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How to choose the right trail running shoes?

Understanding your discipline, the weather conditions during your training, and the terrain you run on will collectively influence your choice. Our guide reveals all the information that will make it easier for you to find the men's or women's trail shoe that suits your needs!

trail running shoe

How to Size Trail Running Shoes?

Choosing the right size for trail running shoes is crucial to ensure a comfortable and stable fit during your run. Here are some tips to determine the appropriate size:

Measure Your Feet

Use a foot measurer or place your foot on a sheet of paper, trace the outline, then measure the distance from the heel to the toes. Do this for both feet, as they can sometimes vary slightly in length.

Take Toe Space into Account

Ensure there is about 1 to 1.5 cm of space between your longest toe (usually the big toe) and the tip of the shoe. This helps prevent rubbing and injuries during the run, especially on downhill sections of the trail.

Consider the Overall Fit

Check that the midfoot and heel are well supported without being too tight. Shoes that are too large or too small can cause issues during running, including blisters, black toenails, or pain.

Consider the Type of Socks

If you plan to wear thick socks, make sure to wear them when trying on shoes to get the right size.

Check Brand Size Guides

Each manufacturer may have size differences, so it's useful to check the brand-specific size guides to ensure you choose the right size.

Ultimately, the best way to pick the right size for trail shoes is to try them on and walk or run briefly to assess comfort and fit. That's why at Glisshop, you can benefit from a flexible policy. Try and return your shoes within 100 days if they don't suit you!

What Type of Trail Runner Am I?

Firstly, your running habits will dictate the type of shoe you need. A recreational runner whose distance is limited to 10 km will not have the same selection criteria as an elite ultra trail runner. Let’s dive into it!

Lightweight Shoes for Short Trail Runs

Short trail running pertains to distances under 40 kilometres. For these shorter distances, seasoned trail runners will prefer a lightweight trail shoe that facilitates freedom of movement and quick manoeuvres on the trails. It's essential to ensure the quality of the grip of the outsole and the lugs to avoid slipping at high speeds and particularly in descents. To appeal to more competitive runners, brands have been equipping some of their models with a carbon plate in recent years. This feature increases performance by providing excellent energy return during the stride.

However, caution is advised. Take, for example, a 35-kilometer race. While it might be a simple task for seasoned athletes, it could prove to be a significant distance for someone new to this format. They would not use the same shoes. Indeed, 35 kilometres, although considered short for a trail running race, can be quite long, especially if the route includes a significant elevation gain. A runner planning to spend several hours on the trails would do well to choose a more comfortable shoe, with the goal of achieving their objective smoothly. Don’t forgo good foot support and also opt for good cushioning to reduce joint stress.

Comfortable Shoes for Long Distances

Whether you are a seasoned expert or aiming to complete your first long-distance trail in nature, choosing the right shoe is crucial to protect your feet. In trail running, the longer the course, the more likely you are to twist an ankle or face impacts, especially on rugged mountain trails.

Therefore, as a runner, you should pay particular attention to the comfort of the shoe. Equipped with a rand, providing excellent cushioning and optimal foot support, the right long-distance trail shoe will help you perform your best and achieve your goals.

However, some experienced runners still manage to run relatively fast, even on such terrains. A shoe with moderate weight and cushioning can be an asset for enhancing the performance of your stride and maintaining good terrain feel.

Better Cushioning for Ultra-Trail!

In ultra-trail events, distances are not just long—they are very long. The time it takes for different runners to cover the courses can vary widely. For instance, in the UTMB (170 kilometres with 10,000 meters of positive elevation gain), the first runner crosses the finish line in under 20 hours, while the last finisher may take close to 50 hours to complete the race.

Here, everyone faces the same challenges. With so many factors affecting performance, even elite runners aren't guaranteed to finish the race. To increase your odds, choosing a suitable pair of shoes is essential. In ultra-running, foot comfort is paramount. Opt for a heavier, but more durable shoe, with lugs that provide good grip and soft cushioning, to help reduce the impact of such an event on your body.

Finally, it would be reckless to start such a race without having tried and used your shoes on several prior runs to prevent discomfort and blisters that could end the dream of a lifetime after only a few kilometres.

Notes: It's worth mentioning that trail running shoes can also serve as excellent hiking shoes for walkers seeking a shoe for trekking, for example. Boasting the same grip as a traditional trekking shoe, they have the advantage of being lighter, making it easier to cover more ground. However, since they are low-cut, they do not offer the same ankle support qualities.

Mountain or Plain: What is My Terrain?

The type of trail you are accustomed to or plan to explore will also be one of the factors guiding your choice.

In the Mountains

If your trail running takes place in the mountains, the diverse terrain will require you to look for a shoe with the best possible balance of grip, lightness, cushioning, and durability. Indeed, on compact dirt single tracks conducive to speed, you'll prefer a light and low-profile shoe. However, as you ascend the next peak through a scree field with sharp obstacles, you'll appreciate the combination of reliable grip and effective foot support.

In the Plains

In the plains, the approach is different and the more monotonous terrain allows you more freedom in choosing your shoes. However, if you are likely to traverse forest trails and muddy terrains, opt for a shoe with sufficient lugs to prevent accidents and maintain control under all conditions.

Which Shoe for Urban Trail Running?

Increasingly popular in recent years, urban trail running continues to attract more city dwellers seeking a breath of fresh air every season. With a mix of natural trails and asphalt, this discipline requires you to choose a hybrid trail shoe that closely resembles a road running shoe. If you would like to learn more about this type of product, contact our store experts. As runners themselves, they will be happy to answer all your questions.

Criteria to Consider

Heel Drop

The drop refers to the height difference between the heel and the forefoot of a shoe. For example, a shoe with 24 mm at the heel and 20 mm at the forefoot would have a drop of 4 mm.

Depending on your level, you should choose an appropriate drop. Between 8 and 12 mm for beginners and less than 8 mm for the more experienced. It's important to consider that a significant change in drop can impact your muscles and joints.

trail shoe heel drop

Shoe Cushioning

Cushioning is a crucial factor to consider in trail running shoes, not only for comfort but also to prevent potential injuries. First, your body type will dictate your choice. A lighter runner may need less cushioning than a heavier runner who should lean towards a shoe with more substantial cushioning. However, heavier runners with good technique might opt for a shoe with less cushioning if they prefer.

The distance and type of terrain will also influence the level of cushioning you should consider. In trail running, as distances increase and terrains become more rugged, your joints are put under more stress. Adequate cushioning is essential to protect your knees from the sometimes painful consequences of impacts and vibrations.

Finally, your type of running stride will also affect your needs. A heel strike will require more protection compared to a forefoot strike, which is less traumatic.

Grip

Good grip is essential in trail running. Whether on wet or dry terrains, your shoe must provide optimal traction to maintain a confident stride and good stability under all circumstances. On muddy and soggy grounds, choosing a shoe with large lugs is crucial. Conversely, on compact and dusty trails, a shoe model with smaller and more lugs is preferable.

Support

Since trail running takes place exclusively in natural settings, the quality of the ground is often unpredictable. Therefore, it is very important to ensure good foot support inside the shoe to maintain maximum comfort. Especially at the heel, trail shoes are reinforced and more rigid to protect against impacts.

Support can also be gauged by the effectiveness of the lacing system. For example, Salomon’s ’quicklace’ easy lacing allows you to adjust the tightness in one move, ensuring your feet are supported throughout your run. Elsewhere, other manufacturers like La Sportiva use the Boa system. By turning the adjustment dial, you can quickly alter your degree of comfort.

Level of Protection

If mountains are your playground, you often find yourself on technical and rugged terrains. In such environments, flying debris and potential impacts are common. Therefore, trail runners need to be mindful of the level of protection offered by the running shoes they consider purchasing.

While shoes designed for performance and speed are naturally lighter and less protective, those intended for long runs are equipped with effective rands at the back and around the toe area of the trail shoe, sparing you from the painful consequences of accidental impacts.

Insole

To improve the comfort of trail runners, brands like Sidas or Superfeet design insoles that can be inserted into your shoes. Designed to provide additional comfort during effort for a variety of foot shapes, they perfectly adapt to your morphology. From the most basic to the most sophisticated, each insole offers rebound, cushioning, and support during your runs.

Outsole

This is one of the most crucial features in trail running. Your shoe’s outsole is directly related to grip, as having lugs on muddy terrain is good, but having lugs that remain in good condition is even better. Nowadays, trail industry manufacturers understand the importance of collaborating with the best to create products that meet the demands of the terrain.

That's why we see partnerships flourishing with brands like Vibram or Michelin, which are experts in technical materials. These collaborations result in outsoles with an exceptional balance of grip and durability.

trail shoe outsole

Asking the Right Questions

When searching for a trail running shoe, it's essential to ask the right questions. Don't worry, we're here to answer them for you. Distance, running surface, seasonality—we analyse all the parameters that need to be considered to help you make the best choice!

What Shoe for What Season?

Breathability for Summer

Summer on the trails means heat and sweat. In trail running, foot perspiration can become a real problem, compromising the comfort of the athlete. Essentially, a non-breathable shoe can cause unpleasant rubbing, and eventually, it can be dangerous due to the burns caused. Additionally, sweat can make your foot slip inside the shoe. More than just uncomfortable, this issue compromises proper foot and ankle support.

In summer, opt for a breathable shoe. Besides being lighter, it will allow sweat to evaporate and dry quickly.

waterproof trail shoe

Waterproofness for Winter

Winter presents a different set of challenges. Indeed, keeping your feet protected from the cold is essential to prevent your outdoor activity from becoming an ordeal. Trail shoe brands now design waterproof membranes that help keep you dry in wet and cold weather. Among these, the Gore-Tex membrane is arguably the most effective on the market in balancing breathability and waterproofness. It's important to remember that the shoe isn't completely waterproof, and some moisture may appear inside due to sweat and water possibly getting over the shoe's collar.

Which Shoe for Shoulder-Season?

In the shoulder-season, particularly in the mountains, weather conditions can vary from one extreme to another within a couple of days. Thus, a sunny outing on dry trails can be followed by a rainy or even snowy training session, making the ground muddy and slippery. While a versatile shoe can often be enough, the best option remains to invest in two pairs of trail shoes. One should be light and breathable for when the sun is shining, and the other waterproof for when the weather turns foul. In short, no more unpleasant surprises and unlimited fun with every run!

To Go Further...

When to Change Your Trail Shoes?

The best time to change your trail shoes depends on various factors, such as running frequency, distance covered, type of terrain, your weight, and even how your foot strikes the ground while running. However, here are some common signs that it might be time to replace your trail shoes:

Outsole Wear

If the outsole shows signs of excessive wear, such as smooth areas or torn parts, this can affect the grip and traction of the shoe.

Loss of Cushioning

Trail shoes gradually lose their cushioning ability over time. If you start to feel more shocks and impacts, it might be time to change your shoes.

Midsole Deformation

If the midsole appears compressed, flattened, or deformed, it indicates a loss of cushioning and support, which can lead to issues such as joint or muscle pain.

Recurring injuries

If you start to experience recurring pain or injury during or after your runs, it may be a sign that your shoes are no longer providing adequate support.

Changes in How the Shoe Feels

If you notice changes in how the shoes feel during a run, such as unusual pressure points or rubbing, this may indicate that the shoes no longer fit your foot properly.

Significant Distance Covered

Typically, trail shoes have a lifespan of 500 to 800 kilometres. If you've covered a significant distance in your current shoes, it's probably time for new ones.

It's crucial to be aware of these signs and not wait until the shoes are completely worn out before replacing them. Running in worn-out shoes can increase the risk of injury. If you're a regular runner, keep a log of your runs and replace your shoes based on the distance covered rather than the time elapsed since their purchase.

What is the Best Trail Running Brand?

While it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between good and bad products on the market, and because our values drive us to offer you the best equipment, at Glisshop, we stock for you the most efficient trail shoes from the most renowned brands. In addition to these, you will find on our online store, all the necessary shoe accessories to take care of them and make them last. Don't wait any longer!