When it comes to the outdoors, there is a lot of gear available to get you going. Sometimes it can get overwhelming with all the choices. The real question is, what do you really need to enjoy a day in nature? Well when it comes to footwear, we can tell you that the right shoes can make or break your adventure. A lot of people wear sneakers for hikes, camping trips, and the likes, but new technologies and products have really upped the game when it comes to footwear and a good pair of trail shoes will do wonders for your feet. So let’s run through the differences between sneakers and trail shoes.
In general, sneakers are made to be lightweight and comfortable. In order to accomplish this, they use light and malleable materials in their construction. This typically means that the sole of the shoes is made to be thinner and cushy to absorb shock. Trail shoes differ in this regard as their soles are made thicker and more rigid to endure unstable terrain better. Thicker soles mean more protection against rocks, roots, and other trail debris. These thicker soles also have different tread patterns to grip the uncertain terrain and give you stability on uneven ground. The squishy, thinner, and less durable outsoles of sneakers won’t grip like you want them to and are more permeable if you encounter something sharp.
The soles of trail shoes also tend to come up higher than sneakers around the toe area to give you more protection. This gives you a lot more leeway when you unintentionally kick a rock underfoot, just making you stumble instead of a full blown broken toe. Some outsoles are also wider around the foot, coming out slightly from the bottom of the shoe on all sides to offer additional stability and traction with a wider surface area.
Stiffness and Construction
Sneakers and trail shoes have fundamental differences in their construction, namely that trail shoes are built with more stiffness and sturdier materials in order to endure harsher conditions and give you more support on unsteady terrain. This support can protect against injuries from slipping or unsure footing while hiking. The extra stiffness and support can also add stability when hiking. Sneakers are lightweight and they are constructed with ease of everyday use in mind so they won’t hold up as well in the backcountry. They also won’t hold up if you start to slip or lose your footing, sneakers are a sure fire way to twist your ankle or worse if you’re doing some serious outdoor excursions.
Trail shoes are made for the outdoors, which means they are made with the technical features needed to enjoy time outside and be comfortable. Sure, sneakers tend to be lightweight and breathable, but trail shoes go a step further. Some trail shoes offer additional benefits like waterproof abilities so when you’re hiking in the rain or encounter some wet terrain your shoes aren’t soaked through for the entire day. This is especially important if you’re going to be in more temperate climates where rain is likely or near lakes, rivers, or oceans. Some trail shoes even offer drainage features so if you are hiking through water, your shoes will allow excess water to drain out of your shoes while you hike instead of being water logged all day. Many trail shoes also have gusseted tongues to help prevent water or debris from getting into your shoes and causing irritation, while sneakers have a space between the tongue and sides of the shoe allowing for debris to get caught while hiking.
Overall, trail shoes are named for the trails for a reason; they are built to perform best on them. Sneakers really aren’t built for trails, dirt, or forests; they’re made for the roads. So if your adventures are taking you off-road, we would highly suggest picking up a pair of trail shoes for your journey. We have a selection of men’s and women’s trail shoes, but here are our top two favorites.
Just like with most outdoor gear, getting women’s specific apparel is important when it comes to trail shoes. The women’s Moab FST Trail shoes are known for their perfect out of the box fit, meaning you don’t need to wear them a hundred times before they feel worn in; they are ready to go the moment you purchase them. The Vibram outsole on these shoes offers unbeatable traction and durability in the rain, snow, dirt, or rocks. These are true all season shoes with a gusseted tongue to keep out water and debris and mesh inserts to allow the shoes to breathe without filling up with moisture. Extra shock absorption allows the Moab to provide added stability, and an odor controlling footbed means your shoes won’t stink up your car or the tent at night. Try out a pair and see for yourself why the Merrell Moab FST trail shoes are getting rave reviews.
Salomon has been making unique and durable trail shoes for years, and they have perfected the art. The XA Pro 3D trail shoes are constructed to be lightweight and low to the ground to give you the best mobility and stability out there. Using extra TPU in the soles of the shoes, the XA offers top-notch shock absorption allowing you to tackle any terrain that comes your way. The sole also comes up to cover the toe so missteps are only a stumble instead of broken bones or ripped toenails. And Salomon’s quick lace systems makes these shoes quick and easy to wear, just pull the cord and tighten to a perfect fit and you’re off on your adventures. To top it all off, the XA Pro 3D offers features like quick drying and breathability so water and sweat don’t weigh you down and make for uncomfortable squishy shoes all day. For real, you’ve got to check these trail shoes out.