A dependable pair of trail running shoes can provide you with a deeper, better connection to the trails. Not only does this allow you to uptick the miles confidently, but it ensures you stay safe and remain agile over varied terrain. To figure out what type of shoe you need, keep these guidelines in mind as you shop:
The Shoes Need to Fit Your Feet Well
Keep recommendations in perspective—they might not be right for you. Because fit is so important, we have a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy on our trail running shoes.
Terrain-Specific Shoes Equal Better Runs
Different trail running shoes cater to different terrains. The ones you choose need to mirror the trail and support you simultaneously.
TYPES OF TRAIL RUNNING SHOES AND RELATED TRAIL FEEL
There are four main types of trail shoes: barefoot, minimalist, moderate, and maximum.
Barefoot—Ultra Trail Feel and Connection
These trail shoes have true barebones construction: they’re lightweight and feature a zero-drop platform with no cushion underfoot. Know that these shoes don’t offer much protection. Additionally, your body needs to get accustomed to running in barefoot (and minimalist) shoes, so be prepared to ease into your mileage.
Cushion: Nonexistent to paper thin.
Feature Benefit: Maximum trail feel.
Best For: Individuals with previous barefoot running technique experience.
Minimalist—Maximum Trail Feel and Connection
Minimalist shoes are comparable to barefoot but feature three major differentiators: more cushion underfoot, a heel-to-toe offset, and added protection against roots and rocks.
Feature Benefit: Light protection against trail obstacles—without unnecessary weight.
Best For: Individuals who want protection, but also prefer a fast and light running technique.
Moderate—Moderate Trail Feel and Connection
Moderate or traditional trail running shoes have a modest amount of cushion underfoot for shock absorption. These shoes can be equipped with features such as GORE-TEX™ and gaiter attachment points for enhanced defense against debris and weather.
Feature Benefit: All-around trail running shoe.
Best For: Runners who want a little bit of everything for a wide variety of trails.
Maximum—Light Trail Feel and Connection
Maximum-cushion shoes are easily identifiable because of their plush midsole. Oftentimes these shoes will have nearly double the amount of cushion underfoot when compared with traditional trail running shoes.
Feature Benefit: Better shock absorption.
Best For: People who run long distances or individuals with pre-existing or healed lower-body injuries.
TYPES OF TRAIL RUNNING SHOE SUPPORT
Every runner has a different degree of pronation. As you shop, you’ll notice three types of support: neutral, stability, and motion control.
We recommend buying a neutral trail shoe, as it enables you to adapt to changing terrain. A support shoe could induce fatigue (or injury) or inhibit your ability to pivot quickly and course-correct.
(To learn more about stability or motion control shoes and find out whether or not you need them, visit your local running store for a form assessment.)
WHEN TO REPLACE YOUR TRAIL RUNNING SHOES
How do you know when your trail shoes are cashed out?
The Tread Tells All: Wear on the sole’s heel is common and is often a sign of an overextended stride. However, flattened tread across the sole is a sign you need to replace your shoes—a smooth sole won’t give you much traction in varied terrain.
Take Note of Discomfort and Hot Spots: If you experience pain or a dull ache in your legs or lower back while running in your trusted pair, you’re probably ready for new trail shoes.
Ultimately, the right trail running shoe should feel like an extension of yourself: in theory, it should empower you to take chances, enjoy the miles, and endure obstacles. And hopefully, this blog will help you find your perfect pair.