During January it’s hard to avoid the fact that there are sales on everywhere in the UK. I’m not much of a shopper generally as I tend to replace stuff once it’s worn out, but there’s no harm in looking, right?
For the past 4 years, I’ve been running in Altra shoes. I love the fit as they give my marauding toes enough space to do their thing, and they offer me a great compromise between feel/responsiveness and comfort. Unfortunately as of February 2023, Altra only offer what I would describe as ‘light trail’ grips. So fine in the dry and great over stony trails. But once things get a bit muddy, they quickly become “exciting”, but not necessarily in a good way!
Previously I’d run in Inov8s but whilst they score well on the grip, I tended to find them too narrow a fit. And my feet aren’t that wide. I understand that they do come in different shoe widths, but when I bought my last pair of X-Talons (admittedly a long time ago) it was Hobson’s choice!
Running shoes are an essential, but expensive bit of kit. So when I saw Sportsshoes.com were selling the Higher State “Soil Shaker 2” fell shoes for £29.99 I thought I really should give them a look. (As a side note, as of February 10th 2023 they’re even cheaper at £24.99).
From the product details the Soil Shaker 2s offer:
- Ripstop Mesh Upper – strong yet breatheable material
- 7mm Multi-Directional Lugs – Offering maximum traction during extreme conditions.
- Weight – 296g.
- Drop – 8mm.
- Grippy Rubber sole – Ensures a great combination of grip and durability.
- Reinforcement features – To keep muck out and to support the foot
- Padding – Reduces risk of rubbing etc
There’s a lot more marketing words on the product itself but the above items were what stood out. In particular, an aggressive lug system to keep me upright and padding around my heel to protect my Haglunds.
They come in a multitude of colours which always baffles me with fell running shoes because the minute you hit the fells the shoes all adopt the same mud colour anyway. So a grey/brown colour ought to be sufficient, although that’s probably why I never got a job in marketing!!!
I ordered a half-size larger than my shoe size even though the guide chart stated they were true to size. I tend to be out on my feet for long periods so having some space for them to swell a little is good.
That said, I was expecting to be disappointed. How can they be as good as the alternatives which retail (and have sale prices) at least double the cost of these?
Out of the box the shoes felt sturdy, but not clunky. The fit was absolutely fine and didn’t seem to aggravate my Haglunds. I did swap out the stock insole for my Gr8ful ones and used my usual heel lift inserts. So my effective drop would be quite a bit more than standard, but I’m going with what works for my body.
The first few runs were miraculously dry and the stock colours lasted a bit longer than expected. However a muddy field on a long run off to meet up with an old colleague up at Lyme Park subsequently baptised them! Over solid-ish ground they were comfortable and there was no issue with grip. But this wasn’t the terrain I’d got them for.
Their first big test was the Pendle Way in a Day race at the start of February. I’ve already written two posts about the race and the aftermath, but didn’t want to lose the shoe review in the midst of any of that. The terrain is a mixture of everything from a bit of tarmac through to mud Glastonbury would be proud to host.
And it’s fair to say that the Pendle Way delivered on all its terrain promises with several long mudbaths to negotiate and then, once the rain set in, slippery stones in both the forest and coming down from Pendle Hill in addition to the mixed terrain on the ascent. And the proof of the pudding was that I didn’t fall over, which for those of you who know me well, is quite the accomplishment. Yes, the running poles were helping with addition points of contact when the conditions were really challenging, but I had a lot of confidence in the shoes which is a definite positive result for them.
If anything I wish I’d maybe gone another half-size bigger in order to accommodate my waterproof socks as well; it was just a bit too tight to wear them along with my normal toe-socks in these shoes and I was concerned that if everything felt a bit squished before setting off that I’d be risking far more foot problems than just accepting I would have wet feet within about 2 minutes of starting the race. But this is a tactical thing on my part and the reality is that for my normal running I wouldn’t have needed the additional space.
I do have one concern, having washed all the mud off post race, and that is about long-term durability. I haven’t got more than 100-150 miles on the shoes yet some of the hardened upper which is designed to protect the shoe (and foot) from hard and sharp debris has cracked. Time will tell if this progresses to the point where it undermines the structure of the shoe but it’s a bit disappointing to see this happen so quickly.
So would I recommend the Higher State “Soil Shaker” fell running shoe? I think it’s a cautious ‘yes’ at this time as they’ve provided excellent grip and comfort for a great price. However depending on how this cracking affects the structure of the shoes (they’ve both gone in the same place) I may have to revise my opinion. At the end of the day, if the shoes are dead after only a few miles, then it’s much more cost effective to buy more expensive ones with a longer life.
- Great grip
- a question over durability
A note from the future
I revisited these shoes in this post and in particular to answer that question about durability.