By Ryan Scott
Trail running presents so many different terrains – and ways in which to run them. Lightweight shoes may be great for climbing, but they aren’t ideal for pounding descents; and comfortable cushioning can come at the expense of a feel for the trail underfoot.
We’ve covered all the bases – five shoes to use over different types of terrain.
For the first time, Mizuno running shoes will now be available in South Africa. The Wave Ascend has a road-adapted feel to it with a larger heel-toe profile, which is best for simple, less technical trails over all distances. The fan-shaped wave plate is clever technology that disperses shock uniformly throughout the sole for good cushioning in a longitudinal direction, and provides stability – from the same plate – in a lateral direction.
The X10 carbon rubber and ‘Wet Traction’ synthetic leather compound outsole provides enhanced grip for variable surfaces and weather conditions.
BEST FOR: Those looking for comfort on the trails as well as support over long distances on smooth dirt, gravel and paved surfaces.
BEWARE: This shoe lacks the agility and feel for the trail that many of its off-road cousins provide.
SPECS: 340g; 12mm heel-toe drop
FROM: Super Brands 021 380 6360
Our favourite Asics road shoes are those from the DS series, so we’re really happy to see Asics make a trail shoe that has similar components. Fuji Racer is the lightest in the Asics trail range, but still includes a forefoot rock plate to avoid punishing the fleshy forefoot on those fast, racing downhills on rocky terrain.
The midsole has a resilient feel thanks to the Solyte material, but the Trusstic system ensures there are flex points to keep the response impressive.
BEST FOR: Running and racing on fast, debris-strewn or rocky trails, or when you don’t know what’s in store on the trails ahead.
BEWARE: Some testers pointed out that the drainage holes – a clever way to move loads of water out of the shoe – also let water in.
SPECS: 245g; 7mm heel-toe drop
The XT Wings have become a favourite from the Salomon stable because of their versatility – an all-terrain, all-mountain shoe. A new outsole is suited to wet conditions; it loses mud easily, and is more in contact with the floor than previous versions.
It’s also good to see the technology of the super-fast Slab series introduced to the XT Wings, in the form of welded upper seams. This makes the shoe lighter, and decreases the chance of irritation that could cause blisters over longer distances.
BEST FOR: Long-distance stage racing, when you’re looking for lots of support and cushioning – provided by the ACS chassis system in the midsole.
BEWARE: The heel is quite high off the ground, which sacrifices some of the tactile feel of the trail.
SPECS: 377g; 10mm heel-toe drop
FROM: Salomon Stores
The new Minimus MT1010 is an expansion of the NB Minimus range – but instead of going for less, they have actually added to previous versions. The heel is up to 14mm, and the addition of a RockStop rockplate will protect more sensitive feet, especially when descending on rocky surfaces. It’s a fairly light, flexible trail shoe with a low profile, but also has a cushioned midsole for comfort.
BEST FOR: First-timers to minimalist trail shoes looking for something lighter and lower, as well as the minimalist runner needing protection on tough terrain.
BEWARE: The outsole only covers a small proportion of the shoe, with very soft midsole and rockplate exposed in many areas. The MT10 (the previous model) midsole blew out really quickly.
SPECS: 218g; 4mm heel-toe drop
FROM: New Balance Stores 021 705 6224; Arrives August 2012
The two arrows on the heel indicate the Roclite 285 is not the least cushioned of the Inov-8 range; but the balance of cushioning to weight is excellent, allowing nimble running over rocky terrain with little discomfort. The sole design includes rubber channels that replicate the plantar fascia ligament in the foot, which is in line with the Inov-8 strategy of mimicking the biomechanics of the bare foot.
BEST FOR: Narrow feet; runners wanting a light shoe with heavy tread that can be used on any trail terrain, and ideal for shorter racing distances.
BEWARE: A broad forefoot can feel tight in the Roclite 285, and the low heel cup does not feel secure on some feet.
SPECS: 285g; 6mm heel-toe drop
FROM: Drifters Stores
Shoes designed for running on technical terrain have more trail-specific features than hybrids. Here are the details to look for when buying a pair of shoes for off-road running:
- Reinforced toe bumper
- Flexible plate inside midsole for push-through protection against rocks and other pointy trail obstacles
- Wider toe box to prevent stubbed toes and accommodate swelling feet
- Abrasion-resistant upper to reduce side-impact bruising
- Knobby, grippy rubber outsole tread for running over rocks, roots, and muddy terrain
- Open mesh for maximum breathability
- Wide outsole footprint for optimal stability