“Running shoes are traditionally made for smoother and more consistent surfaces like roads, athletics tracks or astroturf,” says Gabriella Burden from Wiggle. “When you’re running trails though, the ground beneath you is likely to be looser and uneven – so wearing a pair of trail running shoes is the best way to get better grip and to keep you balanced.
“There are a multitude of different types of trail and you will find shoes designed specifically for each one,” adds ultra runner Jon Albon. ”At one end of the spectrum, you have muddy, wetter, softer trails: for these the shoe will have bigger lugs, spaced out to give you the grip required, but also shed any sticky mud that might become attached. At the other end, you have hard-packed smoother trails, shoes designed for this terrain will be far more similar to that of the road.
“The amount of cushioning will also vary between shoes. For more uneven or softer trails, a shoe will be thinner to give more feeling of the ground and make it less likely to twist an ankle. For harder, more compact trails the shoe can afford to be thicker giving more comfort and protecting the legs from the impact of each step.”
Are trail running shoes fine for everyday running?
“You can wear trail shoes for everyday running as long as you are using them on the type of terrain they have been designed for,” says Albon. “A thin shoe with big lugs designed for softer ground used on very hard trails or the road is going to be less comfortable and may cause extra stiffness in your legs or injury if used a lot. A trail shoe designed for harder trails is going to be far kinder to you if used on the road but could result in you slipping over or twisting an ankle if used on more technical or softer trails.”
“Trail running shoes typically won’t provide you with the same cushioning and shock absorption as road shoes, but they do offer great stability,” adds Burden. “This is why they’re super-important when running on uneven surfaces to prevent injuries like rolling your ankle.”
“For those who typically run on both trail and road during their everyday runs, a hybrid type shoe might be a good option to consider,” says Oudshoorn.
Do I really need trail running shoes if I’m starting to run more on trails?
“The answer is very much dependent on what type of trails you are going to start running on and what type of road shoes you have,” Albon explains. “If your trails will be mostly hard packed smooth dry mud or gravel, then it could be the road shoes you have will be sufficient to begin with. If the conditions are more challenging, it would be wise to invest in a pair of shoes designed specifically.
“It could also be that your road shoes get worn out a little quicker if used on any other surface type, especially if there are areas of foam underneath that are not covered by rubber. If your road shoes are very specifically designed for performance on the road, for example, the new breed of ‘super’ road shoes, then they are likely much less suited to using on any form of trail.”
Is it okay to walk around in trail running shoes?
“Much depends on what you are used to and also where you are walking,” says Oudshoorn. “Trail running shoes are usually not waterproof and have less protection than hiking boots. However, they are usually more comfortable and much lighter. We actually design our hiking range with the benefits of trail running shoes (cushioned, comfortable and lightweight) and add waterproof protection and a higher ankle, to give you the best of both worlds.”
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