Long-term trail shoe test

on cloudultra

by Trail Running staff |

Our testers reviewed some shoes that have well and truly stood the test of time

Newton Boco AT 6

Used by Alastair Watson Used since November 2021

£125

newton-running.co.uk

Running companies are having to step up their game in order to minimise a global footprint on the planet which in recent years has been all too heavy. That's part of the reason I like Newton Running as it's a socially-conscious company founded on the belief that running should also be about lessening the impact on Mother Earth by producing apparel and shoes that are environmentally sustainable. But what about, the Boco AT? It's an eco cheerleader by being made entirely from recycled material which is biodegradable. Each pair of shoes contains four recycled plastic bottles, coupled with the company's EcoPure technology which means the shoe decomposes 75% faster than shoes without Eco Pure. As a result, what is left is non-toxic biogas and biomass. The company can also guarantee that Newton Running products are vegan and cruelty-free. I've long been a fan of the Boco AT but the 6's drop is a big improvement on previous iterations thanks to the company’s new EVA filled forefoot cushioning. As a result, the shoe is much springier in the toe-off as well as providing better dynamic shock absorption. With a 3mm drop and a carbon rubber outsole with grippy multidirectional tread, it is neutral trail shoe that will give you plenty of sure-footed comfort and energy return over the rockiest of trails. There's a weatherised, seamless, breathable upper designed to withstand the toughest of conditions, but beware, this is not a trail shoe for extended road use or in deep mud. Also, if you are are new to Newton Running's action/reaction technology, the midsole sensation might feel strange at first. But stick with it as once adjusted your gait will thank you for it.
*My shoes were provided by Perfacts! Europe and have since been donated to 'Boots2Africa' a UK-based charity that supports aspiring African athletes.

On Cloudultra

Used by Liam Dee Used since March 2021

£160

on-running.com

on cloudultra

After a year of solid use, On’s entry into the multi-terrain shoe market has become a staple in my trainer rotation. Don’t get me wrong, On have had lots of successes with trail shoes in the past (being a Swiss brand, it’s hard not to!) but the Cloudultra was what their line-up seemed to be missing: an all-rounder to tackle everything rather than the more specialised models from the Cloudventure range. The 8mm drop Helion midsole remains responsive and smooth, showing few signs of deterioration after a few hundred miles – good for easy running, but even better for upping the pace. I've even used them for the odd speed session which is saying something as I'm quite picky in that department. The dual layer of ‘cloud’ cut-outs keeps the weight down nicely, too. The small, spaced lugs on the outsole have performed as expected: great on dry trail and gravel particularly, no trouble at all on the roads and enough for some mud (although definitely not enough for a full-scale British mudbath, but that is not why you’d pick up a pair of Cloudultras, after all), making it a good commuter shoe if you have a few miles of road en route. In fact, dare I say it, but the cushioning is so good they can also handle the whole way on the road if you have to commit such a crime! My only hint of a gripe comes with the upper, which may not be to everyone’s liking. In fairness, for its lack of padding and streamlined nature, it is very comfortable, particularly so in summer months. However, getting my feet fully locked-in was a little difficult with the thin laces leaving a bit to be desired and a slightly ‘slidy’ feel if I wore the wrong socks. The upper is formed of a double layer, with the inner having a stretchy sock-like collar, good for keeping out dirt and dust. I have noticed some small tears appearing in the outer layer, but I’ll chalk that up to how much use – or maybe I should say ABuse – the Cloudultras have stood up to.

La Sportiva Helios SR

Used by Paul Larkins Used since November 2019

£110

lasportiva.com

la sport

In reality, I don't think these shoes are meant to last quite as long as they have, as they’re a pretty lightweight racing model. But, as we all know only too well, there hasn’t been too much competition for the past two years so they’re still performing superbly. Cushioning, grippy and with just a 2mm drop, they feel as performance-focussed as ever. In fact, I'm personally not a big fan of super-low drops, but such is the shoe's build, you don't really feel like you're flat to the ground. They key for me is that they seem to work! When I was using them in March 2020 just a week or so before lockdown, for instance, I found myself finishing in the 30s in the local trail league (34th to be precise) and now, fully two years later I’m up one place to 33rd! That fact alone means they’re a tremendous shoe in my mind. Of course, I like them for a few other reasons. Despite La Sportiva claiming they’re for Alpine paths, I’ve found they’re perfectly designed for British trail running, or at least the trails we enjoy in the Fens. So, you can mix farm paths (sort of Alpine I suppose), with boggy woods and even the odd mile of road comfortably. They even cope reasonably well with mud. Technically, this is a sound shoe as the uppers feature a lightweight, high-frequency frame with a soft, breathable and comfortable EVA net. The shoe’s flexibility is great and really you do feel like you’re driving off the ground thanks in part to the front flex zones. The Helios SR uses a snug fitting slip-on construction upper for ease of use and there’s an injected midsole with Morpho Dynamic technology which works in synergy with the FriXion XT dual-density sole to provide optimal shock absorption. Other features including the reflective inserts, the reinforcement zones on the toe and heel in microfibre, and the internal protective silk screening, have been created to satisfy the most demanding off-road runners.

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra 240

Used by Phil Martin Used since June 2021

£160

adidas.co.uk

I’ve been using this shoe for a fair while now and it’s one of the my firm favourites. It’s lightweight and fast like a racing flat and, as you would expect, really comes to life when you are racing. But if I just want to feel fast then I put on this shoe for plain old training. It's the reason I chose them for the UMTB race I ran in Thailand late last year (read all about my adventures there on p42). Obviously, I wanted to run fast, but it was pretty technical terrain – think jungle, think wet rocks – so I was also mindful that I needed something that coped with that. Hence my choice!

It’s lightweight, which helps with feel, and has a nice secure fit. And you can believe it when Adidas say they've taken cushioning and responsiveness to new heights, with their ultra-responsive midsole. As many know now, Boost is constructed from tiny TPU capsules that are moulded together to form a platform that is different to standard, solid foams; absorbing energy and then expelling it back out for a bounce-like effect. This energy return technology reduces the use of superfluous muscle power, diminishing fatigue and enhancing performance, keeping you going for longer. True! In fact, the shoe, which has an 8mm drop, excels on hard trails, although I have to say with such small lugs it wouldn’t be my first choice when the terrain is boggy as they don’t handle the mud very well. The blend of Boost and Lightstrike materials it uses makes it feel responsive and that you are getting decent energy return whilst offering that little bit of cushioning essential to protect your feet on the trails. You can tell this is a shoe that Adidas have worked hard on and I think the input from ultra running legend Tom Evans in the design process has really helped them create a shoe that should worth serious consideration. After all, he won the CCC at the UTMB, which is amazing in anybody's book!

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