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Buyers Guide: Adventure Racing Shoes

16:13 23rd February 2013 By Andy Wilson

As well as mountain biking and kayaking, adventure racing often involves running or trekking in open wilderness. Foot stages can be as varied as they are adrenalin-packed, so is there such a thing as the perfect ‘AR’ running shoe? Our expert racer, who himself has tackled the Patagonian and Alaskan wilderness on foot, thinks not. But here is some guidance for making that all-important footwear decision.


What terrain?

Seasoned adventure racers will put Imelda Marcos to shame, owning trainers for every type of terrain. However, most newcomers will be happy in a rugged trail running shoe with a decent amount of grip but some cushioning, so they can tackle anything from lanes or hard-packed bridleways to muddy footpaths. Think about the Adidas Kanadia or New Balance 610 for starters.

If you think you’re more likely to tackle the fells – open grassy moorland and boggy terrain -then more rugged grip will be needed, and a much ‘lower profile’. That means less heel cushioning, so you run lower to the ground, making you more stable in tussocks and soft ground. Inov-8 X-Talon is a good example.



Although elite fell runners will cover miles in shoes with paper-thin soles, shoes with little cushioning can be tough on the legs. If you are tackling long running stages in races, particularly with a pack, think about a shoe with a bit of extra bounce, to protect your legs for the next stage – something like the Salomon Speedcross.


The Salomon Speedcross; a classic, lightweight, low profile off road shoe.

The Salomon Speedcross; a classic, lightweight, low profile off road shoe.

No knots here with Salomon's Quick Fit speed lacing system

No knots here with Salomon’s Quick Fit speed lacing system


Your trainers are going to get muddy so some system which protects the lacing and stops the mud getting in is useful. And talking of lacing, try a ‘rapid lacing’ system like Salomon’s so you can get in and out of transition in seconds flat.
(If you prefer traditional laces, then at least learn the clever orienteering knots which won’t come undone in the brambles but will loosen off with a well placed tug).


Fit is always personal and we’d recommend getting fitted at a specialist running shop. Your trainers will probably be bigger than your office shoes, and remember that feet expand when they’ve been pounded for hours on the hill. Expedition racers often have a pair a size bigger than normal for the second half of a five day race. Black toe nails really can be avoided.



There is only one rule when it comes to the material you shoe should be made from: NON-waterproof.
Gore-Tex shoes, no matter how breathable they claim to be, will make your feet sweat up and fill up with water on an adventure race, softening up your skin and make it an easy target for blisters and trench foot.
Your feet will get wet, embrace it and choose a shoe from which water can drain quickly.

Watch out for our trail shoe group test coming soon for five of the best picks for long rugged off-road runs.


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