Do I need trail running shoes to go trail running?
No! Having trail running shoes is not a prerequisite to getting off road and enjoying a run in the great outdoors. In saying that there are some key benefits that come with trail running shoes that you should consider though: traction, protection and stability.
Trail running shoes are generally made with a more aggressive tread, often incorporating deep cleats or lugs that provide additional grip on loose or slippery conditions not uncommon on trails. Of course every trail is different but for the most part you can expect footing will be less reliable than if you were running on the road, it will almost certainly be a lot more changeable too as you contend with dust, dirt, mud, roots, gravel, rivers, sand, and the list goes on!
Trail running shoes usually provide a greater level of protection through the footbed so you are less prone to discomfort or even injury when running across terrain that may have protruding obstacles like tree roots, rocks and stones, etc. This is quite advantageous over a more typical road running shoe that doesn't need to cater for this.
Ever-changing track angles and mother nature's obstacle course makes trail running a different challenge for runners, so having a shoe that helps with providing a more stable platform is a great benefit of trail running shoes. To achieve this, trail running shoes often have a lower profile sole, keeping you lower to the ground reducing the risk of rolling an ankle, and keeps you in better touch with the surface you're on. Some examples even have a "flared" sole design to provide a larger footprint to provide even greater stability.
So while trail running shoes aren't a must have before taking on a trail run, there are some definite advantages that they offer. So don't let it stop you if you only have a pair of regular running shoes, you'll still have a great time! But if it's a new scene to you, you might find yourself shopping for some trail running shoes before you know it!