Outdoor sports like hiking and trail running are perfectly simple in a way many other sports are not. The beauty of trail running is in its low barrier to entry—in other words, you don’t need too much knowledge or equipment to really enjoy it. One major exception to that, though, is that you absolutely need to know how to find a perfect fit in a shoe. Otherwise, as many runners will tell you, blisters and injury can bring your run to a painful stop.
Hands down, the most important thing about a trail running shoe is a good fit. You should always try the shoe on before you buy it and, if possible, test them out on some stairs to ensure your heel isn’t coming out of the shoe.
Ideally both your heel and mid-foot should fit snug in the shoe to avoid blisters, prevent injury and give you better control. As for the front, there should be about a thumbs-width of room in the toe box because your feet will swell on long runs and when it’s hot out.
The Shoe Type
From waterproof membranes to lacing systems, it seems there are so many features to consider, but for the sake of simplicity it’s best to know the terrain, conditions and your skill level and then decide what features will fit your runs best.
The same applies to the type of shoe—many people are tempted to go with a minimalist trail runner, but you need to acknowledge that lighter shoes forfeit some of the important support and structure. Minimalist shoes are great for taking on mostly flat trails with little to no debris, but if you plan on running over tree roots and rocks it’s best to pick a more supportive shoe.
When looking to buy trail running shoes, be sure to stop into a store with knowledgeable staff and plenty of options. Keep the weight of the shoe in mind—you’ll want enough protection, but added weight will take more energy to propel forward. Only buy the features you think you’ll need and take your time trying shoes on, after all the fit is the most important part.