I’ve never written a ‘best shoe of the year’ post previously because I think it’s too subjective of a topic and there are too many variables for it to really have any value, i.e. ‘Best Shoe’ for what terrain? For what distance? For what type of runner? Price? Weather?…..etc etc. Not to mention the fact that I’m limited in how many shoes I can realistically review in a given year relative to the number that are actually released.
So anyway, this post is all about my FAVORITE shoes and is therefore shamelessly subjective. I decided to write it because I’ve been fortunate enough to try some really excellent shoes lately and I felt as though I still had a bit more I wanted to say about them. Before I reveal the winner, here’s a quick run down of some of the other contenders:
The Sense 4 Soft Ground is pretty much as close as you can get to a work of art in a trail running shoe, such is the quality of construction and attention to detail. The fit is outstanding and Salomon did a good job of redesigning the lug pattern so that they tackle both soft and firm conditions very well, making them a generally good match for UK running. My only gripe with them is that Salomon’s rubber still just doesn’t cut it on wet rock and slippery roots in comparison to what the likes of Vibram, La Sportiva and Inov-8 have to offer and this can leave them feeling sketchy at times.
The Sense 4 Ultra is available from Amazon Here.
If you had asked me 12 months ago to place a bet on which shoe would have come out on top in this post, I’d have emptied my piggy bank and stuck it all on the X-Talon 200. They are a great shoe I am still very fond of them but some premature durability issues mean that they don’t quite make the top spot. With a couple of tweaks to the design, they could be truly outstanding and I will definitely give them another shot if Inov-8 release an updated version.
The Z-Talon 200 is available from Amazon Here.
The Altra Superior 2.0 is an incredibly characterful shoe in that it is both minimal in construction and yet cushy at the same time. This is thanks to Altra’s clever ‘‘A-Bound’ midsole material which somehow manages to feel wonderfully plush without being spongy or energy-sapping. The reason that they don’t make top-spot is the fit, which incorporates a large toe box which allows your feet to slip to the front of the shoe when descending. I definitely wouldn’t want Altra to change this feature as it’s all part of that ‘character’ that I mentioned before but it would stop me from using them for racing.
The Superior 2.0 is available from Amazon Here.
Drum roll….. Yep, It’s the Inov-8 Terraclaw 220. This is the shoe which I’ve often found myself wishing I was wearing whenever I had something else on my feet over the last few months. It’s a classic shoe reviewer’s cliché but they really do disappear on your feet and I think that’s partly down to the trademark Inov-8 flexibility but mostly thanks to the outstanding fit and soft upper which moulds to your feet like a second skin. The outsole offers multi-purpose versatility that is perfect for coping with highly variable UK trail conditions (except in circumstances when a full-blown fell shoe is needed) but most of all, I love how agile they make me feel over technical ground.
I was a bit concerned about durability when I first received the shoes but the upper has held up very well indeed with no rips or signs of abrasion as you can see from the pictures below. I still think that they would benefit from s bit more toe protection but that aside, If you are a fan of light, flexible shoes with lots of propreoception I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be disappointed with these shoes. I will definitely be snapping up a couple more pairs of them.
The Terraclaws are available from Amazon, link below:
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What’s your current favorite trail shoe? Please leave your thoughts below!