If you fancy getting off the pavement for a bit, it’s a good idea to get yourself some trail shoes. As with road shoes, there are plenty of features to be aware of. Rather than just settling for a generic “trail” shoe, there are specific types available depending on what terrain you’ll be tackling, such as mud, rock and (probably) lava. Or you could opt for a hybrid shoe, so that if you do need to go back onto the pavement for a bit, you can do so without looking and feeling like you’re walking on Lego. Once you’ve decided on all that, and then worked your way through a hundred other features, you should find yourself with a shortlist of just two or three thousand shoes to carefully choose from.
This is the bit where I feel like I’m about to share some dark secret of the running shoe industry. If, on the way home, I’m bundled into an unmarked van by shadowy goons and whisked away to a secret bunker where Asics marketing execs can beat me with rubber hoses, you’ll know why.
The secret of trail shoes is this…
All of those features I mentioned above are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Trail shoes only have one key feature, and they all have it, regardless of price, make or model.
It’s their magical ability to make it acceptable compulsory to run straight through muddy puddles with a big stupid grin plastered across your face. Those same puddles that you’d be tiptoeing gingerly around if you’d been wearing your pristine road shoes. When in trail shoes, it matters not how new they are or how beautiful the colour; they’re simply not complete until they’re caked in gloop.
Regardless of what’s in front of you, if you’re wearing trail shoes you can quite happily dive into anything you like without an ounce of “crimes against running shoes” guilt.
Muddy puddle? “Wheeeeeee!”
Freshly ploughed field? “Wheeeeeee!”
Swan poop? “Probably shouldn’t, but Wheeeeeee!”
Minefield? “Wh… hang on, maybe not.”
A word of warning though if, like me, you see a satisfying layer of mud as a medal of honour. Today, I spent my lunchtime enjoying a few squelchy miles of local trails, and right at the end I ran through a (relatively) clean puddle of ankle-deep rainwater, immediately followed by a few metres of dry leaves. The combined effect was as if I’d put my shoes through some sort of organic car-wash, and to my horror I saw that they were practically sparkling. Luckily, I had time for an emergency mile, which was just enough to once again restore them to their disgusting brownness. Phew.
Here’s a question for you: Have you ever finished a trail run and realised that, despite your very best efforts, you’re actually quite clean, and so decided to muddy yourself up a bit on purpose before going home? No? Just me then.