There is nothing quite like trail running. What is more invigorating than the feeling of fresh air whipping past your cheeks. Or the focus needed to balance as you hop from rocky, gravel terrain to more soft and sandy trails. And how can I not mention the wonderfully epic wilderness places you get to run to when on a long trail running objective?
You may find yourself traversing massive and majestic white capped mountains, running on trails that take you above pillows of fluffy, dreamy clouds or along well trodden paths along crystal clear lakes and flowing rivers. No, running on an urban paved road or on a stationary treadmill in an indoor gym just does not come close to the experience of trail running.
One thing to keep in mind before heading out on a trail run is what type of footwear you choose. On a trail run, the right running shoe can really help enhance or hamper your overall running experience. Pros of a right fitting shoe are how they help with common issues such as painful shin splints, gross blisters, tenacious plantar fasciitis, and unwelcomed sprains. They also enable you to run more often and to run farther distances with ease.
But where do you start when on the trail running shoe journey? I mean there are so many shoes on the market with so many different designs and features to overwhelm you. Well look no more! Here is your guide to finding the best trail running shoe for your trail running adventure.
Best for Daily Use
When looking for a shoe to run in, actually choosing a real running shoe is important. What makes a shoe a real running shoe? Proper running shoes are typically designed to handle the shock of 2.5 times your body weight’s impact when in running stride. The best running shoes are crafted with cushioning placed in both the heel area as well as the forefoot. Two main places the impact of your weight is felt the most when running. When you find yourself going on daily runs, this design will help keep your body able and healthy.
- Salomon Sense Ride 4: Unlike more trail running shoes on the market, the Salomon Sense Ride 4 has no rock plate on the bottom. Instead they provide extra wrap around cushion on the heels which prevent the dreaded heel slippage which is the cause of many heel blisters. The Salomon Sense Ride 4 is very versatile from shorter runs on more smooth terrain to even long distance ultra lengths. It is moderately priced and comes in both men’s and women’s options.
- Altra Lone Peak 5: Hands down this trail running shoe is the most popular shoe of choice for long distance thru hikers. The design of wider toe boxes, multidirectional lug pattern to grip the ground, cushioning platform that aligns the heels and forefeet in the same distance from the ground to provide low impact landing makes this shoe very comfortable for daily usage and long miles. Some die hard fans of the Altra Lone Peak 5s say these shoes are just as comfortable as your best pair of slippers.
- Nike Pegasus Trail 3: This trail running shoe strikes many resemblances to Nike’s classic Pegasus shoe designed for road running versus the trail. The main differences? Nike Pegasus Trail 3 shoes provide cushion that is both responsive to multiple terrains as well as supportive around the heel area. The design of the underfoot has tough traction elements to make sure you can navigate any trail. Another nice option is the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 comes in a waterproof GORE-TEX version.
All the Terrains
If you find yourself running in a certain region, having the right shoe for that terrain is ideal. Look for things like waterproof materials, sturdy rock guards and grippy bottoms that can handle whatever Mother Nature has to throw at you.
- Salomon Speedgoat 5: If you run in mud or soft sand areas, this is really a great shoe to try. When it comes to mud or snow a shoe that has a full rubber outsole is what to look for. The Salomon Speedgoat 5 is crafted with long lugs made out of a combination of both foam and rubber. The chassis is ultra sturdy with a thick midsole that keeps you tethered to the ground. They even have a Gore-Tex version that is water resistant to keep your feet dry in the wet conditions.
- Moab Speed GORE-TEX: The GORE-TEX waterproof membrane is excellent for keeping your feet dry and happy in all wet and muddy conditions. The mesh is great on still adding ventilation to make the shoe overall extremely versatile. Moab Speed GORE-TEX is both lightweight and has zero break in time needed before usage. Overall this shoe is a wonderful option for water encounters or rainy weather on your run.
- HOKA Challenger ATR 5: The latest version of the popular HOKA Challenger shoe was designed with multiple terrains in mind. The underfoot has an extra sticky, grippy traction to both protect your foot as well as keep you upright on more steep, gravel trails. The main usage of this shoe is truly for those wild trails but it can also cross over to road running with the foam cushioning that helps lessen the impact you find when running on concrete.
When you run long distances your feet tend to swell from the strain. A long distance running shoe should provide both the support and the flexibility to accommodate the size variations. A lightweight shoe will help with any fatigue you may encounter as your run longer and longer races.
- Vibrams: These shoes hold the distinct and unique design of ‘barefoot running’. Their FiveFingers base gives ample space to fully spread your digits in the wide toe box. What does this mean for your running strife? It gives you better balance on rocky surfaces, agility to switch weight from foot to foot and overall improves posture for less hip, back and shoulder pain.
- Pursuit Sandals by Deliberate Life Designs: I know exactly what you are thinking. Sandals? For long distance trail runners? I must be joking. But these minimalist running sandals, hand crafted to order and using the best materials such as Vibram rubber and re-purposed rock climbing slings – really are great ultra trail running shoes. Benefits include less impact running injuries like chronic runners knee, no bruised toenails, improved running stride and no more hot sweaty feet again!
- Saucony Endorphin Speed 2: This lightweight trainer really gives a bouncy feel to your runs. The gusset material provides stretch to the shoe so it can adjust quickly to your stride. The tongue has extra cushion for comfort with a more narrow heel for a tighter fit. The Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is durable to keep you running for those long miles.
- Many runners experience pain in their heels which is a result of plantar fasciitis. To help ease this, try rolling out the arch of your foot on a tennis ball after each run.
- Inserts are another great way to protect your feet from injuries. I actually use inserts for my protection from plantar fasciitis.
- Lightweight wool socks are ideal for running. The soft fabric is both breathable and protects you from any blisters or raw spots.
- Many athletes opt to wear compression socks when running. These tight socks usually end at the knee to help prevent cramps and swelling. They have also been said to decrease the amount of effort your legs must use which in turn means your muscles get less fatigued.
Still not sure what trail runners are best for you? Numerous running stores are amazing at measuring your foot, watching your running form on indoor treadmills, and working with you to find a great shoe for your body. The most important thing is to find a shoe that works for you and your unique needs and foot shape. Trail running is a wonderful way to get out and explore. Having the best trail running shoe guarantees a wonderful run.
Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her tall one husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would be a forever home for all of them they were able to adopt their daughter buckets and are legal guardians of their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus.