What sort of terrain justifies trail shoes?

My local parkrun has recently switched to their summer course, which includes more "off-road" running. Nothing dramatic, probably between 750m to 1k of grass/mud trail and the rest of the lap (2.5 laps for the parkrun 5k) is tarmac or cinder paths.

When there has been a bit of rain the off-road section can get a bit slippery and boggy.

At the minute I have 2 pairs of Asics GT-2000's - the blue ones I wear for parkrun and when it is wet out, the orange ones I keep for dry, street running.

I'm wondering if trail shoes would be beneficial? More specifically I'm wondering if hybrid trail (or door-to-trail) shoes would be the way to go?

Not just for parkrun, as I'm now running further and longer I'm thinking of heading into the unknown and exploring some of the local footpaths/bridleways (once I've made sure of where they actually go!)

When you see pictures of "trail running" in magazines etc, the runners always seem to be up some mountain or rocky outcrop. I wouldn't be on anything like that, but don't know if trail shoes would be overkill for a few muddy/grassy paths.

8 Replies

  • If you are on cinder/dirt track then your road shoes will be fine. I have GT2000s too and wear them for those surfaces. You need trail shoes for when you need grip. Trail shoes are not cushioned like road shoes, They are generally very flat and designed to allow you to feel the surface beneath your feet. The pronation/supernation thing is not an issue off road as your feet are hitting the ground in every direction as you go over uneven materials. If you are used to running on cushioned soles however, wearing trail shoes on hard tracks or tarmac will be very uncomfortable.

  • That's what I thought which is why my interest was piqued by a review of hybrid trail shoes in the current issue of Runners World.

  • Based on what you have said you definitely don't want/need full blown trail shoes for the parkrun, they really are not great for tarmac.

    On the other hand they offer much more stability/rigidity when the ground is hard and uneven/rutted and as such they are what you need for the paths/bridleways.

    The hybrid/intermediate type might be an option but I have no experience of them.

  • Maybe I'll have to venture onto the paths and bridleways and see what the surface is like.

    I didn't think full blown trail shoes would be needed for the parkrun course, although I reckon some extra grip might be useful on the wet and slippery days.

    That's why the hybrids interested me - thinking they might be useful for those wet parkruns as well as if I go onto the paths and bridleways, which would involve some distance on the road to get to them.

  • Hybrid or pure trail shoes are going to wear quicker on tarmac and lose their grip fairly quickly, so you need to select the right shoes for your route. I have recently gone the other way, only buying my first pair of road shoes after eighteen months of running in trail shoes. Most of my mileage was offroad but increasingly I was having longer on road sections as I increased my distances. The padding in my road shoes (Brooks Adrenalines) is ridiculously comfortable after trail shoes, and certainly makes road running more appealing, but I still prefer my trail shoes for my (Killerton) parkrun which is woodland and farm tracks and grass.

    The best way to assess the situation is probably to go and run your parkrun route in your road shoes and see how it feels. Trail shoes definitely give you security on wet and loose surfaces, but up to now I haven't encountered a surface that my Adrenalines can't cope with, although they have not been used for anything very challenging.

    If you are running offroad then more than one pair is useful, just to make sure you always have a dry pair to put on and if you buy in the sales it is the cheap option.

  • I have some hybrids which are fundamentally trail shoes but ok for a bit on tarmac or concrete to get you to the trail, but they prefer trail, and when you run on the road in them they make a sucking noise ☺

  • I got trail shoes when I found myself thinking it really wasn't safe to be going down that hill with that mud. Just that bit more confidence and grip. But I have never run in normal trainers or road shoes - the first shoes I got were minimalist, by chance, I was just looking for something more ethical than your average shoe. I am not sure I could even run in a more substantial shoe as it turns out, I need to feel the ground - but then I have probably run less than 5K on tarmac in total over the 3 years I've been running.

    As Iannodatruffe says, more than one pair of shoes is handy, I tend to bring home large quantities of peat on mine. I reckon we may all start to need to think about washing our shoes every time because of biosecurity issues.

    It sounds as though you don't really need trail shoes... but if you are thinking about buying new shoes, then trail might be good to consider.

  • I bought trail shoes after the time I slipped over while running in wet, muddy fields. It's ages since I've worn them, though - my current route is approx. 1 mile out of 4 on grass and field tracks, and as long as it's not utterly squelchy my normal running shoes are fine. :)

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