We’ve recently seen some traditionally road shoe companies turning their attention to creating more specific, performance oriented trail shoes, and Adidas may have a leg up on the competition. Releasing the first trail specific running shoe in 1993, the original Response Trail, Adidas pioneered an aesthetic and technologies copied by many shoe companies for years to come. Remember that piece of outsole rubber that hangs off of every Response Trail? That was taken from the original Adidas Marathon Trainer from the late 1970s. That same feature is known as a “trail rudder” on my Altra Lone Peaks, and although I’m not quite sure what it does, it looks cool. That feature is burned into my collective perception of what a trail shoe looks like since I wore the original Response Trail as a high school sophomore.
In this review I will profile three of Adidas’ new trail shoes, the Response Trail 19, the Supernova Riot 4, and the Adizero XT 4. Historically, Adidas has always stuck to their guns with shoes such as the Response Trail, which is now in its 19th update. Durable, maximum featured trail shoes have always been their focus, and their new releases stray little from this tried and true method. However, this year they branch into the midweight category with the release of the Adizero XT 4.
Adidas Adizero XT 4
Weighing in at just over 10 ounces for my size 9.5, the XT 4 is Adidas’ first attempt to compete with some of the mainstay shoes in what I’ll call the midweight category. In my opinion, shoes in this category are lightweight (around 10 ounces), but ideally still offer the cushioning and protection needed to run 100 miles. Leaders in this category include the Saucony Peregrine, Montrail Bajada, Pearl Izumi Peak II and the Salomon Speedcross. Taking that to mind, I set out to test the XT 4 on technical mountain terrain requiring traction, agility, and protection, and, therefore, found myself on the starting line of a tough 50k in Colorado.
The upper of the XT 4 is nearly identical to the minimal designs of Adidas’ road racing shoes, including the Adidas Hagio, and it utilizes welded overlays in all the right spots to provide enough lockdown and breathability without adding weight. The fit of the XT 4 is snug in the heel and midfoot and wider throughout the forefoot. A minimally padded tongue and simple flat lace design complete a rather simple, but effective upper.
Though lacking a rockplate, the XT 4 adds protection in the form of high-density EVA cushioning typical of any lightweight Adidas road shoe. This Adiprene cushioning is firm yet responsive and performs best, in my opinion, on softer ground where a firm platform is needed for purchase and energy return. Additionally, Adidas partnered with Continental Tires to create a full-length outsole rubber that is extremely rugged and durable, and maybe a bit too hard depending on your preference. After nearly 200 miles, my XT 4 shows no signs of wear on the outsole, and I found the very aggressive 7mm high lugs to get in the way of what otherwise feels like a very agile trail shoe.
While I enjoyed the minimalist upper, lowered heel drop (6mm), and firm cushioning of the XT 4 for runs up to half marathon in length, the combination of the firm midsole with the very hard outsole gives the XT 4 a somewhat unforgiving ride for longer distances. During my third outing in the shoe, the aforementioned 50k race, my legs and feet felt beat up after just ten miles on a technical, rocky course. Runners who prefer a firm but flexible feel underfoot, or those running primarily on softer muddy surfaces where an aggressive lug pattern may be appreciated, should give the XT 4 a try.
Adidas Response Trail 19
True to its roots, the newest Response Trail offers a great deal of cushioning and bit of support in a very smooth ride. Lighter in weight than its predecessors, at 12.2 ounces the Response Trail has a 12mm heel drop and has the type of plush feel that you would expect from a road shoe. The upper consists of a well-padded heel collar and tongue surrounded by breathable, but durable, mesh. Sewn overlays reinforce the upper and a reinforced toe rand protects from rocks and roots.
Where the Response Trail 19 excels is no surprise; the comfort of this shoe is undeniable. Full-length thick Adiprene EVA offers a ride that feels like a well-cushioned trainer, and the ride is soft, which is appreciated on hard surfaces. Added support from Adidas’ Pro-Moderator, a thermoplastic device molded into the midsole is not noticeable to neutral runners, but adds just enough support to be appreciated on longer runs. The Response Trail 19 does not have a rockplate, but the thick EVA seems to provide plenty of protection on the rockiest trails.
A simple, low-lugged outsole provides some traction without getting in the way. Despite all of this cushioning the Response Trail 19 is fairly flexible, especially in the toe box. But, while the overall stack height offers a comfortable ride, the height of the shoe combined with the rather sharp edges of the outsole, makes this shoe a bit clumsy on technical terrain. Several times I found myself rolling my ankle ever so slightly when landing slightly askew on a rock or running on cambered trail. The Response Trail 19 would be a great ultra shoe for non-technical trails, but lacks agility on burly ground.
Adidas Supernova Riot 4
While the XT 4 is Adidas’ lightest trail shoe, the Riot 4 is their most built up and supportive trail shoe. Weighing in at 13.1 oz for my size 9.5 US, the Riot 4 feels like a motion control version of the Response Trail 19. An upper constructed very similarly to the Response sits upon a midsole with more motion control technology than any other trail shoe I’ve seen on the market today. Full-length Adiprene is bolstered by a dual-density midsole and thermoplastic motion control device on the medial side of the shoe. The ride of the Riot 4 could be characterized as plush and very well supported, and trail runners needing the most support should definitely give this shoe a try.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
Have you ever run in one of these Adidas trail models, now or in the past? If so, what did you think?