Our regular reviewer Amy Robson has been trialling the Oakes Cross Running Shoes, ethically made, eco-friendly, sustainable, vegan trainers.
Running makes you feel like a bit of a badass at times. You’re out in the world, traversing trails and tarmac, doing something to improve your mind and body. That’s the theory, at least, although many of us are much more likely to be huffing, fighting niggles in our hips and knees, and wondering why on earth we got up at 6am just to go and get soaked in the British ‘spring time’… but I digress.
The point is that running is an activity that inherently beckons a sense of improvement and greater community. And what better way to complement that than to have trainers that aim for a similar message?
Enter the Oakes Cross Running Shoes. Vegans of the world rejoice! There is now a running shoe out there designed to meet your needs. They have been made under the watchful eye of vegan ultrarunner (and World Record breaker) Fiona Oakes.
As a person, Fiona Oakes maintains an animal sanctuary full-time and runs an animal charity. She has still managed to become the fastest women in the history of the world to run a marathon on all seven continents in 2013, in both aggregate time and elapsed time. Oh, and she did all of this without a knee cap… let that sink in for a moment.
Needless to say, I expected that her shoes would give me at least a little oomph of my own when tackling my considerably less impressive goals.
Shoes with a message
The Oakes Cross Running Shoes are stocked by Will’s Vegan Store and are ethically made in Italy under strict employment, discrimination, and health and safety laws. They are also carbon neutral and come delivered in cardboard packaging with sustainable non-treated paper to wrap them all in.
Even if you’re not vegan, these aspects of the Oakes Cross Running Shoes will be incredibly appealing if you like the idea of sustainable, ethically sourced and eco-friendly shoes. Shoes are very important for us runners but, deep down, none of us really want to think of some starving child in a Third World country cobbling away to make sure we get a new PB. It’s nice that we have alternative options.
The Oakes Cross Running Shoes come fresh from the box pre-laced and ready to go. I say ‘laced’ but the shoes actually use a speed lace construction system with a pouch to tuck in the excess on the tongue of the shoe. I was unfamiliar with this style of lace until I tried the Oakes Cross Running Shoes and, I have to say, there’s something very appealing about just being able to slide down to the right tightness and hit the road (though I admit some adjustment was needed at times).
The shoes themselves are made from ballistic welded abrasion-resistant, water-resistant and breathable Lyliane 3DMX materials on the upper section; and Vibram rubber injection outsoles with 32x 5mm deep outsole lugs for hitting trails and other hard terrain.
Oakes is no stranger to harsh ground and these shoes were developed “to take the most extreme running environments experienced by Fiona from the Sahara Desert to the North Pole”.
Removable EVA insoles are included for supporting forefoot and midfoot runners, meaning you have built-in options when purchasing these shoes. They support a neutral gait, with a 10mm drop differential and D-width fitting. They are water resistant but not waterproof, so trails with lots of deep snow or puddles may prove challenging when using them.
Fit and firm
Fiona is undoubtedly a very sturdy individual and her shoes represent this. As soon as I tucked myself in to these puppies I felt like my feet were encased in battle-ready tanks capable of taking on any hardship that came my way.
The fit is a fair one but incredibly secure, which felt slightly constraining for my wider feet. Not in a way that would deter my personal use, but certainly something to consider if you have wide feet yourself.
What these shoes are fantastic for is offering up an impressive amount of grip and stability when tackling trails, especially woodlands or fields, where they seemed to excel.
What they’re not as good for (at all) is hitting tarmac, which is what you’d expect from a pair of shoes made for hitting cross-country environments.
The firmness of these shoes is not to be understated – these shoes feel incredibly hard and inflexible under foot. They’re certainly not of the barefoot variety and using them can feel almost punishingly hard at times. I personally struggled to find comfort in my running (and walking) stride at first when using these shoes due to this fact. They are so incredibly different from Altras, New Balance, Hoka One Ones, or anything else on the market in that their resilience is woven in to every aspect of the fabric and sole.
Running in such firm shoes takes practice and if you select these shoes I recommend that you don’t test them on a long run for their first outing. Instead, treat getting familiar with these shoes like you would getting familiar with running in those early days. Take it back to basics, run short distances, allow your feet to adjust in to the new movement, support, and terrain accessibility that they provide and then venture further (if you choose to).
At £125 these aren’t the cheapest shoes out there, but 30% of the purchase price goes directly to the Tower Hill Stables Animal Trust, giving you even more kudos points in terms of ethics. Still, this is quite the price tag for shoes that are Marmite-like in many ways. Some people will love their firmness and sturdy nature, others will feel enclosed by it. I find myself still trying to decide where I stand, but I can say that I’ve never felt more rock solid then when my feet are in these shoes.
**Run Deep was provided with a pair of trainers for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions in this article are entirely honest and our own**