Tuesday 3 January 2012

Footwear for marathon des sables

I can't really write anything about running routes for this post as I've been well and truly lazy over the festive period and have run an outstanding one mile (in sand mind you) in the past two weeks. My justification for this is to rest my niggly injuries - left hip and left knee, and to start again fresh in 2012.

So here we are. No more excuses. Except I need to buy the footwear I am going to use in the marathon des sables pretty quickly to make sure I wear them in in time. There are only three months to go!

A quick google revealed these shoes to be the shoes of choice for the desert race:-

Roclite 295 - for runners who like more lightweight shoes. Lots of flexibility though I would worry it doesn't give enough cushioning over miles and miles of stony ground. Here's a good review from irunfar

Roclite 315 - trail shoes with more stability. A review from Runner's World and another blogger - seems a bit varied - some like this shoe, some thing it's a bit clunky. Seems the heel is rather low which may or not be a good thing.

Roclite 319 - trail shoes with high stability. These are highly recommended by Likeys - an amazing store for all things desert (likeys also has a really useful kit list with their recommendations as well). Here's a blog review. Seems to be pretty good though I'm a bit worried it's a bit of a heavy shoe.

Here's some other advice from inov-8 about footwear too with some further info on gaiters.

New Balance M1100OR - the official MDS shoe. Ugly and I can't really find many reviews which rate this shoe either.

Brooks Cascadia - Scott Jurek swears by these shoes (though he does also get sponsored by Brooks so...). Look nice though! Anoter good review from irunfar who rates them highly

UK Gear PT03 Desert - looks a little chunky to me though what do I know. Here's a forum thread. Seems to viewed favourably.

UK Gear PT1000 NC - Another Likeys recommendation. Look nice too though mental note to self - it's not about fashion, it's not about fashion!! This shoe is supposed to last 1000 miles. I'd be happy with 150.

Montrail Mountain Masochist - Recommended by irunfar. Looks cool. Review here suggests maybe better for dry trails. Good for over pronators too.

Overall it looks like things to consider are:-
Whether you are wearing gaiters or want them already sown into the shoe (and most things I have read suggest separate gaiters are superior)
Weight/cushioning - weighing up (ho ho) between having a lighterweight shoe or protecting your feet from the rocky ground. Personally I'm used to a pretty bog standard shoe with some but minimal cushioning so am contemplating this one at the moment.
Width - seems that a wide shoe is preferable given your feet swell considerably.
Road or trail shoes - the majority of posts seem to say trail is best, though there is a huge difference between trail runs in wet muddy conditions and in the desert, though I do agree that trail is best here.
Height - low versus high back. Some people like high backs, some low. I would suggest check your current trainers and go with that height if it is going okay for you already.
Size - at least 1 size bigger than your normal shoe size, maybe 2. I reckon I'm going to go for 1.5!

Finally here are some great forum resources for other footwear for marathon des sables discussions.

MDS Forum - Footwear
Runner's World

And for me?
I'm going to try out the Brooks Cascadia as I run in Brooks, but also the inov-8 315 and UK Gear 1000PT or Desert if I can find them anywhere to try on.

Next? Gaiters and bag. Watch this space! My bank manager is going to love me.


  1. Hi Kate, great blog!
    Just wanted to pass on to you a special discount for MDS competitors! Hope you don't mind! We stock many of the shoes you mention. Just type 15MDS into the discount code box during checkout at www.racingtheplanet.co.uk/store
    Cheers and happy training!

  2. Thanks RacingThePlanet! I will take a look

  3. Hi Kate,
    Great blog. I'll read more when I get back to Riyadh. I'm an MdS virgin too, and pretty new to distance running.

    I've got the roclite 315s and they're a good balance for padding and low weight. They were quite easy to glue the velcro to as well, check out my blog article on that at: www.mdsnewbies.blogspot.com

    Best of luck,


    1. Hi Ian
      Yes I thought about those too but went for Brooks Cascasdia in the end. I'll take a look at your blog too! Hope your training is going well!

  4. Hi again Kate,
    Just been buying the final kit for MDS 2013 and I see you mentioned some issues with regard to shoes that are 'holey'. I decided that I was going to run in my normal road shoe of choice...Saucony Triumph 9. They are comfy, light with plenty of room in the toe box. I am now having 2nd thoughts when you mentioned about the possibility of sand getting in. Looking at the 'mesh' structure of the shoe http://cdn.runningshoesguru.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Saucony-PowerGrid-Triumph-9-Medial-View.jpg it does seem quite 'holey'. I have ordered the Sandbaggers gaiters and am sending the shoe away to be glued/stitched directly onto the shoe (i.e no velcro)...I am hoping this is enough to stop sand getting in...basically as long as the fitting is done correctly it should not let any sand in....any thoughts on this type of shoe?
    Keep up the excellent posts.

    1. Hi Colin
      Yep that was my better half - he had ino8 285 - super lightweight but really holey. We hadn't sewn our gaiters on when we trialed them. However my sandbagger/brookes cascadia combo let nowt in, whereas his raidlight/ino8s did. We swapped gaiters to see if it was that and again, I had no sand in, and his did. So he got some new trainers. They would have been marginally better once sewn, but still a bit risky. However your trainers look fine to me. I think it just seems to be the super lightweight trainers with no real cover on the top that tend to let stuff in. Anyway, I think you'll be fine - have you got anywhere you can wade through some sand before you go to double check?

  5. So here we are. No more reasons. But I have to purchase the footwear I am going to use in the marathon des sables before long to ensure I wear them in time. There are just three months to go!

  6. Hi there Kate,
    What a "blog"! This is without a doubt the fine blog for MDS.
    My name is Andy Ibbott. I am a stroke survivor. I have "lost" my right side. Well, 60% leg, 20% arm and 80% voice has slowly came back.
    I was running to completed in the 2012 race. But, I had this Stroke. What was to be an hour to a hour and half turn in to a 10 hour op. I went in fit.....
    7 month is hospital.... blah, blah ,blah.
    That was in 2011. Now I will "run" in the 2017 race! I can not run but walking...
    So.... Several things I need to ask...
    1) What was the Spock cover you got of the iphone. I have the iPhone 5.
    2) I am walk 10 miles per day and more (18 to 22 miles) at the weekend. Did you wear zero socks until is was time to "race"?
    Questions, questions, questions.....
    Andy Ibbott

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