Hybrid trail shoes are a continually evolving class of footwear for multiple mountain pursuits. Hybrids handle trail running, hiking, peak bagging, scrambling, adventure racing—even bouldering and vertical climbing—yet each shoe excels in particular ways.
We tested nine of these hybrids in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest including the high-alpine peaks of the Snowy Range, rife with mud, streams and lingering patches of snow; the high-plains desert trails of southeast Wyoming surrounded by sage and cacti; and in the rock climbing/bouldering oasis of Vedauwoo (vee-duh-voo) with its massive rock formations and slabs of granite. Most of these shoes include GORE-TEX (GTX) or other waterproofing technologies which add a bit of cost, but drier feet are worth it and so are warmer feet when the weather gets cold; most are also available in non-GTX versions. Read on to see what shoe is best for your next adventure.
Brooks Adrenaline ASR is a reliable cross training or racing shoe for all seasons and conditions. The shoe feels stable and responsive like many Brooks shoes; you may even think you’re wearing a road shoe at first. Adrenaline ASR makes a perfect singletrack trail runner and crushes miles and miles of backcountry dirt roads. This shoe is comfortable and functional in all but highly-technical terrain such as talus and burly boulders. Adrenaline ASR integrates significant cushioning and pronation control to help keep your body properly aligned while running on rough terrain. It also performs well on mellow hiking excursions.
The fleet and ferocious Inov-8 Flyroc 310 simply rips singletrack. The shoe is ideal for runners who like to feel all the nuances of the trail and don’t need or want extra cushioning. Runners who prefer the minimalist style will enjoy Flyroc 310 for training, racing and non-technical hiking. Flyroc 310 has an aggressive trail-grabbing tread pattern that provides exceptional traction especially in soft and loose terrain. The shoe’s ultra-flexible forefoot enhances trail agility, and its efficient webbing and lacing system helps keeps feet comfortably secure. Flyroc 310 doesn’t have GTX but it dries quickly in warm weather.
Keen Tryon WP favors endurance hiking and excels in muddy and root-laden trails reminiscent of its home territory in Oregon’s Cascade Range. The shoe incorporates KEEN.DRY, a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane that keeps water out yet dissipates sweat and heat, according to Keen. Indeed, my feet stayed dry and comfortable in sloppy areas of the Snowy Range testing grounds. A robust toe box protects against frontal impacts and abrasion resistant textile and plate guards enhance foot protection in rough terrain. The shoe’s tacky tread efficiently grips most terrain while its KEEN.ZORB technology provides generous shock absorption.
La Sportiva’s Wildcat is a neutral trail running shoe outstanding for training and racing. The Wildcat features an aggressive tread that tears into the trail so you can focus on keeping your pace rather than worrying about traction. The shoe’s Impact Brake System features die-cut lugs angled in various directions to minimize slippage and increase braking capabilities on downslopes. When winter rolls around, La Sportiva offers hobnails that are easily screwed in and out of the outsole for enhanced traction on snow and ice. Wildcat lacks plate guards so it’s not well-suited for highly technical trails but handles short and easy day hikes.
Patagonia’s Specter is an ultra-comfy and nimble trail shoe. They help you cruise trails and glide over rocks and roots with ease; only the pointiest rocks defeat the cushioning. Traction is excellent with more than adequate climbing and breaking ability on steeper grades. They stay comfortable even after miles of vigorous running. The shoe’s upper mesh breathes well and keeps your feet cooler on hot days. Without much side plating you wouldn’t want to charge through scree fields or do much scrambling wearing the Specter. They are also stylish enough to wear straight from the trail to your favorite après hotspot.
Salewa’s Firetail distinctively leans towards an approach and expedition racing shoe yet it’s light and comfortable enough for casual running and hiking. The shoe effortlessly handles Class 1-3 climbing routes and some Class 4 ascents. A band of Kevlar armor wraps around the Firetail to help protect feet from sharp rocks, scrapes and impacts. Its Vibram outsole has a low-profile lug pattern that enables proficient traction in everything from boulder gardens to mud. Integrated GTX keeps your feet drier and thus warmer in cold conditions. Firetail is a hardcore shoe yet so comfy that you may end up wearing it off the mountain as much as on the mountain.
The XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 is a definitive hiking and peak-bagging shoe. While not the most agile trail runner, it’s a superb shoe for summiting Colorado 14ers and Sierra Nevada peaks or adventure racing. The shoe forms a sturdy shield of protection around your feet and a stout rubber toe cap spearheads the charge while you’re navigating ridgelines or climbing switchbacks. The shoe features an asymmetrical lacing system with one-pull tightening to easily adjust tension on the fly so you’ll never worry about laces coming untied. With integrated GTX you’ll be plunging into streams and mud without thinking twice.
The Evolution, a dexterous mountain cross training shoe, excels in trail running, day hiking and peak-bagging jaunts. TrekSta’s proprietary NestFIT system, and its distinctive asymmetrical shape, is based on the curves and contours of human feet. TrekSta scanned 20,000 unique feet to create a design that works well for a wide-range of people. The shoe is agile and quick; its outsole consists of a proprietary rubber compound that grips just about everything, from wet logs and rocks to slabs of dry granite and sandy singletrack. We’re looking forward to testing Evolution’s proprietary IceLock technology on ice and snow this winter.
If you’re a trail running animal that subsists on a steady diet of singletrack then Vasque Velocity 2.0 is your shoe. The lugged outsole bites into the trail like a lion into its prey helping you cover ground quickly. Velocity 2.0 feels ultra-light, but its armored construction takes a beating from trail obstacles and helps keep your feet safer while providing a stable platform. Its GTX layer repels water so you can charge through streams and mud without hesitation. Velocity 2.0 can help you achieve a new personal best in a 10K or ultramarathon trail race; adventure racers will also dig this shoe.