The Slipper Affair

TrailRunMag 14.05.2012

I remember having a pair of red slippers when I was a wee lad that were like a second skin.

In fact I think I wore them so much that they actually grafted. So comfy are they in my memory that I can almost see me lazing back in a big red armchair, in the library, smoking a pipe with a self satisfied grin on my face. A picture of contentment. Except 14 year-olds should not be smoking pipes.

Those slippers remind me of the North Face Single Track Hayasas: bright and light, smoochy comfortable (that’s a technical term), and slippery as hell when the kitchen floor was wet.

A low lug design, with problem areas particularly on the forefoot, is about the only shadow on the Hayasa’s reputation, for otherwise they are dreamboat trail shoe for everything bar the roughest of going.

The back story is that they were designed in collaboration with renowned ultra athlete, TNF-sponsored Tsuyoshi Kaburaki. He’s pretty fast on his feet and wanted his clogs to be as little hinderance in the weight stakes as possible. So he and lab coated ones went about stripping and essentially redefining the ‘Single Tracks’ of old, for these sparkly blue/red/pink are a quantum leap from the old black and white Single Tracks (which were in themselves  – and still are – a damn fine shoe, review here).

Given they still offer decent cushioning, protection and stability, The Hayasas are ridiculously light  – 280g in Size 10.5  Mens – and perfect for trail racing. I tested over 10-28km distances, racking up near on 120km to date on varying style trails – mostly winding single track and fire trail. The result is that when I go to the cupboard full of shoes, and I’m supposed to be sharing the love, my hands and feet are drawn like a magnet to the Ferarri red slippers. They just feel fast. The weight loss has been found by minimising construction elements in the upper, using slimmed mesh and losing some seams to keep only priority welds. The bonus result in a breezy upper is that these shoes drain as fast as they run.

The flip side is that just as my old slippers used to collect toast crumbs, the Hayasas did seem to cup up a fair whack of trail debris around the heel and ankle, the result of the low profile cut. A particular problem after running beaches, which I tend to do on the Surf Coast.

The strange thing for me in running these shoes was that they felt as though they teased ever so slightly into minimalist territory, a good thing for me as I move to a mid-forefoot strike. Yet the specs still show a good 18mm heel with  a  10mm drop (18mm/8mm heel/forefoot). Definitely not minimalist territory! Perhaps it is the overall low profile of the midsole that has you feeling quite low to the ground with excellent trail feel. The balance Kaburaki has found in these shoes is their main strength – they haven’t been stripped to their G-String barest as is the trend with brands latching onto minimalism, yet they are a long way from being built like a Baghdad tank, either.

Some have complained there’s a bit too much trail feel, the odd spike apparently finding its way through the Snakeplate, a protection plate that weaves from front to back. I was never on the end of a spear but did find on sharper trails with lots of smaller rocks that the feet started to cop a pounding some – the Hayasas performing much better when the landing pad underfoot was even.

Under the heel the “EVA CRADLE  cushioning and stability technology” has carried over from the old Single Tracks, and does provide better protection to boot.

The lacing system is one of my favourites: stretchy laces, but old fashioned in that they are, well, laces. No finicky plastic bits to bob and befuddle. But the stretch nature combined with the excellent, even spread of tightening means your foot feel snug in place. Yet when the miles are racking up, and the foot begins to swell, the laces have plenty enough give to ensure you don’t start to suffer from the dreaded forefoot pain that comes with tight laces.

Where the Hayasas do let you down is in the grip department. With relatively low profile lugs, they start to lose grip as conditions get wetter. Get into the mud and you’re a goner, especially downhill. Heel strikers get a little more action with reverse facing lugs at the rear, but forefooters will slide. [Having said that, other reviewers have found the grip more than adequate, as did Ultra168 scribe Marcus Werner in his review here].

Despite the grip issue, it’s a quibble if you’re considering these as a regular go to, because in general your regular go-to trails won’t be the super hardcore, get your Parkour brain firing type techy trail – it’ll be meandering flat pack single track or fire road – which these are perfect for. I’m yet to run more than thirty kays in them at a stretch but the feedback from those that have is they keep your feet fresh in the long run too.

Taking that on board, they’d be perfect for The North Face 100 (except that little slippery section…).

Kinda like milk in the fridge, these could be a staple in your shoe collection.

Another great Hayasa review on iRunFar.

Great for > racing, smooth trails, fire trails, feet swellers, wet conditions (for the drainage), and long runs (apparently)
Not so great for > slippery, muddy trails, brutally shredding trails, highly technical trails
Test conditions > Mixed trail, hardpacked and soft soil, fire-trail, some technical trail with mud and slippery rock conditions, ~95km
Tester > Chris Ord – middleweight (if that) everyman trail runner, completed the Oxfam 100k, a half TNF100, a bush marathon in the Grampians knocking off four highest peaks, a 90km desert run, and more often than not, shorter distance ‘fun’ trail runs.
Tester mechanics > Mild pronation and midfoot to rear (when getting tired) strike, runners knees.
RRP > AU$220
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