Hit the Trails Running
Trail running with Lou Dzierzak
Runners who have trained hard all year for a late summer marathon often find their spirits lagging when faced with another run around a familiar road loop. If that’s the case, head for the trails. Replace the asphalt with an off-road trail run and rekindle your passion for running.
Autumn is a fantastic time to run. No more hot, humid conditions. The bugs are in hibernation. The summer canopy of green leaves is replaced with a head-turning array of bright, vibrant red, yellow and orange.
Asics Fujirado – Features the BOA System lacing for precision fit and comfort. Mono sock construction protects your foot from trail debris. MSRP $130
Mountain or Road Ethos
The design philosophy of trail running shoes is deeply influenced by the brand’s heritage. Brands like Vasque and Scarpa – who are well known for quality hiking boots – adapt those design standards for running. Brands with long histories on the road like ASICS start with a different design ethos. Both philosophies deliver well-made running shoes, but take a few minutes to dig into the designer’s point of view. A shoe designed for Boulder’s steep mountain trails may be perfect for one runner while another may prefer a model better suited to the Midwest’s crushed limestone rails-to-trails paths.
Merrell Bare Access Flex – Offers a hybrid approach that works well on and off road. The Hyperlock heel offers secure fit on descents and tight turns. MSRP $90
Waterproof or Not?
If you run on the trails, chances are pretty good you will encounter water along the way. Whether it’s a shallow stream or an ankle-deep puddle, after that first step your shoes will be soaked and waterlogged. Most trail running shoe brands offer versions with or without waterproof breathable fabric uppers. A waterproof liner will keep your feet dry in the rain or splashes from the edges of a puddle. If there’s a trade-off, waterproof breathable fabrics can be slightly heavier.
Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 – Well suited for both limestone paths and rugged trails, features an aggressive outsole for increased grip. MSRP $130
Footwear designers play close attention to the patterns used on the soles of running shoes. The size, shape and location of lugs influence the shoe’s ability to safely traverse slippery trail surfaces and shed mud in sloppy conditions. Deeper lug patterns offer more traction, but can slow some runners down compared to a flatter, less aggressive sole. The materials used in sole construction also play a role in performance. Some rubber compounds offer more friction between the shoe and the running surface. A “stickier” sole is beneficial in rocky terrain.
A trail running shoe’s upper will attract your attention, but take time to consider the lower for where you are running and in what conditions. Selecting the right sole pattern will make a difference in your trail running experience.
Scarpa Spin – Strikes the balance between lightweight, minimal drop and trail protection. The Vibram MegaGrip rubber sole offers traction and durability. MSRP $130
Support or Speed?
Some trail runners enjoy exploring deep woods single-track trails with little concern over their per-mile race or time. How deep can I go? What’s around the next corner? Others have shifted their competitive efforts from half marathon road races to 50K trail events like the North Face Endurance race series or the Superior 50.
Since trail running is a very competitive marketplace for footwear brands, there’s an incredible selection of trail running shoes matched to a runner’s preferred terrain and distance. Pick a model that’s designed for fast and light racing or a shoe that offers more lateral support and protection from rocks, roots and uneven surfaces.
Hoka One Challenger ATR 3 – The oversized lightweight EVA midsole offers a cushioned ride on all kinds of terrain. MSRP $130
Why stop with just a pair?
Today’s trail running shoes are well designed, constructed and tailored to the specific experiences of running off-road. Every runner has a “go-to” pair of shoes, but with so many options available for a variety of conditions, why settle for just one. Pick a low profile, lightweight model for fall racing series in urban parks and a burlier pair for more rugged singletrack. Rotating shoes will add life to the shoes and bring some variety to the running experience.
Vasque Constant Velocity – Built for fast, loose trails, the fit is designed specifically for long distance endurance running. MSRP $119