What’s all this about trail shoes…

So here’s the issue, you like the idea of running off-road in places like Rushmere and Ivinghoe so went online and bought some trail shoes that came highly recommended. However you later found that in order to get to these places you have to run on the road also, and your new trail shoes either hurt your feet when you use them for road, or they get wrecked quickly. Use road shoes off-road? The problem is not necessarily the lack of grip with the road shoes used off-road, but the side to side ‘roll’ on the uneven surfaces. Its dangerous, and really increases the risk of injury. The same can be said for using trails on the road. The trail shoes do not have the same ground-contact and support characteristics as road shoes and therefore you will adopt a different running style with running with them on the road, although you may be unaware. This can lead to injury over time…

It’s a common misconception that trail shoes are all the same. There are different kinds? Well yeah. Some are more designed for softer muddy ground, with very soft rubber soles with exceptional, oversized grip. Some have a lot of waterproofing, whereas some invest in a lot of toe protection for more rocky or mountainous regions, and some on stability.

The market for running shoes is a confusing place at the best of times, with so much choice on offer, without throwing different kinds of trail shoes into the mix, so what makes sense is to look at the requirements and try to work out the best shoe for that. Sounds simple enough. For example if the requirement is to drive to a park, change and run on muddy trails in winter, before changing footwear to drive home, then something with great grip and waterproofing might be the best choice of trail shoe.

In our case, a lot of people like the idea of running up to the trails at Rushmere, and like to include extra miles to make up their weekly mileage, or simply to run there to and from their home. This requirement is therefore a ‘door to trail’ shoe. Something that has characteristics of a trail shoe and some characteristics of a road shoe. The support of a road shoe would be good, to support the runner on the harder surfaces, made of a stronger material with more aggressive grip, like a trail shoe.

So luckily there is a market segment that deals with ‘door to trail’ running shoes that are ideal for runs that will contain a road and a trail element. Just like yesterday and the LFR’s that ran up to the park run recce from the clubhouse. I don’t want to make this blog a comparison of all possible shoes that fit this category, as each runner has their own tastes and preferences, but perhaps bear in mind that there are some key characteristics to look out for.

  1. Lateral Stability.
  2. Some toe-box protection for when you catch your feet on tree-roots and rocks.
  3. Grip, but not an aggressive pattern that would make it difficult to run on hard surfaces.
  4. Made of tougher materials that wont tear when it comes into contact with trail debris.

I have found that Salomon make some good shoes for this requirement, the XA Pro 3D, which is a serious high-mileage, highly-stable door-to-trail shoe and the lighter, more agile Wings Pro shoe. I have had both and these are my go-to shoes for a run that takes me from the house to the hills and back. That said, not everyone has my feet, and other brands might ‘fit’ better.

parkrunSo the exciting news is that park run is coming to Rushmere and I imagine a lot of you will be running there, completing the event, and running back. Perhaps its time to think about your choice of trail shoes? The next time you are thinking about getting some new trail shoes, bear in mind the requirements when looking and don’t be swayed by cheap offers on the internet, the shoes may be completely unsuitable. Think instead, about what will meet your needs.

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