What is a trail running shoe?

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We’ve all seen the classic New Balance tagline – “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio”. Well, this effectively has happened on a larger scale with the humble trail running shoe. The function is in the name: they are designed to offer support and enhance performance on every difficulty of trails; ensuring that people can run comfortably and confidently. But, nowadays, if you stroll through a city centre, stop and look around. Trail running shoes and outdoor apparel will most likely be spotted within moments.

Now we can’t tell you exactly why this is, but we can have a pretty good guess. Trail running shoes are long lasting; they are comfortable and functional, often equipped with innovative technology that makes them leagues above casual trainers in feel and movement. A lot of them look great too, offering outlandish styles and colourways that have turned heads up mountains, on the terraces and catwalks. We can’t quite explain it, but we love them, and they tick all the boxes in what a shoe should be.

Once upon a time though, they were just crafted for tough trails, and it’s probably these hardwearing origins that have helped them hurtle into the modern streetwear market decades later. Now, we aren’t going to hark back to the outerwear from centuries ago, but let’s reminisce about some of the golden ages of the trail shoe.

Let’s start with one of our favourite labels – Salomon. This brand has explored every corner of the earth, especially now, as it is one of the most popular silhouettes in the Gorpcore trend that has swept through cities, transitioning from the underground to the mainstream. Salomon was born in 1947 in the ‘Venice of the Alps’ – Annecy; ever since its humble origins, it has established its place as one of the archetypal outdoor brands. Whether its versatility, durability, striking styles or its roster of innovative technology, these shoes always deliver. Think the XT-6, XT Mission-4, XT-Quest – Salomon fits have decades of practice.

Also boasting an outdoor legacy is Merrell, a label that has been supplying the finest outdoor gear for over four decades now, establishing itself as one of the world leaders in the trade. The brand’s roster of trail shoes seemingly has no end, with classics like the Agility Peak 4, MQM 3 and the Moabs doing the rounds on mountainous escapades. These models feature everything from Vibram soles, waterproof GORE-TEX elements and the most durable materials on the market.

One of our other absolute favourites – and by far one of the most important outdoor-streetwear fusions – the legendary Nike ACG line. Tried and tested in the great outdoors, the All Conditions Gear sub-label is both a cult classic and a streetwear mainstay, offering seasonal styles throughout the year. Hailing from ’89, the brand has worked with the likes of Tinker Hatfield and Peter Fogg, helping craft something utterly unique and futureproof. In terms of trail shoes, Nike ACG is certainly an innovator when it comes to style and function – models like the Mada, Lowcate and Mountain Fly are examples. Compact in structure and instantly recognisable through branding and unique colourways, the shoes hold their own in the sneaker market.

We could carry on listing our favourite brands that do some fine trail shoes – The North Face, Hoka, ASICS etc – but we think that the above really encapsulate the functional origins and unique styles of these shoes, a combination that has helped them ease onto city streets. There’s heritage to these labels too, and people like to have shoes that can do it all, while lasting forever. Whether you have a pair for outdoor hiking or city strolling, nowadays, they are suited to both. So as utilitarian Gorpcore uniforms venture from streetwear to mainstream, trail shoes will certainly be the cement of these outdoor-inspired urban outfits – geography teachers have never looked so cool. 

Find your trail fits here.

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