Running over dirt, gravel and rock is a heart-pounding way to experience old trails in a new way. Whether you're looking to upgrade your shoes or try trail running for the first time, it's important to have adequate footwear. Be prepared to spend a little more at a specialty store with well-trained staff who can help you find the perfect fit.

Here are six tips for shopping for trail runners:


1. Shop later in the day

Your feet expand throughout the day. Rather than getting a snug fit first thing in the morning, shop when your feet are at their largest. Bring your aftermarket insoles, running socks and old running shoes to compare.

 
2. Understand your body's needs

Health conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis, and age can affect your feet. The shape of your arch and your gait are important factors to consider. Do you prefer a light, flexible feel or a more rugged, sturdier shoe with maximum support? Trail running shoes are as personal and unique as your body.

 
3. Consider the terrain

If you mix it up between smooth trails and roads, go for a hybrid with road-runner-like cushioning and shallow lugs. Dedicated mountain runner? Look for a off-trail shoe with a protective shank, rubber rand and toe bumper. For more traction on slippery rocks and mud, you'll want a tread with deep lugs and "sticky" outsoles.

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4. Decide if you want waterproofing or maximum breathablily

If your typical run includes mud, snow and puddles that look like lakes, buy a shoe with a GORE-TEX® or another waterproof liner. Otherwise, look for shoes that are breathable. A dedicated summer runner should have lots of open mesh.


5. Test it out first

Go for a run in each pair, even if it's just around the store. Look for a comfortable fit with room to wiggle toes and loosen and tighten the laces. Your heel shouldn't move. Some runners prefer a barefoot, natural feel, while others gravitate towards higher stack height. Heel-toe-toe drop (or offset) refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot. Trail runners will likely want a 10- to 12-millimetre drop.

 
6. Keep looking

Don't settle for the first decent pair you try. There are so many models and styles; the right shoe is out there. Focus on comfort and function above aesthetics like colour and design. Just like your hiking boots, you want to find your Cinderella fit.

 

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