Choosing the Right Running Shoe
In the world of trail running and sky-running, choosing the right shoe is more important than in other disciplines. The choice on the market is very wide, with numerous models with different drop, upper, volume, and insoles. But how to choose the product that perfectly suits your needs?
Differences between running shoes for road and trail running
A road running shoe "only" has to protect the foot from repeated impacts on a hard surface. But when it comes to the terrain, the shoes must have three basic characteristics:
Aside from the area of use, the construction is another big difference between road running shoes and trail running shoes. Road running shoes are made from lightweight and breathable materials that promote speed and response.
On the other hand, trail running shoes have to have more functions than shoes designed for the road: they have to make it possible to safely negotiate different surfaces and, above all, they have to withstand lateral and torsional forces that are typical of off-road running on uneven terrain. In this case, finding durable materials for the sole as well as harder materials for the upper is the main goal of the development process.
Main features of trail running shoes
Cushioning is a factor that depends heavily on the terrain and the distance you typically run. Runners who prefer short distances and technical terrain will have to sacrifice a little cushioning for more lightness and sensitivity, so they're closer to the ground and more responsive to changing terrain.
On the other hand, long-distance runners will look for more cushioning so that the foot stays comfortable in the shoe for the entire run, which could be several hours, such as in ultra runs. Another important aspect is the material that provides cushioning. A material that is too soft may not provide enough stability on uneven terrain. It is therefore advisable to find a compromise between cushioning and stability.
The drop is the difference between the back of the shoe (heel) and the front (forefoot) in millimeters. It is a very personal characteristic that depends heavily on the individual running style. If you hit the ground with your heel first when running, you usually choose a product with more cushioning at the back, i.e. more drop.
On the other hand, a forefoot runner needs a shoe with a lower drop. In addition to the drop, the stack height must also be taken into account, i.e. the total height of the sole/midsole measured at the heel of the shoe and on the forefoot, because the difference between these two measurements corresponds to the drop. A higher stack height usually means the shoe has more cushioning.
Protection and Stability:
Protection and stability are two elements that we must consider depending on how we use a product. Trail shoes usually include a rock plate and reinforced toe to provide basic foot protection. In addition, some models offer protection systems that extend to the upper part of the foot, such as a lace cover or integrated gaiters to prevent dirt from getting in. Some models protect against water with special membranes or treatments.
Other elements that provide support and stability include the composition of the heel counter and the structure of the lacing on the forefoot. These ensure that the foot sits firmly in the shoe. The shoe must be enveloping, but not tight. If the fit is too wide, you don't get enough stability, and you risk spraining your foot.
On the other hand, if the shoe is too tight, it will be painful as the foot swells from the heat. It's also important to note that fit can vary from model to model, which can affect our perception of stability. Fit and structure are therefore to be distinguished. The height of the insole also influences the stability of the shoe: if the height is low, the shoe is more stable because the foot is closer to the ground and the center of gravity is lower.
Embossed lugs on the outsole indicate a trail running shoe, with the height and spacing of the lugs revealing which terrain the shoe is better suited for. When the lugs are high and spaced far enough apart, the shoe is ideal on mud and snow. With intricately designed studs that are too close together, the mud would stick to the outsole and thus cause some problems. Another fundamental property of the sole concerns the compound from which the outsole is made. A softer and stickier compound helps find grip on smooth and slippery surfaces.