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.
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.
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.
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