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Emily Banks and Paul Cuno-Booth Wednesday, 18 November 2015 17:41 TWEET COMMENTS 16

5 New Trail-Running Shoes, Reviewed

If your last pair's tread is wearing thin, here are a few options to consider

Every year, we release two omnibus shoe reviews. (This year, our big spring review included 13 new models; our fall review, 10.) But, with so many new and updated trail-running shoes released every year now, even that isn’t enough.

So here are five more shoes from this fall’s crop, which our testers have put through all kinds of wringers. Happy trails!

 

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Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2

9.2 oz | 4.5mm drop | $115

The N1 is the most “minimalist” of Pearl Izumi’s trail line, but few runners would call it truly minimal. There’s enough cushioning for most runs, short of long road runs, trail ultras or bombing descents, and, along with the rock plate, it provides a good degree of protection.

With a responsive ride and relatively light weight, the versatile N1 can function as a daily trainer or a fast race-day option for longer distances, or for runners who just like a little more shoe.

The tread performs well on dry trail and transitions smoothly enough to pavement, though slips somewhat in mud or snow—as one tester said, “It could use a little more grip for the days that the trail is in less-than-optimal shape.”

Though billed as neutral, the “dynamic offset-shaped” midsole actually pushes the foot inward. While unnoticeable to some testers, others felt some shin or plantar fascia strain due to this forced pronation. Runners who pronate naturally may find this shoe mechanically ill-suited to their needs.

Fit: True to size.

Bottom line: Fast and light, with moderate cushion and protection.

 

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Altra Lone Peak 2.5

10.6 oz | 0mm drop | $120

After the significant updates—most notably, a redesigned tread—that resulted in the Lone Peak 2.0, Altra made some moderate but well-received tweaks for the 2.5. A more responsive midsole alleviates what one tester called the “dead, squishy feeling” of the 2.0, and the upper mesh is more durable and breathable. The 2.5 fits better, too: true to size, and more secure in the midfoot.

Otherwise, testers appreciated the same aspects as in the previous Lone Peak. There’s enough cushioning for daily training (and then some; said one tester, “You want to walk around all day in the shoe, not just on your trail run”), but not so much that flexibility or groundfeel is compromised. The secure fit and wide toebox lend confidence on uneven, technical terrain, and the tread—unchanged from the 2.0—grips nicely on everything from slick surfaces to loose ground to dry hardpack. The cushion even allows for a few miles on pavement when necessary.

The zero-drop platform, a hallmark of Altra shoes, won’t work for every runner. One tester enjoyed the nimble feel of the Lone Peak 2.5, but cautions that the combination of a “high amount of cushion and zero drop” can put pressure on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, especially if you’ve experienced injuries in those areas before or are running in a fatigued state.

Fit: True to size, with a secure midfoot and wide toe box.

Bottom line: A comfortable, moderately cushioned zero-drop trainer with the tread for just about any terrain.

Tester-monial: “The perfect combination of cushion and ground-to-foot contact. I wear it when I don’t know the conditions, and don’t worry about it.” – Lauren Arnold, Polson, MT

 

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New Balance 910v2

10.8 oz | 8mm drop | $110

With a moderate heel-to-toe drop; cushioned, semi-stiff midsole; and underfoot rock protection, the 910v2 will appeal to runners who like a trail-ready shoe with a feel closer to that of a traditional trainer, or perhaps are transitioning from road to trail.

The midsole cushioning was one of the standout features: springy enough to feel fast on shorter runs, but soft enough to pull through on longer efforts. Testers had mixed feelings about the rock plate; while adding protection, it takes away from flexibility (and some runners may find a rock plate unnecessary in a shoe with the cushioning of the 910v2). Moderately aggressive triangular lugs provide good traction on dry dirt and rock, and don’t get in the way too much on roads.

Runners accustomed to more streamlined, minimal models will likely find the 910v2 to be too much shoe. Some slop in the midfoot leads to the foot sliding on steep downhills, and the relatively narrow toebox can feel cramped.

Fit: A tad long, though probably not enough to size down, with a narrow toebox and more volume in the midfoot.

Bottom line: A responsive, everyday trainer for the trails.

Tester-monial: “Perfect for larger runners looking for a workhorse trail shoe that they could run in every day. – Stuart White, Charleston, SC


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Brooks PureGrit 4

10.1 oz | 4mm drop | $120

You might call the PureGrit 4 a shoe for recovering minimalists. Its low heel-toe drop, foot-hugging fit and relatively flexible midsole allow for groundfeel and agility on technical terrain, while a rockplate and thin but springy cushioning add just enough protection that most runners will find them comfortable on short to medium runs. “I kind of wanted to dance in them, actually,” said one tester.

Testers were pleased with how the hexagonal lugs performed on most trail surfaces, especially dry technical singletrack and damp dirt; the tread doesn’t quite have the bite for sloppy mud.

The PureGrit 4 is more refinement than overhaul—happily, to fans of the well-liked PureGrit 3—but a few tweaks address some of the concerns testers had about that shoe. A redesigned lacing system—with eyelets in place of loops—helps cinch down the fit; it also keeps the tongue from sliding, a minor but irritating issue with the 3. An update to the upper replaces heavier forefoot overlays with a laminate pattern of individual hexagons, improving flexibility in that area.

The biggest complaint we heard about the PureGrit 3 concerned durability, especially of the outsole; some found it delaminated quickly, or that lugs tore off. Though the PureGrit 4 outsole is the same as on the 3, testers did not complain of the same outsole-durability issues during this round of testing. However, some found tears in the mesh upper before 100 miles of use.

Fit: True to size, with a snug feel

Bottom line: A fun, fast shoe for shorter runs in dry conditions

Tester-monial: “I will continue to run in these shoes on dry, fast trails and would recommend the same to anyone else!” – John Taylor, Wilson, North Carolina

 

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Scott T2 Kinabalu 3.0

9.9 oz | 11mm drop | $130

Testers loved the light, low-profile feel of the Kinabalu 3.0 (the update includes a new midsole compound and redesigned upper). It allowed for fast, agile running, with a decent amount of cushion and good arch support. The midsole, which has a rock plate, rides that fine line between responsive and protectively rigid; a rockered geometry promotes fluid forward motion. (The rocker may also help the shoe feel more natural to runners used to much lower heel-toe drops.)

The Kinabalu 3.0’s moderate lugs grip rocky and packed terrain with ease and made for smooth transitions between surfaces, though has a tough time handling mud. The upper is comfortable and breathable, molding to the foot with plenty of give, and dries extremely quickly when wet.

Fit: True to size.

Bottom line: A shoe for flying on easy to moderately technical singletrack.

Tester-monial: “I really felt like I could fly through the trails. The way the upper hugged my foot made me forget I was even wearing trail shoes.” – Abbey VanValkenburg, Corinth, Mississippi

TWEET COMMENTS 16

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