Friday, August 10, 2012

The Benefit of Trail Shoes

One of the epiphanies my wife and I learned last year is the importance of getting a good pair of trail shoes.  Why?  Road shoes just don’t cut it if you are running highly technical terrain or running down hills due to the traction inherently built in the shoe. That said, my apprehension of running downhill has been greatly improved.  I am now able to focus on conserving my quads instead of how I am going to keep from falling on my face.

What is amazing to me is how technical these shoes have become, especially since the Born to Run craze began.  If you keep in mind that running trails mechanically different than running on pavement, you will find that it comes more down to the style of shoe you like, the type of trails you will be running, and comfort.

The low tread profile of the Adrenaline 12.  Photo Courtesy of
For example, when you are running on pavement, having your gait analysis done is a wise investment of your time since you can easily be directed to a shoe that will help minimize possible damage either caused by over or under pronation.   When you are running on pavement, you are running basically on flat ground without very little change in the profile of the road.  The problem is that our gait was not created to walk less run on flat pavement, so running on the wrong shoe can cause you to have alignment problems.

A stability shoe heal is higher to help neutralize over pronation. Photo courtesy of
However, running on trails, the pronation of your foot is less of an issue since you are basically running on uneven, loose dirt or rock. Your pronation naturally adjusts to the terrain which means you do not need an overly engineered shoe. 
The tread of the Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8's.  Photo courtesy of
Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8.  Photo courtesy of
This is the point of the whole Born to Run, barefoot running craze. So while there are shoes out there (and I have a pair) built for the stability runner or the motion control runner, it is not as important.  I say this to call out that running with trail shoes on pavement, while economical, may not always be the wisest choice.  Both my wife and I found out the hard way when we injured ourselves leading up to and during the Napa Valley Marathon.

Right now I have two pairs of trail shoes, and I recommend them both.  I first got a pair of BrooksAdrenaline ASR 7.  These are great shoes and really helped me to understand the importance of having a shoe with good traction.  These are the trail running version of the popular Adrenaline GTS 11.  I got this shoe; however, with the understanding that I over pronate and that I have been running in the GTS’s.  Basically you go with what you know.  The shoe is comfortable, and is just like my GTS; however, they are a bit heavier and ridged.  While I have run on pavement with this shoe I would not recommend it.

The awesome tread of the Brooks Cascade 7, I love these shoes.  Photo courtesy of
Brooks Cascade 7. Notice very little heal elevation.  Photo courtesy of
However, right before the Diablo 50K Challenge, I took advantage of a discount that Forward Motion was putting on at the packet pickup and got a pair of the Brooks Cascade 7’s.  I love these shoes.  They are very comfortable, and while they are a neutral shoe, I have not had a problem on the trails.  This shoe feels lighter than the Adrenaline and definitely made for running downhill and technical terrain. It is not overly engineered either.  I highly recommend this shoe.

So consider getting a pair of trail shoes for your next trail run if you haven’t already.  You will find that the run is more enjoyable as you are speeding by other runners downhill.


  1. I always feel a bit sorry for anyone using road shoes on a tough trail, especially on the downhill bits. Especially muddy downhill bits. I finally bought a pair of Hoka Stinsons and have been using them for both trails and the few road races I do, and they have been great.

    1. I have had talked with so many folks lately about the merits of trail shoes. I can't believe I ran my first trail run back in 2008 in my old Adidas without any tread left on them.


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