As the summer draws to a close most runners are preparing to make the switch from the road or track, back to the trails. The fall season means one of two things to runners of Windsor, the start of cross-country season, and the start of trail running season. When making the switch from roads to trails there are a few things to keep in mind in order to stay safe and prepared. For a full outline please also read our blog on trail running. (http://www.runningfactory.com/blogs/news/18802687-trail-running. Arguably the most important thing to have is the proper footwear for your terrain. While most road shoes can be used for some trail running, they are not the best choice for all trails. Well-groomed trails or fire roads do not require a heavy-duty shoe, but as the terrain becomes more rugged or technical, your feet require more protection.
The main difference between road and trail shoes lies in the construction as well as purpose. Road shoes are often made of soft, lightweight materials and fabrics as well as softly treaded foam or gel midsoles. This is done because road running is about shock absorption and repetitive running patterns. Trail shoes are often made of denser materials (sometimes waterproof), more aggressive treading, and wider bases. Many of them also have a feature called a “rock guard” which is a thin piece of plastic or similar material to guard the bottom of the foot from sharp rocks, twigs, or debris. Trail shoes sometimes feel stiffer in comparison to road shoes but this is done because trails are much softer and offer more shock absorption than cement or pavement. An example of each of these types can be seen in the New Balance 980 Fresh Foam (http://www.runningfactory.com/collections/mens-rf/products/new-balance-m980bo2?variant=1200083803) and Fresh Foam Trail (http://www.runningfactory.com/collections/mens-rf/products/new-balance-fresh-foam-trail-hierro?variant=6021708547 ). Much like road shoes, trail shoes come in many different styles and drop heights depending on personal preference and running style. The NB 980 Fresh Foam Trail is an example of a lightly treaded, low drop (4mm), trail shoe. This shoe is ideal for someone who is running on a mix of light trails and tends to be more of a forefoot or toe runner. Lower drop shoes require more muscle activation in the foot and calf because it promotes more of a forefoot strike as opposed to a heel strike. This is something that certain people have to adjust to because traditional running shoes tend have an offset of 10 – 12 mm.
Not all trail shoes are built in this “minimal” fashion. Many companies offer a trail shoe with more of a traditional offset but still offer the stability and gripping features of other trail shoes. For example the Brooks Cascadia (http://www.runningfactory.com/collections/mens-rf/products/brooks-cascadia-10?variant=1132959859) has an offset of 10mm, a much wider base for stability, and more of an aggressive tread for more technical trails. Having a more traditional offset trail shoe not only offers you more heel cushion, but also takes stress off your Achilles tendon when on long runs or in tricky terrain. The more aggressive the tread, or larger the lugs your shoe, the more traction you will get in mud, woodchips, grass, or gravel. An example of a heavy tread and waterproof trail shoe would be the Saucony Xodus 6.0 (http://www.runningfactory.com/collections/mens-rf/products/saucony-xodus-6-0-gtx?variant=7381871939 ).
Shoe choice is based on a number of things: your terrain, your running style, and most importantly, the best and most comfortable fit. All companies build their shoes differently, even from style to style, so the best way to find your ideal trail shoe is to try them on and see what feels best to you. Your friends at The Running Factory are always willing to help you find your ideal shoe for your running and training needs.