What Are Trail Running Shoes?

What Are Trail Running Shoes?

Sure, you can run on any kind of pavement. But, what kind of running shoes should you use? A lot of runners are unaware that they should wear trail running shoes for rocky, muddy pavements, but what are trail running shoes, really?

Trail running is different from the more familiar road running, which is done in flat, even pavements. For this reason, when trail running, you would need special shoes.

What Is Trail Running?

First of all, trail running is an outdoor activity that is a combination of running and hiking on steep gradients and unpaved surfaces. It is performed in mountainous terrains and hiking trails characterized by much larger descents and ascents.

Trail running is relatively more difficult than road running. Because of the rocky grounds, uneven pavements, and muddy soils that may cause pains and injuries, the feet need more protection against these external elements.

What Are Trail Running Shoes?

Trail running shoes are the most appropriate shoes that provide more advantages in muddy or grassy surfaces than typical road running shoes. In the earlier years, when trail running shoes were first marketed, they came in clunky and stiff built. They were overbuilt and didn’t really appear for trail running.

Among the hundreds of running shoes today, these kinds of shoes still exist. So, what are trail running shoes really like? The following features are the characteristics of a good trail running shoe:

1. Traction

One major feature of trail running shoes is the traction. Unlike road running shoes, these shoes use different tractions, such as multi-directional lugs and large lugs, that offer maximum grip for mud, dirt, and rock.

Moreover, the lugs are manufactured with a sticky rubber compound to provide you with better control when running on different kinds of pavements.

2. Protection

Trail running shoes offer maximum protection against the external elements. It is made with weaved mesh uppers that shield your feet against trail fragments such as stones, mud, sand, and dirt.

The rubber caps, also called the “toe bumpers”, protect the toes from blisters and pain especially when you accidentally kick a root or rock. In the midsole part, trail running shoes are flexible and made with a stiff plastic plate that serves as a shield from sharp jags like protruding rocks and sticks.

What Makes Up Good Trail Running Shoes

3. Stability

Road running shoes come in particular designs for different pronation. Trail running shoes, on the other hand, come in a design that provides stability for all runners.

It is made with highly supportive materials to snug your foot down and keep it from moving around inside. Combined with locked-in fit in the heel and thumb-wide toe box, trail running shoes provide more stability and support than road running shoes.

4. Color

Trail running shoes usually come in dark colors. This is in order to hide or give a colored backdrop for the dirt you pick up along the trails. Additionally, colored shoes can speak of personality and look a lot better with pants.

What Makes Up Good Trail Running Shoes?

Choosing a good pair of trail shoes can be overwhelming. With all the selection in the market that claims to be the most comfortable and more durable, it can be rather confusing. Therefore, here are some factors to consider when buying trail running shoes:

  • Fit

Unlike road running shoes, trail shoes should fit snuggly in the heel and midsole. The fit should secure or lock in this part to keep them from sliding around inside. However, the toe part should have at least half-thumb space between the tips of the shoe.

Try the shoe on, and if possible, wear it for a while before buying. Any little discomfort should not be tolerated; otherwise, you will not be comfortable, and it will disable you to reach your best performance.

  • Upper Material

The upper part of trail running shoes offers protection against various elements. Depending on which kind of trail conditions you are running, choose the upper material that best matches your needs. You can choose between mesh and waterproof uppers.

A waterproof upper is ideal for running on muddy trails, snow, and rainy days. It is definitely not good and would feel uncomfortable on warm days. On the other hand, a mesh upper is a lot more breathable and dries quickly. It is more preferred by experienced runners.

  • Padding

One feature that is often underestimated is the padding. When buying trail running shoes, check for the paddings on the collar and tongue part. This feature provides more support and protection against rubbing. This is especially important for runners who are in the trails for long periods.

are trail running shoes good road running

  • Lacing System

The shoelace not only adds color or design to the shoes, but it also has an important function. It keeps the foot stay in place comfortably. With the right amount of bagging or tightening, the lacing system contributes to the comfort and fit of the shoes.

  • Rock Guard Feature

An important feature that must be checked is the rock guard or the protective layer between the outsole and the midsole. This part protects the foot from sharp rock edges, roots, or gravel. It also increases comfort especially in the most challenging terrains and reduces the risk of pain, blisters, and serious injuries.

  • Price

Many runners believe that the more expensive the shoe is, the better it is. Although this could be true in some sense, runners should always consider the more important features. Not all expensive shoes best match your pronation and foot structure.

  • Color

While white-colored shoes look neat and cool, it is important to consider buying colored shoes. White will not hide the dirt that you pick up on the pavements, which, in the long term or sooner, make your shoes appear ugly and weak.

Colored trail running shoes are much better and require less maintenance.


So, there you have it! Trail running shoes are entirely different from usual road running shoes. They are made of more durable materials that can withstand the various elements in a challenging running environment.

When buying one, it is essential to check the important features of trail running shoes. Trail running is more difficult and rewarding. Hence, it is a must to provide your feet with the protection and comfort they need.

14 thoughts on “What Are Trail Running Shoes?”

  1. This was really helpful. Thank you for writing this. I do most of my running on pavement, but once spring rolls around I’m hoping to get more into trail running this year. I think it will help my mental health to get more time in nature while exercising. I will definitely need a new pair of shoes, so this guide was perfectly timed. I’ll be bookmarking to come back to it. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Holly and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words. It is always great to hear the benefits our readers have of the articles here on Sports Send.

      It will be nice to run in the spring as you said, nature gives extra power.

      Good luck.

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

  2. Hi,

     Thank you very much for sharing with us such an important blog. If I did not read this blog I can not find the details about “Trail Running Shoes”. This blog will be very much helpful for the runners. The most interesting thing I just learn from here is trail running is not the same as the more natural street running. I will definitely share this blog with my friends.

    • Thank you for your kind words.

      It is great to hear about the benefits of the article.

      You talk about the difference between trail running shoes and street running shoes, called to road running shoes too. The main difference is in the composition.

      When you run in the road running shoes, the main idea is that you are focused on the speed. Because of it, these shoes are making of more lightweight material as part to maximize your speed comparing to trail running shoes.

      But when you are running in the landscape, for example on rocky grounds, uneven pavements, etc, you need more support. So the shoes are more massive and focus on let you have as much support and protection as possible.

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

  3. Hi and thanks for a great review. Honestly, I did not know about trail running shoes, but it makes perfect sense. They have to be different from running shoes, they have to withstand all these rocky roads, uneven surfaces, mud and etc. Very informative and useful review. Thanks a lot.

    • Hi, David and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

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

  4. Hi Holly,

    Thank you for the Trail and running shoe comparison. I never compared them before, and I mostly bought mine for running on pavement. I didn’t like the rough trail tread because it picks up the dirt in bigger hunks and makes a mess indoors if you forget to take them off. However last spring I learned why the tread is so different. I took a trail around a park where I run on pavement, and it was still muddy, and i slipped and went down. Nothing hurt but my pride, but I was muddy from the experience. I will have trail shoes next year!

    My search for trail shoes brought me to your site. You have a nice selection and the detailed descriptions are very helpful as well.

     I like the New Balance Shoes, and noticed they are a bit cheaper compared to the Salomon shoes. Do you have any experience with the Salomon shoes? Are they worth the extra money? 

    Thank you for introducing me to the salomon brand.


    • Hi, Chas and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      The prices have an extensive range. New Balance trail running shoes cost, can we say, from 29-280 dollars. Salomon trail running is, we can tell, between 60-380 dollars.

      In both cases, you can find cheaper and more expensive than I mention. But this is all question of quality and design, and both brands famous of both. So I would say that both brands are fair about the prices.

      But so I can answer you I would need to know which items you had in mind. The possibilities about which shoes you have in mind are so many. You can both send me an email here or let me know in these comments.

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

  5. It makes a lot of sense why trail running shoes should be different from the regular ones. The last time I used my conventional running shoe for a trail event, it totally tore off the padding and literally turned my pink shoe into dirt black. I could never restore it to its original look or comfort and hence, had to throw it away. So it’s always good to have two different type of shoes if you are ever thinking of hitting the adventurous ground.  

    • Hi, Cathy and thank you.

      Yes, you are right. Runners run now much more on a different surface than before.

      To be more precie, runners have always run all over but now are so much more selection in the running. We have organized mountains running, ultrarunning, hill, etc. Both for being in good shape, competition or just, but very important, to enjoy running and the landscape.

      Because of that, the shoe brands have stressed more to a made product with this or that surface in mind as the stress on the shoes is different when you, for example, in the mountains or on the road.

      So like you say if you are running in the forest and the streets/roads, it is very wise to have 2-3 different running pairs with this in mind.

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

  6. Great explanations :).This helps a ton!

    An excellent and informative article about trail running shoes. I like to run on different terrains. It’s never the same. I choose trail running shoes that give me protection and stability.  I’m not a fan of the waterproof upper layer because my feet sweat more. Good running shoes will really help to make more enjoyed running in nature.

    My other favorite shoe is Nike air max, but unfortunately, they’re not designed for mountain use and will fall apart quickly exposed to the wilderness. I picked up Salomon shoes when I switched from hiking boots to trail runners environments.

    Have a nice day,


    • Hi, Leo and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      It is critical to find out what shoes fit your body and running style best. Luckily we are all different so what suits one does not necessarily match other.

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

  7. Yes, I agree with you. The trail running shoes are different from the road running shoes. The materials are strong and made up of durable materials. I love fitness and trail running is one of my favorite. Why? Because, am moltivated more with nature. With that environment, there is vartually no issues I can’t solve. I could remember the first I went on the race, the poor me put on a thight shoes which ended up causing irritation to my leg. I have since then learnt my lessons. This review is fascinating. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi, NiceAngel and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      There has been outstanding and fast development in running shoes. So now it is much easier to find shoes which fit in where and how you run and what to provide best for your body.

      So the best thing is to have in mind on which surface you usually are running and then find out what fits best for your body.

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


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