Your Guide to Waterproof Trail Running Shoes for Men
First off, regular running shoes are great, but you need a pair of trail shoes and not normal running shoes if you’re running off the road. And if you’re going to be running through forests, on a grassy field, on beaches, footpaths, or bridleways, you need a pair of waterproof trail running shoes.
You want to keep your feet from getting wet and cold as you run through mud, snow, puddles, and damp grass. Waterproof trail running shoes come with membranes that not only protect your feet from these external conditions but also allow sweat vapor to escape while you run.
So, how do you pick good quality waterproof trail running shoes? Read on to find out.
What to Look for in Waterproof Trail Running Shoes
With popular brands in stiff competition, it can be challenging to pick just one waterproof shoe from the plethora of choices. I mean, there’s a bunch of those out there!
Picking a running shoe from a brand with a great reputation is easy – simply look at what everyone around you is buying and do the same. However, knowing why a shoe is right for you is more important than the brand or reputation, in my opinion.
So, the next time you want to choose a pair of waterproof trail running shoes, here are some important things to keep in mind.
Of course, you are buying a waterproof running shoe, so the first thing you want to look for is how well the shoe can protect your feet from water and sweat vapor.
Waterproof features are not necessarily only for stomping your way through rivers, streams, and puddles. If you are running in damp and cold conditions (not just wet conditions), a waterproof feature is a must-have. Besides shielding your feet from moisture, it will keep them warm on cold days, too.
Keep an eye out for Gore-Tex waterproof shoes. Trail running shoes with Gore-Tex have breathable fabric membranes that quickly repel water. They are lightweight and designed for all-weather use.
Shop Waterproof Trail Running Shoes for Men
Tread and Traction
Beyond the brand name, shoe color, and other superficial properties of waterproof trail running shoes, two important features to consider are the tread and traction.
You want to choose something with a sufficient grip so that you don’t trip and fall easily. The shoe’s ability to protect your feet from water and dampness is great, but it also needs to keep your feet from slipping and give you full assurance with every foot placement during runs.
Where you intend to run has a lot do with the amount of tread and traction you need. Relatively smooth lug patterns under the shoe will suffice for running on even surfaces and dirt footpaths. On the flip side, if you plan on running on top of the sloppy hills, scaling mountains, and run through loose and muddy grounds, you will need deeper and claw-like patterns for better grip.
Next on the list of features to look for is the cushioning. Trail surfaces are usually unforgiving – with loosed surfaces, protruding objects, and all whatnots, it is best to have some type of cushioning to protect your foot from impact.
Some people choose to buy running shoes without cushioning because they want to feel the impact of whatever it is under their foot so that they can adapt their steps accordingly. Others prefer to have the protection of cushions.
Both choices are a matter of personal preference. But, in my opinion, it is best to have protection for your feet, especially on long runs, to minimize injuries.
Typically, you have four options to choose from when it comes to cushioning level:
- Barefoot: these types of running shoes do not have any cushioning or padding. They let the runner feel the full impact of the trail so that he can adjust his steps to take in the shock.
- Minimal: these shoe types provide just enough layers of padding to reduce discomfort. It is a good choice if you are not fully committed to the barefoot ideology.
- Moderate: this is the most common type of trail running shoes. It comes with sufficient cushioning to ensure adequate protection and comfort when running on the ever-changing surface of a trail.
- Maximum: although these shoe types are often criticized for their excessive bouncy feel, they are best for long-distance trail runs. They come with maximum padding, which greatly reduces stress on the ankles and joints.
Shop Barefoot Trail Running Shoes
- WHITIN Men’s Minimalist Trail Runner (Wide Toe Box)
- Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 3 Trail Runner
- ALEADER hiitave Unisex Minimalist Trail Barefoot Runners
The height difference between the heel of a shoe and the forefoot is known as the heel-to-toe drop or offset. Before you choose a trail running shoe, endeavor to check the drop or offset (often given in millimeters).
For example, a running shoe with 30 mm of material beneath the heel and 25 mm material under the forefoot has a 5 mm drop. To help you get things in perspective, minimalist running shoes usually have a drop between 0 to 4 mm (although the figures can be higher depending on who you ask).
But don’t confuse larger cushioning to mean larger heel-to-toe drops. A trail running shoe can have plenty of padding without necessarily having a large drop. And the reverse is also true – a pair of running shoes can come with a thin layer of cushioning but have a larger drop.
You don’t have to split hairs about the exact millimeter of shoe drop that is most suited for your feet. If you are unsure about the best shoe drop for you, don’t worry too much. There is no point in using shoes that will cause major disruption in your body’s biomechanics. To be on the safe side, choose a running shoe with a low heel drop. These shoes encourage strong landing on the forefoot and ensure adequate balance.
However, because not every trail runner the same needs, it is best to talk to an expert, especially if you have issues with your tendon or your feet in general. This is another reason why shopping from a specialty store is encouraged. You can talk to knowledgeable staff members who can recommend the best type of heel drop for you.
There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to trail shoes, whether they are waterproof or not. These incorrect assumptions are not unconnected to too much tech that comes with running shoes.
Let’s set some of these erroneous ideas right to further help you decide what’s best for you instead of making buying decisions based on herd mentality.
No One Has a Fixed Gait – Not Even You!
It’s easy to get too hung up on assessments such as being a natural runner, an under-pronator, or over-pronator. These gait evaluations might be correct on treadmills or other controlled conditions, but a completely different set of rules apply when you are on the trail.
Running on the road or pavement gives you a relatively steady surface. However, running on a trail means your path and surface is constantly changing. And because of the continuous change, your foot does not interact with the ground in a consistent pattern.
Of course, waterproof trail running shoes are designed to support your feet and gait, but you do not have a fixed gait due to the changing terrain.
Bottom line: focus more on supportive shoes instead of gait assessment.
Barefoot Running is Not a Type of Shoe – It is a Technique
Minimalist footwear, as the name suggests, provides very little cushioning in running shoes. The logic behind this is pretty straightforward. If you don’t have bouncy shoes, you are most likely to take shorter strides. Also, without plenty of cushions in the shoe, you are forced to land on your forefoot and take it the shock through bended knees.
While this is simple to comprehend in theory, it is a lot more difficult to practice in real life, especially for beginners and larger runners. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to learn barefoot running, regardless of the type of footwear you buy.
Here’s one other thing to ponder. A trail’s terrain is not a smooth surface like pavement. You may encounter rooted and rocky grounds, and your feet need the most protection it can get from a pair of trail running shoes – something minimalist footwear offers very little of.
Bottom line: choose minimalist footwear if it suits your style, but keep in mind that buying a particular shoe type doesn’t automatically translate to a running technique.
Waterproof Membranes Don’t Always Keep Your Feet Dry
Waterproof shoes are designed to keep water from getting into your running shoes as well as quickly letting out sweat vapor. The ability to perform both functions keeps your feet dry and comfortable during your run. In a nutshell, Gore-Tex membranes will keep your feet dry – no argument there, but this doesn’t apply in all conditions.
It is best to choose a trail shoe without a membrane if you intend to navigate puddles, pass through streams, or if you think there is water along your path that goes above your ankle. Without a membrane, the water will drain quickly instead of remaining trapped in the shoe, and slowing you down.
Your Socks Can Make or Mar Your Running Shoes
It doesn’t matter if you got the best pair of waterproof trail running shoes; as long as you don’t have a good quality pair of running socks, the shoe can do you no good.
It may be true that some running shoes are just plain bad! They give you blisters and make your feet hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. However, a pair of sock can make all the difference in the world.
They might not be exactly “sexy” when it comes to athletic gear, but running socks can keep your feet feeling good throughout your run. They are designed for high-friction and high-intensity purposes. They come with built-in features that keep your feet from blisters, skin creases, pinching, and general discomforts.
Bottom line: get a good trail running shoe, but don’t forget to buy good-quality socks, too.
Even the Best Running Shoes Will Eventually Tire Out
Whether your running shoe is from the best brand in the world, and regardless of how attached to it you’ve become, it will get tired and worn out one day.
Trail running shoes take a lot of punishment and endure an alarming amount of wear and tear. Eventually, all the padding (if yours have any) will become compressed and offer little to no protection.
Being sentimental does not do you any good when it comes to running on tired shoes. You will only be jeopardizing your form, joints, muscles, ankles, and feet by doing so. When it is time to change your shoes, never hesitate to do so for your safety.
Bottom line: your safety is better than a brand name or shoe style. If you can, buy a few pairs of your favorite shoe so that you can have some in reserve.
Trail running is a different type of running and requires a different type of running shoes. You want to keep your feet protected from the uneven surface of the trail and the harsh, wet, damp, and cold conditions out there.
For this reason, a pair of waterproof trail running shoes is a must-have if you want to have any semblance of success with your outdoor runs. Whether you buy a minimalist trail running shoe or one with maximum padding, it is important to protect your feet from possible hurt and injuries.
Instead of buying trail running shoes because everyone you know is buying that particular brand, learn why the shoe is the best fit for you. Choose what makes sense to you, and not just what “everyone” is buying.