Can trail running shoes be used on pavement?

Can Trail Running Shoes Be Used on Pavement?

You’ve inevitably had to run on the road as a runner (road or trail). A thought has crossed your mind, whether it’s a lack of access to trails, switching up terrains, or tip-toeing across to get to another trail like you’re playing Floor is Lava.

Can you wear trail running shoes on pavement?

Buying another pair of shoes to use sometimes is a waste of money. Why not use one pair for both?

The easy answer is this. Yes, trail running shoes can be used on pavement. If you’re going on runs less than 10k, trail running shoes will do fine in most cases.

There are some caveats, though. And we’ll dive into those in this post.

I’m sorry, can I bother you for a moment?

I’m sorry, can I bother you for a moment?

I’m researching the trail running community. If you don’t mind, would you mind sharing your opinion?

Table of Contents

Can trail running shoes be used on pavement safely?

So, if you read the intro, we know the answer. If you didn’t read the introduction, shame on you; go read it.

But let’s cover some things before you lace up your trail runners and head out to the roads.

What is the difference between road running and trail running shoes?

There are a few key differences between road running and trail running shoes:

  • Weight
  • Lugs
  • Padding
  • Protection
Can trail running shoes be used on pavement — Road Shoes and Trail Shoes

Trail running shoes are (usually) heavier, more protective, have less padding and have deeper lugs for digging into softer terrain.

For a more thorough explanation, read on 👇.

Weight

Road running shoes are usually lighter than trail shoes. Trail shoes are designed to protect your feet from rocks and roots (more on this in a bit). So, that comes with added weight.

Running shoes are designed to be light. Road runners want quick leg turnover; even a small weight addition can throw that off.

If road running shoes are Porsches, trail running shoes are tanks.

You can find lightweight trail shoes (like Salomon, Merrell, and Altra) with mesh uppers and lighter builds. But, it’s hard for trail shoes to compete with road shoes in a weight competition.

Lugs

Trails are never the same. You’re running in the dirt and may run on stones before switching to mud.

There’s always variety.

So, trail shoes have to account for this with deeper lugs and excellent traction. When you’re on the road, your biggest worry is stepping into a pothole. So there are no lugs or very short ones.

Lug depth is important to consider when using trail shoes on the road

The deep lugs on trail shoes make for a very unpleasant running experience on the road. If you’ve ever run in a pair of baseball cleats or a similar spiked shoe, then you know what I mean.

So, if you’re searching for a trail shoe to use on the road, look for one with lower lug depth.

Padding

Padding is the amount of fluff companies stuff into a midsole. If you don’t know what a midsole is, it’s a big piece of padding on the bottom of the shoe to make your run comfortable. Then, they put an outsole to protect it.

With trail shoes, usually there is less than in road shoes.

Road shoes come with more padding typically. Trail shoes will often have less.

I say usually because that’s changed in recent years with brands like Hoka, who prioritize more padding.

However, road running shoes are built to maximize comfort with the repeated pounding of the pavement.

Protection

Trail shoes are more protective than road shoes. Trail shoes include rock plates at the front of the toe box, stability features, and more.

All this is to fend off rocks, roots, and any other hard item on the trail trying to make you scream expletives.

But, with all of that comes more weight.

Imagine trail shoes as the middle ground between a hiking shoe and a road shoe. It does a little bit of protection and speed well.

Road shoes don’t have any of this built-in because (I’m assuming here) your roads are pretty flat and free of objects.

So, if you’re wondering, can you run on pavement with trail running shoes, you should consider all this.

Are trail running shoes good for running on pavement?

Absolutely. Many companies design their trail running shoes to be good on trails and the surface of the roads.

So you can wear trail shoes on the road. But, you want the correct type.

Shoes like the Brooks Cascadia, Adidas Terrex Agravic, Nike Pegasus Trail, and more come with smaller lugs, which feel better on the road.

I'm wearing the Nike Pegasus trail shoes on a flat dirt path, similar to pavement.

Plus, they often offer padding like road shoes (like the Nike Pegasus I’m wearing in the picture above).

Trail shoes vary in how much padding they put in their midsole, but most trail running shoes offer a lower stack height.

What brands can you run on pavement with trail shoes?

Most brands are releasing shoes best for trail and road. And you can find the top lists on websites like Runner’s World. 

But, some top brands look are:

  • Brooks
  • Adidas
  • Nike
  • Hoka

Some brands are okay on roads, but they’re built explicitly for trails. These include:

  • Salomon
  • La Sportiva
  • Altra

Some might say, “What about Salomon trail running shoes on pavement?”

I’ve used Salomon trail shoes on pavement before, and they were…okay (the exception being the Salomon Sense Ride).

I’ve had a similar experience to what others mention about Salomon shoes. If you run on slicker or wet pavement, it’s not a fun experience.

Your feet slip, and you’re at risk of hurting yourself; there are just better trail shoe options for running on pavement.

So, is using trail running shoes on pavement a bad thing?

So, is it bad to use trail running shoes on pavement? Everyone hates this answer, but it’s up to you.

You know what is comfortable for you.

But, be aware you’re degrading your trail shoes much quicker.

Trail shoes will degrade much faster on roads.

Trail running shoes are for soft dirt trails. Companies create rubber lugs to dig into the dirt/mud and give you sure footing when needed.

So, if you’re going to use trail running shoes on pavement, keep some things in mind:

  • Be aware of how your trail shoes do in rainy weather
  • Know what type of street/sidewalk you will be running on
  • Know how quickly your shoes will degrade before needing to be replaced

Conclusion

Wondering whether trail running shoes can be used on pavement is common among runners. Saving money and reducing the number of shoes you have are all reasons to want to narrow it down to one pair.

But, there are things to consider before you decide to use your trail runners on the road.

Hopefully, this post helped you out. If you enjoyed this, you might also wonder if you can wear trail runners as hiking shoes. This post will answer that question for you.

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