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.
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.
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.
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.
306g (Men's UK 9)
You’ll either hate or love the colour scheme, but this shoe mirrors its look: light and flexible. The ride is slightly harder than a road shoe, with a performance feel to the build. Breathable uppers make it a summer or early autumn shoe, but underneath there’s a superb grip thanks to the agressive Continental rubber outsole. They feature a Boa Closure System that offers a secure fit, which is perfect for unpredictable terrain. It uses a simple micro-adjustable click and twist of
the round dial, which tightens the thin nylon cord lacing system. They use a 6mm heel
to toe drop, so mid-range.
Verdict: Quite flexible; feels like it will love road as much as trail.
255g (Men's UK 9)
An interesting shoe given Hoka’s well-known high rise feel. This, while sitting on Hoka’s usual superbly cushioned base, actually feels quite solid and low to the ground. It’s the kind of shoe that creates a feel for the surface, while offering good protection thanks to that Profly midsole, high-traction rubber and aggressive lugs. The resulting good traction means the shoe provides a nice feel at pace, so you could easily use them for racing as well as training. Hoka’s extreme cushioning means the 5mm heel drop is very easy to get along with and if you’re keen on moving to lower numbers, they’re a great starting point.
Verdict: Fast paced, well cushioned, easy to get on with.