et’s face it: For many of us, running is a necessary evil. For the military folks, PT isn’t an option (except for maybe Space Force), and a lot of vets continue PT out of a lifetime of habit. Some folks like to run, some outright despise it. So if you’ve got to do it, why not make it interesting?
Trail running can make this tedious exercise enjoyable and rewarding. If you’re miserable while running, you can distract yourself by focusing on the technical challenges around you,Men Nike Shoes or just enjoy the scenery. While you can tackle tame trails with regular running shoes, you’re going to want to have specifically-made trail runners if you’re thinking of racing over more challenging terrain. Since the technical paths are where the fun is, we’ve put together this list to help you choose the best trail runners to help you take your fitness to the next level.
We’ve got a list of some of the best trail running shoes on the market, and why you should take a look at them. Since shoes are uniquely personal (one person may absolutely swear by a brand that feels horrendously uncomfortable to someone else), we’ve looked at a number of running categories and design styles to help you narrow down your choice. Read on and let’s see which of the best trail running shoes work for you.
Hoka One One makes every “best of” list out there, and for good reason. Their shoes are sturdy and comfortable, arguably two of the most important features of a running shoe of any kind. The Speedgoat 4, though, is in a class all its own. Trail running, though fun, can get hot, so the upper shoe is made of a breathable mesh, and the gusseted tongue is specially designed to also enhance breathability to enhance comfort on long runs.
The midsole, made of a lightweight foam, is thick and Cat Boots provides impressive shock absorption and comfort. Hoka One One doesn’t give a lot of detail on the midsole, but it’s capable enough that the company decided to do without a rockplate with the Speedgoat.
The rubber outsole and 5mm lugs grab the terrain to help you confidently navigate technical trails. The outsoles are made of Vibram Megagrip, and they hold on to the trail regardless of the obstacles you’re running, wet or dry. The lugs are stepped and designed to get you through rocks, roots, and mud.
- Weight10.8 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleBalanced cushion (although runners can argue they’re more plush)
- Traction5mm stepped lugs
Breathable mesh and 3D printed overlays provide comfort and increased stability
Rubber outsoles (Vibram Megagrip) work extremely well in wet conditions
Midsole cushioning ideal for longer distance runs
Thick cushioning may be too much for some, especially beginners
Toe box is more narrow than other brands
Brooks is well-known for making traditional running shoes, but they also make some well-regarded trail runners too, and the Divide 2 has turned quite a few heads. It’s not the most advanced or sexiest to hit the trails, but it packs a lot of value for a comparatively low price. It’s the perfect shoe if you’re just beginning your outdoor excursions or if you plan on mixing paved road and trail runs.
The Divide 2 is made to feel like a traditional running shoe. The upper shoe is a synthetic mesh for breathability, while the midsole is moderately cushioned and, in terms of impact absorption, works well on both paved surfaces and trails. Under the midsole is a rockplate, which provides additional protection for feet on the trails (at the cost of a little rigidity that road runners may need to get used to).
The Divide 2’s outsole is made of a sticky rubber, and has relatively shallow, multidirectional lugs to grip the earth. Since this shoe is designed to bridge regular road running and trail running, the lug patterns aren’t super aggressive, but the shoe is more than capable of taking you onto gravelly and moderately challenging trails.
- Weight10.3 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleModerate EVA cushion
- TractionTrailTack sticky outsoles
Designed to work well on paved roads and basic, non-technical trails
Priced notably lower than high-end brands
Includes rockplate for extra protection on trails
Moderate cushioning not ideal for long distance running
Not really suitable for technical trails
Altra shoes are often locked in close combat with Hoka One One for top seed on many “best of” lists. In this case, the Olympus 4 and its cousin, the Lone Peak 5 (listed below), were just shy of getting the best overall position. They’re both excellent trail runners, and deserve your consideration.
The Olympus 4 has a similar amount of cushion as the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4. Running in them is like running with bouncy castles on your feet. They feature a notorious wide toe box, although some have complained they run more narrow than other Altra shoes.Sneakers2090 ,Like Altra’s other shoes, their ZeroDrop design allows the foot to function as though you’re not wearing a shoe. While this sounds great, it’s not for everyone, so you definitely want to try these out before committing.
The midsole, though large and offering maximum cushion, has special grooves that Altra calls “InnerFlex.” This makes the shoe more responsive and, when combined with the outsole’s impressive grip of the trail, provides confidence and comfort on any run, no matter how far you go.
- Weight11.6 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleCompression molded EVA
- TractionCanted lugs and Vibram MegaGrip outsole, excellent grip
33mm stack height, balanced cushioning ideal for long distance runs
InnerFlex midsole grooves enhance shoe flexibility for added comfort
Upper is made of an engineered mesh for breathability
GaiterTrap hook-and-loop tab supports strapless gaiters for additional protection
ZeroDrop design doesn’t work for everyone
More narrow toe box than other Altra shoes
We’ve listed the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 as the top overall trail running shoe, and it’s an excellent choice for both men and women. However, we need to make special note of the Women’s Salomon Sense Ride 4. Salomon is a giant among running shoe brands, and with good reason.
Lighter than the Speedgoat 4, the Sense Ride 4 is designed for mixed trail use. In this respect, this shoe is one of the more versatile on the market, as it performs well on paved surfaces and on some of the most technical of trails. The midsole, made of Optivibe foam, has slightly less cushioning than the Speedgoat 4, but also doesn’t quite feel as thick and heavy on the feet.
The Sense Ride 4’s outsole sports smaller lugs than the Speedgoat 4 as well, which gives the shoe plenty of grip while being somewhat easier to run with on paved surfaces. The combined sense of stability and light weight make this a great choice for speed or hybrid running.
- Weight8.29 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleModerate (regular) Optivibe cushioning
- Traction4mm lugs, rubber Contagrip outsole
32mm heel stack height and balanced cushioning great for road or trail
Quicklace system means no more shoe laces coming untied
Lightweight, makes ideal for racing or training
Some report annoying “popping” sound as you break these in
I was surprised when I first started trail running that most of these shoes, unlike hiking boots, weren’t waterproof. It turns out, there’s a good reason for this: Waterproofing often means a tradeoff in breathability for your feet, and hot feet make for sweat, blisters, and an uncomfortable run altogether. Plus, you’re likely to have a little more weight added on.
That said, the industry has produced some impressive waterproof trail runners. Salomon’s second entry on our list, the Speedcross 5 GTX, is one of the best. Using industry standard Gore-Tex, this Speedcross 5 is waterproof and built to take on the most challenging trails in whatever weather you’re caught in. Compared to its non-waterproof sibling (the regular Speedcross 5), it’s a little bulkier (with a heel stack height of 37.4mm vs 35mm) and is also ¾ ounce heavier per shoe. But the tradeoff can be worth it, especially if you’re running in wet or cold, sloppy conditions.
- Weight12 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleModerate (regular) cushion
- Traction6mm multidirectional chevron lugs, rubber Contagrip outsole
Waterproof, of course
Quicklace system means no more shoe laces coming untied
Deep lugs and lug pattern ideal for mud and soft earth
A little heavier and larger shoe
Some wearers indicate the shoe size is more narrow than previous versions
Trail runners love the Altra Lone Peak series. This shoe constantly rates among the best of all shoes, and deservedly so. Like the Olympus 4 above, it has canted lugs to dig into the earth and provide a sure step on technical trails. Like other Altra shoes, it has a ZeroDrop design. But unlike the Olympus, the Lone Peak has a lower stack height (25mm vs 33mm in the Olympus). That helps make the Lone Peak feel more like hiking footwear.
The Lone Peak 5’s midsole is made of AltraEGO foam and uses what Altra calls Balance Cushioning to attain that ZeroDrop design. The popularity of this model is a testament that many find this a great feature. But again, ZeroDrop isn’t for everyone. Personally, I think it feels kind of weird. Be sure to test this out before buying.
The MaxTrac outsole provides good grip on the trails. Altra uses a multi-directional lug pattern on their shoes, so the Lone Peak 5 should perform well on mud, rock, and whatever obstacles you need to get over.
- Weight11.1 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleModerate (regular) cushion, AltraEGO foam
- TractionCanted lugs and MaxTrac outsole, excellent grip
Dry holes to help water drain to hasten drying
Updated StoneGuard rockplate provides additional foot protection
Compatible with strapless gaiters for additional traction
Wide toe box allows for a more natural, comfortable toe spread
You might not like the ZeroDrop design
Not the grippiest of traction
Brooks steps decidedly into the trail running game with the Caldera 5. With a heel stack height of 32mm, they’re designed to provide comfort for much more challenging trails than their beginner’s shoe, the Divide 2. Plus, the light weight (when compared to other distance shoes) makes it a good choice for racing, or combining paved and trail running.
The Caldera 5’s BioMoGo DNA midsole is a max cushion design, which is what you expect to find in long distance trail running shoes. However, it’s somewhat more flexible and responsive than other shoes that are similarly sized.
The outsoles use a raised tread pattern, and aren’t as prominent as other dedicated trail runners. Although this may impact the Caldera 5’s utility somewhat with highly technical trails, this design makes it more suitable and comfortable for transitioning between road and trail.
- Weight10.6 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleModerate cushion
- TractionTrailTrack sticky outsole, wide area lugs
TrailTrack lugs designed to provide exceptional grip up and downhill
Upper is an engineered mesh for breathability and support
Gaiter attachments for increased foot protection on technical trails
Priced as much as other premium brands
Rigid body needs to be broken in before heavy use
It seems like a given that an Italian company (with American operations based out of Colorado) would be good at making shoes capable of taking on mountains. The La Sportiva Bushido II has a reputation for two things: having a tight fit and being great at tackling rugged terrain.
The Bushido II looks like a more sleek shoe than most on this list. With a heel stack height of 19mm, the shoe uses a combination of two compression molded foam compounds along with an additional compression molded rock guard in the front to protect your feel while moving amongst the rocks. You’ll note that these shoes are meant to be responsive and give your feet a feel for the terrain beneath. So unlike the long distance and ultra shoes like the Speedgoat 4, these shoes fit tightly and don’t carry as much cushion. That’s not to say they won’t protect your feet, it’s just that they’re intended to help you adjust to really rough, rocky ground when needed.
The outsole of the Bushido II also looks quite different, as the outer lugs actually blend into the midsole. The aggressive lug pattern is intended to grip the hard earth and rock you encounter while mountain running, although the comparatively shallow lugs (~4mm) may not do as well in mud.
- Weight10.5 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleComposite of LaSpEVA, compression molded MEMIex, with EVA rockguard
- TractionFriXion XT 2.0 dual compound rubber
“Slip on” design hugs your foot to maximize responsiveness on trails
Mesh upper and gusseted, breathable tongue keeps debris out while still allowing feet to breathe
Layered midsole components and rockplate maximizes foot protection despite less cushion
Sizes tend to run small, and some complain they are quite narrow
Designed for rough terrain, some indicate the tread wears quickly
The Superior 5 sheds a lot of weight compared to its cousins, the Lone Peak 5 and Olympus 4, while keeping a good amount of traction and foot protection. In a sort of departure from their other trail runners, this shoe provides more of a snug fit that helps make it a particularly good racing shoe.
The Superior 5 starts with an durable mesh upper that has a “burrito” style wrap-around tongue. Altra says this is to give your foot a locked-in feel, which is a plus if you’re running for speed. It also has a heel stack height of 21mm, considerably less bulky than the long distance trail runners. The midsole is made of Quantic lightweight foam instead of the AltraEGO used by Lone Peak. However, Superior 5 boasts the wide toe box, ZeroDrop design, and InnerFlex ridges (to make the shoe more responsive and flexible) that Altra is well-known for.
The Superior 5’s outsole also uses the same MaxTrac rubber and canted lugs that Altra uses with their other trail runners. This, combined with the unique midsole and upper, results in a lightweight, grippy trail runner you can rely on in a race.
- Weight8.8 oz (single shoe)
- MidsoleQuantic lightweight foam
- TractionMaxTrac outsole with canted lugs
Removable StoneGuard TPU insert provides additional foot protection
GaiterTrap hook-and-loop system supports strapless gaiters
“Burrito” style wrap-around tongue helps foot fit snug and comfortably
Not ideal for long distance trail running
Shoe sizes run a little different from Superior 4 models
ZeroDrop design doesn’t work for everyone, try before you buy