The Journey#12: How to choose trail running shoes
Let's help you find the best combination, so you can join us on the trails.
Team, Francisco here from The Journey Endurance Club. Welcome to our weekly newsletter where we will make sure that we help you become a better trail runner, physically and mentally. If you like the newsletter, share it with a fellow runner. Or, if this was forwarded to you, please, don't forget to subscribe. Thanks so much for being here.
This post takes ~ 5min to read
After the article about how to start your ultrarunning journey, and by mentioning that, in terms of gear, all that you needed to get was a pair of trail running shoes, it was obvious that we would have to provide some support on this topic.
The specificity of trail running shoes is greater, comparing to road running shoes. Depending on the type of use you will give, there are shoes that will give a better response to what you are looking for.
Not wanting to go into too much detail and because we want to help you make a decision (rather than complicate), there are three types of trail running shoes:
Light trail/multi-usage/commuter shoe
These are a good option if you are looking to do some mixed terrain training (road + a park or forest light trails). Designed for less technical terrain, the light trail shoes are more lightweight, stiffer, uppers are light and breathable, outsoles have shallow lugs for traction.
❗ Don't need to go over on the lugs - 2mm to 4mm is a good option.
Rugged trail shoes
Comparing to the light trail shoes, these are stiffer, have deeper and multidirectional lugs, and have more protection (toe guards and underfoot plates to protect your feet from the roots and rocks). With this type of shoe, you'll be able to have fun on another type of terrain: from wide and smooth trails to more difficult technical single tracks.
You might find some shoes with grippy rubber in the undersole, which is a better option in terms of traction.
Finally, the off-trail shoes. Whatever the trails has to offer, they (might) handle it (expect no mercy from the trails 😊). Very similar to the rugged trail shoes, they tend to be even more stiffer and heavier. Still, you can expect more protection and stability.
Now that you know that there are three types of trail running shoes, before "giving the first step" and make any decision, there are a few points that you need to take into consideration:
There are many suggestions and reviews on the internet. By reading and watching videos, you will find the main “trends” or the shoes/brands that are most used by fellow runners. You will hear that "What I felt by using this shoe was...X or Y." But, please...Do your own research.
We believe that more than following a trend, the choice of shoes is really personal, subjective and you should start by thinking about:
Step 1 - How to pick "your precious" shoe?
For you to find the shoe that best fits you, you can start by answering these questions:
❗ What's the type of terrain you will run the most? (most important question, we would say);
How often are you going out?;
How long are you planning to run (average duration of your training)?;
How does the shoe feel on your foot?;
Step 2 - What to look for?
Hoping that you now have the answer to those questions above (if not, please, do not hesitate to ask us for some help. Leave your question below. Let's chat), next time you search online to buy your trail running shoes or you visit a store, look for some information (or ask) related to:
Based on the distance you're planning to run, here's what might be important to consider:
❗ NOTE: of course, these elements turn out to be somewhat relative. Nowadays, there are very short but very technical challenges (eg Vertical KM). So, more than just the distance, never forget to take into account the type of terrain, the type of challenges or races you are thinking of doing.
This is a personal preference. Just like with the distance, here, the right amount of padding depends on the type of trails you’ll be running. You are the one who decides on the amount of cushion:
High cushion: less impact on your body. Better for longer distances and more technical terrain;
Minimum or no cushion: you feel the ground better.
Look at the grip of the shoe, which will allow you to get traction
The overall fit should be tighter compared to other running shoes. A nice snug foot, that makes you feel nimble on the trail, excellent ground feel, and feeling supported (especially the ankle) is what you are looking for.
Please, take into consideration that your feet will expand when it is hot and by using a thicker sock, you don't want to get uncomfortable. You want to have about a centimeter at the front of the shoe, allowing your toes to move around a little bit.
This refers to the difference in size off the ground your heel sits compared to your toes. Drop is important because it relates to how your foot strikes the ground with each stride.
❗ If you don't know how much drop is better for you, try to choose a drop that has a similar drop to the athletic shoes you have right now.
The amount of support your feet and ankles receive from the shoes. Don't worry if the shoe is a little bit heavier. It is better to have better stability, that will allow you to keep you solid and stable.
If you're one of those people who really like to go into detail, here are a few more extras:
STEP 3 - How to test
While you are choosing your next pair of running shoes in the store, unfortunately, there are no mountains or trails that you can use to test them. Still, to help you with your decision, we leave you with 5 tips that you can put into practice:
1- Try new shoes at the end of the day, might be a good option, gives you a really accurate fit for when you actually go running;
2- Bring some thicker socks or bigger ones: when running on the trails, you might wear some thicker socks. So, the best thing to do is to bring the socks that represent what you will be wearing in practice;
3- Run forward and backward: jog slowly forward and also backward to have a feel of the different areas of the shoe and for you to see what is the feeling on your toes and heels;
4- Roll your ankle, to make sure that your ankle can move but also give a few steps to allow you to feel the support of the shoe
5- If you make your purchase online, if possible, check if you can get help from customer support. To avoid mistakes, another tip is to buy a larger number in size (half-size), when compared to your day-to-day shoes.
Based on the information we've put above, it's important to go by feeling, allowing you, then, to go with the flow. There is no perfect shoe, but we would say that try to find the best combination based on your preferences.
To finish big this week, based on our research and asking to our community, we leave you with some suggestions:
Light trail/multi-usage/commuter shoe
Rugged Trail Shoes
TELL US: how do you decide when buying new trail running shoes? what are your favorite shoes?
📖 Growth Station
😊 “World’s Happiest Runner”: at this community, we are all about stories. Here is the story of Mira, known by being the world’s happiest runner. This nepali girl, at 14 years old, joined the Maoist army, always dreaming of being successful in sport. After participating in her first long distance running race, she realised she was born for this;
👟 Grit: UTMB is back. First of all, we wish good luck to all our fellow runners who will participate in the “meca” of trail running. To inspire you, here is a “different” video about the race and one of the most required virtues to finish the race: Grit.
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