Review: Sticks and Stones? No Problem.
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Outside magazine, August 1998
Review: Sticks and Stones? No Problem.
Today’s beefed-up trail runners smooth even the harshest terrain
OFF-ROAD RUNNING SHOES | BUYING RIGHT | THE OTHER STUFF | BOOKS
“Believe it or not, my feet aren’t ugly,” says Ben Hian, a man of tattoo-covered quads, scraggly blond hair, and moretellingly, three consecutive wins in the Angeles Crest 100 off-road ultramarathon. “I haven’t lost toenails or even had blisters since my limping-in-the-wrong-shoes days.”
We would be wise to heed something that Hian is now experienced enough-and well sponsored enough-to know: The path less traveled requires the running shoe more armored. Trail-running shoes like those piled high in Hian’s closet are purposefully overbuilt to prevent roots and rocks from sidelining you with toe stubs, hot spots, and bruised metatarsals. To that end, a bona fide
Almost universally, a trail shoe’s construction reflects a unique motion-control agenda-good tidings for overpronators, whose feet roll dangerously inward, and considering the hazardous conditions such shoes are used in, for everyone else as well. In looking over the ten models we reviewed, try not to let weight (listed for men’s size nine and women’s size seven) hold too much
Fila’s Harepin Mid
Fila’s Harepin Mid (men’s, 14.5 ounces; women’s, 12.6 ounces; $90) is the Terrell Davis of this roster: Give it just a little daylight and it’s agile enough to squirt between the most menacing of obstacles. Likewise, it’s not afraid to bull over whatever lies in its path-no matter how sloppy your stride. Credit the Mid’s pluck to its combination last, hearty carbon-rubber
Adidas Al Fresco
Adidas bills its Al Fresco (men’s, 13.6 ounces; women’s, 11 ounces; $85) as a “hybrid” ready for both road and trail. Don’t buy it — the marketing pitch, that is. The Al Fresco has the sound trappings of the beefiest dedicated trail shoes: The thick mesh upper is reinforced with enough synthetic leather to see an inveterate toe-stubber through the millennium, and the
Merrell’s M2 Red Desert
Clydesdale runners will certainly be satisfied with Merrell’s M2 Red Desert (men’s, 14.8 ounces; women’s, 12 ounces; $90).You can’t mistake its hiking-boot heritage when the trail turns downhill: The block heel of the lugged Vibram outsole digs in for unparalleled traction. Furthermore, a flexible nylon plate between the midsole and the outsole at the forefoot shields your dogs
Asics Gel-Nandi DS
Yes, the Asics Gel-Nandi DS (men’s only, 13.8 ounces; $95) qualifies as a trail shoe, but you’d never mistake it for Frankensteinian motion-control footwear. It adheres to the loosest definition of this breed, as witnessed by cushiony gel pockets embedded in a soft EVA
New Balance 801AT
The most prominent trailworthy feature of New Balance’s 801AT (men’s, 12 ounces; women’s, 10.9 ounces; $85) is the uninterrupted swatch of rubber on the outsole. Indeed, its big-lugged tread smooths over bumps in the trail, resists toe-to-heel twisting, and provides a generous heel-strike area that’s sure to correct even the most awkward of biomechanics. Of course, all that
It’s easy to understand why Montrail sponsors the aforementioned Hian: He loved the Vitesse (men’s, 12 ounces; women’s, 10 ounces; $90) because of its all-day comfort and was already training in it when the deal was struck. To keep it light, this lithe package is built with no fiberboard (a slip last) and doesn’t have as much plastic frosting as some other models. However, a
The softish Brooks Gecko (men’s, 13.4 ounces; women’s, 11 ounces; $80) tackles rough terrain simply by conforming to it. Deep flex grooves snake across the forward end of the outsole, allowing the Gecko to bend around jutting rock instead of glancing off it. Indeed, the shoe works as promised over obstacles, although on multihour runs over relentlessly harsh trails, your feet
With a Gore-Tex bootie sewn into the lining, the Etonic Dri-Trainer (men’s, 15 ounces; women’s, 10 ounces; $115) is the only truly waterproof shoe that we reviewed. Now you can take on puddles, drizzle, or slushy conditions with the smug assurance that your socks will remain bone dry. The Dri-Trainer beckons to the overpronator with an especially firm chunk of EVA wedged under
Nike Air Terra Albis
You’ll want the Nike Air Terra Albis (men’s, 10.5 ounces; women’s, 8.8 ounces; $100) for the same reason you’re tempted to buy a Miata when you ought to be shopping for an Accord. It’s sleek, light, and fast, thanks to a streamlined synthetic-and-mesh upper and an
Reebok’s Apogee DMX10
Reebok’s Apogee DMX10 (men’s only, 16.6 ounces; $110) isn’t so much about merely armoring your feet against obstacles as it is about conquering them. Ten bulbous pods in the outsole are connected by chambers that, on impact, push shock-absorbing air from one pod to the next. Walk in the Apogee and it feels as if you’re treading barefoot over throat lozenges. Set it in motion at
Andrew Tilin is a former senior editor of Outside.
Photographs by Josh McHugh