Three of the biggest makers of running shoes – New Balance, Asics, and Adidas – have been veering into the trail running shoes market in recent years. The trail running shoes may look similar to running shoes, but they have a fundamentally different design when you take a closer look. Just as how the best road runners are not always the best trail runners, the gear you would use on a road marathon is different than what you need on your trail run — including the footwear.
Trail running shoes are lower to the ground – to make sure that runners do not easily twist ankles – and have a much more aggressive tread than your typical road running shoe. If you are doing any off-road or trail running, it is a good idea to get dedicated trail running shoes. Trying to run on these trails you’re your regular road running shoes is an equation for a twisted ankle, or a slip-and-fall. Neither is very pleasant.
Our ankles aren’t a body part that we generally give much thought. However, a 2008 study that was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal suggests runners should rethink this. As you know, every step you take puts weight and pressure on your ankles.
When running, the average person takes 1,700 steps every mile. This is calculated for those running at a speed of 10 minutes per mile. That’s a lot of stress repeatedly pounded into your joints. If you have the right gear, you can minimize this stress, which can easily turn into ankle pain. Keep running longer and with less pain by spending a bit more on good trail running shoes.
Let’s get right to it: Here are three great trail running shoes compared.
New Balance 510 Trail Running Shoe
We used the 510 trail running shoe as the basis for our review, but New Balance makes several very good shoes that all use similar design. It is made of a leather-textile combination, and weighs in at just over 12 ounces.
The New Balance 510 comes in a few versions (v1, v2, v3, etc.) that are all basically the same shoe. Built well with a good degree of arch support, they are excellent on the trail but also good in situations where you will be standing for a long time.
Our testing suggested that they fit a little small, but were comfortable for many different activities. We would highly recommend ordering up ½ a size, and you will increase the likelihood of getting a shoe that fits you well right out of the box.
Outside, they are breathable and do an OK job of repelling light water, but they are not waterproof. You may want to consider treating the outer after you buy the shoe if you expect to be working out in moisture often. The ventilation and breathability is among the best features, so these are great for people who plan to use them for warmer-weather hikes or runs.
Our Rating: Very good. We just wish they were more waterproof.
Asics Trail Running Shoe (Gel Venture)
We did our testing on the Asics Gel Venture trail running shoe, a shoe that is currently out in its version 5. Asics is making good shoes right now, and we like that they don’t insist on charging an arm and a leg for their products.
This shoe is a cushiony shoe that gets rave reviews for walking on trails as well as pavement. It is billed as a trail shoe but really seems to excel on harder surfaces – thinking walking around New York or working in a warehouse.
Outside, the shoe performs fine, but it doesn’t seem to have the same gravitas on the trail runs as some of the other shoes we looked at. The construction is perhaps a bit softer, which again can be good in some cases, but not in all. On the trails, we prefer a stiffer shoe, and the New Balance seemed to fit that bill a little better.
This is not a waterproof shoe, but kept a basic level of water out during a light shower.
It is hard to beat the price, though. This shoe can routinely be found for under $50, which is a good deal for any shoe that you will be able to wear for a while, much less one made by Asics.
Our Rating: Good. If you are looking for an all-purpose shoe with some cushion, consider this. If your intent is to get a more pure trail running shoe, look at the other options.
Adidas Trail Running Shoe
We tested the Adidas Rockadia trail running shoe, and really liked it. Unlike the Asics, but more on par with the New Balance, this is a trail shoe with a more aggressive tread that it suited for trails of moderate to high difficulty.
The shoe had plenty of cushion, particularly in the heel. For those looking for a shoe to wear while standing on concrete all day, you may want to look around. But then again, that isn’t really what a trail shoe is for. This is a great shoe for getting outside, and tackling the hike or run.
On the trail, this tread performed very well, even on wet surfaces. Like the others, this is not intended to be a waterproof shoe, but it kept a basic level of water off the sock. None of the shoes reviewed are really meant to work through a stream or be completely submerged.
We loved the stability of the shoe. It is on par with the New Balance when it comes to “anti-ankle-twisting-ability”. The look of the shoe is excellent as well – in four colors that Adidas has spent some time market-testing, because they all look good.
Like the New Balance, you are going to want to err on ordering half a size up in this shoe. We aren’t sure why all of these trail shoes are running small, but they are.
Our Rating: Excellent. A nice all-around shoe for walking, hiking or running on a trail.
Which one is the best? It is a tough call, but we like the Adidas Rockadia the best. It is a tough shoe, with a great tread, excellent in a condition for what trail shoes should be made for – tackling tough terrain. The New Balance is a very close second, and most people would not go wrong by buying either one. We were just slightly less fans of the leather/textile upper – we liked the Adidas pure textile mesh a little better for breathability, plus we think it has the qualities that would perform better when wet.
The Asics is a bit behind the other two when it comes to a pure trail shoe, but can really hold its own if you need a shoe to work in a warehouse with hard surfaces, walk around Disneyworld, or just something for more general comfort. In fact, when it comes to a good shoe for standing all day, this should be high on the list (and is).
All three of these shoes are well-made by shoe manufacturers who we trust – but if you can find the Adidas in your size and for a good price, our advice would be to jump on it. You can start by checking on our link above to see what kind of price Amazon is carrying it at. It is constantly changing.