I’m on my first trail run and it’s not going well. I’m running through Fforest Fawr, the lush woodland backdrop to the fairytale Castell Coch. The wood is in full summer flourish and I think it might be enchanted. I’m feeling super fit, but all the stopping-to-look-at-trees is getting in the way of the running. I make a note to run around an industrial estate next time, and plough on along velvet-leaved paths.
I’ve started trail running to boost my Cardiff Half training and need something with sterner traction than trainers to cope with the woodlands and hills I’m weaving into the programme. You can’t beat a good pair of trail shoes for all manner of outdoor adventures – especially in this ‘too hot for hiking boots’ sunshine – and I’ve been looking for the right replacement for my previous pair for some time. I strike gold with the AKU Selvatica GTX WS multi-terrain shoe, a sturdy but flexible shoe with excellent grip and strong support.
The Selvatica is available in shoe or mid-boot style and in a range of colours. I opt for lilac and grey, the gentlest shades without being overtly girly. They arrive just in time for a morning’s mountain biking for rookies, ahead of which I’ve asked whether trainers will be ok. The answer comes back: “Trail shoes will be more grippy,” and I wonder just what I’m letting myself in for.
AKU is an Italian company with more than thirty years’ experience in high-quality outdoor footwear. Its lovingly-made trekking and mountain boots and shoes are designed to last and its audience is the conscious buyer (that’s me!), not consumers of ‘stuff’. The Selvatica is created to allow quick movement in comfort and, as I pedal precariously down grit tracks and later, in Fforest Fawr, finally do a bit of running, my feet are certainly comfortable, if not quick.
These shoes are lightweight, breathable and without stitching, having been pre-treated in polyurethane. The Vibram® treads feature an optimised surface in contact with the ground for better all-around traction, while the shoes come with OrthoLite® breathable insoles, offering maximum shock absorption. As is standard with good trail shoes, they have no-tie elastic laces with a plastic lock to keep them fastened, taking away the worry about laces coming undone and tripping over (cue ungainly Cardiff Half mass pile-up with me, red-faced, at the bottom).
Selvatica translates into English as ‘wild’, which I love. Ok, so in reality I’m far from the wilds, with a polite queue of tourists trundling up Castell Coch’s drawbridge just a tree-lined mile from my trail run rest stop. But it captures the aspiration of ordinary folk like me who want to seek out something a little different and set new challenges. I’ve yet to give the Selvatica a longer-term test and the weather has so far been kind but, to date, they more than match that previous pair from a well-known brand. They’ve quickly adapted snugly to my feet, given no blisters and are taking me further onto unchartered paths – not quite into the wilds but deeper into the woods and, for now, that’s enough for me.