Autumn is upon us, it must be time for some cross country running craziness. This year’s XC running spikes have landed, we are ready are you?

I find cross country becomes less fun as soon as you are the person responsible for cleaning all of the kit that has been muddied due to participation in cross country. 

The tricky terrain-loving cross country spike differs from its smooth operator track friend in a few ways: the cross country spike is more flexible, has a more textured rubber outsole for greater traction and is more cushioned than a track spike.  This type of spike is also less concerned with getting the wearer on their toes so has less of a forward angled construction.

The upper as a whole on a cross country spike tends to be a bit more robust than that of a track spike, with the toe box in particular offering greater protection.

Spikey Bottom

There are variations between brands on the number of spike receptacles on the outsole plate, ranging from

This is an important element of the spikes construction considering the impact upon the amount of traction offered, which in cross country racing is vital.  It would be terrible to fall over and get all muddy.

While Nike and Saucony offer a unisex spike the other brands (Adidas, Asics, Brooks & Puma) have gender specific options.  These will have slight differences in width and weight but primarily be of the same mould.

Saucony Kilkenny XC5

On the Uppers

The Puma Haraka has the most overlays and stitching of the bunch contributing to making it the heaviest of the spikes (214g M, 164g W).

Puma Haraka

This is followed by the Adidas XCS 5 (198g M, 164g W), the Asics Cross Freak, and the Nike Rival XC (172g men’s UK 9), with the unisex Saucony Kilkenny XC5 coming in at 167g (men’s UK 9).

This quartet all have more lightweight uppers with less stitched overlays, and in Asics' case a good splattering of their Hotmelt upper (a similar material to the plastic coating I put on a trowel I made in metalwork at school).  The Nike Rival XC upper is constructed from a thin breathable mesh which is tasked with effectively shedding water, it will go in so best that it can easily escape.

Nike Zoom Rival XC Running Spikes FA14

The Brooks Mach 16 (150g M, 130g W) has a one piece super light seamless upper, giving a sock like fit.  American brand Brooks describe this spike as a “totally dope sprinter that breaks the sound barrier on the way to the tape”.  Evidently Bill and Ted’s latest excellent adventure is writing product descriptions for Brooks.

Brooks Mach 16 Women's Running Spikes AW14

The lightest of the bunch is the top end Nike Victory XC3 weighing in at only 125g, it is quite possible that the wearer will hover delicately above the mud wearing a spike of such great beauty (I considered getting them to wear whilst gardening).  The upper has dynamic Flywire cables, these along with a single layer no-sew mesh deliver a fantastic fit which is both lightweight and breathable.

Nike Zoom Victory XC 3 Running Spikes HO14

In Soapy Bubbles

All of the new AW14 models are brightly coloured; I however propose all cross country spikes should be brown in colour as standard.  This would reduce the mental torment felt upon the instant muddy destruction of the spikes good looks.  Failing this it is possible to return your spikes to their glorious gleaming state after a race, here is some top drawer step by step advice from our expert on the subject:

"Take the muddy monsters out of the shoe bag, remove the 9 - 12 mm spikes (only the fool hardy skip this step), and fill a bucket full of hot soapy water.  Procure a nail brush and begin scrubbing. 

Once the spikes look pristine rinse the soap out of them and give them a good shake as would a dog on exiting a bath. Finally rest the shoes on their side and let them dry for 2 - 3 days. Once the shoe is dry pop the spikes back in and you are ready for your next battle with nature.  Race and repeat."

There you have it! Whether you rate traction, weight of the spike, comfort of the upper or aesthetics with such a great selection you are sure to find one that appeals. 

Hopefully the muddy waters of cross country spikes are now crystal clear. 

So get a pair and let the muddy madness begin! 

  1. by
  2. 24 Oct 2014 12:16:46

More agonising than watching a freshly decorated Easter egg roll downhill is the necessary evil for most active animals of frequently rolling various body parts over some foam. 

A foam roller is a handy tool to have around, and if used correctly it can replicate the benefits associated with sports massage. Since you use your very own body weight to control the intensity of the massage you can also decide on the level of pain inflicted. This, and the ability to audibly squeal without shame, are the key differences between this solo rollo and the steely show of strength that must be exhibited at all times during a sports massage. 

Foam rollers can also be incorporated into workout sessions, challenging the muscles and crushing that core!

There are various rolly products available so here’s the heads up on a few.

Truly, Madly, not too Deeply

First up is the most gentle of our foamy friends. The Fitness Mad Foam Roller is long and blue and foam through and through.  It delivers the least intense massage of the bunch, due to it being the least firm and having a smooth surface unlike the rugged terrain of the other rollers.  This roller also has a more limited lifespan comparatively speaking to the other more structured products as it will compress through use and becomes less effective.

Grid Unlocked

In the case of The Grid Foam Roller from Trigger Point we are advised to “Forget everything you've ever known about traditional foam rolling - The Grid is here, and it's going to take foam rolling to a whole new level.”

Following this advice Big Will Smith, still in possession of his MIB neuralyzer, popped round and in a flash my extensive foam roller knowledge was no more. 

 The Grid Foam Roller

The Grid differs from traditional rollers in that it is constructed from a hard, hollow core hand-wrapped in EVA foam. The Grid has unique ‘distrodensity’ zones as Trigger Point call them, or ‘different sized bumps’ as I more technically refer to them, on its surface to replicate the feeling of a massage therapist’s forearm, palm or fingertips.  This makes it easier to isolate specific muscle groups and achieve a more focussed massage.

The different surface zones on The Grid coupled with the firm feel helps toward a deep and varied self-massage experience with this roller. 

Due to its construction The Grid is easy to incorporate into core workout sessions. There are a trio of DVD’s available from Trigger Point covering basic to advanced level core workouts using The Grid.

Swoosh

Just trundled in is the new Nike offering the Textured Foam Roller is similar to The Grid in appearance, if slightly more fashion forward.  That isn’t to say that it is a case of form over function.  The Nike roller is similarly hollow with a textured surface area.  It doesn’t have the quite the same depth of EVA foam or surface lumpiness as the Trigger Point roller but it is still does the job well.

Nike Foam Roller - Pink Nike Foam Roller - Grey

We have a few different rollers available for selection so if you are looking to take care of those legs, hide small household objects, or perform core work we surely have something to fit the bill.

  1. by
  2. 8 Oct 2014 09:54:11

Horse Chestnut! It’s only autumn marathon season.  Training plans are old and tattered, runner’s legs are totally shattered and race day is approaching faster than is surely necessary.  It is about this time that panic strikes.   Body parts that have never hurt before begin to ache and the file marked ‘excuses not to run it’ is created and populated.

Fear not, trust the training and stick to the plan.

The majority of those running a marathon will require to wear upon their person some sort of item to house everything they deem necessary to take along for the 26.2 mile ride.  The choice is vast, so here are a few suggestions.

Flip(ping) Amazing

A relatively new offering is the FlipBelt, the only product that is sized rather than adjustable to fit. Operating instructions seem easy enough.  Pull it on like a pair of pants, I suspect the US pant (UK pant also holds true, phew), pop the items you wish to transport into the little openings and then flip the belt over.  The items are protected from falling out of the FlipBelt by your very own body, genius.

It is as they say “A Uniquely Smart Belt”.

How easy a FlipOut (my term for an on the move item extraction) would be to execute I couldn’t say, still if your luggage needs are relatively small and you are against buckles then this could be the one for you.

Waisted

The Nike Expandable Running Lean Waistpack is sleek, light and slightly resembles a pair of 60 denier tights.

This pack will adjust to fit most waists snugly and is comfortable to wear.  Since the body of the pack is unstructured it is best suited to holding lighter items, a couple of gels, keys or feathers perhaps.  Anything heavier and the contents tend to bounce around and cause ranger (run anger).

If it is something swooshy you are after but need to carry heavier items a better option may be the Nike Storm Slim Waistpack.  This is a more substantial, but still light pack, with separate internal pockets so you can keep jingling at bay. 

Nike Storm Slim Waistpack Silver & Volt SU14

The padded panels on this belt reduce the likelihood of being constantly prodded by your own belongings.  At times this poking pain may distract from any discomfort felt from running super far however it is still best avoided, so on that front this waistpack is a winner.

Race Day Dromedary

If carrying your own refreshments is a priority then here are a few bottle bearing options.  The Camelbak Delaney, is a fine filly of a waistpack with a 0.62l hump (bottle) and a zip pocket that could easily house a couple of gels.

The bottle seems easy enough to extract and rehouse, and the waistband is padded although still breathable.  If you only need a half hump full then the Camelbak Arc 1 Belt has a smaller bottle (0.3l capacity) and much the same sized pocket perfect for carrying the olives and ice for the mid-race martini sneakily stashed in the flask.

Camelbak Arc 1 Belt Skydiver Blue

Handy

If belts are waisted on you then this offering from Inov8 may be the answer.  The Race Ultra 0.25 is a hand held 250ml softflask cocooned in a couple of bungee held mesh paniers.

The carry pockets are different sized, the larger of the two would hold a gel.  The other keys, or a 2(W) x 8(L) sized Lego brick.

According to Inov8 the design of this water bottle affords the athlete a natural grip on the pliable flask thus saving energy otherwise wasted clutching a rigid hand held bottle.  The energy refund obtained by using this item should be considered when carrying out pacing calculations and is worth at least a minute a mile.

Inov-8 Race Ultra 0.25 Black & Red SS14 

Plenty of options then for carrying race day items.  A good start point being to drive out what you require to carry, and take it from there.  The same holds true for running luggage as holiday, there is no point taking more than you need and in the case of emergencies they do have shops in Spain (race day energy and water stations).

  1. by
  2. 16 Sep 2014 14:33:11
  3. marathon
  4. running
Very compelling portrait of San Francisco based runner Ronnie Goodman. And speaks to some of the inner workings of what motivates runners.

  1. by
  2. 5 Sep 2014 09:36:18
  3. running
  4. marathon

Heighten the door frames and widen your eyes!  This week we welcomed the maestros of the maximal running shoe movement Hoka into the achilles heel fold.  Both trail and road models sailed in so whatever the terrain Hoka can handle it.

The word Hoka is derived from Maori and roughly translates to “now it is time to fly”.  The super cushioned, light as a feather Hoka’s certainly won’t weigh down the wearers airborne ambitions.  Initially favoured by crazy-mad ultra runners the Hoka brand is now becoming equally popular with crazy-mad shorter distance runners.

Hoka Clifton Road Shoes

Most Cushdy

So then to the highlights of the Hoka, expect to experience more cushioning in a Hoka running shoe than on a super king-size bed following a designer makeover.  I popped on a pair of Hoka Clifton Road Shoes and am confident I would sail past the height requirement line of many a flume that I have previously been too short to ride. 

The Hoka brand boasts up to 2.5 times the volume of EVA cushioning in the midsole compared to that of a standard traditional running shoe.  The Hokateers believe this level of cushioning delivers both fantastic comfort underfoot and outstanding impact absorption, thus reducing the likelihood of injury.  Hence the initial popularity with the ultra running set.

Weebles Wobble

The potential wobbelage due to being a dizzying distance from the ground is offset, say Hoka, in a number of ways.

The runner’s heel sits in a recessed bucket position in the midsole, much like sitting in a bean bag, which does indeed tend to promote stability in all adults to the point of total inertia. 

Hoka Bucket Image

An increased outsole surface area also helps, and to be fair clowns seldom fall over so this seems a pretty watertight theory.

The efficiency of the Hoka runner’s stride is aided by the rockering profile adopted (think rocking horse) across all Hoka models to varying degrees.  This element ensures that the wearer has both an energy efficient and progressive stride.

Next Big Thing

With this approach Hoka honks in the face of the minimal and barefoot shoe movement.  Those barefoot specific brands such as Vivobarefoot and Vibram would find Hoka the stuff of nightmares. 

All of the major shoe brands have developed minimal or barefoot offerings in the past few years; will the same happen with the maximal movement?  It remains to be seen whether the Hoka way is here to stay. 

One thing though is true, Hoka dare to be different - do you?

  1. by
  2. 2 Sep 2014 10:07:58

News just in from Oregon - Katie, Paul and the rest of the crew have completed their 195 mile Hood To Coast journey. Congratulations team! Wooop!

  1. by
  2. 26 Aug 2014 10:16:48
  3. h2c
  4. nike
  5. portland

We are excited to welcome the newly spruced up Nike Zoom Elite 7!  Lighter than its predecessor it features ultra-responsive cushioning, a lowered offset and a new lightweight, breathable upper for fast-paced training.  It's a looker too!

Check out this video documenting the key updates!  Keep up with The Elite

Available on-line and instore at our Glasgow Running shop now.

 

 

  1. by
  2. 8 Aug 2014 14:12:45
Here's some lovely scenes & audio from an unreleased short-docu on Guatemalan marathon runner Anaco Garciato to get you all motivated. Enjoy.



  1. by
  2. 15 Jul 2014 15:41:26
Our 3 new recruits need no introduction...just 3 of Oregon's finest; Alberto Salazar, John Traux and Galen Rupp representing achilles heel's Glasgow Project over at Nike WHQ. Looking good guys!

 

Nike Oregon Project

  1. by
  2. 15 Jul 2014 14:45:16
  3. nike
  4. oregon
  5. track
  6. rupp

A great short on the 2014 Hong Kong 100 Ultra. More Than A Race offers insight into the strategies, challenges, triumphs and disappointments of an ultra marathon runner.

  1. by
  2. 3 Jul 2014 08:54:29
  3. ultra
  4. marathon
  5. running

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