Trash Your Treadmill: Trail Running Shoe Guide
Trash Your Treadmill: Trail Running Shoe Guideby Jason Whitehouse
Cars, crowds, knee-punishing pavement, and the smell of exhaust are just four of millions of reasons we seek the solitude and freedom of running trails. Whether it’s a part of your morning-wake-up routine or post-workday wind-down, trail running takes you beyond the hustle-bustle of your neighborhood, local park, or—heaven forbid—the TV-facing treadmill at the gym.Uneven, rocky, and sometimes muddy trails won’t let you get by with a half-assed effort; the trail demands your blood, sweat, and tears. In hopes of saving you from at least a little bleeding and crying, we’ve asked several of our runners to shed a little light on their favorite trail running shoes, why they use them, and what to look out for when getting into a running shoe. Dig in, and hopefully we can help you narrow down the search for your perfect trail-worthy kicks.The Runners:
- Eric Miller – Neutral footprint, standard width
- Erica Carley – Narrow foot, knock-kneed, high pronation
- Jamon Whitehead – Neutral arch, standard width
- Emily Wallace – High arch, high pronation, narrow foot.
- Matt Young – High volume, fairly wide, and short. Neutral arch.
Foot type: I have a neutral footprint that neither pronates nor supinates. My foot is about average in regard to width.
Montrail Vitesse: These shoes are all-around awesome. These are the tried and tested model that has lasted through multiple line changes by Montrail. They fit like a glove, the “outrigger” on the sole provides additional stability, and they are comfortable for runs lasting from 30 minutes to 4 hours.My one potential dislike of the shoe is one time I did notice some foot fatigue and soreness after running a long, rocky trail. I’ve spoken to others who own the shoe and they haven’t ever experienced anything like that, it could just be me.
MontrailHurricane Ridge XCR: This shoe is perfect for cool weather running, wet runs, and winter running.The Gore-Tex XCR fabric keeps my feet dry, the stretch tongue hugs the shoe to my foot, and the lugged sole provides excellent traction in all conditions. I’ve run everything from short easy trails to long, steep, and rocky trails in these shoes and have been very happy. The one downside is that on warm runs, the Gore-Tex XCR fabric, though breathable, keeps my feet too warm.
Pearl Izumi Syncro Seek 2: This is a fairly decent shoe.The shoe offers ample ventilation, which is perfect for runs on hot days. The sole offers good traction and fine protection on rocky trails.I did find, after a couple of runs, that I have to cinch the laces down almost as tight as they can go to keep my feet from slipping within the shoe.If I didn’t cinch them down as tight as they’ll go I did get blisters.Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed this shoe.
Foot type: I pronate a lot, especially on my right foot. I'm knock-kneed as well and I've worn orthotics since I was 12. To make matters worse, I sprained my knee this past ski season and it remains pretty janky even though I've rehabbed it quite a bit. I also have narrow feet—about an A width in the ball of my foot but even narrower in the heel.
I've been running on the La Sportiva Pikes Peak all summer. I looove them. I love how the Pikes Peak cups my heels—I'm very blister-prone but that hasn't been a problem with these shoes. They're a lot more supportive than most trail shoes I've tried, so I use them as a day hiker as well. Even with all my foot and injury issues, I've felt super stable running in the Pike's Peak, even downhill on unstable terrain.
Foot type: Neutral arch, standard width
My all time fav is the Salomon XA Pro. It is my all around shoe.It is stable enough for uneven and rocky terrain,not too heavy for the climbs, and light enough to take up to 26 miles.These are the shoes I ran the Mid Mountain Marathon in last weekend.
If I am looking for a lighter shoe for faster/ shorter races I go for the La Sportiva Fireblade. It is extremely light, but the sole is stiff enough to prevent foot destruction in rocky, loose terrain.
I was not impressed with the The North Face Arnuva 50. The sole is way too soft for running on any kind of trail. They do work well for the limited road running I do or light hiking.
Foot type: I pronate, I have a high arch, skinny foot. I have a fused lower back so having supportive, cushy shoes is a huge, huge bonus!
The GoLite Trail Fly Trail Running Shoes are great on rocky up hill trails. I do not roll my ankle in these and I do not need to look down constantly thinking of where my feet need to be. I like how you can change the volume in the toe box. On days when I’m running more downhill I put in the toe tab for a better fit so my feet do not move around as much, and the opposite when I want more toe room. These feel really great on concrete. The Trail Flys are one of the few shoes I can run on concrete with because of the extra padding in the shoe for my back.
Dislikes: On down hill they are not as grippy on rocks and such, and sometimes I slide around. They are not the best for running on grass/smooth dirt trails that have small dents and cracks in the ground.
The La Sportiva Fireblade Trail Running Shoes feel very lightweight and very movable. These do not have a ton of support since they are a neutral-feeling shoe, but the heel cup offers pronation control. The control and support does not feel over-forced. I love taking these on grassy trails or park trails. These are very grippy and I have never rolled my ankle or fallen with these. They offer great grip on rocky trails and I feel very safe and confident running downhill in these. The upper is also very breathable. The Fireblade’s toe box is nice and wide, though not too wide, and the lacing really allows you to get a good grip on your foot. These do very well on the street and I almost feel like I am running barefoot with some extra protection.
Dislikes: I do not have any. These are perfect shoes and I really enjoy them. I am not a huge fan of the yellow color, though.
I love, love, love The North Face Arnuva 50 Boa Trail Running Shoes! They weigh practically nothing! I love the Boa lacing system. When I am taking a break I can loosen them easily to walk or drive, and in a split second they are laced up and ready to go. These are very stable and I have used them for lots of street running as well as on trails. The bottom soles are very, very grippy, in fact I took a gnarly spill on concrete because I did not pick my foot up enough and the rubber gripped and my body just went tumbling. I have run through streams of water with these and they drain well. They are the most breathable running shoe I have had. I can wear these with or without socks. The Arnuva 50 has a good amount of cushioning, and the stabilization really helps support from my ankles up through my back.
Dislikes: The front of the shoe is much thinner than the rest of the shoe and it forces you to rock all the way to your toes every single time. So it feels a bit funky if you pick your foot up before your whole strike is complete. When running downhill that thinner part of the shoe forces me to really use my arch more than is comfortable. There is not a lot of support in the front of the shoe and I have tweaked my ankle because of it while running downhill.
Foot Type: I have high volume feet that are fairly wide (I think E) and short (size 8.5). Bad knees keep me from pounding the pavement, and a general dislike of crowds keeps me off popular trails. Because of this the majority of my running takes place on rough, unmanaged trails. Because of this I like stiff shoes that protect my feet from rocks.
Vasque Velocity: This is my shoe of choice. I've owned two pair and they are my go-to shoe the majority of the time. They have a fairly open toe box that accommodates my wide feet, and a TPU shank that reduces the pain from running over sharp rocks. The rubber toe piece seems cheesy and can cause toe bang on steep descents, but after kicking a couple rocks you'll be happy that it’s there. All in all, this is the choice for any rugged trail you'll encounter.
The North Face Endurus Boa: Not the shoe for me. The fit of this shoe is great. It has a very roomy toe box, and the Boa lacing is very convenient. One quick twist and your off to the races. However, that being said, I would not classify the Endurus Boa as a trail shoe, and I abhor their performance. They lack any trace of aggressive tread, and have no shank to speak of; you can feel a pea under-foot in these things. I suppose if you’re running on flat, graded, well-manicured trails you may enjoy these shoes. However, if you’re getting after it on the steeps, you’re best off to leave these in the store.