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    Trail Running for Newcomers - How to Pick the Best Trail Running Shoes for You

    Team Gore
    Team Gore

    Trail running shoes are the most important purchase you’ll make once you dive into the trail running lifestyle. Having capable, durable, and comfortable trail runners is imperative if you want to get the most from your adventures in the field. Trail runners come in many shapes and styles, some with soft or firm midsoles, others with aggressive lugs designed to propel you in the wettest of conditions. The three main design features that set trail running shoes apart from your daily running shoes or trainers are the aggressive tread, amount of foot protection, and waterproof protection. With the endless combinations of these factors, finding the right trail runner for you can seem daunting, but we’ve got you covered with our guides to selecting the best pair of shoes for the trail in front of you.

    What to Consider When Shopping for Your Trail Running Shoes


    Shoe Type

    There are 3 main use categories that modern trail runners fall into Light Trail, Rugged Trail, and Off-Trail. Each offers unique design features that work best in a few different scenarios, as their names indicate. Finding the style that best suits your running adventures is important, and we recommend trying on a bunch of different styles and brands before settling on your pair.

    Light Trail

    Offer modest protection from trail obstacles, while their lightweight design makes keeping a brisk pace a breeze. They’re typically moderately stiff and feature shallow lugs meant for established trails with harder surfaces.

    Rugged Trail

    These are the next most intense of the trail running styles. Designed for those who push the envelope on the trail and prefer the path less traveled. Rugged Trail shoes are made with foot protection in mind from whatever you’ll encounter. Most feature reinforced toe caps and harder protection on the sides of the shoes to help traverse unstable terrain. They’ll also typically feature thicker mid-soles and rock plates providing more impact support while running downhill or on hard, variable surfaces.


    As the name suggests, this division of the trail running shoe world is made for those who like to blaze their own trails. Made to help any trail runner handle rough country and do it rapidly. They feature durable materials designed to take a beating. The structure of the shoes will be more rigid to provide greater “torsional rigidity,” made to prevent twisting when running on variable and uneven surfaces. Most of these shoes also feature waterproofing as off-trail runners will likely encounter wet or muddy conditions.

    "close up of trail running shoe in mud puddle"

    Cushion Level

    As you peruse the wall of trail running shoes in front of you at your local running shop or scroll web pages shopping, you’ll notice the variation between the heel-to-toe-drop and stack height between brands and shoe types. Some makers have made their names on thick foam soles designed to absorb impacts and rocks, and other makers prefer thinner, stiffer midsoles that provide hard protection from trail obstacles and provide for a firmer running platform.

    Weather Protection

    Nothing will cut a run short like wet feet. You will want to look for trail running shoes that offer protection from the wet, muddy trails. Look for the black diamond logo that means the shoe carries the GORE-TEX GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRYTM Promise

    "blue trail running shoe splashing on muddy trail"

    Outsole Type

    Over the decades, trail runner makers have created dozens of different types of outsoles designed for an endless variety of trail surfaces, from mud to solid rock, picking an outsole type is entirely dependent on the trails you prefer to run on. Lug length should be the main consideration when you’re looking at your next pair of shoes. Longer, more spaced-out lugs are designed for running on soft or deep mud trails, while others with shallower, stiffer lugs are meant for running on hard-pack trails.


    Once you’ve figured out which of the above features you want in your next pair of trail runners, the fun begins. After you’ve dialed in what you want from your trail runners, head out to your local running shop or online and try on as many different brands and styles as you can. Find the one that fits best with your gait (most running shops can help with this), fits your feet (both size and width), and most importantly makes you feel the best while running in them. Every brand has slightly different shapes, often called “lasts”, and finding the one that supports your feet, and arches the most comfortably will be paramount. 

    GORE-TEX Invisible Fit technology offers the guaranteed waterproof protection you expect from us along with the fit and form you want in a trail running shoe. 


    GORE-TEX Invisible Fit footwear offers the fit, feel, and style you love, together with the GORE-TEX GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY promise— especially for for sneakers with knitted uppers.

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