Shoes and Minimalism

This is my story about shoes.

My approach to shoes has always been indicative of my approach to running. In the past that meant that the shoe didn’t really matter; all I wanted to do was run in the mountains. But as I became more proficient in mountain running, and more aware of the mountain running scene (i.e., I read Born to Run), I began to learn about the different types of running shoes and the trends among runners. I happened to enter the sport at the beginning of the minimalist frenzy, and from the beginning I regarded it with skepticism. I was aware of how certain runners were known for cutting all the padding out of their shoes and running extremely long distances, and I heard about the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico running ultras in sandals, and I saw in those stories the same romanticism I saw in Born to Run. The public loves the idyllic stories about dedicated athletes just getting by and doing what they love: the crazy party girl who can still win 100-mile races; the dirtbag runners hitchhiking around the country setting records; the forgotten sandal-wearing distance-runner Indians living much the same as their ancestors in a mysterious mountain range. These images are romantic, but are they the truth? I didn’t think so. It seemed like too pretty a picture to be true.

Because of that I was prone to take more stuff on runs, rather than less. I figured the tried-and-true methods of the past were more difficult and less sexy, so they must be the right way. That’s how the adult world works, I was learning: if something is time-consuming, difficult and slow to show progress, it must be correct. Thus, I turned away from the example of the other young guys going too far on too little, thinking it shortsighted, and began going on runs with a backpack filled with things like sandwiches, space blankets, iodine tablets, a compass, a bivy sack, books, etc. To put it another way, I overcompensated to the extreme.

Over time, my views changed almost subconsciously. The more I ran, the more I understood what I did and did not need. The greater experience I gained, the better I grasped the fundamental principles behind long-distance mountain running. Namely, that by running we forgo traditional comforts and safety nets in lieu of confidence in our ability to return safely because we can move quickly. I gradually learned that I shouldn’t be taking a bivy sack on a mountain run; instead, I should be running only where I am good enough not to need a bivy sack. Barring disaster, I should be able to get myself out of bad situations by virtue of my ability to move quickly, rather than having to rely on artificial protection that hinders my speed, or I shouldn’t go to those places at all. With this knowledge I began to leave out items from my pack until after a while I no longer needed a pack. With adequate preparation and understanding of the terrain, summer mountain running in Colorado can be done safely and comfortably with a water bottle, several gels and/or bars, and a jacket. With enough experience, more than that seems unnecessary.

That said, shoes may be a different matter. I have learned to reconcile my skepticism of Born to Run in the following way: it is a book designed to entertain first, and give information second. The book is absolutely right that many trail running shoes of the past were astoundingly overbuilt, however, I have yet to see anybody win a competitive trail ultra while running barefoot, or wearing sandals, or FiveFingers, or some other iteration of the barefoot scene. While barefoot running is totally valid as a way to be strong and healthy, the science seems to indicate that the vast majority of people need some underfoot protection when running long distances. As for the young guys who were cutting all the padding out of their shoes and running super long distances, I can think of two in particular, one of whom races infrequently, at best, due to injuries and the other is now a farmer and hasn’t raced in years. Perhaps those are exceptional cases not to be considered in the overall pool, but their testimony seems compelling to me, so I have included it. Draw your own conclusions.

I drew my conclusions, and decided that minimalism is a very good thing to a certain point, beyond which the risks become too high. I started searching for lighter shoes, realizing that the extra weight in my old shoes was largely unnecessary. With lighter shoes I was a more precise runner, taking more care of each step, and this allowed me to become a better runner because I was more efficient. But lightness is not the only factor that matters – durability is crucial, as well. Especially in the mountains far from backup, shoes have to be able to withstand uneven, wet, loose and rocky terrain for hours at a time, or else the person wearing the shoes will be a sad sack, indeed. That’s why many road running shoes don’t work for mountain running – they lack the durability to survive the mountains for more than a few runs. I found that Montrail’s Rogue Racers worked particularly well for me, and I have worn many pairs since first trying them in 2010. Although they are by no means a barefoot running shoe, they are much lighter than I would have chosen just a few years ago. Despite my skepticism of the minimal movement, I gradually began to see its merit.

What Born to Run did for ultrarunning has been extremely positive. It put the sport into the mainstream consciousness and did a lot to show the public that ultrarunners aren’t crazy after all. Furthermore, the effect it has had on the shoe industry has been profound. Every company I know about is focusing on lightweight, low-drop shoes that provide protection without being heavy or bulky. Rather than the hiking boots that trail running shoes used to be, they now seem to take their inspiration from road running shoes, just adding more support and grip. Obviously those are generalizations, but nobody can deny that the trail running world has been consumed by the concept of minimalism, and nobody has remained untouched.

This is a good thing, because despite the fear-mongering about shoe companies conspiring to hurt their customers in order to get them to buy more shoes, designers have begun to focus on the natural structure of the foot and how that plays into the individual movements involved in running. Runners aren’t just looking for padding to protect us from rocks; we’re looking for a tool that will allow us to connect with the environments through which we run. Muddy trails need big lugs, rocky trails need sticky rubber, loose trails need stiffness and smooth trails need very little of anything. The trail shoes on the market today are designed to maximize the experience of trail running, rather than the trail shoes of the past, which were designed to minimize the damage done by the trails. It’s a subtle shift, but a profound one nonetheless.

This brings me to the latest stage in my evolution of running shoes. First, I wore whatever they gave me, but as I became better at running I began to seek out lighter shoes that wouldn’t fall apart. Now, I am interested in specificity to a degree I have not needed in the past. No longer am I interested in just running; I want to be climbing and adventuring, too. Normal shoes can only do so much. To truly move to the next level of mountain running, specific shoes are required.


That’s why I have recently tried out Salomon’s Fellcross and La Sportiva’s Anakonda. They are both suited to specific terrain that eludes the range of most other shoes. The Fellcross is designed for mud in places like the UK (“Fellcross” being derived from “fell running”), but also works very well for places like the San Juans which feature steep grass, loose scree- and boulder-fields, and snow of all consistencies. The Anakonda’s value comes in the vertical world. They have sticky rubber, which means they are good for rock climbing. Those interested in the progression of mountain running will know that one major direction of the sport is into steep and technical mountains. And the Anakondas are suited to the task.

For most runs I still stick to my trusty Montrails (and this is a secret, but I trust you – Montrail and I are working on some pretty cool products along this idea of specificity right now). When the terrain requires something more specific, I like to test the value of specific shoes. The sport today is becoming so popular that companies can afford to invest in new technologies that will make shoes more minimal without sacrificing quality. That is the real benefit of the minimalist trend: it is placing the industry’s focus on creating high-performance tools for athletes, which will allow more people the opportunity to be their best. I wouldn’t pretend to know the best way to be a mountain runner, because for everybody it is different. The above is what I have learned from my experiences running long distances, and it is helping me move into the future more prepared to achieve my goals. I know I will continue to change my opinions on these matters as I learn and grow, but that’s the best part – it’s always a learning process, and nobody has the right answer. We’re all just doing our best to be our best. Besides experience, the best way to learn is from others.

So I ask all of you reading this:

  • How do you choose shoes, and why?
  • What makes you like certain things and dislike others?
  • What would you like to see in running shoes?
  • What would your perfect shoe look like?

The interplay of opinions is a powerful force. Tell us what you think. People might take notice.

There are 219 comments

      1. Trygve

        Indeed she did. Abebe Bikila also won the olympic marathon barefoot in 1960. Yes, it's a long time ago, but you can't argue with the competition in an olympic marathon.

        1. Warren

          Her name sprang to mind too but so too did Jones' choice of words. "…win a competitive trail ultra." Whether that was deliberate, who knows.

          I chose my shoes after a lot of online research, testimony etc. At the moment, Innov8 have worked out well for me so I'm sticking with them for the time being.

          Durability is something I'd look out for.

  1. olga

    Them were 2 examples yes:)

    I choose lightweight, not minimalist. Light, flexible, yet with rockplate. Wider toebox, good grip, narrow around ankle to protect from debris, good draining. If Crosslights ever made wider forefoot, it'd be golden.

    1. dogrunner

      That is about a perfect description of the "ideal" shoe. Of course, ideal seems to be different for everybody. But light (< 8 oz), flexible, not too much cushion but some underfoot protection, sole with lugs enough for good traction, low drop (preferably 0 drop for me, but no more than 4 mm), wide toebox, snug-fitting heel. Turns out to be a difficult combination to find! Especially the light and wide-tox box part.

  2. Dave T.

    Yeah I can think of two examples (Muir and the "sandal-wearing distance-runner Indians"), but only two examples and you can't make the exception the rule. Therefore your general point stands. A little something underfoot helps during an ultra, especially a mountain ultra.

  3. Sniffer

    First please design a montrail shoes that doesn't get shredded in three months.

    I love my pure grits for shorter runs and bondi b's for the longer ones. Seeing low drop with padding is where its at for me.

  4. Charlie M.

    Ran my first marathon in high-top basketball shoes, back in 1997. Perfect Zero-Drop platform, but toe-box was a bit narrow :)

    The Born to Run thing shouldn't be bashed too much, it's helped alot of people strengthen their footsies (and probably sent an equal number to the hospital).

    Montrail climbing/adventuring/running hybrid shoe? Will it be called the Montrail Dakota? Don't forget to sign the inside of the shoe and include a map of your favorite climbing route…

  5. Andrew

    Agree 100%.

    Full on Minimalism is for hippies and those who mince along mid / back of pack.

    Light and low is the way forward.

    Personal favourites: NB 110 (but not for longer than 40km), NB 1010 (but don't last long) and even road racing flats have great feel for technical stuff when it's dry.

    1. Kim Neill

      …Mince along at mid/back of pack? Excuse me…? There are mid/back of packers who have perfectly great running mechanics, have run ultras for years and perhaps are older and slower than we once were. So please have respect for your elders or those who are not as fast. Thank you.

    2. Nate B

      check out the anakonda dakota mentioned, i was running in mt110s last season and jumped into some anakondas this year, they have a similar feel all around but handle rocky descents far better.

  6. Brandon

    I really think that the package NB came out with for the MT 1010 (Minimus Amp) is the quite possibly the best ultra shoe. It weighs less than 8 ounces, has 4 mm drop, plenty of foam underfoot, and a rock plate, all while remaining flexible, resposive, and grippy. Too bad that they would fall apart after 150 miles. Hopefully that has been fixed in the update.

    Here are the most important factors in shoe buying for me in order:

    1. lighweight (under 8 ounces)

    2. breathable

    3. 3-6mm drop

    4. protection

    1. patrick t.

      I completely agree with you. Easily the best mountain running shoes I've tried, but mine were DESTROYED after only a few runs…the little pods on the sole just completely sheared away. I was pretty disappointed with the durability…but, man, those couple of runs were so good it was almost worth it. I hope the update addresses this problem!

  7. Tatiana

    Love Inov-8 X-talons… Could give many reasons… but, the truth is that they are really comfortable and I feel sure on the trails

    1. dogrunner

      I'm going to sound like a broken record on this thread (remember those :) ), but while I love the X-talon 190 in most ways, I wish they had a wider toebox. They are toe squeezers for me, even with sizing up and the softish upper fabric.

  8. mylesmyles

    For me the choice comes down to a few simple factors, one of which I am surprised more people don't need. I like a shoe that is under 10oz, has a 4-8 mm drop and what I REALLY look for is a firm toe bumper. Maybe I have lazy feet, but stubbed toes kill me. The shoes I've found that fit that thus far are:

    PI Peak 2

    PI Streak 2

    Saucony Peregrine 3

    TNF Hyper Track

    Maybe it's the rooty rockyness of the eat coast, but those seem to be working for me at the moment.

    1. art

      doesn't the PI Peak 2 claim to have a 10-11 mm drop ?

      in any case, I like it too, about as minimal as I'm willing to go.

      and yes, that firm toe bumper is a major selling point.

  9. David

    How does everyone find shoes they like? No running stores near me carry a good selection of trail shoes. Does everyone do a lot of online purchasing and returning?

    I've been stuck in Cascadias for years and I am coming to realize that I just don't like them.

    1. James D

      I have the same problem here in south Texas. My wife and I typically order 3-4 different shoes from and return whatever doesn't suit us. Their return policy is quite liberal. I'd rather support the local stores (and do so when possible) but there are many models/brands that these stores will not/can not carry.

      1. Ryan G.

        Check out Running Warehouse. Have a great return policy and free 2 day shipping. Can purchase a pair, run in them, and if they don't work out return them for something else within 30 days.

    2. Nate B

      check out! we have a huge selection of trail shoes/gear and an unlimited lifetime return policy. try them out, if they suck, don't fit, whatever, just ship them back for a refund.

  10. Mark

    I run in both minimal and semi-cushioned shoes like the green silence and sketchers GoRunRide. While I feel faster in minimal shoes the truth is that I'm quite significantly slower on the watch… maybe not the case for everyone but certainly for me.

    Another argument that says minimal running will improve general posture and lower leg strength are things I agree with in principle but in practice I only run for an hour each day, maybe 7% of my waking day.

    Considering I walk around all day on flat canvas shoes I prefer to protect my feet that bit more and allow myself to go faster for the short amount of time that I am running. Would love to try some of the Altra's but hard to get hold of here in the UK!

    On another note, can't wait to Transvulcania – pity you're not there Dakota but still crazy level of competition.

  11. David Sutherland

    I find my form and agility are improved if I train in minimalist shoes (Trail Gloves, huaraches). I do believe such shoes will improve foot and ankle strength, so long as you're careful and don't break a metatarsal in the process!

    Come race day, though, I want something with some cushioning and a rock plate (Inov-8 TrailRoc, Merrell MixMaster). Every rock on a CO trail appears to be tilted at a 45 degree angle in order to maximize pointiness (who's brilliant decision was it to install the rocks that way anyway?), so a more protective shoe is a must if you want to move at maximum speed.

  12. Lstomsl

    It may not qualify as a major ultra but Pat Sweeney won the 50k at Born to Run last year in Luna's

    Also, people who are fast enough to be competitive generally are sponsored by shoe companies to support their habits and thus there is some bias in the idea that minimalists don't win. In fact minimalists have won and broke course records in the past. It may not happen often but it's a fairly recent phenomenon so I'd say the jury is still out.

    Finally, I think the whole point of Born to Run was about form, not shoes. Running barefoot forces one to run with proper form, but you can run with good form in Hokas as well. I'd say focus on form (and minimalist shoes will help with that) and then wear whatever is comfortable for you.

  13. Daniel

    Road, XC and Track runner here, (I'd love to be up in the mountains of CO but I'm a high-schooler living in the city so other than ravines and short city trails I don't have a lot of options). For road running I'm a big fan of the Brooks PureConnect, 4mm drop and wide-ish toe box for natural form, lightweight at 7oz, super flexible and with plenty of cushioning for the road (Bio-Mogo midsole oh my god it's like running on a cloud). It's basically the perfect shoe for me, the only issue is durability, I may have to switch to the Kinvara once I wear through the Connects just so I can get more mileage out of my shoes. That's my main gripe with more minimal shoes in general, not just road shoes, you end up having to make a trade between more outsole rubber and durability but more weight, or a lightweight shoe (8oz or less IMO) but with less rubber and durability.

  14. bmj

    I've been switching between a pair of Mizuno Wave Ascends and Brooks Pure Grits. I absolutely love the Pure Grits, but I haven't built up the leg strength yet to wear them for more than 14 or so miles. I'm curious to try out the new, lower profile Montrails.

  15. Astroyam

    For your shoe name, how about DJ Ez Rock??

    Personally, any shoe with more cushioning or drop than the Inov8

    X Talon 190 and my shins and IT band tweak. This does mean I have to run a bit slower

    On downhills, but adding a 3 mm Spenco pad helps that and doesnt

    Affect the feel or drop any. I've tried even slightly beefier shoes but invariably they come with reduced stability which in turn flares my shins. Different strokes for different folks.

  16. Ryan G.

    Great column Dakota!

    My go to trail shoe is the Inov 8 Trail Roc 245. They offer a few different versions for an even lighter more minimalist ride, but I like a little protection underfoot.

  17. Ben Clark

    I split time between Telluride, Co. and Grand Junction. I run/train in the mountains, desert, road and Ultras from 50K to 135M-this is my quiver.

    Trail distance: Salomon Sense Ultra, Sense Mantra.

    Short trail-Brooks Pure Grit 2

    San Juan fell running-La Sportiva X Country

    Road: Saucony Kinvara for long distance, Nike Lunaracer +2 for speedwork, short/mid distance

    All are low profile and lighter than 10oz. I look for protection for the feet and traction for trails and then cushion for the asphalt. These shoes can all run in the snow as well :-)

  18. arno kroner

    I train in virbrams because it feels good. When I did my first ultra (North Face Endurance Challenge) I did it in vibrams five fingers… it was great except that I stubbed my toes all the time. Then I bought a pair of NB minimus for races (50mi. 100k. 100mi). It's been great. This year i'm doing UTMB so I bought a sturdier, yet light, pair: the Salomon Sense Ultra. taking them for their first spin on trails today. There are no rules for shoes (or for nutrition, or training) – In my opinion it's for the athlete to tune their own formula.

  19. Andrew J.

    If only the Speedcross 3s had more forefoot protection for rock strikes, it'd be the perfect shoe.

    Also, does the Fellcross' performance justify the $45 premium over the Speedcross 3? Maybe, but that's a hefty price to pay, especially when these shoes only last a season if you're using them right.

  20. Hypatia

    Dakota Jones' "I have yet to see anybody win competitive…" echoes Ryan Hall's interview and perhaps many other runners. But why must barefoot/minimalist running be validated by whether there is a barefoot/minimalist runner winning competitive running event?

    Shoes or no shoes, racing is a different game/mindset. People still get hurt wearing shoes…it's the nature of racing. You pushed your body/legs/feet past their normal everyday use.

    In the context of racing, yes I can see a compelling argument for shoes in a race. While Dakota may have reconciled his skepticism, the "I have yet seen…" argument puts skepticism on something that should not even be doubted: people can run barefoot…nobody ever claims you will for sure win, not like those shoes commercials that say you can run faster, walk on the cloud etc. :-)

  21. swimmons

    I started running 5 years ago on trails and until this year ran only in low drop shoes. I'd always suffered from soleus issues. This year went to 9mm drop to change it up and soleus problems went away. PT says my ankle flex is way more than normal which may be a factor, who knows, but wanted to put this out in case others are out there with similar issues.

  22. Tim Lambert

    I have recently been using the sense ultra and they are everything you describe in the article. Light, yet sturdy and with good protection and heel comfort.

    TNF single tracks are my second shoe choice, but are heavier and dont drain as easily on wet days.

    I think key is durability, lightness, strength, grip and drainability.

    I dont care what a shoe looks like, just what it offers.

  23. Feeeet

    Low to the ground is my main priority for long races as this will lessen the chances for ankle rolls on uneven or rocky terrain. Traction comes in second as I've learned that a shoe close to a moccasin in form can displace mud rather than try to tract through it.

  24. Nate B

    glad you like the anakonda. i'm just waiting for the trails here in the wasatch to start melting out so i can really give them a test. "unfortunately" (i am a skier too) we just hit peak snowpack levels, so it may be awhile.

  25. Noved

    I understand that some people have the ability to run really far, and fast in shoes that are next to nothing. What I don't understand is why you'd want to do that to yourself over a really long haul. I mean, a little cushioning can go a long way in terms of speed, recovery, and ultimately, longevity.

    1. Lstomsl

      The padding and suspension is in your foot. It's what it is perfectly designed for. Why would you want to carry around a lot of unnecessary weight and "padding" that doesn't work?

  26. Jeremy

    I think this is being looked at in the wrong way. If your activity requires a shoe that isn't minimal, maybe it is the wrong activity to be doing. Maybe B2R did us a dis-service when people started thinking ultra-running isn't that crazy. Because we all know that ultra-runners are actually crazy.

  27. rms

    I will put forward a negative example to show what I look for: The Montrail Bajada. This shoe has a long list of bad design traits:

    1) The upper. An ungusseted tongue, with gaps I could stick a pinkie into, that had me taking them off every 5 miles to dump out the gravel, and that's with gaiters (I'm told they fixed this in a later revision).

    2) A steep inclined plane from front to rear. Squishy and unstable in the heel, tapering to almost nothing under the forefoot, so your foot slides forward into the pointed non-footshaped toe-box while your metatarsals receive a nice pummelling.

    3) The outsole. Compounding the lack of midsole cushioning under the forefoot, cutouts in the gryptonite leave pretty much nothing but the rockplate between your metatarsals and the ground. Poking with a finger reveals about 1/8" material between forefoot and pointy rocks right in the middle of the fore/midfoot landing zone. It doesn't stop there, alas, as these cutouts in the middle of the forefoot also cause the entire sole to sag inward from the edges, giving a feeling of lack of arch support under the metatarsals that compresses the foot bones and soon becomes excruciating. Truly a head-shaking design.

    So there you have it: Worst trail shoe ever, that I hope Montrail learns from :)


  28. jacob

    Shoe choice for me reflects the purpose of the run.

    For recovery/easy runs I wear whatever feels comfortable. that could mean anything from 5oz XC flats to 12oz Cascadias. These runs are not about performance.

    For quality/workout runs I try to wear lighter more minimal shoes for foot and lower leg strengthing.

    For long runs I am either testing a shoe for an upcoming ultra, or, if there is no immediate race, wearing something that I have worn for long runs or races in the past so I know it works.

    For racing, a midweight shoe in the 8-10oz range seems to be the best compromise for me between protection and handling. Heavier than that and I find myself losing precision and feeling a little clumsy. Lighter than that and I find myself slowing down to avoid rocks and experiencing more lower leg fatigue.

    And the specifics of the terrain also influences my shoe choice within a given category: smooth trails vs rocky single track vs snow vs forest service roads etc.

  29. Willy

    Thanks for yet another well written article! I'm quite the minimalist fan, but have to admit people can run really well in a lot of different shoes thick (hokas), thin(vibrams) and everywhere in between! I appreciate your balanced view, and wish you luck in your races to come.

  30. dogrunner

    The ideal shoe:

    Combine the

    traction of Inov-8 X-talon 190,

    Toebox of the Altra Superior or Skechers GoBionic (yes, I said Skechers,

    Heel, stack height, flexibility and underfoot protection of the Salomon Sense Ultra

    Weight of the Mizuno Wave Universe 5,

    durability of… hmmm (I'll have to think about this).

    I have tried a lot of shoes. None are perfect. Some are good enough. Some are nothing but trouble.

  31. Rob M.

    Choosing shoes is unfortunately very specific for me. Unfortunate because of the damage I did trying to acquire the perfect form I read about in Born to Run. Primarily I choose based on arch support and weight. With inserts I can wear almost any shoe except the minimalist styles. The more ground feel allowed by a shoe equals more pain in my case due to the giant bump that formed between cuneiform and metatarsal head bones of my right foot.

    One shoe design issue I constantly deal with is the back dropping away from my heel. I have tried lock lacing and adjusting my step so neither foot is flipping to mitigate the rubbing. Some designs like Salomon's Speedcross is one that meets almost every design requirement for fit…except the to box is too narrow and will go numb after 7 miles.

    Altra's design for the toe box is fantastic and I would love to see other companies follow the design. Like the Speedcross it meets nearly all my foot requirements except arch support. Due to their unique design, no full arch inserts will fig correctly inside and after just a few miles the pain is unbearable.

    Designing my perfect shoe would naturally incorporate the lacking parts of the Altra Superior and Salomon Speedcross. Big lugs for the steep trails, wider and more natural toe box, minimal drop from heel to toe and a higher heel. Hell, I'd invest in the company that produced that design!

  32. Rudy

    I'm super curious if anybody has had problems with simply the way they run and minimal shoes, in the sense of pronation. I'm by no means a leader of the race in competitive ultras, but I'm usually in the front portion of the race. I LOVE minimal shoes (NB 110), but because I mildly overpronate I can't wear my 110s for more than three days in a row or else I'll get annoying ankle pain. I've accepted the fact that I'm not a perfect neutral runner; that doesn't make me a bad runner; I just wish there was some middle ground in the shoe scene. Hence me taking a big liking to the sense mantras, although I get similar ankle pain after 50k (and their breathability is pretty bad). For longer races and second runs on back to back weekends I go to the s-lab XT 5's, which I absolutely love. Their feel is great but still seem a little bulky after running in the mantras. Only if Solomon made the new s-lab XT's with an 8mm drop…I'm surprised there aren't any middle-ground shoes out there. Could we get some semi-stripped down, 6-8mm drop shoes with a little bit of pronation control? The vast majority of stability/semi-stability shoes have traditional drops and are tanks. Thoughts?

    1. T.S.

      I'm in more or less the same boat. Shoes like the Salomon XTs or (personal favorite) Montrail Mountain Masochists are great for rocky trails and major vertical but not so good for actually running down singletrack or dirt roads. I run a fair amount in the Montrail Rogue Racers because they have the right idea when it comes to the midsole, but the upper is way too flimsy for its own good and the outsole is not good in mud/snow or rocky terrain. Personally, I'd love to see a shoe with an upper that fits like the NB 110, a midsole like what's in the Rogue Racers, and an XT outsole. But I'd be really psyched to see some more specific shoes from Montrail–e.g. a Mtn Masochist with a full-rubber sole (that plastic cutout in the middle is frustrating) and deeper lugs for snow.

    2. Astroyam

      Rudy, This may surprise you , but I have found that ankles feel better with the thinner shoes, like the inov8 xtalon 190. I only start to pronate with more cusioned shoes, including the stability type shoes. This was validated on a treadmill in my case, and the sales folks were surprised to see that I didnt pronate at all in shoes wih 'no support'. In some way or other the x-talon 190s end up preventing pronation.

      1. Nick J

        A few pure barefoot sessions will strengthen the ankles and iron out any gait problems, then you can port that good form back over to your shoe wearing.

      2. dogrunner

        I had the same experience. Ran for years in stability shoes, had custom orthotics, the whole treatment, but still had chronic ITB problems and medial knee achiness. The PTs I went to all said I need to control overpronation, which was very evident when I ran. It all went away – the excessive foot movement, the ITB problems, the knee aches, as soon as I started using low drop shoes with little cushioning. I like some underfoot protection (not extreme minimalist shoes) but cushioned shoes or motion control / stability shoes cause nearly immediate knee pain and eventual ITB problems.

  33. Kris

    When interviewed on Ultrarunner Podcast, Christopher Mcdougall said that he thought many people misunderstood his point in Born to Run. It wasn't about tossing away the shoes — it was about running with good form, the natural form that is safest for our bodies. Minimalist shoes might provide runners with the means to train to do that more effectively, and overbuilt shoes might make it harder to develop the proprioception to know if you're on the right track, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

  34. Edward S

    Sniffer, meet the Mountain Masochists–the damn things are nearly indestructible, albiet >10oz with a 10mm heel-drop, but still, indestructible. I've got a single pair with 4 100-mile races in them and over 950 miles overall (trying to sneak them over 1000 just because).

  35. Roger

    The ideal shoe would be a custom made one…..go to a running store, have your feet scanned, fill in some parameters (drop, lug pattern, mm of cushioning) and wait for the 3d printer to finish your shoe…….will we ever see this come true?

      1. Lstomsl

        It would be nice but I doubt we're that close to printing a functional shoe. Even a simple shoe is pretty complex needing different materials for sole, padding, support, uppers, etc. having all those materials durable and bonded together is non-trivial. But I bet custom made shoes are not that far down the road. This will just make things easier.

      1. Alex

        I don't know anything about skiing… but sure, why not? It's funny, I was talking with a computer engineer friend of mine at a coffee bar today about 3d printing. He mentioned that scientists had successfully printed human stem cells (, which has all sorts of obvious and mind blowing implications. If we can manufacture basic human material, I see know reason why we couldn't produce a custom shoe.

  36. phil jeremy

    Personally I can only afford one pair of shoes at a time. They either work or they don't and I can't afford to keep replacing them. I know Cascadias always seem to get a bad rap but I find them really comfortable and I never get blisters etc but then I do weigh 190 pounds so maybe I need them.

  37. John K

    I'm about to run my first ultra – 50 road miles. It'll also be my first 50 in Luna sandals. I wear them because they are the most comfortable shoe for me. Mostly that's because they allow my feet to spread out properly. I can't see much difference between them and my NB Minimus MT10s though. As I tell my wife, the (Leadville) sandals are a bit thicker-soled than the shoes I have run marathons in. The only real difference is sandals have a toe strap only to keep them on, rather than an upper.

    Like I say, I wear them for long runs because they are comfortable — more comfortable than other shoes I've worn. They're what enables me to run distance at all.

    I can't say whether they'll work for 50 miles, but I'm going to find out :) Ruby Muir winning Tarawera in VFFs gives me hope (even though she's half my age and actually talented!)

    People should wear the shoes (or not) that work best for them. That's all.

  38. Chris Cawley

    I have tried to like flat shoes for years, and while I like how nimble shoes with low heel-toe drop feel when trails get interesting, I find that I'm putting in significant volume day after day, my feet/calves appreciate a little help from a raised heel.

    I think my perfect shoe would be a montrail rogue fly with a lower volume upper and firmer midsole foam: these things seem significantly deformed after a couple runs, and completely dead after 100 miles. I noticed the same thing with the original rogue racers, of which I had two pair.

    Another qualm I have with trail shoes in general that is especially apparent in rogue fly's is that the heel-toe drop happens in the wrong place. Shoes that have significant heel-toe drop–most road shoes, for instance–are built to assist runners in "toeing off," and they have their most pronounced sole profile change occurring in the ball-of-foot area; this has always seemed quite natural to me, as that is where your foot bends. On lots of trail shoes, however, the sole becomes lower profile right under the arch. This is likely to facilitate quick feet and ground feel in challenging terrain, but it makes lots of trail shoes, even light weight options, feel clunky to me.

    1. Chris Cawley

      also, I think the Salomon Sense series have the best uppers ive seen in trail shoes. A stripped down version of the speedcross series, which for me have been the most durable shoes I've worn.

      Now that I think of it, my ideal shoe would be a Sense mantra with the heel-toe drop of a speedcross three. That, or a lighter weight speedcross three.

  39. Cory Kohm is the place! great selection, fast shipping, and easy site to navigate/use. Just want to give a second thumbs up to support the site. I frequent it second most, after irunfar :)

  40. George

    Nice article, Dakota. I am also glad that the days of motion control vs. stability vs. neutral vs. trail (shoe categories that I never fully understood) are behind us. What do I want in a shoe? Something that is light, responsive, flexible, has some drop (4-10mm), and some cushioning. A wide toe box and dark colors are also personal preferences. But most importantly, since I don't have the luxury of logging all of my miles in the mountains, I need a shoe that can handle a variety of surfaces (road and trail) and distances. My favorite shoe to date is the NB 101, which I have raced track 5ks and trail 50-milers in. I agree with others that the updates to that shoe do not hold up as well over longer distances, and they are simply not comfortable on the road (even when I'm just running a couple of miles to the nearest trailhead). I understand that there are different shoes for different purposes, but if you can simplify things by designing a shoe that I can log most of my miles in, I'm ready to give it a try.

  41. Vanessa L

    I agree with Ryan. has free 2 day shipping, free return shipping, liberal return policy, no sales tax (unless you live in CA), and offers a 15% discount for running club members on top of their low prices. I purchased my La Sportiva Helios from them. They only have a 4mm drop, are very flexible, wide forefeet, narrower heel – I love them! [Broken link to Dallas News Running Blog March 2013 article on the La Sportiva Helios removed.]

    1. Mark

      I can't see any critique of AK & KS in the article. Dakota writes about some well-known facts to illustrate his argument and put it into the context. Besides, overload your body for a long time, and you'll pay the price, i.e., get injured – this applies to any kind of activity.

  42. Spencer

    New Balances mt110's are my favorite shoes. I will wear them for practically everything. I used to really enjoy wearing merrel trail gloves, vivobarefoots, and just going barefoot, now I just really dig the mt110's.

  43. Noved

    I don't like a whole lot, but in my non-humbled opinion I'd rather carry an extra 2 ounces on each foot for a little less pain over long distances. Love the NB110 and the MT10, but can't do much more than 50k without totally destroying myself. The PI N1's are a little less than 10 oz. while the NB110 are less than 8. I'll carry those extra 4 for a little more confidence and security on harsh descents any day. For me, the padding "works". Though the legs and feet act as great suspension, I have mostly bones in my feet.

  44. Allisa L

    Great summary. I work for an outdoor/active retailer and I wish I could just give a copy of this out to anyone debating about minimalist shoe/gear selections. I usually caution people to resist the hype and wait until something has been on the market long enough to start to see long-term effects (not the typical sales technique but since my company sells little TRUE minimalist gear, it helps me build trust with a customer). Take the pharmaceutical industry, for example, as a consumer you don't buy a new drug that has just hit the market, you wait and see how it affects people over time. Same thing applies to minimalist footwear. I think we are starting to see the long-term effects (INJURY!) and so brands are beefing up their minimalist shoes and paring down their bulkier shoes to find a happy medium.

    Side note: Heartily agree with the durability thing. People should remember that a brand is very happy to sell you 3 pairs of shoes that can handle 200-300 miles each (ie. the very popular Pure Project shoes) instead of just one durable pair. More minimal shoes are marginally cheaper per pair but much more expensive per mile. Smarter consumerism will hopefully lead to better product development.

    1. John K

      My NB MT10s (a minimal shoe) already have 500+ miles on them, and will last another 500 quite easily. My Luna sandals also have 400+ miles on them – apart from wear on the treads, they are still in perfect condition. I expect they'll make it to 1000 miles too. If you have shoes without a "midsole" in them, there's no need to worry about the midsole "compressing", or the shoe becoming wobbly. Durability is in the eye of the beholder too.

      1. Allisa L

        You sound like a smart consumer. And like you said, if there is no midsole it doesn't matter. It's shoes with a low heel-toe drop but with a good dose of quick-to-wear-down cushion (again like the pure project shoes) that are more problematic. People buy them because they think minimalism is "healthier" and they don't want to go through the transition period that you had to go through with your true minimalist footwear. Even if you took a runner who only trains 50 mpw they would need new shoes every 6 weeks. That gets expensive. And if you don't buy new shoes then you get injured. Obviously you put a lot of thought into your footwear and I'm sure you put in the hard work required to get your feet to run far in minimal shoes. Unfortunately the average shoe-shopper doesn't do that.

    2. Lstomsl

      At the risk of sounding snarky "minimalist" footwear was the only thing that existed for almost all of human history. It's shoes that should be thoroughly vetted and tested before wearing. Of course that can never happen because manufacturers constantly change models in order to create marketing hype. How about if manufacturers retain tried and true models that people like??? Maybe then we could get some really useful data….

  45. Alex L

    Life-long forefoot striker, structure detester, cheapest-shoes-i-can-find wearer. I recently converted to moderate heal striking and high stability. It's the only way I can run without pain in my ankles. Peroneal tendonosis from chronic instability. There are dudes who can go damn fast with a little bit extra weight on their feet. We should bring a weight-weeny from the world of cycling into this discussion.

  46. Dan H

    In my experience, your feet will adapt to whatever you run in. Run in cushy trainers, you'll have weak feet and need cushy trainers. Run in minimalist shoes, your feet will grow stronger. The advantage is that minimalist shoes will more closely adapt to natural biomechanics rather than making your foot adapt to a bunch of gimmicky features and heel lifts.

    1. Mark

      You say “in my experience.” Good for you, but to me it sounds like the minimalist mantra: Minimalist shoes ARE GOOD for YOU, regardless of your age, running experience, biomechanics, etc. All you need is to take your time and you will adapt sooner or later. In my experience, and I run in many kinds of shoes, the adaptation: A) is limited by factors like genetics, mileage, posture, etc., and B) at some point you stop adapting and get injured. This is body self-defense mechanism. Adaptation gets you to some point and it’s not a never-ending story. For different people the adaptation stops at different cushioning point.

      Besides, shoes are just one of many other factors of adaptation and running experience. This mantra clearly ignores this fact.

      I got injured (achilles tendonitis) after few years of successful running in minimalist shoes. Adaptation period was way over. What happened was the result of overuse of minimalist shoes. I took me few months to recover. Now I mix my shoes and abandoned the faith in one perfect idea or a perfect pair of shoes.

      1. Lstomsl

        I had the same experience. Changing my form by running barefoot ( on an indoor track). Fixed my knee problems and allowed me to quadruple my mileage and run ultras but after 1 1/2 years I had Achilles problems. Now I switch between a variety of footwear with few problems. I know many others who have had similar experience.

        I expect to return to full minimalist over time though. I still believe its the way to go but it's silly to think that 1 or even 3 years is enough time to overcome the lifetime of damage that shoes have done to our feet. And I'll always be open to switching back at the first sign of Achilles issues, but the real issue is form.

      2. Allisa L

        Totally agree. A runner like Anton (and most Tarhumarans that I've seen pictures of) work hard to stay at a low BMI. Their kind of footwear works for them, but may not be healthy for a "Clydesdale" runner or an older runner. There is no silver bullet when it comes to footwear. Like Dakota was saying, specificity in matching the right shoe to the right terrain is important – but I would add the specificity in matching the right shoe to the right body type, biomechanics, etc. is also very important.

        1. Lstomsl

          I would say that it has more to do with the fact that Anton was a minimalist from a very young age so he never damaged his feet. Same goes with the Tarahumara, most of whom have never been in shoes. Those of us in the states who discover minimalist footwear in our middle years after our tendons, bones, and muscles have atrophied have a harder road.

          Nobody bothered to collect data 40 years ago when American runners began wearing "padded" shoes although there is anecdotal evidence that that is when running injuries became prevalent. Some of the Tarahumara are beginning to wear shoes to run in, it would be very interesting, albeit difficult, to see how that affects them.

          Also the fastest marathoners today come from countries where most kids still grow up shoeless. There should be opportunity to study the affects, but probably unlikely as the only parties with the ability to fund such a study ( shoe companies) have no interest in proving the uselessness of their products…..

    1. Digga

      Me too! I've got three pairs. One with 1500 miles, one with 800 and the pair I just got are freshies with only 25. My first pair won't die and still are my shoe of choice for races. I'm still buying the masochist first generation online for 50 bucks!!!! In fact I might just buy another pair today since I like to have a pair in the box.

  47. Digga

    Come to the Bay Area and visit the San Francisco running company n mill valley. Opened by two legends Brett rivers and Jorge maravilla. They will spend all day with you — treadmill in store — they have hand picked very shoe they sell. No bs.

  48. Sid H

    No love for Altra Lone Peak ? Not really a "speedster" shoe but puts together alot of the above "wants" , ie. low profile , protection , rock plate , wide toe box & nice firmer cushioning .

    I really am liking the shoe.

    1. dogrunner

      Too heavy, too stiff for me. I like the Superior better because nobody does toebox like Altra, but still not my favorite in my current arsenal.

  49. HONE (yea I had to c

    So has the definition of minimalism changed? I have not read the Born to Run book but it seems like “minimalism” now means wearing a flat or some kind of “barefoot” shoe. I always thought minimalism was not bothering yourself with extra luxuries or materialism that is unneeded. For example, are you still considered a “ minimalist runner” if you are also wearing a GPS, watch, hear rate monitor, arm sleeves, leg sleeves, ipods, or any of the other crap I see all over runners that claim to be “minimalist”?

    I am not saying I am a minimalist runner and I think the term is just plain cheesy.

    1. Nick J

      I agree. I am a minimalist runner and I am slowly removing the amount of crap that I need. My GPS broke – I haven't bought a new one. I don't own poles and I've taken up drinking water from streams, never tried on one of those sleeves. Now that we've got the sun back I'm usually in just a pair of shorts and no shirt and sometimes no socks. I rarely wear underpants, but I do have a buff.

      For shoes I'm rotating between zero drop Trail Gloves, Mix Masters, MT110 and the new Roclite 243.

      It's a real buzz to be next to "naked" on a hot sunny blue sky day in the mountains.

    1. Mike Behnke

      Agreed!! MT110's are the best ever shoe I have ever run in. I even have PR'd a

      road marathon in them. Your calves will scream for a little while but once used to them you feel like you can run like a gazelle effortlessly across the earth. I have tried Hokas but after several runs in them they cause all kinds of problems with my knees, hips, lower back, etc.; no doubt from the high platform. It's just too unnatural. It's like my feet are going all over the place inside them, trying to pound through all the foam looking for the ground.

      Nothing ever hurts with the MT 110's except metatarsal pain from ramping up miles too quickly.

  50. Joe

    So having a essential emergency gear is considered "overcompensation to the extreme"? This kind of confidence could get you in a lot trouble. Running with essential emergency gear is critical to every runner entering the wilderness and should not be ignored no matter how fast a runner you are. My guess is a space blanket would have gone a long ways to comfort Micah True in his last hours if not have given him a chance at survival. We are putting ourselves in a elevated risk situation and we should be prepared. Minimal shoes and minimal gear are two completely different things.

    1. the "other&quot

      Hey Joe, I think that you misunderstood what Dakota was really addressing. Just my two cents. I agree with being prepared for extreme circumstances and I am sure Dakota does as well (and is prepared for them). Happy Trails!

  51. Trygve

    I guess they don't fit all feet, and yes, they are a bit narrow. But for sub 3hour runs they are perfect. In very technical terrain no other shoe has given me as much confidence as the x-talons.

  52. J.Xander

    Does the TrailRoc have a rock plate? I am looking at the 255's. I really appreciate the wider forefoot. But I didn't know they had a rock plate.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Trailrocs have the metashank 3, but the protection is from the combination of the sole design and compounds and the shank. [broken link removed]

      The 255's have plenty of protection but are still flexible. You might also like the 313's, it is great all around shoe. Not as good on the loose stuff as the 255's, but faster on easy and even moderately easier terrain. Basically as fast as the trailroc 245's, but with enough protection and cushioning for at least 50 miles.

  53. Andrew Guitarte

    I trained in Vibrams for my first Ironman finish, then PRed in 3 road marathons while gunning for a BQ, before I took to the trails last year in Salomon Sense Ultras. Perfect progression for me shoe-wise. Stronger Achilles tendons built by my minimalist running form allows me to run hills and bomb downhills. I will only get better at this, year after year I'm sure. But that's just me, your typical mid-packer.

  54. mtnrunner2

    I don't race epic stuff like you "real" ultra folks — but to some extent — running is running. I do run high peaks, from dirt to talus and boulder-hopping.

    I've never been able to run well in overly-structured shoes, especially with big heels (they "clunk" on my feet), so I simply feel better in a less-structured shoe. Although minimalism can be fun, for daily use I've tended towards sturdy zero-drop shoes, i.e. Altra Lone Peaks.

    I also nearly broke a toe in the NB MT110, and though I still use them and love the ground feel while running in them, I don't when there are big rocks. My Altras, on the other hand, have a super-sturdy, protective toe box. For me that's non-negotiable.

    The one thing I don't really do on my leisurely runs is hammering downhills. I mean, not a lot. That's an area in which a more beefy shoe might be needed.

    And I do enjoy McDougall's book — a lot. Great stories and thought-provoking info. I think there's plenty to be learned from running so you don't hurt yourself. Experts seem to forget that not everyone is a gifted, perfect runner, and some may have to work incredibly hard to not get injured. That's where minimalism can teach us.

    1. the "other&quot

      Don't grade "epic" off of what anyone else is doing! Run and have fun. 'Nuff said! Find the races or challenges that you want to do and chase them. Run healthy and have an awesome 2013. : )

  55. Brian K

    Yeah, my 1010's fell apart quickly. I've been running in New Balances for almost ten years, but they've really let me down in the last year as far as uppers go (as well as lugs falling off the soles). They still make some of the most comfortable shoes on the planet. I love my M10's and 110's, but i've been increasingly switching to Innov-8 because the NB's have been falling apart well before their lifespan should be up.

  56. apace

    Yes to the toe bumper comment! I think I've broken a toe running NB110 or Inov8 X-Talons four times in the last two years. Honestly, if the X-Talon had a firm toe bumper, I'd be a much happier camper. Anything comparable anyone can suggest?

    1. Ben Nephew

      Talon 190 or 212? I'd be surprised if it was the 212, so that may be an option.

      trailroc 245 has more protection through the end of the sole, but the upper area of the toe bumper not that high.

      Mudclaw 265 and Roclite 243 are two other good options, with the Mudclaw offering the most protection.

  57. André Lambert

    Brooks PureFlow for fast asphalt

    Brooks PureGrit for scrambles

    but 90% of the time I am on my Hokas (Bondi B). 7 pairs down, 2 on the mail (Bondi B 2) which has more mesh and breathes better. Highly recommended.



  58. JoeDo

    I do almost all of my sub-2 hour training in my Vibrams….road, trails, very technical trails, and more recently, moving into creek-bed running / rock-hopping for more fun. Vibrams are just too much fun to not use all the time.

    However, when they get wet or when I have gone over 2 hours in them (only 3 times thus far), then the blisters come, and they came hard and deep….ouch!

    One day, hope to do a full 50K trail race in them, but for now, I run (delightfully) in my Pure Grits! Brilliant shoes and fairly minimal too.

  59. Sally

    I choose shoes by the way they feel. I can't know that from trying them on in a store though. I just have to try them for a while. This makes switching hard.

    Bright flashy colors can look nice, but let's face it, colors don't enhance performance, possibly just price. So I tend to like the bland performance shoe rather than the colorful shoe. But that is not to say that there aren't colorful performance shoes out there.

    What I have always looked for in a running shoe is minimum weight and maximum comfort.

    What would my perfect shoe look like? I don't know, but there are lots of examples of what it would not look like. Sorry, I can't go into that here. :)

  60. rob

    Mountain running has been "progressing" into the vertical and technical for 50 years and probably longer than that. Check out "A Night on the Ground, a Day in the Open" by Doug Robinson. Its fun to see the Dakota and folks having fun scrambling beyond trails; they are following in a rich history and huge footprints. In the 1970's, Charlie Fowler ran from Boulder to Eldo, soloed the Diving Board (700 foot overhanging 5.11 wall) in his running shoes and ran back to Boulder. Just a day in the hills.

  61. grandkonaslam

    No doubt that shoe selection is important. IMO, the right pair of aftermarket insoles should also be considered. Sometimes I wonder why manufacturers even bother with those flimsy pieces of foam…(yes, some factory insoles are better than others)

  62. Ben Nephew

    On the downhill comment, the roclite 243's might help with that. The gaps between the lugs in the talon sole are why the protection is not the greatest, and the roclite sole does not have gaps quite as large.

    I know for a fact that the trailroc 245's have better protection, and are also a 1 arrow midsole.

  63. Ben Nephew

    This is a great point. While in most long distance races the winners are able to wear the most minimal shoes, the opposite is often true with very technical events. I've been at many races where people have come up to me and said how awesome their 190's or 195's were. I ask them if their feet are OK, as there is no way I could have done that course in shoes that thin and kept my feet intact. The key difference is that they are going slower on the rocky downhills, so they don't need the protection that a faster runner would need. When people ask me for shoe advice, I can't always just base that advice off of what I would wear on that terrain.

  64. Ben Nephew

    If you lived in a New England location surrounded by technical trails, this would lead to the conclusion that you should just run on golf courses and soccer fields, or run at half-speed on the trails.

  65. Kev

    for me, show buying can be more painful than running in shoes that don't fit! I have like a 11 EE left foot and a 10/10 1/2 EEEE+ right foot depending on the brand. I tried using regular shoes when i first started running and either broke or tore something in my crippled (right) foot. after walking around pretty much barefoot, then moving to merrells and xero shoes for walking, i started to be able to run again. Altras seem to be the best fit for me, but it still isn't perfect since i have two different sized feet. Anyway, when looking int shoes….

    1:zero drop (not the most comfortable at times, but the best therapy for the bad foot) WIIIIIIIDE MIDFOOT+TOEBOX

    2: i don't like heavy built up shoes because if i really can wear them, they'll break down in about 100 miles. the more flexible they are to twist side-to-side, the more i'll like them.

  66. Kev

    whoops! i guess this has some keyboard shortcuts….

    3: wider midfoots. NB stuff is nice, but my wide midfoot doesn't fit properly in any of their minimus line shoes. (1010 is the closest, but to stiff with the rock plate) Altra is even slimming down the midfoot. the superiors i have aren't wide enough and i rubbed a hole in the flex-point of the right shoe. (i'm not the only one to have that problem)

    4: my perfect shoe would look like my feet. i'm almost thinking of going the russell moccasin route to try to solve a lot of my fit issues. That or make my own shoes…..

  67. Sage Canaday

    Great post!

    SCOTT t2 Kinabalu's. Forget about drop or offset when you have SCOTT eRide technology (PI would call it "dynamic offset" but that's another story altogether). It seems like many people get caught up with a a couple of millimeters of difference in "drop." I've seen a ton of very fast (ie sub 2:10 marathon) runners use very cushioned shoes with great form. I think one can learn good form in any shoe (or lack of shoe). Instead, look at the materials of the shoes, look at how your foot is shaped and film yourself running at different speeds. Know that in the latter stages of a hard race/workout your form will get worse and things like a heelstrike (totally what i do) will become more exaggerated. Work with your body rather than against it – know that even subtle changes in form take time and a neuromuscular "re-programming"). Sometimes with requires a wider variety in training and an outside perspective of what's going on with your body as you run.

    btw SCOTT will be coming out with a trail shoe version of the "Race Rocker" in 2014. The road version weighs about 6 ounces so we're going to try to keep it as close to that as possible with eRide techology, some AeroFoam and excellent traction. Can't wait!

    Train smart, race hard, and stay healthy!


    1. Lstomsl

      Pardon my skepticism, perhaps what you say is true, but it sounds a little to convenient that the company that allows you to be a professional athlete, the company for which you are paid to promote, also just happens to have THE BEST SHOE EVER….

      I agree that you CAN run with good form in cushioned shoes but anybody that runs sub 2:10 almost certainly had perfect form regardless of what they are wearing and while not 100% the probability is very high that anyone running sub 2:10 in recent years had not seen running shoes until forced into them by corporate sponsors.

      While its not as clear in the ultra-world we have great records for marathons and the conclusion can only be that shoes don't make a bit of difference. In fact Western runners haven't won many major marathons in e past 15 years despite the fact that winning times are not much different then they were 30 years ago when Americans were winning everything but before Nike invented "running" shoes. All that shoe technology has amounted to diddly squat in terms of Marathon performance.

      1. Mike

        For the sake of accuracy I don't see where Sage said the shoes were "the best". If you are going to question someone's integrity at least be accurate with your language.

        1. Lstomsl

          I never said I questioned Sage's integrity. If you are going to question my comment please at least be accurate with your language…..

  68. Daniel

    It seems like this topic has drawn a lot of attention so I will add my views through my own opinions and experience.

    I tried and tried to run in the NB 110's and many other low profile shoes such as the 110, but can't at least for the near future. For one I over pronate, and I have a short leg syndrome. My Right leg is a few cm longer than my left and until I get adjusted with some prolotherapy to hold the adjustment I have to wear custom Ortho's.

    So I have to find a neutral shoe that also allows me to swap out insoles. For now I'm really liking the Hoka One One Stinson Evo's and now I'm curious to see how I run in the NB 1210's (Leadville Series.) I'm going to the Running Store to try them on with my custom Ortho's in place and view my running on the TV today.

    My spin/advice for anyone out there…is don't buy a shoe based on looks, and who is wearing them. I did that and I have had more injuries than I like to comment on. Get your feet looked at by both a proper foot doctor to make sure your not flat footed, high arched or in between. Then he or she can let you know what type of shoe to get (Neutral/Motion Control/Minimal) and if you need a Custom or at least a good pair of over the counter Ortho's like Super Feet. I finally did just that, and now I can run properly as long as I get a Neutral/Mid Cushion Shoe that allows the inserts to be swapped ( NB 110 does not allow that for example.)

    From there head over to a proper running store like Boulder Run Company, Fleet Feet etc…and get in a pair of shoes based on what your Doctor told you and then let the people at the Running Store view your run pattern to make sure your not over or under pronating.

  69. astroyam

    Hi Ben. Yes, i have the TrailRoc 245s and they do deliver on downhills and racing, and are a great shoe. However they removed material under the arch in the contoured anatomical last. For me, this means I pronate a bit too much with these shoes, and i can feel my ankle dipping inwards, like in a soft shoe, even though it's firm, because there's no material under the arch. To the point where my inner shin gets sore on longer runs. Somehow the Talon 190 and F Lite 195 deliver perfect pronation control which is why I stick with those for training.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Thanks for the feedback. I haven't tried the 243's myself yet. However, I would prefer it if the tread blocks covered the entire sole. I would guess the 195's work because of the lack of big lugs, and the lugs on the 190's just compress to the point where they don't pose a problem for you. I'd rather have the lugs there for protection and traction.

  70. David

    I agree that good form is important, but I have to disagree that barefoot "forces" good form. I see plenty of Five Finger runners running like ducks.

  71. Nate

    Awesome. A comment from Hone. Somebody get this guy a blog. Bryan, maybe you can set him up with a column three or four times a week. The people need this.

  72. Yeti

    Great article by Dakota who seems to really have his finger on the pulse of ultrarunning culture and values. +1 to Lstmosl's comment. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time, nor will it be the the last, that Sage(and certain other elites) will use irunfar as a means to promote their sponsors(which btw, will inevitably change in a matter of time and then THAT company will all of the sudden have the best shoe). The dude can definitely run like almost no other, but really, so what? What does that have to do with the other 99.9999% of us? Most of us will never even come remotely close to winning a race, so why concern ourselves with what these individuals have to say? Hero worship? Boredom? Daddy issues? I don't know. What I do know is the sales pitch b.s. is getting really old, really fast. The community is trying to have a meaningful, helpful discussion on shoe choice and the accompanying injuries/success but is more frequently being subjected to advertising nonsense from certain elite runners beyond the boundaries of their blog/twitter/whatever. I'd drink their Kool-Aid with caution. They may be "better" runners than most of us but we love the sport just as much, and I'd argue more, than they do. After all, we do it for free.

    1. Jay

      Everyone has their own opinion, and nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong. I just wish that everyone would be a little more grateful when really good runners post on this site, whether you agree with them or not.

      And just a quick response to this statement, “They may be “better” runners than most of us but we love the sport just as much, and I’d argue more, than they do. After all, we do it for free.” How many years, and how many miles of running, simply because they love it, do you think it took to get to the point that they had the opportunity to make some money doing something that they love? Please don’t pretend that because someone gets paid to do something, they don’t love it just as much as the rest of us.


      1. Yeti

        I'm equally grateful to all the runners who post to irunfar, but man, do commercials ever ruin the show. It's like T.V. before DVR, where's the fast forward button for christsake.

        1. Ben Nephew

          Did you say you wanted a commercial, Yeti?

          In a article like this, I think products plugs are to be expected. I agree that the plugs can seem forced in some race reports. I think the key is to put the testomonials in the proper context, does the athlete always race in those shoes, what does their feet look like after the race, are the shoes retail items or custom jobs, is the runner often injured, do they switch brands all the time, etc….

      2. Sage Canaday

        thanks for the support Jay! I've been running most of my life (15+ years now in racing…). Flat-out love the sport. It's infused in my identity and lifestyle, but there is also a passion. I don't ski, I don't golf, I don't rock climb -and I'm too uncoordinated for any other sports anyway. Running is what I do and it's in my blood and it's what makes me tick. I think a lot of us share that common connection (at least to the trails and outdoors and pushing ourselves) and that's what makes the community so strong.

        1. Jay


          Back before I fell in love with trail running I used to kayak for a living. I kayaked all over the world and was able to become a World Champion, and a 3 Time National Champion, amongst other things. When I started making money in the sport people suggested the same thing about me. The crazy idea that they loved the sport more than I did because they did it for free, while I was getting paid to do it. Nobody stopped to thinks about the hundreds upon hundreds of hours that it took me to get to the point that I could make a living doing it. It was the hardest “job” that I have ever had, and I did it for the same reasons at 13 years old as I did at 30 years old. Because I loved it.

          I really appreciate your contributions to this site.


    2. Sage Canaday

      I never said SCOTT's were the "best shoe" (no brand can say their shoe is the best as individual differences in biomechanics influence fit and comfort more than anything obviously) I also understand that maybe 95% of the community does not like blatant sponsor plugs…Obviously I'm biased and this is what I do for a living so I don't even try to hide the fact that I'm promoting a company much like an ad. I probably should back off as people see enough ads nowadays but the business side of the sport is interesting to me. In a competitive market brand recognition and exposure is paramount.

      That being said I ran in a $29.99 pair of Asics (I'd always wait until they went on sale) with fake gel cushioning all through high school in college. They worked fine for me and I had no idea what other kinds of shoes were out there. When I worked in a run specialty shop at Hansons for 2.5 years we didn't just sell Brooks shoes…I sold Nike, Asics, NB, etc and fitted a very wide variety of runners. I've tried running in Montrails, Hokas, and Salomon shoes. I've done running form videos on my YouTube channel and shoe reviews for different brands. Variations between people in foot shape, arches, and running form of course determined which models/brands that seemed to work the best for people and it was a night and day difference between some individuals.

      I hope you find a shoe that fits you well and that you stay healthy.

      Happy trails,


      1. Daniel

        Sage, and Everyone Else (Including Myself) – There is no need to explain yourself to anyone on here.

        Your a runner, I'm a runner, and so is the next guy toeing the starting line, or watching the live comments on IRF. Doesn't matter if your training for a 5k, Boston Marathon, the Leadville 100 or the guy/girl who just started running today for the first time to keep in shape or to fight off health issues.

        Lets not forget this is a family bonded by the trails, road, vertical gain on a Flatiron or Peak/Summit!

        We live in a day and age that nothing is certain and even running is not protected or promised anymore. (Out of Respect For Those Lost and Injured at the Boston Marathon…RIP)

        That said, I would like to think that this article written by Dakota was not meant to be a pissing match between Sponsored Pro's Vs Average Joe.

        A shoe is a shoe find the one that fits you and how you run, and just run,jog,scramble, hike, or walk. Lets not loose sight of this simple form of movement and lets keep celebrating with races and events and hold positive/constructive conversations as runners and as a family of runners in the meantime.


  73. Jay

    You don’t have to say that you are questioning someone’s integrity, to actually be doing so. You did post the words BEST SHOE EVER in capital letters in your response, even though nowhere is Sage's post did he use those words.

    I will tell you a little secret… If you want some of the best distance runners in the world to post here, which is what makes this website so great, collectively we should all treat them with a little more gratitude.

    1. lstomsl

      Well you have to admit the beginning and end of Sage's post read like they are straight out Scott's advertising copy. All I did was point out that he gets paid to say that stuff. All opinions are welcome but for myself I will put more credence in joe average's opinion who pays for his shoes and goes to the shoe store and tries models from different companies. That certainly doesn't mean I question they guy's integrity. I have no idea what he's like other than that he's way faster than I will be. I apologize to Sage if his feelings were damaged by my comment.

      But you can't argue with my larger point that not a single improvement in shoe technology over the past three decades has resulted in an increase in marathon speed. In fact the opposite seems to be true. Take this weeks Boston event, the winners time was only 8 seconds faster than the winning time in 1970. From 1975 to 1983 the winning time was bested 5 times by three different AMERICAN runners. Also bested by British, Australian, Japanese, and Italian runners. But 24 of the past 26 Bostons have been won by africans who spent most of their lives without running shoes. I'm open to any other explanation for this phenomenon but the take away message for me is that shoes simply don't matter. The only thing that matters is whether a shoe is comfortable for my personal foot and there isn't a single person in the world, no matter how fast they run, that can provide me useful information to make that determination.

    2. Peter Andersson

      There are forums and there are forums, anyone reading comments in deep on this one is likely to know that S.C is a professional, pointing that out is like pointing out that the sun rises in the east.

  74. Steve

    Maybe I didn't see this mentioned, but despite all the other technical mumbo jumbo, price is usually top of my list. That usually means last season model, which also has the benefit of giving me plenty of reviews from people who have actually run significant miles in the shoe. Then there's the (now) standard: lighter, lower, still some cushion, and my personal preference of a tongue that doesn't slide to the side (I prefer the Peak 2 style tongue).

  75. Bryon Powell

    Can I encourage the parties who feel an emotional response to this thread and wish to comment to go out and run a few miles, take a deep breath, and then comment as if you were talking to a fellow runner out on the trail. I'm hoping we can keep things civil and friendly even when we disagree.

  76. Rob M.

    No, actually I never even considered that. I suppose a drill would work? But now that you mention it, I have noticed that another hole seemed to be missing where I would usually find a set for lock lacking properly. That may actually save a couple pairs of shoes I own – thanks!

    1. Ben Nephew

      A drill works, but if you have a nail countersink thing with a wide head on it, that works nicely when used over a piece of wood. Makes the difference between shoes being unwearable due to the fit to having a great fit and running in them every day.

  77. Caleb Wilson


    I can appreciate the principle you are talking about. But Dakota never said that being prepared wasn't necessary. He said he goes out as prepared as he needs to be for his skill level and the terrain he is planning to tackle.

    And an FYI, I was one of the runners who was with the group that reported Micah being found. He did not freeze to death or die from some type of exposure to the elements. The coroners report said the best determination on the cause of death was likely an arrhythmia while running due to idiopathic cardiomyopathy. He was dead within minutes because oxygen was not getting to his brain.

  78. John L.

    Dakota said "I have yet to see anybody win a competitive trail ultra while running barefoot, or wearing sandals, or FiveFingers, or some other iteration of the barefoot scene."

    Ruby Muir won the womens 2013 Tarawera in a pair of five-fingers. I believe in a pair of the "See yas", the most minimal pair they offer even.

  79. Jeff

    Dakota nails what I think needs to happen to satisfy runners looking to travel deeper into varied terrain, or that want a follow a more creative line in the mountains. When I first saw the trailer for Joel Wolpert's In the High Country I immediately wanted to replace the sole on my own pair of 110s with climbing rubber. Specificity not only comes from runners that want to switch things up, but inspires them to do so. Rather than just running the approach trail to my local crag I can then turn and solo up the easy slab sections or hit a granite boulder field without missing a stride. Bear in mind though, companies try to sell to you what you don't need (that's just what they do) and just like thinking we all need to switch to the new barefoot/low-drop/highly-padded/maximalist shoes to fix the weak spot in our training, it's not about what the shoes do what, but what YOU do.

  80. Dave

    Hey Dakota, when I look for shoes, the first thing I want is comfort. It has to feel like I am sliding on my favorite slippers. Then I look for the correct sole for the terrain. I've honed in on Inov8's f-lite 230's for the smooth trail, and Talons for the rough stuff. I do not want to even think about the shoes, they need to be a subconscious extension of my feet; light comfortable, and grippy.

    1. Trygve

      Talons are the best for the rough stuff. They are the perfect compromise of light weight, grippyness and protection. No other shoe gives me such confidence on super technical trails/off-trails.

  81. Matt P

    I'm a happy agnostic when it comes to shoes. I like what Dakota says about specificity & although I dream of the magic shoe for all seasons, I'd add that every shoe represents a trade-off in some department. Being less of a skeptic than Dakota, I guess, I went minimal after reading Born to Run. At the moment, though, I am "training low and racing high": that is, I have shoes with varying degrees of minimalism and low-dropness that I deploy in training, but when it comes time to lace up for Promise Land 50k in VA next week, I will reach for my Hokas. They are a godsend in this rock-bedeviled part of the world. (Oh I was a Hoka-skeptic at first, of course, but seeing Karl flying down the mountain at Grindstone last year shook my minimalist faith to the core.)

    1. Ben Nephew

      While it is not as risky as going high/low, doesn't it feel odd to train in one shoe and race in another so different? I've always found it helpful to train and race in the same shoe as much as possible, even when doing shorter road or track races. I'd always run into trouble with my calves, PF, etc. if I didn't put some quality miles in my flats or spikes. I'm not sure what the Grindstone course looks like, but do you ever have issues with the Hoka's rolling over on very technical terrain? That seems to be a common issue in New England. Years ago inov-8 had a 320 model where the midsole was softer than the original, and many had issues with rolling the shoe.

      1. Matt P

        Hasn't been an issue so far. I should add that I'll incorporate the Hokas into the end of a long training run. On my last 50k long run around Sugarloaf mountain, MD, I did the first three quarters in the zero drop Altra Lone Peaks (very comfortable, BTW), then finish the last portion in Hokas. This gives me time to practice technique. Maybe I just avoid injury because I'm chicken & others are really bombing the downhills, as the Hokas will allow you to do like nothing else out there.

  82. David

    Thanks Dakota for pointing out that barefoot running has a place in terms of improving form and increasing strength. In my experience that certainly was the case. Now for longer stuff on rugged mountain trails, 99.9% of us need some solid protection and at least some cushion. It's awesome that so many companies are offering cool products now that don't interfere with the natural gait all that much. In terms of what I look for in a trail shoe, in order of importance:

    1. Drop (0-4mm)

    2. Weight (sub 9oz)

    3. Protection (flexible rock plate is nice)

    4. Cushioning

  83. JP

    I rate myself pretty high on the tech-geek scale and am very happy that we now have some new metrics and terms to throw around on top of/besides heel to toe drop. Its exciting stuff!

    Interesting to hear comments about Boston marathon time progression. Of all the major races to talk about progression on, someone chose the one that is point to point and probably most affected by weather conditions year on year? Also, major marathons are paced to a point, but are almost always played out with tactics and surges (unless you're Steve Jones, YEEEE-UP!) and times are a secondary concern, expecially at Boston where times can't officially matter.

    Shoes may not matter a heap on the road, but I don't think many of us here are all that interested in road shoes for running 2:50/km in. Depending on the trail, I think shoe choice (thinking here my worst suited to best suited trail shoes) can make anywhere from pretty much no difference to halving your time on a section, no doubt.

    For now, I look for NB MT110s on the box, when looking for a shoe. The things I like about them: Great trail feel, just enough rock plate, amazing outsole durability/traction ratio on my local trails, fast draining, fit like a glove, they feel light and fast. One dislike is the uppers easily. Put a 5g mesh over the forefoot and they'd be absolutely perfect.

    One suggestion that I have for all running companies is why not make shoes in series with different midsole thicknesses? Keep everything the same, but have maybe 3 midsole thicknesses available? Surely this is cheap to do, same upper and outsole tooling, just cut the foam bits thicker or thinner. It would be ace to have 8mm/4mm shoes for fast short stuff, 10mm/6mm for 2 – 3 hours and 12/8 for long stuff. I know they'd get a bit more unstable as they got higher, but I dont think it would outweigh the confidence people would get from having the same fitting uppers and same gripping outsoles on every run.

  84. Mike

    So how did you intend your comment to be understood? If someone made the same comment about you would you take offense? If Sage believes in the shoe he wears and wants to plug it more power to him. I'm confident in my ability to choose the right shoe for me no matter who is endorsing it.

  85. Duane VanderGriend

    I choose shoes based on what I currently believe to be optimal, so I have changed with the changing trends on a path that started 15 years ago with high drop heel strikers that contributed to a year off running, and only biking, because of my knees, then on to running in water socks on pavement at 215 lbs. that contributed to a stress fracture in my foot, and then on to 4 mm drop lightly padded shoes and finally on to Stinson evo Hokas. I like any shoe that I can run in pain free and have discarded new pairs of shoes after just a few tries in rotation when they increased knee pain. I like light. I like 4-6mm drop. I like fat cushioning. Hmmm…Hoka didn't pay me to say that. My perfect shoe would weigh 3 ounces, would cushion my foot strike like a memory foam mattress, and would have a crisp toe-off.

  86. astroyam

    One important issue with shoe cushioning is the runner's weight. A 20 mm thick sole might 'feel' the same to a 200 pound runner as a 14 mm sole does to a 140 pound runner, for example.

    And that 'feel' relates to the fact that the heavier runner will compress a given sole more quickly than a lighter one, and thus it will feel like there's less there. The heaver runner needs a thicker sole to get the compression time that feels right.

    If you're big enough, a Bajada (if it had a 3 mm drop) might feel and actually be the same to you as an X Talon 190 feels to your 125 pound neighbor. This might argue in favor of varying sole thickness with shoe size…

  87. Jeff

    I just want a pair of shoes that will let me run road, dirt, and relatively technical trail all on the same run with a relative sense of comfort and confidence . . .

    1. Adam

      No, Trailrocs have a different geometry, not just more or less cusioning. The drop varies from 0-6mm. Also, the models below 245 lack a rock plate.

      Another idea that seems practical to me is making a lighter less durable version of a shoe for racing, and a heavier, more durable version for training, but without altering the level of protection between the training and racing version. As Ben Nephew suggests, training maximal and racing minimal is quite dangerous, especially for ultrarunners, who routinely race at distances that they never do in training. Whether it's a Hoka or a Hurache, your feet are going to adapt to the level of punishment it receives during training, and suddenly subjecting them to more punishment on race day seems like a recipe for surefire injury. On the other hand, shoes cost money, and the lighter shoe is invariably going to be less durable, as well as less protective. Moreover, if your trainer weighed more and lasted for more miles, but was no more protective than your racer, you'd build leg strength from lifting the extra few ounces, and have a physical and psychological edge when you put on your lighter, yet no less protective, racer.

      1. Ben Nephew

        In terms of the trailrocs have different geometries, I think most runners can tolerate the difference between 255 and 245 in training and racing, for example. Going from 235 to a 255, or 6mm or more increase in differential is harder to tolerate without a good deal of acclimation.

        I'm not sure it has to be all that complicated for ultrarunning, at least once you get beyond 50k. I never wear lighter shoes than I train in for 50 mile; I actually usually wear the exact shoes I've been training in for that particular race. Even for 50k I don't put on a lighter shoe on race day, but I might train for the 50k in a lighter shoe. I basically run 50k's in 2 arrow shoes, and 50 milers in 3 arrow shoes.

        My logic is that you have to be healthy to do the consistently hard training necessary to improve, which makes me relatively conservative in my training shoe selection. There is a fine line between adapting to a level of punishment from a very light shoe and getting injured, and I've never seen the advantage to walking that line. Most runners can't feel the beginning stages of stress fractures, tendonitis, etc. As Adam pointed out, you might not want less protection on race day, and my race experiences consistently lead to the conclusion the advantages of a little more protection and/or cushioning in the second half of a 50 miler outweigh the costs in grams.

    2. JP

      Right! As pointed out below, its not quite there, but its close and I'm happy that you brought it up. Thinking about it some more, a lot of inov8s lines are like this, but they invariably add a bit more of some other thing as they get heavier. roclite, xtalon, f-lite, theyre all v similar within series.


      As a 110 wearer, i dont mind trailroc 245s. Roomier toe box, but not enough rock protection for me and the grip isnt as good. Comfy, though.

      1. Adam

        Exactly. I too train and race in the exact same shoe (usually Merrell Mix Masters, I wish my toes could adjust to Inov8s!). I've become quite cynical about the whole concept of a "rotation," which seems to be cultivated by bloggers who get free shoes. Of course, it takes some time to find the right shoe, and the right shoe for a 100 mile trail race isn't necessarily the right shoe for a 50k skyrunning-style event, but generally I think it's best to settle on the one shoe that is optimal for most of the training and racing you do, and wear it for everything. That way, you can focus on getting stronger and faster, rather than on wearing a new pair of shoes every time you go out the door. Ideally, the shoe becomes an extension of your foot, and when you do run into a problem, assuming you've done many hundreds of injury free training miles in the shoe, you can isolate the cause as something related to overtraining, and not to your particular footwear choice.

        1. Ben Nephew

          I should mention that while inov-8 is a growing company, there is still basically one guy that designs the trail shoes. They keep him locked up in tower surrounded by crossfit guys for protection. The trail guys wouldn't be very useful in that area. The point is, thanks for the feedback, I'll make sure he sees these comments. It's very possible that comments like these will be used to update current models and/or in the design of new models. I can tell you that some of the comments are similar to wear tester reports.

          JP, where do you run?

          1. Adam

            I'll add that the thing that blew me away about the 245s was how well they protected my feet from rocks despite being so agile and low to the ground. I've never experienced anything like that in a shoe with such a low stack height and virtually no cushioning. Maybe I just need to put in some miles adapting to narrower toe boxes. The point about the increased sure-footedness and less blistering that comes with a tighter upper is a good one.

          2. JP

            Ben, I am in Canberra, Australia.

            Trails here are usually dry and hard, sometimes with loose gravel on top and sharp rocks half buried a lot of the time. There just isnt a lot of top soil here. Compared to a lot of pics I see from around the place (here), the trails I run are less groomed and more rocky.

            Its the half buried rocks that are sometimes hard to see at speed that poke into the 245s a little more than the 110s. The grip is a bit better on 110s as new shoes, and i think the 110s grip holds together longer (stays sharper edged?) than the 245 lugs do over time.

            I have very limited experience in the 245s, and I'm sure others will have other opinions!

  88. Max

    Give me a light, flexible, luggy shoe any day. Then give me it's mellower cousin with a rock plate and a bit less lugs for 100's.

    I want a shoe that's snug and secure over the foot yet isn't constricting, like those pretty new roclites I got on. I'd also like a shoe this minimal and aggressive that can also last more than 100 miles on steep, rugged scree slopes.

  89. brian

    I like adidas kanida TR4's because they cost less than 50.00, i get 500 miles on them, and they protect my old basketball turf toe. I would like to try some nicer shoes though, when the budget permits.

  90. Anonymous

    Know what I like, no, I adore? Dakota's fresh way of laying it all out there. Even though he is sponsored by Montrail, this article was not a veiled advertisement as it could have been. Also, not only did he poke a pointy stick into the widely popular minimalism bubble, but he also called out the frequent injuries of a famous runner, whom I believe is a friend of his. I like a guy with flat out honesty, especially if he cracks me up!

  91. a pace

    Thanks very much Ben– I run the 190 & love everything about it but for the toe bumper, being a clumsy sort, apparently. Lugs are perfect for me, since I have 8 months of winter & a good deal of scree on the mountains. Been thinking about the trailroc 245 & about the roclite, so I appreciate the suggestions.

  92. Ejch

    I remember the first pair of Montrails I had were won at an Adventure Race in NC in 02"I fell in love and was crushed to hear they sold out to Columbia and discontinued a great shoe that could take a beating and lasted forever. When I called the company a rep said that the shoe was too good and they weren't selling enough of them because they never wore out. Now I read this story and I doubt they'll have anything good enough for hard cores who rack up the mileage and like to tear through hills and streams. There more recent stuff has been crap. I just don't trust the brand anymore. Same with the Brookes trail runner. It's so hard to find a decent trail runner out there. Give me a good shoe and you have a customer for life.


  93. Trygve

    One thing that puzzles me wherever I read shoe reviews or discussions about trail shoes, is how usually the one complaint people seem to have about nearly any shoe is that the toebox is too narrow. I have yet so see someone praising a shoe for having a snug and narrow fit around the toes. I agree that it feels nice to be able to wriggle my toes, especially on longer runs, but the benefits of a narrow toebox are greater in my opinion. My foot doesn't slide around in the shoe, I don't get blisters on my toes, my footing is better in technical terrain. In steep technical downhills the snug and narrow shoe is the best.

    1. dogrunner

      I agree that a shoe that lets your foot squirm around inside is not good, but the reason I ask for a wide toebox is because I have a wide forefoot. Regular running shoes are already snug, narrow is painful. Why the heck would I want to run in bound feet? I don't, neither do you (I bet). So wide enough for me means a wide size. Then my foot will fit securely, without the flesh being tightly compressed and bones jammed together!

      1. Trygve

        Of course. The shoes shouldn't squeeze the toes, but I like it when they are tight. I've noticed people talking about how shoes should allow the toes to splay. I don't see why that should be an advantage.

        1. dogrunner

          For me, splay refers to the natural spreading that the metatarsals and toes do when body weight is applied (this is probably most relevant for forefoot/midfoot footstrikers and maybe less so for heel strikers). It feels to me like that is a necessary part of the kinetic, reflexive feedback loop that signals leg muscles to contract for support/stability at the right time and lets my legs relax otherwise. If my feet stay squeezed it seems to interfere with neuromuscular signaling. I have experimented a lot with this using barefoot, VFFs, wide shoes, tighter shoes, etc and it just feels right with a wider toebox, with just enough cushion so my feet don't get beat up, low/zero drop and completely neutral shoe. The midfoot and heel should be snug so the foot does not squirm around inside the shoe and any sort of lateral extension (stabilizing "features") on the outsole messes me up too. My epiphany came years ago when it dawned on me that my balance was a lot better barefoot than in shoes. I don't run barefoot, but I have tried a lot of shoes to find what works best (for me).

          1. Ben Nephew

            The key to trygve's point is technical terrain. I can run much faster on difficult terrain in a stiff, very tight shoe, than something that has a relaxed fit with a lots of flexiblity. It's the difference between playing soccer in tight leather cleats vs. road running shoes. This is of course much easier to tolerate in shorter trail races, but I still prefer a relatively tight fit for 50k's and 50 miles. Even with a good fit, a flexible shoe may induce more friction between your toes and between the shoe and your foot than something that fits well but is less flexible.

  94. Andy B

    Having run meaningful distance from barefoot on up through the cushion/protection range, I'm currently using Stinson Evo's, as well as a pair of PureDrifts. Apart from the drop being the same, couldn't get farther apart in terms of cushioning (but surprisingly not so far apart in terms of road/trail feel). I flip back and forth between 'em, somewhat dictacted by terrain but mostly by two factors: what I'm feeling like when I'm heading out the door, and what the next day's run looks like. I've found that I love the feel of both for somewhat different reasons, but the Hoka's save my legs for the following day, without a doubt. Was a benefit explained to my by the good people at Boulder Running Company, and they were right. Trust those guys if you have the chance to work with them.

    I think at the end of the day, it's just a great time to be an ultradistance runnner. We've got an embarassment of riches in terms of product designed to keep us happy and safe in the hills, and that's a pretty good thing no matter what.

    1. MS

      I think you are right … I run in Hoka Stinsons and Brooks Cascadias on the trails and Hoka Bondis and Brooks GTS on the road … Its as if you recover faster if you change things up every run … That's the one thing the trails afford that the road cannot … Variety … The spice of life

      1. Pez

        I agree. I use Hokas for ultra and recovery runs. I train in salomons, TNFS, La sportivas depending on surface, etc. great article btw

  95. Mark MW

    I'm in a sort of different segment of the "less is more" camp in that I start with a sort of thick shoe and make it more minimal through lots of mileage in the shoe. Currently I run in a four year old Mizuno. The shoe fit me well so I bought three pairs of the identical shoes four years ago($29 on clearance!). Up until recently I was rotating two of the pairs (6500 miles over 3 1/2 years between two pairs of shoes). I just rotated in the third pair that I will only be wearing on dirt because the tread is almost gone on the other two pairs. My experience is that I've had fewer injuries as I've added miles to my shoes. I haven't had to take a day off due to injury in over a year. Approximately 70% of my miles are trail miles by Breckenridge. The other 30% are treadmill (for days like today when we get 15 inches of snow overnight….). I'm nearly 40 and I've never felt as good as I do now. The consistent training is helping me to my personal best race results yet. I've decided, for me, that having a reasonably thick sole to protect my foot on rocky terrain in a well fitting shoe is all I need and then run the shoe until it literally falls apart. The other side-bonus is that I haven't gotten a significant blister in almost two years!

  96. Astroyam

    Hi Ben, seems that the new 232s and 252s are an answer to the same feel as the 195s but with more cush and protection, whereas the 245s feel different imo. Have you tried them and do they seem to work well?


  97. Ben Nephew


    You are correct about the 232 and 252's. They are also wider in the forefoot, so if you have narrow feet and like a tight fit you might prefer 230's or 240's. I've raced a lot in the 230 in the past. I'm wear testing 252's right now. I can say that the 245's are just as fast on singletrack as the f-lites, but I set my road 50 PR in f-lites, which probably wouldn't work in 245's. If you do a mix of road and trails and don't run into much loose or wet terrain, the 233 is a very fast shoe on most trails with great protection that you might want to consider.

  98. Ben Nephew

    If anyone is still following this, I've been asked by the guy who makes the shoes at inov-8 what my idea of an ideal ultra shoe is. I'll be giving him my personal opinion, but I think it would be useful to get others opinions as well. He's been directed to this dicussion. The most useful comments would probably be those that are related to a current inov-8 model.



    1. dogrunner


      I'd love to hear the discussion on this, but I wonder how different opinions will be from the preceding discussion? In other words, if someone prefers low drop, modest but not soft cushion, light weight, adequately wide toebox, good traction, light weight, why would any of that change? I am glad that Inov8 is interested, though, bc I have always liked the inov8s that fit me (which is not the majority because they tend to be too narrow and tapered up front).

      1. David

        Inov8 seems to have done quite a bit to fill out and fine tune their line up. As a minimalist runner on trails, I'll take the Roclite 243 up to a marathon (wish it was cut a little wider), trailroc 245 for a 50M and trailroc 255 or Roclite 295 for a hundo. The mudclaw 265 looks awesome for winter action.

        1. Ben Nephew

          David, where do you run? I'm feeling left out with the 243's. Terrafly 313's might be something to consider for a 100, don't be put off by the grams until you compare with the trailroc 255's or the 295's. In the winter, I really like having Goretex. The Orocs are great for both the winter and transitional trail conditions in the spring.

      2. Ben Nephew

        Comments similar to David's can be very useful, and it also helps when runners identify specific shortcomings relative to other brands. "I'd wear inov-8's if they made a…."

        It's true that some of that has already been discussed in the extensive comments, but much of it was very general. What you described above could be the trailrocs, but some are not satisfied with particular features.

        On the topic of specificity, wide to some is not wide to others. Which models have you found to be too narrow?

        1. David

          I run in Colorado, either on Boulder trails (Bear, Green Mtn) or higher up when the snow isn't too bad. I have the roclite 243 and trailroc 245. The 243 is really great but feel it doesn't have the cushion or protection for an ultra on rugged trails, and is cut fairly narrow. The 245 is solid as well, but honestly the shank in that shoe feels clunky (once the shoe broken in) and wish it was a smoother ride. I assume the 255 would have more cushion for going past 50 miles. Happy to give feedback here but also feel that shoes are such a subjective thing, surely others have a different take on these models.

  99. Ben Nephew

    Thanks, you would be surprised at how similar comments can be on a single shoe model. I think it is hard to make a 1 arrow work for a rugged ultra. I agree that the 245 is best on technical singletrack vs. smooth trails. The 255 is going to have more cushioning a similar ride as teh 245. I prefer the 313 to the 255 for 50's. If you are looking for a smooth ride with decent protection in a lighter shoe, try a 2 arrow f-lite model. The traction is great in most conditions, and I know Peter Maksimow and Alex Nichols have had good success with them out there. The f-lites also have wider forefoot options.

  100. dogrunner

    Sorry for the long post —

    On the topic of width – I think shape is really the issue. When Merrell made a wide version of the TG, they made the overall fit wider thoughout the length of the shoe, which made for a really sloppy fit. The wider forefoot was great! The wider midfoot and heel was awful :( Can't please some people!

    When NB makes wider shoes, which they do more than any shoe company, they still taper it too much. IOW, the toe still ends up being pointy, because they draw a straight line from the lateral midfoot to the big toe, so leaving enough room at the 5th metatarsel head and then cutting off all the lateral toe tips. Sigh. I must have weird shaped feet ;)

    The shoe shape that fits me best in the toes is the Altra Superior, but the rest of the shoe is sloppy wide. The shoe shape that fits best overall is the Skechers GoBionic, which is my main pavement or easy trail shoe, but that shoe picks up rocks like a vacuum cleaner on most trails and would not be protective enough on technical or rocky trails, or have enough traction on slopes.

    So, in Inov8, what fits? My primary treadmill / stairmill shoe this winter (I run indoors when the temp < -10F with constant high winds and icy or otherwise unrunnable ground conditions… what a wimp!) has been the Bare-X 180. Obviously don't need a lot of cushion on a decent treadmill (these are Woodways with the thicker rubber mat), I strongly prefer 0-drop, and the BareX anatomic last fits… as long as I size up a full size. I get a good snug fit, heel locked down, midfoot snugged in, toes are NOT squeezed towards the middle of the shoe, BUT I have about 1.5 inches of space in front of my big toes. Way too long, to the point where I have to really be careful not to run the front of the shoe into the stairs or catch them under things. Rest of the shoe fits great though. I suspect the Trail Rocs would also fit laterally if I sized up, but I hate having that much empty shoe in front of my feet on technical trails.

    I wore Roclite 295 for years and always had rubbing on both the corner of my big toe and whole length of my little toes. Same for F-lite 195. Liked them otherwise. I could not even get my feet into the Roclite 285. Outer toes get forced very uncomfortably towards the centerline. I have worn the Xtalon 212 and 190 (like the 190 better for lower drop) when I run X-country type terrain (grassy trails), love the traction, don't love the toe squeezin'. Sized up in those too so too much length and only tolerable width because the upper is soft.

    I really want to like the Trail Rocs, but need a wider and not tapered toebox (leaving the rest of the shoe its current shape).

    Also, it is really frustrating that Inov8 and many other shoe companies link drop to cushion and underfoot protection. I prefer 0 drop, even over 3-4 mm, yet when I see 0 drop, I am stuck also with no cushion at all and usually no underfoot protection (rock barrier). I want a little of both, combined with 0 drop!

    Thanks for listening, if you made it this far.

    1. Kim Neill

      I agree with dogrunner about the shape. The perfect shoe would have an ample toe box with a more fitted midfoot and a narrower heel, to hold the foot in place but allow for toe spread. I personally find the fit of the New Balance Minimus series close to ideal (although the 1010 is a bit wrinkly around the toe box, at least it can be laced tight enough to hold well). One thing I have done to add more cushion with 0 drop shoes is to use the inexpensive insoles–the flat ones that don't add any heel drop but provide thin cushioning (Dr. Scholl's).

  101. Trygve

    The best trail runnig shoes I've ever owned are the x-talon 212's. When it comes to inov8 shoes, I've only tried the BareGrip200's and the Mudclaw300's in addition to the x-talon's. I find sole of the BareGrip to be too soft. The tall lugs are excellent for grip, but they hurt my feet when stepping on rocks and other uneven surfaces. The Mudclaw has superb grip and the sole is stiff enough to give a lot of confidence. The problem with this shoe is the heel cap. I can't run in them without blistering my heels, unless I tape them up. The lugs are also too tall for longer runs. The lugs have almost caused me to stumble.

    The x-talon212 seems like the perfect compromise. They are light-weight, they have excellent grip and they are low to the ground. The sticky rubber wears down rather quickly though. I want to try the x-talon190, but being so satisfied with the 212's, I'm reluctant to buy them. How different is the 190 from the 212? In long runs (4hours+) I would have liked the sole to have a bit more rock protection than the 212 gives me.

  102. Adam

    I absolutely second the opinion that the linking of drop to cushion/protection seems quite absurd at this point. Of course, high drop shoes obviously still work great for some people, including some elites, but there seems to me to be no rational reason why a person who does not enjoy the "groundfeel" of having the bottom of their foot poked with rocks, or who likes some cushioning while running downhill with 30 miles behind them, would also necessarily want their heel 9 mm above their forefoot. The "barefoot" movement taught a very valuable lesson- that for many runners high heels in athletic shoes are worse than useless- and a very stupid one- that if you don't enjoy running hundreds of miles fast with nothing but a few mm of rubber between yourself and the ground, there's something wrong with your "form." Looking at many other forms of athletic footwear (track spikes, basketball sneakers, football cleats, boxing boots) you see shoes that are not remotely "barefoot" and represent a clear technological augmentation of the human foot, yet have little to no heel elevation.

    There are a bunch of cushioned zero drop road shoes now, but still very few in trail (although plenty in the 3-6 mm class). I would love to see Inov-8 make a "battleship" shoe with zero drop, like a 255 perhaps. Of course, it remains to be seen whether sub-10 mm heel elevations don't actually benefit most endurance runners more than zero drop, but given the success of so many protective zero drop road shoes, it seems like a risk worth taking. At the moment, all Inov-8's 0 drop options are quite thin (the new Road X-Treme 138) and lack the metatarsal rock plate (235). Perhaps I'm just being picky, and there's no meaningful difference between a 3-6 mm drop and a 0, but it seems like an option worth exploring.

  103. David

    Well said, I'd love to see a zero drop trail shoe from Inov8 that has good "long haul" cushion and protection!

  104. dogrunner

    My knees tell me, in no uncertain terms, that there IS a meaningful difference between 9 and even 3-4 mm drop. It matters… to me, at least, even if people used to higher drop (or anyone else) can't tell the difference.

    To Trygve: I don't think the XT190 has more underfoot protection than the XT212. I could be wrong and I don't have the 212s anymore to doublecheck, but the main differences I remember are that the 190 has a slightly more forgiving upper (stretches better to accommodate my toewidth) and they are 3mm drop (I think).

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