10 Best Trail Runners Reviewed & Tested in 2021

Bored of running on roads? Ready to try something different? Trail running just might be your niche! If you are looking for a more challenging workout and to branch out of your normal routine, give trail running a shot. Trail running comes with many benefits and presents you with new and challenging obstacles that will help build your strength to increase your endurance. Check out some of the best trail running shoes to get you going in our buying guide below. We've fully reviewed our favorite trail running sneakers so that you can get out on some rugged runs in no time. Also, make sure you check out our selection of best lightweight running shoe selection as well.

Standout Picks

Salomon Speedcross 4 running shoes
If you’re willing to splurge for high-quality trail running shoes, go for the Salomon Speedcross 4. With the latest technology Salomon has to offer, the Speedcross 4s are water-resistant, provide solid traction and just enough support for a good combination of flexibility and protection.
Saucony Peregrine 8 running shoes
This model has been a favorite among runners for quite some time, and it seems like every time they release a new model it only gets better and better! These shoes provide the traction, comfort, and protection you need when braving those trails.
La Sportiva Bushido 2 trail runners
Just a step above the original, the La Sportiva Bushido 2 stays true to the Bushido name with a low stable profile and aggressive grip on the most rugged terrain. It is a shoe that offers epic control. Although these trail running sneakers are keeping to the same standard, the very minimal upgrades deserve the attention of a second-generation trail runner. It is what some call a perfect combination of all things trail: comfort, responsiveness, stability and very lightweight.
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
From flexibility to stability, Nike covered all threads when making the Terra Kiger 5 trail runner without sacrificing durability or comfort. The Terra Kiger 5 has carbon fiber lugs and rubber outsole lining. They are proving to outlast and outperform the competition and coming in at 9.5 oz, it is also one of the lighter and agile on the list.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail sneakers
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a highly rated trail running shoe, specifically made for runners with wider feet.
The North Face Ultra Endurance best trail running shoes review
The North Face doesn't produce a ton of sneakers for running, but the models they do make are pretty good. The ultra Endurance is one of those shoes. With excellent grip to plenty of protection from the elements, this one has it all.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 trail running shoes reviews
These Nike trail running shoes are durable, lightweight and comfortable. They are a perfect option to hit those trails and will help keep you going while also providing you with the protection and stability you need.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
These Hoka shoes have quickly risen to one of the most highly recommended trail running shoes of this year. They are a great option for easy trails and offer the comfort, cushioning, and durability many runners seek.
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner
Merrell’s Trail Glove 4 has all the authenticity of a minimalist, barefoot design while still keeping up with the trail running competition. Not only is the Glove 4 outperforming other minimalist designs, but it is also adding a whole other level to the trail shoe game. The flexibility allows for the most natural of foot movement a shoe can offer while still providing just enough padding and protection to run and hike some of the gnarliest trails.
Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail running sneakers
Check out the incredible grip, something that this trail runner would have to possess with a name like the X-Talon 200. Breathable, lightweight and flexible are some of the major selling points for these trail running sneakers from Inov-8.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Traction

When you're trail running variable surfaces are part of the equation so you'll need a shoe that has excellent grip on different types of terrain.

All of the trail running sneakers we picked for this list offer the user a high level of grip on a wide variety of terrain. Since you'll be venturing off road and onto trails the type of surfaces you'll encounter differ greatly from must asphalt roads. For the most part, when trail running you'll probably be encountering dirt trails with maybe a few rocks and sticks here and there. But you could also wind up running on wet grass, doing some stream or river crossings, or even some light bouldering so you need to be ready for anything.

Some things to look for while you're shopping for the right pair of trail running shoes for trail running is an outsole with an aggressive tread pattern that ideally has good grip on both dry and wet surfaces. You'll notice that some products have gripping elements that are on the sides of the outsole. These are to help you grip variable terrain when you're foot is at an angle. These can be some of the trail running situations where you are most likely to slip, so if you're regularly running on steep pitches with variable terrain you'll definitely want a pair of shoes with this feature.

Breathability

Especially if you'll be encountering wet grass and/or stream crossings, you'll want a trail running shoe that allows moisture to escape and dries quickly.

Any time you're running you're likely to work up a sweat and it's important to have a pair of shoes that can let that moisture escape. Trail running can often require more exertion than running on asphalt and it also brings the possibility of encountering more moisture than you would when road running, in the form of stream or river crossings and wet foliage. Because of this combination of factors, most shoes designed specifically for trail running incorporate several features that help the shoes to dry quickly and let moisture easily escape.

Some things to look for when you're shopping include breathable mesh uppers, drainage ports if you'll be a doing a lot of water crossings, and synthetic materials that dry quickly. Although it's not the focus of this list there are even waterproof shoes that are still breathable for runners who do a lot of water crossings or even an advanced type of trail running known as fell running.

Weight

Running even just a moderate distance requires literally thousands of strides so even saving a few ounces leads to reducing a lot of work and wear and tear on your body.

Every stride you make while running is work that your body has to do. Trail running ups the ante by asking you to go up and down hills and sometimes negotiating variable terrain. It might not seem like a big deal, but saving a few ounces by buying a lighter pair of trail running shoes than another option can lead to saving literally pounds of work and wear and tear on your body. It varies greatly depending on running speed and the length of your strides, but the average person takes about 1,500 strides per mile while running. So even if you're only saving one ounce per shoe that works out to over 93 pounds of lifting work that your legs didn't have to do as well as a good amount of stress and force that your joints and tendons don't have to deal with. And that's just one mile! If you regularly run long distances, whether it's on the road or trail, you can save yourself a lot of work and bodily wear and tear by buying a lightweight pair of trail running shoes.

Durability

Shoes for trail running experience a lot of wear and tear so be sure to buy a pair with qualities and features that will help make them long-lasting.

The most durable models are usually constructed from the ground up (literally). When determining durability we started by taking a look at the outsole material and how well it holds up to the elements and harder than average impacts. Midsoles need to maintain a solid level of comfort while not giving out as more miles are added. The uppers should be comprised of strongly constructed materials. It’s crucial that you can trust your footwear when you might find yourself out in the middle of nowhere, and our research uncovered the most trusted trail runners on the market.

One trick you can use to help maximize the life of your trail running shoes is to have two pairs that you use and to rotate between them. When you run in shoes where the interior is still damp from sweat it causes the interior cushioning to compress and wear more rapidly than when you run in shoes that are dry. So by rotating between two pairs of running shoes, you can help to get more use out of each pair. It's a larger investment upfront but you'll save money and hassle in the long run.

Motion Control

If you're an under or over-pronator be sure to look for a pair of shoes with features that will help give you the support and gait enhancement that your unique body needs.

While shoes that help support unique running gaits and issues such as fallen arches and under or over-pronation aren't the focus of this buying guide, it's an important thing to consider if you have any of these situations going on with your feet and ankles. Trail running can put more stress on your feet and ankles and ask for more flexibility and mobility out of them than road running and it's important for everyone, especially people with any sort of stride impairments to look for models that will give them the support that they need.

Some things to look for are overlays that offer motion control and a comfortable and supportive insert if you have plantar fasciitis or fallen arches.

Trail Running Shoes Reviews

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

Salomon Speedcross 4 running shoes
Amazon Link

If you’re willing to splurge for high-quality trail running shoes, go for the Salomon Speedcross 4. With the latest technology Salomon has to offer, the Speedcross 4s are water-resistant, provide solid traction and just enough support for a good combination of flexibility and protection.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

The Speedcross 4s are very well cushioned shoes which provide lasting comfort for those long trail runs. Additionally, the Quicklace system that this shoe employs actually works well to provide a custom fit to the user, offering a secure fit and ensuring comfort. At first, the shoes may feel a bit tight, but after wearing them for a short while they seem to break in easily. The secure fit also works well in conjunction with the multi-directional lugs attached to the shoe’s Contagrip rubber outsole to provide excellent stability and traction for multiple types of environments.

Quality / Durability

When compared with other trail running shoes, the Salomon Speedcross holds its place at the top of the list. With attributes such as a durable upper, rigid outsole and protective toe caps, the Speedcross has everything needed to hammer through those rough trails and keep you moving. In other words, they are pretty durable shoes.

Cost

For beginners, these may seem expensive. However, the more experienced runners as well as those who tend to stick to the trails and off-road courses, these trail running shoes are fairly priced.

Check out all the best Salomon trail running shoes.

2. Saucony Peregrine 8

Saucony Peregrine 8 running shoes
Amazon Link

This model has been a favorite among runners for quite some time, and it seems like every time they release a new model it only gets better and better! These shoes provide the traction, comfort, and protection you need when braving those trails.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

These trail running shoes feature a cushioned midsole and have great responsiveness. They are great for long distance trail running and offer appropriate flexibility and stability for easy and average trails. They also have a wide toe box and provide a secure fit.

Quality / Durability

This model has 6mm lugs and offers excellent protection against rocks and other elements that may get stuck to the shoe. They are highly durable and are built to last.
There are some issues with parts of the rubber peeling off from the bottom of the soles. However, other than that, the durability of these trail running sneakers for an extended period of use is, overall, quite good.

Cost

These are pretty pricey, but given their features and durability, they are well-worth the cost.

3. La Sportiva Bushido 2

La Sportiva Bushido 2 trail runners
La Sportiva Bushido 2 bottom
La Sportiva Bushido 2 front view
La Sportiva Bushido 2 back view
Amazon Link

Just a step above the original, the La Sportiva Bushido 2 stays true to the Bushido name with a low stable profile and aggressive grip on the most rugged terrain. It is a shoe that offers epic control. Although these trail running sneakers are keeping to the same standard, the very minimal upgrades deserve the attention of a second-generation trail runner. It is what some call a perfect combination of all things trail: comfort, responsiveness, stability and very lightweight.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

The low profile, extra tongue padding, and slipper snug fit set the Bushido 2 in a ranking of its own in stability. Unlike most trail runners, the Bushido 2 offers extra cushioning in all the right places without taking away from the true trail feel. This design with smart cushioning and EVA sole is a step above the norm. It still offers a rugged midsole and extra sticky grip, which allows for a nice ride in mud or steeper slopes. The lock-in lacing system is also a great tool in the Bushido arsenal, working with you to keep those feet locked in tight on the most difficult terrain.

Quality / Durability

La Sportiva Bushido is known for having high standards in durability. Although the grippy sole does wear out a bit faster, having good “breaks’ outweighs the need for longevity in the expert trail department. The rock plate adds to the durability, allowing you to glide over rubbish, also adding to the comfort. The toe is reinforced with rubber, protecting the shoe from trail use and your toes from abuse. The mesh material is made very well and does not take away from the durability of the shoe while allowing it to breathe.

Cost

The average price tag of these is pleasant since the shoe itself offers more than average design and build. The Bushido 2 offers more than average stability as well. Running low and fast to the ground. You can feel as safe parting with the money as you do running the trails.

Check out all the best La Sportiva trail running shoes.

4. Nike Terra Kiger 5

Where to buy
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
Nike Terra Kiger 5 trail runners
Amazon Link

From flexibility to stability, Nike covered all threads when making the Terra Kiger 5 trail runner without sacrificing durability or comfort. The Terra Kiger 5 has carbon fiber lugs and rubber outsole lining. They are proving to outlast and outperform the competition and coming in at 9.5 oz, it is also one of the lighter and agile on the list.

Read more

Comfort / Stability
Nike added the React mid-sole to the Keiger 5 while taking out the Zoom Air in the front and replacing it with a rock plate. This not only adds to the stability of the shoe, it also allows you to get a smoother ride when shredding through rougher terrain. Nike put more thought into the lacing this time, allowing for a more snug fit. The added loops allow for the K5 to pull the midfoot in tight, giving the runner a secure lockdown, which means no slippage. Another small but effective upgrade is the small pads intelligently placed in the tongue right where the laces lock-in. This small addition makes the Terra Kiger 5 over the top comfortable. The soft ankle fabric prevents the shoe from chaffing and rubbing the ankle as well. Nike did leave the Zoom Air pocket in the heel, keeping up with the bounce and responsiveness runners seem to love most about these trail running shoes.

Quality / Durability
Durability is what makes this shoe stand out. Equal to any shoe with great traction, the multi-directional carbon fiber lugs seem to wear faster than the rest of the shoe. Strategically placing the rubber-coated lugs in the front and rear of the trail runner leaves the midsole more open and flexible. Nike added a midsole cushioning to this area, which adds to the support and makes the shoe seem to last a bit longer while also protecting from sharp rocks. The rock plate in the front works like magic on those jagged trails without sacrificing any flexibility. Needless to say, the shoe moves and lasts. Average daily trail runners are locking in a solid 350 miles of trail in these. The midsole and upper have gotten raves across the board. The mesh durability is not questionable and they are breathable, although they lack drainage.

Cost
Think of the Nike Terra Kiger 5 as more of an investment when making the purchase. The balance of comfort vs. weight is a great selling point for those runners who love a soft light shoe that can handle a beating. The Kiger 5 is a smart, well thought out trail running shoe at an average price.

5. Altra Lone Peak 3.5

Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail sneakers
Amazon Link

The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a highly rated trail running shoe, specifically made for runners with wider feet.

Read more

Altra has been a consistent brand on this listed, and this year the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail running shoes are among the most highly rated shoes currently available.

These trail running sneakers are specifically tailored for individuals with wide feet, so if you have a narrow foot steer clear.

That being said, they feature a zero drop--meaning they the entire shoe is the same height. ALtra also uses its' A-bound EVA foam combined with rock plate embedded midsole--this allows for a well-cushioned and stable shoe that will not get destroyed (or sacrifice comfort) when running on those rugged terrains.

Cost

This shoe is up their in cost, but it is definitely reasonably priced--especially with all of the features it provides.

6. The North Face Ultra Endurance

Where to buy
The North Face Ultra Endurance best trail running shoes review
Amazon Link

The North Face doesn't produce a ton of sneakers for running, but the models they do make are pretty good. The ultra Endurance is one of those shoes. With excellent grip to plenty of protection from the elements, this one has it all.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

The Ultra Endurance provides a supportive fit for the trail with its heel stability technology which they call the Ultra Protect Cradle system. The breathable upper provides both excellent airflow and quick drying properties, which are essential features for the trails.
The midsole is constructed from single density compression molded EVA, offering enough comfort for a decent run.
The durable Vibram Megagrip outsole provides sticky traction on multiple surfaces, with the added protection of their ESS Snake Plate under the forefoot.

Quality / Durability

As far as durability goes, they really don't seem to have any real issues which users are too concerned about. In fact, we couldn't really find much negative feedback about this model at all.
The construction and materials seem to be of good quality.

7. Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4

Where to buy
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 trail running shoes reviews
Amazon Link

These Nike trail running shoes are durable, lightweight and comfortable. They are a perfect option to hit those trails and will help keep you going while also providing you with the protection and stability you need.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

There are no complaints with these shoes when it comes to comfort. They feature Dynamic Fit technology, which They are well ventilated and allow for maximum breathability--and their Phylon midsole provides additional heel support.

Quality / Durability

These trail running sneakers are made of high-quality material and highly durable--you can expect to get about 300-500 miles out of them. They have a waffle outsole for great traction and outsole lugs on the outsole for great grip.

Cost

These shoes come moderately priced and are a great addition to your running gear.

8. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
Amazon Link

These Hoka shoes have quickly risen to one of the most highly recommended trail running shoes of this year. They are a great option for easy trails and offer the comfort, cushioning, and durability many runners seek.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

These lightweight shoes are versatile and have just the right amount of EVA cushioning. They provide great shock absorption, which helps prevent injuries from occurring. They offer excellent rollover support and are equipped to provide optimal traction. This model features a more breathable model than its predecessor and an extended toe cap.

Quality / Durability

These trail sneakers are highly durable and made of high-quality material. They are built to last and designed to withstand rough conditions.

Cost

These come at a pricey cost but are definitely worth the investment.

9. Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner

Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner
Merrell Trail Glove 4 side view
Merrell Trail Glove 4 front view
Merrell Trail Glove 4 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 4 back
Amazon Link

Merrell’s Trail Glove 4 has all the authenticity of a minimalist, barefoot design while still keeping up with the trail running competition. Not only is the Glove 4 outperforming other minimalist designs, but it is also adding a whole other level to the trail shoe game. The flexibility allows for the most natural of foot movement a shoe can offer while still providing just enough padding and protection to run and hike some of the gnarliest trails.

Read more

Comfort/Stability
Forming to the total foot, the Trail Glove 4 wraps the arch area without adding unwanted pressure. The thin but effective padding in the midsole protects the foot from sharp objects and adds much-needed stability and grab on uneven terrain. The abrasion resistant, anti-slip outer sole allows for all sorts of quick movement for a more controlled run. The midsole padding does not take away from that minimalist design either; it creates a perfect marriage of barefoot and trail.

Quality/Durability
Merrell’s Vibram Outsole TC1 adds so much that would be desired on tougher terrain in a basic minimalist shoe: comfort, control and very importantly, added durability. Merrell made the rubber “abrasion proof”, which makes the Trail Glove 4 virtually indestructible. The quality of shock absorbency is surprising since the padding is so thin and the shoe itself is feather light, 7oz, making this more an extension of the natural foot than a shoe. A smart addition to this padding is the anti-microbial, microfiber that keeps the Glove 4 dry and clean from sweat, saving the shoe from faster breakdown and smell.

Cost
If you're looking into barefoot running, you won’t find more functioning simplicity for your buck. The Trail Glove 4 is a minimalist shoe on steroids and holds a firm grasp on trail running standards. The lightweight carries a heavyweight title in agility and quick response. For the low cost, you get a top-notch trail shoe.

Read also about vivobarefoot shoes review.

10. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

Where to buy
Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail running sneakers
Amazon Link

Check out the incredible grip, something that this trail runner would have to possess with a name like the X-Talon 200. Breathable, lightweight and flexible are some of the major selling points for these trail running sneakers from Inov-8.

Read more

Comfort / Stability

Due to the upper mesh's DWR coating, there is a decent amount of airflow through the XT200 while still remaining protected from the elements. Reinforcing overlays provide additional upper support and fit as well. There is plenty of room for natural forefoot splay without being loose and unstable.

In the midsole you'll find EVA foam that provides adequate cushioning which offers great shock absorption, as well as energy returning bounce back.
The X-Talon's Rop-Tech outsole has some fairly aggressive tread to maintain a positive grip on just about any trail. The reinforced toe bumper provides additional protection against loose rocks and debris encountered along the way.

Quality / Durability

The feedback from users has been typically positive, although many would like to see more underfoot protection built into the model. As far as durability goes, these seem to stand up to most rough terrain. However, there are a few reviews critical of the shoe's lifespan under heavy use over extreme types of terrain.

Sources

  1. Editorial Team, Zen Habits, Healthy living website
  2. Dax Ross, Dirty Running, Running blogspot
  3. Linzay Logan, Competitor.com, Running website
  4. Jenny Hadfield, Runner's World, Running enthusiast website
  5. Editorial Team, Strength Running.com, Running enthusiast website
  6. Wendy Bumgardner, How Many Steps are in a Mile?, Website

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Inside RunnerClick Pro, runners of all strengths come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in personal challenges, and more.