Winter trails… The need for a bit more

Up until November, I’ve been fine running all sorts of types of trail routes in my Merrell trail gloves, they provide excellent positive feedback whilst blocking out the majority of painful pointy stones.  But like everything they have their limits.  My forays in the foothills of the Pyrénées are taking me to steeper less tracked areas, much akin to UK fell running, on this terrain the Merrells are not in their element, I feel less protected, even slightly exposed – more grip is required and just a little bit more build.

Trail Gloves on top of "Le Picou"

Now with the onset of winter I realise that I also need more insulation from the ground.  I was going to try the Merrells with hiking socks, but their glove like fit only allows the thinnest of sock to be worn and I haven’t got the spare cash to buy another slightly larger pair, besides the lack of grip is still an issue.   Another idea I had was to use microspikes with the Merrells, but I need traction on non-snowy areas and I’m afraid that the spikes won’t last long.

The other issue I have is with the leaf litter that still covers the woodland section of most of the trails, the leaves are covering some very nasty rocks in some places, on my regular routes I’m beginning to find the worst sections and can slow down accordingly, but I want to run fast – I need slightly more all round protection.

So I’ve come up with a stop-gap solution for this years winter running, For about half the price of the Merrells I have brough a pair of the UK spec. New Balance MT101’s. (£45)  I’m not going to give them a review here, there are plenty of opinions on the net, the majority overwhelmingly positive.  Suffice to say they tick most boxes of my winter running requirements;

Enough EVA to insulate ground.

Fast draining,

Should work with crampons,

UK model sole is studded, providing good grip on snow and mud – not far off X-talon.

Can wear a reasonable sock in them.

They are very reasonably priced.

NB MT101 - The UK Spec sole offers very good traction

For me this list of positives help to make up for the one huge negative  – that enormous 10 mm Differential.  It’s really strange de-volving, if you like, to positive diff shoes, after a year of exclusively running zero drop.  After just one run in these I’m undecided wether this effects me or not, I notice it a lot when standing still but I feel able to run in them well.  The other slightly annoying thing is that the last is a D width and I fear that this will not be wide enough.

I’m toying with the idea of reducing the heel height the same way that Anton Krupicka does, but I would quite like to keep the grip on the heel, So I’m in two minds weather or not I should take the bread knife out of the drawer.  I often try to plant the full foot on descent to aid with grip so I will continue to run in them as is and see if this effects my form at all.   Perhaps I would have been better off sizing up a half as well too help get an even thicker sock in, but in the end it was always going to be about comprimise.

Other options I considered were:

Patagonia Forerunner

Altra LonePeak,

Waiting for the NewBalance MT 110

I crossed the Neo Trail off the list due to the thinness of the sole (you just can’t please some people hey!)!

I can’t find a local supplier for any of the above – trying to buy anything that isn’t made by Salomon in France is nigh on impossible!

What is clear is that there will never be a “one shoe quiver” where mountain running is concerned, I’ll look forward to putting the Merrells on for warmer drier days but until then I still have a bit of experimenting to do.

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4 thoughts on “Winter trails… The need for a bit more

  1. Hi Nick, try the merrel mix masters, they have the same last as the trail glove, which is also my choice for most of my runs. I feel the same way as you, specially about pointy stones and lack of protection when bombing donwhill, on the heel area when the forefoot-heel bounce is hard. The mixs have a 4mm drop that (at least for me) does not alter my gait, a nice rock plate and firm forefoot (but keeping it flexible), and a soft heel with enough protection for pointy rocks. They are also low to the ground. The upper looks very durable and breathable at the same time.

    Another shoe I like is the montrail rogue racer, very light, 9mm drop without insoles, good grip and firm midsole, althoug I find it a bit high to the ground and sometimes a bit unstable (after getting used to the proprioception with the trail gloves you feel unstable with thick-soled shoes very easily!).

    The new MT110 look very promising, but I cannot wear them due to sizing issues (a 14UK…).

    Cheers!

    Oscar.

  2. Hi, just got them and have only run in them through a park, no more than 10 miles, so I cannot give you a good opinion. However, I think they will be grippier than the trail gloves.

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