Trail Shoes - and other offroad equipment and/or tips for a trail newbie! (Read 812 times)

    For a long time, I've quietly mocked trail runners. Never got the allure at all. Why would anyone actually *choose* to run on uneven surfaces, to risk broken ankles and poison ivy? I didn't get it. Didn't see the point. But I recently went out and actually started running on a few trails ... and was instantly hooked. It was everything all the granola-crunching hippie trail runners said ... completely different than road running. I actually unplugged the iPod and got in touch with my chi. Or something cheesy like that. (Chi-sy?). Seriously ... it's downright magical. But now - like so many before me, apparently - I'm having to force myself back onto the roads. And experiencing sore knees and ankles for the first time. Which brings me to my question: I may love the trails, but I don't know the first thing about trail running. Like the big question - the shoes! So - any advice from the ultrarunners and trail runners? Specifically, do I actually need trail shoes? What's the point? Can I use them for road running, too? What do I look for in a trail shoe? What are your favorites? And what other equipment should I be pondering? Feel free to answer any or all of the above - and I'd welcome any tips for a new trail runner who finally *gets* what you people have been babbling about. Oh, that reminds me: so how much actually trail work do you do compared with road work? I can't help but notice that the trails are definitely harder on this old body. Thanks in advance!
    E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com

    You'll ruin your knees!

      Hard on the body...I think not! Do I fall down more, get more scrapes and cuts? Absolutely! But as I built up mileage, I found that my recovery following long trail runs was MUCH shorter than long road runs. In fact, that is how I got into longer distances, back to back races...my first was a 50K on Saturday (race) and a road marathon (race) the following day. That is when I decided I was ready to move up to 50 milers, the rest is history. The shoe question is a tough one, like so many others...it depends. I do run in trail shoes mostly, but I know a lot of folks that run more trails than I do and don't own trail shoes! I have one friend who did Leadville Trail 100 mile race in road shoes...so, it depends. If you occaisionally venture out on trails and the terrain is not particularly technical, then I would suggest you just stick to the road shoes. By technical, I mean lots of rocks/roots/steep inclines, etc. Trail shoes have a lower profile and generally help reduce the tendency to roll an ankle (big problem for new trail runners). Another feature is a more rigid protection plate to help prevent the bruising that can result from pointy-uppy thingies on the trail. They also generally have a much more substantial toe guard for the unavoidable clash between your toes and a root, imbedded rock, etc. Another noticeable feature is a more aggressive tread design to improve grip on slippery rocks, in mud, etc. You can find all sorts of optional features, like shoes that drain water well so your feet don't stay wet (frequent water crossings), waterproofing to keep your feet dry (slushy snow), and on and on... There are some decent crossover shoes that are considered good for road or trail, but I wouldn't want to do long road runs in them, as they generally don't provide as much pure padding as road shoes. Many don't offer a medial post (motion control) because trail running provides an endless supply of possible strike patterns between your foot and the trail, so the repetitive slap, slap, slap that comes from pounding the pavement isn't present... What to look for in a trail shoe depends on a lot of things (see above). I like a good draining, good protection plate shoe. I find that the Montrail brand gives me what I need. I run in the Masai, Hardrock and Leona Divide regularly. Masai is a lightweight shoe that I use on a trail around my office complex (2 miles). The surface is crushed stone, very gentle. I use the LD's for my golf course running (no cart path for me, only at night). I use the Hardrocks on the more technical trails. For roads, I run in Asics 2090's. As for other equipment, hydration is key, so a handheld bottle carrier is a good idea (I've seen them made out of duct tape). If you don't want to carry a bottle in your hand, then a waist belt that holds water bottles is a good idea (you can also typically get a pocket to carry a few items as well). If the trail has lots of leaves/twigs/small rocks, then gaitors might be a good idea to keep small objects out of your shoes. This isn't a big deal on shorter runs, but can be problematic on longer runs (frequent stops to remove trail debris from shoes). I am running both roads and trails now, probably a little more off road than on. I have an event coming up that is 100% road, so I want to train specific to the terrain of my target event. Trails are easier on the knees and hips, but harder on the feet and ankles...a trade off...I'll take trails! Gotta run! Lynn B

      ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

        I try to run about once a week on trails. It's a totally different running experience than the sidewalks I otherwise have to run on! I love it! I try to make the trail runs my "long run" days. You've probably noticed that your pace is slower on the trails? And who wants to be rushed when they're out enjoying Mother Nature? I've had both trail shoes and non-trail shoes. Honestly, I haven't seen any difference in my trail running between trail shoes and non-trail shoes. But when I wear my trail shoes out on the road my feet hurt more because there's less padding. How's that for scientific? :P I second Lyn's advice about bringing drinks with you. Very important! Happy trails!

        Roads were made for journeys...

          I run on trails in local metroparks most of the time, but they're not too technical and I wear road shoes. I also know most of the roots and trouble spots so that helps prevent trip-ups (and I've tripped plenty of times on uneven sidewalks which are alot worse to crash-land on than a trail). The trails are also way easier on my knees and hips than pavement. If you're sore from trail running, that may go away after you're body adjusts to running on uneven surfaces.

          Princess Cancer Pants

            I'm planning to purchase a pair of "all terrain" shoes once Winter weather really hits (probably after Christmas--should be good sales then, anyhow), since they should help my footing on snowy paths and keep my feet a bit drier. And they are a lot cheaper than my current trainers, which is kind of nice, since I won't be piling on the miles as much for a few months when the weather is nasty (indoor cross-training time). k

            '17 Goals:

            • Chemo

            • Chemo-Radiation

            • Surgery

            • Return to kicking my own ass by 2018


            She was not strong. She was valiant. Radiant. Brave and broken. The beauty she discovered in the aftermath was unparalleled to anything she had known before, because it had come at such a cost.

            ~ Unknown

              If you occaisionally venture out on trails and the terrain is not particularly technical, then I would suggest you just stick to the road shoes. By technical, I mean lots of rocks/roots/steep inclines, etc.
              "Technical," huh? Well, there's a useful word. I guess I should have specied: these trails are - at least to my newbie eyes - pretty darn "technical." Nothing compared to Western States, I'm sure ... but roots and rocks and boulders and logs outnumber the flat spots by 10 to 1. There are plenty of places where "climbing" is probably closer to the truth then "running." And more than a few spaces where you either put both feet together and jump, or hang onto tree limbs to get down. Plus elevation changes of around 500 feet or so. My normal long run pace for runs over 10 miles or so is (or should be!) right around 10:00 per mile. I did 9 miles on these trails the other day and averaged around 13:00 minute pace per mile. And I was working a helluva a lot harder than 10:00 pace. I think the soreness is coming from climbing and stepping and jumping over roots. I assume my body will adjust (and that's it probably better for you in the long run, rather than that constant pounding, all in exactly the same places.) And yeah ... it's truly a wonderful experience. One of these days I'm going to sit down and write a really long post about it (who? me?). The strangest part for me is running without music - I *never* take off the iPod on the road. Ever. But in the woods, frankly I couldn't do it with music. You have to concentrate too much on every single step. Just really, really cool. But I think I need some trail shoes. Here's a funny one, though: I did a 14 miler the other day, 9 of it on those trails - no problem. Ankles were fine. The next day, running a few miles on a flatter-than-flat piece of road, not a pebble or twig in sight, I rolled my ankle so bad I thought I broke it. That would have been funny. Well, if it happened to someone else. Who I didn't like. And who really deserved it. Thanks for all the tips, kidz ... keep 'em comin'.
              E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com

                I avoided trail runs because I thought I had weak ankles. Then I saw a trail marathon, down Mt. Hood, that sounded really cool! I started my training on roads with old shoes, but when I got about 1 month into it and was starting my longer runs, I got a pair of "hybrid" shoes and hit a 6 1/2 mile section of the WS100. What a great experience...the scenery, the twists and turns (of the trail, not my feet), never knowing what was around the next bend. I am now hooked on trails, also. So while I tend to run my short runs from home, I try to go to the trails for anything more than 5 miles. I also ended up getting a full trail shoe, which I totally love because it seems to grip better, and is waterproof. I understand the "harder on the body" statement: I think the effort is much higher, but the aches and pains, if proper nutrition is maintained, is less, once your body gets used to it. I completed the marathon 2 weeks ago - the trail marathon took alot more stamina and effort than the road marathon. But my recovery was faster...I have theories on that, too, but I'll leave this blog for now. Other trail gear I recomend: emergency supplies to go into the camelbak (bandaiids, blister aids, small roll of duct tape for repairs and chafing, water treatment tabs (which I put in there AFTER I ran out of liquid 10 miles into a 15 mile run). And food...for the long runs...like fruit roll-ups, slim jims, etc. to boost my energy (I'm not an energy gel lover). Shocked
                Next up: A 50k in ? Done: California-Oregon-Arizona-Nevada (x2)-Wisconsin-Wyoming-Utah-Michigan-Colorado

                CPT Curmudgeon

                  I have a pair of Adidas trail shoes that have Gore-Tex. I got them partly because my last trail race was rather rainy, and it would have been nice to stave off the dampness in my tootsies some. Personally, I think the only trick to it is to do it. I've done fairly technical trail races, up to a half-mary, and I almost never train on trails (tough to get to running trails when you live just outside Philly). But having a good pair of shoes helps, especially on the rocks. My first trail run, I thought someone had taken a bat to the bottoms of my feet. Those little "stone guards" or whatever do make some difference.

                    I find the trails far less damaging on my body & like many also find them more challenging & interesting. I got back into "running"- not much more that a jog- in my late 30's. After a knee problem & a back injury that took me out of powerlifting I finally decided to do something for my cardio vascular system. I've actually found the trails great for my back & spirit. As far as trail shoe's most people have covered it. It's not too disimilar to road shoes in that you have to find what workes for you. But I do think if you are going to do any distances over 20kms you'll need the extra protection & control that a trail runner offers. I live & train on the East Coast of Australia & we have some pretty fierce terrain too. I've tried a few & have settled on Montrail Hardrocks. I pronate, & like others I know used to use Asics or New Balance. If those 2 brands have suited your foot for road running perhaps Montrail are worth a try. Cheers Moe.