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Choosing the Right Trail Runners: Part 2

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 Trail Running Shoes

When we last left off, we discussed some of the finer points in choosing trail running shoes based on their characteristics and fit, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you're planning on hitting the trails often, you're also going to be worried about other features too. So, in our conclusion, here's the rest of the info you need to find the perfect trail runners.

Weight:

You may not think of weight as being especially crucial in an outdoor shoe, but all that changes when you pick up your speed. A lighter shoe is easier on your ankles and makes it a bit easier to pick up your foot each time. A lighter shoe is likely to be more breathable, which keeps your foot nice and cool. But you’ll also find that lighter weight shoes sometimes have less support and can wear out a bit faster, so it depends on your conditions – don’t always assume lighter is better for you. If you plan to use it mostly for hiking and light jogging, weight matters less. If you’re strictly focused on running, a lighter weight shoe is critical, especially when it gets wet. Water is going to add weight to your shoe, so if you run through streams, look for a shoe made with lightweight and quick-drying materials like the Adidas Response Trail Running Shoe.

Salomon Quick Lace System

Tightening:

  • Running shoes are pretty tech-savvy pieces of gear, but one you’ll notice right away is how the shoe tightens. Each has its own benefits and mostly comes down to personal preference.
  • Laces: are the most common and generally the most affordable, but have a few downsides: they loosen throughout your run and can create pressure points on your foot if it’s not a perfect fit.
  • BOA/cranking systems: If you’re ever pulled on a snowboard boot, you probably know about crank systems. They use small metal wires instead of laces that stretch across the top of your foot. They’re tightened using a dial. An advantage is that they stay tight while you run, but it’s not as easy to replace as a pair of laces if it breaks.
  • Quick-lace systems: Several brands (most notably Salomon) use a quick-lace system on their shoes. Rather than laces that need to be tied, these shoes have a locking mechanism, similar to bungee straps. Once tightened, the pully and excess straps usually tuck away so they can’t get caught while running.

Cushioning:

When it comes to cushioning or padding, this is another case where more isn’t always better. Your primary activity and ability level should dictate the level of support you want below your foot. You’re asking an awful lot of your body when you’re running, especially running on uneven and unstable surfaces, so having a comfortable amount of cushioning for your body is key to avoiding foot, ankle, knee, and hip injuries.

  • Light cushioning: Do you run or hike mostly on dirt and packed soil paths? If you’re rarely running over rocks and roots, or mostly running on flat, soft terrain, you can probably get a shoe with slightly less padding. They’re often less expensive than more “heavy-duty: runners.
  • Heavy cushioning: If you run primarily off-trail, across rocks and roots, or frequently on variable and inclined terrain, you’ll likely want a shoe with more padding. Not only does it cushion your foot more on what can often be somewhat unstable landings, but they insulate your foot from feeling every stone. With lighter padding, you’re going to feel more of what you’re running on. Heavier padding can provide a bit more protection for your feet.

Salewa Trail Running Shoes

Notes on Cushioning

  • If you have high arches, it may be less important how much cushioning there is and more important as to where it is - always make sure your arch is properly supported to avoid injury and strain.
  • Planning on using your trail runners as a hiking shoe? If you’re often going to be carrying a heavy pack, as with overnight backpacking, opt for a little more cushion in your trailrunners.
  • Many trail runners are designed to offer various arrangements of the footbed, like the Salewa Speed Ascent Trail Running Shoe, or accommodate third-party orthopedic liners. If you have foot problems or a history of foot strain, you may want to buy a pair of trail runners with that option.

Salomon Trail Running Friends

The Bottom Line:

A lot of choosing a trail runner comes down to personal preference, but the fit is non-negotiable. You may also find that there’s isn’t one pair of shoes to do it all; you may need one pair for light jogs through the park and another for serious runs through the mountains. Be sure to read the reviews and do your research once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few pairs. And while it’s, of course, important to buy a pair you can afford, remember not to scrimp on features that matter to you – don’t save money by buying a non-waterproof pair if you run through streams all day.

Happy running! 

If you missed Part 1, be sure to start your trail running shoe search there!