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When you head out to find the freedom of the trails, your shoes need to soak up the terrain, and of course they need to grip, but if you plan on upping your game you don’t want them to weigh you down. Today we are looking at fast trail shoes, designed to help you glide over the toughest terrain.

These are the shoes you will want to pull out on your fast days, whether your aim is to PB a favourite route, or podium at the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc) we have you covered.

Let’s start by answering a few common questions and covering the basics before we look at some individual shoes.


What is a trail shoe?

Shoes designed to cover off road ground, you can normally spot them easily by the more rugged appearance than on road shoes. On the sole they will have chunkier grip, often formed into “lugs”, small blunt spikes that give excellent grip across a wide range of terrain types. On the upper, increased protection is often evident in overlays and rubber bumpers offering improved durability, some foot protection, and of course, sadly, extra weight.

What makes a trail shoe, a fast trail shoe?

There are two main ways to make a shoe improve your speed across uneven ground, assuming you already have all the traction you need.

The traditional way is to lose weight. Sometimes this can mean losing protection, but it is also possible to use technology like no-sew overlays and lighter materials to keep the weight to a minimum.

With the advent of the modern super foams, a more recent way to give the sensation of speed is by using responsive foams in the midsole. Often incredibly lightweight, they will absorb the rigours of the trail, and help to propel you forward onto your next step with a bounce.

There are many other ways to gain speed, from carbon plates to rocker constructions, each brand will have their own concepts and ideas, all aimed at giving you the advantage, and all highlighted in the list below.


Do I need a race day shoe?

Of course, you don’t NEED a race day shoe, Eliud Kipchoge would still be able to outrun me if he was wearing wellies and I had my pick of the shoes below…. but he did only break the 2hour marathon mark when he was given shoes specifically aimed at the target.

Fast trail shoes aren’t just for race day, but they are designed to help you find your speediest performance. They can do that through the efficiency gains found in the latest materials and designs, or from the confidence you gain when you lace up your fastest feeling shoes, and the gains you can make before you even start.


Can you wear trail runners on the road?

Some shoes are designed as road-to-trail shoes so you can do both in one run. However, with most trail shoes you will experience an increase in wear if you use the outsole on concrete a lot. You should also expect to have slightly less grip, as the lugs that grip so well to wet mud offer less grip on flat concrete. The longer the lugs, the less effective your shoe will be on road.

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Ray Barlow

Having suffered from Chronic Fatigue for over a decade, I am a recent convert to the joys of running. Although every run steals a lot of energy, the mental health and fitness benefits more than make up for it. My runs are mainly across the back of the nearby beaches, dodging between the tourists. When not geeking out over the latest running tech, you can find me trying new gins, making gins, or boring anyone within earshot about gin.
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