I put several shoes to the ultimate test during my running this weekend in the Spanish Peaks & Cucharas mountain range valley. This is a range with elevation ranging from 7,500 to over 14,000 ft. The roads and trails are very rocky and you often have to deal with heavy winds coming off the mountains but it is a heavenly place to run.
I’ve been dying to test some of my shoes in this environment. I tested the Nike Air Zoom Streak XC, Inov-8 F-Lite 195, Evo, and MWU3. I tested these shoes while running easy and at race pace.
Evo & MWU3. It became apparent very quickly that the Evo and MWU3 were not adequate for race pace running on this terrain. When running nice and easy, they were ok but the rocks were still cutting through them and as I picked up the pace and dipped into the sub 6:30 pace range, they were not constructed to protect my forefoot and specifically my metatarsals. I could run in them but it wasn’t fun and it would just take one wrong landing on a big sharp rock and I’d risk a foot injury.
F-Lite 195. The F-Lite 195’s were pretty good. The only negative was the sole which was overly aggressive for dry dirt roads/trails but I suspect they would be excellent in wet conditions. I will the 195’s a passing grade. They didn’t feel as good as the XC’s but they were good. At race pace, the F-Lite 195 was on the border in terms of protection. The spaces in the forefoot tread allowed for sharp rocks to penetration and I could feel a couple sharp stabs in the metatarsal area.
Nike Air Zoom Steak XC. The Nike XC’s were excellent (yes, I’m giving kudos to a Nike designed shoe). I actually have to give a rave review to the Nike XC because it’s the only shoe I’ve run in that is good on every surface and condition including concrete, asphalt, trails, packed dirt roads, rocky roads and trails and performs well at any pace from easy to race pace and is a very good race shoe (also, cheap at $50). It’s the first truly all-purpose shoe I’ve found (of course, this is my opinion; light (under 6 oz.), 4.5mm heel differential, 15mm forefoot cushion (I can still feel the rocks but they couldn’t penetrate). At this point, I’m not sure if I need to purchase the NB Minimus Trail or Merrill barefoot shoe because the XC performed excellent on the tough trails. The downside is the shoe is designed for medium foot folks like me and not for those with a wider foot.
Altra Instinct. I suspect the Altra Instinct would be just as good as the Nike XC and perhaps better since it’s a zero drop but I hear rumors they are developing a lighter version so I’ll wait because the XC is under 6 oz. and I rarely run in shoes over 6 oz.
Overall, it validated the differences in impact forces at fast speeds. You push off harder, land with more force due to many factors including an increased stride and air time. It was nice to finally find a shoe that worked for all surfaces/terrain.