5 Things I Learned Shopping for Trail Running Shoes

So, if you’ve been reading my recent rambles, you know that I’ve decided to run more trails in 2018 and I even have 2 trail 50ks planned.

If you’re new, welcome! And yes, I think I may have lost my mind. haha

Anyway, running less on the road and more on the trails means I need trail running shoes. Yay! Shoe shopping!

Except, there’s actually a little more to it than just shopping for basic running shoes. Okay, there can really be a lot more.

So, if you've been reading my recent rambles, you know that I've decided to run more trails in 2018 and I even have 2 trail 50ks planned. If you're new, welcome! And yes, I think I may have lost my mind. haha Anyway, running less on the road and more on the trails means I need trail running shoes. Yay! Shoe shopping! Except, there's actually a little more to it than just shopping for basic running shoes. Okay, there can really be a lot more.

1. Not all running shoe stores sell trail shoes

And, sometimes, when you ask the staff (in person) at said running shoe store about trail running shoes, you get an upturned nose and a disdainful “we don’t carry trail running shoes.”

Oh.

So, if you've been reading my recent rambles, you know that I've decided to run more trails in 2018 and I even have 2 trail 50ks planned. If you're new, welcome! And yes, I think I may have lost my mind. haha Anyway, running less on the road and more on the trails means I need trail running shoes. Yay! Shoe shopping! Except, there's actually a little more to it than just shopping for basic running shoes. Okay, there can really be a lot more.

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IDK.

IMHO, running is running whether you’re on a road, a treadmill, or a trail and a running shoe store should carry shoes for running on all surfaces. But, I guess not.

My advice is to call first before you drive 30 minutes or however long to your local running store. If you do that, you’re less likely to want to punch said person in the face for having a snooty attitude.

Which he would certainly have deserved. He’s lucky I was in a patient mood that day.

2. You’ve got to have options

If you have your heart set on a specific brand of shoe, make sure the store that you’re going to actually carries that brand in store. (see number 1 for advice on what to do to find out.)  Sometimes, a store only carries a brand online.

I personally don’t want to purchase a shoe – a running shoe – without ever trying it on because my feet are stupid picky and not every shoe works for me. I want to feel how the shoe fits and moves before I plunk down upwards of $150. #justsayin

Plus, not all online shoe retailers offer 100% refund if you return a shoe. And, you have to wait. Waiting sucks. If you’re like me, you want your new shoes like yesterday.

So, if that store doesn’t physically carry that brand, go to the brand’s Web site and see if you can find other local stores that might carry it. And then, see #1 to make sure that store carries trail shoes because some brands make both. (hint: not all running shoe store staff will specify road vs trail when you call if you only ask about brand. trust me.)

3. Do your research

I am a complete and total research nerd when it comes to stuff like this. I’ll look up the menu at a new restaurant before we go so I can see what they have that way I’m not overwhelmed when we get there. When we’re going somewhere out of town, I’ll Google maps the hotel/campground/B&B and then zoom out so I can see what’s around it. Etc.

Trail running shoes are an important piece of equipment and an important part of a trail runner’s life. Do a google search for “top trail running shoes” or something similar and start reading. Read the reviews, read the specs, watch the videos, etc. Be prepared for when you go into the store. That also will allow you to carry on a relevant conversation with the salesperson (who hopefully is also a trail runner) and it may help you learn more about the shoe, etc. Shoe salespeople are not going to overwhelm you with technical terms and will pretty much give you basic information regarding the shoe.

Because they don’t know you did your research.

Once you begin to ask questions, you’ll start getting more information.

4. Take your running socks with you

This applies to road running shoe shopping, too. Okay, basically any shoe shopping. But, especially running or athletic shoes. How can you know how a shoe fits or feels if you’re not wearing the socks you are going to wear while running in them? (hint: trust me)

So, if you've been reading my recent rambles, you know that I've decided to run more trails in 2018 and I even have 2 trail 50ks planned. If you're new, welcome! And yes, I think I may have lost my mind. haha Anyway, running less on the road and more on the trails means I need trail running shoes. Yay! Shoe shopping! Except, there's actually a little more to it than just shopping for basic running shoes. Okay, there can really be a lot more.

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5. Try on a more than one pair/brand/size!

Once you’ve talked with the salesperson and explained what you’re looking for, be prepared to try on more than one pair. In fact, I’d suggest at least 3 pairs so you can get a good comparison.

Not all shoes are the same (that would be boring) or offer the same things. Trail running shoes have different specifics and some have rock guards and some have heavier lugs and some are just plain heavy. You need to feel how all of those different things feel.

So, if you've been reading my recent rambles, you know that I've decided to run more trails in 2018 and I even have 2 trail 50ks planned. If you're new, welcome! And yes, I think I may have lost my mind. haha Anyway, running less on the road and more on the trails means I need trail running shoes. Yay! Shoe shopping! Except, there's actually a little more to it than just shopping for basic running shoes. Okay, there can really be a lot more.

Just like you would when you’re buying running shoes, bounce around in them, jog around the store, pretend to jump over a fallen tree. Try not to crash into the wall.

Okay, I know I said 5 things but this one is important and … it’s my blog and I’ll add a number 6 if I want to… 🙂

6. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION!

Sorry. I’m not shouting at you. It’s just really important. If you know the kinds of trails you are going to be running on, tell the salesperson that. It will help him or her point you in the right direction. If you have no clue, tell him that too. And if you don’t understand what he’s talking about, ASK.

I do a lot of road running. In fact, most of my training is going to be on the road. That said, there is a trail that I can run to in my town. It’s a mile away. I actually run there pretty regularly. It’s really nice and I love it in there.

I asked if the shoes I was interested in were “trail only.” And, no, it wasn’t a dumb question.

Some shoes are billed as “cross-overs” which means they can easily go from road to trail. Those shoes are not going to have the same traction or heavy duty material as a trail only shoe. If you run on the road too much in trail shoes, they wear out faster. You don’t want to waste your money by wearing your shoes on the wrong surface. And no, I cannot run to my local trail in my new trail shoes. And that’s fine. I’m glad I asked. 🙂

Shopping for trail running shoes? Check out these tips before you head out the door! #running #runchat #sweatpink #trailrunner #fitfluential Click To Tweet

Hopefully, these tips will make your trail running shoe (or any athletic shoe, actually) shopping trip much less stressful and much more successful! I’m so glad I went prepared with knowledge about shoes …. I just wish I had called ahead in some cases. :/ Would totally have saved me some time and gas. Lesson learned. You’re welcome. 🙂

Tell me:

  • Do you have anything to add?
  • Where do you usually buy your athletic shoes? (personally, once I know the brand and the shoe, I have zero issue with buying online. It’s usually cheaper. But, first trail shoes? Yeah, I’ll take some help, thankyouverymuch)

Linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for Friday Five 2.0. Thanks ladies! 🙂

18 COMMENTS

  1. Renée | 29th Jan 18

    while I’m not a trail runner, I totally agree with your points! I do have really stupid feet so I’ve had to go a bit off the beaten track as far as shoes go. My running shoes are Altra’s and I just bought a pair of every day walking shoes from Merrell. But I could have found the Altra’s or Merrell’s that were right for me without doing a buttload of research. And here, too, not all running shoe stores have trail shoes. Sad really. I had to travel pretty far to get the Altra’s. I have learned the hard way that I simply cannot just order shoes online.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 29th Jan 18

      I used to have a pair of Merrells! Man, I wore the heck out of those! I haven’t tried the Altras but I know a lot of people that love them. I’m always amazed at people that can successfully order shoes online, especially athletic shoes, without ever having tried them on. Blows my mind!! And maybe our feet are just “special.” We have special feet, Renee. 💜 Haha

  2. Debbie Woodruff | 28th Jan 18

    I think it’s crazy that any shoe salesman would turn their nose up at trail shoes! Don’t they know that trail running is actually harder than road running?

    I run on the trail a lot of the time, but i just wear my regular running shoes (even if that does mean I get a rock stuck in my heel every now and then). I feel like my trails aren’t too technical and mostly hard packed dirt with a few rocks thrown in (waiting to trip me).

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 28th Jan 18

      I know, right?! And, there are definitely trails out here so I was so surprised that they don’t carry any. He totally came across as elitist. I gave him a look and asked him if he was kidding me. He was a little surprised by my response. haha. I don’t think he’ll respond in that same manner to anyone else. *fingers crossed*

      Those are my normal trails too but I’m hoping to upgrade and get some running in on the more technical ones. I just have to find them! I know that race in California is not going to be a trail cake-walk. And I get rocks stuck in my shoes all the time! Of course, my driveway is rock so….. lol

  3. Zenaida Arroyo | 28th Jan 18

    I’ve been tempted to buy trail shoes because I want to do more trail running but then end up leaving it to the side. I don’t know to the store anymore because I know which likes I like (road running) so I buy mine online.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 28th Jan 18

      I don’t go to the store to buy road running shoes either. It’s too much! And, it’s actually more expensive to do it that way. Once I know what I like, I definitely only buy them online. haha

  4. Rachel | 26th Jan 18

    Great tips! What did you end up getting? And yes, shoe store people can be such snoots. It’s almost embarrassing what dillholes they can be. Gives the rest of us nice runners a bad rap.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 27th Jan 18

      Thank you! I ended up getting the Saucony Peregrine 8s. I love them! I wear Saucony Kinvara for road running and they feel exactly the same. And that guy at the running store must have just been having a bad day – hopefully. I’d hate to think he treats all his customers that way. Yikes.

  5. Meranda@Fairytalesandfitness | 26th Jan 18

    I use to wear my Altra Olympus for trail running but then I stopped wearing the altras for various reasons. I now wear Mizunos and even though they are considered road shoes they still work for me. But then again my “trails” are not too technical!

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

      I think it’s great when you can just use the same shoe – makes like a little easier. But then again, it’s kinda fun to have multiple pairs. 😁

  6. Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

    Thank you! These are important aspects to keep in mind and will be helpful when I buy my next pair of trail running shoes.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

      Thank you, Jennifer! I’m glad you stopped by and read! I hope you get a great pair. 😊

  7. Shathiso @thegaboronerunner.com | 26th Jan 18

    One thing I have noticed that cuts across all your points is having confidence. I get soooo intimidated by salespeople in sports shops. Some just talk too fast or make me feel like I am stupid/ asking stupid questions. I love research too so I think I will do a lot of that, walk in with confidence and talk the talk!

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

      Wow, thank you! I find that the salespeople who actually know their stuff are way less intimidating. It’s the ones who “act” like they do that can be intimidating because they come across as pompous jerks. Lol But, they go away pretty quickly once they realize you actually want an answer (so long as there is someone else knowable there). Research ahead of time is always a good option so you’re not walking in blind!

  8. Kimberly Hatting | 26th Jan 18

    That makes total sense that most trail shoes are specifically for trails (and not roads). I’d like to do more trail running, but there just aren’t many options for that in my locality, so my road shoes suffice for now. Not ideal, but it works. Great tips!!

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

      Thanks! And yeah, most running shoes actually work on trails anyway – all the way up until you get to the real technical ones where you need more grippy stuff.

  9. Wendy | 26th Jan 18

    I’m pretty sure that buying trail shoes around here would be a challenge! You’ve got some great advice here. And yes, I will shop online once I’ve got a shoe I’m comfortable with.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer | 26th Jan 18

      Thanks Wendy! I was really surprised that the running shoe store I went to didn’t carry a single trail shoe. I mean, there’s a big trail race out there … *shrug* I’m sure it has to do with customer demand and the fact that the REI is right down the road. And being able to shop online for running shoes is the best! Shoes are so expensive!

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