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Jun

16

RUN WILD

In the mountains, the running is more often up a talus slope than it is down a concrete path. That’s why we scoured the season’s trail running shoes—from rugged and burly to lightweight and even racy—and put them through the paces on all kinds of wild mountain terrain. Read on to find the best trail shoe for you to have the best summer of mountain running ever. By Lisa Jhung

Altra King MT

Inspired by fell running, an English past-time where crazy Brits charge over soggy moors in terrible weather, the Altra King MT is ready for sloppy terrain. The traction is “incredible” and “seriously awesome,” according to our fleet of shoe testers. And while the standard Altra fit means a very roomy toebox that allows feet to splay naturally—coupled with a zero-drop platform—the Velcro strap across the midfoot locks you in so there’s no slipping within the shoe. Swami gripe: Doesn’t transfer great to an around-town shoe. Swami like: Outsole sheds mud better than most. 8.5 oz. (men’s); 7 oz. (women’s) $140 Altrarunning.com

 

Hoka Speedgoat 2

Hoka fans rejoice: The toothiest version of their thickly cushioned running shoe line got a major update. The biggest difference? The outsole lugs went from shark tooth-like protrusions that clunked on smooth trail, to just-as-grippy, lower profile lugs. The fit is also improved. Our feet now feel integrated into the shoe instead of sitting on a giant stack of foam. All that midsole creates a great shoe for long days out or oft-injured runners; the cush softens blows from rocks underfoot and saves hip and knee joints. Swami gripe: Fits narrow, maybe too slim for some. Swami like: Feels lighter on the foot than it looks, and even than what it reads on the scale. 9.8 oz. (men’s); 8.2 oz. (women’s) $140; hokaoneone.com

 

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4

In a world of maximally cushioned shoes on one end of the spectrum, and minimal shoes on the other, the Wildhorse 4 is a Goldilocks. Responsive foam cushions every step, but doesn’t make us feel disconnected from the trail. Flat-footed testers who pronate felt stable and supported in this shoe, while neutral testers didn’t feel like their stride was overcorrected. Nike Flywire cables help cinch the upper; a rock plate in the midsole blocks rocky jabs. Swami gripe: The combo of lacing and Flywire can tighten the shoe too much for high-volume feet. Swami like: In today’s market, it’s a good value. 10.8 oz. (men’s size 10); 8.8 oz. (women’s size 8) $110; store.nike.com/us/en

 

Saucony Peregrine 7

The Peregrine has long been a favorite of runners who like aggressive tread on an otherwise sleek and comfortable shoe. Look here if you prefer a minimal offset, with a 4mm drop between the heel and forefoot cushioning to promote a natural stride. (The Hoka Speedgoat 2 and Scarpa Spin match that offset.) Our testers found that the comfort runs as deep as the shoe’s super-toothy lugs. This year, a new layer of cushion was added for a bouncy, energy-returning, dynamic feel. Swami gripe: Flat laces must be double-knotted. Swami like: Rugged good looks in an agile, comfy shoe that’s fun to run in. 9.4 oz. (men’s), 8.4 oz. (women’s). $120; saucony.com

 

Salomon Speedcross 4

With its aggressive lug pattern and full-foot protection thanks to a rock plate, and a durable, water-repellent upper, the Speedcross is made for hard-charging mountain running. Testers raved about its long distance comfort—one took it for a 17-mile technical trail run right out of the box. Credit that to a somewhat pronounced arch that supports your feet over the long haul, and a padded interior that eases break-in. It’s a snug-fitting shoe with a narrow profile, which can make it feel tippy on off-camber terrain. Swami gripe: The Kevlar one-pull laces make micro-adjustments difficult. Swami like: The laces are fast. 10.9 oz. (men’s), 9.2 oz. (women’s). $130; salomon.com

 

La Sportiva Akyra

If you’re looking for a super-protective mountain shoe that’s just as comfortable hiking as it is running gnarly terrain, the Akyra is for you—it’s about as bomber as running shoes get. Sticky rubber in an aggressive pattern—especially under the heel—let us grip all surfaces with confidence. Support comes from a pronounced arch, and a hard plastic stabilizer that wraps the lower heel. A rubber toe bumper joins multiple outerlays to protect against jabs and bumps, while still allowing breathability. Swami gripe: It’s not the fastest-feeling shoe. Swami like: Lacing system allows microfit adjustments. 11.35 oz. (men’s) 9.8 oz. (women’s); $140; sportiva.com

 

Scarpa Spin

With its rock climbing roots, Scarpa brings a snug-fitting, rock-gripping, lightweight, shoe to trail runners in the Spin. Our testers found that the shoe leans toward a minimal amount of cushioning, both in the midsole and on the tongue. But that characteristic let us feel connected to the trail as we picked our way through rocks and roots. A rock plate protects against debris, and the Vibram Megagrip Outsole really gripped in a “mega” way. Testers called the Spin “really fun” to run in, and “speed-inspiring.” Swami gripe: Doesn’t come in women’s sizes. Swami like: It’s a nimble and agile ride. 8.9 oz. (men’s) $130; scarpa.com

 

Mizuno Wave Hayate 3

For runners who like to hop in occasional trail races shorter than a marathon—or race all the time, for that matter—the Hayate 3 will not disappoint. A low-profile shoe with great flexibility and a relatively lightweight build made testers “feel speedy.” We also thought the tread did a great job gripping the trail, which again, translates to fast. The toe box runs narrower than the other shoes in this review, but some testers liked that—the more-snug fit afforded great control. Swami gripe: Toe box can feel too shallow on full-volume feet. Swami like: Super breathable, and dries quickly. 8.8 oz. (men’s), 7.6 oz. (women’s) $120; mizunousa.com

 

The North Face Ultra Vertical

The Ultra Vertical is built to run hard up and down mountains, but we liked it on rolling trails, too. For a shoe with such a bomber outsole (Vibram Megagrip), the sole flexes surprisingly well—great for steep ascents. Testers also praised the seemingly custom fit; tiny cables pull snugly around the midfoot, which feels great and adds confidence…no slipping and sloshing within the shoe, even on wild terrain. Swami gripe: Feels bottom-heavy. Swami like: Heel collar is lined with sweat and stink fighting material. 11.4 oz. (men’s), 9.2 oz. (women’s) $125; thenorthface.com

 

Vasque Trailbender

The Trailbender begs for rocky terrain to challenge its cushioning protection—the cushioning wins. Our feet and joints remained happy on long runs in rough country. The traction excelled on rocks and loose, dusty trails, but isn’t toothy enough for mud. A hard plastic heel stabilizer controls wobbly foot strikes (due to gait or terrain). Overall, our testers praised the Trailbender’s comfort and said they’d wear it all day after a run, which adds to its mountain-living versatility. Swami gripe: Can feel a little too squishy. Swami like: Fleece-like lining wicks sweat and adds a soft, extra-sock-like feel. 11.4 oz. (men’s), 9.1 oz. (women’s), $130; rei.com* (sold only through REI until fall)

 

 

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