Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Trail Running Trends and Footwear
Many longtime road runners are doing more running on trails. Possible explanations are: Their body is sore and they would like a more forgiving surface; they find running on hilly trails and a variety of surfaces uses different muscle groups and allows the runner to become more balanced in strength; Or, some runners just want more variety and adventure and hitting the trails provides branches to jump over and duck under, rocks to dodge, roots to trip over and the occasional deer hiding in the forest to admire. Regardless of your reasons for running trails you want it to be a good experience and that starts with the proper footwear.
At Gear West, the two questions I hear most from people wanting to trail run are:
1. Do you need trail shoes?
If you are only running on crushed limestone or smooth hard-packed dirt regular running shoes work fine. If you are running on rocks, roots, mud, and twisty single track you may appreciate a trail shoe. Trail shoes provide extra traction, weather resistance, a more stable platform under your foot, toe protection up front and most offer a forefoot rock plate for extra protection when landing and pushing-off on rocks or roots. Trail shoe ‘uppers’ are more durable than run shoe materials and take more wear and tear than run shoe materials which are built for breathability and low weight. Trail shoes are not a great idea for road running because most are firmer and less flexible on the foot, and combined with hard pavement, a trail shoe will provides a hard, unforgiving ride.
2. What is a good trail shoe for you?
You can start figuring that out by looking at your road running shoes and see what is working. If you feel better in a more flexible road shoe, you might want to look at trail shoes that bend more easily when you take them in your hands and flex the toe toward the heel.
Every trail shoe brand offer both flexible and stiff models. If you like a shoe that has a firmer raised heel, try the Salomon trail shoes such as the Mission, Crossmax or Speedcross. If you like a shoe lower and more flexible in the heel, you might try Asics or some of the Montrail models. Many serious trail runners look for lighter weight with flexibility, such as the Inov8 trail shoe or the Salomon S-Lab Sense. If you lean towards more flexibility and minimalist shoes with a tiny bit of protection, New Balance offers the Minimus trail or Vibram Five Fingers offer toe shoes with rock plates in the forefoot – Spyridon, TrekSport, and Lontra. On the flip-side there is a trail shoe designed for cushion – lots of it- to protect your foot from hard landings on rocky ground –the Hoka Stinson.
Trail shoes to consider
Salomon trail shoes (men's)(women's)
Asics trail shoes (men's)(women's)
Montrail trail shoes (men's)(women's)
New Balance (men's)(women's)
Vibram Five Fingers (men's)(women's) look for Spyridon, TrekSport and Lontra
Hoka Stinson (men's)(women's)
Is Gortex necessary in a trail shoe?
Not unless you are only planning to use the shoe for winter running. Gortex in the summer will be HOT and will also trap the moisture/water from streams or puddles inside your shoe. Tread type could also be important for a trail shoe choice if you plan to run in very muddy locations.
Try several styles of shoes to see what works for you
A wide variety of trail shoes
If you like running trails, you will enjoy the variety of trail shoes offered to runners. Personally you may like a couple of different trail shoes, for different types of trail running. For me, Jan, an avid athlete (who is aging) I prefer a more protective trail shoe when running the Superior Hiking Trail and a lighter more minimal shoe when running the trails around Gear West. Wendi Morin, our Gait Lady, chooses the Vibram 5 Fingers for most everything. The point is, its fun trying different types of shoes and exploring the freedom of movement and/or the protection each provides.
Trail running hints and gear
Other trail gear
Lastly, a few tips on trail gear. If you come from a triathlete background, don’t bring your elastic laces to your trail running experience. The elastic stretch in the laces could easily contribute to a twisted ankle. Keep them in your road race shoes. Do use however, body glide to prevent chafing, and a durable sock that covers your ankle to prevent cuts from brush and debris from dropping into a lower sock. For socks we suggest Smartwool or Darntough.
Drinking systems are crucial on long trail runs and trail runners are very personal as to what works best for them. The waist pack drink belts from Nathan (Elite 1 Plus carries water and gel) and the Salomon (Hydro 45) both carry the basic larger water bottle. Little bottles spread evenly around the waist, such as the Nathan Speed 4 or 6 bottle or Fuel Belt, work well for women and those who like water weight distributed evenly. Waist belts made with stretchy webbing fabric fit better than the less expensive designs which use cheaper non-stretchable fabric to hold the bottles.
Hydration packs – the extreme light weight water packs that Salomon offers such as the Advanced Skin S-Lab set are the best set- up for carrying a lot of water comfortably- and the bag is designed to carry gels and other foods or discarded clothing. Hand held sets like the Nathon Quickshot or larger Vaperdraw allow you to easily carry water bottles in your hand. The new market entry is Salomon’s new collapsible flasks for their new S-Lab Hydro Set– a hand held hydration system.
We hope this gives you a good place to start when it comes to what you need or want for your trail runs. Come on out to Gear West! Bring your road shoes, tell us what you like about them and we’ll help you find your new trail shoes and what cool accessories work best for your trail adventures!
~Wendi (AKA The shoe Whisperer)
~Jan Guenther the store owner.
Please call the store with any questions on these products