Think on Your Feet

Jul 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

From left: Hi-Tec's Perpetua, The North Face's Coyote Ridge II, the Asics Gel-Trabuco V, and Saucony's Grid Xterra

"Adventure racing lite" best describes the three- to six-hour slogfests for which the HI-TEC PERPETUA ($65) was designed. Kudos to Hi-Tec for making the shoe affordable yet feature-packed. A light perceived weight belies a moisture-wicking lining, a nylon shank for torsional rigidity and stability, and a removable insole that's padded in the rear and forefoot for cushioning. Porous uppers dump water quickly after stream crossings, and a nylon-armored toe box fends off shoe-shredding abrasions. For this we say, "Hosanna!" However, the Perpetua is a roomy sneaker with a wide heel cup. For a sure fit, the skinny-heeled and narrow-footed among us will need an aftermarket insert—which pulls these pups into a higher tax bracket. (800-521-1698;

Spying an opportunity to make a shoe light, supportive, stable, durable, and flexible, THE NORTH FACE produced the COYOTE RIDGE II ($85) and nailed all but one of those goals (people with sensitive arches will want to add an aftermarket insert to beef up support as well as forefoot cushioning). Runners will enjoy the Coyote's superb performance on gravel, packed dirt, and dry, punishing singletrack. The shoes can handle even more abuse when fitted with a mesh scree gaiter (sold separately). The midsole employs durable mixed rubber/EVA cushioning inserts under the heel and toes and a harder EVA wedge along the inside heel to inhibit pronation—the tendency to run on the inside edges of our feet—to round out a solid winner. (800-447-2333;
Of all the off-road shoes going, the ASICS GEL-TRABUCO V ($80) earns the most points for versatility. The footbed of this hybrid on-/off-roader— designed for dual-personality runners—flows smoothly from gel-cushioned heel to hard rubber-and-plastic arch to gel-cushioned toe. The arch enhances stability on rugged, rocky, or rooted trails, but the tread's merely adequate grip (it's a hybrid, remember?) limits you to more sedate terrain. Despite the weight-shaving materials, the Gel-Trabuco's perceived weight still gets a boost from an abrasion-resistant carbon-rubber tread and overwrought synthetic-leather styling details. (800-678-9435;

Those who still insist on running trails in road shoes should try SAUCONY's GRID XTERRA ($80). It's a fast runner with a light perceived weight that feels like a marathoner underfoot. Bantamweights who don't need extra support, protection, cushioning, or stability will think it's perfect. Since Saucony placed its impact-cushioning system only in the heels, heavier runners will find it better suited to a park's gravel trails, where the sprightly feel and responsive toe flex reveal a road-running heritage. For the pronators among you, the Xterra places harder cushioning along the inside of the shoe—complemented by softer cushioning on the outside—to keep feet flat. They'll carry you up your local hill with ease, but not the ankle-snapping scree found above timberline. (800-365-4933;

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