Long known as an outdoor sportswear apparel company, Columbia began as a hat manufacturer in 1938. It wasn’t until 1960 that Columbia Hat Company became Columbia Sportswear. Then, back in 1993, Columbia begins producing outdoor footwear. Now in 2010, Columbia makes strides in the trail running category. This evidenced by the Trail Runner magazine’s designation of the Columbia Ravenous in men’s and women’s styles as an Editor’s Choice Best Debut award winner.
Soft is the name of the game.
One of the key components of trail shoe performance is fit. A trail shoe needs to have a secure heel and midfoot fit to lock the foot in place, which is critical for reducing irritation while running over uneven terrain. A further benefit of a secure fit is the ability to prevent the foot from sliding forward during descents, which keeps pressure off of the toes. With the Ravenous, Columbia has addressed heel fit by wrapping Techlite foam around the heel cup and along the heel collar. By using soft Techlite foam, the heel fit adapts to the shape of the foot as is further secured by a pliable TPU heel structure. Fit is further secured by strategically placed overlays. The overlays provide enough support to lockdown the midfoot while minimizing bulk and weight.
The soft Techlite foam that is used in the heel structure is also the material of choice for the midsole. A benefit of the soft Techlite midsole is a very well cushioned ride that makes road running an ease. One drawback is the soft material may result in too much movement on soft trails where a firmer midsole would be preferred. If your running consists of rocky terrain, dirt and road the Ravenous is a great option. The Ravenous has a multi-directional lug pattern composed of Omni-grip, which provides great traction on a variety of surfaces. Stability is provided through a broad platform. The relatively low weight and flexible forefoot makes the shoe a true nimble performer as the the pace quickens.
Two other options from Columbia are the Omni-tech Ravenous and the Switchback. The Omni-tech Ravenous (men’s and women’s) has a gusseted upper lined with Columbia’s proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane. Although the Omni-tech upper is a bit stiffer than the lighter mesh used on the regular Ravenous, it is still comfortable and the dryness protection from rain and wet ground is fabulous.
For the more casual trail runner, Columbia offers the Switchback (men’s and women’s). The upper of the Switchback is not as sophisticated as the Ravenous but still provides good breathability. Thanks to the inclusion of the Techlite midsole, the Switchback provides adequate cushioning for trail or road use and the oustole is best suited for well groomed trails.
The Ravenous may be too soft for the trail enthusiast, but it is sure to please many runners who want a good fitting, comfortable, versatile shoe. A no-frills shoe, the Switchback is basic but functional.