Thursday, December 24, 2020

Jeff Valliere's Favorite 2020 Trail Run Shoes and Gear

 Article by Jeff Valiere

Editor’s Note: Jeff tells us year to date he has run Green Mountain above Boulder, Colorado 114 times in all seasons and conditions. Green is a 4.6 mile / 7.4km round trip with 2480 feet / 756 meters of vertical so great test of technical trail run shoes and gear. 

Favorite Technical Trail Shoe of 2020 

Saucony Peregrine 10 (RTR Review

The Peregrine 10 has amazing traction on all surfaces, great underfoot protection, a low and stable feel combined with excellent foothold and while not the lightest or most responsive, is really competent at fast running through the roughest terrain and inspires confidence.

Favorite Daily Cruiser Trail Shoe of 2020 

Brooks Cascadia 15 (RTR Review

The Cascadia 15 is a perfect all around trail cruiser for my needs and the shoe I keep in the car that can cover me for any outing.  It runs quick and efficient with amazing foothold, traction, cushion, comfort, versatility and protection.  It can essentially go anywhere and do anything.

Favorite Easy Day trail shoe of 2020 

Brooks Caldera 5 - (RTR Review)

The Brooks Caldera 5, with plush cushion, overall comfort, accommodating toe box, protection and response make for an ideal all day shoe for easy recovery days, without feeling slow or sluggish.  In fact, the Caldera 5 is great for shorter training days or faster ultras with plenty of response.

Short and Fast trail shoe of 2020

Salomon Sense 4 Pro (RTR Review)  - This shoe was a very pleasant surprise for me, after only being tepid on the Sense Pro 1, skipped the 2 and was disappointed with the 3.  The 4th iteration is a massive improvement and is exactly what I always hoped for in an S/Lab, where S/Lab for me has sometimes fallen short (specifically thinking of the SG version).  The Sense Pro 4 is a light shoe that has exceptionally secure and dialed in fit, almost a custom fit/feel, is very responsive, stable, low to the ground with enough cushion and protection underfoot to go fast over any terrain without having to dance and pick through.  Traction is also excellent, with substantial lugs and greater durability than the S/Lab SG.

Favorite Race day trail shoe of 2020

Salomon Sense Pro 4 - For all the reasons listed above, a great blend of everything in a fast package.  While no racing for me in 2020, when I was looking to go fast on the local mountain trails, this was my pick, even carrying me to within about a minute of a 9 year old PR of mine on a very technical roundtrip route of Green Mountain, which really surprised me.

Favorite long-distance trail shoe of 2020 

Brooks Caldera 5 (RTR Review)- for all the reasons listed above, the Caldera 5 releasing Spring 21 is ideal for long distances, with the maximal cushion, forgiving toe box, reasonable weight and responsive feel.

Favorite Door to Trail trail shoe of 2020 

Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review) 

A real shocker for me, as I almost passed this by based on my opinion of previous versions.  The Xodus 10, while it looks like a pure trail shoe, is surprisingly adept on the road, so does not feel like a compromise, yet once on the trail, they are exceptionally competent on any terrain with very good foothold, security, response, traction and protection.  While not the lightest shoe out there, it runs lighter than the weight implies.

Absolute favorite trail shoe of 2020 

Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)

Hands down! It is my most competent, fun, go fast trail shoe and my first pick if I really want to put in my best, race day sort of effort.

Favorite apparel of 2020 

Gore Infinium (RTR Review). I have reviewed the R5 Infinium pant, the X7 Infinium Soft Lined Jacket, Gore Infinium Thermo Split Gloves, Infinium Gloves by Mountain Hardware and The North Face.  These items have become staples and most frequently selected items on cold runs where I am looking for maximum breathability for any effort, but especially great if going hard and there may be wind, as the material breathes very well, yet protects from wind and light precipitation and never feels clammy inside.  Equally appealing is it’s soft, comfortable, flexible feel with no crinklyness as with earlier Windstopper.

Favorite accessory of 2020 (Packs, lights, poles, etc)

Kahtoola EXOspikes (RTR Review) - Microspikes are overkill for most days, especially for my local trails where on 90% of my runs, I encounter quickly changing trail conditions between ice, packed snow, bare rock and dry ground.  I have been mostly favoring studded shoes, but EXOspikes does the same thing while providing the luxury of choosing the ideal shoe for you and on the day without being constrained.  Traction is excellent, even on steep icy pitches and durability is top notch.  They are easy to use and very light, so easy to bring along in a pocket or run vest and hardly know you are carrying them.  A bargain at $59.99 and an absolute must if you run in Winter conditions, be it flat roads or steep mountain trails.

Favorite run tech of 2020 

Suunto S7 (RTR Review) 

While the S7 has a ways to go in regard to battery life and sport watch functionality, I love to see this sort of advancement in GPS equipped watches, crossing over into the smartwatch realm, featuring a vivid Amoled display with roughly twice the resolution as competing sport watches, appealing mapping features and a deep array of smartwatch apps integrating with Google Wear OS (still entirely compatible though if you are on iPhone).  This is also the most elegant looking GPS watch IMHO.  Suunto has already provided updates to the   S7 software increasing battery life and adding sport watch improvements, so I really look forward to where this technology will lead.

Favorite Run Brand of 2020 

I kept going back and forth, but am going to call a tie between Saucony and Brooks.  

Saucony has just been killing it with the Xodus 10, Peregrine 10, Canyon TR, Switchback 2, Mad River TR 2, which are all regulars in my rotation depending on the day.  I am very excited to see what Saucony has in store for 2021, especially after seeing the upcoming Peregrine 11 line up.

Brooks is equally good, with updated stalwarts such as the Cascadia 15, the revamped Caldera 4, then the new Divide, a fully featured “budget” model at just $100.  Of course there was the new Catamount this summer, a rocketship trail shoe for moderate trails (might have been my favorite fast trail shoe if it had more secure foothold).  2021 versions of the Caldera (5) and Divide (2) are especially nice and marked improvements over the 2020 versions and I can’t wait to see what else Brooks has in store in the future.

Biggest surprise of 2020

A toss up between the Saucony Xodus 10 and Hoka One One Ten Nine.  The Xodus 10 was such an update, Saucony should just come up with a new name for it, a very run-able and versatile trail shoe that rips technical mountain terrain and feels just as good on the road, where it’s preceding models were more like low top hiking boots.

Then the Hoka One One Ten Nine caught me off guard, wondering “what the heck is that!”.  The 10/9 was not my favorite shoe, as  I found clumsy and somewhat hazardous in fact depending and I never really was able to achieve/recognize the advertised benefits of downhill prowess, which I just longed for in an EVO Speedgoat, Speedgoat 4 or EVO Mafate.  It sure was a surprise though with outrigger tech we are now seeing in more “toned” down 2021 Hoka models such as the Mach 

Jeff’s Run Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundreds of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he has recently worked in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 10 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

The products reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.

RTR Team's Best of 2020 Articles
Road Running Shoes HERE
Trail Running Shoes HERE
RTR Contributors Best of Run 2020, Year in Review Articles

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Sam said...

Thanks as always Jeff.

-Ben Z

Ery said...

Jeff iz the man

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks for reading guys!

Jeff Johanson said...

I bought the Saucony Xodus 10 after the stellar reviews from the RTR crew. I’ve tested these extensively in the White Mountains of NH and what I found was the grip on rock slab, wet rock, off camber rocks just wasn’t good enough. At least for me I could not trust it to hold and had to “think” about it to much. If this shoe had Vibram MegaGrip vs the proprietary Saucony compound it would be absolutely terrific. Loved the fit, cushion, protection, foothold and softer ground grip. The Speedgoat 4 became my shoe of choice for these conditions even though I dislike the thin tongue and the side overlays started peeling off in short order. Cushion and grip win out and I can trust the Speedgoat to grip far more. Interestingly the Hoka looks more pointy in the forefoot and the Saucony more rounded but holding the insoles right on top of each other there absolutely no difference in shape. Literally clones of each other. Both size 12. Saucony also warrantied my first pair (didn’t ask for them back just pictures) due to the sole starting to peel away at the heel. Seems to have stabilized and maybe an early production model? Something to keep an eye on though.

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