Good Content from: Team Saucony

Running on the roads is fast and exciting, but there’s something about hitting the trails that refreshes and challenges us in new ways. Dodging rocks and roots keeps our muscles strong and agile, while the natural scenery lets our minds reset. After a good trail run, we feel tough, invigorated and inspired. And as we know here at Saucony, one good run leads to another.

Whether you’re tackling a strenuous mountain trail or long running on a local single track, before you hit the dirt, you first have to choose the proper footwear. Here, we’ll give you the rundown on trail running shoes and recommend the best pairs for your off-roading adventures.

Do I need trail shoes for trail running?

While you might be able to wear your road running shoes on well-groomed dirt paths, if you’re running on uneven footing – over rocks, roots, puddles and more – a trail running shoe will give you better traction and protection.

Designed with rough terrain in mind, trail running shoes feature:

  • Extra-grippy soles for traction on slippery and uneven surfaces
  • Durable and protective materials that stand up to dirt, mud, and snow
  • Lower offsets/stack heights to allow for better proprioception on the trails
  • Technical details such as lace keepers and D-rings for gaiter compatability

What is the difference between trail running shoes and running shoes?

When you’re on the trails, it’s important to have durable shoes with good grip to support you while you climb over rocks and land on uneven or slippery ground. On the other hand, when you’re running on smooth surfaces like pavement, you don’t require shoes with as much traction or technical details.

Trail running shoes tend to have more aggressive treads (or lugs) and a lower profile than road running shoes, to allow for better grip and ground-level stability. They feature uppers that have strategic protection in key areas. While running shoes are made with lightweight fabrics, trail shoes feature more durable materials, in some cases water-resistant Gore-Tex and trail-specific mesh to shield you from debris. Trail shoes also have technical details like lace keepers to make sure laces are secure and D-rings for gaiter compatibility.

Are trail running shoes good for road running?

While you can run on the roads with trail running shoes, it might feel a little awkward. Because trail running shoes are built for technical, uneven ground, they have extra design details (such as aggressive lugs and uppers made with more protective materials) that can make road running feel a little uncomfortable. Trail running shoes often feature lower profiles that encourage natural foot flexion and ankle stability, so runners who prefer a road-running shoe with a greater offset and thicker midsole and should opt for traditional running shoes when pounding the pavement.

Best road to trail running shoes

If your go-to running loop crosses over several different surfaces – like pavement, grass, and trails – you should invest in footwear that’s up for anything. When picking a shoe that’ll take you from the roads to the trails, look for low to moderate treads/lugs that are more closely spaced together (so they don’t feel too bulky underfoot on the roads), breathable materials and enough cushioning and support to keep you comfortable and secure on any surface.

Here are a couple of our fave trail running shoes that can play on pavement, too:

  • Switchback ISO: With dynamic ISOFIT construction, full-length cushioning, and BOA fit system (a dial lacing system that locks down the perfect fit) this lightweight shoe will fly over anything
  • Guide ISO 2 TR: For runners who want road-shoe comfort on the trails, these feature a higher offset (8mm), moderate stability, and extra-grippy treads to tackle any terrain

Best trail running shoes for hiking

Kiss your old, bulky hiking boots goodbye and say hello to your new sole mate: a trail running shoe that’s lightweight, comfortable, and responsive like your favorite road shoe, yet durable enough to withstand long miles on rugged terrains.

Here are a two of our trail running shoes that work just as well for hiking:

  • Mad River TR: Go from tame paths to technical routes with this customizable shoe, which features a gaiter-compatible D Ring, durable upper, wide toe box, and rugged lugs
  • Peregrine 10: A go-to trail running favorite, featuring aggressive lugs made of PWRTRAC grippy rubber, PWRRUN cushioning for a responsive yet protective feel and a high-abrasion lightweight mesh for protection and breathability. Learn more about the Peregrine 10 Collection.

Blaze your own trail!

Whether you’re a pavement-pounder trying out trail running for the first time or a seasoned trail vet, you need trail shoes that support and empower you when things get rocky. When choosing a trail shoe, make sure to find one that’s comfortable and provides enough traction and stability for the surface you’re running on.

Want more Saucony scoop? Be sure to keep checking our blog at Saucony.com for tips and insights about shoes, training, racing, and more.

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