Saturday, February 2, 2008

Trail Shoes and Outdoor Retailer

I spent three days last week in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Show. I still get a kick out of the few great products and the abundance of overdone marketing. Luckily, I've learned to avoid much of the latter and find myself walking the aisles, going to appointment after appointment, engaging with the people who love footwear and work to make it better. I also find myself in many conversations because we sell more trail running shoes than any running store in the Northwest. These can occasionally be awkward since the trail running "market" has little to do with what shoes work for real people. I'm primarily interested in what runners like to use on the trails thus I've frustrated many a product manager while I dismantle their shoes and tell them why I, in my humble opinion, don't think their trail running shoes are really running shoes. They don't always appreciate it but they ask and I figure I should be honest. Realistically, it doesn't matter because they'll still do tons of advertising, Outside magazine will write it up as the greatest gizmo ever, and they'll sell a bunch at REI.

So what was interesting at the show in the world of trail running shoes? I've already talked up the Brooks Cascadia in the newsletter and it continues to impress. Saucony has a shoe coming in June called the Xodus. The fit and ride initially feel great and should provide another neutral option for the dirt. The platform is broad without cutaways providing that grounded, stable platform that feels substantial while still lightweight and very runable.

Inov-8 is an appointment I always look forward to at the show. Wayne is the main guy and he is a shoe nut. He's every bit as into footwear as any shoe geek I've ever met yet he comes at it from an entirely different angle. His point of reference is the Euro fell runner and he creates the antithesis of the heavy, over-done trail running shoe. Inov-8 thrives in that minimalist, low to the ground, nimble footwear. I was skeptical at first but have proven to myself in the past couple years that I can run as comfortably and possibly less susceptible to injury in the Terroc 330 than any shoe I own. I wore it on several 3+ hour runs last summer and in the Cle Elum 50k on a fairly challenging course. Going forward, Inov-8 introduces shoes with more midsole and cushion underfoot but none of them have really impressed me, until now. The new Roclite 295 will be out in a couple months and boasts the great fit of the Terroc 330 with more cushioning and their Roclite tread pattern. I'll certainly have a pair and hope they can broaden the appeal of Inov-8. Those are the highlights. I hope everyone is enjoying another serious snow day. Off to the next round of shoveling. Cheers-Teague

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