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: 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



Larapinta strip


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.

Mt Buller

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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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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)





REVIEW: Brooks Pure Grit 3

samuelcostin_20140728_06GRIT FOR GRIME >> Brooks Pure Grit 3

Ask and thy shall receive. Not necessarily because anyone is listening. Just because sometimes the Gods of Iteration get it right.

In previous reviews I’ve been complimentary about Brooks Cascadia and Pure Grit models, with some minor gripes.  If you combined the general gist of my opinion on past outings of both models, the thematic would be that they needed to be whacked into a blender together, and hopefully the alchemy that transpired would result in the best aspects of each shoe being combined into a super model.

Well, abracadabra, alchemy-do: the Brooks boffins have attained a level of sorcery here with the third outing of the Pure Grit. The result is an almost perfect balance of robust, dozer-like performance with biting grip (Cascadia gene-pool there) together with light, go-fast, low heel-toe drop, natural ride performance and comfort (Pure Grit parentage shining through).

The shoe is sporting the Pure Grit badge, not Cascadia, so the architecture remains true to the Pure Grit philosophy of being a transitional-minimalist shoe with low profile ride (4mm drop), and a good amount of cushion.

Pure Grit (1 of 1) medThis model has lost the toe-splay that came online more prominently in the Pure Grit 2, reverting to a traditional toe-sole design (with good protection), however the splay remains in place at the rear (to what end I am still unsure) and, interestingly, on the outer side at midfoot.

The outsole is in fact the most obvious design change to the eye: much more aggressive than its predecessor with hexagonal lugs interspersed with perpendicular gutters up front and parallel gutter up the mid to outside rear. The gutters seem to allow the outersole to flex in advantageous spots underneath your foot, allowing for a more natural movement and response. Indeed while the lugs are grippier, I found the Grit 3 more tactile on the ground with much better feedback to rough trails. And of course it delivered more confidence on the rough stuff that the 2s.

The addition of a forefoot rockplate also brings with it better protection (but again, did not seem to dull the feedback from the ground). This allows the Pure grit to get stuck into much rougher terrain than the previous model could cope with, broadening its trail-type coverage. Indeed a run through the highly technical Grampians range in Victoria, Australia, where underfoot is a chameleon journey of rock, roots, mud, moss and everything in between, had the Pure grits performing like a greyhound on heat. Only I was the one panting, like I couldn’t keep up with them. They were perfectly matched to the technical terrain.

My other beef on the previous Pure Grits (2) was an upper that seemed to allow my foot too much movement internally, which meant increased instability when hoofing it around corners. Super dangerous in territory such as the Grampians. This model goes a long way to rectifying the upper fit, with a traditional tongue in lieu of what was a critic-polarizing wrap design, giving better hold up top.  The lace opening remains off centre but not by much – essentially the tweaks made have worked to lock down my foot in comfort and security.

The upper wicks well up front with a mesh-style fabric, however does hold a little moisture up back with more materials built into the heel and ankle holds. Nothing that doesn’t dry out eventually though.

The colourways – which have absolutely nothing to do with performance so really who cares – are on the lairy side and up for taste critiques: all subjective. Get it dirty and no-one will notice the psychedelia.

The shoe won’t please those who were looking perhaps for more refinement leading towards the minimalist tendency: essentially this is a beefed-up Pure Grit designed to appeal more to the middle market experimenting with going low profile, rather than appeasing purists who may have been looking for a further stripped back version of Pure Grip 2.

But for this mid-pack punter, the middle ground has been an improvement. Now if I could just get it in black.

TAKE OUTS Brooks Pure Grit 3
Great for: gnarly, technical trails, mountain running, transitioning to minimalist
No so great for: mud, icy  spots, slick rock
Test conditions: a mix of mild and super techy trails usually in damp and wet condition; Grampians National Park, Surf Coast trails. Approx 120km.
Tester: Chris Ord
Tester mechanics: slight pronator, mid foot striker, stiff hip flexors, prone to injury!

VITALS: RRP$ 199.95



Ultra Dependable

IMG_1563 mediumOne award gets you noticed, more awards gets you credibility and The North Face Ultra Trail’s have quickly garnered some serious kudos in mag land winning gongs the likes of Outside Magazine’s 2014 Gear of the Year Award in the trail running category and Runner’s World Magazine Best Debut Award Winner. That’s not a bad looking trophy cabinet for under half a season of being on the playing field. You can see the marketing bods – chuffed at the accolade ammunition they’ll tout in the next campaign – clinking champers flutes with the lab design boffins.  Great work old chaps, nailed it.

TRM has to date avoided the plaudit game, but if we did enter that fray, this model would get an award for ‘most consistent’ in terms of here we have a pair of trail shoes that doesn’t lairize. It just gets the job done, dependably across the middle ground of the trail scene.

A shoe made for neutral runners, it is well suited to an average shaped foot  – despite looking on the narrow side it has good room on the interior so long as you haven’t got whacking slabs.


The ride is dependable, so long as you’re on medium grade dirt. It displays good trail feel until you get to seriously steep or loose, gravely stuff. Then it loses its composure a little, the demure pattern Vibram sole grippy on most surfaces but tending to lose its mojo on gravel or mud where the close knit, low profile lugs let it slide.

Where the Ultra Trail’s shine is in comfort and ride, so long as you aren’t looking to be molly-coddled. The Cradle mid-sole technology that has well-served previous models in The North Face trail range, is re-employed, giving an extremely stable ride and promoting a biomechanically correct stride. The energy return is on the dull side with a firmer disposition – those looking for spring may be disappointed but those looking for trail feel will be happy trail campers.

For this tester, the moderate drop is in a sweet spot of 8mm (16mm-8mm), which delivers a good balance between low profile connection to the ground, giving immediate response and a mid range rise that doesn’t overly stress the calf as you fatigue.

The action on trail feels fast and agile – nearly like a road racing flat – you feel like you want to dance on dirt in these.

The upper is where more noticeable changes have been employed; a nearly seamless lightweight mesh construction featuring super wicking ‘Flashdry’ fabric on the inner matched to a breathable exterior mesh. These shoes are perfect for those runs where getting wet feet is inevitable. The material (including the overlays) is highly flexible, the fit consistent. The toe protection is good with rubberized protection the vanguard up front. The interior is essentially seam-free allowing for sockless wear, as well. Where the upper may fault is in longevity, however the shoe was not in hand (ermm, on foot) for long enough to assess either upper wear or sole degradation. Being a black Vibram sole, however, and on the firmer side, we suspect the grip will last longer than the fabric up top and indeed a quick web search revealed other testers who had minor issues with fabric wear and the odd tear.

Overall this would be a great shoe for fast, short- to mid-distance trails that feature consistency of mild terrain underfoot, rather than extremes. It would also be a good regular training shoe, especially for door to trail given the ride on road isn’t too bad. Not a daring entry on the market, but a solid performer worthy of an ‘approach shoe’ award in that it is ‘approaching awesome’.

More online reviews: 

Run Blogger
Running Shoe Guru
Ultra Runner Podcast  

TAKE OUTS The North Face Ultra Trail

Great for:  consistent terrain, racing, mid-distance, weight-watchers , trail feel, wet weather, hot weather

No so great for: loose terrain, mud, sensitive souls, very cold conditions

Test conditions: coastal trails, soft ground to gravel firm, rock sections, fire trails. 170km tested.
Tester: Chris Ord, Editor, Trail Run Mag

Tester mechanics: slight pronator, mid foot striker unless really tired and getting lazy to the heel, stiff hip flexors (not enough training, no fault of the shoe)


RRP AU$180.00/ NZ$240.00


Trail shoe review: Nike Zoom Wildhorse

nike-zoom-terra-wildhorse-prize-blue-total-orange-flash-lime-1THE WILD ONE: Let’s caveat this review: I’m an Air Jordan tragic. I grew up in an era where if you didn’t have a pair of Air Jordan’s on, you simply didn’t exist, as though the basketballer’s signed-off footwear had a magic power to uncloak you from teenage invisibility.

So while I never spoke it, I admit to an inner yearning that one day, Nike, the big boomer of running shoes on road (and basketball court), would one day get its swoosh dirty. I even sent copies of the original Trail Run Mag hardcopy to Nike Australia offices in the hope it would spark some kind of fraternity. They ignored me like I was ignored by the school basketball coach all those years ago. Severely. I didn’t hold out much hope.

So my dreams of a return to adolescent footwear that matched my adult sporting tendencies faded and I parlayed that energy into purveying brands that did have the smarts to go wild.

And then, without much warning (or local fanfare it must be said), there they were: Nike Zoom Wildhorse. Dedicated Nike trail shoes. Could it be true? More importantly, would they stuff it up? In trail land, it’s easy to look like a trail shoe but perform like a brick.

All I can say is, the most famous #23 (MJ) backed the right horse way back then, and the trail world may just have to swallow a big brand getting it smack on today, despite our tendencies to tall poppy anything tainted by the brush of mass commercialism.

Yes, on trail, these shoes did everything right. The grip is reminiscent of what I consider the best grip in the market in the Saucony Peregrines. They are aggressive and grippy enough to plant your foot firmly and confidently on any surface, yet not over-lugged, which can get annoying when the terrain is harder and smoother.  The heel has reverse-oriented lugs down the middle giving excellent traction on the down. A 4mm drop (23-19mm heel-to-toe) is nearly flat and close to the ground, and with a fairly spongy heel that softens to a neutral drop.

Where the Wildhorse really stand out is in their perfect balance of cushioning, trail feel and protection. On the forefoot, it almost feels like  – dare I say it – a concave cushion of air, which for a mid-fore foot striker is a dream. Yet at the pointiest end of ground impact, that ebbs to good trail feel, quite quickly, allowing good reaction to terrain. It makes for a nimble ride. Yet the sponge-like cushion doesn’t seem to adversely affect stability, as many cushioned shoes do. The ride remains confident.

Up top the shoe locks your mid-forefoot snugly, adding to stability while being absolutely comfortable with enough give. A gusseted tongue prevents small debris from working into the shoe. The single layer ripstop upper was also extremely breathable, although the evacuation of water from river stomping was slower than some.

The foot fit is what I’d say is midrange – it’s not slim yet not boxy, although upfront there is enough room if you have a bit of a flanged forefoot, and the toe guard doesn’t look beefy, but does keep your pinkies well protected.

These could be rated as a perfectly balanced shoe: lightweight and nimble enough for racing, comfortable enough for long training sessions, and stable enough for technical terrain. Another prime balancing act: the price ($170) is pretty economical up against most competition at this performance end.

There is another Nike trail model on market in the Kiger. Top end trail runner Chris Wight, who also works at shoe retailer The Running Company, explains the variance between models:

“Kiger is the premium trail shoe…but in my mind there is no better between the two. Kiger is softer underfoot and in the upper. It’s the most comfortable trail shoe I’ve worn and feels amazing to run in. That said, the lock through the midfoot and the tread isn’t aggressive enough for more technical trails and that is where I’m loving the wildhorse. In the wildhorse I think you get a more locked down feel through the midfoot and better traction. I’d definitely feel comfortable in the Wildhorse racing (something like) Bogong to Hotham and it’s looking like my Buffalo Stampede shoe at present.”

The only question mark is long-term durability over super tough terrain. This is where the Saucony Peregrine’s fell to pieces. Can Nike up the ante? Stay tuned, an extended rough and tumble Alps session is still to be undertaken in these. But for now, Nike’s Wildhorses are absolutely worth saddling up.

IMG_0061 medTAKEOUTS: Nike Wildhorse

Great for: nearly everything – techy, rough, smooth and dirty.
Not-so-great for: river crossings and durability is still to be tested over time in the roughest of conditions. Mud presents a bit of a problem.
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 80+km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes.

RRP: AUD$170.

Mt Buller

WANT MORE SHOE REVIEWS? And plenty more dirt? Get stuck into the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, Ed#12. OUT NOW.

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Shoe Review: Brooks Cascadia 9

Cascade of Dreams
Trail shoe review of the Brooks Cascadia 9

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.45.58Can anyone think of a movie sequel beyond say version two that outstrips its original (porn flicks non admissible)? If anyone says Police Academy 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7, I’ll kill you (tangential note: there’s a new sequel being produced in 2014). The message being that rarely are franchise films any good and equally, it’s hard to truly update a shoe more than a few times and still make any significant gains, unless you create an entirely new shoe, with little genealogy, in which case, call it something else. I mean, how many times can you have plastic surgery before everything just falls off?

Well, there’s always a rule breaker and the latest Cascadia 9s are it. I’ve run a most of the iterations of this model. Rarely have I been disappointed, mind you, like I was with Police Academy: Back In Training. The Cascadia 3s were actually my first trail shoe, and I loved them straight out of the box after they saw me through my first ever bush marathon. Subsequent versions have performed well, too, although I wasn’t a fan of them putting on the beef with each subsequent edition.

But with the 9s, they’ve got me as excited as a movie buff that has heard the director of Breaking Bad is making the next instalment of The Godfather.

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.46.08True story: when I got these shoes, and felt them in my hand, there was something about them that had me whacking them on there and then, mid conversation (sorry wife), out my front door and running on my back door trails. I was still in jeans. I just needed to try them out. They had a power over me like the Ring had over Gollum. And I seriously let out a holler as I ran in them on a rainy day. I just knew they were good. Better than their earlier iterations. Can you imagine the surprise you’d be in if Police Academy 8 was better than 1? Or even 3? That was me.

They are still pretty bulldozer-like in appearance (but they deliver on that visual promise) and bolder than ever – their bright orange and yellow dress sense shrieks at you louder than Zed’s wail (Bobcat Goldthwaite in PA2).

Their grip is as aggressive as ever, but lower profile than you’d imagine given what they deliver in earth cling. That is, whereas many shoes seeking grip rely on longer lugs to bite in, which then becomes annoying and cumbersome when the trail smooths out (not to mention detracts from trail feel), the Cascadia’s lugs are low but there are many of them. The secret is in an alternating forward/back facing ‘V’ design to give grip in both directions, as well as laterally. Also, they tend not to hold mud and clog, shedding it quickly. I rate these perhaps the best grip on market.

The mesh and felt upper wicks well – even the more padded tongue and heel couch dry out quickly after a drenching. The upper construction of a felt cage exo-skeleton gives excellent upper support, holding the foot perfectly in place, with a reinforced heel cup keeping things firm up back.

The 10mm offset change from heel to toe may deter some who err on minimalism, as I do. However, I still found the higher platform did not detract from the running experience. With a decent cushioning, these shoes offer excellent protection underfoot, but lose a smidge of trail feel, although the balance between the two factors has been struck well.

I have heard it said that the 9s are merely a fashionable update, nevertheless whatever changes have been made, they work for me, as I prefer these to the 8s. In fact I probably prefer them to my beloved 3s.

They are the perfect hardcore trail runner, to be used where grip and protection is needed, the trade off a slightly bulkier shoe on the foot if you are used to minimal racers. But they remain lightweight, meaning you still feel fast in them, and the upside of feeling as though you can step anywhere means you invariably have more confidence on the trail.  This does two things: allows you to concentrate on improving your landing skill and technique more, and over time it increases your speed as you learn to tap dance more furiously, unafraid of the terrain tripping, poking or prodding you to fall.

A Cascade of dreams indeed.

Brooks Cascadia 9

Great for: anything. Seriously, anything.

Not-so-great for: uber minimalists and those looking for low heel-toe drop.

Test Conditions: mostly technical single track with some beefy in-the-wet sessions

Tester: Chris Ord, editor, Trail Run Mag

Tester Mechanics: mid-foot striker whose form diminishes in proportion to time on trail, slight pronator.

VITALS:   AU$239.95.    Website:  

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.57.15

Latest Trail Run Mag blazes new trail

TRM COver 400px

The new-look Trail Run Mag: edition 10 cover, imagery by Lyndon Marceau, design by Jordan Cole.

You know that feeling when you run a trail for the first time? It’s all new, fresh dirt, exploding the senses – makes you wanna steam through the jungle… Well, get ready to feel the same bolt of change when you open up the pages of the latest Trail Run Mag, Edition 10, hitting the e-shelves right now, because you’re in for a surprise.

Last edition we checked in with new editors (welcome Rachel Jaqueline as our Asia Bureau Chief and Vicki Woolley, our New Zealand Chief). This edition we welcome to the singletrack fray a new designer in Jordan Cole. And boy has he stamped out a fresh track with his approach to the look and feel of Trail Run Mag.

At this point we have to say a big thanks to Heidi and Pete Hibberd from The Bird Collective, who forever remain co-founders of Trail Run Mag and will always be a part of its success. Heidi’s design and Pete’s direction resulted in works of art across our pages. Thanks guys for the late nights, heart and soul that you bled willingly. But change blows through everywhere and as the dynamic duo takes a well earned breather, Jordan steps to the breach and we’ve let him play like Matty Coops dances a mountain jig. We hope you like his style…we certainly do.

So, get your copy now. We’ll pay our respects to those of you who have or are about to subscribe via iPad or Kindle. Get your copy from the – e-newsrack while it’s still burning hot zeros and ones. Subscribe here (Apple Store) or here (Kindle/Amazon) if you haven’t already. If you have, you’ll already have the mag on your digi device.

For those still hanging out for the good old FREE pdf download, your dirty goodness comes a few steps down the trail. Check out on Monday. It’s free, all you have to do is register. No charge. Amazing.

 Mongolioan lead spread 400pxSO WHAT’S IN THE MAG?

PROFILE: Colour of Ruby > an insight into Ruby Muir

INTERVIEW: The Moment > trail snapper Lyndon Marceau


Manaslu Madness > getting’ singletrack high in the Himalayas

Mongolian second spread 400pxBig Red Heart > overcoming odds in the Simpson Desert

Black Dog Days > what is it with the downer after an ultra?

Mongolian Multiday Magic > in the footsteps of Khan

Beyond the Wire > thought your run was tough? Try Afghanistan…

Rhythms of the Trail > a German physicist unlocks the secret of trail running


Editors Columns – AU, NZ and Asia editors all have their say

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 1.32.44 PMPLUS: Rich’s Rant – Richard Bowles gets angry


Throws at you four big upcoming events, across AU, NZ and Asia

Trail Porn > so dirty, it’ll blow your mind

Now’s a good time to buy… all the good gear

Shoe reviews > a pearler and one we fell in love with

PLUS: TRAIL GUIDES – four of the best

Trail Run Mag, your fave magazine dedicated to trail running in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, now available online via:

iPad – check it out at Apple Store (subscription)

Kindle Fire – for tablets (subscription)

FREE PDF – for the skint 🙂 (email address required)






Shoe review: Brooks PureGrit2

Grit and bare it? Happily says TRM Editor, Chris Ord, who finds the new PureGrit2 trail shoes from Brooks remain well within the comfort zone.

“The Brooks Pure Grit 2 is the best trail running shoe I’ve had the pleasure of running on”.

That’s not me. That’s the Running Shoes Guru speaking (

For my money, he’s not 100% on the money, but my foot is different to his. That said, and (assumed) anatomical differences aside, he’s still about 89% correct. The Pure Grit 2 runs a damn fine performance on any form of flowing dirt and is up there with some of the best on offer in the low heel-to-toe drop sphere (4mm in this case).

First impressions centre on fit and comfort. The shoe molds snugly to the foot and the asymmetrical upper and lace system better distributes pressures on the top of the foot as it motions through strike. This design factor is evident and equally impressive on the new Brooks Cascadia 8s (reviewed here), although the Grit 2s add in an elastic band, which does, well, look good if nothing else.

You’ll immediately note the cushioning as super plush, especially for a minimalist shoe, yet it’s not at the expense of trail feel, which remains precise. The concave sole (running the width of the foot) adds to this ever so, working like a flexed spring, to splay out on each impact.

Following complaints with Pure Grit mark one that grip was appalling, Brooks claims that it has imbued the Son Of with a new, more aggressive outsole featuring multi-directional lug pattern. Aggressive is a stretch – while I can’t compare and contrast to the previous model (online reports seem to indicate this version is definitely grippier) – I would say the earth-suck is middling, with traction lost on fast, winding forays on gravel and loose dirt, while mud renders them skates.

Toe protection is mid-weight but sufficient and the toe groove cut form the front sole gives a little independence to the big toe from its smaller brethren, again adding a pinkie’s worth to trail feel.

The upper is light and breathable, although this has a downside – the structure of the upper is so barely there that for me, when on super twisty trails, my foot would slide over the footbed given any sideways momentum meaning my confidence to whip through fast flat corners suffered.

Where the Pure Grit 2s really shine, however, is in general comfort. They also suit those wanting to transition across to a lower heel-toe ratio, as the heel is soft enough to take a heel strike as you tire and your form fades.

I’d rate them as a great door to trail option and perfect for a runner wanting minimalist heel-to-toe with some rebound for longer training runs on non to semi-technical terrain. When the going gets really rough, I’d prefer to run the Cascadia 8s. Perhaps Brooks can consider a flatter-heeled Cascadia as a perfect middle ground?

RRP: $199.95

Great for: door to trail, runners transitioning to minimalist heel-to-toe drops

Not so great for: hardcore technical trails

Test conditions: mostly singletrail, soft to firm, some graded track, technical, rocky, 135km+

Tester: Chris Ord

Tester mechanics: Mid-foot strike. Slight pronator. Prefers minimal shoes, but technical trail.