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Different Running Shoes for Different Terrains

Different Running Shoes for Different Terrains Hollie Sick FueledbyLolz

One of the best things about running is that you don’t have a lot “needs”. You do need one good pair of shoes that fits your feet and your running tendencies. Other than that, you don’t need expensive socks, gear and watches. As you continue running, you might notice your favorite basic running shoe isn’t performing as well on wet, muddy or icy terrains. Or maybe you prefer something that gives you more cushion for your treadmill work outs. Or if you start doing races and running longer distances frequently, you might want a shoe that gives you more confidence and makes you feel faster. There are numerous reasons to have different running shoes for different terrains.

First, How Many Running Shoes Do You Need?

At a minimum, you need one good pair of running shoes that you know works for you. If you‘re not sure where to get that best pair of shoes, consider going to a local running store and getting fitted. The store’s employees are trained to help you figure out what shoe is best for you and what shoe best works for your particular needs.

When should you buy more running shoes? Having two pairs of shoes is better if you find yourself running and training on the same terrain at least five times a week. Having one pair that works for you is good, but two pairs that you rotate is great.

If you find yourself changing the type of terrain you’re running on, you might want even more than two pair. There are specific running shoes designed for running on trails, on the track, and even for speed workouts. By using the type of shoe that best fits the terrain, you are going to get the most out of your training. If you have ever tried to run fast in a heavy and bulky pair of running shoes, you know that having a lighter and faster speed work shoe can make a huge difference.

What kinds of running shoes are there?

Trail Shoes:

If the trails you run on are flat, smooth dirt trails, you probably don’t need a trail shoe.

But if your trails often get wet, muddy or technical, a trail shoe might help. If you are climbing steep and rocky terrain, having a trail shoe will keep you from slipping and sliding. Most trail shoes have extra features, such as waterproofing or rock plates to protect the bottoms of your feet. They also have extra traction features to help keep you upright when running in muddy or slippery conditions. Also, trail shoes are often better for running on snow and ice because they have more traction.

Track Shoes:

Unless you are training and racing a lot on the track, track shoes are unnecessary. But if you find yourself getting ready for a track race or doing a lot of track workouts, a track shoe can benefit you. What makes a track shoe different? If you look at one, you’ll notice there isn’t a lot to it. It’s typically a lightweight shoe with minimal cushioning. It has spikes that help you grip the track and run faster. You can’t train a lot in a track shoe because there is nothing to them, in terms of support, cushioning, etc. Running high mileage in a track shoe will likely result in an injury!

Treadmill Shoes:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no “best” shoe for the treadmill. Many people, myself included, prefer a more cushioned shoe for the treadmill because the body feels less beat up afterwards. If you run on your own treadmill at home, you might want a shoe that you don’t also use for outdoor running. This will help keep your treadmill cleaner. Your regular everyday trainers are a great option for the treadmill.

Speed Work and Race Day Shoes:

Most serious runners know that speed work and race day running shoes have come a long way in the last few years. Before 2017, carbon-plated footwear was not really a “thing.” Today, you’ll see all kinds of carbon-plated footwear being worn in races and workouts.

Why have a speed work shoe? You want a shoe that makes you feel confident, one that makes you feel fast. Usually, you don’t get those feelings with your easy run or daily run shoe. A speed work shoe is designed to run faster and help you feel more confident. This will make you feel like you’ve gotten the best out of yourself. It’s not going to improve your running fitness if you haven’t trained, but having a speed work shoe can help you run your fastest on race day.

So how many shoes do you really need?

Like everything with running, it depends on your goals. Any runner needs a minimum of just one good shoe for that is best for them. If you are training and want to set PRs and run your best, you’ll eventually want more running shoes. This will help you get the most out of yourself as you run more frequently. Your training will vary and you will end up running different distances and/or on different terrain.


Hollie is a runner, hiker, swimmer, residing in California. She has worked in run specialty for nearly 8 years and has fit hundreds of people for shoes. Outside of the running world, she enjoys the general aviation world, her two cats, and spending time with her spouse.