Monday, December 3, 2012

Top 5 Trail Running Shoes of 2012

As the year draws to a close and the promise of new and improved trail shoes hangs in the air, I decided that it would be appropriate to make a list of my top 5 Trail Running shoes of the year.  This year the traffic on my blog has increased drastically, and my most read posts are related to shoe reviews.  As a result of that, I have had an increase in manufactures sending me shoes to test and review and/or evaluate.

I only have one absolute rule for what goes on my feet.  The difference between the heel and forefoot cannot exceed 5mm.  My sweet spot for a long distance running shoe is a lightweight upper combined with enough cushioning to run for hours upon hours at a time.  I have sorted my list based on the number of miles I have put on that model this year.  As of this writing I have run 3048 miles.  Over 1500 of those miles were run in these 5 shoes.  With that, I give you my top 5, in descending order. 

Salomon S-Lab Sense

#5 Salomon S-Lab Sense. (56.2 miles)
Pros - Light weight, snug fit, great rock protection, bad ass looking
Cons - Traction could be better, $200 MSRP, reported short life

I love the way these shoes feel.  I have run few miles in them because I'm trying to "save" them for just the right race and training situations.  You can read my review of them here.

New Balance MT1010 Minimus Amp
#4 New Balance MT1010 Minimus AMP (121 miles)
Pros - Light weight, great trail feel, excellent drainage, excellent grip
Cons - "Baggy" fit, minimal rock protection, reports of separation of traction pods from sole

This shoe is growing on me every time I run in them.  The traction is really good, and they are an excellent balance between a barefoot feeling shoe and enough cushioning to run long. You can read my review of them here.

Brooks Pure Grit
#3 Brooks Pure Grit (189.7 miles)
Pros - Roomy Toe-box, nice cushioned ride, incredible ability to drain quickly
Cons - Worst traction in the world, stiff heel counter

These were one of my top shoes for 2011, but I haven't worn them since April of this year.  Even so, I still managed to rack up almost 200 miles on my current pair.  If the traction was so terrible I might have worn them more.  I'm looking forward to the 2013 update to the sole.  Hopefully it will improve.  You can read my review of them here.

New Balance MT110
#2 New Balance MT110 (420.3 miles)
Pros - Race flat like fit, light weight, doesn't cause blisters in long races
Cons - So-so traction, seems to trap dirt and grit inside, outers tear easily

I can't imagine not having a pair of these in my arsenal. I absolutely love how they feel.  They make me feel light on my feet and they channel my inner Anton.  Plus, the silver color is totally disco, and I'm ok with that.  You can read my initial review here and a long term review here.

Hoka One One Bondi Speed
#1 Hoka One One Bondi Speed (723 miles)
Pros - Super soft cushioning, kept me running through injury
Cons - Look goofy, road shoe with minimal off road traction

Thats right, my number one trail shoe for the year isn't even a trail shoe.  Hoka came out with this improved version of the Bondi in late May of this year.  It is basically the Bondi with a better vented upper.  Also different are the speed laces (a traditional pair are included) and speed loops on the tongue and heel.  The tongue is lighter weight material as well.  This shoe has been a God-send when dealing with my incredibly persistent Plantar Fasciitis.  Even though is is a road shoe, the softness of the sole material works far better than you would expect on the trails.  Rocks, roots and anything smaller than a 6 month old child go completely unnoticed as you mow  your way over everything in your path.  Don't knock em till you try them.  I never did get around to writing a review of them, I was to busy running in them.

Hoka One One Stinson Evo Trail

I should also point out that I put 517 miles on a pair of Hoka Stinson Evo's, which IS a trail shoe.  But ever since getting the Bondi Speed I have preferred them.  The toe box is wider, the shoe is better vented and they just feel great.  You can read my review of the Evo's here.

It seems like a lot of people in the trail running world are looking for the same type of shoes as me.  I love how minimal shoes feel but I need more cushioning for all the long miles that I do.  A lot of companies are coming out with my type of shoe for 2013 and I can't wait.  On the top of my list of shoes to try are the Hoka Bondi 2 and Rapa Nui, Pearl Izumi's new E-Motion line, Montrail Fluid Flex, Brooks Pure Grit 2 and some cool shoes I had input on from Skechers.


TC Hazzard said...

Hello Nate: Do you have any information as to whether the Rapa Nui will be based more on the Bondi platform or the Stinson, but with a lower stack height. I assume the Bondi based on a few comments Karl made.

Thanks and keep up the awesome shoe reviews.

P.S. My Stinson EVOs delaminated after a mere 300 miles (actually during the Trans Rockies). Have you had this issue?

T. Buckner said...

Great list!! Thanks! I love the Pure Grit but agree on the sole. Looking at the pictures on Brooks' site, looks like they addressed the issue...I hope so.

Nathan Sanel said...

From what I'm hearing, the Rapa Nui is in testing stage with a fall 2013 release date, if at all. The only thing I have seen on it was on Ian Corless' blog. My Stinson evo's have over 500 miles on them with no delaming at all.

Unknown said...

So, did the Merrell Mix Master 2's come in 6th? I still love mine, and I know you did a pretty thorough review...

Nathan Sanel said...

If I had made a top ten the Mix Master II would have been next. I have actually been running in it for the last few days. It's a great shoe.