30 August 2019

Are trail running shoes overrated?

I can hardly believe that I'm actually writing this entry.

For as far as I can remember (since I started running) I've been a believer in specialization.  That means that if you want to run fast, you need to run fast (as well as running slow in between workouts).  To prep for hot weather racing, you should ... run in hot weather.  For trail races, practice getting out on trail conditions of all kinds.

And different types of running should call for different types of shoes.  Racing flats.  Track spikes.  Cushioned road shoes (for easy/recovery days).  Trail shoes for trails.

But hold the phone ...

Out of (perhaps an overinflated) sense of obligation**, I decided to try out wearing the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (FFE) as my footwear of choice for both the Sunburn Solstice Trail Run and the Limberlost Challenge.  The FFE shoes are designed for the road, whereas both of the aforementioned races were conducted on trail surfaces.  Now I know that anyone who has tackled either of those events would recognize that they are not particularly technical as far as trail conditions (on a scale of 1-10 the Sunburn Solstice might have been a 4 or 5, while the Limberlost Challenge might nab a 6 or 7 at most) so perhaps you could argue that they don't particularly demand the advantages that trail shoes offer.  All the same they are marketed as trail races, and as such would lead your average runner (such as myself) to believe that trail shoes are either mandatory or at least recommended for the course surface.

How did I manage in attempting to take on these races in road shoes?

Long story short, surprisingly well.

I didn't feel like I suffered much in the way of traction or stability, which I was surprised about given their fairly flat outsole profile.  I may not have propelled my way up inclines effortlessly, but then again anything of a serious grade had me power-hiking (hands-on-knees style) anyway.  Where things got technical-ish I was maneuvering slowly and deliberately anyhow, and through sections of significant mud I'm not sure that the traction currently offered to me by the trail shoes in my inventory (the Skechers GO Trail, GO Ultra Trail 3 and Merrell Mix Master 2) would have made a discernible difference.

The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy - only ever-so-slightly nubby outsoles

Basically since I wasn't doing any mountain climbing or fell running (and that's not running while falling - that I've got covered) these road shoes were more than capable of getting me between points A and B, and multiple times over as required.  I found my footing to be acceptably stable, and the FFEs provided plenty of comfort for hour upon hour of trail tromping.

With this in mind I plan on using the FFE as my primary treads when I take on the Hallucination 100 miler next Friday just outside of Hell, Michigan (for real folks).  I'll bring some trail shoes as backups since I've been advised that having extra shoes on hand is always wise for a hundie, but armed with the knowledge that I was able to get through 100km in the FFE blister-free (and retaining the original colour in all my toenails I might add) who knows whether or not I'll need to perform a mid-race swap.

Does that mean that I'm giving up on trail shoes?


I think that trail shoes will still be handy just for the fact that they'll give my road shoes a rest and they may stimulate my feet and legs in a slightly different manner.  That and my trail shoes are my go-tos for winter running traction.

Anyone else have further thoughts or comments on the necessity of trail shoes?  Hit me up in the comments - I'm always open to learning as I bumble and fumble my way stride after stride!

** I received a complimentary pair of the Forever Floatride Energy directly from Reebok Canada, and am under no obligation (contractual or otherwise) to endorse their products on this blog.  All opinions expressed - however poorly - are voluntary and entirely my own.