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Do You Need a Trail Shoe?

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Three reasons why trail shoes make a difference

By Steve Manning “The Footman” – intraining Podiatrist & Lvl 4 Running Coach


Trail running has become more popular over the last few years as is shown by the success of the intraining Trail tribe sessions and trail events.  Most weekends there are now multiple trail races you can run.

If you have considered trying out the trails then the first question you might have is whether you need to get a specialist trail shoe.  The answer depends on the trail you want to run.  Many of Brisbane’s trails are well maintained and will be Ok to use a road shoe for an occasional run.  However many trails are too rough and you may risk injury if you do not have a trail-specific shoe.

Below, I’ve given you three reasons why trail shoes can make your runs much more enjoyable than if you ran with road running shoes.  

1.  DESIGN:  How are they different from running shoes?

2.  BENEFITS:  Why should you use trail over road shoes?

3.  ADVANTAGES of Trail running for you

If you have any questions, make sure you come into intraining Running Centre and chat with our running team.  Or you can drop us an email at [email protected], or call our team on 33673088.  

How are trail shoes different to running shoes?

DESIGN:  The structure of trail shoes have:

Larger lugs on outsole.

    • Trail shoe outsoles must deal with loose or muddy ground. The higher profile lugs on the outsole help to improve traction on these surfaces. This is perhaps the most important and most obvious difference between road and Trail. On the road trail outsoles may have decreased traction and the lugs will wear off more quickly than a road shoe.

Lower stack height and heel drop.

    • The uneven ground on trails have a greater risk of tripping or spraining an ankle. The thicker the midsole the greater the instability and more risk of a sprain. Trail shoes thinner midsoles are more responsive and will give you a better feel for the road.

Tougher toe caps.

    • There is a risk of kicking a stick or rock running on trails. Most trail shoes have some extra protection in the toes to reduce the chance of tearing the upper. This also helps protect your toes.

Rock Plates.

    • Many trail shoes have a forefoot plate that will stop a sharp rock from piercing the sole and cutting your foot. This may reduce forefoot flexion however it is not the same function like a supershoe that is designed to stop forefoot flexion.

Neutral only.

    • Trail shoes must deal with more lateral movement than road shoes. For this reason almost all trail shoes are neutral. That means they have the same support on the inside and outside of the shoe. About half of the road running shoes are neutral as the extra support on the inside of stability shoes helps control excessive pronation.

Water resistance.

    • Some trail shoes have Goretex uppers that are waterproof. However, most trail shoes have a layer of waterproofing around the base but are more water resistant in the rest of the upper. This keeps your feet relatively more dry if you are running through wet grass and puddles.

Why should I get trail shoes?

Here are 3 key reasons:

#1 Durability.

The most important reason to get a trail specific shoe is that your shoes will last longer. Each shoe is designed with regards to the specific type of stress they must endure. Outsole components may be torn off a road shoe when they run over rocky terrain. A road shoe midsole is less protected and softer so will degrade quicker on trails. The softer upper materials can be easily damaged by rocks and sticks.

#2 Better traction.

Running on trails has an increased risk of falls. This is increased significantly if you have diminished traction. It is also very frustrating slipping around on loose surfaces. Even calf and hamstring tears will be greater if you are slipping as you push off and slip.

#3 Improve stability.

The midsole upper and outsole combine to offer better stability running on trails. You are trading softer midsoles and anti-pronation features in road shoes for a firmer ride of a trail shoe.

Advantages of trail running:

Aside from the enjoyment factor, adding some trail running into your routine can give you additonal strength for your road running goals. 

Here’s how:  

Increased strength  

Running on uneven ground works the little stability muscles in your feet, legs and core. This creates greater strength outside of the limited range of motion from road running. This then leads to reduce risk of overuse injuries.

Changing Body Stresses

If you are having to manage a degenerative injury like osteoarthritis, you may find that you are able to run further with no pain on the trails. The constantly changing stress helps distribute the strain away from the damaged area offering a level of relief.

Focus on effort rather than pace

Running off road means you can commune with nature rather than dodging cars. Because of the changing surfaces and hills the emphasis is off of your pace and more on your effort. This creates a sense of being in the moment that is similar to the benefits of meditation.

Getting the right shoe specific trails lets you truly maximise these advantages.  

For shoes:  You will want to come talk with our team instore.  They will take you through the shoes available and of course let you test run them in-store.  Like any shoe, it’s good to run in them while choosing the one for you.  

For training:  intraining Running Centre has a thriving trail community with midweek and weekend sessions for all abilities.  You can find more information about this HERE and contact our trail coach Tracy Baker if you need more information. 

Happy running!  


Steve Manning 1

Steve Manning "The Footman"

Steve has been a running shoe aficionado for the last 4 decades and as the owner of the intraining Running Centre has helped thousands of runners find the perfect shoe. He is a member of the Footman Biomechanics Group of the International Society of Biomechanics and a previous President of the Qld branch of Sports Medicine Australia. As a Podiatrist specialising in running sports injury prevention, he utilises footwear prescription and modification to keep you running. Contact Steve at the intraining Running Centre, [email protected] for all your footwear questions.