No Surprises: The Best Shoes for Trail Running are Trail Shoes

It was only in the past six months that I learned there is a legitimate reason for the existence of trail specific running shoes, and I’ve been running for over a decade. That reflects poorly on me, but being an adolescent cynic when I started running, trail shoes looked a little gimmicky. Oh, you put some extra rubber lumps on the bottom of a running shoe, good for you.

I ran trails in my standard road shoes almost daily, and I didn’t have any serious problems. Of course, when trails got more than a little rocky I had to slow it down and hope for an opening ahead. How would a different shoe fix that? *Insert wizened sigh here* Just a foolhardy boy saying no to the fuzzy scamp offering up green eggs and ham. Had I known that there are quite literally hundreds of shoes that could have gripped and ripped through those stretches without sacrificing comfort on the flat sections, I’d have discovered a whole mess of side trails that sit, lonely, waiting for someone other than a deer to step on their face. I’d probably have a few less scars on my knees as well.

Not Just a Tale

Trail runners will scoff at my ignorance and the goes-without-saying nature of this blog. Fair enough. In the words of the esteemed Uncle Rico, You Can Leave! For less-experienced individuals like me, or for younger runners who might be deciding what sorts of shoes can be useful, grab my hand as we can jump down the rabbit hole that is trail shoes.

To begin, the basic technologies used in trail shoes are covered quite neatly in the blog linked below, so please reference it if you’re new to shoes. From there, I want to acknowledge that there are certain trails that require hardcore, eats-mud-for-breakfast shoes. These are the “soft” trail shoes, and yes, I agree that the name is misleading. Soft trail shoes, despite the name, are not for soft people. Soft trails are for people who enjoy hitting the most slip’n slide like terrain, and while those shoes have value, I’m focused on the trails that aren’t quite as hairy. Specifically your local trail that is essentially a dirt path with a couple sections that might be considered a wee bit technical due to the rocks, roots, and gremlins. You probably tried running on that trail once, but you haven’t gone back because twisting your ankle would really mess up your routine.

Read more about trail shoes: Unique Features of Trail Running Shoes

Never Bail Again

My revelation came during a product testing run on a rocky single-track trail near Running Warehouse. I was assigned the Asics Gel Fujilyte, and to my delight I shot through the rocky stretches with nary a slip or roll and far more confidence than I would have in my road shoes. To top it off, the underfoot feel was very similar to that of my road shoes on the flatter sections. The lugs that looked so threatening were not the pressure points I feared they might be.

After the run I had a conversation with a friend who spelled it out: most runners could use a pair of trail shoes, but if you can only get one pair, it’s hard to justify a shoe that will be less comfortable on the roads and the track when training for non-trail events. However, if you are able to keep two pairs of running shoes at a time, having a pair of trail shoes can easily make the difference between a grind and a jaunt on the rocks. Try ordering that at a bar, “I’ll take a grind and a jaunt on the rocks, my good man.”

Shop the Asics Gel FujiLyte

Shop all Varied Trail Shoes: Men’s | Women’s

Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.

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