Trail shoes are designed for better traction when you're off road than your road running shoes. Companies improve grip in a few different ways.
Some shoes use stickier rubber to improve your grip on rocks, wet logs and other surface, while other shoes use different tread patterns to keep you on your feet. Many trail running shoes, though, have deeper rubber lugs on the outsole to dig into soft dirt and mud.
No matter what type of traction the shoe has, trail shoes make tight turns easier to navigate and help you feel more sure-footed than you would in a pair of road running shoes.
Rocks and roots can wreak havoc on your feet and ruin your shoes, so trail shoes include protective overlays in the upper to prevent pokes and reduce the likelihood of rips and tears.
Certain trail shoes also incorporate a rock plate, which is a thin piece of plastic or carbon fiber sandwiched into the midsole to block sharp rocks from penetrating the bottom of the shoe. If your local trails are rocky, consider wearing shoes with this feature.
Your trail running shoes should fit similarly to your road running shoes, meaning they should be comfortable without being sloppy.
A snug fit around the midfoot is essential for keeping your shoes in place over uneven terrain, while a wider forefoot allows your toes to splay out and grip the trail, especially when going up and down hills.
If a running shoe is uncomfortable when you try it on in a store, it will be uncomfortable when you run. Modern running shoes, whether road or trail, don't need a break-in period to fit well—they should work for you right out of the box.
Durability for the Unexpected
Your road running shoes were built to last a long time, but excess wear and tear from hitting the trails in your road shoes will drastically decrease their lifespan.
Trail running shoes are made to stand up to the obstacles expected while off roading. Added skins on the heel and toe protect the mesh upper from abrasion, and improved drainage let your shoes dry out quicker after you cross streams or splash through puddles.
In short: You’ll get more wear and need fewer replacement shoes if you choose the right running shoe for the job.
Article by Hunter Hall. Hall is the Marketing Manager at Fleet Feet Nashville and also a competitive runner.