Scott Supertrac RC
250g (men's UK 8) £130
Traction is the name of the game for Scott shoes, and that's definitely the case in the RC. You’ll be impressed with the super-light feel this shoe offers – it’s pretty low to the ground, with a 5mm drop and you’ll feel like picking the pace up for sure. And this is partly as a result of the multi-directional lugs, which rather than simply dig in, adapt to the rolling nature of off-road running to make you feel pretty secure. In this instance, the lugs aren’t as deep as other shoes, so fell runners might not appreciate that but regular trail runners – mixing road, with paths and fields – will enjoy the security and performance on offer.
Verdict: Fast and furious; a good shoe for most conditions.
We take a look at a road classic which could be used for trail
Asics GT-2000 7
This favourite from Asics is classed as a road shoe but is also a great option for anyone considering their first move on to light trail paths this spring. Gel in the forefoot and heel give good cushioning, whilst the upper supports your foot but also allows plenty of movement. The outsole is great for road surfaces, but also has plenty of grip for gravel paths and mild trails.
La Sportiva Mutant
310g (men's UK 9) £115
The Mutant is straight out of the heavier, wider platform school of trail shoes. Despite its relatively high 10mm drop, it does feel like a responsive, faster shoe. The grip is good, with the Frixion XF outsole working particularly well on muddy paths. Fit is good, holding your foot in place on demanding terrain. You’ll be more than happy to take it out onto muddy, rocky areas as the upper consists of a single breathable, abrasion-resistant mesh and integrated gaiter.
The SpyralTongue lacing system is integrated to the uppers through the FusionGate. It's a nice idea, but feels a little bit over-engineered and fiddly.
Verdict: A supportive shoe that can cope with every off-road trail.
Salomon Speedcross 5
328g (men's UK 8.5) £TBC
The latest version of this popular shoe (out in March) is great if grip is high on our agenda. Older models scored highly for grip, but one or two testers grumbled over stability. That’s been addressed, with wider lugs creating a solid and more secure base. The forefoot is wider and there’s a softer, more responsive feel. The Speedcross 5 works off a 10mm drop and the super-aggressive outsole only feels at home on mud – road is a no no. This is a positive move from Salomon and clearly the designers have taken the comfort issues on board, because this more responsive shoe is able to cope with longer runs and racing.
Verdict: Safe, secure and ready for foul conditions.
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260
260g (men's UK 9) £135
Inov-8 uses the phrase 'Industry-leading sticky grip' when it comes to the outsole and while we can’t vouch precisely for that claim, we can confirm they’ll hold you in place in the muddiest, nastiest conditions you treat them to. Only something very special would be better in this department. For runners who like a bit of depth, consider this: the lugs are a mighty 8mm and positioned in such a way they ensure mud is released quickly from the outsole, so there's no clogging and maximum grip is retained. All good off-road, but you do need to keep them away from anything concrete otherwise they'll wear rapidly.
Verdict: Bring on the mud! These are built for the nastiest weather.
Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Surround
385g (men's UK 8.5)
Straight out of the box this shoe has a slightly stiff feel – particularly around the cuff and base of your ankle – but once you’ve run for a few minutes the upper softend up. Adidas has teamed up with car tyre giant Continental to create a rubber outsole that, while it doesn’t have particularly deep lugs (5mm), offers good grip in the wet and mud. The super-thin layer of Gore Tex Surround lining helps keep your feet dry, with beathability enhanced by big air channels in the midsole. The bungee lace mechanism is well designed without being fiddly, and although the shoe is quite heavy it doesn't feel clumpy. It has an 8mm drop.
Verdict: Solid all-rounder that could be used in all conditions.
Hoka Challenger ATR 5
266g (men's UK 8) £115
It’s probably fair to say most of us need grip that works superbly in the middle ground. The road-friendly, soft ride Challenger is good for just that. The lug pattern – wider at the front and closer together at the rear – provides a smoother, more consistent feel than the previous model, while the wider spread means more grip. This light shoe copes well with muddy paths and long sections of road. The ATR 5 works off a low drop 5mm, but such is the cushioning and elevated platform, you don’t really notice that low profile. Hoka can come up a little narrow in the toe box for some runners, but a wider option is available.
Verdict: Great for mixing and matching road and mud.
Saucony Xodus Iso 3
366g (men's UK 9) £140
Dare we say it, but these shoes love a bit of road! Don't think they can't cope with mud, though – indeed the reverse is true thanks to the deep-lugged dual compound outsole. And such is the cushioning thanks to Saucony's wonderfully soft Everun technology, it's a shoe that definitely can cope with long stretches of tarmac before you venture off-road. The Xodus is an interesting shoe because it works off a low 4mm drop and does feel responsive and low to the ground, yet that cushioning creates a suitably cushioned response when you drive off. The uppers are soft and flexible thanks to the trail-specific Isofit dynamic upper.
Verdict: For long, lazy days where pace isn't an issue but comfort is.
Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 GTX
280g (women’s 6.5)
The Parkclaw has set new standards in terms of cross-terrain shoes. The Gore-Tex version enables you to mix and match road, trails and parklands while also keeping your feet dry.
Designed for paths and trails rather than mud, the shoes have the standard Inov-8 Met-Cradle technology to hold the midfoot stable, but are much wider in the toe box, compared to the more familiar Inov-8 fell shoes. This gives a little movement on really technical terrain, but the sticky rubber means they’re great on wet rock. The softest of the Gore-Tex support on test helps make for a responsive feel, with decent flexibility, especially on steep hills.
Verdict: The comfort of a road shoe with the grip of a trail shoe.
New Balance Summit QOM GTX
290g (women’s 6)
A real workhorse of a winter trail shoe for runners who need something to log the winter miles mainly off, but sometimes on, road. The ride is a firm one, but one that also gives plenty of support and cushioning, which combined with the 8mm drop means there's a decent feel of spring as you go. The snug fit, well-placed lugs and Vibram sole give total confidence and grip on technical, twisty, rocky, rooty and wet trails. The shoe is surprisingly flexible on steep stuff, given how rigid the outer is, making this shoe a really decent all-rounder – as long
as you’re OK with the stiffness of the outer.
Verdict: Stiff, but good for logging the winter miles.
305g (women’s 6.5)
If you need a good all-rounder to cope with rocky, muddy, wide, singletrack trails, as well as some bits of road, then the Caldorado is a good place to start. The grip is good, helped by multi-directional lugs, while the fit is reasonably roomy with a broad forefoot, so there’s the potential for slippage on steep contouring. That aside, the shoe flowed well and gave a feeling of confidence when descending technical trails. The Outdry upper (as opposed to the others on test, which are Gore-Tex) means this is by far the most flexible shoe, but still one that gives a well-cushioned ride, and, with an 8mm drop, makes you want to run fast.
Verdict: Comfort for miles on any trail surface.
305g (women’s 6.5)
Merrell sells this as a hybrid trainer for moving quickly in the mountains, mixing walking and hiking. With quite a wide fit and a low drop (3.5mm) the MQM is fine for moving fast with the occasional jog, but doesn’t have the ride or cushioning you would want for pure running. It’s fine for short bursts of running, but best kept for hiking and some scrambling. Think rugged conditions and you'll have the type of terrain and weather this shoe can deal with. Of course, that does mean they're a little heavier, so definitely leave them at home if pace is on your agenda. If, however, it's raining and muddy, they're tough to beat!
Verdict: A shoe best for fast hiking – not out-and-out running.
310g (women’s 6.5)
That this is the 13th iteration of the Cascadia says a lot for its pedigree and quality. The fit is good, if a little tight at first in the forefoot, and the Gore-Tex lining means the upper is reasonably rigid. They give a medium/soft ride, with good flexibility that means steep uphills and downhills are easily handled; as are the twisty bits over roots and rocks. The one downside is they aren’t the best on wet rock – other than that they make you want to run fast so you can see why they are
a favourite with trail racers. With a 10mm drop, they’ll suit those who shy away from the minimalist style of shoe.
Verdict: Great for racing and training on trails.
270g (women’s 6.5)
Salomon says this cushioned shoe is designed for those who run a couple of times a week, mixing the comfort of a road shoe with protection for the trails. That’s an accurate description if you like a pretty rigid but cushioned ride, with a snug, well-fitting shoe. Flexibility, given the stiffness of the outer, is surprisingly good even on steep uphills and the snug fit means good foot control on uneven surfaces. The 10mm drop and stiffness, however, means they don’t feel as stable as some on test when running fast on rocks and roots, especially downhill. We love the speed lacing, but for some that can be a bit Marmite-like.
Verdict: Good if you want one pair to mix trail and road.
Scarpa Neutron 2 GTX
320g (women’s 6.5)
Designed for alpine-style trail runs and sky marathons, the Neutron 2 feels much more at home on rocky paths compared to muddy, twisty single-track due to its reasonably wide forefoot, designed to give more comfort on longer runs. The Vibram sole means you get a decent level of grip on wet rock and the overall feel on technical loose rock is one of confidence. The most expensive, and the heaviest, shoe on test, the Neutron 2 has a smooth, decently cushioned ride. The 6mm drop, while giving a good feel for the ground, also gives quite a flat ride with limited bounce. Flexibility on steep uphills is still good.
Verdict: Good comfort and protection on rocky trails.
On Cloudventure 2 GTX
315g (women’s 6.5)
On Running has made massive gains in the road running market thanks to the cushioning and energy return claims for its shoes. The Cloudventure is no different – you feel like you are springing over the trails and can happily mix in a bit of road running if needed. The 6mm drop means there’s surprisingly good stability over looser, more technical ground, giving you the confidence to run at speed. The grip is OK, but the nature of the outsole means the number of lugs in contact with the ground at any one time is limited, so not the best on wet rock or muddy trails. The laces are very thin and a pain to undo with cold hands.
Verdict: Well-cushioned ride that makes you want to run fast.
Available April 2019
252g (Men's UK 9.5)
This is a light shoe with a narrow fit, designed for mountain running. The sole uses Vibram Litebase technology to deliver rugged, durable grip but with reduced sole thickness and weight. The v-shaped lugs give great traction on rock and light mud. The upper is hard-wearing material, with a tough toe bumper for protection. There's a quick lacing system with a cover over the laces, which helps keep dust and debris out, plus a ‘heel preloader’ with a thick rubber band that adds tension to the heel and promotes a natural running gait. On the run they're light and responsive, but also provide good cushioning.
Verdict: Fast, grippy, durable and lightweight shoe.
340g (Men's UK 9)
Traction versus grip is the name of the game with these shoes. According to Scott’s experts, ‘traction is directly related to the kinematics of a runner’s movement.’ Essentially, the radial traction allows your foot to naturally adapt to the conditions whereas grip is pretty definitive – so it stops you instantly. What we really loved, however, was the nice, solid, responsive feel it creates. So, if you fancy testing yourself with something a little longer or want a nice, cushioned but solid-feeling shoe with all the usual protective elements (stone guard etc) then this is definitely one to look out for. It has an 8mm drop.
Verdict: Solid and reliable in all but muddiest of conditions.
181g (Men's UK 6.5)
For a minimal shoe, this offers a surprising amount of stability. You won’t get too many shoes that are lower to the ground – working off a 4mm heel drop – but equally you won’t get too many that feel quite so controlled. If you fancy venturing into the barefoot world but fear the consequences, then this is the shoe for you. You’ll enjoy the support and there’s even some cushioning which, given the sandal-like feel, you’ll be amazed by. Of course there are some downsides – yes, they’re breathable and great for canal paths, but don’t take them on rocky Alpine paths or boggy fell runs.
Verdict: A fabulous entry into the world of barefoot running.
260g (Men’s UK 8)
Given these are the first running shoes to feature graphene in the soles, Inov-8 promise durability without compromising grip. They have a lot to live up to as manufacturers say one pair’s soles lasted 1000 miles in testing. They’re so new we haven’t had chance to take them that far, but both the soles and the Kevlar-enhanced uppers seem to be standing up quite well after 200 miles. We found they coped well with the hard trails they were designed for and are very comfortable despite not much cushioning, with a wide forefoot. Precision is great, especially with the zero-drop heel-toe ratio.
Verdict: Comfort from the first mile with good grip on hard trails.