Trail running shoes keep you glued to the track and offer underfoot protection.
It is essential the shoes fit well and feel comfortable straight out of the box. While some models might stretch and soften once they are broken in – and even while you are using them as they adjust to swelling feet – a shoe that is uncomfortable from the start, will always be uncomfortable. A good fit is also vital to help keep your foot stable over uneven terrain.
A reinforced toe box with synthetic overlays will protect toes from bumps.
Heel to toe drop
This is the height difference between the heel and toe and can be anywhere from 15mm-0mm. The less heel drop, the more minimalist the shoe will be and wearers unused to this will need time to adapt.
These technical midsoles are made from various shock-absorbing materials that also help rebound and propel the user through their stride. Midsoles often include a plate to protect the underfoot from stones and other trail debris.
Most likely made from quick-drying and super light synthetic materials. Expect plenty of mesh panels and a breathable lining to help keep feet cool.
Wide-spaced, dirt-shedding lugs are common. But don’t just look for shoes with the most lugs – manufacturers use a variety of rubber compounds to provide traction while also offering a long-wearing tread.
A good rule of thumb is to buy a shoe half a size larger than your regular shoes and if you plan on doing ultra distances, think about getting at least one pair that is a full size larger – feet can swell up to two sizes over longer distances.
Hoka One One Speed Goat 4 $299.95
Technical terrain shoe with breathable mesh construction, 3D printed protective overlays for midfoot support, hi-abrasion rubber zones, high-traction rubber outsole with multidirectional lugs, 4mm heel-to-toe drop. 612g (m), 526g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 GTX $299.95
All-terrain shoe, with a dual-layer mesh upper, Gore-Tex membrane, textured TPU toe-cap, internal heel counter, rockered midsole for propulsion. Full ground contact outsole. 594g (m), 502g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
The North Face Flight Trinity $260
Women’s-specific distance running shoe with a seamless ripstop upper, gusseted tongue, knitted internal bootie for sock-like fit, 3D-printed external heel counter, high rebound footbed, energy-returning FastFoam midsole, 8mm drop. 456g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Hoka One One Torrent $249.95
Open engineered mesh upper, breathable, quick-drying, protective overlays surround the forefoot and toe box, Profly midsole, hi-abrasion rubber zones, high-traction rubber outsole with multidirectional lugs, 5mm heel-to-toe drop. 508g (m), 422g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
The North Face Corvara $220
Distance running shoe with gusseted tongue, heel-collar lining, seamless
TPU heel and forefoot overlay for stability, high rebound footbed, energy-returning FastFoam midsole, 8mm drop. 552g (m). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Salewa Ultra Train 2 $299
Mountain runner with a breathable mesh upper, mesh lining, Motion Guidance technology to promote natural movement, 3F heel hold system, debris gaiter, adaptive eyelets, quick lacing closure and sticky Michelin rubber outsole. 626g (m); 536g (w). www.bobo.co.nz
Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 $229.99
Adapterfit technology allows the fit to adapt as the foot swells, two-piece Powerflow midsole for shock absorption, 4mm lug depth, 8mm heel-to-toe drop. 580g (m/w). www.southernapproach.co.nz
Inov-8 Roclite G 275 $239.99
Features a graphene-enhanced G-Grip outsole, mesh upper, Adapterweb technology allows the shoe to adapt as the foot swells, two-piece Powerflow midsole for shock absorption, Metaplate underfoot protection, 8mm heel-to-toe drop. 550g. www.southernapproach.co.nz