The colour of Ruby Muir

She’s the current darling of the Kiwi trail scene, rubberstamping her place as one of the trail community’s Talented Ones with a win in the Tarawera Ultra earlier in the year. But Ruby Muir’s path to singletrack stardom has not been one of convention.  STORY EXCERPT BELOW & VIDEO: Derek Morrison.

As we trot around the trails of her backyard training ground, the Kiwi star of endurance trail reveals her secret for speedwork: a sparring partner with horns.

“I dived head first over the fence and he slammed into the barbed wire … the whole fence shook. Yes, I saw my life flash before my eyes,” says Ruby Muir recalling the moment when she learned that she could only just outrun the bull that had taken up residence across the road.

I’ve made my way to visit 22 year-old Ruby at her home on an orchard in Eskdale, near Napier in New Zealand’s North Island. The rental she shares with partner Kristian Day – also a competitive trail runner – is a cosy weatherboard cottage with a pile of almost worn-out trail shoes on the porch, a sure sign that I have arrived at the right door. Across the road is Eskdale Mountain Bike Park – a myriad of trails well-buffed by the soles of Ruby’s feet.

A quietly spoken, almost reticent athlete, Ruby has been turning heads since she first lined up for The Goat, a 21km adventure run with 1000 metres of climbing around the western flank of Mt Ruapehu, in 2009.

“I was planning to fast track it, so I entered and won it out of the blue,” she recalls. “I thought, not only do I enjoy this, I’m quite good at it, so I’ll keep going.”

But there is more to Ruby than natural ability alone. Her upbringing on the Coromandel Peninsula offers some insight.

“We grew up active. We grew up in a house in the bush – there was no proper road to our house, we walked to it,” she shares. “We chopped wood and had wood fires so being in nature was something I loved – it felt like it was seared into me.”

Ruby started running off-road at 17 years of age driven by a “really hard time” in her life.

“My dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We were a really close family so that was like the end of my world at 17,” she explains through misty eyes. “My way of coping with it was to run every day. It was a way I could feel emotion when I was quite numb most of the time and a way I could have a small, positive achievement every day, when there wasn’t much else positive in my life.”

Ruby’s dad passed away two years later, at 62 years of age.

“I ran throughout that time. I ran and I worked even when he was really sick until my family felt I was never home. I was young and it was my way of dealing with it at the time,” she says.

“After my dad died – when I was quite depressed and quite low – it was the only way I could feel again. When I was running a lot I could remember him much more clearly. I am in a more balanced state these days, but sometimes when I run I have more vivid memories of him, which I can’t connect with otherwise.”Screenshot 2013-10-14 21.10.06

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 3.13.58 PM CONTINUED… in Edition #10 of Trail Run Mag.

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Luna Launch

Luna takes another step forwards, or backwards, in evolution

Getting back to nature

Getting back to nature

If there’s anything to be learnt from the barefoot brigade, it is that even if you’re not prepared to run in minimalist shoes you should be spending as much time as possible with as little as possible on your trotters. While even the most dedicated of us will struggle to spend much more than ten hours a week running, we spend plenty more than that moving, walking, chasing after the kids, browsing the supermarket aisles and generally being bipedal. It is this time that runners can spend strengthening up lower legs, foot muscles and getting back in touch with a natural stride just by wearing shoes with zero drop or arch support, and after just a couple of weeks getting around in not much, the benefits are clear.


. Luna have recognised that people running Ultra marathons in their slim Vibram soles is going to be a limited market and their products now reflect the joy of getting around life in something as close to barefoot as possible. The company is the brainchild of Barefoot Ted of Born to Run fame and he encompasses the company’s philosophy;  “barefooting is all about mindfulness and presence, being acutely aware of our own bodies and environment. This connection is a fundamental source of happiness and good health. That’s why we’re so excited to bring the barefoot experience to more people with this new collection. These sandals are everyday footwear for all your activities.”


The company personifies the grassroots businesses that are finding niches in the booming trail running market. The testing and refining of their products is a team effort where ideas bounce back and forth from the designers through their handful of sponsored runners and their team of ‘monkeys’ who handmake every pair of sandals in Seattle. From a simple sole with leather laces the Luna range now includes a range of sole thicknesses, and their now almost perfected All Terrain Strapping. The big advance of recent years has been retained with the Monkey Grip Technology sole covering solving the inLuna shirtitial problem of a slippery sole in wet weather. I have been running in a pair of Leadville Pacers with MGT footbeds for well over 3000 kilometres now and not only are they still sticking firm to my soles but the MGT shows as minimal a sign of wearing down as the soles do, still providing enough protection for the gravel trails I frequent daily. I have a few different Luna models and to watch the clever yet unobtrusive innovations that are made with each new release shows they are a company who value the design process and live by their own minimalist creed. The subtle design of the All Terrain strapping show plenty of tinkering has been done to produce a model that works in both form and function. Their footbeds are a similar success with the attractive leather a stylish option on their street sandals and the MGT design having more than proven the test of time on muddy, sandy, dry, wet and especially rocky trails. The choice then is left to you – how thick do you want your sole, and what do you want to do with them?


Luna’s new range includes three models, designed for urban, general and heavy trail use. The inspiration of the Tarahumara and their car tyre sandals have brought Barefoot Ted a long way, and even if you’re not quite ready to jump through the Copper Canyons in a pair of sandals, getting around in Lunas is the most comfortable way to improve your form, get the barefoot experience and strengthen up leg muscles atrophied from years in foam padding.

By Garry Dagg, Trail Run magazine’s resident barefoot/minimalist adherent and editor.

The Bandicoot Run

He, maybe she, lay broken and spiraling on the trail.

The distinctive small snout dug into the laterite soil, broken back legs pedaling furiously to get away from me, her potential saviour.  The run had been a struggle up until then, one of those afternoon sojourns that had you wishing you had not rushed to the trailhead.

But now, instantly, the run had purpose.

Australia’s marsupial population is down to half of what it was prior to white colonisation.  The three horsemen of the modern apocalypse for so many species; hunting, habitat destruction and ferals have wreaked a trail of destruction for two centuries. This bandicoot was another to be added to the casualty list, its back half broken by the jaws of a feral cat or fox or, perhaps less cynically, an unsuccessful hawk.

Regardless, there it lay, its front half clawing at the dirt while its driving back end spun it in circles.

There are many mantras people recite when running to retain either mental or physical focus.  Relax the shoulders, keep going, one foot in front of the other. The barefoot runner has many more; run light, engage your core, grip with your toes, but they all have the same aim of trying to make running as efficient and smooth as possible, weightless and quiet.  Cupping a broken bandicoot in one arm, dashing over limestone rock and gravel trail, however, is the perfect indicator of form, no mantra needed.  Each elongated stride and jolting foot strike reverberated not through me but through my conscience, through my newfound role of marsupial paramedic.

Having struggled to hold my form for the first part of the run, I was now as smooth as a mountain stream, gliding along the trail back to the car, sandals caressing the gravel and rocks as I balanced the need of getting the bandicoot to the soon-to-be closed vet with the need to pad it softly on our journey along the trail.

The few kilometres back were a lesson in running smooth, precious cargo perched in one hand while the trail rolled out beneath.  I made it to the vet as the doors were closing but sadly the little one did not make it through the night.

The trail to me is now the bandicoot trail and each time I run it I am encouraged to run even quieter still, listening out for the sound of native noise.

Daggs, Trail Run Mag Barefoot/Minimalist Guru

As Trail Run Mag’s resident barefoot/minimalist sage, Garry Dagg will continue to write on issues, opinions, styles and techniques of barefoot/minimalist running. And he’ll test the bejesus (a sandal wearer) out of all and sundry models now flooding the market. He’s on board not to convert, but to offer a perspective, much the same way our Shoe Guru, Simon Bright offers his. Agree or not, better to be aware, even if you’re not a fan of being bare. We welcome your opinions on the barefoot debate – fling them through on or Facebook them at Garry will also write regularly on the topic online, so sign up for his blogs and news feeds at Ed.

Awarefoot runner: the barefoot leap

The shod stand on one side of the river, gazing across the foaming abyss at the barefoot fraternity on the other.  So far, so bizarre.  Your colleagues on the shod side mock and degrade the lunatic fringe who are skipping along in their wacky sandals, minimalist shoes and, shock, completely bare feet.

Luna Sandals – for the uber minimalist traditionalist. IMAGE: Nathan Dyer

Most people at this point turn away and go back to trudging along in their heavily cushioned factory products, shutting out the possibility that something else could be possible.  Humans, it turns out, are incredibly reluctant to change which is no great surprise given that the majority of our species’ existence has been about feverishly protecting what we have from marauding neighbours and predators.  If you find yourself at this river however, inquisitively peering at the eccentrics preaching the joys of minimalist running maybe it’s time to have a dip in the river and see if you can make it to the other side, the domain of the barefoot runner.

The swim is not as long at it looks, nor as fearsome for the reality of barefoot running for most people will most likely end up being a weekly experiment in technique refining.  And despite what your orthotic pushing mileage obsessed mates may tell you, we are actually a welcoming and friendly crowd.  Some of us even have jobs.

There is one important thing to remember though. Beyond important thing actually.  Vital. Critical.  Take it slow.

Yes running forums are covered in threads from injured barefoot runners and barefoot running can be a pursuit that takes you towards the freezer in search of ice packs but only if you move too quick.  The jury is still firmly out on whether barefoot running will aid performance and lower your PBs but I am a believer in its ability to ward off injuries and, most importantly, clear the mind.  If somewhere, deep inside there, you run for fun, it is certainly worth a try.

Despite what the punters will have you believe, the goal is not to run barefoot but to run light.  Running light not only puts less impact on your legs it also makes you feel the earth and become more aware of every part of your running.  If running barefoot helps get you lighter then that is great, and it may well teach you some lessons to take back to your shod running technique.

So start slow.  Run around the block in a pair of minimalist shoes or, if you’re an Aussie and have grown up wearing thongs and ducking into the shops barefoot then you’re probably right to do a lap actually barefoot.  The next day run shod, then again the following tap out a circuit of the block and so on slowly, slowly building up the resistance.  This will give you a taste of the liberating feeling that barefoot running gives and even if you decide it’s not for you that slightly improved technique will bounce around in your subconscious while you are back in you shoes.  At the very least running barefoot around the block will turn you into the weird neighbour and you won’t have to listen to Mrs Cheetam on the corner complaining about what the weather does to her dodgy knee as now she’ll duck inside at the mere sight of you.

My introduction to barefoot running was laboriously slow.  I had to undo the damage a few decades worth of running shoes, orthotics, Dr Martens, hefty heeled work shoes and ski boots had done to the structural strength of my legs.  By the end of month two I was just cracking out 6km runs and it wasn’t until four months of sandal shod patrolling that I pushed it to 10kms.  Having said that, I never had the faintest twinge in all that time so may well have been able to push it a bit further but figured that the risk of yet another running injury was far from worth it.  Now, eighteen months down the track and two hour runs are a simple glide in my rubber sandals.

It is probably a positive enough sign that you are reading this.  It says that you are happy to at least glance across the river at all the gliding barefooters and ask yourself the question why.  The simplest level of curiosity is all it takes.  There is no need to go out and splurge on the latest minimalist shoe sent in from the designers of Tokyo as a pair of Dunlop Volleys will do the trick as an introduction.  Take it slow, be aware of what your feet and legs are telling you and, most importantly, free your mind.

Garry Dagg, Trail Run Mag Barefoot/Minimalist Guru

As Trail Run Mag’s resident barefoot/minimalist sage, Garry Dagg will continue to write on issues, opinions, styles and techniques of barefoot/minimalist running. And he’ll test the bejesus (a sandal wearer) out of all and sundry modles now flooding the market. He’s on board not to convert, but to offer a perspective, much the same way our Shoe Guru, Simon Bright offers his. Agree or not, better to be aware, even if you’re not a fan of being bare. We welcome your opinions on the barefoot debate – fling them through on or Facebook them at Garry will also write regularly on the topic online, so sign up for his blogs and news feeds at Ed.


Inov-8 X-Talon 190

It seems obligatory at the start of any positive shoe review to say something like “great shoe, but it won’t make you run faster”. 

For the X-Talon 190, this statement simply doesn’t apply, and for the trained runner, this shoe will support faster running.  Offering stunning grip through an aggressive outsole and touted by Inov-8 as the world’s lightest cross-country and mountain racer, the X-Talon 190 has everything required to deliver great speed.

To get the weight down to a feather-light 190g (for a UK8 shoe), the upper is absolutely minimalist.  The majority of the upper is a mesh material which offers excellent drainage and means that the feet don’t get hot, but the level of foot protection is, like the rest of the shoe, extremely minimal.  The toe bumper feels like a layer of thick paint applied over the mesh, and while some minimal protection against vegetation is offered, the protection against rocks and sticks present in most trail shoes is missing.

In terms of protection and bounce, the most generous assessment of the 190s midsole is that it does exist (and that is saying something – check out the forthcoming review of the Bear Grip 200s which are built sans-insole).  The mid-sole thickness at the toe is 10mm, increasing slightly to 13mm at the heel, which equates to an Inov-8 rating of 1-arrow (3mm).   The very thin mid-sole can be a problem on rocky trails – trail running authority ‘Rod the Hornet’ (he knows what he’s talking about, trust us, but doesn’t want to use his real name) on CoolRunning comments on the CoolRunning thread on this shoe: “Wore them at 6ft this year and went about as hard as I could go. I loved the lightweight feel of them. I must say I had a major problem with stone bruising thru the heel, to the point that 4 weeks after the event was still tender. Would recommend if you are new to these, invest in a pair of gel inserts. I bought a good insert and it takes the edge off the hard trail.” 

Trialling these shoes in fast race conditions where dainty foot placement wasn’t a priority, similar under foot bruising to Rod was experienced, and following his advise on gel inserts, the bruising issue was markedly reduced.  Quality gel inserts from Scholls are available at most chemists for around $25.

The grip of the X-Talons is their defining feature.  Offering moulded studs similar to a touch football boot, the outer sole is made of a sticky rubber that grips extremely well on well on all surfaces from metal walk-ways through to mud, pavement and rock.  The Inov-8 marketing material remarks that the “shoes use our exclusive sticky rubber compound which has been specially developed using climbing rubber technology.  This rubber optimizes grip in wet conditions, however the trade off is it wears down quicker.”

The honest assessment from Inov-8 that notes the faster wear of the outer sole applies to the overall shoe.  It would be easy to rip the upper on a sharp rock, and an entanglement with a vine while trialling the shoes in the Inov-8 Coastal Classic separated the top lip of the outer off the toe bumper.  A quick super-glue repair job rendered the shoes as good as new, but after a few hundred kilometres, it is evident that a life of around 500km maximum would be a reasonable expectation.  This isn’t a harsh criticism – the design purpose of the shoe as an extremely fast, lightweight racer is delivered on in full, and the fact that life as a general trainer is limited is hardly unexpected.

Race conditions offer the best test grounds for any trail shoe.  After running the inaugural 2010 Coastal Classic in 3.13, dipping under 3 hours this year was a stretch goal for me, and wearing the X-Talon 190, a final time of 2.54.52 was achieved.  While cooler conditions and plenty of training went into the improvement, the lightening-fast Talon 190 were a meaningful contributor to this improvement.

Great For: Anything fast – races, tempo runs, fartlek.  The grip is awesome, and handles all conditions well – mud, exposed rock, metal walkways, pavement.

Not So Great For:  Up to marathon distance would be OK, but for longer distances, a shoe with more under-foot and toe protection is recommended.  With a 3mm drop, Achilles tendon issues are possible for runners not accustomed to minimalist offerings.  On very rocky trails with sharp rocks, under-foot bruising can be an issue.

Test Conditions: Road, mixed trail and road, fire-trail, technical trail with mud and slippery rock conditions, ~400km.  Race tested in the Inov-8 Coastal Classic (30km) and the In2Adventure 8km Trail Race.

Tester: Nick Wienholt – ultra-trail runner based in Sydney’s southern suburbs, Nick recently completed three of Australia’s toughest trail ultras (Bogong to Hotham, Cradle Mountain and The North Face 100), highlighted by a finish in the top 40 at The North Face that included a silver buckle.  He plans to dedicate the spring to short-distance events like the marathon.

Tester mechanics: Mid-weight (74kg) experienced trail runner with neutral pronation and fore-foot strike.

Distributor/ Stockist:
Barefoot Inc or Adventure MegaStore Sydney and specialty running outlets.