Dynafit Feline SL - Women's Review
Cons: Narrow fit, runs small, rigid construction takes time to break-in
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Dynafit Feline SL is an excellent contender that does great work on all trails, including technical and slippery terrain. It's comfortable for long-ish distances with sensitivity and protection built into its construction. The fit is narrow with smaller sizing than most other trail shoe brands on the market. It does require a half size up for improved comfort.
The Dynafit Feline has a whole slew of protective features that kept our feet happy while tackling mile after mile.
The outsole is made from a heavy rubber composite and a rigid sole, that doesn't allow you to feel any protruding rock or root. The reinforced rubber bumpers around the toe cap mean accidental stubs don't hurt as much! While the forefoot has less padding than the heel, it's also protective while ensuring some level of sensitivity.
We wore this shoe while tackling after-work runs on the Perimeter trail in Ouray, Colorado. We also wore it while hiking up mountains and exploring desert trails in Moab. Through it all, we felt the shoe did well for protection. Our only caveat is the mesh that harbors the pull tab for the lacing system does catch sand. While it won't come in contact with your foot, we found ourselves taking this shoe off to empty it out every now and then. It doesn't have a long Achilles tab or a long tongue, so some particulates also got into the shoe. However, the continuous upper is great at protecting from everything else.
In our water tests, where we submerged our foot in water and ran through a stream, we learned the upper does a good job keeping moisture from entering the shoe. However, once submerged, the shoe will get wet. Thankfully, it does dry quickly, especially in warm weather. The continuous upper is also good for colder weather and will do good work with a solid pair of running socks to keep your feet relatively warm when the temperatures drop.
Like most high performing shoes, Dynafit does excellent work at balancing protection and sensitivity. As a forefoot striker, you'll feel most things on the trail. You'll feel uneven surfaces and undulations, but you'll never feel the poke or pain of it. As a result of this performance, this is a shoe we'd recommend for longer distances. It's not one we would choose for ultra distances though, as the underfoot cushioning isn't ample enough - said most of our testers.
While running in the mountains and desert trails of the Southwest, we could feel the surface of the trail easily underfoot. When running across a tundra environment, where no trails were really present, we felt confident with every step as we could easily feel the ground underneath us. This helped to improve balance and thus running performance, in our experiences.
We can't help but gush about the absolutely amazing traction of this shoe. Built with Dynafit's POMOCA rubber, this shoe is very sticky. It has a huge number of large chevron-shaped lugs that are spaced appropriately for optimal mud shed and traction on any type of surface.
We tested this shoe while hiking and running in the San Juan mountains - a place known for steep trails. Commonly we encounter loose, dry trails with muddy sections and trail-less tundra on super long days. Through it all, we felt confident as this shoe almost felt like velcro over all surfaces.
When we hit a mountain ridge that required a little class 3 or 4 scramblings, it did an impeccable job at edging and holding tough to all surfaces. We found ourselves getting up dry slabs without a problem. What's more is when we hit the warm county trails at the end of the day, the clay-mud shed easily from the outsole, a feat no other trail shoe has accomplished as well. Surely with this amazing performance, this shoe is bound to become a quick favorite when it comes to traction over sloppy, rocky, and technical terrain.
With such a narrow profile, we are surprised at the level of excellent stability this shoe has to offer. Your foot feels like it sits close to the ground, even though it has an 8-mm drop. The forefoot isn't super wide but is well balanced, with a great, specific fit that prevents your foot from moving in the shoe. Rigid in nature, it doesn't roll easily and has excellent stability element from the forefoot to the heel.
When running over trail-less tundra, we initially felt a little worry when we took the shoe out for its maiden voyage on a 6-mile run with over 3000-feet of vertical gain. However, as soon as we exited the trail (which we felt pretty stable climbing up), we were surprised to see how well our weight was distributed from toe to heel. Surprising holes that'd normally have us rolling an ankle didn't pose any major problems, neither did water eroded soils. When heading back on the downhill where rocks and roots abound, we found ourselves easily tiptoeing around these hazards. With the occasional heel strike, the integrated rocker had us lifting off with ease, without forcing us either way laterally.
Overall, the excellent design of this more rigid shoe offers superb stability. For features, it has a "heel preloader" which seems to wrap the heel up for a more precise fit that leads to better overall stability. For both forefoot and heel strikers, this is an excellent shoe for technical and uneven terrain.
Comfort and Fit
While we love this shoe for its overall performance features, comfort, and fit see fewer points than any other metric for a good reason. This show has a medium level of cushioning, which makes it a great choice for 20-ish miles (in our opinion) but will take some serious getting used to for longer options. While we like the overall idea of the shoe, it lacks comfort features and the fit is pretty specific to a certain taste.
Our first caveat in this arena is the rigidity of the shoe. After just a 6-mile run (the shoe's first real trail run), we had inherited a blister from the super-rigid collar, right around the Achilles. As professional trail running shoe testers, blisters are typically hard to achieve. We found ourselves a little unsure about wearing this shoe after that period of time until the blister healed.
The fit is also quite small. The forefoot is very narrow with a sizing that's a little small. Our recommendation is to size up at least a half size to have a better running experience. If you run in thicker socks, we'd recommend even a full size up.
The break-in period also takes some time. It took us about 30 miles before we felt this shoe was a little more flexible and had molded to our foot. Unlike many trail runners currently on the market that can easily be taken right out of the box and onto the trails for a long jaunt, it's best to break these in. Aside from that, we appreciate its overall comfort. The pull-lacing system is neat, and we like the mesh on the top of the shoe that hides it while running. It does stay in place as well, which is a nice change from most one-pull lacing systems that we've experienced.
For the level of protective elements and underfoot cushion, we're surprised at its lower weight (9.80-oz) for a size 9 shoe. The lightweight nature makes it an excellent choice for any race. Given its superb traction and lightweight style, it's not only great for trails but also a wonderful option for Spartan races or multisport days.
This shoe has a mid-range price with excellent performance. While the price might be high for some, for those seeking an excellent option for soft or technical scenarios, this trail treader is totally worth it. The burly construction still seems to hold up, even after 100+ miles of use in our last testing period. Just be sure you're okay with a smaller fit with extra protective features.
The Dynafit Feline SL is a super stable and high traction shoe that absolutely crushes it when it comes to stability and traction over technical surfaces. Be sure you're okay with a narrow fit before buying it though. The value is high if you encounter soft or sticky terrain on your runs regularly. It sheds mud well and will stick to slabs and rocky terrain. It's one of the more aggressive shoes on the market to claw down on the trail.
— Amber King