Going for a run is one of the best forms of exercise that you can give to your body, plus it has the many health benefits of getting out in the fresh air. Combine this with getting out in the countryside on a trail run and there really is nothing better. Whether you enjoy mountain paths, fields or woodland trails, there will be a pair of trail running shoes that are best suited to you.
If you are planning on completing any type of trail run, then you really need specialist footwear to help you get the job done. Trail running shoes will be more durable and offer more stability than normal running shoes. They also tend to offer additional features such as increased water resistance and better grip. With this in mind, we have created this buyer’s guide to help you find the best trail running shoes on the market!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
If you are in a rush to get running then this is the part of the article you need to read – we have combined all those fast-paced features to help you make a speedy purchase!
Type of Terrain
The type of terrain that you are planning on running on will play a big part of the decision over which trail running shoes to purchase. If you are going to be running in muddy or unstable conditions then it is important to opt for trail running shoes that have deep lugs and still soles to provide you with that extra grip whilst you are out running. Whereas if you are going to be completing a run on steep, rocky ground then it is vital to opt for running shoes that are going to provide you with protection and support. These will usually be firmer in build so that they can offer more stability for your ankle.
Features of the Best Trail Running Shoes
Trail running shoes will have particular features that differentiates them from just normal running shoes or trainers. It is crucial that trail running shoes are more durable than average trainers, as they are going to be coming up against much more difficult terrains. Make sure to look for good quality features and materials whenever you purchase trail running shoes!
These features will help you to keep safe, run faster and also just enjoy your trail run more than you would in normal running shoes.
It is vital to make sure that not just the sole but also the sides and top of your trail running shoes are waterproof. This is important because if you are running in anything other than completely dry conditions then you will find mud and water will splash up at your shoes. If they do not have good water resistance then this will lead to the shoes rubbing and quite possibly causing blisters.
Look out for waterproof membrane fabric that has a good hydrostatic score as these will be more waterproof than other models. It is also worth choosing models with well known membranes, such as Gore-Tex, as these are tried and tested, so you can trust them to be up to the task!
TOP TIP: If you know that you are going to be running in conditions where the water will be over ankle deep, you might actually be better opting for shoes WITHOUT a waterproof membrane! As mad as this may seem, it will stop water becoming stuck inside the shoe and weighing you down!
Although it is vital that your feet remain dry from the outside elements whilst you are out running, it is also important that they stay as dry as possible from the inside as well! This involves choosing trail running shoes that have breathable membranes to wick away any sweat or other moisture that builds on the inside of the shoe.
These membranes will not only absorb any sweat but will also provide a waterproof layer for any moisture on the outside of the shoe!
All over padding in your trail running shoes will help to massively increase the comfort when you are running, but also the impact on your joints. Padding to the tongue and top of your trail running shoes helps to reduce the rubbing and increase the support that the shoes can provide. Whereas padding to the base of the trainer helps to add that “cushion” under foot which will reduce both fatigue and the strain put on your feet.
The weight of your trail running shoes is vital, as a shoe that is too heavy will both slow you down and reduce the amount of time that you can run for, before you become fatigued. The best trail running shoes have ergonomic designs that utilise lightweight materials, so that the shoes will both protect your feet but also reduce the weight that you are having to carry. Some weigh as little as just over 200g, which means you will hardly know the shoes are there whilst you are out running!
There are three soles that you need to think about when it comes to you buying the best trail running shoes, these are the outsole, the midsole and the upper sole.
- The outsole is the part of the shoe that holds the grip on the bottom, which will be discussed in more detail below. But, one thing that you need to think about at this point is how sturdy you need the outsole to be. A harder sole will offer you more support but will also be less flexible and forgiving if you step onto an uneven rock, for example. Try holding the heel of the shoe and bending the toe up with your other hand, this will be a good indication of how much “bend” and flexibility there is in the shoe.
- The midsole is the cushioned part of the inner shoe that you walk on. Quite often these are now manufactured to include a certain amount of rubberised foam which adds to the “bounce” that these will provide. This will offer more comfort and also reduce fatigue when you are out running as they provide a much softer landing!
- The uppersole is basically the rest of the shoe! It is important that this is soft and comfortable so that it doesn’t rub on your feet and cause sores. Also look for upper soles that offer slightly more room and stretch as these will allow for the foot to swell during running whilst they still remain comfortable.
TOP TIP: Make sure to consider the “stack height” of trail running shoes before you purchase them – this is the amount of material that is on the outsole of the shoe. Some people would prefer a bigger stack because this will offer your more protection against rocks, however others would prefer less material as this offers better biomechanics and provides a more natural feel on your run.
The grip of your trail running shoes is vital to make sure that you keep both feet on the ground whilst you are running! Running on trails and through the countryside can be dangerous as you may be going through slippy fields or along mossy rocks, therefore the grip on the shoe will help to avoid any accidents.
Deep lugs that are 5mm and over will give you good stability whilst you are on particularly difficult trails, however you will find these rather uncomfortable to run in on a road or more flat surfaces. If you know that you are always going to be running on difficult terrain then this is the grip that you need to go for, but if you are going to be tackling a variety of surfaces then a hybrid shoe with lugs between 2 and 4mm might be better suited for you. These will still offer some stability but will still be comfortable and allow you to pick up speed on the roads.
TOP TIP: If you know that you are going to be quite varied in your running conditions then it may be worth purchasing two pairs of trail running shoes (one with deep lugs and the other with shorter). Although this will add to your additional outlay, it is much better than a sprained ankle from tackling difficult terrain with unsuitable footwear!
Extra Trail Running Shoes Features
Now that you understand the main aspects that you need to consider before finding the best trail running shoes for you, there are some extra points that we thought might be worth making before you get started! It is important to mention that not all of these features may work for you, it really is down to personal preference, as it is you that is going to be running in them!
- Midsole shank – This is a thin piece of plastic that is fitted in the midsole of the shoe. The idea of this is to protect the foot from any protruding, sharp rocks that you might stand on. Some people find that this reduces the flexibility of the shoe and the amount that you can “feel” underneath you in a negative way, whereas others find that it reduces fatigue and discomfort when out running on particularly rocky surfaces.
- Colour and Design – There are some fantastically coloured and designed trail running shoes available on the market! In fact it is actually harder to find “plain” trail running shoes than it is coloured! Brighter shoes will help you to stand out more against the environment if you have an accident whilst out running, but they will also show the mud more when you are finished!
- Toe cap – Some trail running shoes offer rubber toe caps for the front of your trail running shoes to offer additional protection against rocks and boulders that you might be running on. These will reduce the flexibility of the shoe but offer a lot of protection if you are running up fells or on other treacherous terrain!
Finding Trail Running Shoes That Fit
If you are wanting to get the most protection and stability from your trail running shoes then you will need to make sure that they fit properly. The best trail running shoes will fit differently to a normal shoe, as it is vital that they have more of a snug fit than every-day shoes.
You should opt for a pair that fits snugly around the arch of your foot and the heel to offer maximum protection when over rough terrain. Equally at the front of the shoe make sure that you have a thumb’s width of space to allow for some swelling of the foot whilst you are out running. This applies to the upper sole of the shoe too, as it is important that the upper sole fits needs and securely over the top of your foot and can be tightened enough with your laces, but that there is also space for when your foot expands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I wash my trail running shoes?
Yes, most trail running shoes should be able to be washed and will need this to keep their waterproof layer working effectively. Allow the mud to dry out and then brush it off, then once you have wiped off as much dirt as possible, simply pop your trail running shoes in the washing machine on a cold, gentle wash!
Can you get a Vibram sole on trail running shoes?
Yes! Vibram soles are known for their unique, grippy design and are usually found on walking boots and shoes. However, they can also be found on trail running shoes and are a sign of a super grippy sole that will really look after you and your feet whilst you are out running!
How long should my trail running shoes last?
It is difficult to say exactly how long trail running shoes should last, as it really depends on how “heavy” of a runner you are and also the terrain that you are going to be running on! Decent quality trail running shoes should last between 300 and 500 miles providing they are looked after between runs!