Diversity of Trail Shoes

Earlier this spring, I was struck by the variety in trail shoe brands that folks were wearing at the HAT […]

By on June 17, 2008 | Comments

Earlier this spring, I was struck by the variety in trail shoe brands that folks were wearing at the HAT run. Not only were there trail shoes from a variety of big multi-sport companies like Nike, Adidas, Asics, Brooks, and New Balance, but also many “smaller” brands like Montrail, La Sportiva, Salomon, Teva, North Face, Inov-8, Vasque, Merrell, and so on. Seeing this variety, I asked myself if there really could be so many trail shoes worth wearing out there right now. My own recent exploration of trail shoes has confirmed – there is a great selection of awesome trail shoes from a wide variety of manufactures on the market these days. While my bedroom houses only an extremely small portion of the current trail shoe offerings, I often find it difficult to pick which pair I want to wear most on a given day.

This diversity is great. Many different companies are competently designing and manufacturing trail shoes. Such competition can only help spur the development of even better shoes, whether than means improved technology, more simplicity, or the development of both!

Keep reading for more thoughts about the current diversity of trail shoes as well as a preview of future iRunFar trail shoes reviews. Please share what shoes you’ve been kicking around in and let us know if there are any shoes you’d like to hear more about.

For years there have been a large number of trail shoes on the market, but many seemed to be designed more a stylish urban wear than for blasting down the trail. The recent incredible growth in trail running has meant that more and more consumers (a.k.a. trail runners) want trail shoes that actually perform. This growth in demanding trail shoe consumers means growth at established trail shoe companies as well as a basis for establishing new companies.

For instance, sales of La Sportiva’s trail running shoes, errr… Mountain Running(tm) shoes were up 30% last quarter. While this may be due in part to company specific moves (e.g., expansion of Mountain Running team and Buzz Burrell’s efforts on the world wide web here, here, and here), I think it is indicative of both the growth of trail running and the expansion of the number of quality trail running shoe brands that have become widely available in the United States in the recent past.

The only downside to all of this is that with so many great trail shoes these days, it’s hard to learn of all the great new shoes that are out there. When I started trail running a decade and a half ago, there were few readily available options outside of the major brands like Nike or Adidas’ offerings. With so few options, chances are you knew people with most of the current trail models. Even though I know many, many times the number of trail runners these days, I’m sure that there are quality shoes that even they don’t have… even if I had time to ask them all.

There are two huge shifts taking place these days that help trail runners navigate through this sea of choices. First, online retailers such as Backcountry.com are integrating user reviews and even the opportunity for Q&A in their product pages. Second, the combination of search engines and the explosion of personal publishing (a.k.a., blogging) means that an interested runner can often find a variety of opinions from actual users who have published reviews. The next step will be for manufacturers to let consumers openly review their products on their respective websites.

iRunFar tries to do its part in helping you learn of great (or not so great) trail shoes by sharing reviews of all the shoes that come to our offices here at Red Star Farms. Over the next few months, be on the lookout for iRunFar’s reviews of the following trail shoes, among others:

  • END Stumptown 12 oz.
  • La Sportiva Crosslite
  • Montrail Hardrock 08
  • Salomon SpeedCross II
  • Salomon XT Wings

What trail shoes are you wearing these days? Have you tried any trail shoes from the smaller companies? If so, which have you liked and which didn’t measure up?

Would you like iRunFar to review a particular brand or model of trail shoe, be it from one of the companies noted in the opening paragraph or some more obscure trail shoe brands like Lafuma, GoLite, Pearl Izumi, Oboz, Keen, or Ecco? No promises that iRunFar can get a pair of feet in any of these shoes, but we’ll see what we can do.

More Trail Running Shoe Options

To find more options for trail running shoes, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.