Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes

In Utah, runners come in all shapes, sizes, and disciplines. The most divisive line, however, is the one that forms two of the most popular running forms: trail and road running. Trail runners practice, of course, on trails and mountain courses, hurdling over roots and other obstacles while gaining and losing a significant amount of elevation. In contrast, road runners often prioritize speed and distance over exploration, utilizing the stability of concrete to propel through the state’s vast cities. No matter where you live in Utah, you likely have access to both types of running—some of you might even practice both. If this is the case, however, you should understand the requirements of each sport. Trail running and road running have vastly different footwear requirements. Here’s what you need to know before heading out to buy a pair.

Trail runners have more traction. Trail shoes are made with sturdier rubber and cleat-like luge to grip the ground beneath your feet when traversing muddy, rocky, or root-covered surfaces. This allows you to make tighter turns, and you’ll feel more stable than you would in a pair of road shoes.


Road shoes are lighter. Road shoes prioritize economy over everything, and they are often made of lighter, less durable material to help runners float over city sidewalks. They almost never include ankle gaiter attachments, rarely consisting of more than a cushioned sole.


Trail runners have a different fit. These shoes fit snugly around the midfoot, allowing your shoes to stay in place over uneven terrain. A wider forefoot will allow your toes to splay out and grip the trail, which is especially important when going up and down hills. Road runners, however, have a narrower toe box, prioritizing footfall rather than stability.


The outsoles are vastly different. Trail runners have solid outsoles with protruding lugs to increase durability and traction. Road runners have lighter weight blown rubber, and most have exposed EVA foam to cut down on weight.

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