BEST ROAD-TO-TRAIL TRANSITION SHOES


by Paul Halford |
BEST ROAD-TO-TRAIL TRANSITION SHOES

Here at TR HQ, we’re realistic enough to know you’re not always going to be able to run off-road, let alone over fells or through snow-blanketed valleys. Even when you do, paving stones, canal paths and gravel roads are fairly common occurrences whilst out on the trails.

Clearly road running is a necessity for many of us, so it makes sense to invest in shoes that can handle both surfaces, which is particularly true if you’re new to trail running. Transitioning from tarmac is one of the best choices you could make, but make sure your shoes are up to it; Training Editor Jack Hart picks out your best options.

BROOKS CALDERA

BROOKS CALDERA

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WEIGHT: 280G Brooksu2019 latest trail shoe is packed with midsole cushioning u2013 the BioMoGo DNA system u2013 to protect and propel each stride. For some runners, particularly beginners used to road running, this will likely be greatly appreciated, as the extra support is immediately noticeable. With a 4mm drop it isnu2019t overbearing, but did feel bulky on shorter, faster runs and also seemed to encourage under-pronation, which was off-putting. One saving grace is the multi-directional grip, including hexagonal lugs on the balls of the feet, which aided with quick turns of pace on unsteady terrain. A good shoe for slower, steadier runs on tough trails, but not for racing.

VERDICT Sturdy grip thatu2019s ideal for rough terrain and long distances, but a bit bulky.

Grip: 9/10 Cushioning: 7/10 Precision: 5/10

SCOTT T2 KINABALU 3.0

SCOTT T2 KINABALU 3.0

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WEIGHT: 360G Say one thing for the Kinabalu, itu2019s up for a challenge. We threw these at hard-packed trails, concrete stair sprints and technical off-road downhill sections, and they came out unscathed. Scott Sports call them u2018theu2019 versatile trail shoe and, while this test didnu2019t encompass mountain terrain, they certainly managed to keep up with our road-to-trail challenge. A steady 11mm drop and cushioned midsole was comfy enough for sections of tarmac, while the natural rocking shape of the shoe u2013 Scottu2019s eRide system u2013 felt natural on both surfaces. The tread looks a bit minimal for any real off-roading but, for our purposes, they served well.

VERDICT: BEST VALUE A tough shoe that was comfortable on all surfaces but firm enough for speed.

Grip: 6/10 Cushioning: 9/10 Precision: 7/10

SALMING TRAIL T2

SALMING TRAIL T2

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WEIGHT: 290G The heel cup of Salmingu2019s Trail T2 sits low on the ankle, to minimise the weight of the shoe itself u2013 despite that, it feels secure, and the low profile accentuates the lightweight build. Donu2019t assume this shoe canu2019t handle the trails, though; itu2019s better suited to wet, dirty and uneven ground than road, so ideal for routes with only a portion of tarmac. With a neutral 5mm drop, Salmingu2019s TOC66 compound on the sole grips unsteady surfaces, so we felt comfortable kicking up a gear on a particularly wet and windy test run. Salming claims the sole enhances proprioception, which we couldnu2019t feel, but the T2 was still a responsive, speedy ride.

VERDICT More off-road than on-road, and a great lightweight racing shoe.

Grip: 9/10 Cushioning: 7/10 Precision: 8/10

ASICS GEL-FUJITRABUCO 5

ASICS GEL-FUJITRABUCO 5
Amazon

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WEIGHT: 315G Asicsu2019 heritage lies within track running and you immediately feel that in the construction of this shoe, with a lightweight build, racer profile and minimal protection. If youu2019re used to road running, the ride will be familiar u2013 Asics claim it to be neutral; the drop is 10mm and movement natural, particularly for midfoot runners like myself. Weu2019d recommend reserving the Fujitrabuco 5 for low-land trails such as the ones these were tested on, as the off-road specific features, like multi-directional lugs and a firm sole, are understated, despite the bulky toe-protection plate. For shoes flitting between tarmac and trails, though, these were brilliant to fly around in.

VERDICT Great fun to race around gentle trails, with top road-running credentials.

Grip: 6/10 Cushioning: 7/10 Precision: 8/10

ON CLOUDEVENTURE

ON CLOUDEVENTURE
Amazon

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WEIGHT: 295G Swiss-built shoes designed and tested in the rugged Alps, On Runningu2019s Cloudventure shoes werenu2019t constructed with tarmac in mind u2013 but they perform admirably on both surfaces. 11 CloudTec pods flex upon impact, propelling you forward. Although comfortable on road, you can almost hear the Swiss-built shoes chuntering away and yearning to disappear off-road u2013 and, when you do, theyu2019re a different beast entirely. They dealt comfortably with the speedy country trails we subjected them to, including technical paths, hard-packed tracks and open grassland. A neutral ride with a 6mm drop, they felt aggressive at all times and great fun to run in.

VERDICT BEST IN TEST A brilliantly designed shoe, capable of taking on a wide variety of terrains.

Grip: 8/10 Cushioning: 8/10 Precision: 9/10

HOKA ONE ONE SPEED INSTINCT

HOKA ONE ONE SPEED INSTINCT

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WEIGHT: 225G Hoka One Oneu2019s Speed Instinct continues its shoesu2019 trend of creating a comfortable ride, with a soft, cushioned heel thatu2019s well suited for tough tarmac. It is, though, the only part that is, so this shoe is best suited for the latter stages of your transition. The forefoot is much more responsive and suited to off-road running, and the shoe is packed with standard features to combat tough trails u2013 like the protective rubber banding, padded tongue and innovative midsole. With a 4mm drop, itu2019s ideal for runners with a forefoot to midfoot strike, but with that construction comes greater speed on all but the harshest of terrains.

VERDICT Tough, durable and extremely comfortable on a variety of off-road surfaces.

Grip: 8/10 Cushioning: 9/10 Precision: 7/10

UNDER ARMOUR FAT TIRE

UNDER ARMOUR FAT TIRE

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WEIGHT: 225G Letu2019s not beat around the bush u2013 thatu2019s one hell of a sole. Inspired by Fat Bike oversized tires, the outsole is filled with Charged Foam from heel to toe, designed to recycle energy from your foot strike and power you forward. This makes the shoe fairly heavy and less responsive than minimalist options, but when you round a corner onto a clear stretch of trail, the Michelin-created sole clicks into fifth gear. Grippy lugs peppering the underside kept the Fat Tire moving smoothly in poor conditions, on and off-road, which included soggy long-grass and hard-packed trails. The 9mm drop is comfortable to run in and feels considerably less than that.

VERDICT Very comfortable over long distances, and not too shabby to look at either.

Grip: 8/10 Cushioning: 9/10 Precision: 6/10

VIVOBAREFOOT PRIMUS TRAIL FG

VIVOBAREFOOT PRIMUS TRAIL FG
Amazon

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WEIGHT: 260G This inclusion comes with a caveat: youu2019ll need to already run with a forefoot strike to appreciate them. Donu2019t know what that means? Move on to the next shoe. But if youu2019re a barefoot-esque runner, these vegan-made off-road runners are designed for firm-ground and ensure a smooth ride on both road surfaces and trails. An ultra-thin but puncture-resistant sole allows your feet to feel the ground as you move, and a lightweight grip is indiscernible on road but keeps you moving at speed when the terrain gets slick. If youu2019re comfortable with minimal shoes u2013 these have a 0mm drop u2013 theyu2019re ideal for moving between surfaces seamlessly.

VERDICT A tough, durable barefoot shoe, at home on slippy trails and dry paths.

Grip: 6/10 Cushioning: 2/10 Precision: 9/10

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