Best Trail Running Shoes of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012

Following up on yesterday’s article on the best trail running gear we saw at this winter’s Outdoor Retailer show, here’s a sneak peak at the best trail running shoes we saw there.

[If you want to read up just-released or soon-to-be released shoes, check out our article on the best trail running shoes of summer 2011’s OR.]

From the Ultimate-Ultrarunning-Race-Shoe dept.

Salomon S-Lab Sense (May/June 2012 – $200)
While we fully previewed the Salomon S-Lab Sense back in December, this was the Sense’s OR show debut so it deserves mention. At 6.5 ounces and sporting a 4 mm drop, this is the consumer version of what Kilian Jornet raced in last year. Aside from being designed to be lightweight and extremely breathable, the shoe’s Endofit system provides a remarkably comfortable fit. I’ve yet to wear the shoe sockless, but that’s what Salomon was aiming for with Endofit.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense

New Balance Minimus Amp (MT1010) (July 2012 – $105)
We’ve also previewed the New Balance Minimus Amp/MT1010, but as this shoe was still hush-hush at last year’s summer OR, it’s ripe for inclusion here. The MT1010 will be the kind of shoe that many a minimalist shoe fan could wear everyday as well as when running a technical 100 miler. At 7.7 ounces, it’s the same weight as the newly released MT110, but with an outsole package and upper that seem a bit more robust. Those attributes are likely to make the MT1010 a good option for those who find the MT110 to have an awesome feel for the first five or ten miles, but might not be able to handle that little shoe in, literally, the longer run.

The New Balance Minimus Amp (MT1010)

Saucony Kinvara TR (July 2012 – $100)
Saucony’s Kinvara road running shoe has quite the following among the minimalist crowd. Saucony originally ported the Kinvara idea to the trails with the Peregrine line. Now, the company is coming out with the Kinvara TR (8.5 ounces) in another attempt to replicate the road-based Kinvara’s fit and feel. To start with that effort, the Kinvara TR shares its road kin’s 4 mm drop with stack heights of 12.5 mm (toe) and 16.5 mm (heel). The upper is a light mesh with a protective toe wrap. Underfoot, there’s a full rockplate that extends through the midfoot and an outsole featuring multidirectional lugs made from sticky rubber. In other words, this is a trail shoe. One feature that caught my eye was the pair of Hydramax pods located in the heel’s interior that were included for heel lockdown.

The Saucony Kinvara TR

From the I’ve-Run-Up-Green-Mt-With-2-Feet-of-Fresh dept.

New Balance MT110 Winter (October 2012 – $120)
Ok, now for something new! This autumn, New Balance will release a winter version of its hit shoe, the MT110. What does that mean? Essentially, the Winter MT110 is a waterproof MT110 with an integrated gaiter. (To the best of my knowledge, the gaiter itself is not water resistant.) Other than not having to put on a gaiter before heading out to traipse through knee deep powder, the main advantage of this setup is that the upper of the underlying MT110 could be lightened. Otherwise, you’re getting the same awesomeness of the MT110. If you look closely, you can already find lots of pics of Anton Krupicka running the Front Range (and southern California) in the MT110 Winter.

The New Balance MT110 Winter

Salomon Snowcross CS (Fall 2012 – $200)
Salomon is also getting into the integrated-gaiter winter running shoe niche with its forthcoming Snowcross CS. In the Snowcross, the waterproof membrane is only selectively placed on the main portion of Snowcross’s upper, specifically on the front and top. The thinking behind this is to prevent moisture from melting snow from entering the shoe from where the snow likely to be sitting while allowing the rest of the shoe to breath much better. The Snowcross is largely based on the Speedcross 3, although the upper does include some of the advanced materials and construction methods used in Salomon’s S-Lab line.

The Salomon Snowcross CS

From the Brits-Make-Play-on-American-Soil dept.

Inov-8 Trailroc 255, 245, 235 (July 2012 – $120)
This summer, Inov-8 debuts an entirely new line of trail shoes, the Trailroc series. Whereas Inov-8’s lineage comes from boggy British fell running, the Trailroc line is specifically designed for more hardpacked trails here in the US. Generally, the Trailrocs have a lightweight mesh upper sitting on an outsole with numerous (~75 for a moderately sized shoe) medium height lugs located consistently from heel to toe. The outsole uses three different rubber compounds that puts Inov-8s more durable Endurance rubber in higher use areas and its more grippy Soft Sticky rubber in areas where performance need not play second fiddle to durability.

The Inov-8 Trailroc 235, 245, and 255

The Trailroc line has three models that correspond with each model’s weight: 255, 245, 235. As you go toward the light models, the upper becomes more minimal while both the stack height and drop lower. The 255 has stack heights of 10 and 16 mm (6 mm drop), the 245 has heights of 8 and 11 mm (3 mm drop), and the 235 is 6 mm at both the forefoot and heel (zero drop). The 255 and 245 both have Inov-8’s Meta-Shank articulated rockplate. The Trailroc 235 lacks a rockplate.

The Inov-8 Trailroc 235

From the In-Another-Life dept.

New Balance RC 5000 (June 2012 – $125)
Even a trail runner can drool over the well-manifested concept of a 3.2 ounce track racing flat. From the beautiful upper to the less dense “RC” racing compound REVlite midsole, this is the sort of shoe that moves the entire field forward. Give me two hours with the New Balance design team and the budget for a proto and I’d have once sweet-as-heck, sub-five-ounce shoe for Leadville.

The New Balance RC 5000

New Balance RC 1400 ($100)
Ok, this shoe is already on the market, but I’ll admit to only having seen it in passing… it is a road shoe, after all. That said, the RC1400 is the conceptual favorite for my Leadville shoe this summer. For me, a ~7 ounce, 10mm drop, cushioned shoe sounds just about perfect for a highly runnable 100. I’ve still got to see if it works for me during long runs and on non-technical trails, but I’ve got no indication that it won’t.

The New Balance RC 1400 (Note: the upper and outsole are from two different colorways)

Call for Comments

  • Alright, which of these shoes are you lusting after and how do you plan to use them?
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.

View Comments (81)

  • That New Balance RC 5000 has got me salivating. I have LOVED the RC series for years - bought 12 pairs of the RC150s when they were discontinued years ago. The RC152s were too built up, the RC130s were too flimsy for proper training though OK as a racer.

    When the Minimus range came out I was very excited - my plan was to buy a pair of roads and a pair of trails, but when I tried the roads on they were too big, too heavy and too unstable. The trails (MT10s) were fantastic and have been my primary shoe of choice since - for road and trail. Just got myself a pair of the Minimus Zero Roads and they seem close to perfect - the best minimalist training shoe since the old RC150s. In short, NB have become perfect for minimlaist road runners - they are spoiling me!

    And now they are producing what looks like an even lighter, race-only shoe even for a minimalist!! Wonderful!!! Thank you, New Balance!

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    • Pantman,
      While I've no idea how long the RC 5000 will actually last, I'm guessing it's for a couple hundred miles ... on the track. (Actually, I saw "100k" written somewhere.) I can't image these would last 50 miles on gnarly terrain, but the concept has me intrigued.

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  • Great piece Bryon. It seems like $200 is the new norm for Salomon. The NB RC 5000 looks sweet but I'm afraid I'm not quite gifted enough in the biomechanics department to wear that shoe for anything over a mile. Inov8 seems to really get it - the Trailroc line looks fantastic. I'm also interested in the new Adidas Adizero XT Prime which uses the same "Sprint Web" upper as many of their sub 7 oz road shoes (Hagio & Feather).

    Again, great writeup!

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    • David,

      To be fair, the bulk of Salomon's trail running sales are likely in the $110 (XR Mission) to $140 (XT Wings 3) range, with the equivalent water-resistant models running $130-150. For things like trade shoes, I tend to point out some of the more interesting or cutting edge designs. For Salomon, that often means noting a product in the S-Lab line, which runs $170-200.

      When it comes to iRunFar's actual reviews, we tend to stick to reviewing the more everyday models. If I recall correctly, for Salomon, we've reviewed the Speedcross and XT Wings, but not the S-Lab products. That said, you'd better believe I'll be reviewing the Sense! ;-)

      As for the RC 5000, I'm guessing it's more runnable that you think... even if I'd be pushing it to run a full 10k in them.

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  • I'm one of those zero-drop zealots, so that means the 235 piques my interest. That said, I've long wanted to be able to run in the RC 1400, as I love the look of loud road racing shoes.

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  • The NB Minimus AMP and the Kinvara TR look intriguing to me. I use the road version of the Kinvara, and really enjoy those. Either of these may be a replacement for the Brooks Pure Grits I am running in now.

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  • The Kinvara TR looks pretty intriguing. I run in Kinvaras and Peregrines right now and my only complaint (which is also the standard one) about the Peregrines is how poorly they shed mud, and we get a lot of mud here. That lug pattern looks much more conducive to letting the mud shed off.

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  • I really cant wait for that Kinvara trail or the 1010. Did you have any impressions on what the durability might be like with the Kinvara?

    That has been the achilles heal of the road version-they wear out quickly.

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    • Not any, other than at least slightly more durable than the road Kinvara. ;-)

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  • I'd originally read that the Trailrocs were slated for Autumn/Winter release this year. I'm thrilled that they're now going to be available in mid-summer. Very cool! And, thanks for the overview!

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  • As a guy whose spent many muddy miles slipping and sliding in a pair of kinvara's I can't wait for July and those kinvara tr's!

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  • I won a pair of inov-8 roclite 295s last summer and would strap them on for longer trail runs through the blue ridge, but the lug pattern was as you alluded to a bit over done. It didn't really hinder me in any way besides a lingering mental sentiment of excessiveness and when I'd have to hit the road I could feel the lug pattern a bit. In this manner the new inov-8 trailroc 255 seems to be a perfect tweak to the the 295s.

    I love the overall trend of minimalism going on here as far as breeding efficiency, but I can't help but notice a trend of "frowziness" (to quote a sensation from Eric Skaggs in a recent MT110 article... think flimsy, not locked down feel) that I get in a lot of the more minimal shoes I have tried. You can almost see this in some of the minimal uppers above. As far as judging books by their covers goes the Saucony's Kinvara TR looks like it might provide a more locked down, secure feeling in a light, efficient package that you could take no the long trail

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    • Oh btw what happened to the intuitive price of the minimal MT100 and MT101 ($75-80)... less shoe used to mean less cost. Now soloman has always been more expensive, but $200 for a trail racer? Yikes!

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      • Re "less shoe used to mean less cost"
        As I've written about it many times I won't rehash it in full, but it's quite possible for the materials and construction methods of a minimal product to cost a great deal more than that of a standard material/construction product. :-)

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    • Hi Andrew,

      The 295's are over-lugged for many trails, but if you ever do some fell running in the UK or Ireland, you realized what the lugs are for in about 5 minutes. The nice thing is that the roclite sole is still great as an all around shoe compared to many fell shoe models. The 295's are soft on the roads, and it is amazing how much better the 315's feel as a road shoe due to some slight differences in compounds.

      On the subject of flimsy uppers, fell running shoes require a locked down feel, and even the inov-8 road shoes have a very secure fit (you could crush your metatarsals with the lacing on the road-255's). I'm wearing the 255's right now, and have put a significant amount of miles on both the trailroc 245 and the 255's. Although the toebox has plenty of room (a complaint about some of the other inov-8 racing shoes) you still get a secure fit through the midfoot and heel. This is coming from someone who loves to race in mudrocs that fit like ballet slippers. To some degree, with lighter shoes the lightness comes at the cost of durability, but 245's and especially the 255's are very durable for their weight.

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  • Can't wait to try out the Inov8 Trailrocs. Those sound fantastic!

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  • I'll be honest with you. I'm overwhelmed by the numbers of shoes. There are too many to choose from. I see reviews like this (they seem to be everywhere) and my eyes glaze over and I don't find them useful. Do people really read through all those shoe reviews in Running World Mag? At this point I have shoes I like and stick with them. Who has time to sort through dozens of other choices? I don't. The reviews never can truly convince me that this or that shoe is going to be better than what I'm wearing. Furthermore, almost none of the shoes I see in reviews are available anywhere near me. Thus I'd have to go online and buy a shoe based upon a review? I can't believe anyone does that.

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    • The answer is yes... we're geeks

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      • So then reviews are intended to be useless for most folks.

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      • Well it's a bit like researching cars. You get to know all the different makes and models out there and the different pros and cons of each. For me anyways, I get into seeing new models and the different changes and benefits from year to year. In this sense it's like researching any purchase really. The more information the more informed. Is product research useless?

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        • I appreciate the reviews and find them interesting too. Although certain brands fit me better and I tend to gravitate toward those (NB, Salomon), the information about shoe stats is helpful in making a decision. The info I find most useful is: drop & height, cushioning material & firmness, fit, and outsole traction.

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    • For those of us who like to make an informed decision about buying/trying new products, these reviews are great.

      Some people like to stick with their old favorites and see little reason to 'upgrade' to new gear, while others might be dissatisfied with their current gear and are looking for an alternative. Either way, the reviews are there to be read/ignored - your choice.

      I buy ALL of my gear online - better price and selection than I can find locally. Plus, with retailers like Running Warehouse that have free return shipping, I can try a bunch of different styles/sizes and return those that don't feel right.

      I bought my Brooks Pure Grit based on an iRF review and couldn't be happier with the shoes - best I've ever run in, but I wouldn't have even considered them without the detailed review.

      People handle making choices differently - here's a great TED conference on the subject:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_on_the_ar...

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  • Maybe I am just missing something here, but I feel a little confused.

    It seems the 1010 has a more minimal cushioning (110 is 18mm-14mm to 1010 14mm-10mm as reported in the other preview). Other than a more extensive rock plate (apparently), a higher price tag, and a different upper what exactly makes it more "robust"?

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    • I'd have to hold both pairs again to really drill into cause of my perceived "robustness." Sometimes it's the combination of different elements - midsole, upper, rockplate, outsole - that create a shoe's feel. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this before the shoes hit the market. This is an initial, in-hand (or, perhaps, slipped on) impression.

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  • NM Amp--yes! Would also consider looking at the Kinvara trail, if Saucony has improved the fit (I thought the original Kinvara's were sloppy). Salomon would be nice, but way out of my price range. Thanks for the overview, Bryon!

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  • Why is it they release these shoes in the summer - half way through the season (at least for us in the northeast). I will have fun hlaf my ultras by the time most of these come out.... The Kinvara TR, 1010 and Sense (even with that lacing system) are all interesting options, but I feel like a Feb-March release would make more sense.

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    • Myles, I have no idea why all these models are being released mid-summer. Typically, most standard trail models are released February 1, give or take a month, as that's when the "Spring/Summer" buying season begins, with water-proof or winterized trail shoes coming out around August 1 for the "Fall/Winter" season.

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    • Does anyone have any info on the Saucony Xodus 3.0?

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      • I'm swamped at the moment, but will share details when I get a chance.

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  • Is the winter version of the MT110 designed to be worn sockless? (Crazy question, I know, but I buy my regular MT110s a half-size small because I don't wear socks with them.) I assume not but it's always worth asking...

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  • Does anyone know anything about the GoLite TR63 coming out this Summer? Supposedly it's a huge improvement over their 2010-2011 Baretech series (which were tanks).

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    • I almost included these in the article. I'll throw up some info when I get some time ... which might be next week.

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  • Lance - In the previous preview, "stack heights" and "midsole heights" were erroneously mixed. Stack height is the thickness of the entire platform, top to bottom. So, basically, the combined thickness of the midsole foam and outsole rubber. Midsole height is just the chunk of midsole foam.

    The MT1010 has midsole heights of 14mm/10mm (heel/forefoot).

    The MT110 has midsole heights of 11mm/7mm.

    As you can see, there's an overall extra 3mm of cush in the 1010. Additionally, while the 1010 is built on the same Minimus last (glove-like fit through the heel and midfoot, broader forefoot, 4mm drop) as the 110, its overall platform is broader and not as carved away as the 110. This results in a more inherently stable base of support all the way through the shoe (much like the 101). Particularly nice if you're still transitioning into a more minimal shoe and aren't quite ready for the more complete freedom of the 110.

    I personally really like both shoes and will be doing all of my mountain training/racing in both this season (Minimus on shorter, smoother, less techy runs).

    As for cost, I don't pretend to fully understand how the economics work, but know that it has to do with materials and manufacturing processes. For instance, things like the welded overlays on the 1010 upper make it a more expensive shoe to produce, but has become the industry standard of quality (versus previously stitching overlays onto the upper).

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    • Anton, thanks for the clarification on the stack/midsole height info.

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      • Does the 1010 have anything to help with low/moderate overpronation? I know its in the minimal line, but I have been looking for a lightweight trainer with lower drops.

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    • Thanks a ton for your help here, Anton.

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    • I miss the stitched webbing overlays. If you really like strap your shoes on tight, it is hard to beat nylon webbing.

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  • Ben, can you expound a bit more on the toe box width of these shoes? "Normal" Inov-8s were just too narrow for me by a long shot. I can wear a NB 101 just fine (just one width), but definitely needed the wide size for the less stretchy MT 110. I really like what Inov-8 does with shoes, but that width has been the sticking point that keeps them from extracting some cash from my wallet.

    Although, I'll note that what I really want is the super lug of their other models for when I'm in the UK... but in wide sizes. It's almost a shame these have smaller US-style grippers.

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    • The width of the trailroc forefoot is similar to road-x shoes, maybe a bit wider. The 295's tend to work for those that have issues with Talons and 315's. Although the f-lites have a somewhat narrow shape, the mesh upper is accommodating for a wide range of feet, especially compared to the 212's and 285's. The road shoes and the trail rocs are wider in response to comments about some of the models being too narrow. Not only is the toebox wider, most of the trailrocs will allow some stretch if needed, especially the 235 and 245 without the rand.

      The talon 190's have a very stretch mesh in the toebox which is enough for some runners with wider feet, but the shoe do have a narrow shape.

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  • Despite the "plenty of room in the toebox" issue, the 295's are the best shoe I've worn in 20+ years of running. Have not felt over-lugged on the trails I run, fine on crushed-stone rail trail and on the road when there's some snow. That said, I plan on getting the Mudclaw soon and definitely looking forward to trying these new ones later this year.

    Ben, out of curiosity, what would you recommend for Bear Mtn. TNF-50 and are you planning to race it this year? thanks

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    • I most likely will be at Bear Mountain. I think several models work well on a moderate course like that. There are certainly some really rough sections, but the pace is not fast enough over those sections to require a shoe targeted towards technical trails. There are also miles and miles of very runnable terrain. Surprisingly, I ran faster in my 310's two years ago than with the 255 road shoes last year, but I think the temperature made last year slower.

      At this point, I may go with Terraflys or Trailrocs. I'll see how my upccoming races and long runs go in both, and then decide. If you don't have a wide foot, I think the 315's feel better on carriage roads and fast singletrack than the 295's or 310's. If the Mudclaw fits, the 315 should fit. I'd recommend Terraflys or 315's. I've only worn the Goretex Terraflys (313), which would probably be best for you unless you have done longer races in a 2 arrow shoe (6mm drop). The 313's really roll on runnable singletrack and carriage roads.

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  • I love your reviews Bryon, always look forward to reading them, however can I apply your reviews for the women versions? Is there a big difference between the male and female trail shoe? I find myself searching high and low for "women trail shoe reviews" and feel there's not enough out there or nothing at all. Maybe Im missing them...

    Thank you!

    Yoli :)

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    • Yoli,

      From what I understand from reading shoe reviews and ads, (in general) women have narrower heels and wider toes compared to men's feet of similar size. Some manufacturers will use different lasts that will reflect the differences, some don't.

      For myself, I've found I need a women's specific last for trail shoes. Until I found the Inov-8 Roclite 268, shoes would either trash my toes (toe box too small) or my heels (heel cup too loose). As a counterpoint, my friend has no problems wearing men's shoes.

      After spending a few quick minutes checking Google, I cannot find a list of running shoe manufacturers that offer gender specific lasts. Byron?

      ChrisG

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