Strengths: These are excellent shoes favoured by fell runners. They grip on anything and if you wear them you don't need to worry about spikes. They are very light and good for racing. I bought mine from Pete Bland Sports (the inventor). You can send them back for resoling.
Weaknesses: There is no support so I find about 10 miles as far as I want to run in them as I usually use supportive shoes.
Overall: Every cross country runner should treat themselves to a pair.
Strengths: These are nice looking and following modification comfy, reasonably light weight supportive shoes
Weaknesses: I have two pairs fitted by Addidas and had very serious blister problems. The insole eventually had to be changed. This is apparently a common problem for flat footed runners. Also, the grips have worn quite badly.
Overall: I am used to New Balance where I haven't had these problems despite high mileage. I would recommend these shoes but suggest you also look at the NB offering. These are expensive.
Strengths: There is good cushoning underfoot so it feels quite plush
Weaknesses: It's giving me significant problems towards the front of the instep where my foot is rubbing on the edge of the innersole.
Overall: Probably a very competent shoe. Identical to the 858 but for more garish colours (whatever they say about modifications). I've just increased the size by .5 and maybe the looser fit is what's causing me the discomfort. I have been very pleased with 854/ 855/ 856/ 857 in past, so probably the niggle is mine.
Strengths: There's more data than you know what to do with easily downloaded to your computer and then puty onto graphs.
Weaknesses: There's a lot of instructions which you really need to read to get the most out of the product. Also the GPS can take a long time to log-on and you have to be standing still for this to happen. Also the wrist unit is quite bulky.
[Update 26/11/07] The rubbish transfer points quickly corrode so that you have problems even getting the unit to charge.
The software you upload to is rubbish and goodness knows how you get it to save your notes.
Often the unit just gives up on mileage recording or guestimates which is particularly annoying on a long run or in a race.
Because I bought it on Ebay, Garmin hold that this voids any warranty that they have to offer.
Overall: I have recommended this to friends and people from my club. It is good looking and a useful tool. The HRM strap is fairly comfortable and when properly adjusted, stays reasonably still. I haven't used the majority of the features but have it set up for what I need. Recommend buying off Ebay where you will pick up new for £170 incl postage.
[Update 26/11/07] Decathlon do something equivalent for only £70. Save your cash...
Strengths: I loved this book and promptly went and bought a pair of Walsh PBs. I have even lent it to non running friends and they love it too...
Weaknesses: Not many
Overall: I really enjoyed this - an introduction to fell running for morrtals. I have taken up cross country since and now this is my run of choice. It's also nice to recognise people's names in the sporting press and to put them in a context.
I read an extract in the Telegraph and was immediately hooked and onto Amazon to buy my own copy.
Strengths: The bulky watch is easy to read and fairly instinctive to use.
Weaknesses: Maybe it's just me, but it is hard to comfortably fit the chest strap. When you get it to stop slipping around (particularly under hard effort), it bounces and so gives ridiculously high readings or simply wont get a signal. To get an accurate reading you have to physically hold it in place. This is annoying and means that I don't wear it as much as I otherwise would.
Overall: The few times that I get everything set up properly show me that HRMs are useful training tools and do add something to your training and racing - It is good to be able to run at a decided level of exertion meaning that you can better judge your effort. Unfortunately, I've never got the hang of the alarms for training zones and with the bouncing problem do not get as much as I would like from this.
Strengths: I have two pairs and find them at least as good as the 854. The new upper vents much better and they feel comfy.
Weaknesses: The hard rubber used on the bottom can be a bit slippery on damp surfaces. Perhaps this will improve as it becomes more scuffed up.
Overall: I got the shoes for £40 a pair from Athletesfoot.com and would say at this price they're a bargain. New Balance are very good for people with flat feet as whatever arch support there is does not seem to cause blisters associated with other brands, particulalry Asics.