by “Aussie” Scott Rantall, retail manager at Rogue Cedar Park
I don’t consider myself a trail runner, but since coming to Austin I’ve found myself running more and more on technical trails (such as the Greenbelt). Before my time in Austin, I didn’t have much to do with rocky trails and didn’t have a need for a shoe to protect my foot. It all started in February this year when the well-known Austin runner, Scott Cap10 MacPherson, asked if I was interested in racing mountain bikers up and down a hill on a 2 mile course out at Reveille Ranch near Burnet. Of course I said yes without even asking logical questions like “How steep is the hill?” “How rocky is the surface?” “Where is it?” I was new to Austin and excited to get a race under my belt with Rogue. Anyway, Scott didn’t know many details either but at least he packed trail shoes with him as we made the journey to the race. I was planning on running in my current racing flat (Saucony A4, very light, no protection road racer).
Scott and I ran the 2 mile course as a warm-up. With him being the stronger runner, we decided to have him run the uphill. Little did we know that the uphill was a dirt road that you could easily drive Mom’s car up and the downhill was very technical, so bad that only someone like Erik Stanley or those guys who compete in the X-games would race down. Once we got back to the Jeep, I was scared I was going to break every bone in my foot. I only have 1 speed over a mile, and that is all out until I pass-out. Lucky for me, Scotty Mac had a shoe for me that I didn’t realize existed, the New Balance 101 with a Rock plate. This 7.2oz shoe was amazing if you like a firm fast ride. Long story short, we beat the Mountain Bikers, Scotty Mac attributed it to me and I attributed it to the shoes that made me fearless in the face of rocks! The downhill biker claimed it was his first time, but I’m a rider myself and I know he was on a $3000 specialized downhill bike and also had a helmet camera.
After this I was hooked and started looking for trail shoes of my own as I never wanted to go back to road shoes on trails. In my first week after the race I was introduced to many shoes, including the Brooks Cascadia, Inov8 F-Lite & RocLite series, Saucony Peregrine, Montrail, the list goes on. What I was looking for was more of an all-around shoe, something that would still feel like a shoe on all surfaces and not just at home on a trail race. I disregarded a few straight away just based on the feel. It’s hard to talk about a shoe without comparing it to others and obviously everyone is different and looking for something different, e.g. weight, waterproofing, heel to toe drop, cost, neutral vs. supportive, rock plate, reliability.
I have a wide foot and I not really interested in lots of cushion or a normal shoe that was turned into a trail option so my options were narrowed down to the below. As a stats man, let me explain why these made the list.
|Adidas||XT||10.2oz||16.5 – 10.5 = 6mm||$95|
|Saucony||Peregrine||9.7oz||24 – 20 = 4mm||$90|
|Brooks||Cascadia||12.2oz||28 – 16 = 12mm||$110|
|New Balance||101||7.2oz||26 – 16 = 10mm||$75|
Lucky for me, I work in a shoe store and and was able to pick up all 4 as they all had different reasons for me to like them. My favorite all-around trail shoe has become the Adidas XT and I’m going to tell you why. Looking at the table above you might have guessed that the 101 would be the outright winner, but that’s where numbers can’t explain everything.
As you will see, it is a medium shoe on all accounts – weight, drop and price – whereas the XT excels in running long over trails. I found once I get over 10miles I found issues with the other 3. The Brooks Cascadia weighs in 2 ounces heavier then the next so, as much as I love this shoe for shorter runs or standing on my feet all day, it ends up wearing me out faster. The Saucony Peregrine feels like it has a little posting which hurts my knees as I run over 10miles, but I do like what they are doing with a 4 millimetre drop from heel to toe. The New Balance 101 is just too damn light and firm for anything but racing, but if and when I race trails again, it’s my shoe of choice.
Adidas did things right with their shoe by getting Continental (they make bike tires) to make the rubber outsole – “it supplies superior grip in all underfoot conditions” is what I was told by the reps. I agree with that so far, but since it has not rained in Austin since I’ve gotten here, I can’t say they have been truly tested yet. It is disappointing that it only comes in 1 unisex color (black/gray with lime Adidas strips), but the next one in 2012 with be black/metallic silver/prime blue which I think will be a hit.
I have just over 200 miles on my current pair. They still look and feel the same as the day I got them. The XT is a specific shoe made for trails. Quite a few brands are making trail versions of their best sellers which aren’t bad options, but I like a trail-specific shoe for the extra protection.
Get yours and hit a trail near you, I know you won’t be disappointed!!