Gear review: A second look at the Salomon Sense Pro trail running shoe

A little dustier and broken in, the Salomon Sense Pro has held up well.

A little dustier and broken in, the Salomon Sense Pro has held up well.

It’s been awhile since I first opened the box on a pair of Salomon Sense Pro trail shoes and took them out for the first time. In between now and then, I’ve put triple-digit miles on them over some pretty rough stuff ranging from my local trails to alpine routes high in the Rockies.

It was all the way back in July that I did my first review of these shoes, shortly after taking them for a spin a few times. Months later, I have a clearer verdict of how good they really are.

In review

Going back to that initial review, here were some of my thoughts:

The fit was excellent. An interior sleeve in the shoe and a secure Quicklace system helps the shoe hug your foot, though not overly so.

The tread has a solid grip. Multi-directional nugs perform a lot like cleats on an athletic field. Through dirt, hard surfaces, loose rocks and on any incline, the tread is designed to give you security and grip going uphill and down.

The low 6 mm drop is ideal for mid-foot running, and the sole’s OS Tendon provides good energy return. This, while also being light enough (8.8 ounces per shoe) to feel unencumbered on the run and good feel for the ground. I might add that there is enough support and cushion to protect your feet, but not so much to where you lose a feel for the trail.

Obviously, the initial testing of the Sense Pro went well. But did it hold up?

Somewhere just under 13,000 feet, I'm taking a break. Ran some, hiked some up here. The Sense Pro is good in the alpine.

Somewhere just under 13,000 feet, I’m taking a break. Ran some, hiked some up here. The Sense Pro is good in the alpine.

Miles later

One of the things that I liked about the Sense Mantra (the shoe I tested and owned before the Sense Pro came my way) was its durability. It put on hundreds of miles before the tread finally began to wear down. Even then, the rest of the shoe held up, and that after being taken through dust, sand, mud, dirt and snow in training runs and races.

The Sense Pro is a close cousin to the Sense Mantra, and in that area, its bloodlines show. The Sense Pro has held up extremely well, showing no real signs of wear on the tread or the upper. The only way you could tell it’s been used is how dirty they are. So the durability of the Sense Pro seems to be a strength.

I also have to go back to the two things that really make this shoe a winner: Fit and traction.

To me, these are closely linked, especially for trail running. A bad fit with good traction is a waste of money, and vice-versa. When it comes to trail running, fit is even more critical, given the variable surfaces at hand. Same deal with traction. If the shoe fits like a glove but has you slipping and skidding on steep grades, you may as well be running trails in road shoes.

There is incredible confidence when you’re running in a pair of kicks that become one with your foot and leave you feeling as if you could climb any hill or bomb down any decline, regardless of how steep, rocky or loose the surface may be. It’s made a tremendous difference in my running.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe, right out of the box.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe, right out of the box.

Conclusions

I’m not surprised that Salomon’s Sense Pro has performed well as the miles have ticked by. Given past results, the durability of the shoe — a hallmark of the Sense Mantra — has also shined through with the Sense Pro. Given the technical and steep terrain encountered in two states, I’d I can recommend these for any recreational or more competitive trail runner.

The Salomon Sense Pro retails for $130.

NOTE: Salomon furnished me with a pair of the Sense Pro trail shoes for testing purposes.

Gear review: A first look at the Salomon Sense Pro trail running shoe

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

The Salomon Sense Pro trail shoe.

After hundreds of miles through dirt, rocks, mud and snow, through numerous races and scores of training runs, I finally had to retire my trail runners.

Salomon had generously provided those shoes to me back then, with the idea of testing them out and letting all of you know how I felt. They performed well and lasted a long time, especially considering the abuse I put them through.

Salomon approached me again about testing their Sense Pro – an upgrade from the Sense Mantra I tested previously, and I was all too happy to oblige. Would the Sense Pro live up to the reputation of its predecessor? The final verdict has yet to be given, but some of my initial thoughts are here.

Features

The Sense Pro comes in with a sole that is 10 mm at the forefoot, and 16 mm at the heel for a 6 mm drop – still light enough to give you a feel for our running surface, but thick enough to protect your feet.

The sole’s traction system is designed to give you grip in multiple directions. This is particularly helpful on uneven surfaces, and on uphill and downhill stretches where trail-grip needs change. The nugs are not as large as you would see in a more aggressively cleated design but I can tell you from experience that you’ll be able to climb walls with the traction you get, and in a variety of conditions.

A look at the tread design on the Salomon Sense Pro.

A look at the tread design on the Salomon Sense Pro.

The Sense Pro also includes Salomon’s OS Tendon, which is geared to give you proper flex in the sole as well as energy return.

The lace-up system is also different than your typical shoe lace. The Quicklace system allows you to tighten up and stay tight, and the loose end tucks under is a small pocket on top of the tongue. I want to say that the system is improved; my prior pair was a little more stubborn, whereas with the Sense Pros, it’s been smooth and easy, yet secure when tightened. This was a minor annoyance before (and a common gripe with some runners who prefer traditional laces) that seems to be moot now.

As in prior models, Salomon also included an extra layer of material called Profeel Film built in to the sole that extends from the arch to the toes, giving you a little extra protection from rocks, roots and stumps.

The Sense Pro also has a sleeve on the interior of the shoe that hugs your foot. So no sliding around in the shoe, a concept that dovetails nicely with the security you get with the Quicklace system. Anyone who runs any sort of distance can appreciate blister-free training, which is just one benefit here.

At 8.8 ounces, it’s also lightweight, though a tiny bit heavier than the Sense Mantra (8.5 ounces).

Finally, as you would expect in any decent trail shoe, there is added, tougher material around the toe box.

Performance

I had no reason to believe the Sense Pro would not live up to the experiences I’ve had in the past, and I was correct. My initial run took me through muddy and at times watery singletrack, and with the exception of the sloppiest grades, I had no trouble keeping my footing.

On another test run – hill repeats on a steep, loose and rocky incline – I found similar security on the uphills and downhills. Truthfully, I could have probably pushed harder downhill had I not been a little banged up in my knees.

Needless to say, in dry conditions, I hugged corners, climbed hills and bounded down slopes with high confidence. My feet were comfortable and the weight of the shoe was not a burden. The fit was snug and secure, but not tight, and I had plenty of room in the toe box.

Salomon is marketing the Sense Pro as a “city trail” shoe, but on the wilder, rougher and more technical trails I run, they did just fine.

I’ll come back to these shoes for a second look when I’ve put a bunch more miles on them. If they show the same durability of my previous pair, I’ll likely be running in the Sense Pros for a long time.

The Sense Pro retails for $130.

Bob Doucette

Gear review: Kahtoola Microspikes

Extra traction for the snow.

Extra traction for the snow.

It’s not often I get to test snow gear out where I live, which is a real hindrance when I want to use such things in the high country. But every now and then, I get that chance.

A couple of decent days of snow in my part of the world gave me the opportunity to whip out a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes I own, which to this day have only been used for hiking purposes. But how would they do on a trail run? That’s what I wanted to find out. But let’s tackle the basics first.

SPECS

Microspikes are one of a variety of products out there designed to give you extra traction to what you already have on your boots or shoes. There are other products, ranging from screw-in spikes that go into the bottoms of your shoes to crampons, which are used in glacier walking and steep hiking and mountaineering ventures where snow and ice is involved. Crampons can be overkill in a lot of circumstances, and deeper snow can render screw-in spikes less effective. So that’s where Microspikes and products like them come in.

The basic design is a rubber upper that slips over your boot or shoe, with steel chains on the sole. The soles also have 10 to 12 1-centimeter spikes, depending on the size you require (10 spikes for extra small, 12 for small to extra large). Each pair weighs 12 to 15-1/2 ounces, again depending on your size. I wear a 10-1/2 shoe, so I wear the large size that comes in at 14.4 ounces per pair.

Microspikes are easy to put on your shoe — the flexibility of the rubber makes it to where no straps or tightening devices are needed, provided you get the right size. Each pair comes with a two-year warranty.

So how’d they do?

An easy fit over my shoes.

An easy fit over my shoes.

HIKING

My first test came during a late spring trip into the mountains where a lot of snow was present. The snow itself was soft in spots and deep enough for kickstepping. In terms of weight, I didn’t notice much in the way be being slowed , and because of the smaller size of the spikes, it was pretty easy to transition between snow and bare rock without losing too much traction. This would not have been the case with crampons.

On that note, getting that extra traction proved helpful, particularly as the snow softened throughout the day. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any slips (there were, mostly because of the softness of the snow), but compared to a plain boot, I’d say I stuck to those slick surfaces pretty well.

Overall, the Microspikes make a decent compromise when a bare boot is not going to cut it, but crampons prove to be more steel on your foot than you really need. Experience will dictate that.

TRAIL RUNNING

Let me start off by saying that the trail shoes I use for running have proved to be more than adequate traction for running in snow, even when inclines are involved. I tested my Salomon Sense Mantras in snowy conditions last winter and noticed minimal slipping. And considering how light they are, that’s a good thing.

But I realize that some people’s shoes just aren’t ready to tackle snow. So that’s where external traction comes into play.

I put mine on and headed out for a hilly, technical 4.4-mile trail run with about 3-4 inches of fresh snow. The conditions included anything from dense powder on less-traveled trails to packed powder on places that had seen some traffic.

The run started out with a climb of about 50 feet. It was moderately steep, so this was going to be a place where slipping was bound to occur. But that did not happen. The teeth of the spikes dug in and my feet gained excellent traction throughout that little uphill.

The same could be said of the downhills. I was somewhat conservative at first, but later tried to pick up the pace on any downward slopes and had no troubles with my footing. A great sign.

But there are a couple of things I noticed. First, I did have to readjust the Microspikes on my right foot near the toe, as they’d started to shift off-center. That only happened once, but you may experience times where you have to adjust the spikes so they give you optimal traction and the chains/spikes don’t get too loose underfoot.

Second, the weight on my feet was noticeable. I didn’t get any snow balling under my shoes, but that added 7.2 ounces on each foot makes a difference. So be prepared for that.

A look at the Mirospikes from the bottom.

A look at the Mirospikes from the bottom.

OVERALL

The Kahtoola Micropikes are a durable, rugged solution for the lighter-duty traction needs of hikers and trail runners who want to tackle the snow. You may get slowed a bit if you’re a runner, and be sure to weigh your traction needs when facing steep slopes that are snowy or icy — they’re good for overall traction, but are not a substitute for crampons when crampons are what you need. But less than that, they are great to have for any number of late fall, winter and early spring adventures in the snow.

Price: $64.95 per pair suggested retail.

Note: I purchased my pair with my own funds.

Bob Doucette

Gear review: Keeping cool with the Hydro Flask

flask1

In the summer months, one of the big needs for people who are active in the outdoors is water. But a major problem is keeping that water cold.

Conversely, the icy blow of winter conditions can be softened by a hot drink.

But as we’ve all experienced, the conditions often make those cool/hot drinks rather tepid.

Enter Hydro Flask. The maker of insulated metallic water bottles promises to keep the cold nice and icy and keep the hot stuff steaming.

We’re in prime hot weather conditions right now, so this is a great time of year to put the Hydro Flask to the test.

The testing conditions: Bright, hot and humid weather on a 90-minute trail run. Starting temps were 93 degrees, and by the time I got done, they’d risen to 95.

The goal: To see how well as 12-ounce Hydro Flask would keep my ice water cold.

Observations: A metal flask is going to be heavier than plastic, but not so much as to be cumbersome. It fit perfectly in my Nathan Triangle hydration pack. Being a 12-ouncer, it was a bit small for a 90-minute workout, but no worries — they make many, many sizes to suit a lot of different needs.

flask2

How it performed: In a word, flawlessly. I sipped on my water throughout the run, trying to conserve what I had. By the time I finished, there was nothing left but ice cubes. Yes, after 90 minutes in mid-90s temperatures, the Hydro Flask kept itself cold enough inside to keep the ice cubes intact. Hydro Flask advertises that its double-wall insulated stainless steel construction can keep drinks cold for 24 hours. What I can tell you is that it was more than up to the task for my run.

The price is decent: about $20 for the 12-ounce bottle.

Some other features: It’s BPA-free and has a lifetime warranty.

In the future, I’ll test its abilities to keep hot drinks hot. But round one is a success. You can look at Hydro Flask products at hydroflask.com.

Note: The Hydro Flask was part of a box of complimentary products furnished to me by Cairn, a monthly subscription company that sends subscribers boxes of gear to try out for themselves. For more information about Cairn, go to getcairn.com or follow Cairn on Twitter @getCairn.

Bob Doucette

Gear review: Arc’teryx Traverse Perimeter hiking pants

Comfort, breathability and water resistance in your clothing are key when you're hiking to places like this. (Noel Johnson photo)

Comfort, breathability and water resistance in your clothing are key when you’re hiking to places like this. (Noel Johnson photo)

We’re in the heart of the summer hiking and backpacking season, a time when a lot of people are trying out all the new gear they could get their hands on, budget constraints notwithstanding. So any number of backpacks, trekking poles, water filters and other assorted gadgets are getting put through their paces.

But what about the gear you put on your body? The stuff you wear is as important as anything else.

I tend to skimp here, but there is high value in putting the right clothes on your body. Breathable, flexible, durable and functional clothing will keep you comfortable as you do all those sometimes uncomfortable things.

I recently got a chance to test a brand that I have eyed for some time. Arc’teryx is known as a high-end maker of outdoor clothing with a reputation for making some pretty fine stuff.

In my case, I recently bought a pair of Perimeter pants from the company’s Traverse collection. And for my test, I took these to the Rockies for a weekend of camping, hiking, mountain climbing and other outdoor fun to see just how they’d fare.

Arc'Teryx Traverse Perimeter pants. (Arc'Teryx photo)

Arc’teryx Traverse Perimeter pants. (Arc’teryx photo)

My impressions are as follows:

Fit: I’m pretty fussy when it comes to fit. Too loose and you just do too much sagging. Fine for hip-hop, terrible for hiking. To tight and you feel, well, constricted in all the wrong places, a particularly annoying problem when going up steep inclines or reaching for footholds in awkward places. I did all of that and then some.

Simply put, the Perimeters fit incredible. They never sagged (really important to keep the cuff from snagging your boot heel), but stretched when I moved. The waistline was perfect, and the inseam gave me no problems. If only all my pants fit this well.

Comfort: Breathability and resistance to water are key, and again, the Perimeters score well here. I encountered a lot of snow on different parts of this trip, so that meant I got wet. But the pants dried out quickly, and also kept my skin dry. With the hard work of going uphill for hours, I never had a problem feeling overheated in my legs.

Utility: This is a simple set of pants — it’s not overrun with pockets everywhere, and they do not convert into shorts. That fine with me. My pack can hold my stuff, and I’m more comfortable on the trail and on the rock in longer pants unless it’s warm or hot. The pockets, while snug, were roomy enough. A side zippered pocket was a good place to stow my phone, which I use as a camera when on the trail. The stretch in the fabric allows you to stuff those pockets with small items and not feel constricted.

Some hiking pants have internal or built-in cinch systems rather than belt loops; the Perimeters do not. Again, fine by me. Belts are more reliable.

Durability: The fabric is thin, but marketed as being tough enough for rock climbing. We did a good amount of that on our summit day; nothing technical, but on rugged rock just the same.

I also did a couple of glissades down some snow slopes, picking up some good speed on my seat while dropping several hundred feet in elevation on soft snow with some bumps here and there.

After the trip, I looked at problem areas for damage — knees, cuffs, and so forth. Everything looked good. But when I checked out the seat, I noticed a small tear, maybe a couple of centimeters long. I don’t know if that came from the glissade, or grinding out a tight spot on the rock higher up the mountain, but it is what it is. I’d say the pants were tough enough for hiking, but something else on the mountain proved to be too much.

Despite the snow (and not a small amount of postholing), I kept dry during my test. (Brad Lee photo)

Despite the snow (and not a small amount of postholing), I kept dry during my test. (Brady Lee photo)

Overall, I liked these pants a lot. They are a definite upgrade from other hiking pants I’ve owned, and definitely the most comfortable pants of any kind I’ve ever worn (I’d wear these to work or just walking around any time). My hope is that what I experienced with the tear was an anomaly from that trip. But if you’re looking for a good pair of hiking pants and don’t mind shelling out a little extra cash, this product is worth a look.

Price: The Arc’teryx Traverse Perimeter pants for men retails for $119.

Bob Doucette

Gear review: MSR Pocket Rocket backpacking camp stove

pocketrocket

When you’re out camping, nothing beats a hot meal and perhaps some hot coffee, tea or cocoa. The problem: actually cooking up a mess that’s worth consuming.

If you’re car camping, no problem. Bring the most elaborate stove you can fit in your car or truck. And you can do a lot with a cookset and a campfire.

But if you’re backpacking, it’s a whole other problem. Weight and space become an issue, and campfire restrictions – or bans – are commonplace, particularly in wilderness areas.

There are a lot of camp stoves on the market that offer a good deal of versatility while providing economy of space and weight. Among the most compact is one that I’ve used frequently on camping and backpacking trips.

It weighs less than four ounces and fits in the palm of your hand.

OK, so the fuel tank is bigger than that, but you get the idea. I’m talking about MSR’s Pocket Rocket camp stove. Repeated use of this particular stove has given me pretty good insight on this product.

Like I said, it’s small. Really small. Even when packaged in its plastic case, the Pocket Rocket fits comfortably inside the side pocket of any backpack. Personally, I stow it inside my cook set along with smaller pans, utensils, a pan handle and a fuel can.

The Pocket Rocket is designed to screw into the top of MSR’s Isopro fuel can. The can itself is a one-use only product (a single can is good for several uses), so once it’s tapped out you’ll need to have another can ready to go. The cans cannot be refilled, which as I see it is the one weakness of this system. If there is a way to upgrade the Pocket Rocket’s fuel system to allow for a refueled can, that would be a serious improvement.

Just about everything else concerning the Pocket Rocket is a strength. It’s easy to light and burns fuel efficiently. A one-quart pan of water, uncovered, can be brought to a boil in about 10 minutes. The stove comes with a fold-away temperature control which is fine-tuned enough to go after a full-on boil or a slow simmer, so if you have a particular recipe that calls for different level of heat, you’re good to go.

pocketrocket2

I’ve found the fuel is also good at higher altitudes. Some fuels burn pretty rough once you get high, but I’ve used Isopro up to 11,500 feet and have noticed no appreciable differences in performance.

One thing to note: Since the stove’s base is the fuel can and most pans go wider than that, you need to make sure your setup is on a stable, level surface. Special care should be considered when you’re dealing with a full pot of water; a top-heavy set-up means that an accidental nudge will send the whole mess to the ground. Saying that, I’ve never had that happen.

What is very friendly about the Pocket Rocket is its price. MSR retails the stove at $39.95, and the 4-ounce Isopro fuel cans go for $4.95 apiece. That’s about as inexpensive as you can get for any camp stove, and half the price of some of the most popular products on the market today.

So to recap: The Pocket Rocket stove is compact, lightweight, durable and inexpensive. While your fuel options are limited, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value for your next backpacking trip.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Gear test: Arm band vs. race belt for runners

NOTE: The products mentioned here were bought with my own money and no manufacturer approached me about a review. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

No one likes to be weighed down by a bunch of stuff when they’re pounding out some miles. But it’s pretty rare that you can actually go run without having to carry something with you.

At a minimum, it might be car keys. For safety, you might have a phone. And on long runs, maybe a packet of Gu or some small snack to help you power through those last few miles on the trail.

I’ve been fine with carrying my keys in my hand and leaving everything else in the car. But truthfully, I prefer being hands-free.

I’ve run into two options that I’ve tried, and you may have as well. Both offer a means to carry the bare essentials, keep you hands-free and not weigh you down. And both have their strengths and weaknesses.

armband

THE ARMBAND

I’ve seen people wear some sort of armband for lifting weights, hitting cardio machines or running. For the indoor crowd, it’s mostly been a place to stow an iPod or similar device so they can listen to their own tunes while exercising. Same goes for runners.

I’m not the kind of person who likes headphones while I lift or run, though I will use them when I’m on an elliptical or similar machine (which is not common for me).

Instead, I’ll use the armband as a place to stow a phone and/or keys.

I destroyed my first armband – it was cheap, and I don’t remember the manufacturer. Currently, I use a neoprene armband with a Velcro-sealed pocket made by Igadgitz. It seems to be more robust than my last one, and certainly allows quicker access to my stuff.

It does the job. I can run hands-free and stuff a phone, keys and an access card inside. It doesn’t feel laborious to have that weight on one side since it’s on my upper arm and not moving much. It’s also inexpensive, retailing for about $11.

The downside is that I felt compelled to keep it on tight to keep it from slipping. If it’s constantly sliding down, it’s a pain. Too tight, however, and my forearm and hand begins to get a little numb. For short runs, it’s not a problem, but on long runs it’s a nuisance. Having to fidget with it makes it almost worth just holding my keys in my hand and stowing the phone in my car.

belt

THE BELT

This got me thinking about an alternative, and while at a fitness expo this fall I saw a product by SPI, the SPIbelt, that seemed to offer a solution.

The SPIbelt is pretty simple, an elastic belt with a small snap-in buckle. In the middle is a slim zippered pouch made of a material that can stretch considerably to increase its volume, thus giving you the ability to carry a good amount of stuff – potentially more than the arm band.

A lot of runners use SPIbelts or similar products during races so they can carry a few things with them and have a spot to clip their bib numbers (nice to do, as those pesky safety pins that often come with the bibs can wear holes in your clothes).

I took mine out for a spin on a 15k run. Inside I stuffed my phone, house key and a single Snickers mini.

I cinched it in tight enough so it wouldn’t move (don’t want to have something bouncing around at your waist while you run), but not so tight as to cut into my midsection.

I barely noticed it was there, which is saying something as the miles piled up. This was true even though it was weighed down by the phone.

I’ve since taken it on shorter runs around town and longer runs on the trail. It’s not so unobtrusive that I feel like taking my phone with me every time. But I think that’s a peculiarity directly related to me, not the product. It’s easy enough for me to stow my keys in the pouch and go, and I barely feel its presence.

The SPIbelt retails for about $20, though clips for racing bibs are extra.

Conclusions

Both products are decent enough for what they do. The armband solution has some versatility – in the gym, it’s much more practical than the belt, particularly when you’re lifting weights (though wearing anything when I lift, including headphones, just bugs the crap out of me; again, that’s a personal thing). And it’s fine for shorter runs.

The belt is not built to be an all-around personal storage product for fitness activities. Instead, it’s made primarily for runners. And in that vein, it does its job well. Some may be put off about having something around their waist when they’re out there, but I didn’t have that problem. It’s also a more expensive product than my armband, but not excessively so. And I like the idea of having it on race day.

What are your experiences with products like these? Do you have a preference? Or some other product you use? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

Gear test: Merrell Moab Ventilator for trail running

Can these lightweight hikers be used as heavy-duty trail runners?

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.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088