How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit? Factors and Buying Guide

How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit? Factors and Buying Guide

Buying a good pair of trail running shoes should not only play around the design, color, and price. There are more important factors to consider, such as the comfort, your running style, and foot structure. It should perfectly fit, we know that. But how should trail running shoes fit?

A deeper understanding of shoe technology and how feet should function has significantly improved running routines and shoe quality. Over the last 30 years, thousands of running shoes were manufactured, but all had a tight fit with the belief that they provide a better feel of the ground.

How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit?

Today, more running shoes that vary in colors, sizes, and styles are being marketed. The best ones are backed by science and technology. As the runner, you too should know how to choose your own trail running shoes.

Trail running shoes should fit snuggly enough that your feet should not move around inside. It should keep in contact with the insides of the shoes while you run on broken pavement or on a camber. When you run on a firmer trail, your running shoes should have a thicker midsole to protect you against the extended rocks.

While it should fit snuggly in your midfoot and heel area, there should still be enough room for your toes. This is to allow your toes to wiggle and spread out so that your feet will have the stability, propulsion, and cushioning needs.

When fitting trail running shoes, you should also take into consideration the thickness of your socks. The socks will affect the fit, so make sure you wear them when you try the shoes on. Keep in mind that thicker socks will take quite some room for your toes to wiggle.

Regular Road Running vs. Trail Running Shoes

When it comes to regular road running shoes, your feet should still have a little wiggle space in order to perform properly. There must be space, about one full thumb width, between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

On the other hand, when it comes to off-road running shoes used on soft pavements, this space should only be half of the thumb size. This is because your feet don’t get as much tension on the softer ground. Hence, they expand less too.

When road running, and in order to allow you to feel the ground, the midsoles of your road running shoes should be thinner and more flexible. However, it is different when it comes to trail running. As mentioned above, midsoles should be thicker when running on firmer trails. This is to protect your feet.

trail running shoes mens

Choosing Trail Running Shoes

Running shoes should be lightweight and protect your feet from external factors. Any running shoes that weigh over 12 ounces for men’s size 9 is too heavy. For the best experience, you would want to choose the lightest shoes possible.

Here are the other factors to consider when choosing trail running shoes:

1. Drop

Drop refers to the footwear where the heel has similar height as the ball of the foot. It gives the same feeling when you naturally stand on a flat surface in bare feet.

It is recommended that when choosing trail running shoes, the drop should be flat—that is anywhere between 0mm to 12mm and more. This depends on your running form and preference.

2. Fit

If possible, wear the shoes for a while before you buy it. If you feel small pain or annoying discomfort while wearing it, then you can be sure that it will be maximized as you use the shoes for more extended periods.

What’s worse is that it will negatively affect your performance and even cause pain and injury. Make sure that the shoes have at least a half-thumb space at the top of your toe and a snug fit on the midfoot and heel areas.

3. Outsole

If you intend to run on muddy pavement and soft soil, the big lugs are ideal. On the other hand, choose outsoles with small lugs for rocky grounds and hard ground.

4. Price

Expensive shoes usually have the most durable, comfortable quality, but this is not the case all the time. As long as you do your own research and know your running style and foot structure well, you will be able to buy the best shoes without breaking the bank.

5. Water-resistance

This feature is only applicable for runners who are into the so-called crazy trail running, which is done on wet conditions. If you are one of those runners who love to run in the rain or moist areas, then you should definitely consider buying water-resistant, breathable trail running shoes to protect and preserve your feet.

6. Hybrid Style

These are types of running shoes that work best on both asphalt pavements and rocky, muddy grounds. Hybrid running shoes have higher quality in terms of durability and comfort, although they are more expensive than other types of shoes too.

They are good investments, though, as they don’t wear out quickly.

trail running shoes women

Pitfalls in Buying Running Shoes

Many shoe buyers commit similar mistakes when buying running shoes. In order to prevent the same slips, here are some of them for you to know:

1. Buying the Wrong Size

Trail running shoes should fit snuggly, but it doesn’t mean that you must purchase the small size. This mistake is mainly made by women because they are used to wearing close-fitting shoes.

When you can “play the piano” with your toes while wearing a pair of trail running shoes, then you would know that the fit is roomy enough. Too small shoes can lead to blisters and numb toes.

2. Buying at the Wrong Time of the Day

Most buyers are unaware that the feet start to swell in the morning and return to normal later in the afternoon. Unfortunately, a lot of them buy shoes in the morning, so they are forced to come back to the store complaining that the shoes were too small.

3. Buying without Asking for Discounts or Deals

When you are at the counter, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for any available discounts. Most shoe stores have good deals for local running club members.


Now that you are aware of the essential guidelines on how should trail running shoes fit, the wide variety of running shoes in stores will no longer overwhelm you. It is important to know these factors so that you can be at your best performance, reach or maintain your workout goals, and prevent injuries.

Running on the wrong shoes will cause pain, blisters, and in the long run, injuries and poor posture. The fit is always the key when choosing a good pair of running shoes, so make sure that you actually try them on before buying them. Have a good run!

10 thoughts on “How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit? Factors and Buying Guide”

  1. Hi, I started to run this year and I think I got the wrong shoes. I should have read this article before. Normally, I suffer lots when I walk for long periods of time without a break because I have really flat feet. But this year I decided to run because I need to exercise and I prefer the outdoors, also because I discovered that running helps me to manage stress. It is like a therapy. However, I am not sure if I should consider getting other pair of shoes, perhaps more like the big lugs you mentioned for muddy pavement. The problem with my shoes at the moment is that they feel heavy and I feel pain quite quickly. I’m not sure if it is because I’m just new in this activity or if it is because of my shoes or flat feet. Would you recommend those inserts that go inside the shoes for people with flat feet? Thanks for the great information. I might download the running guide as well. Cheers

    • Hi, Thais Gomez and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I know exactly what you mean with the stress feeling when you run. It is an excellent way to a minimum the stress from a small time at least. When you run, and are on your own, just thinking about running or listing to music or book at the same time. You just rid of something, and it lasts for some time.

      But you should not feel a pain when you run! First feeling when I saw it was that you were in the wrong shoes as you think about it.

      For example, shoes should not feel heavy. It is such a vital thing in your running equipment that it should help you, not being a problem. On the same time, I know that many people I know have been in a problem with finding good shoes if they have flat feet. There are excellent shoes for flat, but the selection of it is not as much as in the most tradition shoes.

      I would think about the insert for people with flat feet because it is a much cheaper way than change the shoes.

      Good luck.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.

  2. What an. Insightful information on this article. Running is not for athletes alone but for everyone to keep fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In order to buy a trail running shoes, all the factors to look out for are listed here from drop to fit to water resistivity and so on. This is really helpful. Thank you for this useful review. Thanks. 

    • Hi, Kinggold19 and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Yes, you are right, running is for all people and an excellent way to train.

      Mix a training and outdoor activity is a great method in a mix with other things you feel comfortable with to keep in shape.

      Good luck.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.

  3. I was in luck today that I find your article as a long time weight lifter I know the importance of the fit for my shoes depending on the type of workout I plan to do for that day, but of trail running shoes I was not sure. As I was planning to start with some running in the area close to my house what is still unspoiled land. I was checking out some shoes already. Now after reading your article I know I want the Hy Bride shoes. Thanks for explaining it well that makes my choice easy.

    • Hi, Tommy Diependaal and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your profit of this article.

      Good luck.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.

  4. I just bought Under Amour running shoes yesterday but don’t have some of the features mentioned in your article. It’s not water resistance but quite comfortable wearing it.  I haven’t tested it but do you think Under Amour shoes is fit running.

    My friends have recommended buying New Balance and they say it’s the best shoes for trail running and jogging but it quite expensive as compared to Under Amour.

    In your opinion, which brand is best for trail running or jogging and is not too expensive.

    Thank you for this insightful article and l know now what the factors to choose running shoes.

    • Hello, Shui Hyen, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Under Armor and New Balance are leading brands. So I can recommend them highly. Very durable and comfortable.

      I have personally used Under Armour a lot last years, plus other brands, and it is one of my favorite. New Balance is it too, but I have been told from shops here that it is more popular with women than many other brands. I must admit I am not absolutely sure why, but think it has something to do with fashion as man women use it with a lot of different outfits.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.

  5. Great article on what to look for when buying trail running shoes! I think these points/criteria can be applied to purchasing other types of shoes as well! I can certainly attest the fit is the most important aspect. I wore my mom’s shoes one day to walk the dogs and she wears several sizes smaller than me. Needless to say, I ended up damaging my big toe nail and had ro get a procedure done to prevent in grown nails! Was painful and expensive and easily avoidable. I loved the tip about taking into consideration water weight. Never thought of that!

    • Hello, Sherry, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Great to hear about your benefits of the article.

      If I can help you with anything else, or if you have any questions, don´t hesitate to contact me.


Leave a Comment

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.