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Treat Your Feet:
New Shoes and Socks For Your Adventurous Habits

By Brian Metzler

As a multi-sport athlete, your feet are your bread and butter. Show them some love and buy some new kicks. The treads and threads you wore last year are ready for retirement, but your feet shouldn't feel that way. Here are the best new shoes and socks for trail running, adventure racing, paddling and mountain biking.


Trail Running/Trekking


Adidas ClimaCool ATS Adidas ClimaCool ATS
$100

The refined version of last year's adventure-specific model, the ClimaCool ATS has been trimmed of unnecessary bulk and flash, making it slightly lighter (14.5 ounces) and more comfortable. The extremely breathable meshy upper helps keep your feet cool in hot conditions and it drains as well as any shoe in this category -- both through the upper and sidewalls and through two drainage ports built into the outsole. While the chassis is rather stiff-flexing and it's slightly heavier than most conventional trail runners, it's still runnable. And it's durable and offers great protection in the toe box, heel and outsole. (800) 423-4327; www.adidas.com


Icebug MR2 Icebug MR2
$115

A shoe with spikes? Is this a gimmick or exactly what trail runners in cold-weather climates have been dreaming about? After just one trail run, you'll agree that it's definitely not a gimmick, nor are these Swedish-made shoes geared only for icy conditions. Each shoe has 17 carbide spikes built into the rubber outsole that allows unbelievable traction on ice, snow, dirt, wet wooden bridges, dew-covered grass and just about any other surface. As for the shoe itself, it flexes like a racing flat, offers low-to-the-ground nimbleness with modest cushioning and support and tips the scale at 13 ounces. It is being distributed through U.S. retailers by Garmont. (802) 658-8322; www.icebug.se


New Balance 701 LaSportiva Exum Ridge
$90

We’ve all been in precarious places while trail running or trekking where we wondered if our shoes would adhere to slippery wet rock or whether we’d slip to our doom. The ultra-sticky Exum Ridge removes that fear, allowing you to concentrate on more important things — like trying catch your breath or reading a map. This technical trail running shoe has gotten even more reliable — and slightly lighter (12.8 ounces) — with a redesigned upper, heel and tread pattern. It doesn’t flex quite as easily as some trail runners, but its package of sure-footedness, protection and stability is hard to beat. LaSportiva has also upgraded the Colorado Trail ($85), a mountain-oriented trail shoe geared for higher-mileage runners. (303) 443-8710; www.sportiva.com


Merrell Helium Ventilator Merrell Helium Ventilator
$80

We're not sure what a Helium Ventilator is, but if you imagine running in shoes that feel like balloon-light, you get the idea of what this pair is all about. A meshy upper and ventilated sock liner makes this shoe feel very light (12.2 ounces) out on the trails. The trade-off is a lack of adequate protection in a few key areas. While the solid toe bumper keeps the toes from getting gnarled, the skimpy uppers (although abrasion resistant) spell trouble on more technical trails. It's ideal for short to medium-length runs (preferably on obstacle-free trails) or sprint adventure races. Plus, 80 bucks is a killer price nowadays. (888) 637-7001; www.merrell.com


Montrail Hardrock Montrail Hardrock
$90

The Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run is considered by some to be America's toughest trail running race: 101 miles of unforgiving craggy trails in Colorado's harsh San Juan Mountains. Montrail built a shoe for that kind of terrain -- a mountain running shoe that emphasizes protection and stability -- and succeeded. The shoe has all the features you'd want in a mountain running shoe -- a wide toe box, an aggressive outsole and a flexible protection plate that runs the length of the foot to keep sharp objects at bay -- but the Hardrock (13 ounces) lacks the bulkiness and hard midsole that some mountain shoes possess. (800) 826-1598; www.montrail.com


New Balance 1100 New Balance 1100
$130

The luxury SUV of this year's crop of trail runners, the 1100 has several features geared for running technical terrain. A stretchy high collar wraps the ankle like a mini gaitor and, with the fully gusseted tongue, keeps debris from getting in the shoe. The midsole and outsole are filled with drainage holes, which means you won't be squish-squashing very long after crossing through a creek. An abrasion-resistant mesh upper is fairly durable, but it doesn't offer protection for direct hits to your first metatarsal. While the 14-ounce 1100 is branded as a trail running shoe, we also give it high marks for long trekking sections during an adventure race. (800) 253-7463; www.newbalance.com


Salomon XA Pro 2 Salomon XA Pro 2
$90

Salomon updated the original XA Pro -- which took the adventure racing world by storm in 2002 -- with a more protective exo-skeleton, a sturdier toe box and a more durable lacing system. (It's still a one-pull, locking system with Kevlar laces, but the eyelets have been reinforced.) The XA Pro 2 is still fairly light and airy (13 ounces) and offers dependable protection from all sides on all types of terrain. It has an easy-flexing demeanor and enough EVA in the midsole for long treks or ultrarunning events. Salomon has also brought back the ultra-lightweight Raid Series ($100, 10.3 ounces), which is essentially a minimalist trail running racing flat. (800) 654-2668; www.salomonsports.com


Vasque Borneo Vasque Borneo
$95

If you were to take an old school hiking boot and toss it into a blender with a new-fangled trail runner and mix on high for 60 seconds, the result would be the Borneo. While geared toward fastpacking on technical terrain or long trekking sections of an adventure race, it is runnable for short distances. (At 15 ounces, it is the heaviest shoe among trail shoes in this review.) It has good protection in all the right places, lots of cushioning and has a soft collar that wraps the ankle. The Southern Traverse ($90, 14.5 ounces) is a similar shoe in a low-top version. (800) 224-4453; www.vasque.com


Mountain Biking

Nike ACG Alpin Nike ACG Alpin
$185

This stiff-flexing shoe was co-developed by the mountain bike experts at Trek, utilizing input from the pro riders on the Trek/Volkswagen team. Made for high-end racing, it's a lightweight (13.7 ounces) but durable shoe made with a carbon fiber upper and a natural rubber outsole (for traction during dismounts). It's only available in men's sizes. (920) 478-2197; www.nikecycling.com


Vasque Borneo Pearl Izumi Viper
$180

Pearl Izumi's Viper is geared toward high-end racing, ideal for 24-hour events or adventure races with fast, flat sections or long climbs. It has a carbon-fiber chassis and a unique lacing system that allows for micro adjustments on the fly. (The 13.9-ounce Viper is only available in men's sizes.) If you're looking for a strong mid-range shoe, Pearl Izumi's Vortex ($110) is lightweight (14.3 ounces) and well-ventilated and has a Velcro closure that is more conducive to hiking . (800) 328-8488; www.pearlizumi.com


 Answer Impact Answer Impact
$99

Don’t want to break the bank for a pair of mountain bike shoes? While it wouldn’t be the top choice for doing a 24-hour mountain bike event, it’s perfect for moderate training and sprint adventure racing. The Velcro closure system provides a reliable, snug fit, while the knobby outsole is conducive for dirt or gravel hike-a-bike sections. And the price is right. (661) 257-4411; www.answerproducts.com


River Runners
High-performance shoes for paddling, river running and canyoneering. Your closet is probably already bursting with specialized footwear for everything from trail running to rock climbing. Clear out some room for yet another pair. The shoes in this review drain water like sieves, adhere to river stones like bivalves and protect toes from underwater collisions. Plus, they're amphibious enough -- some more so than others -- for stints on land.

Chaco Z2 Chaco Z2
$90

A classic water-sandal design -- impeccably done. The anatomical footbed is supportive enough for long portages, and the extra loop of webbing that wraps around the big toe helps this sandal fit more securely than other designs. The open top means this is the least protective choice in the review, but many river guides still choose these sandals over other designs (sizing them slightly big creates a buffer between your toes and the riverbed). Available with three choices of soles, from mildly aggressive tread (Colorado) to heavy-duty (Terreno) and extra-sticky rubber (Aqua Stealth). 17.8 ounces; (970) 527-4990; www.chacosan.com


FiveTen Canyoneer FiveTen Canyoneer
$96

The first shoe engineered specifically for canyoneering (a combination of rock climbing, ropes and swimming) comes from a company that specializes in climbing footwear. Unsurprisingly, it sticks to rock tenaciously. We were happy to see that the shoe also sports water-clearing valves in the footbed, a neoprene split-tongue upper, heavy-duty closure straps and a very protective toe box. Venting the upper with mesh makes the shoe fairly comfortable in warm weather, but we'd like to have the option of a full neoprene top for improved insulation in cold canyons. 16 ounces; (909) 798-4222; www.fiveten.com


Teva Gamma Pro Teva Gamma Pro
$60

A closed-top shoe with excellent drainage, comfortable synthetic leather uppers and a generously protected toe box, the Gamma Pro is a paddler's dream. It's not quite as comfortable on land as Salomon's entry -- it lacks the EVA heel counter -- but the Gamma Pro is, nonetheless, supportive enough for long boat carries, or non-technical runs up to about 30 minutes. The bottom mesh panels breathe in air and allow water to exit in a hurry. The tread is aggressive and wraps high around the sides of your feet, shielding your entire foot from river stones. 11.1 ounces; (800) 367-8382; www.teva.com


Vasque Borneo Salomon Pro Amphib
$85

An upgrade from the Tech Amphib, this shoe is almost equally at home on land and sea. Running performance is strong, though you'll still want a true trail shoe for rough terrain or extended treks (also, the high heel counter won't work for everyone's foot). In the water, the shoe stays close, thanks to Salomon's simple and secure cable lacing system. The combination of nylon mesh and plastic support bands in the uppers creates a breathable top that dries fast and drains in a snap. The heel secures with a buckle fastener when it's up, and folds down to create a sandal. Great performance in and out of the wet makes this a solid choice for multi-sport athletes. 11.5 ounces; (800) 654-2668; www.salomonsports.com


Sock Market Report
Five new models earn high marks.

Endurance athletes agree that foot care is paramount. But, for all the thought we put into selecting just the right pair of shoes for each sport, how many of us can say that we're totally content with our sock drawers? For those of you looking to upgrade your socks this spring, here are five blue-chip picks worth investing in.

Asics Kayano Extreme Asics Kayano Extreme
$15
79% nylon/14% polypropylene/7% spandex

Warm enough to use in near-freezing temps, but with enough moisture-wicking capability to keep feet dry on summer days, these socks perform in a wide range of conditions. The asymmetric design means you have to pay attention to which sock goes on which foot during transitions, but results in a precise fit, with the cushioned areas precisely aligned over the ball of your foot, toes and heel. Very unobtrusive seams. (800) 678-9435; www.asics.com



Vasque Borneo Defeet Speede Inked
$10
50% nylon/40% polyester/10% spandex

Low-cut and very thin (especially on the top section), these highly ventilated socks are an excellent choice for running or riding in hot weather. The toe and heel sections are minimally padded, but offer just enough protection to prevent blisters. The fabric's moisture transfer properties are excellent, although some testers said the material felt slightly gritty. (800) 688-3067; www.defeet.com


Vasque Borneo Patagonia Capilene Endurance
$11
53% Merino wool/26% nylon/14% polyester/7% spandex

If you'd expect a fabric that's half wool to be limited to cold weather, think again. These socks are perfect for moderate to warm conditions, with excellent moisture transfer. They dry fast and offer good, though not great, under-foot cushioning. (800) 638-6464; www.patagonia.com





Smartwool Adrenaline Micro Smartwool Adrenaline Micro
$14; 80% wool/19% nylon/1% elastic

The fit on these low-slung models is excellent, due to a four-way stretch knit and nicely elasticized ankle cuffs. An extra dollop of cushioning on the back helps protect the Achilles tendon from chaffing. Moisture transfer is good, and the material thin enough to wear in moderately hot temps. Women's models are cut narrower than the men's styles. (970) 879-2913; www.smartwool.com


Vasque Borneo Sealskinz Chillblockers
$50

As the Monty Python guys used to say "and now for something completely different." Sealskinz are waterproof socks, and some adventure racers swear by them. The latest version is a fleece-lined model that's probably warm enough to wear while snorkeling in the Arctic Circle. The nylon/Lycra outer provides a close fit, a waterproof membrane keeps your feet dry, and the synthetic Polartec liner adds heavy-duty insulation. Put a pair of these on under any shoes with decent soles and you've got a winning combo for cold-water adventures. (800) 868-2629; www.danalco.com

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