Much like ski touring, trail running is having a bit of a heyday. Gear has evolved in both sports such that there are lots of ample options to fit a variety of ambitions, conditions and bodies. One brand that’s been making ground in both disciplines is Dynafit, which these days is definitely not just for running uphill on skis.
The Alpine is a latest addition to Dynafit’s mountain running options (or we could call it ‘sky running’ if we really want to be aspirational). It’s not surprising that a brand so well regarded in the world of moving efficiently up and down mountains would carry that enthusiasm into running kicks.
The Alpine is a mid-volume shoe featuring sticky Vibram MegaGrip lugs, a 6mm heel stack (measured drop from heel to forefoot) ‘preloaded’ for extra spring, a rockered sole design, ample cushion and a breathable upper. It’s an all-around lightweight trail shoe for technical terrain.
Here are my thoughts on the shoes after a few weeks of running around mountains in Colorado, Wyoming and Washington.
Comfort and Fit
Out of the box, the shoes fit my mid-volume feet well, though I noticed the forefoot just a bit more snug than the Saucony Peregrine 11 I reviewed last month. Over time, the upper material on the Alpines has stretched a bit, but I anticipate the fabric around my pinky toes to be the first to show wear.
The Alpine has a traditional lacing system that snugs the shoes around the instep and forefoot. I did notice a little looseness in the heel, especially after growing accustomed to the Peregrines, which are designed to lock the heel in the pocket. This didn’t impact performance in any big way, but was noticeable. Otherwise the shoes have a minimal, streamlined fit, akin to a slipper.
The 6mm drop on the Alpine is 2mm more than the 4mm I typically run in. This difference, coupled with a surprisingly large amount of cushion, resulted in a subtle feeling of support and stability whether running or walking. I’d call this a positive.
Protection and Stability
On the trail, the slim profile of the shoes lends to a nimble and fast feel. They are easy to maneuver over and around rocks and stumps on climbs or descents. The lugs bite nicely into soft dirt and the cushion prevents too much jarring on hardpack, rocks or pavement. They are exceptionally comfortable for long gravel road jaunts. In general I’ve found them to perform like my favorite kind of running shoe, the kind that makes me forget about my feet.
On rocks and scree, the soles stuck and gripped in a comforting and confidence building way. They did have a limit on rain-slick rocks in southeast Wyoming’s Medicine Bow mountains, and I had to slow my roll to stop from faceplanting. On drier conditions, though grip wasn’t a concern.
The uppers are comprised of light, breathable mesh ideal for hot summer ventures. On a recent run/hike to Easton Glacier on Washington’s Mount Baker, there were a few stream crossings where getting the feet wet was unavoidable. Though water seeped into the shoes, it drained well after. My feet didn’t feel water logged or even uncomfortably wet like I have in shoes with thicker material. They also dried out by the time I laced them up for a run the next day.
The Alpines are easily the most cushioned shoes I’ve run in lately, and my knees do feel better for it. But, it does raise questions about how long the cushion will take to pack out. After roughly 80 miles of 60% trail running and 40% road, I haven’t noticed a big difference yet.
I’m also often skeptical how long aggressive trail lugs will last. Of course it depends on the kinds of terrain and to some degree the individual runner but I’m keeping an eye to see how these wear compared to other soles.
For the runner with a mid-volume to narrower forefoot that wants a light, responsive, stable and cushioned trail shoe, The Dynafit Alpine (available in both men’s or women’s) is a solid option. And of course, it’s Dynafit, so the color options are all flashy and fun, too.