Your Guide to Buying Trail Running Shoes
Not all trail shoes are made the same, and while the differences can be subtle, they can make a big impact on the comfort you experience and performance you achieve. The shoe you choose should support the activity you are undertaking, whether it be a rugged mountain hike or a smooth running trail, while also taking into consideration your natural foot movements and support level needed.
When Do You Need Trail Running Shoes?
You’re probably here because you’ve thought to yourself “Do I need trail running shoes?”. The decision to switch from your regular road running shoes to a specialised trail running shoe is going to depend on the frequency you’re using them off-road and the ruggedness of the terrain. When deciding whether you need trail running shoes, consider if you’re:
- Running off-road a few times per week. Trails can prematurely wear out your normal running shoes, designed for smooth surfaces like the road.
- Run on muddy or soft terrain. Trail or mud running shoes are built with additional traction in soft ground and may even prevent a fall.
- Run on rocky trails and mountains. The traction on specialised trail running shoes is purpose built for rough terrain, to provide additional grip to the surface.
Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Runners
There are some main differences between a regular running shoe and a trail running shoe. From purpose-built tractions for different terrains, to material and construction differences to protect your foot from harsher elements and equip you to adapt to unstable surfaces.
Unlike road runners, trail running shoes have:
- Rugged outsole for a better surface grip. The outsole is the part of the shoe that contacts the ground. All the best trail running shoes have rugged outsoles to grip whatever surface you're on.
- Higher protection from elements like rocks or water. Good trail running shoes will keep your feet dry, increase comfortability and help prevent blisters. They do this with features such as a rock plate, which protect the feet against rocks and other sharp objects underfoot, and shoelace designed to keep debris out.
- Different construction to keep your feet safe and secure. Additional movement is needed when running off-road. You may opt for a trail shoe with less rigidity in the sole, adding more flexibility to help you adapt in uncertain terrain. The type of rubber used in the sole is important, and good trail running shoes will use a rubber that provides superior grip, while being able to handle wet and dry conditions.
- Mesh upper ready to handle additional wear. Depending on the terrain you’re facing, you may opt to consider a shoe with a mesh that helps to repel water, such as trail shoes constructed with GORE-TEX™.
- A pocket that lets you tuck your laces inside. Shoelaces come undone more easily on trails. Aside from the pocket, trail runners can also have a toggle system that allows you to tighten and loosen your shoes quickly and easily.
How to Choose The Best Trail Running Shoes for You
Trail running shoes have come a long way since a few models began appearing on running store shelves about 25 years ago. More than just exhibiting "aggressive" outer soles, good trail running shoes also possess other features that make them more compatible with off road running.
Here are four key factors to remember when choosing the right trail running shoes for you:
1. Consider The Kind of Trail You Like to Run on
If the local off road trails are fairly smooth, you won't need an outsole with big "lugs," or the extra weight of those protrusions that touch the ground first. If you run rough trails, you'll need an outsole to match. Also consider the material used; the rubber content should be high to ensure a substantial, durable layer between your feet and the trail.
2. Make Sure You Choose The Correct Fit
When getting fitted for trail running shoes, look for the shoe to fit to your foot with slightly more room than you would when getting fitted for normal running shoes. The uppers on most trail running shoes are more durable, and sometimes with a water repellant mesh, making them less flexible and less likely to give with time like your normal road running shoes do.
Having your foot measured by a professional and confirming whether you need a shoe with more structure to support pronation should be assessed. Your feet are unique to you and caring for them is important – even more so in a demanding off-road environment. Find out more about pronation here , and where to get a personalised assessment .
3. Check the Heel Drop to Prevent Discomfort
Heel drop refers to the cushioning underfoot, and how this differs between the heel and toe of the shoe. Shoes with heel drop provide comfort for running, where your heel strikes the ground, needing additional cushioning, while less cushioning as you move onto your toes to push off the ground helps to propel you forward.
The greater the heel drop, the harder you’re intending to strike the ground and more propulsion you’re wanting to move forward. For standard off road walking or light trail running, you might opt for a shoe with minimal heel drop. This will provide you with the cushioning you need, without the price tag of a high-performance shoe. For off road performance footwear that will be required to take you further, faster, it’s worth considering a trail running shoe with a greater heel drop.
Best Recommended ASICS Trail Running Shoes
There are many trail running shoes available, and while there is no ‘best recommended trail running shoe’, there is a ‘best for you’ that you’ll be able to pick dependent on your foot and the terrain you’re frequenting.
Top ASICS Mountain Running Shoes
Packed with features for the performance off road runner, the TRABUCO™ MAX improved cushioning and traction while allowing runners to cover more terrain with less effort.
Top ASICS Trail Running Shoes for a Beginner
With firm cushioning and a mid-range outer sole, the GEL-SONOMA™ is a versatile shoe for trail runs, light hiking, and off road bush or mountain walks. It’s a popular choice for people making the switch from road running to trail running shoes.
Recommended Mud Running Shoes
The GEL-VENTURE™ is excellent for light hiking, where you might find soft or muddy terrain.