My shoe philosopy echoes that of Mark Collins, who said, “Every human being is different and when it comes to shoes. One type or make will definitely not fit or suit everybody. For this reason I would be very hesitant recommending any one shoe, but my point is that I would seriously caution against calling any pair of trail runners an AR shoe. What gets one around the block on a daily run or gets one through a persuedo adventure race might not get one to the finish line on a full blown expedition race.”
On paper, a shoe with a highly specialised water resistant, trail-debris repellant upper and a super-dooper, sticks-and-stones-won’t-penetrate-and-you-won’t-slip sole looks amazing, but if the wide heel box has your heel sliding up and down with each step and the narrow toe box keeps squeezing your little toe, then the shoe is just not right for you.
The shoe you choose will also be influenced by the purpose for which you wish to use it – trail running, orienteering, AR…
As a general guide, off-road shoes should a) have a firm and protective toe-box, b) the upper should be made of supportive, sturdy and abraision resistant fabric (off-road your foot moves left, right, up and down, which doesn’t happen in running and you’ll be brush past rough vegetation and rocks) and c) a more aggressive tread on the sole than a running shoe.
My advice to people looking for shoes is standard. Go to a shop that has a wide selection of shoes. Ask for your size in the different brands and various styles within the brand. Try each on – open minded – and buy the pair that feels natural. You should not have to ‘wear-in’ the shoes. Trying one shoe after another also give you a platform for comparison so don’t try one style today, another tomorrow and another next week. Try the different styles in a single session. If the shoe fits, buy it.