Trail Running Shoes VS Running Shoes

Avid runners often have a strong love of shoes. If your passion for running has only been done on roads and treadmills, you likely have only needed one kind of running shoe. If you find yourself pulled to complete some off-road training or racing, you may want to invest in some quality trail shoes. Do you actually need shoes specific to trail running? What if I run trails with my regular running shoes? Great questions. When it comes to trail running shoes vs running shoes, the answers depend on some variables.

What Is The Difference Between Trail Running Shoes And Road Running Shoes?

Let’s start with trail running shoes. Trail shoes tend to be stiffer. They need to be durable for unexpected twists, turns and bumps in the path. You also don’t want to feel every single rock, stick and stone that your feet could come into contact with, so a stiffer and more durable shoe helps to avoid that.

Trail shoes often have an added layer of protection at the toes and heels in order to be sure you are not bothered by anything your feet may encounter. Understand that no matter how careful you are, you may be impacted by things along the way.

Added to trail shoes is often improved drainage. While you may not realize it, many trail runners often find themselves encountering a stream that they cannot help but go through. As they say, “the best-laid plans of mice and men…” and trail runners. While you set out to avoid water, it is not always possible.

road running shoes vs trail running shoes

When you flip over a pair of trail shoes you really get to see a big difference. Trail shoes will have lugs on the bottom specifically made to improve traction. You do not want to risk a fall on a trail where you could be miles and miles from medical attention, so having these special shoes can help alleviate that concern. Made with a thicker sole and off-road traction power, these shoes are made for the long haul on rough terrain.

A trail running shoe might even have an additional layer of protection to keep you safe against anything that might penetrate the bottom of the shoe. Called a rock plate, this layer of protection is built into the midsole. It may seem hard to believe, but sticks and rocks have been known to cut right through the bottom of a regular running shoe, rendering the athlete unable to continue on. The rock plate of a trail shoe prevents this problem.

road running shoes

Just like a regular running shoe, you need to find shoes with a good fit. The last thing you want is your shoe to slip while navigating technical trails.

In a regular running shoe made for road running, all of these things are missing. Running shoes are more flexible. Running shoes also tend to weigh much less than a trail shoe because you don’t need all of that protection you are getting in a trail shoe.

Made to grip the asphalt or concrete, a shoe made for running on the road has an entirely different grip on the bottom.

When To Wear A Trail Shoe

On the one hand, it should be rather simple: trail shoes on trails. However, not all trails are created equally. For example, some people will call a recreational path a trail. If the rec “trail” is paved, you don’t need a trail shoe.

In addition, a recreation trail that is all sand likely does not require a shoe specific to trails. In some places, there are paths that are used for all-terrain vehicles in the spring, summer and fall that double as snowmobile trails in the winter months. These are well-groomed and don’t require a special shoe.

Some parks have trails that are also well-groomed and you really can choose if you will wear a regular running shoe or trail shoe. If the path is generally clear of rocks, sticks and other obstacles, you can probably make the decision yourself. However, if it is a technical trail with a lot of literal bumps in the road, you want a trail-specific shoe.

Do I Really Need A Trail Shoe?

If you are running on a short recreational trail that is very well-groomed, probably not. I have done multiple trail races where I just used my regular old trainers. However, in these situations, it is a 5 or 10-kilometer race and these are on trails that are clearly used well and often.

trail running shoes

While running sometimes I peer down the adjacent pathways. When I look off of the groomed trail is when I notice the trails that trail shoes are meant for. These trails, little more than deer paths, tend to have fallen trees, rocks jutting out and sticks poking every which way. On these trails, you need a trail shoe to protect your body as best you can.

Can You Run On The Road With Trail Running Shoes?

I guess the first thought that comes when asked if trail running shoes can be used on the road is why would you want to? If you are taking a short run to get to the beautiful trail that is your happy place, you sure can do that. After all, if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, taking a car to get to your trail seems counterproductive.

Since trail shoes are a specialty shoe, however, you probably should stick to using them on an actual trail. Your body won’t prefer the stiff trail shoe if you are logging long mileage runs on the road. Also, since each pair of running shoes is only good for so many miles, why not stick to the shoe made for what you are doing? In that way, you are saving your shoes wear and tear.

Trail Running Shoes VS Running Shoes

If you were thinking you would find that one is better than the other, you will be disappointed. It is not a matter of which is better. Rather, the question is what kind of running you are planning to do: trail running or road running. If you’re running technical trails, get trail shoes. If you are running on the road, stick to a normal trainer.

Your feet will thank you for investing in specialty shoes!

How Often Should You Run For Optimal Benefits?
Ultra Athlete Marcus Smith On How To Develop An ‘Unbreakable Mindset’
Common Mistakes When Planning Your Half Marathon Diet
Pain In Groin After Running: The Why And What To Do
Forefoot Running: Everything You Need To Know
Hitting the Runners Wall: Tips To Tear It Down
Why Heel To Toe Drop Matters To Runners
Core Exercises for Runners
You can not leave comments. Please SignIn / Register.

An important note for our customers in the UK.

UK customers your order from Rockay is duty-free, despite changes to agreements with the EU. You do not have to pay any fees to receive your delivery, contrary to any messaging you may receive from a courier service.
Thank youfor your comment on our website!
Rockay Rewards$0.00
Welcome to Rockay Rewards:
Rockay Rewards
Shop at!
Earn 10% back on every purchase to be applied towards future orders
We value loyal customers!
We have created a loyalty program in order to reward customers who enjoy using Rockay products on a regular basis. We grant 10% credit for every purchase you make in our shop to use for your future purchases.
How to join the Rockay Rewards?
Customers with Rockay accounts are automatically enrolled. If you do not have an account, join today by clicking here to create your account. It is absolutely free!
How to earn credit?
You will earn 10% credit on every purchase you make in Rockay shop. Purchases made with a gift card will not add points to your account.
How to redeem rewards?
You can use your credit at any moment for any purchase. There is no minimum amount that you can use.
How to use rewards?
Rewards are given to you as credits. You can tick the box at checkout to apply your credits on any order you want.
Can I use Rockay Rewards together with other coupons and/or promotions?
Rockay Rewards' credits cannot be used in conjunction with other coupons and discounts.
Who are referrals?
Your friends will receive a 10% discount off their first order and you will receive 10% of the value of your friend’s purchases, credited to your Rockay Rewards balance. You can send your personal code to any number of friends, but only the first 10 to place an order will receive the discount.
Want a Restock? We will have this item in the inventory soon! Let us know that you want to have it by entering your email, and we'll contact you when we get this item in stock!