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10 Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed & Tested

last updated Dec 14, 2018
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.

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!
Interviewed Experts
4
Interviewed Experts
Researched Sources
20
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1.5k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
20
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
20
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
By Sarah Coryell:

New updates and product details have been added to the buyer guide this time. With new information at your fingertips, we hope these guides make it even easier for you to find the products that are right for your wants and needs. Check out our FAQ and Criteria Review sections as well for even more great information!

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Protection Overall Fit Weight Durability Terrain By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.4
Protection
97%
Overall Fit
97%
Weight
98%
Durability
98%
Terrain
97%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$84.47
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$94.00
$96.93
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$129.95
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$129.95
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2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.2
Protection
97%
Overall Fit
97%
Weight
95%
Durability
95%
Terrain
97%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$65.00
$65.97
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$71.83
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$75.95
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$119.95
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3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.4
Protection
94%
Overall Fit
95%
Weight
93%
Durability
93%
Terrain
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$81.22
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$124.95
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$130.00
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Protection
90%
Overall Fit
90%
Weight
90%
Durability
90%
Terrain
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$96.93
See Deal
$97.50
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$98.88
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.4
Protection
90%
Overall Fit
90%
Weight
87%
Durability
87%
Terrain
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$89.88
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$90.00
$119.95
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$119.95
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6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.6
Protection
87%
Overall Fit
89%
Weight
87%
Durability
85%
Terrain
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.6
Protection
85%
Overall Fit
85%
Weight
83%
Durability
82%
Terrain
83%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$76.96
See Deal
$129.95
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.4
Protection
83%
Overall Fit
82%
Weight
82%
Durability
80%
Terrain
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$104.95
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$105.00
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$105.00
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$129.95
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9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
77.8
Protection
80%
Overall Fit
80%
Weight
77%
Durability
77%
Terrain
75%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
$69.95
$79.95
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$79.95
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10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
73.6
Protection
75%
Overall Fit
75%
Weight
73%
Durability
73%
Terrain
72%
Price Comparison Last Updated (15.12.18)
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Salomon Speedcross 4
  • Saucony Peregrine 8
  • Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
  • La Sportiva Bushido
  • Altra Lone Peak 3.5
  • The North Face Ultra Endurance
  • Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4
  • Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
  • Merrell Vapor Glove 2
  • Inov-8 X-Talon 200
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Steps to Choosing The Right Trail Running Shoe

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Our Favorites

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.4
Salomon Speedcross 4
Protection
97
Overall Fit
97
Weight
98
Durability
98
Terrain
97
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$94.00
$84.47
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Pros:

Water-resistant

Good grip on mud and snow

Quicklace technology

Cons:

Expensive compared to other shoes

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.

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 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.

2. Saucony Peregrine 8

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.2
Saucony Peregrine 8
Protection
97
Overall Fit
97
Weight
95
Durability
95
Terrain
97
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$65.00
$65.97
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$71.83
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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

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 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.

3. Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.4
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
Protection
94
Overall Fit
95
Weight
93
Durability
93
Terrain
92
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$130.00
$81.22
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Pros:

Great traction

Close to the ground

Provide excellent grip

Well-cushioned

Secure fit

Provide adequate stability

Protection against debris entry

Durable

Cons:

Sizing issues reported by some users

Pricey compare to some shoes

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

Read more

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 and how well they will support your workouts and daily runs.

4. La Sportiva Bushido

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
La Sportiva Bushido
Protection
90
Overall Fit
90
Weight
90
Durability
90
Terrain
90
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$98.88
$96.93
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$97.50
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Pros:

Comfortable fit that lasts even on longer runs

Durable and a good investment for beginners

Cons:

SImple design without a lot off additional perks

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

Read more

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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.4
Altra Lone Peak 3.5
Protection
90
Overall Fit
90
Weight
87
Durability
87
Terrain
88
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$89.88
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Pros:

Designed for EVA feet 

EVA midsole

Rock plate 

Cushioned

Comfortable

Cons:

Expensive according to some users

Sizing issues for smaller shoe sizes

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 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.

6. The North Face Ultra Endurance

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.6
The North Face Ultra Endurance
Protection
87
Overall Fit
89
Weight
87
Durability
85
Terrain
85
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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

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.

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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.6
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4
Protection
85
Overall Fit
85
Weight
83
Durability
82
Terrain
83
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$129.95
$76.96
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Pros:

Durable and lightweight design

Great price and investment value

Comfortable design

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

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.

8. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.4
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
Protection
83
Overall Fit
82
Weight
82
Durability
80
Terrain
80
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$104.95
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$105.00
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Pros:

Lightweight

Great for easy trails

Comfortable

Redesigned breathable upper

Optimal EVA cushioning

Durable

Underfoot protection

Great traction

Extended toe cap

Cons:

Sizing issues reported by some runners

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 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.

9. Merrell Vapor Glove 2

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
77.8
Merrell Vapor Glove 2
Protection
80
Overall Fit
80
Weight
77
Durability
77
Terrain
75
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$69.95
$79.95
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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

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.

Read more

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.

10. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
73.6
Inov-8 X-Talon 200
Protection
75
Overall Fit
75
Weight
73
Durability
73
Terrain
72
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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

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.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

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.

Weight

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.

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.

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, 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.

Durability

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.

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.

Overall Fit

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.
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.

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.

Expert Interviews & Opinions

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Have a good idea of the terrain you're up against!

When you look at all the trail shoes out there, you'll notice the difference in treading. Some are more aggressive, some are less. Some shoes are constructed with more protective attributes, and some have more of a minimalistic design.

If the terrain you're running requires more flexibility, then perhaps consider a lighter shoe. If the terrain is hard and rocky, well then more protection is probably a better choice.

Waterproof or not?

Do you need shoes that are constructed with materials such as Gore-Tex or similar? Well, where are you going?

If you live in temperate or humid environments, then go for it. If you're running in an arid or desert environment, then not so much.

Other Factors to Consider

Advanced Features

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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?
a:

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?
a:

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?
a:

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?
a:

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?
a:

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

Sources

  1. Editorial Team, Zen Habits, Healthy living website, Jun 01, 2010
  2. Dax Ross, Dirty Running, Running blogspot,
  3. Linzay Logan, Competitor.com, Running website, May 23, 2014
  4. Jenny Hadfield, Runner's World, Running enthusiast website, May 23, 2014
  5. Editorial Team, Strength Running.com, Running enthusiast website,