Brief long-term shoe reviews

I had a gig reviewing shoes this spring, which put me in the unusual position of having more than one pair of new trail runners at the same time, and of owning shoes I did not choose. About half the shoes I tested were clearly not suitable for the mountains, and I have now mostly destroyed the ones that were. Here are my impressions of a few that surprised me. The Amazon links are just for reference, mostly for the photos — they’re not affiliate links or anything.

  • Salomon Sense Pro 2: While these were about as durable and comfortable as expected, they performed surprisingly poorly on class 4-5 rock. With relatively thick and soft midsoles and not-so-grippy rubber, they were scarier than I expected when edging or trying to smear on steeper rock. Salomon makes some shoes that work well in the mountains, but these do not.
  • New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi: I didn’t expect these to work well in the mountains, so I avoided using them until I had mostly destroyed my more capable shoes. I took them up the Mountaineer’s Route on Whitney (class 3) and SE face of Emerson (5.4), and found them terrifyingly bad on rock, with spongy midsoles, too much play in the toe box, and completely non-sticky outsoles. They are also not very protective, and would be similarly scary on steep vegetation and turf as found in the Cascades.
  • Adidas Terrex X-King: These feel a little clunky on trails, and the size 11s I tried (they only make whole sizes, apparently) are a bit roomier than I like. However, they really came into their own in the mountains. The aggressive lugs dig into soft surfaces, but are large enough not to squirm on rock. The rubber is predictable and sticky on rock, and the single piece making up the sole, toe rand, and heel cup is a smart, simple, durable design. The quick-lace system and soft upper make the fit highly adjustable, which in my case mostly let me compensate for the shoes being a bit too big. The shape of the toe box and placement of the lugs makes them climb fairly well — I have felt pretty comfortable on some mid-fifth-class terrain. The main downside is the ridiculous $160 retail price.

2 responses to “Brief long-term shoe reviews

  1. Is La Sportiva crossleather (discontinued) still your all-time favorite shoe? Did you ever use a leather boot for hiking/climbing in your earlier days? I understand that a light lowcut shoe is superior for trail running, but just wondering if you ever had problems rolling an ankle on uneven ground.
    Scott H.

    • I used hiking boots as a kid, but as an adult I’ve always hiked in running shoes. Perhaps because of that, I seem to have developed the ankle strength/flexibility/coordination not to have sustained a serious sprain.

      The cross-leathers are still one of my favorites, though some mesh/synthetic upper fabrics are now durable enough to outlast the outsoles these days. It’s just hard to know by looking at them which will last and which will disintegrate. For example the pricy Adidas have actually stood up to Sierra scree better than I expected. North Face makes a similar-looking shoe that dies almost instantly.

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