Does anyone else have shoes that they use as both approach shoes and trail shoes? Which shoes do you use for running on rocky terrain and why? Here’s my review of the best shoes I’ve found so far…
I had been searching for a while for multipurpose trainers that could be used as approach shoes and for trail running. I’m not sure there is a shoe designed for both, but I was finally recommended the Adidas Adizero XT4 by experts at my local running shop www.frontrunnersheffield.co.uk .
The first thing I notice when trying on shoes is the style – it’s not the most important factor and functionality always takes precedence for the final choice, but I still want to look and feel good in my gear! Women’s shoes generally aren’t made in my size, so in the past I have had to buy shoes in chunky masculine styles. The XT4’s orange white and black colours are gender-neutral, and I love orange so I was excited to wear them. They look enough like ‘normal’ trainers that I was happy to wear them with jeans in the day – this is important to me when I’m travelling and I need to take the smallest amount of luggage.
Adidas shoes generally have a slim fit, my AdiZeros are size 8.5 when I would usually wear size 8. I have long skinny feet, and have had problems in the past with shoes that are too wide, meaning that my feet slipped around inside them. The AdiZeros felt secure with enough space to be comfortable, but they didn’t come loose or rotate around my feet, even on rough terrain. The fit is perfect for me, but might not suit people with broader feet.
I really tested the AdiZero XT4’s performance on a month long trip to California – with only this one pair of shoes! Encountering a heat wave I covered around 10-15 miles a day hiking and trail running. They were comfortable from the start and didn’t need wearing in, I never had any blisters despite long hot days, and the mesh over the toes means they’re breathable and felt cool. They were perfect for hiking and running on the granite and sand trails, although the mesh uppers meant that on dusty sections the toes quickly filled with sand.
When the heat wave passed I managed to get on the rock and climb, and for cragging and longer days the XT4s were exactly what I wanted in my approach shoe. The Continental rubber soles are super sticky, and I felt confident even on smooth granite slabs and domes. They aren’t stiff enough to be perfect approach shoes, but they don’t claim to be. I prefer a lighter and tighter fitting shoe so that I can feel the rock under my feet, and I found them grippy enough to scramble where necessary.
One of my favourite features is that at 280g the shoes are really light, which is a bonus when travelling with luggage restrictions. After a long day I never felt that they were weighing me down, and they are perfect for attaching to a harness. I was concerned that the gear loops and stitching appear flimsy and may pull out over time, although it hasn’t been a problem so far.
Back in the UK, and the XT4s became my trail racing shoes.There is a section of sharp spikes in the centre of the sole which I really noticed in wet conditions when I knew that they were biting into mud and grass. I used them for routes over grass, woodland, and short bursts on the road – you can run on tarmac in them if you want to, although the rubber will wear faster and there isn’t much cushioning so it feels pretty harsh.
Now the clocks have gone back, I have been using them as fell/trail running shoes in the dark, rain and fog around the Peak District. In previous trail shoes I have slipped while running in the rain, but I have learned to trust the Adidas XT4s, and feel confident in them, even on wet rock. After running through streams and bogs my feet felt warm again quickly and there was no disgusting squelchy sensation. The light and airy construction of the shoe means that they dry quickly. My main gripe is that the laces come undone frequently, and perhaps textured laces or a different lacing system would be better.
The shoes have taken a hammering over the past few months but in spite of the light construction and several layers of dirt, there’s not too much wear yet. My favourite features are how light they are, the sticky rubber soles, and the look of the shoe. The slim fit won’t suit everyone’s feet, and you would want to buy more specialist shoes if you have a specific purpose, particularly for fell running. They are in the mid to upper price range (RRP is £80), but for me although they are sold as trail shoes, they have replaced separate pairs of approach shoes and trail shoes.
What shoes do you use and why? Please comment and let me know… I can always use an excuse for new gear…