Trail shoes are a definite necessity for running in Namibia- to give you good grip and stability and cushioning for your feet over
the long distances. Some of you will already have some and have a brand/model preference- but it is well worth trying some well in advance of the trip and wearing them in. Phill and Gregg have advised that the hard surfaces in parts of the Namib desert mean you won’t need intense grip for mud etc- but do need to make sure that they are comfortable over long distances.
A few notes on trail shoes from Runners World magazine:
- Traction. The soles of road shoes are meant to grip roads, meaning they’re not very effective on dirt, mud and rock. Trail shoes utilize various traction—like large lugs, multi-directional lugs with teeth strategically placed to maximize grip, and sticky rubber compounds to give you more control on a variety of trail surfaces.
- Protection. Unlike road shoes, trail shoes often feature tighter-weaved mesh uppers to protect your socks and feet from trail debris, as sand, silt and dirt is blocked by the tight weave. Also, those beefy, rubber caps you often see on the toes of trail shoes serve an important purpose. They’re called “toe bumpers,” and they protect your toes from pain and bruises, should you kick a rock or root. And finally, most trail running shoes have some sort of flexible (some are more flexible than others), hard plastic plate within the midsole that’s there to block sharp jabs from rocks, roots, stick and such. The plate saves the underside of your feet from surprising pain.
- Support/Stability. Some road shoes—the ones built for overpronators—have stability built into the midsole to straighten our a runner’s footstrike. But trail shoes provide stability to all runners, neutral and overpronators alike…and everyone in between. This is a different kind of stability (though an increasing number of trail shoes are integrating traditional medial posts into their shoes). Trail shoe stability comes from more supportive materials on the upper that really aim to strap your foot down and keep it from slip-sliding around too much. That, joined with what’s often a more secure fit in the heel that fans out to a wider toe box, provides stability within the shoe. Externally, trail shoes often feature a wider platform…picture fat, bumpy tires extending from the sides of an off-road vehicle.
A few examples of recommended brands are Salomon, Adidas (Raven), New Balance (Leadville, Fresh Foam Gobi Trail, Fresh Foam Hierro), Brooks (Adrenaline, Cascadia), Asics (Gel Fuji Lyte), Saucony (Ride 9GXX)- have a look and try on a few pairs in your local running shop to work out what fits your feet best.