Article submission by Geoffrey Simpson — Marathon man, Father, entrepreneur and all around stud.
These shoes are grip monsters. The first thing I look for in trail shoes is how a shoe is going to handle the terrain, what is the depth of the tread, how far apart are they, and how much protection does it provide. The Pearl Izumi syncroFuel Trail II do not disappoint when it comes to any of these. The tread is wide and deep, able to grab onto a multitude of surfaces you encounter out on the trail. I did pick up a few pebbles in the treads, but the flexibility of the shoes makes extraction easy. The only surface that I did not feel entirely comfortable on was some wet flat rocks; the reduced contact points of the trail shoes slipped slightly as I ran across them. Fortunately, the smooth wet rocks are few and far between in my trail running.
The material of this shoe is very breathable. There are a couple of separate layers, with the outer being a heavier duty mesh fabric and the inner sock feels like a wicking neoprene fabric. We all know that when you hit the trails, you might have to get your feet a little wet. These shoes offered very little water proofing, and my feet almost immediately felt the water. The very good thing is that they dried out very fast, and did not hold onto the water. I have ran road races in the rain, and it can be very frustrating when your shoes get bogged down with water. I loved these shoes on the trails, for the grip, the fit, the styling, and the wicking.
Fit: The syncroFuel Trail II shoes have an integrated “sock” in the shoe, which makes it feel like you are slipping into a sock at first. It puts a constant sock like pressure on your foot, which is a new experience for me and it took some getting used to. The shoes seemed to fit true to size, and the toe box never felt squished or cramped. The shoe is very flexible, and it did not need any breaking in period.
The cushioning in the syncroFuel Trail II is more than I am used to in road shoes and really more than I have felt in other trail shoes as well. I did not think that it detracted from feeling the trail, as the pressure transfer from the terrain to the foot was adequate. The part of the shoe that I loved the most was the hard plastic protection for the arch of the foot. When climbing over obstacles, having that armour right where a stick or rock edge hits is great. I never once felt the hard plastic other than when I needed it.
Styling: My first impression of these shoes from a styling point was “wow”. They are a black/grey/red combination that looks very aggressive. With the tread poking out from the bottom of the shoes, there is no doubt that these are meant for serious business. My collection of road shoes tend to have a nice white pallet with either green, red or blue to make them stylish. The syncroFuel Trail II in the black/grey combination are a fantastic alternative to the modest road shoe styling.
Overall: I have run a trail ultra marathon, and I have run many regular (non-trail) marathons and countless shorter distance races. When I first put these shoes on, I first felt the sock-like feature of the Pearl Izumis, and then I felt the cushioning of the shoe. I never felt like I was out of touch with the terrain, and they definitely gave me confidence in my footing out on the trails. The shoe was comfortable in transition periods on gravel and paved surfaces as well. The aggressive traction does not make them an ideal candidate for road shoes, but they weren’t meant to be anyway.
My final wear testing run in these shoes was an 8 mile mixed terrain run, with a combination of rough trail, grass, gravel trail and paved trail. They started of comfortable and squishy. The integrated sock liner reduces my side to side foot travel in the shoe, which is nice when the camber of the trail becomes steep. At about mile 4, I started feeling some hot-spots on the inside of my heel on both feet. It turns out that the transition between sole and upper in the shoe was rubbing at the same spot on both feet. I ended up with blisters on both feet on the same spot. I loved these shoes for shorter trails, but because of the way my foot fit in these shoes, they did not work on longer runs. I do have to stress every foot is different, and you have to find the right shoe for your foot.