A Podiatrist’s Comprehensive Guide
Dive into the exciting world of trail running and learn about its intricacies, pros, cons, and best shoe options. As podiatrists, we understand the significance of appropriate footwear and its impact on your running experience. So, tie your laces and join us as we embark on a journey through the trails!
How does running on a trail differ from running on pavement or a treadmill?
Running on a trail differs from running on pavement or a treadmill for several reasons, including the following: On Terrain, Biomechanics, Physical Impact, and Psychological and Emotional Impact.
- Trails: Running on trails requires constant adjustments of your gait and foot placement because the terrain is often unpredictable, with varying elevations and natural surfaces that are uneven with grass, dirt, rocks, or roots.
- Pavement Running: Pavements made of concrete or asphalt provide a hard, flat, and smooth terrain, allowing for a more uniform and consistent run.
- Treadmill Running: Treadmills offer a terrain that is flat, smooth, and cushioned without any obstacles. Other advantages of treadmill running include the ability to control the speed and incline of the machine and running indoors at any time of the day without weather constraints.
- Trails: Running on trails requires constant adjustments of your gait and foot placement because the terrain is often unpredictable.
- Pavement Running: Requires a natural stride, gait pattern, and pace that is controlled by the runner.
- Treadmill Running: Also requires a natural stride and gait pattern, but with a pace that is maintained by the treadmill.
- Trails: Trails consist of softer surfaces than hard pavement, which may reduce the impact on joints. However, because trails often have uneven surfaces with obstacles, this requires constant adjustments of your gait and foot placement, which may lead to overuse, fatigue, or injury.
- Pavement Running: Pavement running is harder on your joints and bones, which increases the risk of stress fractures.
- Treadmill Running: Trail running provides more shock absorption than pavement running but more impact than trail running.
Psychological and Emotional Impact
- Trails: Running on trails is more adventurous and requires constant attention and rapid adjustments of your gait and foot placement to navigate through obstacles and unpredictable terrain.
- Pavement Running: Pavement running is less interactive. It can be monotonous because the pavement and scenery don’t change.
- Treadmill Running: Treadmill running is also monotonous because the scenery doesn’t change. However, it does require that you pay more attention than pavement running because you have to keep up with the speed of the treadmill belt.
What is a trail running shoe?
A trail running shoe is a specifically engineered athletic shoe designed for running on off-road terrain and natural surfaces that are uneven, such as grass, dirt, rocks, or roots.
How is it different from a regular running shoe?
These shoes differ from running shoes because they are designed to provide more stability, protection, and traction, which is required for trail running.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of trail running shoes?
- Durable Outsole: These shoes are designed to have aggressive multi-directional lugs that provide grip and traction.
- Shock Absorption: Trail running shoes have extra cushioning and shock absorption, as well as rock plates and toe guards that protect against rocks and sharp objects.
- Drainage: Some trail shoes have the ability to drain water, which helps keep your feet dry.
- Heavy Duty Upper: The upper in trail shoes is designed to be water resistant, durable, and to protect your feet from obstacles and hazards.
- Stability: These shoes provide ankle support and stability with reinforced midfoot shanks and heel counters.
- Less Cushioning / Arch Support: Trail Running shoes have less cushioning and arch compared to road running shoes, which may be more uncomfortable, especially if you have joint, ligament pain, or arch pain.
- Less Versatile: Trail running shoes are less versatile than running shoes. The aggressive lugs and sole design will feel less comfortable and efficient when performing other fitness activities on smooth surfaces such as walking, road, running, or gym workouts.
- Reduced Breathability: Trail running shoes are designed with closed-up uppers that protect against dirt, rocks, and debris, making them less breathable, which can make your feet feel hotter and sweatier.
- Heavier: Trail running shoes are designed with protective materials, including toe guards and rugged outsoles that make the shoes heavier and harder to run fast in.
Why would someone want a trail running shoe over a hiking shoe or hiking boot?
Shoes should be used according to the activity being performed as they are designed with specialized features that accommodate and protect your feet for that particular activity. Hiking shoes should be used for hiking, and trail shoes should be used when running on trails. Some may choose a trail running shoe over a hiking shoe for the following reasons:
- Lighter weight: Trail running shoes are lighter than hiking shoes, which is preferred if you prioritize speed.
- Flexible: Trail running shoes are more flexible than hiking shoes, which makes them feel more responsive if you want to have a more natural running stride.
- Comfortable: Trail running shoes are lighter and more flexible and, therefore, more comfortable than hiking shoes.
- Versatile: Although trail running shoes are less versatile than running shoes, they are more versatile than hiking shoes if your activity involves a combination of running and hiking.
Does your office recommend any particular trail running shoes?
- Hoka Mafate Speed 4: This trail running shoe is comfortable and versatile. The toe box is wide to accommodate your toes, and the footbed is well-padded to comfortably support your arch when running downhill. The 5mm lugs provide excellent grip and traction when going uphill.
- Books Catamount 2: This trail running shoe has a hydrophobic mesh upper that repels water and a midsole plate specifically made for enhancing responsiveness and forward propulsion when running uphill.
- Solomun Pulsar Trail: This trail running shoe is designed to be not only comfortable and protective but also durable.
What are some common mistakes people make when picking out and using trail running shoes?
- Choosing the wrong size: I always advise buying shoes at the end of the day when your feet are at their most swollen. They are more likely to feel comfortable during the day if they are comfortable at the end of the day. Using a Brannock instrument, measure the width and length of your foot. It’s critical to understand that sizing might differ amongst brands depending on the design and materials used. Remember that a person’s foot measurements tend to change over time. At least three different shoe models should be tried; two distinct models should be tested at the same time, one on each foot. You should be able to fit your thumb between the shoe’s end and the end of your longest toe. Check if the toe box is large enough to accommodate your toes and that there is enough to wiggle your toes. Your shoes are too tight and will cause pain if you can’t move your toes at all. Make sure to break in your shoes gradually. Begin with a short path and eventually go to longer trails to properly break in your shoes and become accustomed to wearing them.
- Shopping online: Rather than buying your shoes online where you can’t try them on first, I recommend visiting a shoe specialty store where the staff is more informed and knowledgeable about trail running shoe alternatives and recommendations and will have more time to spend with you as a customer.
- Choosing an uncomfortable shoe: Make sure your shoes comfortably accommodate the width of your forefoot and support the arch with an anatomically contoured and well-padded anti-compression insole.
- Choosing a shoe that lacks protection and shock absorption: Make sure to look for shoes that are protective and help alleviate the impact of each step.
- Choosing a shoe that lacks support and durability: Selecting a shoe that maximizes durability and protection while retaining comfort and flexibility is crucial.
- Wearing shoes that are worn down: Trail shoes are designed to withstand 300 to 500 miles (640 to 800 kilometers). As a result, if you often run on trails, you should replace your shoes every six months. It doesn’t matter if they still appear new; if the support has worn out, you’re at a far higher risk of damage. I also recommend noting the date when you buy a new pair of trail shoes; this will help you remember when it’s time to replace them.
Congratulations on taking your first step into the world of trail running! You’ll be well on your way to a fun and gratifying running experience if you understand the distinctions, benefits, and drawbacks and choose appropriate footwear. Remember, Top NYC Podiatrists at Gotham Footcare are here to help you along the way, ensuring your feet are healthy and happy. So go ahead and explore the paths, and let nature be your running partner!