Is It Okay To Wear Trail Shoes On The Pavement?


You’re running on a new trail with your trail shoes on and realized there’s a long 5km stretch of pavement that you need to run. Now the question is, is it okay to run with your trail shoes on the road?

Although trail running shoes are generally made for rugged terrains and muddy trails, it’s okay to wear them on the pavement. But keep in mind that they may be heavier and harder than your usual road running shoes.

Ahead, we will talk about some other key differences between the two. In addition, we will answer some other frequently asked questions regarding wearing trail shoes on the road.

The Key Differences of Trail Shoes Vs. Road Shoes

There’s no harm in using trail running shoes on the road, however, you must know the key differences between the two.

That way, you’ll know why one shoe is better than the other when you use them for its intended purpose.

DifferencesRoad Running ShoesTrail Running Shoes
Upper BreathabilityMore breathableUsually less breathable
GripShallower lugs results in less gripDeeper lugs increase grip
StabilityFewer stability featuresMore stability features
ProtectionLess protectionMore protection
DurabilityBuilt only for road runningAble to withstand punctures and abrasions from trail debris
WeightGenerally lighterGenerally heavier
Summary of the differences between trail and road running shoes

Breathability

The upper of road running shoes are usually made with light materials to improve the breathability of your foot.

You’ll often see a mesh upper like the ones used for Brooks Ghost 14 (my favorite shoe, by the way), or a sock-like upper like the Adidas Ultraboost.

A close up photo of the Salomon Sense Ride 4 upper

On the other hand, trail running shoes are usually thicker and tightly woven for durability and to prevent trail debris from puncturing your shoe.

In addition, trail shoes often have some sort of layers of protection around the upper further decreasing the overall breathability.

Outsole Grip

Trail running shoes are designed to grip on different types of terrains like loose soil, muddy trails, or even wet rocks. They appear to have harder outsole and deeper lugs which help protect your foot from debris and improve grip.

A close up photo oh the Salomon Sense Ride 4's outsole
A close up photo oh the Salomon Sense Ride 4’s outsole

Road running shoes, on the other hand, are designed to only be used on the road (and maybe some paved trail). That is why they have shallower lugs and softer outsoles which helps keep them lighter and more flexible.

Stability

A photo of me standing on a rock wearing my Salomon Sense Ride 4 trail running shoes
A photo of me standing on a rock wearing my Salomon Sense Ride 4 trail running shoes.

Trail shoes usually have better stability features brought by the combination of a good fit, stickier grip, firmer platform, and various technologies such as the Pivot Post system of the Brooks Cascadia 15.

That’s because trail running shoes are built for uneven terrains which require better overall stability compared to running on a flat surface.

But it doesn’t mean that road running shoes have no stability features. There are what we call stability shoes aimed to prevent the overpronation of the ankle.

If you want to know more about stability shoes, check out the article that I made comparing stability shoes from neutral shoes.

Protection

Trail running shoes have a thicker upper, firmer toe-box, harder outsole, and sometimes even an underplate designed to protect your foot from sharp rocks and trail debris.

Road running shoes, on the other hand, don’t need that much protection.

Durability

Because trail running shoes are built for harsh terrain, they are often more durable than road running shoes if you compare them side by side.

Weight

Although you may find some trail running shoes to be lighter than some road running shoes, in general, trail running shoes are heavier than most running shoes on the market.

As mentioned, trail running shoes are designed with thicker upper, denser soles, and more stability features to be able to handle harsh terrain better adding to the overall weight of the shoes.

Road shoes, on the other hand, are designed to be as light as possible to increase running speed.

Related post: What To Wear For Trail Running? (Complete Gear Guide)

Do The Soles Of Trail Shoes Wear Off Faster On Pavement?

I’ve once talked to a friend claiming the outsole of his trail shoes got worn off because he uses it occasionally on the road.

However, the soles of road running shoes are softer and thinner compared to trail shoes. And even so, we use our road running shoes for several months to years.

That said, I don’t think the outsoles of trail running shoes wear off faster on the road.

Is It Harder To Run With Trail Shoes On The Road?

When you’re running on the pavement, you need a shoe that’s light and soft at the same time.

I’ve had a personal experience of running 10km with my Salomon Sense Ride 4. Our route involved traversing a steep mountain than going back to our starting point in a circuit.

The pavement portion was about 10 km and it honestly felt better than I thought it would. Although I’d like to point out that the Sense Ride 4 (link to Amazon) is rated for all-terrain use so it’s literally made for that kind of situation.

On the other hand, It might feel harder to run a trail shoe like the Salomon Speedcross 5 that has a very aggressive sole on the pavement. These shoes are designed solely for muddy trails so using them on the pavement might not be a good idea.

The bottom line is: If your trail shoes are light, soft, and rated for “all-terrain” or have a not-too-aggressive sole, then it might not be much harder than running with a road shoe as long as you’re using it only for a short distance.

However, if you’re running for long distances, it is best if you switch to a road running shoe that you’re comfortable with regardless of the type of trail shoe you are wearing.

Mixed Terrain: Should I Wear Trail Or Road Shoes?

There are times when your route is a mix of both trail and pavement. In that case, what do you use then?

Well… It’s really up to you and your preferences. But to get an idea of what I’m thinking whenever I’m deciding what to wear, I listed my preferences when running on different conditions below.

For Routes With Technical Trail and Some Pavement: Trail Shoes

If my route involves a technical trail, then I absolutely go for trail shoes even if the pavement portion is longer.

That’s because I need the protection and grip offered by trail shoes when running on a technical trail.

For a Mix Of Buffed Out Trail and Pavement: Road Shoes

Buffed-out trails are trails where trail debris and sharp rocks have been cleared out, similar to roads you see on rural areas that aren’t cemented yet.

Since I won’t be needing the extra grip and protection of trail shoes in this kind of trail, I wear road running shoes for a softer and lighter feel.

For Long Pavement and Some Wet Trails: Trail Shoes

If the trail is wet even when it’s buffed out, I prefer using trail shoes to avoid slipping.

Also, I find that my socks usually get soaking wet when I run with a road running shoe on wet trails.

Related post: Running In The Rain: The Complete Gear Guide

For Long Pavement and Some Trails: Road Shoes

I always wear road shoes whenever my goal is to run distance on flat surfaces, even though I’d have to go through some trails.

Final Thoughts

Although trail and road shoes are different in terms of purpose, I see no problem in using trail shoes for the road if the situation calls for it.

The more important thing that you should be concerned with is the overall comfort of these shoes. Find a shoe that fits you right, and provides the comfort that you need.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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