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September 2016 Issue
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How to buy trail running shoes

The North Face Ultra Endurance ($250). Distributed by True Alliance.

Trail shoes provide essential grip, but the most important factor is comfort

When trying on shoes, look for comfort straight out of the box. Some shoes will stretch and soften once they are broken in, but a shoe that is too small, too big, or is uncomfortable to start with will stay that way and could cause blisters or injury. A good fit is also vital to keep your foot stable over uneven terrain.

Most often made from super light synthetic materials and featuring mesh panels or a breathable lining so feet don’t get too hot.

This cushions the foot on landing and often involves terms like ‘minimalist’ and ‘maximalist’. A minimalist shoe will have barely any padding underfoot, giving runners tactile information about the terrain they are on. A maximalist shoe provides a soft ride and is the preferred choice for runners taking on longer distances.

Heel to toe drop
This is the height difference between the heel and toe. Heel drop can be anywhere from 15mm-0mm. Generally, the less heel drop, the more minimalist the shoe will be and those unused to them will need time to adapt.

Wide-spaced, dirt-shedding lugs are common. But don’t just look for shoes with the most spikes – manufacturers use a variety of rubber compounds to provide good traction while also offering a long-wearing tread.

Toe box
Trail shoes require a sturdy toe box to protect against rocks and roots.

Which pair?
Don’t just buy what your coach or friend recommends. Their feet might be shaped completely differently to yours, even if you have the same foot size. A good rule of thumb is get a trail shoe half a size larger than your regular shoes and if you plan on doing ultra distances think about getting at least one pair that is a full size larger – feet can swell up to two sizes over longer distances.

Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a trail shoe.


Salewa Ultra Train $289
Use Trail running Upper Breathable mesh, coated fabric Construction 3F total heel hold system, motion guidance midsole technology, adaptive eyelets, quick lacing closure Outsole Michelin Ultra Trail Weight 560g (m), 460g (w).


The North Face Ultra Endurance $250
Use Trail running Upper Welded TPU and suede Construction Moulded TPU toe cap, gusseted tongue, 8mm drop, Ultra Protect Cradle heel-stability, single-density compression-moulded EVA midsole, FlashDry collar lining, ESS Snake Plate forefoot protection. Outsole Vibram Weight 626g (m); 510g (w).


Merrell All Out Terra Light $249
Use Trail running Upper Mesh, 3D print Construction Reflective details, Trail Protect foot pad, removeable footbed, synthetic leather lacing system, 6mm drop, 16mm heel cushion, 24mm heel stack height. Outsole Vibram, 6mm lugs Weight 600g (m); 584g (w).


The North Face Ultra Cardiac $240
Use Trail, road Upper Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry Construction Heel and toe protection, Pebax heel cradle, cushioned collar and tongue, 8mm drop, single-density compression-moulded EVA midsole, wide last. Outsole Vibram Weight 548g (m); 436g (w).


Icebug Zeal $239.95
Use  Trail running, adventure racing Upper Nylon textile/PU Construction EVA foam u-shaped midsole, QuickDry mesh lining, reduced height heel counter, medium flex, 6mm drop, toe bumper. Outsole Rubber 9 Extreme Weight 500g (m); 420g (w).


Inov-8 Trail Talon 250 $219.90
Use Hard-packed trails Upper 3D mesh Construction Gusseted tongue, gaiter options (gaiter sold separately), interchangeable footbed with micro holes to drain water, natural forefoot flex, forefoot cradle, 4mm drop. Outsole Sticky rubber Weight 500g (m/w).




Inov-8 X-Talon 225 Unisex $199.90
Use Mountain running Upper Synthetic Mesh covers the upper for lightweight, breathable coverage. Construction Mesh tongue, water-resistant coating, reinforced toe box, close-fitting heel, 4mm drop. Outsole X-Talon dual compound rubber Weight 450g (pair).