Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tecnica Diablo Max and Inferno X-Lite Trail Runner Reviews

The folks at Tecnica were kind enough to send me a pair of their Diablo Max ($130)  "multi-function" oversized trail runners earlier this year. Tecnica and Hoka One One, the other prominently oversized running shoe have shared technology resources in the past. Both companies use a wide stable platform on the ground, 30mm or more of cushioning and a stiff midsole engineered to create a rolling effect. Tecnica calls this Tecnica Rolling System (TRS) and it does definitely do what it claims to: you roll forward through your stride particularly on the flats.  The rolling effect seems to be created by sandwiching a slightly firmer white foam layer between softer foam above and below. See pictures of both the Diablo Max and X-Lite Inferno below.

I was very impressed with the Diablo Max:  Superb burly protection on the trail, of course bomb proof, feel no pain cruising over rocks down hill running, and due to the oversize midsole never any next day leg soreness.  A big surprise, they were great on the road. I ran up to 12 miles smoothly "rolling" along, no speedster paces due to the weight but also completely fresh legs the next day.
The issue, weight. At 12.3 oz the Diablo is 2 oz heavier than my heaviest trail runner or road runner.  Even the oversized Hoka cousins weigh less. 

Further the lack of flex can be an impediment on very steep slopes when the angle of the rolling effect  is exceeded forcing a more vertical stride and body carriage. The Diablo Max has a 12 mm heel to toe drop, more than I run in these days. I find a 4-5mm drop for road shoes and 5-10mm for trail shoes just right for me. 
All of this said the Diablo is a great shoe if your travels and activities-backpacking, trail running, and yes even road running call for just one pair.

Enter the Tecnica Inferno X-Lite ($110)
I bought a pair of Inferno X-Lite recently. 
  • the weight is brought down to 10.4 oz, comparable to my Montrail Badaja's at 10.2 oz.  
  • the forefoot is far more flexible than the Diablo and when some flexibility is combined with a somewhat less pronounced Tecnica Rolling System even very steep slopes are easily tackled. 
  • the heel toe drop is brought down to 10mm, just about ideal in my view for a trail runner
Yesterday I ran and power hiked extremely steep jeep roads and trails at Snowbird while spectating and shooting some pictures of the SpeedGoat 50K  and X-Lite felt great both ascending and descending. The midsole is lower than the Diablo's for a somewhat firmer trail feel yet  the shoe is still semi oversized for great trail stability and protection. Instead of laces the shoe has an effective Kevlar single pull system similar to Salomon's. The upper is breathable yet keeps out the fine UT trail dust effectively. The outer sole has adequate but not overly pronounced lugs. As a result the X Lite also has a relatively smooth feel on the road.   Not as dense as a full carbon rubber outsole I worry a bit about the outsole's long term durability but so far no signs of wear with 50 miles on them. 

While the Diablo is a "hiker" you can easily run in,  the X-Lite is a light and superbly protective trail and road runner you can hike with. They fit true to size.

Update 11/14/12
The X-Lite was my favorite trail runner this past summer. Sure footed, nimble and comfortable it took me through the Jupiter Peak Steeple Chase's 16 miles of steep uphill and screaming downhills, the Mid Mountain Trail Marathon, and the Hidden Peak Challenge's unrelenting climb to the top of Snowbird as well as countless training runs.


Anonymous said...

I like your website and it's helpful reading your reviews. I just learned of the technica shoes and while they are cheaper than Hoka they have a higher lift than the hokas, I read that it was a 10 mm. For that reason I don't want to get them, but are you allowed to say what you like better? I am looking to get some that I can use on both road and trail, especially road for long runs as I usually can't run too far on the road as it bothers my knees and I'm hoping Hoka is the answer. Thanks for your advice.

Sam Winebaum said...

Sorry for late reply. I have been thrilled with the X-Lites. I have tried all the Hokas and in fact am now running in the new EVO Stinson Tarmac on the road. All my other road shoes are 4-6 mm. All of this said the X-Lites are in my view a more nimble implementation (they share some tech in terms of the rocker sole) of the Hokas, plenty of cushion, wide stance on the trail, yet more flexible and with a bit less of that floating on air feeling. I have run them on the road and they are firmer than the Hokas but generally more shock proof than normal road shoes of comparable weight. I ran the Park City Jupiter Peak Steeplechase in the X-Lites and for the first time in 5 attempts no quad soreness after the 3000 foot climb and then 3000 fast downhill As far as heel lift I mix it up between the 4-6 mm and up to 10mm. The longer the run I think the more useful a bit more lift is as we aren't all natural mid foot strikers and at least I get tired and back on the heels.