It was clear to me that grip was of paramount importance, along with, of course (as with any footwear) comfort. Clearly, I would need to amend my hillwalking style too - I would need to be more selective about where I placed my feet when wearing trail runners rather than boots. Yes, as Joe Newton has rightly commented, there are regimes to follow which mean wet feet are an acceptable encumbrance and easily resolved. It's a matter of personal taste but it's something I'd need to get used to, frankly, but as ever I am willing to give anything a try. Either way, trail runners are 2011 for me.
So - which to get? Martin Rye used a pair of La Sportiva Raptors on the TGO this year and was impressed with them which caused me to examine them a little more closely.
The La Sportiva Raptor is a neutral mountain running shoe with Sticky FriXion® rubber outsoles which, it is claimed, grip the rock like a climbing shoe. In fact, they are FriXion XF which means they're extra grippy. Given my search parameters, this sounds promising. The central aspect of the sole contains the La Sportiva Impact Brake System and the focus of that sole is on shock absorbing, particularly in the heel area. The IBS (quiet in the cheap seats) is intended to reduce the impact on the foot by 20%. Given the fact that I'll be ascending, and therefore descending, frequently and over significant periods, that seems like another tick in the right box for the Raptor. The aggressive and belligerent lugs coupled with that support equate to the potential for this to be the perfect mountain shoe.
Further, the upper lining of the Raptor is a very rugged mesh rather than, like for example the Terroc 330, a fine mesh. This may lessen the ability for feet to dry once wet but they'll be far better protected from rock and flora on the trail. I suspect they will mean warmer feet, particularly on summer days, but in comparison to boots that seems an almost non-existant irritant. In cooler days, they will, it seems, be warmer than a thinner mesh shoe. The fit is tight and snug - the heel area where all that shock absorbing technology has been funnelled, doesn't so much caress as cling. This is largely because the achilles tendon area sits tight against the tendon and then there is appreciable bevelled depression for the heel. I am going to try two different thicknesses of sock - my Smartwool Medium Hiking Crew and a thinner, trail running sock from Thorlo. I'll see which suits me best and revert in due course.
Comfort is essential and the Raptor is certainly comfortable. It's hard to tell what a shoe will feel like in a 50 miles time from when you are strolling around at home attempting to work out if your toe will touch the end on steep descents or whether you'll end up with heel blisters from the lack of a snug fit at the heel. However, from what I can tell so far I am quietly excited about taking these up into the Black Mountain/Mynydd Du in the Brecon Beacons next week.
At 438g, the Raptor is something like half the weight of the Scarpa boots I usually use, and significantly, they are only 30g more than one of Terroc 330 (battered as they are at 408g). These are EU 47 sizes. Yet the Raptor is far more sturdy and supportive. I have said nothing thus far about the sharp contrasting black and yellow design - it's simultaneously gregarious and malevolent - garish yet screaming adventurous intent. I like it but it'll scare the sheep.