Thursday, February 10, 2011
I don't even know where to start on this subject. Up until I purchased my first pair of trial shoes about 5 years ago I ran trails in my regular NIKE road running shoes, probably "Structures" and they seemed fine. The problem was I kept rolling my left ankle and had a few pretty good falls. Shoes designed for road running have a lot of heal padding and a very wide platform. By wide platform, I mean that if you look at a road shoe from behind, the midsole and sole almost form a triangle. The Nike Structure's sole was about 1/3 wider than the heel pocket. The widest point on the sole (at the heel) is almost 4 inches wide - my heel is about 2 1/2 inches wide. That is a big difference. That design works great on roads or smooth trails. If, however, you do roll you ankle, the wide base exaggerates the effects of the roll and potentially can cause much more damage than a narrow soled trail shoes.
I couldn't find a picture of a road shoe from behind, so just look at yours and compare. This is a La Sportiva trail shoe. The heel is just a little wider than the heel pocket and has much less padding so your food is much closer to the ground. The point, don't run trails in road shoes.
Now, how do you decide which trail shoes to buy. That was easy when I stared trail running here in Birmingham. The local running store, Trak Shak, only sold a couple of trail shoes, I had run in Nikes all my road running life so I got the a pair of Nike "ZoomAirs." I really liked them and ran my first Imogene Pass Run in them. Trouble was, they fell apart. It was Nike's first attempt at a trail shoe and they simply did not hold up. I was in Chattanooga for the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, in 2007, (my favorite triathlons,) and found out that a local running store specialized in trail shoes. Everyone that worked in the store was a trail runner and they were a great resource for information. They suggested a pair of Asics Gel-Trail-Sensors. They were great shoes and I wore out two pair. In 2008 (I think) I won a pair of Xterra's new trail shoes at the Xterra race at Oak Mountain. They finally shipped them to me almost a year later, but I really liked them too and wore out two pair of them. They are a little heavy and there were a lot of very light trail shoes coming on the market. If each shoe weighs 1 oz more than another brand, how many weight do you suppose your legs lift over 100 miles?
I called an acquaintance, and fellow trail runner, Dink Taylor who owns the Fleet Feet in Huntsville, Alabama. If you want to be impressed, read his bio. He suggested either Montrail Mountain Masochist Trail Shoes or Inov-8 Rockliet 295s. I had talked to several people that had Inov-8s and really liked them, including Dink. I got the Inov-8s. At first I didn't like them at all. I was accustomed to wearing shoes I could tie the laces once and after that just slip my feet in them and go. I tried that with the Inov-8s and that did not work. They hurt my toes, especially my big tows on both feet. I thought I would have to switch to the Montrails. I kept adjusting the laces until I got them right. I still have to tie them every time I put them on but I love them. I know a lot of people swear by the Mountain Masochist shoes, too. My Inov-8s are about worn or and I need to get a new pair. I have considered trying a pair of the Masochist but I am so happy with the Rocklites that I will probably stay with them.
Over the last three years the market has been flooded by new trail shoes. Unfortunately, the only way to really know if a particular shoe is right for you is to take them out for a trail run. I think the most important factor with regard to fit and comfort of a particular trail shoe is, "does it fits you foot"? (Boy, that is profound!) No matter how good a shoe is, if it doesn't fit... Trail Runner Magazine frequently does trail shoe reviews as well as product reviews. You can go to their web site and read the past reviews. If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that has a running store that specializes in trail shoes, you are lucky. If no, give Dink a call at the Huntsville Fleet Feet. They do ship. By the way, Dink and his wife, Suzanne are the force behind and RDs of two great events, the Huntsville Marathon and one of the two best and hardest 50Ks in the southeast, Mountain Mist 50K. (The Mt. Cheaha 50K is the other.)