The Best Trail Running Gaiters Reviewed
If you are a regular off-road runner, trail running gaiters are an essential addition to your running gear—especially if you frequently go off-road, on trails, or run on dirty and rocky terrain.
Those of us who run in outdoor terrain know how distractive, disruptive, and downright uncomfortable it is to run with sandy toes or stones in your shoes—and it’s almost impossible to avoid them from getting into your shoes. Trail running gaiters specifically address this issue in a simple, fuss-free, and comfortable way—thus preventing debris from entering are shoes and keeping our runs as easy as possible!
While there are more affordable gaiters that aren’t tailored specifically to trail running, those options aren’t the best for off-road running—so we highly recommend trail running gaiters specifically.
- Salomon Low Trail Gaiters
- Non-Abrasive Connection System
- Salomon S-Lab Gaiters
- Intrusion + Ankle Bone Protection
- Inov-8 Debris 32
- Sock-like upper closure
10 Best Trail Running Gaiters
1. Salomon Trail Running Low
These gaiters are very comfy while still doing the job well. Though waterproof, they only ride low on the ankle, so they’re not going to keep you dry if you’re regularly running through puddles or in particularly boggy or watery terrain.
They’re very smart and subtle, and look particularly good when worn with darker shoes. This is about as good as it gets in terms of discreet and small gaiters.
They are around an average price. Though there are slightly cheaper options on the market, these are pretty good value. You can certainly do worse than investing in these – there are lots of options on the market which cost more and don’t do the job as effectively.
- They do all of the basic stuff well, with little need for readjustment. This means that your runs aren’t disrupted, which is the last thing you want when you’re all hot, sweaty and motivated.
- They’re a simple Velcro design, so they’re very easy to put on, keep on and keep clean.
- They look good, with a nice sleek design.
- They are durable and sturdy, and provide a little bit of added security for your feet. These are therefore a good option for serious and regular runners, like many of Salomon’s products.
- Because these are low gaiters, they’re maybe not suitable for anyone who regularly runs in lots of water, whether through puddles, on the beachfront or elsewhere.
2. Salomon Trail S-Lab
These are very comfortable and very easy to use, despite the fact that they are high gaiters. Although they ride high, they don’t provide any discomfort or overheating. The simple design means that they provide a pleasant run without any complications of disruptions.
They’re a really nice red and black design, and merge subtly with the shoe. Again, this is a good choice for anyone who wants something with as simple and discreet design.
They are slightly more expensive than other gaiters, which is due to their height. They ride higher than most other alternatives, which justifies the price if you’re looking for something of this style. Though a little pricey, they’re a good product.
- They’re very easy to use – with one strap, you can put them on, go on your run and forget that you’re using them.
- They are a very aesthetic product, and look tidy and smart.
- They’re very good in dry, rocky, dusty weather – and absolutely keep out all debris and dirt.
- They provide more support than most other gaiters, so if you’re looking to secure your ankles, these will do exactly that.
- These are not really not ideal for extremely wet conditions. This is the only real negative here, so if this issue is not a concern to you, these are probably the best gaiters.
3. Inov-8 Debris Gaiters 32
These gaiters are very comfy and keep you very warm. They’re nice and thick and provide plenty of cosiness. They keep out all those annoying bits of debris and rock, which ensures a pleasant and comfortable run.
They’re plain black, and hence subtle. But despite their strength, they do look a little floppy and flimsy. This means that they’re not particularly fashionable, which might be of significance to some.
This is perhaps the best option in terms of price. They are the cheapest on this list, and do the job as well as any other. That said, they aren’t as reliable, so if you’re one of the unlucky ones, this could be one of those pesky examples of false economy.
- They keep out everything from dust to stones very well, and do so better than more expensive models.
- They’re slightly cheaper than other options on the market, which is good for bargain hunters.
- They are more waterproof than most other gaiters, so they’re great if you’re a fan of wet terrain or running in water and mud. Good waterproofing can be hard to find with trail-running gaiters, but you can find that here.
- Their appearance isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not terrible – it’s simply basic and no-frills.
- Some weren't crazy about the retention cord underneath
4. Dirty Girl
These spandex gaiters are very comfy, but they don’t keep you warm in cold conditions – and wet runs are still going to leave you with wet legs here. So if you looking for a little more comfort or you’re trying to stay dry, you might want to look elsewhere. On the plus side, the spandex design is very lightweight, so if you’re seeking flexibility, this might be helpful.
If you’re in the market for something flashy and fanciful, you’re in the right place. All of the designs are garish and bold, so whether or not you like these will depend on your taste. But if design is a priority for you, and if you’re looking to make a statement, you’ll probably be able to find something you like with a range this wide.
These are slightly less than mid-range, owing largely to their aesthetic. They aren’t the best-performing gaiters, so the price doesn’t reflect the quality. Rather, it reflects a gap in the market – and these are the only mainstream gaiters which offer something fashionable.
- Fashion fiends, these are the gaiters for you. If you want to stay fashionable while exercising, this is your best option.
- They’re easy to use, though not quite as simple as other gaiters.
- They do the simple stuff well, and will indeed keep dirt and stones out of your shoes.
- These keep debris out, but aren't waterproof
- A bit expensive
5. Rab Scree
The main flaw here is comfort. They can be slightly tight and unpleasant if you have larger ankles. This is only an issue for a small portion of users, but it is of significance.
These are plain and come in a nice grey colour. Though they don’t have the subtlety or sleekness of other options, they look pretty good.
These are a little on the steeper side, though they’re not a great deal more expensive than other options.
- They keep you cool and offer good breathability, which is especially useful for longer or hotter runs – and for those who are prone to getting hot feet.
- They’re easy to use and to put on, though not quite as easy to use as other alternatives.
- Intended more for debris protection, rather than waterproofing
- They are a little more pricey than some of the other options on this list.
Altra Trail Gaiters
As you start to run, you keep forgetting that you’re wearing them because they are so lightweight. The material is breathable and abrasion resistant.
These have special reflective print which make you more visible to the others. They have metal lace hook at the front. They are available in many colors which is a big advantage.
These gaiters aren’t very expensive and they are definitely worth their price.
They keep mud and rocks away from your shoe
They don’t rub on your skin
They work great on snow, sand, rocks and dirt and other surfaces
The material is very stretchy
Stay in place , don’t slip
They may not work if you don’t use the Velcro attachment
Outdoor Research Men’s Wrapid Gaiters
These gaiters are adjustable, lightweight, and comfortable. They utilize a hoop and loop system to keep the gaiters tightly secured--so they don't get in your way during your runs.
These water-resistant gaiters are high enough to use anywhere--whether it is snowy, wet, or muddy. They only come in black and while they look thick, they will actually keep your feet cool and dry during your runs.
These trail running gaiters come at a moderate price.
- Anti-slip heel prints
- Hook and loop system for maximum security
- High enough to prevent anything from entering your shoes
- Helps keep you cool and dry
- Runs small
- Break in period
Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiters Belt
There is no chance of debris in your shoe so there is a smaller chance for injury and blisters. They can easily attach to the most running shoes. They are very easy to clean.
Their minimalistic appearance is really liked. They are very adjustable and distinguishable.
You may smile when you see the price as it’s quiet cheap comparing to the previous models on our list but still very high quality
The design of these gaiters enable them to get rid of moisture
They work perfect on snow
They have special movement mirroring stretch
They stay sturdy for a long time of usage
Some buyers said that they aren’t completely waterproof
Salomon High Trail Gaiter
It is very helpful toll while running as it prevents dirt, rocks, sand and snow from entering the shoe. It also gives additional security with Velcro.
It has reflective design to make you visible on the track whenever you run in day or in night.
As it is made with elastic jersey fabric, it’s very durable and that’s why the price may be a little high. Nevertheless it works perfectly and it’s worth every dollar.
Some buyers said it worked as an ankle brace too
It is very easy to put on and off
It doesn’t irritate your skin
It doesn’t slip off
It’s lightweight design enables to enhance your performance
Some buyers complained about the Velcro not being strong enough
Good protection from rain, snow, trail slush and debris, carry these with you and slip them on as and when needed.
These have good breath-ability, nice and light weight, the gaiter allows movement while mirroring stretch, fitted with silicone pads to prevent slip and comfortable functionality through secure heel attachments in a hook and loop system, the bottom and top edging for the gaiters is elasticated and the overall construction fitted together via flat strong seams.
You get 14% spandex and 86% nylon weaved together to give great protection with breath factor and the gaiter weighs in at 1.2 ounces. These gaiters comfortably fit on the majority of running shoes. Very quick and easy to fit.
Nice styling, blends in securely with the shoe creating a good aerodynamic appearance
A good investment in solid protection
Durable and comfortable
Not targeted at being waterproof, avoid built up snow trails
The Criteria Used when Finding The Best Trail Running Gaiters
Whether you are an experienced trail runner or if you’re just getting started, a trail running gaiter will become your new best friend. Before making your selection, we have compiled a brief list of considerations to take into account. This type of specialized trail running equipment should not be selected off the cuff and they are manufactured for specific purposes and uses. Before you head out to the great outdoors, let’s make sure that you are matched with just the right one to suit your needs.
As you may have read from our waterproof running shoes buying guide, water, dirt, and debris always manage to find a way into your shoe no matter what. The number one way that is unwanted travel companions make their way in is through the top of your footwear. To add a much needed layer of protection, manufacturers develop gaiters of different shapes and sizes. Our buying guide is specific to trail running gaiters, it’s very important to remember that hiking and snow related gaiters are typically constructed with much thicker fabric, come up a lot higher up on the leg and are really about maximum protection. In contrast, trail running gaiters focus on breathability and range of motion; therefore they are constructed from a stretchable material that minimizes heat and water retention.
The first thing to consider when making your selection is what type of environment will you be running in. If you are dealing with a standard dry trail then you’re going to want an option that is lightweight and extremely breathable, preferably with a “one strap application” so that it is easy on and easy off. This way you can get the maximum amount of protection from rocks, pebbles, and all forms of dust without having too much weight added to your feet. However, if you know that you are going to be coming across water and mud on your trail then you will definitely want to select a gaiter that features waterproof material. You will find that the right waterproof gaiter, when utilized with a solid waterproof running shoe, will keep your feet nice and dry when you were dealing with Mother Nature.
When evaluating what the seasoned trail runners had to say about utilizing gaiters, we have found that there are some pros and cons that should be considered. First and foremost, they offer you an extra layer of protection from moisture and debris that is simply not comparable to not using them. If you know that dust and pebbles are going to be an issue then the decision is really a no-brainer. Better to use a gaiter than to have skin irritation or blisters.
Secondly, they are a rather inexpensive piece of equipment that protects a very expensive piece of equipment, your shoes. Think of buying an expensive racecar and not protecting it from a sandstorm because you didn’t buy a twenty dollar dust cover. Furthermore, no matter which one you choose to go with, they are all pretty lightweight and will not add too much weight to your feet.
The two biggest complaints against using them are that they can be difficult to put on and off until you really get the hang of it. If you think this might be an issue for you, our buying guide contains a very simple one action gaiter that works great. The other complaint is that it’s an additional piece of equipment to keep track of (aka, lose). Depending on how long your runs are and if you carry a pack or not, keep in mind that you may want to remove them once you don’t need them.
Overall, trail runners agree that the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to using gaiters and some consider them to be an essential piece of equipment and won’t hit the trail without them.
We hope that we’ve provided you with important information to consider when selecting your gaiter, and again want to emphasize just how important they can be. Testers found that when dealing with messy and debris filled trails, they can make all the difference in the world.
Once in a while during your running session, you have to deal with the issue of stuff getting into your shoes. it’s not only painful but it also slows down your running work out. This is very common especially if you’re into trail running. And by stuff, I mean dirt, sand, rocks, snow, mud… you’re a trail runner – you’re pretty hardcore. But even the most hardcore trail runner should keep themselves protected from potential hazards. If you’re running trails, you may need more than just the protection a trail shoe alone can offer, depending on the conditions. If you’re running on a hard packed, “easy” trail, you may not require a trail running gaiter but if you plan on running through the woods or off trail on, difficult terrain, a gaiter may certainly be beneficial. These sorting apparel come in very handy in such situations. You see, gaiters serve two purposes. They keep “stuff” out of your shoes, and they provide protection from scrapes and abrasions caused by trail debris, branches or rocks.
But then why should you consider using a running gait, is it really necessary? Below are the pros and cons of having a gait as sporting apparel.
- They are able to offer an additional protective layer from the debris and the moisture. If you will be breaking any trail by passing through post-holing, dripping climb in ice or slogging on a glacier that is wet.
- Gaits offer a layer of protection against any spikes and sharp tools & objects. They are typically inexpensive, and will protect your more expensive investments (boots and pants), are able to extend the longevity of pants and boots by limiting the time spent on field repairs.
- They dry easily than your normal pants.
- They can interfere with the breathability nature of your shoes or boots. This is because they keep moisture out but still keep a small amount of moisture in
- Gaits can be difficult and annoying to wear and to remove also.
- They tend to be heavier than the inbuilt gaits.
There are different types of gaiter and they have totally different features. These features determine how it functions and also their compatibility to the running sneakers. It is vital to look at most of the features that are found on any running gaiter.
Many gaiters in the market are made using synthetic materials. Then they might have a DWR ( durable water repellent) finish surfaced on the outside part or any breathable membrane that is water proof to be laminated on the inside part, or both of these.
This determines the gaiters compatibility with trail shoes. Most running gaiters have a strap which fits the outsole of the shoes in a circular way. However, we have gaiters that are strapless. These types of gaiters will connect to the shoe in a variety of ways, using fastening loops or hooks. For these types, you will need to get a shoe that is compatible to that particular type. It’s good to note, not every gaiter will fit into any running shoe. It’s advised that before you buy any running gait check its compatibility with you the running shoes you have.
If you intend to take a run in snowy weather, or a weather condition that is wet or raining, or just muddy, you will need to get a running gaiter that will be able to offer you with weather resistance capabilities. Gaiters that have weather resistance features will keep out water from reaching the inner sections of sneakers and shoes and also keep your feet warm and dry.
Gaiters that have high heights offer a more protected feel for your lower leg (ankle). You will be better off with a higher gaiter if you plan to run off trail or in a treacherous trail. Some gaits will only provide a minimal profile. When looking at the heights of gaiters you will have high gaiters and gaiters that are low.
High Cut models
These type of gaiter come upto the top part of your calf, they are ideal for walking and wading in trail that is grassy terrain or bushy. High gaiters offer the best coverage against weather conditions like rain and snow; however they tend to be more expensive. These gaiters also offer little ventilation due to the maximum coverage of the leg.
Low Cut models
Low cut running gaiters fit around the ankle part. They are ideal in offering resistance against dirt and pebbles, which might slip on as you walk. They are perfect for a normal day outdoor walk and there is a possibility of it raining. They provide ample protection to the feet from dirt and grime which are associated with trail walks and lowland rambling.
All gaiters have some amount of abrasion resistance, hence providing a high degree of durability (protecting your gaiter from wear and tear). For instance, Inov-8’s Debris gaiter is known to have the lowest degree of resistance to abrasion, because the material used is softer and with a sock-like features.
In the past, gaiters used to be made using rubber as this was then the more effective in water repelling. But with the numerous advancement in sporting fabrics and synthetics, running gaiters are now manufactured in a vast variety of manmade fabrics. These fabrics are based around artificial/ synthetics fabrics like polyester, nylon and Cardura. Running gaiters can now offer levels of lightweight, more water repellency, and great breathability.
Most common fabric is eVent and Gore-Tex fabric. The Gore-Tex fabric is created with breathing pores that are close to a million in number that play an important role of locking out drips. Perfect for gaiters that are likely to be used in a very moist climate both internally and externally. Typically all gaiters are efficiently designed to be weather resistant and offer protection but to also have abrasion resistance. Polyester, nylon and Cardura, all allow a gaiter to be thick denier and with a high height.
Other Important Factors To Consider Before Making Your Choice
Fitting Your Gaiters
Most gaiters will have a hook or a zip, together with a loop opening, draw cords which seal out any dirt & moisture. The hook & loop can get dirty with time, and ought to be cleaned regularly while the zips will also require care to avoid them being stuck or waterlogged. Elastication is normally favored, be it inbuilt elastic with a hidden framing or a system that is toggle cord type. This is because it enables plenty of natural flexibility and allowing security. It also offers additional advantages as an elasticated rand that secures the gaiter. Some have storm flaps that are inbuilt, so choose a degree of protection that fits your budget. A gaiter will weigh between 100g to150g, though weight is not a major factor since most of gaiters are very light in terms of weight.
Models of gaits that are cheap will only have fastenings made with only Velcro while gaits with higher specs tend have closures that are zipped and normally covered using a storm flap. But then some of these walking gaiters are fastened with zips that are waterproof, the zips are normally anatomically shaped. The zips help to ensure the gaiter open and can close easily. They also enhance a much secure fit and a feel when they are worn. Most gaiters are designed with a lace hook that is used to secure the gait around the front part of the shoes/ boot. They are often elasticated around the ankle section of the foot to enhance a fit that is closer. At the top part you will find a press type of stud fastening and a pull-cord that is elasticated for tightening the gait. The very best gaiters usually most expensive also, use are a fastening buckle that is click-lock with a strap that is adjustable strap, this prevents over tightening of the gait which occur with elasticated styles.
How to Put on Gaiters
The first thing in putting on the gaiter is adjusting the gaiters correctly.
- With the walking shoes and boots on, open it completely then ensure that the strap is firmly fastened on both sides especially at the bottom part.
- Check the adjustment mechanisms and place them outside the foot.
- Lift the heel then place the strap under the foot at the front part of the heel. Metal lace should be along the boot’s front.
- Fasten your zip 2-3 inches then engage the Velcro (this will stop the self-undoing of the zip) stretch the lace-catch in a forward way.
- Then zip up your gaiter and engage the last Velcro.
- Then you can adjust your stirrup strap make sure it’s very tight.
- Adjust the cord at the top so that you have a close fit but spacious enough to allow air circulation!
- Do the above to the remaining leg!
Maintaining a gaiter is easy, they only need a few checks before each use.
Additionally, we have also included some frequently asked questions that trail runners have regarding using gaiters.
Q: I run using rain pants in the city, no trails at all. My shoes and socks still get wet. Are gaiters a possible solution?
A: They are a definite solution. It’s a good point to make that these can be used for running in the rain. They will keep your feet and socks nice and dry while protecting the investment you made in your running shoes. Pro tip: go for a low gaiter and wear them under your rain pants, not over. This will create a better waterproof seal.
Q: What’s the best fabric to consider when selecting a waterproof gaiter?
A: Gore-Tex is still the name to be trusted in waterproofing that also gives great breathability. That being said, gaiters with water repellent sprayed on also work well, but must be cleaned more often.
Q: What type of maintenance is required when owning a pair of gaiters?
A: Not a whole lot, make sure you air dry them overnight and keep them free of any dust and debris that can negatively affect the breathability of the fabric.
Q: Can I use my trail gaiters when I go hiking in the woods?
A: Most people wouldn’t. In the woods, you will be dealing with high weeds and brush. Hiking gaiters are taller and thinker to give you the protection that you need. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to run in hiking gaiters.
Q: My trail shoes have an integrated gaiter, so I don’t really need them.
A: Think again. Having a separate gaiter is an additional layer of protection that acts as the first line of defense. This means that you won’t have to dry out your shoes as much and if you have two days of back to back trail running, you’re going to either need another pair of trail running shoes, or wet and uncomfortable feet.
Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:
- Should You Invest In A Gait Analysis? Read more at http://www.triathlete.com/2013/06/training/should-you-invest-in-a-gait-analysis_78607#27ILippuoEuKSDDe.99, Sporting Website, ,
- Thoughts on gait-analysis, Sporting Website, ,
- Running Mechanics and Gait Analysis With Online Video, Sporting Website, ,
- Trail Running Gaiters, Running Website, ,
- Gaiters: How to Choose and Use, Consumer Website, ,