Somewhat flimsy upper due to lack of overlays in the midfoot
Wide, high, and somewhat sloppy heel
Minimal padding in the heel cup
Minimal lace crossings makes for high pressure lace areas
A commendable first offering from Dynafit: A fast, light, enjoyable, and very smooth performance mountain running shoe with an innovative lacing system and very good traction, but that has some room for improvement in improving stability in off-camber terrain.
Dynafit, a German company known in America mostly for its lightweight backcountry ski bindings, has launched a line of summer gear in Europe and the U.S. These trail running shoes are one of the flagship products in the new line.
I got a chance to go for a steep, 4,000 vertical foot mountain run and hike in the Alps in the shoe and got a very good sense of it. (Full disclosure: Dynafit paid for my travel; no strings were attached, and no editorial considerations were provided in return.)
Overall, the Feline Gore-Tex falls into a class of lightweight, low-riding mountain shoes built for speed with big lugs and a slipper-like softness up front for trail dexterity. The new shoe some very nice pros. It’s a strong, nimble, and enjoyable mountain and trail running shoe, but has some comfort issues and offers only slightly above-average performance overall, trailing its main competitors in the light, low, and fast mountain running category: the La Sportiva Crosslite 1.0 and 2.0, and Salomon’s Speedcross.
Feel: flexy and fast
The shoe has a nicely secure, narrow forefoot and flexy forefoot that feels fast and nimble. It’s a close to the ground shoe that offers great proprioception (feel for the trail) in the forefoot. With a 12mm heel drop, it definitely caters toward heel strikers on flat trails, but the heel doesn’t feel overwhelming for midfoot strikers. The shoe feels smooth while striding. The limited padding in the tongue makes for pressure points when cinching down the laces for a more precision fit.
Agility: a little sloppy, not bad
The shoe was not as fast as some competing shoes in this class, mostly because the heel doesn’t feel very secure. The heel cup is noticeably wide, so it feels a sloshy on off-camber terrain, especially on downhills (when a secure heel is essential). The sloppiness is exacerbated by a total lack of overlays over the midfoot (a significant oversight, in my opinion), which forces you to over-cinch the laces to force the midfoot down and tighten up the upper. That causes top-foot numbness, made worse by a minimally padded (not very comfortable) tongue. Other smaller problems noted: the big forefoot lugs are so soft that they actually lose traction on pointed rocks (but grip very, very nicely in loose rock, snow, sand, firm trail, etc.)
Lace gaiter: smart touch
Some trail running shoes make the mistake of covering up the laces with an integrated gaiter. The gaiter keeps rocks out (or, rather, looks like it keeps rocks out—it’s mostly a marketing and aesthetic touch), but it can prevent you from being able to micro-ajdust the tension in the lace crossings to alleviate pressure spots or dial in different parts of the fit. Dynafit’s solution? Keep the hardcore looking gaiter but cross the laces over it, giving your fingers easy access to the part of the laces that cinches the forefoot. That’s key for locking down the toe-box for long descents, or opening it up somewhat when your forefoot begins to swell. A very smart design feature.
Dynafit should be proud of this initial offering. For a company just breaking into summer gear, this is a very impressive shoe. It’s a little expensive, and has some room for improvement, but this is definitely a shoe that buyers should take seriously.