What to consider when choosing your next pair of off-road running shoes


Dearly beloved runners,

Today’s sermon is less of a rant and more of an education in what to consider when choosing your next pair of off-road running shoes. So, if you’re in the market, sit down with a cuppa and let me pass on my knowledge of nearly 40 years of running over fields, fells, tracks, moorland and mountains.

1) Go to a decent running shop

Firstly please, please please go to a decent running shop wherever and whoever it is. You can read all manner of reviews online and in magazines but the people raving about particular brands and models don’t have the same feet, gait, speed, etc as you do. Funnily enough when I put on a pair of Salomon SLabs on my feet, I still can’t run as fast as Killian!

The only way to see what shoe fits you is by trying them on and maybe even by testing a pair. (Look out for shoe testing days at your local running store).

Buying £100 worth of running shoe in your regular size 9 off the internet to find out that your feet have grown or the sizing has changed on your favourite shoe is why there are so many nearly new shoes on eBay!

2) What surface do you need them for?

Okay - now we have that nonsense out of the way, the next thing you need to ask yourself is what surface do I need them for? Are you running on road, hard trails, soft tracks, mountains, muddy fells, coastal path or maybe you want a shoe to do all of the above?

Some shoes have aggressive lugs to bite into soft mud and stick to technical rocky ground.


Some shoes have aggressive lugs to bite into soft mud

Others have less aggressive tread for harder trails but may be just as grippy on rock, etc.


Less aggressive tread for harder trails but may be just as grippy on rock

Both of the above can obviously be used on whatever type of terrain, but you wouldn’t be getting the best out of either if you ran on surfaces they weren’t designed for.

Wearing the ‘lugged’ one on road for example would not only bruise your feet, but also reduce those lugs to flat soled dancing shoes in a few miles!

There are shoes which can be used on all surfaces but are ‘jacks of all trades, and masters of none’ such as ‘road to trail’ shoes.

3) How far and at what speed are you running?

Next thing to consider is how far and at what speed are you running? A lightweight racing type shoe will give obvious advantages over short distances, where speed is the key. In this type of run, or more likely a race, the runner is going to be up on their toes.

Cushioning and protection are less paramount in this case. If the terrain is soft then this type of shoe can also be used for longer distances where grip and not protection is more important.

Below is a perfect example of a racing fell shoe with good grip but little if any cushioning, therefore completely inappropriate for long/ ultra trail running on hard trails, but great for short and soft stuff.