The Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed & Compared
The simplicity and wonder of a run through nature can decrease stress and push people out of their comfort zone. If you are already an avid runner, taking your run off-road is a great way to get more out of your run. Having the best pair of trail running shoes will help you get the most out of your run and boost the fun and fitness gains. Luckily, for the off-road runner, there are plenty of great options for trail-specific running shoes, with each having something different to offer. Trail running is becoming increasing popular in many continents. Many road runners get bored of running the same routes and surfaces and want to venture out for a new experience. The transition from road running to trail running is pretty simple. However, runners need to understand that even though some people might say “all you need is a trail”, what they really should be saying is “all you need is a trail and a great pair of trail running shoes.”
In the running world, users typically assess 5 areas before considering which shoe they will buy. These are comfort, stability, traction, weight and durability. All play a huge role in the happiness of the runner wearing the shoe. In this buying guide, all areas have been reviewed to create this top 10 list. The good and bad have been pulled from real online reviews to give you the best understanding of what each pair of shoes have to offer.
- Salomon Speedcross 4
- Abrasion Resistant Upper
- Altra Lone Peak 3.0
- Zero drop running platform
- New Balance Leadville V3
- Amazing performance
13 Best Trail Running Shoes
Salomon Speedcross 4
Designed with the Sensifit® system, when this shoe is put on, runners will notice a soft, great step-in feel. It gives runners a 10mm heel to toe drop and the EVA midsole provides excellent cushioning and anatomical support. The easy-on, easy off Quicklace system is special to the Salomon shoe line. Having this will give you a one-pull, secure, customized fit. It also has lace pockets to secure the ends of your laces. The shoe is designed with a gusseted tongue which keeps debris out during your run. Salomon also has a waterproof, Gore-Tex option for those runners who seek a waterproof version. For those who do not choose the waterproof version, they will find better breathability for their feet when running the trails.
The outsole is made of Contagrip ® which works well on a variety of surfaces. It has been tested on wet surfaces and did not have any slipping issues. The specific geometry of the lugs has been scientifically tested and designed to give the right solution for everything you encounter. The grippy, deep lugs will keep you upright on unpredictable surfaces, keeping you fearless on your runs.
This shoe is lighter than the previous model with a weight of 10.9oz. It does not give up foot protection for its lighter weight.
Typical for most trail running shoes, The Speedcross 4 offers a protective rubber toe cap and mud guard. Of the numerous online reviews available, no one commented on a lack of durability. It is praised for its resilient performance, time and time again.
High stack height
Not as breathable as most
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Anyone who spends a lot of time in this shoe will appreciate the moderate cushioning. This is a true zero-drop shoe which is meant to support a runner’s natural gait. If you currently use a small zero-drop shoe, this won’t be a big transition. Added cushioning does give in to lack of stability on technical trails. Reviewers noted that although this is the best Lone Peak version Altra has come out with, to avoid frustration you need to check the sizing chart as they felt it had changed from the 2.0 model. Also- if you have high arches, expect to purchase inserts to give you the additional support you need, as the built in arch support is not very high.
The TrailClaw (outer sole) can perform well in most environs, including slippery rocks. Mud will not get stuck between the spaced out lugs which is a plus.
This shoe is on the heavier side at 16oz. Even though they carry a heavier weight, users still felt like they were responsive to the ground and their individual step and stride.
Although not waterproof, the mesh upper dries quickly after a soggy run. No complaints about the outsole were reported. Normal wear and tear can be expected. Cushioning will hold strong throughout the miles put on this trail shoe.
Wide toe box
Gaiter attachment site
Offered in different shoe heights
Wide Toe box
New Balance Leadville V3
This is a comfortable shoe right out of the box due to its Skeleton FantomFit and Low Profile N2® responsive cushioning. This shoe has a medial post which works well for over-pronators and runners with wide feet. The upper mesh is stretchable to accommodate for swelling during ultra-marathons. The uppers design is also fit to reduce weight, irritation during long runs and stiffness. The support around the heel and rock plate keeps sharp rocks from pushing through. One user commented that even after an 18-mile run which involved running through creeks, the shoe dried quickly and he did not need to change socks the entire run.
The biggest change in this shoe from its previous version, the 1210V2, is the Vibram outsole. Runners rave about the quality of this technology, however, you shouldn’t completely count on it in snowy, sloppy conditions. Runners noted that it can be trusted on packed snow, gravel, rock and in the mud.
The Leadville 3 weighs 10.8 ounces and has an 8mm heel to toe drop which works for most runners. The stack height provides great underfoot protection without taking away from the runner’s ground feedback.
This is has a good balance of “armor” and mobility. New Balance claims that their cushioning will hold up for over 500 miles. Many reviewers noted that their V3s continue to go strong with no stability breakdown or mesh ripping. It was built to last under the toughest conditions.
Vibram Rubber Outsole
No-sew material application
Runners report lugs wear down
Saucony Peregrine 7
Runners like the firm and responsive cushioning and lightweight feel of this pair of trail running shoes. The heel plate and stiffness of the posterior aspect of the shoe gave some users blisters while working uphill. The designed this series with a wider toe box and neutral support which pleases many users. Heel to toe offset is 4mm, which delivers more of a natural ride and lets your feet and body to more work while relying less on the shoes’ cushioning and stability features.
This shoe does well on flat trail, but might struggle on steeper, smoother surfaces. Its PWRTRAC outsole has remained unchanged in this version and grips well to rocky terrain and you won’t feel anything piercing through the sole. Its outer teeth-like lugs give the shoe a great appearance and keep runner upright on technical terrain.
The 8.4 ounces per shoe is on the lighter end, at least for a trail shoe. The lighter feel will help you be able to work more on speed during your training runs. This also sets the runner up for a more sensitive and responsive run.
This shoe is good value for the price. With the protection of the rock plate and grippy outsole, this shoe should hold up well on any running excursion. The RUNDRY collar lining wicks away moisture for a fresher in-shoe feel, each time they are worn. The upper stays together well, due to being made by tightly-knit mesh and synthetic materials.
Sock liner odor control
Heel plate might cause irritation
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3
This shoe has a wide toe-box for runners requiring a little more room for socks/orthotics etc. and near zero drop (4mm). It is also lightweight and you will find the sole has a spring-like feeling that will give you a bounce of energy in each step.
The tongue of this shoe is made from part of the upper that wraps around the top of your foot, which eliminates one potential area of discomfort as there is no seam on the lateral side of the shoe.
Great traction is one of the top features of this shoe. users of any experience level will enjoy wearing this one on the typical gravel, asphalt, grass and dirt. The traction on this shoe can also give you stability on snow and ice. The outsole is made of a high-abrasion rubber with a waffle-like pattern, which makes it durable and sticky.
Weighing in around 10 ounces depending on size, this shoe is not the lightest on the market, but it does run like it. With the way it forms around your foot, you will not find any heaviness with your steps.
This shoe holds up to the slightly higher price tag. It’s strong enough to endure very long distances and ultras as well, which makes it a top choice for people who train for these.
Great underfoot protection
Altra Superior 3.0
I addition to many of the usual attributes seen in Altra's shoes, such as zero drop, anatomical foot shaped build, decent traction, we also really like the Gaiter Trap. This is basically an attachment on the heal of the shoe that holds onto Altra's trail running gaiter. It seems like a little thing to get excited about, but wait until you get small rock in your shoes...
The durability that you can expect is quite good. Like most of their products, these will last as long as you take care of them. Definitely avoid taking on hardtop too often. The tread will wear down quicker on the road, as these are intended for the trail.
Zero drop running platform
Exceptional traction with aggressive treads
Includes Altra's Gaiter Trap
If sized right, these can be a good option for wider feet
No water resistance
A little expensive
The upper is nearly seamless. There’s great amount of cushioning and there’s big energy return. The shoes are quiet wide but they still stay true to the size. These shoes work great when it comes to absorbing the impact. There’s very good ventilation and even if you get your shoes wet, they will dry fast. Also great if you want a little bit more of arch support. There’s also heel counter so your heel is less prone to injuries and it also boosts comfort.
What many runners didn’t like about these shoes is the traction. The traction is quiet average, it may not be good enough for many runners. When the mud isn’t the big problem, rocks or wet rocks are big problem.
You may think that this bulky looking shoe isn’t very lightweight but in fact, it’s not very heavy and what’s most important, you don’t feel this weight on the feet.
Runners said that in general, these shoes are durable but some complained about the outsole.
Design and look
Many users really liked the simple design of these shoes and the ventilation system. Only few runners didn’t like the colors of the shoes but there were also runners who adored black-orange version.
These give you snug fit but you steel have roomy toe box
According to reviewers, feet are less fatigued in these shoes
Very big amount of cushioning
Somme runners complained about stability
Pearl iZUMi Trail EM N2 V3
The biggest complaint about this shoes previous version was that it was too firm. The company listened to the reviewers and made this version with a 4mm heel 1:1 energy foam and took it from a 52C to 45C. In addition, mesh Strobel board, which is used to connect the upper of the shoe to the sole, is made with less adhesive and material. This helped take the firmness out of the shoe. Midfoot support of this shoe is provided by a saddle that was added to the medial aspect and is incorporated into the laces.
The sure-lace system that is custom to this shoe, helps the laces stay tied for your entire workout. The heel of the shoe still uses a rigid heel counter that has additional padding and a nice collar to provide comfort and lock in the heel. Reflective heel accents and tongue mesh increase low visibility safety on the road.
Durable and sticky lugs make up this rubber outsole. The lugs weren’t designed with anything specific in mind, which makes it a great, all-around shoe to wear on any type of terrain.
Weighing in at 11.4 ounces, this show is middle of the road when it comes to overall mass. It gives the right balance of protection without being too bulky.
Due to sturdy construction, these shoes should last. The flexible, yet protective rock plate protects user’s toes well. Reviewers also felt that when these shoes picked up moisture, they dried quickly.
Merrell All Out Crush
There are two foams in the heel and it the toe are and there’s one another around them to provide more comfort. The upper is really lightweight and there’s big boost when it comes to ventilation. There’s also additional layer to provide more protection while running. Many users really praised the breathability, there are little perforations which helps your feet to stay drier while running. There’s special Merrell long lasting that helps to keep your feet dry while running. It also prevent unpleasant odor as there is antimicrobial feature. What is extraordinary about these shoes is that they’re also vegan friendly.
The rubber provides good traction no matter on what terrain you run. The grip is excellent and it’s really slip-resistant .
As you see, we try also focus on weight as running in lightweight shoes is much more comfortable. These shoes aren’t exception- they are quiet lightweight but they still provide enough support.
Many runners, after having tested these shoes, said that these will stay with them for a long time.
Design and look
Runners really adore the simplicity of the design and the colors, most of them is classical, it’s really hard to see mud or dirt on them.
Some runners had problem with debris getting inside the shoes
Asics Gel Venture 5
This shoe is equipped with rearfoot gel cushioning system to displace shock during impact, which makes it ideal for heel strikers. It also provides a smooth conversion to midfoot when running and makes running downhill less jarring. A removable sock liner can be taken out if you need more room in the shoe for a pair of orthotics. This shoe seems to fit runners who like a narrow midfoot with a wider toe box for toe splaying. This Asic has a great arch support in it, which makes it ideal for runners who have plantar fascia issues or high arches.
Asics AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Rubber) has been placed in critical areas of the shoe to give you the most traction. Reversed lugs provide stability going up and down hill. The outsole is also designed with horizontal and vertical flex grooves which let the foot move more naturally.
The weight per shoe is 10.7oz which is pretty average in the trail world. No complaints were found about this shoe being too heavy or too light.
Most users praised these trail running shoes for their durability, citing the amount of miles they put on these shoes without breakdown. This is due mostly to the full-length midsole foam which carries the foot well. Several reviewers noted outsole separation and stitching coming apart.
Reasonable price tag
Many color choices
Wider toe box
Slightly narrow midfoot and heel
Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP
Users of this particular model tend to comment most that it has helped with their previous knee/ankle/foot aches and pains due to its engineered RMAT® midsole. The oversized midsole also gives runners excellent shock absorption and increased support. The increased support is ideal for runners with weak ankles or heel/foot issues. The protective rubber toe cap prevents accidental stubs from stopping your run.
One key advantage this shoe holds over others is its Event® waterproof membrane. It has a full-bootie construction which helps keep feet dry in any situation. Reviewers noted that even though this shoe is heavier than most that their feet did not get too hot or sweaty while training.
The Hoka’s 5mm lugs and Vibram® MegaGrip Hi-traction outsole gives users an average amount of trail traction. The Forefoot flex grooves also supply comfort and support. Runners should feel confident hopping from rock to rock and working through muddy areas without slippage.
The large midsole of this show is 2.5 times the size of a normal running shoe. That volume comes with extra weight in each shoe (approx. 1lb each). However, runners generally feel that weight is worth the stability and comfort and do not notice the added bulkiness. Due to this shoe being bulkier and heavier, runners lose sensitivity they would normally feel in a less cushioned shoe.
These are the only trail running shoes on the market that will give you a waterproof, durable and stable ride. Sturdiness won’t be an issue with its body made of full grain leather, something you don’t see other shoes on the market being made of. Reviewers noted that even though these shoes were more expensive, they are well worth the investment.
Supportive through the ankle
“Moon-boot” type look
Less ground feel
Adidas Vigor 6 TR
There’s stable mesh upper that provides great amount of stability. There’s a lacing system so you get snug fit. There’s foam that makes you feel really comfortable even while running on rocky terrain. EVA midsole cushioning makes running more comfortable and there’s also moisture-wicking inner liner. These shoes dry really fast so you don’t need to worry about the water that much. If you want true breathability, these shoes will provide it- the upper is very well ventilated. There’s special pull tab to make putting on and off the shoes much easier.
There’s special ,,TRAXION” outsole to provide you a maximum grip no matter on what terrain you use these shoes. There’s rubber sole which is very durable and it works really well even when it’s wet.
Customers said that these shoes are really lightweight and this really help to survive more demanding trails.
The whole construction provides a lot of durability. There are high quality materials used in the shoes and for example the rubber is very durable.
These shoes look really great and they’re not bulky like many other models. They have unique design and customers really loved the colors. You will want to wear the whole time.
Very reasonable price
Some people said that the durability was good but not the best
Inov-8 Mudclaw 300
As we’ve said before, these shoes will be great for running on the muds. Runners really enjoyed them and they really liked that the shoes are water-repellant. On the other side, many runners said that there’s very low support when it comes to the arch. There’s Eva cushioning for comfortable running and there’s special rock plate that makes the movement of your foot more natural. There’s good level of protection even when it comes to the toes. The shoes are narrow so people with wide feet should choose the size very carefully.
The sole is made of rubber and this provides also anti-slip traction. There are hard studs in the rubber which really makes this traction amazing.
You may think that trail shoes can’t be lightweight but these shoes have perfect weight. Many runner appreciated the lightness of these shoes.
We make sure that the rubber here is very long lasting. What’s more, there are also special spikes are very hard to wear down and they boost the durability of the shoes.
Design and look
These shoes are more like simple, classic trail shoes. There aren’t many colors to choose from so it may be a problem for some of you.
Great for muds
The support of the arch isn’t very big
These are the shoes that made our top ten list for tackling the trails. Runner-ups to this list would include The North Face Ultra Endurance and Merrell All Out Rush trail running shoe. As you can see, there are a ton of great shoes out there with lots of options. The science and thought process behind each of these products is pretty remarkable. What’s most important is to find what works for you. Finding the right balance between price, comfortability, traction, durability and support will help you avoid injury and enjoy your hobby.
Once you find a pair of trail running shoes that works best for you, be sure to give them the proper care so you can get the most out of your purchase. Avoid washing your shoes in the washing machine. Mud and dirt can be removed with a toothbrush with soap and warm water. Going along with that, do not place your beloved shoes in the dryer. This will alter the shape and fit of your shoe. If your shoes are wet from a run and need drying, simply place newspaper inside of them and wait.
Important Factors To Consider Before Buying A Pair
As mentioned before, there are a few factors to think about when it comes to finding the appropriate runner for off-road terrain. While many of the characteristics are ones that you would also look for in a road shoe, there are some key factors to take note of for use off of the pavement. The one that stands out and makes the most difference is traction or grip. When you hold a trail shoe up next to one designed for road use, the difference between the tread and sole are often pretty obvious. As trails don’t offer a consistently even and stable running surface, the appropriate footwear will have quite a bit more grip designed in the tread. Durability is another key point to take into consideration. Depending on the terrain you typically plan on attacking, the overall strength and construction of the model can make a ton of difference as well. Here are some of the major things to pay attention to when find a pair that will work best for you.
This is a big one for most types of footwear, but can make all the difference on the trails or rougher terrain. The obvious visible difference with trail shoes is, often times, the more aggressive tread and outsole. The level of aggressiveness may depend on where you plan to normally run. If you are usually going to a park where the paths are well groomed without any major obstacles, then a less aggressive tread pattern will suit your needs well.
If you want to really push yourself, going for the sections of the forest or hills where the beaten paths end and the challenges begin, Then you will need to choose something that will help keep you upright and attached to the ground. A more rugged and aggressive sole and tread will then be your best option. For those more challenging areas, a model with deeper lugs and even outward facing treads on the outsole would be something you may want to consider.
If you intend on keeping your run focused on clean paths and light trails, all that extra grip is probably overkill. However, it is better to still have something with a bit more traction than a road shoe.
This is absolutely an important thing to factor in with choosing any type of footwear for running or other sports. Not only does breathability affect overall comfort, this also help avoid issues that come with built up moisture such as blisters as well as hygienic and bacterial problems.
Especially when running across harsher terrain, the sweat tends to pour a bit more in the summer. For that reason you should really try to find a decent model that offers a great amount of ventilation and breathability.
If you are like me, and like to keep heading off-road through the winter months as well, the a trail shoe which offers good breathability in addition to protection from the elements is going to be your best bet. A good way to do it is to have different pairs for different seasons. Take a look at models that are made with Gore-Tex or other proprietary weather proofing materials, which most brands seem to offer these days. The more weather resistant models will most likely cost a bit more, but once you land in that first puddle in the beginning of a late fall or winter run, you’ll be glad you spent the extra money. That is especially the case when you are at mile 2 of a 10 mile brisk December run.
Just remember, waterproof and weather resistant don’t always have to mean zero or minimal breathability. The technology applied to footwear in general has come a long long way.
Comfort / Stability
This area really has more to do with your own personal preference, as well as your specific feet and what they need as far as comfort is concerned. Most trail shoes, by design, have a decent amount of stability. In most cases that comes for the wider splay of the shoe’s outsole and tread layout. And, as far as comfort is concerned, many models are cushioned to take the changing surface that is encountered with off-road terrain. Although the dirt, grass and sand is much softer than pavement or hardtop, you have to take into account exposed tree roots, rocks and loose surface that may have debris underneath.
There are also quite a few minimalist and barefoot type trail runners available. With these you shouldn’t expect much or any cushioning. So, if you are a bit more sensitive the ground feel, or have foot conditions which require more cushioning and support, it may be wise to stay away from those more minimalistic designs.
The way to look at it is, do these provide enough stability for the area I want to run? And, will they get me through my entire run comfortably?
Weight is another important thing to consider for all types of runners. Do you really want to lug heavy shoes over any type of terrain, no matter if it is easy or technical? Of course not.
With the technology that goes into manufacturing new footwear, most options that are currently available will not be super heavy. However, there are still options which are much lighter weight than others. Although newer materials are much lighter these days, the more cushioned models may still weigh a bit more than than those with a lower profile design.
Lighter is always better, but this can also be left to personal preference. There really aren’t too many super heavy runners being made these days, but, like I said, there will always be those which are lighter than others.
Simply put, you want these to last. Trail models can often cost a little more than road models, so you definitely want to get your money’s worth out of your purchase. You will see many brands producing runners with abrasion resistant panels, protective overlays and even heavier duty laces and proprietary lacing systems.
The shoe you pick needs to be able to stand up to the particular type of terrain you plan on attacking. This is absolutely a situation where you quite often do get exactly what you pay for.
Price isn’t the most important factor when it comes to choosing trail running shoe but the cost of the shoes should also be evaluated. It’s not a good idea to look for very cheap running shoes as they probably won’t be the best quality. Even if you need to tighten the belt, good trail running shoe is a basic. It must provide good protection and traction or in other case, you may get hurt and you may have serious problems with muscles, tendons and etc. On the other side, very expensive running shoes are sometimes overpriced. The key to success is to think what features do you need in your trail shoes. It’s obvious that comfortable wearing, stability, great traction are must have but some shoes are packed with many others features that you may not need. Think about it and it’s advisable to check price in the end of research.
Unlike the road, paths and trails and even forest environments often present obstacles such as exposed tree roots, sharp rocks, thorns, and sometimes even fallen trees or limbs that you will have to get over or around. The option for footwear that you choose should really have some type of protective properties to help you stay safe.
Many brands who produce models intended for more challenging environments will build in trail protection plates, to help against those sharp rocks and other rougher surface obstructions.
My thought on these types of protective additions is that this allows me to go further and more aggressively with an added bit of safety.
We are very aware that our readers have many questions about trail running. This is why we have prepared questions that are very popular amongst runners and we tried to give you the best answers. See if there’s something interesting for you.
Q. All trail running shoes are waterproof, aren’t they?
A. Not every running shoes are waterproof. There are many models that tend to be really good for trail running and you can really enjoy comfort but when the weather is becoming rainy, shoes that aren’t waterproof may be destroyed. If you even plan to run on heels, you must remember that the water may appeal and it’s better to have good shoes for that. The problem is that even when producer describes shoes are waterproof, many runners complain about the shoes not being waterproof at all. In general, you need to be aware that too big amount of water isn’t good for many shoes when you have them on foot. It’s not that they can be destroyed but it’s also about the moisture inside. This is a great environment for bacteria to spread.
Q. What are the differences between road shoes and trail shoes?
A. There are many differences between trail running shoes and road/ normal running shoes. Imagine that you’re going to run in the hills, on rocky surface. Would you like to do it in your normal running shoes? This wouldn’t be the greatest option for you and your health. Trail running shoes provide usually more protection as your feet are more prone to injuries. When it comes to the sole, trail shoes have much deeper traction and it’s better than in road shoes. This is because you need this grip on the rocky terrains. Road running shoes are less protective and durable. On the other side, you don’t need as much protection when you hit the road. Road shoes are also much lighter than the trail shoes and road shoes are definitely more stylish. Even if you have great quality road shoes, we really don’t recommend to use it for trail as you may get an injury.
Q. When it comes to trail running shoes- more expensive are better?
A. Well, this is very frequent question as many runners tend to think that the more expensive running shoes the better they are. That’s not true. The price depends on many different factors. It’s natural that very popular brands with more prestige, their prices are higher. There are many cases the shoes form prestigious brands have the same quality as those from less known brands. On the other side, there are brands that have a little bit higher because they use only high quality materials. You need to think about the price but it shouldn’t be decisive factor. There are many other important factors like comfort and stability, focus on them first.
Q. Why running trail shoes are so expensive?
A. There is one reason why they’re a little bit more pricey. Good trail shoes, like those on our list, are made from high quality materials. The materials for the shoes like rubber or special mesh aren’t very cheap especially if you want good ones. There’s also much more support for particular parts of the feet so additional changes need to be made. Trail shoes must be more protective. This is why, the elements must be sturdy. Trail shoe must be also very durable as it’s used on different kinds of surface like rocks, mud and many more. That’s why the trail shoes may be more expensive.
I really hope that this was helpful. Finding the perfect pair mostly comes down to what you feel is most comfortable, as well as what fits your budget. However, the above factors should really be considered to get something that will last and provide you with the best possible overall experience while heading off-road, no matter the experience level or difficulty of the terrain you choose to go for.