For runs under five hours, I can wear almost anything and have been happy with the Litewave Trail and Ultra Trail (both from The North Face). For five+ hour runs, though, I've often struggled to find a shoe that meets my needs. 

I've had good results in the past with early versions of the Brooks Cascadias and Montrail Bajadas, but changes to these models in recent years have made my feet anything but happy. It seems my feet are as sensitive as my stomach when it comes to long runs!

As an athlete on The North Face Canada team, I thought it would be nice to wear their shoes for training and racing although it's not a strict requirement. I had heard they were launching some new models this year so I was pretty keen to check them out as I had a few long races planned. 

On paper (and by paper I mean my computer screen - who uses paper anymore), the Ultra Endurance sounded very promising: You'll tear up the trails (not your shoes) with the lightweight protection of this versatile trail running shoe that delivers a stable ride and unparalleled traction. 

Of course, I had to order a pair...or three. I've now had a few months and many miles to try them out and here's what I can tell you about them.  

  • Comfortable - obviously the most important quality in any shoe
  • Cushy - I suffer from foot neuromas and need a well-cushioned shoe
  • Grippy for most terrains - I've had good results on dirt, sand and wet rocks
  • Durable - my current pair has been worn for over 600km with little to no sign of wear on the soles or uppers, and is nowhere near ready for retirement
Neither here nor there:
  • Appearance - not super sexy or a dud (isn't that really the best that any of us can hope for when described?)
  • Weight - at 255g (9 oz) it's not the lightest shoe on the market but the trade-off is above-average stability
  • Tongue - there's no hole to thread the laces through the tongue to help keep it in place so I find it tends to get pulled to one side, allowing the laces to put pressure on the top of my foot if I don't stop to fix it which I'm usually too lazy to do
Conclusion: When put to the test on trails in training and races, the Ultra Endurance are as good as advertised and I now have a new go-to shoe for 50- and 100-milers. 

The TNF Ultra Endurance is also a good choice for
strength training as I am demonstrating here.

New Reviews Coming Soon!
I've been a total slackass when it comes to updating my blog but I just received my race kit from The North Face and it's full of all sorts of good stuff. I promise to try out as much as I can and post some new reviews soon.

Dora on duty guarding my TNF race kit!
The North Face Torpedo Stretch Pant
This isn't a proper review, but I just wanted to share how impressed I am by the durability of this pant. It's incredibly lightweight - enough to be in the TNF Better Than Naked line - but when I wiped out on the trail today my knee was shredded and bloodied, and my pant was not. In fact, my pants bore no evidence of my clumsiness at all. Not even a tiny snag. Very impressive!

There are many reasons why I love my versatile Better Than Naked Jacket from The North Face. Here are just a few of them:

The fit – The TNF website calls it an “athletic tailored fit”; I call it just right. I can easily layer a light- to mid-weight technical tee underneath it without looking like a sausage in its casing. And it’s fitted enough that I can wear it with my hydration pack without having extra material bunching up around the straps. Plus, the cuffs are stretchy enough to allow me to pull the jacket on or off without having to remove my jumbo, man-sized Garmin GPS.

The weight – Weighing in at less than 5 ounces (i.e. next to nothing), the jacket provides a surprising amount of warmth and wind protection. It’s an ideal layer for crisp fall morning runs or even to pack along for summer outings in the mountains when you might encounter a sudden rain – or snow – storm, gusting winds on an exposed ridge trail or even just to keep the sun off.  

The material – Polyester has come along way from the disco leisure suits of the 70s. The polyester in this jacket is wind- and water-resistant, reflective, breathable and, thanks to The North Face FlashDry technology, fast wicking. And the colours it comes in are fabulous! I’ve got the moody blue and coral orange one (see photo) and get many compliments on it. My one concern with this jacket is that the material seems quite delicate and I fear that I’ll snag it on a branch. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m clumsy enough that it’s only a matter of time.

The pocket – There is only one so if you like to carry a shopping bag full of accessories with you on every run, you’re going to need to bring your own shopping bag. The small zippered chest pocket can hold a key, credit card, gel or MP3 player. If I’m doing a short run, then I like to travel light so one pocket is all I need. And if it’s a long run day, then I’m carrying a hydration pack with extra storage anyway.

The name – Everything from The North Face Better Than Naked line makes me smile. It’s a great name and it’s true. Off the top of my head, there are only two things I actually like to do naked; everything else I’d rather be doing with clothes on. I’ve never tried naked running, but I can only imagine that it leads to all kinds of unpleasant jiggling and chaffing. No thanks.

The North Face Hyper-Track Guide

I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to hybrids. Perhaps it’s a pessimistic outlook, but I’ve always assumed that getting 2-in-1 means sacrificing twice. Not so with this new shoe from The North Face. The Hyper-Track Guide is designed for both trails and paved surfaces. No sacrifice required.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to try them on a variety of surfaces – paved roads, gravel paths, dirt trails and even in the desert sand – and they performed well on every single one. I was pleasantly surprised, and impressed. (The only time I might be reluctant to wear the Hyper-Tracks is on sharp, rocky terrain as my Morton's neuroma flares up if I don’t have enough metatarsal cushioning.)

As for the fit, I would say they are true to size. The mesh upper is roomy (in a good way), breathable and uber comfortable thanks to the seamless construction. My heel was slipping a bit initially, which is unusual for me, but once I used the special heel locking lacing technique that I learned back in my days working at Peach City Runners, I was good to go.

I don’t like driving to exercise so that means that most of my runs begin and end at home. Fortunately, I live quite close to some excellent trail networks which I can easily reach via a few kilometers of pavement or a pleasant jog along the hard-packed Kettle Valley Rail trail. The Hyper-Track Guide is the perfect, lightweight training shoe for these daily runs.

The North Face Single-Track Hayasa

The North Face Single-Track Hayasa fits like a slipper, but not just any slipper; the kind of slipper that you would throw on if a burglar entered your house in the night and you had to flee in your pajamas because this slipper feels fast and it just wants to go. Plus, it's stylish so if you can't outrun the burglar, then perhaps you can dazzle him (or her - I'm all for equal opportunity criminals) with your flashy footwear.

Weighing in at a mere 412 grams for the pair, this shoe is probably best suited to runners who are lightweight themselves and biomechanically efficient.

I pronate slightly on my right side so I might try this shoe with an insole to provide a bit more guidance. Because my problem is minor, I have been able to get out for three test runs ranging from 45 minutes to two hours without any problems. If my pronation was more severe or I was going out for a longer run, then it may become an issue.

For me, the Single Track is a shoe for special occasions. I wouldn’t waste it on my daily training runs, but come race day, this is the secret weapon I want on my foot. It’s light, fast and responsive – exactly how I want to feel during a race. Or fleeing a bad guy.

Nathan Women's Intensity Race Vest
I talked about it in my Sun Mountain race post, but the Nathan Women's Intensity Race Vest is really worth mentioning again. I've only used it once, but that one time was for a 50k trail race and it was fantastic. No chaffing or excessive bouncing. It's quite lightweight and has numerous options for easy adjustability. The front pockets are perfect for a gel flask and snacks. And, if I am trail running alone, I can put my small air horn in there so it's handy should I encounter a bear or other wild forest beastie that I want to frighten away. I think I will appreciate the 2 litre bladder on my long runs as I've found that 1.5 litres isn't enough for a run over 2 hours or on a hot day.
Here are some product details from the Nathan website:
  • Women-specific shoulder straps and torso length
  • 3-way Propulsion Harness
  • 2 litre Hydration Bladder with a Slideseal™ top closure and bite valve
  • Dual front pockets –– one mesh holster, one zippered
  • Two zippered rear compartments
  • Vertically adjustable sternum strap with tube clip
  • Lightweight, breathable Wall Mesh with soft perimeter binding
  • Feels great against skin and won’t damage technical apparel
  • Weight: 5.5 oz.

Injinji Performance Series Toesocks
I love my Injinji toesocks! I've got 12+ pairs of the Injinji Performance Series toesocks and they are the only socks that I can use for running. With other socks, I get huge, ugly blisters between my toes, but since I've switched to Injinji, I've been blister-free - woo hoo! Hoorah for happy feet! Right now, my favourites are from the CoolMax EcoMade series because they come in a myriad of fun colours and are made with a polyester fiber derived from recycled plastic bottles and postindustrial waste. Very cool.
I like the mini crew size because it sits just above my ankles. I found the micro crew tended to slip down around my heel when I ran, allowing my shoes to rub against my ankles, which was rather annoying and would likely have led to chaffing on a longer run. 
I've read some negative reviews about the toe lengths not fitting well for some people, but this hasn't been an issue for me and I'm one of those freaks with a second toe that is longer than my big toe.
These socks are a bit pricey compared to other technical socks, but I think they're definitely worth it, especially if they save you from blisters.

If you've never run in skirt, I'd definitely recommend trying it. I can be having a fat, blah kind of day, but once I put on my running skirt, I am transformed into a fleet-footed gazelle. : ) The skirts are particularly great in warm weather because they are lightweight and non-clingy. I find many lined running shorts tend to bunch up in the crotch when your thighs are sweaty and then have to be tugged on every few minutes, which is not gazelle-like! This doesn't happen with running skirts. The attached brief is neither too long, too short, too tight or too loose: it's just right and I'm of average height and weight so that's probably true for most people.
My sassy little Ultra Swift skirt has three handy little pockets (one of both sides and at the back), which can hold one gel each. The pockets have a Velcro closure. I would prefer at least one zippered pocket so I could put a key in it and not worry about it bouncing out, but that would probably add a lot to the cost, which is currently quite reasonable. There are a variety of different colours available.

With my wide forefoot, Brooks are really the best shoes for my feet. After years of being faithful to my Brooks Adrenaline ASRs, I decided to give the Cascadia a try. It seems I can't pick up a running magazine or enter a running store these days without the Cascadia being mentioned so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. I've only taken them out for one quick run so can't write a full review yet, but the cushioning is immediately evident. It's like running on pillows. Some people, like my husband, won't like that. He prefers to feel every twig and pebble; not me. Call me a princess, but I like lots of cushioning. I'm a toe runner so the muscles in my feet are always tight and I often get cramping on long runs. (Ever try tip toeing for 3+ hours? I don't recommend it.) I am also a mild-pronator and was aware of the lack of posting on the Cascadia compared to the Adrenaline. My hope is that over time and with more trail, less road, running, I can build up my arches and stabilizing muscles so that I pronate less. We'll see. If not, then I'll be back in the Adrenaline.