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Happy Feet:
New Treads for Multi-Sport Pursuits

By Brian Metzler

It’s about that time of the year, isn’t it? The time when you realize you need some new shoes. By now, the trail runners you bought this spring are probably pretty broken down, the mountain bike shoes you thought would last through another season aren’t quite going to make it, and your ever-soggy paddling shoes are growing some kind of alien plant life in the corner of your garage. Never fear, we’ve sourced out a few key models for your many off-road endeavors.


Nike ACG Air Zoom Tallac Hiking/Peak Bagging
Nike ACG Air Zoom Tallac

$140

A backpacking boot inspired by a basketball shoe? Believe it or not, Nike ACG drew on some of the innovative ankle support technology utilized in Nike’s hoops shoes to complete this revolutionary hiking boot. Although it has a bomber construction, each boot is only 16 ounces. (That’s lighter than a few trail running shoes on the market.) Despite a minimalist upper made primarily of durable ripstop fabric, the Air Zoom Tallac doesn’t slack on support because the shoe is bolstered by a molded polyurethane exo-skeleton structure. A lightweight midsole and Zoom Air bag in the forefoot provide extraordinary cushioning, while a full-length shank between the midsole and outsole give the boot stability and rigidity. Lined with Gore-Tex XCR, the Tallac is weatherproof and fairly breathable for such a durable mountain boot. www.nikeacg.com


Brooks Trespass 2 Trail Running
Brooks Trespass 2

$85

One of the more stable trail runners on the market, the Trespass 2 is also fairly nimble — sometimes a difficult mix for a trail shoe to accomplish on technical terrain. It offers superior protection from underfoot bone bruises and stingers, stubbed toes and lateral abuse from rocks, roots and other trail debris. There’s plenty of cushioning in the Trespass 2 (12.5 ounces), as well as a very reliable tread pattern on the outsole. It feels a bit clunky on smooth, flat trails, but it’s a champion on rocky trails, gravel roads and scree fields. What it lacks in breathability (there are a lot of synthetic overlays), it more than makes up in durability, stability and protection. (800) 227-6657; www.brooksrunning.com


New Balance 701 Adventure Racing/Peaking Bagging
New Balance 701

$78

Already one of the leading manufacturers of trail running shoes, New Balance jumps headlong into the adventure racing sector with the new 701. A super-stable shoe designed to handle all types of rugged terrain, it offers plenty of protection by way of a sturdy toe box, reinforced side panels and a thin but effective polyurethane plate sandwiched between the outsole and midsole. It has plenty of adventure-specific features, including a high-grip rubber outsole, easy drainage and temperature regulation with mesh side panels and a gusseted tongue to keep debris from getting into the shoe. The one drawback to the 701 is that it’s a bit heavier (15 ounces), than some of its contemporaries. But the additional weight seems to come from smartly designed protection features. (800) 343-1395; www.newbalance.com


Tecnica Shandal Max Water Sports/Trail Running
Tecnica Shandal Max

$75

Is it a sandal or a shoe? It’s a shoe, but it looks and acts like a sandal. A versatile design with a trail-oriented outsole and midsole and a quick-draining synthetic mesh upper, it’s ideal for multi-sport training or racing where paddling, portaging and some trekking are involved. The Shandal Max has a unique, water-resistant lacing system: each shoe has one continuous elastic nylon lace that doesn’t need to be tied, only locked. A neoprene ankle collar helps keep the shoe snug in water. While it’s not a model you should expect to use as your primary trail running shoe, it is lightweight (12 ounces) and can get the job done for short-distance jaunts. (603) 298-8032; www.tecnicausa.com


Montrail Susitna XCR Trail Running/Adventure Racing
Montrail Susitna XCR

$125

Designed as an inclement-weather trail running shoe, the Susitna XCR is ideal for cold-climate adventure racing, running muddy trails, slogging around in the rain and even light glacier trekking. It’s a fully waterproof shoe (with a detachable waterproof gaiter) but with an innovative design. Instead of using the Gore-Tex XCR laminate on the inside of the shoe as a liner, Montrail incorporated it on the outermost layer. The interior mesh construction is able to offer greater breathability and moisture-wicking efficiency as it drives heat and sweat through the Gore-Tex membrane. The best part about this 13-ounce shoe is it’s built on the same platform as the Melee trail running shoe, with a high traction outsole and flexible protection plate in the forefoot. It’s definitely not a shoe you’d need in warm or mild weather, but it’s top-notch for sloshing through snow, slush, rocky streambeds and slop. (800) 647-0224; www.montrail.com


Pearl Izumi Vaper Mountain Biking
Pearl Izumi Vaper

$179

A super-stiff and torsionally rigid mountain bike shoe, the 12-ounce Vaper is made with cross-country performance in mind. It has excellent shoe-to-pedal energy transmission, which ultimately helps your pedaling power efficiency and overall speed. A seamless, airy mesh upper helps make the shoe lightweight and very cool. Although the outsole features an aggressive tread for those places you have to dismount and go on foot, the stiff sole isn’t conducive to long hike-a-bike sections common to some adventure races. But it’s an ideal shoe for off-road triathlons, 24-hour bike events or long leisurely rides. (800) 328-8488; www.pearlizumi.com


Asics Gel-1090 Trail Running
Asics Gel-1090

$75

Don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a pair of new trail runners? The Gel-1090 is a versatile shoe at a reasonable price. It has enough features to keep your dawgs out of harm’s way on the trail and is especially savvy on fire roads and soft dirt paths. Constructed more like a road running shoe, it offers superior cushioning (using Asics’ GEL system throughout the shoe) and decent stability in a 13.6-ounce package. The Gel-1090 lacks some of the trail-specific protection and control features of higher-end trail running shoes (for example, the Asics’ Gel-Eagle Trail III), but the result is an easy-flexing shoe that’s light enough to run fast. (800) 678-9435; www.asicstiger.com


Salomon TechAmphibian Water Sports
Salomon TechAmphibian

$85

The flyweight TechAmphibians (10.9 ounces) were built with adventure racers in mind. A quick-draining and fast-drying fully synthetic shoe, it’s versatile enough to be used for kayaking, canoeing, canyoneering, coasteering and even light trekking or trail running (thanks to a sturdy construction and grippy outsole). Essentially, it’s a shoe with a mind and body of a sandal, offering just enough protection for extended periods of foot travel on land. Because the laces are made of Kevlar and have a unique locking system, they’re not going to become waterlogged or come untied — a useful feature when you’re in and out of water most of the time. Plus, an adjustable back allows them to be expanded and worn with neoprene booties, or flattened and worn as a post-race sandal. (800) 225-6850; www.salomonsports.com


Pearl Izumi, Take Trail Running
Pearl Izumi, Take

$85

For years, Pearl Izumi has been known for its cycling apparel and fitness clothing. In the last couple of years the company has ventured into footwear, including its foray into running shoes in 2003. The boldly designed Take (13.4 ounces) is its first trail running shoe, and it’s right on the mark when it comes to technical terrain. The shoe has a unique but effective outsole that provides good traction from a bed of soft rubber teeth and stability from a ring of hard-density lugs that surround the teeth. The other strong features of the Take are the durability and protection offered by the rugged-fabric upper and reinforced toe box. (800) 328-8488; www.pearlizumi.com

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