The 10 Best Trail Runner Shoes Reviewed
There is nothing like getting some fresh air while you are working out. Trail running lets you enjoy some scenery and the great outdoors while you are getting some great cardio exercise. If you are going to hit the terrain though, you should probably do so in a pair of dedicated trail shoes, ones which will grip into the dirt and mud while cushioning your feet against the rocky patches. Exercise is important but it is also important to take care of your feet. In this article, we will tell you about the ten highest quality running shoes on the market and the information you need to make an informed buying choice.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 24 hrs of research
EVA midsole with lightweight cushioning
Aggressive sole grip
100 percent synthetic
10 Best Trail Running Shoes
1. Salomon Speedcross 4
EVA midsole with lightweight cushioning
Aggressive sole grip
100 percent synthetic
They are a little narrow
This is the fourth edition of the Salomon Speedcross and is an epic addition to the line. These shoes are iconic with an aggressively lugged sole designed perfectly for running on rough trails or soft ground. Salomon has always been committed to a passion for mountain sports and a desire to create innovative designs. This design features a contra grip rubber sole, an aggressive grip for rough ground, and an EVA midsole with lightweight stability and cushioning.Read more
The Speedcross 4 is made of 100 percent synthetic materials which are lightweight and durable. The rubber sole has an aggressive grip which will give you a stable and penetrating traction on technical or soft ground. The precise foothold is close to your foot and has a feel of comfort and security. The sole has a contra grip with a midsole height of 30mm/20mm and the shoe weighs about 310 grams. The midsole is made of strong EVA which gives you great ankle stability and foot cushioning. There is also a strong, minimal lacing system and strong laces which you can pull together with one tug. They are easy to take on and off.
2. Altra Lone Peak 4
StoneGuard to protect your foot
MaxTrac for premium traction
The sizing is different than the 3.5
The Altra Lone Peak 4 is a solid pick for virtually any trail. These socks have a mesh upper is durable with an integrated tongue. They have a rubber sole with an improved MaxTrac that has an advanced grip. The StoneGuard matches the skeletal structure of your foot. These shoes have a stack height of 25mm with moderate cushioning and weigh about 10.6 ounces each.Read more
Altra has created the Lone Peak 4 is an enhanced version of their original trail shoe only this one has significant updates. It has an integrated tongue like the previous version but this upper has static webbing so it will cinch better. There is a flexible strap overlay that gives your forefoot a more roomy fit. There is also a toe cap which is sandpaper textured. This shoe features highly improved breathability with draining mesh in the forefoot and heel and the TrailClaw if decoupled. There are also carved lugs designed to improve traction. The StoneGuard is also completed updated. It is shaped to match your foot’s skeletal structure to give you ideal performance and flexibility.
The Lone Peak running shoes were designed specifically to handle gnarly mountain trails at any time of the day, at any pace, in any weather, or whatever workout you choose. With this shoe, you will get the perfect combination of an aggressive outsole and a tough upper. This is one of the hardest working and toughest shoes you will ever have in your closet.
The outsole is made with MaxTrac rubber that is designed to give you maximum traction. The toe box is shaped like your foot which lets your toes relax and spread out more naturally in your shoe. This gives you better balance and more comfort during sharp uphills or downhills. There are zero drops in these shoes so your heel and forefoot are the same distance from the surface of the ground. This will give you a good low-impact form during your run. They also have A-Bound cushioning, an energy-return compound that will sit under your foot and help take away from of the ground impact. You will get a little more spring in every step.
The tabs on these shoes give you a strapless gaiter attachment so you can wear gaiters and keep debris out. These shoes are fitted with Trailclaw which is canted lugs that are strategically positioned under the metatarsals which give you extra traction at your toe-off. There is also MaxTrac which is a perfect mix of traction, grip, and durability which will chew up some rough terrain. In between the A-Bound and the EVA midsole is the StoneGuard which gives your feet flexible protection when you are running on rugged terrain. It deflects the rocks into the midsole so you can have a smoother run.
3. Hoka One One Speedgoat 3
Breathable mesh construction
CMEVA foam in the midsole
5mm lugs provide traction
Only comes in four colors (that was the worst we could find)
The Speedgoat is named for Karl Meltzer, the man who holds the record for having the most 100-mile trail wins. This shoe has the go everywhere and run-everything type of attitude. It is designed to tackle the most rugged trails. The stability, fit, and durability have been improved since the Speedgoat 2. The Speedgoat 3 has the same wider midsole and toe box as well as the aggressive MegagGrip lugs. It also has extra support in the heel and midfoot lockdown in the upper.Read more
The Speedgoat 3 is engineered with breathable mesh construction and support. The TPU midfoot overlays are inforced to make sure you have a secure fit. The midfoot cage is designed for stability with lockdown and foot capture. The EVA midsole is oversized to give you a lightweight cushioning. It has a wider platform to give you a more stable base when you are running on uneven ground. Runner’s World named these shoes the “Gear of the Year” winner in 2019. It is a stable and durable shoe that is very comfortable across any trail.
This shoe also has enhanced support for your heel. The midfoot has a lockdown in the upper. There is also a “seatbelt” support on each side of the shoe. The CMEVA foam in the midsole will help to protect the impact points and will give you a more stable footing. The Vibram Megagrip outsole has a great traction with 5mm lugs. These lugs are multidirectional to give you a solid grip even on varied terrain.
4. Adidas Terrex Tracerocker
Breathable mesh upper
Lightweight EVA midsole
Sole has rugged Traxion outsole
They are reported to run a little small and narrow
Adidas is a well-known name in sport's shoes and these are perfect for running your favorite trails. They are synthetic and come in a choice of five colors. The shaft is measured approximately low-top from the shoe’s arch. These shoes are designed for extended comfort so your feet will be ready for the run. They are made with lightweight EVA. The outsole is a high traction rubber which is sturdy and will help you keep your footing.Read more
The Terrex Tracerocker is the perfect shoe for running trails at the lower elevations. They are made with a durable, lightweight design. They are constructed of breathable mesh and has panels that are synthetic for some added support. The outsole is rugged and offers stability and a good grip. This shoe has a regular fit and lace closure. The upper is synthetic mesh and a Traxion outsole which is the perfect mix of good grip and stability. The midsole is made of lightweight EVA which lets your feet enjoy long term cushioning.
The Tracerocker is a durable and lightweight trail running shoe that is designed to be used for light trails. They are outdoor shoes that have the breathable mesh upper and rugged outsole. The lug height is 5mm with a drop of 8mm. Each shoe weighs about 9.5 ounces.
5. Saucony Peregrine 7
Rundry collar lining
Good stability and cushioning
They fit small
Saucony makes a great shoe for trail running. They have the PWR TRAC rubber outsole which grips the ground well and offers excellent traction across multiple surfaces. The heel stack height is 21.5mm and a normal mid arch. The top sole is EVERUN construction which provides a better energy return and ongoing cushioning during your run. The TPU exoskeleton wraps around your foot for good protection and support.Read more
The Peregrine 7 will give you the confidence to set your pace on any trail. It offers off-road versatility thanks to the PWRTRC outsole that will give you the grip you need. As for the upper, a TPU exoskeleton keeps your foot secure and gives it some added protection. An Everun top sole runs the length of the shoe and cushions every time your stride hits the ground to give you an energized and resilient run.
Saucony is one of the most admired names in the shoe industry. They offer a wide variety of shoes for running and walking. Each design has the Saucony trademark performance, fit, and feel. They have studied the biomechanics of some top athletes to develop systems that are creatively engineered to maximize performance in your run and lets you focus on the run instead of your equipment.
6. ASICS Gel-Venture 7
GEL technology in the rearfoot
Strong EVA midsole
Ortholite sock liner for added comfort
Do not have a lot of room in the toe area
Gel-Venture 7 shoes have been very popular this year. They are made of fabric with a rubber sole. The rearfoot GEL technology is used in the cushioning system which helps eliminate the shock during the impact of your stride to the ground and it makes the transition to midstance very smooth. The sock liner is a premium Ortholite X-40 which has high rebound properties. It also gives you an excellent source for moisture management and good breathability.Read more
The Gel-Venture 7 lets you run your favorite rough trails with confidence. They feature the special GEL technology and a strong midsole made of EVA. This is a shoe made for fitness enthusiasts who enjoy running in the fresh air outdoors. The GEL system they have applied to the area around your heel gives you strong shock absorption right where you need it the most to help your feet survive the constant and ongoing impact on uneven ground.
The ORTHOLITE sock liner gives you an extra layer of cushion under your feet. It molds to your foot shape so each time you run, it is even more comfortable than the last. Your feet get more support from the upper which is sturdy, made that way from synthetic leather. This shoe also has an internal heel counter which helps your feet stay in their natural line of motion. It gently gives you a more efficient stride. The EVA midsole also helps to protect your feet from becoming fatigued by the constant impact and helps to increase your rebound which will keep you energized to run.
7. Merrell Trail Glove 5
Mesh upper for breathability
Lightly padded tongue and collar
They run about a half size smaller than most shoes
The Merrell Trail Glove 5 is designed to enhance your foot. It was engineered after studying feet in motion and is designed to help your feet’s ability to naturally stabilize your body even during rapid movement. It features an upper made from TPU and mesh as well as a lace closure which is traditional. The trademarked Hyperlock TPU film in the heel counter is designed for ultimate foot security and it has antimicrobial agents to help control shoe odor.Read more
The Trail Glove 5 has a comfortable and breathable mesh lining with an insole that is integrated. It has a nice barefoot type of construction which gives you excellent stability and proprioception during the varied steps of your run. There is also a trademarked TrailProtect rock plate which is perfect to protect your feet from sharp rocks or other debris. They are even vegan-friendly.
The trademarked M Select FRESH is an antimicrobial that will help fight against foot odor. The barefoot construction gives these shoes an anatomical shape so your foot will be comfortable inside and a breathable mesh lining so your feet can get some airflow. The insole is integrated to give you effective support and stability under your feet. The Hyperlock TPU film heel counter is there for security and the rock plate protects you from debris. These shoes feature a trademarked outsole which gives the shoe unmatched stability, durability, and slip-resistance. These shoes will allow you to feel sure-footed and agile on your favorite trails regardless of the difficulty. The fit is secured with a traditional lace-up and enhanced with a tongue and collar that is lightly padded.
8. New Balance Hierro V4
Trademarked Vibram outsole
100 percent synthetic
No-sew material application
They are a little difficult to put on
The Hierro trail shoe is 100 percent synthetic with a rubber sole. They feature a Bootie Construction which means no-sew material application. These shoes are made with fresh foam and have a Vibram outsole. There is a nice toe protect so you will not have to worry about stubbing your toes on debris or uneven ground. These shoes are designed to keep your feet protected while you are busy working on your goals.Read more
The New Balance Hierro V4 is a trail shoe for men that is going to deliver time and distance. It features a fresh foam platform that is plush and comfortable as well as an upper that has been specifically designed for the best breathability. New Balance is determined to help you achieve your goals. They spend their money on development and researching improvements instead of celebrity endorsements. Their products are not designed to fit an image. They are designed to fit your feet.
These shoes take the limits of distance and time. The plush platform and Vibram MegaGrip outsole keeps your feet comfortable and going where you want to go. These shoes have a foot-hugging construction. The upper protects your toes and makes these shoes the perfect equipment for wherever you want to go. This shoe has a Fresh Foam midsole which is made from a single piece of foam. That gives your feet a more plush and natural ride. They have a material application which is no-sew and a synthetic and mesh upper. The trademarked Vibram outsole is designed to give your foot a maximum surface contact during your stride as well as multi-directional traction. Vibram is a registered trademark of Vibram S.p.A. All rights reserved.
9. Brooks Caldera 3
A new gaiter attachment point
TrailTack rubber outsole
Some say they are too soft for trails
The Caldera 3 shoes are meant for the mountains. They are a synthetic and mesh design with a rubber sole. The inside of the shoe has lightweight cushioning and the outside features a sticky TrailTack outsole that will keep you in step mile after mile no matter what the obstacles or conditions.Read more
The Brooks Caldera 3 is meant for climbing mountains, crossing streams, and taking you wherever you want to run. They are designed with a sticky TrailTack outsole which works well for uphill or downhill traction. The construction is innovative and repels or drains out the water so you never have to stop. The lightweight BioMoGo midsole offers responsive cushioning and is stacked high to give you a steady stride for long distances. It will also protect your feet from trail hazards.
This shoe features a TrailTack sticky outsole along with lugs that have a high surface-area to give you outstanding traction even on wet surfaces. If you cross a stream, the innovative upper and the construction on the underside of your foot will quickly repel and drain the water to keep you able to carry on. The BioMoGo DNA midsole is dynamically cushioned so it has the ability to adapt to your stride. There is a trademarked Ariaprene upper mesh to give your feet drainage and ventilation.
The mudguard gives the shoe a strategic stretch so you get a fantastic fit to help with foot protection and shoe durability in the zones of high abrasion. There is a gaiter tab at the heel as well as a new attachment point at the front. They also have an updated lace garage to keep your laces out of the way and secure at the same time.
10. La Sportiva Bushido II
Has a slip-on construction
Superb rubber grip sole
Are slightly narrow
The Bushido II is a synthetic shoe that has a slip-on construction. It fits around your foot like a sock but will not compress or exert your pressure points. They updated the heel design to give you better fit and comfort. The lugs go around the midsole to give you extra traction and stability on uneven terrain. They have quality friction which uses a special rubber that is dual-compound to give you an excellent grip on any type of terrain even in the wet.Read more
The Bushido II shoe is designed to excel in rough terrain with outstanding traction and responsive and lightweight experience. They also give you the same level of protection as a hiking shoe. They upgraded the original shoe for better control and comfort. Every part of this shoe has received improvements to meet the needs of every time of runner. They rewrite the rules of the game.
These shoes are perfect for mountain running since they are close-fitting, lightweight, and responsive. It has internal slip-on construction to fit you like a sock, an updated heel and an ergonomic tongue for excellent comfort and fit. There is more cushioning in the midsole and has better impact absorption. The upper is an AirMesh with a thermoplastic film. The midsole is made of compressed EVA and features a stability control system. The sole has a superb rubber grip for any terrain and the footbed is cushioned with ergonomic open-cell foam that also helps with moisture control.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Shoes which are designed for trail running are going to be different from shoes for running on the road. Probably the most important feature is the sole. You want a sole which is going to grip the terrain so you have traction whether you are running on dirt, gravel, roots or uneven ground. Most of the soles are made of rubber. They should have an aggressive lug design that will grip the ground and escape the mud.
The upper should be durable and breathable. You need to have a secure lace-up system and be designed for easy taking on and off so you do not have to worry about interrupting your nice run to stop and tie your shoe. You will want a shoe which fits snug around your foot and will stay in place while you run but you also want a toe box which is going to let your toes spread out. That is important when you are working at keeping your balance.
Your shoe should also have features which protect your feet. They should be shielded from rocks and roots. Some of the shoes on this list have gel cushioning or removable inserts. There are padded tongues and collars which help your feet stay comfortable. You want to be able to feel the ground but also be protected from it.
There are so many physical as well as mental benefits when you are running along a trail. Getting off the pavement and exploring the trails helps you get rid of anxiety. You also lower your risk of injury and it will force you to use a lot of different muscles so you get a better workout. To accomplish this you need to right shoe.
You will want a shoe which has a low profile. Most regular shoes have a thick layer of foam between your foot and the ground, but you will not want that in a running shoe. You want a much lower profile, as low as possible because they will help you to be more stable running on uneven ground. Also, to be effective your shoe needs to have a good grip. It needs to have aggressive lugs which will grip the uneven ground so you can run with confidence.
You also want the built-in protection. When you are trail running it can be rough on your shoes, on the upper part especially. You will want to find a shoe which has nylon or rubber reinforcements. When it comes to having a waterproof shoe you have two different choices, depending on your philosophy. Some people think you need a waterproof shell to keep the water out when you splash through puddles, but the problem is they do not let the water out of your shoe. The second thought is to have a shoe which focuses on letting the water drain out of your shoe, believing you will never keep it all out.
In order to have a great run, you have to have comfortable feet. You need shoes which are going to protect your feet while at the same time keeping them comfortable. The material should be breathable to keep the sweat away from your feet so you can avoid odor and bacteria. You need a shoe with good arch support and also some padding so your shoe can wrap snugly around your foot and protect it. Some of the shoes have padded tongue and collar. Others have a removable insert. The padding needs to take care of your arch and heel while still giving your foot access to the ground so your foot stays stable. You also want laces which are quick, stay tight around your foot and can be tucked out of the way so you do not have to pause your run to deal with them.
It is important to have a roomy toe cap as well. Your toes need to be able to spread and move around. This is important for keeping your balance when you are moving on uneven ground. It allows your feet to work the way they are supposed to.
Having a durable trail shoe is crucial since they are literally going to take quite a beating during your run. You want a shoe which is going to stand up to that activity while protecting your foot at the same time. The uppers need to be made from durable materials which have stability straps and are breathable. The uppers should be resistant against tearing or abrasion. Reinforcement in the toe cap and heel area will help your shoes to last longer and will help take care of your feet. They need to help shield your feet from hitting against roots, rocks and uneven ground.
It is also vital that the lugged soles are durable and ready for rugged terrain. They need to be aggressive enough to keep you stable and have good traction in mud, dirt, or gravel and as you run over roots, rocks, or unstable ground. The construction needs to be stiff and wrap securely around your foot so you can prevent excessive foot rotation. When you are running on trails you will be taking a shorter and more varied stride, adjusting to the landing where your footing is optimal.
There are a light trail, rugged trail, and off-trail running shoes. The shoes for light trails are designed to run on more groomed trails like fire roads or gravel paths. They are designed to give your feet modest protection against the rocks and roots on a trail. These shoes are lightweight so you can easily keep up a brisk pace. They are slightly stiff to help with foot placement which is stable. The outsoles have shallow lugs which give you the best traction on packed soil.
The rugged trail shoes are designed to help you run on hiking trails that have many different kinds of terrains. They have toe guards in the front of the shoe and hidden plates on the underside of your feet. These help to protect your feet from rogue rocks and roots. They are made with sturdy upper materials and overlays which protect you from brush and thorns. There is also a cushioning in the midsole which helps to absorb some of the features of a rough route like hard landings on rocks or steep hill descents. These shoes have supportive uppers and a build which is more stiff to stabilize your feet better when you are running through unstable surfaces. They include thick lugs which go in multiple directions to give you traction on any surface and there is a wide spacing in the lugs so soft soil and mud can easily drop off your shoes.
The off-road shoes have all the above features but include some enhancements. The materials are more resilient and the structure is much more stout. They are designed to help avoid ankle-twisting which is important when you are running on such uneven ground. Since you are running more remote, you may be exposed to more water so you will see some waterproof shoes in the category. This category is definitely not for the weaker runners, but the shoes are definitely available if you need them.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When you are choosing shoes, you need to consider what shoe type your feet will need. Do you need something stiffer? Are you going to need something more stable for your run? Keep in mind whether your feet are narrow or if you need something wider. Take a look at what type of heel to toe drop you need. You want to get the shoe type which the terrain you will be running on demands. Consider whether the trail is smooth or more rugged, steep or flat. Does the trail have a firm or more loose footing, and will you be going through water?
Take a look at which type of shoes you are going to need as compared to where you are going to be running. First, are the rigid shoes which have more deep lugs, at least 5 mm, and they are best for more on rugged trails which have footing that is more unstable. They tend to be less forgiving and stiff, even uncomfortable if you are going on road runs.
The hybrid type shoes have shorter lugs as well as a softer, more flexible feel. They are definitely not as rugged as the other type but they will work well for the average wooded trails where the run is easier but still a little uneven here and there.
Other Factors to Consider
The weight of your running shoe is an important factor. They are going to have to weigh enough to have all the protection and outsole support you need, but it is important that your shoes be as lightweight as possible for the type of terrain you will be running on. If you are going to get some good distance, you do not want to be held back by extra leg fatigue because of them having to carry heavy shoes. It is important that they enhance your feet and your legs as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is heel drop?
The heel drop of your running shoe is a big consideration. If you are used to running on roads instead of trails, you are transitioning from road running shoes which probably have a 10 to12 mm heel drop. A heel drop is the measured difference of height between the heel and the toe in your shoe. Many of the shoes for running trails are going to have lower heel drops because that will help you develop a healthy forefoot strike. It is going to make you more stable on the rugged trails. If you are used to running on roads using the higher drop designs you will need to transition gradually so you do not have calf tightness or tendon issues.
q: What is the importance of forefoot width?
Sometimes trail runners have an issue with forefoot width. Road shoes are more standard but the shoes for running trails have a forefoot width which varies. Some are geared for a more tight fit. These are great for short distance racing or letting your feet feel secure when you are running on rugged terrain. Some of the shoes are made to help with foot swelling which can happen when you run long distances.
q: What are rock plates?
When you are looking at shoes for running trails, you will find that most of them have rock plates. These are usually located between the shoe’s midsole and the outsole of the shoe which is a harder material. The rock plate in a running shoe is designed for foot protection from sharp rocks so you will not be a victim to injuries or stone bruises. They can make your running shoes stiffer than what you are used to if you have worn shoes for running on the road, but having the added protection can become key, especially if you are running long distances on rugged trails.
q: What is a protective toe bumper?
Shoes for running trails usually have a protective toe bumper included in the design which will protect your feet. It is usually constructed from rubber overlays which are welded to protect your toes when hitting rocks on the front of the shoe or kicking the uneven ground. Sometimes they are sewn or welded on in overlays to give the shoe more durability and stability when you are running on a terrain which has a lot of turns and steep hills.
q: How should trail running shoes fit?
Shoes designed for running trails fit differently than standard shoes. The trail shoe should be comfortable, of course, and fit snugly around your foot. It should be tight around the middle part of your foot and make your heel feel like it is locked down to keep it from shifting or lifting when you are on uneven ground. There should also be a space between your toes and the end of the shoe which is about the width of your thumb.
q: What is the difference between road running and trail running shoes?
There are a few differences between running shoes for roads or for trails. They are each designed for the terrain you choose. Probably the biggest difference is in their composition. Shoes designed for running on roads are usually made of more lightweight materials. They are made to be responsive and fast. The shoes designed for running on trails are usually a bit heavier. They are specially made to protect your feet and support them while you are running on more rugged terrain.