What runners will keep me upright on muddy trails?
I started trail running this winter and absolutely love it. However, as a beginner, I only have my street running shoes, and with the wet weather up here in the Pacific Northwest they're just not making the grade. I was hoping you could recommend some good shoes for cutting through the mud (and we have a lot of it). I don't have to worry about snow, but I slipping all over the place on the trails. Aaron Corvallis, Oregon
For starters, Aaron, I wouldn’t suggest one shoe, I’d suggest two (and no wisecracks from the cheap seats about running with one shoe; you know who you are). It’s long been pretty good advice that runners of any sort ought to have two pairs of shoes, so one pair has more than just 24 hours to dry out and get some of its sole-spring back. That’s especially true of trail shoes, which almost by definition get soaked, muddied up, and generally beaten to a pulp. Give them a day off, and the shoes actually will last longer (in terms of hours in them) than if they’re abused every day.
Otherwise, you clearly need some serious trail-runners, which by design are shoes with stiffer midsoles than road shoes, more grip in the outer soles, and more supportive (and waterproof) uppers. Fortunately, there are lots of fine shoes from which to choose. One that should top your list is Montrail’s Hurricane Ridge ($125; www.montrail.com). It’s a sturdy, well-made trail-runner with an aggressive sole and a Gore-Tex XCR liner to help keep your feet dry. And its dual-density EVA midsole helps stabilize your foot while providing good cushioning.
Take a look as well at Salomon’s XA Pro 3D (also $125; www.salomonoutdoor.com). Like the Montrail shoe, it has an XCR liner and a grippy outsole. But its triple-density midsole and nylon footplate offer more sophisticated motion control and cushioning than the Hurricane Ridge. You’ll want to try on both and get a sense of what feels the best.
I realize that both these shoes are at the high end, price-wise, especially if you buy two pairs. But, you could buy a second pair of shoes with less intense weatherproofing at a lower price point to save yourself some dough. Those then become your “dry day” shoes, the more weatherproof shoes the wet-run models. Nike’s Air Zoom Orizaba ($90; www.nike.com) or the Asics Gel Eagle IV (also $90; www.asics.com) will save you a few bucks, while still yielding excellent trail performance with a bit less moisture protection. Alternatively, you can buy two pairs of the cheaper shoes, then keep your feet dry with a pair of Rocky Gore-Tex socks ($50; www.rockyboots.ca).
Check out the crud-busting lineup of kicks in Outside Online’s Trail-Runners Buying Guide.