2019 Trail Shoe Review

IMPACT's review team hits the trails

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Photo: Graham McKerrell

361 Degrees Yushan – 4/5

Women’s • $170 • Weight: 283 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.361usa.com

This heavy duty trail runner is built for long mileage and variable conditions. There is a healthy amount of cushioning, particularly under the heel, which absorbs shock on moderate to steep downhills while also promoting a forward momentum on the uphills. The exterior incorporates a rock plate and a toe shield for added protection. The weight should not be a deterrent given the shoe’s responsiveness and natural gait. The shoe fits wide.

Shauna Gersbach won her first marathon in 2005 using an IMPACT training plan.

361 Degrees Yushan
Photo: Graham McKerrell

361 Degrees Yushan – 3.5/5

Men’s • $170 • Weight: 348 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.361usa.com

The 361-Yushan is comfortable to run in however, they are quite heavy and it takes a lot of energy to get them moving. They have a roomy toe box and are a durable, solid shoe with a stable platform. There is not a lot of rocker in the sole and they’re quite stiff with a substantial outsole. They have a rock plate under the forefoot, which protected my feet while running over sharp rocks and rugged terrain.

Matt Setlack has competed at the last four World Mountain Running Championships.

361 Degrees Yushan
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Altra Superior 4 – 3.5/5

Women’s • $150 • Weight: 178 g • Drop: 0 mm • www.altrarunning.ca

If you’re familiar with Altra, the Superior 4 won’t surprise you. It’s had a few key updates since 3 and 3.5, but still remains a very similar, zero drop trail runner with a wide toe box and insertable rock plate. The upgrades include a tongue that is attached to the medial side of the shoe giving it limited overlay, and only four eyelets which I found made the shoe feel even wider and a bit too big (long).

Rachael McIntosh is a former track & field athlete & Canadian heptathlete.

Altra Superior 4
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Altra Superior 4 – 4/5

Men’s • $150 • Weight: 223 g • Drop: 0 mm • www.altrarunning.ca

These shoes are lightweight and hard-charging. They feature a 0 mm heel-to-toe drop and a wide toe box so your toes stay in a natural and neutral splay while running. They were flexible and comfortable from the first run. The shoes come with a rock plate insole that protected my feet on terrain that would’ve otherwise left them tender – great! The outsole was grippy in steep terrain, on loose rock, wet trails, and snow and ice.

Ian MacNairn is a professional ultrarunner & ultrarunning National Champion.

Altra Superior 4
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Columbia Montrail Rogue F.K.T. II – 4/5

Women’s • $110 • Weight: 253  g • Drop: 10 mm • www.columbiasportswear.ca

This shoe is a speed star. They felt springy and fast on the trails, are super light-weight but also have 6.5mm lugs for rugged traction and stability on more tech-nical trails. A reinforced toecap and heel also help out in rainy conditions and un-even terrain. They felt comfortable doing a speedy tempo run and I loved the frisky fast response they gave. The upper structure is a breathable mesh that kept my feet feeling cool, dry and comfortable.

Katherine Moore is a distance runner & yoga teacher.

Columbia Montrail Rogue F.K.T. II
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Columbia Montrail Rogue F.K.T. II – 4/5

Men’s • $110 • Weight: 257 g • Drop: 10 mm • www.columbiasportswear.ca

My favourite part of this shoe is the upper. It fit snugly and has no blister-causing seams. On the run I liked the amount of cushioning and I had a good feel for the trail surface. The lugs are rather aggressive, which was great for technical terrain, but when the trail smoothed, out it felt a little clunky trying to get going fast. Overall I really liked this shoe.

Rob Watson is experimenting with trail running after an elite track & road career. 

Columbia Montrail Rogue F.K.T. II
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. – 5/5

Women’s • $150 • Weight: 349 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.columbiasportswear.ca

This shoe is the ultimate in comfort. I love them! The cushioning has amazing energy return and the deep grooves on the sole are engineered to work with gait-cycle biomechanics. I used them for long easy runs on the trails and road. The shoe has a wide toe box but I did not slip around or get any blisters. The durable sole made me feel safe and supported when I was running through the wet trails.

Katherine Moore is a distance runner & yoga teacher.

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R.
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. – 4.5/5

Men’s • $150 • Weight: 349 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.columbiasportswear.ca

This was my favourite shoe of the three I tested. It could almost pass as a road shoe in regards to feel and ride. The lugs are not too aggressive, but it also got the job done on technical terrain. It compromises a bit in traction, but allows for speedier surges. It is a bit heavy, but it fits well and does not feel clunky. This one will be a regular in my trail shoe rotation.

Rob Watson is experimenting with trail running after an elite track & road career. 

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R.
Photo: Graham McKerrell

inov-8 Trailroc 280 – 4/5

Women’s • $150 • Weight: 280 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.inov-8.com

This lightweight shoe was exactly what I was looking for in a trail runner. With light neutral support and a great tread, the shoe performed well on all types of trails. It’s a bit narrow in the toe box but a nice snug fit overall. The only thing that’s missing is a rock guard on the toes. Overall, I loved this shoe and would consider it for both long and short runs – races too.

Dana Ferguson is a runner, cyclist, & skier who runs on roads and trails. 

inov-8 Trailroc 280
Photo: Graham McKerrell

inov-8 Trailroc 280 – 5/5

Men’s • $150 • Weight: 280 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.inov-8.com

I could hike for hours in these shoes! On my run, the sidewalks felt soft. On the trails, this shoe gave my foot support and mobility in the right areas. I appreciated the extra protection around the toe; to avoid big toe hyperextension and in case my clumsy feet ran into a rock or root. I will definitely incorporate this shoe into my routine for trail runs, hikes and even long walks on hard surfaces.

Aaron Case a chiropractor who loves the freedom running brings.

inov-8 Trailroc 280
Photo: Graham McKerrell

inov-8 Roclite G 275 – 4/5

Women’s • $170 • Weight: 275 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.inov-8.com

I could tell in my first few runs up and over rocky trails that this shoe is high on traction and durability. It has a trustworthy grip and firm protection for a light-weight trail shoe. I did find it on the structured side of fit and comfort, with an upper that isn’t as forgiving and a somewhat stiff ride. These features would be a positive for longer trail races with unpredictable weather, conditions or rugged terrain.

Lucy Smith is a 19-time Canadian champion in cross-country, road, track & triathlon.

inov-8 Roclite G 275
Photo: Graham McKerrell

inov-8 Roclite G 275 – 4.5/5

Men’s • $170 • Weight: 275 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.inov-8.com

Looking for lightweight and versatile? The G 275 is a great all round trail runner if you don’t need a ton of support but crave traction in all conditions. With an 8mm drop that seems more like a 4 or 6, it feels unusually smooth on fast and long days alike. The upper mesh and lacing fits tight and protects well against both rocks and wearing. It might best suit a runner who likes a low ankle fit.

Jordan Bryden is a professional endurance triathlete and trail runner.

inov-8 Roclite G 275
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Merrell Bare Access XTR Sweeper – 5/5

Women’s • $140 • Weight: 260 g • Drop: 0 mm • www.merrell.com

This is a minimalist trail shoe with just enough cushion under the midsole. Lightweight, flexible and breathable, I didn’t want to take them off after my run and so wore them comfortably all day. I love the wide toe box and lacing system to pull the shoe snug around the midfoot. They felt fast, smooth and grippy on the local trails. For the zero-drop fans out there, I recommend this new addition from Merrell.

Nicki Rehn is an ultra-marathoner who loves long events like The Barkley Marathon.

Merrell Bare Access XTR Sweeper
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Merrell Bare Access XTR Sweeper – 4/5

Men’s • $140 • Weight: 224 g • Drop: 0 mm • www.merrell.com

This minimal feeling shoe has a zero drop, so is not for every runner. But for those who do like to feel the dirt below their feet and a lightweight feel, then this shoe is a great option. The Vibram rubber offers great traction and the upper is so incredibly comfortable that I ran in it without socks on a few occasions. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, but with the caveat that it is a minimal shoe.

Adam Campbell is a pro trail runner who likes long distance runs in the mountains.

Merrell Bare Access XTR Sweeper
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 36 – 4/5

Women’s • $155 • Weight: 283 g • Drop: 10 mm • www.nike.com/ca

This shoe was a treat to wear and run in. It was equally nimble over my usual rugged testing trail and felt super fast on the benign flat gravel paths of my local park. A very cushioned ride compared to a lot of trail shoes, it still has plenty of protection, great traction and responds well to all the movement involved in trail running. Feels just like the traditional Pegasus, made for trails. Love it!

Lucy Smith is a 19-time Canadian champion in cross-country, road, track & triathlon.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 36
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 36 – 5/5

Men’s • $155 • Weight: 272 g • Drop: 10 mm • www.nike.com/ca

The Pegasus 36 is one of the best trail running shoes I have run in. They are lightweight yet still have ample cushioning. The sole has a nice rocker and but does not have a rock plate, which meant I could occasionally feel sharp stones. The flat-top lugs on the sole aren’t overly aggressive, making the shoe perfect for hard packed dirt trails. The Pegasus has excellent breathability, outstanding responsiveness and made me feel light on my feet.

Matt Setlack has competed at the last four World Mountain Running Championships.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 36
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Salomon Speedcross 5 – 5/5

Women’s • $160 • Weight: 280 g • Drop: 10 mm • www.salomon.com

The Speedcross is my all-time favourite trail shoe. I’ve cycled through approximately 10 pairs. The toothy lugs are great for mountainous terrain, muddy trail runs and rocky slopes. My favourite feature is the lacing system that hugs my foot, providing a snug and comfortable fit. A durable shoe I would highly recommend for any kind of trail or mountain running.

Emily Setlack is a Canadian Champion in the half-marathon & 5,000 m events.

Salomon Speedcross 5
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Salomon Speedcross 5 – 4.5/5

Men’s • $160 • Weight: 328 g • Drop: 10 mm • www.salomon.com

At first glance, this shoe looks almost cleat-like and rigid with its aggressive outsole. I was surprised at the amount of cushioning and light weight of this shoe but satisfied with the minimal ventilation and protection. These shoes performed well on loose terrain – crushed gravel, sand and mud. The outsole intrigues with its famed lug pattern from heel to toe tip, making this shoe a top choice for race day or for quick leg-speed workouts.

Nick Hastie is a former Canadian elite triathlete & current distance runner.

Salomon Speedcross 5
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Saucony Mad River TR – 4.5/5

Women’s • $140 • Weight: 275 g • Drop: 4 mm • www.saucony.ca

I loved this shoe with its wide forefoot, comfortable foam tongue and heel, and great cushioning. It has two sets of eyelets for customizing the lacing system to fit your foot. It was awesome on the trails with an excellent platform and grip, and has a guide on the sole for adding studs for winter running – which is a super cool innovation. Huge draw for me was the smooth, minimal and responsive ride with trusty traction.

Lucy Smith is a 19-time Canadian champion in cross-country, road, track & triathlon.

Saucony Mad River TR
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Saucony Mad River TR – 5/5

Men’s • $140 • Weight: 309 g • Drop: 4 mm • www.saucony.ca

Love these shoes. With a perfect heel drop at 4 mm and wider toe box, the aggressive tread can be modified for water drainage or have screw studs added for ice and snow running The cushioning allows for a decent ground feel. The tread has shallow soft rubber lugs with some special sharp teeth for great grip going up and help to slow or stop on downhills. This shoe can do it all at a very affordable price!

Calvin Zaryski is the Canadian record holder for the 75 km SwimRun ÖTILLÖ Race.

Saucony Mad River TR
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Scarpa Spin RS – 4/5

Women’s • $135 • Weight: 283 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.scarpa.com

A speedy, nimble and durable shoe that comes into its own on wet and technical trails. Substantial upper gave a locked-down feel. I appreciated the durable and thicker upper and the aggressive Vibram tread provided solid grip in all conditions. The midsole had a nice heel-to-toe off transition and is one of the fastest shoes I have worn for muddy terrain. This shoe is perfect for navigating mountainous terrain or technical trails with speed in mind.

Emily Setlack is a Canadian Champion in the half-marathon & 5,000 m events.

Scarpa Spin RS
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Scarpa Spin RS – 4/5

Men’s • $135 • Weight: 283 g • Drop: 8 mm • www.scarpa.com

Cresting the hill, I have two miles of downhill ahead on the Ridgeback Trail. The Scarpa Spin RS’s that I’d been thinking were a little stiff, were now a godsend. The shoe absolutely laid waste to the conditions. The rocks and rubble underfoot were cushioned, while roots and wet spots were handled by the thick lugs on the sole. This tough-as-nails trail shoe was surprisingly light and is perfect for rougher mountain runs.

Pete Estabrooks, prefers long trail runs, marathons and ultra-marathons.

Scarpa Spin RS
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Topo Athletic Runventure 2 – 4/5

Women’s • $170 • Weight: 260 g • Drop: 0 mm • www.topoathleticcanada.ca

This was my first time in Topo’s and I would run in them again. They were much lighter than what I am used to in a trail shoe which allowed for nimble trail running. I found the shoes soft and roomy because of the broad toe bed. In mixed conditions because of winter runoff, the shoes performed well; however, my feet were wet at the end, which is why they lost a point.

Kirsten Fleming is Executive Director of Run Calgary & an avid trail & road runner.

Topo Athletic Runventure 2
Photo: Graham McKerrell

Topo Athletic Ultraventure – 3.5/5

Men’s • $130 • Weight: 317 g • Drop: 5 mm • www.topoathleticcanada.ca

My initial reaction was that these were some beefy shoes! I was pleasantly surprised with the comfort and feel and especially liked the roomy forefoot. I am not really a fan of all the cushioning as I feel as though I lose the feel of the trail. But this was a rather nice shoe for a smooth, not too technical trail. Comfortable but slow and a bit bulky.

Rob Watson is experimenting with trail running after an elite track & road career.

Topo Athletic Ultraventure
Photo: Graham McKerrell

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