Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hi-Tec Shadow Trail shoe (review)

I've had the Hi-Tec Shadow Trail shoes for a few months now - plenty of time to wear them on a variety of terrain. I've worn them on local runs, Gilloolies hill sessions, some of the Big 5 O events and I wear them every week to take the huskies running.

The last pair of Hi-Tecs that I had were the first-edition, funky green Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity shoes and I've really had to think about which I prefer - Shadow or Infinity. The Infinity was one of those shoes that improved with age - I really settled more into them with time - and I think the Shadow will be similar. I had the Infinity for about two years, wearing them more and more and more. I enjoyed the lightness (looking back I see my shoes weighed 301g each), the snug fit and quick draining in the wet.

The Shadow weighs not much more at 313g. It's a rather sturdy-looking shoe, more broad than the Infinity and with more volume too. There is a good amount of toe wiggle room but, for me, just a little too much space around my mid-foot. I favour a snug, foot-hugging fit.

You'll see from this photo - the Shadow (black) vs the Asics Fuji Racer (purple/yellow) - which shows the mid-foot difference. The Fuji Racer (it weighs 268g - it is a minimalist trail shoe with little cushioning or support) is a very snug, streamlined fit for my foot. The laces on both shoes are tied - I slip my foot in and out just as is so the laces are adjusted like-like.

Note that I'm making comparisons here between the Shadow and the Fuji Racer. This is not an apple-to-apple comparison because Fuji Racer is on the minimalist side and Shadow is not. But, they're the two shoes that I'm running at the moment - depending on the situation and terrain and distance.

Back to the Shadow...

The lugs underneath are not very chunky - but I've had no issues with grip. Chunky is no longer a big thing - I haven't had a trail shoe for some time with really chunky lugs.

No drainage issues in the wet. Upper fabric is light and water gets out easily.

Laces are helluva long. I tie double knots and still have to tuck the laces in. I wear AR Mini Gaiters most of the time and this solves the problem of laces catching or flapping.

I'm not crazy about the Shadow over really rocky and unstable terrain (especially going up) - like the Gilloolies ridge - because the sole is not as flexible as that of the Fuji Racer, which has become one of my top favourite shoes of all time. This really is a reflection on how my preferences have changed to the more tactile and flexible shoes - and isn't a reflection on the Shadow. I like to 'wrap' my feet around rocks on the way up, feeling how stable or unstable the surface is. On Gilloolies I haven't tripped or slipped or twisted an ankle with the Shadow - I just like that less can be more. I do wear them sometimes - just for a change.

I favour the Shadow over the Fuji Racer for my husky outings. Running with the two huskies is very much like going on a very steep downhill - non-stop for an hour. I have to break against them a lot. The husks know only one speed - full-steam ahead! They have no concept of pacing. So to slow them down I have to break hard (and I have to break even harder if they see a c.a.t. or a d.u.c.k. or even another dog that they want to say hello to). When I first started running with the husks I used to be so stiff the next day - quads. Agony! Now I'm adapted and I don't get stiff. But I do need a supportive shoe. Downhill, even on Gilloolies, the Shadow is better. More toe protection too.

As with the Infinity, I'm in doubt as to whether I'd take the Shadow with me to a 100km race... but probably only because I've been racing in the Adidas Response Trail shoes for 14 years and so they're my gold standard for distance and multi-day races. Not for any other reason. I have no doubt that the Shadow would handle AND I'd choose it over the Fuji Racer especially if the terrain is hard underfoot and the conditions are hot (more room for swollen feet).

With so many options around, it is ideal to have more than one pair - different shoes for different terrain. At the moment I've got the Hi-Tec Shadow, Asics Fuji Racer and an aging pair of Adidas Response Trail 18. All very different shoes and I use them according to terrain and distance. If I didn't have either one of these, there would be something 'missing'.

As with any shoe - there is no 'best'. Regardless of brand or model within the brand, you've got to try it on, walk around, wiggle your toes and choose the shoe that fits your foot the best and that suits the terrain you mostly run on (see this article I wrote some time back 'On buying trail shoes').

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