With light nights and warmer weather now with us, it’s the perfect time to venture off the beaten track and here are some of the latest shoes to help you explore your local trails
VJ – Ultra 2 – £145.00
Using 4mm deep butyl rubber studs for exceptional traction, it’s no wonder the brand claim to offer the best grip on the planet!
On a variety of surfaces from grass to gravel to rock and in varying conditions, we couldn’t put a foot wrong in these shoes. Straight from the box, the sole feels almost sticky to the touch and particularly on wet rock, which is usually the strongest test for this type of off-road shoe, the shoe excels with a surefootedness beyond compare.
Now offering more stability thanks to a slightly wider footprint, the shoe also features a rock plate to protect against the harshest underfoot conditions.
Durability is excellent thanks to the Kevlar woven upper which is now lighter and softer but still features protective overlays all around the foot. The brand’s Fitlock system is a broad band incorporated into the medial side of the upper which wraps under the arch of the foot and adds to the support and secure fit of the shoe.
For an unrivalled grip and great durability, it’s a shoe that goes the distance.
Mizuno – Wave Mujin 9 – £140.00
A little lighter than the previous version, the Mujin 9 still retains the key features that make it a great off-road option.
The cleverly engineered multi-directional pattern of the Michelin rubber outsole provides excellent traction, stability, durability and adaptability on a variety of surfaces. Now 12mm wider across the forefoot footprint, the shoe feels more planted on the trail, adding to the feel of stability and improved traction.
The dual-layer midsole is made up of the brands U4ICX and Enerzy cushioning foams. Combined they give a nice feel of cushioning and stability without being overly soft. This helps retain the sensation of being closely connected to the trail for a confident footing.
TPU support straps incorporated into the heel area of the shoe help create a secure and supportive fit, adding to the stable ride and making this a versatile off-road option.
ASICS – Gel Trabuco 11 – £145.00
An excellent door-to-trail option, the Trabuco feels very much like a highly cushioned road shoe with an off-road outsole.
The FF Blast cushioning with a Gel insert in the heel really does soak up the impact and makes this a shoe that could cover many miles on any surface. There’s 2mm more cushioning under the forefoot than the previous version as well as a rock plate to prevent sharp stones from penetrating it on harsh terrain.
The breathable mesh upper again has a road-like feel, so it feels comfortable from the first step inside. Added protection around the toe keeps the undergrowth at bay and aids durability.
For max off-road cushioning, it’s a great choice.
INOV-8 – Trailfly G270 v2 – £150.00
With a lab-tested more durable upper, the G270 is made to go the distance.
A zero drop, 12mm stack of cushioning gives it a connected feel of the ground making it easy to move quickly across unpredictable terrain. While that 12mm sounds a little low, it does a great job of cushioning by using the brand’s Powerflow Max foam combined with their Boomerang footbed (a super-soft and almost springy insole).
The 4mm deep Graphene lugs provide traction which proves to be exceptionally durable. As with all the brand’s shoes the number (in this case 270) indicates the weight of the shoe. At 270 grams it is light thanks to a great wraparound fit it disappears on the foot and feels even lighter on the move.
It’s a great option for moving fast across uneven ground thanks to the low stack yet cushioned feel.
Nike – Pegasus Trail 4 GTX – £144.95
One of the most popular road running shoes of all time with a waterproof upper and go-anywhere sole, is this the perfect trail shoe?
Well, it certainly ticks a lot of the boxes. The React foam cushioning is a little different from the road-going Pegasus but here proves to be light and more importantly durable. Combined with an outsole design that provides good traction when both descending and ascending steep trails, the underfoot performance is great.
Gore-Tex invisible fit waterproofing is a welcome addition if you happen to encounter a slightly larger than usual puddle of even long wet grass as it keeps your feet warm and dry.
Ultimately a very easy to get on with multi-use shoe with great step-in comfort that remains wherever you venture.
Brooks – Catamount 2 – £160.00
Whereas the original Catamount felt more like a trail racer, this update gives the shoe a wider appeal and more versatility thanks to a deeper stack of cushioning. It’s the brand’s DNA Flash midsole used in this shoe, a nitrogen-injected material that offers a light, cushioned and highly responsive ride, it’s also very durable as we’ve found out in the brand’s Glycerin road running model.
A Skyvault propulsion plate is embedded into the midsole and although the shoe does feel responsive the plate serves more to add protection from sharp rocks. The TrailTack rubber offers ‘sticky’ traction on rocks but also serves well across a variety of surfaces.
The clever dual-sided mesh upper has an abrasion-resistant outer side and a soft, quick-drying inner and is put together to the same high standard we’ve come to expect from Brooks.
For the feel of a responsive road racer in an off-road model, it’s a great choice.
Saucony – Peregrine 13 – £130.00
The most established trail shoe in our line-up, the 13th edition of the Peregrine continues to offer a great blend of cushioning and grip in a shoe that seems to become more comfortable with each update.
The 28mm stack of PWRRUN foam provides road-shoe-like levels of cushioning but when combined with the brand’s PWRTRAC outsole, the aggressive grip transforms it into an off-road shoe capable of taking on the harshest terrain. Despite the deep 28mm stack height, the shoe remains super-light at just 260g, so it never feels heavy, even when wet.
The upper is light, breathable and soft around the foot but with added protection around the toe bumper where you’ll need it most.
It’s a competitively priced option that you can confidently venture off the beaten track in.
Merrell – MTL Skyline 2 – £170.00
At just 198g, this shoe is the lightest in this line-up. It’s most definitely a trail racer rather than an everyday off-road shoe and is designed for moving fast.
Compared to many of the other shoes featured here it’s a more minimal affair, with low-profile cushioning encasing a FlexPlate. This plate acts to add stability and protection as well as provide a responsive toe-off. Despite not being carbon, it does give a nice spring-like effect but that’s only noticeable on firmer surfaces.
The outsole uses Vibram Metagrip and features large cut-away sections to keep weight down and aid flexibility. It has 5mm deep lugs that provide great grip in wet and dry conditions.
The upper is more akin to that of a road racing shoe, super lightweight, again making this best for race day than the more demanding requirements of everyday off-roading.
The North Face – Summit Vectiv Pro – £225.00
Aimed perhaps more at ultra-distance trail races such as the UTMB, the Vectiv Pro offers high stack cushioning and a carbon-fibre plate usually seen on top-end road racers.
The 33mm stack of foam and deep rocker offers the feel of a road shoe along with the now familiar carbon-plate toe-off effect. Combined with the 3.5mm outsole lugs we have a package that can cover long distances with a propulsive feel for mile after mile on rugged terrain.
The shoe copes well with gravel and firmer trail surfaces for which it is aimed more so than muddy paths and tracks. But as always with trail shoes it’s ‘horses for courses’ on in its intended habitat the shoe excels.
A light, breathable mesh upper is again suited to warmer weather but it’s much more durable than it first appears. For ultra-events the cushioning and feel keep on going mile after mile.
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