Vasque is well-known in the hiking boot space, but they have struggled a bit to gain a foothold in the trail running arena. I’ve had some competitive Vasque models over the years, but nothing has knocked it out of the park. This year, Vasque has revamped their trail running lineup and introduced the all-new Trailbender.

Vasque Trailbender Features:

  • Maximum cushioning comfort with stable chassis
  • Air Mesh uppers with welded lateral support
  • Vasque AxisGrip rubber sole
  • Last/fit is developed specifically for endurance running
  • 6mm Midsole Drop
  • Moisture Wicking Textile Lining
  • Weight: 12.6 oz (actual, size 11)
  • MSRP: $129
Vasque Trailbender Review

Perfect conditions on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the Trailbenders.

Maximal cushioning with traditional drop

The Trailbender is built like a traditional running shoe but with maximalist cushioning. Thankfully, we’ve all but forgotten the barefoot running movement. However, many companies are making headway with low or zero-drop shoes. Personally, I prefer those designs, but many runners still prefer a more traditional build and that’s what you’ll get with the Trailbender.

On paper, we’re talking a 6mm drop. For most people, that measurement means nothing so just think of these as the typical feel you’d expect from the variety of trail runners you’ve used for years and years.

Once laced up, the Trailbender’s fit comfortably and provide a nice roll from heel-to-toe. There’s no dead spot or clunkyness with the stride here — just a nice roll from midfoot strike to toe-off. Lacing is as traditional as it gets with no pull eyelets or fancy lacing systems. Heck, these even get a very traditional flat lace, which is something I haven’t seen in ages. They do lace up well and provide a cradled fit.

Vasque Trailbender Review

The low-profile AxisGrip outsole delivers quality traction.

Cushioning is the story here and you’ll find plenty of it. So much that you’ll gain an inch to your stature just by lacing these babies up. The toebox is fairly standard with enough room to move your toes when properly sized. Wider toeboxes are always preferred in my mind, but I didn’t feel cramped in these.

While I’m always a function over form kind of guy, Vasque admittedly does need to get some zing in their designs. These feel immediately dated even though they are a new model for this season.

Trail protection is excellent without not sacrificing trail feel too much. You still enjoy enough trail feel to be aware of what you’re stepping on. Scree is kept at bay in spite of not having a gusseted tongue. On the traction side, these are solid. The low-profile “+” pattern delivers grippy traction all over the mountain — uphill, downhill and on the flats. Loose, pebbly terrain is about all that gives these a fuss. I’ll also mention that the grippy nature of these outsoles do make them feel a bit like Velcro on hot pavement.

Vasque Trailbender Review

The terry cloth lining has a tendency to grab your socks and initially cause chaffing.

An important aspect of all trail running shoes is stability. This becomes particularly important with maximalist designs because you ride higher and, if not built properly, may be susceptible to ankle roll. Thankfully, the Trailbender is extremely stable with a wide forefoot and superb overall support.

I get the design intentions with the terry cloth heel cup lining. It has the intention of aiding moisture transfer but the grippy nature of it causes undue friction — particularly during the break-in period. I had to choose my socks wisely to prevent chaffing. You’ll want a pair with a smooth heel cup so the shoe’s lining doesn’t grab it.

The Good

  • Extremely stable design
  • Great cushioning while still feeling efficient
  • Great traction
  • Great option for those who like a traditional shoe

The Bad

  • Terry cloth heel can induce chaffing
  • Ho-hum aesthetics

The Bottom Line: Vasque Trailbender

With several entrenched players in the maximalist market, Vasque is a little late to the game, but the Trailbender has a lot to offer those looking for a traditional shoe that features ample cushioning. Traction and stability are solid here and the overall package is worthy of consideration.

Buy Now: Available Exclusively at REI


About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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