Just when you thought you'd come to terms with road-running, the sports-shoe manufacturers have upped the stakes. Run up a mountain; up and down is good; flat is ... well, flat. You only have to look at the press ads to see that this year's running accessory is a chunk of scenic moorland on the end of your trainers.
But going off-road for your weekly jog doesn't mean you can go off-message, says Sean Fishpool of Runner's World magazine: "The most important thing with any running shoes is to make sure they match your feet." Sound advice. And anyway, reckons Fishpool, unless it gets really muddy, you can get away with a stout pair of running shoes on most trails.
True – but many of the larger shoe manufacturers have invested lots of money in convincing you otherwise. So, what should you look for in a decent pair of trail-running shoes? "The grip is the most important difference," says Fishpool. "A good off-road shoe will have deep lugs – the grip will be deeper and more pronounced – with softer rubber that grips better on wet surfaces."
A number of manufacturers have attempted to produce hybrid road-and-trail shoes, but these usually fail to do the job on either surface. Without Tarmac to contend with, a good trail-running shoe, for instance, needn't be particularly well-cushioned – and the runner should be able to respond better to the terrain. And, as you're more likely to encounter uneven surfaces, a minimally cushioned shoe provides greater stability by keeping the foot closer to the ground. This is more important than ankle support – as with road-running, people with different biomechanics will need different amounts of support. "If your foot tends to roll in a lot when you run, you'll need some support on the arch side," says Fishpool. "Only if you're running a lot with heavy loads will you need a shoe with outer supports."
Over the last few years, shoe manufacturers without much of a track record in road-running have attempted to remodel the running shoe drawing on their outward-bound know-how – specifically, North Face, Timberland, Salomon and Montrail, all represented on this page. But it remains to be seen whether their products have what it takes to run for the hills.
With thanks to 'Runner's World' magazine (www.runnersworld.co.uk)
Salomon Raid Race
A suitably well-supported shoe from a manufacturer better known for its ski hardware. Competent, with unconventional but effective lacing system.
North Face Coyote Ridge
Good grip, but tread with care – these shoes provided a worryingly loose platform for the foot, particularly for those with narrow feet.
Montrail Hurricane Ridge
Stable, supportive, comfortable shoe, that coped well on- and off-road. Ignore the Gore-Tex lining – useless when the rain soaks down through your socks.
Nike Air Storm Pegasus
Not much more than the Nike Air Pegasus road shoe, but that's recommendation enough. Holds the foot firmly and comfortably, providing good stability.
A stylish shoe from this famous manufacturer, but clumpy and heavy – OK on a walk (or on the dancefloor), but not much good for trail running.