How to Pick Trail Running Shoes

Trail Running Shoes: The Essential Guide to Find Your Perfect Fit

Reader, welcome to our ultimate guide on how to pick trail running shoes. Whether you’re an experienced trail runner or taking your first step, finding the right pair of trail running shoes can be overwhelming. With so many options available in the market, it can be difficult to determine which one is the best fit for you. Our guide will help you find the right pair of trail running shoes that meet your specific needs.

Trail running shoes differ from road running shoes in their design and construction. Unlike road running shoes, trail running shoes require a more sturdy and durable construction to withstand difficult terrains, rocks, and mud. Additionally, they have more aggressive traction patterns to provide superior grip on uneven surfaces. With this in mind, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to help you find the perfect pair of trail running shoes.

Our guide is structured to provide you with clear information on each aspect of trail running shoes. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of trail running shoes, provide tips on selecting the right shoes, and answer frequent asked questions.


Before delving into the specifics of trail running shoes, it is important to understand the reasons why you need them. Trail running is an exciting way to explore nature and the outdoors. It is an excellent workout that engages various muscle groups and provides an escape from the busy city life.

However, trail running can be challenging and poses a significant risk of injury. With terrains and obstacles such as rocks, mud, and tree roots, trail running requires more stability, protection and support. This is where trail running shoes come in to provide the protection and support your feet need, whether you are on a simple path or tackling the extreme mountain trails.

That said, it is vital to choose the right pair of trail running shoes for your specific need. Here are some essential tips to help you select the right pair of trail running shoes.

How to Pick Trail Running Shoes: Strengths and Weaknesses

Trail running shoes have several strengths, but they also have some weaknesses that you should consider. Understanding the benefits and limitations of trail running shoes is important when making a purchase. Let’s explore them below.


Comfort – Trail running shoes come in different shapes and sizes to ensure maximum comfort for the buyer. They are made using specialized materials that have wicking properties to keep the feet dry and blister-free.

Traction – Trail running shoes have superior grip on different surfaces due to their aggressive lug patterns. They offer reliable traction in muddy or wet terrains, rocks, and uneven surfaces.

Protection – Trail running shoes have a thicker outsole and a protective toe box which acts as a shield against sharp objects, rocks, and mud. They also provide ankle support to prevent injuries.

Durability – Trail running shoes are more durable and sturdy than road running shoes, thanks to their rugged construction. They last longer and can withstand harsh conditions, making them a great investment for regular trail runners.


Weight – Trail running shoes are heavier than road running shoes due to their increased cushioning, thicker outsole and a protective toe box. This extra weight can cause fatigue and affect your overall running performance.

Stiffness – The thick and sturdy construction of trail running shoes can cause stiffness or discomfort, especially during the break-in period.

Traction Flexibility – While the aggressive traction patterns on trail running shoes provide excellent support and reliable grip, they can also be too stiff for running on hard surfaces.

How to Pick Trail Running Shoes: Tips

When selecting trail running shoes, there are various factors you need to consider to get the perfect pair. The following are our top tips for choosing trail running shoes.


The right shoe fit is crucial when it comes to trail running. A shoe that doesn’t fit well can cause blisters, discomfort, or even lead to injuries. Make sure to try different sizes and consider the following points:

Heel – The heel should feel snug, with no slipping or movement.

Toe Box – You should have enough room to wiggle your toes comfortably. The toe box should not be too tight or too loose.

Width – Your feet should neither feel squeezed nor too loose. Look for the right width for your foot size.


The type of terrain you are planning to run on should dictate the type of trail running shoes you select. Consider the following points:

Traction – If you are running on wet or muddy terrain, bumpy or steep terrain, go for shoes with aggressive and multidirectional traction patterns.

Cushioning – If you are running on rocky surfaces, shoes with more cushioning are essential to absorb the impact from the rocks.


Shoe drop is the difference between the thickness of the heel and the forefoot of the shoe. A shoe with a higher drop has a bigger difference between the forefoot and the heel, while those with lower drops have a flatter profile. The following points should be considered while selecting a shoe drop:

Comfort – The drop should be comfortable and should mimic your natural running stride.

Running Style – If you are a forefoot striker, shoes with a lower drop will suit you, while if you are heel striker, shoes with a higher drop would be good.

How to Pick Trail Running Shoes: Complete Guide in a Table

Criteria Details
Fit Heel, Toe Box, Width
Terrain Traction, Cushioning
Drop Comfort, Running Style

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between trail running shoes and road running shoes?

Trail running shoes are designed to provide optimal support and protection on uneven surfaces. They have sturdy construction with a thicker sole and more aggressive lug patterns for superior traction. Road running shoes, on the other hand, have a lighter construction with more cushioning for optimum performance on smooth and hard surfaces.

How long do trail running shoes last?

Trail running shoes are more durable than road running shoes and can last between 400-600 miles. However, this may vary depending on the user, terrain, and weather conditions.

Can I use trail running shoes for road running?

Trail running shoes have a more rigid design, which may cause discomfort and muscle fatigue when used for road running. Road running shoes are lighter and have more cushioning, making them more comfortable and appropriate for road running.

Are waterproof trail running shoes worth it?

Waterproof trail running shoes are ideal for running in wet or muddy terrain. However, they come at a higher cost and tend to be less breathable than non-waterproof shoes. Whether they are worth it depends on your preference and the terrain you run on.

Can I use regular running shoes for trail running?

Regular running shoes are not suitable for trail running. Trail running shoes have a more aggressive grip, thicker soles and a protective toe box that offers superior protection on uneven terrains. Regular running shoes, on the other hand, have a smoother and thinner sole for optimum performance on smooth and hard surfaces.

Can I use hiking shoes for trail running?

Hiking shoes are not as durable and sturdy as trail running shoes. They are heavier and have less cushioning, affecting your running performance. Trail running shoes are specifically designed to provide support and protection for trail runners.

How do I know my foot type?

Consult with a podiatrist to determine your foot type. You can also use the wet test to determine if your feet are flat, neutral, or high arched.

How much should I spend on trail running shoes?

Trail running shoes vary in price, ranging from $80 to $200 depending on the brand, design, and features. It is advisable to invest in a high-quality pair of trail running shoes to ensure durability and performance.

Should I go a size bigger for trail running shoes?

It is recommended to go half a size larger for trail running shoes to allow enough room for your feet to swell.

How can I reduce the risk of injury while trail running?

Wear the right trail running shoes, start gradually, warm-up before running, use proper running form, use common sense, train on similar terrain, and hydrate frequently.

Do I need special socks for trail running?

Specialized trail running socks are made from materials that wick moisture and protect against blisters. They are recommended for regular trail running to optimize your experience.

What is the best time to replace trail running shoes?

Trail running shoes should be replaced between 400-600 miles or when you notice noticeable wear and tear on the sole or upper. Regular use and the terrain can dictate when to replace your shoes.

Can I wash my trail running shoes in the washing machine?

Machine washing may damage the materials and glue holding the shoes together. It is recommended to hand wash the shoes using mild soap and a brush.

How do I clean my trail running shoes?

Use a soft brush to remove mud or dirt from the surface of the shoes. You can also use a damp cloth with mild soap to gently clean the shoes.


Our comprehensive guide on how to pick trail running shoes has covered everything you need to know when selecting the right pair of trail running shoes. From understanding the strengths and weaknesses of trail running shoes to providing essential tips on selecting the right fit, our guide has it all. Remember to consider the terrain, fit, and drop when selecting trail running shoes. We hope our guide has been helpful, and we encourage you to try trail running with the right pair of shoes for maximum comfort and safety.

Happy running!


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before starting any new exercise regime or purchasing new footwear.

Leave a Comment