Best Trail Running Shoes of Outdoor Retailer Summer 2013
August 8, 2013 by Bryon Powell · 190 Comments
It’s the beginning of another August and that means it’s time for our roundup of the best new shoes of this summer’s Outdoor Retailer show, where companies highlighted their spring/summer 2014 offerings, which will generally debut in the first two months of next year. For the most part, this year’s show was full of incremental rather than revolutionary change.
Click on any of the following featured shoes to jump down to our preview of the model. If you don’t find what you’re looking for on this list, try searching this page as we provide abbreviated previews on a number of other models. We’ve also published a Facebook album with additional angles and models.
- Altra Olympus
- ASICS Fuji Racer 3
- Brooks Cascadia 9
- Dynafit Pantera
- Hoka One One Conquest
- La Sportiva Bushido
- Merrell AllOut Rush and Fuse
- Montrail FluidFeel II and FluidFlex II
- New Balance 110v2
- Patagonia EVERlong
- Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG
- Saucony Peregrine 4
- SCARPA TRU
- The North Face Ultra Trail
- Vasque Ultra SST (née Shapeshifter Ultra)
- Vibram Vybrid
The Hoka One One Conquest is going to be one of those shoes that we have to run in before forming an opinion. Why? Because it looks ridiculous, BUT so did the original Hoka concept and it’s worked out well. So what’s going on with the Conquest? Two main things – Rmat and a truss system.
Rmat is a new midsole material proprietary to Deckers, Hoka’s new parent company. It’s an injectable natural rubber with high weight-to-resiliency properties resulting in greater midsole durabilty and an even more silent ride. The Rmat layer is overlaid with Hoka’s proprietary EVA to maintain the Hoka feel underfoot.
Unlike the traditional use of a truss in footwear, the Conquest’s truss isn’t there to add support. Rather, the truss is there to allow decoupling in the rear of the shoe upon heel strike. The truss and a deep foot frame in the heel make the Conquest look like it rides higher off the ground than it really does. The shoe incorporates water drainage ports.
Other updates from Hoka:
Rapa Nui 2 ($130 – January 1, 2014) – While the original Rapa Nui was never released in the US, the Rapa Nui 2 will make it over to the States in a limited release late this year before a full launch at the start of next year. The shoe has been updated with a no-sew upper that provides a more streamlined fit.
Bondi B 3 ($150 – January 1, 2014) – The third version of the Bondi B will keep the same midsole/outsole while the upper switches to a seam-free interior to the upper that’s more flexible, more breathable, and subject to high QA standards. The tongue will be thinner and lighter, while the midfoot has been snugged up a bit.
In addition, aside from the Kailua, all Hoka’s women’s models will switch to a women’s last with January 1 releases.
Next year’s revision to the New Balance 110, the 110 v2, will offer a lot more underfoot and dumb down the 110 to the basics. There’ll be a full rockplate. There’ll be a full-coverage rubber outsole that’s a durable, sticky rubber. The upper won’t offer so many easy-tear perforations. The last will switch from the Minimus last to a 4-mm-drop version of NB’s PL last. It’s a last that allows for an insert. The midsole will be switched from Acteva Lite EVA to RevLite.
All of these changes make the shoe sound completely unrelated to the first version of the 110, but, from a wholistic perspective, it’s still a light, 4 mm drop, nimble trail running shoe.
Other additions and updates from New Balance:
00 v2 Trail ($109 – March 2014) – A radical departure from the original Minimus Zero Trail with a 7 mm lugged outsole based on the UK’s RX Terrain fell-running outsole. There’s a more significant toe rand and a synth suede-infused upper that’s reminiscent of the RX Terrain’s design. The Minimus last is again out with the PL4 last being tweaked down to zero drop. The rock plate’s extended into the midfoot. The result is a more protective, more trail-worthy shoe in a heavier (8.8-ounce) package.
007 (no, seriously) ($99 – April 2014) – A training shoe brought outdoors for bootcamps and mud runs. It’s got a gusseted tongue.
Patagonia Footwear made a radical leap when it released the minimalist EVERmore this year and it overshot what most of Patagonia’s own runners were looking for. With the forthcoming Patagonia EVERlong, 100-mile specialist Jeff Browning spearheaded development of a light, simple shoe that would excel where he does – very long runs in the mountains. Browning started with the idea that many runners toward the front of ultras these days are wearing road-racing shoes, showing that light shoes that run well are key, so you can bet that the EVERlong runs well on road stretches and hardpack trails. When things get technical, there’s a real midfoot wrap (but not over the lower metarsals) and a strategically placed toe bumper where you actually kick things – the front of your big and second toes. Padded heel pods help enhance foot lock down.
The EVERlong does have “minimalist features” such as a straight design in the arch and big toe as well as a 4 mm drop. Likewise, there’s no traditional heel counter. However, while the arch is straighter, it’s also not scooped out.
Next year, Salomon is kicking another $20 off its pinnacle shoe line, the S-Lab Sense. Just as exciting is the introduction of a Softground version of the Sense in the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG. Otherwise, the Sense remains the Sense. The only other notable update across both models is the addition of a finer outer mesh on the upper, thereby reducing the migration of grit through the upper.
Another update from Salomon:
Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra ($160 – February 1, 2014) – Essentially the blend of the S-Lab Sense 2 and Sense Ultra with a higher-durometer midsole than the original Sense, a compromised amount of lugged outsole area, and the Profeel film extending through the midfoot. As suggested above, the S-Lab Sense drops from $180 to $160 next year and features a less permeable (for dirt, not air) mesh upper.
La Sportiva claims the Bushido is a racing/performance shoe, but I see many of iRunFar’s readers making the La Sportiva Bushido an everyday shoe that they might also where on race day. The 6-mm drop shoe swings back from the 4-mm drop of the Vertical K and weighs in at a now middle-of-the-road 9.8 ounces (278 grams). The primary story in the Bushido is the “STB Control” feature that moves the stabilization shank from underfoot to the sides of the shoe to allow for better underfoot feel. It’s got a rockplate, an airy mesh upper, and mix of Sportiva’s Friction Green and Friction Blue outsole rubbers with the stickier rubber in the middle of the outsole.
Altra’s message has always been cushioned zero drop. With the Altra Olympus, the company keeps the zero drop and adds even more cushion to a trail shoe a la Torin on the road side. Altra tested various midsole thicknesses and found that runners didn’t notice any difference in cushioning above the thickness they used in this shoe. The Olympus has a less aggressive outsole than the Lone Peak and features some exposed EVA for added traction on wet rock. This shoe is built on more of a stability last… it allows for neutral running, but compensates so the thick EVA doesn’t enhance medial collapse 150 miles into usage. There’s also a firm layer under the sock liner. The toe offers a steep taper for a pretty aggressive toe off. The Olympus’s last has more volume in the big and small toes and is a bit straighter overall. Although not shown in the photo, the production model will include a gaiter trap to go along with a gusseted tongue.
Other additions and updates from Altra:
Altra Superior 1.5 ($105 – January 2014) – Like the Lone Peak last year, the Superior sees significant upper revisions on an unchanged underfoot package in the Altra Superior 1.5. The new version has an enhanced metatarsal wrap, a much tougher upper material, and the Lone Peak’s gaiter trap.
Altra Instinct/Intuition Everyday ($130 – January 2014) – Slick looking, cushioned, zero-drop casual shoes. Perfect for zero-drop fanatics as well as folks like me who like to casually wear low-drop shoes.
The North Face Ultra Trail seemingly continues down the path blazed by the recently released Hayasa 2, in that it’s a low-riding, breathable trail runner with a decent run feel. The shoe includes TNF’s recently introduced Cradle Guide support system and extends the brand’s FlashDry technology throughout the entire upper for the first time to go along with a lightweight, breathable upper. The Vibram outsole consists of a tight array of tiny lugs that provide a great deal of ground contact and supplement cushioning. The 8.7 ounce (245 g) 8 mm drop shoe has 8 and 16 mm of midsole height in the forefoot and heel, respectively.
Another addition from The North Face:
The North Face Ultra Smooth ($110 – January 25, 2014) – Essentially the Ultra Trail for the road and smooth trails. The outsole and Vibram ground-contact EVA aim to provide a smoother ride for this 9.3 ounce (263 g) shoe.
The Vasque Ultra SST (née Shapeshifter Ultra) aims to conform to your foot and the terrain both through materials and geometry. Underfoot, there’s a slightly cupped midsole topped with 4 mm of foam rather than a strobel board and a traditional insole. The midsole material is used extensively in the structural elements of the shoe, including the toe rand, the heel counter, and even the metatarsal wrap up to the eyelets. The upper is a pull-on fit with a BOA lacing system. As for ground conformity, the extensive midsole in the shoe’s 22/28 mm stack heights (6 mm drop) enhances ground conformity along the same line as Hokas and La Sportiva’s Morphodynamic shoes, while the Shapeshifter’s individual pillars allow for more mechanical deformation. Like Hoka’s Conquest, this is one for which judgment will have to be left to the trails.
The 8.7 ounce ASICS Fuji Racer 3 features entirely new midsole/outsole tooling and a brand new upper in a 6 mm drop shoe. ASICS added ground contact to the outsole, spaced out the lugs for better mud shedding, and closed in the underfoot drainage holes. The Fuji Racer 3 retains its water-drainage feature by creating underfoot channels (that correspond to forefoot flex grooves) that drain out of the side of the midsoles.
From the looks of things, Saucony is making the Peregrine a franchise shoe. What else can you say when the Saucony Peregrine is the fourth generation of a yet-to-be-completely-revamped shoe. In that way, it reminds me of the Cascadia of the past half decade. In 2014, the Peregrine will get another millimeter of lug depth to go along with a more aggressive outsole pattern. On the other hand, the shoe’s rockplate has been thinned, which should lead to a more flexible forefoot. The midsole material goes from Progrid to Powergrid, while the upper sees a thinning of the Flexfilm overlays as the material continues to replace additional traditional overlays. The toe box should be more roomy thanks to a new upper pattern and the Flexfilm updates. The Peregrine remains a 4 mm drop shoe that will sit at 9.4 ounces.
Following on the surprise success of the Spark, the SCARPA TRU is a trail racing shoe built with SCARPA’s concept of “mountain minimalism” – lightening things up, but still offering adequate protection and support – in mind. The result, a 8.5 ounce, mountain-worthy trail racing shoe.The TRU has a 6 mm drop and a very breathable upper.
Other additions from SCARPA:
SCARPA Ignite ($125 – February 2014) – Where the TRU brackets the Spark on the lighter side, the Ignite does so on the upper end. It’s a new take on a traditional trail runner that comes in at 10.2 ounces with a 8 mm drop (10/18 mm midsole heights) and a rock plate as well as a real outsole (4.5 mm lug depth).
SCARPA Ion ($120 – February 2014) – This appears to be a slightly more protective version of the Spark, with a 1.2 EVA rockplate rather than the Spark’s fabric rock protection. It’ll weigh 10.3 ounces.
Merrell’s AllOut collection is a good example of the pendulum swinging back to the center on drop. Neither Merrell nor the other companies that saw huge booms with 0 to 4 mm drop shoes are dropping those models, but they’re realizing that some consumers want and/or need more drop. Hence, the addition of the 6 mm AllOut collection. The Merrell AllOut Rush ($120) appears to be a traditional trail shoe at 10 ounces with 5 mm of lug depth… it’s just got a 6 mm drop. The Merrell AllOut Fuse is a 8 ounce, door-to-trail shoe with 2.5 mm lugs.
The eighth update to the classic Brooks Cascadia focuses on the upper with less sewing there. New flat laces reduce pressure points. Count on this one as a “don’t mess with a good thing” update. The latest version weighs in at 11.7 ounces for a US men’s 9.
In talking with Henry Guzman of Boulder Running Company, who played a large part in the development of the Dynafit Pantera, the shoe fills the hole still empty from the departure of the Montrail Hardrock and is a shoe made for the “other 80%.” It’s a solid, protective, well-lugged shoe (that looks even luggier than it is) that’s snug in the midfoot and open in the toebox. The 8-mm drop Pantera weighs in at 12 ounces (340 grams).
Vibram’s currently test marketing a 14-mm-stack-height FiveFinger model, the Vibram Vybrid, at a Boston-area store. It’s currently in the concept stage, but worth noting in the context of other developments at this year’s summer OR show.
Other updates from Vibram:
Bikila EVO ($120 – February 2014) – The Bikila’s sole is increased from 7 to 8.5 mm and there’s a new antimicrobial upper.
While Montrail is introducing two new models next spring – the FluidFlex II ($90 – February 1, 2014) and FluidFeel II ($110 – February 1, 2014) – both are incremental tweaks to their predecessors. The FluidFlex II seems to be an update to the fit of the upper as well as providing additional medial structure. The biggest update on the FluidFeel II is aesthetic; however, the upper is now more breathable.
While the Bajada remains the Bajada, it may have seen the most meaningful changes in the Montrail line with Fluid Foam being added and the upper mesh being improved to reduce blowout issues.
Rogue Racer fans… stock up this season, the finale for this model.