Trail Running Shoe Highlights from Outdoor Retailer Winter 2010

Hot on the heels of our article on the best trail gear of OR and before looking at apparel, let’s dive into trail shoe debuts and updates. First we’ll touch on sequential updates of popular trail running shoe that resulted in the Brooks Cascadia 5 and New Balance MT 101/WT 101. (Click on any shoe name to jump to its preview.) Next up is the Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sport, the company’s first model designed specifically for trail running. As is common at winter OR, new weatherproof trail runners were announced, including the La Sportiva Crossover GTX and Vasque Mindbender GTX. We won’t post costs for these GORE-TEX shoes as the current MSRP on these models reflects an extraordinarily high import duty that will hopefully be lowered prior to the shoes’ release. The last shoe we’ll preview are the top of the line Salomon S-Lab3 XT Wings. (Salomon also introduced GORE-TEX versions of its XT Wings 2, Speedcross 2, and Whisper 2 models.) Finally, we’ll touch on some trail shoe rumors.

Brooks Cascadia 5 ($100 – already on the market)
With the Brooks Cascadia 5, it turns out that Brooks made more substantial upgrades to the Cascadia than we originally thought. Already on the market, the Cascadia 5 adds a forefoot pivot to stop “forefoot inversion”… which we understand to be the outward rolling of the forefoot. There are also two layers of water resistant DWR over the entire shoe to help keep your dry. In addition, Brooks added more drainage in the arch.

Brooks Cascadia 5

The full color set of the Brooks Cascadia 5.

New Balance MT 101/WT 101 (~$75 – October 2010)

[Update: The New Balance MT 101 is now available. You can support iRunFar by purchasing the shoe via the Amazon link to the right. You can also check out our full MT101 review.]

Y’all might be familiar with New Balance’s MT 100 and WT 100 that debuted last year. Well, New Balance will be tweaking the basic design this year based on feedback from its outdoor ambassadors. The result will be the MT 101 and WT 101. The MT/WT 101 feature a less dense rock plate that will make the shoe slightly more flexible. On the other hand, the outside of the upper has been reinforced in the forefoot to reduce blowout by high mileage users. New Balance has also updated the tongue by adding a second layer of fabric for a touch more cushioning. Trust us when we say the tongue is still minimal.

The biggest update in the MT101/WT101 might go unnoticed by most users, but will be huge for some. You see, the reason you’ve never seen a review of the MT100 on iRunFar is that we were dumb and didn’t carry any socks on our first run in the shoes. As a result the dense foam in the Achilles notch flayed our skin. Even New Balance employees will admit to getting cut through socks in the MT100. Fortunately, New Balance has updated its manufacturing process to correct this problem.

[Update: For significantly more info about the MT101/WT101 check out the comments.]

New Balance MT 101 and WT 101

The New Balance MT 101 and WT 101 in three of the four forthcoming colors.

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sport ($100 – Fall 2010)
Vibram continues to expand its highly popular FiveFingers line to meet the needs of runners. The Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sport will combine the more aggressive outsole of the KSO Trek with and light upper similar to the KSO. While the upper will be light, Vibram has added a bit of TPU on the top of each toe as is found on the forthcoming Bikila model we discussed after last summer’s OR show. The FiveFingers Trek Sport will also feature reflective detailing, an achilles notch to make it more run-worthy, and a removable heel strap. Vibram will sell separate heel straps as replacements for worn out straps and so the runner can customize the look of her or his FiveFingers.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila and Trek Sport

Forthcoming Vibram FiveFingers: Trek Sport (left) & Bikila (right).

La Sportiva Crossover GTX (Price N/A due to uncertain GORE-TEX cost noted above – Fall 2010)
When you’re pondering the onset of winter this autumn, you’d be wise to consider the La Sportiva Crossover GTX. At its core, this shoe is a GORE-TEX version of La Sportiva’s popular Crosslite. On top of that, add a breathable ankle-height integrated gaiter to keep out debris and you could have one heck of a 3-season shoe. Heck, with the lightweight integrated gaiter (it’s not overly substantial), it would be worth checking this out under some summer conditions, as well.

La Sportiva Crossover GTX

It looks like the Crosslite with a gaiter... it must be the La Sportiva Crossover GTX!

Vasque Mindbender GTX (Price N/A due to uncertain GORE-TEX cost noted above – Mid-July 2010)
You might not even know about Vasque Mindbender yet, but it was the shoe Krissy Moehl wore when she won last summer’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This summer, Vasque will release a GORE-TEX version to add weather protection to its stable trail shoe. What caught our eye about this shoe is its floating tongue that is unique in a GORE-TEX shoe. Rather than including a gusseted tongue that holds the laminate membrane, Vasque and W.L. Gore worked together to separate these components for a more comfortable fit. Now, the laces attach to a mudguard that contains the GORE-TEX laminate, while the tongue is completely free to move around under the weather-proof mudguard.

Vasque Mindbender GTX

If you look closely, you'll notice the floating tongue is depressed, but the GORE-TEX cover is still attached to the Vasque Minderbender's laces.

Salomon S-Lab3 XT Wings ($160 – July 2010)
We received a big time education in Salomon’s shoes this OR, including many new and recently updated models. However, we’re pointing out a decidedly niche product, the S-Lab3 XT Wings. Why? Because we absolutely adore the foot hugging lightness of being embodied in the S-Lab2 and can’t wait to try the S-Lab3. You may ask, what’s the S-Lab3 got going for it? Primarily a light weight (11.3 oz.) for a full-feature trail running shoe and a foot hugging minimal upper. In fact, the S-Lab3 is about as close to a one piece upper as we’d want in a dedicated trail running shoe. The only additions to the S-Lab3’s upper are some very light rubber overlays for support, the lightweight tongue/lace/mudguard assembly, and a minimal toe cap.

Salomon S-Lab3 XT Wings

The Salomon S-Lab3 XT Wings look like something Kilian Jornet might wear.

Shoe Buzz
Speaking of lighter, more minimalist shoes, the trend in that direction is alive and well. We’ve heard of or ever seen models from three major trail running companies that would add a shoe lighter than any current trail running model in each company’s lineup… with the possible exception of cross country racing flats.

So what do you think of these new shoes? Think you’ll try any when they are released? If you want to know more details about any of the products mentioned above, please ask. We’ll do our best to get you more information.

[Disclosure: The link to Amazon is part of an affiliate program that helps support]

There are 36 comments

  1. JC

    Great article! It is so cool that my only fault with the MT100s (flexibility) was addressed. However, we have to wait until Oct? :( Thanks, Bryon

  2. ChrisG

    Wow – those La Sportiva Crossovers are wicked cool. I know Saucony has something similar but I love La Sportiva. I'm glad the shoes are not available now. I can't justify another pair of snow runners until Fall 2011 or even Fall 2012: My current Montrail Highlanders have about 200 miles and I have a pair of Crosslites waiting in reserve.

  3. Hank

    You know my stance, but at what point do you get to call those Vibram 5 Fingers "shoes." If they're not there already, they're sure moving in that direction, not surprisingly.

    Great overview of the up-and-coming. Thanks again.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Hank, Despite the addition of features to the FiveFingers line, they remain decidedly minimal in their structure. Recent additions provide slightly more traction, keep out debris by bringing up the upper over the top of the foot, add about as much rubber to the top of the toes as would be found on the zipper pull of a top-of-the-line fabric zipper pull, and cut out a place for the Achilles to move. Do the FiveFingers now include more features inline with those of shoes? Yup, but I wouldn't throw them on and go for a five mile run like I would in any "shoe."

    1. Bryon Powell

      Steve, New Balance didn't say anything nor did I notice a particularly offensive smell from the MT 101s. However, I just stuck my nose in a box with a brand new pair of MT 100s I picked up this weekend and I didn't smell anything. I'll see if I can find anything out.

    2. Bryon Powell

      While our noses hadn't picked up any smells here at iRunFar HQs, your keen nose caught a real problem. Fortunately, New Balance knows of the problem and has been sniffing around for a solution. A New Balance source wrote, "the smell on the 100s is related to the fact that the outsole has holes in it to both expose the Rockstop plate as a technology piece and also to reduce weight. The cement that glues the plate to the midsole is causing the smell and it has been improved."

      1. Steve

        Thanks for that info Bryon. Ty tried convincing me that running shoes are supposed to smell bad, but I much prefer plain old foot odor. On the other hand, maybe there's a performance-enhancing opportunity here – stop to huff your shoes to dull the pain.

  4. Michael Helton

    Bryon, three questions.

    1) Have you given the MT100's a try with socks? hehe. I only had the achilles annoyance on the first run and then they broke in and haven't bothered me since. I will definitely be looking at the 101's though.

    2) What shoes did Killian wear on the TRT? They looked like the slabs. but more sock-like.

    3) What shoes excited you the most?

    1. Bryon Powell

      (1) Michael, Due to a parade of foot injuries, I've not tried the MT 100s with socks. (I badly bruised the ball of my foot stepping on a rock while running home barefoot after the MT100s sliced my Achilles… as soon as that healed, I came down with plantar fasciitis!) It was my fault for not carrying a pair of socks with me.

      (2) I don't know the name of the shoes Kilian wore at TRT (… ;… ;… ), but they weighed 230 grams and should be available in the next year or two.

      (3) Wow, which shoes am I most excited about? That's a tough question as I can't wait to get my feet in all these shoes. That said, I want to get my feet in the updates to the Cascadia 5 and S-Lab3, as their predecessors were two of the three trail shoes I wore most in the 2009. (The Montrail Mountain Masochists were the other.)

    1. Bryon Powell

      Jay, The shoe /might/ go for $140 … or it might be much less. I know this is an industry-wide issue. The Vasque Mindbender GTX MSRP would be similarly high, but could come down an appreciable amount if common sense prevails.

      1. Jay

        Howdie Bryon,

        Hopefully it stays that way. Gore-Tex at a higher price? That's not common sense.
        ha we need beeswax for waterproofing then.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ty, I've sent an inquiry to New Balance, but it may be too far out from production to know the weight. Even with the slight additions, I suspect the weight will be very, very near to that of the MT 100.

  5. eric

    I sent an email to Vasque asking when exactly the Mindbender GTX would be available. I got an email back saying that there is no Mindbender GTX, nor is there one in the works. ???? What's going on? Is it top secret or something?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Maybe they killed it, but it was planned for 2010. This isn't based on any insider knowledge, but I can't see them rushing the Mindbender GTX before summer… as GTX shoes are more of a fall/winter item. I'll see what I can find out.

  6. Anthony

    Just ran in my first pair of Brooks, ever. Luckily it was the Cascadia 5, they are great shoes for their intended purpose – long distance over non-technical trails (fire roads, dirt paths, double track, etc). I do have to say compared to my Inov8 Roclite 295s I felt very clumsy and slow, but with that said I do like the shoes. One thing, all the reviews I read said they are for mid to high volume feet – I have lower volume feet and these shoes fit great.

    FYI, La Sportiva is axing the Skylite (Crosslite counter-shoe) after the current stock is out.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Anthony, thanks for your low-volume foot Cascadia 5 observation. As you suggest, it's not going to be super-light or ultra-nimble, but it is a good ride.

      Yeah, the Skylite is out of the line up… at least in the US. I can't remember is it'll still be in the works overseas. It's a bit of a shame as it was my preferred replacement to the Raceblade, but I can understand that there wasn't enough sales volume for this excellent shoe. I'll be holding on to my Skylites for a long time. They're the shoe I want on my feet when I've got a mad climb ahead. I suspect I'll wear them at the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase.

  7. Shaun


    DO you think that NB might ever think to just re-release the 790? It seems like every person who ran in the 790 wished they never stopped making it and then proceeded to stockpile as many 790's as they could get there hands on.

  8. Bryon Powell

    Shaun, based on observing all running companies for a long time, it ain't likely to happen. I'm still waiting for Adidas to rerelease the 1994 era Adidas Equipment Cushion and Support model. Not gonna happen.

  9. Jay D

    I have been running the Cascadia for the past several months to include 2 50 milers. My shoes have about 250 miles on them and I just recently started to get knee and feet aches. Anyone else? I don't feel that the shoes should need to be replaced yet but with another 50 miler next month, have concerns. Thoughts. Thanks

  10. Jeff Montgomery

    The Cascadia rocks; I've been wearing them for the last 5 years at the rate of a couple pairs a season (a lot of technical hill running).

    They look big but they are a fairly neutral cushioned shoe with a continuous sole (no heel gap or blocky heel), and the substantial tread stops short on technical Rocky Mountain dust and rock when I need it to.

    Look forward to trying the MT101, I'd like a more minimal shoe also.

  11. Dan

    hey bryon, how does the MT101 compare to the Vasque Transistor? Similar or is the MT101 more minimal? i love my transistors but would like to try something even less "structured" but more than the 5 fingers.


  12. Bryon Powell


    The MT101 would fall between the Transistor and FiveFingers. It's still a shoe, but a lightly structured one. It's not completely minimalist as it has a rockplate adn some VERY light structure. NB even added a bit back into the upper this go round… it's just a little extra fabric to lock the top of your foot in on technical terrain…. less support in the conventional sense that an attempt to keep the shoe from being "sloppy" on uneven surfaces and when turning.

  13. Gemma

    Thanku Bryon. Really appreciate ur response.
    R u any good on sizing? Haha
    I'm a uk size 6. Trainers normally always rub
    My heels though. I'm not sure where I can go to try these on instore. The pair I saw were from
    US & selling on amazon. Thanks so much :0)

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