How to Pick Trail Running Shoes

**This is the third post in a short series about why run trails, how to survive your first trail run and picking the proper gear to keep your trail time fun. If you have any specific questions or curiosities about trail running, let us know, we'll work them into this series!**

So, you've given trail running a try and have fallen in love, now what? Keep running those trails! And consider investing in trail running shoes. Do you absolutely need trail running shoes to hit the trails? No. Are there perks to running in legitimate trail running shoes? Definitely.

Trail Running Shoes

What makes trail running shoes special? Well, a lot of things. Trail shoes tend to be sturdier and more durable than the average road shoe. The tread is more aggressive, the sole may be stiffer and the upper material is designed with withstand abuse from rocks and roots.

Let's take a look at what makes a trail running shoe better for...trail running. We picked a few distinctively different trail running shoes to compare.

HOKA ONE ONE Kailua: Maximalist + Low Drop

Weight: 9.3 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5 mm
Pronation Control: neutral
Tread Aggression: moderate
Upper Material: standard

The Hoka shoes are known for having a thick, cushioned sole. This is great for reducing the impact of longer distances or when coming back from a joint or bone related injury. The toebox of this shoe is roomy giving your feet more room to move and even swell while running.

Salomon Speedcross: Moderate Cushion + High Drop Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoe

Weight: 9.8 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 11 mm
Pronation Control: neutral
Tread Aggression: aggressive
Upper Material: mud guard

This Salomon is a popular trail shoe with aggressive tread and a slightly enhanced upper that boasts breathability and mud protection. It is great for running on slick, wet rocks and technical terrain. The quick zip laces are a neat feature that make it easy to find just the right fit, over and over again.

New Balance Minimus 10 Gore-Tex: Minimalist + Low DropNew Balance Minimus 10 GoreTex XCR Trail Shoe

Weight: 6.2 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm
Pronation Control: neutral
Tread Aggression: minimal with Vibram outsole for grip
Upper Material: waterproof

The New Balance Minimus is a minimalist shoe providing less cushion, but sturdy protection. This shoe also has a waterproof upper - useful on muddy or snowy runs. The soles are not aggressive but the Vibram material is great for gripping slick rocks.

Merrell Ascend Glove: Minimalist + Zero DropMerrell Ascent Glove Trail Shoe

Weight: 6.8 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0 mm
Pronation Control: neutral
Tread Aggression: minimal with Vibram outsole for grip
Upper Material: standard

Merrell's Ascend Glove offers a lightweight shoe with a sturdy sole and zero drop from heel-to-toe. A solid shoe for a minimalist runner looking to hit the trails. These shoes have an equal stack height in the toe and heel, making them zero drop. This level sole allows your feet and body to run in a more natural position.
Heel-to-Toe Drop: The difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe measured in millimeters.
Pronation Control: How the features within the shoe assist with normal, over and under pronation, which is how a runner's foot "rolls" with each step.
Maximal vs Minimal: The amount of cushioning material between the runner's foot and the ground. Maximalist shoes have a lot of cushion, minimalist shoes have very little cushion.

Keep in mind, we're comparing features of these shoes, not whether or not they'll be a good fit for you. Feet tend to be finicky, always go on a few test runs before you commit to going the distance in a brand new pair of shoes!
Join the Conversation