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May 15, 2024 4 min read

There comes a time when a lot of hikers realize that if they had run instead of hiked they could have gone twice as far. For many, that’s the appeal of trail running.

Trail running combines hiking with jogging to turn what would otherwise be an overnight backpack into a simple morning jaunt, and elevates pavement-pounding jogs into backyard wilderness adventures. Plus, you get variety and challenge, exploration, a car-free exercise experience, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from tired calves and a dusty throat.

As with any sport, having the right gear makes a huge difference. Shoes are a huge factor, but hot on their heels are running vests, which are like tiny, super-light backpacks that can help you comfortably go further into the wilderness.

What to look for when buying shoes for trail running

When choosing trail running shoes, there are several important features to consider to ensure they meet your needs and preferences. Here are some key features to look for:

Traction: Trail running shoes should have a durable outsole with aggressive lugs or treads that provide excellent traction on various surfaces including dirt, mud, rocks, and wet terrain.

Protection: Look for shoes with adequate toe protection, such as a reinforced toe cap or bumper, to shield your feet from rocks, roots, and other obstacles on the trail. Some models may also have a rock plate in the midsole to protect against sharp objects. Trying on shoes is critical–some ultralight trail runners are narrower than you might expect, and this can expose your toes to rocks and stuff on the trail.Durango Outdoor Exchange has a shoe nook stuffed with high-quality and CHEAP trail shoes.

Stability and support: Trail shoes should offer enough stability and support to help prevent ankle rolls and provide stability on uneven terrain. Features like a firm midsole and a secure fit can contribute to stability.

Cushioning: Consider the level of cushioning you prefer. Some trail runners prefer minimal cushioning for a more connected feel to the ground, while others prefer more cushioning for comfort on longer runs or rough terrain.

Breathability: Look for shoes with breathable uppers that allow airflow to keep your feet cool and dry, especially during hot weather or intense runs.

Waterproofing: Depending on the conditions you'll be running in, you may want trail shoes with waterproofing to keep your feet dry in wet or muddy conditions. Keep in mind that waterproof shoes may sacrifice some breathability.

Weight: Lighter shoes can help reduce fatigue on longer runs, but be sure not to sacrifice durability and protection for the sake of weight.

Fit: Fit is crucial for trail running shoes. They should have a snug fit without being too tight or causing discomfort, with enough room in the toe box for your toes to splay naturally. Trying shoes on before you buy them cannot be stressed enough.

Drop: Drop refers to the height difference between the heel and the toe of the shoe. Trail shoes come in various drop heights, including zero-drop (flat), low-drop, and high-drop. Choose a drop that matches your natural running mechanics and preferences.

Durability: Look for durable materials and construction that can withstand the rigors of trail running, including reinforced stitching, durable outsoles, and abrasion-resistant uppers.

Gaiter compatibility: Some trail shoes come with integrated gaiter attachment points or compatibility with aftermarket gaiters, which can help keep debris out of your shoes on rugged trails.

Price: Finally, consider your budget. Trail running shoes vary widely in price, so choose a pair that offers the features you need at a price point that fits your budget. Looking to save money? Buy used!

Best features to look for in running vests

When selecting a running vest, also known as a hydration vest or pack, it's important to consider several features to ensure it meets your needs and preferences. Here are some key features to look for:

Hydration system compatibility: Many running vests come with hydration bladder sleeves or pockets to accommodate hydration reservoirs. Look for vests with easy access to hydration and compatibility with your preferred hydration system, whether it's a bladder or soft flasks.

Hydration capacity: Consider the volume of water the vest can carry. Choose a capacity that matches the length and intensity of your runs.

Storage pockets: Look for a vest with multiple storage pockets in various sizes to carry essentials such as nutrition, a phone, keys, ear buds, or extra layers. Pockets should be easily accessible while running and ideally positioned for balanced weight distribution.

Adjustability and fit: A good running vest should offer adjustable straps and multiple sizing options to ensure a snug and comfortable fit. Look for vests with adjustable sternum straps, side straps, and/or compression straps to customize the fit to your body shape and size. Like shoes, these must be tried on in person.

Breathability and comfort: Choose a vest made from breathable materials that wick moisture away from your body to keep you cool and comfortable during long runs. Mesh panels and breathable fabrics in key areas can enhance ventilation and prevent overheating.

Weight: Consider the weight of the vest, especially if you'll be carrying it for long distances. Lightweight materials and minimalist designs can help reduce fatigue and discomfort during extended runs.

Reflectivity: Safety is paramount, especially if you'll be running in low-light conditions or on roads with traffic. Look for vests with reflective elements or attachment points for adding reflective gear to enhance visibility to others.

Durability: Vests tend to be quite light and thin, so they won’t last forever, but look for one that seems well-built.

Additional features: Some vests come with extra features like trekking pole attachments, whistle buckles for emergencies, or removable storage compartments.

Price: As with any gear purchase, consider your budget when selecting a running vest. While higher-priced vests may offer more features and advanced materials, there are also budget-friendly options available that still provide adequate functionality and performance.Durango Outdoor Exchange often has vests priced at 25% of new list price.

Other accessories that make trail runs fun

Shoes and a vest are the main pieces of year you need, but consider some other things too:

  • Gels, chews, bars, and drink mix
  • Blister pads, moleskin, anti-chafe cream, or tape to wrap an injured ankle
  • Lightweight breahable rain jacket or insulating layer
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Squeeze water filter
  • GPS or activity watch
  • Hat, Buff, or bandana
Chase LaCroix
Chase LaCroix

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