To Trail or not to Trail? It’s all about the shoe!
It’s no secret that running has shown an exponential growth over the last decade or so. Race options abound, run clubs are popping up everywhere even beyond the “local” running establishments. More people are lacing up as they realize that running is a no fuss, convenient option to getting fit, setting race and / or personal goals and enjoying the surroundings. On the topic of surroundings, more and more of these runners are seeking out trails as an alternative to road running. Depending on where you live. I live in Toronto and if you explore enough there are numerous trails hidden amongst this concrete jungle! There can be trails right outside your door or a within a short drive away.
The following are some of the benefits of trail running:
- Variety of terrain –hills, obstacles to jump over, single track, twists and turns
- Proximity to nature –gets you away from the city smog and concrete and into trees, dirt and rocks
- Improves your balance and joint position sense –running on trails requires work from your stabilizing muscles in the lower body and core – built in strength work!
- Forces a slight slowing in pace –running on a variable terrain, you will naturally be forced to slow down from what you would do on the roads. This can be a welcome change from fast paced runs. Otherwise, you may find yourself flat on your face .
These are just a few reasons why trail running might be something to add to your running routine.
But….the million dollar question: Do you need trail shoes for trail running? To answer this question, I went to fellow Mizuno Running ambassador Michelle Clarke, trail runner extraordinaire for some answers.
If you are just starting out at trail running and choose some light trails (i.e. minimal amount of obstacles, more smooth than rocky) then road shoes will suffice.
The huge benefit of using trail shoes is the additional firmness of the sole of the shoe. Think of walking on rocks on the beach in your bare feet, and then walking on the same rocks with shoes on. Which is more comfortable? Now run on those same rocks. Ouch.
Having a trail shoe provides you with the protection under foot needed when running over the varied rough terrain. Trail shoes also provide additional grip on dirt and wet terrain. Think of how you feel going down a hill or up a hill for that matter when it is muddy out. Slip sliding away……yes that is a song but it is also what could happen if you are running trails in road shoes. Road shoes are not designed for traction. Roads do not require traction but safe and enjoyable trail running does.
Mizuno has just released two new trail versions in their line up. These shoes replace the ever popular Wave Ascend. What is difference between the two versions? Here are a few points (feel free to check out the link at www.mizunocda.com/running )
The Wave Kazan (right photo) is the heavier of the two weighing in at 9.5 oz for men’s and 8 oz. for women’s (which for a trail shoe is still extremely nimble even compared to many road shoes!), where as the Wave Hayate (left photo) is 8.8 oz. for men’s and 7.2 oz. for women’s.
Mizuno has placed a “concave wave which cradles the heel against excessive movement, while a midfoot “X” groove allows the heel and forefoot to move independently and adapt to uneven terrain.” Translation: there is protection under foot for the uneven terrain as well as providing that “flex” which will propel you forwards in your run.
The lower profile of both shoes allows the runner the ability to feel connected to the ground. These shoes allow the foot to move within the shoe while still providing excellent protection from the obstacles on the trail. The material is lightweight and breathable, which for trail shoes is a welcome change. Some trail shoes are made of Gortex. While this material is waterproof it is not breathable. Trail running is a summer/spring/ fall adventure in the northern climates so breathability is key. No one wants hot feet!
Finally, and probably the best quality of these new shoes by Mizuno is the versatility of the shoes. Often times you will be running to the trail from a starting point a distance away. This may involve some road running. Many trail races also include varied terrain combining road, gravel, and trail. Mizuno’s trail line up can be worn on ANY surface and feel equally as comfortable and nimble. Hence, there is no need to bring an extra pair with you to change into once you get on the trail. Not all trail shoes have this quality.
With this information, perhaps it is time to hit the trails where YOU live. You may just discover a new passion in your running. On second thought, I too will consider this as soon as I am back out there! Time to order those trail shoes!!!
Elise is a long time competitive amateur triathlete and Physiotherapist with 20+ years experience treating runners and athletes of all kinds. She also has an online coaching business for runners and triathletes looking to reach that next distance goal or PB. She is very passionate about biomechanics in running and does gait analysis and shoe recommendations as part of her practice. Elise also has a self admitted running shoe and apparel fetish. She is mom to an active 10 year old girl and is married to a man who also runs and races. Follow me on twitter (@eliseyanover) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions!