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How to choose the best pair of Trail Running Shoes

March 03, 2023

How to choose the best pair of Trail Running Shoes

Written by Mont Team member and Trail Runner Kirsten Schulz

Trail runners are well known for a few things:

  1. Running is life

  2. Pretty badass

  3. Have more shoes than almost every other person they know (unless those people are also trail runners!)

So, why is it that we have a plethora of different trail shoes but only 2 feet? The answer, trail runners are on a lifetime mission to find the unicorn of shoes. We are constantly searching for better grip, more or less cushion, wider toe box, different lacing systems, change of drop, better colour and the truth of it is, we may never find all these things in one shoe.

Shopping for trail running shoes is, in a word, difficult!

Made even more difficult by the increasing number of shoes purchased online. The best way to get fitted for your first or next pair of unicorns is to head into your local shop and try several pairs on to get a feel for what fits your foot best.

Some things you should consider:

Running Shoe Tread

There are many different tread variations on the market. Ranging from the well-known Vibram rubber through to specially designed brand specific rubbers such as FriXion in La Sportiva, Contagrip in Salomon or Missiongrip in On. Smaller lugs with a firmer and more durable rubber are usually best suited to hard packed ground such as fire trails. While deeper lugs with a stickier rubber will perform better on softer, wet/muddy or snowy trails.

Shoe Drop

The great drop debate! The drop of a shoe is the difference between the height of the forefoot and the height of the heel. Usually in trail running shoes, the drop will range anywhere from 0mm to 10mm. The amount of drop in a shoe can change the biomechanics of your running stride and while there is no magic drop number it’s important to know that any major change to the drop in your running shoes should be introduced slowly to avoid injury – especially when moving to lower drop shoes. 


Often the cushioning of a trail shoe is relative to the types of distances they are intended for. Often you will find a shoe made for longer distances will have a higher level of cushion while shorter distance or race shoes will have less cushion. That said though, more is not always best and it’s beneficial to find an amount of cushion that feels best for you based on both the terrain and distances you are running.


Gone are the days of standard laces! The trail shoe world has been flooded in recent years with variations on traditional lacing from quick lace to elastic lace and right through to boa lacing. Sometimes the shoe that fits you best might have a lacing system that is not interchangeable but there are some things to consider when looking at lacing systems. Traditional lacing, while slightly slower can offer the most amount of variability with different lacing options and the ability to tailor the tightness throughout the shoe. Quick laces are simple and easy to use but don’t offer a lot of variability. And Boas, while light, quick and versatile in adjustment do cause a level of concern if they were to break during a remote run or race as they are often not easy to fix or replace. Brands such as On have made advances in traditional lacing by offering “FlipRelease” which allows you to loosen the forefoot while maintaining tension on the cuff.

Trail Running Shoe Fit

Anyone who has lost a toenail will know the benefits of a well-fitting shoe. It’s a fine line between too loose and getting blisters, and too tight causing jammed toes, and circulation issues. Annoyingly, the only way to know how a shoe will really feel is after running in them, but by getting the best fit you will hopefully alleviate another pair being added to your collection that don’t get worn! 

Typically, you want to ensure there is enough room at the front of the shoe to allow your foot to naturally slip forward in the shoe on downhills and enough space in the toe box to allow your toes to splay. You want a snug fit through your heel and mid foot but without being too tight. We naturally have one foot larger than the other, make sure you fit your new shoe to your largest foot. It’s also important not to assume you know your size. Often you might fluctuate up to two sizes between brands and commonly brands will change the fit of the shoe with new generations which can also affect your size, even if you have worn that shoe before.

Gortex VS no Gortex

Goretex or Waterproof shoes serve a purpose in cold weather when running in wet conditions, but they also have some downsides. Waterproof membranes are a bit like a piece of cling wrap inside your shoe which means that while no water can get in, no water can get out either. So, if you cross a river or run in heavy rain without gaiters you might find you have to stop to empty your shoes out. They can also be hotter to run in in warmer weather. But on the contrary, running on a frosty Winter morning in a GTX shoe can save your tootsies from the cold and damp grass!


We all know deep down in our heart of hearts that colour shouldn’t matter but at the end of the day, it absolutely does! And while you should never compromise the fit in preference of colour, if the fit is right then go with your heart and let your unicorns shine!

Here at the Mont Shop, we are fortunate to have a large range of brands to cater to almost all feet! Amongst our best sellers are La Sportiva, Hoka, Altra, On, Salomon, Topo and Scarpa. We also have a team of experienced trail runners and shoe fitters who can help you find your next shoe for the trails!

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