Trail running has become very popular over the last few years. There are now many events throughout the UK/Europe, USA and the rest of the world. Running is predominantly an outdoor sport and many of us live in urban environments and large cities and towns. The road running shoe is still the most popular type on the market, however the trail shoes are making inroads and catching up. It is clear to see why more and more runners are taking to the trails, parklands, forests, woodlands, river and canal sides, hills, mountains and even more demanding terrain.
The benefits of trail running are many but these are my top reasons to leave the road behind:
- Change of scenery (literally). Running the same routes day in day out can dampen the enthusiasm and passion for the run. If you run the same route to and from work every day for example, this can become monotonous and then it stops being fun. Changing your route and scenery can do wonders to re-energise the love for running. Going to a nearby forest or large park over the weekend is possible for most runners based in most cities.
- Improved physical health. Getting away from the city and it’s pollution caused by vehicles in heavy traffic. Getting out into the open countryside can only be beneficial to your breathing and lung health long term.
- Improved mental health. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the pressures and time constraints experienced in city life can only be good for you. The peace and tranquillity allows your mind find to focus on the moment and to just absorb the beauty of the surroundings. As with the rest of the body, the mind does also need a rest every now and again.
- Closer to nature. We as human beings sometimes think that we are the only living things that matter in this world. Getting out there and seeing all the different types of trees and vegetation, and listening to the different sounds the animals make is really very uplifting and satisfying for the sole. We must always remember that without this ecosystem of plants and animals living in harmony, we would not be able to exist.
- Strength and overall fitness improvement. Most trail surfaces differ to those of roads. In some cases the softer ground and mud causes less shock to the legs, feet and knees meaning injuries of these type are lessened. The softer ground will also allow you to recover from runs faster. The differing terrains will also prevent repetitive strain injuries you sometimes feel after road running. This in turn will also strengthen your feet, your ankles and your calf muscles in your legs. The hills and inclines and declines you will see more of will also improve your stamina. All of these improvements in your running you will then notice when you get back to the roads and pavements and you will be able to run longer or faster or both!
Trail running sounds great doesn’t it. So don’t just think about doing it, get out there, catch the 30 minute bus or train journey outside the city and leave the concrete jungle behind you every now and then and experience running in the “natural jungle”. You will not regret it.
There are some very basic main differences between the construction of a trail shoe to a road shoe:
- Outer soles. They are built much more hard wearing with bigger independent rubber luggs with a deeper tread to grip better in more slippery, wet and unstable conditions.
- The uppers are built a lot stronger so there is less chance that they will disintegrate when you are running through tall grass, bushes and vegetation in general. Most of the uppers are water resistant too but not water proof.
- Toe box areas are built wider and reinforced to enable runners that impact on rocks and harder surfaces and for the upper not to rub against the toes to prevent injury.
- Less cushioning and support in the mid-sole. As the trail surfaces are generally softer there is less support and stability built into trail shoes as the shock absorption is not so important.
Here is my top 5 recommended trail running shoes available now:
5. Best Trail Running Shoe – All Surfaces
This may be a bit of surprise selection for some. Here are the reasons for my choice as the best all surface shoe:
- It’s weight is better than average.
- Great new mid-foot fit system which is very comfy and breathable and is seamless.
- Lots of mutidirectional lugs in the outsole offering great traction. It is made of stickier rubber.
- The rock plate (stone shield) between the mid-sole and outsole offers great protection from rocks and hard terrain.
- The toe box is roomy allowing the toes to move naturally.
Some may find that the snug/tight fit is not for them and you need to purchase a half size larger.
Overall the Nike Airzoom Wildhorse 4 is a true “workhorse” which offers a very good balance of protection, durability, traction and comfort. This shoe can go for up to 1000 miles!
The shoe weighs 306 grams.
Typical Price in UK: £95. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.co.uk
Typical Price in USA: $120. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.com
4. Best Trail Running Shoe – The Cushioned/Neutral Trail Shoe
The Cascadia 12 has a lot of features optimised for trail running.
Brooks’ dedication to just creating running shoes is evident here. They have really thought of everything with this shoe:
- The toe box area is roomy and comfortable as to the overall width of the shoe.
- The outsole has grippy rubber lugs that even perform well in snow.
- Its Pivot Point system keeps the foot stable and balanced even on very rocky ground.
- The rock plate protects the foot very well against difficult hard objects and surfaces.
- The cushioning is great for road neutral runners wanting to get into trail running.
The Cascadia 12 is a little heavier than others and some may feel that it doesn’t feel like it has as much energy return as some other shoes.
Overall this is a very good shoe for daily running on trails and you need that bit of cushioning.
The shoe weighs 343 grams.
Typical Price: UK £95. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.co.uk
Typical Price in USA: $135. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.com
3. Best Trail Running Shoe – Soft Ground
This is now the 4th version of the Salomon Speecross line. This shoe has had a lot of fans in the past and this version does not disappoint the faithful.
- This shoe is great for weathers. If there is a lot of loose debris and snow, the outsole can handle it. This is made up of sticky rubber chevron shaped lugs which give it great stability and traction especially on hilly and wet terrain.
- The upper mesh is well made and prevents dirt from entering and it is water resistant and this coupled with the quick-lace system gives a very accurate fit, provided your foot is not too wide. The upper could have better breathability though and takes a little longer to dry than some others after a wet run.
- The toe box area is nice and rounded allowing plenty of movement.
- It is well priced offering good value for money.
The Salomon Speedcross 4 will please a lot of dedicated Salomon fans and new adopters alike. It has amazing traction for all surfaces and conditions and will last.
Runners with wider feet, be aware there is no wide foot option.
The shoe weighs 310 grams.
Typical Price: UK £85. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.co.uk
Typical Price: USA $120. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.com
2. Best Trail Running Shoe – Road-To-Trail/ Hybrid
The Sense Mantra 3 has been designed for runners that need to regularly run on both road/pavement and the softer trails. With this in mind:
- It is constructed with additional EVA cushioning in the mid-sole and performs best in drier conditions that are mild to moderate.
- This has the widest foot that Salomon make and still incorporates their quick-lace system and offering a good protective rock plate.
- The Sense Mantra 3 is very light and has a lot of room for your toes.
- There is a large variety of different colours to choose from.
The outsole could have been better made for wet conditions and the price could offer slightly better value, but overall this is one of the best hybrid shoes for running in all surfaces out there!
The shoe weighs 275 grams.
Typical Price: UK £85. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.co.uk
Typical Price: USA $100. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.com
1. Best Trail Running Shoe – Best Value All Rounder
The Tracerocker also appears in my top 5 cushioned shoes and as such made it difficult for me to not include it in this list.
This shoe is famous for its comfort all over with its light weight EVA made mid-sole which provides very good cushioning. The shoe fits well for those looking for a narrower fit.
The shoe overall is lightweight and fits correctly to your size. The traction is more than adequate for most trail types and the lugs expand to cover a larger surface area. The outsole also spills out a little on both sides giving the stability needed in the absence of a torsion bar. The materials used are of a good quality and are durable and long lasting.
Overall, the Tracerocker is great for those with narrower feet and are looking for a neutral/cushioned running shoe for trails.
The shoe weighs 290 grams.
Typical Price: UK £60. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.co.uk
Typical Price in USA: $85. Buy here at a great price with Amazon.com
There you have it. Another top 5 which should help you find the right running shoes for your type and interest.
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