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.

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.]

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.

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.

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.

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.

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]

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

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