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Best Trail Running Shoes Reviewed
If you are new to trail running, then you might be just left wondering why you can’t just use your road running shoes when out on your trail runs.
In a lot of cases, it used to be that trail running shoes were quite clunky and stiff, with only hiking-shoe brands having any options out there for trail runners to buy.
In a lot of ways they were overbuilt and not very appealing for running. The good news is that now things have changed a lot.
The best trail running shoes out there today are light, flexible, and very versatile. They are designed for real runners who want to go off-road.
Not all trail running shoes are created equal, though. If you choose a pair that are low-quality, then there is the potential for some real discomfort for your feet, as well as them not lasting very long.
Hiking shoes and trail shoes need to be durable and strong, as there are a number of things that they will face. From stones, uneven ground, mud, rain, streams, and branches, you need to choose a good-quality pair of running shoes if they’re going to be able to stand up to all that they need to.
Trail running can often be quite long, so you don’t want to get caught out with some shoes that break half-way through. Choosing a good pair of hiking sneakers will bring you long-lasting comfort, which is essential for your outdoor running and hiking.
Check Out Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
A good pair of trail shoes will have good traction, so they can grip on mud, dirt, and rock. They will also offer protection too, with toe-bumpers, as well as featuring a tighter-weaved mesh to protect your socks and feet from any trail debris.
Here are some of the best trail running shoes out there, and the features that they have to make them just that.
Top Trail Runners Comparison Chart
Best Trail Running Shoes
If you are looking for a trail shoe that will keep strong with you, straight out of the box, then this is a good option.
The traction is second to none, working superbly over rocks, and giving good grip in muddy conditions too. The Salomon Men’s Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoe offers a lot of support and comfort.
You don’t feel your feet slipping around in the shoes as you get higher and climb at an ankle, due to the higher heel. Coming back down hills, the new and improved tread digs right in and will keep feet underneath, without a feeling that you’re not in control of your descent.
These trail running shoes make an excellent choice as they are designed with even more grip, compared to other Salomon trail shoes, and they have a more dynamic upper.
All in all, these features set a high-bar when it comes to performance and fit or trail shoes. With much better stability, and a really refined look, they are a stellar choice.
This model of trail shoe is La Sportiva’s most cushioned trail running shoe. It is an ultralight shoe, perfect for an all-terrain trail runner.
The shoes are great for trail runners looking for some long distance comfort, as well as some exceptional foot protection.
The shoes feature extra cushioning and great shock absorption, as well as a 12mm heel-to-toe drop, which makes for a really smooth foot strike when out running or hiking.
With an impact brake system, and a very grippy FriXion AT outer sole, it gives these trail running shoes some incredible control, helpful for navigating rocks and tree roots along trails, as well as steep and rugged trails.
With vented AirMesh uppers on the shoes, they help to keep your feet cool when you’re out on hot days, as well as help to control the moisture. This is helpful for comfort, as well as for preventing any blisters, without having to add any unnecessary weight.
They are an exceptionally light trail runner shoe. The shoes also feature transkinetic heel stabilizers and reinforcements, which help to provide extra support and stability, especially for ankles.
So for trail runners and backpackers, they provide a lot of comfort and support, making them a good choice.
This is an updated version of the original ALTRA trail shoe, and the new 4.5 model features a trimmed down layer with added flexibility and comfort, as well as a simplified lacing system, making small adjustments much easier.
As for the quality that you would expect with ALTRA trail shoes, the Lone Peak 4.5 model comes with the same must-haves. These include features like StoneGuard, MaxTrac, and Balanced Cushioning. The latter puts your heel and your forefoot the same distance from the ground. This helps to encourage proper form, as well as meaning that there is low-impact form as you are out on a trail run.
The shoes have a FootShape toe box, which is all about comfort. It means that your toes can relax and spread out in a much more natural way, meaning much more comfort and stability on any uphill climbs, as well as downhill descents.
The shoes also feature a good combination of grip, as well as traction and durability. This means that you can cruise through some of the most gnarly terrain easily.
The shoes don’t have extra arch support if you are flat-footed, but because of the footbox design, there is a lot of space for toes, meaning that there is reduced chance of blisters, and no rubbing as you walk or run. These are also a very lightweight shoe, which is another element that adds to comfort level.
TerraFlex shoes have a natural fit, with a wide toe box. This means that your toes can fall into a more natural position and can spread out and relax.
With a ‘Xero’ drop sole, with the heel not being elevated, it means you can be comfortable, as well as have proper grip, balance, and posture as you run.
If you like barefoot running, these are a good option, as they can be worn with or without socks. If you like to have a barefoot feeling, then you can remove the insole too.
As the name suggests, TerraFlex are completely flexible shoes. This means that they are flexible enough shoes to allow your feet to move and bend, as well as let your feet flex in a really natural way. As a result they do fold up small which can be a benefit for taking on travels.
They are super lightweight too, designed to have a ‘barely there’ style and comfort in mind. They have a minimalist design and are made with vegan materials, which can be an important factor for some.
These shoes from inov-8 use a revolutionary graphene enhanced rubber, unlike any other brands, for comfort and for grip. Inov-8 are renowned for their expertise in shoes that grip, and these are no different.
The tread made from the enhanced rubber features 8mm studs, in an aim to have the best grip possible, especially over muddy, wet, and soft ground.
If you live in an area where the trails are usually like that, then this could be the best shoe for you.
The design of the shoe also means that extra propulsion is in mind. The midsole technology in this trail running shoe absorbs energy, stores it, and then releases that energy in an effort to propel you through the motions, which is a really cool feature.
These trail runners are durable and lightweight, with a durable shoe upper. The supper of the shoe features a tough but breathable mesh upper, making them comfortable, as well as breathable.
The shoes are light, which is another element for comfort. These trail running shoes feature a 4mm drop heel, in order to have a natural running form, as well as helping to encourage a good range of motion in the ankle. This can help to reduce any tension on the achilles and on the calf.
A quick note on size; these shoes tend to come up quite narrow. So if you have wide feet, it could be worth sizing up, or choosing an alternative shoe.
Top Trail Sneakers Features To Consider
It doesn’t matter what your trail running goals are, you need to have the best shoe for you. Whether you will use it for racing or for adventuring, you need to choose the one that will suit you best.
There are a number of options out there, as you can see. When it comes to choosing the right shoe for you, what matters most is selecting trail shoes based on what you specifically are looking for.
Here are some of the features of trail shoes, as well as how they can help you. Hopefully, these will be able to guide you in your decision to find the best trail running shoes for you.
Tread and Lugs
Trail shoes differ from running shoes in a variety of ways. One big difference is with the tread. Trail shoes tend to have some smaller lugs on the rubber tread, which are placed in an effort to provide grip when surfaces are uneven, as well as on soft ground.
If the lugs are greater than 5mm, then this will usually be better on steep, rocky, or tree root trails. Hybrid shoes have small lugs, which can work on simpler trails and trails with fewer ‘obstacles.’
A lot of trail shoes have a rock plate, which is built into the shoe, to protect your foot from more rugged and harsh terrain.
If you tend to run on terrain that is quite rugged and rocky, then the shoe that you will want to choose needs to have a rock plate in order to have extra protection.
These will obviously add some weight to the shoe, so should be a consideration if you are looking for an ultra lightweight shoe.
The stack height of the shoe is how much there is between your foot and the ground. When there is a higher stack height, it can often be an indicator of comfort level, as more layers can mean more padding.
Again, this can add weight to the shoe. So for lighter weight shoes or shoes that feel more barefoot, you will be looking for a lower stack height.
You need to remember that durability and comfort is what you are looking for when it comes to choosing trail shoes. An important aspect in the comfort and durability of the trail shoe is the upper part of the shoe.
Good quality trail shoes tend to have more durable and burlier upper parts of the shoe, to help to withstand some more rugged terrain.
A lot of trail shoes tend to have mesh uppers, to help them to be more breathable, as well as being comfortable. It is a good idea to look out for ones that are not going to let in dirt, sand, or debris, though, as ultimately, that isn’t going to help your comfort when out on the trails.
The drop of the shoe is another important feature, and will help you to see if the shoe is going to be suitable for you or not. The drop is all about the difference in how high the shoe is, from the heel to the toes.
If there is a low drop, then the trail shoe will help you to have more of a midfoot strike, which is usually lower impact.
When you compare this to a higher drop where you’re more likely to result in a heel strike, then you need to think about your running style and what will work best for you.
A lower drop also means that your Achilles will have to work a little harder, which should be a consideration when going up steep hills; it could take some adjustment to get used to it.