the difference between trail running shoes and road running shoes comparison

The Real Difference Between Running Shoes and Trail Running Shoes

6 min read

Running lovers – is there anything more important than having the right footwear? We don’t think so, but with so much to pick from, it’s important to know difference between running shoes and trail running shoes.

Because running is a journey, not just a sport.

And like every journey, being equipped with the right tools makes it much more enjoyable and successful.

In this blog, we’re going to dive right into the key differences, so you can make the right choice for your discipline.

The Key Differences Between Running Shoes and Trail Running Shoes

So, in short, the main difference between running shoes and trail running shoes lies in their design, which are aimed at different terrains.

The hint is in the name, obviously, and we know that isn’t too groundbreaking!

But we’ve got much more information below.

girls in nike running shoes on a run

Running Shoes Features

Perfect for the road, made with smooth rubber outsoles that are designed for pavement and tarmac etc.

Their cushioned midsoles provide good shock absorption, which is really important for lessening the impact of road running. Generally they will be very lightweight and breathable for your long runs.

We’ve done a comprehensive Review of 2024’s Top Running Shoes HERE.

Trail Running Shoe Features

Built and designed for the wild. Generally trail running shoes having rubber outsoles or deep lugs that provide unmatched traction or wet, soft and uneven surfaces,

There is a stiffer midsole to protect your feet on the rough terrain and the uppers are more durable given the dirt and moisture they experience.

The most expensive versions can have rock layers too.

trail runners in trail running shoes in ireland comparison to running shoes

The Performance: How the Shoe Types Impact your Running

Having the right running isn’t just about comfort; it’s about performance too.

As we have covered above, road running shoes and trail running shoes are engineered for specific challenges.

So maximising their performance only happens when they are used on the right environment.

Performance of Road Running Shoes

The relative smoothness of a road or running track requires a shoe to be grippy, have decent cushioning and support.

Road running shoes are designed to absorb the shock of the tarmac surface to reduce the impact on your joints.

They are usually lightweight, which promotes speed and reduces fatigue over long distances like marathons or daily jogs.

Check out our Running Shoe range to see for yourself.

Performance of Trail Running Shoes

Unlike roads, trail runs are unpredictable and the performance of a trail running shoe has to be ready for that.

That means they need the aggressive outer soles for good traction in mud, through water, loose rocks etc.

The stiffer midsole gives stability from rugged and rough ground too, while the extra durability protects your feet.

Check out our Trail Running Shoe range to compare.

the difference between road running shoes and trail running shoes explained

Durability or Comfort: What is more Important

When it comes to running shoes, finding the right balance between durability and comfort is crucial.

Trail Running Shoes:

Trail running shoes are designed with durability as a top priority, incorporating reinforced materials in key areas such as the toes and heels.

They have the necessary features to handle rough terrain, ensuring protection against tears and damage caused by sharp rocks and branches.

In addition, some models come with waterproof or water-resistant features to ensure your feet stay dry even in wet conditions.

Check out Ireland’s best trail runs HERE.

Road Running Shoes

When it comes to road running shoes, the main emphasis is on ensuring maximum breathability and a lightweight design.

These shoes are expertly crafted to ensure optimal breathability and comfort, making them perfect for warmer days and extended running sessions.

These products prioritise delivering a smooth and responsive experience on paved surfaces, showcasing their durability.

Popular Options for Road Runner and Trail Runner

Having the perfect brand is just as important as finding the perfect shoe.

Every brand has its own distinct features, designed to meet various needs and preferences.

Trail Running Shoe Brands

When it comes to trail running shoe brands, there are a few that stand out for their exceptional quality.

Salomon, Brooks, Hoka, ON Running and The North Face are all highly regarded in the industry.

They provide shoes with excellent traction, long-lasting construction, and features such as waterproofing for demanding terrains.

While Nike is also extremely popular.

Running Shoe Brands

When it comes to road running shoe brands, there are several top choices that cater to the needs of road enthusiasts.

Nike, Adidas, Asics, and Brooks and more among the brands that are highly regarded in this category.

These brands are experts in creating shoes that offer exceptional cushioning, a lightweight design, and optimal support for pavement running.

It’s important to consider your personal running style, foot shape, and the terrain you frequent when choosing the right brand for you. Feel free to

Factors to Consider when Buying Running/Trail Running Shoes

Choosing the perfect pair of running shoes is an adventure that demands careful consideration of multiple factors to guarantee the optimal selection for your feet and running technique.

  • When it comes to trail shoes, having good traction is crucial. Look for outsoles with aggressive lugs that provide excellent grip on rough terrains. When it comes to road shoes, having a smooth outsole with sufficient grip is absolutely crucial.
  • Fit is crucial and should never be overlooked. Make sure there is ample space in the toebox and that the shoes offer a comfortable fit without causing any discomfort or irritation. It’s important to prioritise comfort right from the start and not depend on the shoes needing to be broken in.
  • Take into account the level of cushioning. Different runners may have varying preferences when it comes to cushioning. Road runners often look for shoes with more cushioning to absorb shock, while trail runners tend to prefer shoes with firmer and more responsive cushioning.
  • Trail shoes should be built to withstand the rigours of the outdoors and provide reliable protection against various elements. When it comes to road shoes, durability is important, but the focus is on using lighter materials to enhance speed and efficiency.
  • Your personal preferences are crucial when it comes to finding the right feel, fit, and function. Every runner is unique, so it’s important to trust your instincts and find what works best for you.

Can I use Trail Running Shoes for Road Running or Vice Versa

Many people often wonder if one pair of shoes can be suitable for both trail and road running.

It’s important to note that different shoes are designed for specific conditions, despite some being marketed as versatile.

We definitely recommend regular runners have a pair of shoes dedicated to each setting for reasons such as comfort, performance, safety and life span.

However, it is also possible to use one pair of shoes for both on rare occasions.

It can be quite dangerous, for example, to take a normal pair of running shoes on a trail with rough, wet and muddy terrain.

While equally, the harder sole of a trail running shoe might cause pain and discomfort over long distances on the road.

Running shoes and Trail Running shoes: Myths and FAQs

Understanding the ins and outs of running shoes can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Allow me to dispel some common misconceptions and address frequently asked questions to ensure you have all the necessary information.

Common Misconception: “All shoes are suitable for any terrain.”

Fact: Certain shoes are advertised as being suitable for various activities, but it’s important to note that using trail shoes on the road can cause their lugs to wear down, while road shoes may not provide the necessary traction and protection on trails.

Common Misconception: Believing that the highest-priced shoes are automatically the best.

Fact: The ideal shoe is determined by factors such as the fit for your foot, running style, and the type of terrain you’ll be on. Not all products that are expensive are necessarily the best fit.

Myth 3: “Brand is irrelevant.”

It’s important to note that various brands tend to excel in specific features. Choosing a brand that perfectly suits your requirements is crucial.

Question 1: “Are trail running shoes suitable for road running?”

Yes, however, it’s important to note that they may not offer the best performance on pavement and may have a shorter lifespan.

Question 2: “Are trail running shoes worth the investment?”

If you’re someone who loves to hit the trails, getting yourself a pair of trail running shoes can really take your running to the next level in terms of both enjoyment and safety.


Having a good grasp of the distinctions between running shoes and trail running shoes is essential, regardless of whether you’re an experienced marathoner or a casual weekend trail explorer.

When you select the appropriate footwear, you’re not only prioritising your comfort and enhancing your performance, but you’re also taking proactive measures to prevent any potential injuries.

When preparing for your next run, it’s important to keep in mind that finding the perfect pair of shoes is crucial to starting your journey on the right foot.

Discover Intersport Elverys’ wide selection of running and trail running shoes, and set off on your next adventure with absolute assurance.

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