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THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIRST LOOK

Keeping it real -- and dry, to boot

The Winter Trainer is ready to tackle those snowy trails with a cold-sensitive technology to keep you on track.

November 22, 2005|Scott Doggett | Times Staff Writer

RUNNING on Southern California trails usually means dodging rocks, tree roots and maybe the occasional post-storm puddle. But for long runs in real winter landscapes -- that's right, in that white stuff called snow -- even the most rugged trail shoe won't keep you on track and dry.

The new Winter Trainer by Adidas that's designed for runners to plow through slushy and snowy routes has more wow factor than an ice-skating bear.

A built-in gaiter, stiff rubber cleats and a bold mix of wicking materials (including the ever-favorite insulating neoprene) throughout prevent water from getting in.

The Winter Trainer features the same matter that Adidas uses in all of its running shoes -- adiPRENE for shock absorption in the heel and adiPRENE+ in the forefoot -- for superior cushioning.

The heels are designed so that they can attach to snowshoes (very wise), and removable insoles allow wearers to insert their favorites with ease (nice).

A temperature-sensitive compound turns the otherwise soft rubber outsole as rigid as rebar in freezing weather to allow for better traction in snow. I don't know of another shoe on the market that uses this technology. Dozens of cleat-like rubber spikes jutting from deep treads is the key to improving traction. These didn't scratch wood floors at room temperature but did became hard as nails after a few minutes in a freezer.

The absence of snow in L.A.-area mountains last week prevented ideal testing conditions, and a spin on the ice at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center proved an unsuitable testing ground.

After 30 minutes on the ice, the soft points that had quickly become steel-like in the freezer stayed soft, as did the deep, diamond-shaped tread around the points. In this instance, the shoes didn't provided any more traction than a pair of tennies.

Although Adidas says Winter Trainers are "made for ice and snow," spokeswoman Cate Millar says that online retailer Sahalie, the exclusive seller, makes no such claim.

"They envision that you're going to be on a trail," Millar said. "It's not really intended for ice."

If you're used to running in low tops, these mid-cuts will feel strange. But they beat running in soaking low tops or stiff light-hikers. And at 20.5 ounces each, they're much lighter. Moreover, they are extremely well made. There's no shortage of double stitching, and rip-stop nylon is used in the gaiters.

All told, the Winter Trainers are an innovative product that fill a cold niche. And at $110 a pair, they won't eat up too much cold cash.

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