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April 10, 2021 8 translation missing: en.blogs.article.read_time 0 Comments

Are you a hiker who would like to experience the trails in a new way? Maybe you are a road runner who is interested in immersing yourself in nature? Trail running is one of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation, and with good reason. This fun, fast-paced activity can be done year-round, in groups or alone, and offers just one more great way to interact with nature. Trails, though, are different beasts than asphalt, and selecting the right trail running shoes is the key to starting off this activity with your best foot forward. Below you will find everything you need to know about how to choose the right footwear with the traction, fit, and protection required for hitting the trails.

Trail running shoes differ considerably from road shoes. The biggest differences are found in the sole, both with the outsole tread pattern and the density of the midsole. Whereas the outsole of a road shoe aims to achieve the best possible forward stride, trail running shoes must provide traction in different conditions and multiple directions. To protect from stone bruising, the midsole has been improved so that sharp rocks are not as easily felt on the bottoms of the feet. The shoe’s upper also sports considerably more robust material than in road shoes, making it much more resistant to abrasion. A burly toe guard can often be found too, protecting the shoe and toes from unexpected hits.

Trail runners are almost always neutral and generally ride lower to the ground than your average road shoe. Step for step, the foot rarely hits the trail the same way twice, and this natural variety often negates the need for the more traditional methods of foot stabilization, such as medial posting. Keeping the foot closer to the ground offers a good feel of the trail and reduces the chances of rolling ankles. Still, if you have a significant foot ailment, we recommend consulting a physiotherapist when choosing shoes.

Below, we will now discuss four key points that are good to consider when purchasing your new footwear.

  • Shoe Type : Different types of terrain call for different types of trail runners. For example, runners who spend most of their time on flat, well maintained trails may prefer a lighter shoe, while those who frequent demanding trails with awkward or rocky footing may opt for something more supportive.
  • Shock absorption : Trail runners range from the barefoot-running variety to heavily cushioned, ultra-running shoes.
  • Shoe drop: This is the difference in the height of the shoe’s sole between the heel and the toe. This greatly affects the feel and forward stride of the shoe.

Fit: Proper foot measurement and trying on a variety of shoes with different lasts is recommended.

  

Shoe Types

You should begin your search for the perfect shoe by considering what kind of terrain you will be spending the majority of your time on. If you are excited about the sport and plan to run regularly, a single pair of running shoes will last about 4-6 months of hard use. After that, you can always select another type of trail runner if your new hobby has taken you down a different path than you had originally anticipated.

Trail running shoes can be roughly divided into the three following categories:

Lightweight trail runners are designed for race-day use as well as easy, well-maintained trails. The properties of these shoes are:

  • Moderate protection from rocks and roots.
  • Good feeling on short, technical sections of trail.
  • Better for those with shorter strides.
  • Often have low tread lug-depth, providing good grip and feel on dry, hard surfaces.
  • Can still be reasonably cushioned, making longer runs more comfortable.
  • The biggest benefit of these shoes is their excellent, lightweight sole package, and how good it can feel on your foot.

 

Mid-distance shoes offer a degree more support and traction in a variety of conditions. With these shoes, it's easy to embark on adventures where you don't really know what's in store. Most runners own this set of shoes. Features include:

  • A substantial toe guard on the upper, and often a stiffening plate incorporated into the shoe’s sole, to protect against sharp stones.
  • More durable upper materials, allowing them to hold up reasonably well to scrapes and hits from roots and rocks.
  • Cushioned midsole that absorbs and dissipates hard shocks when running downhill.
  • The shoes are somewhat stiffer overall due to certain construction techniques and materials, giving slightly more overall support to the foot when in unusual placements.
  • Usually have a "harness" construction that helps to keep the foot in place and does not allow it to slide forward.
  • The outsole usually has a robust tread pattern, which includes separated knobs (lugs). These ensure good traction in muddy terrain and are easy to clean.
  • Generally, these shoes use a slightly harder rubber on their outsole than the lightweight shoes, for increased durability. However, some of the shoes in this range are specially designed for muddy conditions, and these models may use a somewhat softer rubber than normal models.

 

Long-distance orultra-runners are relatively robust and stiff shoes, which no longer aim for maximum speed, but instead for good support and maximum protection. More than just trail running, these are excellent shoes for hikes, long runs, and even fast packing. Characteristics of this shoe include:

  • Much stronger and more robust material choices. For example, the standard EVA foam midsole may be replaced by a polyurethane midsole.
  • Great torsional rigidity, protecting your feet in awkward terrain such as talus and rock fields.
  • Often can be found with a waterproof membrane.

These days, it is increasingly common for trail running shoes to fill the role of a lightweight hiking shoe. We highly recommend this third type of trail runner for double-duty use as a light hiker and speed hiking shoe. 

Shock Absorption

For decades, running shoes remained virtually unchanged - that is until the late 2000’s when the first hyper-minimalist or “barefoot” running shoes arrived on the scene. Immediately following this came the first wave of ultra-cushioned, impact-damping trail running shoes. Both have their own diehard supporters, but generally the most suitable shoe is found somewhere in between.

Barefoot shoes: These shoes are lightweight and offer unmatched sensitivity and feel of the trail below. Barefoot shoes breathe well and dry quickly. Getting your legs, feet, and stride used to these shoes takes time, and the unfamiliar should be especially wary of getting into trouble if the initial training amounts are too large, or the training amount increases too rapidly. We recommend that you start using these shoes in moderation.

Minimal cushion: These shoes are a good option for runners who want a better feel of the terrain beneath them, but also want the shoe to offer some protection from stones, and a hint of cushioning on the bottom. This style of runner is popular with racers all the way up to marathon distances. 

Moderate cushion: The traditional all-arounder, these shoes are reasonably good at impact  damping and effectively absorb shock when running downhill. These shoes make it easy to move from asphalt to trails, and are the most popular style of trail running shoes.

Maximum cushion: Shoes with very strong impact-absorption are popular with long-distance runners. The shoes provide good cushioning for a tired foot even in 100-mile races. For normal trails, these don’t feel as good as thinner-soled shoes, but can occasionally be used to run on asphalt, concrete, or tarmac. 

 

Shoe Drop: the height difference between the heel and the toe of the shoe

A shoe’s drop is usually related to the amount of padding in the midsole. In general, the drop (the difference between highest and lowest point of the midsole) is something between 0 mm and +12 mm.

  • The drop for barefoot shoes is 0 mm.
  • In minimalist shoes, the drop is usually 0 to 4 mm.
  • Other trail running shoe types vary greatly model to model in the level of drop they have, depending on their intended use.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when considering what kind of drop you want for your shoes:

If you’ve already run for a while on the asphalt, you might want to look at the drop on your current road running shoes and start with a trail runner that has the same or a slightly lower drop. In trail running, you won't be landing on your heels as often as on roads, so the extra heel cushioning is not as critical.

If, for example, you participate in obstacle course racing (OCR) or orienteering, you may be used to a low-profile shoe that has little drop. In this case, you should consider a similar style of shoe with a moderate drop of around 2-8mm. Running with low-drop shoes usually means that your foot will land with a forefoot strike, thus it is often the case that the stride length is also shorter. This can be an especially optimal running style for technical terrain.

Usually the foot and body are used to a certain type of shoe, and this should not be altered too much at the beginning of this new hobby. For this reason, it is a good idea to get a trail runner with a similar drop to that of any current sport footwear you may have.

If you are considering barefoot shoes, you should transition to them slowly, over the course of at least a few months. During this time you should be very aware and careful not to overtrain. With time, your feet and body will slowly get used to this style of footwear, and you will more than likely notice a significant change in your running style with these shoes.

The Fit: comparing various shoe models

The most important thing when buying a new trail running shoe is the fit of the shoe. Finding a good fit requires more than simply matching the length and width. Biomechanically, the feet are very complex and a good fit also takes into account factors such as the shape and length of the arch, the overall volume of the foot, and also the height of the foot.

As each individual’s feet are different, the way a pair of trail runners fit and feel changes drastically from person to person. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution here. Simply relying on a friend’s praise of a shoe, or a 5-star review alone is not enough. You need to try the shoe on yourself, as it is very possible that the shoe may not fit you at all.

Lasts: Shoes are traditionally molded and made around wooden lasts. One way to find out if a shoe will work for you is to find a last model that closely matches your foot. Sometimes companies will list the last that each model of shoe is made on. These lasts can often carry over from season to season and model to model. Finding a suitable last also makes it easier to buy a shoe from our online store, as you already know roughly how the shoe you are ordering will feel on your foot.

Shoe size: Shoe sizes vary by type, last, manufacturer, and materials used. Feet also change as you get older, so you should always measure your feet when it comes time to buy new shoes. Another good tip for in-store purchases is to remove the insole of any new shoes you are considering and compare their length to that of your foot. Also keep in mind that feet swell considerably when running, and even more when running in the heat. Be sure to account for this, as well as room for your preferred sock, and around 1cm of additional space at the shoe’s end.

Shoe fitting: We recommend that you try on sports footwear in the afternoon or evening. In the morning, the foot has recovered from the day before and is often smaller and more contracted compared to what it will be in the evening, when it’s swollen from the strain of the day.

We hope you find this advice helpful, and that it serves you well from the shop to the sunny trails. Happy running!

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