REVIEWS: Runners

Today, I'll look quickly into the different type of runners: trail, street, and fell.

There's a vast variety of choices to be made inside each of these three categories, and they are not all-comprehensive. Other types of shoes exist, and many shows fall somewhere in between these categories.

I own the following myself:

Salomon 3D Pro (Trail)
I purchased last year's version of the popular Salomon shoe. It's basically a trail shoe, but can be used in most hill races as well.

On the plus side it's very sturdy, featuring a unique kevlar strap system, and being 100% waterproof gore-tex with a reinforced plastic snout to protect your toes from stone and debris. The cushioning is sufficient for the trails and will be tolerable for shorter spells on tarmac. To top it off, the shoe is very stable, being completely stable and protecting your foot from twists.

On the downside, the shoes is fairly heavy, and the Gore-Text design makes it a very warm shoe, which causes problems with swelling of your foot on very long or very hot races. The kevlar laces are also difficult to replace if they break (touch wood mine won't), and the protective snout can be a real killer on your nails when running downhill, particularly in conjuncotin with the aforementioned swelling.

Would I recommend it, though? Absolutely yes, as a jack-of-all-trades off-road shoe, you get a hell of a lot of versatility from this shoe.

Price Paid: EUR105,- Rating: 4/5

Inov-8 Mudroc 280
One of my later purchases, this Inov-8 shoe is extremely lightweight, and the material is completely flow-through, meaning everything goes quickly into it and quickly back out. This means it's light, fairly comfortable, but won't keep you dry!

The shoe is more aggressively outsoled than the Salomon, with flat studs, and an extremely thin fit, giving you more of a feel of the ground around you. This is also the downside of this shoe, because while you have a better grip in these than in the Salomons, you feel every stone that you hit straight up through the shoe.

In wet and soft conditions, or grassy warm conditions, this shoe beats the Salomon hands down: It's lighter, cooler, and offers better grip.

The shoe is much more fragile though, and the strange lacing system tends to create a bit of pressure on your front feet, making them overly snug. Running a long race on hard ground in this would be inviting not only bruising of your feet but also stress fractures. Moreover, the thin frame leaves you more vulnerable to slipping into small cracks between big rocks or in scree.

Would I buy it again? Absolutely not, as there are better alternatives, but it's a useful shoe nevertheless, and some may like it for their purposes. I imagine it would not do to badly in cross-country.
Price Paid: EUR100 Rating: 2.5/5

Inov-8 Mudclaw 330 (fell)
Another Inov-8 shoe, designed much like the Mudroc, but without it's major flaws. The Mudclaw series is the most aggressively outsoled shoe on the market, making it perfect for all types of difficult ascent and descent, and superior on slippery ground. It is almost as lightweight as the Mudroc, but the extra weight has been spend wisely on strengthening the frame of the shoe, making your feet feel less exposed, and giving the shoe a much better average lifespan.

I wanted to purchase the lighter model, Mudclaw 270, but was warned against it by the friendly clerks in Llanberis. "It's our most returned model," they said, "most of them only last 2 or 3 tough races before falling apart." Well, that's not the kind of shoe you want to fork out EUR100 for, so I took the advice and purchased the sturdier 330 instead.

Having tested it, I can say this: For grip this shoe is in a class of it's own, you'll be flying over difficult terrain and the shoe is still incredibly light and cool compared to the competition. It does share the weaknesses of most of Inov-8s shoes, there's little or no cushioning, so it'll kill your feet on hard surfaces, the studs will also be worn away quickly if you use it too much on rocky routes. Finally, it's very narrow, and even with the extra protection your feet will be more exposed to blunt trauma than in shoes with more traditional designs.

Price Paid: EUR100 Rating: 4/5

ASICS Gell-Nimbus (Street)
If God had designed a running shoe, then this would be it. While the ASICS Nimbus is made for road running, it is solid enough for a lot of trail races, and would be a perfect choice for any trail and forest race.

For your daily training sessions in the city, you'll find no better shoe: Superb cushioning, solid frame, great ventilation and flowthrough. Like all ASICS the main fabric is prone to tears if you are not careful, but this is the natural price of the lightness of the shoe and together with the holes in the front of the shoe contributes to superb coolness and comfort.

If you have a tendency for over or underpronation, however, you should go for one of the specially designed ASICS shoes for those running styles. The NIMBUS offers no correction whatsoever (something contributing to its beauty in my opinion, if you run wrong, go out, train, and fix it, don't rely on your shoe to do it for you), and will cause problems for over and underpronators if they are not aware of this.

Take special note that this year's Nimbus (designed in white, grey, blue and orange) is identical to last year's model in all ways but colour (last year's being white, grey, black, and red), so don't be hoaxed into buying the new, by the old for the reduced price, you'll get full bang for your buck.

Price Paid: EUR85,- Rating: 5/5