2017 Trail Shoe Guide

13 Shoes for Your Off-Road Ad­ven­tures

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS -

ARC’TERYX NORVAN VT $200; Uni­sex: 300 g (10.6 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 9 mm

The re­spected Cana­dian out­door brand has been toy­ing with trail run­ning for years. Now, they re­veal their all-in with their first shoe, the Norvan VT. We imag­ine the last two let­ters stand for “ver­ti­cal,” as the Norvan is specif­i­cally kit­ted out to scram­ble on wet rocks and scree. The Norvan VT’s un­der­foot feel is de­cid­edly firm and re­ac­tive, good for sure-footed moun­tain run­ning and beaten down sin­gle­track. One novel el­e­ment of the VT’s de­sign is the lac­ing sys­tem, which al­lows you to ad­just the fore­foot fit on the fly, as ex­tra toe splay may be needed on de­scents, while a tighter fit is pre­ferred dur­ing a tough climb. The Norvan VT is a solid first step for Arc’teryx if you’re look­ing to run in the moun­tains.

ASICS GEL-FUJI RUNNEGADE 2 $150; Men’s: 261 g (9.2 oz.); Women’s: 218 g (7.7 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 6 mm

The Runnegade 2 is a light­weight sin­gle­track beast. The heavy and ex­tremely ag­gres­sive lugs are great for both trac­tion and speed. The rather low stack height and de­cid­edly min­i­mal de­sign are per­fect for a shorter trail race, or a longer affair if you’re an ef­fi­cient run­ner. The up­per is con­structed of neo­prene-like ma­te­rial and is en­tirely con­structed from one piece of fabric. It fits like a booty more than a con­ven­tional sneaker, with a high an­kle to keep de­bris from jump­ing on­board. The area around the toes and mid­foot are pro­tected with a wa­ter-re­pel­lent skin, but our testers did note that the up­per can get bogged down dur­ing re­ally wet con­di­tions, and it fit a bit nar­row. The Runnegade 2 is a speedy, su­per light op­tion for any trail run un­der about 30K.

COLUMBIA MONTRAIL CALDORADO II $190; Men’s: 289 g (10.2 oz.); Women’s: 269 g (9.5 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 8 mm

The leg­endary out­door com­pany Columbia re­cently merged their shoe lineup with re­spectable trail brand Montrail. The Caldorado II is a neu­tral multi-pur­pose shoe with the flex­i­bil­ity for faster sin­gle­track runs, while re­tain­ing some of the tough­ness and dura­bil­ity needed for all sorts of chal­leng­ing ter­rain. The Flu­idguide EVA mid­sole is pretty firm, and the heel-to-toe rub­ber out­sole is great in wet and muddy con­di­tions. The Caldorado’s up­dated up­per sheds some bulk by go­ing with welded-on lay­ers in or­der to pro­vide struc­ture around the foot. Best of all, the Caldorado II is re­ally com­fort­able, with a padded tongue and zero hot spots. It’s a won­der­fully ver­sa­tile trail shoe that is also quite durable.

HOKA ONE ONE CHAL­LENGER ATR 3 $170; Men’s: 269 g (9.5 oz.); Women’s: 244 g (7.9 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 5 mm

The pre­vi­ous Chal­lenger ATR was a fan­tas­tic hy­brid road/trail shoe, with a cou­ple of no­table flaws: a rather wimpy out­sole for rougher ter­rain and a some­what prob­lem­atic fit around the mid­foot. This third it­er­a­tion vastly im­proves the up­per, while main­tain­ing the ex­tremely soft mid­sole, opt­ing to keep the shoe right in be­tween the road and trail worlds.

The Chal­lenger ATR 3 em­ploys a whole new last, based on the su­per-pop­u­lar Clifton, mean­ing the shoe is go­ing to fit more snug­gly, par­tic­u­larly in the fore­foot. Un­der the foot, this shoe is like run­ning on a cloud. It’s not a great fit for re­ally rough ter­rain, but is ideal for long cruises on flat, dry ter­rain.

MERRELL AGILITY PEAK FLEX $150; Men’s: 315 g (11 oz.); Women’s: 255 g (9 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 6 mm

Merrell re­tooled their po­tent out­door lineup in 2017, fo­cus­ing ex­clu­sively on the trails. The brand is known for mak­ing some of the best min­i­mal shoes on the mar­ket, but the Agility Peak Flex is a more max­i­mal of­fer­ing.

The out­sole is heav­ily lugged for lots of rough trail grip and, you guessed it, agility. Sand­wiched be­tween those toothy lugs and your foot is quite a bit of cush­ion­ing, par­tic­u­larly along the me­dial arch and heel, which would make the Agility Peak Flex a de­cent pick for slight prona­tors. Up top is a solid, durable up­per and in­ter­lock­ing lac­ing sys­tem for long, ad­ven­tur­ous runs.

NIKE WILDHORSE 3 GTX $175; Men’s: 292 g (10.3 oz.); Women’s: 249 g (8.2 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 8 mm

Nike stays com­mit­ted to the trail scene with this ex­cel­lent up­grade of the Wildhorse. This par­tic­u­lar ver­sion is also tricked out with a Gore-Tex wa­ter­proof and highly breath­able mem­brane, a wel­come edi­tion for Cana­di­ans look­ing for a ver­sa­tile trail shoe to do dou­ble duty as a win­ter run­ner.

An­other big ad­di­tion is Nike’s Fly­wire ca­bling sys­tem for a bet­ter fit around the foot. The com­pres­sion-moulded Phy­lon mid­sole is firm enough for rac­ing, but the Zoom Air unit in the fore­foot is a sigh of re­lief with each touch­down onto a hard sur­face. The Wildhorse 3 runs a touch on the small side, but oth­er­wise feels like a se­cure, grippy and wa­ter­re­pel­lent piece of all con­di­tions gear.

NEW BAL­ANCE MINIMUS TRAIL 10V1 $150; Men’s: 212 g (7.4 oz.); Women’s: 181 g (6.3 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 4 mm

It’s not of­ten that we see a brand bring a shoe out of re­tire­ment. The Minimus Trail 10v1 was orig­i­nally re­leased a few years back, at the height of the bare­foot fad. And, although the de­mand for ul­tra­lightweight, next-to-the-asphalt shoes has died down, many fore­foot-strik­ing trail run­ners still pre­fer a sock-like shoe.

The Minimus Trail is ba­si­cally an out­sole and a sock-up­per, and lit­tle more. A few light wrap-around pieces of rub­ber and fabric pro­vide struc­ture and fit around the heel and fore­foot. Apart from that, this is a su­per flex­i­ble, very nim­ble ride. The Vi­bram out­sole lets you feel the earth be­neath your feet, but is grippy and mildly pro­tec­tive. Min­i­mal fans re­joice, the Minimus Trail is back and its, well, as same as ever.

THE NORTH FACE ENDURUS TR $170; Men’s: 317 g (11.2 oz.); Women’s: 273 g (9.6 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 6 mm

The North Face firmly en­ter the max cush­ion­ing cat­e­gory with this new model, the Endurus TR. And en­dure you will with this very plush, easy­go­ing ride. The Endurus TR is cer­tainly no speed de­mon, with a pretty sub­stan­tial stack height, grippy out­sole and very soft touch. It’s per­fect for log­ging very long trail runs, such as a 50 or 100 miler. Our re­view­ers noted three dis­tinct at­tributes that make the Endurus a stand out. The welded over­lays pro­vide struc­ture to the pleas­antly light and breath­able up­per. The XtraFoam mid­sole is pil­lowy soft. And the Vi­bram out­sole seems ca­pa­ble of han­dling just about any­thing we threw at it, even snow, mud and ice. The Endurus TR is an ace ad­di­tion to grow­ing mar­ket for big, comfy trail shoes.

SAU­CONY PERE­GRINE 7 $150; Men’s: 266 g (9.4 oz.); Women’s: 238 g (8.4 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 4 mm

The Sau­cony Pere­grine 7 is ready for bat­tle. This ag­gres­sive-plated shoe is ready to take on all con­di­tions, in­clud­ing un­du­lat­ing ter­rain, slip­pery sur­faces or wher­ever your off-road ad­ven­tures will take you. For­tu­nately, test­ing came at an ideal time as trails were muddy be­fore be­com­ing snow-cov­ered, leav­ing lit­tle room for er­ror to take on our feet. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, the spike-like sole is the big­gest take­away from the shoe and made it a great light­weight op­tion for trail run­ners of all abil­i­ties.

As with many quicker trail shoes, the over­all struc­ture is quite stiff, es­pe­cially in the heel, to pro­tect from the shoe’s in­tended pur­pose: tak­ing on tech­ni­cal ter­rain. The thicker up­per has less breatha­bil­ity than a neu­tral trainer but the added pro­tec­tion is key for your off-road ad­ven­tures.

TOPO ATH­LETIC ULTRAFLY $180; Men’s: 286 g (10.1 oz.); Women’s: 244 g (8.6 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 5 mm

The new­est shoe from the for­mer CEO of Vi­bram. The UltraFly is tech­ni­cally a sta­bil­ity shoe, with a stiff chunk of EVA ma­te­rial on the me­dial side for some sup­port. But it works well for neu­tral run­ners as well. Pre­vi­ous Topo shoes have been pretty firm, but the UltraFly’s thick mid­sole layer of­fers bounce and cush­ion­ing. Although the UltraFly is a hy­brid trail-road model, the up­per feels a bit more suited for rugged ter­rain, and should out­last many shoes on the mar­ket to­day. The nicest as­pect of the Topo line is the roomy toe box, which al­lows for wider feet and more toe splay. A tough ev­ery­day trail or rough road trainer.

UN­DER AR­MOUR HORI­ZON RTT $140; Men’s: 300 g (10.6 oz.); Women’s: 241 g (8.5 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 7 mm

Un­der Ar­mour has made an ag­gres­sive and mostly suc­cess­ful move into the run­ning mar­ket in the last year or so. It’s been driven by a solid shoe lineup. Our testers were huge fans of their 2017 road shoe of­fer­ings. The Hori­zon RTT is UA’s first trail shoe, and like its roadie sib­lings, it’s a pretty strong ef­fort. First thing’s first, this shoe is re­ally sharp to look at. Its got a clean, clas­sic look, al­most like a Euro­pean hik­ing boot de­sign, but it’s kit­ted out with qual­ity, re­spon­sive ma­te­ri­als. The Hori­zon RTT fits and feels sim­i­lar to the Nike Wildhorse, with a firm grippy out­sole and de­cent cush­ion­ing. The up­per is well con­structed to take abuse, but isn’t overly bulky. UA has pro­duced a great all-rounder with their first trail shoe.

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE UL­TRA $220; Uni­sex: 275 g (9.7 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 9 mm

In 2001, Salomon’s S-Lab Sense shoe was rev­o­lu­tion­ary in the ul­tra trail scene. It was a su­per ag­gres­sive, firm and fast rac­ing shoe de­signed specif­i­cally for Kil­ian Jor­net, who was re­defin­ing how we run a 100-miler. Granted, Jor­net’s needs are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than the rest of us, so Salmon wisely cre­ated this ex­cit­ing shoe, the S-Lab Sense Ul­tra. The key dif­fer­ences be­tween Jor­net’s shoe and the Ul­tra are in the amount of cush­ion­ing and pad­ding. The Ul­tra still has a firm enough mid­sole that it’s pro­tec­tive and durable with­out be­ing bulky. Other as­pects of the S-Lab mod­els are found in the Ul­tra as well, in­clud­ing the Quick­lace and lace pocket sys­tem and the sticky Con­tra­grip out­sole. The Ul­tra is an in­cred­i­ble shoe for elites and mere mor­tals alike, look­ing to run fast over long, hearty ter­rain.

BROOKS CALDERA $160; Men’s: 280 g (9.8 oz.); Women’s: 258 g (9.1 oz.); Drop ra­tio: 4 mm

The Caldera is a new trail shoe aimed at the ul­tra crowd. It’s a lighter, more flex­i­ble si­b­ling to Brooks’s stal­wart trail go-to, the Cas­ca­dia. Although the Caldera has a rel­a­tively low heel-to-toe off­set, it’s got loads of cush­ion­ing un­der­foot, with a very soft mid­sole. The out­sole of the Caldera sports a crazy lug pat­tern that’s clearly de­signed for fore­foot-strik­ers. Much of the shoe is lined with tough rub­ber although, oddly, a big empty spot right in the mid­dle of the heel land­ing area, which might make for less trac­tion if you’re a se­ri­ous heel-striker. The up­per looks so­phis­ti­cated, with welded over­lays and a very light mess toe box. Our testers found this to be in an in­ter­est­ing space some­where be­tween a per­for­mance and max cush­ion­ing shoe; great for long, easy trail cruis­ing.— MD

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