Trail-Running Shoes

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Rain-soaked singletrack? Don’t even hesitate. The Apex is made for muck. The aggressive outsole gripped well on both the way up and the way down, and the Gore-Tex upper fended off even the slushiest snow. The stiff, supportive platform is very stable—easily crossing over for all-day hike/run epics—but it’s…

LIGHT AND FAST These shoes are as close as you’ll come to sprouting a layer of tread on your feet. The minimalist 790’s are extremely light and low to the ground, providing a nimble feel that’s almost like a racing flat. 6.6 oz; newbalance.com Bonus: These kicks look…

1. The problem with most waterproof trail runners is that they don’t breathe very well. So instead of using a Gore-Tex-like membrane in the Syncroseeks, Pearl Izumi opted for a tightly woven, DWR-treated soft-shell upper, which kept our feet almost as dry as with waterproof shoes, without any clamminess.

Cool Runner We have to admit, the Ravenous surprised us. Columbia is new to the running market and debuts with this breathable, lightweight, perfectly competent trail shoe. It’s best on rocky terrain and—with its particularly breezy open mesh—begs to be unleashed in humid climes. The traction ranked high on dry…

Why They’re CoolWith their mainly mesh uppers, the Lightspeeds excel on smoothish trails in hotter climes. On a warm day in southern Minnesota, I ran in a pair of conventionally vented shoes, then switched to the Vasques—and instantly blissed out with the sensory equivalent of propping my feet up in…

BACKCOUNTRY VOYAGERS The Mercury rolled over everything in our path: Its sturdy construction includes a nearly punctureproof upper reinforced with PU nubuck and abrasion-resistant toe and heel bumpers. And during soggy runs in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gore-Tex XCR liner kept our feet dry. 14.5 oz; vasque.com Bonus:…

Packed Trail Everything about the pared-down X-1 is made for speed. Midsole foam is kept to a minimum, forefoot flexibility is maxed, and a snug-fitting heel and arch promote agility. Not surprisingly, this sub-ten-ounce racer is at its best on smooth or rolling terrain like fire roads.

Trail If you want the rock-solid side-to-side stability of a mountain runner, Gore-Tex for mud stomping, and extra armor for nasty trails, you’re going to pay a slight weight penalty. But we still loved the snug heel and arch (for good agility) and wide forefoot (to accommodate swelling on descents).

DO YOUR RUNS BECOME CLIMBS? La Sportiva’s heritage is in climbing shoes and mountaineering boots, and you can see the alpine influence in nearly every aspect of the Fireblade: the impeccable fit, the sticky rubber outsole, the double-stitched seams on high-wear areas of the upper, the reinforced toe bumper and…

SMOOTH OPERATOR Don’t mistake the minimalist Streak for a beefed-up road shoe—it’s more like a big-mountain shoe that’s been eating mostly salad. Though it has the airy mesh upper of a pavement pounder, underneath is a pliable plastic rock guard and sticky dual-density outsole that can handle full-speed switchbacks. With…

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to run in beefy shoes. The light weight, streamlined silhouette, and lateral stability of the SpeedComp made us more nimble on trails of all sorts, while the Gore-Tex upper kept us warm and dry. With the one-pull laces and a women’s…

If a moon boot gave birth to a trail runner, it would look like the Ochoco. But we doubt it would run as well. The padded ankle, soft tongue, and firm arch support gave us blissful feet after long hours pounding the trail. The just-right midsole has enough cushioning…

SMOOTH AND STABLE Prone to twisted ankles? The sole below the Ascend’s fore-foot fans out slightly, which made testers feel secure on trail and road alike. Additional support comes from a visible, wave-shaped, shock-absorbing composite plate that runs from the heel of the shoe to the midfoot. 9.9 oz; mizuno.com…

ROAD-AND-TRAIL HYBRID Good for Packed Trails Take a road trainer and a trail runner, smash them together, and voilà: the Adrenaline ASR 5. Medial posting (a.k.a. denser foam) in the midsole delivers moderate pronation support, a rarity in trail runners, and the slender fit feels nimble…

Trail Cheetah Training on rocky, technical terrain? This shoe is your superstable running partner. One-pull Kevlar laces lock down tight, securing the cradle around your foot and creating lateral stability and even tension throughout for an agile feel. Cushioning is on the firm side, which we thought was just fine…

Why They’re CoolTo keep the mesh uppers on the XA Pro 2 adventure-running shoes from stretching after repeated dunkings, Salomon topped ’em with a polymer exoskeleton this year. » These shoes protected me from sketchy terrain better than tall models: Their ground-hugging profile meant I had less chance of rolling…

LONG-DISTANCE TRAVELER Like a full-suspension mountain bike, the Arnuva can barrel over rocky, undulating trails with utmost comfort. The upper is armored against trail debris, and the ultrarunners on our crew deemed it an excellent choice for even the harshest high-alpine trails in Colorado’s Indian Peaks. A Gore-Tex liner keeps…

em>Packed Trail If you run on a mix of pavement and dirt—often in the same outing—you’ll appreciate the Voza. To prove the point, we tested these lightweight trail runners on the streets of L.A., where the shoe’s midsole, and especially the amply cushioned heel, proved remarkably comfortable.

Trail Newton’s first trail shoe still uses the company’s trademark set of prominent, extra-springy lugs under the forefoot to encourage mid- and forefoot running, but it adds tight mesh to the upper to keep debris out and grippier rubber for traction. It’s good for working on form and running fast,…

STABILITY ON AND OFF THE TRAIL This shoe is like the SUV—er, make that the all-wheel-drive wagon—that you drive to work on weekdays, then load up with gear and take to the mountains on weekends. The versatility lies in this stable shoe’s adaptive midsole and deep, supportive heel design, which…

LONG-DISTANCE PLAN Some trail shoes make you cringe at the thought of training for anything longer than a 10K. Not the Cascadia. With plush cushioning and easy flex, this shoe is perfect for high-mileage runs on mellow terrain. The combination of a unique trail-stabilizing system—foam wedges at mid- and forefoot…

Good for the Road It started with 45 new shoes and 20 testers. Three months and 5,000 miles later, it ended with the seven best road and trail shoes of the season. One shoe broke so far away from the pack, impressing us on so many levels—comfort,…

TAKES IT EASY Good for Packed Trails If cushion is king for high-mileage training or heavier runners, then the Supernova reigns supreme. Its pillowy crash pad is perfect for cruising on mellow trails. And despite its speedy geometry—the shoe is tilted slightly forward—the forefoot foam doesn’t feel gutted.

HARD CHARGER Aggressive, all-conditions runners will love these stable, protective, and well-cushioned shoes. Rocks, logs, unstable sand, and even snow gave us no trouble, thanks to a lug pattern that grips in all directions. The gel cushioning absorbs impact on hardpacked trails, and the forefoot flexes easily for a comfortable…

FLEXIBLE FLIER Good for Packed TrailsLike to blaze along your local fire road or creek path? The extremely light and flexible Paragon is tailor-made for off-road tempo runs and speed work. A sleek tread and multiple forefoot grooves make for a supple feel on the flats, but the Paragon…

All-Terrain Rambler With a sticky rubber outsole, the light and flexible Tsali performs best on rolling, rocky trails. We especially loved the lacing system, which provides a snug, arch-supporting fit. And there's more than just a gender-specific last here: To accommodate a women's lighter weight, the Tsali's midsole and a…

Why They’re CoolThe Stormfronts reverse the paradigm of waterproof footwear construction. By using Gore-Tex XCR fabric on the exterior of the shoe, rather than tucking it in the lining, they move the first line of moisture defense out where the rubber meets the road—or where the nubuck meets the thaw-muck.

LIGHT AND NIMBLE If you crossed a mountain goat with a ballet dancer, the offspring would wear these shoes. The lightweight and easy-flexing 800 is especially nimble for a trail runner, delivering a smooth heel-to-toe transition on flat terrain. It has plenty of cushion for long runs, and the aggressively…

em>Packed Trail In a word: smooth. The Cascadia 4 can handle both big miles and varied terrain, making it an ideal training shoe for trail marathons or ultras. The environmentally sensitive BioMoGo midsole (which, Brooks claims, will break down in a landfill 50 times faster than most…

TOUGH, LIKE THE ROCKS YOU RUN ON Thankfully, a little dirt will tone down these kicks to an acceptable level of garishness. And then you can tell your friends that the Fruity Pebbles-colored upper is reinforced with a nylon mesh that’s tough as chain mail, and that the outsole might…

VERSATILE AND FAST We’re not saying you were the kind of kid who got chased home from school. We’re saying if you were that kid, this shoe could have saved your ass. With a snug fit and low-to-the-ground design, the Zoom inspires high-speed running on everything from hard-packed dirt trails…

Good for Trails At a mere seven-plus ounces—almost half as much as the sturdiest trail runners—this feather­weight flat initially seemed like it would be too flimsy for everyday running. Even though it’s designed for elite trail racing, we midpack runners still loved its fast and incredibly spry…

FROZEN GRIP Live in Minnesota, Montana, or Maine? This is the winter training shoe for you. With 16 carbide-tipped spikes protruding from the outsole, these sturdy snowcats provide reliable, no-slip traction on iced-over trails and snowpacked roads. “Amazing,” said one tester, “I’ve never felt so confident going downhill on icy…

So hot you’re tempted to run in sandals? Give your feet the air—and support—they need with the Cardrona. Thin, open-weave mesh means your dogs can feel every cool mountain breeze that blows their way, and vents in the midsole actually let air circulate beneath your feet. The design works…

BURLY SUPPORTER Good for Technical Trails If the other shoes here are sedans, the Velocity is an SUV. A plastic spine in the midsole stiffens this powerful shoe and does an extraordinary job of correcting off-camber footstrikes. Testers appreciated the aggressive tread in muck, and rocks…

Bare-Bones Speedster Designed with input from ultrarunner Anton Krupicka, who’s so allergic to carrying extra ounces he races nearly nude, this super-minimalist trail shoe, with its wafer-thin midsole and highly flexible forefoot, is among the lightest we’ve ever seen. Ideal for faster runners with perfect mechanics who pick their way…

When we finally terraform Mars, the first colonists will doubtless be issued Montrail Hardrock Wides—kicks perfectly suited to the dusty slopes of 78,740-foot-high Olympus Mons. OK, admittedly, we’re reaching, but our 2005 Gear of the Year trail runners have more than proved their worth on this planet, moving effortlessly from…

If you’re one of the lucky ones who can trot out the front door and weave together a perfect run on a mix of trail and pavement, stop gloating and buy a pair of Odysseys. At first glance the toothy tread appears to be trails-only, but the low-profile lugs, four-density…

Technical Terrain Cross a race flat with a pair of crampons and the resulting mash-up might resemble the X-Talon. Tipping the scale at less than eight ounces, it’s like a slipper with cleats, with a snug fit and low-to-the-ground heel. Although its widely spaced, sticky rubber lugs…

ALL-WEATHER, ALL-TERRAIN Finally, a forecast-be-damned trail shoe that doesn’t make your feet feel like they’re in a sauna. The Trail Sensor’s water-resistant, breathable upper—a synthetic fabric with Nano-Tech treatment—kept our feet warm and dry even on sloppy fall runs in Boulder, while the fully gusseted tongue kept out grit and…

SPEEDY BUT GRIPPY Fact: The Italians make great shoes. Lesser known fact: They dominate competitive mountain running. That combined mastery is evident in the Crosslite, which is all about getting through the rough stuff as quickly as possible. A race-ready shoe with a minimalist design, the knobby-lugged Crosslite combines the…

Good for Trails If you run both roads and mellow trails, be good to your budget: Buy one shoe that can handle both. The Boulder Canyon has the guts of a neutral road shoe—a single-density EVA foam provides ample cushioning on pavement. But it also has grippy,…

1. An awkward name may be the J S3’s only weakness. It has a perfect blend of agility and support: An airy top half made from a durable, ultralight mesh nylon keeps weight down—and debris out—while an innovative wraparound tongue provides an exceptionally secure fit. 2. Flexibility is key…

If you train like a mailman—neither rain nor sleet will stop you—reach for these submersibles. The seamless upper is sealed with a Gore-Tex XCR liner and reinforced with a see-through TPU rand, which toughens the shoe without marring its clean look. The masochists among our crew raced up Colorado’s…

TRACTION ACTION Good for Technical Trails Those who like to stay in tune with the trail will love the low-riding 840. Cleat-like, dual-density lugs dig in on loose, loamy terrain, making it a good choice for speedmongers in climes where dusty trails turn to mud in the winter.

Hybrid Hauler The Adrenaline ASR 7 is a classic stability road shoe with a perk: four-wheel drive. Its outsole has teeth for grip on snowy roads and moderately technical trails, but the rest of the shoe is made for high-mileage pounding on pavement. The tread didn’t wow us on rocky…

ONE SWEET RIDEForget the South Beach Diet: The cushioning here will convince you that you’ve lost ten pounds. Credit trademarked midsole components (they boil down to strategically tuned EVA and a bit of foam rubber), which render each foot strike a pleasure instead of a pain. A thickly padded, noncreeping…

This versatile shoe goes from road to trail—and October to April—with ease. Midsole cushion is pillow-like on rocky trails and flexy enough for roads, and the upper breathes well and resists minor weather (but isn’t waterproof). It’s best for narrow-footed mild pronators. 10 oz; brooksrunning.com…

Technical Terrain Do your runs tend to involve alpine passes and rocky scrambles? Let us point you to the Wildcat, a supportive, moderately stiff shoe that can handle all-day outings or even adventure races. With solid underfoot and toe protection, a grippy outsole that excels on rock,…

BEST FOR ADVENTURE RACING You run where others walk? Then this is the shoe for you. After cruising up Colorado’s wickedly steep Mount Sanitas Trail, one tester gave the Active Trail Pro props for its reinforced sides, protective toe cap, and branch-busting undercarriage. Plus the Vibram sole adhered to everything…

CAN TAKE THE HEAT The 874 is built like an elite road racer: a slender torso atop a powerful lower body. A weird physique for a shoe? Perhaps, but the combination of an almost lacy, two-layer mesh upper wedded to a thick midsole and luggy tread works extremely well on…

Vasque’s lightweight (11.4-ounce) but firm Transistor FS shoes have a low chassis that keeps you in touch with the trail. vasque.com…

Good for Trails Even when the weather was truly heinous, the Razor helped us get in our runs. Wrapped in a waterproof, highly breathable eVent bootie that extends above the ankle, this unique shoe kept our feet warm and completely dry. The Vibram outsole proved adequate on…

Trail, road, trail, road: Like other 2006 standouts, this shoe understands your dilemma and solves it with a mix of cushioning, stability, and traction. Sportiva’s climbing-shoe heritage shows in the sticky FriXion AT outsole, and the sharper-than-average heel cut provides good braking on steep descents. Unlike some of the grippiest…

HARD-CHARGER Good for Technical TrailsFor a debut shoe from a brand-new company, the Ignition gets enthusiastic Rookie of the Year props. It handled technical, rocky trails with aplomb, but unlike many other burly mountain-running shoes, it also felt remarkably light and nimble. Large, well-spaced lugs on the outsole clung…

Muck Stomper True, you’ll wear this shoe only on nasty, muddy, slushy winter days—or paired with snowshoes (see page 58). But compared with other trail runners with an integrated gaiter, this is the lightest, most spry-feeling of all, weighing an impressive 13 ounces despite all that protective material. Underneath the…

SEAMLESS DREAMTrot out the Lizards for trail-running where the term “trail” is generous. Seams in the uppers won’t blow out from abrasion—because there aren’t any. Even the synthetic-leather trim is heat-welded rather than stitched. A fat rubber toe cap provides further armoring. Serious shoe abusers, such as adventure racers and…

Tackle the trickiest winter trails with this all-conditions shoe, thanks to a tough toe cap, sticky rubber outsole, and rigid midfoot support. ASICS’s signature gel pockets in the heel minimize pounding, and testers loved the smooth transition from heel strike to toe-off. 11 oz; asics.com Bummer: Check…

Technical Terrain The Ascend 4 wins the award for best out-of-the-box fit. The low-to-the-ground silhouette, combined with multidirectional traction, make this shoe impressively agile, while its ample cushioning and structured, supportive heel kept our testers feeling fresh on ten-plus-mile runs. It’s not sturdy enough for nasty scree-filled…

BUILT FOR SPEED Last year’s X-1 was like a thoroughbred—fast, but hard to handle. So Teva tamed it just a little. The result, the still respectably light X-1 Control, is a versatile, high-energy trail shoe that’s just as comfortable grinding up switchbacks as it is opening it up on fifth-gear…

FASTER THAN IT LOOKS “Much livelier than I was expecting” is how one tester described the Manifesto Beater. Sure, this beast features a firm, no-roll heel and rocks-be-damned protection, but it also boasts relatively soft forefoot flexibility, a generously padded tongue, and a responsive fit. “It feels very light given…

The Gripper On the worst running surfaces of our test—loose dirt, rock slabs, and muddy sidehill traverses—the Rockridge excelled. Prominent lugs and sticky rubber combined for a gluelike grip on all surfaces, making these an “epic adventure partner,” as one tester put it. The mesh upper was supremely breathable, thanks…

Aigle Shems – Midweight Jackets: Reviews   With a soft fleece interior and warm, durable merino wool/nylon exterior, this jacket combines our favorite fabrics in one versatile top. 1.9 lbs; aigleusa.com         Patagonia Pau – Footwear: Reviews (Terry Heffernan) The coolest mocs we’ve ever laid eyes…

This featherweight will make your last pair of trail runners feel like ankle weights, but its stability let us sprint down Boulder’s ankle-eating Mount Sanitas Trail without limping home. Add grippy, multidirectional lugs and snug ankle collars for grit defense and the Attack makes a good choice for fanatics who…

ROCK AND ROAD Sometimes run roads, sometimes trails? This hybrid combines ample cushioning and a road-shoe-like fit for pounding pavement, with a bi-directional tread that gripped even the sloppiest terrain. Though pillowy, it’s still responsive. Faster testers appreciated the smooth transition from heel strike to toe off. The tight mesh…

Wave Runner “It feels like a racer with more cushioning,” said one tester. Indeed, this neutral trainer may not be as feathery as the Kinvara (page 50), but at a mere ten ounces it’s no slogger, either, thanks to a redesigned TPU “wave plate” (Mizuno’s springy cushioning device) and new,…

BRING ON THE BREEZEYou don’t know ventilation until you’ve experienced the GCS Pro. The uppers are like a screened-in porch—take off the shoe and look straight through it to read your watch, if you wish. But its real worth comes with every stride; on a warm fall day in the…

Live in a mild climate? These breathable mesh trail shoes (read: not winterized) are light and nimble, yet the grippy outsole allowed us to run confi-dently on loose terrain and packed dirt. The solid external heel counter adds stability, as does the no-slip fit. The feather-weight cushioning is best…

No shoe is perfect for road and trail, but this one comes close. Gel cushioning in the heel and a flexible forefoot make the 2140 pavement-friendly, while traction (beefier than last year’s model) and good side-to-side stability help it perform off-road. 10 oz; asics.com…

FAST AND CUSHIONED Isn’t it disheartening when you spot a chunky-looking guy at the starting line—inside you think, Well, at least I won’t come in last—and then he pulls away, leaving you sucking wind? The Lava Run is that guy. “They look like they’d be clunky,” said one tester, “but…

RIDGE RACER Most of us stick to established trails when we run. For those who don’t, or whose “runs” end atop toothy peaks, may we suggest the Cooper’s Hill? With an extremely pliable forefoot and easy-twisting torsional rigidity, this shoe remains stable even while blasting up steep, scree-covered slopes. “The…

Flat and Fast If you’re running dry, flat dirt trails, you might as well enjoy road-shoe-like comfort. Here the SyncroFuel XC delivers with a seamless upper and even cushioning—pillowy enough for long, slow miles but light enough to feel fluid at a lung-busting pace. The upper’s secure midfoot wrap held…

Why They’re CoolThese resilient and abrasion-resistant runners feel like breezy track shoes. Thank the wire-mesh box under the arch and instep. Adidas calls it the ClimaCool, a.k.a. the CC, but you can call it an underfoot airshaft that vents and drains. » A flexible plate of TPU saved my feet…

Don’t resign yourself to bad form. My clunky stride isn’t pretty, and the Radial’s boldly curved outsole helped my foot roll from heel to toe more smoothly than usual—and get quicker rebound. That smoothness, combined with a triple-density EVA midsole and cushy air pad in the heel, made this a…

DIRTMONGER The Wildwoods are designed to work equally well on dirt as on pavement. And while we found the Wildwood isn’t fluid enough for the road, it shined in hilly, rugged terrain. The outsole feels secure in the steeps, while an underfoot protection plate defends against sharp jabs. Ultra freaks,…

Saves Some for Later Last fall, we picked Nike’s amazing LunarGlide+, with its unique Dynamic Support midsole, as our Gear of the Year. Nike built the new LunarEclipse+ on the same platform but opened up the toe box, and took its stability one notch further, bracing the heel with a…

Ever had one of those days when your feet felt so light it’s like they weren’t quite touching the ground? The X-1/C is the next best thing to bottling that feeling. The secret is shaving every possible gram while still retaining the essentials: cushion, traction, and stability. The Encapsulated…

Run in any weather? A Gore-Tex XCR liner and Salomon’s aggres-sive Contagrip tread handle the ugliest conditions. One-pull Kevlar laces are hassle-free and secure on wild descents. We loved the snug, fully gusseted tongue and lower heel height of the women’s model. Buying tip: They run almost a full…

Stable and protective, the all-terrain Release, with its women-specific fit, cushioning, and outsole, was our top pick for rocky trails and all-day hike-and-run epics. 11 oz; patagonia.com…

OFF TO THE RACES Designers got out their knives—very sharp ones at that—and stripped the 790 down for speed: It’s a full five ounces lighter than some shoes here. Not surprisingly, the featherweight design didn’t impress any testers in the cushioning or armor departments, and it’s probably not the best…