuristic with “Tron” or “Terminator” pannelling which allows the tops to body hug all over. The material itself is the stretchiest thermal material I have ever come across and I was a bit skeptical that it would maintain its shape over the years use.
The Odlo thermals feature an odour control technology, again I was doubtful of its longevity and function – many similar thermals only work like that for a few weeks.
The Tech itself is called “Effect by Odlo” and I think features nano silver technology wovven into the fibres of the thermals themselves. Suffice to say that the odourr control works brilliantly for multiple wearing / multiple days out on the hill.. I tried them for a few weeks at a time, just hanging them up to air after a run and then putting it on again once dry. Brilliant.
The stretchy fabric seems to be great at keeping you at a comfortable temerature and wicking the moisture away whether on its own or under a waterproof outer layer. After 8 months of continuous use, the garments fit and look as good as when I first put them on, the Swiss manufacturing quality is brilliant and there is no sign of wear and tear on either garment.
Depsite them being long sleeved thermals, the stretchiness of the material means that the sleeves can easily be slid up and down to regulate temperature on a long day out, and without restricting circulation to the fingers – (some thermals are very tight on the cuff and when pulled up they feel uncomfortable – not the Odlo ones)
The sleeve length and torso garment length is also well thought out allowing for the garment to be tucked in once and then it stays where its supposed, without riding up ones back and creating a drafty cold spot in the small of ones back like a number of other thermals tried. Hip and lower back draft control is great and the warm imparted really helps to keep you comfortable.
The sleeves are long enough to be pulled down over the hands too, if it gets really chilly or if you forgot to put your gloves in your bag. Again the stretch cuffs means its easy and confortable to achieve and maintain.
Overall then these thermals are excellent and I have to say they are my first choice everytime. So far so good and no sign of the odour contol wearing out (although I do wash them frequently generally unless camping / running back to back days on the hill).
These are comfortable to wear, feature a small key pocket in the palm and are made of a robust and windproof material.
The key pocket seems like a fine idea although I haven’t used it myself, but it would save having to find a place in your shorts for a key and allows you to keep an eye on it so you dont end up locked out with a lost key at the end of a run…
As far as windproofing goes, the tech fabric used is really effective and the gloves have functioned brilliantly on the hill and also on the orad bike and mountain bike – I often take the Odlo gloves along as as a back up for my light summer biking gloves, and they had a lot of use in the alps thiss Autumn as the weather was so changeable. After 6 months of pretty hard use they are still wearing well, although there are siggns of wear and tear at the ends of the thumbs, but thiss is more likely to be from cycling use rather than from running.
Theyhave kept my hands warm up high in very cold conditions, as long as you are on the move, and on one amusing occasion, whilst running high above Evolene on a ridge in the hoar frost/light snow condiitions at 3000m I was sharing them with Janine Frost, swapping right hand with left hand glove between us as she had forgotten her gloves. The ridge travers invloved a short climbing section and then 45 mins in the wind on a cold ridge and the gloves did well – although there were some hot aches , our fingers kept working…
I really like this piece of clothing and find myself using it as much on the bike as I do on the hills when running. Windproof, light aand with 2 front pockets its really functional and hard wearing and means I have extra places to put gels or a camera without them boucing around.
The only slight criticism I have, is that occasionallythe zips get caught up in the zip covers, on the pockets or on the jacket front, and I would reaally like to see the zips themselves fitted with slightly heavier duty strings / tags for easy use in gloved hands, not just with the metal zip itself. Perhaps Odlo have already taken this into acccount for next year. In any case I have attached some tags myself which helps access the pockets and zip the ggilet up and down as required.
All in all I am well impresssed with the Odlo range of kit and its swiss quality and design seems to shine through. All the kit is still in great condition too despite plenty of abuse and use.
Summary Review of The North Face Trail Guide Ultra:-
Light to medium light weight, comfortable, neutral, supportive, quick draining, good grip, reasonably fast drying, robust, great for long trail runs or days hiking in the mountains. Handles everything but the slippiest of steep grass very well and great around North Wales and the Alps where I have predominantly used them ( apart from on my Dalesway run attempt).
It is worthy of note that on his recent run from North to South New Zealand, he wore these shoes… Check this out Jez Bragg NZ N to S
I like the shoes a lot and my feet benefit from the various tech adaptions they have to look after the foot and protect it from rock strike, whilst still maintaining trail feel and a neutral gait.
I have had these shoes now a few months and done a fair bit of varied running in them and some walking too. I had a pair of the TNF Hayasa too previously and really liked those, but I am even keener on these shoes due to the improved grip and more cushioning for longer days.
The shoes are stil lightweight mind you, and weigh in at 544g for a size 9 pair. Not the lightest on the market by a distance, but still feel light when they are on my feet. The cushioned ride on the foot along wiith the snake plate on the forefoot area al contribute to a very comfortable shoe but one that retains ground feel on technical terrain.
The soes suit a neutral runner who is after comfort and cucshioning for long days and I found this to be the case. The 8umm heel to toe drop in the shoe makes for a comfortable run , and less minimalist than a lot of other trail shoes with the 4mm or 6mm heel to toe drop. This I think helps maintain comfort levels on long days without tightenening calves etc. I have a number of shoes with different heel to toe drop heights, and I like the change of feel on the foot when I wear these.
The thing I really like about them is the contrast between my Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes which are very snug fitting and super light, low cushioning and race like feel. Whereas these Adidas shoes is really minimalist in feel, the North Face Trail Guide just feels like it its going to stay all day on your feet and keep them protecting, without feeling sloppy on the foot. Adidas XT4 is a bit of a racing snake shoe, whereas the TNF Trail Guide Ultra really feels like an all day long distance cruiser, whilst still light enough to keep you feeling peppy.
I have used it on everything from Tarmac and dirt roads in the UK ,to snow and scree in the Alps in Switzerland and Italy and found the grip great.
Despite the shoe looking like it will soak up water, it actually holds its shape well and doesnt feel heavier on those bogging wet days out or after a stream crossing, and so far I have yet to have cold feet. I like the way the shoe drains, and am not a fan of Goretex or other ttypes of breathable waterproof shoes as I reckon they just stop the water getting out as quick as you want, and as ones feet are moving constantly, I have yet to suffer from cold feet as a result of water on the trails
The first time I wore them was for the first 60km of a long run, with no issues whatsovere with fit and comfort. The shoes currently seem to be wearing well on the sole ( a super grippy proprietory compound called Tenacious ™. I still heel strike a little so the rear of the shoe on sole is wearing more that the rest of it but still entirely functioning and I am yet to wear them out to the point where griip fails.
The tongue does a good job of keeping grit and stones away from the foot too, although early on during use I found that the tongue appeared to migrate round to the side of the foot. In fact it truns out that the tongue isn’t moving at all but the TNF logo on the side of the tongue gave me the impression that they had slipped. Once I realised that and gave up trying to straighten the actually straightened tongue, I have not had to worry about this…. ( an optical illusio basically)
In summary, a great shoe with more comfort and foot protection than many minimal type models oif shoe by other manufacturers They are wearing well and maintain grip and fit in a full range of weather conditions and trail types, from rock to dirt and mud.
This was our 2nd stop on our Italian Alps trip, having decided that due to low cloud and chillyness we needed a change of scene from Ponte Di Legno in Lombardia.
Travelling through Bormio and up onto the Passo Di Stelvio, one cannot help but feel totally inspired, with such trail running potential and great biking, both road and mountain… The mountains are stunning, and of course combined with great food, one cannot fail to be inspired and energised…
The North side where we were to stay is old Austro-Hungarian territory, now Italy and has a mix of Italian and German/Austrian cooking.
After crossing the pass, including an overheating van and a great temperature inversion we descended the 48 hairpins from 2750m down to Stelvio village and booked into a small hotel for a change….
The next week, apart from a van breakdown recovery thing, was characterised by amazing road biking and mountain biking with Helen in the mornings and fantastic mountain running in the afternoons, with a general aim of getting around 1000m of vertical into my legs wherever possible.
So many trails and so many varieties of surface, from buffed single track, grassy meadows, old cart tracks and rocky technical trails, the place is another mecca for encouraging one up into the mountains again and again..
The mountains energise me, I feel like I draw strength from them and some how tiredness doesn’t seem to feature.
Perhaps the amazing road bike rides, including the STelvio pass and its 48 hairpins, with 1600m of ascent stretch my legs and dissipate the running tightness, but I found myself repeatedly rearing to go… On a couple of occasoins that the weather was poor or time was running low, I did a 10 x 30 second sprint interval session to try and maintain my leg turnover, in the face of all the steady steep climbing.
The long steep and fast descents have hopefully conditioned my Quads too, as they were constantly battered. I tried to interval some of the descents rather than run steady, to maximise the benefits, and on top of the Swiss leg of my trip, before I met up with Helen, I think my quads got into good shape too.
We also spent a day up high walking, where I scampered briefly along another fine ridge from Pic Chavalatsch, see the above picture, great views and also another insight into the network of high level paths up here that beg to be run across. Fells like you are on top of Europe, just brilliant. My Odlo clothing, mt Better than Naked North Face Shorts, The Adidas Adizero XT4’s and The North Face Trail Guide running shoes were all brilliant and reviews will follow….
Here we go, not running but hey it was great…