The Best Grippy But Cushioned Off-Road Running Shoes
“I’ve got a pair of cushioned trail running shoes, which are great on the harder tracks. However, as soon as I hit some mud or explore some fields I’m slipping about all over the place!
I need more grip but don’t want to give up the cushioning. Help!”
In the UK we are very lucky to have access to nice trails that we can often get to straight from our front door. However, as it rains a bit here(!) too you often need a trail shoe that has long enough lugs to give you the traction to run over a muddy farmers field but enough cushioning, durability and traction on wet tarmac to get you comfortably to your trails. When winter arrives we get even more rain and the odd bit of snow and ice too. If you are going to explore all of these types of terrain there’s only a few shoes that cut it in my opinion. Luckily these are the kind of shoes I use almost daily!
My usual route starts on a tarmac path, goes out onto a back road and then over a field that has been ploughed up by the Cows (at 5am I often have to weave through the sleeping Cows, so good traction is a bonus). I am then on a disused railway line for a mile or so that becomes a mix of tarmac and hard packed track for another mile before I am out onto the open fields and into the wooded copses that I enjoy weaving around. This is a distance of 3 miles. The return journey from the fields on this loop is a mile uphill, mainly on tarmac. I usually do about 10 miles and 40% of my route is on hard-packed ground. The other 60% is very wet and muddy during wet times of the year and would be impossible during these periods in anything less grippy.
Important! The shoes listed below are not ‘designed’ for this amount of hard packed ground but I have found three (so far) that for me have enough cushioning to do my tarmac etc in some degree of comfort. The lugs, although made of a soft sticky rubber to give traction on wet rock etc, are durable enough to cope with this level of hard packed track without wearing down too quickly. In the case of the Supertrac and Peregrine ST the lugs are large and have a good surface area. This spreads out the pressure on the lugs so they don’t wear down as quickly as a smaller stud would. Smaller studded shoes like the Inov-8 X-Talon 260 Ultra have a bit less durable outsole when used on tarmac or hard packed track but smaller studs give the best traction on the really muddy, wet fields and it’s a great shoe, popular too.
In No Particular Order
Scott Supertrac 3.0. Our best-selling trail shoe in the shop as this time of year as they offer a good balance between cushioning and traction on wet muddy ground.
Saucony Peregrine ST. A softer feel to the cushioning. More flexible than the Supertrac 2/3 so moulds to the shape of the ground better but, it doesn’t have the same responsiveness that the Supertrac has on firmer surfaces. The eRide (rocker) that the Supertrac has helps you cruise over firm ground almost as if you weren’t wearing a shoe with long lugs. Whereas the softer lugs of the Peregrine ST make the shoe feel slower.
Inov-8 X-Talon 260 Ultra. As these just look like a fell shoe they often get overlooked by runners look for a more versatile shoe. Although the outsole is small studs designed to bite into soft ground it does ride quite comfortably on tarmac. The studs also stick well so you don’t slide on wet tarmac due to the studs only having a small surface area on a hard surface. Inov-8’s standard last is broad and more rounded in the toe box than the more race ready shoes. This makes them comfortable to wear for long periods of time regularly. In my opinion they offer the best grip of the three shoes on wet muddy ground. They could be used for cross country races or fell races. The outsole isn’t as durable as the Peregrine and the Supertrac and they don’t cruise as effortlessly on hard packed ground as the Supertrac.