The explosion in popularity of trail running in Australia has seen our boarders flung open and surge in overseas brands (such as Innov8, LaSportiva and Salomon for example) trying their hand in the Australian market. These brands whilst initially unknown in Australia are well established and hugely popular overseas and have each gone on to now be commonplace in this great brown land. One of the new (but old) brands to enter our market is Raidlight, established in France in 1999 they are extremely popular in Europe for their high end, tailor engineered adventure products and regularly dominate the Marathon Des Sable with their tailored, specific equipment.
Raidlight make a range of products including apparel, packs, accessories and shoes. The latest off the production line and under review today is the Raidlight Trail Dual Finger shoe.
The Dual Finger is inspired by Japanese traditional shoe design and has been made in partnership with Japanese brand LAFEET. The shoe and sports a number of interesting features including a split toe design, customisable cushioning system and free resoling for the life of the shoe.
Weight: 270g (pair)
Grip: 3mm multidirectional lugs.
The first thing that catches your eye when you open the box on the Dual Finger is the distinctive split toe. This design (true to Japanese footwear) divides the big toe from the rest of toes within the toe box to allow independent movement of the two. This design is lends itself to greater proprioception during the landing and toe off phase of the running gait and as such tends to suit those runners who prefer greater movement and flexibility within the forefoot. The split is long enough to ensure movement but not so long as to touch or impede the webbing between the big and second toes. This approach is much similar to that used by minimalist shoe company Zem which produced a split toe slipper style shoe, however these where never greatly successful in the trail market due to their very minimal design and that’s where Raidlight have stepped in and picked up the slack.
The Dual Finger has a wide toe box with plenty of room and width throughout ensuring there is an extra bit of wiggle room for those who need it. In comparison the dual finger makes the New Balance MT range of “wide” toe boxes seem narrow in comparison.
The midsole of the Dual Finger provides plenty of cushioning with a soft but responsive foam composite however Raidlight have gone one step further and added in a customisable cushioning system. Under the heel of the inner sole, within the foot bed, is a removable/replaceable pad that can be switched out to provide either a more cushioned or stiffer ride depending on the users preference or intent for the shoe ie racing or training. The foot bed of the shoe provides good flexibility under the forefoot but maintains some structure under the mid/rear foot again lending this shoe the capacity for long distance sessions for the average runner.
The grip of the Dual Finger sole is impressive for its design with deep moderately spaced rubber lugs close enough to provide even grip but spaced ideally to shed excess mud/dirt. The lugs on the front 2/3 of the shoe are rear facing propulsion lugs whilst those under the last 1/3 of the heel are forward facing for extra grip while descending.
The upper of the shoe is made from a tough looking mesh fabric and there is plenty of foam padding around the top of the foot, ankle and heel. This is evidence that Raidlight have opted for a more comfortable ride as opposed to weight saving stripped out shoe. The shoe also features a ridged heel cup and protective toe/forefoot covering of textile fabric.
The Dual Finger is an interesting shoe that has been designed to provide a unique freedom of movement under the fore foot whilst still retaining enough features and structure to make it appealing for long distances. It performed well on the hard pack and softer trails where it was tested and while durability hasn’t been established as of yet there is something to say about Raidight having the confidence to offer free resoling for the life of the shoe.
It is no doubt that the shoe won’t be for everyone but I feel it will work best for those seeking more forefoot movement and toe flexibility whilst avoiding true minimal shoes and retaining the ability to churn out mega miles. It should also be on the list for anyone seeking a wider toe box (and shoe in general) as it has the widest toe box of any shoe I have seen to date.
For more information check out http://www.hardcorebrands.com.au the Australian distributer.