Tetons & Wasatch Give Tara Lite High Marks
Tetons & Wasatch Give Tara Lite High Marks
June 22, 2011
The first time I tried on the Tara Lite trail running shoes, I wasn’t so sure they were all I’d hoped they might be. They felt a little odd, especially since they weren’t quite as tight on my foot as a laced shoe. Adding to the concern was the fact that the shoes incorporate a toe-dividing thong strap, exactly like a sandal. I generally don’t wear sandals. Walking in them also felt a little strange initially, because this shoe by GoLite has a zero-rise heel and a relatively beefy arch support. All of that made the whole package feel disarmingly foreign.
That’s all due to the niche that GoLite is aiming for with this shoe: trail runners who want to incorporate the best aspects of barefoot running with the mountains, without suffering the results of barefoot shoes that offer lesser padding. (Think bruises on the soles of the feet after running full steam across flotsam and jetsam..)
The first time I ran in the Tara Lite’s, everything clicked. And no, the first run was not some double digit mileage length test. I ran about 50 feet, across a street. And in those 50 feet, I saw the light. The shoes felt good – really good, in fact. They were almost inexplicably good. They felt incredibly soft on impact, yet springy. But there was something else – my heel wasn’t high in the sky where the average running shoe puts it.
Many comfortable running miles later, a realization hit me. I’d forgotten one of the unique aspects of the shoes, which explained their exquisite feel. The GoLite Tara Lite sole is inverted. The soft, cushiony part of the sole is on the outside of the shoe, while the firmer stuff comprises the layer closer to the foot. GoLite refers to this as ‘soft against the ground.’ It’s a spot-on description, and makes for an almost unbelievably soft running experience. Since the day that everything clicked, I’ve been a huge fan of the Tara Lite’s.
Here are some details on what comprises this very solid trail oriented shoe:
Vibrant orange, with the Velcro closures cinching things down. The toe guard is also visible.
Easy on and off: No shoelaces to tie, nor tangle on trail detritus. Velcro straps located on the forefoot and heel take care of the fastening detail.
Thick, supportive sole with excellent trail lugs: Barefoot running is all about improving one’s form by leveling the foot. However, many barefoot style shoes leave a lot to be desired when it comes to sole thickness providing a barrier between the foot and all those rocks on the trail. The Tara Lite keeps the feet protected when stepping on rough material.
Toe guard: The entire toebox is protected by firm material – as well as upturned sole rubber, keeping toe stubs on rocks, roots, and the like as painless as possible. Perfect for those unexpected Superman launches.
Interior toe divider strap: A single strap divides the big toe from the rest.
Zero rise heel: Run without heel strikes, improving running form while simultaneously reducing the risk of knee injury.
Weight: 12 ¼ ounces per shoe on my scale, for a men’s size 10.
Let’s examine the pros I found:
For a guy who doesn’t wear thong style sandals, I’ve found the Tara Lites to be about as comfortable as a pair of, well, slippers. (I wear slippers frequently.) This is the most comfortable pair of shoes in my present stable.
Sliding the shoes on without undoing the Velcro strap is easy and fast; there are pull tabs at the heel and tongue that make this simple.
The arch support runs a bit counter to the purist barefoot theme, but that’s okay. For anyone transitioning to, or un-enamored with ‘pure’ barefoot running, this shoe offers a suitable compromise as a go-between regular trail runners and pure barefoot shoes.
The soles are grippy in addition to providing a soft landing surface for each rocky mountain stride. They’re also plenty wide and offer tons of stability.
I was curious if the toe strap would chafe or irritate while running. I haven’t experienced either. It’s definitely noticeable, but not uncomfortable in any way.
Cons are few and far between with these trail runners. I found just a few:
The footbed can tend to stick to one’s foot, partially coming out when the shoe is removed. This happens more in bare feet than when socks are worn.
Not a huge con really, but these shoes do require specialized toe socks such as those made by Injinji. That, or one can run without socks, which removes a layer of blister protection.
The Velcro closures make it a little difficult to cinch the shoes very tight when the terrain is loose and rocky. Not impossible mind you, but the Velcro needs a good, hard tug to fully engage the winching system and tighten the shoe.
Overall, I am really, really impressed with the GoLite Tara Lites. GoLite’s designers have created a trail running shoe that offers ease of use and incorporates impressive innovation. All that in a pair of shoes about as comfortable as slippers, while providing solid foot protection and support on trail runs. They easily earn a 95 out of 100.