Decathlon advertise these as being “designed for trail and ultra-trail runners up to 160km” and say they are “the top shoe for cushioning, protection and comfort”.
Whilst I’m in no position to test the 160km claim at the moment, I’m more than happy to check out the rest of them.
Out of the box my first impressions were that they have a substantial upper that is well cushioned and with rubber rands to protect the toes. This makes these a little heavier than my normal running shoes but hopefully compensates by making these comfortable and well wearing. The grip looked like it should be good too, with 5mm lugs covering the sole. These have a 10mm drop, a cushioned tongue and a neat little pouch to tuck the laces in while you’re running.
There’s only so much you can learn about a pair of shoes by poking your nose at them in the living room though, so it was time to hit the trails.
Living in Herefordshire at the southern end of the Malvern Hills, I have a wealth of hilly off road runs to choose from. With autumn in full swing it’s always great to be out on the trails through the forests and hills and at this time of year they really come alive with colour. I decided to head out to my local trig point which takes in sections of tarmac, forest track, muddy single track and wet grassy slopes. An 8-mile loop that should give the shoes a decent test and get them good and muddy.
From the off, the fit felt fine. I’m typically a size 10 but often go up half a size for my runners. These felt perfectly roomy for my toes and fit snugly around my heel on the size 10s that I was wearing. The aggressive tread made short work of the muddy slopes that lead alongside the cider orchards and up to the woodland above town, a part of my run than normally has me sliding all over the place. These gripped fine though and my thought’s soon drifted from the shoes to taking in the autumnal landscape. In the build up to big races, my pursuit of my weekly mileage means it’s easy to slip into the mind-set of every outing being a training run, so it was nice just to be out enjoying my local hills, trying out some new kit and not worrying about speed and distance.
The shoes gripped well on all surfaces and despite noticing, on the tarmac section, that they having a little less cushioning than I am used to, I was pleased that I had a decent pair of shoes for my winter training runs. They still needed testing somewhere more mountainous though, so they came with me to north wales the following weekend.
I ran the Snowdonia Marathon on the Saturday (not in these, it’s a road race) and had the Sunday free for taking in a hill. While my legs were in no fit state for a proper mountain run, it was a good chance to try these out on mountainous terrain, so I headed up Moel Siabod to have a bit of a scramble and to get to play in the first snow of the winter.
Again the ground underfoot was varied, with stony paths, bog, a rocky ridge and a dusting of snow to negotiate. Whilst my local runs in these gave me great confidence that my feet would be comfortable for the day, I hadn’t done enough to know how well they’d be gripping the rocky terrain. Slipping around on rocky ridges and losing confidence in your footing can turn a fun route into a misery, especially with tired legs, so I was relieved to find after the start of the scramble up the Daear Ddu ridge that, I had every confidence in my foot placements. The rubber compound is not the best I’ve experienced on wet rock but running shoes are never going to be the perfect scrambling footwear. That said these are more than capable and this slight issue is compensated for by these being pretty decent on all other surfaces.
The dusting of snow on the summit and the stunning late afternoon light gave a wonderful reward for the effort of the climb. Whilst I begrudge the dark evenings, autumn does come with its benefits. I took the North East ridge down the hill, which sustains the views and the rocky ground as long as possible, before dropping back down to the valley.
I’ve since used these shoes numerous times, including a couple of cross country races and can say that these are more than capable of taking on all sorts of terrain. While the extra weight and lower amount of cushioning might mean I won’t be using these in my long races, at £60 they are half the price of my normal shoes, so they still stand up well. For me, they are perfect for rattling through my training mileage and are ideally suited to the mixture of trails that I cover in the UK, especially through the winter. The rubber gripped well on a range of surfaces and the lugs are enough for some seriously muddy conditions. As for durability, it is a little early to tell, but after some fairly rough use, there is absolutely no sign of damage. The stitching all looks good as new and there are no tell-tale signs of early wear. They fit in nicely with the rest of Decathlon’s very competitively priced trail running gear (which you can see the review of here and they now sit among my regular runners, caked in mud by my back door, ready for their next outing. I really should clean my shoes!
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