Wednesday, February 24, 2016

For the Trails

Are you a trail runner? I haven't been. Living in Iowa, good trails to run are hard to find and require some driving. So I do most of my running on roads or paved bike paths, and I've never done a trail race.

But in 2016 I'm doing two ultramarathons that are both on trails. In April I'm running the Hawkeye 50k in Solon, IA; and in May I'm trying to survive the Booneville Backroads Ultra 100k. So far, I've run 2 marathons so these will be a challenge. Even more, they're on trails and gravel, and are a long long way to run.

Vibram makes a few different kinds of trail-type shoes. Here are my thoughts on the options.

Spyridon MR

Since Vibram came out with their first Spyridons, I've loved them. I had the originals and then got the newer MR this past year. The originals were okay, but the upper left some to be desired. The new MR version brought the same cool trail sole - it looks like a tire - with a better designed upper. I love the look of them and they fit really nicely too.

For running, they're about the most comfortable VFF's I have other than the KMD sport. (My ideal VFF's would be this sole with the KMD upper.) The sole give great protection from rocks and gravel, without feeling too thick. I definitely prefer it to the Trek sole that came on previous trail models like the Trek Sport or KSO Trek.

Unfortunately, possibly due to getting a bum pair, I can't hardly wear my Spyridon MR's anymore. After wearing them casually and running 30-40 total miles in them, my MR's began to feel like I had rocks in my shoes. What I finally figured out is that the glue that holds the insole material down, balled up under my feet and cause irritation. I'm hoping it's only my pair that does this. (My friend has had a pair longer than me and doesn't have this issue.) After months of not wearing these shoes, I finally decided to do some surgery and try to fix it. So I made slits in the insole material and started getting the glue balls out. But unfortunately I haven't been able to get the material glued back down without irritation. So there's no way I can wear these for 50-100k of running.

Trek Ascent (& LR)

So I decided to try a different kind for the trails. After already getting the Trek Ascent LR's last Spring for hiking and casual wear, I decided to try the regular Trek Ascent for running the trails.

 So far, I love the Trek Ascents. They are a comfortable and attractive shoe. One thing you'll notice is that the cuff around the top is different than many of the other VFF's. I'm not sure I like that as much, and have had a little blistering on the back of my ankle because my Injinji socks slip down with these when running. (I always wear socks when running more than 10 miles in my VFF's to prevent blisters.)

The sole of the Ascent is aggressive! It is great and protective without being too thick. It has probably the best grip of any VFF's I've worn. They are the shoes I plan to run my ultra marathons in, and I'm excited to see how they do. The one caveat is that, unlike the Spyridon sole, they aren't great for road running. The rubber is so hard on the sole that the Ascents begin to hurt my feet when I wear them on roads for very long. So I'm saving them for the trails.

Bonus - KSO Trek

The first trail runners were based on the Trek Sport platform and I have the brown and black KSO Treks that were marked way down on REI a couple years ago. They are kangaroo leather with the Trek sole. They are actually a decent trail runner as well, but the KSO upper is way too loose for my liking and they don't fit snugly on my feet. So I use them for hiking and camping, but not running. The KSO is the one style that I think I'd be better off in a 42 size.

Do any of you run trails in VFF's? What ones do you like?


  1. How do the KSO Treks compare to the Trek Ascent LRs?

    1. I'd say they are similar in protection from rocks and stuff you step on. But the Trek Ascents are much knobbier and get better traction. I like the design of the Ascents much more, and for me, they fit more snugly and comfortably. Also, the KSO Treks have sewn in labels in the footbed with are irritating sometimes. Vibram has eliminated that practice now and there is nothing to bother you under your foot.