The latest Salomon packs include the Advanced Skin Lab Hydro 12 Set and the Advanced Skin Lab Hydro 5 Set, available for £134.99 and £107.99 respectively. Both packs have adopted Salomon’s new approach of relying on soft flasks for fluids and, as such, no bladder is included. However, it is possible to carry a bladder in the pack if required. The packs come with the 500ml soft flasks which are like gold dust at the moment, with little or no stock available anywhere. The flasks are held in the front pockets for easy access.
New Autumn/Winter 2013 Model Additions
New 2x Hydro Pockets with 2x 500ml/17oz. Soft Flasks included
New 2x Energy pockets ( above each Hydro Pocket )
New 2x Stretch mesh pockets ( under each Hydro Pocket )
New 2x Secure mesh side pockets ( vertical with open top )
New 2x Vertical zipped lateral pockets
New Central Low Compartment ( with 2 side access pockets )
“With the goal of designing running shoes for optimal performance, comfort, efficiency and fun, Hoka One One shoes ( aka Hokas ) pioneer a new philosophy in running by merging aspects of minimalism and maximalism. Engineered for maximum cushioning and comfort, while still offering lightweight, nimble performance and uninhibited movement.
Hoka One One shoes’ maximally cushioned midsoles offer superior protection, comfort and propulsion. The distinctive rockered geometry creates a platform for optimally efficient natural running mechanics. The oversized outsoles allow for maximum stability, traction and connection to the ground. Not only do Hoka shoes provide a sense of weightlessness, superior comfort and efficiency but Hoka’s athlete results prove optimal performance. They have recorded over 30 podium finishes on five continents in the past 18 months. Additionally, Hoka running shoes are 15 percent lighter than most others, they make running uphill as much fun as they make running downhill and with less body fatigue.”
Update 2nd September 2013:
The Hoka Mafate 3 mens/womens models have also now arrived at The Ultramarathon Running Store and are described by Keith as being “the model most suited to those running the WHW Race, Lakeland and so on…”
People can generally be classified into three groupings where Hokas are concerned – the lovers, the haters, and the curious.
Hoka One One is the brainchild of two gravity sports enthusiasts Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud. They identified fatigue, impact and muscle strain as the main challenges facing runners on a daily basis and designed a shoe that would help to alleviate these problems.
The result was the Hoka One One brand.
“The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to ‘now it is time to fly’. That’s just how it feels to run in a pair of Hoka One One shoes; with each and every step your foot takes flight.”
At first glance they do appear to be the antithesis to the growing minimalist movement. However, with only a 4mm drop from heel to toe, they have more in common than you might think with a lot of the minimalist shoes currently on the market.
They are, most definitely, a conversation starter
They attract subtle glances and not so subtle stares
They are quite unique
Aesthetically the colour scheme, although generally bold, is not the stand out point. That honour is reserved for the sole, and what a sole it is. A relative asked when platforms came back in to fashion and, in all fairness to them, there is a similarity!
The sole makes use of a 50% rockering profile to encourage an efficient foot strike through to push off. With up to 2.5x the volume of EVA in the midsole in comparison to standard running shoes, all of the Hokas offer outstanding impact absorption. The shoes have a bucket seat design, with the foot sitting recessed into the midsole by 20mm to 30mm. This provides for optimum foot stabilisation. Finally, the sole is some 35% wider, resulting in enhanced foot stability.
I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised the first time you pick up a Hoka shoe. They are ridiculously light (320 grams), far lighter than they look!
I have found that I needed to alter my running style fractionally, especially when running on rocky, rooty terrain. I found this out the hard way on my first outing in my Hoka Mafates when I really did ‘learn to fly’. That one incident aside, I have had positive experiences in my Hokas.
It’s true that you do lose an element of feeling for the terrain and this is no more evident than when returning to minimalist running shoes. However, this trade off comes with a promising plus side – those same roots and rocks that would otherwise be felt at each and every mile of your run are simply brushed aside. For those who like ultra distance running, it is those same roots and rocks that can make every single step feel like walking on glass by the time you reach the later stages of a race.
With this in mind, you can see why Hokas are steadily increasing in popularity amongst ultra runners, including ultra legends like Karl Meltzer and Dave Mackey.
I received a pair of this years Hoka Stinson Evo on the wednesday, took them out for a very quick 5 mile ‘spin’ on the Thursday and, on the strength of that, decided to ‘break them in’ at a 33 mile race on the Saturday. That probably is as daft as it sounds!
However, 33 miles later I was less sore than normal, had no blistering whatsoever and had taken 23 minutes off of my course PB from the previous year.
On the strength of that performance, the Hoka Stinson Evo is going to play a big part in my running this season and will likely be my shoe of choice for my remaining 6 ultras in 2012, including my first attempt at the 95 mile West Highland Way Race.
I usually run in minimalist shoes and will likely continue to do so on shorter runs. However, when it comes to those long slow runs for training and on race day itself, it will be ‘time to fly’.
Up until a certain book about the Tarahumara, the idea of barefoot running seemed ridiculous to most people and the concept of minimalist running has now been taken on board by all of the major companies. As such, who can tell what ‘the norm’ will be in future years.
The only thing to do is to put your preconceptions aside and to try them out for yourself. A quick Google search on Hoka unearths a huge debate (again, the lovers, the haters, and the curious) but you have to wonder just how many of the haters have actually tried out the shoes.
Reduction in muscle fatigue and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
Comfortable fit (appears to have been refined further in 2012 models)
Price – Hokas will set you back over £100. However, they should not need to replaced as much as normal trainers and, as such, this should be factored in to any evaluation of the cost
Aesthetics – The ‘platform’ sole and colourschemes are not to everyone’s tastes, but then that’s like, for example, buying a particular car because “it’s a nice blue colour!”
Someone recently queried my trainer preferences and it is right enough that I have undergone some transitions on the footwear front these past 12-14 months. My footwear requirements are essentially two fold:
I require minimalist trainers for both running and everyday use
I require trainers suited to both training for and racing in ultramarathons
Of late, these two requirements have converged and I have found myself looking for a minimalist, ultra capable shoe.
When it comes to footwear I am on a journey of discovery, trying to ascertain what works best for a given situation, terrain and/or mileage. Given that the range of shoes on offer is constantly evolving, it is only natural that my preferences similarly evolve.
For a while I couldn’t see past Inov8 Roclite 305s, my favourite trainer for a long, long time and, by the time Inov8 stopped producing these (why, why, why???), I had gone through 5 pairs!
This time last year, my focus was very much on completing 7 ultramarathons and, in particular, on getting to the finish line of my first ever West Highland Way Race, a 95 mile race with 14,760 feet of ascent. As a larger runner, I was looking for a shoe that fulfilled all of the typical requirements of a trail shoe but, also, that might assist me in getting my bulk from point A, at the start in Milngavie, to point B, at the finish in Fort William.
To this effect, I began training and racing in Hoka One One shoes, to many people the antithesis of minimal running and yet a shoe that is both super lightweight and with only a 4mm heel to toe drop. As such, it shares many similarities with your typical minimalist shoe. This ends with the rather distinctive midsole that contains 2.5 times the usual midsole EVA, leading many to christen them ‘clown shoes’ and/or ‘platforms’.
I received my first pair of Hokas to try out in November 2011, the Hoka One One Mafate and, after some initial success, I purchased a pair of Stinson Evos in time for the 2012 ultra season, breaking them in at the D33, the inaugural race of 2012.
Aesthetically, the shoes may not be to everyone’s liking and I did find that opinion was generally quite polarised. Fair enough, not every shoe is to everyone’s liking. What did surprise me, however, was just how vocal some of the haters were, with some going so far as to even accuse Hoka wearers of ‘cheating’! Despite the anti Hoka backlash, their popularity has grown and they can now commonly be seen at ultras and other events.
At the same time as I was training in Hokas, I was also embracing minimalism in my running. You might not think that the two could sit together easily but, as mentioned previously, the Hokas had only a 4mm drop. The Hokas were worn for all my long slow runs and I spent pretty much the remainder of my time in minimalist shoes, more often than not Merrell Trail Gloves. This extended not just to shorter runs but also to daily life.
I have well documented my finish at the West Highland Way Race in apocalyptic weather conditions and with the additional complications of stomach ‘issues’ and projectile vomit. However, I did it. I got to the end. It wasn’t fast and it certainly wasn’t pretty but I crossed that finish line in Fort William and joined the West Highland Way ‘family’ – and I did it in Hokas.
I finished the race with what looked like the start of trench foot. Given the weather conditions I don’t think any footwear really fared well that weekend. If anything, I possibly benefited from the slightly raised sole of the Hoka. I also finished the race with acute pain in my hip which was diagnosed as ITB at the post race massage. I didn’t think too much about this at the time. In all honesty, I was just relieved to find that I hadn’t somehow cracked the joint as this was what was going through my mind at the time!
At the following race, the Clyde Stride, one of my Hokas split, resulting in some nasty blistering where my foot was attempting to break out from under the constraints of the shoe. I retired the Hokas as I waited for a replacement to arrive which, due to high demand, meant that I didn’t have them for the Devil O’ The Highlands or the Speyside Way Races. What I did find at both of these races was that I finished the events without the by now usual tightness in my ITB.
I decided to test the theory that the Hokas were in some way aggravating my ITB issues and kept running in more conventional trainers. The lack of continued ITB issues led me to permanently retire them and to add to my 2013 goals – Not only was the intention to complete the 2013 West Highland Way Race with a new PB. I now wanted to do it in more minimalist shoes.
One thing in particular stands out. It was great to once again feel more connected to the terrain. I had to revert to picking my line again rather than running roughshod over whatever lay beneath me but there was something preferable about once again having that level of connection.
Inov8 315s were the initial replacement but, in the last few months of 2012, I was fortunate enough to receive Merrell Mix Master Aeroblocks and then Merrell Mix Master Tuffs to test, both of which really impressed me. The Mix Master Tuffs are currently my go-to trail shoe for any distance of run and there’s a high chance that these will be the shoe that I toe the line in at the 2013 West Highland Way Race.
When it comes to minimalist running and every day use I am spoilt for choice. I still spend a lot of time in the Merrell Trail Glove and I am looking forward to seeing what the new Bare Access and Vapor Gloves have to offer. I have also taken to the Skechers GObionic and Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon shoes and am fortunate enough to have recently been selected as part of the Mizuno EVO UK test team. These zero drop shoes are getting a lot of really positive reviews so it will be interesting to see how I fare with them.
So, that’s the story of my transition and takes us up to the current stage of my aforementioned ‘journey’. What works for me might not necessarily be suitable for someone else and I know a number of other runners who are, for example, running in Hokas without any issues whatsoever. It’s all just a question of seeing what works best for you as an individual.
2013 is going to be as exciting as ever with all the various running and non running challenges that I am going to face and, with a bit of luck, I will be able to add another West Highland Way Race goblet to the collection, albeit this time in a more minimalist shoe.
I was lucky enough to be able to extend my festive holiday to accommodate a short break in the Cairngorms. My wife was not quite so lucky in that she had to return to work briefly before we could both head up to Aviemore. Having taken a couple of days off to recover from 61 days of consecutive running, I thought it would be a great idea to run the 18 miles from our house to my wife’s work, arriving at the end of her working day. The perceived benefits of this were as follows:
I could get a long run in, my first of the year
It would save the wife having to travel all the way back (in the wrong direction) just to pick me up and head back that way again
As I would be running at least some of it in darkness, I would get the opportunity to test out my recently acquired Hope head torch
I was sincerely regretting the decision by approximately mile 2! My legs felt stiff, I felt generally lethargic and mentally I really was questioning my sanity!
Fortunately I settled in to a good pace and despite a fairly cold wind I began to enjoy the solitude of the run, south towards Aberdeen along the old Formatine & Buchan railway line. By the time I arrived at the end of the line in Dyce, approximately 15 miles later, I was ahead of schedule and thoroughly enjoying the torchlit run. I would even go so far as to say that it was the best I had felt whilst running South on the line – quite a turn around from my earlier feelings!
Having arrived in Dyce I phoned the wife to ask for her work address postcode. Her company had previously been situated right at the end of the railway line, perfect for those times when I would run in to meet her there. However, a recent move had seen the company move away from the end of the line, leaving me in a position of having to navigate an industrial estate and airport!
I had a rough idea of the new location and, when I ran right past the Google Maps postcode pin, I started to suspect that all was not well.
With helicopters coming in from all directions, planes landing and the general darkness of the night, I just could not get my bearings and phoned my wife again to ask for more specific directions. At this point, she admitted to having given me the wrong postcode. An easy mistake to make, and especially as she was focusing on getting things finished so that she could go on holiday with nothing on her mind. Armed with the correct postcode, I set off circling around the airport to the other side of the industrial estate.
Now perhaps they just don’t want people walking around that area, or maybe they just don’t expect people to walk there but the lack of pavements was something else. On top of this, it was not ‘just’ grass verges underfoot. The verges were as unkempt and pot holed as they could possibly be and, navigating by torchlight, it was all I could do not to trip up. Due to the long line of traffic attempting to exit the industrial estate, I felt like a bit of a circus attraction and I am sure the people in their cars were not accustomed to seeing someone bumble along the verges, attempting to run.
This was definitely my least favourite part of the run and it has to be said, it took the shine off of an otherwise cracking run. However, I finally made it to my wifes work, just in time to throw back a couple of coffees. With her work finished we were now officially on holiday and were bound for Aviemore. My objectives of a long run and of saving time in getting going were both achieved.
The following day, feeling none too worse for wear, I joined the family on a hiking trip in Glencoe. The weather was fairly kind to us and we soon ascended up into the Hidden Valley of Glencoe (Coire Gabhail is the hidden valley where the MacDonalds of Glen Coe apparently hid their rustled cattle) where the views of the valley itself and back down to Glencoe were simply stunning. With a good deal of climbing and descending, this was also perfect training for the ultramarathons that lie ahead in 2012.
The next day I was intent on running but had no set destination and no idea how far and/or long I wanted to run for. I cadged a lift to Glenmore and set off from there, off along the route towards the Green Loch. Given the wind, bitterly cold temperatures and the treacherous conditions underfoot, I opted to stay low and decided against a run up and over Meall a Bhuachaille. As the conditions underfoot worsened I realised that I had forgotten to take any form of spikes and, as such, would have to rely solely (no pun intended!) on the tread of my Hoka Mafates.
I passed The Green Loch and decided to venture on to Ryvoan Bothy. I was relishing the tough conditions underfoot, a mix of boulders, compacted snow, and ice, with the last option being the least preferred! There were times when it was preferable to run through the water streaming down the path as it was often better to get wet feet than to take any chances on the sheet ice!
I continued on past Ryvoan Bothy to the fork in the path that takes you to Abernethy (left) or Braemar (right). Despite having been to this point many times I had never continued further. Realising that there would be no easy was to return from Braemar, I opted to go left towards Abernethy Forest, the largest remaining remnant of the Ancient Caledonian Forest in Scotland. I was enticed along the way by the beauty of the landscape, made all the more glorious by a dusting of snow.
When the opportunity arose and my phone picked up a signal I texted the wife to let her know my intentions. I had experienced enough slip sliding by this point to realise that this could all go pear shaped without anyone being any the wiser to my location! Better to be safe than sorry (and to remember the spikes next time!).
What started out as a run with an unspecified destination and distance ended up as an ‘accidental’ 21 mile run taking me through Abernethy Forest (many forks, few signs, much beauty!) to Nethy Bridge and then back to Aviemore via Boat of Garten on The Speyside Way.
It was great to see a bit of The Speyside Way that I have not seen before. I am more used to the upper half of The Speyside Way thanks to The Speyside Way Ultramarathon.
It was also great to exceed the boundaries of past visits and to be able to continue running and exploring.
Finally, it was great to get some more long run miles in the legs. When I set off, I had thought that I might run somewhere between 10 to 13 miles and, as such, I surpassed my expectations by a fair bit!
As it happened, all of the family returned from their various walks, runs, and ski trips at the same time and so everyone settled down to relax in the knowledge that they had made the most of the day, in their own chosen way.
When I toed the line at the start of The D33 Ultramarathon last year, my longest run had only been 18 miles. 7 days into January and I have already matched and beaten that. All in all, not a bad start to the year.
Thanks to Steve from Hoka One One, I now have a pair of Hoka One One Mafate shoes to try out and I look forward to putting these through their paces. They certainly look and feel different and, with their impact absorption, will hopefully help minimise injury and help me along the way to achieving my 7 ultras goal for 2012.
Devised by Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud, the shoes are intended to remedy the problems of fatigue, impact and muscle strain that challenge runners. The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to “now it is time to fly“.
Karl Meltzer ran the 2,064 mile Pony Express route in Hoka shoes and the final instalment of the run can be viewed on You Tube (watch out for the Hokas at 1:17).
I spoke too soon when I said that things would be back to ‘normal service’ last week. Turns out that I had not in fact kicked the chest and throat infection and it did indeed return for a further few days to give me a kicking!
Despite this I have still managed to keep up the Movember pledge to run every day through Movember and my tally for the month is currently sitting at 80 miles, all of which has been done on the confines of the treadmill!
I use a program called SportTracks to keep tabs on my running and I have to say that this is a real boost to my running. When I am in the mood to run, it feels great to log the miles and compare how I was doing at this point last year… and when I am not in the mood to run, it is equally constructive to look at the monthly mileage and how it compares to other months and, again, how it compares to last year. That is usually enough of an incentive to get me back in the mood and, more often than not, I am usually glad that I did run.
Looking at the stats now, I will soon hit a ‘double whammy’ – 80 miles more will see me surpass both last year’s total mileage and also 2500 miles in 2 years, something I would never have dreamed of only a few short years ago. In fact, that’s probably more than I even travelled a few years ago, never mind being how far I have run. That equates roughly to me running from my home in the North East of Scotland to London and back 3 times, or to running to Madrid and back, or to Rome and back! And so on… but suffice to say I would really recommend logging the mileage as it is something that you can really look back on whether it be in some useful fashion or as a flight of fancy!
2012 is well and truly shaping up as being an excellent year for ultras and I am just waiting on the remaining 3 races opening up entry for next year. The West Highland Way Race, as expected, now has more applicants than places. After the initial flurry of applications (111 on day 1!) it did indeed slow down but surpassed the 200 mark with half a month of entry time remaining. As such it is time to cross my fingers and hope that I, along with all of my running friends, am fortunate enough to get a guaranteed place.
If you read my last post you will recall I mentioned the new sponsor for the Highland Fling – Hoka One One. Steve from Hoka very kindly provided me with a pair of Mafate shoes to try which arrived just a couple of hours ago. I will soon be heading out for my first non-treadmill based run this month and can’t wait to try them out. I think I am going to be spending a fair portion of this weekend out on the trails, both enjoying being back out in the fresh air and testing out the new shoes.