A Gym Buff Tries Trail Running in Three Different Sneakers

Merrell Agility Peak Flex
The Merrell Agility Peak Flex, on foot.
Peter Verry

I refuse to run unless I’m in the woods. Treadmills are painfully boring, and the thought of having to dodge cars and droves of people for cardio is unsettling. But the openness of trails provides an experience that’s equal parts serene and exhilarating.

Ahead of the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer expo, I decided to hit three Long Island, N.Y., parks in trail running sneakers from brands attending the event. And with the arrival of the Salt Lake City showcase, here’s my recount of how it felt to run in looks from Merrell, Salomon and Adidas Outdoor that are in stores and online now. 

Merrell Agility Peak Flex (Men’s), $130; merrell.com
Merrell Agility Peak Flex (Women’s), $130; merrell.com

I’ve hit the trails in Merrell shoes before and particularly enjoyed running in its All Out Crush model. That style isn’t overly cushioned, which allowed me to feel roots and rocks when planting my feet. What surprised me about the Agility Peak Flex is that the cushioning is plush, way more cushioned than the All Out Crush, and yet your ability to feel the terrain isn’t sacrificed. Another plus to running in the Agility Peak Flex is its grip when running downhill. Significant portions of the Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park feature steep downward slopes covered with loose sand, which makes the run a bit tricky. But the shoe’s grip was outstanding, and there was no slipping whatsoever on the descent.

Salomon Sense Ride (Men’s), $120; salomon.com
Salomon Sense Ride (Women’s), $120; salomon.com

Unlike with Merrell, I’d had no prior experience running in Salomon. And after my first go in a shoe from the brand, it won’t be my last. I took the Sense Ride out at David Weld Sanctuary in Saint James, which boasts flat land riddled with roots and rocks. The shoe’s cushioning, which gives it a feel of a plush road running shoe, was perfect for these trails, absorbing the impact from the rough ground. I also went after a day of heavy rain and was pleasantly surprised how well the shoes gripped the slippery wet terrain. Its Quicklace system is also a bonus; putting them on and taking them off was easy and provided a snug fit.

Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic (Men’s), $134.95; dsw.com
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic (Women’s), $134.95; dsw.com

Adidas Outdoor’s reputation as a go-to brand for nature’s most ambitious adventurers is burgeoning. And with products like the Terrex Agravic trail runner, it’s clear why. The sneaker is well-rounded, and the brand’s pairing of soft Boost cushioning with a durable and grippy Continental rubber outsole allowed for a great ride on aggressive terrain. The Terrex Agravic performed exceptionally well over the loose rocks of Trail View State Park in Woodbury, forming to their shape and allowing for a great push-off without throwing off your stride. The lockdown provided by the lacing system is also worth mentioning; it kept my foot secure throughout the run.