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December 22, 2018 Comments (0) Featured, Gear Reviews

2018 Winter Shoe Review

It’s that time again, when we check out some of the hottest new shoes on the market. We put shoes from the biggest brands on a bunch of our testers and let them run in them for the last couple of months. We bring you the results of our efforts. Note, we recognize that every runner is different and the places where they run may be unique. We know that our results don’t apply to everyone. However, we have done our best to put our shoes through as many different scenarios as possible and we hope it is the composite review you are looking for.

OVERVIEW

Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX ($170 – Retail, $120 – Currently on Sale) – Besides the fact that this shoe might have the longest name of anything we’ve tested, it does have pretty much everything else. With a full Goretex upper and Continental outsole, this shoe will keep you dry and provide incredible traction, no matter what the terrain. Made for technical trails covered in roots and rocks, this shoe provides all around protection regardless of where you are running.

Altra Timp 1.5 ($130) – For a half-step model change, Altra made some big changes to the original Timp Trail. They improved the heel and midfoot fit, reducing the sloshiness that so many of us ran into with original version. They also softened up the cushion of the midsole, offering a better ride over long periods of time. They continue to offer a great, flexible outsole, and now have “four point gaiter construction”, allowing you to better secure your gaiters in those dusty or sandy conditions. Finally, they have improved the outsole rubber, using DuraTreado composite for a stickier surface, which will help on technical terrain. This will possibly be the first version of the shoe that lives up to its name.

Arc’teyrx Norvan LD GTX ($195) – This particular waterproof shoe is actually designed specifically for longer ultra runs. With a 28mm heel cushion and a 9mm drop, this shoe provides just the right amount of comfort for those long days in the mountains or desert. The Vibram MegaGrip outsole offers extra stability and that need grip in wet conditions. Designed to still be light-weight, you get a great combination of comfort and protection.

Brooks Cascadia 13 ($130) – The long tradition of the Brooks Cascadia line continues with the 13. This year they appear to have widened the toe box just a bit. They continue to offer a 10mm drop and provide excellent protection under foot and around the toe. If you have ever worn Cascadias you continue to appreciate the constant attention to superior construction. These shoes know how to last. This year they have added gaiter connection points for those of you who use that extra protection on your longer runs. Overall, it’s a continuation of the same great shoe they put out year over year.

Brooks Pure Grit 7 ($120) – This low profile, super lightweight shoe is perfect for those buffed out trails and dirt roads we all love to run. Improvements to this year’s model includes better outsole rubber to improve traction and stability, a quick draining Ariaprene tongue for better water release and drying, and an improved upper material for greater comfort over longer runs. The PureGrit 7 continues to be an awesome shoe for the all around short to mid-distance (less than 50k) runner.

Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid WP ($160) – Originally designed as a mid-boot hiking shoe, it’s finding its traction in the winter running world. The Skyshell waterproof membrane wraps the foot in a water resistant material, while the molded upper collar offers continued comfort around the ankle. Hoka uses MegaGrip outsole, so like Altra and Arc’teryx, you’ll be able to count on protection and durability on technical trails. While this may not be your everyday shoe, it does have a place in your winter arsenal.

Salomon Ultra Pro ($150) – You won’t find this on the website, but Salomon will openly admit that the Ultra Pro is the first shoe in their line truly designed for the 100 mile racer. With a 27mm heel stack height and an 8mm drop, this shoe offers just the right amount of cushion to balance performance, weight, and comfort over long ultra distances. The synthetic upper provides enough protection from rocks and roots and is closed off enough to keep dust and sand out. Additionally, it offers a midfoot compression that can be adjusted with the laces, for a better fit.

Salomon Sense Ride GTX ($160) – The same fit and comfort as the original Sense Ride (and same stack height and drop as the Ultra Pro), the Ride GTX offers additional water protection on those cold, wintery days. The GORE INVISIBLE FIT™ is a membrane that is integrated into the outer material instead of a traditional booty, giving this shoe a feel that is more like traditional mesh. So it won’t fit or feel like other GTX models you might have worn. It’s a great shoe in variable conditions and terrain.

Scarpa Neutron 2 ($135) – Scarpa’s newest edition to the Neutron looks to improve the fit and feel overall, while still providing protection and comfort. With a Goretex liner you’ll get the water protection you need during the winter months. It has a 6mm drop, so it should fit right in with those in between runners who still like to have some heel cushion. The dual density outsole gives you stability and protection, regardless of where you’re running.

Under Armour Horizon RTT ($110) – This neutral trail shoe offers a 7mm drop and a lightweight upper for ultimate comfort. It has a durable PU (synthetic) upper will keep the dust out and even repels a bit of water. At 1o.4 oz it’s definitely on the heavier side for a trail shoe, so be aware when making your purchase. The outsole has a symmetrical lug system for constant surface area on the trail, regardless of which part of the shoe is touching the ground.

 


Fit & Feel

As a review publication, we believe that all categories are of great importance. While we give each of them their own level of attention, we do weight the importance of categories differently, based on the impact it can have on an individual’s performance. For instance, the Fit & Feel of a shoe is often times the most critical aspect because if it doesn’t feel right, especially early on in the life of the shoe, the runner isn’t going to continue to wear it. On the other hand, if the shoe isn’t super durable, one might get out of it what one needs for a duration of time and be able to move on, having performed well up to the point that the shoe broke down.

Clearly Fit & Feel is one of our most important categories. The fact that the Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX came out on top, with a perfect score of 5, is incredible. Since it is a waterproof shoe that says equally as much. We generally expect the fit and feel of a shoe to decrease with a Goretex liner, but not in the case of the Norvan. It ran like a true running shoe, even in sub-optimal conditions. While a couple of other brands came close (the Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX and the Brooks Cascadia 13), neither quite measured up to Arc’teryx. Impressive, coming from a company who has historically focused primarily on climbing and hiking gear.

Erik stated, “These shoes fit perfect. No heel slippage, no toe pinching, no hot spots from day one.”

Here is how the other shoes broke down.

Craig stated that the Agravic ran like a high-performance trail runner. “These shoes fit perfectly. They are sized correctly, are great in the heel, and have a nice toe box. Whey I need a shoe I can confidently run for hours in, I turn to these.”

Erik had this to say about the comfort of the Hoka Speedgoat Mid, “It felt like a Hoka. A bit squishy if you’re not accustomed to it. But overall the fit was spot on and it was comfortable to cover ground on smooth trails.”

Emir had a difficult time with the fit and feel of the Scarpa Neutron 2. “For someone used to wide toe box, these shoes felt a bit narrow. They have a snug euro feel to them. Fans of Salomon and La Sportiva will enjoy them.”

Options differed with our testers regarding the Salomon Sense Ride GTX. Chelsea felt that they were a bit loose in the heel. “Ran incredibly long and my heel kept slipping. The quick laces are nice but kept coming undone and I need the additional runners loop for heel support which the quick laces couldn’t give me.” Craig, on the other hand, didn’t even realize the shoes were waterproof (because they fit so well and were so comfortable) for over a month. “I was blown away when I realized I was wearing a GTX shoe. I thought they were the normal, awesome, Sense Ride.”

Pete had this to say, “I am a huge fan of the fit of Brooks and these are generally in that wheelhouse. They truly hit the median last of 98 millimeters. The Cascadia normally feels a bit longer and more narrow shoe but this model is truer to size.” Scott had similar opinions. “The shoe is very stable and fits securely around the ankle and doesn’t promote any slippage. The toe box seems wider than the previous model and overall it is more comfortable than the Cascadia 12. There seems to be a little more cushion and it is comfortable enough for long distance runs.”

Both Scott and Erik had similar feelings about the Under Armour Horizon RTT. Scott says, “The shoe seems to run a little small and didn’t provide a lot of room in the toe box. The shoe is very lightweight and has a snug fit around the heel And I found that in technical terrain it rides very well because it isn’t sloppy at all. My foot was locked into the sole and didn’t move around at all. The upper felt a little stiff and I wouldn’t want to wear these for any run over 10 miles because the upper rubbed the top of my foot.” Erik’s thoughts were, “The UA Horizon BPF fit well. It is very light weighing in at 9.5 oz. The one-piece rubber grid overlay seemed to add a little stiffness to the upper.”

We had four testers go nuts on the Brooks Pure Grit 7. They all felt the shoe fit extremely well and were very pleased with it. Pete had this to say, “I love the fit and feel of Brooks. a nice combination of comfort, room, and performance.”

Craig and Chelsea agreed that this shoe seemed to run a bit long. While it fit well in the heel, the toe box was long and narrow, giving it an odd feel. “Ran incredibly long and I found myself tripping a great deal. I usually wear a 10.5 or 11 and these 10.5 felt more like an 11.5. It was a little roomier in the toe overall as well so if you sized down it would,” said Chelsea.

The original Altra Timp Trial was a disaster in the Fit & Feel category. The 1.5 is a massive improvement, with a narrow midfoot and heel. The sloppy front end has even been whittled down a bit, making the overall fit much better. Pete felt that the new Altra Timp 1.5 had “a normal fit for Altra, lush and supple,” which is a great compliment for this shoe.


UPPER

Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX

This is the time of year when something like the Upper is of major importance. It needs to be more than just comfortable. The upper needs to be well built, can hold up against changing conditions, and provide protection and warmth if needed. We don’t particularly feel that having a Goretex or waterproof shoe in Winter is an absolute must, but it can be helpful.

In this category two shoes really stood out, the Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX and the Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX. In this case, both shoes are waterproof, but they also had a fairly supple upper and were easy to run in for long distances and even in warmer conditions, when a waterproof shoe can get hot. The Agravic has great protection around the toe and provides a sock-like feel around the ankle to keep moisture and dirt out. The Norvan LD GTX was watertight and proved to provide not only protection from the snow but also from the cold.

Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX

Erik had this to say about the Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX. “The upper is well constructed and hasn’t shown any signs of breakdown. The Gore-Tex lining provided gear waterproof protection, and paired with gaiters, made a long day of trekking through shin deep snow no problem at all.”

And Craig shared these thoughts about the Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX. “You wouldn’t know these shoes had a Goretex liner. The upper ran and breathed like a normal running shoe. I wore these quite a bit in the heat and didn’t feel like my feet were getting too hot. Overall, the upper is well built and very comfortable.” 

We think Scott pretty much covered everything in his review of the Under Armour Horizon. “The upper has a plastic weave cage that does an excellent job of protection with a mesh underneath that allows the shoe to breathe and dry quickly. There is a rubber toe bumper that is reinforced with the outside tread which provided ample protection from rocks and roots. From a performance standpoint the upper does an excellent job of protection while still retaining breathability. My one complaint with the upper is over time it felt stiff and rubbed the top of my foot which caused a hot spot. This could have been a sizing issue that could be remedied by sizing up a half size.”

Scarpa has been making hiking and climbing shoes for decades. They excel in their construction and quality. We found the same to be true in their running shoes. Emir stated, “Extremely well done upper that is ready for some heavy abuse.”

Our testers agreed that the Brooks Pure Grit 7 had a great, comfortable upper. While it doesn’t look like it will hold up well in difficult conditions, it actually performed well for our testers in everything from warm, dusty trails, to snow and mud. Amy had this to share, “Sturdy. Wore them on some pretty rocky trails and they held up and the material feels like it will hold up for a long time.”

This was a tough category to review for the Salomon Sense Ride GTX. Normally, if it wasn’t a waterproof shoe, it might be ok. However, with this model, the tongue connection was low enough that it made any Goretex lining rather pointless, as there were simply too many places for snow and water to get into the shoe. If the tongue were to connect high around the ankle, the upper on this shoe would be nearly perfect. Chelsea felt that it was “well built, very warm and water resistant.”

“The shoe is very sturdy and durable because it provides so much protection, but that also makes it feel pretty heavy, however, the upper is soft and breathes well. The shoe is very stable and fits securely around the ankle and doesn’t promote any slippage. The toe box seems wider than the previous model and overall it is more comfortable than the Cascadia 12. There seems to be a little more cushion and it is comfortable enough for long distance runs.” – Scott

You get exactly what you’d expect from the Salomon Ultra Pro. The upper construction is phenomenal, comfortable, and moves well with the foot. The lateral adjustments allow for a better fit around the midfoot and there is plenty of protection around the toe.

HOKA Speedgoat Mid – “The upper seems to be well constructed. I didn’t have any issues, and with a lot of the off trail traffic I put on them, they held up well. As a Waterproof shoe, they did their job keeping me dry in wet conditions. However, without wearing gaiters, there were few wet conditions where my feet would have remained completely dry as the height of the cuff still was low enough to allow dew, mud and loose snow in.” – Erik

“Love the colors, overlay construction and rubberized guards. The lacing is solid and the materials soft and durable.”


DURABILITY

Altra Timp 1.5

Just look at the table and it’s pretty clear that companies are getting it right with the outsole. In the case of winter shoes, four different companies did very well. And what’s interesting here is that that they all use different compounds and have considerable different tread patterns.

The Under Armour Horizon has a pretty shallow tread with a repetitive pattern that would, upon initial glance, seem to work best on buffed out trails and dirt roads. However, what we found was that surface area won out and it worked well on rocks, hard pack snow, and ice. On the other hand, the Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX has a more traditional lug pattern. But since they use Continental rubber it’s basically like having snow tires under your feet. The Hoka Speetgoat Mid and the Altra Timp 1.5 both have pretty wide lug patterns, but because they have a wider profile it offers more surface area to match foot to the ground, resulting in better traction overall.

We simply couldn’t identify a single standout in this category, so we present all four to you.

Pete, in regards to the Altra Timp 1.5 – “Holy hell, this thing is a beast in all conditions. Give Trail Claw the best you got and it will perform.”

Craig, in regards to the Altra Terrex Agravic GTX -“Running with my friends I would watch them slip all over the place in whatever brand they were wearing. But in the Agravic, using Continental rubber, I never had a problem and was always confident about my foot placement, regardless of the conditions.”

Scott nails it with the Under Armour Horizon – “The outsole is built with Michelin rubber that I found to perform exceptionally well in just about every type of terrain and element. The outsole has a grid of 3 mm lugs that gripped very well on rock, mud, dirt and even snow. I never slipped in the shoes and tested them in steep technical mountain terrain.”

Erik, in regards to the Hoka Speedgoat Mid – “I went through steep side hills in mud, snow, and ice and I had no issues with slipping or sliding. Great Sole.”

Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX

Under Armour Horizon

Hoka Speedgoat Mid

The Brooks Pure Grit 7 actually does pretty well in tough conditions, considering it is a shoe meant for smooth dirt trails. “Good grip! No problems on rocky or muddy terrain or snow ” – Amy. “The outsole is pretty simple. The flex grooves work nicely and the traction is solid.” – Pete

The Brooks Cascadia has a really firm outsole, which can be too dense and rigid in cold or wet weather, resulting in slippage. “The tread pattern seems to be very well thought out and the lugs are quite aggressive, providing excellent traction in just about every kind of terrain. The outsole provided ample protection from rocks and roots and is rugged enough to handle just about any type of terrain. The weakness of the outsole is that when it gets wet it fails to grip on just about everything. It is terrible on wet rock. I had these shoes on a snowy mountain in rocky terrain and I slipped several times. The rubber also does a poor job of sticking to dry rock in technical terrain. I wouldn’t recommend these shoes in any type of wet weather.” – Scott

The Salomon Ultra Pro has a traditional tread pattern, but the rubber compound is extremely sticky on wet rock and dirt. Where it lacks in cushion, it makes up for in external support and traction. “Decent rubber and grip. Good amount of support. Not terribly cushioned.” – Chelsea

The Arc’teryx Norvan LD GTX is best covered by Erik, when he said, “The outsole was great on single track, technical and dusty trails, and mud. But as soon as a little snow was thrown in, I felt like I had a pair of skis on. I was disappointed in this since up until the time it first snowed, I was thinking this was the perfect all around fall/winter running shoe.”

Emir didn’t really have anything negative to say about the Scarpa Neutron 2. “Cannot go wrong with vibram. The outsole is grippy and aggressive. Well suited for multiple terrains.”

Both Craig and Chelsea agreed when it game to the Salomon Sense Ride GTX. “Nice lugs and fairly grippy. Decent support but not a lot of ground feel. Great in packed snow.” – Chelsea


DURABILITY

As trail and ultra runners we not only expect our shoes to perform well, but we also expect them to hold up to the abuse we put them through. We run in the mountains and deserts, for goodness sakes, our shoes better be able to take stand up to the ultras we run and where we run them.

One would expect the level of quality that should come out of a company the size of Adidas. The Terrex Agragic GTX is built to last. The upper is reinforced with TPU overlays and a beefy toe guard. The Continental rubber is firm and durable. The combination of the two makes for a nearly bomb-proof shoe. Our main tester, Craig, put close to 250 miles on the shoes and there wasn’t a single noticeable wear spot, either on the upper or on the soles, once again earning a perfect score.

Craig – “This is my go-to shoe for every condition. I’ve worn it on super rocky and technical terrain, in snow, mud, and everything in between. They look in perfect condition.”

Arc’teryx knows how to make quality gear. They have been a leader in the outdoor industry for years and prides themselves on quality construction. Their gear is built to last. “Well made with a solid (but not too stiff) rubber toe bumper, TPU laminate in key stress areas, and a lightweight, yet wear resistant breathable mesh.” – Erik

“The shoes greatest strength is that it is very tough and durable and was clearly very well thought out in terms of protection and durability. The toe guard bumper is made to protect and the upper materials seem to be bullet proof, even though they are lightweight and breathable. I hammered these shoes in extreme mountain conditions and they still looked like they just came out of the box. This is just a really tough shoe that is built to handle the stresses of the most technical mountain terrain.” – Scott

The Altra Timp 1.5 is made for the mountains. It’s built to stand up to the elements. Erik is training for Hardrock and needs to have a durable shoe as he prepares. “I feel like they will hold up to some abuse. After swearing I would never wear a Timp again, I think I’m ready to throw it on a bit as I start training for Hardrock.”

If you accept the fact that the Brooks Pure Grit 7 isn’t meant for rugged mountains you’ll get the durability you’re looking for. “Note this is not meant to be your alpine shoe, but the shoe will withstand many miles of normal trail running.” – Pete. “Feel very sturdy; I think they would last a long time even in rough conditions.” – Amy

The Scarpa Neutron is built like the rest of the equipment made by such a reputable brand. The outsole is stiff and consolidated and will stand up to your abuse. The upper is built and has good lines to avoid wear-spots. Don’t be afraid to take the Neutron on some big runs.

A little extra has been put into the Hoka Speedgoat Mid. Most Hokas are super lightweight and meant for easier terrain, but the Speedgoat Mids are meant specifically for tougher conditions. The combination of the Goretex liner, a more solid outsole, and a more durable upper is a great combination for a shoe that should be hammered in the mountains.

The Salomon Ultra Pro was put through some very rugged terrain. Whether on the Flatirons of Colorado or the 11,000 ft peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, these Salomons stood up to the abuse. With over 150 miles on the shoes by testers there was no noticeable wear and tear that posed any kind of risk down the road. We highly recommend these if you’re looking for a great quality shoe.

The Salomon Sense Ride GTX is fully dialed in when it comes to durability. These shoes have kind of seen it all and Salomon knows their “wear testing”. Craig had this to say about his experience, “I’m pretty tough on my shoes since I love to scramble and run over very rocky terrain. It’s where I’m most comfortable. I was totally able to count on my Sense Rides to hold up to the punishment.”

Two of our testers had different experiences with the Under Armour Horizon. Erik had some glue issues while Scott thought they were bomber. “The glue bonding the upper to the outsole started to fail in a couple spots after 50 or so miles. Besides that, I didn’t see any other issues with durability.” – Erik. “After putting these shoes through some extremely tough mountain miles I didn’t notice any degradation with any of the shoe’s materials. The shoe is built with durability in mind and it shows. The tread showed no signs of wear and the upper took a beating in the mountains and still looked brand new.” – Scott

 


FINAL THOUGHTS

Like with all of our reviews, we leave the final decision to your. That said, our tester’s all agreed that across the board there was one shoe that truly stood out above the rest. The Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX was imply the best all-around shoe we have tested in a very long time. It could literally do it all, regardless of the conditions. For the two main testers, Matt and Craig, the shoe is their go-to shoe for any run where they know they something reliable. If you haven’t checked out Adidas’ line of trail shoes, now is the time.

Matt – “I really really like this shoe. Very nice improvements over the last iteration. They get warm in the heat, but are otherwise an excellent all-purpose shoe. Highly recommend.”

Adidas Terrex Agravic GTX

We will let our testers provide their own feedback in regards to the rest of the brands.

“The Under Armour Horizon is very light and durable and provides adequate protection in the mountains. It performed well in technical terrain and in all types of elements and terrain. The limitations are that it isn’t extremely comfortable for a lightweight shoe and I found that it started to rub the upper part of my feet after about 8 miles. I wouldn’t wear this shoe for longer distances, but it could be a great choice for shorter technical runs in the mountains” – Scott

The Salomon Ultra Pro is a pretty specialized shoe and has some unique qualities. If you’re looking for a good racing shoe, this might be the one you’re looking for. It has everything you need. The drawbacks were minor, so we leave the decision to you. “The quick tie laces, while nice in the winter especially, kept coming out of the pocket and snagging on branches and occasionally on my other foot.” – Chelsea

The Salomon Sense Ride GTX is the total package. It can really do it all. While it may take 50 miles to truly break them in, the shoe is phenomenal after that. The biggest drawback to the shoe is the tongue. For a waterproof shoe, the connection point of the tongue is simply too low and allows for water and snow to get in where it shouldn’t. Other than that they are fantastic. “Get a good pair of trail gaiters and this shoe will be incredible. It’s a great long-distance shoe that will you can wear for 400+ miles.” – Craig

“I loved the shoe. it was a little bit warm on warmer days due to the Gore-Tex lining and was slippy when snow was involved, but besides that, I could find myself covering a lot of miles in the Norman LD.” – Erik

“I think if you are a Hoka fan, then this shoe is right up your alley. I pronate heavily, and while some Hokas don’t aggravate this, the Speedboat Mid seemed to accentuate the pronation, which was irritating and caused some ankle soreness. Especially in a hiking boot- which it is listed as- where the terrain covered is more rugged and uneven, this is not a great attribute.” – Erik

“At first glance, this shoe doesn’t scream ‘buy me’. It is an interesting shape to the upper and appears that it came from a big box store in-house brand when it first comes out of the box. It runs well but the sole is a bit stiff. It generally performs well and is an improvement from the previous model.” – Brent

“My overall impression is that this is an improvement over the Cascadia 12, which is a shoe that I logged about 450 miles in. It is lighter, has more cushion, breathes better and provides more room in the toe box, without sacrificing any quality. This is an excellent all-purpose shoe that performs in technical mountain terrain as well as buffed out single track trails. I’d use these shoes for any distance and just about any terrain. The only significant drawbacks are it’s lack of performance in wet weather and the rubber outsole isn’t very grippy on rock, so it isn’t my shoe of choice for technical scrambling.” – Scott

“The Altra Timp 1.5 is way better than the original. The shoe actually fits well. I don’t feel my forefoot sliding all over the place as I did before, and if feels like it has a little more stabilization/support in the arch to prevent excessive pronation. The lugs are great traction in mud and in some ice/snow/slush on local mountains. These are definitely going in the rotation.” – Erik

“Very well made shoe that is ready for anything from muddy trails to hard rock scrambles.” – Emir

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