Mark BullockMark is a passionate climber, whose dream days are spent soloing easy routes in the big hills, dashing down at last light for pizza. He’s a writer, qualified Mountain Leader & Climbing Instructor, and has even won a few photography awards.
Is this the best fell-running shoe of all time? It’s a firm ‘yes’ from me.
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Light and dextrous, the grip the sole unit gives is basically unparalleled
Grip on rock, grip on grass and mud, and dexterity/feel that is the best I’ve tested since the inception of the MudClaw
Open Mesh upper drains water away quickly
There’s no con… Ok, maybe that they don’t last forever?
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
For a fell shoe – and that is to say, not a trail shoe, and not an ultra shoe – I want something with really aggressive lugs and grip. Going off paths onto rough tussocks, heather bashing, steep grass and mud, or scrambling or boulder-hopping on rock – you want something you trust. You want a sensitivity of feel for the terrain, and confidence in your foot placements.
When I took my first pair of these out of the box it was obvious they were a ‘race’ shoe. Light, tight (low volume but not narrow), no insole, open mesh upper, everything pointed to something for racing in (I’m steadfastly not a racer!). Something functional without compromise.
I’ve had my first pair of these for 3-4 years and have run Bob Graham support legs, faster Wainwright bagging link ups, scrambled in Torridon and Skye and many more human-powered adventures than I can recall.
As for this latest iteration of the Speed Pro SG, I’ve used them as approach shoes for big mountain climbs in Lofoten (they’re light and sticky, I only wish they had a heel loop to clip them to my harness), as well as circuits of my favourite Dartmoor Tor’s.
WHO ARE THESE SHOES FOR?
I think these are for anyone who fell-runs. When the terrain is rough, steep, wild, unforgiving or soft (the SG stands for ‘soft ground’, in case you were wondering) these shoes will genuinely help everyone. It needn’t be a race, for off-trail mountain and hill running days these are going to look after you.
WHAT STANDS OUT
So there are just two things that stand out the most to me, and that is in part due to the simplicity of functional design and construction. The design of this shoe truly is everything you need it to be, and nothing you don’t. Simple.
The sole unit
Continental rubber is the best I’ve ever used (I’m looking at you Vibram, Contragrip, G-Grip et al), they stick to rock so well, and the lugs just feel like football studs when you’re on steep grassy ground. Add to that the minimal drop and thinness of the sole and you’ve also got real dexterity and sensitivity.
Open mesh that is tough, and durable, but that allows water out and your foot to air-dry better than any other shoe I’ve used in 15 years of mountain running. There’s not much to the upper construction – no heel cup for example – but that only adds to their genius sock-like fit. No rubbing, no hot spots. The low volume fit just feels so secure.
The design of this shoe truly is everything you need it to be, and nothing you don’t. Simple.
VALUE FOR MONEY
£140: To be honest that’s as much as I would pay. Finding them in a sale somewhere (and being very, very grateful for getting a complimentary test pair – thank you BASE!) is how I’d personally prefer to acquire them, of course. But that said, they’re so good I’m tempted to stockpile a couple of pairs as I can’t imagine a new model ever surpassing them.
BASE BOTTOM LINE
I can’t emphasise this enough: these are the best fell running shoes ever made. I’m not from Cumbria but over the years I’ve made friends with lots of Lakes runners and I know very well that the community is somewhat circumspect of outsiders – haha! I know they won’t have relished The Three Stripes being part of the fell running scene or uniform. Walshes were always the local favourite. But I’ve known enough Lakes runners agree with me that these shoes are the current market leaders for what is actually quite a niche market. Trail and Ultra-running have boomed in recent years but true fell-running – off-trail, trackless lines through bogs, over heather, on rock, steep grass – it will quickly find the limitations of shoes that are a compromise of cushioning and aesthetics. For born and bred third generation Borrowdale runners to say that adidas have made the best fell shoe, that’s a genuinely big statement and testimonial believe me. My first pair lasted me 3+ years of pretty full on mountain abuse. According to my Strava there’s 468 miles on their clock, but remember – those aren’t cruisey tarmac miles; they’re miles getting scuffed, soaked, bashed, scratched, and pounded downhill (by a not very graceful 80kg man).
So being classed as a ‘race’ shoe is fair enough. Save them for the weekends if durability is your guide. But from the very first wear of these, I knew right away I’d be replacing them with the exact same model as soon as they needed it.