The Rise of Vibram MegaGrip: Why Every Trail Runner Should Take Notice

Here's why we get so excited about reviewing trail running shoes with Vibram Megagrip outsoles... and why you should, too.


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Even if you’re not into learning about all the different component brands that contribute to the creation of your running shoes, there are a couple of names that you’ll almost certainly have come across: GORE-TEX, which is by now almost synonymous with ‘waterproof’, Boa Fit System, and Vibram, which shows up on many trail shoe outsoles.

Now, as professional running shoe reviewers here at Trail & Kale Running Co, of course we’re paying attention to the components that go into the creation of the very best trail running shoes. However, in our opinion, it’s well worth every trail runner being aware of the design and elements that have gone into creating the shoes we run in.

In the case of Vibram outsoles, almost every trail runner will already recognize that unmistakable yellow branding that shows up on the side of the outsole, as well as in the center of your running shoes’ soles.

The Rise of Vibram MegaGrip: Why Every Trail Runner Should Take Notice 1 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

If you’ve been noticing that more and more trail running shoes have been sporting Vibram Megagrip outsoles, then you’re not wrong: this is a trend we’ve been following closely as an increasing number of trail shoes arrive at Trail & Kale HQ adorned with that coveted outsole, the Vibram Megagrip.

Even if you hadn’t spotted more little yellow ‘Vibram’ logos on your shoes’ outsoles, you will now!! And in this article I’m explaining why it matters, and what you need to know about Vibram Megagrip being used on trail running shoes.

What is Vibram Megagrip… and what’s so great about it?

Vibram is well-known in the footwear industry: the Italian-Headquartered company has been around more than 80 years and is a world leader in the development and manufacturing of high-performance rubber soles for outdoor and leisure activities, workwear, fashion, orthopaedics and correction.

This particular rubber outsole compound, Vibram Megagrip, is a high-performance compound designed for outdoor use, commonly used in hiking and trail running shoe outsoles. Its formula offers exceptional grip on various surfaces, excelling particularly in wet and less-than-ideal conditions. Think of wet roots on a trail run in the winter, or slick rocks in the Alps.

Durability is also very important for trail running, and Megagrip strikes a balance between performance and longevity, which is very unusual – typically, many other outsole compounds you will see on running shoes will offer excellent traction, but lack in durability, or vice-versa, rarely both.

Arc'teryx Sylan review trail running shoes 19

You may have also heard of Vibram Litebase, or Traction Lug and been wondering how they compare to Megagrip. Well, Litebase and Traction Lug actually refer to technologies that can be used with the Megagrip compound.

Litebase technology allows for a lighter and thinner sole without compromising performance or durability. To be specific, Litebase can apparently contribute towards a 30% reduction in the outsole’s weight, and up to a 50% reduction in its overall thickness!

For these reasons, you’ll often see brands choosing to combine Litebase with Megagrip, resulting in excellent performance alongside reduced shoe weight. An example of a trail running shoe with Vibram Litebase is the Arc’teryx Sylan.

Traction Lug on the other hand is the innovative, design concept that focuses on the key element in traction – the shape of the lug. Tests have shown that is can increase traction by up to 25%, adding stability, and improving surface area by 50%.

Trail running shoes that use Megagrip on the outsoles

This article would get too long if I list all the brands and shoes that use this branded compound on the outsoles, but to name a few that we’ve reviewed recently:

  • Altra Timp 5 – A zero-drop trail shoe with a wide toe box for natural toe splay; great for long-distance and technical trail runs.
  • HOKA Speedgoat 6 – A lightweight highly cushioned trail shoe, with a durable CMEVA foam midsole for lasting cushioning, and 5mm traction lugs, making it perfect for ultra running over varied and technical trails, while ensuring superior grip and responsiveness.
  • Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 Matryx – A lightweight, durable shoe with a breathable Kevlar upper, dual-density FloatPro™ Foam midsole, and Vibram Megagrip outsole with 5mm lugs – it’s ideal for high-intensity mountain running and Skyrunning.
  • Topo Athletic Pursuit 2 – A versatile trail running shoe with a zero-drop design, a wide toe box for natural toe splay, medium cushioning, and 6mm lugs, making it ideal for technical trails and daily runs up to half-marathon distances.
  • Nike Zegama 2 – This shoe excels with responsive ZoomX cushioning, and improved stability, making it ideal for tackling various terrains and long distances.
  • Arc’teryx Sylan – A versatile trail running shoe designed for technical trails, featuring a breathable MATRYX mesh upper, and an innovative rocker geometry for efficiency. It’s ideal for runners tackling various trail conditions up to half marathon distances.

What’s notable is that some brands have clearly made the decision to move away from their previous (typically proprietary) compounds, in favor of this show-stopper from Vibram.

The Rise of Vibram MegaGrip: Why Every Trail Runner Should Take Notice 2 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

For example, Nike Trail has now changed the outsole on the Zegama over to Vibram Megagrip for its latest iteration, the Nike Zegama 2 (read Alastair’s Nike Zegama 2 review to learn more about that shoe!). This changeover with Nike is particularly interesting, because they’ve also launched a new proprietary outsole compound named ATC (All Terrain Compound), as used on the Pegasus Trail 5, which is also a great outsole in its own right, but have still opted to use Megagrip on the Zegama 2.

How the outsoles differ between running shoe brands and styles

These running shoes don’t all have the same outsole design, they’re essentially only similar in that the choice of rubber compound is Megagrip. There’s still a lot of differentiation between trail running shoes using Vibram outsoles, as demonstrated in the selection of shoes featured in this article.

To create a specific outsole for each individual running shoe, the shoe brands collaborate with Vibram on designs, testing and athlete feedback, with the result being an outsole shape, depth and lug layout that’s unique to that particular shoe.

The Rise of Vibram MegaGrip: Why Every Trail Runner Should Take Notice 3 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure

Athlete feedback and reviewer testing also play a crucial role in driving decisions and shaping the final product, which is, of course, essential to ensure that the people actually wearing and running in the shoes, in different locations terrains and conditions are all having an input into the design.

Other great running shoe outsoles

It’s worth mentioning that while we currently rate Vibram Megagrip as the most consistently top-performing running shoe outsole over a range of challenging terrains and both wet and dry conditions, there are other compounds found on various running shoe outsoles that also offer excellent performance.

Some examples include Continental, as used on the Adidas Soulstride Ultra, for example, and Salomon’s Contagrip, used widely on Salomon trail running shoes such as the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar 3, and Nike’s ATC compound, first introduced in the Pegasus Trail 5. These are all pictured below:

So, there you have it, for many runners with an interest in maximizing their trail running performance and dialing in to shoes that are really going to work well for you, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at the component brands that go into the design of your running shoes, especially if you start to develop a preference for a certain element of your shoe.

Whether you learn to enjoy the benefits of a particular outsole compound like Megagrip, or appreciate certain lacing styles, types of weave and materials used in the upper (such as the innovative MATRYX uppers we’re seeing increasingly on high-end trail shoes), or a particular shape of the heel counter, these are just a few examples of the parts of a running shoe that we pay attention to and feed back to you when we are wear-testing and reviewing running shoes here at Trail & Kale Running Co!

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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