Last Saturday, I thought about jogging, looked out of the window, and saw it was raining. Then I went out anyway, because it was a good chance to test out my new Adidas trail shoes.
New Adidas shoes? Didn’t you just buy a pair of Mizunos, Matt? Yup. But Sports Direct’s media agency (hi, Lucie!) had seen that I was looking for new shoes, and offered to send me a free pair, in exchange for a (free-from-editorial-influence, honest) review.
Heading to Sports Direct’s running shoes section, my first reaction was choice paralysis. Four hundred plus pairs of men’s running shoes. And, sadly, no indication of which ones might suit people with flat, wide feet and a tendency to over-pronate.
So, there’s my first observation — don’t buy shoes from the web unless you’ve already been to a good running shoe shop in person and found out what you actually need. And bought at least your first pair of shoes from them; fair’s fair. Take it from someone who’s suffered from plantar fasciitis, you want to make sure you’re wearing the right shoes.
I decided on trail shoes because they’d just get occasional use, and I’ve heard there’s less need for motion control when you run on uneven ground. Plus it gave me the chance to try something quite different from my normal shoes.
Overcoming my paralysis, I opted for the Adidas Kanadia 4. Aggressively styled in red, black and orange, the bobbles of their “TRAXION” soles make it very apparent that the Kanadias are designed a muddy hill rather than a smooth pavement. Definitely more showy than I’d normally go for, but quite fun to look at, I thought, as I took them out of the box.
Trying them on, I was disconcerted by how small the Kanadias felt on my feet. My everyday shoes are an 8, so I’d have thought a 9 would’ve been big enough, length-wise, at least. These felt borderline, especially on the right foot.
Looking around the web, I see warnings from a shoe shop, and several of the reviews on the Adidas site and on wiggle.co.uk that these shoes seem undersized. Adidas, that’s really not very clever, especially when so many people are shopping on the web.
Still, I couldn’t tell for sure if they were actually too small, or just feeling a bit constrictive compared to my Mizunos, so I figured I’d take them out for a test run. I had nothing to lose, after all.
The Kanadias were interesting during my urban warm-up (the grass and mud only starts about a half-mile from my house on my normal routes.) They were skittish on my stone front steps, but calmed down out on pavement and tarmac. You could definitely tell those bobbles were there on the soles. It was reminiscent of being on mountain bike tyres on a normal road. Comfortable and safe, and fine to run in, but obviously not moving on the surface they were designed for.
They cheered up once I hit the south side of the Avon and got off the tarmac. I took a few shortcuts across wet, muddy grass to try them out, and felt very sure-footed. The Kanadias held my feet well, with very little movement around the ankle.
Then onto the next test — the towpath puddles. After a decent amount of rain, the towpath ends up with plenty of pretty much unavoidable puddles, standing water from side to side across the path, several strides long.
There are a couple of approaches to designing running shoes for water incursion. One approach is to try to waterproof the shoes, and maybe add some stylish running gaiters. I’ve heard that it’s hard to make this approach effective and non-overheating, no matter how “breathable” your waterproof membrane.
The other approach is, literally, to suck it up. Accept that fact that you’re going to get water in your shoes, and deal with it, by using materials that wick it away as best they can, and don’t start rubbing badly when they get wet. This is the approach the Kanadias take, and it seems to work pretty well, as I found out after about the fifth large towpath puddle.
Yes, my feet got cold and wet when I splashed through a puddle, but they warmed up pretty quickly again afterwards (helped by my X‑Socks, too, I’m sure.) After their soaking, the shoes still felt pretty comfortable, and there wasn’t a big increase in weight.
Out of the gravelly towpath and into the mud of Leigh Woods, and the Kanadias really came into their own. Up steep hills, through slippery grass, plodding through mud and on gravel paths, I stayed secure. On my last Leigh Woods run, I’d noted my Mizunos sliding around at the boggy start of one of the paths; in the same spot the Kanadias gripped well and I felt much more stable. The shoes also kept their bounce, despite being pretty soggy, and there was no sensation of any rubbing that might have led to a blister.
Finally I broke out of the woods and back onto tarmac for the cool-down jog to Clifton Village, back to the slightly “mountain bike tyre” feeling, but perfectly reasonable to run in. The only place I had problems again was on the wet paving stones of the hill back down to Hotwells. There the Kanadias felt slippy and slidey again; not deadly, but enough to make me want to take extra care.
On the downhill stretch, I also felt my toes pushing up against the front of the shoe, reminding me that the Adidas sizing was a bit screwy. Presumably I’d be better off in a size 10. But that would be the first size 10 shoe I’d ever owned, so I’d conclude that Adidas definitely have got their size wrong on the Kanadias.
Which is a shame. Because — even though the “mud-release surface” of the “TRAXION” soles really did work, leaving the underneath of the Kanadias surprisingly clean by the time I got home — you really can’t return a pair of trail shoes after you’ve given them a proper test. Because they look like this.
Overall, I like the Kanadias. They look good, they’re very grippy on the trail, they cope well with being waterlogged, and the mud-release soles do just what they say. I’ll definitely be trying them out some more, especially when I’m heading fairly directly for mud, grass and gravel.
But if you want to give them a try, I’d recommend starting in a pair one size bigger than you’d expect.
Thanks, Sports Direct, for giving me a chance to try them out!
Full disclosure: I reviewed the Kanadia 4’s after being given a choice of any sub-£50 running shoe from Sports Direct, for free. No conditions were attached apart from a link to their running shoes section appearing in my review, which seemed fair enough.