The Hoka Highland Fling training week 4: The hunt for the perfect trail shoe

Inov-8 Race Ultra 270

At officially one quarter of the way through my Hoka Highland Fling training plan (click here for last week's blog) the miles are sneaking up and it’s starting to feel real. Last week my training plan stipulated a 35-minute tempo run, an interval session, some strength and conditioning work, six miles at long pace, and a 15-mile run at the weekend.

Get the kit

The training is going well, but last week I was somewhat preoccupied with kit research. When facing an extreme distance challenge, one of the most important aspects of training, and the one which could potentially make the difference between success and DNF come race day, is kit.

The perfect trail shoe

As a city girl I spend the majority of my time running around London and just don’t possess enough adequate gear for training in extreme conditions. The first and probably most important stop on my ultra kit exploration is footwear. As a light-footed runner I favour minimal shoes and happily run around town in Brooks Pure Connect, but I'm not adverse to trying out new things if it means I'm more likely to succeed on race day.

Brooks Cascadia

First up I took some Brooks Cascadia out for a spin. With an 11mm drop, they're a fairly cushioned trail shoe and the opposite end of the spectrum to my road shoes. But they're also an old faithful that I've worn for a number of years, and there's a lot to be said for staying brand loyal when it comes to trainers. With a generous amount of support, Cascadias withstand pretty much anything you throw at them and I've navigated quite a few trails over the years without getting injured. However, since transferring to a more minimal road shoe I am starting to find them a little bit heavy. My search for the perfect trail shoe continues.

Huaka Hoka One One

With 27mm cushioning, 25mm forefoot and just a 2mm drop, the Huaka is unlike anything I've ever worn before, but the word on the street is they're surprisingly comfortable, especially over a long distance. An extremely cushioned shoe that harks back to my Spice Girl platform trainer days, I was surprised how light they are. Admittedly it's hard to tell how they'll cope over long distances until I get the big miles in, but they're very comfortable and at 5"3 I definitely appreciate the extra height! I felt a little bit disconnected from the ground, but the Huaka is still a strong contender.

Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 

After speaking to a few of my trail running friends, I got my hands on some Inov-8 Trailroc 245s. With a 3mm drop they’re ideal for fans of minimal footwear and felt fine skipping around the park. But then I recently ran the Boxhill Fell Race which is quite rocky underfoot and my feet started to hurt. I get the feeling that, 40 miles in to my 53-mile challenge, I might regret wearing minimal footwear, so I switched over to the new Inov-8 Race ultra 270.

A delightfully bright and reassuringly light pair of kicks, I took them for a 15-mile spin last weekend and they felt great. At just 270g, if it weren’t for the hot pink colour you’d hardly notice them. With a 4mm drop they have enough cushioning to protect my soles from rocks without making me feel disconnected from the terrain and a spacious toe box to allow my feet to breathe. Designed specifically with ultra distances in mind, I have high hopes for the 270s so we'll see how they fare as the miles progress.

Next up, I'm looking for the perfect kit to protect me from the elements. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know! Follow my progress here and find me on Twitter @Rhalou.