For the past 3 years, I've been spoiled by a trail shoe that fit me perfectly and after 4 pairs of that shoe, they ceased manufacturing that shoe and came out with a replacement which was essentially the same, except that they made a subpar upper that had nowhere near the integrity of the old shoe. My favorite pair of Keen Wasatch Crests have 500 miles on them and got me through 3 100-milers last year. In two of them, I wore them from start to finish. In all 3 of them, I had no feet issues, no blisters, nothing. So given my experience with Keen, my standards were high in my search for a replacement.
Unlike road shoes which can spare some movement inside them, trail shoes really need to fit as close to perfect as possible. In road running, there aren't a lot of forces causing side-to-side movement so the perfect fit isn't as necessary, although desired. On the trails, we place our feet in multiple different directions and rarely are they on even terrain. Through creek crossings, over and around roots and rocks, and slippery snow and mud...trail shoes have to fit well and minimize movement within. Otherwise, hot spots will form, water from crossings will linger, and the nasty blister will present itself.
In my search, I explored everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately for me, most trail shoes are "posted" or are "stability" shoes...meaning they are engineered for the runner who pronates or turns their foot inward. This type of runner represents the majority in our country so it makes sense that they have more options. In fact, the top 3 road running shoes sold for both men and women in 2009 were are stability shoes. I need a "cushioned" shoe since I don't pronate...instead, I'm considered to be "neutral." Not too many trail shoes are available like that. Popular ones are the Brooks Cascadia and Montrail Mt Masochist.
Enter Vasque. Vertical Runner in Hudson recently introduced this line and understandably so. It is very popular in the ultra-running trail world and among elite athletes. They are big on proper fit and wrapping the shoe around the normal biomechanics of the foot like how it curves. The Velocity VST, in particular, is a workhorse of a trail shoe and has what most technical trail runners want. The tread is deep and strategically placed. The upper wraps the entire foot much higher at the top as compared to any other shoe I've ever run in. Not uncomfortably, though. It wrapped it so well during today's initial run on snowy trails that snow never got in my shoes because of the fit. Heel comfort was also superb and I had zero movement. During the 13 mile initial run in them, I expected to stop several times to make adjustments as the new shoes "relaxed." However, no stops were ever needed. The shoe remained as exact as it was when I put it on. It also has a metal plate that runs through it giving protection from the rocks as they present themselves. Toe protection is good as well as you can see in the photo above.
The Velocity VST employs two primary technologies: Ultimate Fit and VST (Vasque Spine Technology) You can view the Ultimate Fit video here. It's the VST that I find especially unique. Imagine rebar that masons put in concrete when they're putting in a driveway or a basement wall. The solid steel tubes are there to strengthen the concrete and keep it in its original form over time. The "spine" in the VST does a similar thing in the heel of the shoe. Most shoes (if not all) have cushioning in the rear. The cushioning can move side-to-side but in road shoes, really isn't a concern because that kind of movement isn't a concern. On the trails as our legs go in every different direction, the cushioning material can be pushed side to side thus breaking down that cushioning faster and also not providing the proper cushioning that's required. This keeps it in place and along with a superior fit thanks to Ultimate Fit, the shoe is simply fantastic on the trail. Here is the VST explained by Vasque themselves:
All in all, I loved the shoe. I was afraid I wouldn't and I'd have to take up the search yet again. But alas, I believe I have found a suitable replacement for many, many, many future miles on the trails. Hopefully, the Velocity VST really will become my best friend forever.
Happy Trails, everyone!