Road, Trail and Road-to-Trail Shoes: What's the Difference?

Running is one of the few sports in which you don’t need much gear. It is, however, important to make sure you have the right gear. This means choosing comfortable shoes, apparel and accessories to match the distance you’ll be running and the terrain you’ll be training on. There are running shoes designed specifically to pound pavement, tackle off-road terrain, or even handle a mix of both. Let’s break down the differences between road running shoes, trail running shoes and road-to-trail shoes

Road Running Shoes

Road running can be tough on your body because of the harsh surfaces you’re running on. Running on the road means running on the least forgiving surface, so you need a shoe that can absorb impact, disperse shock and hold up to the wear and tear of concrete and asphalt. There are plenty of options when it comes to road running shoes. You can choose between high-cushioned shoes, minimalist styles, neutral running shoes and shoes that offer stable support.

What’s the difference between neutral and stability shoes?

Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes are designed to withstand rocks, roots, mud and the occasional jaunt through a stream or creek. Trail running shoes offer reliable grip and traction in mud, sand and dirt so you can tackle unpredictable terrain with confidence. Most trail running shoes have aggressive lugging on the outsole and a protective toe cap. Trail running shoes feel firmer than road running shoes, providing extra protection from the elements. While the cushioning is firmer, the outsole rubber is softer than what’s used in road running shoes. It’s not built to hold up against harsh asphalt and concrete, which is why it’s not recommended to run on the road in your trail shoes.

Road-to-Trail Shoes

So if it’s not recommended to run on the road in your trail shoes, and most road running shoes aren’t able to withstand the unpredictable elements of the trail, does that mean you’re out of luck? Not exactly. If you like to mix up your running routes, consider trying a road-to-trail shoe. Perhaps you have to run a few miles on the road before you hit your favorite trail head. Maybe you like the freedom of being able to take one pair of shoes with you on vacation, not knowing what terrain you’ll encounter. Road-to-trail shoes are typically built with a lightweight, breathable upper of a road shoe and the outsole of a mild trail shoe. This means it’s got some grip and traction, but not enough to feel bulky or get in the way during your road runs. Shoes like the Altra Outroad provide a “best-of-both-worlds” experience when running on varied terrain.

If you’re unsure which type of shoe is best for you, head into your local Fleet Feet to get fit by an expert.

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