I’d say this will be an unorthodox gear test, in that the piece of gear I tested was being put through its paces in a task for which it wasn’t really designed.
You see, I’ve been in the market for a trail running shoe for some time now. The reason being is that I’ve found some great trails to run, but they are very rugged. Normal running shoes won’t cut it, and quite honestly, all the trail runner shoes I looked at didn’t look up to the task either. I could see these shoes getting ripped to shreds within a couple of months.
So I did a little experiment. I found the toughest-looking low-top I could find that wasn’t inordinately heavy and figured I’d give it a shot. So what did I settle on?
A low-top hiker made by Merrell, the Moab Ventilator.
Yes, I know this shoe isn’t made for running, trails or otherwise. But like I said, it was an experiment. I’ve had time to break them in get them ready for a five-mile trail run at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain. Here’s what I learned:
WEIGHT: The Merrells are quite a bit heavier than your standard running shoe or trail runner. They’ve got a beefy Vibram sole and fairly rugged construction everywhere else. However, they weren’t so heavy as to cause problems. My fatigue couldn’t be blamed on the shoes. And I have to wonder: If I train in heavier shoes regularly, will that actually make me stronger and faster in normal shoes? Hmmm…
COMFORT: For hiking, they’re great. They breathe well and have plenty of flexibility. This changes a bit when you pick up speed for a run, though. It’s here that their sturdy construction comes into play. By design, they have a stiff sole, so after an hour of running it’s not a surprise that I felt some discomfort develop in my arches, though not too much. It may be just something where my foot has to adjust to the shoe. But a run anything longer than five miles might be a problem. Overall, though, much better than I thought. I have to think that minimalist runners are cringing at this, saying I’m robbing myself of the opportunity to strengthen my feet in a more bare-bones set of kicks. They might be right.
PERFORMANCE: The Moab Ventilator excelled here. The soles gripped rock, mud, dirt and every other conceivable surface really well. I never lost my footing, despite conditions that would make the route tricky in spots. This included steep inclines with numerous tripping hazards and equally steep downhills where controlling speed (because of those same tripping hazards) was critical. No slipping at all, kind of what you’d expect from a great set of tires on a sports car.
I haven’t owned these shoes long enough to test their durability, but I’ve had good luck with Merrells before (I own some high-top hikers).
Overall, I think this experiment was a good one, and I’ll probably still keep using the Merrells for now, at least on rugged trails. I may yet change my mind and opt for more traditional mid-strike trail running shoes, and for people who run mellower trails I’d definitely go in that route. The Merrells on tamer, flatter trails would be overkill. But when rocks, roots, stumps and heavy elevation gain and loss abound, perhaps a more muscular shoe like the Moab Ventilator is just the ticket.
I think a lot of trail runners and minimalists might scoff at this, but keep in mind – this is merely a trial. Shoot me your ideas and input on this subject, especially if you’ve had a similar experience as me or have found a true lightweight trail runner that is durable on the rough stuff.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088