Trail Shoe Awards
With winter upon us, the nights have drawn in, and the weather has gotten colder and wetter. So now is the perfect time to get off-road and really embrace running. Not only will it make you a better runner (uneven terrain means harder work and therefore strong legs) it will take you to some truly amazing scenery. Obviously your road shoes are not designed for the wet slippery conditions, so here are our Trail Shoe Awards!
Best Fell Shoe
Fell Running is for the true naturists. There are no paths and no right or wrong routes, just the open world and you. Run through swamps, or over moutains, you need a shoe that will cope with the worst conditions thrown at you. So in reverse order, here are our top 3 Fell running shoes:
3) Mizuno Wave Harrier 3
The Mizuno Wave Harrier 3 has remained unchanged for 7 years, and for good reason. It offers superb grip, a low profile design, and a sturdy upper. The wave in the heel has been fully enclosed so that there are no chances of dirt and debris getting lodged in there, and still offers the impact protection that it does so well in the road shoes. The midsole offers cushioning, whilst remaining low profile, as most of the cushioning is done under foot in the ground itself. A worthy Bronze medal winner
2) Saloman FellRaiser
Saloman have been synonamous with trail running in recent years, and the FellRaiser represents a new shoe for them. It is lower profile than the Speedcross, and also lighter. It has superb grip, and like the Mizuno Wave Harrier 3, offers a good level of cushioning. The speed laces are present as they are in all of Salomans shoes, and have a very sturdy upper.
And the winner is... Inov8 X-Talon 212
The X-talon has been Inov8's Flagship shoe for years. In this newest iteration, there have been some subtle improvements to improve on an already great shoe. The protective rand has been extended further round the shoe for more protection, but has been made more flexible to allow a more natural movement in the foot. The mesh as also changed to make it sturdier, whilst remaining flexible. At 212g is is a antastically light shoe, but the outsole remains as grippy as ever. All in all, this shoe is made for the wilderness.
Best Shoe for Coastal Paths
With Coastal Paths becoming more and more popular with races such as the Jurassic Coast appearing what seems to be almost everywhere, coastal path shoes have almost become a sub-category all on their own. So in reverse order, here are my top 3 shoes for Coastal Paths:
3) New Balance Minimus 1010v2
The New Balance Minimus Range represents a significant movement away from what they had become known for - excellent cushioning and support. With the Minimus 1010v2, you get excellent cushioning and protection, whilst maintaining a minimalist shoe, that has superb grip. With a flexible sole unit, and a Reva midsole you get the best of everything, and can use this shoe to transition into a more forefooted style.
2) Asics Gel FujiTrainer 2
The Asics FujiTrainer 2 takes all of Asics best qualities and throws them into the very reasonably priced shoe. Offering a Gel cushioning system in a lower profile midsole than their road shoes, you get a flexible lightweight shoe, but with a very hard wearing and grippy outsole. The teeth underneath grip and pull the ground back under you on every step and because they use the same AHAR+ rubber, they are durable too. The mesh is tougher, and has a stitched in tongue for protection from debris, as well as a lace pocket to prevent them getting caught on any brambles (read my review on them here)
And the winner is... Inov8 Trailroc 255
The winner for best Coastal Path Shoe goes to another Inov8 shoe. The Trailroc 255 offer superb impac protection with the use of a rockplate in the toe, but remains flexible, and relatively cushioned too. The rubber outsole is as tough as you can get, and has lugs specifically designed to stick to rocks and loose gravel meaning you'll never lose you footing. The uppers are protections, and the rand offers superb protection from stones and rocks alike. The natural last means that your toes have plenty of room to spread, and the upper is flexible enough for you to be comfortable for however long you plan on staying out
Best Hybrid Shoe
Hybrid shoes are ideal for a number of things. One, you only need one pair of shoes if you're covering mixed terrain. Two, they save money if you're on a budget, and only want one pair of shoes. And three, you can go straight out your front door, along the road to the trail, and then home again without having to change, or drive to the trail. So in reverse order, here are my 3 favorite Hybrid shoes
3) Adidas Supernova Riot 5
The Adidas Supernova Riot 5 offers the best of Adidas. The cushoning underfoot is comprised of Adiprene+ and uses the same Formotion and Over-Pronation bar as seen on their high end road shoes, yet offers a more ruggd outsole to prevent slipping. Speed laces are used to prevent them getting caught, and Continental Rubber is used on the outsole to ensure that they cope with the road.
2) Mizuno Wave Ascend 8
The Miuno Wave Ascend 8 is Mizunos best selling off road shoe for good reason. It offes the same technology we see int the road shoes, and uses AP+ foam for the cushioning, as well as integrating a wave system in the heel for impact dispertionand slight over-pronation prevention. The outsole offers slightly more than the road shes, so that you can grip on light trails and roads alike. The uppers are slightly more substantial than the road shoes, and offers more protection whilst remaining flexible.
And the winner is... Saloman Cross Max 2
The first Saloman CrossMax was an excellent shoe, but had a few issues in that a lot of people feet didn't get on with the shape of them. However, Saloman took this on board and redesigned them from the ground up to produce a fantastic new version. The midsole offers excellent cushioning, and the upper is more flexible and more proteev than befoe. The Sensifit strip across the Metatarsal joint was criticised as being too restrictive in the previous version, however is no longer. It provides a snug yet fleible feeling, that reassures you on every stride. The outsole is as grippy as ever, and remains durable and flexible. Speed laces, and a lace pocket mean that you'll never get snagged on loose branches, and last but not least, they look fantastic
Best Minimal Off-Road SHoe
With minimal running becoming more popular on the road, it has been an ever present in the Off-road community. Below are my top 3 minimal off-road shoes in reverse order
3) Inov8 Trailroc 150
The Trailroc 150 is a completely stripped down version o the 255, and offers the same outsole. It offers excellent grip and durability, but with none of the weight. At just 150g, it offers a 0mm heel drop, and no cushioning for a truly minimal feel. A flexible upper is not only expected, but delivered extremely well, whilst remaining durable.
2) New Balance MT10v2
The New Balance Minimus MT10v2 improves upon an already excellent minimal trail shoe. The Vibram outsole means superb traction and durability, whilst being lightweight. The upper forefoot strap has been redesigned to offer a little more movement than before, andis a stark improvement on one of the only negatives about the previous version. with a 4mm heel drop, and very thin cushion in the midsole, this is a little more forgiving than the Trailroc 150.
And the winner is... Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon
You don't get much more minimal than a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. The Spyridon is my pick of the bunch for off road, due to the sheer grip underneath. They are highly flexible, and offer a truly barefot feeling. Not for those who aren't use to this feeling, but those people wanting to feel at one with the trail, this is the shoe for you!
Best Bargain Shoe
With off-road running being a new concept for a lot of runners, I can understand the hesitation in not wanting to spend a lot of money on another pair of shoes you aren't sure you'll want to use. However, with the prices of these shoes, you can get an excellent feel for it, without spending the earth, and will hve a better time than if you just experiment with your road shoes. Below are my top 3 bargains in reverse order.
3) Puma Faas 300 TR
The Puma Faas 300 TR retails at an RRP of £70, whch, for a trail shoe, is a great deal. The outsole is grippy and the cushoning is fairly substantial, so its an easy transition from your road shoes. The 10mm heel drop means you have plenty under your heels, but they are flexible and low, so midfoot/forefoot stikers can use them too.
2) New Balance MT110
The New Balance MT110 retails at £55 and provides a fantastic platform into minimal off-road running. Very little cushioning is present, so although it isn't a preferred choce for heel strikers, it is a fantastic minimal off-road shoe, that shouldn't be discounted even when you know that trail running is for you.
And the winner is... Adidas Kanadia TR 5
I honestly do not know how Adidas make this shoe for retail at £55. It has the same outsole as its big brother the Response Trail, and the cushioning is almost comparable too. As a trail shoe, it stands on its own two feet, and was a contender for the best hybrid shoe as well. This shoe will see almost everyone who are new to trails through, and is geared towards heel strikers.
So, awards done, now all thats left to do is get out on the trails, and rack up those winter miles!
The shoes above are available from the following places: