When I did my very first trail race many years ago, I had no idea trail shoes were a thing. My road shoes did not fare well on the slippery, muddy course.
Having an introductory pair of trail shoes like the Asics Alpine XT 2 would have made that race experience so much better.
And that’s who Asics is targeting with this basic trail shoe — road runners who are interested in trying out trails.
The shoe (6 mm drop) is middle-of-the-road when it comes to weight, 10.5 ounces for an average men’s size.
Don’t think too much about the name, the Alpine XT won’t help you traverse the Alps.
It will, however, allow newer runners to experiment on smooth dirt trails, especially ones that are accessible via a sidewalk or other paved surface.
The shoes can handle basic dirt trails. But are not recommended for even moderate terrain, wet surfaces or rocky sections.
For beginner runners the shoe can work well because it does offer a balanced amount of protection and cushioning. The shoes are snug; some would say tight.
So if you are interested in trying out trails — and these shoes — definitely try them on first to get a good idea of the sizing.
Beginner trail runners will likely experiment on basic trails, getting used to running on a new surface, some uphill runs and a windy, twisty path. The Alpine XT will be quite useful in this scenario.
However, as the runner becomes more comfortable with the great outdoors, he or she will find that trails are often technical. The shoe’s protective layers will only go so far.
For example, its toe box does not offer the protection of most other trail shoes I have tried.
Bottom line is that a jagged rock in the runner’s way could be more problematic with this shoe than most others on the market.
On the plus side, its gusseted tongue is useful in protecting the foot from loose dirt and debris.
The minimal overlays are tight but lock down the midfoot and heel while the lacing system works well to keep the foot secure.
The shoe’s durability is not in question within limits. It should last as long as the newbie runner needs to assess whether trail running is something they want to continue.
The shoe should easily get 300 to 500 or more basic trail miles.
Although my suspicion would be that most trail runners would be looking for a more sophisticated shoe by that point as they become more familiar with trail running.
But all is not lost with the Alpine XT — the shoes could easily be transitioned to a hiking shoe or one that is worn while doing yardwork.
Since these shoes are targeting newbies to trails, speed is not part of the equation.
However, when I pushed the pace on basic, flat, runnable sections, the shoes did not hinder me from hitting a sustainable fast pace.
That said these won’t make the runner faster, and they won’t provide the responsiveness needed for more challenging trail runs.
The lug pattern is intended to allow the runner to transition between roads and dirt trails, which is in line with its target audience.
However, that also means that the lugs don’t provide enough grip to suitably handle mud, snow, ice, roots and other conditions that more experienced trail runners covet.
The mesh upper is fairly comfortable, highly breathable and adaptable. It follows the rest of the shoe in being a lightweight solution for trail runners.
Asics uses what is calls an SpEVA full length-midsole foam with a sockliner that lies atop a lightweight midsole as an extra layer of comfort.
SpEVA provides lightweight underfoot cushioning, thanks to its blend of EVA and rubber ball material. What this means to the runner is that the shoe is designed to prevent an early breakdown.
The fit can be on the tight side, hence the advice to try out a pair first to ensure the correct fit. Or order a half-size larger, especially if you have wide feet.
The second version of the Alpine XT offers very few upgrades from the original. The SpEVA foam is the most notable addition while the upper has a new design aimed for a more secure fit.
Asics is likely spending more time in research and development of higher-end trail shoes.
They know what this model can do and who the intended consumers are — neutral pronators who are new to the trail running experience.
Simply put, this is a good, basic option for those looking to try out the trails. For anyone else, take a pass and look for trail shoes that are more in line with your specific needs.
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