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Best New Trail Shoes for Spring-Summer 2018

For the past decade, I’ve provided semi-annual updates from the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. With fewer trail brands attending the show this summer, I’ve updated the breadth of this soon-to-come shoe update to include some brands that weren’t in attendance at the show. This roundup is not intended to be exhaustive and, indeed, will be skewed toward brands that I am able to meet with in person. With that said, check out some of the new trail shoes you’ll see in late 2017 or early 2018!

If you’re interested in a particular brand or model, you can jump ahead to the following models. (Full-paragraph previews are bolded in the list.)

New Balance Summit Unknown ($110 – April 1, 2018)

For ages, I’ve teased New Balance about wanting a trail version of my beloved RC1400s. Well, the New Balance Summit Unknown is just such a shoe… in fact, its developmental name was the TR1400. It’s a 10mm-drop shoe with RevLite midsole and a racing last, just like the 1400. Add to that 4mm lugs that continue to tweak the Vazee’s Summit’s pattern and a TPU rockplate, and, voila, you’ve got a speedy trail shoe. Add in a soft, sock-like tongue for a comfortable fit and an outer mesh that doesn’t absorb water in a 8.6-ounce shoe, and you’ve got a winner.

A prototype of the New Balance Summit Unknown.


Also from New Balance:

  • New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3 ($135 – January 1, 2018) — The Hierro gets a major update with a move from 4mm to 8mm drop, even softer Fresh Foam, bootie construction, a switch to HypoSkin upper construction that tries to blend lockdown with accommodation for foot expansion, a more rounded shaped in the upper, and an updated outsole pattern with deeper and more aggressive lugs (still with Vibram MegaGrip), all for an additional 0.8 ounces.

The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3.

The North Face Flight RKT ($150 – February 2018)

While versions of a Rob Krar shoe have been in development for years, one will finally hit store shelves early next year in The North Face Flight RKT. This 8-ounce (227g) shoe with 8mm drop was made for light and fast running. To make that happen, the shoe has a thin upper throughout, no rockplate, and minimal outsole material with 2mm multi-directonal lugs. There’s a dual-density midsole with TNF new FastFoam midsole system made up of a super-soft inner core with a standard-density outer region for stability that results in a cushioned ride despite the low weight. This is not your everyday shoe, as its designed for approximately 100 miles of wear. You might get a few more miles out of a pair, but not much. The shoe also has a more accommodating forefoot than you might expect in most racing shoes.

The North Face Flight RKT.


Also from The North Face:

  • The North Face Ultra TR III ($110 – February 2018) — The TR3 gets an injection of FastFoam, the addition of Vibram MegaGrip, and a mesh upper. It’ll weigh in around 9.8 oz (278 g).
  • The North Face Ultra Endurance II ($120 – February 2018) — The Ultra Endurance 2 gets an updated upper with a more breathable tongue and updated geocage for improved midfoot lockdown. It’ll weigh in around 11.5 oz (327 g).

The North Face Ultra TR 3.

The North Face Ultra Endurance 2.

La Sportiva Unika ($190 – February 2018)

A long-distance trail shoe made entirely in Europe, the La Sportiva Unika comes at a hefty $190 price point. Built for the long haul, the shoe features compression-resistant polyurathane midsole along with a rockplate. The midsole also wraps up the shoe’s medial side for added stability while the lacing system enhances midfoot stability. The Unika weighs 11.6 ounces and has an 8mm drop.

The La Sportiva Unika.


Also from La Sportiva:

  • La Sportiva VK ($135 – February 2018) — Sportiva worked with Vertical Kilometer record holder Urban Zemmer in developing this 6.9-ounce (198 g) shoe with 4mm drop. It’s light, but still has a forefoot rubber outsole along with a partial rockplate.
  • La Sportiva Lycan ($115 – February 2018) — A mid-distance, everyday trainer that weighs 9.5 ounces (268g) and has a 6mm drop. It’s got a wider forefoot fit than most Sportiva shoes and a sticky outsole in a pattern reminiscent of the C-Lite 2.0.

The La Sportiva VK.

The La Sportiva Lycan.

SCARPA Spin RS ($135 – February 2018)

The SCARPA Spin RS will be a moderate-weight, everyday trail runner with more cushion than the Spin. It’ll weigh in at 10.5 ounces for a men’s 9 and feature an 8mm drop with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole featuring 4mm lugs. SCARPA and the Spin RS will be the first trail shoes to include Vibram’s Lightbase technology, which reduces outsole weight by co-molding a fabric base with the outsole rubber, allowing for a thinner rubber base. The Spin RS will have a sock-like tongue.

The SCARPA Spin RS.


Also from SCARPA:

  • SCARPA Neutron 2 ($130 – February 2018) — The Neutron is updated with a new last, a more roomy toe box, and a new outsole pattern for increased durability and traction in 12.1 ounces. It’ll also be available in a $170 GORE-TEX version.

The SCARPA Neutron 2.

Inov-8 X-Talon 230 ($130 – November 1, 2017)

Next spring, Inov-8’s hallmark X-Talon line will become more versatile with the introduction of the 8.7-ounce, 8mm-drop Inov-8 X-Talon 230. In general, the shoe’s upper and underfoot tooling will remain familiar. However, the outsole gets an upgrade to Inov-8’s brand new Sticky Grip compound, which the company is touting as providing 50% more and 20% more traction in the forefoot and rearfoot, respectively. The midsole also gets an upgrade to Inov-8’s Powerflow+ compound for better shock absorption and energy return. They’ve also added a rockplate for added protection, took out water-absorbing materials, tried to make the shoe more breathable, and added a gusseted tongue.

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230.


Also from Inov-8:

  • Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX ($145 – November 1, 2017) — A bomber option with GORE-TEX’s Invisible Fit membrane and partially Kevlar upper in a 11.0-ounce (311 g) shoe with 8mm drop.

The Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 2 – renamed S/Lab Ultra ($180 – March 1, 2018)

Aside from a major cosmetic overhaul, the most noticeable change in the Salomon S/Lab Ultra are the two decoupled SensiFIT wings, both, medially and laterally, for improved midfoot lockdown. The lace garage is now top- rather than bottom-loading and there’s now an enhanced mud guard. Underfoot, a forefoot insert adds to the cushioning and durability. It’ll weigh in at an even 300 grams (10.6 ounces). (iRunFar’s Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra review)

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 2.


Also from Salomon:

  • Salomon S-Lab Speed 2 ($180 – March 1, 2018) — Revised to a completely hydrophobic upper.
  • Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine 2 ($250 – March 1, 2018) — Redesigned gaiter to be completely waterproof and include an asymmetrical zipper.
  • Salomon XA Elevate ($130 – March 1, 2018) — A 9-ounce (255 g) trail shoe with moderate lugs of Premium Wet Traction Contagrip, airy mesh upper, and stable rear in a Sense Ride-like ride.
  • Salomon Speedcross 4 Wide ($130 – March 1, 2018) — The iconic shoe line adds a wider version.

The Salomon S-Lab Speed 2.

The Salomon S-Lab XA Alpine 2.

The Salomon XA Elevate.

SCOTT Kinabalu ($155 – January 2018)

Replacing the current T2 Kinabalu 3.0, the SCOTT Kinabalu is back with an update to the midsole/outsole based on that of the Kinabalu RC introduced early this year and a 2mm lower stack height than the prevoius version. There’s no heel counter or rockplate here. It’ll weigh in at 11.2 ounces (320 g).

The SCOTT Kinabalu for 2018.


Also from SCOTT:

  • SCOTT Kinabalu Power ($160 – January 2018) — The Kinabalu Power looks to be the beast in the Kinabalu series, with an external heel counter, an external stability cage in the rear foot, ripstop panels in the midfoot, and TPU plate in the mid- and forefoot in an approximately 12.2-ounce (350 g), 8mm-drop shoe.

The SCOTT Kinabalu Power.

Altra King MT 1.5 ($140 – January 2018)

As an Altra “point five” update, the Altra King MT 1.5 sees mostly iterative changes to the upper, including a more durable mesh upper and the addition of drainage holes in the toe box. The velcro band has also been shortened due to user feedback and there’s a new “shark skin” fabric in the heel liner for better lockdown. A men’s 9 will now weigh in at 8.5 ounces (241 g).

The Altra King MT 1.5.


Also from Altra:

  • Altra Superior 3.5 ($110 – December 2017) — Altra continues to make the Superior’s upper more durable, while adding the company’s 4-Point GaiterTrap this time around. This version will weigh 9.2 ounces.
  • Altra Duo ($130 – January 2018) — While a road shoe, the Duo is a max-cushion shoe that comes in at 7.9 ounces with a very open toe box.

The Altra Superior 3.5.

The Altra Duo.

Arc’teryx Norvan LD ($160 – February 2018)

For its second trail running offering, the Arc’teryx Norval LD, Arc’teryx has designed a more all-around long-distance trail shoe. The 10.9-ounce (310 g), 9mm-drop shoe features a moderately-lugged Vibram MegaGrip outsole, 3-piece EVA midsole (including some medial support, and a TPU rockplate.

The Arc’teryx Norval LD.

Hoka One One Challenger 4 ($130 – January 1, 2018)

The Hoka One One Challenger 4 is updated with an expended toe cap for better protection while the rest of the upper has seen overlays removed and a more durable mesh implemented which combined yield better durability and breathability. A men’s 9 will weigh 9 ounces (254 g). (iRunFar’s Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 review)

The Hoke One One Challenger ATR 4.


Also from Hoka One One:

  • Hoka One One Mach ($140 – January 1, 2018) — The evolution of the popular Clayton 2 road shoe with a completely redesigned engineered-knit upper and built on a new last that’ll relieve arch pressure. It’ll weigh 8.2 ounces (231 g). [Updated with additional info Aug 24.]

The Hoka One One Mach.

Brooks Caldera 2 ($140 – December 2017)

The 9.9 ounce Brooks Caldera 2 sees mostly updates to the upper at the end of the year with the a more durable fabric and additional rubber overlays. (iRunFar’s original Brooks Caldera review)

The Brooks Caldera 2.


Also from Brooks:

  • Brooks Mazama 2 ($140 – December 2017) — This 9.3-ounce shoe sees a dual-layer mesh replaced by a single mesh layer with 3D-rubber printing overlays.

The Brooks Mazama 2.

Saucony Peregrine 8 ($120 – January 1, 2018)

The biggest updates to the Saucony Peregrine 8 is the removal of its rockplate and a switch from Saucony’s SSL EVA to PWRFoam midsole. It’ll come in at 10.0 ounces (283 g), about a half ounce more than its predecessor. (iRunFar’s Saucony Peregrine 7 review)

The Saucony Peregrine 8.

Dynafit Ultra Pro ($140 – Spring 2018)

Stability and protection are the main foci of the Dynafit Ultra Pro yet it weighs in at a reasonable 11.2 ounces (320 g). The shoe features Vibram MegaGrip, a quick lace, and an 8mm drop.

The Dynafit Ultra Pro.

Salewa Ultra Trail 2.0 ($139 – Spring 2018)

The Salewa Ultra Trail 2.0 is updated with a grippier Michelin OCX outsole and enhanced midfoot wrapping for better stability. It’ll weight 11.0 ounces (313 g) and have an 8mm drop.

The Salewa Ultra Train 2.0.

Merrell MQM Flex ($110 – February 2018)

The approximately 9.5-ounce Merrell MQM Flex is premised on “moving quickly through the mountains,” whether that’s trail running or scrambling. Truthfully, in today’s market, the MQM Flex feels like a light hiker than someone could run in, as it is built based on Merrell’s Flex trail-running line, but with a more built-up rear upper, and tougher mesh in some areas. There’s also a $140 version with GORE-TEX Invisible Fit waterproofing throughout.

The Merrell MQM Flex.


Also from Merrell:

  • Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit and E-Mesh ($140 and $120, respectively – February 2018) — The Merrell Trail Glove has two reimagined uppers with the knit version pictured.

The Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit.

Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. ($150 – February 2018)

Named for its “cross-surface running” focus, the Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R. features modest lugs in an all-arounder package. The shoe’s most noticeable feature is its PearlFoam midsole that mixes expanded TPU pellets into an EVA matrix for enhanced resilience. It weighs in at 12.8 ounces and has an 8mm drop.

The Columbia Montrail Variant X.S.R.


Also from Columbia Montrail:

  • Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV ($160 – February 2018) — Longtime fans need not worry, the fit and underfoot tooling remain unchanged. The only changes are some material updates to make the upper more breathable and the addition of a speed lace. The updated shoe will weigh 10.2 ounces. (iRunFar’s Montrail Mountain Masochist III review)
  • Columbia Montrail Fluid Flex X.S.R. ($110 – February 2018) — The XSR version of the FluidFlex adds heel stability in an 8.5-ounce package, the lightest shoe in Columbia Montrail’s line.
  • Columbia Montrail Caldorado III ($120 – February 2018) — In its third version, the Caldorado’s upper gets a new mesh and a more generous fit in a 10.3-ounce package. (iRunFar’s Columbia Montrail Caldorado II review)

The Columbia Montrail Mountain Masochist IV.

The Columbia Montrail Fluid Flex X.S.R.

The Columbia Montrail Caldorado III.

Vasque Trailbender 2 ($130 – February 2018)

After launching three entirely new models late in 2016, it’s no surprise that Vasque isn’t overhauling its current trail line. Instead, the Vasque Trailbender 2 receives only a few tweaks to its upper, specifically, it drains better and the terry-loop interior has been updated to more of a ribbed lining. It’ll weigh 11 ounces (310 g). (iRunFar’s Vasque Trailbender review)

The Vasque Trailbender 2.


Also from Vasque:

The Vasque Constant Velocity 2.

Topo Runventure 2 ($110 – November 2017)

After a hiatus from Topo’s lineup, the Runventure is back with the Topo Runventure 2. This 9.2-ounce (260 g) version lowers the Runventure from its previous 2mm drop to zero drop. The Runventure is less cushioned and lower to the ground than the in-line Terraventure, but moves to the same outsole as the Terraventure and adds a rockplate. The Runventure also has a completely redesigned upper with a totally collapsible heel. The shoe now features attachment points for the $10 Topo Athletic Gaiter.

The Topo Runventure 2.

Under Armour Horizon 50 ($150 – April 2018)

The primary distinguishing feature of the Under Armour Horizon 50 is its integrated sock-gaiter. The 11.1-ounce shoe also features dual-density rim-and-core midsole construction. It has the same last and 7mm drop as the rest of the recently introduced UA trail lineup.

The Under Armour Horizon 50.

adidas Outdoor Terrex Two BOA ($120 – April 2018)

The adidas Outdoor Terrex TWO Boa is the first new trail shoe I’ve seen with BOA lacing for next season. It’s a 10.8 ounce (305 g) everyday trail runner with a 6mm drop. Aside from the BOA lacing, the most noticeable aspect is that the first colorway will be largely die-free with more colorful versions coming a month after the initial launch.

The adidas Outdoor Terrex Two BOA.

Brands without Significant Spring/Summer 2018 Updates

Nike has confirmed they don’t have have significant updates for spring 2018.

Call for Comments

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand that produces shoes, please share that relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

  • Which new trails shoes for late 2017 and early 2018 have you most excited?
  • Have any technical questions? Ask away!
  • Know of other trail shoes due out early next year? Tell us about them in a comment.
Categories: Shoes
Bryon Powell: is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com, which he founded more than 10 years ago. Having spent more than 15 years as an ultrarunner and 25 years as a trail runner, he's also written <a href="https://www.irunfar.com/rfp">Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons</a> and co-wrote <a href="https://www.irunfar.com/where-the-road-ends-a-guide-to-trail-running">Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running</a>. These days he calls Moab, Utah and its trails home<a href="https://plus.google.com/110912864360970371436?rel=author">.</a>

View Comments (71)

  • I still wish New Balance would bring back the old MT110. I loved that shoe, and it fit my foot perfectly. The new version has a totally different shape and I don’t like nearly as much. Anyone have suggestions for a 4mm drop shoe with a similar shape as the old mt110’s?

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  • I fell in love with the altra superior 3.0. I never thought I would like such a firm shoe. your above review of the superior 3.5 list it as a size mens 9 weighing 9.2 oz. the altra websight has it listed as a full 1oz. heavier. was just curious .

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  • Please review the TNF ultra tr III when you get the chance. I really would like to see what you guys think. It really performs well on hills, going fast, up or down. Plus it’s hella comfy yet responsive.

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    • One of our testers is lined up to try it out.

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  • How come you did not include any ON trail shoes?

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  • There's been several people to comment on the beefed up versions of many shoes. While the Hoka-esq style seems to be trend it isn't one many love. There also several reviews and comments loving the original or second generation versions of shoes that now for a lack of better words look like a giant turd. I personally loved the Montrail FluidFlex in the original heyday but Columbia bought them and the rest is history. Have since moved on, but when will this fad change??

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    • Marcus,
      Columbia bought Montrail in 2006, well before the FluidFlex. ;-)

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  • HOKA Evo Jawz?

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  • Bryon, Not entirely related... stumbled across pictures of some NB 1400 which you replaced the outsole with the vibram zegama. How did you get on with the zegama outsole?

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  • I would love to review or test the Topo Runventure 2.0! I am a fan of the first generation and am excited to see a rock plate and zero drop, it might make it a nice alternative to the Superior 3.5. I am expecting to buy another pair by November or December so it will more than likely be one of these two?

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  • Has anyone else noticed how "less rockered" Hoka's have become over the years? The newer models lay almost perfectly flat on a table. Gone is the nice quick turnover of past Hoka's (Original Evo, Bondi B, and Clifton 1).

    This is compounded by the loss of Pearl Izumi's running brand which also made a nicely rockered trail shoe. Stock up if you still can!

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    • Check out Scott's trail shoes if you're looking to stick with a rocker.

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      • Thanks Bryon. Good catch, I have run in Scott's in the past and you're right, they might be the last true rocker-shaped shoe still on the market.

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  • I'm super disappointed about the Peregrine. I just found the Peregrine line this season and love almost everything about them, the rock plate and the light weight especially. The foam worked well too. The only thing was the insole slippage. Now I bet I'll be on the hunt for a new shoe for next year.

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  • I can't believe Nike is not coming with any new trail shoes on their line up. Nike also evidently cut its sponsorship funding with most of its 2016 trail running endorser moving over to Hoka basically. It would be nice to have some clarification as to their strategy - or lack thereof - for mountain running equipment. Are they pulling the plug from a fast growing segment of the market or getting prepared to buy Salomon/Hoka/Altra/...? No news from them and the second option is a high probability.

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  • Any thoughts on on a good replacement trail shoe for the Pearl Izumi's - I've loved the N2 and am bummed they stopped making shoes Anyone made the transition out there to a similar shoe with good results?
    Thanks

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    • Altra superior

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  • Has anyone tried the new Salming Trail 5 with the Vibram Megagrip? Intrigued to say the least. I really enjoy their road shoes. Were they at OR? I heard some rumblings of a new trail shoe they were working on for spring 18 that is supposed to be incredible, but can't seem to get my hands on a picture of it.

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  • Wonder who the genius was at Adidas that thought white would be a good colour for a trail shoe!

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    • They have color versions of these, as well. The premise behind the white shoe is explicitly that they're dye free.

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      • Seems to be a triumph of marketing over common sense, though - I wonder if they're actually expecting to sell them more for urban use?

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  • May I ask what the fit is like on the NB Summit Unknown? Compared to say something like a Montrail Bajada?
    Have narrow feet but the way you describe the Unknown looks like I might really like it.
    Thanks for the awesome preview.

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    • While quite different shoes, I'd say a Bajada 9 and Summit Unknown 9.5 fit similar. You can definitely crank down the midfoot on the Summit Unknown to reduce volume there.

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  • I´ve been waiting for a lightweight trail racer with a standard drop and finally it´s here! My 48 year old calves and achilles tendons can´t take low drop anymore.

    Too bad that the trend seems to be beefier and beefier trail shoes. All these foot protection is so ridiculously exaggerated. I´m no minimalist advocate, but rock plates are the most useless invention since I don´t know what. Do people have baby feet?

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  • Looking forward to the New Balance, just been running in the road 1400 and it's lovely.

    Much past that though, I think you'd struggle to put together a bunch of uglier looking shoes if you tried.

    What's going g on with shoe design at the moment? With the prices going well over £|$100 mark these days the shoes look more and more like they've just had more things thrown at them, the velcro strap on the Altras?! Come on.

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  • Any details on when Salomon 'mesh' is going to make it to the US?

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    • played around a little bit with the ME:sh shoe builder on the Salomon website. pretty fun. not sure if that's a shoe that would be in my budget but i like the idea of a shoe tailored to how i run, where i run.

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    • If i recall correctly from a conversation at OR, sometime next year.

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  • Thanks Bryon!
    I'm excited to try scarpa's new shoes for mountain running. And maybe Scott's too. Really cool all the things shoe companies are doing with mesh now. I hope that tougher mesh continues to be a trend. Also, I'd just like to say that about 6 years ago, it was pretty hard for me to find a single trail shoe that fit my foot right and did what I wanted it to do. Now I own about 5 pairs that are all excellent for different purposes, and they just keep getting better. Two areas I'd like to see improvement are wet grip and heel hold.

    For mountain runners, I'd def recommend checking out the salewa ultra train. I'm in the process of reviewing a pair for https://dirtbagdreams.com/
    They're a great balance of locked in supportive fit and agility. Similar to a bushido, but maybe slightly more accommodating fit, and I think a better ride. Good hikers too.

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  • I think the majority will find the Mazama 2's **[not the MaNzama - women can wear these too :) ] to be a nice upgrade from the originals. I've been wear-testing these for Brooks for my training and racing of 50k and below, and the biggest improvement comes in the upper. It feels way more comfortable, fits/tightens perfectly like a glove and not as stiff as the 1's out of the box. Since they used 3D print overlays instead of the glue on the upper, everything stays intact.

    And they keep the same grippy, stable outsoles as the 1's and still feel FAST. Handled the mudfest of this year's Chuckanut 50k just fine!

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    • Thanks for the name correction. I'm sure there are a few more corrections to be caught in this article of seemingly 1,000 facts! ;-)

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      • And thanks for compiling this massive new list of shoes! I think this guide should probably be required reading for anyone working at speciality trail running stores.

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        • Thanks, Keith. I really appreciate this! I'm not sure which was more daunting this roundup or my UTMB preview... and I wrote both in the same week! ;-) (Ok, this one was actually way harder!)

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