One question that I’m often asked is “What are the best shoes for Fell Running?” The answer is simple; “It depends…”
Ok, simple but not very helpful! That’s because there are a number of things to consider before making a purchase so you need to ask yourself a few questions.
What is the terrain like?
The term “Fell Running” covers a wide variety of terrain including rough mountains, steep grassy slopes and hard packed trails. Different shoes will be suited to different types of terrain.
What will I use them for?
Are they for for training or racing? Your day to day trainer can afford to be a little bit heavier than your racing shoe where you might be concerned about saving weight. Likewise with grip; a steady run requires less grip than when you’re going eyeballs out with your nearest rival breathing down your neck!
What’s the weather like?
We know what the British climate is like and a firm, dry path can change into a quagmire after a week of heavy rain. Shoes that were perfectly adequate one week can have you slip sliding away the next.
Quite often a run or race will include several changes of terrain. The Moelwyns fell race in Snowdonia starts and finishes with a long section of hard quarry track where road running shoes would be fine, however the seven miles in between involves steep, wet, grassy descents where a shoe with an aggressive grip is vital. The 3 Peaks Race swaps between fell and road and runners have been known to change shoes for different sections.
Unfortunately there is no one shoe that is best suited to all types of terrain so you need to compromise. A heavily studded shoe is not ideal for a hard, dry track but it will cope but a road or trail shoe with little tread won’t cope with wet or muddy conditions. If in doubt go with the worst scenario. (or mix your trail and fell shoes, one on each foot!)
So it seems that you probably need more than one pair of shoes, in fact you could convince yourself that you require several. Personally I classify the type of running I do into 3 categories with a type of shoe for each one:
Winter training and racing.
This requires a shoe with the most aggressive grip. Weight is less of a concern.
This still requires quite an aggressive tread but I look for something lighter in weight.
This requires less grip and weight is not as important. It makes up the majority of my running so needs to be comfortable,
There are several shoe manufacturers to choose from. The once ubiquitous Walsh is nowhere near as popular as it was although some runners still swear by it. Inov-8 seem to have taken over as the leading brand and have a huge range of shoes to choose from. Salomon have also appeared on the market and have a range of models to suit different conditions.
Personally I use Inov-8 shoes for the majority of my training and racing. The Mudclaw is my weapon of choice for winter running and racing, it’s super aggressive sole is what I have found copes best with the Peak District bogs.
For most other races out of the winter season I opt for Inov-8 X Talons. The 212 are a good lightweight shoe with an aggressive grip that work well in a range of conditions. I find these too lightweight for day to day training so they are saved as my race shoes.
For the majority of my running I need a comfortable shoe that can cope with a mix of terrain and I am currently on my third pair of Roclites. These are my favourite workhorses and have served me well for a number of years. I used them for the Paddy Buckley Round as I needed a shoe that would cope with the mountainous terrain yet provide a reasonable amount of cushioning and comfort. I liked them so much that I literally wore them until they fell off my feet!
If I could only have one pair of shoes it would be the Roclites, for me they are the best all rounder.
Much depends on personal preference and I do have other shoes including less aggressive trail shoes and even a pair of road shoes for the odd run from home. However these are my top three:
So the best shoes for fell running? It depends on a number of things and you’re most likely going to need more than one pair. One thing I’m sure of; there’s always room in the cupboard for another pair!
Note – I am not sponsored by Inov-8, this post is based on my experiences of shoes that I have purchased myself.