With the 2012 Ridge Run less than a month away, it might be helpful to take a summary look at the arsenal of trail shoes I currently have been using and assess their merits for use in the Ridge Run. Remember, my opinions filter down through my biases and preferences. Comfort and protection from the rugged terrain of the Ridge Run rank quite high in my world. I do like a light flexible more minimal shoe, but shoes with these characteristics typically skimp on comfort and protection. The challenge is finding a light flexible shoe that also offers adequate protection, comfort and durability for the Ridge Run.
As I get older (mid fifties), I no longer have the strength, quickness or resiliency that allows me to overcome inadequacies in my footwear. This year I’ve done some training on the Ridge Run course with someone less than half my age. This person is way stronger, quicker and faster than I. And they still have that buoyant resiliency of youth that makes shoe choice less of an issue. It was an eye opener to witness them training on the Ridge in a pair of worn out Nike Frees without any problems or complaints. I can no longer get away with doing something like that.
My current collection of trail shoes ranked by personal preference (pictured left to right) for use in the Ridge Run, are:
- Nike Zoom Trail
- Scarpa Spark
- Hoka Bondi B
- Montrail Rogue Racer
- Brooks Pure Grit
- Altra Lone Peak
- New Balance MT100
Nike Zoom Trail
I’ve used this shoe for many years now and it just plain works. It strong points are comfort and protection. Its weak points are that it is stiff and sports a higher (thicker) heel than I would like. Its outsole is made of sticky rubber and affords great traction in all conditions. The last is straight making them stable and resistant to rolling your ankle. It has a very protective rock plate, but that tends to make them stiff. The air midsole yields lots of cushion.
This shoe is my favorite and number 1 ranked shoe for the Ridge Run. For me, it sets the benchmark for comparison and ranking of other shoes as to their suitability for the Ridge Run. Unfortunately, this shoe has not been in production for a few years now. You can still find a new pair occasionally on eBay.
This shoe is quite similar to the Nike Zoom Trail. It offers even a more protective toe bumper than the Zoom Trail. Its strong points are that is fairly light, comfortable and flexible. It has a protective rock plate, but the plate does not interfere with the shoe’s flexibility. Its weak points are its curved last that makes them unstable and more prone to ankle rolls. I personally do not use them in rocky terrain without ankle braces. The outsole has fairly shallow lugs and lacks the grip of the Zoom Trail. The cushioning is adequate, but not as forgiving as the Zoom Trail.
Hoka Bondi B
Hokas are known for cushion and comfort. When my feet are giving me pain problems I resort to using these. Their strong points are cushion, comfort and protection. Their weak points are their thickness of the sole that makes them a bit clunky (not agile), stiff and requiring more work to run fast in. They are also fragile. The outsole damages easily. Even though the outsole is fairly smooth, its softness offers surprisingly good traction in dry conditions.
Montrail Rogue Racer
The Rogue Racer has surprised me in how well they work. Their strong points are that they are light, flexible but still adequately protective. They have a protective rock plate that somehow allows them to flex easily. Their weak points are the outsole does not offer enough traction and they are a fragile shoe especially on rugged terrain encountered on the Ridge Run. Unless you are light on your feet, these shoes may be destroyed before you even finish the Ridge Run.
The PureGrit is a comfortable, durable, easy flexing shoe. Its strong points are its stability and fit. Its sole geometry makes them stable and resistant to ankle rolls. Its weak points are that it has a bit of a harsh non-cushioned ride, lacks a rock protection plate and its outsole just does not seem to offer much grip.
Altra Lone Peak
The Lone Peak is a comfortable shoe with a zero drop sole. Its strong points are its comfort and moccasin like feel. Its week points are its sloppy fit and slippery insole that lends to your foot sliding around inside them. Its outsole appears grippy, but lacks traction in wet conditions. The shoe also is prone to toe stubbing and tripping. This can be corrected with some modifications. They are the heaviest shoe out of the seven mentioned in this post.
This shoe does not work well for me on rugged rocky terrain. Depending upon your foot type, you may have better success with them.
New Balance MT100
The MT100, along with the MT101, MT10 and many other New Balance trail shoes in the same family are all very light and minimal. They are great for running on smooth trails, roads or the track, but my feet get battered with running on the Ridge Run course with them. Their strong points are their lightness. Their weak points are lack of protection, lack of cushioning and lack of traction. They are the lightest shoe mentioned in this post.
Out of my current crop of trail shoes I own, these would be my last choice for the Ridge Run. Nevertheless, I have seen people do the Ridge Run in them.