If you want to rediscover a love of cycling, buy a fatbike... with trail running it's a similar story. To regularly venture off road requires a decent pair of trail shoes that offer grip, comfort, stability, protection, drainage and more.
So which of the shiny sextet of shoes below ticks those disparate boxes? An extended three-month test period gave us plenty of time to bed these in over a whole host of different conditions, including the wettest July since 1914. Each of the pairs was given a series of shorter runs and a 20km stint, with the above credentials as well as value, aesthetics, durability and weight (all weights are for a single UK 7 shoe) all assessed. Enjoyment was also a key factor; if you’re traversing through mud, bogs and worse, you want to enjoy it, right?
MIZUNO WAVE HAYATE 2
Mizuno have produced some belters in recent times, with their Wave Hitogamis scooping plenty of shiny accolades on these pages. Straight out of the box and the narrow Hayate 2s aesthetically disappoint; the heel counter’s fabric looks like something we wore to watch the Levellers at Glastonbury in 1994. Onto the dry trails, however, and these lean and lithe 233g offerings fly, proving nimble and responsive on multiple terrain types, as well as ascents and descents (and impressive on our concrete journey to the trails, too). That weight does come with some compromises, with little protection in the toe box and forefoot from jagged edges. When the heavens opened, however, a fatal flaw was revealed; traversing slippery cobbles, stones and rocks is more terrifying than our art editor on deadline week, and we were soon tip-toeing over anything granite-like after some early slips. Grip is imperative on a trail shoe, so for Mizuno to slip-up so badly here is hard to fathom.
Verdict: Low weight and flexibility make these apt for the dry stuff, but keep them indoors when the heavens open, 59%
INOV-8 TERRACLAW 220
Inov-8 took the Best on Test honour in 2014 with their X-Talon 212, and that fine form continues here. Put simply, the TerraClaw 220 is a great shoe (and one with a great name). That 220 comes not from your favourite triathlon magazine, but the overall weight. They look like a modern day football boot, and fly just as fast across the turf (and trails). For the runners out there preferring stability shoes, there’s not a huge amount of cushioning – plus a minimal 4mm heel-to-toe drop – but there was enough for our needs on bridlepaths and wooded trails, with the lugs remaining stone-free throughout. Like the Mizunos, there’s slender protection in the toe box, which made craggy ascents a little nervy. And in the really heavy stuff? The studded grip was enduringly impressive and unshakably confident, with nary a slip on some soggy summer slopes. For those of you at the edges of the shoe size spectrum for men, however, it’s worth noting that the size range is just 7-12.
Verdict: Pricey perhaps, but you pay for quality and the TerraClaw are exactly that. Outstanding, 92%
MERRELL ALL OUT CHARGE
We’ve worn various incarnations of Merrell’s Bare Access trail range to within an inch of their life, so our hopes were high for their tougher, bigger cousins, the All Out Charge. The All Out Charge feature a moderate, 6mm heel-to-toe drop, and the differences with the 0mm drop Bare Access continue with the Charges offering masses of stability in the 27mm stack height and a fit that securely/excessively cradles your foot via Merrell’s HyperWrap system. Sadly, all of these touted virtues deaden any feel for the trails and we were soon running on autopilot, with no feeling for what was under our feet. Oddly, this lack of responsiveness didn’t translate to comfort and we found the outsole to be the harshest and firmest on test here, with that mighty sole adding to the beefy 290g weight (the highest of the six). In terms of benefits, the traction in slippery conditions is among the best here, durability is good and there’s plenty of protection in the toe box.
Overall: Good grip and durability, but purely for ultra stability seekers out there, 64%
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