Choosing The Best Trail Shoes

If you’ve discovered your adventurous side and have found you enjoy running off road, you’ll need to find a shoe which will help you on the uneven terrain and in the mud, that will help you to grip going uphill and give you confidence on the downhills.

Trail running is exceptionally good training. You use your core the whole time to keep your balance on uneven ground. It’s great fun, and trail runners usually enjoy the mud! You need to stay alert to avoid tripping on tree roots or placing your feet on a slippery rock.

What Is Trail Running?

Trail running can be defined as anything from a moderately hard packed path around a reservoir or through a forest, to more serious routes you might find cutting across rarely used tracks and indistinct over-grown bridleways. Trail runners need to feel confident in their footwear. You’ll need shoes that dig in and grip, while protecting your feet from rocks and debris. As your feet are constantly hitting the ground at different points, over-pronators don’t need to wear corrective footwear.

Fell running is for the even more adventurous and can be defined as steeply ascending and descending hills and high ground, particularly in mountainous areas such as the Lake District, Peak District and Scottish Highlands. Fell runners' shoes need to have an even more aggressive sole than trail runners, to cope with the mud on the steep ups and downs.

If you’re likely to be heading out of the door and running to gentle trails, then an all-terrain or hybrid shoe may be more useful. All-terrain shoes have grip that is optimised for softer terrain but will still feel cushioned for running on the street.

Why Do I Need a Specialist Trail Shoe?

Trail shoes are different to road shoes in a couple of ways:

  • The outsole is made of different materials to give you traction on slippery ground.
  • The sole has lugs, of differing lengths, to help you stay upright in the mud.
  • The formation and pattern of the lugs has been especially designed for good grip.
  • Regardless of your gait, you won’t need a correcting shoe.

We’ve picked out our favourites, which will be your best trail shoe?

For a gentle trail: The NB Fresh Foam Hierro is lightweight and will give you a soft landing on tough terrain. You’ll be protected from rocks, roots and debris and laser perforations boost ventilation.

For thick mud: The Saucony Peregrine ST is a specialist trail shoe intended for the softest of ground. It will keep you upright through thick, sticky mud, and get you up and down those relentless ascents and descents.

From door to trail: Look no further than the versatile Hoka Challenger ATR (all-terrain) which performs light on the trail and smooth on the street.

We hope to answer most of your questions here, but you’re always able to pop into a local Up & Running shop for more bespoke advice.

What Size Should I Buy?

A good rule of thumb is exactly that, a thumb’s width of space in the toe box. Look at getting running shoes that are a full/half size bigger than your everyday shoes, some brands even recommend a size and a half. As you run you don’t want your toes squashing into the end of your shoes. Shoes that fit well, with the recommended space in the toe box will help to prevent black toenails.

How Long Should Running Shoes Last?

How long running shoes should last is measured in miles not months. Running shoes should last 300 – 500 miles. So if you run 5 miles 3 times a week you are looking around 20-30 weeks. However, this will vary for each person and how much you put your shoes through! It will also depend on how well you look after them, see Caring for your Running Shoes below. If in doubt, take them into your local Up & Running, they will be happy to give you an assessment of your shoes.

How To Care For Your Trail Running Shoes:

It’s important to keep your trail shoes clean between runs, as lingering, dried-on mud can damage the uppers, and it’s so much nicer lacing up a clean pair than a muddy pair. Never put your shoes in the washing machine, no matter how cool the wash, the temperature combined with the spinning will cause damage to the materials reducing their longevity. Use a bowl of water or a hose and avoid immersing them. Then place near a radiator, not on the radiator as it will be too hot, or outside in the shade and allow them to dry naturally, not too quickly.

Do You Have Wide Feet?

Some running shoes do come in wide and extra wide fittings, so wide feet don’t need to be an issue. You can also re-lace your running shoes specifically for your wider foot, to help give your feet the space they need. The staff can advise you, but it’s about minimal lacing, enough to keep your shoes secure but reducing the amount of times the laces cross the shoe for a looser feel. Similarly, if you have narrow feet you can adjust the lacing to give a tighter fit.

I Have Flat Feet, Can I Run?

Asymptomatic (pain free) flat feet are not a barrier to running or buying a running shoe providing they fit well and are comfortable. Painful flat feet should always be assessed by a podiatrist who will advise on whether a specialist orthotic is required and what type of trainer would work best for your foot type. Your local Up & Running will be able to connect you to a local podiatrist.