Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes To Run On Roads?

Running at dawn

Photo by Daxiao Productions/

Content by Simon Gould

These days there are sports shoes for every sport you can think of. They are designed for the movement in the activity in mind. Whether that's a twisting motion like tennis or to grip the ground in golf. Then we come to trail running shoes. Can they be used on other surfaces or are they only for trails and nowhere else? I answer that here.

Yes, trail running shoes are ok on roads

Trail running shoes are sturdy like other sports shoes and can be used on roads. If you want to compete or run a fast time then a road running shoe would be more appropriate. I would also say that a trail shoe will wear down faster if constantly used on the road. They are designed for a much softer surface and have a softer outsole.

If a route you're running has roads as well as trails, you can buy hybrid trail running shoes. These are designed to deal with the combination of surfaces you may encounter. These will have shallower lugs and a tougher compound on the outsole. They are becoming increasingly more common as people find their trail running includes roads.

As you can see there is even variety in trail shoes. This goes further as there are those designed for heavy trails like bogs and other wet and uneven surfaces. It often pays to do some research when choosing the right shoe for you. There are some common difference between trail and road shoes and I'll go through them next.

3 differences between trail and road running shoes

The surfaces each variety is designed for is very different and require different demands from the runner. The road is flat while the trail is uneven. The road is hard on the joints whereas the trail is less so. The trail may have mud and boggy conditions that require far more grip on the sole and the lugs help in this regard.

1. Upper - Trails often have obstacles like debris and tree roots so the upper needs to be tougher and waterproof. The road shoe will be breathable and have a single mesh. The road shoe upper will also have varying support for different parts of the feet like the heel. ASICS in particular specialize in this for their shoes.

2. Midsole - Usually there will be more cushioning in the road shoe due to the harder surface. There will be a heel drop in the road shoe to cater for the pronation of the runner. The trail shoe less so to make sure the runner is closer to the surface. The road shoe has a medial post whereas trail shoes don't.

3. Outsole - Trails shoes have more features to the outsole. It will have deep lugs to help deal with soft ground. The sole is heavier and bulkier as a result. Road running shoes need to be light weight with a focus on speed. Trail shoes need to support the ankles so less injuries can occur due to the surface.

Are trail running shoes worth it?

If you live in the countryside and away from the city then yes. If there are not many roads and you prefer your trail running then yes. They cost around the same as road running shoes where a good pair will run you around $130. Like I said before, if you do some road running then hybrid trail shoes might be a good choice if money is tight.

If you can afford it and you take your running seriously then you may want a pair of both road and trail running shoes. When choosing the trail shoe think about how bad the terrain is. If you live in a wet climate then you need to consider a shoe that can handle those conditions. They cost no more than normal trail shoes.

The good thing about these shoes is they have many uses. Because of the way they're designed they're good for hiking where you'll face similar terrain. They are often darker in style and some people like to do their walking in them. They're tough and durable and so can last a long time. I've even heard of someone who does their gardening in them!

3 hybrid trail running shoe reviews

I've picked what I consider to be the 3 best trail running shoes. They all have the features we need from a hybrid shoe. This make them good on trails and roads but not a true specialist in either. If you want one pair of training shoes for all your runs then you'll do well with any of my selection here.

1. The North Face Ultra 109 Waterproof - Price: $119.95

The North Face Ultra 109 Waterproof

The North Face are well known for making outdoor gear that can stand all weathers and these shoes can take all terrains. Once people buy this brand they usually stay with them which is a good recommendation as to the quality. The upper feature a technology called Dryvent which, while being waterproof, is very breathable.

The laces can be locked down so they don't get caught in anything as you run. There is a toe cap and a leather mud guard which goes round the whole shoe. The foot bed is removable and absorbs and gives back energy with every stride. Overall you get a functional, yet attractive running shoe.

+ Pros - Very reputable brand with a stability shoe designed for both roads and trails. The outsole is hard rubber and the midsole is compression molded.

- Cons - Heavier shoe at 15 ounces. One tester found the sole leaked when running in wet conditions.

2. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 - Price: $144.95

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

The name is inspired by the speedgoat 50k race which is a grueling trail running experience. The shoes are designed to go up steep hills and down just as easily. Despite being a rugged shoe they are surprisingly light at 11 ounces which is similar to the weight of road ones. The lugs are directional for added support and traction.

New technology can be found here as the upper has 3D printed overlays for added support and a secure fit. Testers say they are a balanced shoe with just the right amount of cushioning. This will be due to the foam midsole. Hoka One One are a relatively new company but have gained a big following in a short amount of time.

+ Pros - A lightweight, rugged and breathable shoe. A popular line of shoes with excellent reviews from users.

- Cons - A little bit on the pricey side but you get what you pay for. Might not be useable with specially made orthotics reports one tester.

3. ASICS GT-2000 8 Trail - Price: $119.95

ASICS GT 2000 8 Trail

This is a true hybrid shoe as it has many features of it's road namesake. The outsole is the part that makes it a trail shoe as well as road. There are no real deep lugs so you may want one of the above shoes for deep trail conditions. ASICS are one of the most popular brands for running enthusiasts and their shoes are very popular.

Trail runners may look down on a shoe like this but it's worth a look if you're going on a road as well. I've owned ASICS shoes and the cushioning I find is the most pleasing. This is something I need as I get older and the joints are less strong. They use special gel cushioning in the forefoot and heel and you have that on these as well.

+ Pros - ASICS are the experts when it comes to running shoes. This GT-2000 8 Trail is a true hybrid and is the latest model of it's type.

- Cons - Only minor differences from a road shoe but that's what we're after. May not be suitable for challenging trails.


There's something very exhilarating about trail running, perhaps it's because you're getting back to nature. But even in remote locations sometimes we can't get away from a road or two. This is what makes hybrid shoes a good choice. If you only have normal trail shoes then you don't need to avoid roads altogether.

Getting the right shoe for the activity is important and, as I said before, there are differences between the shoe types. Although you can use a trail shoe on the road, I would avoid using a road shoe on a trail if it's something you plan to do a lot. Ultimately, if you can afford it, buy both and enjoy both surfaces to run on.