Gear Shed

Q:

What's the Best Quick-Drying Running Shoe?

One of my favorite rites of summer is to run along a marshy trail to our family’s backwoods cabin. But my trainers are always soaked and uncomfortable when I get there. Is there a better alternative for my feet?

Stream-testing the Powerdrain Cool.     Photo: Bob Parks

A:One of the great pleasures of spring trail running is retracing your favorite backwoods loops fresh off the last snow melt. But it’s bound to be a messy exercise. Vernal pools crop up across your path, streams widen beyond your jump, and marshy pitfalls lie everywhere. Once you hit water, your shoes make that sucking sound on each footfall.

Enter the Columbia Powerdrain Cool, a hybrid water and trail shoe. We’ve been plying trails for a few weeks in these, and we find they dry out quickly after a dunking. With ten drainage ducts on each midsole and a lacy sieve-like sock liner, they channel water better than a finely engineered concrete parking lot. On a warm day when we ran with the Powerdrains, they stopped sloshing immediately and the thin mesh upper dried out in minutes.

A hard rubber cap up front kept us from stubbing toes on rocky trails, and a pattern of sipes—or razor thin slits—on the bottom held to rocks and man-made surfaces well (though we still slipped on green slime). With a 10.2 ounce weight per shoe, a flexible construction, and a good feel for the ground, they feel like a minimal trainer. However, they’re not exactly minimal with a significant heel drop of around 11 mm, according to our tests, compared with 4 mm and lower for most shoes in that category.

Columbia has significantly beefed up the Powerdrain Cool from its earlier water shoes, which our testers cited for durability issues. That said, even these river runners probably won’t hold up for long on asphalt.

There’s “cool” in the name because these shoes purport to keep your feet dry and cool. They include Columbia’s new Omni-Freeze Zero technology, a series of polymer rings that use heat and sweat to enhance cooling. Without cooling tech, the shoes are similar to the new Drainmaker II, which is $5 cheaper.

We’re not sure cooling would make a difference unless your day takes you to hot treks over high ground or the sun beaten topside of a boat. After all, these hybrids are breathable to begin with. But with no hot summer activities to test them in the near term, they are performing well as our main tool for water hazards deep in the woods. 

Price: $90

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