2015 Trail Shoe Review

IMPACT’s Test Team hits the trails

0
2015 Trail Shoe Review
Illustration: Michael Grills

Whether it’s in a city park or on a mountain single track, the right shoes can make your trail run. IMPACT’s expert runners tested 15 top brands and rated their trail worthiness.

Altra – Lone Peak 2.5

Price: $160 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 300g Drop: 0mm
Reviewer: Blaine Penny – 2-time Canadian 50 Mile Ultra Champion

IMPACT Rating: 3.5 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Altra Lone Peak 2.5

The Lone Peak 2.5 has an excellent amount of cushioning and the unique foot shaped toe box gives plenty of room in the forefoot. One of the things I really liked about the extra room in the toe box is that it minimized toe-to-toe contact and potential for blisters, but conversely, this also made the shoe feel a little sloppy in more technical terrain when I was running more aggressively.

The lacing material is phenomenal and the laces never came undone over long runs, keeping a snug fit. I felt the shoe provided the right amount of cushioning and the perfect durometer for the insole material. The shoe weight at 300g felt fine over longer distances.

The shoe is well designed for easy to moderate trail surfaces. I found the shoe to be somewhat unstable on more technical terrain, which limits its agility when running aggressively. The Lone Peak is well suited to a wide range of running from shorter distances through to ultras.

Pros:

  • Downhill traction and uphill traction.
  • Excellent cushioning and great on harder surfaces.
  • Plenty of room in toe box, minimizing toe blisters.
  • Really liked the lacing materials.

Cons:

  • Felt a little bulky.
  • Poor stability on uneven terrain.
  • Extra toe box room made the shoe feel a little sloppy and less agile on technical terrain when running aggressively.

Asics – Gel-FujiRunnagade

Price: $120 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 261g Drop: 6mm
Reviewer: Calvin Zaryski – #1 World Ranked 70.3 Triathlete in the 45-49 AG

IMPACT Rating: 4.8 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Asics – Gel-FujiRunnagade

The Gel-FujiRunnagade is a hardcore shoe for advanced offroad and muddy trail conditions. This shoe simply eats up the trail and feels great on your feet. The tread is soft and grips the trail easily with large lugs underfoot. The upper has a booty-and-ankle-collar construction keeping mud and dirt from entering the shoe with non slip lacing securing the shoe. The upper is a closed mesh that keeps the feet dry and repels mud. The boot of the shoe can be a little narrow for those with a wide forefoot, but likely in time will stretch to accommodate. The midfoot is soft and supple to maintain a good feel for the trail. The low profile and flexible midsole allows for great mobility on steep climbs. Even with this supple midsole and tread, the boot fits snug with no significant movement and no heel slippage. This shoe would also be ideal for winter snow and ice running. All in all, a runners dream for year round and variable surface running.

Pros:

  • Awesome tread.
  • Snug upper fit.

Cons:

  • A little narrow in forefoot.

Brooks – PureGrit 4

Price: $140 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 286g Drop: 4mm
Reviewer: Blaine Penny – Red Bull 2015 Wings For Life top North American

IMPACT Rating: 4 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 4 out of 5

Brooks Puregrit 4

The new PureGrit 4 trail running shoe blends the secure grip of climbing shoes with the comfort of lightweight running shoes, connecting you to the trail. The shoe has aggressive 3D hex lugs on the outsole providing maximum grip, allowing you to aggressively run the steep and technical terrain. A toe guard provides protection and added traction when the trail gets steep. The stack height of 14mm/10mm, I found to be just right and the ballistic rock shield protects your foot from just about anything you’ll encounter on the trails. The Nav-band wraps your feet giving it a nice snug comfortable fit and increased stability. The PureGrit contains an ultralight mesh with excellent breathability. Overall, this is an excellent all-around trail running shoe for both training and racing that I’d recommend for any trail runner that is looking for one shoe that does it all.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable, snug fit.
  • Cushioning is just right.
  • Stability.
  • Breathability.
  • Foot protection.

Cons:

  • N/A

INOV-8 – Race Ultra 270

Price: $160 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 270g Drop: 4mm
Reviewer: Shauna Gersbach – elite runner, winner 2005 Calgary Marathon

IMPACT Rating: 3.75 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

INOV-8 – Race Ultra 270

The Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 is an average-weight trail running shoe ideal for hard-packed trails. It fits comfortably snug, and was well suited to my narrow foot. The shoe is moderately cushioned, with a lower profile compared to some trail shoes, so it is still quite responsive. When running, I felt a slight disconnect between the heel and the forefoot, so the ride did not feel as smooth as some other shoes.

The upper shoe has a seamless construction, designed to keep out debris such as rocks or twigs. It seemed to do the job as I had no concerns running on the trails in North Vancouver. A really neat feature that I did not try was Inov-8’s custom gater, which can attach directly to the shoe. This would be helpful for rainy or muddy days.

The traction was average, so I might not choose this shoe for running down shale. This shoe would be great for long-distance runners who tend to heel strike and who primarily run on hard-packed trails.

Pros:

  • Comfortable snug fit.
  • Responsive.

Cons:

  • Forefoot/heel transition is not as smooth as I like.

Luna – Leadville Gordo

Price: $154 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 181g Drop: 0mm
Reviewer: Ian MacNairn – writer and anthropologist, studying ultrarunning

IMPACT Rating: 4.5 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Luna – Leadville Gordo

I wore my first pair of Luna sandals in 2009 – the Leadville Pacer. The Gordo is an updated and greatly improved sandal. The sandal is a minimal alternative to shoes and is handmade in Seattle. It was a pleasure to run in and offers a thick yet lightweight (mouldable) footbed. The strapping is comfortable and I experienced no hot-spots. The Gordos exceled on trail and transitioned seamlessly to hanging out in town after runs.

The Gordo is the thickest sandal Luna makes. It means greater cushioning and protection underfoot from roots and rocks. I have never suffered a bruise or blister in any pair of Luna sandals I have worn. The Gordo is very comfortable and a fun alternative to wearing shoes.

Luna’s new Tech Strap lacing system means an improved secure foothold compared to models from previous years. Each part on the sandal is replaceable, which means the sandals will last far longer than any pair of shoes with minimal upkeep (i.e. new laces, new plug, new footbed).

For those running in consistently wet or cold climes, the new Tabu (a water-resistant two-toed sock modelled after the traditional Japanese footwear, tabi) offers additional protection from the elements. The Tabu can be paired with any pair of Luna sandals, weighs less than 30 grams, and is machine washable.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable.
  • Exciting and free feeling alternative to running shoes.
  • Transitions from run to hanging out in town easily.
  • Easy to clean and care for; all parts are replaceable (footbed, strapping, plug).

Cons:

  • Lacks the protection of an actual upper.
  • Can become slippery underfoot in very wet and/or muddy conditions.

Merrell – Allout Charge

Price: $150 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 238g Drop: 6mm
Reviewer: Katherine Moore – competitive distance runner and yoga instructor

IMPACT Rating: 4 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Merrell – Allout Charge

The Merrell Allout Charge is made for a technical trail run or a leisurely hike. It fits extremely secure and comfortable without excess cushion. The Allout Charge performed well in all conditions. I ran through muddy trails and took them through a hike in the snowy mountains. I love the hyperwrap. It hugs the foot so you feel secure and stable along rugged terrain. The feeling is very light and supportive. It’s also nice for a quick tempo run. The shoe looks great and I highly recommend it based on quality and comfort.

Pros:

  • Secure fit.
  • No excess cushion.
  • Good traction.
  • Quality.

Cons:

  • None.

Mizuno – Wave Hayate 2

Price: $145 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 249g Drop: 9mm
Reviewer: Blaine Penny – CEO Mito Canada

IMPACT Rating: 3.5 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 3.6 out of 5

Mizuno – Wave Hayate 2

The Mizuno Wave Hayate 2 is a lean, mean and responsive racing shoe built for speed on the trail. The upper is constructed with high quality, breathable mesh materials with many vents to allow your foot to breathe. The Hayate also has a clear wax like coating around the bottom where the upper meets the midsole that adds durability and some waterproofing.

The shoe has very aggressive traction because of its Xtatic Ride and lugs. The Hayate sole contains a low profile U4ic foam designed for increased impact attenuation that makes you feel in touch with the ground with just enough cushioning.

The materials used on the inside of the upper are plush, in the heel and tongue area, which I found to be somewhat slippery. It feels nice on your foot and reduces friction but I did find my foot sliding around a bit more than I like when running the trails.

Great trail racing shoe for shorter distances, but watch out for those rocks due to the limited foot protection.

Pros:

  • Excellent traction.
  • Lightweight.
  • Breathability.

Cons:

  • Lack of foot protection.
  • Insole slippery, increases your foot sliding around.

New Balance – Fresh Foam Hierro

Price: $140 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 325g Drop: 4mm
Reviewer: Bruce Raymer – 7 time National Team Member, Canadian Marathon Champion

IMPACT Rating: 4 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

New Balance – Fresh Foam Hierro

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro transitioned from the most savage of trails to city streets with the utmost of ease and delivered a phenomenal amount of support, cushioning and traction. A versatile, lightweight package with an Acteva midsole and an aggressive, yet street friendly, vibram outsole. I found the shoe to be extremely barefoot friendly.

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Barefoot friendly.
  • True sizing.
  • Well cushioned.

Cons:

  • Not for everyday training.

Newton – BoCo Sol

Price: $159 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 272g Drop: 3mm
Reviewer: Ian MacNairn – trail ultrarunner & PhD student

IMPACT Rating: 3 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Newton – BoCo Sol

 

The BoCo Sol is a durable all-around trail shoe. I suffered no blisters or hot-spots after many miles put into testing. They took getting used to given the different style Newton takes in their design, but they are quite comfortable underfoot. Cushioning in the shoe is sufficient without being excessive and the toecap provides protection from stubbing your toes. They could be a good choice for long training days on non-technical to mildly technical trail.

Pros:

  • Fits true to size.
  • Comfortable underfoot – well cushioned.

Cons:

  • Quite stiff and bulky feeling.
  • Takes a while to get used to the Newton feel if coming from another brand.
  • Struggle to keep heel secured in fit.

Nike – Zoom Terra Kiger 2

Price: $160 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 224g Drop: 4mm
Reviewer: Catherine Watkins – Elite runner for Oiselle, winner 2015 Eugene Marathon

IMPACT Rating: 4 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 3.85 out of 5

Nike – Zoom Terra Kiger 2

The Zoom Terra Kiger 2’s Flyknit upper material is so comfortable, light, soft and breathable my feet were in heaven. The upper fits like a racing shoe and keeps the feet secure on dirt, gravel and rock trails. I wore this shoe many times on trails and the upper, despite it’s lightness, seemed to hold up well. My only concern is the lack of a rock protector in the shoe, which could be an issue on more technical trails. I also found the heel cup a bit loose, however, I do have a narrow heel. The base provided great traction on various surfaces and I had no issues with rocks or other debris sticking in it during the run.

This shoe would be perfect for less technical trails and could even be used as a training shoe for longer runs and tempos on the roads. I think it would be a great trail racing shoe.

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Cushioned.
  • Breathable.
  • Great traction.

Cons:

  • Loose heel.
  • Not sure how durable the upper would be over the long term.

The North Face – Ultra MT

Price: $160 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 274g Drop: 8mm
Reviewer: Ian MacNairn – writer and ultrarunning adventurer

IMPACT Rating: 4.5 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

The North Face – Ultra MT

The Mountain Trail is an excellent choice for extreme terrain. It is a neutral shoe designed for gnarly and technical trails. The Vibram outsole provides unsurpassed traction on any surface. The MT is comfortable straight out of the box and equally so after many hours of running. The upper is made with ripstop fabric and is very durable compared to many other trail shoes. The MT is a great addition to any trail-runner’s quiver.

I found the shoe to be quite stiff and was, therefore, not a great choice for hard-packed trail. However, this same stiffness was an advantage in loose and debris-field terrain. After more than 400K, my MT show no sign of excessive wear or breakdown – a definite surprise given the harsh wear that gnarly trail places on most shoes.

The only reason I did not give the shoe 5/5 is due to its limited application. It is an excellent shoe for extreme terrain, but is too specialized for all-around use, training, or racing.

Pros:

  • Excellent grip and traction on all terrain including loose and wet.
  • Lightweight shoe.
  • Attached tongue helps keep out debris.
  • Durable upper.

Cons:

  • Quite stiff, even when fully broken in.

Pearl Izumi – EM Trail N1

Price: $140 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 241g Drop: 1mm
Reviewer: Dana Ferguson – trail and road runner based in Southern Ontario.

IMPACT Rating: 4.5 out of 5    RunRepeat.com Rating: N/A

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1

This shoe is fantastic for those looking for a low-drop, light trail shoe. I like the minimal feel, and appreciate that it still has a firm and substantial sole with good traction for rougher trails. There is little arch support for a shoe classified as neutral, making it more suited for shorter and faster runs, or even for use as a racing shoe.

The EM Trail N1 fits true to size and has a slightly larger toe box, making runs quite comfortable. The upper is all seamless although comfortable, will probably not stand the elements or the roughness of the trails over time. I would recommend this shoe to anyone looking for a lightweight, more minimal shoe that can handle rougher runs on trails.

Durability – I only have worn the shoes for one week, but I’m not sure they will hold up around the toe box. My shoes often rip on the upper around the toes, and I suspect these will do the same.

Great fit and size; the shoe is true to size and I appreciate the slightly larger toe box as it helps prevent black toenails and makes my runs more comfortable.

The stiff sole is pretty stiff and inflexible due to the midsole rock plate, but I like it for shorter runs. On a long run (90+ minutes), this may make the shoe a bit more uncomfortable. The laces are waffled and flat, which keeps them tied much better than regular laces.

Pros:

  • Light.
  • Low drop.
  • Wider toe box.

Cons:

  • Not a strong material for the upper.
  • Stiff and inflexible (it’s a pro for me but could be con for others).

Salomon – SpeedCross 3

Price: $125 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 310g Drop: 11mm
Reviewer: Pete Estabrooks – IMPACT fitness editor & trail runner

IMPACT Rating: 4.5 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Salomon – SpeedCross 3

Start simple. Nothing beats Salomon’s quicklace system. A few deft moves at the end of a long run and you go from locked in, locked up and run ready to footloose and fancy free. That lacing system lends to a secure comfortable fit, the combination of a deep, well constructed heel cup gusseted tongue and “sensifit” construction means snug, not tight, and guarantees dust, grit and debris stay on the outside of the shoe.

A breathable waterproof upper keeps dew and small drops out and dries well after stream crossings. Underfoot is a dual density EVA and ortholite footbed which leaves the shoes cushy, not gushy. These shoes are cushioned without the give that steals speed. Wrap that package with rugged lug traction and protective toecaps and you have my favourite for this trail season.

Pros:

  • Snug, deep heel cup.
  • Waterproof upper.
  • Fast in and out.

Cons:

  • A tad heavy.
Skechers – GOrun Ultra 2

Price: $120 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 207g Drop: 4mm
Reviewer: Catherine Watkins – elite runner & marathon champion

IMPACT Rating: 3.8 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 4.15 out of 5

Skechers – GOrun Ultra 2

The Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 is an extremely cushioned, yet lightweight shoe suitable for easy and longer runs on both trails and roads. Dirt trails seem best suited for this shoe as the shoe grips well, providing traction and support. Gravel trails with smaller rocks are tougher as rocks often get caught in the base of the shoe and need to be physically removed. I also enjoyed this shoe on longer tempos and long runs on the road.

The bright pink captured my attention right away. This is a fun shoe that you can run many miles in. The shoe is extremely cushioned which is great on terrain where you want the bottom of your foot protected. Even though it’s extremely cushioned I was still able to feel the ground and the shoe was quite responsive. If you are looking for extra cushioning while keeping a lightweight shoe, the GOrun Ultra 2 would be a great choice. The shoe did feel a little bulky in the upper and would probably fit a wider foot as well as a typical width foot.

The base of the shoe provides good traction, although I found the way the shoe grips were positioned on the sole were the perfect size for smaller rocks and debris to get caught in. On several runs over gravel or rockier terrain I had to stop and physically remove rocks and stones that were caught between the grips.

I feel that this shoe should not be limited to trails and in fact, for someone looking for a lightweight cushioned shoe, this would work well on the roads as well.

Pros:

  • Light.
  • Optimal cushioning.
  • Fun colour.
  • Reasonably priced.

Cons:

  • Rocks catch in base.

Under Armour – Speedform

Price: $120 Arch Support: Neutral Weight: 241g Drop: 8mm
Reviewer: Pete Estabrooks – personal trainer extraordinaire

IMPACT Rating: 3.8 out of 5
RunRepeat.com Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Under Armour – Speedform

The quick take is there is not much shoe to this shoe. Placing a very lightweight minimalist breathable fast drying durable upper over a Micro G cushioned midsole makes for cushioned barefoot like (sock optional) comfort and a silicone gripped locked-in fit heel makes for a dynamite shoe for speedy, non-technical trail trundling. No extraneous weight nubs or lug treads makes gliding over gravel, dirt and the padded pathways in wooded corridors a breeze. This is the light shoe in your closet to go to when freedom to be footloose and fast outweighs your need for cushioning, crag climbing traction or full foot support.

Pros:

  • Super light weight.
  • Wide toe box.
  • Snug deep heel bed.
  • Comfortable wrap around upper with the potential for blister free sockless striding.

Cons:

  • Minimal support.
  • Slippery in mud.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here