Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes When Running on Roads?

Runners feet
Photo by John Foxx

If you have a pair of trail running shoes that you love, you may wonder whether it is safe to wear them running on roads as well. Trail running shoes are generally fine to wear when running on the roads. However, if you're doing faster workouts such as tempo runs or interval workouts, you may feel more comfortable (and faster) in a lighter shoe. Learn about the differences found in trail shoes that might make them less than ideal to wear on road surfaces and the best choice for nature trails.

Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes

The main differences between trail running shoes and road running shoes are:

  • Trail shoes are usually made with thicker materials in the uppers to prevent rips from trail debris and to protect your toes from stubbing them on rocks and other trail obstacles.
  • They have soles designed to grip the uneven trail surface and protect your foot from rocks so you won't end up with a bruised sole.
  • They may have stability features to help keep you from tweaking an ankle on uneven surfaces.
  • Trail shoes are also usually designed with a gusseted tongue to help keep trail debris and gravel out of the shoe.
  • Trail shoes are often heavier than road shoes, although there are lighter-weight versions available.

How's the Weather?

The weather is also a big factor when determining what type of running shoes to wear. If it's very hot and humid, you may prefer lighter road running shoes over trail runners, so your feet don't get too sweaty.

On the other hand, you may find that you're actually better off wearing trail running shoes when running on the roads or sidewalks when the weather is bad. Because trail shoes have soles designed for better traction on slippery surfaces and usually are more water-resistant, they can be more comfortable and safer when running on snow or in the rain.

You can even find waterproof versions of some trail running shoes, often labeled with GTX (for Gore-tex).

Getting the Right Shoes

Whether you're running in regular running shoes or trail running shoes, the most important factor is whether they're the right shoes for your foot and running gait. Some runners need more support and motion control than others, based on the way they run. Running in the wrong shoes can lead to discomfort while running and possible injuries. If you haven't already, go to a running specialty store and get a gait analysis, so a running shoe expert can recommend the right shoes for you.

How Many Pairs of Running Shoes Do You Need?

One pair of running shoes is sufficient for a beginner runner. However, if you're really getting into running, you may want to invest in multiple pairs of shoes. For example, you may want a pair of trail running shoes solely for trail and bad weather running, and a pair of regular running shoes for treadmill and road running. Some runners who run several times a week like to rotate two pairs of running shoes. Alternating shoes will increase the life of your shoes because you'll give them a day or two to decompress and dry out between workouts.