TAYLOR: The modern era of running continues to explode. Perhaps, the biggest boom right now is in the trail scene. Many companies, large and small, are diving in headfirst to get a share of the action. SOAR is one of the many examples with a pedigree for running, and it’s recently released a trail-specific line of clothing.
What makes running garb specific to the trail? Typically, there are some increased durability measures, integrated storage, and some backcountry flair, of course. The SOAR Trail line focuses heavily on the first two aspects and gets a little Euro on the third… which makes sense for the UK-based running company.
Note: Because SOAR is a European company, pay close attention to the fitting details. Going up one size worked well for us.
MATT: SOAR is a brand that’s caught my eye of late, with its combination of cool designs and practical application to running. There’s no doubt that this stuff was made by runners, for runners. I was even more excited when I heard they had branched out into some trail-specific items. The Ultra trail kit was my first experience with the brand, so I was curious to see how the Euro flair would mesh with the East coast trail scene.
Ultra Trail Top UTR
TAYLOR: Zzzzzzzip. If you can’t tell, that’s my full-length front zipper going up and down, providing airflow when needed and protection otherwise. It’s not my style or that of many other Americans (unless you’re a cyclist), but I think it’s pretty cool. And the ability to adjust airflow so easily is a huge perk.
This SOAR Ultra Trail Top fits and functions like a high-end cycling jersey and even looks the part. The construction is a bit lighter, though, and has specific seams and panels to allow for running long miles in comfort. The woven fabric has the big three: highly breathable, flexible, and durable. Performance and comfort will be a non-issue. It’s a knockout combination for those long runs or race days. Even with a fully-loaded pack, the UTR stays comfortable and right in place.
As for fit, you’ll get a tighter “performance fit.” It didn’t feel compressive or tight anywhere and is dialed in nicely. I’d love to see this construction of top-of-the-line fabrics come in a few more styles for future trail pieces from SOAR.
MATT: Taylor lays it all out above, and I agree with all of the superlatives he lavished on the Ultra Trail Top. I think one of the best gauges of a top-notch piece of running kit is when you can forget it’s even on. I’d say that applies to the material and fit of this SOAR trail top. It’s also explicitly designed to work with a pack or vest, and I can attest that it performs well. The form-fitted and paper-thin material ensures that your top doesn’t bunch up underneath and breathes well at the contact points of the vest.
While you may forget that the top is even on, others certainly won’t. The design is reminiscent of a horse jockey uniform or a King of the Mountain Tour rider donning the polka dot jersey.
Maybe that’s telling, as I would most compare this to a running version of a cycling climber’s jersey. For those unfamiliar, climbers’ jerseys are often lighter and thinner to help the athletes during those intense mountain stages.
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SOAR Trail Short
TAYLOR: The SOAR Trail Short is equally as impressive in comfort and performance. We’ve already experienced the combination of a light brief and durable outer shell a few times, but SOAR is here to refine the formula. I’ve been a big fan of the Rabbit Shredders short, Tracksmith Off-Roads short, and Ultimate Direction Hydro Short. It’s the most practical combination for trail running, yet none of the previously mentioned shorts have come close to the weight or comfort of the SOAR Trail short.
First, the underlying tight short provides an incredibly light and comforting base. Like the UTR top, it has a waffled construction that mixes breathability, flexibility, and durability. The short is long enough to help avoid chafing on the inner thighs. Finally, the outer short is much shorter but also more durable.
You get loops across the waistband for gel storage and three integrated rear pockets for storing other must-haves. My one big complaint is that these pockets are rather small. You’ll be able to carry keys in the zipper pocket, a few gels, and other small items about that size. There’s definitely no room for a phone, bottle, pair of gloves, or anything bigger. So, if you typically carry these items, you’ll need to strap on a belt or pack.
MATT: Again, I agree with Taylor’s overall assessment. The SOAR trail shorts are some of the lightest and most breathable running shorts I’ve ever worn. I was skeptical whether the dual-layer design would work for me, as I’ve steered away so far and consider myself an old-school split short guy, but I have to admit the design was comfortable.
The inner layer is paper thin, so my only concern is longevity. The upper provides about the same coverage as a pair of 3-inch splits — just enough to keep the look PG-rated.
I loved all the added loops and pockets, but as Taylor said, don’t plan on them holding your phone. I typically don’t carry a phone on my runs, or I’ll stash it in my vest for long runs, so I had no issues with this. I found the storage perfect for carrying gels and nutrition.
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Merino Wool Sock
TAYLOR: I’m a sucker for good wool products. They have some of the best performance, combined with durability, comfort, wicking, and odor control. It just makes sense to have a good pair (or pairs) of wool socks around.
SOAR’s wool sock comes in a very tasteful argyle-esque design. The crew length (my favorite) gives lower leg and ankle protection without too much warmth. A padded footbed provides underfoot protection. Overall, the sock is mildly compressive, which mirrors the foot perfectly. As with any compression clothing, the socks were a little bit difficult to pull on, but when the sock did settle in place, they became excellent performers.
See also: The Best Running Socks
MATT: The SOAR socks are nicely constructed and have a design that complements the trail kit well for a total race day package. They’re compression fit and crew length, so if either of those isn’t something you typically use, just be aware. For me, they were very comfortable. I’d be hesitant to choose them on long hot days as the downside to the added cushion is a lack of breathability.
One final note on this kit — I just happened to be testing the Saucony Endorphin Edge around the same time, and honestly, it’s the perfect shoe to top off the race day fit. The colors and design are a match made in heaven. You may DNF that next Ultra, but damn will you look fresh!
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