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Road Runners vs Trail Runners

Posted by: on November, 13 2013

Found on Competitor.com and written by Jason Devaney

What’s with all the beards and high socks?

Last Sunday, The Everyman watched the significant other in his life (let’s call her The Everywoman) run her first trail race, a 10K. The terrain, she said, featured everything from grass to singletrack, and leaf-covered descents to gravel.

The Everyman made his own set of observations: Trail runners look very different from folks who do their running on pavement.

Here are five notable differences between the two groups:


This is fairly common in road runners, but men of the trail — which includes ultramarathoners — love to sport beards. They’re not quite as bushy as the ones donned by many of the Boston Red Sox players this past season, but facial hair seems to be a requirement if you want to run on the trail. Perhaps they’re on to something: Can you stuff a gel in that thing?trail shoes

Hydration Belts And Packs

It’s one thing for a road runner to strap on a hydration belt before a 10-mile run, but it’s another thing all together to do so in a race. Water stations serve that purpose and allow us to run without water. Trail runners, on the other hand, have to be self-sufficient. And although there were two water stations in the race last weekend, many runners came prepared and wore their trusty CamelBaks.

Running Shoes

The Everyman’s running background is not very diverse, nor is it very deep. He’s a road runner and triathlete, which means he wears standard running shoes that are light and fast. Trail runners, on the other hand, sport all different types of footwear. Some wore thin pieces of fabric that seemed like a mere piece of leather sewn together, while others had beefed-up versions with treads that looked like they belong on a mountain bike. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

Gear Brands

In addition to the usual gear from brands like Nike, New Balance, Brooks and Saucony we see at most road races, apparel from Merrell and The North Face were also popular choices at this trail event. We even spotted a pair of Merrell shoes. It’s true that some of the aforementioned companies produce trail running gear, but the latter two have a firm grasp on the market.


You typically see a lot of low socks at road races. Not so in trail running. These folks wore a mixture of low socks, medium-height socks, and socks that looked like the tube socks we used to get for Christmas as a kid. And they weren’t compression socks, which some road runners wear. Are these to protect the ankles from sharp brush and ticks, or is it a pure fashion statement?

Are you a roadie or a trail runner? Let us know in the comments below.