Friday, 8 December 2017

Spine Kit guidelines part 2 Clothing,( updated Dec 2017)

My original blog on Kit considerations was written after my first Spine Race and has been modified several times. It never was meant to be a "What To Buy To Complete The Spine" Kit list. I have tried not to be biased towards  the kit I use . I know there is better kit out there , but from a personal point of view I feel there is a lot to be said for using kit that you know works for you . The start line is not the place to find out if brand new kit will work or not.
            Every Spine I run modifies my ideas . What I thought was a must have piece of kit one year I may have found did not work the next year.

             This Post Is About  How To Make Informed Kit Choices.

       Kit that works for me may not work for you so I shall start with a bit about me.

      My personal  kit requirements reflect me as an individual :
       As an ultra runner I usually end at the tail of the finishers. This is due partly to  crap training , my age and lack of flexibility . I was not born to be a good runner but I love the feeling.
       I am a very inefficient runner so I generate a vast amount of heat.  The heat production downside is sweating and the need for more food than most others. The  upside is I stay warm and have to wear fewer warm cloths  when on the move.   As soon as I stop my body cools rapidly as I don’t have much body fat.

          In  selecting clothing I will go for sweat wicking garments.  I have to accept that body temp control will always give me issues so I need to be able to shed and add warm layers preferably without stopping and taking my pack off .  Every time you takeoff your pack you will lose time particularly if you have cold fumbling fingers. 
            Spine Race Body temp  regulation is mostly  about ventilation, glove  and head gear  shuffling.

        When the going gets tough as in Spine Tough ( deep snow, energy sapping bogs or slogging my way into a 50 mph headwind ) that's where I preform best . If I was a car I would  probably  be a ageing  Landrover. 

        My Mental Approach.
        I am the sort of trail runner who is hooked on the outside environment . I never run with Headphones , preferring to look out at the terrain and perhaps the competition in front.  Full blooded  Mountain Races are my preferred events . A spectacular view or complex navigation gives me a boost . At night I tend to turn down my head torch so I have a better sense of the hills outside the beam of my torch.  You could say I choose my gear to allow me to run in the elements rather than isolate myself from the elements.


I shall start  from the Head.
          The head can be regarded as the main heat draining  and warming part of your body.
          The head is the most exposed area and is also subjected to the most wind chill as wind speed rises  with increase of  hight from the ground.
          Your feet have water problems rather than wind chill issues.
           If ever you feel too hot or cold then start your kit adjustments with the head.
          Most adjustments to head gear can be done while still moving and without recourse to stopping to remove your pack.

          Jacket Hood and Cap.

        Firstly the hood of your waterproof jacket is fairly crucial. You need to be able to pull the draw string tight to minimise the exposure your face has to wind ,rain,hail snow and freezing conditions..
        Take a good look at the fastening systems , this is where makers try to cut weight by using tiny toggles  and zips which may be difficult to adjust in wet freezing conditions with gloves on.
        You need to practice  hood and Head Torch adjustments while wearing thick gloves before the race .
  Some sort of visor is important to keep rain off your face and more importantly away from your neck. Most built in jacket visors are a bit of a compromise. (they may also obscure your head torch).

       The Hood of a jacket although it gives good weatherproof protection does have some disadvantages:
                          Hoods tend to be noisy making conversation harder in windy conditions.
                          Hoods restrict vision closing down your view of the outside world and heightening your separation from the outside conditions. ( depending on your temperament this can be a good or bad thing. For some  when everything is feeling shitty then isolating yourself from  outside reality can be a comfort . For others then looking outwards can lift your spirits . I am usually  in the second category and rarely feel the ned to batten down the mental and physical hatches.) 
                           The other issue with hoods is that vision can be obscured when you turn your head. (Not always a major issue but during a 6 hour session this can start to really bug you.)

              If you are in the outward looking camp then it's worth trying a high protection insulated waterproof cap with ear and neck protection.  I have used the Sealskins Waterproof Thermal Cap for three Spines and appreciated the feeling of freedom it gave me .  In 2016 I did not pack  The Cap  and spent much of the race feeling claustrophobic and annoyed when ever I need the extra protection of my jacket hood. 
               When things get really tough then the Sealskin Cap can be used under the hood .


       You will need several. Each has a different function .
       Hats  can be used in combination to stabilise the temperature of your head.
       Your head is the most exposed part of your body .
       If there is any wind then it,s speed will be strongest acting on your head rather than lower on your body. Wind chill will have it,s most aggressive effect on your head.

       If you can keep your head warm (Not Hot!) and dry then the rest of your body will have a better chance of keeping at the correct temperature. Conversely a chilled head will go a long way to negate any steps you make to keep the rest of your body warm.
       Your hat selection for each leg of the race ,( In this case I define a leg as the periods between access to your drop bag) will depend on the weather forecast and how long it will take for you to reach the next CP. In my drop bag I have :
        1-- waterproof hat
        2 --wind proof hat (thick)
        3 --windproof Bennie (thin)
        4-- highly breathable warm hat
        5-- really thick warm hat.
        6 --selection of at least 3 Buffs two of which should be winter Mariano wool based.
        7-- thin Balaclava.
Ok I know that,s a hell of a lot of hats.
           Gram For Gram  Hats  weigh very little and take up little space in your drop bag or pack.
           All the warm hats need to still work when wet so some wool content is desirable .
            Primaloft type hats will also work when wet but not if they are saturated and plastered flat to your head.
        You need to test the hats in combination.  For example can you fit your waterproof hat over your thick thermal hat?
        Next question : will the hat stay on in severe wind? As any of the class of 2015 will tell you it can get really windy. To properly simulate this try sticking your head out of the window of a car moving at 70mph!
       It may well be worth taking the time to modify the hat by stitching on a chin strap.
       With all your kit you will want to dry it off at the checkpoints. The drying rooms (if they exist at all will be strewn with random gear as each subsequent runner entering the room shifts other peoples gear in order to get there own gear dry. This is also why your gear should have a visible prominent tag so you can locate it in the drying room mayhem.
      Probably the most versatile hat is the Buff. The buff can also be used to lash other hats down  to your head and protect your face from hail. (The thin Balaclava will work well in Hail and Blizzards)

       I mentioned it before but back in 2013 I wore 7 layers on my head while tackling the Cheviot ridge in the Blizzard!
       If you do get in a situation where you have to Bivvi out then you will need a spare  warm dry hat to sleep in.

                           Waterproof Jacket.

This is the one garment it,s worth spending extra cash on.
Current trends in running design appear to be driven by the marketing departments discovering that if you make a jacket really light then the punters will pay huge amounts extra.  This has lead the makers to compromise many of the features in order to keep the jacket light! SALES SALES SALES!

Ok all you ultra runners I know one of the first features you compare is weight but think about it : as soon as it rains the jacket will probably double in weight anyway. 
    Your priorities on the Spine should be :
           1 Waterproofness in prolonged severe driving rain.
           2 Toughness when exposed to barbed wire and thorns.
           3 Breath ablity/ventilation
           4 Ease of use with frozen fingers (Big tags on the Zips and hood and functional  cuff adjusters.)
           5 Roomy waterproof pockets that are not obstructed by your pack front straps.
           6 A good system to keep the 4 holes sealed (Cuffs,neck Waist)
           7 lightness.

           Issues with 1 to 6 can cause a DNF  number 7 won,t!

           1 and 3 are part of the same . A waterproof jacket is no dam good if you are drenched in sweat. A damp body is a cold body. Overall breath ability will be compromised by 100% humidity in the air which we tend to associate with hot weather . During the spine you should expect 100% humidity from air saturated by low cloud or fog. If this happens then good ventilation is more effective than breath ability.  
        The standard jacket ventilation comes from the front zip . Avoid Smocks, they  are chosen for lightness but you need that front zip.    One problem that you will encounter is that the pack chest and waist straps will make adjusting the zip hard . The problem can be eased by having a two ended zip which can be adjusted from either end . Another good feature are under arm zips end vented shoulder panels.
        Whatever zip system you use you need chunky zip toggles as you will have to operate the zips with thick gloves or mitts on. This requirement alone probably rules out the expensive ultra light waterproof jackets.
        Another feature to look out for are zippered chest pockets . These are desirable for storing items that get changed often. I like to keep my different gloves ( Waterproof shell, thin windproof and thicker insulated gloves) in different pockets so I can make rapid changes without disturbing my front pouch which is more exposed to the elements. A jacket chest pocket also keeps a glove warmer .

                      Second windproof only shell layer.

I like to carry a second shell layer. This one should be windproof but more highly breathable so it can be used in cold dry conditions or as a second shell layer in severe conditions. Pertex is a good material ( mine is a montane jetstreem which packs away so small it can be easily carried) I do have a Montane Vapour rise jacket which I find  excellent. The Vapour rise also has another 2 chest pockets which I use for my various non waterproof thermal and liner gloves.
 Many runner use primaloft type puffer jackets if they don,t have high heat generating bodies.

                   The Paramo Alternative.
        Paramo type shell layers can be particularly effective and are highly breathable . The down side is that they can wet out in torrential rain and they are usually heavy and bulky.
         A heavy bulky outer shell layer is only a real problem if you run without wearing the garment.
         Stuffing it inside a pack is difficult and outside storage can upset pack balance.
         Some runners swear by Paramo but I prefer the Gortex Pro Shell option.

               Thermal Layers.

         I  carry a selection of fleeces including a power stretch fleece which is also partly windproof. 
         In normal circumstances I generate large amounts of heat whilst running . I also use Mariano wool thermal mid layers.
         One way or another at some point your mid layers will get damp either from driving drizzle,rain ,fog or perspiration. You need mid layers that work when damp.
         At some point during the race you will need a full spec down or synthetic insulated jacket. The problem with this garment is  pack volume  . I never wear  my Alpkit down jacket while on the move generating sweat but it is a must have item if you are forced to camp or bivi out . I have also used this during short halts in freezing huts such as the two rescue huts on the Cheviots,

                         Base Layers.

         I carry a selection of Tec T shirts ( Long and short sleeve). 
         My decently discovered (2016 Spine )  must have garment: 
       BRYNJE thermal  string vestThis garment has transformed my spine kit
        The string vest  is sold as a boost to insulation values .
        Brynje string garments have a remarkable ability to  reduce sweat build up . This Garment will upgrade all your technical wicking layers.
         At Spine pace my whole top half stays drier . This has the added bonus of reducing my need to change  damp T Shirts at rest stops.
         Less spare T Shirts means more room in my drop bag for other `Kit.
         One area that can get soaked in prolonged wind and rain is the forearm (between wrist and elbow) This is due to a leaky glove/sleeve joint . 
           The use of a half arm length T Shirts  keeps the main body of the shirt dry . The rest of the forearm can be insulated by marino wool arm warmers.
           Hopefully your training runs have exposed issues such as Pack waist belts causing shirts to ride up your body . If your shirt rides up you will have a cold area and may suffer chaffing on your lower back.
            Having garments with long shirt tails can help .
            Every year I also stick two vertical strips  of Kinisio Tape  between the top of my buttocks upwards for 30cm  to reduce waist belt chaff.
            It's not just your crotch area and toes that get chaffing issues 

                  Under ware.

         I tend to use running shorts with a built in wicking liner. On no account use Cotton Pants!


           Again take a pair that stay warm when wet. 

             Wear 3/4 length tights  , not full length.

           It,s not obvious to a Spine Novice  but your lower legs will probably get wet 
           If you have soaked lower legs and  are forced to  bivi you will have to remove your wet  lower leg cover to keep your sleeping  bag dry.
.           3/4 length tights allow you to only remove your socks before getting into your bag (you will also  be warmer sleeping in your Capri tights)..
            At the CP's you  can  make a faster turnaround  by only having to remove socks ,to restart dry.
            If you choose full length you will need several spare  pairs in your drop bag (Socks take up far less room and tights may not dry in time.)
            It is very rare that you use leggings without a waterproof shell .  In sub zero conditions you need the extra shell for warmth . In above zero conditions even if running on slabs you will be flicking water up the back of your legs , soaking your lower leg .


              Having cold hands will ruin your race prospects. Every action will be harder if your manual dexterity is impaired.

            Gloves  need to cope with several possibilities: 1 Torrential continuous rain
                                                                                         2 Severe cold and wind Chill
                                                                                         3Warm moist conditions (sweat from running)
                                                                                         4 Cold but no wind.
              One or even two different pairs won,t do everything.
              Try the following: 1 waterproof gortex overmitt (  Mitts have less surface area than gloves so stay warmer for a given weight)
                                            2 lightweight marino liner.
                                            3 Heavy weight fleece/polertec glove.
                                            4 Lightweight convertible windproof  running glove( with a pertex flap)
               Think of them as a hand warmth regulating system and use them in different combinations. The waterproof over glove or mitt must be large enough to fit the thicker insulation glove inside.
                Put spares in your drop bag.
               The weakest link in waterproof gloves is the wrist seal. It has to be good . Practise pulling the cuff strap tight and overlapping it with cuff strap of your waterproof jacket .
. I have had some success with Duck Taping my Cuff /wrist area (it looks really stupid but is way better than a waterproof glove full of water.) Plain rain is normally not an issue but gale force winds with rain will really test that cuff joint.
                By the time you near the end of the race you will have the mentality and memory of a  Toddler. 
               To guard against dropping and loosing your over glove/mitt have them tied together with a long string running up one arm and down the other . This will prevent Toddlers and Spine racers from loosing gloves . It also speeds up any operation that requires the removal of your gloves .

               Stephen Brown who gave me this tip summed up how effective this works , and I quote him:
              " If you take two identical runners training for the Spine . One trains to run  faster on  average 1min per mile  . The second runner trains to change his gloves and get gear out faster whenever he pauses on the trail.--------- The  faster gear change trained runner  will win the Race!"
                Not all gloves come with hanging loops .
                Sew string loops to all your gloves so you can clip them to your carabiner.

                It is  very common for runners to loose one or more glove then have to beg or borrow spares from DNF ing runners at CP's. -------------Carry spares in your drop bag!


           If you can keep your feet warm your hands will stay warmer.

           Marino blend again.  (Pete Bland Sports sell 5 packs of Marino Blend Socks at a bargain price)You ideally need a massive supply. Some need to be long socks if you go for the 3/4 tights, socks  combo.
            I always run with two pairs of socks . This is the best defence against blisters. I have tried 1000mile socks and destroyed them running in long wet Ultra,s
            The Injini type toe socks are also brilliant at preventing blisters (But they are expensive)
            If you can carry enough pairs then change to fresh socks between Checkpoints and inspect your feet at the same time.
 Foot Care Products. 
           Several on the market which claim to make your feet more waterproof. Vaseline or my favourite  Burts beeswax hand balm. 
           The idea is to reduce the friction between your toes and reduce the skin wrinkling effect which is a prelude to Trench Foot.
           As soon as you stop at checkpoints . clean ,dry and talk your feet. (as the race progresses your immune system becomes weaker and athlete's foot can be an issue so use medicated talk.)  

   Waterproof Socks.
           You will need these but they may not work in all conditions. If we have a wet Spine Race then most will leak! Two runners with the same socks side by side will have different experiences.
            Having said that before you buy any waterproof socks turn them inside out to check if there are any seams that could cause blistering after 20 hrs of wet tramping.
            Don,t make the mistake I did in 2015 and assume that the socks that worked well for in the previous Spine will still be waterproof the next year.You should look on waterproof socks as disposable gear.
             I have tested all my waterproof socks that I used on the 2015 Spine and none of them are still waterproof! ( I washed them according to the instructions but I suspect that unlike shoes which should last 500 miles , waterproof socks only last 100 Spine  miles).
           No matter what the brand ,none were designed for 268 wet fast miles.
           Most waterproof socks have a waterproof layer sandwiched between outer protective layers. The thinner the sock,  the less the protection the waterproof layer has. Thinner socks don,t stay waterproof for long.
             Unfortunately thicker socks need larger shoes. Whatever brand you use always wear a liner sock. 
              Waterproof socks without a liner  will rip your feet apart ! 
               Avoid Short waterproof socks they  fill with water from the top .( you should plan to step in water about 30cm deep at some point.)

          Runners are reluctant to spend cash on spare  waterproof socks .( Shoes are more sexy!)
          I would recommend having a min of 3 pairs of mid length  waterproof  socks available.
          If you don't need them all in 2018 you can use them in 2019 when you will also have to  admit you are a Spine Addict.

            Trainers with thick quality wool socks .

              Some runners go for this option and live with having damp but warm feet.
              This can work but if you do actually splash through water the insulation will not be as effective. (if you suffer from poor circulation I would advise against this option.
               Your feet will stay damp so for slower runners your feet have longer to develop problems such as trench foot.


   Which Bring Me To Waterproof Trousers.

            Most Spine runners wear breathable  waterproof trousers for the whole course .
            The main reason for this is that you cannot predict when your legs are due for the next soaking . It could be only 200mtrs down the trail after you had just peeled off your waterproofing.
 You can live with good breathing waterproof trousers on dry trails but not with no waterproofing on wet trails .
  Frequently Changing trousers will lose you a lot of time 
            During the rare periods that it is dry enough with no wind then plain wind proof tights can work but ideal  conditions won't last long.
            A material such as Kamaliki  which is quiet in high winds is a bonus.

          Your Over trousers will take a real hammering. Falls on sharp rocks, Snagging on barbed wire . Being poked by running poles  Hauled over traction aid clad Boots and general abuse by the wearer.
          Somehow we never  really look after our over trousers  the way we look after our jackets.
          We also tend to think light weight ones will do the job.
          Waterproof over trousers must be tough. 
          Don,t try getting away with a £10 discount special!
          The features you need are ----Rip Stop Breathable Material.
                                              ----Adjustable  waist chord (Not elastic only)
                                             -----Zippered  lower leg holes ( so you can pull them over your Shoes)

        Press studded lower leg fastenings should be avoided.  There are three  reasons for this: Firstly they can be blown open by wind and ice build up, Secondly they won,t work encased in mud and lastly you need a waterproof tube right down to your Ankle.
       If you have waterproof socks ,tight gaiters and zippered waterproofed trousers it is sometimes possible to wade through deep water and keep your feet dry even if the water is  well above your sock level. The water pressure will press your trousers tight to your calves forming a near watertight seal.  You have to move fast but believe me this can work.
       A good waist chord is necessary as high winds can force air into your trousers causing your ass to inflate and  pulling  down the waist band  exposing  your now bare mid riff  to the elements! (This is not a good look and a good way to get chilled really fast.)
      Some over trousers  have a toggle  pull chord at the ankle.  This will work fine until you hit wet snow. Any string /chord or fibre that can wet out will attract snow build up "snow balling" My new OMM trousers had this feature in 2016 Large balls of snow kept building up on the toggles and thwacking my shoes as I walked . The situation got so bad I had to cut the chords off.

       The final issue with waterproof trousers is sagging . You need a proper tie chord . (elastic can be a nightmare).
       Some Spine Runners prefer Salopettes . The down side is the braces make top  body layer changes slower.


     I won't tell you what to buy but I can give some advise.
      Most of us should know which shoe won,t give us blisters. This is a good starting point. 
      The next thing is grip. Although the course is muddy much of the time you will be moving on flagstones or rocky paths. 
       Given a choice you will want to avoid taking a fall on rock rather than soft forgiving mud.  So you need fairly aggressive lugs on your shoes but ones that work really well on icy rock.
         Poor grip on rock will slow you up considerably. 
         A fall on rock can cause a DNF.

       Next point Cushioning. Most fell shoes are fine for feeling the ground but 20 hrs a day for several days will cause bruising unless you have well cushioned shoes . 
      The amount of foot bruising changes depending on trail conditions .

       I can only give advise on the several brands I use.

       Inovate: The Rocklight soles work best
       Salomon : The Contagrip soles are great.
       Hoka : Vibram grip good but lugs not aggressive  enough for wet mud.
       Scott : good all round but difficult to put on.

       Perhaps your most difficult Choice is Shoe Size And how many pairs.

       Ultra runners know their feet swell and may grudgingly use one half a size larger than normal.
However two pairs of socks under thick waterproof socks will put your shoe size up by possibly one size before you even start.
       Running for 5+ days will make your feet swell larger than has ever happened to you before. The result can be seen at the latter CP,s where runners may have to ditch their waterproof socks as their feet just won,t fit in the shoe any more. 
      Blogs from race leaders don't emphasise the swelling problem as they only race for a mere 5 days .     The swelling accelerates for any extra days out on the trail.
        I know it,s a real pain but consider having three sizes of shoe.  I normally run in size 11UK but will start The Spine in size 11.5UK. Mid way I use Size 12UK and may resort to Size 12.5 UK at CP5!!
       Rather than having multiple pairs in your drop bag you could use extra large size shoes and pack them out with extra insoles for the early stages. The tail end runners will have more severe foot swelling problems.
      Some types of shoe have wide openings and this feature can be a godsend when trying to force  swollen feet in and out of shoes . 
      The combined shoe/gaiter hybrid snow running shoes can be particularly tight .

Don,t forget your comfy normal post race shoes probably will be as tight as hell for at least a day after the finish of the race.

       You won,t read much about foot swelling in the 2015 race reports as the race was halted several times . Racers had extra hours of sleeping horizontally allowing the swelling to reduce.

          Short waterproof running shoes will fill with water and not drain. They will only work if the ground remains frozen for the whole race. A highly unlikely prospect

The Best Shoes For The Spine .

There is always a massive amount written on forums about which shoes are best but the bottom line is that none are !
 There are several  fundamental reasons for this : Firstly trail conditions can change from year to year.
                                                                               Secondly trail conditions change from mile to mile
                                                                               Thirdly trail requirements change depending on gradient.
                                                                                Fourthly some shoes just won,t work for your feet.
         To take a good choice shoe that,s probably the most commonly used on the Spine.

       Solomon Speedcross .  This shoe is a good all rounder.
      Good traction in mud , medium cushioning, sheds crud easily, drains water easily, fast to lace up ,medium weight, aggressive grip ,easy to ease off laces when pulling shoe over swollen feet.
           It,s not surprising it,s so popular . but it has some  drawbacks: It ,s grip on wet slippery  rock is not that good.
            Solomon quickdraw laces can  and often do break  in Spine conditions.
           The practical implications of this are that if you do slip and take a fall it will probably be on hard unforgiving rock.
            Looking at the course in more detail there is a way to improve things ,some sections of the course are more suitable for the Speedcross than others . The start to CP2 is where you find the steepest muddy downhill  slopes so for Spine Challengers then I really rate the Speedcross. Further up the course many of the steep down hill sections are rock so you may want to consider changing to a more rock friendly shoe from CP2 on (You may want to swap to something like SOLOMON XT WINGS. This would be a good combination as the XT Wings have more cushioning for the later stages when your feet are feeling bashed about. Changing shoes also gives you the chance to go up a size as your feet swell.

          Scott Kinabalu   Another good all rounder with  deep aggressive lugs    Having used them  extensively on Dartmoor in rock and mud I would rate them better than the Speedcross if they suit your feet. One issue I do have with the SCOTTs is that the laces are difficult to ease over your forefoot so trying to pull them on over a swollen battered foot could become a major issue towards the later stages of the race when your feet swell.


     Having said that you may do very little running on the spine you may go for the Boots option in order to keep your feet dry.
     If the Pennine Way had no water more than 5 cm deep they would be a no brainer.
     You have a choice of to forms :1 Full on walking boots .
                                                       2 Hybrid running boots (usually with soft Gortex waterproof uppers.
      For the first day of the race up to CP1 you will be under intense mental pressure to do some running so the Hybrid boot would be a better choice.
      Any boot you choose needs to be fully waterproof and go quite a long way up your leg to keep the water out in deep puddles . Close fitting gaiters are a must to keep the water out. 
      I have tried Solomon Sky Wings which are a running boot . They kept my feet dry on one of the wettest spine years as far as CP1. I ditched them at CP1 only because they bruised the top of one ankle 
      I have also used the Hoka Grand Tor GTX boot which is Gortex lined . This could be a more comfortable option and quite light weight , but the boot is not very high and the Spine will have probably destroyed the boot by the time you reach the finish line.
       The main drawback of any boot is flooding in deep water.
        Gortex boots can gradually dryout  after flooding but it takes time even in a CP  Drying room.
        The other issue is that  larger spare Boots in your drop bag will be bulky and heavy.

   Using Hoka,s on the Spine. 

 First of all I should say I like to  use Hokas. Speedgoat For Spine Conditions 
       Hokas do  help reduce shock and fatigue on long ultras.
       Motoring along the flagstones of the PW they brilliant.
       Hokas are wider than most shoes so running light footed over the thin ice crust of partly frozen bog without breaking through will be a real bonus .
       Hokas are well padded so will probably reduce the bruising that 268 miles does to your feet.
       Hokas I suspect give you better thermal insulation through the thick sole  than normal shoes.
       Hokas resist being sucked of your feet in sticky mud.
       Hoka Speedgoats drain well and stay light when wet.

      Now for the possible down side

        It,s the width and your slightly increased height above the ground that can give you trouble on frozen ground.
        This is the frozen mud scenario. If your foot hits a ridge of frozen mud and only the very edge of of your shoe makes contact then the extra width of the Hoka will exert far more twisting moment on your foot. (much of the time during the spine you run by instinct and the feel of your footfall. This is unlike a race such as the UTMB where you can see well enough to plant your foot fall. )
        If you hit a patch of frozen mud covered by thin snow then you need the narrowest shoe possible.
       This is why Fell Runners who don,t have time to watch their feet use narrow shoes.
       The other problem is running along contours  where every step twists one ankle out and the other in . (with a narrow shoe you can edge step if the ground allows.
        Wide shoes can also be a problem on frozen large boulders that are covered in ice . Here I am thinking especially about the 2Km of trail leading to and including Cauldron Snout. The boulders in this area are doused by the mist from the falls and can build up thick layers of Ice
        Down hill rocky /rutted ice covered fast tracks can also cause you to turn an ankle. The track down from Gregs Hut can be particularly difficult and it goes on for miles!

           I know of several runners who have badly twisted ankles wearing Hoka's on really rough ground.     Hoka's will always be a risk but if you have strong ankles I would recommend them.
           I think we are now up to Speedgoat version 3 and the literature is vague but the length of the studs may have been improved .

        Update for 2017

I used my Speedgoats in 2016  Spine Race and loved them ! The grip on rock was superb. However the grip on mud was let down by the fact that at the start of the race the lugs were only 5mm deep. By the time I got to the finish line I had lost another 2mm off the lugs. This may be partly due to the hours wearing my Yak tracks . The uppers also ended up with holes and the laces broke twice. 
       The last two issues were probably not a fault of the shoe , but the abuse the uppers got from my attempts to remove  ice ball build up on the laces  by stamping with the other Yak Track armed foot!
in wet conditions Hoka Speed goats do not retain  so much  weight of water than other shoes I have tried.
        I shall use Speedgoats again.

         CP SHOES 
         Crocks are the obvious choice . Buy an extra large pair . You need to be able to slip them off and on easily.  They are also incredibly light.

           Clothing And The Reality Of Spine Competing

   You need to think of your clothing layers as an integrated system .
   No one item will ever be ideal for  specific condition but by shuffling the layers you should be able to come close .

    Take considerable care thinking about the 3 damp prone zones :   Head and Neck
                                                                                                             Hands and Forearms 
                                                                                                             Feet and Calves

      If possible avoid bridging between these zones and the Drier core of your body with non waterproof layers .
      By using 3/4 length tights your primary lower body garment keeps Dry. (The socks get wet).
      The same can be true with thermal tops . If it stays cold and dry then use the thumb loops but in damp , rainy conditions roll the sleeves back.
      Most peoples head gear is already separated  . Hoody's are either Primaloft types for dry conditions or waterproof shell layers.
      Gloves are and always will be a problem area . They may keep water out but the wrists cause problems .  One way around this is to have an integrated glove sleeve (Gauntlet type ) . 
      How you carry your arms while running or walking matters . Some people holds hands high so water drains from glove to forearm. Others run with low arms so water drains towards the gloves .
    Think about your running style (Ask someone to watch you run )  . If your glove is lower than your elbow  then tuck your glove under your jacket cuff. 
     If you run with high hands then perhaps your glove sleeve should be over your jacket cuff.
     One piece of gear I like is the Mountain Minimus Mitt. It has a long gauntlet type cuff. Unfortunately  for Spine Pole users  you may find that wear from the pole handles can compromise the Minimus fabric resistance to water. 
     During my first spine I actually had badly bruised hands from pole work in snow  by the time I reached the finish line .

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