Trail running means flying through puddles and getting into some wild places. But it can also mean sliding on loose dirt or wet rocks. That’s why choosing a trail running shoe is so important – the pair you select could mean the difference between skinned knees or scrambling with speed.
Unlike road running shoes, which are made for smooth pavement, trail running shoes are designed to support and protect the foot on the rugged terrain. To pick the best pair for kicking up some dirt, look for these important elements of good trail running shoes.
Rocks and roots can tear up a shoe’s upper, so trail shoes include protective overlays in the upper to prevent pokes and reduce the likelihood of rips and tears. Trail running shoes can sometimes include materials for waterproofing – perfect for splashing through creeks and mud puddles.
Sometimes, trail shoe overlays for durability can reduce breathability. Nothing spoils a trail run faster than blisters from sweaty feet, so look for a shoe like the Arc’teryx Norvan VT2, which uses a mesh upper treated with a TPU film overlay to keep water out without trapping heat and sweat in.
Trail shoes offer durable soles with more aggressive tread patterns than road running shoes. Technology like the Norvan VT2’s Vibram® Megagrip rubber gives the runner better traction on unstable surfaces – grippier soles keep the runner upright on rocks and wet logs, while deep lugs allow for digging in to soft dirt and mud.
Stability in trail running means being able to feel and adapt to the trail beneath your feet. For the smoothest ride, look for a balance of cushioning that will keep your joints comfortable without blocking your ability to respond to the terrain you’re tackling.
To provide support on uneven surfaces, trail shoes should feature a forefoot that is wide and close to the ground. This protects the foot and ankle from twisting when it comes down on rocks in the trail. Other protective features, like the climbing zone located on the forefoot of the Norvan VT2, keep the runner stable when edging on small footholds and smearing on steep inclines.
Unlike smooth road pavement, trails tend to have a lot of surprises waiting underfoot: rocks, sticks, and the like are just some of the hazards runners encounter. That’s why trail runners should select a shoe with underfoot protection. These plates keep the forefront of the shoe stiff while also serving as a barrier against hard, uneven objects. Some trail shoes use nylon for underfoot protection; a high-quality shoe like the Norvan VT2 utilizes a more protective material known as TPU.
Your shoes should hug your foot without being restrictive – a snug fit is critical for keeping your foot in place over uneven terrain. To find the best, most comfortable pair of trail running shoes, find your nearest Arc’teryx retailer.