Shoe Reviews

Shoes. With all the different brands, styles and fads, it’s hard to figure out which shoe is the right one for you.  Over the past few years I’ve tried out a few different lines of trail shoes, and I thought It’d be fun to share my thoughts on them. I’ve never been the kind of person who buys things simply because it’s “what the cool kids are doing“, so I’ve been hesitant to spend the money on Salomons. I really wanted to do my own thinking and come up with that awesome shoe that noone knew about.

Strike One: the Asics Trail Shoe:

I was pretty excited when I bought these shoes, paying over $120 for them. They looked cool, had good ventilation and seemed lightweight.  Well, to make a long story short..they sucked. The laces didn’t stay tied, they held water and I got a lot of blisters. Running in wet conditions was like wearing roller skates. 

Strike Two: The Hi-Tec Infinity-Lite

At first, I LOVED these shoes. Never before had I experienced so much traction and breathability. While running in these shoes, you can literally feel the air moving through them. They drain water very efficiently, the laces stay tied and they’ve got that handy hoop on the back so you can clip them to your pack while cycling.  All this, AND you can find them at steeply discounted prices on ebay.

The one major problem with this shoe is its lack of durability.  I’ve owned 3 pair of these shoes, and they all fell apart in nearly the exact same way. Before the 2012 Berryman 24 hour race, I bought a brand new pair of these, and the tread literally fell off halfway through the race.  I was understandably pissed off, so I called their customer service people later in the week. Their response: “Wow, that sucks. ” Thanks, Hi-Tec..thanks a lot.

Then one day I got lucky and found a Merrell outlet having a clearance sale…

Big success! – The Merrell Mix Master

What a great shoe. I found these babies on sale for $40. They drain water wonderfully, breathe magnificently, are durable and they look cool .  Win-win, especially for $40. If I could own 10 pairs of them, I would.

My only issue is that since the sole is so thin, I can “feel” the trail a little too well. I suspect this has more to do with my body-weight than anything, so we’ll overlook that. These are excellent shoes for adventure racing, no doubt about it.

The Hoka One One Stinson Trail Shoe.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

If I could describe the Hoka trail shoe in two words, those words  would be “Holy Shit”. These shoes have literally solved 95% of my running problems, with the other 5% being comprised of obesity and lack of motivation. Shinsplints..gone. Uber painful calf cramps…gone. Knee pain..gone. Shit, I think my teeth have even gotten whiter since I started wearing these shoes.

 My one and only complaint is that they don’t really shed water very well. But seriously, these are the best and lightest  trail shoes you’ll find. You can step on rocks and never feel them! These shoes have given me the ability to run downhill, and that’s not something I’ve been able to do until now.  I seriously think these skins are some gonna be a major game-changer for me.

So…those are my thoughts on AR-specific trail shoes. Someday I’ll own a pair of Salomons, but for now I’m a Merrell/Hoka man.  Feel free to call me a dumbass in the comments section and/or share your own opinions.

About Bob Jenkins

Crusher of beers.

Posted on August 27, 2013, in Adventure Racing, Gear, Gear Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Dumb ass…with cool shoes I may be trying the Hokas after sampling yours

  2. Boy, you guys are really getting into the spirit of this!

  3. I wear the Mix Master II. Love them.

  4. I think you’re brilliant. And selfless for trying out all these shoes so we don’t have to. Not naming names (BVW and Dave), but anyone who doesn’t recognize that must be a dumbass.

    I’ve had two pairs of Asics trails shoes, both of which cost about $70 because they were a season or two behind. I absolutely love them for trail running (though you’re absolutely right about keeping them tied, even with double knots), but the uppers don’t stand up to off-trail conditions. Just ask Luke. I’m pretty sure he endured a long, boring conversation about this very thing.

    • I did? Um… Yeah… I remember that. I definitely did NOT tune you out for that whole “interesting” conversation.

      I’ve used lots of shoes:

      The Salomon XT Wings are great, but they never quite fit my feet right.

      I’ve used Vasque Velocity shoes, and I really like them too. Not quite durable enough, though.

      My Inov8 Terrocs are currently in my rotation (mostly because I got them for $35). They are a solid shoe, but for long races, there isn’t enough padding for me. I still use them on shorter sections of races or for some short trail runs.

      And then my new favorite of course is the Hoka One One Muffate 2. Similar to Bob’s Stinsons in all regards – lightweight, very comfortable and cushioned, my feet feel great all day, but they don’t shed water all that well. At Leadville when I was pacing (did I mention I went to CO a couple weeks ago?) I crossed a river in them, and I stuffed them with newspaper and they were dry enough a couple hours later.

  5. You went to Colorado? I can’t find the trip report posted anywhere.

  6. I really wanted a pair of Salomons XT Wings but they just never seemed to fit my feet right. I have had a pair of North Face shoes I loved (my first ever pair), I liked my Vasque pair as well. Still in my rotation are my Inov8 and my most recent addition –> Hoka One One Stinson. (I’ll post specific names once I get home and find my old shoes if any really wants to know.)

    I also played around with a pair of the kangaroo leather 5 Fingers. I like them for shorter races (5-10 miles) pretty well. However, I found that if you choose to bushwack, you got grass and twigs stuck between your toes. They breathe well, drain water great, and you can feel every rock and stick (if that’s your thing).

    When buying shoes, I look for three things: 1) How do they feel on my feet. If they are uncomfortable in the store, they’ll be more even uncomfortable after 20+ hours in the woods (plus your feet will be destroyed). 2) How well they drain water (avoid water proof and water resistant unless you stay on the trail and never have to cross water). 3) Minimal heel drop. Plus it has to look cool and make me taller –> which the Hokas definitely do. I Kate doesn’t get a pair, Luke will be taller at the next race.

    PREDICTION –> Big Burrito Brother wins this years TV Fantasy Football League.

  7. I forgot –> Dumb Ass!

  8. I will be getting a pair of Hokas. When is the question, but my current running shoes are about done.

  9. Bob, you’re a dumbass. But so am I. I actually wear plain old running shoes on the trails.

  10. Salomon XA Pro 3D Best lacing system, drain and dry quick and perfect mixture of grip, protection and feel in a lightweight trail runner. I have had 3 pair and my son has had two. The last about a year at best and cost about$120. I may go to their Speedcross model next time though. A little more aggressive tread and a bit lighter.

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