MdS Footwear: Trainers for des Sables

The BIG decisions in life:

  • What trainers do I wear?
  • What socks do I wear?

I have spent a lot of time reading forums, blogs, Facebook groups and those strange things called books, trying to figure out what to wear. I’ve also had a good number of chats with real humans- they have been pretty helpful too. What I have below is a summary of what I have discovered so far:

  • Gaiters are a must.
    • I’m going for the silk ones from SandBaggers. There is also good option from Racekit that finishes much lower on the calf, but I only discovered these after ordering the Sandbagger gaiters. Anyway – ordered and received my sandbaggers – very happy.
  • Two layers of socks work well for minimising blisters. The option to remove a layer will also help accommodate any extra swelling that occurs
    • On anything longer than a 20 miler, I get a pinch point between my second and third toe unless using toe socks. It’s not a hotspot/blister; my toes seem to “overlap” after 20 miles a squash the skin on the edge of my second toe. Nice! No such issue with toe socks. For the MdS I’ll be using the thin Injinji base layer socks with a normal “thick” running sock on top for extra blister protection. Likeys have well priced Injinjis,
  • Laces- in sticking to the normal lace up option. Some people mention those elastic ones to get an even pressure across the foot. I have tried them but find that a muddy trail can sometimes pull my trainers off. Might happen in sand? Not sure! Not risking it!
  • Trainers- how long have you got? So far, I have figured the following
    • Asics- love the road shoes. My knees and ankles don’t enjoy 20+miles in their trail shoes.
    • Brooks- cascadia 8 are on the short list
    • Scott – T2 Kinabalu are on the short list
    • Inov8 – need to try them out and figure which of their models is best. Probably the Roclite or Trailroc. Hear stories of them being narrow – I have wide(ish) feet
    • Salomon – Too narrow in the toe box for me
    • Mizuno – 1 bad experience in road shoes and won’t go back
    • Adidas – too tight

So, by my reckoning, it’s down to Scott T2, Brooks Cascadia or Inov8. Or as a back-up plan my Ascis GT-1000 road shoes. I haven’t really narrowed it down that much! Last weekend, with only 5 months to go, I realised I need to start making a few decisions – I jumped in at the deep end ordered a pair of Brooks and have been testing them out this week.

Brooks Cascadia 8

Brooks Cascadias get their first outing

Initial thoughts: I usually run in a Size 11, so have gone with the same in the Brooks. In all honesty I could get away with a 10.5 in the Brooks. But importantly, my feet don’t slip around and they feel like slippers, so no issue there.  In fact, many people recommend going up 0.5-1.5 sizes to allow some room for the inevitable swelling in the desert heat.

In summary they’re comfy, pretty well protected around the toe box, have a sturdy sole/foot plate for the rocky sections and they’re almost as well cushioned as my Asics road shoes.If I get on well with these over the next month or two, these exact shoes will be coming to the desert!

Anyway, lets see how the next 2 months of winter trail running go! Probably not the most accurate conditions to test them in…. but it should give me a good view on fit/hot spots after some high mileage.

Not a particularly exciting post… but hopefully useful to at least one person.


4 thoughts on “MdS Footwear: Trainers for des Sables

  1. Hey Rob, sounds like the prep is going well and you’ve nailed the sock combination, but the bottom line with shoes is…… won’t really know what the correct size/make of footwear is until the first stage of the MdS as the desert can be a game changer. Beware of the innovates which are great on soft muddy ground but don’t forget that theres an awful lot of hard rocky stuff peppered with small stones which will punish your feet if the shoes don’t have decent cushioning. Really enjoying your blog and I hope the stuff I e mailed you helped.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Paul,

      Prep is all going to plan (so far!).

      I’m re-thinking trainers again at the minute. The Brooks Cascadia have caused some black toe nails and blisters after 4 or 5 medium length runs…. Not a great combo! And that’s without sand and heat. My favourites at the minute are my Asics road
      shoes. I’ve done almost 1000miles in the two pairs i’ve worn out. So very tempted to get another pair of those. I just wonder if they are “tough” enough for the race- the last thing I want is my trainers falling apart!

      Aside from trainers, I’m now experimenting with food options! I’m all set on electrolyte: Nuun and High 5.

      Your email has been a great help- i has given me a good starting point. I have been tailoring the details as I find stuff that “works” or “doesn’t work” for me!

      Glad you are enjoying the blog.

      Thanks again for the advice!


      (P.S sorry I didn’t reply to your txt – I killed my phone at the Lakeland50)

  2. How did you go with shoes? I’m doing the mds in 2015. Hokka’s seem popular, as do some salomon. Someone i know that has done it twice wore the Asics 1000. Shoes have to be the most confusing part to buy.
    Any other reccomendations?

    • Hi Mate,

      Shoes – one of the bigger choices but don’t let is worry you – make a choice, stick with it and ignore all the chatter on Facebook and the forums. Once you’re there you won’t even think about it.

      As for what works, don’t buy things because they work for other people. I heard some people raving bout Hokas, I also heard some people raging about them. Same for any other brand really.

      So, as with any other race, stick with something you have done plenty of miles in – tried and tested!! Then go for a fresh pair of them and do a few races to knock them into shape ready for the MdS – it’ll put your mind at rest more than anything.

      I did a few trail ultras and some road races in gt-1000s (my trainer before signing up for the MdS) and found them really comfy, not too heavy, grippy enough on DRY trails (no good for wet obviously, but that’s no worry) and they were cushioned enough for my size (90kg and 6’4″). So I went for a pair of those 0.5 size bigger and did a good 60-80 miles in the last 6-8 weeks to “break them in” (not really needed – but mainly did it to check that I didn’t get any hot spots/blisters and be happy with my choice)

      In the year before the race I tried the following…
      •Brooks cascadia – too narrow for ME and gave ME a blister. Also felt quite heavy.
      • Asics Gel Fuji – my usual trail shoes. Good trainers but not as cushioned as the gt-1000, so opted for the roadies. Grip was fine
      • Mizuno wave (can’t quite remember model) – too narrow in toe box for ME
      • Inov8 Roclite (?) – couldn’t find my size locally to try out
      • Scott Kinabalu – really wanted to try these but couldn’t find a stockist to try them earlier enough.

      In my tent the spit was 50:50 between road and trail shoes. No apparent issues either way. 1 guy in Hokas – he loved them. The guy two tents down hated his though.

      Hope that help. Just shout if you want to know anything else.. I really need to upload my full kit list as I’ve had a few emails on that.


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