Trail Running Shoes 101

Hybrid Trail Running Shoes

Hybrid models are designed to combine the benefits of road running shoes with some of the added durability and protection of trail shoes.

These models are generally lightweight, like road shoes, but with wider tread patterns and supportive outsoles. A hybrid model is most appropriate for flat trails or paths that are normally free from any large debris.

More: Ins and Outs of Trail Running

Beginning trail runners do well with this model, as these runners are more likely to focus on less technical trails.

Quick Tip: Great for beginners and those facing less challenging terrain.

Conventional Trail Running Shoes

Conventional trail running models offer the reinforcement needed to tackle more challenging terrain. Tough outsoles, wide tread patterns, toe guards and waterproofing technologies make these shoes ideal for trails loaded with brush, large rocks or boulders, and streams or rivers.

Due to the added weight of conventional models, they are less comfortable for use on mellow terrain, and are usually best for experienced trail runners, or those looking for a serious challenge.

Quick Tip: Ideal for experienced trail runners or those expecting large obstacles on the trail.

Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

Minimalist running models most closely mimic the barefoot running condition. The runner's feet, legs and ankles inherently provide the support that a typical running shoe usually offers.

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The absence of thick soles allows the runner to feel subtle changes in the terrain and adjust the force of impact accordingly. A lack of cushioning also allows for a more natural strike on the ball of the foot, offering more bounce to the stride.

While minimalist running shoes offer varying levels of protection, those designed for trail running combine the benefits of traditional minimalist models with aggressive lugs for added traction. Some models also include additional toe and heel protection.

Quick Tip: A great option, but does require some adjustment. (Best for experienced runners.)

Finding Your Inner Trail Runner

Once you've determined which model is best suited to your running style and choice of terrain, it's best to visit a running specialty store to select a trail running shoe.

While it may be tempting to choose the least expensive option, the possible injuries you'll sustain from a poorly made shoe are not worth the few extra dollars you'll save.

Ask a running specialist to help you ensure that your choice fits correctly and suits your mechanics so you can tackle those trails.

More: How to Overcome Your Trail Running Fears

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