Ultra Tales Issue 13

Issue 13 of Ultra Tales has just been released. As well as a brief round up of Ultra running events and news issue 13 contains event reports from the following races:

  • Mohican 100
  • XNRG Round the Island
  • 10 Peaks – The Lakes
  • Stratford Grand Union Canal Run
  • Chiltern Challenge
  • Race to the Stones
  • Hardrock 100
  • Coast 2 Coast Ultra
  • North Downs Way 100
  • Roseland August Trail – The Plague
  • Stour Valley Path 100km
  • T184
  • Ridgeway Challenge
  • CCC
  • UTMB
  • Chiltern Way Ultra
  • 10 Peaks – Brecon Beacons
  • Thames Path Challenge
  • Ladybower 50
  • Cotswold Way Century.

In addition, Ultra Tales issue 13 has runners profiles from Frank Womelsdorf, Maxine Lock, Neil MacNicol and William Robertson.

Issue 13 also contains articles on Eat 2 Complete (Andy Mouncey), Support Crews (Gemma Carter), The 50k Race (Nadeem Khan) and DNF Corner (Paul Ali). In addition we have a Bob Graham Round write up from James Elson and a report from Barry Miller (pictured above) on the US Grand Slam.

Issue 13 totals 207 pages and is a 33mb pdf file so please allow sometime to download depending upon the speed of your internet connection.

Issue 13 Competition

Thanks to Ultra Tales sponsors the ULTRAmarathonRunningStore there’s a competition to win one of the newly released Ultimate Direction FASTPACK 20 Backpacks.

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Range Expanded

The excellent Vivobarefoot Trail Freak is one of my standout products of the year and, along with the Vivobarefoot Evo Pure, I reviewed the shoe for Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 12, Summer 2014.

I’ve certainly enjoyed letting my ‘inner freak’ loose in the Trail Freak, walking, running & cycling, from Ellon, to The Cairngorms, to Gairloch & the West coast of Scotland.

My review of the original Trail Freak, and of the Evo Pure, is included below but watch out for new colour variations of the Trail Freak, including an excellent, almost autumnal looking Navy/Green colour combination and also the new grey winter-proof Trail Freak which I hope to get my hands on in time for some serious winter training.

“Wet weather, muddy tracks and steep hills are no obstacle for the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak Winterproof Mens trail running shoe. Durable and lightweight, with enhanced water proofing and a thermal insole to protect you from the elements, theres nothing stopping you hitting the trails all winter long.”

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak & Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

Vivobarefoot is “a shoe technology aimed at offering the optimum biomechanics and posture commonly associated with walking barefoot and barefoot running” and it has been described as “as close to going barefoot in the city as you can get.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivobarefoot)

The Vivobarefoot argument is straightforward – Your feet have all the technology you need. Their aim is to provide shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’.

“The key for a long life of efficient movement involves reconnecting your brain and reconditioning your body. This is achieved by relearning the skill of locomotion by perfecting simple motor skill milestones and simultaneously, and gradually, building up adequate strength.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/learn)

This is achieved via the combination of a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

The above content will already be familiar to you if you read my review of the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail in Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11.

If you didn’t read the review, the above will serve as an introduction to the Vivobarefoot ethos and I would strongly recommend that you check out the excellent, highly informative, Vivobarefoot web site:

I was impressed with the Breatho Trail, other than a minor issue with the laces, and, as such, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review not one but two new Vivobarefoot products for this issue.

The products in question are the Trail Freak, intended, as the name suggests, for trail running, and the Evo Pure, essentially a road shoe but touted for use from everything from road and treadmill running through to weight lifting, court sports and gym classes.

As with the previously reviewed Breatho Trail, the Trail Freak and Evo Pure and, indeed, all Vivobarefoot product, are constructed to be as minimal as possible, with a wide toe box, ultimate flexibility, and an ultra-thin sole.

Fit

Both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure provided a perfect fit straight out of the box, with a lovely wide toe box to facilitate toe splay, helping with both balance and running efficiency. I found the Evo Pure in particular was especially spacious, far removed from the typically cramped toe boxes of more traditional running shoes.

Styling

Trail Freak

The Trail Freak is available in navy/sulphur (not unlike the Breatho Trail) or red/orange male colour combinations and pink/teal and blue/turquoise ladies colour combinations.

Aesthetically, the Trail Freak will never be accused of being subtle and, as much as I do like the slightly understated navy/sulphur, there’s something really appealing about the fiery red/orange colour combination. It screams for attention and looks fast – It’s just a shame I don’t have the turn of speed to match it!

Perhaps with the exception of the navy/sulphur, the colour combinations may reduce the likelihood of people wearing the shoes casually, outside of their intended environment.

Evo Pure

The Evo Pure is available in red or blue/sulphur male colour combinations and blue/turquoise and white/pink ladies colour combinations. The colours are on the vivid end of the scale but I would go so far as to describe the male colour combinations as classy and, unlike the Trail Freaks, the Evo Pure would be far easier to pass off if worn casually.

The male designs focus more on a single colour, with any alternate colour used minimally on trimmings. The ladies design, however, sees the alternate colour used throughout the hexagon design of the upper material and, I have to admit, I find that the contrast clashes a bit where my tastes are concerned.

Build Quality

Trail Freak

The upper of the Trail Freak consists of a dual layer mesh with a laminated hexagonal overlay. It’s a very lightweight, highly flexible overlay, adding a slight element of protection. A more robust heel counter helps hold the foot in position.

The upper sits atop a patented, ultra-thin, puncture resistant sole, constructed from V-grip rubber specifically designed for off-road surfaces, with multi-directional ‘V-teeth’ for improved traction. The 2.5mm outsole, with 4.5mm lugs is, by all accounts, the same sole that is used on the Breatho Trail.

A Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking. The Trail Freak is just as comfortable without socks as it is with socks, though I have found on numerous occasions that the insoles have a tendency to come with the foot when you slip the shoes off and getting them placed in exactly the right spot can be a faff.

Overall, the construction results in a ‘barely there’, almost ‘second skin’ fit.

I’ve saved one of the best elements till last. My biggest moan where the Breatho Trail was concerned was the overly long, chunky laces that had a habit of coming loose mid run. Double knotting them resolved this but, because the laces were quite so fat, this resulted in an unsightly lump of lacing on top of the shoe. I wasn’t alone in finding this and Vivobarefoot have responded to the feedback with a totally different approach to lacing.

Gone are the laces, replaced instead by a speed-lacing toggle system similar to Lock Laces and the system employed in a number of Salomon trainers.

No more stopping to double knot laces mid run! What’s more, once you have found your preferred setting, there’s actually little need to alter the lacing as I have found that the Trail Freaks slip on and off with ease. There may, of course, be occasion when you will want to tighten the lacing but this is easily done. Any excess lacing simply tucks away, preventing it from flapping around.

Evo Pure

The upper of the Evo Pure consists of a thin, durable polyester mesh with V Web lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support. The heel counter is considerably pared back in comparison to the Trail Freak, indicative of the reduced level of support required in an on road shoe.

The one thing that did catch my eye initially was the use of very thin strips of material on either side of the main flex point of the shoe, which I can only assume are intended to strengthen the area.

As with the Trail Freak, a Dri-lex lining with lycra collar provides supreme comfort and moisture wicking and the Evo Pure is also comfortable to wear both with and without socks.

The sole used on the Evo Pure is the V Multi 2, providing a ‘coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity’. By all accounts, this is a new approach from Vivobarefoot, replacing a thicker multi-terrain sole employed on previous road shoes.

Finally, the Evo Pure employs a standard lacing system. Thankfully, I have had no repeat of my problems with the Breatho Trail with the considerably thinner laces of the Evo Pure.

Performance

Trail Freak

The Vivobarefoot ethos is all about providing the necessary tools to let your feet do their thing, and there’s no doubt that the Trail Freak do just that.

“Your shoes and your feet will move as one, no matter what nature throws at them. The Trail Freak is a durable and lightweight barefoot trail shoe suited for the toughest mud sections, slipperiest descents, and filthiest climbs.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens)

Touted as shoes for ‘hot and fast trail running’, travelling, trekking, and even cycling, thanks to their pedal friendly, grippy lugs, the Trail Freak are a highly comfortable, highly breathable, trail shoe that manages to successfully combine a second skin feel with a spacious toe box.

One of the standout points of the Breatho Trail for me was the excellent off-road traction afforded by the patented ultra-thin, puncture resistant 2.5mm outsole with 4.5mm multidirectional lugs and this same level of protection from unknown terrain is equally as welcome on the Trail Freak. The lugs towards the rear of the shoe face the opposite direction from those on the front, helping to maintain traction on steep and slippery descents.

As with my experiences with the Breatho Trail, traction issues in the Trail Freaks have been limited to wet concrete, hardly the intended terrain for the shoe.

The Trail Freak isn’t a waterproof shoe, but then the jury is out on the merits of waterproof trail shoes anyway – far better to have a highly breathable shoe that drains well.

After a week of constant, often sockless, use in The Cairngorms, my Trail Freaks did start to develop an odour but this was nipped in the bud with a quick hand wash of the shoe and a machine wash of the removable insole.

My sole concern (no pun intended!) as far as the Trail Freak goes is the long term durability of the shoe. Given the lightweight upper and overlays, it’s not a shoe that affords much protection to the foot and, by virtue of that same lightweight upper and overlays, it’s also a shoe that might just suffer from continued use in harsh environments. I’m thinking specifically about the kind of damage that might arise from repeated exposure to dry Scottish heather, for example. Those concerns would apply, however, to any lightweight trail shoe and certainly not just to the Trail Freak.

The last time I enjoyed a shoe this much was the Inov8 Roclite 305, a shoe that felt like a favourite pair of slippers, and saw me through many, many miles of ultramarathon training and racing. By the time Inov8 discontinued production of the Roclite 305 (why!!!), I had gone through 5 pairs of them, and I can see a similar situation developing with the Trail Freak. If I had to choose a single pair of shoes to be stranded on the proverbial desert island with, they would be Trail Freaks!

Evo Pure

“There’s nothing holding you back, it’s just you and the Evo Pure working together. This road running shoe will let your feet perform, as if they were barefoot. They’re stripped back to ensure it’s your feet that are in control.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens)

I’m a trail runner at heart and, as such, I will likely never have quite the same affinity for a pair of road shoes as I do for trail shoes. However, I have no complaints whatsoever with regard to the Evo Pure and I am particularly fond of the versatility of the shoe. It’s touted as a shoe with many uses and I’ve certainly used it in this way, in running, treadmill, gym and casual environments.

I don’t have the same concerns vis-a-vis durability that I have expressed above about the Trail Freak. The Evo Pure is arguably lighter and with even less in terms of protective overlay. However, I just wouldn’t expect them to receive the same levels of punishment.

Barefoot Simulation

There’s little point in dealing with the Trail Freak and Evo Pure separately at this point. Barefoot simulation doesn’t get much better than this, other than actually running barefoot.

So lightweight you forget you are wearing them, so spacious as to provide ample room for toe splay, and with only millimetres of patented puncture resistant sole between your feet and the ground, both the Trail Freak and the Evo Pure certainly let your feet do their own thing, putting you in full control of the running experience.

Even the 4.5mm lugs on the Trail Freak do little to dampen the barefoot experience. You still have excellent ground feel and will no doubt need to rein it back a bit on the rockiest of descents.

Taking the Evo Pure off-road, on a short woodland walk, soon gave an idea of how good the ground feel on the Evo Pure is. I have to admit to finding the terrain underfoot actually made for an occasionally uncomfortable experience and was glad of a return to the pavement!

Price

  • Trail Freak RRP: £85.00
  • Evo Pure RRP: £90.00

Overall Rating

Having been suitably impressed with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail that I reviewed for Barefoot Running Magazine issue 11, I was looking forward to the prospect of reviewing the new Evo Pure and, in particular, with trails being my favoured running surface, the Trail Freak. I’m happy to report that both shoes lived up to expectations, providing shoes that appear to be perfect for their respective terrain.

I would advise anyone looking for minimalist trail or road shoes to at least consider these offerings from Vivobarefoot. Both shoes certainly follow the Vivobarefoot ethos of providing shoes that let your feet do ‘their thing’ and do it well.

Specifications

Vivobarefoot Trail Freak

  • Upper material: 3M Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining with thick mesh collar: Lightweight, performance lining for moisture wicking and superior comfort and thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Trek
  • Sole thickness: 2.5mm sole with 4.5mm lugs
  • Sole description: V Trek: Multi-directional teeth for the steepest, muddiest, wettest terrains. Ultimate off-road traction and sensory feedback (proprioception).
  • Closure/lacing: Lock-Lacing System with toggle: Webbing eyelets make sure the foot is secure in the shoe.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/trail-freak-mens

Vivobarefoot Evo Pure

  • Upper material: BR Mesh
  • Upper description: V Web Lightweight upper lamination for stitchless lateral support.
  • Collar/panel/lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining and lycra lining, thick mesh collar.
  • Sole unit: V Multi 2
  • Sole thickness: 3mm
  • Sole description: V Multi 2: Coned hexagon grip for perfect balance between on and off road (light trails) traction, control and sensory clarity.
  • Closure/lacing: Lace-up System: Fasten securely with simple tie-up lace.
  • Eco-credentials: 100% Vegan

More info: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/mens/evo-pure-mens

Ultimate Direction FASTPACK 20 Vest/Backpack Now Available

The latest offering from Ultimate Direction, the Fastpack 20 Vest/Backpack, is now available from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com.

“Providing all the features and capacity you need and nothing more, the Fastpack 20 is a streamlined pack that will get you there and get it done. Perfect for day hikes, peak bagging, or a quick weekend, the Fastpack takes inspiration from our Signature Series vests, with its super stable and comfortable fit.” (http://ultimatedirection.com/p-633-fastpack-20.aspx?category=hydration-packs)

I did a full product preview back at the end of August, which includes considerably more details. One for the Christmas wish list!

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review

I’m still hammering the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 on longer runs and on days when I require a little more protection than my uber minimalist Vivobarefoot Trail Freak afford. The soles are now, after many, many miles, starting to show their age and the shoe itself is far from fresh when it comes to odour.

Having said that, I just can’t bear to part with them and, having committed myself to return to running ultras after my short ‘ultra sabbatical’, I am faced with the decision of what 2015′s shoe of choice for training and racing will be.

Generally, I would go for the ‘new, improved’ version of a shoe. However, at this moment in time, I am toying with the idea of sticking with what I know, the Lone Peak 1.5. After all, I have found it to be the perfect shoe for longer distances. Zero drop, with a spacious toe box and just enough cushioning to be comfortable but not so much as to detract too much from ground feel. Certainly at this point, the Lone Peak 2.0 represents an unknown quantity to me and, from what I can see, there appears to have been some significant changes to the shoe.

I’ve included my review of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 below, written originally for Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 12, Summer 2014. It has to be said that this was a difficult review to write. I was torn between an excellent shoe, one of my favourite shoes in years, and the need to assess it using the same barefoot criteria that we apply to all shoe reviews.

As you would expect, in comparison to the likes of the Trail Freak, the Lone Peak 1.5 was never going to be so flexible and was never going to offer the same degree of ground feel. However, it needs to be considered on its merits, as a shoe that enables distance runners such as myself to try and stay true to their minimalist preferences whilst, at the same time, adopting a realistic approach to injury prevention.

Definitely a shoe that I would recommend.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review

In 2010 I discovered ultramarathons, defined on Wikipedia as ‘any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi)’. Not long after that I first read Christopher McDougall’s ‘Born To Run’, which inspired an interest in barefoot/minimalist running. Since then, I have run a number of ultramarathons, in a variety of trainers and have even, for a period of time, dabbled with maximalist footwear!

I now find myself looking to complete the same kind of distances as before but, ideally, doing it in minimalist footwear. I do know of some ultramarathoners who regularly complete (and even win) events running in minimalist footwear but, on a personal level, I do not yet have the confidence to go beyond marathon distance in truly minimalist shoes.

For a start, I am a ‘larger runner’, with a far from perfect running form, though I am constantly working on rectifying both of those issues! I am also conscious that my running form alters when fatigued, and I find myself resorting to the occasional heel strike. Finally, my preferred races take part on some pretty unforgiving terrain. Combine all of the above and you can perhaps see why I have been looking for a shoe that adheres to the fundamental principles of minimalism whilst, at the same time, addresses some of the aforementioned issues.

It was the search for such a shoe that first brought the Altra brand to my attention, initially through the US/Canadian press. Altra has fairly recently crossed to these shores and, with the Lone Peak 1.5, offered a potential product to meet my requirements.

There’s an interesting story behind the Altra brand, one that demonstrates the importance of timing, and one that, not unlike my own, owes a debt of gratitude to the iconic ‘Born To Run’.

“Two friends are selling shoes at the family running specialty store, Runner’s Corner in Orem, Utah, and they start zero dropping traditional running shoes to see if they could prevent injuries. Word of mouth spreads and soon they are firing up the bandsaw to zero drop shoes for friends of friends. The pair initially tried to pitch their zero drop idea to established shoe companies and were mocked, but little did they know that Born to Run would be released around the same time. In the summer of 2009, Altra was born with a focus on developing anatomically correct footwear with zero heel-to-toe drop, a concept that has caught on a great deal over the past several years.”

(http://www.irunfar.com/2012/02/altra-lone-peak-review.html)

Generally, where minimalist footwear is concerned, I expect a lightweight shoe with an ample toe box, minimal or no cushioning, a high degree of flexibility, and a good degree of ground feel. The Altra Lone Peak 1.5 is not a minimalist shoe per se, but does attempt to embrace elements of minimalism and, in doing so, positions itself midway between a conventional shoe and a minimalist shoe. As a result, it excels in some areas but not in others.

This has actually made for a difficult review, written with ‘two hats on’, as a barefoot/minimalist runner, and as an ultramarathoner.

Arguably, the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 may be of limited interest to a lot of Barefoot Running Magazine readers but, hopefully, this review will serve some purpose, to those who find themselves with a similar set of circumstances to my own.

The Altra web site describes the Lone Peak 1.5 as follows:

“Inspired by Lone Peak, one of the rockiest, toughest mountains in the Wasatch Range, The Lone Peak™ was designed to conquer the Wasatch 100. While the foot-shaped design allows athletes to stay relaxed and comfortable for hours, this do-everything mountain shoe promotes happy feet, increases ankle stabilization and improves form with the Zero DropTM platform. The Lone PeakTM features an innovative, sandwiched StoneGuardTM system that deflects rocks into the midsole for a smoother, more stable ride. Stand above the rest with the ultimate trail running shoe.”

(http://www.altrarunning.com/fitness/en/Altra/Men/lone-peak-15-mens)

Fit

One of the things that most differentiates the Lone Peak 1.5 from your average trail shoe is the spacious fit, with a roomy toe box that would be the envy of any minimalist shoe. Trying it on for the first time, I did actually wonder if I needed to size down. Online reviews were mixed with regard to size, split between those who considered the shoe to be true to size, those who felt the shoe to be overly large, and, perhaps most surprisingly, one account where the reviewer felt the need to go up a size.

Given my own experience and the online uncertainty where size is concerned, it might be advisable to try the shoe on before purchase if at all possible. There is a useful ‘show me how if fits’ tool on the Altra web site which may assist with regard to size. It asks for a known trainer as input before then recommending the required size of Altra. I used this functionality to confirm that I did in fact have the correct size for me, a UK 8, and, further, the web site advised that the Lone Peak 1.5 was constructed true to size.

The spacious toe box is one of the strongpoints of the Lone Peak 1.5. From a minimalist perspective, it’s a desirable quality in a shoe as it facilitates toe splay. From the perspective of an

ultramarathoner, it means that the Lone Peak 1.5 should be roomy enough to accommodate swollen feet, something which is not uncommon on longer distance runs.

Despite my initial apprehension with regard to size, I found the shoe to be comfortable straight out of the box and would even go so far as to describe it as one of the most comfortable trainers that I have ever worn.

Note that Altra offer gender specific versions of their product:

“Women’s feet are anatomically different than men’s feet. Women have a narrower heel and midfoot, higher instep, longer arch and unique metatarsal spacing. While this has always been a fact of life, traditional running shoe companies have opted to make male and female shoe models virtually identical for years.

Altra is the first shoe company to introduce an entire line of truly female specific shoes. Every last of Altra women’s running shoes have been molded around the unique shape of the female foot. A shoe last is a 360-degree model of a foot used to create the shoe’s heel, instep, arch and toe box dimensions.”

Check out the www.altrarunning.com for further information on the gender specific fit.

Styling

There is a considerably more subdued, almost all black version of the Lone Peak 1.5 available which may have a wider appeal, certainly to those who don’t want to stand out. However, I personally liked my predominantly red Lone Peak 1.5, with its retro old school vibe.

The Lone Peak has a rounded, almost chunky look to it, thanks largely to the foot shape toe box, with a large toe bumper providing generous toe protection, ideal for a shoe intended for trail ultramarathons.

The shoe makes good use of overlays for protection, including a white silhouette of the Wasatch mountain range on each outer edge of the shoe.

The sole of the Lone Peak 1.5 has a cool footprint imprinted on it which, after considerable use, is only just starting to wear away on my own pair.

One aspect of the Lone Peak 1.5 that is quite unusual is the ‘Trail Rudder’, a continuation of the sole that protrudes out the back of the shoe. More to follow on this.

Build Quality

The upper of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 consists of a quick-dry, abrasion-resistant mesh with minimal seams and the aforementioned overlays for protection. Despite considerable use, I haven’t encountered any issues with the mesh or overlays.

The Lone Peak 1.5 sole consists of the Abound layer, described as an energy-return compound, which sits directly beneath the foot. This in turn sits atop a 1mm thick plastic StoneGuard, intended to provide an element of protection for the foot, which sits above the EVA Midsole. Finally, the lower is finished off with the sticky rubber TrailClaw™ outsole which contains multi-directional lugs and the aforementioned footprint.

Despite the numerous layers, and the mention of ‘energy-return’, the Lone Peak 1.5 offers a fairly firm ride. Compared to most minimalist footwear, it’s quite a built up shoe. However, there’s no comparison to the likes of the Brooks Cascadia and the various Hoka models which provide a noticeable sponginess and energy-return on each foot strike.

There’s a small Velcro flap at the rear of each shoe, something that I will admit to not even noticing until I sat down to give the shoes a closer inspection! It’s a neat little addition that those of us who use gaiters will no doubt appreciate. After experimentation with numerous gaiter brands, I discovered Dirty Girl Gaiters (not just for girls!), that utilized a Velcro approach when securing them to shoes. This proved considerably more robust than those gaiters that relied on cord, leather and/or elastic fastenings that run underneath the shoe. Unfortunately, where the latter approach is concerned, the constant pounding on the trails and the potential for direct contact with rocks and other debris, generally resulted in a fairly short lifespan. This just wasn’t the case at all for the Dirty Girl Gaiters, with the only ‘problem’ being the need to add Velcro to the back of your trail shoes. The addition of the Velcro flap on the Lone Peak 1.5 negates the need to even do this, making it even more straightforward to use gaiters.

The only slight criticism is that, as is so often the case with Velcro, it tends to curl when used repeatedly over time.

Performance

Out on the trail I have no complaints whatsoever when using the Lone Peak 1.5. The multi-directional lugs on the sole cope well, providing excellent traction. However, a word of caution if you are not fortunate enough to step right on to the trail. I’ve had mixed experiences with the Lone Peak 1.5 on numerous hard/concreted surfaces when wet and, worst of all, took a really bad tumble on wet wood.

Despite these failings, I really like the Lone Peak 1.5 and it’s my current shoe of choice for trail runs of any length and/or when the terrain is really technical underfoot and I just want to run without undue caution.

I mentioned the ‘Trail Rudder’ previously which, by all accounts, is intended to provide braking assistance and stability on steep and/or loose downhill sections. In theory at least, it makes sense. Most of us will likely find ourselves leaning back, digging our heels in slightly, trying to control and manage our descent. The Trail Rudder should assist, providing some additional traction.

Now I’m not the fastest of runners so there’s a good chance that I just haven’t pushed things hard enough to feel the benefit of the rudder. I have yet to feel any more in control on steep descents and, as such, am yet to be convinced with regard to the Trail Rudder.

If anything, I have actually found that it gets in the way, catching on steps/obstacles/debris when my foot placement has been really precise.

Whilst I haven’t been sufficiently bothered by the rudder to consider removing it, it was an option that I saw suggested online, and a sharp Stanley knife would surely do the trick.

One final observation is with regard to the laces, an issue I appear to have experienced with a few different shoes of late, most recently with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail. I’ve found that the laces on the Lone Peak 1.5 have a tendency to come undone over the duration of a run if not double knotted.

It’s worth noting that the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 was awarded a Runner’s World Gear of the Year award in 2013.

Barefoot Simulation

The Lone Peak 1.5 is a zero drop shoe with a spacious toe box. However, with a stack height of 23mm, the Lone Peak 1.5 was never going to score highly for ground feel.

The level of protection afforded by the Lone Peak 1.5’s cushioning comes at the expense of ground feel and, further, at the expense of flexibility. There’s limited flexibility in the Lone Peak 1.5, focused towards the front of the shoe.

A full-length rock plate sits between the layers of cushioning on the Lone Peak 1.5, shielding your feet from the worst that the trail has to offer.

There is still a higher degree of ground feel than most conventional trail shoes. However, there’s simply no comparison against the average minimalist shoe, with no cushioning and just a few mms of sole.

At the end of the day, it’s all about compromise, protection Vs. ground feel, and, considering the possible use for the Lone Peak, as an ultramarathon shoe, arguably ground feel is going to be less of an issue with the emphasis instead on maximizing ability to cover ultra distances without injury.

Price

RRP £105.00

Overall Rating

It’s possibly unfair to review the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 using the same criteria that I typically apply when reviewing minimalist shoes. It is essentially a conventional trainer with some of the trappings of a minimalist shoe. While it does have an ample toe box, it doesn’t fare so well with regard to ‘minimal or no cushioning’, ‘a high degree of flexibility’, and ‘a good degree of ground feel’.

As previously mentioned, it’s a shoe that may be of limited interest to a lot of Barefoot Running Magazine readers, especially those running short to medium distances, who would arguably be better served by one of the truly minimalist shoes on the market.

However, for those readers like myself, who wish to run ultramarathon distances in a zero drop shoe that still offers an element of protection, the Lone Peak 1.5 provides us with a potential tool to get the job done.

Ideally, I would like to be in a position to run ultra distance events in truly minimalist shoes. However, be it for reasons of form and/or terrain, the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 provides me with an excellent compromise option, letting me run with a zero drop heel/toe differential but with just enough cushioning and protection to hopefully see me to the end of the event without injury.

As I have found to my cost, once you start to add fatigue into the mix, even the best running form can start to slip, with an occasional heel strike, contact with some potentially race ending debris, or simply missing things underfoot. Further, if you find yourself running through the night, visibility may also be an issue.

Until my form is such that I can comfortably run ultramarathon distances in entirely minimalist shoes, I am likely to have a continued need for a product such as the Lone Peak 1.5 in my shoe rotation and, whilst it’s not a perfect shoe from a minimalist perspective, arguably, it is an excellent trail shoe. I very much doubt that this will be my last pair of Lone Peak 1.5 and I will, in all likelihood, check out Altras other minimalist leaning products.

There’s word that the Lone Peak 2.0 will be released mid-2014, apparently with significant differences including reduced use of overlays on the upper (goodbye to the Wasatch mountain range), an extra 2mm of cushioning in the midsole, and a second rockplate for additional metatarsal protection.

(http://www.irunfar.com/2014/06/best-shoes-of-winter-outdoor-retailer-2014.html)

The most likely result will be to add weight to the shoe and to further reduce the flexibility. However, as long as Altra retain the zero drop heel/toe differential and the spacious toe box, an updated Lone Peak will still be of interest as far as meeting my own ultra goals are concerned.

Specifications

  • Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Ultra Marathons
  • Platform: Zero DropTM Platform, Foot-Shaped Design, NRS – Natural Ride System™
  • Stack Height: 23 mm
  • Midsole: Two-Layer EVA / AltraBound™
  • Outsole: Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™
  • Insole: Mountain Footbed
  • Upper: Quick-Dry, Abrasion-Resistant Mesh with Minimal Seams
  • Lacing Structure: Asymmetrical
  • Other Features:
    • StoneGuard™ Sandwiched Rock Protection
    • TrailRudder™
    • Gusseted Tongue
    • Vegan Friendly
    • Natural Ride System
    • Weight: 9.9 oz.
    • Cushioning: Moderate
  • http://www.altrarunning.com/fitness/en/Altra/Men/lone-peak-15-mens

Ding! Ding! I’m In The Fling!

After a long day ripping up 2 overgrown rockeries in the garden, lumping oversized rocks around, digging up plants determined to annexe their neighbours, and generally attempting to return our garden to the (kind of) pristine shape that it used to enjoy pre Harris, I was all but set for a very early bed tonight.

And then I remembered it was Fling night. No, not some night of sordid sexual depravity, nor a night of Scottish dancing, but, instead, the opening of entry to The Hoka Highland Fling, the 53 mile ultramarathon that is Scotland’s, if not also the UK’s, biggest Ultramarathon.

With a capped entry of 1000 solo runners, I was hopeful of getting a place but, regardless, decided to err on the side of caution and sign up as soon as entry opened, at 9PM this evening.

With a couple of crashes along the way, it was obvious that the web servers were taking a bit of a pounding but, thankfully, I  secured the desired place, ending my 2 year ‘sabbatical’ from ultramarathons.

What I didn’t expect was to see over 600 of those 1000 available spaces sell out in the first 40 minutes of the race being opened. I won’t be surprised if the race is sold out by the time I waken tomorrow morning at this rate!

So, a commitment to run 53 miles on 25th April 2015, along the lower ’1/2′ of the West Highland Way, on the 10th edition of the Highland Fling, along with some 999 other solo runners and some 50 approx relay teams of 4 runners. I had best get training!

Run, Walk, Cycle Scotland