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I'm thinking about possibly getting some trail shoes, but was wondering whether running to/from the off-road area would damage them? Sorry if this is a daft question.
Normal trail shoes not much.
Shoes with extreme tread, designed for mud running will wear more quickly.
^^ this, the waffle type like kanadia's, salomon speedcross, inov8 mudclaws etc will wear fast on tarmac.
Pretty much every trail race in the UK has significant amounts of tarmac in it.
Some of the more technical trail shoes such as the INOV8 mudclaw will get destroyed on tarmac, but the majority of trail shoes are designed to mix it up a bit.
My kanadias aren't showing any signs of wear, and I've done quite a few road miles in them. I don't find them a particularly comfortable shoe though... but there are always some shoes that fit an individual well, and others that don't... so I wouldn't let that put you off trying them.
'Trail' shoes should be okay, but 'fell' shoes (the ones with deeper, softer grip) will get damaged. Take Ben's example - Inov8 Mudclaw would get ripped-up, but Inov8 Flyroc wouldn't be too bad (I know, because I used these for 8 months in Africa/Asia on all surfaces).
I've done quite a few road miles in my Brooks Cascadia with no sign of wear on the sole. A few worn patches on the uppers though so it might be time for a new pair soon.
My New Balance MT110's have held up well on the road - apart from when I did a fell race with a mile of fast downhill on tarmac, I think that took more rubber off than over 500 miles on trail!
Generally, you'll find trail shoes uncomfortable for long tarmac / road sections due to less cushioning. As I run in minimal road & trail shoes with 0-4mm drop it doesn't really bother me
agree with above comments :
most trail shoes are good for gravel and hard packed mud surfaces and therefore perfectly ok for tarmac e.g. my pure grit are very comfortable on the road.
however more extreme trail shoes like my inov8 mudroc are superb for really slippy, muddy terrain are uncomfortable on road and grip wears down very quick.
My Mizuno 'Wave Harriers' don't wear too bad on tarmac, but they have a dual density soleMy older pairs of Inov-8 MudClaw 330 & RocLite 315 have very worn soles due to wearing them to get to local bridleways/footpaths, or from running to work in the snow (especially when it was melting)I now retain a pair of 333's & 315's purely for off-road use & only wear them for fell-races
I bought 2 pairs of New Balance 573s in the factory shop sale last year. They have very soft grippy tread. I used the first pair to train for and run the Wall last year, which consisted multi terrain running, and much the same a soft set of formula 1 tyres, the soles have worn down with just under 300 miles on them. Although they were an excellent choice for off road running, I will opt for an all terrain shoe for the next multi-terrain race I enter.
Inov-8 have 2 different rubber compunds for their soles. The one that is referred to as 'sticky' is a softer compound and may wear down slightly quicker. However i have a pair of Roclite 295s with the softer sole and i wear them most days as my general shoes around the office and home. They haven't worn down as fast as I was expecting and therefore don't see any real problems with trail shoes have exposure to roads.