Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Perfect Mountain Running Shoe?

I'm not one to get too excited about trail running shoes, or running shoes in general, but wow! I've been blown away by a pair of La Sportiva Crosslites. Out the box, these things looked aggressive, light and sharp, and the feel once on was exactly what a mountain running shoe should feel like: tight, without being constrictive while also maintaining a degree of flex for the toes; all characteristics that prevent blister-inducing foot slippage within the shoe on quick and rocky descents, while also allowing for great responsiveness to the trail. The tread looks out of this world and super aggressive with heavy, durable spike-like lugs forming deep and wide grooves for maximum grip. Nice!

Untested as yet, but they sure look and feel aggressive. They'll be spending a lot of time going up Horsetooth in the coming months (just visible in the background).

A word of thanks here to Stacy from Wilderness Running for taking the time to exchange multiple emails with me in pursuit of the perfect mountain racing shoe from his stocked selection. These guys deal exclusively in trail running shoes and gear (the only such retailer I know of), so they know their stuff. In addition to the Crosslites, I also picked up a pair of Vasque Celerators (a new lighter-weight trail racer) and a pair of La Sportiva Wildcats (oh, and the running socks they give away with every pair of shoes) in return for a bit of work I did for them. Nice deal. I'll be offering some thoughts on all three shoes, as I get a feel for them, both here and at the Wilderness Running website.

The Wildcats are the only shoes I have run in thus far - they arrived yesterday - and I'm sad to say they got their debut outing at ... the track, a place I hadn't seen in over ten months until last night. Five-time marathon Olympic trials qualifier, Jane Welzel, was leading the session and there was a turn-out of probably 40+ runners. Fort C is just a great all-around outdoors town.

The yellow cat paws were stained red by the track. They're looking forward to tracking some dirt.

Anyway, the Wildcats felt solid and light, if a little more roomy and jiggly than the Crosslites. I have a feeling, and hope, these shoes are going to be my go-to daily runner. They're designed to offer a little more cushioning than the brand's race shoes, so hopefully they'll stand up well to many hundred miles of rocky mountain trail.

The Vasque feel a little stiff walking around, but they're lightweight and should be a decent shoe - hopefully an excellent shoe - once warmed up. We'll see.

Untested as yet, but a little stiff out the box.

A note on sizing: I typically run in a 9.5 shoe, but have consistently found Vasque shoes to run big by at least a half size, which means I wear a 9.0 Vasque. The Sportiva's use European sizing to allow for slightly more subtle distinctions between sizes. I ordered a 42.5 (between a 9 and 9.5, but closer to 9.5) and they fit like a glove, er, sock.

The early odds for my top pick from the three are heavily in favor of the Crosslite from an initial out-the-box feel, but it's early in the race and I need to see how each shoe holds up to a couple hundred miles of gnarly trail and a few races before calling a winner. The Crosslites go out tomorrow night for a time trial up Round Mountain. Can't wait.


  1. I love the sole on the Crosslites but they are almost too tight in the heel for me. I'd almost want a PI upper on this shoe and keep the sole.

  2. GZ - I have a fairly narrow heel, so enjoyed the fit, but I'm yet to put the shoe through it's paces, so the post above is based on nothing more than a non-running feel.

    Never tried a PI shoe, but I've been hearing some good things about their trail runners.

  3. Hi Nick - Back safely. Great report on the shoes. But please distinguish between its and it's. your [pedant] Dad

  4. Dad - Glad to hear you're back safely. Took the toll road back to the Fort from the airport and was to the meeting within an hour - only five mins late. Saved probably 30 mins by bypassing traffic on I-270/70/25.

    Remember, you're retired from teaching ...

  5. Those shoes are superb.!! Footwear is probably the most important apparel that a runner will need.

  6. It can't get any better than this.

  7. Awesome trail shoes. These are quite comfortable for indoor and outdoor use. They breathe well and clean off easily.