Trail running is becoming much more popular than ever before, and many have found it an enjoyable alternative to road running. The sights and smells are more interesting, and you don’t have to worry about cars and exhaust fumes. The softer surface is more forgiving on your body especially for your knees. The slower and more careful pace also allows you to recover more efficiently in between vigorous workouts. But to make sure you stay safe on a trail, you’ll need the appropriate trail running shoes. Your ordinary road running shoes may not be so suitable for trails.
What’s Wrong with Road Running Shoes?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with road-running shoes. It’s just that they’re not really designed for the task of running on a trail. They don’t quite offer the grip, stability, and support you need when the terrain is uneven and rough. Road-running shoes provide ventilation which feels great when you’re running on a paved track. But that ventilation feature then becomes a liability on a trail, because it lets in debris and dirt which you’ll find when you run off-road.
In contrast, the best trail running shoes are designed to address two crucial issues involved in trail running. The first issue is grip. The outsoles on shoes (the part of the shoe that comes into contact with the running surface) made for trail running have deeper lugs or indentations. The treads are also much more aggressive. These offer you greater stability when you run on an uneven nature trail.
The shoes for trail running also offer better shield protection for your feet. The sole is stiffer and hidden plates are installed to keep your feet from getting bruised when your feet and shoes come into contact with tree roots and rocks. Most of these shoes also keep your toes from getting injured by featuring stiff protective counters at the front of the shoes.
Choosing Among Different Options
Choosing the specific pair of shoes for your run on the trails will depend on several factors. You’ll need to answer a few questions to narrow down your options.
- What kind of trail runs will you mostly use these shoes for? If you’re a regular road runner and you only run on trails occasionally for some spice in your training schedule, then the shoes you need to get should simply be the upgraded trail running versions of your running shoes. You may not need to get stiffer soles and deeper lugs.
However, if you like to race up and down trails, then your best option is to get lightweight trail running shoes to help boost your speed. But to enjoy this weight advantage, you’re going to have to give up some measure of support, protection, and structure. This is true even for the best lightweight trail running shoes.
This is especially true if you adhere to the “barefoot” theory of running on trails. Some shoes offer a more natural barefoot motion, and the advocates of this theory say that this is healthier for you because our feet evolved this way for a reason. But if you should switch to this approach, it’s best to do it gradually.
- What are the trail conditions? If the terrain you’re running on is difficult and steep, then you’re going to have to maximize your protection for your feet. You’ll need more support and structure.
If the trail is muddy and wet, then waterproof trail running shoes may be more appropriate. Just make sure that when you get shoes with waterproof liners that you get them a half-size larger because of the extra padding. Also look for lugs with wide spaces, so the mud gets released more easily.
- How much can you afford? This is a rather sticky subject, understandably. The best trail running shoes for men can be a bit costly because of their superior quality and extra features. Still, it is possible to get budget friendly trail running shoes that may even cost less than $50, if you are persistent in your online search. Shopping online for the most affordable trail running shoe options is your best choice, as the sellers have less overhead costs to worry about.
By answering these questions, you can then make sure that you get the features you need on your running shoes that will suit your circumstances.
And the best trail running shoes? Here’s the detailed review:
So exactly what brands and models of running shoes should you look at? With so many options online, choosing just one pair among so many possibilities can be a daunting task. So to help out, we’ve come up with a list of possible choices you should seriously consider.
Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe
With a retail price of $130, this is the most expensive running shoes on this list. But you sure do get a lot of value for your money, and most reviews rave about its capabilities. With the Salomon Speedcross 3, you can handle a dusty road, a muddy trail, or even a snowy path. The outsoles are made with very sticky rubber, and the lugs are multi-directional for superior grip on rough terrain.
It comes with all the padding and protection you need for your feet. The “Sensifit” design fits your feet like a cradle to minimize slippage inside your shoes. The foot beds offer great shock absorption and it even comes with antimicrobial treatment to minimize the foul odor. The nylon linings dry quickly, and they wick the moisture from your feet.
The laces are specially designed with pockets so it doesn’t collect burrs and get in the way. It even has reflective bits so you’re more visible in low light.
All in all, this is quite light at a pound and 6 ounces for the pair, even with all the protective shielding features. It is very flexible and comfortable while it great protection for your feet. You won’t have to worry too about slipping on the path or about getting your feet hurt on your run. It’s truly worth every penny.
ASICS Men’s GEL Venture 5 Running Shoe
This pair of shoes is much more affordable, as it may sell anywhere from $50 to 72$. But cheap doesn’t mean inferior in quality. It is very comfortable that some guys just wear them all day as casual wear.
The rubber outsole is quite rugged and it comes with reversed action lugs, which make it suitable for a wide variety of outdoor trails. The critical areas of the outsole are made with special AHAR rubber so that they don’t wear as much. There’s extra cushioning in the rear area, and the sock liner is removable to accommodate medical orthotics such as shoe inserts.
The reviews the Venture 5 has received are filled with accolades. Many remark on its excellent comfort and protection for the feet, which is surprising given its lower cost. Many have confessed to wearing them even when they’re just lounging around, because they feel so comfortable and breathable. Those who run even 6 miles on a regular basis also attest to its comfort as well as to its durability.
The Venture 5 truly exemplifies the ASICS mentality. The brand name ASICS, after all, is the acronym for the Latin phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”, which was the Athenian ideal meaning “a sound mind in a healthy body”.
New Balance Men’s MT410V4 Trail-Running Shoe
New Balance has always presented itself as a more affordable alternative to the Adidas and Nike monopoly, and the price of the MT410V4 reflects this approach. It only costs a measly $32 to $65 depending on the seller, and yet it comes with many commendable features.
The tread of the outsole is geared for all manners of outdoor terrain. You also get a performance-grade footbed and special foam on the midsole. For greater convenience, there’s even a rear heel pull to help you when you take them off.
Those who wear them on their feet all day have testified to just how comfortable these affordable shoes feel on their feet. Runners also say that the tread performs admirably, and that they do not experience slippage at all. They really do offer a superior grip, and they also feel very stable.
If you’re shoe budget is limited, then this pair of shoes offers a very compelling argument. Not only can you use them on your trail runs, but you can also just wear them casually for your day to day activities. It is very light, as the pair in total only weighs 10.2 ounces. That’s the kind of weight that speed runners will appreciate as well.
Saucony Men’s Excursion TR8 Trail Running Shoe
Saucony may not have the same brand recall as the other popular brands in the running shoe industry, but with the Excursion TR8 perhaps they should be much more well-known. It comes with a reasonable price tag ranging from $47 to $97, and yet it comes with rather innovative features.
Perhaps the most controversial feature is the 8mm heel to toe differential, which means that the heel only sits 8mm higher than the level of the toes. This low differential is important because a low figure here means that you have a better chance of landing on your forefoot or midfoot while you’re running. In comparison, other running shoes usually offer a 12mm differential.
The off-road traction is excellent, and the upper materials do help keep the debris and dirt off your feet. It is, however a neutral shoe, so there’s not much arch support but you can always use insoles for that if you need them. The cushioning is very comfortable, and the wrap offers just the right level of support and control. The pair weighs only 10.8 ounces, so the light weight also makes it more comfortable for long periods of time.
Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe
If you’re devoted to the principle of barefoot running, then Merrell offers the $85 Vapor Glove 2 for your consideration. The pair is light at just 11.6 ounces, but it offers a minimalist design that includes zero drop—the heel and the toes stand at the same level. The lug also offers a 2mm depth, and the outsole is made from the special “Vibram” material. This Vibram is quite sticky, which makes it very suitable for off-road tracks. There are no lugs under the arch, which allows for greater natural flexibility.
The footbed is integrated and the mesh lining is breathable. Both are treated with the M Select Fresh for odor control. Cleaning the Vapor Glove 2 is also not a problem, as you only need to use cold water and gentle cycle. Afterwards, you just air it out to dry.
This breathable pair of shoes is well-designed to offer greater comfort even in very warm conditions. The fit seems to mold to your feet, which gives it the “barefoot” feeling as well.
When the original Vapor Glove was released, it was hailed as a benchmark for minimalist “barefoot” running shoes. Now the Vapor Glove 2 offers improvements, which makes it a worthy successor.
The Final Word on Fit
The fit of your running shoes will probably be the most vital factor for your purchase. Every other concern is secondary because how your shoes fit your feet will determine the health of your feet and the quality of your running performance. If the fit isn’t right at the front part of the shoe, then you may end up with toenails looking black and blue after a run. If your heels are lifting too much from the soles, this can result in blisters.
So make sure the shoes fit snugly in every part but you have room to wiggle your toes. It must not feel tight anywhere. When the fit is perfect, you’ve taken the most important step in securing the best pair of shoes for your trail running adventure. So if you’re ordering online, try to order 2 sizes that are the nearest to what you think your feet size is. You can just return the other pair afterwards.