Trail Running Gaiters

A look at trail running gaiters.

By Bryon Powell on April 11, 2011 | 30 comments

I’m here to talk trail running gaiters. (No, I’m not going to talk about speedy bipedal reptiles.) In case you don’t know, gaiters are pieces of fabric that span from at least the outside of a shoe’s ankle collar to one’s lower leg. Their purpose? To keep debris from entering the top of your shoe and, therefore, reducing the chance of blistering or other discomfort.

Mountain Hardwear Seta Gaiter

An example of a trail running gaiter, the Mountain Hardwear Seta Gaiter.

In a typical trail running configuration, the gaiter is a removable accessory that covers a good portion a shoe’s upper and doesn’t extend far above one’s ankle. For general trail running, gaiters tend to be constructed with thin, breathable, stretchable material that doesn’t impede movement and minimizes heat or water gain. However, at least two trail running shoes – the La Sportiva Crossover and Saucony Razor (iRF review) – go so far as to incorporate a gaiter into the shoe itself. Over the years, many trail shoes have included attachment points, whether brand-specific or generic, specifically for gaiters.

This trail running configuration and set of traits is quite different from hiking or snow-sports gaiters which tend to be made of much thicker fabric, come much higher up the leg, and are aimed at maximum protection (whether from brush or snow) rather than breathability and range of motion.

I mention these non-trail running versions so you don’t accidentally pick up a pair at your local outdoor retailer and go for a run in them when a variety of great trail running-specific gaiters have popped up in the past few years. Over the next few days, iRunFar’s Travis Liles will take an in-depth look at three gaiters:

Call for Comments
When and where do you wear gaiters? If you never where gaiters, why not?


Bryon Powell

is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.