"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Monday, October 8, 2012

(My) Top Ten Most Anticipated Trail Shoes of 2013

What shoes am I most excited about for the "spring" 2013 trail shoe season?  Here I rank them, 1 being the shoe I am most eager to test, with 10 still being anticipated!

I have reviews posted for a few of these shoes, including:
Asics Gel Fuji Trainer 2
Hoka One One Bondi B 2
La Sportiva Helios

1.  Salomon Sense Mantra - 6mm heel to toe drop makes this shoe seem useful over the LONG run.  6mm really seems to be my sweet spot.  At about 9 ounces, the Mantra is a touch heavier than the Sense, but it still retains many of the innovative technologies (endofit, uniquely lugged outsole, lightweight rock plate) utilized in the S-Lab series shoes.  Salomon makes the best gear on the market, and I have little doubt these shoes will last.

Sense Mantra (Photo Credit Alpenglow sports)

(Photo Credit Alpenglow sports)

2.  Pearl Izumi e:Motion Trail N1/2 - It was actually a tough contest between the Sense Mantra and the new P.I. e:Motion series.  While just about everyone has raved about these new P.I. shoes, my love of the well built Salomon gear won out.  Nonetheless, I have little doubt that Pearl will be putting out a quality product in the new e:Motion shoes.  The "dynamic offset" system is intriguing.  A strong forefoot/midfoot plant compresses the midsole, resulting in the true offset of the shoe.  After his record setting WS100 win in the P.I. N1 Trail, Tim Olson described his N1's as having a 1mm offset at a standstill, but a 4mm offset during the his footstrike, although runningwarehouse's blog states a 6mm offset.  My only concern is that this degree of estimated offset will be highly different between runners of different efficiencies and weight.  They also make a road shoe - which would be great if you really find these shoes to be perfect for you.  I personally am struggling with choosing between the N1 and N2.  Also the color schemes are badass.

N1 Trail (Photo Credit Runningwarehouse)
N2 Trail (Photo Credit Runningwarehouse)

3.  Asic Gel Fuji Trainer and Attack - I personally love Asics Shoes.  The Gel Fuji Racers have been a huge hit, which I hope encourages Asics to continue to make lightweight trail shoes.  Putting in over 1,000 miles in my Gel Fuji Racers, there were more than a few times that I wouldn't have minded a little more protection, as well as not having the bottom vents or drains.  The Gel Fuji Trainer addresses both these issues, at the cost of a little extra weight.  Interestingly, the Fuji series actually includes several other shoes that are available overseas, but not in the USA.  I've been considering a buying a pair from Wiggle, but decided to wait for the US iteration. Which is available for pre-order at both runningwarehouse and roadrunnersports!

Gel Fuji Trainer
Gel Fuji Attack
Gel Fuji Attack (Photo Credit Wiggle)
Fuji Trainer (photo credit Runningwarehouse)

Fuji Trainer outsole (photo credit Runningwarehouse)

4.  La Sportiva Anakonda - I have raced in the Sportiva Crosslite, as well as in the X-Country, and felt like the Crosslite was just too much shoe in the upper, while the X-Country wasn't quite enough in the midsole.  BOOM, La Sportiva read my mind, combined the two shoes, and created the Anakonda.  Advertised as weighing 9.5 ounces, they look to have a very lightweight upper that will drain well, and utilize the amazing rubber that is a trademark of La Sportiva.  Other than that, it is rather difficult to find much more info on these shoes.  To me, the picture says it all.

(Photo Credit one50South blog)
Most similar to X-country outsole (Photo Credit Trailrunningreview)

5.  New Balance M080 - A new minimus model that seems to be under the radar, honestly, I am not even sure if these are supposed to be trail running shoes.  But they have an excellent looking, fully lugged outsole, with sticky Vibram rubber, are built on the well designed Minimus last (NL-1), and have a 4mm drop.  Having raced a 50 miler in the original MT10, I always thought that with a little more protection, and no forefoot strap, they could be perfect.  NB has made several attempts at perfecting the shoe with the MT110, MT20 (v1 and v2), and the MT1010, but small drawbacks have limited my use and/or interest in these shoes.  Hopefully NB finally nails it!

Cool suede looking upper but will it last?  (Photo Credit Runningwarehouse)
Full outsole without any holes!  (Photo Credit Runningwarehouse)

5.  Hoka One One Bondi B 2 -  I'm in the middle of a love-hate relationship with my own Bondi B's.  One of the major flaws I found with these shoes is that the upper is horribly uncomfortable.  Combine this with the fact that your feet are at the mercy of a heavy duty rather inflexible midsole and it can get to be annoying.  On the other hand, these shoes eat up nasty trail and leave the legs feeling fresh.  Updated upper on the Hoka Bondi B 2 indicates a totally new material that looks like it will be much more comfortable and lighter as well.  I have high hopes for this update, considering how much attention Hoka has recieved, I hope they continue to put out innovative new products.  I made these pics from screen shots taken from the speedgoat promo video (so please forgive my crappy computer skills), because I can't find anything out there about these guys.

6.  Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra - The more consumer "friendly" version of the S-Lab Sense, but made to be more durable.  This is achieved by using a firmer midsole (is that a good thing? - Im not sure) as well as giving the shoe more lugs and larger lugs.  On the other hand, they're still quite pricey (180$) and heavier (8oz) so I am not sure if I will own a pair.  While I am still undecided as to if they will be the right shoe for me, I expect to see quite a few people wearing these at Ultras next year.

Black and Red color scheme - I approve (photo credit Utahoutside)

Sense Ultra Outsole (Photo Credit Sam winebaum's blog)

7.  The North Face Ultra Guide and Hypertrack Guide - I ran quite a bit in TNF Single Track Hayasa until the traction disappeared.  They had a good combination of flexibility, protection, and cushion while being light weight.  Also, all TNF shoes I have owned are incredibly comfortable, like the most comfortable.  So this has me expecting a shoe that is pleasant to wear in the ultra and hypertrack guides.  TNF is releasing/updating their trail shoes and has several other offerings coming out this spring, but I think the shoe I am most excited for is the Hypertrack version.  I'm pretty sure this is what Ian Sharman was wearing at UROC 100k, and they are bright!  Specs include an 8mm heel to toe drop, and both models weigh under 10oz.

Hypertrack guide (Photo Upprvalley.com)
Ultratrack (Photo credit Runningwarehouse)

8.  La Sportiva Helios - I really enjoy the occasional run in the Vertical K's.  However, once I hit gravel roads, or trails strewn with gravel, I start to get frustrated with myself for choosing to wear the Vert Ks.  That's because they have no rockplate.  If you catch a sharp stone in the thin area of the morphodynamic midsole, you're in for an eye opener.  That being said, they are super flexible, plenty light, have great traction, and are very fun to run downhill in.  So really all you need to do is add a rockplate.  OK YAY!  Sportiva does this with the introduction of the Helios.  It ups the weight a tad, but if you've spent time in the Vertical K, you know they are so light, a little weight for a tad more protection is no biggie.  Basic anatomy of the Vertical K is maintained, except perhaps a slightly wider platform, to increase stability.  Oh, also it looks like they have include an extra eyelet to help lock down the heel, which I think will be a nice addition.  It'll be cool to see how these shoes do over rocky trail, but I'm disappointed I will have to buy another pair of shoes so similar to a pair I already own (i.e. Vert K).  Also nice colorways.

I've since reviewed the Helios - Check it out here

Blue (photo credit irunfar)

Grey/pink Women's Helios (photo credit Trail running review)

9.  Hoka One One Rapa Nui Comp - Cool to see Hoka trying something a little different as the company continues to grow.  These are what Hoka considers a racing flat :)   Keeping with the traditional Hoka ideal, they have quite a bit of compressible midsole, a rocker-ed profile, and a 5mm heel to toe drop.  Will these be as protective as Hokas normally are?  Probably not, as they appear to have only 2/3s the stack height of a pair of Bondis.  But sometimes all that foam is overkill, so it will be interesting to see how popular these shoes are.  I found all the info for this post on the blog of Ian Corless, the host of Talk Ultra, my absolute favorite podcast. They will also feature a road version.

10.  New Balance 1210 (AKA Leadville) - Last but not least!  I'm 99% sure Anton wouldn't wear these at Leadville, but for the rest of us mortals, its great to see New Balance finally apply themselves to updating the rest of their trail shoe line.  This is achieved through the use of the new Revlite foam they have designed as well as utilizing the Phantom fit upper.  I've heard great things about the Phantom fit upper, and personally love the Revlite foam, so I think these shoes will have a solid following, especially in the midpack ultra community.  Sad to see they are spec'd at a 9mm heel to toe drop, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them move this down to 6mm in following versions.

Vibram Outsole
Not bad looking (Photo credit Runningwarehouse)


  1. the vasque pendulum look pretty darn good too

    1. Eric, you're totally right. I kinda overlooked them as I typically expect Vasque to have more shoe than I usually like, but the Pendulums are getting good reviews.

  2. Very informative. Thanks! I am always looking for over pronator trail shoes. Difficult to find. I am currently using Asics Kahana 6. Love them, but still looking for the over pronator trail right for me.

  3. Did you try the Scott T2 Kinabalu?
    Like the Pearl Izumi N1, the rocker shape seems to make the drop feel different than usual.
    I'll maybe give them a try soon... ;)

  4. I have tried a few different trail shoes, but kept having fitment issues. I was looking for a all around any condition training shoe and found it.