Not counting genetic mutants like ultramarathoner Dean Karnazeswho could probably jog a century in flip-flopsthe rest of us need trail runners that can go from dirt to rock to road and do it gracefully. The Vasque Blur accomplishes that trick and then some. The hybrid gave us quick toe-offs whether we were running up Colorado's Longs Peak or racing across hardpack flats, and its stability smoothed out the rockiest descents. This Gear of the Year winner actually made average runners feel like they could run with Karnazesat least for an hour or two.
Vasque Blur (12 oz) $85 www.vasque.com
1. The Blur's deep, contoured heel pocket locks the rear foot in place, fine-tuning your feel for the trail by eliminating sloppy fit. Reducing heel slip also prevents blisters, especially on uneven terrain. That, plus a roomy toebox, enabled numerous testers to get a good fit.
2. For road-to-trail runners, the Blur hits a sweet spot between protection and speedwith little trail-shoe clunk. A molded EVA midsole with a soft crash pad cushions impact on hard paths and even pavement, and a stub-proof rubber toe cap let us punt rocks out of the way.
3. Only a custom orthotic provides better support. A stiff thermoplastic-urethane (TPU) plate underfoot was rigid enough to accommodate a tester with paddle-flat feet and one whose arches compress during high-mileage runs. All appreciated the stability on the roughest trails.
4. Sticky rubber tread gave us spiderlike traction on rocky footing near the top of Longs Peak. But without the deep lugs that can turn some trail runners into platform shoes, the Blur doesn't feel tippy on the roadmaking it a true hybrid. Running at night? Reflective strips shine brightly.
5. The mesh upper is reinforced with durable microfiber, which wraps the foot like a burrito for lateral stability. The material also mixes breathability with water resistance, making it a versatile player for warm to wet conditions. Look for a Gore-Tex version out this summer.