I have a lot of gear. I am a bit of an addict. That also means I test a lot of gear, so I wanted to share my top picks of last year. I feel these should be shoo-in's for anyone's 2014 trail running season.
Anyone that knows me, knows how much I LOVE running shoes. I really enjoy using different shoes for different terrain. So I am going to start off with this category as it is most exciting to me.
This is my go-to shoe. I love how it fits snug in the mid-foot and is a bit more roomy in the toe box which is perfect for the merino socks I wear all year round. The extra room also allows for more comfortable descending and I never have any 'toe-nail' issues with these shoes. (I also buy my shoes 1/2 size bigger for this reason)
The grip on these shoes are great for loose rocks, dirt and especially snow. They are not so awesome on wet roots and wet rocks though because of the oversized lugs. If you do any running from road to trail - these lugs will wear down before the rest of your shoe on pavement. So I try to use these for true trail running and minimize the road time.
XR MISSION CS ROAD-TO-TRAIL
This is an great shoe for the road runner who is transitioning into trail running or for the runner who mixes up road and trail in one run. This shoe will definitely give you the feeling of a road shoe which also makes it great for greeway type trails that aren't super technical or rough. I have a few routes from home where I start out and finish on longer stretches of road and I love this shoe for those runs. This shoe is pretty grippy on all surfaces and it can work well on technical descents for someone who has good technique and confidence. A lot of athletes I coach who are just starting out or transferring from road to trails choose this shoe or the SPEEDCROSS 3 and have great success and feedback.
S-LAB XT 6 SOFTGROUND
I sorta stumbled into these shoes last year and low-and-behold if they didn't end up being my favorite Salomon's. I noticed, when my weekly running volume was getting up to 14+ hours that I would get some aches in my feet. Those aches stopped when I started running in these shoes. I think it had something to do with what Salomon calls Endo-Fit and the Agile Chassis System . Basically it means a blissful snug yet, comfortable fit because it closely mimics the anatomy of your feet while providing only the neccessary amount of cusioning and protection. I would wear these on my longer training runs and I choose these shoes to for Sun Mountain 50k & Squamish 50k this year which I ran as build weeks and on 'tired legs' as training for TAR. I also wore these 6 out of 8 stages this year. Love this shoe.
S-LAB SENSE ULTRA
Another pair of shoes that totally caught me by surprise were these beauty's. After TAR I was only running a few days per week and my run sessions were all under 1.5hrs. So I decided it would be a good time to test out this light-weight racing shoe by Salomon. To my surprise, it offered more support and grip than I expected. It fit like a glove and is so damn light you hardly feel like you're wearing anything on your feet. I am not a minimalist or forefoot runner so-to-speak and my philosophies are that a natural running gate is often the best gate when it comes to distant running. The body is a remarkable adaptable tool and I feel it is most important to focus on where the foot land in proximity to the body/hips then what part of the foot is landing. And to be more cognizant of your training builds. Anyhow, getting off topic here - I choose to gradually work my way into these shoes because I noticed they did promote more mid-foot/forefoot running (which is what they are designed for) and they actually felt very natural and comfortable for me. I worked into 2hr runs with them and really, really, really like them. I do know a lot of people who run exclusively in these shoes, race in these shoes and saw lots of people running 8 days across the Alps in this shoe in TAR this year. She's a keeper.
SPIKECROSS 3 CS
If you run in snow/ice this is hands down the best shoe EVER made. It is marketed as a rugged off-road racer but has simply become my go-to shoe this winter. It is basically the SPEEDCROSS3 more beefed up. It has Salomon's climashield which helps keep my feet dry and toasty. This shoe shines on ice, snow and basically anything Mother Nature can muster up. It has metal spikes embedded in the bottom for maximum grip. Spike it up this winter to stay safe out on the trails and get the most out of your winter training.
That wraps up the shoe review. Now we can move on to a few other favorites of mine for 2013:
I have tried many running watches over the years. Polar G3, Suunto T6, Garmin 610 touch-screen (to name a few)... but never before have I been so happy with a watch until I got the Suunto Ambit2. I gotta say... Suunto has it figured out and dialed in. Anyone looking for a quality training watch with lots of great options and easy to use software, this is the watch for you. It has features for navigation, speed, heart rate, altitude, weather conditions and features for running, biking and swimming. There are also several of apps you can use for this watch which allows the user to personalize for their needs and interests with it's pre-programmable screens. My review won't do this watch justice, so check it out for yourself HERE. I admit, I only used the basic features of this watch last year. But it was functional and satisfying even at the basic level. I could see my distance, elevation, descent, speed and heart rate which at the very least was valuable to me. I look forward to using the watch to it's full capacity this year and being more creative with apps and my settings.
ADV SKIN S-LAB HYDRO 12 SET
Okay sports fans... this pack is the nicest pack I have ever used. It comes down to fit and convenience for moi. The fit is best described "like a glove". It doesn't move around. The straps sit comfortably. It is light. I don't need to take the pack on and off to access the back sling pocket. I can put my jacket on and off easily. Stash my arm warmers, hat, gloves and grab & go while I run. Love it. There is amble spots for food, phone, camera, more food which are also easily accessible and super convenient. Bladder fits in the back. The front of the pack has two pretty-darn awesome holsters for the 500ml soft flasks, which on it's own makes it on my list year. These little collapsible water carries are brilliant. You can use them for shorter runs, to add extra hydration to a long run or for races. What a difference it made to my season to have such a functional, light and nice fitting pack. Great job Salomon!
Clothing - okay, just a few photos of my favorite pieces this year as I know this entry is getting a bit long...
At the risk of sounding like a broken record... I LOVE THIS SKORT!! Ladies - if you put one piece of clothing on your wish list this year - it needs to be this item. It has compression, support and is really comfortable. Fear not guys - there are EXO shorts for dude ;)
These running tights have been a staple for Okanagan winter running. I like the fit the most. No sliding around. They are not too 'tight' in certain areas and loose in others. They have a short waist band, which I prefer and the seams in these tights give a nice sleek, fit look :) They hardly feel like I am wearing anything and they feel good on short to long winter trails runs. These aren't a great choice for cold, cold weather runs. I usually run in a warmer tight for those conditions.
I think one of the most important things when it comes to gear is that you have to love it. When you have gear that works for you, you're more motivated to use it and to hit the trails! So, I hope you all run in gear you love this year.
I am certainly grateful for the support that Salomon provides me and I love being part of the Salomon family and aligned with a company who has quality products and cares about the trail running communities across the globe. If you have any additional questions about my experience with these products, drop me a line! Thanks for reading.