Best Trail Running Shoes of ORSM 2010

Twice each year, the US outdoor industry gathers in Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace to take a look at the coming year’s product line up. For example, many spring/summer 2011 debuted at the 2010 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (ORSM). As has become tradition, we’re giving our take on these forthcoming products well after the August show, but before the January/February release of many of these products. Below are some of our favorite traditional trail shoes from the show. There’s a separate article on minimalist shoes from the show and there will be a third post regarding other products that caught our eye. Now, let’s bring on the shoes!

Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral and Guidance ($130)
The Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral is out favorite new hybrid or door-to-trail shoe as Salomon prefers to classify it. I’ve run a great deal in the Crossmax Neutral and it performs quite well on both trail and roads. Well enough, in fact, that I recently ran a 50 mile race having never previously worn the Crossmax for more than 8 miles. Now, that’s trust.

With the Crossmax, Salomon focused on fit, ride, and grip. While the upper combines a few fabrics (and fabric technologies), Salomon tried to limit the amount of stitching. The combination of materials provide a very comfortable, reasonably breathable upper. We’ve found the XT Wings 2 to be quite capable on the roads, but this is another step up. For Salomon’s first attempt to make a shoe that’s as good on roads as the trails, they really nailed the ride. There’s a great heel-toe transition, if you’re into that sort of thing. The outsole is chevron-centric, which provides a solid mix of surface area for the road as well as forward and backward traction on the trails. You can also look for a gusseted tongue and Salomon’s QuickLace in both models. The Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral weighs 11.3 ounce (320 gram) for a US men’s 9 in this post-less shoe.

Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral

Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral

The XR Crossmax Guidance is essentially the same shoe as the Neutral version with the addition of five support or guidance features. First off, there’s medial posting to offer a bit of support. Second, there’s also more medial material to continue the support at the inside of each stride. Third, the OS Tendon in the midsole and outsole, which helps provides stability and rebound, is straighter than the curved design found in the Neutral version. Fourth, the upper of the Crossmax Guidance replaces much of the welded seems found in the Neutral with stitched seams. This gives the shoe a different fit. Finally, the Guidance upper has more Sensifit, a thin-welded overlay that helps provide structure to mesh in the forefoot. The Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance in a US men’s is 12 ounces (340 grams).

Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance

Salomon XR Crossmax Guidance

Brooks Cascadia 6 ($110)
There are few trail shoes for which we’re likely to cover every subsequent model. The Brooks Cascadia is one of them. This time around, there’s lots to report. Now in its sixth iteration, Brooks has chopped a full ounce off the Cascadia. While not heavy before, an 11.2 ounce (317 gram) version has us dreaming of running up Hope Pass in the Leadville 100. One addition to the Cascadia 6 is a fourth pivot post, this time in the inside of the forefoot. Another big change is that Cascadia 6 will include Brooks’ DNA “spontaneously adaptive cushioning.”

Brooks Cascadia 6

Brooks Cascadia 6

There are also changes to the upper, the most significant of which appears to be a metatarsal wrap to lock your foot in place. Another upper modification is the addition of a “tongue tie” that should help keep the tongue from migrating. Although the outsole is ringed by familiar lugging, the middle portion of the outsole is filled with 19 lugs each of which resemble a four-lobed version of a radiation symbol. The lug pattern, which has lower lugs in the forefoot, should shed mud better than previous versions.

Brooks Cascadia 6 outsole

Brooks Cascadia 6 outsole

Aside from the lugs and one colorway for both the men and the women… these shoes are far from radioactive. There are lots of environmentally friendly stories, such as a BioMoGo midsoles and recycled rubber in the outsole, but we’ll save those for another time. You’ll be able to check the shoe out yourself in February 2011.

The North Face Double-Track and Single-Track TH ($110 and $90, respectively)
The North Face made great strides in releasing the Single-Track last year. In the coming year, they plan to follow up on that success with the Double-Track. The Double-Track will be aimed at those who want more shoe than the Single-Track. It is more plush with lots more cushioning as well as some added stability. The Double-Track will feature an external cradle to provide a more secure heel fit without overly control the foot. It will weigh about the same as the Single-Track.

The North Face Double-Track

The North Face Double-Track

Inspired by athlete Lizzy Hawker, The North Face will be releasing the Single-Track T.H. (Terrain Harness). The main modification to the Single-Track TH model is the addition of a medial post for the runner who needs some pronation control. The aim of this shoe is not to be beefier. In fact, TNF removed the Snake Plate rockplate from the TH. Note, however, that this model does have more cushioning that the standard Single-Track.

Montrail Badrock ($100)
This is our favorite training-focused shoe (i.e., not the Rogue Racer) in Montrail’s Spring/Summer 2011 lineup… and we’ve run in every shoe in the lineup. It’s a solid mix of a runnable midsole/outsole package and comfortable upper. The highlight of the upper is a pleasantly roomy toebox. The midsole highlights Montrail’s new FluidPost technology. FluidPost blends pieces of different density EVA to provide variable support depending on the needs of the runner and terrain. The Badrock’s outsole is the same as found on the currently available Rockridge.

Montrail Badrock

Montrail Badrock

New Balance 915 ($120)
Aside from improving the MT101 and shaking things up with the Minimus line, New Balance is revamping its core performance trail line. The New Balance 915 will be a trail running shoe for the masses, but made with the philosophies of “what you see is what you get” and “less is more.” The 915 features a redesigned RockStop rockplate that’s more flexible than its predecessors. The midsole/outsole package has been simplified. So has the upper, which is quick drying with fewer overlays and a reduced toe bumper. The tongue will be gusseted. Compared to other projects that New Balance has been working on, the 915 may not seem like a big deal. However, it’s great to see an established company reflecting on its main trail running line and removing what’s not needed from those shoes.

New Balance 915

New Balance 915

Inov-8 F-Lite 311 ($110)
The F-Lite 311 is not a revolutionary development. It’s not really an evolutionary one, either, unless it’s convergent evolution. You see, Inov-8 ditched the F-Lite 301, 305, and 320 in favor of a single model of F-Lite trainer, the F-Lite 311. Yeah, the F-Lite series is touted as a parkour/urban running shoe, but we know some runners use the trainer range of F-Lites, as well. Here’s Inov-8 US team manager Mark Lundblad’s review of the F-Lite 311. [broken link to US Inov-8 team blogpost entitle “F-Lite311 Shoe Review by Mark Lundblad” removed]

For those who prefer Inov-8’s lighter F-Lite models, don’t worry. The F-Lite 195, 220, and 230 are still out there to fit your needs.

Inov-8 F-Lite 311

Inov-8 F-Lite 311

La Sportiva Quantum and Electron ($115 and $120, respectively)
We’ve already previewed La Sportiva’s MorphoDynamic technology that will be found in the forthcoming Quantum and Electron.

La Sportiva Electron

The forthcoming La Sportiva Electron with MorphoDynamic technology.

Oboz Lightning ($110)
The Oboz Lightning it a solid entry into the disappearing breed of rugged trail shoes. However, two key features make it unlike many old school members of this class: it’s relatively light weight (12.7 ounces for US men’s 9) and it has excellent runnability. We’d imagine this would be a great shoe in which to go cruise the Bridgers, Massanuttens, or any other rocky-strewn mountain range. That makes sense as in the post-Ignition world (the Ignition will be discontinued), as Oboz is focusing on protection and durability.

Oboz Lightning

Oboz Lightning

Call for Comments
Any of these shoes interest you? If so, which ones and why?

There are 21 comments

  1. Natural1

    Salomon has been hyping the Crossmax like crazy for the past few months, with full page ads and gate folds in most of the major running mags, but the shoe isn't on their own web site and it isn't available for pre-order anywhere (looks like it might drop in mid-February…)

    I hope it lives up to all of the pre-release hoopla. Of course, if Salomon wants to send me a size 12 Crossmax Neutral, I'd gladly write some glowing comments on several forums. ;)

  2. ScottTomKretz

    Hey Bryon,

    Just wondering if you had any thoughts on the upcoming Keen A86 TR. Of all the shoes I've seen that should be hitting the shelves, that one has me the most intrigued and anxiously awaiting their release so as to pick up a pair.


  3. Jon Allen

    Bryon- do you know if Salomon has done anything to strengthen the QuickLace system recently? I own 3 XT Wings, and have had to replace the laces on all 3 due to the black outer sheathing wearing out and the kevlar fraying. It's a big pain at $8 a pop for laces, plus 30 minutes to fix (and no field repair). I love the shoes, but won't buy another Salomon until I've heard the laces are improved from the original XT Wings material.

    1. Adam W. Chase

      Jon: I am happy to speak to that subject. It hasn't really been the lacing that has posed problems for Salomon as much as it was the eyelets on particular production runs that saw breakage. Salomon fixed the eyelets, from both a positioning and tensile strength standpoint, and has not had consumer issues since that fix. I'm sorry that you had bad experiences with the XT Wings' Quick Lace but the XR Crossmax's lacing system is different enough, with plastic eyelets through which the lace slides easily, that you shouldn't have any difficulties. — Adam W. Chase, Captain/Manager of Team Salomon Trail Running

  4. carl

    Great post. Good to get the scoop on the latest trail shoes before they cross the atlantic. Hoping to get a pair of Crossmax to review this month. Also liking the look of the new Cascadia, they rarely fail to impress.

    Just out of interest what other products caught your attention?

  5. justin

    Great article Byron. I purchased a pair of the Montrail Badrocks and they are great so far. I have approx 60 miles on them so far and no problems. I love the roomy toe box!!

  6. Sergio

    Byron, from an older Salomon not sure what model(YAY) to Gel Cumulus (booo), Asics Gel Trail, and finally I landed in a NB MT101 (sweet but minimal) hard on achilles on extended climbs. I have to say the one and only shoe that did everything was a Salomon. I have to run the Leadville Marathon, 10K and 100 Miler events this year and I am switching between the MT 101 and the Asics Gel Trail to ease up on the achilles. Do you still stand by the Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral as you state in this article? I don't have much more time to keep trying shoes before I am in season. I love the Salomons but not sure if they are Ultra shoes, should I be looking at the S-LAB 3 XT WINGS? Too many products…arrrggg

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I think that the Crossmax would be great shoes for the majority of the Leadville 100. I don't think there's one shoe that's perfect for the entire course, but Leadville is primarily a runnable, non-technical course. I'm sure some folks run it in road running shoes. The last time I ran the race, I wore a pair of hybrid shoes (Brooks Cascadia 4) and they were plenty substantial enough.

  7. Austin

    I'm torn between the Saloman XS Crossmax Guidance and the Montrail Badrock…

    Any suggestions for a predominant roadrunner with moderate pronation issues, just now switching to trail running?

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