Freet Mudgrip Trail Running 101
15th April 2014 by Team Epic
I got my hands on a pair of the Freet Mudgrips the other day in order to try them out in the hills and see if they stood up alongside the big boys of fell running shoes.
First off, the fit – They slipped on easily and felt pretty comfy from the off, if a little wide for my heel. I used my own Superfeet in them as they come supplied with a fairly basic foam insert and to wear anything other than my Superfeet now feels wrong!
They use an elasticated lace system with a toggle drawcord closure that is obviously very simple and allows the foot to flex within the shoe even when done up tightly. I’ve never been a fan of these closure systems compared to normal laces but I was willing to be converted.
One of the first things you notice when you put them on is the material they have used for the uppers; a sort of beefed up softshell that, like the laces, flexes and gives with the movement of the foot. Freet specialise in minimalist footwear that lets the foot feel the ground and have a range of ‘barefoot’ footwear such as the 4+1 Barefoot Shoe and the Mudgrip is almost the off-road extension of that range.
The sole looks the part; deep lugs give bite in soft ground whilst gripping on rock and look pretty similar to most other fell shoes on the market.
I have tried a few brands of shoe over the past few years but I always seem to come back to Inov8, mainly because they fit my feet and handle most terrain well so the Freet had some living up to do.
We set off after work up the road to Low Sweden Bridge and began the climb up Low Pike and the start of the Fairfield Horseshoe. So far, so good; the shoes felt fine on the road, pavement and rocky path. Giving grip where needed and plenty of sensitivity underfoot. As we got onto the muddier ground, the lugs began to bite and held onto all but the wettest, loosest stuff. The only let down at this point was as we bog-hopped our way between High Pike and Dove Crag, the shoes began to slip and loosen on my heel. The mud was pretty thick and as I’ve already said, the heel wasn’t the best fit on me but I found I had to retighten the laces every few minutes to keep them on my feet.
My concerns about the lacing system had been realised and it definitely slowed me down as we progressed along the tops. Once off the mud however, they were back to their normal performance and held well on the loose rock that marks the undulating ascent to Fairfield. On wet, smooth rock they do slide a bit but then most shoes like this do as the lugs don’t provide enough surface area or friction as an approach shoe or walking boot. Meanwhile the burly softshell uppers managed to keep the worst of the water out and though by no means waterproof; my socks and feet weren’t caked in mud afterwards as with some mesh shoes I have.
In a flare of brilliance we decided to take the wrong path off the summit and descended toward Grizedale Tarn rather than Great Rigg as intended. This however, gave a good excuse to try out the shoes off-path on wet grass as we took a straight line of descent down to Tongue Gill and the road beyond. Once again the heel was the main let down, though it never fully came free, I did feel the need to keep retightening the laces and never felt quite secure as we bombed downhill. The sole also showed its limitations as I frequently slipped on the slick grass where other, perhaps more thoroughbred, fell shoes would have held fast. We soon reached the path (I perhaps faster than the others as I spent most of the time on my backside) and once again, normal service was resumed with the shoes performing well on the rocky and wet track down to the road. A long run back along the road in the rain and the dark awaited but at least there was less chance of getting lost.
This route provided ample opportunity to try out these shoes on a variety of terrain, from tarmac and pavement, to rocky path and finally mud and grass. Whilst I found the fit didn’t quite suit me personally and the lacing system a bit of a bother, this didn’t stop them performing admirably on made paths and rocky ground. Whilst not a pure fell shoe, the Mudgrip is more than capable of handling most rough trails and paths (if not the steepest, wettest stuff), whether as a running shoe or a very lightweight walking shoe. The Mudgrip is especially suited to those looking for a more ‘bare-foot’ experience but with the protection and grip of a trail shoe. For those looking for an introduction to minimalist running or walking, this would be an ideal start as you can still have confidence in the stability and security of the foot over rough ground without the weight and bulk of alternatives such as the Keen Gypsum or Scarpa Vortex which provide plenty of protection but are a little too stiff and cumbersome for trail running.