Trail running shoes differ from running shoes in a similar way that a mountain bike is different from a road bike. They are designed for specific terrain and specific run lengths. So, if you know what type of terrain you’ll be running on, or whether you’ll be running 5K or 50K, there are specific shoes for your needs.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a trail shoe that can do a bit of everything - roads, firm trails, a bit of mud - try to find a slightly more rugged version of your favourite running shoes. You may even find a trail adaptation from the same brand.
What characteristics should I care about?
- Proper fit
- Trail terrain
- Type of running
Trail shoes should hold your foot snugly around the mid-foot so that you’re not sliding around as you’re running up and down hills or over uneven terrain. The toe box needs to be roomy though, with a bit of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe, so you don’t finish the day with blackened toenails.
- Soft, wet terrain - Look for trail shoes with a durable sole and large, well-spaced lugs for improved grip on slippery surfaces. More spacing between the lugs allows mud and dirt to fall out. Because these shoes are designed for running on softer ground, they’ll have less cushioning than other shoes.
- Firm, rocky terrain - Trail shoes for rockier terrains will include an EVA mid-sole or similar, to absorb the shocks and provide more cushioning for your feet.
Type of Running:
- Fast & light - If you’re aiming to run short distance quickly, you’ll want to consider a lightweight shoe. The downside of a lightweight shoe is that you get less structure and protection.
- Long distance - If you want to run in the ultra range, do yourself a favour and invest in a pair of shoes with some decent cushioning. Your feet (and knees) will thank you.