Off-road run­ning shoes

From ob­sta­cle cour­ses to moun­tain trails, the right shoe can boost your per­for­mance

Men's Fitness - - Kit Bag -

Mer­rell All Out Charge £95 mer­

Any­one who’s stepped heav­ily on a stone knows how painful it can be, and the All Out Charge has the most pro­tec­tion of all the shoes tested – we barely felt a thing through it. The down­side is re­duced feel for what ex­actly is un­der­foot, although that’s less of a prob­lem when the grip is so good. Us­ing a mix­ture of lugs and grooves, this shoe of­fers phe­nom­e­nal trac­tion over all sorts of ter­rain. It can be a lit­tle slow to drain wa­ter, but the fairly high pro­file means not much gets in un­less you’re an­kle deep. Even the wash­ing ma­chine can’t save most off-road shoes from de­vel­op­ing an earthy odour, but the re­mov­able, wash­able in­ner sole in this one does a good job of slow­ing the ar­rival of any un­pleas­ant smells. Pros ■ Good sole pro­tec­tion ■ Ef­fec­tive odour con­trol Cons ■ Heavy when wet ■ Not par­tic­u­larly re­spon­sive Ver­dict ●●●● ● Thick cush­ion­ing makes for a safe off-road op­tion

Inov-8 X-Talon 200 £90 mil­let­

Bri­tish com­pany Inov-8 has its roots in fell run­ning, but when its shoes be­gan to prove popular at ob­sta­cle course races (OCRs), the com­pany cre­ated some­thing bet­ter suited to the unique chal­lenges of scram­bling over muddy struc­tures and up slip­pery hills. The re­sult is a light­weight shoe with great grip, dura­bil­ity and drainage. You’ll keep your foot­ing on all but the most treach­er­ous sur­faces thanks to the chunky 8mm lugs. A Bal­lis­tic Ny­lon up­per of­fers pro­tec­tion on ob­sta­cles such as rope climbs, while its light­weight mesh lets wa­ter and air in and out to stop the on­set of trench foot from ru­in­ing your race. There’s even a wider toe box for breath­ing room if the damp does cause any swelling. Pros ■ In­cred­i­bly durable ■ Fast wa­ter drainage Cons ■ Min­i­mal sup­port ■ Loose tongue lets small stones in Ver­dict ●●●●● Will make your OCR seem much eas­ier

Salomon Fell­raiser £90

De­spite its hor­ror-in­spired name, the Fell­raiser is a dream of a trail shoe that’s just as good for stomp­ing through fields as it is for scal­ing walls. The chevron lugs do a fan­tas­tic job of keep­ing your feet from slip­ping and give de­cent pur­chase when run­ning from a stand­ing start. Though its sole is sub­stan­tial enough to pro­tect you from rogue rocks, the shoe’s low pro­file means you can still feel the ter­rain un­der­foot, which helps you re­spond to it and stay bal­anced. The speed-lac­ing sys­tem works well as long as you en­sure it’s tightly se­cure when you set off, but the laces have a ten­dency to pop out of their spe­cial pocket, and the mud­dier they get the tougher it is to ad­just them quickly on the go. Pros ■ Protective toe­cap and sole ■ Chevron lugs grip well on all ter­rain Cons ■ Slow to drain wa­ter ■ Laces can be fid­dly to ad­just Ver­dict ●●●● ● Tears up trails and a good choice for OCRs too

Vivobare­foot Trail Freak £90 vivobare­

In­jury and dis­com­fort can be con­cerns when tran­si­tion­ing to bare­foot run­ning shoes on hard sur­faces, but the re­duced im­pact of off-road run­ning makes this less of an is­sue. The ben­e­fit of shed­ding the cush­ion­ing is an en­hanced tac­til­ity that makes it easy to read the ground be­neath your feet – you’ll no­tice slip­pery gravel quicker and be able to use the curves of your feet to bal­ance on beams, for ex­am­ple. Though its lugs are smaller than the other shoes tested (4.5mm), grip is still se­cure for all but the mud­di­est of sur­faces. The thin mesh ma­te­rial is su­per-breath­able and stops wa­ter pool­ing, but the lack of any ad­di­tional toe pro­tec­tion makes it hard to rec­om­mend for an OCR just in case you end up stub­bing or drop­ping some­thing heavy on them. Pros ■ Thin sole en­hances ground con­nec­tion ■ Highly breath­able Cons ■ No toe pro­tec­tion ■ In­fe­rior grip in thick mud Ver­dict ●●● ●● A good in­tro­duc­tion to off-road min­i­mal­ist shoes

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