Are you thinking of going trail running in Edmonton’s River Valley this summer? We turned to Beto Bustos, trail running specialist at United Sport & Cycle and championship runner, to see what you should be looking for in a shoe before hitting the trails.

He started by explaining to us the difference between a trail running shoe and a regular running shoe:

“With trail running, we start by looking at what you need to protect your feet. Trail running shoes are different from regular running shoes, in that they have a plate in between the cushion of the shoe, to protect you from hard rocks and sharp branches—because you never know where you’re going to land.”

In terms of cushioning itself, Busto went on to say, less is more.

“People come into our store thinking that having a huge thick cushion is going to help them. But it’s the opposite: when people know they have a lot of cushion, they land hard—they don’t think about how they are going to land. Less cushion, being lower to the ground, as close as possible, it allows your body to utilize your own natural cushioning system. You’re not going to land hard, because it’s going to hurt. You’re going to land more cautiously, and you’re also going to land lighter.

Bustos explained that rather than a lot of cushion, what you really want in a trail running shoe is a wider platform. This lets your toes move around more, and also helps you develop more ankle strength.

He added that when customers come in, he asks them lots of questions about what kind of trail running they’re planning to do.

“Are you just running in the summer when the weather is dry, or are you running when it rains and snows too? Are you running up and down a lot of steep hills? How long are you going to be running for at a time? 20 minutes? An hour? Two hours? In the fall, the trail running shoes you’ll use will be a bit different than your summer shoes: they have a kind of double layer, and a bit more water resistance.”

With all that said, here are a few of Bustos’ top summer trail running shoes for women and for men.

For Women

“Everyone likes a different fit, but for a beginner, I’d maybe start with a Nike Air. It fits around the foot very well. I’m not sure that it’d be great for super long distances, but it has a great grip and good protection on the toe. It also breathes very well.

“Another shoe would be an Inov-8. It has a wider platform to give your toes a bit more room, but a less cushion than the Nike, for those who like to be close to the ground. The good thing—is with this shoe— you still don’t feel much impact.

“Now, if you’re running a very long distance, you’ll probably want something like the Altra, this shoe is narrow on the heel and is wider on the forefoot which allows the metatarsus and the toes to be able to move and not be cramped up. This protects you from blistering and allows you to run for longer. It has a very soft cushion on the shoe, but you’re still incredibly well protected.”

Men’s

“A lot of road runners who like New Balance also want to run in New Balance when they start trail running. Me, I run in a New Balance Minimus, which has a zero drop. But we also have a New Balance Summit which is very popular. It has an 8mm drop, so it is good if you’re running downhill a lot. It’s hard to land on your heel if you have no protection.

Then, we also have the Inov-8 and the Altra for men. These both have a nice wide platform, which lets your toes move around and keeps your feet from blistering. If you’re going to be running a very long distance, you’ll probably want something like the Altra

Final thoughts

Bustos finished off with one last thought for selecting a good trail running shoe:

“Have conversations with other runners! Find people who are running in the same spots and conditions that you’re running, and see what’s working for them.”

Interested in trail running? Check out United Sport & Cycle’s upcoming offroad duathlon

By Bryan Saunders – United Sport & Cycle

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