Last weekend I found myself in Wales’ Ogwen Valley in the shadow of an insane-looking mountain. We’re talking serious terrain: a gently sloping span of grass and gorse, with a huge spike of volcanic slate erupting towards the sky.
This is Tryfan, recently voted Britain’s favourite mountain. And I was about to climb it. In trainers.
Thankfully, I wasn’t alone: my girlfriend had agreed to come with me. Also, the ‘trainers’ in question were from Terrex’s range of multi-purpose off-road footwear.
Tryfan was the ideal playground to test how the shoes coped with different terrain. The gently sloping foothills were perfect for some moderate, introductory running, before the massive rock scramble put their mountain credentials to the test.
Terrex describe the CMTK as a being ideal for both trail runs and fast-paced hikes. They have such a sporty aesthetic, however, that I admit I looked from the shoes to the mountain and back again several times, slightly unconvinced by what looked far too fashionable a shoe to be taken seriously as a robust trail contender. We would see…
At under 600 grams per size-10 pair, the CMTK is sits at the upper end of the current generation of lightweight trail-shoes. The upper is almost entirely mesh, with a stripped down unpadded tongue. It gives a really pleasant aired that is more akin to a road shoe.
Thrifty weight management is offset by a heavy-duty sole, however. Sturdy traction is always good, but it does tip the shoe away from the lighter end of the spectrum. It also makes the CMTK feel a little like two ideas combined in one shoe. Once you’ve got them on the sense of weight discrepancy disappears, but it takes a few minutes to settle underfoot. Pretty soon you’re flying though.
During the fast, trail-running part of the trial, the CMTK felt perfectly comfortable. They have a really wide foot and toe box. As someone who suffers a lot from constriction around the toes, I appreciated the room for foot-splay, without the shoe feeling loose or unsupportive. They have quite a hard footstrike too, which gives you an impressive amount of feedback. I’d be tentative about using them endurance race but over shorter distances the CMTKs treated my feet very well and handled rough, wet ground without any slippage.
Whilst I wasn’t trying out the GORE-TEX® version of the CMTK, I was impressed with the water-resistance. My feet stayed dry and I noticed that mud seemed to slide right off the material without gaining any purchase. I had to really dig the shoe into the sludge to begin to wet my socks.
When it comes to mud, however, grip is all-important. The CMTK’s sole is made from rugged Contintental™ Mountain King rubber, the anchor to the shoes delicate upper. It’s basically a bike tyre under your foot, reassuringly dense and rigid. The lugs are semi-aggressive, with a big, chunky bite into soft ground.
As we finished with our running and headed toward the steep path to the summit, I wondered how this traction would apply on harder surfaces. My concerns quickly vanished though, as the rubber has enough pliancy for decent grip on unyielding rock.
This is what we were dealing with.
Oddly, for such a sporty-looking shoe, the CMTK seemed to improve as the train became more difficult. Our dogged climb took us up natural stone staircases, across shale slabs and through snowy ditches. By the time we reached the summit I had forgotten all of my reservations about not wearing a more substantial boot. My feet felt well-ventilated and, crucially, un-bruised.
I looked back down over the terrain we’d covered and made my verdict. The Terrex CMTK is a really comfortable shoe for fast-paced, short-to-middle distance running. Once you start hiking, the imbalance of super-light upper and over-chunky sole begins to make a lot of sense.
As a newbie to trail running, my girlfriend (who we’ll be calling G from now on) was initially surprised by the Trailmaker’s rigid heel and tough sole. Again, like the CMTK, the Continental™ sole performed brilliantly amongst Tryfan’s hard slopes. The 4mm lugs grabbed well on broken shale and slick rock, with enough flex in the forefoot to help with the steep uphill stretches.
She reported that whilst the shoe felt light on the foot, it was the straight, streamlined shape that helped produce a feeling of low bulk and precision. Looking at it myself, I noticed that the design does have a narrower profile, but even with a slightly wider foot she felt no discomfort or constraint.
The speed-lacing system was a complete novelty to G and, though she was impressed by idea of it, she did feel some pressure in the upper foot when the laces were pulled tight. This feeling disappeared as soon as the shoe relaxed, and I wonder if the shoes are actively designed to ‘settle’ in this way. There is no lace garage but the lace can be easily tucked behind an elasticated microstrap.
Despite having never heard of EVA, G’s foot felt nicely cushioned, both when we were running on soft ground and climbing the rocky path. She described a low-impact footstrike and, like me, finished the tough hike with a wholly-unbruised foot. Unlike me, she dashed back down the car, the pace of her descent more than demonstrating her confidence in the Trailmakers.
Whereas the CMTK came into their own on the tougher ascent, the Trailmakers are much better suited to faster trail-running. G’s final verdict was that the shoes made her want to run. Whilst I limped back down the slope with a sore hamstring she picked up her speed. Considering the nature of her first ever trail-run that is a pretty good endorsement of the shoes and the sport.