When you are shopping for trail running shoes, whether at a store or online, the first thing you look for is the color, style and price. After that, you would consider the tread and fit. These were the first things that I used to consider until I realized there is something far more important when it comes to trail running shoes – the rock plate.
So, what exactly is a rock plate in trail running shoes? The rock plate in a trail running shoe is a firm plastic or carbon fiber material meant to protect the runner from sharp and irregular shaped stones. This material is embedded between the outsole and midsole of the shoe for added protection on the trail.
This means that the rock plates are basically providing us protection from the ‘ouch’ factor while on rough trails. The fact that my trail running shoes have the added protection of rock plates gives me more confidence to speed up without worrying about stepping onto sharp objects and injuring my feet. Let me explain more about why a rock plate is important for trail running shoes below.
Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes
Just like the toe cap protects you from sharp objects and debris during a run, the rock plates in trail running shoes help protect the sole of your feet from harm. Rock plates can vary in material, coverage and thickness, as well as the type of trail the shoes are needed for.
You might be wondering how trail running shoes are different from road running shoes. Let me explain the difference:
Road running shoes can handle soft paths like mulch, dirt, or crushed gravel, but can be difficult to navigate through rough terrain. Trail running shoes are made to help your feet handle varying tough and hard surfaces without getting injured.
Road running shoes are suitable for road, pavement, and parks, while trail running shoes are ideal for snow-cover, muddy, or wet trails, as well as technical terrain and steep inclines.
Road running shoes can be used to run on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete, but trail running shoes might not be ideal for these surfaces since the tread and midsole on the outsole can cause pain and irritation on the sole of your feet.
Road running shoes are made to last a long time, but excessive usage can reduce their lifespan. Trail running shoes have higher durability since they are specifically made to handle rough terrain and obstacles. This means you would have to replace road running shoes more frequently than trail running shoes.
These are the main differences between both these running shoes.
4 Tips for Choosing Trail Running Shoes
Now, how do you choose the right trail running shoes? In my experience, there are a few main factors that can be considered when picking the right shoes. Following are four tips that can help:
Fit – It is important for trail running shoes to snugly fit around your arch area to offer a locked-down sensation in your heel. This eliminates the shifting or lifting over terrain and pathways that are uneven. You must also make sure that there is a thumb wide space between the shoe end and the tip of your toes to enhance your comfort level.
Cushioning – Cushioning is another major factor when selecting your trail running shoes. The ideal cushioning offers a balance between the amount of softness and protection you want and the amount of trail you want to feel under your feet. Effective cushioning decreases the overall impact of running on a rough, uneven trail on your body.
Traction – The ideal trail running shoes would be the ones that have knobby lugs towards the outsole, which will significantly aid traction on wet terrain, sloppy and gravel surface and loose dirt. On the other hand, the shoes with low profile lugs on the outsole are best for smoother dirt paths and less technical trails. A sticky rubber outsole is perfect for trails that include rocks and boulders.
Protection – This is where rock plates come in. It is important to make sure that the trail running shoes you are selecting come with a rock plate in the midsole. It offers increased underfoot protection from awkward foot placement and sharp objects and debris. The rock plate will protect your feet from harm, especially on rugged trails.
5 Best Budget Trail Running Shoes
To make your search for trail running shoes easy, I have compiled the 5 best trail running shoes that won’t cause a major dent in your wallet, but will still provide you comfort and protection during your run. Here are the five shoes I recommend:
Saucony Cohesion – These shoes are extremely popular among runners since they offer plenty of features of expensive running shoes, but at a more affordable price range. These shoes have a durable rubber outsole, which can handle asphalt surfaces but are also lightweight and comfortable enough to run down a rough terrain.
These are a good option for marathoners as well as casual runners who are looking for durable shoes that also provide comfort. The power grid system of these shoes offers a well cushioned and stable ride throughout a long run. It also has a breathable and light upper mesh, keeping your feet comfortable and dry.
ASICS GT-1000 – If you tend to overpronate (feet rolling inward) or have flat feet, then these trail running shoes will give you more stability. These shoes offer good motion control and support at a much more affordable price as compared to other expensive trail running shoes.
These are durable and comfortable, which makes them ideal for walking, running and even playing sports. They include a good quality rubber outsole that offers traction needed for varying weather conditions and uneven surfaces.
Skechers GOrun 5 – While most of the minimalist trail running shoes are less substantial and lighter than other running shoes, they have a high price attached to them. Skechers GOrun shoes are an exception. These provide the features of high-priced minimalist shoes but at a much affordable price.
These shoes are extremely versatile as they offer a good amount of traction and cushioning, which means you can use them for a gym workout, marathon races, and long trail runs. These are durable, flexible, and responsive.
Saucony Swerve – This is another affordable option for runners who either want a good run on the treadmill or the road. It includes the power grid cushioning for absorbing the shock and its Triflex outsole gives you more flexibility with every step. The lightweight and sleek upper easily adapts to your foot’s shape, offering a custom and secure fit.
Under Armour Charged Bandit – These trail running shoes feature a two-piece charged cushioning midsole that is softer around the forefoot, but firmer around the heel. This creates a perfect balance of comfort and support. You get a comfortable and secure fit with the footbed, which molds to the shape of your feet and the stretchy knit fabric upper.
These shoes also include deep flex grooves and a high abrasion rubber on the high quality outsole. They are also available in a variety of fun colors and style, which means you can even wear them casually.
Signs You Need New Running Shoes
For a comfortable run, it is essential that you switch to new running shoes when the time is right. How do you know if it is time to let go of your current shoes and invest in new trail running shoes? If you notice the following signs in your current running shoes, then it is an indication that you need new ones:
- If the tread of your shoes is dead, meaning your shoes’ outsoles have started resembling bald tires and you have been falling or slipping frequently on trails.
- The condition of the uppers has started deteriorating. If there are sizable holes and tears in the upper of your shoes and your feet keep sliding around more, then it might be time to switch to new shoes. Moreover, you might also notice an unusual increase in the amount of grit and dirt in your shoes, which can result in blisters. Therefore, it is best to throw these shoes away.
- If the heels of your shoes are busted and the fabric looks worn out and you have started experiencing blisters or hot spots on your heels or Achilles tendon, then it is a clear sign you need new shoes.
- When the midsoles of your shoes are ruined, which happens because of an excessive amount of compression in the sides, but it is typically not visible easily. You might be experiencing sore feet, knees and other pains and aches during a run.
What is considered an ultra marathon?
An ultramarathon is a foot race that has a longer duration than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles. A 50 kilometer race is usually the first step into the “ultra” distance and can go up to be as long as 200+ miles.
What is the hardest ultramarathon?
The Barkley Marathons are considered to be the hardest ultramarathon around the globe. Merely 10 participants were able to finish it in the initial 25 years of its commencement. It includes 5 loops, each of which are 20 miles and with 67,000 feet of elevation gain.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.
My AT hike was saved by switching to a Garmont shoe with a rock plate. That shoe is no longer made. The shoes you recommend I believe do not have rock plates. Can you give a list of shoes that do have rock plates. I am a marathon runner and a hiker but I am not a trail runner. I need a shoe with a rock plate when I hike.
I would take a look here: https://www.topoathletic.com/activities/go-trail Several of their shoes have full length rock plates made for technical terrain.