If you’re going to the gym to bust out some kilometres on the treadmill or do some weights, trail running shoes will work just fine.  If, on the other hand, you’re planning to do an aerobics class, trail running shoes will work, but they might not give you the most enjoyable experience.

Trail running shoes usually have a lot more grip than standard running shoes or cross trainers.  They’re designed for rugged terrain and unsealed trails.  They are also usually versatile enough for running on more stable surfaces like cement, roads, and pavement.  But, say you forgot you were wearing your trail shoes and headed off to the gym.  How will trail shoes perform?  Well, it depends what you intend to do while you’re there.

The main differences between trail shoes and road shoes are:

  • Trail shoes usually have thicker materials on the upper. They have strong mesh to prevent rips from trail debris. Most trail shoes also a bit of extra material around the toes, called toe bumpers, to protect your toes.
  • The soles of trail shoes are designed to grip an uneven trail surface. They usually have large lugs, teeth, and a sticky rubber for better traction to deal with dirt, mud, and rocks. Some also have a plate of hard plastic in the mid-sole area to protect the sole of your foot from rocks and sharp sticks.  They’re usually less flexible than road running shoes.
  • Many trail shoes include stability features to help prevent rolling an ankle on uneven surfaces.
  • Although there are light-weight models available, trail shoes are often heavier than the average road shoe.

Treadmill running

Today’s trail shoes have much more to offer than some of the older designs. The first trail shoes were bulky and stiff but today you can find lightweight trail shoes and most offer great flexibility. This makes them well-suited to running on a treadmill. However, if you’re doing faster workouts such as tempo runs or interval workouts, you may feel more comfortable and faster in a lighter road shoe.

Trail running shoes will work well on a treadmill.  You may notice that they feel different to when you wear them on soft ground.  Some trail shoes might even feel uncomfortable, as the lugs may dig into the bottom of your foot slightly.

If you wear trail shoes a lot on a treadmill, you may notice that they wear differently to road shoes.  Since trail shoes only contact the surface of the treadmill at the tips of the lugs, those lugs mar wear noticeably.  It shouldn’t affect their on-trail performance though unless they wear off completely.

If you’re going to be doing a trail ultra, it can sometimes be hard to get enough outdoor kilometres in.  And it’s important to wear your race day shoes in.  So, wearing them on a treadmill makes sense.  Also, many ultras have sections on roads and other hard surfaces, so getting used to running in trail shoes on surfaces other than trails makes some sense too.

Weights session

There’s not a lot of foot work involved in a weights session, so the type of shoe you wear is not particularly important.  Trail shoes will work just fine.

Aerobics class

Aerobics classes involve picking up your feet and putting them down a lot.  So, you might find that trail shoes feel a little heavy.

Also, trail shoes with aggressively lugged outsoles will cause a couple of issues.  Firstly, because of the good grip, your foot will stop abruptly when it makes contact with the ground.  Also, the grip makes it difficult to spin or change direction.

Most trail shoes are quite rigid.  This rigidity will stop your foot from being able to bend as it should.

So, you can probably get away with using a trail shoe, but it won’t be particularly comfortable.

Be considerate

Obviously if your trail shoes are caked in mud, don’t wear them to the gym.  You probably won’t be invited back if you put mud all over the treadmill or carpet.

I hope this helped.  Please leave a comment if you have accidentally worn your trail shoes to the gym.  How did it go?