Trail Shoes vs. Road Shoes, and Do You Need Two Pairs?

Myrtle Beach is known for its endless miles of oceanfront beaches, and of course the flat, fast, Myrtle Beach Marathon course.  Trail running is NOT the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Grand Strand.  But tucked away between trees, just off of the Intracoastal waterway, is our own hidden trail running gem: the Horry County Bike & Run park.  This unique park, also known to locals as "The Hulk", is  located in Carolina Forest off of River Oaks Drive, and hosts over seven miles of mountain biking and running trails.   We also have a number of mountain bike and running trails in Conway, as well as a few sections of trail in the Myrtle Beach and Huntington State Parks.  In short, while Myrtle Beach offers countless road running options, we do have a quickly growing trail running community.

Horry County Bike & Run Park

A common question we receive here at Fleet Feet Myrtle Beach from new trail runners is whether or not they can use their road shoe on the trails, or if they even need trail specific shoes.

Here in Myrtle Beach, with our mostly sandy and relatively non technical trails, having trail shoes is not always a deal breaker.  However, the features of a trail shoe can certainly make your trail running experience more enjoyable.  The main differences between a trail and road shoe are as follows:

1) Aggressive Tread/ Outsole.  The outsole (or bottom) of a road shoe is designed to be lightweight, fast, and responsive.  A trail shoe, however, is typically made of a sturdier rubber compared to that of a road running shoe, and features aggressive tread to help you tackle steep climbs or slippery terrain.  The depth of the tread varies on the type of trail shoe; some are smaller and designed for all terrain use (switching from road to off road), while others have bigger, burlier treads and grooves for more rough terrain.    The sturdier rubber helps protect your feet from sharp rocks and roots, and also allows the shoe to withstand the harsh terrain without breaking down as quickly.  The trade off for this protection is typically a slightly heavier shoe, compared to road models. 

Trail Shoe vs. Road Shoe Tread

2) Wider Last.  Trail shoes are typically built on a wider last, the mold that the shoe is formed around during construction.  A wider last and wider outsole will provide a bit more of a stable base for the lateral movements that often occur on trail, while hopping around rocks, roots, and other obstacles.  This is not to be confused with "stability shoes", which are typically designed with an internal stability post that helps slow down the rate of over-pronation. 

3) Supportive, Durable Upper.  Many road shoes are designed with the goal of keeping the weight of the shoe down.  Lightweight mesh uppers with sublimated or printed patterns help provide structure without adding too much weight. In a trail shoe, however, these types of uppers are more vulnerable to tears from rocks, roots, brush, etc.  Therefore, a trail shoe is typically going to feature a sturdier upper, with more durable materials and reinforced construction.  Further, the upper helps to provide even more structure and support for the constant lateral movements that occur on trail, helping to guide your feet and ankles with the constant, unpredictable movements.  

Trail Shoe vs. Road Shoe Upper

4) Additional Features.  Many trail shoes have additional features, such as a reinforced toe (for accidental rock kicking), gaiter traps and hooks (to hold hold your gaiters in place and prevent debris from entering your shoes), an internal rock plate to help protect the forefoot from sharp rocks underfoot, and sometimes even waterproof materials to help keep your feet dry and comfortable. 

Trail Running Gaiter Trap

 In short, you can certainly use your road shoes on the trail.  However, if you decide to add trail running to your regular training routine, investing in a pair of trail specific shoes will make your trail running experience more enjoyable, and will help preserve your road running shoes for your road or treadmill miles. 

Interested in trying on a pair?  Come visit us at Fleet Feet Sports Myrtle Beach, and one of our experienced Fit Specialists would be happy to help find the right pair of trail shoes for you. 

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