Second Wind

Second Wind
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Best of the Best 2: Trail Running Shoe

**UPDATED 4/3/14 to shoe 2 new (clear) winners!  
See bottom of the page**

Here's entry number 2 of the Best of the Best series.

As I mentioned before, I'm doing this to try to highlight the very best in different categories after prolonged use.

Today's category is "Trail (specific) Running Shoe"

AND..... This is a tough one.

To be perfectly honest, I still haven't found The Perfect trail running shoe.  So what I'm going to do today is give you some honorable mentions for this category along with the +/- for each.  Additionally, there are trail shoes for "easy" trails, trail shoes for rocky trails, and trail shoes for highly technical trails that will eat your feet for breakfast.  I'll hit one of each.

#5:    New Balance MT00 Minimus
For "light/easy/soft" trails

At number 4 we have the NB minimus.  This is, in my opinion, the first time NB really got a minimalist shoe right.  They had an early entry into the market, but they made the shoes how execs wanted and never bothered asking the barefoot/minimalist community how to make it and, as such, they were awful.  This one was their first one that was right.  It wasn't perfect, but it was good (and their best yet).  

What it does right:
  • Unbelievably light weight (4.4 oz)
  • Good ground feel
  • Awesome flexibility
  • Wears well with socks or without (actually better without)

What it misses:
  • Your feet will get completely soaked.  For me, this isn't a problem because I wear them without socks, but for some it might be.
  • the pods on the bottom leave gaps:  

  • Now, this pod design goes a Long way in decreasing weight, but each of those gaps goes straight through to your foot.  So the problem is, you have the  mental 'comfort' of having shoes on and if you're (therefore) lax at all in your step you can have a stick or rock go right between those pods and hit your foot which is... Not comfortable.  
  • And the big problem with them is all that cool green mesh material tears.  Quickly.  A lot.

    Which is why, I'm sure, they're clearing these out.  In fact, you can get them at runningwarehouse for $50 right now.

#4:  The Merrell Embark Glove (Gore-Tex)
For moderate-more technical (rocky) trails

Remember when Merrell came out with their first "Trail Glove" and everyone LOVED it!?  Yeah... not me.  I thought I did, but after a couple weeks I ended up shelving them.  There wasn't some huge glaring thing I Hated... I just didn't love them.  However, This shoe (which apparently no one else liked because Merrell discontinued them very quickly after release) I did love.  

What it does right:

  • It's a light shoe
  • Still has the fused rubber toe guard (like the Trail Glove)
  • Wide toe box
  • Vibram sole
  • It's Gore-Tex.  I love that.  Really, really love that.  
  • And it has a 1mm shock absorbing rock plate.  This was the biggie.  It has a rock plate, but still no cushioning, and the rock plate is VERY thin so it takes the edge of rocks but doesn't kill your ground feel (ironically, that's probably what killed the shoe - people were expecting to not feel anything).

What it misses:

  • Can't be worn without socks comfortably
  • Loses a little flexibility

  • This is a trail shoe.  Specifically for trails.  And not just any trails, but more technical trails.  I would Not like this shoe for a road shoe... but that's not what we're talking about here.

#3:  Merrell Ascend Glove
For Technical trails (and all trails!)

This is the shoe that Merrell brought out to take the place of the Embark.
I haven't had this shoe very long (as it is a new summer release) but have managed to put quite a few miles on it already.  This is my go-to trail running shoe now and this is what I've learned:

What it does right:

  • Zero drop still (of course)
  • Much more comfortable for sockless wear (though still not the best)
  • Light for what it is (~8.0 oz)
  • Nice aggressive tread (not a cleat - but the best merrell has ever done in a 'glove')
  • Vibram sole
  • Now, for what really Makes this shoe:  It has a thin layer of padding full length and "Trail Protect Pads" (rock plates) in the forefoot and heel and Not full length - so you get the protection from all the hidden rocks that would otherwise wreck your world while not giving up any flexibility!

What it misses:

  • Sockliner still isn't great
  • What I didn't like, as compared to my Embarks, was that they didn't have a  Gore-Tex version - However, just as I'm writing this, I see they have now late-released a Gore-Tex version (of course... now that I have these).
  • Now, for what really Hurts this shoe:  It has an arch.  Seriously Merrell?  What the heck?  No mention of an arch anywhere, Merrell's have not had arches before in the 'Gloves' to speak of, but this one Definitely has an arch.  And I hate it.  Now, I still run in them a lot, but it Does really bother me, that's the one thing that kills this shoe... I just don't understand... Why in the world would they do that?

Since the writing of this post, where I wasn't really happy with any of the trail shoes, I've tried two new ones that are, in fact, clear winners:

#2:  Altra Superior

#1:  Altra Lone Peak 1.5

See New blog for these winners:

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