I'm (trail-)running quite often and I'm used to wear lightweight standard running sneakers. However, I feel like they are made for the gym or flawless asphalt. The pitty is that I like to run on various surfaces. I run next to the woods, on field tracks (loose rough gravel or just "earth") and old roads (rough surface with potholes). So, in short, on a trail.

I recognized that some surfaces (especially the gravel) trouble the mentioned shoes pretty much. I feel like the sole is too thin. So, what do I have to look for in "all terrain" running shoes?

  • Possible duplicate of What to look for in hiking shoes?
    – Roflo
    Aug 5, 2016 at 14:13
  • 2
  • Trail runners are a thing you know, they have a stiffer sole and more aggressive tread. Just ask for trail runners at your shoe store. Look at this link here for more info: mec.ca/en/explore/choose-your-trail-runners
    – ShemSeger
    Aug 5, 2016 at 16:17
  • 3
    Trail runners and hiking hoes are definitely different so this is not a duplicate of the hiking shoes question. I also find this to be different enough (though similar) to the question on the shoes rolling around on feet. The overall "things to look for" is a broader question than the latter. Aug 5, 2016 at 19:57
  • @RussellSteen You're probably right. The follow-up question would be: Is this "too broad"? The question I linked to was closed for... I really don't know why actually. I don't consider it a shopping question.
    – Roflo
    Aug 5, 2016 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


People can say anything they want about running shoes, and manufacturers too. It's 99% nonsense, not based on any evidence (example). There are basically only two conclusions I know of that are supported by evidence:

(1) If you're interested in reducing your chances of getting an injury such as a repetitive stress injury, the evidence shows that your likelihood of injury is very insensitive to what kind of shoe you use. The evidence only really shows that changing what you do (changing your shoes, changing your running style, ...) temporarily leads to a higher probability of injury. The interpretation is that your brain-body system adapts in very sophisticated ways. It can adapt to almost anything, but it can't do it suddenly.

(2) Having less weight on your foot increases performance.

I recognized that some surfaces (especially the gravel) trouble the mentioned shoes pretty much. I feel like the sole is too thin. So, what do I have to look for in "all terrain" running shoes?

The evidence ([1], [2]) does not support the idea that a thicker, more cushioned sole reduces injury. It appears that your body adapts to whatever amount of cushioning you have.

The way you pose the question is interesting, because it implies that you believe trail running to be more stressful than running on streets, so that more cushioning would be needed. Among many runners, the conventional wisdom is the opposite: they believe that hard pavement is harder on the body, and that they're less likely to be injured if they run on nice soft dirt and turf. Anyway, neither view is supported by the evidence.

As a runner, I always try to focus on the happy part of this message. The happy message is that no evidence forces you to do anything in particular in order to avoid injury. Therefore you can do whatever feels good and enjoyable, and not worry that you're going to get hurt because you're doing it wrong.

What to look for in (trail-)running shoes for various terrain?

Because there is zero evidence for essentially any of the manufacturers' claims, it's not a good idea to pay more than you have to. Buy cheap running shoes. If you're trying to run fast and competitively, buy lighter shoes. But do not suddenly switch from very heavily cushioned shoes to minimalist shoes, because the sudden switch may not allow your body to adapt quickly enough.


I run long distance runs on trails with all types of obstacles, and for me the most comfortable shoes are ones that have a bottom similar to Nike Free RN Distance. These shoes are designed with flexible soles so that roots and rocks on the trail would not cause so much disruption when running on trails. The shoe bottom is also pretty durable, being not so thick (so it gives a natural feel to the foot) but thick enough so that it can last a hard beating. I had worn the shoes for about 3/4 of a year now, and the soles only have a little wear.

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