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Whether you’re getting tired of the treadmill or just want to experience the beauty of nature while you run, nature trails are the perfect answer. The only problem comes when your cross trainers aren’t equipped to handle the trail, but you don’t want something as heavy as a hiking shoe weighing you down. This is why there’s such a large market for trail-running shoes. Trail-running shoes offer the protection you need to run with confidence without slowing you down.
The only thing you have to figure out is which one out of the thousands available is best for you. To help you out, we’ve scoured the market to make sure we’ve only listed the best of the best.
Comparison Table of the Best Trail-Running Shoes
Below is a list of the best shoes for trail-running. Click on the name to read reviews and check prices.
What to Look for in Good Trail-Running Shoes
Not all trail-running shoes are made equal. Even high-quality trail-running shoes have their differences. Consider when and how you like to run, then be mindful of these things before purchasing your next pair of trail-running shoes.
1. Type of Shoe
a. Rugged Trails
These specialized shoes are designed to keep your feet safe and secure as you tackle tricky inclines and declines and explore rough trails off the beaten path. Rugged trail-running shoes will have a stiffer build, heavier weight, and more durable construction.
b. Easy Trails
Easy trail-running shoes are the most flexible and comfortable of all three categories. They’re the most similar to a running shoe, but you’ll notice they offer more protection, traction, and stability. These shoes should only be worn on shorter hikes on well-maintained trails without significant inclines or declines.
These are the most popular category of shoe because they’re the most versatile. They act as the best of both worlds between easy and rugged trail-running shoes by offering an ideal combination of comfort and performance.
2. Grip and Traction
The outsoles of a shoe will determine the amount of traction you get, which is also directly related to the type of trail-running shoes you decide to buy. Easy trail-running shoes offer the least grip, all-arounders come second, and rugged trail-running shoes offer the best traction. Rugged trail-running shoes may even have outsoles geared toward a certain condition like declines or mud.
Also, pay attention to the tread design and think about the trails you’re likely to be on. Tightly spaced, short lugs will help you out if you’re going over rock, while tall lugs that have wider spacing and a soft compound are better for mud.
This is key for all runners because you don’t want to have moist feet throughout your run. Nylon mesh is typically used in trail-running shoes because it’s ideal for breathability. Some companies add additional materials to increase durability, so just be sure the shoes are breathable enough for your feet to stay comfortable.
There are positives and negatives when it comes to weight, so consider what you value most when you’re on the trail. Heavier shoes are going to be tougher and give you more support while lighter shoes will allow you to move faster on the trail while minimizing fatigue.
5. Drop Distance
While this tends to be an issue of personal preference, it’s best to ease into a new design slowly before heading out on a hike. A shoe’s drop is the distance between the height of your toe and the height of your heel, and it impacts how your feet hit the ground. A toe-to-heel drop that’s 8mm or less encourages a landing on your forefoot or midfoot. Rugged trail-running shoes have the most extreme drops that range from 8mm to 10mm and promote heel landings.
The amount of cushion in trail-running shoes varies greatly. Cushion will have a large impact on the comfort of your feet. Shoes with lots of cushioning will protect your feet, but they also won’t connect as much with the trail. Less cushioning in the shoes means they’re more nimble. If your feet are sensitive to the pounding they’ll take on the trail, it’s probably a good idea to go with more cushioning.
Stubbing your toe or stepping on something sharp are inevitable parts of trail-running. To increase the protection of your toes and soles of your feet, look for shoes with toe guards and/or rock plates.
Waterproofing is great for year-round hiking or running in cold weather, snow, or rain. If you love trail running in all types of weather and in every season, definitely be on the hunt for the best waterproof trail running shoes. It’s not so great for summer hikes in hot and dry temperatures. Even if you find yourself occasionally running through creeks, any of the best trail shoes should dry pretty quickly.
Best Trail-Running Shoes Reviews
These are currently the best trail runners you’ll find on the market.
1. Saucony Peregrine ISO
Weight: 21 oz.
Some of the best running shoes for mountain trails, the Saucony Peregrine ISO shoes are versatile enough to help you master any trail. This rugged-trail shoe has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop and is reinforced to keep your feet protected from debris. They’re also super comfortable thanks to the Everun topsoles and Pwrfoam midsoles. The lugs are made of PWRTRAC rubber to keep you secure on any surface. With a pair weighing only 21 ounces, the Saucony Peregrine ISOs are easily some of the best trail-running shoes you’ll find.
2. Altra Lone Peak 4
Weight: 20.4 oz.
This updated model has everything you could need in all-terrain running shoes. The Altra Lone Peak 4 is a rugged-trail shoe that features revamped mesh uppers with increased drainage capacity so you can dry off after creek crossings in no time. They have Grippier MaxTrac™ rubber outsoles with TrailClaw™ lugs that offer impressive grip and traction. These shoes have a ZeroDrop™ platform which promotes low-impact landings and the A-Bound™ energy-return compound puts a spring in each step you take. They even have a female version which has had so much success it now makes the list of the best women’s trail-running shoes.
3. Salomon Speedcross 5
Category: All-around/rugged trails
Weight: 22.6 oz.
The Salomon Speedcross 5 model has been designed to be the best running shoes for road and trail. These rugged-trail shoes have welded uppers with dissociated SensiFit™ arms that offer a snug and secure fit as they cradle your feet from laces to midsoles. The shoes have EnergyCell™+ high-rebound midsoles that are loved because of the durability, cushioning, and energy return they provide. The Contagrip® rubber outsoles have sharp and deep lugs that give you maximum grip on a variety of surfaces. No matter where you find yourself, the Salomon Speedcross 5s can take your performance to another level on all types of terrain.
4. New Balance Minimus 10v1
Category: Easy trails
Weight: 14.8 oz.
New Balance has created a pair of light-trail shoes weighing only 14.8 ounces that offers impressive comfort and a natural feel as you explore the outdoors. The Acteva® midsoles offer an ideal amount of compression and the shoe is equipped with a midfoot wrap to help your feet stay in place. These shoes have a 4mm heel-to-toe drop which help to improve the feel of the trail. When you get to some tricky or slippery terrain, the Vibram® outsoles allow for multi-directional traction and maximum surface contact. If you’re looking for the best minimalist trail-running shoes on the market, go with the New Balance Minimus 10v1.
5. Brooks Caldera 3
Weight: 18.6 oz.
As you run mile after mile, you’ll love the fact that you’re wearing the Brooks Caldera 3s. They’re a rugged-trail shoe with Ariaprene™ mesh uppers which allow for optimal drainage and ventilation. They even have BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning which adapts to your stride. Whether on wet terrain, heading uphill or downhill, traction is never a problem thanks to the TrailTack sticky rubber outsoles and high surface-area lugs. They offer an updated lace garage to make sure your laces stay secure and don’t interfere with your performance. If you use gaiters, these shoes have integrated attachment points that makes it easy for you to integrate them. Because of all they have to offer, many consider the Brooks Caldera 3s to be among the best trail-running shoes for hiking.
6. La Sportiva Bushido II
Category: Rugged trails
Weight: 21 oz.
Because of how they excel on difficult terrain, the La Sportiva Bushido II shoes are some of the best-rated trail-running shoes you can find. They offer a magical combination of responsiveness, stability, and protection. This rugged-trail shoe has a 6mm heel-to-toe drop and has been designed to wrap your foot like a sock without exerting pressure points. Many aspects of the shoe are updated, like the heel design to improve the fit and comfort, and the tongues which are breathable, padded, and ergonomic. The outsoles are made of FriXion® XT V-Groove2™ which incorporates a dual-compound rubber to give you the best grip possible. To improve traction and enhance stability, the outsole lugs wrap the midsole. The La Sportiva Bushido II shoes will soon become your favorite trail-runners.
7. Hoka One One Speedgoat 3
Category: All-around/rugged trails
Weight: 20.6 oz.
When it comes to the best men’s trail-running shoes, you’re never going to find a list without the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3s on it. The shoes have maximum support and breathability thanks to the mesh uppers and great stability thanks to the reinforced TPU midfoot overlays. The oversized EVA midsoles absorb impact points, stabilize your footing, and give you much appreciated cushioning. The Vibram® Megagrip outsoles are equipped with 5mm multi-directional lugs that offer impressive traction and grip on a variety of terrain. Designed to tackle all types of trails, the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 is a rugged-trail shoe that will help you feel comfortable and agile no matter where the trail takes you.
8. Salomon S/Lab Ultra
Weight: 21 oz.
Designed to give long-distance runners the ultimate comfort, fit, and grip, the Salomon S/Lab Ultra was created to help you attack your distance racing goals. The shoes have a slim fit and an 8mm heel-to-toe drop. Combining that with the SENSIFIT construction and a durable Skin guard lining, you’ll love the comfort and grip you get on your runs. They have a new Contagrip® outsole with reversed lugs on the heel which performs particularly well when going downhill. The ENERGYCELL+ foam allows for a smooth run while the Energysave® foam insert offers impressive cushioning and protection. Weighing in at just over 10 ounces, it’s not hard to see why the Salomon S/Lab Ultra shoes are considered some of the best shoes for trail running.
9. Merrell Trail Glove 4
Category: Easy trails
Weight: 16 oz.
If you’re craving the feeling of running barefoot while still wanting some protection, the Merrell Trail Glove 4s are definitely the best shoes for running trails. The profile of the shoe is low to the ground and has no heel-to-toe drop. This light-trail shoe only has an 11.5mm stack height to make sure you get the ground feel you want. The mesh uppers have great breathability and the thermoplastic urethane overlays give you the necessary stability. Underfoot there are pads to protect against stone bruising. To ensure you still get a good grip on the trails, the shoes are equipped with Vibram® TC5+ rubber outsoles. You’ll love the comfort this shoe offers while keeping you protected on the trails.
10. ASICS Gel-Venture 6
Category: Easy trails
Weight: 22.4 oz.
While these aren’t designed for technical trails, the ASICS Mens Gel-Venture 6s are still quality trail-running shoes with a lot of benefits. Trail runners absolutely love this shoe because of the shock absorbing comfort it offers. The Rearfoot GEL cushioning system reduces shock impact and allows for an easy transition to midstance. The midsole and uppers have been redesigned for improved performance and the one-piece outsole has multi-directional lugs which give you the confidence you need when approaching slippery terrain or going up or downhill. The pair weighs just over 11 ounces, so you don’t have to worry about them weighing you down if you’re going out on long runs. Don’t be surprised if the ASICS Mens Gel-Venture 6s become your new go-to trail-running shoes.
There are the greatest trail-running shoes currently available. Whether you’re going to be running through local parks or tackling tough mountain trails, trail-running shoes will allow you to do it with comfort and confidence.