Helly Hansen is a Swedish outdoor apparel and equipment company that specializes in durable rain gear. In addition, they have a full line of shoes including several trail runners. We put one of these trail shoes, the Helly Hansen Trail Lizards, to the test at Long Island's Stillwell Preserve. Our exploration of the preserve covered over 4 miles of variable terrain that included wooded trails and open fields. The challenging course varied from packed dirt to mountain bike singletrack to loose sandy soils and wide puddles. This variety allowed us to prove the shoes' versatility.
Initial impressions for the men's shoe raised concerns about the total volume of the toe box, which seemed roomy at the expense of side-to-side stability. The shoe provided more than adequate front-to-back stability up and down steep hills. The Trail Lizards felt responsive off the heel in a way that encouraged forward motion.
The woman's shoe offers the same features and last as the men's shoe although it did not have the same roominess in the toe box. The most you can ask from a shoe is to do its job without broadcasting its existence and the Trail Lizards did just that. For the first quarter mile I actually forgot I was testing the Trail Lizards. While the soles were rugged, they still allow you to feel the trail.
The Trail Lizards proved themselves as a good shoe for variable surfaces but the roominess, especially on the men's model, worked against us near the end of the run. The instability from shifts during lateral movements made the shoes less comfortable by the time we reached the four mile mark. The lack of waterproofing in the shoe undercut their utility as it required that we awkwardly step around large puddles that could be forded directly with a more capable Gore-Tex equipped shoe. Another limitation to the shoe is its performance on harder surfaces. We found that their responsiveness on the trail did not translate well to paved roads. The men's shoe did not provide enough support in the arch to allow comfortable runs for more than a quarter of a mile. The woman's shoe fell short on the street as well, as Adventure Girl reported pronounced shin pain after a couple of miles running on the road. Granted, these shoes are not marketed for road running.
Many trail running shoes now come with drawcord style lacing systems that do not require tying. The Helly Hansen's lacing is traditional and employs webbing in the place of eyelets. Even though it wasn't overly engineered, the lacing allowed for a comfortable, snug fit that again helped combat the roominess in the toe box.
The men's models come in four different color combinations and the women's are offered in three. All available colors would well withstand the inevitable dirt accumulated during trail running. All in all, it's an attractive shoe.
We pondered the question of whether the Helly Hansen Trail Lizards would be a good replacement for my New Balance 460's or Adventure Girl's Salomon XA Pro 3D XCR trail runners. Due to the limitations we experienced on the trail we both felt that we'd stick with the incumbents for our upcoming 10K trail race. The Helly Hansens will be put to good use for shorter trail runs in dry conditions, especially when a lighter shoe is desired.
Reported by Adventure Girl and the Emerging Runner