These new trail running shoes help you keep your feet where they should be.
American adventure wear company Merrell are well known for their extensive range of hiking boots, but are now stamping their mark on the trails with this lightweight shoe.
I’m no trail runner, but running on tarmac and pavements doesn’t appeal to me – and my poor old knees do protest, so I was keen to give these a go on the Pentland hills near the Scotland Outdoors office.
The All Out Charge has evolved from the popular All Out Rush trail running shoe. The All Out soles are based on a barefoot ethos, but offer much more protection when tackling rough terrain. While most barefoot shoes have little or no drop from heel to toe, and conventional trainers have around a 12mm drop, the All Out Charge has a 6mm drop – positioning it about halfway between a normal and a barefoot trainer. UniFly technology is used in this sole unit, wrapping around the arch of the foot, helping to ensure continuous contact.
There are shock plates front and rear to reduce impact from sharp objects. First impressions are that they are very lightweight, and I liked the overall build. The design is understated, with the colour mainly on the inside of the shoe, and a reflective swoosh on the outer side. The sole is seriously chunky, ready for muddy trails, and there’s a decent rubber bumper around the toe area for extra protection.
The tongue is fixed down one side and completely open on the other, which I guess helps with getting on and off, and the tubular laces feel waxy so they won’t come undone. In addition, the new HyperWrap lug system of lacing works really well to help you feel secure in the shoe.
I am normally a size nine in trainers, but can be a size eight in regular shoes. I chose a nine, and they felt pretty perfect in thin running socks. They also felt very light (approximate weight 283g, men’s) – which is what you want when you’re running. They are a snug, narrow fit, and my feet felt pretty small in them – that was fine, too – it almost felt as if the shoes weren’t there.
The test conditions were always pretty wet and muddy, and soft underfoot, but I felt very secure while running. On ascents, I felt very sure-footed, but found them a wee bit slippy on flat, wet stones. When negotiating downhills they did feel anchored, and the chunky outer sole helps with stability.
My knees are fine, thanks to the shock absorption in the soles, which help to spread any impact, and although your feet do get wet, they don’t feel waterlogged, as the mesh sides allow for some egress. That rubber bumper at the front has saved me from a few stubbed toes on tree roots. The removable insole is treated with an odour control so you don’t have to worry about them smelling too much.
So from being a reluctant road runner, these trail running shoes have opened up a whole new way of exploring the outdoors and staying fit. My next challenge is canicross – watch this space!
Out now. RRP £95. See www.merrell.com