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Review: Inov-8 X-Talon 200

From: Ben Spellman
Product: Inov-8 X-Talon 200

Review: Last year Inov-8 unleashed it’s first shoe truly built from the ground up to tackle everything OCR’s throw at them. The X-Talon 200’s are the 200g/7oz cousin to the X-Talon 212. They come with a roomy toe box for your toes to spread out a bit, the ability to drain just a few steps after leaving whatever water hazard you just happened into and lugs to keep to connected to the ground no matter how loose and messy it gets. The 200 has a 3mm drop which I find very comfy, not too much and not too little, it seems Inov-8’s goal was to make sure Goldilocks chose these shoes over all else. At 6’1″ and 250lbs comfort and support are a huge deal for me and these shoes deliver.

So those are all great stats and numbers but how do they survive on the course? Well last year I took them for a spin. I was just coming out of Reebok Spartan Super’s and I was a bit worried. Those shoes were way too narrow and offered no support to me so my fear was rolling my ankles several times while having my toes smooshed together over again. What I got was a shoe that locked my heel in place while allowing my toes to move to such a degree no amount of mud has been able to rip them off, just the right amount of cushion even over jagged rocks, and drainage that made it so it didn’t feel as though I was wearing cinder blocks after the first bit of water ( I’m looking at you older pair of trail runner Adidas!)

Now here’s the bad, the shoes got me though about 5 races of varying degree (Spartan Sprint, Super, Beast, Battlefrog, Zombie Charge) then when I went for back to back Spartan Super’s in Barre they decided to start ripping where the toe cap met the fabric of the toe box. I emailed Inov-8 whom responded with wonderful customer service. They asked for a picture then promptly replaced my X-Talon’s. I finished out my season with my new shoes which included a trip to Killington and a few other races then packed my shoes away for the season. Fast forward to this year I ran both Spartan Beasts in NJ. Day 1: my shoes began to rip in the exact same spot. Day 2: I could clearly see my toes because the rips were so big. I noticed at this point I was not the only one with X-talon 200’s that had this issue, many on the mountain had the same shoes with the same rips.

I emailed Inov-8 once more and pointed out what I believed to be a design flaw, I did not ask for replacements but I did want to point out the issue. Once more Inov-8 was very prompt and friendly with responding. Even though I admitted to having the shoes for over a year and my current ones were what was called a,’One time courtesy replacement’, they again apologized and sent me a new pair.

It turns out Inov-8 did acknowledge this as a design flaw and corrected it by swapping the fabric on the toe box with ballistic nylon, a difference you can definitely see and feel.

My new shoes have only started their journey and durability tests but I’m confident I will see much better results here. I ranked these high mainly because they truly are the most comfortable pair of OCR shoes I have ever strapped on and even though I have destroyed two pairs I have only paid for one and thanks to the great customer service at Inov-8 I have never missed a race due to my shoes failing. Now if only they could work on a color pallet that doesn’t look like McDonalds threw up on a shoe.

Sidenote: If you are sporting some of those ripped X-Talon 200’s, email their customer support, be polite and explain the damage. You will get a new pair of the new version.

Rating: 4 star (good)

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Review: Reebok All Terrain Super OR

From: Stanley J Mscisz
Product: Reebok All Terrain Super OR

Review: My review of the Reebok All Terrain Super OR shoes:
They have excellent flexibility
They need no break in time
They have excellent tread for the trails
I have not tested yet for water drainage but, just by looking
at them they appear to be made well for drainage.

Rating: 5 star (amazing)

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Review: Mad Grip F100 Pro Palm Gloves

From: Ed Mangini
Category: Clothing

Product: Mad Grip F100 Pro Palm

Review: DISCLAIMER: I am notorious for being a ‘tweener w/ respect to clothes. My feet, hands, and everything else always sits between two standard sizes.

When I ordered these, I bought the large and found them slightly too big, but the medium was far too small. After some serious swaptronics over USPS, I ended up holding on to the large.

How they fit:

Despite my disclaimer, these are really awkward fitting. The rubber is very stiff, which keeps your hands in an unnatural position while running. I ended up pulling them off and tucking them into my socks while I was running.

Do they work when dry?

Not really. I found the fit and feel of the gloves very awkward. I was slipping and struggling with my grip even when dry. To be honest, the rubber is somewhat sleek, so I don’t think it is getting the friction it needs on metal/plastic when dry.

Do they work when wet?

Not at all.

This was my second and last attempt at using gloves for grip assistance. I have a pair of fingerless mechanix that worked ok at BoneFrog, but I think I’m going to stick to gloves as “weather protection” only for those late-fall OCRs.

If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

Rating: 2 star (poor)

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Review: MudGear Obstacle Race Compression Socks

From: Ed Mangini

Category: Clothing

Product: MudGear Obstacle Race Compression Socks

Review: I love these. I bought these based on a recommendation from another OCR/Mud Run site.

They fit outstanding, they keep you nice and dry,they don’t over heat, they drain very well and they are a great place to tuck gels/salt stick if you aren’t a fanny pack fan.

I’ve used these for several races.

Rating: 5 star (amazing)

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Review: dGearOG fingerless OCR gloves

I love finding local companies in our space. These guys are based in Vermont.

dGearOG make gloves for OCR. They’re a spin off of Damascus Protective Gear, and have been making protective equipment for military, police and corrective use since the 50s – think gloves, knee/elbow pads, riot suits – during last years Baltimore riots, they were shipping gear in for the officers. They also make archery gloves too. These guys know what they’re doing!

For OCR gloves can be controversial, of course.

Should you wear them? Do you need them? Do they hinder, or help?

dGearOG Gloves
dGearOG Gloves

I’ve never really bothered, to be honest, unless it’s purely for warmth in a winter event – so when I heard about dGearOG and their OCR specific glove, I was interested in learning more.

I stumbled across them in a weird way. They were posting photos on Twitter of the small team they sent to the VT Beast in 2015 – and lots of photos of gloves in different patterns being used on obstacles. I messaged them through Facebook and they offered to ship me a couple of pairs of gloves to check out. They weren’t quite ready for production yet, and didn’t have them for sale in stores or through their website – so I jumped on the chance to check out a pre-production set.

They shipped me an XL and M in their fingerless style – both with slightly different patterns, but the same features – fingerless gloves with super grippy palms, pull loops, velcro closures.

The first race I tried them at was Shale Hill – and if you know Shale Hill, you know grip and grip strength are key to many of their obstacles. I wore the XL and offered the M up to Chris “Flux” Hoey, who also isn’t typically a glove guy – we wore for the whole course, and tried them out on everything from traverse pipes, walls, ropes and more.

What we found:

The grippy palm was excellent – in dry conditions it was glued to pipes and ropes. In wet conditions, it was less useful, but the quick pull tabs meant you could get it off quickly, and it would stay right side out, so its easy to pull back on again after a wet rope obstacle.

“They definitely help protect your hands from extensive wear and tear on a long course. The grip surface is great until it gets wet. It would be no extra benefit in a rope water climb though.” – Flux

The velcro held tight, and is of a type that won’t get gunged up mid-race – contructed of a plastic, more than a fabric, this isn’t going to be a point of failure.

We both found that the gloves moved around on our hands more than we’d like – it has so much grip, that when hanging from the Zig Zag of Awesomeness at Shale Hill, the glove held tight and our hands slid inside – a testament to proper fitting (remember, neither of us picked our sizes!). In fact, dGearOG have said they reduced the overall sizing of the gloves as a result of that feedback, so they should be fitting snugger from the vendor than before – which will be perfect.

“You never know what race day conditions bring, these gloves are a must have in your Arsenal to be ready for whatever may be thrown at you. Built to perform and last there are no seams in the grips to get caught on and provides protection for race torn hands!” – Flux

Those quick pull tabs are WAY more useful and functional than I initially gave them credit for. How often have you dug through your bag after a race and found socks or gloves or sleeves inside out and gunky – and had the unpleasant experience of turning them back around? The pull tabs keep the gloves right way out, and mid-race? Perfect.

Ultimately, gloves will always be a personal preference. Maybe you want to protect your hands, maybe you have rough and tough skin already and don’t want to lose “feel” mid-race – but if you DO want to protect your hands, these are a fantastic way to go, not too expensive, and the brand is local, and focused on OCR. The have new styles coming, including a full finger, and a pink option for the ladies – so keep your eye on them!

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Have you tried dGearOG Gloves? What do you think? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Review: Icebug Zeal OLX – long term wear

We posted our first look at the Icebug Zeal OLX on April 10th, 2015 – since then they’ve been on many courses, many laps, many miles – and I wanted to do a recap discussing their long term wear. With the 2016 season coming, the chances are high we’ll see shoes from last season on sale and getting moved by retailers for cheaper – so, how did these guys hold up?

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Reebok All Terrain Thrill – first look

All Terrain ThrillI wasn’t expecting to be putting two shoe posts up in two days – but here we go. Reebok VERY kindly shipped me the *other* 2016 All Terrain series shoe to look at and write up my first thoughts – and today we got a couple of pairs of the All Terrain Thrill – a new, wider, more plush trail shoe for their very popular All Terrain series.

If you haven’t – go take a read of the All Terrain Super OR first look I put up yesterday. I’ll get into a more direct comparison of the various shoes in due course, but it’s worth knowing what your options are if you’re looking at new shoes for the 2016 OCR season.

The Thrill is a very different shoe to the Super OR. From the bottom up – the tread isn’t as aggressive, the mid-sole is thicker, they use real laces, and a slightly padded tongue – the toe box is wider too. It’s much more shoe.

Weight: 11.5oz for mens, 9.3oz for women’s
Drop: 10mm (10mm at the front, 20mm at the rear)

All Terrain Thrill

The market for this shoe is for people who need more support – not everyone in OCR is elite. Not everyone needs minimal and fast in their shoe. Some of us need some comfort. Maybe you run longer distance events, and need more support? Maybe you’re simply looking for more protection from the rocks.

The Thrill does retain Reeboks signature H2O drain, which is easily my favorite feature of the All Terrain – at the cost of possibly letting stuff *into* the shoe, they also let stuff get out quickly too.

In fact, if you compare it to the early 2015 All Terrain Thunder 2.0 shoe – it’s more comparable. It’s comfortable, but now has the signature All Terrain tread.

So – which Reebok is best for you?

If you’re looking for a comfortable ride – plush midsole and wide toebox, with great grip and drainage – the All Terrain Thrill is for you.

If you’re looking for a light weight, tight fitting race shoe – with grip, drainage and the most durable upper yet, you want the All Terrain Super OR.


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Reebok All Terrain Super OR – first look

Reebok All Terrain OR 2015

This morning, the mailman dropped off a couple of boxes, direct from Canton, MA – headquarters of Reebok HQ – and in those boxes were some new shoes to check out – the Reebok All Terrain Super OR.

This is, effectively, the third generation of All Terrain Super – and just like they do with their other shoe lines, Reebok has gradually and incrementally improved the shoe with each revision.

Check my comparison of the first generation here, and the Thunder 2.0, a more casual/training version of the All Terrain that was released in the second generation.

So – what do we have here.

Weight: 7.8oz for mens, 6.4oz for women’s
Drop: 5mm (7mm at the front, 12mm at the rear)

This is a racing shoe. Unlike the Thunder 2.0, this is not a training / casual shoe. There will be a Thrive model coming soon for that. This is for hitting the courses, completing obstacles, and getting you through quickly – not for long miles on mountains.

According to Reebok, the shoe weighs 8oz – and if you’ve worn either previous model, it’s about the same weight. It has an 8mm drop, but frankly, with the minimal mid sole, it feels much lower. The shoe is definitely a light weight, minimal feel shoe.

Reebok All Terrain OR 2015They’ve kept the things that worked – this is key, because in many area’s, the shoe DID work well. The tread pattern and depth don’t appear to have changed. The lugs are aggressive and if anything like previous generations, they work well. The H2O draining is effective and easily the most unique, most appreciated feature of the shoe.

They’ve changed things that didn’t work – the material of the upper – at least in the first generation – failed all the time. I wore mine out quickly, with my wide toe box. The second generation was more resilient, but in my Thunder 2.0’s, it did feel plasticy at times. Having said that, I wear my Thunder 2.0’s all the damn time – just not for racing. The new CorDura material they use here is considerably improved over last year.

Reebok All Terrain OR 2015

I have no idea why they included speed lacing. In OCR, thats a recipe for getting gummed up and difficult to use.

The fit – this is polarizing. This is a race day shoe, so the fit is designed to be snug. I get that. However, I have a fairly wide toe box, and these feel tight to me. This is what ripped the sides out of my old All Terrain Super’s. However, the material feels much sturdier, and the actual FEEL is comfortable. I could wear these all day, and doubt I’d blister – but if you’re looking for a wide, roomy and more comfortable fit, these won’t be the shoes for you. I’ll have to wear these for a while to see if they’re the shoes for me.

Watch my video review, below – lots more detail in there. Also scores are being given BEFORE a test wear – and I’ll update once I’ve got miles behind me – I feel I can make educated scoring now, due to the similarity with previous generation shoes.

Also check out our first look at the more plush Reebok All Terrain Thrill’s for 2016!

For your own opinion on these shoes? Login and leave your ratings!

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Review: Garmin Fenix 3

IMG_0436This past summer, I got a Garmin Fenix 3. Here’s what it is, why I like it, and why I don’t wear it any more.

Firstly, if you want to read a SUPER detailed review – click here. This guy writes the best reviews on the market.

The Garmin Fenix 3 is, primarily, a GPS watch. Except, it’s a really really smart GPS watch. It had better be, because it’s also a really really expensive GPS watch.

As a GPS watch, it does everything the OCR enthusiast needs it to do – it starts up quickly, and locks onto satellites as quick as you could expect (some venues, this takes longer than others – not the fault of the watch). It offers several tracking types – walk, run, hike, cycle – and even swim – and the ability to do multi-sport for triathletes and similar multi-sport athletes.

Each tracking type has different things it displays – speed, pace, elevation, external temperature, and all this is customizable – you can get any information you need through a Fenix 3.

But, there are considerably cheaper GPS watches that do much of this – so why the Fenix3?

Many people out there also use an activity tracker. Something to track your steps and calories during a day, maybe even your sleep at night. Many also have a smart watch – something that notifies them of messages on their phone. The Fenix 3 does all this too, and well.

A huge benefit of the Fenix3 over the other watches on the market is it’s battery life. When Apple announced the Apple Watch, they touted an “all day battery” – the Fenix3 kills that, and routinely will go days – if not a full week – between charging – and if you enjoy endurance events, the Fenix3 will run for hours and hours – in fact, I spend all day at the VT Beast, with a 9 hour finish, and the watch still had 50% battery life.

The model I bought was the Sapphire edition – it has a darker, gun metal bezel, comes with the gunmetal steel wrist band and the regular silicon sports band (and the tools to switch it) – and of course, a sapphire crown for the best scratch resistance you can get in a watch these days. I did add a screen protector, because I’m clumsy (and yes, I have scratches in the scratch protector). I would wear the silicon strap for racing (it weighs SO MUCH less), but the steel strap would make the whole setup look much more “professional” and chunky, if you like that style. I do. It would bring up conversation at work conferences all the time – but I do work with a bunch of geeks …

Lets also cover the app. You can sync this watch to computers over the USB charging dock, or through wifi and bluetooth with your cell or tablet – the Garmin Connect app is fairly easy to use (especially after it’s recent major update), but the website that stores all your activities is still pretty clunky and feels old fashioned, compared to the Web2.0 tools other vendors have.

IMG_0438Now – the big one. Why don’t I wear it anymore?

I do – for racing. It’s rugged, it’s tough, it tracks every damn thing you could ever want, and will last longer than I will on the course. For OCR, it’s damn near perfect.

I don’t – for day to day stuff. Despite how well it tracks everything, and the great job it does as a smart watch – I recently bought an Apple Watch and it just does a better job of *that* stuff. The Garmin may be the best tracking tool out there, but without access to RunKeeper, I was missing a ton of my old running data, missing some of the best social media integration out there, and as an owner of a Withings scale, it was a pain to get current weight info in there (there’s a hacky workaround, if you’re interested). It’s also big, which I don’t mind – but smaller folks may be bugged by that.

So, who should drop the money on a watch like this?

If you want the best GPS watch on the market, and want to replace (or get) smart watches and daily trackers – you want this. If you want a sturdy, resiliant daily wear watch – you want this. If you need to track multiple sports – including water – and track them for more than a few hours – the Fenix3 is for you too. It’s an expensive watch, but it’s worth the investment if you’re looking for the best “all in one” out there, and can live with it’s bulk.

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Review: SealSkinz Thin Ankle Length Sock

ed. note: Wow, Jess! Thank you for this awesome and detailed review! 

If you know me, you know I have a teensy fascination with socks.  My current favorites are Injinji (athletic toe socks), DarnTough, and SmartWool (although, my preference between these last 2 is DT, as it is a New England based company).  I wear these brands on a day to day basis as well as for athletic activies such as Crossfit and Obstacle Course Racing (OCR).

Recently, I was asked to test out a pair of SealSkinz socks ( in an OCR, and, naturally, obliged.

sealskinzThe Race:  Spartan Sprint – Boston 2015
The Location:  Carter and Stevens Farm – Barre, MA
The Terrain:  Fairly flat with some rolling hills thrown in, and lots of technical trail.  Also, plenty of mud and water.
The Sock:  SealSkinz Thin Ankle Length Sock (

When I got the socks I wasn’t really sure I was going to like them.  They have a neoprene-like liner inside, and they do not have a lot of stretch.  I put them on, followed by my typical racing shoe, and was pleasantly surprised that they really didn’t feel that bulky or uncomfortable at all.

I wore them for 5.5 miles of Spartan Race fun.  They were submerged.  They were caked in mud.  They were comfortable throughout.  Where my normal socks would have trapped the dirt and also caused a friction point at my heel, these did a great job of not letting the grit infultrate my shoe at all.  As I mentioned before, they were submerged – as in I was in mid-thigh to chest deep water at times.  As I emerged from the water, the socks had a little bit of squish, but any abundance of water was quickly shed and my feet actually felt cooler than normal, in a refreshing way.  I should note my feet never got overly warm, even with the 2 layers.

Once the race was over, I peeled off these muddy socks and noted my feet were not wrinkly at all.  I experienced no blisters or hotspots from them either.

With what we do it is also important to note how difficult an item is to clean. I didn’t hose off the socks, just banged off the dried on mud that would come loose and threw them in the wash.  Normally, I wash all my race items, then turn them inside-out (or outside-in), and wash again. These socks were clean after one wash, it was amazing!

If you are looking for a new sock for races, this one is something to look into.  If I don’t wear them at the VT Beast in a couple weeks, I’ll certainly keep them on my person as a spare pair.

DISCLAIMER:  I do not recommend buying and using these for the first time at a lengthy race (think SR Super or Beast, Tough Mudder, or Battlefrog Extreme), but it might be worth investigating for some of our colder races (Blizzard Blast comes to mind, as does any winter event at Shale Hill).

Rating: 4 star (good)