Go Lite Timber Lite
Wearing minimalist shoes, or at least shoes without a drop during the day is complementary to running in an ideal shoe. On the days when it is not raining or snowing at The University of Vermont, I wear shoes such as the Terra Plana Evo, Feelmax Osma, Soft Star RunAmoc, or Vibram Fivefingers KSO. Not one of the aforementioned shoes is waterproof, or ideal for snow. When it isn’t snowing, or bitterly cold, Burlington, Vermont is as rainy as the Pacific Northwest. For this reason, I purchased the GoLite Timber Lite.
The Timber Lite does not have a heel rise. It is a true “zero-drop” shoe. This is a good thing. Shoes with a heel rise shorten the Achilles tendon and detrimentally affect posture.
While the shoe is flat, it does have a small amount of arch support. You may get over this, you may not. If your arch is high enough that the shoe doesn’t come in contact with your foot in places other than the heel and forefoot, you'll be fine. For me, it’s not like I’m wearing a shoe with inserts specifically designed for arch support, but after wearing them for a week, I felt a strange pain in my inside, right-frontal arch. Every day, in my training log, I write down which shoe I wore for the day, and there is a direct correlation between the Timber Lite and the arch pain. To solve this problem, I cut the arches out of the insoles, and the pain went away. Doing so wasn't a big deal.
The toe box width and height are spot on. I’ll admit that my feet aren’t abnormally wide, but even with wool socks, my toes are nowhere near cramped. The heel width is tight enough to keep my heel in place, but it still leaves ample room to avoid any pain. There is no plastic heel counter, and the heel cup is bendable, but it isn’t like wearing a Soft Star RunAmoc.
The upper material is very flexible, but seems durable. It’s breathable, definitely waterproof, and fends off heavy, wet snow. Running with wool socks, in about 25 degrees, my feet felt warm, but not as if they were in a neoprene oven. Even with basic cotton socks, in single digits, my feet are never cold.
GoLite claims that the Timber Lite is designed to “move fast over rugged terrain.” I would agree with that, but only if the word “dry” were added. The sole of the Timber Lite would be fine for rocks, mud, gravel, or anything rough and not frozen. Running up hills of hard-packed snow was a bit iffy. I wouldn’t use these shoes for broomball, but as long the snow isn’t packed or icy, the traction is fine. Think L.L. Bean boots with a bit more traction. The flats are fine, but trying to walk up the sledding hill with your kids might be difficult.
The lacing is fine: not much to worry or complain about. The boots come with thin laces that stay tied. Like most hiking boots, you can also tie them as high or low as you want, allowing for sufficient ankle flexibility. On the first silver rung, they were fine for running: no pinching or rubbing. The “Internal Lace System,” as GoLite claims it does, secures my foot and heel in place, but it doesn’t feel like my foot is caught in a bear trap.
SAT G: Soft Against The Ground. This is GoLite’s claim to fame. They turn the sole of a traditional shoe upside down, putting a hard surface against your foot. Personally, I like this a lot. My foot doesn’t sink into a marshmallow as it would in a traditional road shoe, and the shoe feels a lot more stable than my New Balance trail running shoes.
Flexibility. What you gain in protection, you lose in flexibility. The shoe certainly isn’t an Evo or a Five Finger, but it’s not meant to be minimalist. Despite the thickness, it’s flexible enough for the snow covered trails, and you get a surprising amount of ground-feel. I ended up climbing down some snow-covered rocks, and I could tell which ones were secure, and which would slip under my feet.
Running in the Timber Lite:
The lack of a heel rise definitely allows for a nice midfoot/forefoot strike. The Timber Lite doesn’t have the perfect flexibility and thickness of the Evo that are conducive to a light, quiet, quick footstrike and turnover. On the trails, in my KSO, I my feet can respond as quickly as my brain can to what’s on the ground, and where I should or should not step. The Timber Lite is too heavy for that, but I can still maintain a decently quick turnover. Think 75% of the speed of BFT’s feet in the video of him running on the rocks in huaraches with the music by Kodo playing the background.
In 3 inches of wet powder, the snow didn’t get into the Timber Lite at all, and my feet stayed dry. With gaiters, turnover is decreased even more, but if you still want to hit the trails without snowshoes in the powder, the Timber Lite would be a solid option.
I was considering Feelmax with wool and neoprene socks, but running on rocky, rooted trails without being able to see what’s under your feet, without a lot of protection didn’t seem like a good idea. There were several instances today where I definitely would have done some damage to my arch had I not had on the Timber Lite.
I usually judge a shoe by how hard I have to work to maintain my running form while wearing it. Bare feet are a 1, and something that legitimately makes me heelstrike, such as the Asics Gel Landreth 4 and beyond would be a 10. Shoes with more support than that aren’t worth mentioning, just because they’re so incredibly awful. Feelmax are a 1.5, Newton Distance are about a 3, and Adizero Adios are around 6. I’d give the GoLite Timber Lite a 4.5 on the trails. The snow makes me want to shuffle along, which isn’t ideal, and the lack of flexibility for the roads would interfere with a nice midfoot landing, either resulting in a loud midfoot landing, or an uncomfortable forefoot scuff on a sandy pavement downhill. Flats and uphills would be fine.
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