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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > GoLite Trail Fly > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

GoLite Trail Fly Shoes
by Raymond Estrella
December 07, 2007


NAME: Raymond Estrella
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Huntington Beach California USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.

The Product

Manufacturer: GoLite
Web site:
Product: Trail Fly trail-running shoes
Year manufactured: 2007
MSRP: $ 200.00 (US)
Size: men's 10/10.5 US
Weight listed: 11.7 oz (kg) Actual weight 14.8 oz (kg)
Color: Red
Warranty: (from company web site), "Our guarantee is simple: we want you to be happy with your GoLite product. We will replace any gear with a manufacturing defect for the lifetime of the product, free of charge."

Trail Fly

Product Description

The Golite Trail Fly (hereafter called Trail Fly or the shoe) is a light weight "long distance rugged runner" according to the manufacturer. The body of the shoe consists of a "NEOform seamless upper". The upper is covered by reinforced mesh and is very breathable. A skeleton or framework of either very dense foam, or aerated plastic goes around the upper. It is squishy to the touch. It is not hard.

A red knurled rubber-like protective rand goes around the toe. The same material wraps around the heel too. A black plastic insert is on either side of the shoe to add lateral stiffness and stability from what I can tell.

front and back

The mesh covered tongue is padded and attached to the body with side gussets to keep debris out of the shoe. The ankles are padded too. At the back of the heel is a pull loop that I can actually get my finger into.

The sole is very interesting. They call it an "asymmetrical vertical motion outsole" with "metamorphic suspension" that is supposed to "improve the body's stability above the ankle". The web site has a lot more information and claims but I will not go into it here. The sole has lugs, or "claws" that stick out ¾ of an inch (2 cm). They have a hard surface for durability but are a soft material inside. They flex quite easily. The heel is the same way. It has a split in it running at an angle. It allows the heel to flex laterally when I squeeze it from the sides. The red material seen in the picture of the sole is a very hard plastic-type material. The company says that this is opposite the standard sole construction of hard material on a soft mid sole. Looking at the trail-runners from another company that I am wearing as I write this they are correct. Here is a picture of the soles.

Trail Claws

A removable insole is washable and, in another departure from what I am accustomed to, is "customizable". The insole has a spot of Velcro-type hook on the bottom at the toe. Four add-on front sections of insole (two for each foot) have the loop in the corresponding place and a tab that inserts into the main insole prior to pressing the hook and loop together. The main insole is marked with an icon for "wide" feet. One pair of the add-on pieces has am "M" for medium feet and the other thicker pair has an "N" for narrow. Here is a picture of them all.


The laces are made of Spectra-type cord. They run through nine nylon loops and two eyes at the top.

Field Conditions

The Trail Fly shoes were used on the following extreme dayhikes, or fastpacks (a term coined by the founder of Golite for a hike that covers two or three times the distance of a traditional hike by lightening loads and keeping a steady pace).

30-mile (48 km) fastpack on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) from Big Bear California (CA) south. Temps were from 35 to 70 F (2 to 21 C) Elevations were from 6700' to 8700' (2042 to 2652 m) with a total gain of 4750' (1448 m) for the day. Trail consisted of rock, decomposed granite, and sand.

30-mile (48 km) trip on the PCT across the Santa Rosa mountains and into the San Jacinto mountains to Idyllwild CA. Temps ranged from 35 F to 60 F and back down to 35 F (2 - 16 C) when a storm hit us. Elevations from 5000' to 8000' (1524 to 2438 m) but a lot of up and down, total gain of 8200' (2499 m). Starting pack weight of 19 lb (8.62 kg). The trails were a mix of sand, dirt and rock. A little snow was encountered at the end of it.

36-mile (58 km) fastpack on the PCT from west of Silverwood Lake to east of Lake Arrowhead and back to it via the North Shore Trail. Temps from 43 F to 91 F (6 - 33 C). Very up and down, 7800' of gain, 4800' of loss. (2377 and 1463 m) Full mix of trail conditions, from dirt to rock. Starting pack weight 13 lb (5.9 kg)

A second pair was used for a few days of hiking in State or National parks and down to secluded beaches and general walking in Hawaii. Temperatures were from 84 to 76 F (29 - 24 C), high humidity and lots of rain. Trails varied between black-top, scraped lava, crushed and packed lava rock, dirt and mud. Off trail terrain was either on lava or in mud.

Here is a picture along the PCT.

On the rocks, please


After getting and using these shoes I was selected to be an official tester of the GoLite Sun Dragon Trail Runners, a sister shoe to the Trail Fly. I held off on posting this review until I tested the Sun Dragon. Some information in this review was added after I tested the Sun Dragons where it was applicable.


I received my Trail Flys in March of 2007. I was immediately impressed with how comfortable they were right out of the box. As I had a fastpack planned for two days later I wore them around town and the office for two days prior to the trip. During that time I did not experience any discomfort from the shoes.

On my first hike in them I was amazed at how well the soles and huge lugs took the shock out of the very rocky trails that we were on. The stability was better than any of my other trail-runners from three other manufacturers. (6 different models. Yeah, I am into trail runners.) I was concerned about whether or not the depth and spacing of the lugs would mean that I would pick up a lot of small stones and sticks in them. It did not happen at all the first trip.

I started feeling a hot spot develop on my right heel at about the 15 mile (24 km) mark. I stopped and put a piece of moleskin on it which took care of the problem. Later at about 25 miles (40 km) I felt some discomfort on the other heel but did not stop to address the problem. I should have. I ended up with a horizontal blister on the lower back of my heel. It looked like it had been getting pinched between the heel cup and the back of the shoe.

The uppers breathed better than any trail runner I have worn. The trade off was how much dirt got through to my feet. Nothing the shower did not remove that night.

I was a bit surprised at how much wear the soles showed after the first hike in them. Here is a picture after the first outing. Note that the "arrow" on the front claw is already worn off completely.

after first use

The next trip I wore a liner sock with some very thin SmartWool quarter socks. I also put some moleskin on my heels where the blisters had been the first time. I had no problem with my right heel, but again I got a huge long horizontal blister on my left heel. Something is not right with the heel cup on the left shoe.
tear at lace
Again I was amazed at the stability of the Trail Fly. I was in some very rough areas, just like climbing a dry creek bed. I only had a couple instances of my ankle starting to turn while hitting bad spots, and I was able to recover in time to keep it from ending up as a sprain. The shock of the rocks were noticeably lessened by the soft lugs. Dave complained that this trip left his feet hurting more than any other, and wondered the next day how my feet felt. I told him that they were fine. It has him considering the GoLite shoes.

The third trip I used a slightly heavier wool sock with the liner. I also applied mole foam to the two problem spots on my heels. Again no blister on the right foot but another long one on the left heel right through the foam. I can never get the laces to feel as though they are holding my foot solidly. This trip saw a bad blister form on the ball of my left foot at the base of my big toe.

(Added after testing the Sun Dragon and getting another pair of Trail Flys.) Well now I am pretty sure that the blisters that I had been experiencing on my left foot was a problem with that shoe alone as I had absolutely no problems with the Sun Dragon which shares common construction and is the same size, or the new Trail Fly. I think that something was sewn or formed wrong in the heel cup of my Trail Fly shoes.

They were wearing out badly. The soles awere heavily worn, the claws were falling apart. Much of the nubs were worn smooth as the picture below shows. On both shoes the body tore away from the foam frame at the lowest shoe-lace loop as in the picture at right. This was all with less than 100 miles (161 km) of use.

On a positive note they were still very comfortable and stable. These shoes are great at climbing, the best I have ever worn. The claws really do work well going uphill. I wish all my boots climbed like these shoes.

after third use

I contacted Customer Service July 31, 2007 at 9:00 AM and talked to a rep. To make it easier to understand I emailed her a letter including links to both the Sun Dragon test and the Trail Fly review. By 2:00 PM they emailed me saying that they were sending a pre-paid shipping label to send the shoes back to them, and requesting my address to send replacements for both pairs. Very impressive in my opinion. The process bogged down a bit and I received the new shoes on September 20th. The color was different but the shoes seemed to be identical.

I took them to Hawaii were I wore them for three days of hiking. The mesh uppers were very nice to have in the humid climate there. I wore either Fox River Organic crew or SmartWool quarter socks with them. Even in the rain they were very comfortable.

The Trail Claws did not like the wet terrain there though. They slipped quite a lot on the trails both ascending and descending. It was worse going down though. I had some close calls.

I had no blisters with either type of socks. This told me that it was just a defect in the original left shoe, not a problem with the design. The new pair were just as comfortable out of the box as all the others had been. (See my GoLite Sun Dragon reports.)

And they are wearing just as fast. The nubs at the heel are already over half worn off and some of the claws are smooth, with just 20 miles (32 km) or so of hiking.

In conclusion I have to say that I really do like the Trail Fly. It has become my favorite of all the trail runners I have ever used. (Including GoLite's Sun Dragon that is number two right now.) The comfort is unbeatable in my opinion. I love the concept of the sole and claw construction. It truly works for me. But I can not afford to use them as much as I would like at the rate they wear out with my use and hiking style and terrain. They would run me well over a dollar (US) per mile (1.6 km), a bit steep for this hiker dude. Hopefully GoLite/Timberland will work on it in the future. I will welcome the results.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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