Pumped-up kicks: Trail running brands find their cushioned sweet spot

Check out the new shoes destined for running trails in 2014.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Last spring was all about the pendulum of trail running footwear swinging from minimalist back to the middle.

The pendulum might stop here.

Offerings for spring 2014 provide more cushion and protection for runners, but with a few twists — including new lightweight design efficiencies and a focus on sticky rubber. Overall, manufacturers are taking the benefits of the minimalism movement and applying them to their cushioned, yet lightweight, product offerings.

“You’re going to see a simplification across our line,” said New Balance’s Bryan Gothie, senior product manager. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure that as we continue to build our line, we simplify and are smarter with the usage and amount of materials.”

Michael Thompson, product line manager for run footwear and apparel at Pearl Izumi, said next year’s footwear will be more efficient with construction.

“Manufacturers are removing unnecessary weight and overbuilt constructions,” Thompson said. “They’re really looking at products and saying, ‘What can I remove and what can I add to a traditional running shoe.’”

TrailRunningFootwear_PearlIzumi_MensEMROADNØ
TrailRunningFootwear_Brooks_PureCadence3

Pearl Izumifocuses on efficiency with its lightweight Em Road N Zero (MSRP $100, first photo above), designed for distances from 5K to half-marathon. It is a neutral, lightweight shoe. Brooks launches version three of its highly successful PureProject line, which includes the minimal-inspired, yet fully protected PureConnect 3 (MSRP $100), PureFlow 3 (MSRP $100) and PureCadence 3 (MSRP $120, second photo above). All models have a rounded 360-degree Ideal Heel; a repositioned toe flex to allow the first two toes to work as a functional unit; and changes to the upper wrap for a more conforming fit.

TrailRunningFootwear_Inov8_TRI-X-TREME275

Another road offering comes from Inov-8 in its Tri-X-Treme 275 (MSRP $130) and Tri-X-Treme 245 (MSRP $130). The outsole utilizes sticky rubber pads on high-wear areas and MegaFlex groove for added flexibility. The combination EVA and blown-rubber midsole keeps the shoe lightweight, yet durable.

New Balance brings a low-profile, lightweight offering to the table with its Trail Zero Zero V2 (MSRP $110), a zero-drop update to the Minimus Trail, which has a simple midsole platform and outsole design. Patagonia Footwear’sEVERlong (MSRP $110) with minimal cushioning for terrain sensitivity is inspired by road shoes. The company also launches the Tsali 3.0 (MSRP $110), which has been updated with a welded upper and improved heel fit.

The stability-meets-minimalist concept is evident with Saucony’s launch of the Guide 7 (MSRP $120), a 10-ounce stability shoe. It’s light because of the Compound IBR Plus injection blown rubber outsole, which weighs less than traditional blown rubber.

TrailRunningFootwear_Scarpa_IgniteMens

Another lightweight trail runner comes in Scarpa’sIgnite and Ignite Women’s (MSRP $125). Both have an 8mm drop for increased cushioning, high-traction outsole, an injected EVA midsole for a well-balanced ride and a webbing exoskeleton for support. Karhu’s lightweight stability models — the Fluid Fulcrum and Steady Fulcrum (both MSRP $125) — have a moderate 8mm drop and injection molding in the midsole for that bouncy feeling.

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King of cushion Hoka One One , now under new ownership at Deckers, brings its Conquest (MSRP $170), with a highly breathable, layered, no-sew upper that provides a secure fit. The shoes feature the Rmat midsole material, bringing runners maximum cushion with minimal weight.

Icebug_Enlightt

Teva launches the Tevasphere Rally (MSRP $90), a price-point-accessible product inspired by mud running and outdoor cross training. The outsole features Teva Spider 365 rubber with an aggressive traction pattern. Icebug plays in the summer, too, while maintaining its grip story, launching the Enlight RB9X (MSRP $160, photo above). It incorporates the company’s proprietary sticky rubber for increased traction. Another model using sticky rubber on the outsole is La Sportiva’s Bushido (MSRP $125). The shoe, which has a 6mm drop, is designed for racing.

TrailRunningFootwear_Treksta_AlterEgo

TrekSta revamps its entire line and launches a fresh-looking, bright collection including the Alter Ego (MSRP $120, photo above). Products have a lightweight, porous midsole material called phylon. Its outsole is TrekSta’s proprietary HyperGrip rubber.

TrailRunningFootwear_Dynafit_PanteraWomens

Dynafit designed the Pantera (MSRP $139) for ultra trail runs and long hikes. The shoe offers control and balance with every foot strike. The Vibram Mapping Compound sole is constructed from three distinct rubber compounds that allow the shoe to adapt to all types of terrain.

Merrell teamed up with Jay Dicharry of REP Biomechanics Lab at Rebound Physical Therapy to develop its latest AllOut trail running shoe (MSRP N/A). The shoe is designed to allow a user’s foot to load and unload energy to make it easier on an athlete’s body.

While some minimalist trends have swung back, zero-drop platforms are here to stay.

TrailRunningFootwear_SKORA_FITWomen

Skora, which specializes in zero-drop footwear, introduces a cushioned training shoe in the Skora Fit (MSRP $95, photo above). The shoes utilize the same platform Skora used in its Base, but the company made the outsole rubber sticker and a bit thicker.

“It’s great for putting in those miles, but also versatile for going to the gym or going to CrossFit,” said David Sypniewski, founder and CEO of Skora.

PerformanceFootwer_Altra_LonePeak1.5

Altra Footwear launches the Lone Peak 1.5 (MSRP $115) a lightweight, zero-drop shoe with rock plate and gaitor traps. Its road counterpart, Superior 1.5 (MSRP $100), has similar features but also has a removable rock plate.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to ...read more