Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column mystified by the many different models of trail running shoes now available.”What exactly is a ‘trail running’ shoe?” we ask ourselves. Is it a running shoe that’s used for trail running? Or is it just a running shoe that’s brown?It used to be, just a few short years ago, if we wanted to run around Summit County on the trails, we ran in just plain old running shoes. That was one of the wonderful things about living here. The trails were free, and we could run up and down the mountains with the wind in our hair without any special gear. Summer was great that way. No need for skis and bindings and boots and poles and tune-ups and lift tickets – which all got more expensive every year.Summer on the trails was freedom, and, as long as we avoided the heavy bike-traffic trails, quiet and peaceful.Trail running in Summit County remains a sublime experience. It’s still possible to run for miles up here without seeing another human being. And, unlike hiking, even if we come across a loud group of day hikers from some unspecified place back East, we can just run right past them, leaving their noise behind.The problem with trail running at 10,000 feet is not crowded conditions. Most flatland runners don’t get far when they come up here to run. Sure, runners come from everywhere to run in the Breck Crest Marathon, but compare that event’s field to the numbers that run the Bolder Boulder and you’ll see overcrowding isn’t a big problem here.The problem is the gear. Since 1994, when Adidas introduced the first specialized trail running shoe, the number of shoe companies jumping on the trail running bandwagon has gotten ridiculous.Montrail, New Balance, Nike, North Face, Salomon, Timberland, Vasque, Garmont, Pearl Izumi, La Sportiva, Five Ten, Columbia, Hi-Tec, Inov-8, Tecnic, Teva, Lafuma, Merrell, Asolo, Saucony, Asics and even, wonder of wonders, Helly Hansen!! All these companies are trying to get a piece of the trail running market.Who’s wearing all these shoes? Who are they being designed for? According to an article in GearTrends Magazine, shoe company marketing experts acknowledge the vast majority of trail running shoes sold are never used for running on dirt. They’re cool, they’re comfy, and, if you wear them, other people might think you’re a trail runner.La Sportiva sales manager Mark Day wasn’t embarrassed to tell GearTrends what he was looking for in a “trail running” shoe.”I need what I call ‘the Starbucks shoe.’ I want to see my shoes on soccer moms’ feet who have to walk around puddles …. What color is their money?” he said.What does this mean to us as we shop for this year’s pair of shoes?Confusion, that’s what. When we peruse the shoes at our local shoe store, we no longer have any faith in the label “trail running.” It makes us a little crazy. Not only are there simply too many choices, there isn’t a single model that could be considered “cheap.”Trail running shoes as a fashion statement. It almost makes us want to run barefoot. ***On a more serious note: Who would steal prayer flags? There has to be some doubly bad karma associated with such an act, and Mark called to let us know it happened on Peak 10. Mark’s friend, Will, was killed in an accident and last month, Will’s friends and family came out to hold a ceremony in his memory on the peak. Will’s mother had brought prayer flags from Cape Cod, and friends and family held the ceremony and the flags were placed along a fence at the top of the peak, next to some flags that had been there for more than 10 years in memory of a man named Charlie. Three days ago, Mark was skiing on Peak 10 and noticed the flags were gone. He called ski patrol and asked “everyone in high places” what had happened to the flags. Nobody seems to know, and Mark wanted to issue a Scum Alert!! Scum Alert!! to whomever it was that swiped them.***It’s Sunday folks, and we’re out, wearing our brand new $90 Montrails, hanging out in Starbucks looking cool.
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