What Shoes Should I Wear?

By Sean McCoy – www.GearJunkie.com

A journey of 125 miles begins with a single step – hopefully in the right pair of shoes. 

Once committed to the TransRockies Run, runners must carefully select the footwear that will help carry them over rocks, sticks, mud, slippery steam beds and, ultimately, 125 miles of seriously tough terrain. This decision should not be taken lightly and will require some research on the part of the runner. 

In 2012, I chose to run in the New Balance Trail 1010, a thin, light shoe with minimal padding. The shoe contained a few features I wanted, including a rock shield (tough plastic) under the forefoot, a thin stack height and aggressive treads. 

I loved my selection, but did pay for the minimal design with some gnarly damage to my toenails from three rock-bashing stubbed-toe incidents. I lost seven toenails after the race.

Regardless your selection, be certain to run in the shoes several times – including long runs close to stage distances – over varied terrain in training. Day one of the TransRockies Run is not the time to find out your shoes don’t fit or function correctly. 

Plan to bring at least two pairs of shoes for the race as the tough terrain punishes equipment.

Many brands and models of shoes are well suited to running the TransRockies Run. As a runner, become familiar with shoe design and terminology and hone in on what works for your individual running style when choosing TransRockies Run shoes.

Some things to consider when choosing your TransRockies Run Shoe:

Weight – Light shoes take less energy to haul up and down mountains and over many miles of rugged terrain. However, keep in mind that lighter shoes usually offer slightly less protection and support than beefier trail running models.

Stack Height – This term refers to the thickness of the sole of the shoe. Trail runners often choose a thin stack height for running primitive trails because this puts less distance between the bottom of the shoe and the bottom of the foot, reducing the leverage and possibility of twisted ankles. On the down side a thinner sole will usually provide less padding and impact protection than a thick sole.

Drop – The heel to toe drop of the shoe, in millimeters, will give an idea how the shoe will react under foot. A lower number, often between 4 and 6 millimeters, indicates that the she will allow the foot fairly natural motion and help encourage a mid-foot landing.

Sole – The TransRockies Run is run over primitive, rough terrain. Expect tree roots, boulders, mud and soft pine needles (the best!) when crossing the Rocky Mountains. The sole needs some aggressive traction to handle the varied terrain. Avoid smooth tread patterns designed for street running. Soles that include a rock-shield of some sort will help protect the foot from sharp edges when blasting over Hope Pass or down the front of Vail Mountain.

Waterproofness – Many trail shoes come with waterproof liners. While great for hiking, waterproofing will hinder the breathability of the shoe and more likely result in wet feet from sweat and a slow drying shoe after creek crossings dump water in from the top. Stick with quick-drying, light shoes for the race.

Socks – Quality socks are a must for the long, multi-day event. Choose a great fitting merino wool or synthetic sock for fast drying, durability and friction reduction. Bring at least three pairs and wash each night for a fresh pair each day.

A few popular makes and models of shoes to investigate include:

The New Balance 1010 Trail

The Salomon Sense, Ultra and Mantra

Saucony Kinvara TR 2

La Sportiva Vertical K

La Sportiva Skylite 2.0

Scarpa Spark

Merrell Mix Master


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