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11.6 oz. (330 g) for a US M9,
9.2 oz. (260 g) for a US W7.5
Short runs and hikes on technical trails
HH Max-Grip outsole, HH Max-Vent mesh upper, recycled material throughout
MELISSA: Helly Hansen is a Norwegian brand that’s mostly known for its impressive variety of adventure gear. Its portfolio boasts options for skiing, sailing, and general outdoors apparel. You’ve probably seen it on an adventurer or two on Instagram, or at least on a bunch of rich people who can afford the steep price tags. Anyway, Helly Hansen has been around for more than a century but recently decided to give trail running gear a go. Enter the Helly Hansen Trail Wizard.
Since I’m sure you haven’t heard of the Trail Wizard, here’s a quick rundown. The shoe is designed to be lightweight and stable with fast mountain runs in mind. Both the upper and outsole are made with recycled materials, which is a win for both Helly Hansen and Mother Earth. Oh, and basically everything in the shoe is proprietary, so get ready for some unique branding.
Let’s get to it.
MELISSA: Before we get to performance, I have to say that I love the overall look of the Trail Wizard. It’s simple and subtle but in a good way. I particularly like the Black/Ice/Matcha colorway, which leans heavily on a base of black mesh with a bright outsole and a few Matcha hits on the lace loops and Helly Hansen logo.
For an early attempt at trail running, the Trail Wizard’s outsole is well-designed with large, grippy, multidirectional lugs. They kind of look like sideways-facing claws, complete with topographic map patterns between them and the brand’s proprietary HH Max-Grip name on the midsole. Honestly, the design and placement of the lugs are exactly what I want for running and hiking on technical terrain — good work, Helly Hansen.
However, the Trail Wizard’s ability to handle distance and varied terrain is a different story…
MELISSA: Alright, so Helly Hansen’s outsole makes the grade, but a lot of the Trail Wizard just didn’t work for me. I encountered quite a bit of discomfort from the lack of cushioning in the midsole. When push came to shove, the most time I could spend in the Trail Wizard was about an hour — not exactly magical. Anything longer, and I wound up with blisters and pain in both my knees and shins.
I think the blisters came from an uncomfortable mix of narrowness in the upper (I have a wide forefoot) and a lack of ventilation. The Trail Wizard’s overlays dominate its design, while the areas of pure mesh are thick and not very breathable. Sure, it’s good that Helly Hansen used more than 70% recycled material throughout its upper, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
Overall, the Trail Wizard just feels pretty stiff. The midsole lacks responsiveness and cushion and really just doesn’t have the distance I need. I could maybe see myself taking on a short, 100% technical trail race, but nothing beyond that, and nothing with any varied terrain.
MELISSA: If you want to pick up the Helly Hansen Trail Wizard for a short-distance hiker, I support you. It’s nice and grippy, which is great for the technical terrain. However, I encountered plenty of challenges centered around cushioning and ventilation in the upper, which could make longer distances a challenge — at least for me, it did. If you really want a comfortable, well-cushioned all-rounder for the trails, I’d reach for the Hoka Speedgoat 5, the Topo Athletic Traverse, or the tried and true Altra Lone Peak 7.
You can pick up the Helly Hansen Trail Wizard for $135 directly from Helly Hansen using the buttons below.
East Coast raised and West Coast trained, Melissa truly enjoys running, especially ultra distances. She currently lives on the Southern California coast and can be found exploring Santa Barbara front country on the weekends.
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