When you’re road running, do you ever see people wearing trail running shoes? It’s a pretty common sight. A lot of runners debate whether or not trail running shoes are good for road running. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at both sides of the argument and try to come to a conclusion about whether or not trail running shoes are good for road running.
Can I use a trail running shoe on the road? You can use trail running shoes on the road, but try to find less aggressive models to prevent durability issues. The only problem is trail running shoes tend to be a little bit heavier, have less cushion, and stiffer midsoles. That shouldn’t be an issue on short runs, but it will put extra impact stress on your joints.
You can use trail running shoes on the road, but I would try to avoid it if possible. It will put extra stress on your body and slowly wear away at the tread on your shoes. There are times where it makes sense, like when there’s rain, sleet, mud, ice, or snow on the road, but I wouldn’t set out to wear them for no good reason.
I recommend finding a pair of hybrid trail shoes or shoes with a less aggressive tread pattern if you plan on regularly switching between road and trail running. Go with a hard ground trail running shoe with short lugs (4mm or smaller) like the Salomon Sense Ride. It’s designed as a mixed terrain shoe, so it’s basically a running shoe with an aggressive tread pattern.
Can You Use trail Running Shoes On The Road?
Yes you can usually wear trail running shoes on the road. Trail shoes with aggressive tread patterns can cause problems, but tamed down versions will be fine to use on the road.
Just understand that you will be giving up some performance and comfort when using trail runners on the road. They’re stiffer, wear down faster, less cushioning, and they’re a little bit heavier.
One of the main arguments for using trail shoes on the road is that they provide more support and stability than road running shoes. You never know what kind of trail conditions you’ll encounter while trail running, so they’re designed to protect ankles, feet and legs on a wide variety of surfaces.
The wide stiff soles with aggressive tread patterns provide traction on slippery or uneven surfaces, rocky trails, and technical terrain. Added traction and stability comes at a cost. Trail shoes are usually heavier and the stiff midsoles increase pressure on your joints.
This extra support and stability can be beneficial for runners who pronate, but it can cause problems in other places. You may run into issues running on hard surfaces due to the stiff soles and wide shoe base.
The wide base increases weight and friction, and the stiff sole can cause mid-foot discomfort. Whether or not that causes problems depends on your running style, trail/road habits, and the type of shoe you’re wearing.
If you plan on regularly switching between pavement and trails, I recommend using separate shoes, looking for a less aggressive tread patterns or buying hybrid trail shoes (I’ll explain more below) that’s designed for on and off trail use.
9 Differences Between Trail Runners and Road Running Shoes
A pair of trail running shoes and road shoes might look similar, but there are quite a few differences. It’s like comparing an Off-Road Jeep to a sports car. Trail shoes are designed so you won’t sink into the mud, slip around, and roll your ankles in technical terrain, while road shoes are designed to maximize speed and foot comfort on flat level ground.
Both styles of shoes can be used on the road or trail, but you’re giving up something when you make that choice. You lose stability and grip with running sh
1) Wide Beefy Outsoles: Increase Traction On Slippery Rough Terrain
Trail runners have wide chunky outsoles with bigger/softer aggressively lugged treads. This provides better traction on slippery uneven terrain, but they’ll quickly wear away on the road.
Road running shoes have a narrow outsole and toe box, with flatter, smoother and more durable soles for running on pavement. The narrow outsole reduces weight and improves running performance.
2) Stiff Midsoles: Increase Ankle Stability On Uneven Terrain
Trail runners have stiff midsoles to provide more stability on uneven terrain and they may even have rock plates to protection against sharp rocks and sticks.
Road running shoes have soft midsoles so there’s extra cushion while pounding the hard pavement. This reduces the amount of impact on your joints as you run.
3) Protective Uppers: Trail Running Shoes Have Sturdy Uppers To Protect Your Feet
The uppers on trail running shoes are reinforced to protect your feet and shoe from sharp rocks and sticks. They may also have a second strap to hold the tongue down and use dual lacing designs. This adds weight to the shoe and cuts down the breathability since it requires more material.
You rarely experience random sticks, stones, and other debris on the road. So road shoes will be a little bit ighter and more breathable.
4) Durability: Trail Running Shoes Are More Durable On Trails, But Wear Down Fast On Pavement
Trail shoes have soft nubs to add traction during a trail run, but they aren’t designed for pavement. They might last for a while, but they’ll eventually wear away leaving you with shoes that aren’t good on the trail or road.
Road running shoes take the opposite approach with durable minimalist tread patterns since there’s less risk of uneven ground. Running shoes last a long time, typically 300-500 miles (600 tops), and trail running shoes might last half of that on pavement.
5) Tread Designs: Aggressive Tread Designs Offer Better Traction
Trail runners use large lugs and softer soles to provide grip and stability on slippery uneven surfaces. Soft ground trail running shoes typically have 4mm or larger lugs and hybrid trail/road models should be under 4mm (usually labeled hard ground).
Look at the lugs on the pair of Salomon shoes pictured above. They’ve been worn down quite a bit by running on concrete, but they’re still huge. Compare those to any pair of running shoes you own and you can immediately see the difference.
6) Less Heel Cushioning
Road runners have a softer heel pad that absorbs shock and vibration, while trail runners have stiffer heel pads that allow for more power transfer into the shoe.
The extra power transfer is helpful in muddy soil and reduces your risk of ankle sprains/strains.
7) More Stability
Trail runners solve that issue with wider heels that provide stability and support on unexpected terrain, but they’re heavier and stiffer which can cause foot pain on hard ground.
Road runners need a narrow heel that keeps the foot in place on flat level pavement, but that can cause foot slippage on muddy or uneven trails.
8) Wide Sturdy Toe Box Design
A wide sturdy toe box helps improve traction and protects your feet on the trail. It really helps when navigating through rocky terrain.
The toe box of road runners is typically narrower and less inclined than a trail runner’s to improve running speed and reduce weight.
Trail runners fall into one of two extremes. They’re either completely waterproof to keep out water which leads to sweat or designed to let wear in and dry fast with quick dry materials and drainage ports. You shouldn’t get running shoes wet since the cushioning will absorb the water.
Trail Running Shoes Won’t Last As Long On The Road
There’s a big difference between running on the road and pavement. Roads are much harder and rougher than soil. That’s not a huge deal with running shoes since they have relatively flat tread patterns, but it can quickly wear through the bottoms of your trail shoes.
Trail running shoes are designed to be used on soft surfaces that you find on a typical trail. They use softer rubber on the tread pattern so there’s a little bit of give as you run through mud and technical terrain.
Wearing trail shoes on the road will eat away at the tread pattern leaving you with shoes that are ineffective in both on and off road applications. Whether or not that’s a big deal depends on how often you’re wearing your trail shoe on the road.
If you’re constantly running on pavement it’s probably better to wear regular road shoes so you don’t destroy the tread. Occasionally wearing trail shoes on the road won’t cause problems, but try not to do it often. Either buy a second pair of road running shoes or find a pair of hybrid trail shoes.
Trail Shoes Are Less Comfortable On The Road
You probably won’t notice a huge difference between trail shoes and road running shoes on short runs. Once you increase your mileage using trail running shoes on the road can eventually lead to discomfort.
Stiff midsoles and less cushion helps prevent injury on the trail, but it increases the pressure on your joints as you run. Every step you take will cause pressure to build up on your joints. This increases the likelihood of overuse injuries, which take a very long time to heal.
A typical running shoe will have additional cushion and flexible heel designs to solve this issue. Road shoes absorb some of the blow as your feet hit the ground so there’s less risk of injury on pavement. The same benefit works the opposite way on the trail since it increases the risk of slipping.
When Does It Make Sense To Wear Trail Running Shoes On The Road?
It’s usually better to wear traditional running shoes on the road, but there are times where it’s better to wear trail runners. I like to wear a trail running shoe whenever there’s a risk of slipping on the road.
I wear my trail running shoes whenever there’s mud, sleet, ice, or snow on the road or sidewalk. The wide aggressive tread patterns on trail shoes provide additional traction in slippery conditions. You still run the risk of slipping in a trail running shoe, but there’s less risk of injury due to the stiff midsole.
You may also want to wear trail running shoes when you have to regularly switch between road and trail or grass. There’s route that I like to run on near my house where it regularly switches between nice sidewalks and long patches of grass. I’ve slipped in the mud a few times there so I decided to buy a pair of hybrid trail shoes.
Never Wear Trail Shoes On A Track!
Never where trail shoes on synthetic rubber running tracks! Most tracks have rules in place limiting the type of shoes you can wear. I can almost guarantee there’s a rule that forbids the use of trail running shoes on the track.
The stiff midsoles and aggressive tread patterns can quickly eat away at a rubber track. It might not damage the track at first, but a trail shoe will eventually wear away at the surface.
When Is It Better To Wear Road Shoes?
There are no real rules on when you should or shouldn’t use your trail running shoes on the road. With that being said, it doesn’t make sense to wear your trail shoes in dry weather on flat pavement.
Stick to running shoes when you’re running on flat even pavement, sidewalks, and tracks (damages the track). There’s minimal benefit to wearing running shoes added cushion will take some of the stress off your feet, knees, and ankles.
Road running causes really increases the impact on your joints. The extra cushion in a pair of road running shoes really helps prevent overuse injuries.
Choose Your Shoes Based On Typical Road/Trail Conditions
Look at where you typically run and make an informed decision based on the route. If 90% of the run will be off-road a pair of trail shoes makes sense, but you would probably want road running shoes if only a small portion of the run is off-road.
You can always adjust the pace of your run to get around mud or slick wet surfaces. Slowing down will significantly reduce the risk of slipping, falling, or getting injured.
On particularly wet or icy days you might want to lean towards the trail running shoes regardless of where you’re running. Trail running shoes will almost always be better at handling ice, sleet, wet, and muddy conditions.
It’s worth slightly wearing down the tread on your trail shoes to prevent injury. Having an ankle injury or tearing something in your knee isn’t fun. You will be in pain and it will take forever to get back on the trail.
Consider Hybrid Trail Running Shoes
There are hybrid shoes that allow runners to effortlessly switch between trails or pavement. The task is to develop shoes with sufficient cushioning that can be used on hard surfaces without sacrificing the feeling or responsiveness required in negotiating tricky trail sections.
Hybrid trail runners create an ideal slick outsole that provides comfort on the flat hard pavement, while also providing traction on slippery trails. It’s challenging to make a perfect hybrid trail runner so there’s always some give and take.
Hybrid Trail Shoe Tip: Choose Hard Ground Models
A quality pair of hybrid trail runners blends the gap between trail runners and traditional running shoes. You lose a little bit of traction on the trail and there’s less cushion for running on pavement, but it’s a good mixture of comfort and performance for both.
There are lots of models to choose from and any shoe with a 4mm or lower lug depth should be find. You can usually find the lug depth listed in the specs. I really like the Salomon Sense Ride (pictured above) trail running shoes. They’re a fantastic road/trail shoe, but there are lots of other models that will also work.