UKC

Trail Running Shoes - also good for walkers and climbers Group Test

© UKH/UKC Gear

Trail running shoes may primarily be designed for moving fast in the hills, but they're not just good for running. Lighter, cooler, more nimble and more forgiving underfoot than a walking boot, running shoes are a great option for hillwalking in anything less than winter conditions; likewise, for climbers, their lower weight, greater comfort, and generally far superior grip on wet ground can make trail shoes an attractive alternative to approach shoes, especially on long approaches to mountain crags. Running shoes with a bit of stiffness in the sole can also be good on scrambling terrain. In fact, unless it's snowy, most of us on the gear team spend more time in running shoes than any other footwear. They're the most versatile of outdoor shoes - you can even go running in them.

Trail shoes - good for pretty much every outdoor use bar technical rock or full-on winter  © UKH/UKC Gear
Trail shoes - good for pretty much every outdoor use bar technical rock or full-on winter
© UKH/UKC Gear

For this group test of several brands, we asked for more supportive shoes rather than minimalist models, since these make the better all-rounders for hill days and crag approaches, and will be more relevant to hillwalkers, backpackers and climbers as well as runners. The selection includes a couple of left-field choices that are less ideal for out-and-out running, but which suit our all-round remit well.

A solid, grippy trail shoe can feel as reassuring as an approach shoe on scrambling terrain like this grade 3 slab  © Dan Bailey
A solid, grippy trail shoe can feel as reassuring as an approach shoe on scrambling terrain like this grade 3 slab
© Dan Bailey

What to look for: 

Trail running shoes vary a lot in terms of weight, fit, support, cushioning, grip, and the design of the uppers.

Uppers

Whilst waterproof-lined shoes have their fans, we asked for unlined shoes here, on the basis that they're cooler and quicker-drying, and therefore more comfortable in warmer conditions and generally more versatile. A couple of models were only available as waterproof shoes, something that comes with both pros and cons in this review. Elsewhere, if a waterproof version is available, we've mentioned it.

For summer comfort, look for an upper with plenty of mesh for breathability. For all-round use on rough hill terrain, the upper should also offer some structure to help cradle and support the foot, while the addition of a rand and/or a toe bumper will help provide some protection from rocks.

In hot weather trail shoes are more breathable than the alternatives, but some are better than others  © Dan Bailey
In hot weather trail shoes are more breathable than the alternatives, but some are better than others
© Dan Bailey

Outsole

Particularly in the UK's wet and grassy hills, the big advantage of trail shoes over approach shoes is the fact that they'll typically offer a much more secure grip on wet ground. Having decent friction on dry rock obviously helps when scrambling, but since the bulk of most people's mileage on hill days or crag approaches will be on softer surfaces and slippery grass slopes, a tread with more bite can be a big advantage. A ledge or 'breast' at the heel can help a lot with downhill traction too.

The effectiveness of the outsole on a range of terrain will vary widely between different models, so it's one of the features we've paid close attention to in this review.

Some outsoles are at their best on dry rock, some fare better on soft or more mixed ground  © Dan Bailey
Some outsoles are at their best on dry rock, some fare better on soft or more mixed ground
© Dan Bailey

Midsole

A major benefit of shoes over traditional walking boots is typically that they'll offer more flex and bounce. But you can probably take it too far. For many users a slightly more solid and supportive shoe is going to be good on rough ground or when carrying a heavy pack - especially if you're a habitual walking boot wearer new to trail shoes.

If you're walking a lot on hard-packed trails, a deeper and more cushioned midsole helps soak up the impact, and will particularly come into its own on long days. On the other hand, a higher 'stack height' can feel a bit more cumbersome on tricky technical ground, though we think this is less an issue while walking than hill running. The 'drop', the difference between heel and toe height, is largely a consideration for runners, so we've paid it less attention in this group test. Most of the shoes on review are middle of the road in terms of drop.

Fit

Whatever else we say here, nothing trumps how a particular shoe fits you personally. If you're not already familiar with the model it's always worth trying shoes on in a bricks and mortar shop, where problems such as heel lift or toe strike can often be spotted immediately. Trail running shoes ought to offer a bit more front-end space than the more asymmetric, climbing-oriented fit you'll often see in approach shoes, making them a better bet for comfort over a long day on your feet. Though this group test has been carried out by several reviewers, we've tried to keep our notes on width, volume and general fit as objective as possible.

If planning to clip shoes to your harness when climbing, consider their weight  © Dave Saunders
If planning to clip shoes to your harness when climbing, consider their weight
© Dave Saunders

Weight

Every gram taken off your foot is a bit less work for you to do; the savings probably add up over a long day, so it's worth paying some attention to the weight of your trail shoes. This goes double if you're using them to approach a mountain crag and intending to clip them onto your harness while climbing; running shoes often beat approach shoes in this regard. However, while we consider the weight in this group test, it's not our first concern. For most crossover users, comfort, support, cushioning and foot protection trump out-and-out lightness.

Overall Summary

Make and model

Scarpa

Spin Ultra

Price: £140

Weight: 580g/pair size 42

Pros: Supportive, breathable and well-cushioned - hard to beat as an all rounder

Cons: A more aggressive tread would be better on soft wet ground

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Icebug

Horizon

Price: £120

Weight: 580g/pair (UK 9)

Pros: Good all-rounder, supremely comfortable for the wider footed, and strong environmental credentials

Cons: A lot less excellent if you're narrow footed, and not the most technical shoe off-piste

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

La Sportiva

Ultra Raptor II

Price: £115

Weight: 710g/pair (size not given)

Pros: Solid, supportive, well-cushioned, comfy for long hill days, and geat value

Cons: Looking heavy compared to some newer rivals

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Salewa

Dropline

Price: £135.00

Weight: 680g/pair (size not specified)

Pros: A comfy and shock-absorbing shoe ideal for long distances on hard-packed trails

Cons: High and clumsy on rough terrain, and poor grip on wet off-piste ground

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Dynafit

Speed Mtn GTX

Price: £170

Weight: 780g/pair (size not given)

Pros: Great scrambling performance; waterproof thanks to GTX lining

Cons: Unusual foot shape; tread doubtful on wet ground; heavy; expensive; hot thanks to GTX lining

Mammut

Aegility Pro Mid

Price: £145

Weight: 740g/pair size UK 8.5

Pros: Shock absorbing sole with a good aggressive tread for mixed terrain

Cons: Odd fit, insubstantial upper, and comfort niggles

Dolomite

Crodanera

Price: £135

Weight: 830g/pair size 42

Pros: Supportive and well-made, with a cool breathable upper

Cons: Stiff and heavy if you do want to go running in them; in 2023 only a GTX version will be sold

Scarpa Spin Ultra £140

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Highly Recommended

Supportive enough for backpacking on rough ground, and to offer a degree of scrambling performance, yet still sufficiently light and breathable for comfortable running, the Spin Ultra is a fantastic all-rounder. Now on my second pair (which should tell you something), I use mine equally for short local runs, proper hill runs, hillwalking, and approaching mountain crags. I've scrambled up to grade 3 in them - for instance this Beinn Eighe round - and they've very comfortably done long distance days such as the Dartmoor crossing. If you prefer a fairly substantial trail shoe, and don't mind the shocking colour (the only version available in the UK), this versatile model should cover you for most uses outside of winter. They're a favourite among a couple of staff here at UKH/UKC, and had we been doing a 'best in test' they might've been a shoe-in.

Light but pretty well cushioned, they feel like a good choice for mixed terrain  © Dan Bailey
Light but pretty well cushioned, they feel like a good choice for mixed terrain
© Dan Bailey

We originally reviewed the Spin Ultra at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, and though that meant keeping it local (for me at that time, semi-rural Fife) its potential as a running and hillwalking all-rounder was still clear. Since then I've used the shoe a lot more widely, and outside of snowy or very wet conditions it's generally my preferred footwear.

 

Fit

This shoe comes in both men's and women's fit, though neither in a vast range of sizes (37-42 for women, 41-48 for men).

Width is mid-range, neither notably broad nor particularly narrow. I have broad feet, and there's plenty of space here in the heel and midfoot. Straight from the box, my square-toed foot shape is not the best match for the the front end of the Spin Ultra, and the outer edge of my forefoot, particularly the little toe, pushes against the side of the shoe. I tend to find the toe a bit cramped on Scarpa footwear, particularly at the outer curve. And while it felt quite noticeable in the first few weeks of use with my first pair (when distance and difficulty were constrained by the imperative to keep things local) I've found that with use the front end of the Spin Ultra gives a bit over time. Now I'd call them a pretty much perfect match.

Of course users with pointier feet are less likely to notice the tapered toe, and in fact our reviewer Nick, who has very narrow feet, is at least as happy with the fit of these shoes as I am. It says something for the versatility of the Spin Ultra that two reviewers with strikingly different foot shapes both get on so well with them.

Protects feet on rubbly ground; cool in sunny weather; comfy and supportive for long days... it's an ideal do-it-all shoe  © Dan Bailey
Protects feet on rubbly ground; cool in sunny weather; comfy and supportive for long days... it's an ideal do-it-all shoe
© Dan Bailey

There's quite a lot of depth at the toe end, which gives you plenty of wiggle room and helps accommodate a bit of foot expansion as the day wears on. In my original pair I sometimes filled the spare space with a second thin insole, but I've not felt the need to with pair two. Across the top of the foot, the sock-like fit of the tongue hugs in for a more closely-fitted feel. This seems to help reduce foot slippage inside, although I do still get a bit when contouring steeper slopes unless I've laced as tight as I can.

Though the heel is not the most aggressive or structured, there's a fair depth of padding which I find works well to hold the foot in place with minimal lift, while at the same time avoiding putting pressure on the achilles.

Also good as a more solid and supportive running shoe  © Dan Bailey
Also good as a more solid and supportive running shoe
© Dan Bailey

Weight

Scarpa's quoted weight is 580g per pair in size 42, while my pair of 47 is 746g on the kitchen scales. We'd class these as midweight shoes, being significantly lighter than something beefy like La Sportiva's Ultra Raptor, if not in the same league as minimalist hill running lightweights. As I'm no lightweight myself I tend to prefer a more substantial trail shoe for all my running and walking, but no one likes weight for its own sake, so it's great that Scarpa have kept it manageable without compromising performance. For its modest weight the Spin Ultra feels well cushioned and supportive underfoot. And when used in crag approach mode, I don't find them too onerous clipped to the back of my harness on mountain multi-pitch routes. 

Durability is very good. Though my original pair ended up taking quite a hammering over hundreds of kilometres (or more) on the hills and trails, the outsole has worn well and the outside of the uppers shows no significant damage. However the soft midsole is easily scuffed on rocks, while the inner eventually wore through at the heel. Now relegated to gardening and dog walking, pair one still refuse to definitively die.

Breathable upper and sticky Vibram sole  © Dan Bailey
Breathable upper and sticky Vibram sole
© Dan Bailey

Upper

With plenty of open mesh, the Spin Ultra is cool and breathable. While I've worn them year-round, the breathability is obviously most evident in summer weather. On a recent trip to Dartmoor during England's record-breaking heatwave I used them on a couple of big running and walking days, and would have to say my feet were probably the least noticeably hot and sweaty bit of me. 

Thermo-welded over the mesh, a plasticy 'film' provides a bit of structure and protection for the foot. As well as boosting overall durability, this film helps make the uppers less absorbent, so you can walk through wet grass or moderate bogs and stay more or less dry inside the shoe so long as the water doesn't reach the level of the mesh vents. And when you do inevitably plant your foot ankle-deep in a mire, the absorbent textile inner is quick drying. A welded construction means there's minimal stitching in the upper, which is probably a good thing for longevity. For rougher ground, a TPU toe cap adds a decent amount of front end protection too, which I've found great when scrambling, or when out running on stony hills.

It's a nice breathable shoe for hot weather walking and running  © Dan Bailey
It's a nice breathable shoe for hot weather walking and running
© Dan Bailey

The soft, stretchy sock-fitting tongue is very comfy, and pretty breathable too, though not as airy as the mesh. For neatness you can tuck the spare lace tails into a cunning little pocket, which is a nice feature when you remember to use it.

Though these shoes feel pretty durable all over, from the sole to the upper, it seems the mesh fabric covering the padding and lining may be the achilles heel. On my previous pair, now a couple of years old and much-loved, the lining has worn through at the heel, whereas there's still life of sorts in the rest of the shoe. After about a year of heavy use, another member of the UKC/UKH gear team has very chewed-up padding around the cuffs on his pair. It's worth emphasising however that both pairs have seen a lot of mileage on rough ground.

Distant Glen Feshie from Carn an Fhidhleir  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Distant Glen Feshie from Carn an Fhidhleir
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Jul 2021

Sole

For me it's the substantial sole that really makes the Spin Ultra. This is quite a bit stiffer than you'll find on many shoes this light, and feels more akin to the sole on weightier models such as La Sportiva's Ultra Raptor. It's quite rigid in terms of forefoot flex, and you get a lot of torsional rigidity too. This support comes into its own when you're running or backpacking on steeper, rockier ground, and it also offers a good measure of edging performance when scrambling. Provided it doesn't feel clumpy or insensitive to the ground beneath, I tend to prefer a slightly stiffer sole on all running shoes, and for me the Spin Ultra strikes almost the perfect balance between springy flex and support.

For all-day comfort, and to soak up the impact on harder surfaces, there's a fair bit of cushioning underfoot. With a medium density EVA midsole and lower density inserts at the heel and forefoot, there's enough shock absorption for running on hard-packed trails and even bits of pavement, but not enough to compromise the sensitivity on trickier off-road terrain. With a middle-of-the-road drop of 6mm, and an overall depth of 24mm at the heel and 18mm at the toe, the Spin Ultra feels pretty much spot on for an all rounder.

The sturdy and grippy sole is surprisingly well suited to scrambling  © Dan Bailey
The sturdy and grippy sole is surprisingly well suited to scrambling
© Dan Bailey

The Vibram Velox LB Max outsole suits the all-terrain brief too. Widely spaced to minimise the risk of clogging with mud, the 4mm lugs have plenty of bite for trail runs, though I think it's fair to say that the sole overall seems tailored more towards dry rocky paths in the Dolomites than the UK's mud and wet grass, where something more aggressive is going to perform better when you hit the slop. Ideally I'd prefer a bit more heel breast, though I've successfully survived plenty of steep grassy ground with the little that the Spin Ultra offers. On dry rock the Megagrip rubber feels really sticky, another reason why this is such a decent scrambling shoe; but it's not so soft that it wears down too fast.

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Icebug Horizon £120

Reviewed by Rob Greenwood UKC

Highly Recommended

Designed as an 'entry level' trail running shoe, the Horizon is a great example of an accessible and user-friendly all-rounder that's equally suited to walking as it is to running. This is one of the wider shoes on test, with a broad toe box that will certainly suit some foot shapes, but not of course everyone. For those that it does fit - and I include myself here - you'll find it a supremely comfortable shoe that feels a little like it's been undersold as merely a "shoe for gravel roads and less technical trails". In fact we feel it's got enough grip to go off-piste, particularly throughout the summer months, when it's a little drier underfoot. The RB9X sole sticks well to rock and the fact the shoe also has a degree of reinforcement around the toe box and up the sides means that it's better able to handle rough terrain than Icebug appear to give it credit for.

If this doesn't sound appealing enough there's an added bonus: the Horizon is constructed using a high percentage of recycled materials throughout both the inners, outers, and the bits in between. Icebug are also the only brand to calculate the CO2 omission required to make the product, with the Horizon resulting in 8.3kg of carbon dioxide per pair. We don't know if this is a lot or a little relative to other brands until everyone else follows suit; surely this is a direction that outdoor gear manufacturers all ought to be taking.

Fit

The Horizon is offered in both male and female/lower volume versions.

This is an unashamedly wide shoe, which makes them very much Marmite in terms of fit. If you've got a wide foot, great; if you haven't, it's probably best to skip this model entirely and move on to the next in the group test, because this is unlikely to be of interest. If you're somewhere in between then I'd still say it's worth checking them out, although bear in mind that if you don't fill out that extra width it'll likely have an impact on how they perform on technical terrain, as that space will make them feel a little bit sloppy - particularly on rough ground.

Weight

At 580g per pair (size UK 9) the Horizon is one of the lighter shoes on test, which is interesting because they're not what I'd describe as 'super light', and they certainly don't feel minimalist in use. That said, they're not designed to be, with plenty of protection around the toe, sides and heel that - whilst adding weight - also increases their durability (more on this below). Their light weight definitely adds to their overall comfort. Whether running or walking, I have found them a pleasure to wear, and the fact they can also adapt to rockier terrain makes them all the more ideal if you're after a shoe that can do a bit of everything (precisely the remit of this group test, in fact). The only caveat I'd provide is that due to their lighter weight, they're not likely to be as durable as some of the heavier shoes on test; but perhaps that's just stating the obvious.

Uppers

The uppers and inners are made from a 100% bluesign polyester, which is both light, breathable and quick drying. As a result of its light weight it's not the toughest on test and if you are after something exclusively for use on rock or technical terrain, then this probably isn't going to last; my review pair is already showing some scuffing. The uppers are reinforced with a TPU rand around the toe, sides and heel, which provides a positive level of protection from rocks and roots; however, this only extends a short way up the sides - hence if you've got your feet fully stuffed into a crack it's not going to provide all-round protection. Another observation is that the TPU doesn't grip as well as rubber on rock, which whilst torquing your foot into cracks is something you might notice, but once again it's perhaps another reason not to use the Horizon on such rough terrain.

Icebug Horizon - Sole

Icebug Horizon in use on rough track and trail

Sole

With a middle of the road drop of 7mm, the Horizon should feel user friendly for a lot of people, perhaps especially those coming to shoes from walking boots. As most of us on the gear team run with a bit of heel strike, we're not hugely convinced by the trend for running shoes with minimal drop, which we suspect will really only suit a minority.

The outsole features Icebug's proprietary RB9X rubber compound, which has really impressed me with its grip. Whilst the lugs aren't the most aggressive, I have found them more than enough for spring and summer use, and they seem to handle wet terrain impressively well considering. Nevertheless, with less depth in the tread than some models, and no ledge at the heel for downhill traction, you may find their limits if you're out on steep and waterlogged winter hills. Due to its broad fit, the sole covers a lot of ground, helping the shoe feel incredibly stable on uneven terrain.

The midsole has a soft but supportive feel, which is - if you've read this far - something that resonates throughout every feature of the shoe. Within the midsole they've also integrated 20% BLOOM foam, which comes from algae in overgrown lakes. Performance-wise it's impossible to tell the difference between this slightly more eco-friendly choice, and a more conventional fully synthetic material.

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La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II £115

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH

Highly Recommended

From running to hillwalking, and even overnight backpacking, I've used Ultra Raptors for many years and am now on my fifth pair. This says a lot for their versatility, and - for me at least - their comfort. Built for long distance running, but crossing over very successfully onto the all-rounder ground trodden by this group test, the model has remained essentially unchanged for several years now, bar a recent largely cosmetic re-issue. In a market that seems to be driven by novelty its continued popularity suggests that, despite its relative heaviness, the Ultra Raptor II still has what it takes.

A solid and supportive shoe, well-suited to an all-rounder role  © Dan Bailey
A solid and supportive shoe, well-suited to an all-rounder role
© Dan Bailey

It's not the first time we've reviewed this shoe, but we were interested to see how it would compare to more recent rivals. The verdict? Whether you're a runner who values support, a walker making the transition from boots to shoes, or a climber looking for a solid approach shoe, the Ultra Raptor II is still very much a contender. And at this price it's a steal.

During the review period I've been using both the now-discontinued Ultra Raptor, and latterly its upgrade the Ultra Raptor II. The difference between them is largely cosmetic, and the essentials of fit, feel and performance remain unchanged. Through the review period I've used them for hillwalking days, short-to-mid length trail runs, some scrambling, and a longer distance mountain day on the Cairngorm 4000ers - as I've come to expect, they've been spot on for all.

I really like them for hill running, and they're especially good on hard-packed tracks and trails  © Dan Bailey
I really like them for hill running, and they're especially good on hard-packed tracks and trails
© Dan Bailey

Fit

Available in both men's and women's fit, and in a big range of sizes (and colours), the Ultra Raptor II is broad at the toe, with a fairly high volume too, making it roomy enough to accommodate some foot spread over a long day. It might be best suited to wider feet, but with a stretch fabric in the upper, and an effective lace system, the shoe can be pulled in close for a nice precise fit, so users with a narrower foot should give it a look too. People with particularly broad feet might try the alternative roomier-fitting Ultra Raptor Wide, though as mine are hardly narrow I can only imagine how spacious this may be.

Overall, and despite its high level of support, the Ultra Raptor II has quite a soft feel, with a well cushioned sole and a thick padded tongue. With an external structure that extends to the midfoot to provide a real feeling of support, the heel area offers a close fit without feeling too aggressive; I've never suffered heel lift in this shoe, and the 'cage' does seem to help stabilise the foot when you're traversing steep slopes too. A little shiny insert at the heel makes sliding the shoes on and off easier, and helps protect against wear in an area of a shoe's lining that often ends up with a hole. Though by no stretch of the imagination a minimalist shoe, the Ultra Raptor is very clearly optimised for all-day comfort, and I love them for long hill days or backpacking as well as longer (for me) runs.

Stable and protective on rough, rocky ground  © Dan Bailey
Stable and protective on rough, rocky ground
© Dan Bailey

Weight

La Sportiva's quoted weight for a single men's shoe is 355g, though the size isn't specified. I always prefer to give a weight for a pair, since most of us have two feet, and on the home digital scales my pair of size 47 in the new Ultra Raptor II come out at 964g, whereas the previous model (available up to this year) is 878g. As well as slight tweaks to the aesthetics, it seems that some of the materials may have changed in the new upgrade.

Supportive enough for backpacking with a heavy load - here's the previous model in the Cairngorms  © Dan Bailey
Supportive enough for backpacking with a heavy load - here's the previous model in the Cairngorms
© Dan Bailey

So this is one of the heavier shoes on test, and though I tend to feel the comfort and support on offer at least partly mitigate the weight when walking or running, adding weight to your feet does unarguably increase your workload over a long day. When used on multi pitch climbing days, they're also quite a weight to clip to your harness or carry in a pack en route. Overall I don't much mind the weight, but then you'll forgive a lot if a pair of shoes fit you like a glove.

Upper

With their open mesh over the toe, the uppers are cool and breathable for summer comfort, and in warm weather this shoe is one of my preferred choices. Though thickly padded, the tongue is pretty breathable too. It doesn't need a gusset to keep out debris because it sits inside the sock-like mesh of the upper - an unusual arrangement, but very comfy. My only gripe with the tongue is that I find it tends to slip to the side when I've been out for a while, whether that's running or walking.

The upper is airy and breathable for warm days  © Dan Bailey
The upper is airy and breathable for warm days
© Dan Bailey

To guard the uppers from abrasion and offer the feet a degree of protection from rocks, there's a little rubber toe bumper, plus a soft wrap-around rand up to mid-foot height. This helps keep some moisture out too, so you can hop over bogs or walk through long wet grass without instantly getting waterlogged feet.

While a slightly heavier Gore-Tex lined version is also available, I tend not to get on that well with waterproof shoes, and whether running or walking I prefer the coolness and fast drying times of the standard unlined version. Other users will have a different opinion of waterproof shoes (but they're wrong). On the other hand, a waterproof-lined boot with an ankle cuff does make sense to me, and in the case of this particular model you can have just that - the Ultra Raptor II Mid. I reviewed these last year and still rate them as my favourite light walking boot. They're especially good for those occasions (quite common in Scotland) when you know it's going to be consistently wet underfoot, but when the weather's also too warm for a heavier boot:

Not the most precise toe, but they're still good for low-to-mid grade scrambling  © Dan Bailey
Not the most precise toe, but they're still good for low-to-mid grade scrambling
© Dan Bailey

Sole

With a soft, deep shock absorbing EVA midsole, the Ultra Raptor soaks up a lot of pounding, and on hard ground it feels noticeably more cushioned and springy underfoot than most of the shoes in this review. If you were walking a long way on hard-packed trails (something like the West Highland Way, or the South West Coast Path for instance) then this would be a particularly good shoe to do it in.

By the standards of this group test the 9mm drop is quite large, making the Ultra Raptor a good bet for anyone who tends to heel strike when running. The disadvantage of its deep sole and high heel is that it can feel a little more divorced from the terrain than some shoes - I suspect not an issue for hillwalkers or climbers walking to a crag, but if you're running in these shoes, and used to less depth underfoot, then the Ultra Raptor II might feel a bit clumsy on technical ground. To help support the feet over long days, there's a lot of lateral stability in the sole, and flex only really at the toe. As I'm quite heavy on my feet I really like the relative stiffness underfoot even when running, and I think this makes the Ultra Raptor II a better proposition for many walkers and climbers too, compared to less structured running shoes.

Breathable upper with good toe protection; supportive and well-cushioned sole, but not the most aggressive tread  © Dan Bailey
Breathable upper with good toe protection; supportive and well-cushioned sole, but not the most aggressive tread
© Dan Bailey

On rough ground the robust midsole protects the soles of your feet from sharp rocks. Underfoot the Frixion White rubber outsole is really grippy on dry trails, with plenty of stick on the rock if you choose to take these shoes scrambling, or encounter a moderately technical crag approach. Being quite soft though, I've found the rubber does tend to wear fast. By the standards of most walking footwear the tread pattern is only medium depth, and though the heel has a little ledge which provides effective braking on the downhills, the tread overall is better for hard dry ground than soft and wet. It's not a show stopper in the green and rainy UK hills, but worth bearing in mind if you're on more precarious ground. Still, there's more bite underfoot here than you'll get with a lot of the shoes in this review.

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Salewa Dropline £135.00

Reviewed by Nick Brown UKC

Highly Recommended

The Dropline is aimed at 'agile hikers,' people looking to move fast-ish on well-manicured alpine trails, and carrying some weight. Whilst they haven't been designed specifically with UK terrain in mind, we think they are suited to a number of uses on our weird and quirky island. I've used them on short fell runs, longer slow-paced plods over long distances, and - in terms of foreign climes - a multi-day walk through the High Sierra.

The shoe's greatest asset is probably its shock absorbency, and thanks to this it very clearly suits runs or long-distance walks on hard trails and terrain. The summer months are when it has come into its own, with just enough of a tread for the fells when it's dry. Add mud and moisture and they're less convincing.

We reviewed the boot-like version of this shoe, the Dropline Mid, last year. It's fair to say our reviewer was not a huge fan. One of the things he particularly struggled with was the ankle cuff, which is specifically something that lower-cut Dropline shoe does not have. I have got on a lot better with this shoe than he did the Mid!

Fit

The Dropline is available in both a men's fit and a female/lower volume version.

Overall, this shoe feels like it's about medium in terms of width and volume. The fit widens slightly at the toe box, and while this may be good for some broad-toed users, other broad-foots in the Test Team have found them quite close at the front end. Having a modicum of extra width at the front also helps accommodate the foot spread you get over the course of a long day on the hills, or in hot weather. Contrary to our Gear Ed, I find them slightly too wide at the front for my narrow feet, and have also experienced some heel slippage at the back. This is certainly not a negative, just a reminder to try before you buy. Despite all this, I'd say the Dropline has been a remarkably comfortable shoe. Those who can fill out the toe box a bit more will find them adequately sensitive on more technical terrain.

Weight

Salewa's weight for the Dropline is 340g per shoe. It's hard to know what to make of this since the size isn't specified, but in general brands seem to go for a mid-range size 8 or thereabouts. We'd always prefer to give a pair weight, since the vast majority of us have two feet. At 680g (more or less) per pair, the Dropline is no lightweight, but sits somewhere around the middle of the scale in the range of shoes we're looking at in this test. Given the depth of cushioning on offer we don't think the weight is half bad, and the comfort goes a long way to making up for it anyway.

Upper

The uppers are constructed from a range of synthetic fibres. The mesh material is thinner over the toe box which allows for some ventilation and airflow, but significantly thicker around the sides and heel cup, where you want some more substantial support. They are not the most breathable shoes, nor are they designed to be. Instead, the extra material works well to increase durability, comfort, foot protection and stability. There's also a rand of rubbery material around the end of the toe box, giving some extra protection for toes - always welcome on rocky terrain.

The lacing system provides a degree of adjustability which has given some wiggle room (or, literally, less wiggle room) to help them fit around my narrow feet. The laces are attached to a rand that stretches around the shoe and can be cinched in when tied up tight.

There is also a Gore-Tex version for those who like sweaty feet, or who might wear them throughout the winter. Most of the test team are sceptical about waterproof-lined shoes, finding them hotter and sweatier than unlined shoes, and also slower to dry out once you flood them in a bog. However we recognise that opinions do vary, so it's good to have the choice.

Sole

The sole of the Dropline has a chunky stack height of 32mm but a minimal drop of 6mm, meaning that when running in particular, this shoe is likely to favour those who strike the ground with the middle or front of their foot. Heel-striking runners may find the feel is like bouncing along on thick spongy platform soles, which certainly won't be to everyone's taste! The depth of the cushioning is also the reason why these shoes absorb so much impact and provide the cushioning for long days on hard-packed trails. You could probably go road running in these shoes; and if backpacking, you could definitely appreciate them on something long and firm underfoot such as the West Highland Way.

SALEWA Dropline - Top

SALEWA Dropline - Heel

SALEWA Dropline - Sole

However the sole depth is also the reason that they're not great on technical terrain, since the sheer amount of cushioning means that you're not going to be feeling much of what's beneath. Despite the 'agile' bit in their write-up, the Dropline are pretty clumsy, and rough mountain terrain really is not not what they are designed for. If your hillwalking day or crag approach involve lots of rough and rocky ground then these shoes will not perform as well as most on review; if, however, there's a lot of pounding along on gravel tracks, then the Dropline would shine.

The Pomoca outsole of the shoe features a shallow tread - another reason why it's probably best to keep to hard-packed trails, certainly in winter. In summer, there's enough bite there to cope with grassy hills and some dry, rocky terrain, but as soon as the seasons change or things get waterlogged, that sort of territory is going to be out of the shoe's remit. So it's a good shoe, then, but within some quite defined limits.

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Dynafit Speed Mtn GTX £170

Reviewed by Dan Bailey UKH


A Gore-Tex lined shoe with quite a supportive and protective feel, the Speed Mtn GTX could be a good choice for those making the move from walking boots, or equally for climbers wanting something more running-oriented than an approach shoe. This running/climbing hybrid is designed, say Dynafit, as an 'athletic mountaineering shoe for high alpine adventures that may also include a few climbing sections', and on rock we think it does equal the performance of a decent approach shoe. If the very specific fit works for you then it'd beat most approach shoes on a hillwalking day that involved an element of scrambling within a larger outing - it worked well on a recent Liathach round for instance. If it fits you better than me, it could also be spot on for something like the Cuillin Ridge.

An excellent all-rounder, but better for walking and scrambling than running  © Dan Bailey
An excellent all-rounder, but better for walking and scrambling than running
© Dan Bailey

Though it lacks the depth of cushioning you might want for longer runs on hard-packed trails, I've been using the Speed Mtn GTX for shorter runs of a few kilometres on stony local tracks. It's good as a general walking shoe too, and offers sufficient support to be worn when carrying a heavy overnight pack. With a feel somewhere between that of a trail running shoe and an approach shoe, it's a versatile model that can do a bit of everything, making it a good match for the all-rounder remit of this group test. Aside from only coming with a waterproof lining, very much a Marmite feature, it's only let down in the green-and-muddy UK hills by a sole geared more to dry rock than slippery ground.

The soles are great on dry, rocky terrain  © Dan Bailey
The soles are great on dry, rocky terrain
© Dan Bailey

Fit

The Speed Mtn GTX is available both for men, and in a women's version.

A mid-volume shoe in terms of depth, it's built on quite an unusual last, with a very tapering toe that is likely to best fit users with a narrower, pointier forefoot. With my broader, squarer-ended foot I can just get by in this shoe, but I do get toe strike on the outer side when descending steep slopes, and thanks to the long pointy shape they both look and feel a bit odd, with some dead space right at the end. Given the fit it would not be my personal choice for a hill day. That's me of course, while other people are bound to get on better with the shape; but I would say that before making a purchase it would be worth trying them on quite carefully, perhaps even in various sizes.

The Quick Lacing system is smooth and easy, though you get uniform tightness all the way - there's no nuance  © Dan Bailey
The Quick Lacing system is smooth and easy, though you get uniform tightness all the way - there's no nuance
© Dan Bailey

With a rigid heel cup, a big wraparound band, and a good depth and firmness of padding around the cuff, the shoe holds my foot in place firmly, with no heel lift, but also without putting unwelcome pressure on the achilles. With its thin, drawcord-style laces, the Quick Lacing system gives a smooth and even tightness, though this does mean that unlike traditional tie-up laces there's no possibility of varying the tension at different parts of the foot - it's all or nothing. I don't find the toggles loosen over the day as is sometimes the case with this sort of thing, but there is a lot of spare tail which doesn't stash away that neatly. Since the laces are largely concealed under fabric panels, it would also be extremely hard to replace a snapped lace. On balance I'd prefer just to have old fashioned tie-yourself laces.

Being waterproof, and warmer than some, it's a good winter shoe (if you're not on crampon terrain)  © Dan Bailey
Being waterproof, and warmer than some, it's a good winter shoe (if you're not on crampon terrain)
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 940g for my pair of size 47 (Dynafit say 390g - presumably per shoe, size not given), the Speed Mtn GTX is not a lightweight option. For the level of support and foot protection on offer here, not to mention the part-suede upper and the fact that it's waterproof, the weight doesn't seem unreasonable, but on a long day out, or when carrying these shoes on your harness while climbing, it's going to be at least a consideration.

In mud, wet snow, and puddles, there's a lot to be said for the Gore-Tex lining  © Dan Bailey
In mud, wet snow, and puddles, there's a lot to be said for the Gore-Tex lining
© Dan Bailey

Upper

Part suede, part rugged synthetic fabric, and with a substantial rand and rubber toe cap, the upper is solid and supportive, giving the foot plenty of protection on rocky ground. The thin stitched-in tongue stays reliably in place, rather than slipping to the side as some can, and it helps keep moisture and debris out of the shoe. It's the only part of the upper that feels particularly breathable.

While a waterproof lining makes fairy uncontroversial sense in fabric walking boots or winter mountain boots, the addition of Gore-Tex to shoes is more of a love-hate feature. Some will wear waterproof-lined shoes year round, no matter the weather, but I am not personally a fan. To me, waterproof shoes never seem that breathable, and once you've flooded them in a puddle they take an age to dry - both factors that negate some of the key benefits of wearing a trail shoe, namely that it'll be cooler, more breathable, and quicker drying than bulkier walking boots or approach shoes.

It's really good for scrambling - probably the best shoe shoe on test  © Dan Bailey
It's really good for scrambling - probably the best shoe shoe on test
© Dan Bailey

In prolonged rain, on boggy ground, or for running in the snow, the Speed Mtn's GTX lining would come into its own, but in drier conditions or warm weather I find they soon get hot and sweaty like any other lined shoe. On a summer traverse of Liathach in low 20s temperatures - which in these parts counts as a heatwave - my socks were literally wet through.

Sole

Underfoot, the Speed Mountain GTX is firmer and more supportive than most running shoes, with quite a stiff sole that really lends itself to edging performance, and quite a high degree of lateral rigidity that helps provide a secure platform for the foot when traversing steep slopes. Assuming you suit the toe shape, this relative stiffness makes them arguably the best shoes on review for out-and-out scrambling, and despite the fact that I really don't get on with the fit I've still found them better on steep rock than a great many approach shoes I've worn over the years. With this sole Dynafit have managed a difficult combination of climbing and running ability, to give you a very capable all-mountain shoe.

The Pomoca sole is good on rock but has a bit less bite on wet ground, and lacks much of a heel breast  © Dan Bailey
The Pomoca sole is good on rock but has a bit less bite on wet ground, and lacks much of a heel breast
© Dan Bailey

Of course it would be hard to imagine a perfect marriage between the two activities; something has to give, and in this case it is - literally - the give. With a less cushioned-feeling midsole than most, this is not a hugely forgiving shoe for running in, particularly on hard-packed tracks and trails, or for longer distances. While the sole lacks bounce, and its stiffness gives it a bit of a clumpy flat-footed feel that takes some getting used to, the fact that it doesn't ride quite as high as some of the more distance-running-oriented shoes on review - especially at the front - does give you good feel for the ground beneath.

With a flat rubber climbing zone at the toe, and a series of flat-topped and quite shallow studs, the Pomoca outsole is very clearly optimised for scrambling, for which the rubber compound offers plenty of friction on dry rock. Dynafit's continental character is evident here. On the wet, muddy or grassy ground to which most UK walkers and climbers are accustomed, the tread is simply not as confidence inspiring as a more aggressive shoe would be, and when descending steep slopes the relative lack of a ledge at the heel is immediately obvious. Despite the waterproof upper I think they will perform best when scrambling in dry and largely rocky conditions.

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Mammut Aegility Pro Mid £145

Reviewed by Nick Brown UKC


With its striking mid-height design, the Aegility Pro Mid look like a space-age shoe for which Mammut have pulled out all their interesting technology; a seamless, knitted sock for the upper; Mammut's rubber compound on the sole; and a speed lacing system for those moving too quickly to tie shoelaces. Mammut want this shoe to blur the boundaries between hiking, running, and scrambling. That's bang on the all-rounder remit for this group test, so we had high hopes. But have they succeeded?

Mammut Aegility Pro Mid - an unusual design, but is it any good?  © UKC Gear
Mammut Aegility Pro Mid - an unusual design, but is it any good?
© UKC Gear

Well unfortunately we feel that this model represents a triumph of style over substance. The unholy alliance of several different technologies has resulted in a shoe that feels unbalanced, not quite fulfilling its purpose in any of the required activities. It's also incredibly uncomfortable, and my feet still feel like they are paying the price. The seamless knitted sock may provide a good degree of breathability but it's unsupportive at best. Meanwhile, the EVA that stretches from the sole around the sides of the shoe aims to provide stability on scrambling terrain or when or walking on rough ground, but in reality we think this simply makes the shoe painful to wear. Never has the concept of trying before you buy been so important.

Fit

Mammut offer the Aegility Pro Mid in both male and female/lower volume versions. Either way this is a shoe aimed at those with narrow feet, a user group that I certainly include myself in. That's why it was so surprising to discover pressure points on the side of the foot from even minimal use. The EVA sole that wraps up around the side of the foot is responsible for the pain and it's perhaps a result of the rest of the upper's soft construction providing little to no support or protection from this stiffer 'cage'. It's ironic that Mammut claim their seamless sock design eliminates pressure points!

The strange fit is also evident in the heel cup. Despite the overall shoe height, the heel itself is cut extremely low, meaning there's very little to hold the back of your foot in place, and on my narrow heels (and I imagine most people have those) this results in a fair bit of slippage. It's at odds with the rest of the shoe because I struggle to see how someone with wider feet could find the pointy front end comfortably usable, while at the same time you probably need broad heels to have a chance with the rear.

The rubber wrap around the shoe is painful  © UKC Gear
The rubber wrap around the shoe is painful
© UKC Gear

Weight

Mammut's quoted weight is 370g for a single shoe in UK size 8.5. We don't think much of one-shoe weights since they're sold and almost always used as a pair, so let's call a spade a spade and go for 740g. By the standards of this review these are pretty heavy shoes, then, and given the insubstantial upper it's the chunky sole that accounts for most of this weight.

Upper

As previously mentioned, the upper is constructed from a '360 degree elastic knitted upper,' which Mammut say will adapt to the shape of your foot. It's hard to argue with this, and the knitted upper is without doubt hugely breathable and sticks to the foot nicely. This high sock-like construction may help keep out grit and gravel, but it provides next to no support.

Indeed, it's in the notable lack of support that the Aegility Pro's upper really falls down. The EVA wrap-around finishes surprisingly far below the ankle, meaning the ankle itself is doing all of the hard work on that uneven, technical terrain. Some probably like this as it allows for a great degree of flexibility in the ankle joint, so it will come down to personal preference. A runner who likes minimalism may get by, but anyone making a first foray into trail shoes from more sturdy traditional walking boots is going to have to tread carefully. Meanwhile for backpacking, or carrying a heavy crag pack, most users will benefit from a more supportive shoe than the Aegility Pro.

Well ventilated due to the knitted sock  © UKC Gear
Well ventilated due to the knitted sock
© UKC Gear

The uppers also feature speed laces. I can never work out if I like these or not. On one hand, it's brilliant to be able to pull them tight and not worry about them for the rest of the day, but on the other, I never feel as though they provide the same level of adjustability as normal laces. Each to their own, and I'm sure those reading will know what they prefer. They certainly go hand-in-hand with the space age minimalism of the Aegility Pro.

Sole

The chunky EVA midsoles are perhaps the best thing about this shoe and the feature that makes them most applicable to a wide range of users in the UK. There's an 8mm drop on the shoe, making them good for those that strike with their heel when running. We think a middle of the road level of drop like this will suit a lot of non-runners too (after all, this review isn't all about the running). This also means that the front of the shoe is quite low to the ground, which helps on technical terrain where you really want to feel what's beneath your feet, especially - but not exclusively - when running.

Mammut Aegility Pro Mid - Heel

Mammut Aegility Pro Mid - Sole

There's also a convincing tread in the outsole, giving the Aegility Pro decent purchase on soft, wet ground - something we can't say about all of the shoes in this review. A big, pronounced heel breast offers plenty of downhill bite too, which again is more convincing on grassy or muddy off-path terrain than the offerings from most of the other models we've looked at in this group test. For scrambling and technical terrain, I've found the sole to be mixed. The Aegility Pro has not instilled a great deal of confidence when used on wet rock, for instance. One useful feature they do have for this sort of rubbly or craggy terrain is the sturdy toe cap, however.

My main gripe still comes back to the EVA strips that rise from the sole and around the side of the foot. For me these really are a deal breaker in terms of creating uncomfortable pressure points, and I've really struggled to use the shoe because of them. The strip has very little give or flexibility and it feels like the foot is fighting a losing battle on that front.

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Dolomite Crodanera £135

Reviewed by TobyA


Whilst it may look very much like a stylish retro 80s style running shoe, the Crodanera is a bit of an outlier in this group as it's not primarily designed for running at all. Beyond the aesthetics this is very much a trekking shoe, made with fast hiking and light backpacking in mind - and this actually makes it ideal for the core remit we're looking at in this group test. It might be comparatively heavy, but it is correspondingly supportive, and - on me at least - has proved comfortable.

Testing their grip on some Finnish granite  © Toby Archer
Testing their grip on some Finnish granite
© Toby Archer

Fit

The Crodanera is available in size UK 6 to 12 in the men's model and UK 4 to 8 in the women's version, including half sizes. We'd call them medium-wide fitting overall.

There are three colourways available in both male and female versions. Whether it's the global supply problems (the shoes are made in Vietnam) or the ongoing omnishambles of Brexit, there were some issues getting the review sample to me, and I ended up with size 8 (EU 42). I have a number of other Dolomite boots and shoes, some in 7.5 and some size 8; for winter boots when you want to wear a warm sock and not have the blood flow to your toes constricted at all, the 8s are great.

But particularly as shoes, as opposed to boots where the ankle section helps lock the foot in place to some degree, the Crodanera are on the generous side, and I need to pull the laces in hard to get a firm fit. In some respects this is great. I have broad feet and get no pinching at all across the widest section, and the Crodanera are still comfortable after all day use when your feet have spread a little and possibly also swollen moderately from heat. On the other hand the heel is slightly loose unless I really tug on the laces (that can cause some pain over my instep and sides of my feet). The heel-looseness is most noticeable when using the shoes on technical rocky ground, where my feet can move in the shoe. The sole is great and grippy, but I would definitely need a half size smaller (which likely would mean less comfort in the forefoot) to use them regularly as a technical approach shoe, and they wouldn't be my first choice for scrambling. But for summer hiking use they have been great. So as ever, try before you buy!

Supportive on rough ground  © Toby Archer
Supportive on rough ground
© Toby Archer

Breathable in warm weather  © Toby Archer
Breathable in warm weather
© Toby Archer

Weight

No two ways about it, the Crodanera are seriously heavy. My pair in size 42 are 902g (with my Superfeet insoles in them). I've compared them with some other well padded trail shoes I own, also with the Superfeet in them: some elderly Salomon XA Lite are 655g, while my new La Sportiva Karacal are 649g. I can't find the original insoles, although I'm sure at 100g the Superfeet are heavier. The Crodanera with no insoles weighs 802g for the pair, which suggests Dolomite's stated weight of 415g for one shoe (no size stated) is accurate.

As stated above, the Crodanera is not a running shoe so it feels unfair to criticise them for being too heavy to run in! When walking all day in the shoes, the weight has never yet bothered me - indeed I tend to feel that the good support given by their very firm midsole and outer sole is worth the compromise in weight. However one exception to this would be if using them for a mountain crag approach and then carrying them up a multi-pitch climb, be that in a pack or hanging off the back of your harness; in that situation you probably would notice the extra weight versus some of the other models on review in this group test.

Durable seamless mesh uppers, and a nice protective rand  © Toby Archer
Durable seamless mesh uppers, and a nice protective rand
© Toby Archer

Upper

The upper's mesh fabric is breathable, very scuff resistant, difficult to mark and easy to wipe clean. After a couple of months of regular use: hiking, approaching crags, 'touristing' around various European cities, and just general wear as you might use a pair of trainers, the shoes are still looking great. The stretchy tongue is breathable and comfy, too.

We have been told that next year the Crodanera will only come with a Gore-Tex lined upper. In this summer's hot weather the lack of membrane in the shoe has been great, but I suppose a waterproof alternative will make them slightly better for use in wetter spring and autumn conditions. But it does seem a shame that an unlined option won't also be available.

With its seamless outer construction, the Crodanera isn't easy to damage. The only thing on the shoes that hasn't lasted well is one of the laces! The laces feel very strong and I haven't actually snapped one, but the strength comes from their kernmantle construction. Quite soon the mantle, or sheath, was getting lumps in it as it caught on the lacing eyelets and then broke exposing the core. Although still usable, the loose bits of sheath now get caught in the eyelets making it hard to tighten the shoes, so I think I will have to find some new laces. Hardly the end of the world but annoying when everything else on the shoes still looks new.

Sole

The Vibram outsole is one of the standout features on the Crodanera. Whilst it is flat like a running shoe sole, it has spaced and relatively prominent lugs that reminds me a little of classic British fell shoes. The lugs on the Crodanera aren't actual studs like on, say, Walshes or similar, but they have a surprising bite on sandy and even wet grassy surfaces. However you don't get a heel breast, so downhill traction on wet and grassy ground could still be better.

At the same time, thanks to their Megagrip rubber, the soles have also worked well clambering around bare smooth granite slabs when I took the Crodanera to Finland with me and visited some old haunts on the Baltic coast line, with almost endless expanses of sea washed rock.

Above this is a dual density moulded EVA midsole, which Dolomite say provides "superior cushioning and stability". I would agree with this. I suspect it is this very structured midsole that gives the shoes their heft, but in return for that weight you have boot-like protection from rough rocks below them and they do have good stability when walking on rough ground - but thanks to the trainer-like shock absorption, you don't also get boot-like clumpiness. All in all they're a bit of a winner.

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28 Sep

:D

28 Sep

Brooks Cascadia are my favourites. on about my 10th pair.

28 Sep

I'm not usually one to be negative but given their popularity I think not having a Scott shoe in the review is an oversight.

28 Sep
or a Hoka, or an Altra, Nike.... there are a lot of shoes on the marketing. There are any number of online running shoes, but its good to have an article comparing a selection of shoes of different types , you'll need to extrapolate to your personal favourites

I can't say enough good about the previously revised Ribelle Run as an all-round mountain trainer

28 Sep

Or Salomon?? Weird selection for this test IMO. All nice looking shoes for sure, but lots of the main players missing!

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