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Trail Running Shoes Basic Info

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Joined: 04 Jan 2003
Articles: 9
Comments: 0
Location: Mesa
 Posted: 8/24/2003, 11:01 pm

Trail Running Shoes

A common footwear option for day hikers is a trail running shoe. New Balance has dominated the trails (and the malls) with their popular version of this modified running shoe. Let’s take a look at the basic of trail running shoes…

First off, keep in mind that these are shoes, not boots. As such, they’re going to be much lighter and less ridged. It also means they won’t be as durable as a boot or light hiker. Likewise, trail runners differ from road running shoes. They swap out extra cushioning for an enhanced sole.

A trail runner is going to have to provide stability while still allowing the shoe to flex with the foot. The most common trail runners have a slightly curved last. This allows for a greater degree of flexibility. A straighter last would be more stable. Trail runners also tend to have less padding in the midsole. This allows for more balance because the shoe is lower to the ground. Plus, trails, even the most rocky, tend to be softer than asphalt. To test this, trip yourself and face plant on a trail, then do the same on a sidewalk, which surface was more forgiving? J Most midsoles are composed of expanded vinyl acetate (EVA); though polyurethane or molded plastic plates are also used to provide additional cushioning and stability. The outsole of the shoe may contain different types of rubber, which improves balance and traction. Outsoles can have directional treads, which are great for steep grades or sticky rubber for smooth surfaces. The outsole also protects the foot from those sharp rocks or cactus spines. The upper of a trail runner should be durable. Unlike general running shoes, the upper of trail runners tend to get beat up as a result of the uneven, debris covered trails. In the desert a well-ventilated upper provides for a more comfortable shoe due to its ability to allow air to flow to the foot. However, durability is sacrificed. REI in Tempe and PV both sell trail runners with Gore-Tex lined uppers. This seems to be an unnecessary option, as this lining would cause the shoe and subsequently the foot to be to be noticeably warmer. If you hike in snow or on wet trails, then go with the Gore-Tex. Valley area hikers might want to avoid a Gore-Tex lined trail runner. Outside Magazine recommends “Desert Runners: Choose a shoe with a highly breathable mesh upper”.

Like general running shoes and boots, the fit a trail runner is going to vary by manufacturer. A good idea when trying on trail runners is to bring the socks you’d be wearing when you use the shoe. The area in which you’ll probably see the biggest difference between brands is in the toe box. Some will have tons of room, others will be more snug. You want to find the fit that’s right for you. Like any shoe, try it out; run around a bit, pay attention to slippage or foot movement. If you’re used to boots, trail runners will feel much lighter and more agile. If you’re used to running shoes, trail runners will feel wider and clunkier than a traditional running shoe.

My hiking partner wears trail runners almost exclusively, unless he’s carrying a heavy pack. He swears by them for their light weight and comfort. Whether hiking or actually trail running, these shoes provide an option to the traditional hiking boot.

If you’d like to go for a trail run, send me a note, and let’s hit the trail and remember...

The Journey is the Destination
Colin (ck1)
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