By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
Zoot continues their expansion into specialty running with the unique, new Men’s TT Trail Running shoe, the first off-road specific running shoe in the Zoot line.
The TT Trail reinforces Zoot’s commitment to the run specialty market and forges new ground with a multisport capable shoe designed for off road use. For the X-Terra athlete this is a boon.
Given that Zoot is a relative newcomer to the specialty run category the company deserves credit for rapid strides. Their first effort in running shoes going back to the triathlon specialty market was good. Their expansion into specialty run was even better and their first foray into off road shoes continues the trend of innovative designs for underserved footwear categories.
Trail shoes span a wide range of user requirements. Some trail runners are minimalist “moccasins” that are more like socks with a thin outsole. The opposite end of the spectrum is like a low top hiking boot. The Zoot TT Trail falls toward the lighter, run-specialty end of the spectrum.
The chassis of the Zoot TT Trail uses a buttressed stability bar that harkens to Lowa’s hiking boot designs. The medial and lateral sway bars, the blue thingies that come up on the heel counter of the shoe, prevent twisting at the heel and provide an added level of control. They also protect the outer of the shoe from rubbing against rocks, etc. Add this design to a nicely made internal heel cup and the back of the shoe fits and feels great.
Zoot didn’t ignore the upper when building a true off road design. The mid foot of the shoe uses a polymer body armor layer to protect the shoe and the mesh outer. This polymer treatment lends a little stability to the lower part of the shoe where it connects to the midsole. This feature gives way to a traditional mesh running shoe upper on the way to the lacing system.
Moving forward on the shoe the off road theme continues with one of the nicest toe bumpers we’ve seen. Toe bumpers are as much a design theme that screams “trail shoe” as they are function but Zoot didn’t go overboard here. There is enough bumper to protect your toes and make the shoe last but not enough to strap crampons onto.
Moving to the upper one of the most conspicuous design themes is the asymmetrical lacing. This is as much a styling theme as it is a functional one. Different brands have different ideas about the direction the lacing should curve. The asymmetrical lacing on Brooks racing flats used by Chrissie Wellington curves the opposite direction. The asymmetrical lacing on the TT Trail also improves shoe ventilation since the lacing area is very open and runs all the way down to the midsole at the medial forefoot.
Zoot started life as a triathlon company and then grew into being an authentic running brand. Their triathlon roots are apparent on the TT Trail though since the shoe comes out of the box with the best stretch lace, high speed donning system in the industry. Like many of Zoot’s triathlon shoes this is a one piece upper. There is no separate tongue. The lacing system spans the upper and terminated on the lateral side of the shoe with a built in lace lock system that is super lightweight and just plain elegant. In T2 of an X-Terra you simply pull the shoes on, reach down and snug the laces, tugging them up into the locked position and you are on the run. Brilliant.
Tread blocks under the shoe have an octopus tentacle-like application at the forefoot that doesn’t clog and felt great on hard packed and sandy desert surfaces. I wager this will also work well in wet conditions. One problem with some trail shoes is too much traction. The Zoot TT Trail seems to strike a good balance between traction and debris clearance.
How do the shoes feel running off road? There is a bit of a battle between the lightweight, one piece mesh upper and the relatively stable midsole and outsole design. As a result there is the occasional sensation of your foot “running off” the sole to the side. Regular trail runners won’t notice this since they are skilled at balance and foot placement. Clodhoppers like me may notice it a little. It is a reasonable exchange for the light overall weight of the shoe and the quick donning features. For X-Terra style off-road triathlons this shoe is absolutely superb.