Trail Running Shoes Buying Guide: What To Look Out For

Trail-running shoes offer more stability and support than road running shoes and have rock plates or other protective features to protect your feet from the elements. Some also include extra cushioning for a softer touch, but not all shoes provide the same level of flexibility. People who like to run on trails can choose from a range of trail-running shoes that have been specially made for running in the woods or around rugged places.

Most trail-running shoes are stiffer than road-running shoes, and their midsoles offer lots of support for your feet when running over uneven ground. To choose the right pair, a lot of things need to be considered, which is why there is a need for trail running shoes buying guide for whoever wants to go for it.

Some trail running shoes include a plate between the midsoles and outsoles to protect you from sharp objects, like rocks and tree stumps. You can find a lot of variation in the drop height and midsole height among different trail-running shoes; this depends on how much protection you want for your feet. The height of the drop and midsole also affects how comfortable the shoe feels as one runs.

How To Pick A Trail Running Shoe

There are a few characteristics that trail shoes have that set them apart from other shoes and this makes the trail running shoes buying guide essential. The main characteristic is the shock absorption factor. On natural trails, the ground tends to be a bit softer, which makes it feel better on your feet when you’re running. It makes it a bit less bulky to maintain your center of gravity o natural trails. The lug pattern will vary greatly depending on what kind of surface you’ll encounter while on natural trails.

For smooth surfaces and even terrain, you would want a shoe with flat and relatively smooth patterns for maximum traction and stability. However, if you’ll be running on loose and muddy terrain, deep claw-like patterns will keep your foot from slipping easily. Below are other trail running shoes buying guide to be considered to make the best choice for yourself:

  • Consider Where You Will Be Trail Running

If the trails you run have loose dirt, steep sections, mucky sections, and rocks sticking out, you would want trail shoes with aggressive tread for better traction, braking downhill, and self-cleaning to minimize mud buildup. When you’re choosing shoes, look for a midsole that is well-cushioned and has foam in it to absorb shock so that your feet don’t get sore over sharp, uneven surfaces.

Rocky trails can cause foot injuries, so trail runners often wear soles with an impact-absorbing plate. Stiffeners also provide torsional rigidity to reduce fatigue and the chance of twisting your ankle. If you’re running on smooth surfaces, you can get shoes with textured treads to prevent slipping.

  • Check the Weight of the Trail Running Shoe

This helps to ensure that you get a light pair in order to get the required comfort. In considering the protective components, also check the weight. If it’s too heavy, it may end up inconveniencing the runner.

  • Consider the Shoe Width

Some running shoes come with a wider forefoot, which is a potential bonus for folks with wide feet or those who are covering a lot of miles. On the other hand, these shoes can feel less precise and be less comfortable on people with narrow feet. Putting the shoe width into consideration is one of the best ways to make the best choices.

  • Avoid Waterproof Shoe for Trail Running

This is a trail running shoes buying guide that one has to look out for so that the wrong choices won’t be made. For most trail running events, it’s better to wear a breathable, non-waterproof shoe. Waterproof shoes work well in wet areas though it causes the feet to sweat, making the runner uncomfortable. Waterproof shoes are the best fit for icy or snowy trails.

  • Choose Trail Running Shoes With Stack Height

The amount of material under your feet (the stack height) is one of the differences between running shoes and trail running shoes. Some runners think less material is good because it makes them feel more connected to the ground and causes their biomechanics to improve (minimalist shoes). Others think thicker, more protective shoes lead to fewer injuries and a comfortable run (maximum cushioning). But trail running shoes with stack height are the best as they reduce fatigue on long-distance runs and give the feet the comfortability that it needs.

Are Trail Running Shoes Good For Hiking?

Trail running shoes are often designed to have a grasping base for easy grip, especially on trails and it has a rock plate that serves as protection and ensures comfortability on rough surfaces. When it comes to trail running shoes and lightweight backpacking, there are several ways these two pieces of gear complement each other. For example, if you choose lightweight backpacking over more traditional heavy-duty packing, you’ll enjoy hiking in your trail running shoes more and vice versa. Below are the benefits of making use of trail running shoes for hiking:

  • They Are More Breathable and Keep Your Feet Dry Inside

Very few hiking boots are truly waterproof. That’s because most hiking boots are waterproof or water-resistant though not completely impermeable to water. And with breathable mesh uppers, trail running shoes can keep your feet cool and dry even when they’re sweating at half a pint per day.

  • It Gives Your Feet Less Weight

Most people use boots for hiking and this has a way of slowing you down. Trail running shoes are designed to be very light to ensure fast and easy jobs. Hiking in lightweight shoes feels easier, leaving you with more energy to put into hiking farther, faster, or just enjoying the miles even more.

  • It Reduces Or Prevents Blisters and Hot Spots

Blisters often result from friction between your feet and your shoes, and moisture makes a bad situation worse. Lightweight breathable running shoes will take care of both problems. Trail runner shoes can help you prevent blisters even after covering a distance of above 25 miles hiking.

  • It Feels More Comfortable to Hike on Trail Running Shoe

Many hikers use trail runners because they offer a comfortable option for protecting their feet and ankles on the trails. It is difficult to find hikers testifying of comfortability on hiking with boots.

Can You Use Trail Running Shoes On the Road?

If you’re a trail runner, your shoes should have thick, textured soles that help you stick to slippery surfaces and plow through mud. If you’re a road runner, your shoes should have smooth, hard outsoles that help you transition from heel to toe. But just a friendly word of caution about what kind of shoes to wear – if you’re running on roads with extreme trail shoes, you could get hot spots developing on the balls of your feet from the long traction lugs. The extra pressure could even lead to other issues such as blisters, and in extreme cases, plantar fasciitis. Nevertheless, trail running shoes with moderate soles can also be used for road running.

Also, you’ll wear out the cushioning on the outsoles of your trail shoes if you do too much road running. This will decrease the overall life expectancy of your shoes and reduce grip efficiency on trails. When you’re heading out onto the trails, you want your shoes to offer a little extra protection from things like sharp rocks, sticks, and to be made of more sturdy, durable materials. Road running shoes are made of more lightweight materials that allow your feet to breathe.

Can One Wear Trail Running Shoes On a Treadmill?

Modern trail running shoes are better than their predecessors. The first such shoes were bulky and stiff, but today’s models offer lightweight construction and great flexibility. This makes them well-suited to slower treadmill runs, but if you’re doing faster workouts such as tempo or interval workouts, you may find comfort and speed in a lighter, more flexible road shoe.

When you’re wearing trail running shoes on the treadmill, you may notice that they feel different from the way they feel when you wear them on soft ground. Some trail running shoes might even feel uncomfortable when running on the treadmill because of the way the lugs dig into the bottom of your foot. Wearing trail shoes on a treadmill will wear them down faster than wearing them on the road, simply because only the tips of the lugs make contact with the surface of the treadmill but it won’t negatively affect their performance unless they wear off completely.

How Long Should Trail Running Shoes Last?

In recent years, trail runners have become increasingly popular worldwide. Trail running is a type of road running that involves engaging in both a hike and a run on unpaved surfaces. Even though trail runners are built tough, they wear out faster than other running shoes, because they’re meant to be used in the mountains, over rocks, sand, and dirt. Trail running shoes are comparable in lifespan to road running shoes. The length of time they last depend on quality, traction, terrain, runner’s weight, running style, and running technique. One should replace their trail running shoes after covering a distance of about 350-550 miles, which is about 5-6 months for someone who covers a distance of about 25 miles a day.

What are The Best Brands and Examples of Trail Running Shoes?

In the early 1990s there are but a few brands that are in the business of making trail running shoes. This is owing to the devalue of trail runners on the need for quality trail running shoes. These trail running shoes began to gain a lot of popularity as so many good brand names in shoemaking ventured into the manufacturing of quality models. This also increased the value attached to trail running as a whole.

Below are some brands and their models of trail running shoes:

1. Hoka One One Trail Running Shoes

This is a Goleta in California-based trail shoe brand. The Hokas were born in the Alps and were originally conceived as a removable overshoe that would allow you to bomb down thousands of vertical meters without beating up your body. But that idea evolved into the highly cushioned and rockered shoe design that brought Hoka One One to the limelight.

  • Hoka One One Speedgoat

This is one of the first models produced by Hoka One One brand on trail running shoes. This was designed with the help of observations gotten from athletes. The Speedgoat has over the years gotten different modifications which include Speedgoat 4 GTX, Speedgoat MID 2 GTX, Speedgoat 4, and the EVO Speedgoat.

  • Hoka’s Torrent

The Hoka’s Torrent for men and women is a lightweight trail shoe with aggressive outsole lugs, making it a favorite for runners who want to go fast on varied terrain. The midsole remains unchanged from the original, but a newly engineered mesh upper made of recycled polyester provides a breathable experience on the trails.

  • Hoka Challenger ATR

The Hoka products have been a hit in the world of trail running shoes but the Challenger ATR is one of the best. Over the years the model has gotten several upgrades up to six different times and the latest is the Hoka Challenger ATR 6.

  • Hoka Stinson ATR

The Stinson ATR is the latest brand of the Hoka and is made with a lightweight, no-sew SpeedFrame Construction that makes it a perfect choice for athletes who want to run for hours and be worry-free about their shoes.

2. Salomon Trail Running Shoes

Salomon dominated European trail-running circles, but in the U.S., it was barely a blip on the radar. However, over the past ten years, Salomon has become one of the most popular trail running brands on the market, especially among ultrarunners. It now offers everything from short-distance racing shoes to heavy-duty shoes that can handle 200 miles of rugged trail.

Below are some of the models produced by the Salomon brand:

  • Speedcross

This is one of the earliest models produced by the brand. It struck the market and projected the brand name of Salomon. The trail hiking shoe has gotten a lot of redesigns which include the Speedcross ATR, Speedcross 2. Speedcross 3, and Speedcross 5.

  • Sense Ride

This is another unique model of trail running shoes from the Salomon brand. It is designed to offer total comfort and increase its durability. The model has gotten a lot of upgrades and they are sense ride 3, sense ride 4, sense ride 2, sense ride 3, sense ride GTX, sense ride 4 review, sense ride 3 review, sense ride GTX, sense ride 4 GTX, sense ride 2 review, and sense ride 3 women.

  • S/Lab Ultra

This is a perfect trail running shoe that helps in handling speed, it can handle any kind of surface – wet or dry. They have over the years added more designs on the model which are S/Lab Ultra 2, S/Lab Ultra 3, S/Lab Ultra 4.

3. Brooks Trail Running Shoes

This is a Seatle in Washington-based trail running shoe brand. Brooks is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway a public company that has made a stand in the world. A visit to brooks retail store you are sure to see good quality trail running shoes that will meet your trail running demands. Below are some Brook trail running shoes.

  • Brooks Cascadia

The Cascadia is one of Brook’s most comfortable and cushioned trail running shoes. This updated proprietary DNA Loft foam—combined with the Ballistic Rock Shield—protects your feet from abrasions and hard impacts on rocky terrain. The Cascadia has gotten a few reviews which are Cascadia 14, Cascadia 15, Cascadia 16.

  • Brooks Catamount

Brooks’s Catamount trail running brand of shoes was released in the second half of 2020. The Brooks Catamount is built to go the 100-mile distance, with a DNA FLASH midsole that provides excellent cushioning, a flexible but protective rock plate, and an all-around outsole. Weighing only 9.3 ounces in a men’s size 9, the Catamount can also be an everyday wear shoe.

4. Altra Trail Running Shoes

Altra began with its founders tinkering with running shoes in a toaster oven while working at a running shop near Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. The brand gained popularity with its original Lone Peak trail model, which was named after a peak in the Wasatch Mountain range. The materials and construction of the shoe have improved significantly since the model was first introduced, but anyone familiar with the Lone Peak would instantly recognize its fifth iteration. Indeed, Altra has stayed true to its roots by never deviating from its commitment to shoes with no drop from heel to toe. Below are models from the Altra brand.

  • Altra Lone Peak

The Altra Lone Peak is a versatile trail shoe that will help you run with confidence. It’s stable underfoot and supportive, so you can run over any terrain with ease. It is good for runners with wide feet, with a perfect grip. It is stiff and durable.

  • Altra Olympus

The Altra Olympus is a new trail shoe by Altra, which builds on the successes of previous models while adding some extra perks that could make it appealing to more people. Despite the amount of cushion attached to the shoe, it still maintained a lightweight. The shoe has so far gotten upgrades which are Olympus 1.5, Olympus 2, Olympus 2.5. Olympus 3, Olympus 3.5, Olympus 4, 5.

5. Inov-8 Trail Running Shoes

This is one of the best trail running shoes produced in the Lake District in England. The company applied research on trail running shoes with a more gripping effect than what can be found in other trail running shoes. The successful achievement of a more gripping effect gave birth to models that are found today on the production line up of trail running shoes of Inov-8. Aside from the achievement of the company in gaining a gripper effect, they added Graphene to the outsole. This gave them a model which is regarded as Graphene-Grip with more traction to rough surfaces. Below are the major models under the Inova-8 trail shoe brands.

  • X-Talon

The Inov-8 X-Talon is a model that to date stands as one of the best trail running shoes based on its unique features. It is designed to have a wide toe box that can accommodate a wider feed and creates space for sharp turning or sudden stop. It is also constructed from lightweight and water resistible materials – being the best choice for trail running under rain or muddy trail. Its durability is superb as its upper is made from hard-wearing ballistic nylon.

  • Trailroc

This is one of the quick advancements on trail running shoes by Innov-8. It has very light and trail running features. A hard and rocky Graphene-Grip outsole. Particularly designed for a far distance trail running. It is covered with comfortable cushioning both at the sole layer and in the heel.

  • Roclite

The Inov-8 Roclite is a trail running shoe that is manufactured to have a lightweight design, complete stability for a narrow and low profile trail. It is built to be very efficient, and durable. The favorite feature observed in the Roclite is the tread which allows for better traction while running on the wet or muddy ground. Designed to have a wide toe box for comfortability while running or applying a sudden stop.

6. Nike Trail Running Shoes

Nike is a multinational American company that is located in Beaverton, Oregon, in the United States of America. The brand is globally known for making the most valuable sports wears. In 2013, Nike had a return on the trail running wears hitting the ground with unique trail running shoes. They rest their products on the best fit and superior finish, making use of the best midsole and outsole materials that makes their products unique.

Below are some of the models of trail running shoes manufactured by the Nike brand:

  • Nike Wildhorse

The Nike Wildhorse is a perfect choice for a runner looking for a trail shoe that can as well serve other purposes. It is manufactured with the best cushion design and designed to give a perfect trail running protection, with a bit of grit, and superb style.

  • Air Zoom Terra Kiger (Kiger)

The Kiger model is designed with special consideration for speedier running abilities. It is designed to have a complete lightweight required from a trail running show aiming at giving speedy effects and a complete sharp turn. It is further equipped with a toe box for comfort on the toes while running.

  • Pegasus Trail

The Nike Pegasus is one of the earliest models of trail running shoes designed to showcase quickness in movement and the beauty of flying. Personalities like Joan Benoit Samuelson, Mathew Centrowitz, Timothy Cheruiyot, Amy Cragg, Lelisa Desisa, and Evan Jager, are known to patronize this brand. The Nike Pegasus shoe is the first to feature an Air Wedge. In 1996, the shoe got a visible air introduced to it.


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