NVii Terra TT Review | High Grip Trail Running Shoes
NVii (pronounced NVee) are a Finish orienteering brand. They designed their shoes for racing through the undergrowth in Scandinavian forests. Their shoes have to be tough enough to cope with all the abrasion from thick under growth, whilst being light and flexible enough to ride over the rough ground. It goes without saying that the outsole needs to grip on a large combination of surfaces from wet rock, wood and mud to drier loose and dusty terrain.
The current bout of wet weather has made the trails perfect to test the Terra TT to the extreme. For most runners in the UK the perfect trail shoe needs to be able to cope with some tarmac, hard packed tracks and some muddy wet sloppy bits too. It is difficult to make a shoe that can cope with such a variety of terrain. The rubber needs to be durable enough to not wear down too quickly while being used on the tarmac but sticky enough to grip well to wet surface. The outsole pattern needs to be heavily lugged enough to bite into wet muddy ground to give good traction yet have enough surface area to not slide on wet smooth tarmac. You also need to feel in contact with the floor whilst running on harder terrain and not feel like you are running on jelly. You also don’t want to be able to feel the studs pushing through the bottom of the shoes on harder surfaces either.
A trail shoe designed for harder grounder is usually stiffer as this helps you ride the ground and iron out any natural imperfections you might have in your gait to keep you moving forward. A shoe designed for rougher more broken terrain needs to be very flexible so that it bends with the ground and you aren’t thrown all over the place as you try to make your way across the uneven ground.
We find that the trail shoe designers in the US have little experience of the kind of open terrain that we are able to run on in the UK. Where in Scandinavia they have access to similar terrain and as Orienteering is one of the top sports they have brands like NVii designing shoes to perform on this type of terrain.
The NVii Terra TT looks like a fell shoe rather than a versatile cushioned trail shoe. The toe box isn’t as narrow and pointy as many fell shoe brands, so the fit is a bit more relaxed and comfortable. Rather than super snug and racer like. They have the room for your feet to expand during a long day of running. There is a reasonable volume in the toe box and the shoe comes with two insoles of varying thicknesses. If you have high volume feet you can use the thin insole, if you have medium volume feet there is a thicker insole and if you have a low volume foot you can put both insoles in. The fit can be altered to suit a variety of foot shapes!
The Terra TT is 6mm from heel to forefoot, which makes it versatile enough to be used by the heel or midfoot striker. The midsole density varies from soft and cushioned in the heel to firm and responsive in the forefoot. That gives you a good feel for the ground and a positive push-off. There is a rock plate built into the forefoot but this doesn’t affect the flexibility of the shoe.
The outsole consists of 4.5mm to 5.5mm studs. They are larger and flatter than on the NVii Forest 2, which is designed to be used almost exclusively on soft ground. The rubber used to make the outsole is butyl rubber. This is a natural sticky rubber that has a high level of durability in comparison to other sticky rubbers.
I like lighter flexible shoes and I also like running over muddy fields and over slippy roots on the single tracks in the woods. There are lots of copses in County Durham linked together by footpaths that go over muddy farmers’ fields so it’s been ideal to test these shoes.
I found these shoes very easy to run in. The flexibility means that they bend in just the right place for my feet. So much so that I had to check to make sure there was a rock shield in the midsole as usually this stiffens up the shoes and makes them less of a natural ride. My usual morning run is 8 miles of mixed terrain that starts with 3 miles of tarmac/hard resurfaced railway line and has sections of very wet slippery paths over fields. I was expecting the shoes to feel a little hard on the first part of this run but they didn’t. I then expected the studs to not be long enough for me to relax and descent over the muddy fields but, they were great. Even on the three quarters of a mile on the tarmac back up the hill to my home they felt fine.
The rubber is about as good as you can get in terms of stickiness. Stepping stones over the river have been no issues. Even moss covered ones with the water pouring over them. The slightly flatter studs may also help as there is more surface area in contact with the rock than a more aggressive pointy stud.
As the Terra TT feels so light and nimble my concern was how durable they would be. Sticky rubbers tend to wear down when they are used on harder surfaces and the cushioning in thin flexible shoes tends to go flat quicker than in more chunky shoes. I have waited until the shoes have done over 200 miles before writing this review. The result is that there are now signs of wear on some of the studs. However, it’s not excessive and so there is plenty of life in the shoes! The cushioning still feels the same as it did when they were new.
As I like lighter, nimble shoes and therefore might be a bit biased, our store managed Craig has also done a few miles in them (handy that we are the same shoe size). Craig has broader feet so used the thinner insole but still found the shoe cushioned enough to run a few miles on tarmac before enjoying the experience of running with a light, flexible and agile shoe. After a week of running in them he agreed that they offer a lot more cushioning than they look! He thought he would be happy using them for Ultras up to the 40 mile mark.
I had such success with the shoes over the muddy farmers’ fields, which have been very boggy lately that I thought I would compare them to a longer studded shoe. I have experienced very little sliding around and seemed to be trotting a long without any issues. So, I went for a run with a Terra TT on one foot and an NVii Forest 2 on the other foot. The Forest 2 has 7-8mm long studs that are pointier and bite into the earth more affectively. What I found was that for my running gait the advantage of the longer studs was at push off. The foot with the Forest 2 on had a much firmer feel and gave me more propulsion. In a racing situation I would go faster in the Forest 2. However, the Terra TT’s still kept me upright and I didn’t feel like I was losing traction or sliding around at all. A heel striker might get a bit more slide due to the lower studs in the heel, but it would depend on how far the heel was from the runners centre of gravity when it hit the floor. As this would affect how much breaking force the shoe would have to counter act.
So we have painted the picture that the NVii Terra TT’s are a very versatile trail shoe that will cope with lots of different type of terrain, not wear out too quickly and is very comfortable. This may give you the idea that they are the perfect trail shoe for every trail runner. This is obviously not true. Although the flexibility is great for riding over rough and broken ground and usually on this type of terrain even runners who require a lot of pronation support on the road are fine in this type of shoe, this may not be the case on the firmer ground. For a runner who needs a bit of pronation support the Terra TT will probably be too flexible. For those who pronate mildly they might find that using an off the shelf insole like Sidas or an orthotic inside the shoe might stiffen it up enough to resist the excessive pronation. For others a trail shoe that has a bit more stiffness would be a better option.
In Summary if you are looking for a versatile trail shoe to be cushioned enough for a bit of tarmac yet grippy enough for muddy fields and nimble enough for rooty, rocky trails then the NVii Terra TT is a great option.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
Scott Supertrac 2.0: This shoe is first in the list as it has a similar versatile grip, a good cushioning level but, is a stiffer shoe. So, if you do pronate a bit or feel you need a bit more structure in your shoes then these would be worth a look. Here is our review:
Inov-8 X-Talon 260 Ultra: These are a fell shoes designed to have the cushioning to be used all day. They are the nearest shoe to the Terra TT in that they are a well cushioned, studded shoe: