Last week we learned about trail running races everyone can do in HK. This week, we’re talking about running in the right gear, namely, shoes. So, can you wear your ordinary runners on the trails or do you need a trail specific shoe? And if so, which one?
The short answer is yes but the practical answer is, preferably not.
Trail running shoes are different from ordinary runners in two ways: (1) they’re more robust to handle tree roots, rocks and other obstacles that you may subject your poor tootsie to while on the run, and (2) they provide better grip when running on common trail surfaces, like rocks and, if it rains, slippery, muddy surfaces. So while you can run with your ordinary runners - no problemo – you may find that over certain terrain you’re not as speedy or as well protected as you may be in a trail running shoe.
So, which shoe?
Of course choosing shoes is incredibly personal and getting the right shoe for you is a process of trial and error, as well as a lot of mileage under foot. Firstly, here are my general thoughts on some rookie errors I’ve made over the years:
(1) Don’t buy a shoe that’s too heavy. Trail running shoes are definitely heavier and more robust than the minimalist running shoes you can get these days, and over long mileage I personally feel like this weighs on you, particularly on HK’s trails where there is a bit too much concrete. Generally speaking, the cheaper the shoe the more bulk in lower quality materials. On HK’s trails, something overly robust is not necessary, as we don’t have the super muddy trails of say, somewhere like England. If you ask me, it’s worth investing in a quality shoe with not too much bulk.
(2) Don’t, whatever you do, buy a shoe with Goretex. If your feet are going to get wet, they’re going to get wet. And having Goretex just makes your feet a big fat sloppy mess.
(3) Don’t chose a trail running shoe for the colour. (I’ve made this mistake before…damn my penchant for hot pink!) All trail shoes end up the dirty, grey colour of a mummifed rat after a while, so don’t bother. Get the right shoe for you.
(4) Don’t go too small For road runners they say you should buy half a size bigger; for trail shoes, buy a full size bigger. Alternatively, suffer the consequence of manky toenails after you run down too many hills. Plus your feet tend to swell a little more over long distances.
Now we’re past the rookie errors, let’s go for the specifics. Time to turn to trail running guru Jeremy Ritcey. Not only is Jeremy a sh*t hot local trail runner (sorry Jeremy, my words not yours ) he owns and runs Lantau Base Camp in Mui Wo, Lantau - Hong Kong’s home-grown trail running store. It’s worth the ferry ride to chat to Jeremy in person or you can go to his handy online store.
So Jeremy, what’s your pick of shoes for technical terrain, offering more grip & stablity? Say for something Like The North Face 100 Hong Kong?
If you need grip, support and stability, I really think the best go-to shoe right now is the S-Lab XT 6. Though only a few Salomon Pros run in this shoe (Ryan Sandes does), it is the only shoe in their premium line that give the support and the stability that most people need for a longer run.
What about something for the minimalists, for a shorter run on less technical trains – lightweight, fast, but still with the necessary grip? Like for Lantau Two Peaks last weekend?
I will run races like this in the Salomon Sense Ultra for sure. It is fast, light, versatile and ready to go right out of the box.
[HKAB: Another super popular lightweight shoe is the Inov8 TrailRocs.]
Ok, what about for the long runs on less technical terrains where you need some more comfort, like in the Hong Kong 100 in January?
For a race like this it’s going to come down to how much support you need as a runner. For me, I try to run my 100 km races in the most minimal and light shoes I can get away with these days. In reality, I think something middle of the road, like the Salomon Sense Mantra, it offers enough support for the long distance, but is still fairly light and versatile, being both good on road and trail.
For those who love the plush ride, don’t mind having a lot of shoe on their feet and have a hard time with their joints, it’s very hard to beat the Hoka Bondi for a race like the HK100.
Ok, HK gets freak storms and muddy trails. What then?
[Laughs] In Hong Kong, even when you’re running in the mud, it isn’t like running in the fells of England. There just isn’t that much depth to our mud. I would generally stay away from ‘soft ground’ or ‘fell running’ shoes for the most part. However, there are some excellent shoes that fit into that category that also excel on HK terrain. The Inov8 Roclite 295 comes to mind as a great mud shoe that works brilliantly here.
Weighing them all up… best all-rounder?
This is the most difficult question to answer and it really comes down to individual preference, but if I were forced to run in only one shoe for every run for the rest of my existence, I would have to go with the S-Lab XT 6.
You’re a Salomon athlete and all, but that’s a lot of love for Salomon…
I know , but I really do think that Salomon currently makes the best shoe and with what I see coming next year, I don’t think my opinions will change…
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