Published on: 05/10/2023
Have you ever found yourself slipping and sliding on wet rock or feeling like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back on a gnarly ascent? Then you need to learn about Vibram MegaGrip! The brand and the compound are synonymous to possibly the best rubber outsole for trail running shoes, no matter the conditions.
So, what is Vibram MegaGrip, and should it be one of the details that influence what trail shoes you add next to your shopping cart? With reputable brands from Hoka to New Balance and Merrell relying on this compound for excellent grip on all types of terrain, Vibram outsoles are a game changer in trail running.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about Vibram rubber, the best shoes to choose with this type of outsole, and more.
The Vibram Brand & Origins
The story of Vibram as a brand starts with founder Vitale Bramani (you can tell the brand name is made out of the first 2 letters of his first name and the first 4 of his surname). This Italian mountaineer patented his first outsole in 1937 – the Carrarmato, for daring mountain expeditions.
Since then, Vibram outsoles have become synonymous with mountaineering excellence. In 1954, an Italian team of climbers conquered K2 wearing boots with the Carrarmato soles. The product range then grew throughout the 1950s and 60s, entering the safety equipment market. It was in 1988 that the concept of “Vibram grip” was introduced – with a super adherent rubber sole designed for free climbing, that quickly took the climbing world by storm.
The brand continued to expand to various sports and markets and then came up with one of arguably its best known concepts in the shoe world: the Vibram FiveFingers “foot glove.” A “take it or leave it” design that hugs the foot; Time Magazine named it the “Best Invention of 2007”. While this may not land with everyone, it was just part of the grip development and design evolution that brought us the MegaGrip compound. Launched in 2013, this rubber outsole offers durability, grip and reliability in any possible conditions.
What Makes Vibram MegaGrip Such a Great Outsole?
The technology behind the Vibram MegaGrip outsole has not yet been equalled by any other shoe manufacturer. With its flexibility and stability, it guarantees that you can race, walk, or go for a leisurely long run in your shoes without ever worrying about the weather and underfoot conditions.
Vibram soles are flexible enough to get an excellent ground feel, depending on the size and design of your shoe’s midsole (cushioning). For lighter shoes, like Merrell’s Agility Peak or Vapor Glove ranges, this provides sky runners and speedy trail runners with great grip on wet or dry surfaces and added agility.
In heavier shoes designed for ultra running, like the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro range, you can rely on Vibram MegaGrip outsoles to continue to support and protect your feet after tens of miles running. The durability of these outsoles also means that you can rely on your shoes for longer. And they’re pretty much unbeatable for grip, regardless of location or weather conditions.
What Other Factors Influence Grip?
Of course, the rubber compound is not enough to guarantee a great grip on its own. There’s additional information to consider when you pick your shoes:
- What is the tread pattern and does it suit your race or running terrain? For example, revers V-shaped lugs will be great for climbing, while the hourglass design you can find on the outsoles of Hoka’s Tecton X gives you all-around stability, but less specific climbing grip;
- How does the outsole design influence comfort levels? You could pick a shoe with an aggressive outsole only to find that they are really stiff and uncomfortable for long runs;
- How much does Vibram MegaGrip cover the outsole? The New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v7 has even coverage throughout the length of the shoe, while the Tecton X leaves the middle of the outsole exposed – which could spell trouble on wet rock.
Are there any notable outsole manufacturers that measure up to Vibram? In recent years, brands like Adidas have used Continental rubber for their outsoles, while some others like Salomon rely on their own Contagrip compound. Here are the top competitors to Vibram:
- Contagrip: Salomon shoes all feature this rubber compound, with different tread patterns and lug depths depending on the goal of the shoe. It’s a sticky, grippy rubber which performs well in muddy conditions but tends to slip on slick wet surfaces;
- Continental: the car tyre manufacturer also provides outsoles for the likes of Adidas Terrex. Again, a very good compound that is long lasting and grippy for some of the brand’s best trail shoes;
- Finnish brand VJ Shoes makes some great outsoles of their own, designed for rugged, muddy, mountainous terrain. The VJ Maxx are particularly great for sky running;
- Pomoca is a Swiss brand with a tradition in rubber sole manufacturing for mountaineering shoes. They make the outsoles for some Dynafit shoes;
- Scarpa’s Golden Gate Kima RT: a big hit in carbon-plated great all-around performance on trails – uses Presta rubber on a very grippy and durable outsole.
The 7 Best Vibram MegaGrip Equipped Trail Running Shoes
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v7
This is an excellent shoe for long distance mountain ultras. It combines soft cushioning with great toe protection, a roomy toe box and good, flexible upper. The Vibram MegaGrip rubber covers the entire outsole and provides stability and unbeatable grip.
Merrell Agility Peak 4
A great all-around trail running shoe with good energy return for more difficult trails. 5mm lugs offer stability and grip on all types of terrain. It’s the shoe of choice for shorter to medium length races.
Hoka Tecton X
The carbon-plated ultra running shoe from Hoka is lightweight, full of energy, and an all-around great performer. The Vibram outsole leaves a large part of the midsole exposed to allow for more forward boost from the criss-crossed plates, but this could make it slightly less grippy than other shoes.
Hoka Speedgoat 5
Voted for years as the best trail ultra running shoe, the Hoka Speedgoat continues to offer all-in-one durability, comfort, and agility. With the Vibram MegaGrip outsole to help it, it’s unbeatable over the 50-mile+ distance.
Altra Mont Blanc
One of the best possible choices for those looking for zero drop lightweight shoes, the Mont Blanc was designed for speed in ultras. It’s nicely cushioned and roomy enough to make it comfortable, too.
Arc’Teryx Norvan SL3
An ultra-light shoe designed for technical trails, the Norvan suits narrow feet looking for agility and speed.
Scarpa Spin Infinity
An ultra cushioned but nimble shoe with a 4mm drop to make it more versatile on mountain trails.
Vibram MegaGrip is a rubber compound developed by Vibram to provide grip and stability on all types of surfaces.
Yes, Vibram soles are renowned for grip on wet terrain.
Vibram outsoles are a type of rubber soles, but they have a specific compound that makes them grippier and more durable than regular rubber soles.
On wet or dry ground, shoes with Vibram outsoles have excellent traction, uphill or downhill.