Without the right shoes, trail running can take its toll on your feet. Ballito podiatrist Nelfrie Kemp shares her expert advice.
Post-pandemic trail running has grown in popularity, enabling us to get out into the open and enjoy freedom, fresh air and fun. But besides a spirit of adventure, what do I need when hitting the trails?
“You need good shoes, water and a sense of direction,” advises Nelfrie, explaining that trail running is gentler on your joints compared to road running with the repetitive same strike on a hard surface. On the trails your feet need to be agile with good balance in your ankles and knees to accommodate the uneven surfaces. Your trail shoes are more structured to keep your foot and shoe functioning as a unit, offering more stability. Trail shoes are also constructed in such a way that each part plays an important role:
Outersole function: To provide off-road traction through sand, mud and water and prevent slipping on rocks and tree stumps. The design of the outersole plays an important role in reducing mud and debris collection while providing maximum traction and stability. The lug height and configuration and the type of material used are very important.
Midsole function: To provide cushioning and contribute to the stability of the shoe. The amount of cushioning needed will depend on the terrain, distance and your running mechanics. Sandy terrain requires more stability than cushioning compared to very rocky terrain, which needs cushioning and stability. Often in the midsole – or between the midsole and the outersole – technology is inserted offering more stability to the shoe, which also acts as a barrier to protect the foot against external factors.
Upper function: The shoe’s upper function is to ensure a secure fit of the foot on the sole and that the foot and shoe can function as a unit. As much as possible, it also needs to be breathable and keep out water, mud, sticks and stones.
Laces: Tie and untie your laces every time you take your shoes off and put them on. The function of the laces is to ensure a secure fit of the foot inside the shoe and for better running.
How to choose the right trail shoes? Try on various brands and walk around the shop. Choose the one that feels most comfortable but also most stable and where your foot and shoe can function as a unit.
How do I know it’s the correct size? Always opt for one size bigger than your normal shoe size. Before buying, take the innersole out of the shoe and stand on it – there should be a thumbs width between your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
Try the shoes on with the socks you intend using.
Before setting off on a trail run:
- Trim your toenails.
- Wear size-specific socks.
- Use petroleum jelly or a balm on your feet to reduce blisters.
- Tie your laces properly.
- If you feel something in your shoe while running, stop and take it out. Left in it can often cause blisters.
FOR MORE INFO: Nelfrie Kemp: www.nelfriekemp.co.za; INST @nelfriekemp; FB @nelfriekemp