Wednesday, 15 August 2012
From the September 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Six trail shoes built to handle whatever surface you take on
By Warren Greene and Martyn Shorten, Ph.D.
Photographs by David Clugston and Nadine Wilson
With the changing of the seasons, you may also be seeking a change of scenery. Consider trading your regular route for something more “out there” – a trail run marked with ruddy terrain, slippery slopes and loads of fun. Just make sure you take off in shoes built for the ground you’ll cover.
Below you’ll find six shoes we tested off-road and in the RW Shoe Lab. The shoes are marked according to the terrain they’re best suited for: hybrid (ideal for both road and trail), racing (perfect for training) and all-mountain (made for really rough runs). It’s hard to predict what you’ll find on the trails, but one of these shoes will provide the ride you want.
How We Test Trail Shoes
Wear-testers ran in the latest trail shoes for a month and gave us feedback. We also mechanically tested each model at the RW Shoe Lab, an independent facility, to measure cushioning (how soft/firm the midsole is; too soft and it may lack durability, too firm and it may not provide enough protection) and flexibility (how much energy it takes to flex a shoe at toe-off; generally, lighter runners need more flexibility than heavier ones).
|Brooks Pure Grit (Best Buy)|
A$199.95; NZ$249.95 HYBRID
Soft underfoot, the Grit still offers good impact protection for runs on the road or on hard-packed trails – an impressive trait considering the shoe’s low profile (a 28.5mm heel height versus 35mm for the average running shoe). One wear-tester describes the Grit as “a racing flat with some funky tread; not bulky like other trail shoes.” A number of testers appreciated the Grit’s lightness, but some said the extremely breathable upper let in too much cool air on cold runs and too much water during rainy outings.
BOTTOM LINE Lightweight with a minimal feel but good cushioning.
HEIGHT: 28.5mm (heel); 23.1mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 256g (M); 216g (W)
AUS brooksrunning.com.au; NZ brooksrunning.co.nz
|Salomon XR Mission|
A$169.99; NZ$229.99 HYBRID
The Mission has a firm but smooth heel-to-toe transition, due in part to an outsole that stays in contact with the ground through the gait cycle. Some runners will find the Mission snug in the heel.
BOTTOM LINE A flexible shoe suited for trails and short stretches of road.
HEIGHT: 34.1mm (heel); 20.8mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 329g (M); 278g (W)
AUS salomon.com/au; NZ salomon.co.nz
|Brooks Cascadia 7|
A$239.95; NZ$279.95 ALL-MOUNTAIN
The Cascadia lives up to its reputation for comfort. The heel cushioning softens footfalls on packed trails. And the upper fits exceptionally well.
BOTTOM LINE A well-cushioned ride for normal-to high-arched runners.
HEIGHT: 33.9mm (heel); 22.8mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 349g (M); 290g (W)
AUS brooksrunning.com.au; NZ brooksrunning.co.nz
|Asics GEL-Fuji Racer (Editor's Choice)|
A$200; NZ$220 RACING
The Fuji Racer, with its thin, flexible plate under the forefoot, provides considerable protection from sharp, off-road obstacles. That said, the forefoot is exceedingly firm. On the opposite end of the shoe, the Racer’s heel offers sufficient cushioning and more than enough comfort. “The heel fit was excellent without needing to use the extra lacing holes that many of us women often need to,” says Melanie Marinaccio, a wear-tester. Some testers pointed out that the drainage holes, a smart way to move loads of water out of the shoe, let in water. “On wet days, it didn’t take long for the bottom of your feet to get wet,” says wear-tester Pierre Sirois.
BOTTOM LINE For lightweight, efficient runners who want to run fast on dry trails.
HEIGHT: 25.8mm (heel); 19.3mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 261g (M); 222g (W)
AUS asics.com.au; NZ asics.co.nz
|Vivobarefoot Neo Trail|
A$169.95; NZ$199.95 RACING
The Neo’s 4.5mm hard-rubber, tooth-like lugs provide real-deal traction, but because of the low sole height, the shoe offers no impact protection. Testers did find the shoe’s fit on the mark. “There’s ample room in the toebox to allow your foot to work on challenging surfaces,” says Shaun Luther, a wear-tester. Female testers also liked how the Neo’s ankle collar locked their heels in place.
BOTTOM LINE For runners who want a minimal shoe with a roomy forefoot.
HEIGHT: 13.7mm (heel); 14.3mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 270g (M); 202g (W)
AUS & NZ vivobarefoot.com
|Altra Lone Peak|
A$159.95; NZ$165 ALL-MOUNTAIN
The Lone Peak’s nearly zero drop – the heel and forefoot are level – is intended to promote a more natural transition from heel-strike to toe-off. Our testers agreed. “Initially I had to work hard to push off the ground, but once I got used to that, they felt great,” says wear-tester Sue Jackson.
BOTTOM LINE For minimalists seeking protection from trail debris.
HEIGHT: 24.8mm (heel); 23.1mm (forefoot)
WEIGHT: 315g (M); 250g (W)
AUS & NZ altrazerodrop.com.au
Like this article? Subscribe to Runner’s World and save up to A$35 on the retail price (delivered directly to your door) and receive a FREE pair of Brooks socks PLUS if you subscribe for two years you will also receive a FREE Runner’s World watch.
If you missed picking this issue up at newsstands you can purchase your Runner's World back issue here today!