Trail shoe review: Saucony Peregrine 7

Seventh Heaven: I can murder a shoe. Quickly. Might be my preference for technical mountain trails that rip shoes to shreds in a flash. Or could be that I bash and crash through the bush rather indelicately. Maybe it’s just that I’m not great at post-run cleaning and poncy pandering once the shoes are back panting on the doorstep.

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Whatever the case, my trail shoes quickly go from shiny and sexy out of the box to grubby and grizzly examples of footwear. Some stand the test for a few years. Other disintegrate like shattered shale. Not Saucony’s latest iteration of the popular Peregrine nameplate, which suits me to a tee. They look like they want to get instantly grimy and then stay grubby for the remainder of their lives (which with me they most certainly will).

The ‘Run Anywhere’ mantra emblazoned on the inner heel I take literally and punch them through the mud, grit, grime and grade-A mountains of Tasmania to see if the Peregrines are (i) as comfy as they have ever been and (ii) a little hardier than they have been, which they need to be, specifically in the construction department.

While iteration means change, it’s not always presented in bunch loads when it comes to products that are already proven to get the job done – a new colourway here, an extra little swoosh there. But sales cycles need points of difference to move more units. And so the boffins look to minor adjustments to massage the performance outcome, perhaps whack on a new proprietary clap-trap label; an injection of ‘all-new technology’ and thus claim a reason for punters to upgrade.

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The Sevens essentially haven’t moved on much from the Sixes. Nor did they really need to in terms of their excellent comfort, grip, and all-round, all-terrain performance. But the toe guard construction needed to be fixed. Surely there’s a mega-super-glue that will do the job these days? On the Six, nope, not present. Consistent tales of the toe guard coming unstuck abound. Did it matter? Not really, to performance at least, rather it was just an annoyance.

On the Sevens, the sole unit is exactly the same (great lugs, awesome grip, good durability). But the toe guard now sticks on to a different form of forefoot, a TPU plastic and textured one, which seems to be holding much firmer. No flappy toe guard. Yet. Sadly there are signs…

Dammit! Because in all other regards, the Peregrine again flies stratospheres above a lot of other trail shoes in every other aspect.

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That TPU toe-guard is part of a new, larger, all-encompassing Exoskeleton wrapping the upper up for superior hold and protection (the Six had ‘FlexiFilm’). Underpinning the TPU is a super-fine mesh – great for evacuating sweat and water, but handy at keeping out the grit, too.

In general I’d say the upper is slightly roomier in the forefoot than its predecessor; but I have an average size foot, so they hit a good sweet spot that allows some toe wriggle and splay, but still keeps things secure and confident as my foot starts dancing along technical terrain. A slightly thicker heel cuff is soft yet firm (you know what I mean) for good hold-in. The lace eyelets are different from previous delivering good tension directly to the Exoskeleton – another improvement mild but noticeable.

Unchanged technology albeit expanded from the Six is the EVA Everun midsole, which stretches to full length in the Seven (it was only a heel insert in numero six).  The idea is that it will increase energy return, cushioning “every footstrike with resilience and energy”. ‘Resilience’? Hmmmmm…weasel word alert. Anyway, notice much difference? We’re unsure if we can notice the difference between iterations (it was always a comfy ride anyway), but the cushioning is firm enough to give decent proprioception feedback, yet (cough) ‘resilient’ enough to run long on harder surfaces. Despite being a visually chunkier shoe (you can see it growling), its lightweight and feels fast and responsive – enough for most runners, perhaps a little dull for those seeking truly intimate contact with Mother Earth.

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The 4mm offset wedges out between 21.5mm heel and 17.5mm forefoot, giving a minimalist drop matched to a moderate, more traditional stack height.

The PWRTRAC outsole with EBO rockplate is unchanged.  The plate is bombproof giving protection from the sharpest teeth of any rocky trail, while not deadening trail feel overly. The stand-out lugs are aggressive and quite simply some of the grippiest on the market for technical mountain terrain be that loose, boulder-strewn, gravel packed, dirt dusted or otherwise – and they shed mud pretty well for a grip monster.

Further, the rubber boasts above-average stickiness in slick wet and on dry, smooth surfaces – usually a weak point for big-lug shoes.

All things considered, if I do end up murdering these shoes it won’t be out of anger – I’ll love them to death. And at least I can comforted in my loss knowing that they will have earned their right to pass through the pearly gates of trail shoe heaven, as a saintly wear they are.


Great for: rough, bitey trails, steep gradients, loose surfaces, snow and mud, technical, mountains, longer distances, grip, versatility – a great all rounder.

Not-so-great for: they’ll handle anything but if you had to nit-pick, door-to-trail runs with smoother, hardpacked surfaces (although even then, they are pretty damn good); trail feedback (again, not bad, just not super sensitive); thin footed runners

Test Conditions: mostly technical singletrack, both rocky and soft, leaf littered, dry, and wet, taken on a 100km tour or Tasmanian trails
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: AU$220
Conditions: shoes were provided for wear test by Saucony Australia

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Trail shoe review: Merrell All Out Crush

Crush’n It: It’s been a while since the Merrell brand has in any serious way popped its head up in trail-land in Australia. With a fairly successful outing in the minimalist category years back (with its broadly well-received Trail Glove range), they seemed to disappear on our radars, content to concentrate on the urban wanna-be adventurer category (comfortable shoes for pavement to pub that give the illusion the wearer is about to head into the wilderness).

[the following review first appeared in Edition #21 of Trail Run Mag. Download now at]


There was a brief aborted attempt to re-emerge last year with a shoe that was more fast packer than runner (Capra). Now, Merrel has realigned with the release of its All Out Crush, a shoe originally designed with the mob behind – specifically for – Tough Mudder. It is however, one that defies my middling expectations on trail as a solid sweet spot performer.

Traditionally styled, this lightweight dirt-muncher was, according to the blurb, targeted squarely at the obstacle course market. I can’t attest how they go tackling the fire and pseudo brimstone of a muddy paddock packed with pyrotechnics, but I can say that taken out on singletrack, these are a great all round performer that firmly places Merrell back on the consideration radar, especially for the recreational (as opposed to pointy end competitive or extreme) trail runner.

A fairly firm forefoot ride means these are on the touchy-feely side, great for trail feedback (proprioception), and excellent when on soft trails that provide their own mulch cushion. The 5mm lugs – reminiscent but not quite as aggressive as Salomon Fellcross models – back up on that kind of terrain, too, giving excellent grip when they have something to bite into.Mt Buller

Where the midsole’s firmness starts to bite back is on hard-packed surfaces or pebbly, sharp rock terrain that continues for long stretches. On such surfaces your feet feel the pinches and prongs after a while and tenderfeet types will certainly notice the incursions. It’s fine for sub-30 kays on flatter, firmer surfaces – indeed I found these a measured balance of trail feel, grip and comfort on fast paced runs in this range – but anything longer requires a more forgiving undercarriage, in my opinion. The Crush’s pre-disposition for mushier ground makes sense given these were aimed at folks running around obstacles in mucky paddocks at distances at most stretching to 20km.

The Crush are also for runners who have a broader, squarer forefoot as there is more room in the toe box than many other narrower Euro-brand shoes which traditionally have narrower lasts. In general, the Merrell would be considered a more traditional, conservative shoe, but it’s no lesser option for it and may actually service a wider array of runners because of it’s no frills approach.

Where these are not as conservative is in the heel-toe drop – a lower range 6mm (traditional being more in the 12mm range) means that you need to at least be striving toward better mid-foot strike and good general form.160314

Those with small slabs up front may find these swim a little in the toe box with the ability to tighten the hug across the middle of the foot barely there, as the first rung of laces and general upper design doesn’t allow much adjustment.

The obstacle course considerations prove a benefit to trail runners via drainage ports wicking away water quickly once plunged in puddles. The mesh upper layered with a perforated pliable rubber lining allows the shoe to release heat just as quickly. Overall, the shoe remains comfortable on the foot at all times in anything except the coldest of weather.

If any concern, it would be that of longevity. Being lightweight, the upper and the sole are supple and if one were to guess, may not be the longest wearing of shoes. Hard to tell after only 150-odd kilometres.

Overall a great shoe for those tackling the many short course (5-25km) trail series taking place across Australia and New Zealand where event terrain tends to be softer, the trails less extreme without hard rocky sections, but where a need for grip, comfort and all weather wear is primary.

Great for: grip, softer trails, door to trail, training all-rounder, wet runs, obstacle courses
Not-so-great for: sharp, hardcore rocky or mountain terrain, thin feet, ultras
Test Conditions: singletrack, mildly technical, some hardpacked, some fire roads, approx. 155km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $179.95


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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.”


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

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.

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Shoe review: Brooks Cascadia 11

In past reviews of the Cascadia, I have been highly complimentary of the model. After all, it was the shoe – out of the box – that got me through my very first trail marathon in the Blue Mountains.893828

Back then (Cascadia 4 I believe), the shoe was a little more minimal. It still had the bulldozer-like qualities that all Cascadias have delivered, ready to roll through any bush terrain no matter the beef, but the V4 certainly had no puppy fat, especially on the upper, which had a sleek lightweight mesh and only the bare necessities of padding.

Trot forward a fair few years and seven iterations, and the Cascadia has lost none of its prowess along technical trails, but seems to have put on a little around its middle (Men’s 329g). The upper is now quite plush with padding, with a thicker tongue (unfortunately not gusseted).

The improvements over the V10 are focused on increasing durability to minimize some upper-tearing issues found in its predecessor. A tight-weave mesh layer has been added over the medial midfoot support webbing to prevent debris from getting between the webbing and underlying mesh. This makes the shoe more robust and – great for colder conditions – a little more insulated, too.

Some of the beef is of course in the technology. Like a recipe for a finely crafted trail delicacy, Brooks lists: BioMoGo DNA midsole, which “provides adaptive cushioning”; a 4-Point Pivot System “gives you ultimate control” (I reckon there is no shoe in the world that magically gives a two-left footed klutz ‘ultimate control’ and a root popping up out of nowhere will fell the most deft footed, but let’s say this 4-pivot gives some semblance of ‘better’ control, ‘ultimate’ being marketing waffle); a full-length Segmented Crash Pad “allows smooth transitions”, something we found – especially as you get tired and form falls – does give true benefit; and forefoot Ballistic Rock Shield which “adds extra protection” – true although from bullets and projectiles as the word ‘ballistic’ implies…(waves disapproving finger at marketing types yet again)?Mt Buller

The last has been narrowed a smidge from past Cascadias – potentially an issue for big foots, but I wouldn’t say it is totally slim-line, rather it sits in a sweet spot for most. Nevertheless, the midfoot is cosier than previous, giving great foot-hold when cornering tight bends. It may be too claustrophobic for some, however.

A 10mm heel drop places these firmly in traditionalist territory, a good thing for those coming across from the road to get dirty. They will feel more like a traditional tarmac warrior on the foot, the runner sitting higher in the heel. Heel lift from a low profile heel cup is remedied with an extra lace eyelet to tighten the ship.

In terms of ride, Cascadia falls into the centre point of the bell shaped curve of cushion. As listed, there’s a decent stack underneath you, giving superb protection and good cushion for long runs, however it is not quite a springy touchdown, either. That’s neither bad or good, it just depends on how much trail feel you prefer. Less cushioning means (usually) more feedback from the ground allowing better responsiveness. The Cascadias sit somewhere in between – a good balance perhaps – the thicker sole unit armed with the aforementioned BiMoGo and ‘Ballistic’ rated rock plate. It has to be said that a strength of these shoes is no matter what the trail throws at you (or shoots at you according to the marketing nomenclature bods), these will handle with aplomb. Putting them on, I always imagine the bomb disposal veteran William James in The Hurt Locker, climbing into his protective suit before heading off to face-off against a tide of explosives. We all know trail running “ain’t no war” – far from it – but feeling you are at least numbed from those little mini-explosions going off underfoot can be comfort for some trailites.

The lacing system is a little unusual in that the first rows are traditional but the third comes across the foot slightly to the outside. This is a love it / hate it thing that does give more stability and hold across the top of the foot. For some it is too tight a hold.

Overall, for the runner who wants total confidence in running gnarly trails, the Cascadia offers top-shelf performance. The feel is firm, fairly responsive, yet protective and, despite its beef still decently agile. It’s not for short and fast racers – it’s a bit heavy and slow on the turnover, and not for plush maximalist runners either as it is not the squishiest thing on hard packed surfaces and on downhill heel strikes. But just like James was addicted to the buzz of a blow up, the ability the Cascadias have to disarm any technical trail will have you coming back for more, bigger and badder trails than ever before.


Great for: grip, technical trails, mountain trails, longer runs, runners transitioning from road
Not-so-great for: minimalists, ground feel, fat feet
Test Conditions: super technical singletrack, some fire roads, approx. 125km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $239.95

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

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Shoe review: Mizuno Wave Hayate 2

This review first appeared in Edition #17 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.

I was ready to dislike the Hayate. Why? Nothing tangible, admittedly, aside from years ago, I had average experiences with an earlier Wave (too snug a fit eliciting hot spots), and rightly or wrongly, I never associate Mizuno with grassroots trail running – in terms of product or community support (Two Bays being the only real involvement with trail running I’ve seen from them in Australia). Ergo, I thought they as a company didn’t care about trail, so why should I care about them?SH_J1GJ157209_01_Hayate2_ElectricBlue

Fast forward a few years and I bump into newly-employed Mizuno staffer, Ash, whom I know from the trails. I know she runs trail. She loves trail. I know because I’ve shared some great singletrack with her. So we catch up and chat. She flings the shoes to test. Maybe, if they’re now hiring trail peeps, they actually – at least peripherally – care about trail? And everyone deserves a second chance, even big brash commercial brands.

Of course, a shoe’s performance on trail and its design heritage has zero to do with whether or not the local mob selling invests in a niche sport or not. Nike invests nothing in trail in Australia. Zero. Squat. But its trail shoes work for many. So let’s get these Hayate’s (meaning ‘fresh breeze’ in Japanese) on the dirt.

They plug the Wave Hayate 2 as the “thriller of off-road. Built for agility on difficult terrain, and speed on everything else, it is the ideal shoe for the off road race day and cross-country seasons.”

Its racer positioning on the trail totem pole is immediately obvious – put them on and the lightness, suppleness and comfort makes you want to trot off at pace immediately.

The upper presents as a fairly traditionally running shoe: mesh, straightforward lacing, a little too-minimal toe coverage for my clumsy liking. But on foot it is, as mentioned, comfortable as heck: you smile when you lace up.SH_J1GJ157209_02_Hayate2_ElectricBlue

Turn the shoe over and some of Mizuno’s more unique design features present: luggy X-grip traction up front bridged by an X-shaped separation under the arch which allows the fore and aft to move independently according to the terrain (more on the pros and cons of that in a minute). The lugs are spaced widely, allowing enough channel to clear mud easily. Up back the grip eases off some. On trail I was a big fan of the performance in latching on to all styles of terrain. Apparently the compound used is a carbon rubber for increased durability – I haven’t run far enough in them to date to comment.

In the midsole, the Hayate sticks with Mizuno’s signature ‘Wave’ technology.

The genesis for the Wave was apparently inspired by the way nature deals with impact forces. From Mizuno’s website: “From sound waves to tidal waves, waveforms spread and dissipate energy incredibly quickly. Inspired by nature’s simple efficiency, we created the world’s first … mechanical midsole.”Mt Buller

The idea is that as the shoe impacts the ground, the Wave inside the midsole actually reduces and redirects impact forces away from your foot, much like your car’s suspension does, offering high end cushioning without bounce and keeping your foot centered throughout the stride.

Most of that technology works through the rear and into the mid foot. Up front, for forefoot strikers, the ride is fairly firm – too firm for long runs on firm surfaces unless your conditioning and technique is up to scratch. But on flowy, technical trails especially those with some give (soft bush ground or rainforest carpets, for instance) these are a stellar choice. The feedback is first-class, making your run nimble and full of agility.

Some of that response is down to the X-groove under the arch. Designed to give independent movement between fore and aft, it certainly gives your foot the flexibility to do its natural thing. Sometimes this can backfire a little if you are seeking a bit more platform support from your shoe – especially in steep technical terrain where a little underfoot rigidity can benefit. Thus your foot sometimes has to work harder, making the shoe more suited to highly technical terrain that is not in the Big Mountain category – think 28km Two Bays rather than 100 mile Alpine Challenge.

The fit on the Hayate 2 is snug – something common to Mizuno trail models – the forward box on the smaller, pointier side; so these are not for runners with big, wide toe splays and those wanting them for the long run need get a half to full size bigger than usual.

Overall the Hayate 2s are an awesome racing flat equivalent for trail running – light, fast, grippy with great feedback and comfort, but their benefits fall away over the longer the run, and on firmer, steeper the terrain. As a runner who mostly runs medium-range technical stuff (20-50km) they are a great choice, especially for event days and when headed to my favourite, fun, fast, flowy trails. 

Great for: grip, flowy, technical trails, soft packed, shorter runs, racing, cross country
Not-so-great for: steep mountains, hard packed long runs
Test Conditions: groomed trails (MTB), fire roads, semi-technical singletrack
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $199



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Shoe Review: Salomon SLAB X Series

Does Salomon’s cross-over shoe have the The X-Factor? TRM steps to the dark side and trials a shoe that takes the dirty secrets of our trail world and transfers them to…(cough)…the road*.

*No roads were actually run in the making of this article. The tester couldn’t bring himself to it. Testing remained on trail and fire ROAD. There, we said it. We did it. This review first appeared in Edition #16 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.

Offended or intrigued? I’m not sure which to feel. They sent me a road shoe.

A road shoe goddam it! That’s like sending Kryptonite to Superman, or yellow daisies to the Green Lantern (yellow nullifies his super powers, according to my research). Not that my trail running displays any sign of superhero-ness to be de-powered in the first place, of course. Unless you count someone with all the running prowess of Star Wars’ C3PO as a super trail runner type.

But a road shoe? From a brand at known best for their trail running clobber? Seriously…? Okay I’m curious enough to lace up.

So what have we here in the Salomon SLAB X Series, then? Certainly looks like a trail runner. Or in the least like most of the other Sense series shoes doing the singletrack rounds and indeed Salomon have sucked the DNA from their other Sense line-up to create a shoe that is their first foray into the road market. Why? Because of City Trail, that’s why. This is a new movement, for lack of a better word, that bridges road and trail running by trying to replicate the trail running style in an urban environment: constant gear shifts in effort with more technique involved as you traverse changeable urban surfaces. Think tight and twisty cornering through back alleys and play parks matched to a multitude of surfaces from smooth gravel, paving stones, brick, concrete and road asphalt with plenty of ups and downs entailing stairs and short hillocks found in undulating cityscapes. It’s kind of a hyper road run style or, alternatively viewed, a sedated trail running experience.Screenshot 2015-08-03 11.09.00

So what is the deal with the shoes made to pace us through jungles of concrete?

The signature red paint job, super lightweight construction, string-thin pull-tight lace system, and to be fair, the superior instant comfort that Salomon is rightly known for, all are there in spades.

The main injection of change comes first in the upper featuring a 2-way lycra, which is very stretchy and lets feet spread out as they swell over the longer distance (and a result no doubt of harder pounding). The upper is also super breathable, perfect for combating the fact you’ll likely get hot slabs as you speed over warmed asphalt.

The Endofit construction gives a sock-like feel, wrapping around to hold your foot securely in place.  I reckon Salomon have always been good at minimising foot movement inside their shoes while still giving decent room up front for toe splay, a delicate balance.

As a road-marketed shoe, the 19mm heel to 11mm forefoot delivering an 8mm drop gives good stack height for added padding, yet maintains that midrange heel-toe to attempt to keep you on your forefoot with good feedback from what’s happening below.

The mid sole is different to the trail cousins built sans rockplate (or Profeel film equivalent in many Salomons) and with a much softer heel it adds up to what has been described as ‘buttery’ ride.

That butter analogy doesn’t extend to any slip and slide on the outside, however, the Contra-Grip package – Salomon’s own grip solution – featuring multi direction lugs giving more grip that most road shoes. The grip channels underfoot are deeper, while the horseshoe-like heel gip is soft and spongy, ready to combat harder impact running for the heel strikers. Overall, traction on the liquorice allsorts surfaces found in city environments is superb.

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Click on the image to DOWNLOAD the latest edition (17) of Trail Run Mag for FREE!

Looking back, Salomon actually led the reverse crossover from trail back to road establishing the idea of door-to-trail running, where a shoe was needed to be able to cope with the wide-ranging demands of both dirt and concrete as runners left their suburban front door striking out in search of dirt trail for at least part of their run – the realities of city lifestyles and limited time.

Although this shoe is sold with a story of ‘urban adventuring’, I thought it remiss not to test the to-trail aspect. What I found is that they are actually a versatile shoe, well suited to moderate singletrack and fire trails and any dirt munching that is relatively consistent in terms of being non technical. They fill that gap where the other Sense models with meatier lugs would be uncomfortable on more regular terrain.

When the going is relatively smooth – be it dirty or concrete clean – these shoes come into their own. They feel comfortable enough for long hauls, yet remain light and floaty enough to give your a racer feel.

I did also venture onto more technical (if soft underfoot) trails and they performed as well as any other mid-range trail ranger, handling creek crossings (they drained and dried well), bush carpet and slippery rocks with aplomb.

My only complaint about these shoes (when worn in appropriate context in general – they are no mountain muncher) is that I tended to get hot spots on my outer toes. This, however, would be down to the very personal shape of my own foot versus yours. Most will likely remain comfortable, but do be aware of that zone as a potential problem patch when trying them on in-store.

TAKEOUTS: Salomon SLAB X Series

Great for: door to trail, long training runs on mild terrain, road (cough)
Not-so-great for: mountains and technical terrain|
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track, some fire road and as little actual road as I could do while still getting to grips with their performance on asphalt, 68km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD $209.99

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SHOE REVIEW: Brooks Cascadia of dreams

TRM reviews the tenth iteration of Brooks‘ persistent, consistent performer, the Cascadia. This review appears along with more shoe and gear guides (and plenty more trail porn) in the current edition of Trail Run Mag (17) available for FREE DOWNLOAD, here.

 In Nigeria, a tenth birthday is considered an extremely special event. It warrants a huge party and a feast of an entire roasted cow or goat.

Well, bring out the goat! For here’s a tenth birthday worth a herd of them, that of the Brooks Cascadia 10.

Throughout its junior iterations, the Cascadia has always been a solid child of the trail, maturing well with each year. As Brooks found its feet in the trail running world, the Cacadia became stronger, lighter, faster, and grippier but retained the DNA of a consistently high end and, importantly, all-round performer.

It is perhaps also the only trail shoe that has had the confidence to remain true to itself buy hanging on through ten rounds (we know of no other trail shoe that is at iteration number ten!). As noted in past reviews, sometimes that means a shoe that has become mutton dressed up as lamb. Not in this case. Brooks has done the sensible thing and never really waded in with big scale changes, rather it has tinkered, tailored and finessed along the way, meaning the tenth edition is, I believe, the best edition of all to date.brooks-cascadia-10-110187-1d413

The changes this time around are rooted in a retooling of the outsole and the upper.

Down low, the lugs have been reduced for an ever so refined experience delivering more versatility on different terrains and a more responsive ride.

The Cascadia remains a bit of a bulldozer ride in that it floats over anything you throw at it, with a hefty undercarriage – a 10mm heel-toe drop and thick midsole means it’s no adherent to the minimalist movement. Regardless, the ride is actually quite nimble on the foot, placing this shoe very much in that sweet spot midrange of shoes suitable for most trail runners, from back of pack to the pointy end. I also place this shoe squarely in the zone for ‘adventure runners’ – those who like to run in wild places for the hell of it where the terrain is unknown and you best be prepared for anything and everything.

In general I prefer a 4-6mm drop, yet I still find this shoe an excellent option when I know the terrain is going to get knarly, the run is going to be longer, and I’m feeling like a bit more protection underfoot.

The upper now features an ever-so slightly asymmetrical design in order to lock down the foot better, continuing with the move to a more self-assured ride. The general fit on the inside if comfortable, with an average size toe box that will accommodate all but the heftiest of widths. The arch has more support for those that prefer it. I did suffer a slight hot spot on the front ball, but it quickly disappeared with repeated outings.

For me, the Cascadia is all about delivering a ride superior to most, and the 4-point pivot posts in the outer design is the equivalent of a SUV’s independent suspension system. It is based around a decoupled outsole around the four pivots, maximising impact function and adaptability as your foot strikes on uneven terrain. The result is a more stable landing and assured rebound.  heroImage_cascadia

The Cascadias have always been excellent on the protection front, a Ballistic Rock Shield protecting from sharp and nasties, while the Brooks BioMoGo DNA cushioning midsole giving some plushness without getting sloppy.

If one had to pick and niggle at the Cascadia, its only downfall is a slightly heavier and bulkier mass on the foot, which numbs the agility a smidge for the short, go-fast style of running. This is nothing beyond the pale, however, and only noted in the context of the current crop of super-lightweight, super-fast models on market these days, mostly aimed at the elite runners, not the Average Joe dirt raker.

In the long and more brutal mountain runs, the Cascadia’s beef and support will actually assist you.

The grip has been toned down some, but seems to have lost none of its bite, rather just extended the shoe’s range of suitable terrains to pretty much anything.

Essentially this is one of the most versatile trail shoes on the market, able to run smoothly over mild trails and dirt paths but also hold its own over super gnarly terrain. Even extending to landscapes a (mountain) goat would love. On that note, maybe we leave off roasting the poor goat to celebrate this tenth edition, and instead just go for a run with it in the mountains in Nigeria (yes, it has some)? Ten is after all, a special number there and traditions must be upheld in some fashion or other.

TAKEOUTS: Brooks Cascadia 10
Great for: all variety of trails, especially serious mountain and long runs, grip, comfort
Not-so-great for: minimalists, lightweight freaks and short, sharp, speedy runs
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 94km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD $239.95


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Shoe Review – La Sportiva Bushido

The Bush Warrior

Bushido – the way of the warrior – or Bush-I-do? Choosing between an Italian shoe company appropriating a Japanese cultural concept and my misappropriation, I’d prop for the latter. And it’s an apt because the La Sportiva Bushidos do all kinds of bush, from sandy coastal scrub to high alpine snow gums and everything inbetween – the rockier the better.

The Bushidos are a ruggedly handsome, aggressive midweight trail running shoe that look chunky at first glance – they’ve got a heavily lugged sole, protective plate under the forefoot and a TPU cradle/shank – but when you pick them up they’re lighter than you would expect (298g for a size 9). While not a minimalist model, they do approach the form with a slim(ish) 6mm drop which is balanced by a leaning to more traditional 19mm of foam and rubber under the heel.Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.24


My first run in these shoes is forever etched in my memory: running north from Cape Nelson on the Great South West Walk (down near Portland in Victoria), kicking up clouds of a billion butterflies at every step, the Southern Ocean a gleaming blue monster on my right (if I had Anton Krupicka’s long hair and bare chest it would have been a trail runner’s wet dream). It’s a run that taught me the first lesson about the Bushidos – they’re stiff. Having been running mainly in über lightweight, soft shoes – like the La Sportiva Helios and Asic GEL FujiRacers – my feet were tender after 25km (admittedly, a big hit-out for the first time in a shoe). Even now, many more kilometres, the Bushidos remain quite rigid – pointing toward a preference for steep mountain terrain.

Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.42Compared to my usual trail shoes, the Bushidos are very stable to run in – more akin to heavier road shoes but without the weight – and they are a delight on rough technical terrain, where you can bound along with confidence. They are responsive, but at the same time offer plenty of protection.

A lot of my running is done in the Grampians, Victoria, on very rocky surfaces, so the extra protection was noticeable compared to the pounding you can get in something superlight like the Helios. The outer sole lugs provide good grip on both rocky and muddy terrain, while the Frixion rubber (which has its origin in La Sportiva’s long rockclimbing heritage) is extremely sticky and adheres well even to wet rock.

I’ve long delicate foot appendages, such as you find on a well-bred aristocrat or artiste, and the Bushidos – being of Italian origin – fit my feet nicely without being too snug. People with paddles for feet may find them quite narrow, while I’ve read online that they size small (so try before you buy), although I was spot on my normal size. The sock-like mesh inserts add to the nice snug feel of the shoe, although I did find that they seemed to make my feet get quite hot (I get hot feet though). My narrow foot swims around in many shoes, but the TPU cradle and lacing system held my foot nicely in place, even on really steep or snakey terrain. Perhaps because of the stiffness of the shoe, I could feel my heel rub at times, but it was never enough to cause any problems.

For anyone who loves the suppleness of many minimalist shoes, the Bushidos will feel stiff and claustrophobic, but as a heavier runner with weak ankles I have found them excellent, offering great support and protection yet light on the scales. La Sportiva spruik them as ‘sky runners’, and they definitely excel on steep, technical terrain, in the wet or dry, rock or mud.

TAKE OUTS La Sportiva Bushido

Great for: Rough technical trails, the rockier the better; steep mountains.
No so great for: Runners who like super-flexible minimalist shoes or with paddles for feet.
Test conditions: Everything from sandy coastal single track, rocky Grampians’ terrain to muddy snowgum-lined alpine trails. Approx 250km.
Tester: Ross ‘The Flash’ Taylor
Tester mechanics: heavy runner, midfoot striker.

RRP $199.95


Shoe Review – The North Face Ultra Trail II

Ultra refined: a review of The North Face Ultra Trail II. For this review and more shoes gets, see the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, downloadable for FREE here

Another second-iteration shoe in this edition’s shoe slots, and yet another study in the art of refinement, although in this case The North Face has upped the incremental improvement ante over it’s Nike compadre.


The Ultra Trail II takes the original and award-winning Ultras and specifically tackles it main weaknesses – durability. Try to see past that bright glowing fluoro orange exterior (they do come in black for the less ostentatious), and you’ll see and feel that the upper is an all new material. The North Face has replaced what was a soft and easily degraded material with a much tougher ripstop fabric that almost feels plasticy.

Screenshot 2015-03-27 21.14.53On foot, that stiffer feel is not noticeable the comfort factor for which I rate these shoes highly remains. The side-benefit of this more durable material – which has been likened to a cross-county spike shoe upper – is a natural improvement in its ability to shed water, meaning you have to get a whole next level dunking for the shoe to saturate in a light shower. Every second your foot is dry and more comfortable is a bonus second in my book when running.

It’s also a super lightweight material, helping it save overall grams on its predecessor to weigh in at 230g/shoe for a US9. It’s one of those shoes you hardly notice you are wearing, such is its lack of beef. That is, until you look down and the glare blinds you. Buy the black pair unless you’re looking to emulate a Dermott Brereton or Warwick Capper (if you know who I am talking about and why them, you are showing your age. Lairy Aussie Rules footballers for those of you aged younger than 35).

Looking to the 2015-released models, The North Face offers three trail running models in the Ultra range – The Ultra II, the new Cardiac (yet to be tested, but it’s coming) and the not-available-in-Australia-but-should-be Ultra MT (it has bigger, beefier grip for knarlier conditions, reminiscent of Salomon’s Speedcross 3).

All three models run a mid-range 8mm heel-toe drop, which is a great sweet spot for most. Those transitioning to mid/forefoot will find it a not-too-aggressive platform, while those more minimalists running 4-6mm will actually find these remain unobtrusive, comfortable and perfect for the longer run where form may drop off, giving leeway for the fatigued landing.

On trail, I found the Ultra Trail IIs gave excellent trail feedback, allowing for a touchy-feely experience making them ideal for fast and technical trails where responsiveness is key.

One key beef I had with the first iteration, and indeed most of the trail models I’ve reviewed from The North Face, was grip. While the Vibram compound is, of course, first rate and gives great stick for the most part, it remains a slip fest in mud and snow. But you’d expect that with anything other than a true lug-endowed shoe, which is perhaps where the aforementioned Ultra MTs come into play. In general, on dry to moist trails tending smooth to rocky and rooty, these were absolutely serviceable and indeed on flat but slippier surfaces, the high ratio of coverage offered by the tread patterns increased grip as compared to most. Therefore, in actual fact, the overall grip rating across varied surfaces is quite high and good for those who don’t like riding rugged on ‘spikey’ lugs, which really are only suitable for super soft and slushy ground.

Adding to the ride comfort is The North Face’s Cradle heel, which has been a winner across most of its trail models for a while now and remains a huge positive, especially for those seeking a neutral run and good cupping of the heel. The Cradle integrates forward with a cushy midsole, providing smooth ride (16mm to 8mm stack) and slight rebound for the mid footer. Yet this shoe could be used by any form of striker, realistically.

Once again, The North Face has produced a refined, sturdy and performance-orientated trail shoe that will sit proudly in anyone’s collection and be used more than most. This is the shoe (and indeed a brand) that should get more attention than perhaps it does in the trail marketplace, given its consistent high quality offerings. Maybe that’s why the orange? It’s trying to catch our attention. But for my money, it needn’t shout like that, for this shoe speaks enough volume when it’s on my feet, on trail. The message is clear: it’s a comfortable, confident runner. And so I go faster and harder. If Warwick Capper was a trail runner, I reckon he’d say it’d help get higher, too.

TNF Ultra2-2411TAKEOUTS: The North Face Ultra Trail 2

Great for: most mid range trails – including door to trail runs, lairy runners.

Not-so-great for: mud, shy people (if you buy the orange).

Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 95km

Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor

Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.

RRP: AUD $190.00 / NZD $230.00



Trail Run Mag 16

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE: the current edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed#16). Click the image.

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Trail Shoe Review: Raidlight R-Light 002 

TransformerEver see Transformers? Be that the old cartoon on telly or the modern day slick flicks (prefer the former myself). Either way, in the Raidlight R-Light 002, you have the French trail running shoe equivalent. Looking at these you anticipate that all those slightly eighties-esque color patches will start to disassemble and reassemble themselves into another fighting form.

And in a way they do. Unlike their robot counterparts, however, the physical profile of these remains intact, but the expectation of what they can do and how they perform transforms as you get to grips with them.

I’ll be honest. Initially, out of the box, I hated them. Big, bulky, old fashioned looking to my eye – although fairly light considering their visual size at 320g. Indeed, the first time I tried them on readying for a run, I shunted them straight off, thinking I wanted to simply enjoy this particular run, and that I wouldn’t enjoy it in these. So I whacked some familiars on instead and left to test them another time.

Okay, so that’s not a great first (aborted) date and presumptuous on my behalf. But looks can be deceiving, right Optimus Prime?

When I did get to slipping my foot into these, I was actually blown away. That was after I actually got my foot in. With a fully stitched in tongue, it’s a squeeze, but comfortable once in. Those used to a minimalist will feel a little clunky straight away, but it is surprising how quickly they, ahem, transform to feeling perfectly moulded and super comfortable on the foot.

I’m used to a lower ride, so the higher stature of these with a 12mm heel-to-toe drop and a whack of material between your foot and the ground means they land squarely in the traditional camp of trail running shoes. That extends to protection, making them super suited to serious mountain terrain, their stiffness particularly in the mid to rear foot, also applicable to steeper terrain.

The lacing system is cleverly designed as non-crossover, meaning it gives firm hold-in but also has a little give in it for foot swell. As is the way with most European-models, the fit is snug and slim – no big boned big foot will get into these, but for those that do, it’s a very comfortable ride.Screenshot 2015-02-13 09.46.11

In the midsole, there is a four-axis shank, lending to its stability on trail and firmer ride. The outer is super strongly-built, with double stitching holding everything in place. The durability of these – I judge having only run approx. 80-100km in them – is up there with the best.

Here is where the transformer analogy really kicks in, however. Or should that be Inspector Gadget analogy. One of the selling points of Raidlight shoes is adaptability and customisation. Set in the heel, underneath the inner sole, you will find a small detachable cushion block that can be lifted out and replaced with a firmer or softer ride cushion (this is obviously only pertinent to heel strikers and when walking). The AbShock pad is an easy customisation to make with three pads to choose from: Medium-Gel, Dynamic and Absorb. The inner sole itself can be customised to five different types from Neutral through Pronator, Supinator, Slim Fit or Ultralight. Then there’s the Grip Pad – Raidlight offer buyers the option of never-ending replacement of soles, with different hardness options that you can choose when replacing. Select Poly Grip for most surfaces or Winter Grip with Icelock pads made from fiberglass designed for excellent grip on ice.

Other accessories that cover every gamut of adventure running include R-Stab Fit, a removable plate that ‘gives you wings’, fitting under your mid sole to provide more surface lift and stability on sand or snow. There is also Protect Fit, two styles of gator membrane for which the shoe has specific attachments points to match, giving better than usual performance for the brand-specific gaiters.Raidlight-Team-R-Light-0021

The thing about Raidlight – not a brand seen much to date in Australia, but soon to sprout up courtesy of distribution by Hardcore Brands – is that there is significant heritage and therefore in-field development bolstering its credibility. Founded in 1999 by Benoit Laval, an avid runner who ran more than 100 trails on all continents, it has become a popular brand with Adventure Racers. Now, Adventure Racers racers are the type of guys and gals who, when the trail running fraternity stop ’cause the trail peters out, just keep running into the untrammelled wilderness, often for more days-on-end that most ultra runners can ever claim. They are tough as nails. Their running conditions are tough. And their gear needs to be the toughest. And Raidlight has built its product around the requirements of adventure racers. Ergo…

They are also typically French – there’s no apologies for being a little garish or for those little design features that look like useless flash to you and me, but in fact each little accoutrement has purpose (i.e. those little flaps for attaching gaiters perfectly – no Velcro stick strips needed).

A final analogy: I once had the pleasure of being sat in a Peugeot rally car. Another French bit of kit made to eat up wild trails. That ride was one of the best of my life. That rally car did things on dirt roads that no other rally car could. Brutally fast, at one with the environment, with little mechanical tweaks that just worked for going fast in the bush. Transpose that to Raidlight: another French design that kills it in the bush, sturdy, hard-nosed, fast. Of course, like the Peugeot, you gotta learn how to navigate the trails to get the best from it.

Great for: steep and rough mountain running; adventure racing, Inspector gadgety-types
No so great for: minimalists, simpletons (people who like to keep it simple)
Test conditions: both technical and groomed trails. Approx 55km.
Tester: Chris Ord
Tester mechanics: midfoot striker, mid packer, prone to calf injury (#needstotrainmoreconsistently)