I was interested to note in your article on shoes (November edition) that one shouldn’t wear road shoes for trail running. So what shoes would you wear for running on the beach or gravel/jeep track? Personally, I wear road shoes for easy trail/beach and gravel, and trail shoes for technical single track. I do however know of quite a few people who prefer road shoes and wear them on all terrains – simply because it’s ‘their shoe’ (you know how protective we get when we find a shoe that works for us). Would be interested to hear your advice. – ELLIE COURTS, CAPE TOWN
You can indeed run on any surface with a conventional road shoe, but trail shoes are generally better for off-road surfaces, as they provide more grip thanks to the heavily lugged sticky rubber outsole materials and designs. It comes down to the same principle as cyclists using slick tyres on a road bike for less resistance on the tar, and knobbly tyres on a mountain bike for improved grip on loose surfaces. Similarly, better grip in your shoes means sure footing and no slipping.
Trail shoes also tend to be more supportive and protective than road shoes, with thicker padding in the upper and full-length anti-rock plates to protect your feet. The upper is usually made from stronger materials, which are better suited to the mud, gravel and sand, both in terms of handling the wear and tear as well as being darker coloured, so less likely to be ruined by a muddy run.
The bottom line, however, is that you should wear whichever shoes work best for you. There is no right or wrong answer here.
Sean Falconer – Modern Athlete Editor & Gear writer
Sean has ten years’ experience testing and reviewing running shoes for runninng publications.