Talk to me about trail runners
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Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - M

Locale: Southwest
Talk to me about trail runners on 06/18/2013 20:15:03 MDT Print View

I've been intrigued by the prospect of hiking in some light trail runners. I bought some Inov8 Roclite 295s, which I really liked except that they hurt my feet just walking around indoors. I returned those and just bought some Patagonia Fore Runner Evos, which felt a little better in the store, but still have my feet tingling after just a few minutes on carpet. What's happening here? Is the adjustment to "minimalist"-ish shoes that dramatic, or can I just not find shoes to fit?

Again, I love the idea of an 8-9 oz shoe, but is this just an adjustment period or what? My previous shoe was the North Face 106 at ~16 oz each. Maybe I should move up to 10-11 oz and a bit more heel-to-toe drop for some extra comfort and still have some decent weight savings? Any thoughts from someone who has been through the same transition?

-Stephen

K C
(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
RE on 06/18/2013 21:44:26 MDT Print View

If you can walk around your house barefoot with no problems, and get tingling with shoes on carpet than there is something weird going on, must be the fit. I use new balance trail runners or montrail or la sportiva and can walk a good 20mi on dirt, rocks, mud, water, grass and I would assume carpet...

Richard Reno
(scubahhh) - M

Locale: White Mountains, mostly.
Vasque Pendulum? on 06/19/2013 06:57:00 MDT Print View

I bought a pair this spring- my first trail-runners-as-hiking-boots experience even though I often run eihter barefoot or ni VFF. The pendulums have a pretty good footplate that gives a little protection from the ground but still involve shte whole foot and ankle int he process, and the heel is elevated by about 4 mm, I think.

I've used them on several pretty ambitious dayhikes- 20+ miles inteh Whites and Adirondacks, and they've been very good to me, although I've been surprised at hwo drawn-out the process of strecgthening the little muscles, tendons, et al has been, given that I run barefoot and thought my feet were pretty strong.

Ont he other hand, I've had zero blisters, knee and hip problems, and ankle sprains.

I love 'em!

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
Re: RE minimalism on 06/19/2013 07:00:32 MDT Print View

The thing about switching to minimalist footwear is that you won't do yourself any favors if *only* your backpacking shoes have a low drop and minimal cushioning. I'd say find a pair of comfortable low drop shoes for everyday wear. Doesn't have to be crazy expensive "barefoot" shoes--walking around shoeless, or even in flip flops, whenever possible will help strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles, if that is indeed the problem. I really like Vivobarefoot for casual shoes; they look great around town/at work. Wish their trail shoes were more durable.

Also, go to a good shoe store, get fitted, and try on trail runners until you find a comfortable one, without worrying about weight or other specs. I've always had a hard time fitting trail runners--most are built on lasts that are too narrow and tapered toward the toe box, and are especially uncomfortable when wearing liner socks or toe socks. Also, the deeply lugged soles on many models (newer Inov8 Roclites, I'm looking at you) feel like cleats and I don't like the reduced ground-feel that results. Take a good hard look at how the shoes fit and don't pretend they just need to be "broken in". These aren't single-piece leather boots we're talking about; they're made of rubber and mesh, so there should be little to no break-in period.

Those TNF trail runners have substantial cushioning, and it'll take your feet a little while to adjust to being able to feel every rock and root. But if the shoes aren't comfortable just standing on your carpet, definitely try other models and other sizes.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Talk to me about trail runners on 06/19/2013 08:21:00 MDT Print View

I've been hiking in trail runners for years. I just bought my first pair of zero drop shoes, Merrell Trail Gloves, last fall and have been using them for running and working out and love them. However, after having done some day hikes in them I think I'm going to stick to something with a little more cushion for hiking. I like many aspects of the Trail Gloves, namely the wide toe box and ability to wear them without socks, but they don't have a whole lot of grip and even with the rock plate the sharp rocks still hurt. I've been looking at the Merrell Mix Masters, they're a 4mm drop shoe with decent lugs on the sole but they still have some of the properties of the Trail Gloves. I think, for me at least, a transitional shoe such as the Mix Master will be more comfortable for all day hiking than a "real minimalist" shoe.

If you do decide to go full-on minimalist I agree that you definitely want to get used to it every day rather than reserving their use for the trail. The first week in my Trail Gloves my heels were bruised and my calves were on fire, they definitely take some getting used to.

Adam

Daniel Russell
(Superfluous_Grizzly)

Locale: Creation
Altra Superior on 06/19/2013 13:47:00 MDT Print View

Heard of Altra Lone Peaks? Altra Superiors are, well, superior in every way.

Highly breathable
Lightweight
Versatile
Dry fast
Widest toe box (this makes a big deal in comfort for me)
Zero drop

I have tried all of the above and many more and could not get comfortable... Ill never buy a different shoe.
Going against Ryan Jordans article, the altra lone peaks are a joke unless you have a small toe box - I found them quite clunky.

I can also recommend NB MT00 (4E Width) as a lighter option where comfort is not dramatically sacrificed.
Zero drop or nothing for me though (VFF 7 year vet).

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - M

Locale: Southwest
Re: Talk to me about trail runners on 06/19/2013 19:00:21 MDT Print View

Thanks to all for the replies. Good points were brought up about only wearing low-drop shoes for hiking. To work I wear dress shoes with the typical heel lift, but for casual wear I have a pair of retro Onitsuka Tiger running shoes that have a small drop, as well as a pair of Diesel or some such that seem pretty much flat as well. These don't cause me any significant discomfort, though I am aware of the reduced cushioning and stability. Flip-flops don't present any problem either. I'll try cycling through these and compare the sensations.

I don't hike as much as I would like (Houston isn't very inspirational in that regard - or in any regard that I can think of), so expecting to stay conditioned for hiking in low-drop shoes may not be that realistic. Maybe I should give more thought to whether I should use such a shoe. I really do like the sense of being more connected to the ground, though, and I think the reduced weight would be quite noticeable by the end of the day.

As for a "good shoe store", such a thing seems to be a myth for me. I envision walking into a store and someone says "take your shoes off and let me have a look at your feet", studies them, nods knowingly, and then retrieves several pairs of various brands. My experience is that the store has maybe three brands I might be interested in but not their complete line, and the salesperson says "what size, which one", with a fair chance that they don't have my size in stock. I went to a New Balance store, and even they did not have their full line of trail runners. The only thing in my size was a pair of horrendously ugly tie-dye MT1010s. I expect that the "good shoe store" is located right next to the shop that sells unicorn tears in 5-gallon pails. Ok, end rant. Maybe I just haven't found the right place - if anyone knows the place to go in Houston, let me know.

The quest continues...

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
Re: Re: Talk to me about trail runners on 06/19/2013 19:36:33 MDT Print View

If there's no good brick-and-mortar shop, try the "How it Fits" feature on runningwarehouse.com; they have a good selection of lightweight trail shoes, and you can compare the fit of different models to your current shoe (or another shoe you know fits you well). I think they do free return shipping, too, so you can try things risk-free.

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - M

Locale: Southwest
Re: Talk to me about trail runners on 06/19/2013 20:49:55 MDT Print View

Cool! Thanks Kate, I'll give it a try.

Gaute Lote
(glote) - MLife

Locale: Norway
shoe fitting on 06/20/2013 14:12:05 MDT Print View

My rule of thumb is that any shoe that feels uncomfortable in the store stays in the store...
And you should try walking around the store as much as possible before deciding to buy.
Take as long time as you can and then some...
And obey your feet!
If a shoe feel even slightly uncomfortable try explain why and ask for different model....

The Princess and thePea should be your guiding principle for shoes and boot fit :-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Princess_and_the_Pea

If it's uncomfortably in the store why do you think it might work on the trail?

Clint Hollingsworth
(Wanderclint)

Locale: North Central Wa State
Cheapies on 06/20/2013 15:59:32 MDT Print View

This is a little embarassing to admit, but I've been doing most of my hiking for the last two years in a $19 pair of LA gear running shoes with a $16 Polysorb insole and been pretty comfy. They're more like Mocassins than runners.

However, I have a high country hike planned for August, so I just bought a pair of Brooks Cascadias.

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Re: Talk to me about trail runners on 06/20/2013 16:26:10 MDT Print View

Yeah, you really need to account for a transition period before taking minimalist trail runners out on the trails. In a lot of the places where I backpack it is very rocky, so having a rock plate in the bottom of your shoe is a must. Not all rock plates are equal.

Regarding Inov8, I find all of their shoes sloppy in the uppers.

I own Hoka One One Mafates that I occasionally use for trail running. What an amazing shoe for rocky conditions and long downhills but they look silly. I'd be interested to know anyone that backpacks in these. I could definitely see them being used for fastpacking.

Though I own numerous minimalist trail runners and wear nearly every day for work, recreation, casual wear and occasionally trail running, I prefer a little more sturdy trail runner for backpacking. I currently backpack in my Brooks Cascadias. I've owned three models of this shoe and can't praise them enough. I heard that the newest year has problem with the lace eyelets breaking so beware.

Last year I backpacked the Zions Narrows in New Balance MT110s minimalist trail shoes hoping that they would make me more nimble on the constant rocky river bottoms. Out of water they were great! Inside the rivers where your feet are constantly falling between big slippery rocks they didn't offer enough protection and my feet were a lot more sore than I expected.

I also wear a very non-aggressive pair of Vibram 5-fingers a lot. They are great for hiking on soft dirt trails, fly fishing and as camp shoes. They are super light.

Good luck with your transition!

Edited by smarchet on 06/20/2013 16:33:28 MDT.

ayres christ
(ayres) - F

Locale: hawaii & southern appalachia
some pointers on 06/27/2013 03:13:17 MDT Print View

hi stephen, shoe fit is as particular as it gets... my standard: even after a year of daily wear, your foot should feel comfortable in that shoe for an entire day.

a little over three years ago, i was at a rehearsal dinner and started chatting with an orthopedic surgeon who also runs. i was having issues finding the right shoes. he told me: go to the best shoe store you can find and get fitted. make sure it's a correct fit. once you're sure, buy many more pairs. this comes from a guy who makes a living repairing peoples joints. i figure he's the expert.

you're in houston? guarantee there's some great running shoe stores there (4th largest city in the nation, right?). absolutely. but understand that even the best sales clerks are going on your feedback. one thing you will absolutely have to shed is the notion that style plays a role. shoes now are ugly. really ugly. a pair that you find horrendously ugly may be the perfect fit. and once you get the right shoe on your foot, nothing else matters.

so, three years ago, after sustaining some ankle problems from terribly inappropriate running shoes, i took that surgeon's advice, and i was blessed to be fitted for the perfect pair - brooks dyad 5 (a neutral runner with added cushion). i subsequently bought six more pairs (after the dyad 6 came out and the 5 went on sale) just to have ready. i'm only on the fourth pair: the third is for daily wear, the fourth is only for exercising. when the third pair becomes too worn, i'll start wearing the 4th daily, and break in #5 for exercising. you get the idea. point being, i found a shoe that fit my foot and complimented my gait. i use #2 for hiking.

whenever i'm curious to see what a different shoe feels like, i wear my daily beater brooks to the shoe store, but i also bring with me a new, unused dyad 5 for comparison. and that's what you need to do. bring with you a reference. it helps tremendously. being in a shoe store can be overwhelming, and if you don't have a reference to wear on one foot while you try on another, you can never be too sure.

as a testament to how perfect the dyad 5 has been for me - even after six months of daily wear, i can keep them on for 12 hours, and my feet don't hurt at the end of the day. and NO ORTHOTICS OR AFTERMARKET INSOLES. that's a real no-no. if you have to buy an insole to make the shoe comfortable, then it's the wrong shoe. that's what many of the die hard runners say, and i agree. trust me, there is a shoe out there that will fit.

the nice thing about a company like brooks (& other running shoe companies) is that they have continuity with their shoe lines. so when i run out of dyad 5s, i'll find a shoe with the exact same fit. also, their cascadia trail runner has the same foot bed as the dyad, so i'm guaranteed to get an identical fit if i ever choose to buy a cascadia rather than wear my retired dyads.

so take the time to hunt out a good shoe from a good company. they pay for themselves over time. and don't mistake a store's abundance with that store being good. sports authority has tons of shoes, but they know very little. the running store where i got my brooks has 1/16 of the shoe variety and selection that sports authority has, but each shoe they carry is specifically picked to meet a certain foot/gait type. they watched me walk, they watched me jog and run, they looked at my previous shoes, and asked me questions.

if you're not getting that kind of treatment from a running store, then go to another. good luck

Cole Crawford
(CDC43339) - F

Locale: Omaha
Store on 06/27/2013 08:44:23 MDT Print View

If you're looking to get a good fit the first time you definitely need to look for the right store. My main running shoe store is like the OP envisioned - all the help are runners and are really passionate about what they do. You walk in and get a foot measurement and pressure analysis to map your foot shape. They ask you what shoes you've run in before and what your activity requirements are, so they can transition you to a different shoe or have an idea of what will fit you. Then they bring multiple shoes from different manufacturers and watch you walk in them to have an idea of your gait. I never knew that I pronated as much as I do until visiting the store. They will also let you run on a treadmill in-store to get a better idea of the fit. And they have a 30-day return policy, which I have used before when a pair of Saucony's started rubbing the wrong way and gave me blisters. No problems, and they helped me find a new pair that didn't rub.

You can't get this kind of service at most big box stores, but in a city as large as Houston you should be able to find a local store that can do most of this for you. I usually shop in-store and buy online for the price savings, but I make this store an exception - the owner deserves my business for running such a great operation.