Leaving the roads and hitting some trails opens up a whole new world for avid runners, but it also demands different equipment, too.  Picking the right shoe for outdoor running can be tricky and overwhelming.

Here are good pointers to help you narrow down your needs and necessities when it comes to picking the right outdoor shoes.

Step 1: Know your terrain

  • Figure out what type of trail and terrain you will be running most often.  This will help you figure out what type of shoe you need.  For example, someone who mostly runs outside on hard asphalt needs different shoes from some one who tends to run on sand.
Step 2: Know your necessities
Terrain: asphalt or hard and even surfaces
  • Shoe with good grip, thick and stable cushioning to help absorb impact and a wide stable outsole
  • Most standard running shoes are recommended for asphalt or other hard even surfaces
  • For night running, shoes should have reflective and colorful markings to keep the runner safe and visible at all times
Terrain: rocky trails and boulders
  • Shoe with solid toe and heel protection
  • Hard plastic shank underfoot
  • Tread similar to those of hiking boots
Terrain: up and down mountains or uneven terrain
  • high ankle collar to support ankle on uneven surfaces
  • breathable material to allow ventilation
Terrain: Mud, rain, snow
  • waterproof upper material
  • breathable liner
  • stiff midsole and outsole with widely spaced ridges to avoid mud or snow from getting stuck and collecting on the outsole [2]
Some Examples
Trail Running
Trail Running Shoes ideal characteristics:
  • Light (around 8-10 ounces) to prevent weighing feet down during long, uphill runs or from additional weight due to mud that might stick onto the bottom of the shoe
  • Excellent grip outsole that creates traction and friction against different surfaces
  • Resistant and durable outsole with proper water drainage in case of rain or other water source that might accumulate inside the shoe
  • Breathability: upper should be built from mesh or other breathabile material to allow air flow and prevent moisture from accumulating on the foot, which is what causes blisters.


Hiking boots ideal characteristics:

  • Hiking Boot Weight
    The lighter your boots, the easier your walking will be.
  • Water Resistance
    Moisture is one of your biggest enemies when it comes to hiking. Moisture causes blisters. There are a couple of things that can improve the chances of keeping your feet dry. Look for breathable and watertight materials that will allow moisture to leave the inner parts of your boots but will not let water enter. Look for fully gusseted tongues that cover the openings of your uppers.
  • Lateral Rigidity
    Your boot should support your feet and ankles from twisting on uneven surfaces. Higher boots with stiff ankle supports provide a big part of the lateral rigidity.
  • Longitudinal Rigidity
    Your boot should support your feet from over-bending when placing too much weight on the toe or heel side of your foot.
  • Arch Support
    Your boot should support the arch of your feet in a way that your feet are not flattened out under heavy pressure. A curved, stiff shank between midsole and insole can and is often inserted to provide arch support. [1]


[1] Hiking: http://www.abc-of-hiking.com/hiking-boots/hiking-boot-features.asp “Hiking Boots-Features & Characteristics”.  Accessed 3/28/2012

[2] Video: http://www.youtube.com/user/Howcast.  Accessed 3/28/2012


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