When it comes to race day choosing the right shoe for the conditions can be the difference between a great day out in the mountains or a horrible disaster!
Shoe selection should be based on a number of considerations depending on the type of terrain, distance of the race and forecasted weather conditions.
Grip: The most obvious variation between trail running shoes is their grip. The type and amount of grip you require for the race will depend on the nature of the ground underfoot and the expected conditions. Grip comes in a couple of different styles:
-Deep Rubber Lugs: Ideal for loose dirt, muddy conditions and steep climbing. Rubber lugs are great for providing taction in loose conditions and at any time when the contact surface area during foot strike is reduced, such as during steep climbing. Rubber lugs come in a variety of hardness levels with the more rigid ones being better suited to wetter conditions (such as fell racing) and the softer ones to dry and loose conditions (sand, bulldust etc).
– Salomon Soft Ground Ultra 5, Salomon Fellraiser (Deep Soft Rubber Lugs)
-Salomon Speed, Salomon Speedcross (Deep hard rubber lugs)
-Shallow hard grip: Ideal for intermediate and hard pack dirt as well as faster flatter running. The grip on this style of shoe is more than what you would find on a road shoe yet not as gnarly as deep lugs mentioned above. They are designed to provide a higher level of grip while providing a road shoe like underfoot feel and ride.
Examples: Salomon Sense Ultra 5, Salomon Sense Pro, Salomon Wings Pro
-Road shoe grip: Ideal for flat hard pack terrain. Road shoes can most certainly be used in trail races but are limited to those races which are run on hard pack trails with little technical difficulty. The grip is designed to be low profile and provide a fast comfortable ride so best suited to running fast over flatter terrain.
Examples: Salomon Sonic, Salomon City trail.
Drop: Heel to toe drop is an important factor that sometimes gets overlooked. While the amount of drop can in some cases be a personal affair, as a guide, the more technical the trail the lower amount of drop you should consider.
Lower drop shoes get the foot closer to the ground and provide a more stable ride in technical conditions. This can help greatly with foot placement and help reduce the risk of rolling ankles on very technical terrain. Conversely a slightly higher drop shoe can provide more benefit for running faster over flatter terrain as well as being more comfortable for longer distance races. This is due to the calf/Achilles not having to stretch as far with each stride taken which can prolong onset of calf fatigue. Additionally for those without the perfect form a higher heel drop will be more comfortable and supportive over the longer distances.
Shoes generally fall into the following drop ranges:
Low Drop: 0mm-4mm – Great for technical trail and fast running for those with good form. (Salomon Sense, Salomon Sense Soft Ground)
Medium Drop: 6mm-10mm Great for running faster for most runners and a good technical trail shoe for those with less than perfect form. (Salomon Speedcross, Salomon Fellraiser)
High Drop: 11mm-14mm Good for runners with prominent heel strike who want to run long distances. Most commonly found in big brand road shoe models however they be very unstable on technical terrain.
Fit: The fit of a shoe is most certainly a personal affair, again however, you should consider that on technical trail a sung fitting shoe will provide more confidence than a shoe in which your foot moves around on each step with.
Water: Lastly the ability of a shoe to shed water can be vital when running long and or in foul conditions. Look for a shoe that has water drainage holes built in or mesh uppers and a thin water phobic innersole.
In the end the perfect shoe should be comfortable, give you confidence and allow you to run quickly over the expected terrain. As always any shoe should be tested in training a number of times before the big day!
By Caine Warburton – Team Salomon