10 Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed & Tested

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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 increase your endurance.

Not to mention the beautiful scenery you will be able to enjoy! It doesn’t get much more peaceful than running amongst the trees, listening to the birds chirping and feeling the ground beneath you as you move.  However, like every other athletic endeavor, it is important to have the appropriate gear and attire. Trail running shoes differ greatly from road running shoes, so if you decide to begin incorporating trail running into your routine, you will need a great pair of trail shoes.

In this guide, we will be going over our top ten picks for trail running. Each shoe includes a list of features, pros and cons, and a link where you can find them. These are some of our favorites!

Last Updated: June 30, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

This time around our update brings four new additions: The Saucony Peregrine 8, Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4, Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4, and the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4. Continue reading to find out why these shoes made our list of best trail running shoes!

Salomon Speedcross 4
  • Salomon Speedcross 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Water resistant upper
  • Price: See Here
Saucony Peregrine 8
  • Saucony Peregrine 8
  • 4.9 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Great for long-distance
  • Price: See Here
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
  • Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Stable and protective
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Trail Running Shoes

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

If you’re willing to splurge for a high-quality trail running shoe, 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.
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Comfort / Stability
The Speedcross 4s are very well cushioned shoes which provide lasting comfort for those longer 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 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 are fairly priced.
Pros

Water-resistant

Good grip on mud and snow

Quicklace technology

Cons

Expensive


2. Saucony Peregrine 8

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.
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Comfort / Stability

These 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 shoes 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.
Pros
  • 6mm lugs
  • Great traction
  • Comfortable
  • Wide toe box
  • Great for long distance
  • Flexible
  • Responsive
  • Durable
  • 4mm heel drop
  • Cushioned midsole
  • Provide protection and stability
Cons
  • Not as lightweight as its predecessor
  • Not ideal for highly technical or difficult terrain
  • Too cushioned for some users
  • pricey

3. Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4

These shoes have quickly become a favorite among trail runners--they are fast, low to the ground, and offer excellent grip, protection, and traction.
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Comfort / Stability

These Nike shoes offer great stability and optimal levels of tread. They provide you with a secure fit to help prevent debris from entering the shoe. They also feature a cushioned midsole Nike air pockets for additional stability and protection.

Quality / Durability

These shoes are made of high-quality materials--they are highly durable and designed to last 100's of miles.

Cost

These are pricey but well worth the investment given how durable they are.
Pros
  • Great tractio
  • Close to the ground
  • Provide excellent grip
  • Well-cushioned
  • Secure fit
  • Provide adequate stability
  • Protection against debris entry
  • Durable
Cons
  • Sizing issues
  • Pricey

4. La Sportiva Bushido

4. La Sportiva Bushido
La Sportiva is a brand most newbies may not recognize, but it is definitely known for producing durable and high quality trail running shoes.
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Comfort / Stability

These shoes comes equipped with a special lacing with several adjustment point—allowing them to custom fit your foot.
They are also known for being insanely stable and supportive. They feature grip lugs that will get you through any terrain and their rigid footbed and steel shanks featured embedded in the midsole won’t let you feel a thing—no matter how intense the terrain.


Quality / Durability

The quality and durability of the shoes make them one of the best options available this year. If you are looking for a shoe that will make it through intense trail runs, then this is the perfect shoe for you.

Cost

At around $70 these shoes are highly affordable given what they provide you.

5. Altra Lone Peak 3.5

5. Altra Lone Peak 3.5
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a highly rated trail running shoe, specifically made for runners with wider feet.
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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 shoes 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.
Pros
  • Designed for EVA feet 
  • EVA midsole
  • Rock plate 
  • Cushioned
  • Comfortable
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Sizing issues

6. The North Face Ultra Endurance

6. The North Face Ultra Endurance
The North Face doesn't produce a ton of running shoes, 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.

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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.

Pros
  • Sticky Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Ultra Protect CRADLE provides heel stability
  • Snake plate offers forefoot protection from the trail
Cons
  • A bit bulkier than some models

7. Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4

7. Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4
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.
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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 shoes 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.
Pros
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Great price
  • Comfortable
  • Dynamic Fit technology
  • Cushioned
  • Heel support
  • Great traction and grip
Cons
  • Upper is not as durable as the rest of the shoe
  • Not enough heel support for some runners

8. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

8. 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.
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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 shoes 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.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Great for easy trails
  • Comfortable
  • Redesigned breathable upper
  • Optimal EVA cushioning
  • Durable
  • Underfoot protection
  • Great traction
  • Extended toe cap
Cons
  • Sizing issues

9. Merrell Vapor Glove 2

9. Merrell Vapor Glove 2
Minimalist runners can still enjoy the trails. With the Merrell Vapor Glove 2, barefoot runners can keep their feet safe on unexpected trail terrain. These have a Vibram sole and a lightweight mesh lining.
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Comfort / Stability

As large amounts of cushioning and similar features are not typically characteristic of shoes built on a minimalist design, the Vapor Glove is considered to be a pretty comfortable shoe

Quality / Durability

There are some customer reviews that claim that the durability of this version of the Vapor Glove lacks the durability of its predecessors. The complaints suggest that after consistent use they begin falling apart sooner than expected.

Cost

Found for a lower price point than Merrell’s Trail Glove, they are reasonably priced.
Pros
  • 0mm cushioning and heel-to-toe drop
  • Machine washable
  • No need for socks
  • Comfortable and durable
Cons
  • Some who prefer the minimalistic design felt these had too much padding

10. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

10. Inov-8 X-Talon 200
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 this shoe from Inov-8.
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Comfort / Stability

The mesh upper allows a decent amount of airflow through the shoe while remaining protective from the elements, due to their DWR coating. Reinforcing overlays provide additional upper support and fit. Also, 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.
Pros
  • DWR coating keeps the elements out
  • Aggressive outsole offer exceptional grip
  • Breathable upper construction
  • Toe box is roomy without creating a loose improper fit
Cons
  • Needs more underfoot protection

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The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation Of Suitable Trail Running Shoes

Protection

We started by taking a very close look at the total amount of protection offered by the footwear. Most trail runners agree that it’s important to look beyond the advertised specs that individual manufactures offer. This is why we chose to look at what seasoned outdoor enthusiasts had to say after using their trail runners on the most intimidating of courses. We found the safest shoes are those that offer underfoot protection and rugged uppers for maximum safety.

Grip

When running across wet terrain, loose gravel, and dusty paths you’re going to need a lot more traction and grip than what is offered from your standard running shoe. When it comes to this type of running, the stickier, the better–so we compiled our list with this important factor in mind. Our research led to the selection of some of the most aggressive and rugged outsoles on the market. We found that nicely separated lugs prevented small stones from becoming lodged and negatively affecting the traction level of runners. Additionally, the material of the outsole itself contributes to the grip of the footwear and a perfect balance translates to excellent grip and stability.

Weight

The more lightweight the shoes are the better–especially when looking for a trail running shoe. This allows for optimal endurance, agility, and safety. However, when making sure we were choosing lightweight options we also ensured no necessary features were sacrificed to make them more lightweight. Here we have provided you with lightweight options that deliver the high performance you need.

Maximum Durability

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.

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Form and Function

Today’s runners (both men and women) don’t have to worry about choosing between style and performance–and they definitely are no longer like your grandfather’s old leather hiking boots. Since everyone likes a personal selection when it comes to choosing what they put on their feet, we made sure that our picks come in a wide variety of colors and styles that fit every runner’s personal sense of style.

Waterproof

Water is always a possibility in the great outdoors–Mother Nature has the tendency of surprising you when you least expect it! We wanted to make sure that our selections were capable of sloshing through mud and splashing in puddles while leaving your feet comfortable and dry. Off-road runners should be able to keep water out while still maintaining breathability so you can comfortably pursue your love of this higher level of activity.

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Other Important Factors To Consider When Choosing Top Performing Trail Running Shoes

If you’re like most outdoor enthusiasts then you probably you are excited to get out to your next run as soon as you finish one. As you can see from the list provided, you no longer have to depend on a heavy leather hiking boot to receive the protection and support you need when heading out for your next outdoor adventure.

Terrain

If you are a recreational trail runner, then you may only encounter easier trails with slightly rocky paths. If this is the case for you, you might want to consider sticking to a trail shoe that is a more stable and durable version of your daily road running shoe. This allows you to choose more affordable and lightweight options while still receiving the levels of protection you need for those easier trails.

On the other hand, if you like to run on more advanced terrain–like trails with slick or jagged rocks, layers of ice, and steep slopes then you will need to choose a trail running shoe that offers a high level of protection such as a rock plate and a toe box guard. After all, if you are miles away from civilization the last thing you want to worry about is your footwear.

Get To Know Your Feet

Another factor to consider can best be summed up in a well-known runner’s motto: “Know Thy Feet”. Meaning that if you have support needs, for example, it’s important that these characteristics are also applied to the particular pair shoe that you select. You’re still going to want your footwear to offer you additional support.

If you a neutral foot type, look for a proper running shoe that has a sole that agrees with this factor. Runners report that a minimalist design is all the rage now, however, we advise you not to select a running shoe based on trends. Rather, select one based on your foot type. If you are unsure, a most specialty running stores can provide you with a lot of information on your foot type and even give you a thorough analysis along with good options for you to buy.

Selecting The Right Size For Your Outdoor Trail Adventures

This is something that is frequently overlooked, especially by novices. Make a list of things you need in a pair of shoes–such as what your appropriate size and width options are, how many miles your trail runs will be on average, and how long you plan to be out there.  This is crucial because for both road runners and trail runners alike because your feet begin to swell after a while and the wrong shoe size can ruin your run and cause unwanted blisters and even increase your risk of injury.

Again, this is an area where the motto “Know Thy Feet” Will help you make the best decision for you. Seasoned runners who know that their feet will swell typically go a half size to a full size larger depending on the severity of their swelling and how many miles they expect to log in when hitting the outdoors.

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Know When To Replace Your Shoes

It is recommended that you replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles, but trail shoes are a bit more difficult to gauge. Most trail runners stick to the above numbers but keep in mind that seasoned veterans also alternate between two pairs of running shoes.

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FAQ

Q: Why should I start Trail Running? What are the benefits?

This is not an easy question to answer because words alone will not give trail running its due justice. So, here is a great introduction video explaining why you should start hitting those trails!

Q: What should I look for when I need a significant amount of grip on wet or excessively rugged terrain?

You are going to look for deeper lugs on the outsole. This rids the shoe of larger pebbles and stones you encounter. Also look for an aggressive tread pattern and well-placed grooves so you receive the stability you need on uneven terrain.

Q: I’m going to be running or hiking in wet and muddy conditions. What are some features that can help me?

First off, look for a waterproof design because it will be your first layer of protection against the elements. Secondly, find a pair of trail running shoes that have a mudguard feature, to help keep your feet dry. Gore-Tex liners can be worth their added weight wet conditions and well-spaced lugs will help the sole release mud more efficiently.

Q: What kind of cushioning can I expect with this kind of running shoe?

While there are trail shoes that take cushioning into consideration, don’t expect them to be as cushiony as your normal road running shoes. Typically, off-road shoes have a stiffer sole and hidden plates that protect your feet from rocks and other obstacles that you might come across. Keep this in mind if you are surprised by their lack of cushioning.

Q: I’m used to providing maintenance to my outdoor gear like my pack, what kind of maintenance should be provided for when it comes to my outdoor footwear?

You’re going to want to inspect the sole of for wear and tear as well as rocks and stones that can remain lodged in-between lugs and grooves. Additionally, just because they may be waterproof or water-resistant doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check for moisture build up. Properly air drying your shoes will help keep them nice and fresh for your next outing. Something that is frequently overlooked are the laces; before you head out, inspect the laces to make sure they are not damaged and that they won’t snap when you need them the most.

Q: I have a pair of top quality road running shoes, can’t I just use those off the road?

We can’t recommend that at all. Having footwear that is specifically designed for the task of outdoor trail running is crucial for your safety. Road running shoes simply aren’t made to give your feet and ankle support and stability on rough terrain nor do they provide the grip you will need. Just by comparing their soles you will be able to see the difference between the two. Additionally, road running shoe features that help with ventilation collect mud, dirt, and debris on even light non-technical trail runs

Thanks for reading our guide about the best trail running shoes. Now make the perfect selection for you and hit the paths with confidence, Mother Nature awaits!


 

Here are some sources that we used while conducting our research

The research would not be successful if not by the help of the following sources;

Sources

  1. Zen Habits, A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running, Healthy living website, Jun 01, 2010
  2. Dirty Running, Trail Running 101 FAQ How-To Wiki-Thingy, Running blogspot,
  3. Competitor.com, Choosing A Trail Running Shoe That’s Right For You, Running website, May 23, 2014
  4. Rock Creek Runner, 13 Must-Knows For All Beginner Trail Runners, Running website, May 24, 2014
  5. Runner's World, 21 Quick Trail Running Tips, Running enthusiast website, May 23, 2014
  6. Trail Runner, If the Shoe Fits: The anatomy of a trail shoe and how to select the best fit , Running website, May 16, 2013
  7. Strength Running.com, Trail Running 101: The Complete Guide to Running Trails, Running enthusiast website,
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