Best New Trail Running Shoes from the 2016 Summer Outdoor Retailer Show

In the dog days of every summer, a slew of shoe companies share many of their trail running shoes that will debut in “Spring/Summer” of the following year at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City, Utah. While these are “Spring/Summer” releases, most will hit retailers shelves first thing next year, while a few will be available much sooner. Below are some of the most notable shoes that were shared at this year’s Summer OR.

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.)

Vasque Trailbender ($130 – Mid-December 2016)

After a couple years on the down low, Vasque is reentering the trail running world with three entirely new models late this year. The most ultrarunning-oriented model from that lineup is the Vasque Trailbender. The 10.4-ounce shoe with 6 mm of drop is built on an entirely new last with a broader, but relatively shallow toe box with more arch support than prior Vasque trail running offerings. The outsole is highly segmented to conform to trail obstacles, while the shoe lacks a rockplate. In the U.S., all three new models from Vasque will be an REI-exclusive for one year.

The Vasque Trailbender.

Also from Vasque:

  • Vasque Constant Velocity ($120 – Mid-December, 2016) — The Constant Velocity is a do-everything shoe with 8 mm of drop in a 10.8-ounce package. It’s got the most aggressive lugging of the three models and contains an ESS rockplate.
  • Vasque Vertical Velocity ($120 – Mid-December, 2016) — This 9.8-ounce shoe is the lowest to the ground of the three models and has a 4-mm drop. It features a Vibram MegaGrip outsole and an ESS Rockplate.

The Vasque Vertical Velocity.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra ($180 – February 1, 2017)

For anyone who’s looked at the Salomon Sense lineup of shoes longingly over the past half decade without the tools to run in them (at least not for very long), you might want to take a look at the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra. You can think of this as François D’haene’s answer to Kilian Jornet’s shoe. Most notably, the Sense Ultra’s drop has been increased to 9 mm with the addition of more midsole material in the shoe’s midfoot and rear, such that it should yield a more cushioned ride. The lugs are also deeper and there’s a full-length Pro-Feel Film protective layer. All of the rest of the features and know how from the S-Lab Sense line are included.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra.

Also from Salomon:

  • Salomon XA Enduro ($160 – February 1, 2017) — A 10.6-ounce (300 g) mountain running machine with a mesh upper and a breathable, integrated gaiter that’s attached from within the ankle collar. It also features Salomon’s premium sticky rubber and Pro-Feel Film protection.
  • Salomon Sense Pro Max ($150 – February 1, 2017) — A highly cushioned trainer debuting Salomon’s Vibe midsole inserts to reduce vibrational shock found in the midfoot phase of foot strike. The 10.2-ounce (290 g), 6-mm drop model has a more generous forefoot fit than most Salomon models.
  • Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib ($180 – February 1, 2017) — From the now-I’ve-seen-everything department, Salomon is offering a dedicated swim-run S-Lab model.

The Salomon XA Enduro.

Altra King MT ($140 – February 1, 2017)

The Altra King MT is definitely aimed at the “hardcore” end of trail running with super-aggressive lugs (6.5 mm), a full-length rockplate, and a midfoot velcro strap for quick additional lockdown on the most technical terrain. Built on Altra’s XC-racing last, the King MT is part of the company’s multi-model launch of its new Altra Ego high-rebound midsole material. The shoe has Altra’s rear velcro Gaiter Trap while the brand has added a ring at the front of the laces for the forward attachment. The shoe will weigh in at 9.5 ounces.

The Altra King MT.

Also from Altra:

  • Altra Timp IQ ($220 – February 1, 2017) — The Altra Timp IQ is the brand’s first computerized training tool for the trails. More generally, it’s designed to generally fit in between the brand’s Lone Peak and Olympus offerings, while it will be built on the Superior’s last. A non-IQ version is in the works.
  • Altra Superior 3.0 ($110 – November 15, 2016) — The all-new Superior 3.0 has both a new outsole and a new midsole, but they’re both similar to those components in the 2.0. The major updates are in the upper with more durable mesh and the addition of some sewn-on overlays for structure and durability. The weight will increase only slightly.
  • Altra Escalante ($130 – February 1, 2017) — While it’s on the road side, the Escalante is Altra’s first offering with a knit upper. The 8.5-ounce shoe has a burrito tongue and an Altra Ego midsole.

The Altra Superior 3.0.

Brooks Caldera ($140 – December 1, 2016)

If I’m honest, the Brooks Caldera is what the Cascadia should be at the moment: a versatile, everyday trail runner that weighs less than 10 ounces. The 4-mm drop Caldera has a nice rocker for a quick transition. The shoe features an all-around outsole with semi-soft rubber in 3-3.5-mm multi-directional lugs. The reasonably breathable upper is built around a new last that’s snug in the midfoot and wider in the forefoot. The upper features a lace garage, true gussets, and a rear gaiter tab.

The Brooks Caldera.

Also from Brooks:

  • Brooks Cascadia 12 ($130 – January 1, 2017) — The 12th Cascadia remains quite familiar with 10 mm of drop in a 12.1-ounce shoe. The midsole and outsole are all new with the biggest change being the four triangular “pivots” being replaced by an X-shaped internal chassis. Rumor is that the Cascadia is in for a major update soon.

The Brooks Cascadia 12.

Hoka One One Arahi ($130 –  January 1, 2017)

The Hoka One One Arahi (“Guide” in Māori) is described as a “dynamic stability” option for the roads. That’s primarily achieved with a wide footprint, dropping the foot into the midsole material, and the introduction of the “J-Frame,” a band of denser (than Hoka’s standard) foam that runs along the inside and rear of the shoe. Think of a softer than usual post. With this shoe and some other model updates for spring/summer 2017, Hoka is introducing its HR3 last, which will be more generous in the toe box. Hoka is also introducing new upper materials in many of its SS17 updates, the most notable of which are “puff print” overlays that provide a small amount of give as opposed to the highly inelastic TPU-film overlays used in many of today’s shoes. A men’s size 9 weighs in at 9.3 ounces (265 g) with 5 mm of drop.

The Hoka One One Arahi.

Also from Hoka One One:

  • Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 ($130 – January 1, 2017) — The Challenger ATR gets the new HR3 last and puff print upper construction with better upper breathability. The lug spacing is widened for better mud shedding. It weighs 9.5 ounces (269 g).
  • Hoka One One Bondi 5 ($150 – January 1, 2017) — The 10-ounce Bondi gets an upper revamp with higher quality materials (such as puff print overlays) and Hoka’s new HR3 last with a more roomy toe box.

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3.

SCOTT Supertrac RC ($150 – January 1, 2017)

The SCOTT Supertrac RC looks like it will be a lot of fun to run in. The radial lug pattern is reminiscent of soccer (football) shoes and is unlike anything I’ve seen in the trail market of late. The outsole is also designed with lots of surface area for a smooth feel on roads, while the chevron lugs and siping should add a touch of cushioning. Underfoot, the shoe uses that lug-based cushioning and full-rubber outsole to eliminate the need for a rockplate. The shoe will weigh 8.8 ounces with a 5-mm drop, although SCOTT’s platform makes the drop number less useful for inter-brand comparisons.

The SCOTT Supertrac RC.

Merrell Agility Peak FLEX ($130 – November 2017)

With the Merrell Agility Peak FLEX, the company tried to bring its hallmark barefoot feel to a more traditional running shoe. To effect this, they came up with “Flex Connect” wherein they put significant grooves in the top of the midsole, such that it can much more easily flex downward in addition to upward. On the other hand, the shoe has 6 mm of drop and a two-piece rockplate in the heel and forefoot. The shoe should be grippy with its 5-mm lugs. It’ll weigh in at 11 ounces.

The Merrell Agility Peak FLEX.

Also from Merrell:

  • Merrell Agility Charge FLEX ($110 – November 2017) — The Agility Peak FLEX’s less aggressive sibling. It retains Flex Connect and the 6-mm drop, but has a lower overall stack height, 4 mm lugs, a forefoot-only rockplate, and a burrito tongue.

The Merrell Agility Charge FLEX.

Inov-8 Roclite 290 ($120 – November 1, 2016)

Due out this autumn, the Inov-8 Roclite 290 looks like a well-lugged, every day trail running option. The upper is open and airy with good midfoot lockdown. The Roclite 290 weighs, unsurprisingly, 290 grams (10.15 ounces) and has a 4-mm drop.

The Inov-8 Roclite 290.

Also from Inov-8:

  • Inov-8 Roclite 305 ($130 – November 1, 2016) — Similar to the Roclite 290, but with more durable upper materials and 8 mm of drop.

The Inov-8 Roclite 305.

SCARPA Spin ($130 – February/March 2017)

Next spring, SCARPA will launch the SCARPA Spin, which it positions between its inline Neutron and Atom. Despite that, the shoe will weigh in as the lightest shoes in the SCARPA trail lineup at 8.9 ounces. Underfoot, it features a full Vibram MegaGrip outsole (with weight-saving cutouts) and rockplate with a 4-mm drop. The upper features a sock-like tongue and lace garage.

The SCARPA Spin.

Arc’teryx Norvan VT ($170 – February 1, 2017)

Next spring, Arc’teryx with enter the trail shoe world with the Arc’teryx Norvan VT, a high performance shoe aimed at mixed trail running and scrambling. Made from a mix of Vibram MegaGrip in the heel and midfoot and proprietary climbing-rubber-inspired Idrogrip compound up front, the outsole features 3.5-mm modified chevron lugs that are arranged for high surface area for maximum grip on wet rock while still penetrating softer ground. The most innovative feature is a hook on the medial side of the lacing to which you can attach the lace from the lateral side of the forefoot, thereby going from a more roomy trail running fit to a tighter precision fit for scrambling without having to retie one’s shoes. It’s got a breathable booty construction that has some some folks going sockless. The 9-mm drop shoe will weigh in at 300-310 grams (~11 ounces) and also come in a $200 GORE-TEX version. There’s no rockplate.

The Arc’teryx Norvan VT.

Icebug Oribi RB9X ($160 – April 2017)

The Icebug Oribi RB9X looks like a light (230 g/8.1 ounces), grippy trail shoe that should work for those looking for a bit more drop, as the Oribi comes in at 7 mm. The moderate lugs are made from Icebug’s particularly tacky RB9X compound. There’s a rockplate located above the midsole. There are tiny, sausage-link laces.

The Icebug Oribi RB9X.

Also from Icebug: Other Icebug

  • Icebug DTS3 RB9X ($160 – Spring 2017) — Icebug finally offers a non-BUGrip (studded) version of its everyday “Distance Trainer Shoe.” It’s got a 12-mm drop and weighs in at 11.1 ounces (315 g).

The Icebug DTS3 RB9X.

La Sportiva Akyra ($140 – February 1, 2017)

The forthcoming La Sportiva Akyra looks like a more runnable version of the brand’s Ultra Raptor model. First off, the upper will be much more breathable. The outsole is also more aggressive for better trail bite. Underfoot, the outsole is decoupled at the heel and big toe for better roll. The shoe will weigh in at 11.3 ounces with a 9-mm drop. The Akyra will launch as an REI exclusive.

The La Sportiva Akyra with the Ultra Raptor in the background.

New Balance Fresh Foam Trail Hierro 2 ($115 – January 1, 2017)

The New Balance Fresh Foam Trail Hierro 2 adds Vibram MegaGrip with a change from somewhat linear lugs to a much more multi-directional pattern. This version also adds 3 mm of additional Fresh Foam throughout the shoe for even more cushioning. The shoe also has more protection and should offer better midfoot lockdown than its predecessor. It will weigh in at 10.8 ounces (307 grams) with a 4-mm drop.

The New Balance Fresh Foam Trail Hierro 2.

Also from New Balance:

  • New Balance Vazee Summit 2 ($100 – April 2017) — In version 2, the Vazee Summit’s upper is massively reinforced with TPU-film overlays over the midfoot for a more structured fit and greater durability.

The New Balance Vazee Summit 2.

The North Face Ultra Vertical ($120 – January 25, 2017)

The North Face Ultra Vertical replaces the company’s Ultra MT model. Like its predecessor, it’s got well-lugged Vibram MegaGrip outsole, but with a more of a yin/yang multidirectional focus. The Ultra Vertical will also be built around a wider last than the Ultra MT. The upper has been opened up with fewer overlays, the substitution of TPU-film overlays for fabric overlays, and the removal of the shoe’s distinctive overlasting. The Ultra Vertical weighs 10.7 ounces with a 6-mm drop and a Snakeplate.

The outsole of The North Face Ultra Vertical.

Also from The North Face:

  • The North Face Endurus TR ($130 – January 25, 2017) — An 11.2 ounce, 8-mm drop shoe that introduces TNF’s new Xtrafoam midsole material. The Endurus TR has a Snakeplate, heel cradle, light breathable upper, sock-like fit, and 3-mm stairstepped lugs.

The North Face Endurus TR.

Columbia Montrail Caldorado II ($120 – February 1, 2017)

Built on the same midsole/outsole package as its predecessor, the Columbia Montrail Caldorado II’s updates focus on the upper. First, some stitching and overlays have been removed. Second, the tongue and gussets are completely redesigned, with the highlight being no little flap at the bottom of the tongue. They’ve also reduced the heel counter a bit and replaced the laces. At the end of the day, the weight drops a fifth of an ounce to 10.4 ounces. (There’ll also be an Outdry Extreme version of the shoe.)

The Columbia Montrail Caldorado II.

Saucony Peregrine 7 ($120 – January 1, 2017)

Saucony isn’t going to mess with a good thing. As such, the Saucony Peregrine 7 merely tweaks the previous model. The biggest change is the removal of an EVERUN–the brand’s proprietary TPU cushioning–heel pod with the addition of a full-length EVERUN topsole. Otherwise, the outsole and midsole are unchanged. Saucony removed the forefoot gaiter ring from the upper while replacing layered overlays with simpler TPU-film overlays. This version weighs 9.4 ounces.

The Saucony Peregrine 7.

Dynafit Alpine Pro ($160 – March 1, 2017)

The Dyanfit Alpine Pro is a feature-rich every day trail shoe. The 8-mm drop, 10.6-ounce (300 g) shoe has a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, carbon rockplate, and quick laces.

The Dynafit Alpine Pro.

adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic Speed ($120 – February 1, 2017)

Coming in at 8.8 ounces (250 g), the adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravix Speed will be adidas Outdoor’s lightest trail running option. The breathable upper has a sock-like construction, while the shoe has a 6-mm drop.

The adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic Speed.

Call for Comments

  • Which shoes are you most excited to check out?
  • Fire away with any spec questions you might have on these models!

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

Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

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