Trail running footwear is swinging away from minimalism and finding a supportive sweet spot with midsole cushioning, heel bracing and higher drops. And on the spectrum of neutral-to-plush outsoles, there’s a spotlight on grippy, spike-filled and non-slip outsoles.
“In running we are seeing a return to more drop. The cushioning and the functionality of having a little lift in the heel is not such a bad thing, especially when you’re running,” said Icebug USA President Evan Wert.
While minimalism hasn’t disappeared, many runners are finding they prefer more cushioning for a variety of reasons, including their running form, physique, foot shape or because they are transitioning into a running routine and need the support.
“It depends on what your biomechanics are … I have a fairly flat, flexible foot and have always liked having a little wedge under my heel,” Wert explained. “It helps keep a trampoline effect under the foot and it’s a little easier on your Achilles tendon.”
For 2015, Icebug presents the lightweight and stable Zeal-olx (MSRP $190) — outfitted with 16 fixed carbide-tip studs on its rubber outsoles — and a second non-studded Zeal RB9X (MSRP$180). Both offer 8mm drops, lightweight EVA midsoles and a wrap-around heel-cup molded footbed.
With neutral cushioning, The North Face introduces the Ultra Cardiac (MSRP $120) with a breathable FlashDry upper, resilient Pebax Cradle heel counter and 8mm offset Vibram rubber outsole. The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Boost (MSRP $160) features a midsole constructed for shock absorption and energy return. And with a 6mm drop, Vasqueincorporates its Shapeshifter technology — built to conform to the foot and the trail — in the Trail Bender SST (MSRP $140).
Focusing on light-and-sturdy, La Sportiva updates the Helios SR (MSRP $119)with a softer mesh window for wider-foot comfort, and utilizes Sticky FriXion VA Wave outsoles. With a comparatively thicker midsole and outsole, La Sportiva’s Mutant (MSRP $129) features the Fusiongate Lacing System, a soft-yet-supportive lacing harness that adds reinforcement from the laces to the outsole for a customizable fit. Columbia produces the lightweight Ventrailia (MSRP $90) with midsole ports for air ventilation, welded synthetic overlays for upper support, and non-marking traction rubber outsoles.
Celebrating a decade of the Cascadia, Brooks freshens up the Cascadia 10 (MSRP $120) with a smaller outer rim lug pattern for improved grip and versatility across various surfaces, specifically wet rock. Also reinforcing stability and protection, Sauconymodifies the Peregrine 5 (MSRP $110) with the External Bedrock Outsole midfoot and forefoot plates — which are engineered from durable mesh for flexibility. And Dynafit adds the Boa closure system and Ortholite foam heel to the cushiony Pantera X7 (MSRP $159), which boasts the cantilevered Duo Motion midsole for fluid, natural-motion stability.
“Generally, when you run your foot gets tired and it tends to overpronate,” said Henry Guzman, Dynafit product consultant and race director. “The benefit of using Duo Motion is that there’s more fluidity of the toe, inherent stability and it feels like the foot is rolling naturally instead of the foot hitting a block. You can call it hidden energy.”