Road running shoes are made for regimented pavement pounding. They might look fancy, but they are as predictable as a line dance.
Trail shoes, on the other hand, with their extra grip and hard-wearing exterior, are all teeth and personality. If you plan to strut your stuff on park trails, mountains and fells, grab yourself an off-road shoe and get ready to dance.
Here are the steps you’ll need…
1. Choose excellent build quality
Trail shoes wear out in strange places. Look for reinforced areas around the toe box: this will stop holes appearing around your little toe, while also protecting your feet when boshing rocks out the way.
Some shoes have excessive plastic in the heel that can wear through and cause blisters. Stick your finger in the shoe and have a good poke around.
2. Double-down on grip
Wet grass, slick rock and slippy mud needs grip. Consider where you’re most likely to run off-road and choose your grip appropriately. Really aggressive off-piste running will require rubbery studs.
If a bit of morning dew in the park is the worst of your worries, a beefy road running type tread will see you right.
3. Go big on toe space
Trail runners are a pedicurist’s worst nightmare. Mashed up feet are never pleasant. Choosing a shoe with ample space in the toe box gives your feet a chance to breathe and gives you a fighting chance of coming home with your toenails intact.
It will also help you spread your weight out, promoting a more balanced and responsive running style.
4. Go easy on the midsole
Trail runners might spend longer on their feet than roadies, but the ground is softer and you won’t always be striking it with the same uniform impact. Trail shoe midsoles offer anything from wafer-thin ‘barefoot’ thickness to ‘maximal’ water-bed support. The choice is largely personal.
Whatever your poison, assess the shoe’s flexibility by grabbing it at either end with both hands and twisting. Anything over a 90-degree twist will provide a smooth floaty ride. Anything less will provide more lateral support – well suited to anyone just getting into the sport.
5. Forget the high heels
Unlike road shoes, trail shoes often tend to have less ‘drop’. Drop is the difference in the natural raised position of your heel from your toes, measured in millimeters. Zero drop has become trendy in recent years, promising a more natural and responsive running style.
Don’t believe the hype too much. A dramatic change from your 12mm+ road shoes could cause an injury; 8mm is often the sweet spot but be sure to ask in the shop and feel what works best for you.