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Trail Running Part 3 – Considerations when buying trail running shoes

Trail shoes
What’s important to consid if you’re looking to purchase a trail running shoe?

Fit
Fit is by far the most important feature of any shoe. A shoe needs to feel light, comfortable and not noticeable on your foot. It needs to feel good to run in too.

Cushioning
Cushioning is next important, depending on how far you’re running. Quite a high number of trail running events are ultra distance and cushioning is going to help keep you comfortable. It’ll also place a bit of distance between you and those sharp rocks, which will protect your feet. That said the majority of trails are slightly softer than paved surfaces and you can often get away with a touch less cushioning if you’re getting a better fit.

Grip and protection
All trail shoes are going to provide some decent grip and underfoot protection compared to road shoes and it’s only when you’re going to some really wet, muddy and perhaps hilly places that a particularly aggressive tread pattern is going to be a serious consideration.

Weight
That majority of trail shoes are sufficiently light and the number of grams a shoe weighs isn’t of much significance. A better fitting shoe will provide a much lighter feel on the foot and that should be the focus. Chris Wight says “The Nike Wildhorse 3 is the trail shoe I most commonly use and it’s quite a bit heavier than a lot of other shoes we stock yet it fits my foot so well that it feels like nothing on my foot and hence an obvious choice for me. “

It all comes down to what Chris Chapman calls “the sweet spot.”

I like to weigh things up with people by listening to what their needs are and talking about:

  • Weight
  • Durability
  • Cushioning
  • Grip

Fit is a given – the shoe needs to fit great, if not, then it’s not in the running (excuse the pun…).

For some people, impact protection and cushioning, might be their main priority, so for them, there’s plenty of options, i.e. Hoka Stinson or Challenger ATR, Salomon Speedcross, Nike Wildhorse or Saucony Peregrine are all great cushioned options with obviously some having more cushion for the pushin than others.

How do you choose from such a great list of shoes?

Trail being different to road shoes, as mentioned above, we don’t look for a specific “degree of pronation” or look to put people in trail shoes that have a pronationary control or guidance mechanism (i.e. guidance geometry or dual density midsole) but we really need to listen to our bodies – you need to try each of these on and take them for a run outside to feel how much cushioning you really need.

Only then after having them on your feet and comparing all will you find the ones that obviously fit the best, you can weigh up on your most important criteria, cushioning. Chris Chapman says “The shoe that gives you that instant “I’m home” feeling is the one that you’ll have the best experience in.

Obviously this all changes and skews based on what is most important to each person but the key here is to take time, weigh them all up against one another and take them all for a quick trot. If you’re in a store that only has 1 trail option then I’d be going somewhere else as 1 trail shoe isn’t going to cover every trail runner who comes in that shop.

Now go out and get dirty!

Chris and Chris!