#1 Montrail Hardrock $110- After quite the duration, the Hardrock has been changed. Frankly the name itself shows the desperation Montrail is going through, as this shoe has little in common with its predecessor. However, it does look fantastic! With a much lower profile, a forefoot protection plate, medial posting, and in a comparably lightweight package. Traditional Hardrock enthusiasts will have a bit of difficulty switching over but I don't think it will be due to the performance of the shoe; rather this new Hardrock is a totally different shoe altogether. However, it will still be a bomber supportive shoe for a runner that needs maximum protection and support.
#2 LaSportiva Wildcat $100- If you haven't hoped on the LaSportiva bandwagon, this might be your chance. LaSportiva has been growing hugely but most addicts have been liking their light and nimble models. Although not heavy, the Wildcat is a plush smooth ride with a great fitting upper. Using a virtually seamless upper with a modern look, this shoe will handle nearly every trail with lots of comfort. Max cushion, awesome traction, great support. Only drawback is the lack of a beefy forefoot rock protection plate. Yet this shoe will work for and be enjoyed by nearly everyone. It's supportive enough for mild pronators, beefy enough for the big guy, but light and cushy for fast and/or skinny folk. It's bound to become a classic!
#3 Montrail Mountain Masochist $95- Montrail needed a comeback in a bad way. This model looks like the missing link! Although similar to the popular Streak, this model fixed everything that was wrong with the Streak yet kept all the integral qualities that made the Streak popular. It has a lower profile, denser midsole, beefed up better fitting upper, and a fatigue post. The posting isn't enough to really correct much pronation so it will work for a neutral to mild pronator. It should be great as a fast and light training shoe or a racing shoe. Although this shoe is not meant for every runner, I personally can't wait to take it for a spin.
#4 Brooks Cascadia 4 $100- No need to fear Cascadia legionares. This shoe has hardly changed. Aside from the sleak new look, this Cascadia is using an eco-friendly outsole, biodegradable midsole, and has a revamped more protective upper. You won't feel the difference. It is the same perfect shoe it was in 2008. Which is why it still is on my top 5 list despite minimal changes. If you've never owned a pair of Cascadia's repent and immediately go to your local shoe store and buy a pair. You will not regret it.
#5 New Balance 100 $75- Unlike the Cascadia or Wildcat which can be worn by nearly everyone the 100 is a niche shoe. However, this is the latest revolution in trailrunning being manifest perfectly in a shoe. If you haven't heard, Anton Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs are taking over the ultrarunning world and New Balance has combined with these two runners to create one of the lightest most unique trail shoes ever. Step aside Inov8, New Balance has hit a home run! Low profile, forefoot plate, racing upper, and solid traction. It's incredible! Not that I'm strong enough or efficient enough to run an ultra in this shoe but it sure it cool. Maybe as a 25k racing flat. Kudos to New Balance however we will all have to wait until October for its official release.
All-in-all, 2009 looks like a solid year. Other highlights are Gu's new chew called the Gu Chomps(Roctane meets gushers. Bitter but looks like a solid product), Clif Bar's new Shot Roks (a protein malt ball concoction that tastes fantastic!), and Nuun's new Banananuun flavor. I think most vender's are waiting for the market to make a turn upwards before they release any ground breaking technology. 2009 will be survival mode for many companies, so make sure you support your favorites...or else. Aside from those few new items, a new palette of colors will adorn the walls of shops but much will be regurgitation of the same old stuff.
January 19th-25th: Felt a few aches and pains but had a solid 26 miles. All of which was on trails. Who knows how many miles I walked going back and forth from the outdoor retailer. Miles should hopefully be on the rise over the next few weeks. With this latest cold front who knows though. Cold running...but it still is January.