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Helly Hansen Pace Intercept HT trail running shoe review

17:40 29th August 2013 By Fi Spotswood

A top of the line waterproof trail shoe from Helly Hansen that promises to be suited
to the most discerning runner.

The heavyweight HH shoes

The heavyweight HH shoes

Helly Hansen have been busy supporting adventure races and adventurous runners
for a while now and have been headline sponsors for events like the Killarney
Adventure Race, the Beauty and the Beast trail run and, further afield, the Utra
Trail Tinajo X-Race in Lanzarote. Many of the garments in their ‘Pace’ range of
clothing and shoes are described as being their ‘best ever’ or ‘the best…on the
market’ so expectations for the Pace Intercept HT were for something fast that
could conquer the toughest of mountain runs.
Out of the box these shoes feel like a high quality product being very well put
together with a lot of the seams double stitched and many sections being
made from tough, abrasive resistant materials. There can be no mistaking who
the manufacturer is with no less than 11 double H logos on each shoe!

Given Helly Hansen’s heritage from making waterproof materials for sailors it’s no
surprise that their range topping shoes include their own Helly-tech
waterproof membrane. This a lightweight, breathable material that keeps the
water out while not letting you overheat. On a warm summers evening run this
worked effectively with no apparent ‘boil in the bag’ feeling but coping well
with the odd stream crossing. The uppers also incorporate an ‘HH Roll Cage’
that provides a snug fit for added stability on uneven terrain. They were
comfortable on a variety of gradients including steep descents and off camber
trails with very little movement of the foot in the shoe.

The toe box sits quite tall and is protected by a TPR/synthetic material that Helly
Hansen call Hellywear. This should help in rough conditions but it does feel a
bit odd having so much room to flex your toes inside the shoe. The Hellywear
continues around the base of the upper and the heel to reduce the risk of
damage to the shoe and, more importantly, your feet.

The mid sole is where things start to go a bit awry. Helly Hansen have used a ‘CZone’
in the heel and ‘C-Zone+’ in the forefoot that is in essence a large
amount of cushioning that claims to absorb impact and provide energy return
for more efficient running. This kind of technology has been popular in road
shoes since the early days of Nike Air and perhaps suits pavement pounders
but out on the trails it tends to lead to a neutral or dead ride with very little
feedback on what is happening beneath your feet. Another drawback is the
amount of bulk it adds and you gain a noticeable couple of centimetres when
you climb into the shoes. There is also a hard plastic mid foot stabiliser that
aims to prevent the shoe twisting through the gait cycle. While out running
this felt a little too stiff adding to the deadening of the ride.

There’s quite a lot going on on the underside of the shoe with a multitude of
different shaped lugs of varying sizes and heights including another HH logo so
you can leave branded footprints wherever you go. The grip was reasonable on
most terrain including mud, roots, hard pack and loose material. Not totally
confidence inspiring but this was probably down to the stiffness of the mid
sole not letting the shoe flex to the shape of the ground rather than the design
of the outsole. One area that was lacking was grip on smooth rock. The outsole
is made from a hard rubber compound that is great for increased life span but
not as sticky as softer material so can cause a bit of slippage if there is nothing
for the lugs to hook on to.

Finally, and probably most noticeable of all, as soon as you start running it feels like
you have clods of mud caught on the shoe. Sitting on the scales each shoe
weighs in at a portly 440g (size 11 test pair), which is over 100g more than
many other top end shoes in this price bracket. To any runner, whether it be
for fitness or racing, weight has a huge impact on performance and lifting that
extra mass with every stride is a drain on valuable energy reserves that is hard
to ignore.

↑The good

  • Tough and well made so should live through several hundred kilometres
  • Hellytech waterproof membrane provides all weather protection
  • Comfortable and foot hugging uppers

↓The not-so-good

  • Unresponsive ride from cushioned and stiff sole
  • Hard rubber outsole lacks grip on smooth surfaces
  • Bulky and heavy


The Pace Intercept HTs seem to be a case of the marketing not really fitting the
product. They may well suit runners transferring to trails from a road background
who expect heavy cushioning and stability and the quality of the materials and
manufacture are certainly of a high standard. However, they don’t seem to fit the
profile of ‘the discerning runner’ who will expect something lighter and more lively
to run in. Perhaps Helly Hansen need to spend more time talking to athletes at the
races they support and if they can transfer some of the good bits from the design of
the uppers and apply them to a different mid and outsole then they could have a
shoe that will be worth a look.

Score: 5/10

The Facts:

Brand: Helly Hansen
Model: Pace Interceptor HT
Price: £110
Used for: Multi terrain training runs (mud, roots, rock, tarmac)
URL: http://shop.hellyhansen.com/gb/item/pace-interceptor-ht-10760/
Weight: 434g (size 11)

Sizes Available: 7-13 including half sizes
Colours: Spray Orange/Light Grey, Clemantine/Alert Red, Black/Ebony/Lime