Guide to off-road running shoes

What to look for when buying


Triathlon coach Andy Blow gives his advice on the key things to look out for when buying off-road running shoes.



Choosing the right off-road shoe means getting the correct level of grip for the conditions.

If you’re going to be running on dry, hard-packed trails, you probably only need a moderate level of grip (and may even get away with using a road shoe).

But if the ground’s likely to be very wet, muddy or steep, you’ll want a far more aggressive outsole offered by fell-running shoes or mud-specific studded versions.


Then it’s a matter of the ‘drop’ – or ride height – of the shoe. ‘Drop’ refers to the differential between heel and toe.

A bigger drop indicates a more padded shoe (more like a traditional road shoe), while zero drop aims to promote a ‘barefoot’ running style.

The supposed advantage of the latter is balance and stability, as well as increasing feel for the terrain while reducing the likelihood of turning an ankle as you’re lower to the ground.


What’s most important is finding a shoe that suits your style, as you would with a road shoe.

So if you tend to run in a very well-cushioned road shoe, don’t jump straight into a zero-drop, minimalist shoe; it’s unlikely your mechanics will be well-adapted to them and you may suffer calf or Achilles injuries. 

If, though, you routinely run in racing flats or minimalist road shoes, it may be worth going for a similarly low-profile off-road shoe and see how you get on.

Toe protection

Also, if you’re running on very rocky terrain where you can easily stub your toe, looking for a shoe with good toe-box protection is vital – it’s amazing just how easy it is to trip yourself up when running on rough ground with tired legs.


Enjoy the trails!