This is a brief review of some trail running shoes I’ve worn since I began running over the past couple years. The pictures are of the shoes after my time running in them. I’ll leave the specifics of each shoe out of this review, those can be found on the manufacturer’s site. After trying several different pairs of shoes, I believe all the support, drop heights, minimalist, blah blah blah doesn’t really seem to matter much in the end. Overall, I believe one should find the shoe that feels good, doesn’t hurt to run in and makes one enjoy running.
La Sportiva Raptors: Size 43. 450 miles over 12 months
The Raptors were the first pair of trail running specific shoes I bought. They have a lot of support and a good fit. I was concerned about support due to previous ankle injuries so I bought these. The support in them is good but for longer runs I find the support to be too much and my feet would start to hurt. I really liked the fit of these shoes. They have a roomy toe box but a snug heel and mid foot.
I think these shoes performed better as hiking shoes than trail runners. The La Sportiva rubber and aggressive tread made these really grippy on loose surfaces such as gravel and sand in the desert and muddy trails in the woods and for climbing approach shoes. They were good for outings that involved a mix of hiking and running on rough, technical terrain. I would wear them on trips that including backpacking and then running trails from a camp.
I mostly wore the Raptors in the desert of New Mexico and on a through hike of the John Muir Trail. They held up good in the sharp and rough terrain of the Organ Mountains and Chihuahuan desert. They degraded pretty fast on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. However, this was already near the end of the shoes’ life and as many said, “the Sierras will destroy any shoe.” A hole was worn in the top of the toe on both shoes. This should be expected since it is the weakest park of the shoe, material wise. Other than that the shoes held up good. There was not any excessive wear or tear in the soles, like some of the other shoes showed.
New Balance 101: Size 9. 250 miles over 12 months
The 101’s were my first experience with a more minimal shoe. I feel like these are a perfect combination of minimal and traditional trail running shoe. They didn’t require any break in time, are light weight, can be worn with or without socks but have more support and cushion for longer runs. I’m bummed that New Balanced discontinued the 101’s. I haven’t tried their replacement, the 110’s, but I hear they aren’t really the same shoe.
I ran in these shoes on all types of terrain; the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico, the Sierras of California, forest of the Black Hills in South Dakota and paved roads all over. They performed well on all types of terrain. They weren’t as grippy as the Raptors but provide much more traction than other minimalist shoes like the Merrell Trail Gloves. I ran distances up to 14 miles in these shoes. My feet were a little sore after this length of run but I think that was due mostly to my lack of conditioning and not the shoes. The mesh does let in a fair amount of fine sediment which eventually builds up on the inside and rubs one’s feet. For this reason, socks are sometimes good to wear but the 101’s feel good without socks if you keep the dirt cleaned out.
These have been my favorite shoe overall. I have been very surprised at the durability and the comfort is always there. I hope New Balance brings back some of the 101 elements.
Altra Lone Peaks: 136 miles over 5 months
I was very intrigued by these shoes when I first heard about them from my friend Brian that ran the Grand Canyon double crossing in the Lone Peaks. He hooked me up with a pair and I immediately fell in love with them. As many have said in other reviews, the Lone Peaks are like slippers. They don’t have much support but are snug around the heel and forefoot despite a very spacious toe box. They feel very soft all over but the sole provides adequate cushion for long runs and rough terrain. These have been the most comfortable shoe I have worn but they do require time to adjust to the zero drop.
I was so excited to run in these shoes that I started doing long runs in the Lone Peaks after only a couple weeks of transitioning. I mostly wore the Lone Peaks in the Black Hills of South Dakota and they were my one pair of shoes I chose to carry on my road trip. I ran the Crow Peak Ascent Race and Haulin’ Aspen Trail Marathon in Bend, OR, while wearing the Lone Peaks. They performed very well on this type of terrain. While not the lightest shoes out there, the Lone Peaks felt light enough for running long distances. I really like the cushioning for bombing down hills such as in the Crow Peak Ascent Race and the tread was plenty grippy for loose dirt and rocky trails. They seem very durable after the short time I’ve had them. The are wearing a little bit around the edges (loose threads and toe rubber delaminating) but nothing serious.
While the Lone Peaks are very comfortable, as Altra recommends, the zero drop does require time to adjust to. I learned this the hard way. A combination of the zero drop and really frequent long runs led to a bad case of foot tendonitis, which lasted four months. I don’t think the zero drop was the sole culprit but proper transitioning is important. I’ve started wearing the Lone Peaks again but I haven’t ran in them since recovering from the tendonitis. I will make a proper transition this time!
Montrail Mountain Masochists: 140 miles over 4 months
The Mountain Masochists are the first pair of Montrail shoes I’ve really ran in. I had a pair of the Bajadas but they didn’t fit right so I didn’t run much in them. The Bajadas seem to fit narrower. I bought the Masochists to wear while I recovered from foot tendonitis and for a “do it all” type shoe for running, hiking and every day wear. They provided more support and worked well for my need. They were more narrow than the Lone Peaks or Raptors but I mitigated this with a custom lacing job. I liked the snug supportive feel of the heel and midfoot. I liked the tread on the Bajadas better than the Masochists but the Masochists have a roomier fit.
I have worn the Masochists backpacking, climbing and running in Glacier National Park, MT; the Organ Mountains, NM and on paved roads. A fifty five mile backpacking trip was the first time I really wore these shoes. They didn’t require any real break in time and performed great for the four day trip, even with the tendonitis. After about eighty miles the support and soles began to soften up and now provide a very comfortable fit. The upper, support and cushioning is still holding up well but the sole is wearing quicker than any other shoe I’ve had. The soft upper has torn a little bit but is durable considering the terrain I take the Masochists through. It seems the rough granite of the Organ Mountains really wore down the soles. I’ve been running on paved roads more with these shoes too, which might add to the quickened deterioration of the soles. I believe a simpler tread design like the Bajadas would probably wear better than the complicated sole pattern on the Masochists.
The shoes work well for a do it all type of shoe. I feel comfortable running paved and gravel roads, trails and hiking in rough mountains with the Mountain Masochists. Usually, they are the shoes I wear daily. If one wants one pair of shoes for all occasions, I would recommend the Masochists.
For personal comparison, I have been running for about two years, backpacking for twelve years and rock climbing for five years. These are the activities I use these shoes for. I have fairly neutral feet and enjoy a roomy fit in the toe box. I run on any terrain and like a “do it all” kind of shoe so I don’t have to keep up with a bunch of different pairs.