Can You Use Trail Running Shoes On The Road?

Yes, you can use trail running shoes on the road but doing so will probably wear them out faster than if you were running in shoes designed for running on pavement.

The reason are:

Trail shoes soles are mainly softer and feature more “grip’. This helps them provide a steadier run over slick roots and rocks. However, this softer rubber wouldn’t do well on asphalt or concrete.

Trail shoes are usually a tad heavier and harder than normal shoes, especially if we are talking about shoes with rock plates and lug soles.

So, it will be way harder for you to run and you should expect a slower pace at the same perceived level of effort.

This said: it really depends on what shoes we’re talking about as there are some lighter ones meant for less technical terrain that can work relatively well. However, I wouldn’t advise you do a 10K run on a pair of Salomon Speed cross.

And also: If you happen to be on a trail and meet a tarmac road there is no need to change shoes or get barefoot.

Road vs. Trail Running Shoes

A lot of runners typically have that one favorite pair of running shoes. Now, picking between road and trail running shoes is going to depend on several factors, mainly on areas where you enjoy running the most.

Before you run on pavement, it is important that you learn and understand the features of running shoes and how those features are unique to trail shoes.

Trail Shoes

Road or Running Shoes

  • Thick uppers
  • Breathable uppers
  • Heavier soles
  • Flexible or softer soles
  • Stability features
  • Some stability features
  • Usually heavier
  • Mostly lightweight
  • Darker colors
  • Available in different colors
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Various tongue styles
  • Protected toe box
  • Airy toe box
  • Uppers

Uppers refer to the part of the shoe above the midsole that is made of breathable materials so your feet stay cool during runs. Running shoes typically feature uppers.

Trail shoes, on the other hand, boast of thicker materials in the uppers. The tightly woven mesh on a trail shoe aids in the prevention of rips that may result from trial dirt and debris.

  • Soles

Trail shoe soles are made to grip an uneven trail surface. Large teeth, lugs, and a sticker rubber offer you better traction against mud, rocks, and dirt.

A lot of soles of trail shoes also have a rock plate made out of hard plastic and located in the mid-sole area to protect your foot from sharp sticks and rocks.

Road shoes on the other hand are designed for speed and flexibility. So, they are typically lighter weight and help you to push off of even surfaces fast and efficiently too.

  • Stability

Yes, both road and trail shoes feature some stability features but trail running shoes have better stability.

Remember, road shoes are designed for running on even surfaces and trail running is meant for rough plains. So, which do you think is more rugged and stable too?

  • Shoe Weight

Trail shoes typically weigh more than road shoes. But, within the trail shoe category, there are various weights available.

Light trail shoes offer support on well-groomed trails. Rugged trail shoes protect your feet on different terrain types.

And off-trail shoes provide the most support and protection for running on extreme or rocky terrain.

  • Shoe Color

Running shoes are available in different colors. It is not strange to find them bright, colorful or light-colored.

Trail shoes are often produced in darker colors to hide the dirt you’ll be running through.

  • Tongue

Trail shoes are typically designed with a gusseted tongue to help keep gravel and trail debris out of the shoe.

Running shoes may feature a gusseted tongue, but they often have a tongue that attaches only at the forefoot.

  • Toe Box

Running shoes toe box tends to be tapered, lightweight, and breathable, Trail shoes, on the other hand, often feature a toe box that is often wider and covered by rubber.

Toe bumpers are made to keep your toe protected from rocks and other debris. Stubbing a toe is no fun experience and even a well-groomed natural trail may have obstacles that you can hit.

Trail running shoes are made for more stability and foot protection. As such, these shoes are a bit bulkier and heavier than a typical road running shoe.

Bear in mind that there exist “hybrid shoes”. These are made to provide you the best features of both road and trail shoes. It’s definitely a style to consider if you enjoy running on various surfaces.

When to Wear Trail Shoes

Muddy, rocky, and uneven surfaces typically demand a trail shoe. Their sturdy design aids in helping you keep your ankles stable, feet protected, and your body safe from falls on trails. However, there might be times when you might opt for a trail shoe on the pavement instead.

For instance, you may agree that wearing trail running shoes on the road is safer when running in snowy or rainy conditions. The traction can be a big help on slippery surfaces.

Also, trail shoes are usually more water-resistant and are likely to keep your feet drier. These shoes may be more comfortable in adverse conditions. You can even find waterproof versions, which are often labeled with GTX (for Gore-tex).

However, there are other times when wearing a trail shoe is not advised. Try to avoid wearing them on racks (where they may damage the surface) or on hard surfaces like asphalt. The stiff sole of the trail shoe can cause mid-foot discomfort.

When to Wear Road Shoes

Although recent trail running versions feature a lighter and more flexible sole and build, there are some situations when you want a dedicated road shoe.

For instance, you should not wear a trail running shoe on the road if you are doing quicker workouts such as tempo runs or interval workouts. You’ll likely feel more comfortable and faster in a lighter road shoe.

Plus, if the weather is very humid and hot, you may enjoy lighter running shoes over trail running shoes, so your feet doesn’t suffer too much sweat and discomfort.

Lastly, track workouts need a particular shoe. Some runners wear a road shoe for track workouts, but track shoes (with or without spikes) are also available.

So, try to avoid wearing lightweight road shoes on very slippery or rocky surfaces. You won’t get the traction you need, making slips and falls more likely.

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