Trail running is an enjoyable sports activity that combines hiking and running, often on any unpaved natural surface. It is very similar to mountain running, except that it involves much less physical exertion than mountain running. Mountain running can also include more dangerous rocky sections and more extreme elevations. Because the trails in nature are often very rugged and unpredictable, it is easy to injure oneself when unprepared.
For this reason, one of the most important factors in preparing for trail running is choosing appropriate foot & ankle support. The shoe you choose should provide ample cushioning for your feet while you are running on the trail. As a rule of thumb, it isn't a matter of whether you'll need a support insole or not, but rather which kind you need.
Some of the best trail running shoes on the market today have a flat, wide arch that allows for a natural movement on the inside of the foot. Since there is less arch support in the shoe, it is recommended to add an arch supporting shoe insole for running. Trail runners enjoy the most stability and control on downhill terrain. This arch type is most recommended for off road running as well as cross country running in mountainous terrain. They do not work as well for steep uphill terrain. For a dialed-in arch support, it's important to begin by knowing if you need shoe inserts for low or flat arches, shoe inserts for neutral arches, or shoe inserts for high arches. That will be the best first step in choosing your insole.
Trail running shoes offer a great deal of support in the neutral to high incline positions. A stable midsole with a neutral camber provides excellent traction on any surface. Neutral cushioning keeps the foot pronated or neutral which helps the runner minimize the shock to sensitive joints. These shoes offer superior grip on snow, mud, steep grades and any other terrain found on a trail running adventure. Some of the best brands to look for in these shoes include Brooks, Reebok, Adidas, Nike, Montrail and Puma. To improve foot and ankle support in any shoe, adding an arch support insole with a built-in deep heel cup will cradle the entire foot through every stride.
Some of the most advanced technologies in trail running shoes have to do with regulating the cadence and timing of your run. High-cadence shoes help runners minimize their rate of perceived effort as they negotiate difficult terrain. The slower you go, the less effort you expend. Conversely, if you increase your cadence, it becomes harder to see the path and adjust your speed. Neutral cushioning prevents this by making the shoe more comfortable and limiting the amount of pressure exerted by the heel. Having an arch supporting insole with full-length cushioning will improve your cadence control.
Mountain running involves navigating uneven and technical terrain. This is one type of terrain that cannot be predicted. Runners must plan their speed and pace for unknown terrain and the potential for improvised running paths and inclines. This is another reason trail running is not the same as road running. You need to be flexible in your plans and not rigid. Your feet need to be able to move and adapt to changing circumstances. Having a thoroughly well-supported foot and ankle with a dependable maximum support shoe insole will get you reliable footing for these very circumstances when the trail seems to change right in front of you.
If you love trail running, then you know the bliss of getting out there and pushing yourself to the limits, finding new trails and letting the trails find you. Being prepared (knowing your trail) and having the right gear (appropriate footwear with proper foot/arch/ankle support) is an invaluable part of preventing strain, soreness, or injuries. With the right stretching and nutrition beforehand, trail running (which can always default to hiking if you need it to!) continues to be one of America's most exhilarating ways to enjoy the great outdoors.