Some people say you can trail run in any running shoe. The truth is though, just like you wouldn’t play basketball with a soccer ball, you shouldn’t hit the trails with a shoe made for the road; it’s not what it was made to do. You have a huge chance of injuring yourself, especially when it comes to technical trail running, if you choose the wrong shoe.
The way to choose the best trail running shoe is to understand the point of each main characteristic that makes it up. Below, we’ve outlined some of the main details and points you need to consider for an ideal trail running shoe in terms of what’s in it, as well as what you will be using it for, to help you find the perfect type for you.
If you’re just getting started with trail running check out trail running tips for beginners to gain more real-world context. And if this is your first time venturing into the great outdoors, hiking can be a great exercise too.
Main features of trail running shoes: what to look for
This refers to the amount of support your feet and ankles receive from the shoes. In trail running, you want to have some level of stability in your shoe (so you don’t roll your ankle) but at the same time, a level of freeness to allow for your footfall to adapt to uneven terrain below.
Rocks and twigs and stones (oh my). Sole stiffness has to do with two main factors: the main one is protection (from all the things you’ll step on when trail running) and the second is give, meaning how much spring the sole packs. While protecting your foot is important, if you’re looking for speed on the trail, a shoe with springy elements not only makes for a faster run, but often a more comfortable one at that.
Trail running shoes can range from minimal to maximum cushioning. The right amount of padding depends on the type of trails you’ll be running. The higher the cushioning level (aka “stack height”) the less impact on your body – making the shoe perfect for longer distances and owning the downhill. The lower the stack height the closer to the ground you’ll feel – making the shoe great for navigating uneven terrain and racing uphill.