Trail shoes are great for hiking paths, but are they good for other situations?
Trail shoes are good for walking on a wide variety of surfaces, but they are designed for unpaved trails. Although they can be worn on harder surfaces, trail shoes come with added weight and may wear down more quickly than shoes that are designed for use on concrete or asphalt.
Versatility is key for a great pair of shoes. Most people are on a budget – or would at least prefer to save money over having a pair of shoes for every different activity. Do you really want a closet full of just shoes?
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Trail shoes are great for wilderness trails because of their specific design. They have traction in all the right places. (Note, If you’re interested in trail running, you can learn more about preparing for your first trail run in our article here.) Does this mean that you can’t use your trail shoes for anything else except for the trail?
While it is a possibility, there are some factors worth thinking about before you start wearing your trail shoes everywhere you go. Because they are designed for a specific environment, they might not be the right choice for everyday walking or use on asphalt or concrete.
Further in, I’ll discuss how trail shoes are different from shoes you might use on harder surfaces and how those surfaces can affect them.
How Are Trail Shoes Different From Walking/Running Shoes?
They’ve got shoes for everything: dancing, walking, running, rock climbing, boating, and countless other activities, while others are designed to provide a specific look. In some cases, the depth of variety available can seem like overkill. For example, trail shoes and running shoes may seem like they can be substituted for one another easily.
However, there are some pretty big differences that make these shoes better suited to the task they were designed for. Factors like traction, breathability, weight, and midsole design distinguish both types of shoes in important ways.
To be absolutely clear: You don’t need trail shoes. I want to make that clear. You can go running on a trail without them. You can use whatever kind of shoes you want. They will work. Trail shoes are specifically designed for trails, so let’s figure out the advantages.
When it comes to shoes, traction is what keeps you on your feet even when the ground is slippery or unstable. Having good traction can make or break your run or walk.
Roads and sidewalks can get wet, but unpaved ground on trails can change a lot when you add water. Rain, flooding, ice, and snow can all cause conditions that are more difficult to get through safely. Mud, slick rocks, and uneven ground all combined together can make for much more of a dynamic run then pavement.
Trail shoes have traction to keep you stable even when the ground isn’t. You can compare traction on shoes to using chains or specialized tires for difficult road conditions.
Take a look at these New Balance Hierro running shoes (click on the image to see more of them on Amazon)
You’ll notice that the ridges on the bottom of the shoe are very distinct and separate–this gives much more traction. This design however means that these ridges can wear out quickly if you drag them on pavement.
On the other hand, running shoes are made to be used on flat ground. It’s typically assumed that a person wearing running shoes is running on a road, sidewalk, or running track. Because these areas tend to be more reliable, there isn’t as much of a need for additional traction.
Running shoes prioritize making running as comfortable as possible, while trail shoes prioritize adding stability and keeping you steady on a trail. Because running shoes can be a bit more lightweight, they can be very breathable. That breathability ensures your feet are able to stay cooler during a run. It also fights against the buildup of sweat.
Trail shoes don’t typically include this luxury, because they are designed to prioritize safety. Thicker, sturdier materials are used in an effort to avoid accidental injury. Most hikers would probably agree that rolling an ankle or slipping on a rock is far worse than having feet that are somewhat hot and sweaty.
When you want to get an idea about the level of cushioning in a pair of shoes, the midsole is the best place to start. If you’re unfamiliar with specific shoe parts, the midsole is the cushioning of the sole between the bottom layer of the sole and where your foot rests.
In trail shoes, the midsole will be sturdy and less flexible. The stiff design of the midsole keeps your feet and ankles protected against pointy rocks and other debris on the ground. As a result, you’ll receive less shock absorption but a greater capacity for avoiding injury.
Running shoes provide the opposite – lighter, more flexible midsoles that focus on shock absorption. This is because of where they are used. Asphalt and concrete are more stable, but are also harder on your feet and joints. The additional cushion in running shoes protects your feet against the hardness of the ground beneath them.
To summarize, with running shoes you’ll feel every pebble, but with trail shoes they will be much more stiff.
Because trail shoes provide thicker midsoles and a sturdy design, they tend to weigh more than running shoes. Consequently, they will come with that added weight if you decide to wear them anywhere other than on trails. Trail shoes aren’t going to be nearly as heavy as something like hiking shoes or boots, but they may put a little more strain on your body than running shoes would.
Can I Use Trail Shoes For Everyday Walking?
You can use trail shoes for everyday walking, but they may not always be the ideal choice. As the name indicates, trail shoes are best used on unpaved hiking trails. However, not everyone wants to purchase a pair of shoes for every surface they walk on.
Just keep in mind that trail shoes have a particular design, so they may take some getting used to. Try wearing them for longer and longer periods at a time to get used to them and determine for yourself whether or not they’re going to work for casual walking. It’s also worth keeping in mind that trail shoes do come with added weight when compared to running shoes.
There might be a variety of situations in which you want to wear your trail shoes. For example, golfing can be a perfectly suitable activity for trail shoes. However, you may need to check the dress code first! In our article on the subject here, you can learn more about wearing your trail shoes on the golf course.
Can I Use Trail Shoes On Concrete Or Asphalt?
Technically, yes. You can choose to wear trail shoes while walking or running on concrete or asphalt. However, there are a few things to consider before making that choice. VeryWellFit offers these tips when deciding what shoes to wear on the road or sidewalk.
- Trail shoes weigh more. Overall, this puts more strain on your body. The added weight isn’t a big deal for shorter journeys, but over time it can become an annoyance.
- The soles of trail shoes can cause foot pain. These soles are designed to keep you steady on unpaved ground. Without as much focus on comfort, you may begin to experience foot pain while wearing trail shoes on the road.
- Trail shoes aren’t very breathable. They are designed to keep water and mud away from your feet. As a result, you are more likely to end up with sweaty feet.
- Pay close attention to the feelings in your feet and legs. The soles of trail shoes can create a higher risk of shin splints and plantar fasciitis when they are used on hard surfaces.
Do Trail Shoes Wear Out Faster?
Shoes designed for the trail are often designed with durability in mind. Traveling on uneven, rocky ground can be tough on shoes, so it’s important that shoes designed for this purpose are able to stand up to the task. The same is true for running shoes, but it’s important to keep in mind that trail shoes and running shoes are created for very different purposes.
When used for their intended purpose, both running shoes and trail shoes can last anywhere from 300 miles to 500 miles. After that point, the cushioning begins to wear down and become less comfortable. The overall quality of trail shoes can rely on a number of different factors. To learn more about how long trail shoes can hold up, take a look at our article on the subject here.
That said, using trail shoes regularly for walking on sturdier surfaces like concrete and asphalt can cause them to wear down more quickly. According to REI, the soles of these shoes are designed for softer ground. Friction caused by walking or running on the pavement will have a negative effect on their durability.