'Ultimate Ultra-Light, Semi-Oversized' (Yep, that's what they call 'em)

Beefy and padded but still ultra-light? That’s the premise put out by Tecnica with its new Inferno X-LITE trail-running shoe.

Though it does not look the part, Tecnica calls its Inferno X-LITE an “ultimate ultra-light” shoe. At about 11 ounces a foot, that “lightweight” designation is not too far off, especially for what is a very substantial shoe with a wallop of padding underneath.

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Super size! Inferno X-LITE shoes retail for $110

Built with an oversize platform, the X-LITE has a stiff forefoot and is designed to encourage forward “rolling” and cushioning as you run. This summer, as I train for the multi-day Trans Rockies Run in August, I have gravitated toward minimal running shoes with almost no padding and certainly no “roll.”

But the X-LITE, surprisingly, have risen as a shoe I keep putting on for rugged runs and hikes. On rocky terrain, the cushioning absorbs the blows and pampers the foot. The “rolling” motion makes for an easy, if not somewhat inefficient, way to run.

Where a minimalist shoe simulates barefoot running through the direct translation of impact to the foot, the X-LITE absorbs a lot of shock in the stiff forefoot. I like running in the shoe but find myself plodding a bit more heavily than if wearing a lighter design that holds the user accountable for mistakes.

The forward-rolling design of the shoe is evident when running. As a runner who consciously strives for a mid-foot strike, I believe the X-LITE responds well with a quick translation of energy to the forefoot. In practicality, the shoe works well if you are conscious of your stride but won’t penalize you for heel striking.

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Sole of the X-LITEs

Further, I like the wide toe-box and the fit of this shoe. Overall, for the right runner type, Tecnica has come up with an impressive design.

What has not impressed me is its durability. During a long hike last month, one of the Infernos lugs tore partially off the shoe. Then a few chunks of rubber near the toe were ripped out clean by the rocky terrain of a canyon in Utah.

I contacted Tecnica and the rep said my blow-out was the first reported and would be covered under warranty. To be fair, I was putting the shoes through a serious beating on a canyoneering trip when the tread ripped out.

Another durability concern: The shoes’ speed-lace system, which lets you lace ‘em on without tying thanks to a plastic sliding cincher, is slowly failing.

After using the shoes a total of about 20 times in two months, the speed laces have begun to degrade and the core is visible in a couple places. Once broken, repairing the system, particularly in the wilderness, would be a lot tougher than traditional shoe laces.

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Said to promote a “rolling stride”

Overall, I have enjoyed the Inferno X-LITE. I suspect most people will not suffer the same durability concerns as I did in my admittedly extreme test.

If you are in search of ultimate protection underfoot — with a manageable weight — lace on these Tecnicas and give them a try.

—Sean McCoy is a contributing writer based in Denver.

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