Slideshow: Gear Box: Trail shoes
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association's most recent survey of runners calculates that there are now 5.8 million people participating in trail running in the U.S. Running shoe brands have responded to this off-road interest by upping the ante when it comes to style and technology in trail-specific footwear. The stage is set for a bumper crop of trail running shoes this year. Keep your eyes on the release dates and the shelves of your local running stores, as these stand-out models are set to be unveiled throughout the year. <i>By Mackenzie Lobby, Special to espnW</i>
Best Trail Running Shoes to Debut in 2014
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association's most recent survey of runners calculates that there are now 5.8 million people participating in trail running in the U.S. Running shoe brands have responded to this off-road interest by upping the ante when it comes to style and technology in trail-specific footwear. The stage is set for a bumper crop of trail running shoes this year. Keep your eyes on the release dates and the shelves of your local running stores, as these stand-out models are set to be unveiled throughout the year. By Mackenzie Lobby, Special to espnW
The North Face Ultra Trail ($110, available now)
Inspired by the sleek uppers that characterize track spikes, The North Face Ultra Trail utilizes a lightweight, no-sew upper. The design helps shed excess weight and contributes to giving the shoe a more comfortable, streamlined fit. Featuring a full-length Vibram outsole, these shoes will provide traction on the roughest and rockiest trails.
New Balance FreshFoam 980 Trail ($110, available July 2014)
For runners looking for a plush but still stable ride, New Balance's FreshFoam technology is revolutionary. The company designed the cushioning system based on ground reaction forces and impact zones to ensure the shoe cushions and flexes in all the right areas. Similarly, the lug placement on the outsole is designed to provide firm footing up, down and around the trail.
Hoka One One Kailua Trail ($130, available now)
Hoka One One's proprietary cushioning technology makes its shoes supremely soft. Despite the beefy midsole, the Kailua Trail weighs just 9.3 ounces, making it appropriate for trail newbies and veterans alike. With a 5mm heel-to-toe offset and a design that guides your foot through the gait cycle, this model will swallow up rocks without feeling bulky.
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 ($120, July 2014)
Inspired by one of the gnarliest mountains in the Wasatch Range, the Lone Peak 2.0 is built to tackle rugged terrain and ultra trail races, like the Wasatch 100. True to the Altra philosophy, this model offers a wider-than-average "foot-shaped" toe box to allow your toes to splay naturally. It's platform also helps keep your heel and forefoot on the same level, rather than at an angle.
Saucony Xodus 5.0 GTX ($140, available August 2014)
Engineered with a waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX membrane, the Xodus will keep your feet dry on even the muddiest trails. Multidirectional lugs offer superior grip on terrains that include gravel roads, dirt trails and rocky mountain paths.
Mizuno Wave EVO Ferus ($109.99, available now)
Mizuno's technology helps to provide a good balance of cushioning and stability in the Ferus. An X outsole pattern gives a grippy feel on a variety of terrain and in changing weather conditions. Putting an emphasis on responsiveness, this lightweight, performance-focused option is sure to be a favorite of top trail runners.
Brooks PureGrit 3 ($120, available June 2014)
With a new upgraded outsole, the latest version of the PureGrit showcases a superior lug pattern design and a forefoot propulsion plate, making this model perfect for highly technical terrain. Along with a rounded heel and their signature elastic midfoot "Nav Band," this shoe provides more protection on the trails than previous versions, while still maintaining a comfortable, foot-form fit.
Skechers GOrun Ultra ($85, available now)
For runners seeking a lightweight, responsive trail shoe, the GOrun Ultra is a great solution. At just 7.5 ounces, it features a soft midsole for great cushioning that doesn't weigh you down. If you're looking for a shoe that allows you to experiment with the heel-to-toe differential, the GOrun Ultra touts a 4mm drop without the insole and an 8mm drop with. Better yet, if you aren't a fan of socks, the soft fabric lining in this shoe makes barefoot wear viable.
Topo Athletic Mountain Trainer ($100, available now)
Founded by Tony Post, the former CEO of Vibram who oversaw the launch of the FiveFingers, Topo's approach to trail shoes is unique. Characterized by a "Y" shaped fit, the Mountain Trainer is built to give a snug and secure fit in the midfoot, but a roomier fit in the toebox. Lightweight and durable, this model is versatile enough to be worn from road to trail and back again.
Montrail FluidFlex II ($90, available now)
Built to flex with the motion of your foot, the FluidFlex II's articulated midsole and toothy microlug outsole will work with your natural gait. With a scant 4mm heel-to-toe differential, this model gives a close-to-the-ground feel, while remaining soft and well cushioned. The FluidFlex II's light, meshy upper provides breathability and drainage in inclement weather.
Vasque Ultra SST ($169.99, March 2014)
Part of the maximal cushioning trend, the Ultra SST's technology works to conform to the contours of the foot, as well as the irregularities of the trail. Whether you're tackling an adventure race or a long trail run, the soft, high rebound insole and geometrical sole pods will support your stride for the longest runs. Characterized by a distinctive midsole construction, the EVA (ethylene vinyl scetate) is integrated into the upper to cradle the foot and provide extra motion control, eliminating the need for traditional toe and heel counters.
Adidas Outdoor Duramo Cross X GTX ($125, July 2014)
A true mountain runner, the Duramo Cross features a waterproof GORE-TEX membrane to protect your feet in the roughest conditions. With a unique speed-lacing construction, the design works together to provide cushioning and stability. Offering flexibility, performance, and durability in a lightweight package, this model is ideal for hardcore mountain-bound harriers.