10 Best Trail Running Gaiters Reviewed
If you are a regular off-road runner, trail running gaiters are an essential part of your gear – especially if you frequently run off-road, on trails, or on dirty and rocky terrain.
Those of us who run in rough terrain know how distracting, disruptive, and downright uncomfortable it is to run with sand or rocks in your shoes. Trail running gaiters specifically address this issue in a simple, fuss-free, and comfortable way – by preventing debris from entering your shoes in the first place!
Gaiters can also help you avoid sore feet, blisters, and will actually keep your feet cool as well (despite the additional fabric wrapped around your ankles).
Here’s our guide to the 10 best!
- 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 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 average price. Though there are slightly cheaper options on the market, these are very 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 hot, sweaty, and motivated
- They have a simple Velcro design, so they’re very easy to put on, take off, 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 regular runners, like most of Salomon’s products.
- Because these are low gaiters, they might not be 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 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 or disruptions.
They have a really nice red and black design that merges subtly with the shoe. Again, this is a good choice for anyone who wants something with a 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 an excellent 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're 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 quite warm. They’re nice and thick and provide plenty of coziness. 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 being dollar smart and penny stupid.
- 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 feet. 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 color and print range this wide.
These are slightly less than mid-range, owing largely to their aesthetic vs. performance qualities. 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 running, these are 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 for the performance
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 is of significance.
These are plain and come in a nice grey color. Though they don’t have the subtlety or sleekness of other options, they still 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
While you run you may forget that you’re wearing them because they are so lightweight. The material is breathable and abrasion resistant.
These have a special reflective print which makes you more visible on the trail. They have metal lace hooks at the front. They are available in many colors if you want to add some style to your gear.
These gaiters aren’t very expensive and are definitely worth the price.
They keep mud and rocks out of your shoes
They don’t rub on your skin
They work great on snow, sand, rocks, dirt and other surfaces
The material is very stretchy
Stays in place without slipping
They may not work well 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's snowy, wet, or muddy. They only come in black and while they look thick, they will actually keep your feet cool and dry during 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
- Size runs small
- Long break-in period
Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiters Belt
With these there is no chance of debris getting in your shoe so there is a smaller chance for injury and blisters. They can easily attach to most running shoes. They are also very easy to clean.
Their minimalistic appearance is really appreciated by reviewers. They're very adjustable.
You may smile when you see the price as it’s quite cheap compared to the previous models on our list while still being of a 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 are very durable
Some buyers said they aren’t completely waterproof
Salomon High Trail Gaiter
They are very helpful toll while running by preventing dirt, rocks, sand, and snow from entering your shoes. They also give additional security with Velcro closures.
These have a reflective design to make you visible on the trail you run at night.
Since these are made with elastic jersey fabric, they very durable and that’s why the price may be a little high. Nevertheless they work perfectly and are worth every penny.
Some buyers said they worked as ankle braces to
They are very easy to put on and take off
They don't irritate your skin
They don’t slip off
Their lightweight design enhances your performance
Some buyers complained about the Velcro not being strong enough
Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters
Good protection from rain, snow, trail slush, and debris, carry these with you and slip them on as needed.
These have good breathability, are nice and lightweight,and allow good movement. Fitted with silicone pads to prevent slippage and comfortable functionality through secure heel attachments in a hook and loop system. The bottom and top edging for the gaiters is elastized and the overall construction is fitted together via flat strong seams.
You get 14% spandex and 86% nylon woven together to give great protection with breathability, while weighing in at just 1.2 ounces. These gaiters fit comfortably 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 trails with built up snow
The Criteria Used To Find The Best Trail Running Gaiters
Whether you are an experienced trail runner or you’re just getting started, trail running gaiters will become your new best friend. To help you make 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 randomly as they are each designed for specific uses. Before you head out to the great outdoors, let’s make sure that you are matched with just the right ones 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 shoes. The number one way that these unwanted companions make their way in is through the top of your shoes. To add a much needed layer of protection, manufacturers have developed gaiters of different shapes and sizes. Our buying guide is specific to trail running gaiters – it’s 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 and weather conditions you will you be running in. If you are dealing with a dry trail then you’re going to want an option that is lightweight and extremely breathable, preferably with a “one strap application” that make them easy to put on and take 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 are dealing with Mother Nature.
When evaluating what seasoned trail runners had to say about 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. 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, as well as a priceless one, your feet! Think of buying an expensive luxury car and not protecting it from a sandstorm because you didn’t buy a twenty dollar dust cover. Furthermore, no matter which ones 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 take 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 gaiters, 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 runs, you have to deal with the issue of stuff getting into your shoes, which is not only painful but also slows down your running. 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 so you’re pretty hardcore. But even the most hardcore trail runner should keep themselves protected from potential hazards. If you’re running on 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. 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.
So why should you consider using a running gaiter and they really necessary? Below are the pros and cons of having gaiters as part of your gear.
- They are able to offer an additional protective layer from debris and moisture. If you will be breaking trail, running in snow or ice, or running on a wet glacier they’re pretty essential.
- Gaiters offer a layer of protection against any sharp objects on the trail such as branches and rocks. They are typically inexpensive, will protect your more expensive investments (boots and pants), and are able to extend the longevity of pants and boots as well as limiting the time you spend on field repairs.
- They dry quickly and easily.
- They can interfere with the breathable nature of your shoes or boots. This is because even though they keep moisture out, they can still keep a small amount of moisture in
- Gaiters can be difficult and annoying to wear, as well as put on and take off.
- They add extra weight to your run.
There are different types of gaiters, and they all have different features. These features determine how the gaiters function and also their compatibility with your running shoes.
Many gaiters are made using synthetic materials. They might have a DWR ( durable water repellent) finish on the outside, with a breathable membrane inside, or have just the water repelling finish.
This determines the gaiters compatibility with trail shoes. Most running gaiters have a strap which fits the outsole of the shoes. However, we have gaiters that are strapless. These types of gaiters will connect to the shoe in a variety of ways, using either 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 that not every gaiter will fit into just any running shoe. It’s advised that before you buy a running gaiter you check its compatibility with your running shoes.
If you want to run in snowy weather, or when it’s wet, raining, or muddy, you’ll need to get a running gaiter that matches the weather resistance capabilities you need. Gaiters with weather resistant features will keep water from reaching the inner sections of your sneakers and shoes while also helping keep your feet warm and dry.
High gaiters offer a more protected feel for your lower leg. You will be better off with a high gaiter if you plan on running off trail or on a trail with lots of obstacles. Some gaiters will only provide a minimal profile.
High Cut models
This type of gaiter come up to the top part of your calf, and are ideal for running on trails that are grassy or bushy. High gaiters offer the best coverage against weather conditions such as 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 your ankle. They are ideal in offering protection against dirt and pebbles, which might slip in as you run. They are perfect for running on a day when there is the possibility of it raining. They provide ample protection to the feet from the dirt and grime that are associated with trail runs and lowland rambling.
All gaiters have some amount of abrasion resistance, providing a high degree of durability and protecting your gaiters 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 sock-like features.
Gaiters used to be made using rubber, as this was the most effective at repelling water at the time. But with the numerous advancements in sporting fabrics and synthetics, running gaiters are now manufactured in a vast variety of manmade fabrics. These fabrics are based around artificial/synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and Cardura. Running gaiters can now offer high levels of water repellency and great breathability while remaining lightweight.
The most common fabrics are eVent and Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is created with waterproof but breathable pores that keep moisture out while also letting moisture from inside your shoe escape. Perfect for gaiters that are likely to be used in a very moist climate and/or your feet sweat a lot. Typically all gaiters are efficiently designed to be weather resistant and offer protection while also having abrasion resistance.
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, and draw cords which seal out any dirt and moisture. The hook and loop can get dirty with time, and ought to be cleaned regularly while the zips will also require care to avoid getting stuck or waterlogged. Elastic is normally favored, be it built in elastic with a hidden frame, or a system that is of a toggle cord type. This system enables plenty of natural flexibility while also being very secure. Some have built in storm flaps, and it’s easy to choose the degree of protection that fits your needs. Most gaiters will weigh between 100g – 150g, though weight is usually not a major factor since most gaiters are very lightweight.
Cheap gaiters will have fastenings made with Velcro, while higher quality gaiters usually have closures that are zipped and covered using a storm flap. The zippers are typically anatomicaly curved to fit your body, and help to ensure that the gaiter can open and close easily. These also give you a more secure fit and feel when worn. Most gaiters are designed with a hook that is used to secure the gaiter around the front part of your shoes or boots. They are often elastictized around the ankle section of your foot to enhance the fit. At the top part you will find a press type of stud fastening and a pull-cord with elastic properties for tightening the gaiter. The very best gaiters are of course usually the most expensive as well, and use a fastening buckle that of a click-lock style with an adjustable strap that prevents over the over-tightening which can occur with elastic styles.
How to Put on Gaiters
The first thing in putting on the gaiter is adjusting the gaiters correctly.
- With your shoes or boots on, open the gaiter completely and 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 laces should be along the boot’s front.
- Fasten your zip 2-3 inches then engage the Velcro (this will stop the zipper from undoing itself) and stretch the lace-catch forward.
- Zip up your gaiter and engage the last zipper, band, or Velcro.
- You can then adjust the stirrup strap to make sure it’s tight.
- Adjust the cord at the top so that you have a close fit that’s still spacious enough to allow air circulation!
- Follow these steps for the other foot.
Maintaining a gaiter is easy, just be sure to hose them off after particularly dirty and muddy runs, making sure to remove any dirt and mud from the various zippers and closures.
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 definitely a possible solution. It’s a good point to make that these can be used for running in the rain, even if you never leave the pavement. 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 or operation of the various closures and attachment points.
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 thicker to give you the protection that you need. Conversely, you wouldn’t want to run in hiking gaiters.
Q: My trail shoes have an integrated gaiter, so I don’t really need them. Right?
A: Think again. Having a separate gaiter is an additional layer of protection that acts as your first line of defense. This means that you won’t have to dry out your shoes as much after wet runs. Without them if you want to run on back to back days, you’re going to either need another pair of trail running shoes, or deal with 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, ,