Walking in a race is as fun as a child. You are running in the jungle, jumping on the logs, getting dirty for the joy of your heart. The mental benefits of being out in nature can give you a higher status as a next-level runner.
But for those who are accustomed to running on concrete rather than dirt, you may need to upgrade to a solid pair of trail running shoes to realize that your regular sneakers only need a few slips and slides.
What should you look for in a good pair?
“Traction seems to be the most important thing,” says Phil Kochic, owner of Seattle’s Seven Hills Running Shop, which specializes in trail shoes. But really, he says, it only comes third on his checklist when it comes to helping customers buy their first pair. “If you have uncomfortable shoes, it doesn’t matter if you have great traction – it doesn’t save experience.” And, he adds, any trail shoe with the slightest grip will feel like an instant win when you’re transitioning from street shoes for the first time.
Instead, Kochik suggests focusing primarily on fit and cushioning, then think of traction as the top cherry.
Best trail running shoes at a glance
If you want a familiar feeling: Brooks Cascadia 16
If you also want something for roads: Ultra Outroad
If you want to deal with all types of terrain: Adidas Terex Agravic Flow 2
If you have narrow legs: La Sportiva Sky II
If you do not want to feel too much shoes: Hoka Speedgot 5
If you want a lighter version of your favorite hiking boots: Moab Speed GORE-TEX® X Sweety Betty
If you are looking to move away: Salomon pulsar trail
If you want spring in your footsteps: Saucony Peregrine 12
First, find the right fit
Many road runners first go on trails when they are trying to increase their mileage and cope with ultra marathon distances (i.e., longer than 26.2 miles). But even if you want a more moderate amount of miles, keep in mind that you’ll be longer than you used to be on your feet – your speed is going to be much slower as you navigate technical terrain and altitude changes. The 10K loop can take twice as long on trails as on roads.
“You have to be the right fit for long distances,” says Kochik.
Don’t forget this: you will have the most success with anything that feels like your regular street shoes. And no matter what surfaces you are running on, the latest research suggests that the best shoes for you are probably the most comfortable. Trail shoes can have a slightly stiffer sole (to help you run without feeling too much on rocky terrain) and a little more stability (to support the foot at any angle you can).
Decide how much cushioning you want
Since running habits have changed from minimalist to max shoes and everything in between, there is now a whole line of options to choose from. Kochik says it comes down to priority, with one caveat: if you’re new to trails, you’ll want to choose something with less cushioning so you can feel the ground under your feet better until you get your “trail foot”.
“In the first few months you will feel a little out there,” he says. As long as your muscle memory is not accustomed to the roots, rocks and vertical downhill, “shoes are the best way to help you feel more agile.”
Remember that dirt trails in your joints can be more forgiving than concrete roads. Consider your local routes going, and they are more likely to be covered in soft pine needles or made up mainly of dense rock slabs.
And if you like your max-cushion road shoes, there are many similar options for trails. Just realizing that these models may seem a little weird at first, until the padding packs down and gets on your feet after a few runs, says Kochic.
Consider the details: traction, finger guards and GORE-TEX
Once you have found the shoes that feel good and offer the right amount of cushions, then you can consider the trick. Large logs (clits attached to the bottom of one) will help you walk on muddy and slippery city streets after a snowstorm. If you’re running on slippery, wet trails, Kochik says the gold standard for sticky rubber soles is the Vibram Megagrip, a durable bottom found in many different brands.
For those of us who, ahem, are a bit surprised, one of the many trail shoes is the front toe guard of the bonus shoe, which will help prevent you from hitting your foot. Check how thick the front rubber is for that extra protection.
One of the features you’ll find on some trail running shoes is the waterproof GORE-TEX. Know, your feet while wearing these Will be If you run from rivers or go into torrential water, it is still wet (water will come around the laces and your knees), and GORE-TEX actually takes a long time to dry your feet. But Kochik says the material can be useful for keeping your feet warm if you’re running in snow or extremely cold temperatures. Just know that the upper bouts featured two cutaways, for easier access to the higher frets.
You can use a few pairs of trail shoes, as with any street shoe, by jogging a little on the sidewalk at your local running shop. But you don’t really know how trail shoes perform until you take them for a spin off-road. Fortunately, nowadays, most stores अन online and in IRL have generous return policies. Kochik suggests trying two or three times before taking off your shoes, especially if your body is not yet accustomed to feeling the trail run.
Don’t worry, he says, “you can get all that trash back.”
To check out expert- and editor-recommended pairs
If you want a familiar feeling
Brooks Cascadia 16 – $ 130.00
An attempt-and-true classic, Kochik describes Brooks Cascadia as one “The long-running trail shoe that started it all.” Now in its 16th edition, he says these were the first trail shoes that felt as comfortable as street shoes – and they offer the same magic today. She often recommends them looking for new people. “They’re like other Brooks, but they’ve added traction to the bottoms.”
If you also want something for the road
Ultra Outroad – 140.00
Not sure if you are ready to commit to shoes Only For trails? Check out this model, which will start any day now. For people living in cities, but often hit on trails, this shoe transitions from asphalt to dirt and has a completely natural feel on any surface. The Ultra is known for its zero heel drop, so your heels and toes are in a perfectly horizontal line – it’s designed to promote fit, but can be hard to use if you’ve never tried it before.
The Altras also usually have an extra wide forward feature so there are plenty of places to spread your fingers as you flow through your steps, which is still mainly true here. In any case, the brand has a slightly snooger, less heavy fit than the others in this model. Overall, the shoe runs on the small side, so you want to increase the size.
If you want to face all kinds of terrain
Adidas Terex Agravic Flow 2 – $ 140.00
For running various trails, aggressive logs in this style give a good grip on different terrain – wet rocks, leafy hills, dirt roads – and still feel stable. Strong midsole made of EVA foam handles technical (a.k.a. rocky and root-covered) trails easily, but you don’t feel like a shoe that can’t feel the ground beneath you. The back of the knee is slightly taller, which can help keep dirt out, but if you have short heels, it can dig a little deeper into your Achilles.
If you have narrow legs
La Sportiva Akasha II – 150.00
Kochik says this model is a go-to recommendation for customers with narrow legs. Designed to handle difficult technical terrain, these rugged mountains are made for serious days. The upper bouts featured two cutaways, for easier access to the higher frets. The upper bouts featured two cutaways, for easier access to the higher frets.
If you do not want to feel so shoes
Hoka Speedgot 5 – $ 155.00
The latest version of this shoe is not as thick as it used to be for the traditional maximalist style Hoka – you are not too far off the ground. But it’s also lighter than previous versions of this genre, and even more heartbreaking with the top of the strong net. Kochik says it has a good chance of working well on most people’s feet. Bonus: It has Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole for ultimate traction.
If you want a lighter version of your favorite hiking boots
Moab Speed GORE-TEX® X Sweety Betty – 160.00
Francesca Krempa, Associate Commercial Editor at Well + Good, swears by Merrill’s hiking boots मात्रै she’s the only brand she’s going to wear. “I I was thrilled to see them team up with Sweety Betty (one of my other favorites), “she says. I also like that they are made from more sustainable materials. Appropriate, considering that they are made in nature. These kicks are as tough as any other Merrill pair, with strong treads and a ton of arch support, but airy and more agile.
If you are trying to get away
Salomon Pulsar Trail – 130.00
Let’s be honest: one of the things we all love about sneakers is the way they express themselves — the particular style that tells the world who we are. And when you pair a salmon, you are declaring yourself a legitimate trail runner. The French brand has a reputation for choosing like the top athletes Courtney Dowalter And Ricky Gates.
Although Salomon considers this pair to provide a moderate amount of foot protection, it feels like a small fort with its maximum cushioning, strong grip, and rubber around the bottom edge to protect your tutti from any wrong kicks and missteps. It also offers a pulley-like quick lace system that allows you to avoid the need to tie any annoying laces in the middle of the race. Warning: They are few on the narrow side.
If you want spring in your footsteps
Saucony Peregrine 12 – $ 130.00
These fan-friendly shoes can be a symbol of a great out-of-the-box experience. Without the need for any “break in”, they have an ideal balance of support but not rigidity. The ride is satisfactorily sprinting to-off, whether you’re going out for an easy loop or logging major miles in an effort to keep your next race.
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