Bored of pounding the pavements? Get off the road this summer and give trail running a go. The mental and physical benefits of trail running are astounding, with researchers finding getting off the beaten track lowers anxiety, reduces your risk of injury and forces you to use more muscle groups.
Yet before heading away from the well-trodden path, it’s important to ensure you’re kitted out.
What to look for in a trail running or off-road shoe?
On a firm, well-groomed trail, you might be ok running in your normal training shoes, yet add mud, moisture, rocks and vegetation and things can get a little trickier. Here’s what to look for in a trail running shoe:
1. Look for a shoe with a low profile – the need for a thick layer of foam between your foot and the ground is negated when trail running, in fact, the lower the profile of the shoe, the more stable you’ll be on uneven ground.
2. Grip is everything – without a good grip, you can’t run with confidence.
3. There should be in-built protection – off-road running can be hard on your shoes, especially the upper. Look for rubber or nylon reinforcements around the toe box, heel counter and the bottom of the upper.
4. Look at the waterproof protection – water will often be a problem on Britain’s trails and when it comes to trail running trainers, there are two schools of thought: the waterproof shell, which works well when splashing through puddles, but does not allow water to escape from the shoe. The second approach is more of a sieve design, with focuses on the belief that keeping your feet watertight is impossible, and focuses on drainage rather than protection.
The best trail running shoes on the market summer 2018:
Built for long days off the road, the TrailMaker is a solid choice for runners who want to take on a variety of surfaces without losing confidence in their traction.
The 4-5mm lugs grip well on a wide range of technical challenges, from the rocks to gravel; the trend pattern and durable Continental rubber outsole help you stick to your landing, even when the rain turns the conditions slick underfoot. The reinforced, seamless upper also does a good job of holding your foot in place.
Wear-testers gave the flexibility low marks, but they liked the one-pull lacing system and commended the overall running experience.
Hoka fans should think of the ATR 4 as an all-terrain version of the Hoka Clifton. It features deep lugs to deliver a super-solid grip and, as you would expect from Hoka, a thick layer of light foam underfoot.
This was the thickest of the shoes we tested in the lab and our tested noticed, saying the supple ride felt like the perfect combination of plush cushioning and sure-footedness, and gave the ATR top scores in both the comfort and cushioning departments.
The upper has been changed slightly from older models: there are fewer overlays and it has been reinforced with internal bands over the midfoot to lock the foot down.
The Hierro is a versatile shoe that can easily transition to the pavement when necessary, thanks to its soft cushioning. That makes it ideal for those whose adventures take in a bit of road along with the trail.
A stretchy film wraps the upper to provide structure and protection while allowing the foot to flex freely. Testers loved the knit around the ankle, which kept out debris when running.
This sole is softer than that of the V2, but the shoe is a lot less flexible and heavier overall. Though our testers noticed this, they still gave the shoe a high overall mark because of its excellent all-round feel and performance.
This shoe is all about maximum comfort. Our testers raved about the cushioning, noting the supple feel on both road and trail, and our lab tests confirmed it was the softest of the shoes we tested.
The upper is made from breathable mesh that is designed to improve drainage when things get soggy. There is also an added layer of film over key areas of the foot to provide extra support, and a lace pocket on the tongue.
While this version is stiffer than the original Caldera – in the lab and on foot – it performed superbly.