At last count there were around 35 zillion new trail running shoes for 2017. So how do you narrow it down to the pair that’s exactly right for you, especially if you don’t have a trail shoe expert anywhere within driving distance? Here are a few tips to get you heading in the right direction.
Think about how you plan on using the shoes. Short, fast runs? Look for a shoe with a low stack height and heel drop that keeps your feet closer to the ground. That provides better stability.
Longer runs like training for a marathon or an ultra require a higher stack height and heel drop. This will provide increased cushioning that will protect your body from long hours on the trail.
Equal amounts of walking and running? Consider a fast hiker that is durable and protective like a hiking shoe but with trail shoe DNA that enables you to hit the gas when the terrain allows.
Runners who run primarily on soft, wet surfaces should look for a heavily lugged sole that will improve traction on slippery terrain.
On the other hand, if your local trails are hard and dry then you can probably get away with shallower lugs, which make the shoes lighter.
Nothing can replace trying a shoe on but many of us don’t have that luxury. Many trail shoe specialists recommend buying trail shoes a half size larger to accommodate the swelling that is a result of long days on the trail. However what you gain in comfort will most likely be sacrificed in agility. So if your priority is a shoe with pinpoint precision for technical terrain then you’ll want to stick with your normal shoe size. But be forewarned that a shoe that’s too small means blackened or lost toenails will play an increasingly prominent role in the future of your feet.
Using the above criteria, and considering my training schedule for a mountain marathon, I decided the best shoe for me this season was the Salomon Sense Pro Max.
But before we start, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to point out that Salomon is a sister company of Sports Tracker. This didn’t affect my review in any way but transparency never hurts, eh?
So, the two biggest factors that helped me make my decision?
- Weight. It’s amazing how light these shoes are. At 290g they would be considered light for a shoe with a much lower stack height. In fact, they’re so light that when you pick them up it’s hard to believe you’ll get any kind of support at all out of them. But guess what the second biggest stoke factor was?
- Although the midsole height is a whopping 30mm under the heel with a 6mm drop, these shoes didn’t give the kind of marshmallow-y feeling I was expecting from a lightweight ‘maxi’ shoe. After just under 100kms in these shoes – primarily on rocky singletrack around Chamonix – I’m still surprised at how firm and stable they are. I did go ahead and bump up a half size, which makes the toe box feel a bit sloppy on steep technical downhills. But having said that, my speed actually increased on many of my most grueling descents because my knees were no longer aching.
Other drawbacks? I was a bit disappointed to find out the grip was not as good as I had expected. I’m attributing this to the shallow lugs on the soles, which of course are part of the reason these shoes are so light. Given the choice, and because these shoes are designed for big days where every gram counts, I believe I’d stick with lighter shoes with shallower lugs and start focusing more on my footwork.
To sum it all up, the Salomon Sense Pro Max has far exceeded my expectations and I’m looking forward to many more great days in the mountains with them. Final verdict: two thumbs up.