Thursday 27 December 2012

Gear Review: Gaiters - Inov-8 vs Dirty Girl

I enjoy running in the mud.  Frequently, I even enjoy running through standing water - especially if my feet are a bit tired or sore.  As a result, I have days where I end a run with almost as much muck in my shoes as on them.  I started wearing gaiters a few years ago, with Inov-8's DebriSoc - a sock with built-in gaiter.  When the sock part finally met its holey demise, I cut off the sock and kept using the gaiter.  Last year, before the River Ayr Way Challenge, I finally replaced the decrepit old things with a new pair of Inov-8 Debris Gaiter (tm) 32.  They were partially successful, but they are dreadfully dull to look at, and, ever the magpie, I have been eyeing up the wantonly excessive decoration of the Dirty Girl gaiters that are now easily available in the UK via The ULTRAmarathon Running Store.  Thanks to my fabulous parents-in-law, on Boxing Day I had the chance to test out the Dirty Girls, so here's my view of how Inov-8 and Dirty Girl stack up on a wet and filthy trail run.

The Inov-8 Debris Gaiter is pretty simple: put on gaiter, put on shoe, slide elastic bands under the shoe and hook the tab onto your laces - what could be easier?  They cover the lace knots nicely on most shoes, which is helpful in mud as well as long wet grass.  They're also fairly absorbant, which can be a hassle if there's a lot of water as well as grit on the route.  The ankle cuff is a bit bulky, which can result in quite warm ankles if you're out on a summer run.  With a price ranging from £11 to £15, and coming in any colour you like, so long as it's black, these gaiters keep the mud out at a good price.

Inov-8's Debris Gaiter 32 (Picture by Inov-8)

The Dirty Girl Gaiters stand out visually, with over 20 patterns from which to choose.  The attachment to the shoe is very straight-forward.  There's a one-time (or now-and-then) process requiring you to stick a bit of self-adhesive velcro onto the back of your shoeand then wait a day.  To wear, put on the gaiter, put on the shoe, then velcro the back of the gaiter to the shoe and hook the front to the bottom shoelace.  They are made from a basic polyester/lycra blend, so are a little stretchy but not too clingy.  The gaiter is also very light, even on a very wet day.  They don't absorb much water, and are reasonably cool.  I comfortably wore mine (without trail shoes) around the house for an afternoon to check the fit while I waited for the velcro to set on my shoes, and hardly noticed them.  On the down side, the cost of all the pretty colours is an extra few £ on the pricetag.

Nic's new Dirty Girls, in "Pink Panther" - mine are the swirly "Compulsive" pattern.

Things to be aware of about both brands:  if you wear shoes without laces (e.g. most Five-Fingers), you are going to have to find something to hook the gaiters to at the front.  An elastic band around a toe or two will do in a pinch.  If you wear La Sportiva shoes, you will also struggle to find a lace to hook onto.  I successfully used the elastic band from my old DebriSoc around the forefoot.  Nic made a fixing point by running a safety pin along the top of her lace-gaiter with good effect.  With a bit of time and fishing line, I expect the best method will be to stitch in a loop at the bottom of the lace gaiter.


If you are more concerned about grass, pebbles, and dry debris than mud and wet grit, then the Inov-8 gaiter is certainly sufficient for your needs and gives good value.  For all-round use, the Dirty Girl wins hands down on ability to withstand a wet run without adding to the weight on your feet.  They have a tighter weave, so also kept out more fine grit than the Inov-8 gaiters.  If you're going to be spending any length of time in the wet, and the current weather pattern suggests we all will be, then I would suggest spending the extra on the Dirty Girl.  And if you don't fancy colourful feet, you can always go for the olive green or nearly black options.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Kurt, a very handy review as I have been contemplating trail gaiters. The trouble is I now have to pick which Dirty Girl design to go for!