Shoe Review: La Sportiva Jackal II BOAs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: GILES PENFOLD

THE JACK(AL) OF ALL TRADES

REMEMBER WHEN MARTY FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE II WAS STOKED AS HIS SELF-TYING SHOES WRAPPED ABOUT HIS FEEL?

I felt the same when I first unboxed a pair of the Jackall II BOA’s, twisting my fingers to tighten the dials on their new lacing system.

The La Sportiva Jackal II BOA is a new addition to the range, adding panache(!) and exciting new features as compared to its predecessor, the Jackal I. I’ve owned a pair of this original model and thrashed them around for a while now, so I was eager to find out how the latest changes faired on my feet.

THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR: Technical terrain, medium to long distances
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Short distances, speed work
TEST CONDITIONS: Rocky, dry, technical terrain
TESTER: Giles Penfold
TESTER MECHANICS: Neutral

The new model is high-performance designed specifically for sky races and off-road technical terrain spanning medium to long distances. Born from the collaboration between La Sportiva and BOA Technologies, the shoe embodies a fusion of stability, precision and a secure yet comfortable fit.

For context, I mainly tested these shoes on long trail runs (2hrs+) as well as throwing in a few faster hill sessions into the mix. The majority of the terrain was quite rocky and technical, and I was pleasantly surprised as to how they held up. Zero foot issues and slippage combined with relatively dry feet proved themselves early on.

Weighing in at 300g, this is about the standard for a solid trail shoe, and goes without saying that the BOA lacing system adds a little extra weight: a compromise which is well worth it in the scheme of things. Needless to say, if this were a track shoe (captain obvious to the rescue), or even a fast short distance trail shoe, its heft would be concerning. Good thing it’s the opposite – a work horse shoe designed to attack rugged landscapes.

The BOA lacing system looks cutting edge, and I eventually found myself questioning how it would perform on the trails. I put 250km into this particular pair and can honestly say the lacing system is more than mere eye candy. Their simplicity and ease of use is impressive, and serves as quite the paradox compared to its high tech futuristic appearance.

Some direction for users: to tighten the shoes, you simply push the dials and twist them in a clockwise direction. Seeing as La Sportivas usually run quite snug (Helios model excepted), I opted to keep the laces loose most of the time. When approaching a downhill, I’d quickly tighten them in a fraction of a second and go bombs away with confidence, in place of toe carnage.

In terms of drop, the shoe’s 7mm remains the same as previous models, with a moderate stack height of 29-22mm. This gives it enough protection to take on technical terrain but also doesn’t numb things to the point where your feet have no idea what’s beneath them. Its 3.5mm diamond shaped lugs feel tough and are convincingly cut out for dry, rocky conditions. I’ve been flogging these through seriously arid, rugged terrain and few other shoes I’ve used would better suit this landscape.

The outsole also features La Sportiva’s signature FriXion XF 2.0 rubber, which is their stickiest and grippiest compound. The trade-off is presumed to be lower durability but so far, the sole on my pair has shown only trace amounts of wear and tear. As long as the upper holds up, expect these to last anywhere between 800km and 1000km. Solid.

The midsole is a combination of EVA and Infinitoo PU inserts, giving it that long distance cushion and trail stability. I found it quite firm, which inherently means it isn’t as pliable and responsive as other models – makes a lot of sense for a long distance technical cleat though. Compared to its original version, the Jackal II BOA has a more flexible and breathable upper that uses recycled fabrics. Big thumbs up there.

The built-in gaiter also does a great job at keeping out debris, offering subtle support to the ankle. I initially saw this as an unnecessary feature but the more I used them, the more I enjoyed this feature.

Overall, La Sportiva have nailed the updated features on the Jackal II BOA. Its traction and fit are of the highest calibre, and alongside its long distance cushion, the shoe is an excellent option for the most technical of trails.

VITALS
RRP: $319.95 AUD
WEBSITE: lasportiva.com/au
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by La Sportiva

Shoe Review: The North Face Enduris 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: GILES PENFOLD

THE ENDURIS 3 ENDURES THE TEST OF TIME

IN NEED OF AN EVERYDAY TRAINER THAT GETS THE JOB DONE JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE? Meet the new Vector Enduris 3.

Hot off the press, this shoe is part of The North Face’s latest line-up, a star studded bunch that was tested at UTMB by top athletes and amateurs alike. I haven’t experienced their shoes until now, but given the brand is synonymous with quality outdoor gear, my expectations are high. I still remember how stoked I was about receiving a TNF jumper hand-me down as a kid…and I’m pretty sure my younger cousin now wears it.

According to their website, this third version of the Vectiv Enduris is all about versatility, balanced stability, cushioning and traction. With this in mind, I went out and pounded the pavement, ran some trails, and heck, even dragged them along to the gym a handful of times.

In terms of feel, I’m a sucker for a more minimalist shoe and the Vectiv Enduris are by no means a barefoot shoe. With that said, I gradually warmed to its generous cushioning. The 31mm/25mm stack height feels really supportive and has a springiness that I’m not used to (plus it doesn’t cook your achilles or calves). I also noticed its generous toe box, something that a lot of brands are starting to catch on to, with this model genuinely letting your feet splay and grip the trails when necessary. It took me a few jogs to get used to the Enduris’ high cushion but once acclimated I actually surprised myself, describing them to a friend as ‘damn comfy’. First box: ticked.

‘How are the Enduris performance-wise?’ the same mate asks me. The short answer? Solid. The longer answer? Solid with a caveat. Let me explain.

As the most approachable and beginner-friendly shoes of the TNF line, their purpose isn’t to be flogged or redline on a speed 25k or 50k trial race. Instead, their objective is as an all-rounder, and who doesn’t love an all-rounder? After a few weeks of becoming acquainted, I found myself nonchalantly wearing this pair all over the shop. If you really want to scream ‘I’m a runner!’ to the world, I suggest wearing the neon colourway to your local gym.

Bonus points if you wear skimpy split shorts as well.

Jokes aside, the Enduris 3 held up just fine during my sets of calf raises, Olympic lifts and plyometrics. Side note: If you’re a more experienced runner looking for a high performance shoe, I’d go for something like the Vectiv Sky or Vectiv Pro (both pairs are carbon plated).

By now, I’ve hopefully insinuated that the versatility on the Enduris 3 is epic! I tested these on slow road runs and also picked up the pace on non-technical trails. For context, the longest trot I took them on was 22k, and by the end of it I felt like I was gliding on clouds (more on this in tech specs below). The verdict though? They held up considerably better than I’d anticipated and felt easy to run in.

Here’s the low-down on the shoe’s tech specifications. First things first, they’re quite light compared to similarly cushioned shoes from competing brands (Men’s 307g, Women’s 257g). The 6mm drop remains the same as previous models of the Enduris, however notable changes include an extra 2mm of stack with a revised EVA formula and a more comfortable overall design. The rockered midsole is definitely a highlight, ‘delivering forward propulsion’ according to TNF. I was initially sceptical about this feature, but found that once I got in the groove on a run, the rocker genuinely did its job, propelling me forward and making things feel easy (also referred to as ‘gliding on clouds’, patent pending).

The outsole carries 3.5mm lugs which held up well on the trail, although I didn’t wear these through particularly muddy terrain. The upper feels roomy and yet, the foot locks in nicely.

Overall, the Enduris 3 is a great all round trainer and runner that won me over. It’s a no frills, dependable shoe that has a strong combination of cushioning, traction and versatility. It’s also the most affordable pick of the Vectiv range, and comes in two striking colourways. An excellent update from The North Face.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Everyday training, terrain variety
NOT SO GREAT FOR: High performance races
TEST CONDITIONS: Hard-packed dirt, paved road, pea gravel
TESTER: Giles Penfold
TESTER MECHANICS: Neutral

VITALS

RRP: $250 AUD
WEBSITE: thenorthface.com.au / thenorthface.co.nz
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by The North Face

Shoe Review: The North Face Flight Vectiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS
IMAGE: SUZANNE POLI

VERDICT ON THE VECTIV

DID SOMEONE SAY CARBON PLATES IN A RACING TRAIL SHOE? Well, yes. Road shoes have utilised carbon-fibre plate technology for a while now, and The North Face was one of, if not the first, brand to put the same tech into a trail shoe – the Flight VECTIV.

Taking a brand new pair out of their box, the Brilliant Coral/TNF White colour came straight at me and I immediately put them on. Instantly I could feel the carbon-fibre plate doing its job, providing almost a spring in my step and ready to protect everything underfoot; I’m guessing that feeling was also due to the rocker shape of the shoe too, propelling me forward…and which took a little getting used to, I must admit.

On the technical side of things, VECTIV is the name of the midsole tech which is a combination of dual-density foam, rocker and full-length carbon plate all working together. The Flight Series™ VECTIV™ range are the lightest and most responsive of The North Face’s elite trail running shoes, specifically made for ultra distances because of their durability thanks to Kevlar®, polyamide and Matryx® fabrics. It’s these materials combined together that make the Flight VECTIV a notable model for trail shoes.

Because of the carbon-plate though, which provides stabilisation and reliability, the shoe is stiff to the touch when brand new. It does take some time to ‘break them in’ so to speak – I’d say about 20km, so in hindsight it’s not too bad. Cushioning is of the medium range and quite comfortable, and I felt very comfortable running in this particular pair. Ability to pick up pace was done easily, and I felt stable enough when hitting the downhills on pea gravel and hard-packed dirt.

Worth noting that because of the rocker, which is specifically designed to propel the body forward, I felt a bit of additional stack. For me, this wasn’t an issue though. The combination of the plate, midsole and high tech fabric in the midfoot means there is plenty of security, whilst the knit upper provides enough wriggle room for toes.

Let’s talk heel lock now, as I love to do with all reviews. There is no extra heel lock eyelet in the Flight VECTIV, so when combined with the loose knit upper in the heel I felt slippage and had to switch to a higher length ankle sock (yes, I carry extra socks with me when testing out shoes) to ensure a decrease in friction against my skin.

What’s interesting with the Flight VECTIV is that the tongue is incorporated into the shoe, meaning it’s not gusseted so there are no gaps between it and the lace cage; the laces are tight and flat, they won’t stretch or become longer. Personally, I love springy, bungee-like laces but they did their job on the Flight VECTIV and didn’t undo themselves.

The outsole features a barrage of directional 3.5mm lugs for traction, which means it’s not necessarily suitable for muddy terrain, however I was still comfortable hitting a bit of pedestrian or bicycle path while wearing them, so going from road to trail or vice versa is no issue.

Please note, this is a fast shoe, and it’s a precision shoe. It’s designed for confident trail runners who are quick and who lead front of the pack; when making comparisons to other shoes on the market, in particular the design-work, they are a vastly differently shoe. Suited for narrow feet in mid and fore foot, the Flight VECTIV is true to size but if you’re prone to foot swelling I’d suggest trying on a half size up to allow for extra space. It has a 6mm drop and a stack height of 25mm at the heel, so a large midsole for your landings.

Women’s Flight VECTIV shoes are available in Brilliant Coral/TNF White and TNF White/TNF Black, whilst for the men they come in Brilliant Coral/TNF White and Chlorophyll Green/Monterey Blue.

A neutral shoe with a specifically designed rocker plate to add stability, The North Face Flight VECTIV is an efficient ride that does best on longer runs. The brand has done well to introduce the technology into trail shoes, and those who run in the Flight VECTIV will not be disappointed.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Long distance, most all terrains
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Muddy or high technicality
TEST CONDITIONS: Hard-packed dirt, limestone, pea gravel
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet

VITALS

RRP: $330 AUD / $350 NZD
WEBSITE: thenorthface.com.au / thenorthface.co.nz
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by The North Face

Shoe Review: Scarpa Spin Infinity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS
IMAGE: SUZANNE POLI

TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND!

INFINITE [in-fuh-nit]: ADJECTIVE, MEANING ‘IMMEASURABLE OR EXCEEDINGLY GREAT: UNLIMITED OR ENDLESS.’ 

Well known Italian brand Scarpa, infamous for their high quality ski mountaineering, hiking and outdoor equipment, launched just recently its first range of trail running shoe in Australia.

With three ‘ranges’ of shoe for trail runners now available (Spin Ultra and Infinity, Ribelle Run and Golden Gate), I was given the unique opportunity to test out the stunningly vibrant blue Spin Infinity shoe which is dedicated to long distance running.

When I put these babies on, I was immediately impressed with their look and feel. Out of all four shoes listed above, the Spin Infinity has the highest level of cushioning, with medium density EVA midsole and ergonomic ESS shank for shock-absorption. Weighing in within the medium spectrum of the scale at 584g (pair size EU40), together with a 4mm heel drop (26mm to 22mm, heel to toe), the outsole design has been created with flexibility and propulsion in mind; its outsole VIBRAM® a Scarpa-exclusive design is a MEGAGRIP rubber compound which gave me high grip on every trail terrain. With no deep hooks, the Infinity is ideal for wet weather and mud, and there was no slippage on rocks – perfect for Australian and NZ trails where there’s not much requirement for climbing awkward boulders or mountains.

Usually with a chunkier heel stack one would think it might be a hinderance to technical terrain, but that’s not so with the Spin Infinity because of its incredible stability and precision. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a ‘soft shoe’ once you get it out of the box, but it was very responsive to my running needs.

I know many of you are waiting to hear about the rock plate (a firm plastic or carbon fibre material embedded between the outsole and the midsole that protects the underfoot from sharp pebbles or stones), but there is no rock plate in the Spin Infinity. To be honest, it doesn’t need one, because the brand’s ESS shank does the job.

The toebox is wide enough to spread those little piggies, but is a more narrow shoe altogether; the heel cup snuggled nicely and I didn’t find it slipping up or losing grip from my socks, so less chance of friction in the development of blisters – winning! The laces are flat, and stretch only slightly, however you don’t need to elongate them any further as there’s no heel lock hole to slip them through. Have no fear though, because with the heel cup sitting perfectly, there’s no need to use a heel lock anyway as I’d discovered. I love my heel lock, but with the Spin Infinity the shoe was spot on when it came to snugness and reliability. Another feature which adds to the Scarpa flavour is the lace pocket, so they’re less likely to come undone – personally, hiding the laces underneath makes the shoes appear sleek, neat and tidy.

Back to the internal workings of the shoe, the liner does a great job keeping debris from coming in, and its adaptive cushioning system screams durability – it simply looks solid and looks like it will last forever (hence the infinity name).

Designed not only for many hours of running, but for multiple days too, however if you’re a heel striker, the 4mm drop may not necessarily work for you so you need to keep that in mind. The Spin Infinity is, however, perfect for midfoot and forefoot strikers. True to size, the Women’s Spin Infinity is available in EU36-42 (1/2 sizes 38-42) and the Men’s version in EU40-48 (1/2 sizes 42-46). Ladies have a choice between the Atoll Scuba Blue and Orchid Purple colours, while the boys can pick from either the Azure Ottanio or Spicy Orange Red Lava.

With adaptive cushioning, durability, solidity and high breathability, the Scarpa Spin Infinity is a top choice trail shoe to close off 2022 and take 2023 to infinity, and beyond.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Ultra distances on all trails, wet or dry
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Road or bicycle path
TEST CONDITIONS: Limestone, pea gravel, muddy dirt trail
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet

VITALS

RRP: $249.95 AUD
WEBSITE: world.scarpa.com/
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by Scarpa

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Akasha II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: ABDUL-RAOUF MOHAMED-ISA
IMAGE: SUZANNE POLI

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Akasha II

CREATED WITH A FOCUS ON ENDURANCE, the La Sportiva Akasha II fits snug, but not too tightly around the forefoot. It’s a high cushioned shoe built specifically for longer runs on technical terrain, with its aggressive tread providing great traction and its ability to work at its best in wet and muddy conditions. In saying that, I found them less responsive on dry smoother trails, and felt that with the amount of cushioning and tread, the shoe felt like overkill on ‘easier’ terrain.

The shoe provides good protection around the heel and toes from rocky terrain, which it excels in. The Trail Rocker outsole technology promotes a rolling heel to toe motion. I didn’t feel this so much being more of a mid-to-fore foot runner, but when hiking it was noticeable how the rocker helped to promote forward motion.

When running downhill it did feel like my toes were being jammed into the front of the shoe, but in saying that this could have come down to sizing as others have said to go up half a size compared to what you normally wear. The heel lock lacing technique helped though to keep things more in place. Being used to a wider forefoot, I may have felt this a little more.

The well-padded tongue and Orholite Hybrid insole makes the Akasha II incredibly comfortable. The open dual-layer mesh material dries quickly if you happen to get them soaking wet, while the lacing system allows your feet to feel locked in and nice and secure.

Being a first time user of this brand I came in with an open mind. Out of the box you definitely feel the cushioning and snug fit. At first I tried it on wide bridal trails where it was comfortable enough but felt like too good of a shoe for that type of simple trail. The Akasha II comes into its own on more technical terrain, where you can feel the grip sink in going up and downhill, especially when the terrain’s gotten the ground wet and muddy. The shoe gives you more confidence here, even if you’ve picked up some speed. No problems slowing down and stopping if needed.

Compared to other shoes the Akasha II midsole feels only slightly rigid, however that most likely comes with the amount of protection from rocks and sharp objects – once again another reason this shoe is better for longer runs. You get enough feel for the trail for short bursts of speed but it’s definitely not one for high turnover or fast races.

Here are some of the stated specs of the Akasha II.

The stack height is 31mm in the heel and 25mm in the forefoot giving it a 6mm heel-to-toe drop. A US Men’s 9 weighs in at 310 grams. Frixion Red dual-compound with trail rocker provide good traction and promote smooth heel to toe motion. Ortholite hybrid laces are made from recycled materials. The colour options in the men’s shoe are Black/Yellow, Space Blue/Kale, Carbon/Flame and Space Green/Metal whilst for the women they are Hibiscus/Malibu Blue, Topaz/Red Plum and Carbon/Cherry.

Some changes I would like to see, and keep in mind this is more of a personal preferences: a velcro attachment on the heel for gaiters and perhaps slightly more room in the toe box. The only other thing would be a bit more flexibility in the mid sole, however I’m the sort of runner who likes to feel the trails underfoot and this comes at the cost protection.

Overall the La Sportiva Akasha II is a well-designed running shoe suited for those looking for high cushioning with enough protection in the heel and toe, and plenty of grip for technical terrains and durability. It’s comfortable, breathable and provides great support for longer runs.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Technical trails. High cushioning provides good comfort for longer runs. Does well in the wet and mud
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Smooth trails and dry pea-gravel
TEST CONDITIONS: Multi-use trails, rocky terrain and wide bridal trails
TESTER: Adul-Raouf Mohamed-Isa
TESTER MECHANICS: Overpronator with wide feet, usually running in zero drop shoes

VITALS

RRP: $229.95 AUD
WEBSITE: lasportiva.com
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by La Sportiva

Shoe Review: ALTRA Mont Blanc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS

AS IMPRESSIVE AS MONT BLANC ITSELF

PREMIUM PREMIUM PREMIUM. The newest member of the Altra family, the Mont Blanc, has literally sold out everywhere with demand outrunning supply. But don’t worry. Altra has heard the call and is returning this month in August with plenty of new sets available.

And just why has it been such a success?

Well, I’ll tell you one thing. The Mont Blanc shoe is Altra’s offering to the ultra gods after they heard ‘the people’ calling for a product that could go the extra mile against the toughest terrain.

And they’ve come up with their most premium long distance trail running shoe yet.

Clearly inspired by the UTMB, the biggest feature (and star of the show) for the Mont Blancs is the EGO™max midsole – foam that provides a light and luxurious performance with added bounce and durability. Essentially, it’s a blend of cushioning compounds, and there’s no other way to describe how the shoe feels other than two thumbs up and crying out ‘Yeah, baby!’.

At first glance, the Mont Blancs scream Altra – they feature the same undercarriage foot shape toe box, are a balanced 30mm zero drop front and rear geometry, and are very recognisable in their design. Their fit to the wider foot is impeccable, with runners getting their own personal security guard of snugness within the forefoot and midfoot, and plenty of room for toes to swell up and breathe.

Altra markets their shoes three ways – Original FootShape™ Fit (the roomiest design), Standard FootShape™ Fit (the middle of the bunch), and Slim FootShape™ Fit (their slimmest option but still with plenty of toe room). It’s a trademark to have the wider toebox combined in a specific and unique-to-brand FootShape™ Fit so that the majority of runners can experience the shoe. It’s a big reason why Altra has become one of the fastest growing footwear brands globally – a brand that allows people to run more naturally but still with the benefits of superior, high-tech and modern cushioning.

The Mont Blancs are classified in the Standard category, but as someone who took to the Altra Lone Peak 6 shoes recently (which are of Original FootShape™ Fit), I could immediately tell the difference in ‘fit’. When I run, I tend to wear a thick sock brand, and have done so for over six years…never having a problem with testing or trialling shoes those exact socks. In the Mont Blancs, however, there was a necessity to source a slightly thinner sock so my foot wouldn’t feel strangulated.

But that was an easy fix, swapping out socks, and I happily took the Mont Blancs with me for training runs as well as the Lighthorse Ultra 3hr event, where I bonded with two other runners who were wearing the exact same pair in the exact same colour – “Don’t you just love these?!” were the words coming out of our mouths as we idolised over the funky Coral Black colour scheme.

One of the most impressive features with the Mont Blancs is the insane tread on the outsole. Think premium track wheels on the best 4WD vehicle, and that’s what you get with the grip these babies give you. Other than the sexy, sleek design, it’s one of my favourite parts of this shoe. The innovative sole technology of the Vibram® Litebase rubber is an uncompromised piece of material, giving superior grip and traction, and there’s plenty of lug spacing to tackle the terrain too. The Mont Blanc gave me confidence on the dry trail, and on days when the ground became slippery and wet, it still performed very well across a range of surfaces.

A more interesting component I found, however, is that the tongue is lightly padded, made from a very thin stretchy nylon. I believe it may have been designed this way to strip the upper down to make it as lightweight as possible. It’s still a gusseted tongue though, to reduce debris getting inside. Not many people may notice, but take a look at this – Altra have printed the latitude and longitude of Mont Blanc on the tongue. There’s no function in that, but it made me smile when I got online to check the coordinates. It’s definitely a charming personal touch.

With regards to other elements of the Mont Blanc, the only things that didn’t quite work in my favour where the lace lock and the heel collar. The lace lock holes sit further up the shoe than what I’m used to, so the technique meant the heel collar, which is made of the same material as the tongue and sits high up, felt loose and rubbed against my skin. I solved the issue by trialling a higher sock rather than my usual ankle length ones, but the heel lock still provided me with a slighter more lose feel than I’m used to.

Overall, the Mont Blanc is a precision Altra shoe that doesn’t sacrifice its signature features. Incredibly impressive in technology and design, I can completely see why it’s one of the most popular trail running shoes on the market. Definitely a fit for anyone who has a wide foot, who loves technical trail, and who can use and abuse these shoes as much as possible.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: Ultra distances on technical terrain, preferably dry ground
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Road and cycle paths (you want to use these babies on trail as much as possible)
TEST CONDITIONS: Limestone, boardwalk and asphalt
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet, usually running in 8mm drop shoes.

VITALS

RRP: $319.95 AUD / $349.95 NZD
WEBSITE: altrarunning.com.au
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by Altra

Shoe Review: ALTRA Lone Peak 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS

SO I HEAR FROM HARDCORE ALTRA USERS that once you go Altra, you never ever go back. And quite frankly, after putting on a pair of these babies in the form of Lone Peak 6, I can absolutely understand and attest to the fandom that comes with having them.

Firstly, I’m just going to say that the zero drop on these is unbelievable. For someone who usually runs in an 8mm drop shoe, I was taken aback by the comfortability in a shoe that allows you to feel like you’re almost running barefoot, and I love how despite all its high-tech features, the Lone Peak 6 feels incredibly minimalistic on my feet – meaning there’s enough cushioning to soften the blow of trail terrain while at the same time I’m left feeling closer to Mother Earth and all of her nuances.

I have quickly come to realise that the Lone Peak 6 allow me to absorb the impact of running, and its wider toe box helps with that. After having children, it’s widely known that pregnancy can indeed increase a woman’s foot size – in my case, my change to foot shape has been permanent and I’ve needed a much wider shoe in recent years. The Lone Peak 6’s wider-than-other-shoes’ toe box is abundant, and 100% accommodates swelling toes and improves pain/reduces the occurrence associated with blisters and bunions. The wide toe box also allowed for my big toe to stay positioned straight, making me feel more stable along the compact limestone I usually run along. Stretching my toes at the end of my run in these was an absolute delight, and I didn’t feel a need to take them off once I got in the car.

These are a high performance trail shoe, very much as versatile as a running shoe can get, and they conform to the natural movements of your feet. The air mesh remains the same as previous versions, so wet and muddy conditions won’t weigh you down due to updated drain ports that improve the flow of excess water. And random debris won’t find its way into your socks because of – and this is the best ‘oh-my’ moment ever – a Velcro attachment on the back heel where you can attach a pair of gaitors! To not have to race to the shops for Velcro, cut each piece up and stick them to the back of your shoe is one of the best ideas to date. Because who has time for that?

Onto the tech specs of the Lone Peak 6, and it’s worth noting that MaxTrac outsole technology is utilised – a combination of grip, traction and durability to tackle more terrain. Basically, it’s the multi-directional lug pattern on the bottom of the shoe that allows incredibly outrageous grip. That being said, the Lone Peak 6 also features StoneGuard™ tech, which offers protection from rocks and branches underfoot. So whilst you may feel you’re running barefoot, you won’t get the cuts and bruises that come with it.

What’s more is that I can’t talk about all these tech features without mentioning the shoe’s EGO™ midsole, known as the ‘holy grail’ of running shoe cushioning and offering a fast and springy, yet comfortable and soft run response. It’s a technology that caters to the elite runner for its speed and to the recreational runner due to softness underfoot. This midsole, along with the wide toe box, is Altra’s distinctive design, one that is highly engineered and built for performance.

The Lone Peak name in itself, for cult followers, is an iconic name and known to tackle most conditions and distances along with a stylish look. I wore the Lone Peak 6 shoes not only for training runs, but for my recent entry at Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra, which saw a combination of bike path, crushed limestone trails and grass. It got to a point where the shoe almost became an extension of my own body, and I forgot they were even on – isn’t that what we want all of our shoes to feel like?

The Lone Peak 6 comes in navy light blue, black green, and white green for women while men can choose from black/gray, orange, and maroon colours. The only real difference between the Lone Peak 6 and its predecessor, the Lone Peak 5, is that there are three additional lace eyelets in the midfoot to lockdown the shoe better, they are only a fraction lighter in weight, and there is a slight variation from the shape of the upper, with less material for a decrease in ‘baggy’ appearance.

Overall, Altra’s Lone Peak 6 trail shoe is perfect for mixed terrain conditions, and performs exceptionally for those who are new to zero drop running. It’s definitely a workhorse runner, and Altra has done incredibly well to maintain the shoe’s adaptability as well as retain its notoriety as one of the best trail shoes on the market.

THE LOW DOWN

GREAT FOR: All terrains and weather conditions. This is a high performance shoe made for all levels of running
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Long stints on concrete paving. With this being a trail shoe, it’s best to let it perform where it excels – on the trails
TEST CONDITIONS: Flat, single track on dry crushed limestone, grass, cycle path
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet, usually running in 8mm drop shoes.

VITALS

RRP: $249 AUD / $279 NZD
WEBSITE: altrarunning.com.au
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by Altra

Shoe Review: BROOKS Cascadia 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS

THE BROOKS CASCADIA SHOE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR SOME TIME NOW, and the newest version, the Cascadia 16, has gone through several changes and updates that make it more durable and stable than its predecessors. Known throughout its lineage for adventure versatility, Brooks have increased the stack height by 2mm in the Cascadia 16 to accommodate the new foamy midsole which features DNA Loft v2 technology for a more plush feel underfoot and added comfort.

That being said, I took these snazzy looking trail shoes out on some multi-use trails with dirt, crushed gravel and compact limestone. A completely light build at only 269g (the men’s version weighs 320g), the Cascadia 16 has a 14g variance – in the women’s – from the previous version, and that’s a big change. They were a secure yet light fit for me considering I always run in a wide shoe, and was thoroughly happy with the support provided in thanks to the upper which has been completely reconstructed – including more room in the toe box.

As I concentrated on my toes to see how they were feeling, I took in how much the mesh upper allowed my feet to breath. The flexibility of the material is high quality and incredibly supportive, and I felt that the Cascadia 16 was true to size with great width in the toe box. Any swelling would have well and truly been catered to.

Designed for long runs in mind, the technology used in the Cascadia 16 has kept the reputative durability true to form. The midsole is dense and provides longevity, and as mentioned, features the DNA Loft v2 which through research is said to be 5% softer and 20% lighter than in previous versions. DNA Loft is Brooks’ softest cushioning system that combines ethylene-vinyl acetate, rubber and air (yes, air!) for on demand cushioning and protection from the terrain, and the company says they have found ‘the right amount of soft, with DNA Loft’. Super catchy!

So whilst I gained much comfortable ground, my terrain was not so cushy. The Cascadia 16 outsoles were flawless in grip (made from trail track rubber) and big lugs, providing me with an anchored run on the trails. Brooks have removed any lugs from the midsection though, which may have been a reason behind the decrease in weight, but the elimination of them hasn’t affected their Ballistic Rock Shield plate, a toughened thermoplastic EVA sheath between the outsole and midsole. That system provides protection against sharp objects, and has been featured in the Cascadia series for quite some time now so it’s great to see they haven’t taken it away from the 16 shoe. Heading up the ascents and coming down on the descents, I felt good grip beneath me and didn’t hesitate to go a little faster when I could. With a solid heel and knowing there was a safeguard right at the bottom of my feet, the shoes were sturdy and fit well.

Overall performance for the Cascadia 16 was exceptional, and the design has moved forward with the times, becoming a more modern shoe with impressive angles and sleek construction. I even ran into some trail running friends mid-way on my favourite track, who all looked down when we stopped to chat and exclaimed, ‘Oh, those are the new Cascadias?!’ And after some talk about how they were feeling on my feet, I continued on with the thought about how runners really do love to know what’s out there on the market and get an idea for what will work best for their needs.

The Cascadia 16 shoe is absolutely impressive when it comes to traction, stability and modern design. There’s even a Velcro tab on the back of the heel, hidden of course, to secure any gaiters in place – as minor as it sounds, I love that in a running shoe.

With a mid-drop of 8mm, running in the Cascadia 16 is a combination of balance and sturdiness, where you will dominate all types of terrain. I’ve always run in 8mm shoes, so there was no need to adjust to a different drop, and lacing them up with the stretch woven laces was satisfying – no one likes a stiff lace that won’t reach all the way for a solid heel lock, and there are two options for this thanks to not one, but two extra eyelets. I can confidently say there were no issues for me in this department. I’ve always preferred a heel lock, and find it disruptive to my training when the tension loosens. Brooks are onto a good thing with their eyelets and lace material.

The Cascadia 16 is by the far the best trail shoe out of the series. Personally, I love how protected my feet are when there’s every opportunity of a sharp twig or pebble underfoot, and the cushioning is just something else. Well-designed for all terrain, they come in a range of colours – black/ebony/yucca and aqua/tourmaline/rooibos for women, and oyster/mushroom/orange and yellow/black/grenadine for men.

Brooks has done incredibly well to keep the Cascadia 16 as an honest, reliable and protective shoe.

THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR: All terrains and most weather conditions. As a high performance trail shoe, it’s suitable for even the most technical environments.
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Wet terrain. The rubber slides slightly on wet surfaces.
TEST CONDITIONS: Multi-use trails with dirt, crushed gravel and compact limestone.
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet, usually running in 8mm drop shoes.

VITALS

RRP: $239.95 AUD / $279.90 NZD
WEBSITE: brooksrunning.com.au
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by Brooks Running

Trail shoe review: Adidas Terrex Agravic

Aggravated Assault

First up: what the hell is the use of a pretty darn good trail shoe if it’s hard to come by, try and buy? Worse still, if you don’t even know that it’s in the market? When it comes to the Adidas Terrex Agravic I didn’t, until I walked into Run Stop Shop in Melbourne. And my eyes lit up.

Men Shoes adidas Terrex Agravic Shoes - Green DuFLB91 501_3_LRG

Spoiler alert: it’s a top end performer. But who knew? So when I tell you it’s a contender, you’d better be quick in your purchase because they are as rare as a heartfelt apology to an illegal Mexican immigrant by Donald Trump.

It’s a common thing in the Australian market amongst bigger sneaker brands – the Nikes, New Balances and Adidas of the world – where their stock-in-trade units (footy boots, road runners, fashion) hoover up all the local marketing team’s attention. The poor cousin trail models are begrudgingly taken on locally at brand-HQ insistence only to gather dust in a disinterested sales rep’s car boot. If only they knew that trail running is one tenant of what researchers are now calling a ‘megatrend’ movement away from traditional team sports and towards individual, nature-based outdoor pursuits. Hello, trail running. Hello sales opportunity going wanting.

Anyway, away from the failings of big brands to recognise an emerging market (and do something about it), to the shoe, the sexy if hard to find beast it is. [Yes, I know you can order it online, but who’d do that without trying one on, no matter what a reviewer says! Ed.]

adidas-p-outdoor-ss16-q2update-editorial-agravic_86165

I went in with a notion that Adidas not being a mountain sports pedigree brand would fail dismally at off road. But then, overseas they play in the space much more and they do a handy football boot to boot.

With that in mind, let’s start with the obvious on these suckers: the grippy sole. Lugs protrude handsomely, 6.5mm to be exact, and have been smartly designed.

There are enough of them to dig deep into all forms of terrain, but spread enough across the sole to drop mud clumps quickly. The forward lugs are tapered providing excellent up front toe-in and transition to acceleration. Further back they work hard for better control including laterally, when on the brakes and when bombing downhill. Interestingly, the compound is as sticky as any other on market and was created in collaboration with Continental, the technology mimicked and adapted from that brand’s mountain biking tyres, including the shape of the lug. What works for one dirt warrior…

Moving through the sole, Adidas heralds its ‘Boost’ technology which most pundits agree delivers on its claim for better ‘energy control’, meaning you get a measured return of spring, enough to give increments of energy return but not enough to destabilize your foot on landing nor impinge on ground feel. This balance of bound and sensitivity on the foot strike is what for me makes the shoe a sure-footed choice.

In a way it is very much in line with the Salomon Sense Ultra – nimble, racy, with trail feedback providing confidence and grip nailing your cornering and downhill bombing. Where the Adidas excels further here is in giving a smoother ride than its competitor, assumedly courtesy of the Boost and some added EVA in the rear carriage.

Even so, it remains little stiffer through the sole than other more conservative trail runners, making them disciplined enough to take mountainside where a little ‘platform performance’ can help, but not so harsh as to give bruised feet over longer distances.

Screenshot 2016-08-01 17.12.49

Beneath your feet, after all, is a 24.5mm heel/18mm forefoot rigging. This delivers a mid-range 6.5mm drop, perfect for those leaning toward better technical running form, but enough up back if you still get the lean-backs on tiring.

Inside the foot fits snug, without being restrictive and the overall comfort factor is high out of the box. This is one of those shoes that feels like it instantly connects with your foot becoming an extension of rather than an addendum to your appendage. Of course, the snugger a shoe, the more chance there is your particular foot won’t agree with the shape, but I believe for most average Aussie slabs, (not too fat up front), the shoe will fit.

The ride is as mentioned fairly supreme, its only weak spot is super hard and flat surfaces that drag on – here the shoe can feel a little ‘slappy’, the overall undercarriage preferring more technical or soft ground underneath.Mt Buller

Lacing is solid in design. Despite looking a little weird, it seems to pull in where needed and give some where required. No issues there.

The rock plate in the forefoot is slim and flexible, but combined with the substantial outsole offers bomb proof protection from the hardest hits on the sharpest rocks, while still maintaining relatively good trail feel and torsional flexibility. If anything it can become to firm on the forefoot when running flats.

The Agravic is a seriously strong performer on most styles of Aussie trails. It’s just aggravating that the try and supply equation is somewhat restricted – but check Run Stop Shop in South Melbourne (or online) as a first port of call.


VITALS:
Great for: technical trails, grip, racing, all round fun
Not-so-great for: if you want to try and buy them – they are hard to find once stock is out!
Test Conditions: singletrack, lots of technical, soft ground, rocky, approx. 125km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $200
Website: www.runstopshop.com.au


 

 

TRAIL SHOE REVIEW: Saucony Peregrine 6

The Rock biter. Careful. It bites. Just look at those teeth! It’s like they’d chomp your fingers off of you put your pinkies anywhere near them. Whomp! Luckily the new Saucony Peregrine 6 are vegetarian: they don’t eat meat (that we know of). Rather they eat dirt. And rocks. A bit like the Rock Biter in The Never Ending Story: munch, crumble, munch, swallow. The trail is just no match (or thinking about it another way, the perfect match) whatever its form.Saucony2

**THIS SHOE REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED IN EDITION#20 of TRAIL RUN MAG along with plenty more shoe, gear and trail guide reviews, all available for FREE! Download your pdf copy HERE.**

Okay, so that’s a hyperbolic introduction to the latest (version 6) Peregrines, but seriously, the first thing everybody does when they pick these snarling things up is to turn them over, raise the eyebrows and caress its underbelly. While not quite footballer lugs, I reckon you could get away with using these on the oval as much as on the trail. Rear facing stoppers on the front and forward facing pegs on the back, the Powertrac sole leaves nothing to the imagination and in motion allows you to plant your foot firmly wherever you place it and stick it every time. The result is a confidence on trail that is astounding. Prior to these, a particular member of the Icebug family – attuned as much to obstacle course market as the trail – were the kings of grip in our estimation (with a few others nipping at the heels including Salomon and Inov8 models). Peregrines were always near the top of the grip tree, too, but these take the art of clawing the ground to a new level.

While the grip is the most visual difference and benefit of the latest Peregrines, there are some handy features in the architectural structure, too. Infused with Everun technology, these give an almost perfect balance of trail feel and cushion. The function of the Everun is to absorb more at impact, return more at toe off and weigh less than EVA, claims we reckon are all valid. The ride on this shoe is certainly responsive, the supple chassis giving enough flexibility to really turn over and get a feel for the earth, yet with enough mush to soften the edges should Mother Nature get grumpy. There are no hard or hot spots underfoot. Just comfort spots.Saucony3

Initially, I admit to thinking the Peregrines would be “too much shoe”, with a fairly beefy exterior, seemingly high stack and thick ankle padding. But on the foot they are deceivingly light and agile. The comfort factor is out of the box good and only becomes better with every kilometre run.

A major change in these over previous models is the space given in the forefoot. The toebox is bigger, wider, which will please many feet in the traditionally slab-like market Down Under (apparently, as folklore has it, because we all ran around without shoes for most of our childhood, as opposed to the shoe-incarcerated European ‘endless winter’ children and their resulting narrow plodders).

Another upgrade addressing a traditional Peregrine weakness is a more robust upper. Past Peregrines have all suffered from quick wear, easy tear characteristics. The new model retains a breathable, wicking mesh upper with a welded Flexifilm giving more structure and hopefully life where once there were holes all to quickly.Mt Buller

There’s only a minimal toe guard, surprisingly, so watch the rocks ahead. But there is plenty of protection underfoot, the combination of big lugs, decent stack and a rock plate dulling any serious impacts. The sole is firm enough to protect the foot from angry, sharp rocks, yet it is supple enough for faster pace and quick-turn running.

While there is a stack height, the heel to toe drop is a minimal 4mm, which we believe sits in the sweet spot for those looking to encourage better form.

You know a shoe is good when a to-remain-unnamed elite trail runner supported by another flavor sees these on your feet and quips: they are awesome; one of the best trail shoes out there.

I concur and, slipping on my Peregrines, I swear I can hear them paraphrasing in the same gravelly voice of the Rock Biter: “Ah, ha! Now I can see why you picked this trail! Limestone rock, my favourite…munch, munch, munch.”


VITALS

Great for: grip, mountain racing, cornering, technical trails, varied terrain trails.
Not-so-great for: extreme maximalist or minimalist runners. Otherwise, these are good for all.
Test Conditions: technical singletrack, fire roads, approx. 95km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $220
Website: www.saucony.com.au

THIS SHOE REVIEW WAS PUBLISHED IN EDITION#20 of TRAIL RUN MAG along with plenty more shoe, gear and trail guide reviews, all available for FREE! Download your pdf copy HERE.


Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.21