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trail runners with the best support

i like low trail running shoes.  i use them a lot.  but, i have one beef about them.  while they keep my feet stable and secure, the midsoles and cushioning are a couple of steps behind current running shoe technology.  wondering whether i can bridge the gap.

example: treksta's evolution trail runner fits me like a glove and has some motion control features, 2 density midsole at the heel, for example.  however, the foam midsoles tend to lose their spring and get crushed in a fairly short period of time, if you walk a lot.

by comparison, my ASICS running shoes, gel evolution 6, are fantastic.  much better motion control, much more robust midsole that lasts several times longer, awesome support.  they are a max protect shoe meant for people who batter their feet.  but, they are running shoes, upper materials are lightweight and prone to trail damage, and they aren't designed with steep uphills and downhills in mind.

are there any trail runners that actually incorporate state of the art running shoe construction? do any of the running shoe companies make a worthy trail runner in your experience? (ASICS makes a running shoe with gore tex, which they call a trail runner, but i'm not sure it's really trail-worthy, nor does it offer nearly the support of the more stable ASICS shoes). 



love my adidas vigors

I have Brooks running shoes with Mogo in the midsole. They have been spectacular for more miles than I could count. I believe they use Mogo in their best trail shoes as well...


I also really like ASICS gel but they do start coming apart at the seams with suprisingly little trail use.

Like Xterro, I use Brooks for actual running activity, but now I'm using a Patagonia Release for lightweght backpacking (well and heavy backpacking also) . So far the durbaility is good. I've got a lot of backacking miles with them and there is no damage. As far as support, I do use custom orthotics and choose my footwear based on which models can fit my inserts but I give them a thumbs up so far.

I'm an ultra-runner/trail-runner who regularly notches 50-60 mile weeks.  I've learned a lot about shoes over the years.

My short answer is this:

Find the best running store in town that has an extensive fitting process and be fitted for a trail running shoe by an expert.  A good store will usually put you on a treadmill, videotape your gait, and analyze the wear-pattern on your existing shoes(be sure to wear them).  It doesn't matter what people on this board are wearing or what your runner friends are wearing or what Dean Karnazes is wearing; none of them have your foot or your preferences.  Wearing the wrong shoes is the perfect storm for all sorts of injuries.  Only a personal consultation (free at good stores) will determine the shoe that's best for you.  You will pay full price but it is worth every penny.

My long answer is:

You are talking a lot about stability and motion control and I'm not quite clear on what kind of stability you are meaning.  I don't know how familiar you are with running shoe design so pardon me if you already know this stuff:

Industry use of the word 'stability' or 'motion control' shoe refers to the shoe's ability to correct overpronation, excessive inward rolling of the foot during footstrike.  There is also foot supination (outward roll) but these types of runners are usually fitted for standard neutral running shoes.  Shoes marketed as 'stability' are generally intended for mild to moderate overpronators and 'motion control' shoes are designed for severe overpronators, oftentimes people with flat arches.  The general design principle is the incorporation of a medial post or built up midsole to minimize pronation.  

You said you prefer low running shoes.  In this case you are referring to the "stack height" of the shoe.  This refers to the distance between the footbed and the bottom of the outsole; essentially how much shoe there is between your foot and the ground.  Stack height is measured in the heel and the forefoot and the difference between these numbers is called the "drop" (sometimes "offset").  The heel to toe drop in running shoes has increased from the era of plimsolls and waffle shoes and reached an average of 12mm in traditional running shoes (15mm in the horrific Nike Shox).  This change came with the advent of air soles, gel soles, EVA foam and all the other cushioning technologies that flood the market today.  The general principal is that a higher offset causes the foot to strike on the heel and the cushioning technology absorbs the shock.  Athletes and sport scientists have been largely rethinking this idea over the last decade and shifting towards the idea that a natural footstrike (mid-foot or forefoot) is better for the body and reduces injury.  This is called the natural running movement and on the extreme end you have people running barefoot or in 'barefoot shoes' like Vibram Fivefingers.  More popular, however, has been minimalist shoes; usually lightweight, free-moving shoes in the 0mm-6mm drop range with fewer features.  Examples include lines like the Nike Free series, Brooks Pure Project line, and New Balance Minimus series.  

It sounds like you are concerned with your foot shifting or tipping over the sole when you walk.  A lower center of gravity reduces this as does the shoe's fit on your foot and material of its upper.  If you like low riding shoes then you want a model with a low 'stack height'. You need to seek this out specifically because even if a shoe is zero drop it could still mean that the foot is high off the ground.  You also need to look at the shoe 'last' used.  The last refers to the foot mold used in a shoe's design and will reflect the way it fits your foot.  Properties of a shoe's last include width of the heel and forefoot and height of the instep and toebox.  Finally, the shoe's upper will play a large role in keeping your foot secure. An upper made with just an unsupported stretchy material isn't going to secure your foot like a material with less give like synthetic leather.  Lots of shoes these days will mix materials and use wires or plastics overlays to secure the laces to the sole (like a suspension bridge).  Nike Flywire is an example of this but most manufacturers have their own version of this technology.  All of these factors will influence how securely your foot is in the footbed and how the shoe performs.

Individual shoe recomendation mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  Anyone who tells you that one brand or one model is the best needs to read and run more and talk less.  That brand/model may be the best for them but it has no bearing on what is best for you.  Every foot is different and every shoe is different.  Most of the big running shoe manufacturers have dozens of shoe models and use different lasts to make them.  Urban legends like "New Balance makes the best shoes for people with wide feet" are complete bull.  NB uses dozens of last types as do the other companies.

It sounds like you are looking for a trail shoe with a low stack height, secure upper, and features like a rock plate in the sole to protect against trail hazards).  You also want a midsole material that holds up over time without breaking down.  Polyurethane foams (PU) or PU/EVA blends often hold up better than EVA foams but are usually harder and heavier (there are exceptions to this and every technology is different.  There are some really durable EVAs out there).  Inov-8 makes a number of shoes that fit this description but you will have to talk to a shoe expert at a running store to determine what best fits your foot.  To be honest, there are a ton of great brands out there today for trail running shoes.  People swear by Altra, Inov-8, Merrell, and plenty of other companies.  I ditched brand loyalty long ago and it was one of the best moves I ever made; I just pick the right shoe regardless of the label.

A trip to a good local running store will pay off.  If you live in the city you shouldn't have any issue finding one.  It doesn't hurt to call and ask about their fitting process and ask about their selection of trail running shoes.  REI or other outdoor stores may have a decent selection but they rarely have an extensive fitting process.  Even if you are mostly walking/hiking the fitting process will benefit you.

Finally, in regards to paying a premium for Gore-Tex runners, this may have some benefit if you are walking with them through shallow puddles but if you are running in them don't waste your money.  Water and mud will splash into your shoe before you know it and then they will take longer to dry out.

great comments, thanks.  i'm a former college distance runner, severe over-pronator who uses custom orthotics.  the running shoe store i use has the treadmill & video cam, just haven't found the right combination of fit, tread, and durability yet.....

well, i finally tried on a bunch of shoes and went with the best-fitting, most comfortable shoe, independent of brand.  surprisingly, i ended up with a shoe from The North Face called the Double Track, the non-gore tex version.  i have not generally had the best of opinion of their gear lately, but the feel and fit are great for me.  We'll see how they last. 

Great.  TNF has really committed to the running market over the last few years.  Their FlashDry fabric has pulled down great reviews and I saw that these shoes won Gear of the Year...impressive.  I hope they work out well for you.  I think you were right to avoid the Gore-Tex, especially on a low cut runner.  Let us know how they perform.

August 13, 2020
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