Best Trail Runner Shoes Reviewed
Trail running has seen a spike in the number of athletes joining in the sport. Athletes who feel that road running is not challenging enough or have gotten bored of the same routine have decided to change the scenery and head for the outdoors. A lot of men and women have joined trail running for the many advantages it has. Like any other sport, the appropriate sporting gear is required to help you achieve your desired goals.
Whether it is improving your track time, stamina, or endurance, the right type of shoes is key to your progress. Here we have listed the best trail running shoes to help you make the right choice from the many brands found in the market. We know how difficult it is to get the right equipment, and we make it simpler for you. The first five are men’s and the later, women’s.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9 hrs of research
Top 10 Picks
1. Brooks Ghost 11
The Brooks Men's Ghost 11 is an athlete’s dream. It is perfect for off the road runs with its exceptional design. The shoes offer great comfort, fit, and ride. It is very versatile and user-friendly in different conditions, and it is very affordable compared to most shoes.
Being in its 11th generation, the Brooks men's Ghost has undergone many improvements, and a lot of effort has gone into this model. It is lighter than the previous versions and well ventilated. The rubber sole offers excellent traction increasing your safety while on the run. Additionally, the cushion is made from BioMoGo DNA and DNA loft foam to give you a smooth underfoot feel and durability.
The DNA loft also gives your rear-foot great support with its density providing more safety and stability. The BioMoGo foam provides the forefoot with softer cushioning and responsiveness. One other great feature is the upper part of the shoe, which is very useful.
The Ghost 11 is very spacious due to lack of an inner sleeve. This design lets the foot to splay comfortably permitting a natural fit. Additionally, the toe-box area has an adequate ceiling, and the engineered mesh provides air circulation. Besides, there is no obstruction between the outer mesh and your foot.
2. Merrell Glove Runner
For casual wear
If you are an athlete who loves stylish sportswear, then this is the perfect footwear for you. The fourth generation of this series, Merrell Trail Glove 4 offers more protection and cushioning. It is light and can work as a casual shoe to wear around town or to run errands.
Merrell Glove 4 is suitable for minimal running. It is durable with little resistance and interference. You can run with it daily, unlike other shoes that require rotation. This improved design has better fit and comfort because of the added tongue inside it.
The outsole has excellent grip and flexibility thanks to the Vibram Outsole Tc1 that is used in its manufacture. The outsole also has rubber material, which makes it abrasion-resistant. Additionally, a trail protection pad has separated the midsole and outsole. The padding protects your foot from uneven surfaces, sharp stones, and foreign objects.
With this pair, your foot pressure is spread for forefoot flexibility. The midsole has also undergone significant improvements. The 4mm CMEVA used in the midsole provides underfoot cushioning and an increase in stability and durability.
The cushioning is also made from lightweight EVA foam. The non-removable microfiber footbed is an antibacterial agent that protects your feet from sweat. Additionally, it also keeps you dry and clean. The upper mesh is made up of breathable synthetic fiber. It has high wicking abilities keeping you dry from sweat. The shoe weight is managed by TPU overlays that provide reinforcement and enhances durability.
You do not have to worry about the fit. The Omni-fit lacing system ensures a tight fit. Additionally, the upper continues all the way up to the tongue, holding your foot in place. This design provides excellent fitting and cushioning.
The Glove 4 has a small sheet of the foam instead of cushioning. Lack of cushion reduces your speed but gives more stability. It is slip-resistant allowing you to have control when you jump or hop.
3. Adidas R2 GTX
Offers great protection
Strong and durable
The R2 GTX is excellent for wet weather and rough terrain exercise. It feels like a low cut hiking boot due to its rigidity. If you are looking for a flexible running shoe, then this is not the right choice for you. It feels rigid and remains that way throughout your run.
Despite the shoes not being too flexible, it offers excellent protection, and it is lightweight. The sole is durable with superior traction on the ground. Adidas has joined up with CONTINENTAL Tire Company to give you the best sole quality. The rubber is hard, and the lugs are deep and sturdy.
The underfoot is well protected by the separation the sole provides, unlike other lightweight brands. Additionally, the toes and the side of the foot are also protected. It is important to note that all this toughness and protection causes the shoe to be stiff.
Stability and support are among the focus points put into this design. Your ankle and foot are firmly in place, and the lacing system provides that perfect fit. They sacrificed flexibility for better support, protection, and stability.
As mentioned earlier, the R2 GTX works well in wet conditions. A Gore-Tex liner offers breathability and the waterproof abilities of this sportswear. The lining comes handy in warm climates but keep in mind that submerging the shoe in water will keep the water trapped inside.
4. Under Armour Mirage
Not too heavy
Annoying squeaking sound
Athletes under a tight budget can settle for this Under Armour product. It is stylish and considerably light, suitable for those who want to feel the ground under their feet. It feels like a sneaker, but it has all the qualities of a boot. You can use it for various activities and its fantastic design.
Under Armour are not known for making footwear. However, just like there other sportswear, they have put a lot of effort into making these shoes effective. Under Armour running shoes are breathable with a comfortable fit. Additionally, its weight allows you to have speed and make a great time on your run.
The outsole has excellent traction, ensuring your safety. Rubber is the primary material used on the outsole, making it resilient to most surfaces and hazards. There is comfortable flexibility because of the tread patterns towards the end. Besides, it wraps around the mid and rear foot.
The midsole part consists of EVA form like ordinary hiking shoes. However, Under Armour has put in a unique pattern in the midsole to offer even support in the boot. The upper comprises of polarizing materials.
Your feet remain cushioned with a synthetic base layer that has excellent breathability. Moreover, on top of it are leather straps that offer protection. Some might consider this product a bit heavy because of the TPU upper mesh, rubber sole, and multifaceted midsole.
5. New Balance 510v4
New Balance has entered into the fourth generation of this fantastic product. Unlike its previous versions, the New Balance 510V4 offers excellent breathability and support. The cushioning comes from their famous ABZORB foam and ACTEVA material, which acts as a shock absorber. The upper now allows more air circulation. Additionally, the straps offer better support.
This new layout is versatile because of the outsole design. It can work as a casual fit, a trail running shoe, or even for road running. The design may not be stylish, but it is affordable and effective.
The outsole is a dual-use rubber sole for different terrains with the AT TREADS giving it that functionality. Additionally, the grip is firm because of the pentagon-shaped treads found in the middle. The outer part of the sole has flex grooves that give it its flexibility and textured patterns in the lateral and medial sides to avoid slipping. HEEL KICK technology at the back of the shoe will help you to a soft landing while aiding in the heel to toe transition.
The shoe midsole features ACTEVA foam that utilizes DuPont Engage technology for impact and durability. ACTEVA foam is lighter than EVA foam, and this helps the New Balance 510v4 be lighter than most running footgear. It is also an excellent shock absorber due to ABZORB technology.
The upper is styled to be supportive and to offer breathability. Additionally, the upper mesh provides excellent airflow, and the leather overlays offer great support. A dual-density padded foam tongue and collar provide comfort unlike previous versions while your foot is firmly in place.
If you are shopping for a lightweight pair of trail running shoes, then this is not the right one for you. Though it is breathable, support is its primary function. Breathability is not at its best because of the materials it has for reinforcement, but it is better than what most brands offer.
The internal lining is soft and comfortable than its earlier edition. The presence of ACTEVA and ABZORB foam make it suitable for running and walking. This version is less constricting to allow free movement.
6. Saucony Cohesion 10
Updated outsole design
Poor arch support
The Saucony Women's Cohesion 10 is perfect for long and short mileage runs. It is affordable and does not have high-end features like those found on its other versions. Additionally, it is excellent for first-time athletes trying to build their endurance. The design focuses on stability, comfort, and support. You can also do warm-ups comfortably without any restrictions.
The outsole is durable and flexible. This feature is made possible by the mixture of iBR+ rubber materials, which covers the midfoot and forefront of the shoe. Traction and flexibility are assured while the high-wear areas are covered by Saucony's carbon rubber XT-900. The other improvement made in this edition is the use of the TRI-FLEX system.
The added system allows shock absorption on a higher level, better traction, and flexibility. Additionally, it also adds to the stability of the wearer. However, it still needs a better grip in wet conditions.
The midsoles have a right amount of cushioning, better than its previous versions. The inclusion of Saucony's Injection-molded EVA form has given the shoe better shock absorption and comfort. Thick cushioning works great for short runs to some people. A Heel Grid system is also included for better stability.
The upper section consists of a breathable mesh that provides support and protection. The overlays are absent from the midfoot and forefoot of this edition. Some few overlays remain to provide stability and comfort.
The shoes feel a bit heavier due to the change in the outsole of the new design. They tried to counter the weight issue by reducing the overlays, which did help a little. Additionally, the overall look of the shoe has a stylish appearance.
7. Salomon X-Mission 3
Simple lace system
The Salomon women's X-Mission is designed to handle road running and trail running. It can also do well in challenging weather conditions because it has excellent grip. Additionally, it comes in a variety of different colors and sizes to choose from. It is durable and breathable thanks to the mesh material on the upper.
The outsole consists of a Contragrip rubber, which grips different surfaces. The rubber is scuff-proof, meaning it is friendly to floors and it will not leave marks. The midsole has injected EVA foam cushioning the wearer. In addition, the upper has a 3D mesh for breathability.
The Salomon has a comfortable fit owing to the Sensi-fit upper that is well-fitting. The midsole padding offers excellent shock absorbing abilities and protection. There is also excellent arch support in the midfoot area. This shoe can handle off-road terrain without any problems.
8. Altra Timp
Few size options
The Altra Timp is perfect for athletes who love shoes with a zero-drop platform. The outsole provides excellent traction and stability. Additionally, the midsole provides excellent cushioning and protection. It is highly responsive, and this new design is close fitting. The new mesh upper is multi-directional, ensuring breathability and support. Athletes who enjoy having stability in their shoe will love this.
Altra's trademark Dura Tread rubber compound is used to make the outsole. It offers excellent grip on difficult terrains, and it is durable. Besides, it features their trademark Trailclaw design for a precise run. The lengthened lugs ensure excellent traction and support.
The midsole consists of standard EVA foam, which provides standard cushioning, and protection. The shoe features inner flex technology that allows flexibility. A 5mm contour footbed contributes to the support and stability. The footbed takes the shape of the foot, providing maximum comfort.
The upper part of the shoe consists of a special mesh that moves in all directions. It also provides supreme breathability with TPU overlays and a heel clip at the back. Gaiters are also in place to trap debris that may enter the shoe while running. The toe box is foot-shaped and provides plenty of toe room for stability.
9. Puma Tazon 6
The Puma Tazon is a comfortable pair of shoes that is multipurpose. The inside padding makes it an excellent option for athletes looking for comfort. It also provides excellent shock absorption at the back of the foot. The trail running shoes offer little breathability, and it is rigid, but it is very stable with a high level of protection.
The outsole consists of different colors and has a good grip on different terrains. It works well on gravel, asphalt, and wet environments. The midsole is not flexible, and it includes a TPU shank. Flexibility is limited, but the heel pad is cushioned with the EVA foam.
The upper is made of synthetic leather. In addition, the toe box is square, and the shoe lacks ventilation. Compared to other brands, this shoe runs up to the ankle and fits better with a wide size.
It is heavy and meant for basic workouts, not for runs. Tazon 6 is excellent for people who are on their feet for long hours. Some find the fit tight because of the padding and leather.
10. Asics Gel-Venture 5
Responsive and comfortable EVA
Difficult to clean
The Asics Gel Venture 5 is built to offer athletes durability and to ensure high performance. The underfoot has ample cushioning and an upper unit that secures the foot from shocks. This new model has a better running experience than the previous editions. The outsole is trail-specific and has long-lasting components to keep you safe.
The outsole is suitable for trail running with multi-directional lugs. It is made of Asics High Abrasion Rubber that is durable and wear-resistant. The flexibility comes from flex grooves cut horizontally into the outsole. The outsole also offers protection and smooth movement.
The midsole is a standard industry EVA that is responsive and lightweight. It is comfortable, durable, and shock absorbent; additionally, it retains its cushioning ability. The GEL cushioning system is also a bonus to the heel strikes.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Be in control.
Depending on the terrain, you are going to exercise on the type of clasp that will depend on the kind of shoe you wear. Having deeper lugs will help you have better stability on the ground. The lugs will get rid of any pebbles that would have stuck on your shoe.
Having deep treads will also give you a better grip and increase your safety levels. The trail runner shoes we have mentioned on this list have great treads that will not allow you to slip. Remember, different outsoles cater to different environments.
If you want to exercise on a rocky path, short lugs will be the best option for you. It also works well on dirt trails. Deep lugs will come in handy in wet or muddy surfaces. Some outsoles can work on multiple environments, off the road, or on the track.
Deep lugs are not suitable for pavement runs or on firm dirt. You get better traction when they are spaced wider apart. Lugs that are closely spaced will serve you well in trail and road runs. If you are going on a snow-covered trail, metal lugs will be the best option to give you stability and traction.
Metal slugs can also work well on muddy terrain. Remember to choose a pair that is deep and spaced to avoid getting mud stuck on the sole. Metal slugs are not suitable for dry landscapes.
Running on muddy terrain can be a slippery and annoying affair if you keep slipping on the surface. Not having the right balance can end up being dangerous or even fatal. You could hit the ground and break a bone or fall awkwardly and have a head injury. Deep cleats that are made of rubber will also give you the perfect grip.
We have chosen these shoes because they offer a high level of safety. It is essential to have the right stability and traction when you are on speed. All of them have been tried and tested on the surface they are designed to. You can enjoy your run, knowing that your feet are well protected.
Ensure to cool down.
Ensure to cool down.
The best type of shoe will allow air circulation inside your shoe as you work out. Having a breathable shoe will help you avoid having blisters or bacterial infections in your shoe. Some of the materials used to make the upper section use state of the art technology to keep your feet aired at all times.
The perfect material will allow your feet to dry off sweat as you exercise. Besides, it is better to have a pair that does not trap moisture inside and dries fast. A breathable shoe will allow you to cross-streams or run through wet grass with ease, knowing it will dry quickly.
Most shoes meant for trail running use a combination of science and technology to help them dry faster. If you are doing a lot of river crossing, then a pair with drainage ports will come in handy. Synthetic material on the upper mesh provides the best breathability.
Choose a pair of shoes with minimal overlays on the upper. Having many overlays on the design ruins the breathability of the shoes. Be sure to look out for how overlays have been used before purchasing the desired footwear.
With the right shoes, bacterial infections cannot occur. Breathable running shoes also help you avoid smelly feet and embarrassing cases. Some of the mentioned shoes have a unique antibacterial midsole to keep your feet clean.
Do not add an unnecessary burden.
Having extra loads on your feet can be great for training purposes. However, heavy shoes can lead to severe injuries. Heavy boots will ruin your run time and leave you susceptible to ankle injuries.
Shoes that absorb water can also increase the weight of your boots; choose a pair that has proper drainage in case it starts raining, or you run into a puddle. Check the type of upper material used or consult before purchasing.
Some of the listed products we have mentioned here are improvements to previous versions. The manufacturers have decided to use less material in the new design to enhance performance and reduce weight. They have made changes to the number of overlays while others have gone for synthetic fibers.
Trail running sometimes consists of running up and down hills that have rough and uneven ground. At some point, depending on your route, you might have to cross steep streams, and this takes a toll on your body. Instead of buying different pairs of shoes, it is better to start with a lighter pair of trail running shoes. Buying a lighter pair for your first running shoes might save you a lot of money.
A lightweight pair of shoes will reduce the strain of wear and tear on your body. Additionally, it will also reduce the pressure your legs go through trying to manage the weight of a heavy pair of running shoes. You also relieve the stress on your joints and tendons, allowing yourself to enjoy the workout. We have chosen the perfect lightweight shoes in this list to offer you a great running experience.
A great athlete endures.
Sportswear companies have come up with innovative ways to ensure that their products last long. In the footwear section, manufactures have added Injection Molded EVA foam to combat the effects of wear and tear. Some brands like the Saucony Cohesion 10 use their IBR+rubber mixed with carbon rubber XT-900 to provide longevity.
Each brand has different methods and techniques in their product. The Salomon X Mission 3 uses Contragrip rubber to make it last. Before settling on a pair, remember to use the shoes appropriately. It is important to use the trail running shoes in their designated environment.
The upper mesh is also made using special synthesized fabric for it to last long. You get more out of your shoes when it consists of high quality material. While shoes on a budget might also last, spending a few extra coins on higher-end products will be beneficial in the long run.
Compounds such as DuraTread are long lasting, especially on rough or rocky surfaces. It covers every area of the sole even the prone to wear and tear parts. Additionally, having a multi-directional upper construction reduces the rate of wear and tear.
New technologies keep cropping up every day nowadays.
Some of the products listed above have unique characteristics, like being waterproof. This feature will allow you to exercise on wet environments without your feet getting wet. The special upper mesh material will keep your feet warm and dry as you enjoy your work out.
It is important to remember that when you fully submerge your shoe in the water, it will get wet inside. Additionally, when water gets inside a waterproof shoe, it does not have a way to escape. Additionally, some waterproof trail running shoes are not breathable.
Waterproof shoes are helpful when running in the snow, cold weather, and wet climates. If you live in a hot or warm climate area, having a non-waterproof shoe will serve you better. An airy mesh upper shoe will be suitable for such a climate.
Gore-Tex is the perfect material for making waterproof shoes. It has tiny holes that allow air circulation, unlike other water-resistant material. Additionally, it is wind-resistant protecting you in horrible conditions.
Gaiters have been integrated on some of these shoes to help keep debris out of your shoes as you work out. Some people find them convenient while others do not. Gaiters can help prevent rain, mud, or snow from entering your shoes from the top side. They are not suitable for people running in hot climates because they trap heat inside.
It is important to remember that the more features a product has, the more expensive it will be. Some of the affordable shoes listed here are basic but are effective on the trail. If you are shopping on a budget, keep it simple. On the other hand, if you are looking to switch up your running routine and broaden your experience, then choose a high-end pair.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Having an oversized running shoe will cause injuries if you want to run on raw terrain. We encourage using shoes that fit to allow the footwear to be adequate to you. A tightly fitting shoe will lead to loss of focus and ruin your exercise.
Wear the right size that works for you. It is advisable to fit at the store before purchasing. If you are ordering online, check whether they have a return policy. Additionally, you can order half a size bigger to be safe with some selected brands.
All the mentioned products are specially tailored to suit different environmental conditions. For your experience to be worthwhile, choose the features that suit your needs. Check the design of the product and compare it to others before purchasing.
You can consult a professional and get assistance if you find it challenging to settle on a brand. Carefully read the instructions if there are any included on where to use the footwear. The outsole should be your guide to choosing the right shoe.
Other Factors to Consider
Trail running can be fun and dangerous at the same time if you are not adequately prepared. After carefully choosing the type of environment you want to embark on, you will want to exercise wearing the best and effective footwear. Having the best gear will help enhance your performance and to avoid injuries.
We have given you every detail that will make your decision easier. For first-timers, it is advisable to go for lightweight shoes. Some of the boots are trainer-friendly. Besides, they will ease you into the sport of trail running.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What should I look for when I need a better grip?
Always consider the type of lugs the shoe has. Additionally, the type of treads and tread pattern will determine the level of traction you get. Remember to check the spacing between the lugs and the length.
q: What are the best features for wet conditions?
For wet conditions, going for waterproof shoes is the best idea. Water-resistant boots will protect your feet and keep them dry. Additionally, outsoles that provide traction will be a great tool to have.
q: Can I use my road running shoes off-road?
Some brands have made shoes that can work on both terrains. However, not all can work efficiently on foreign ground. Using the wrong footwear can lead to injuries.
Do not attempt to use road running shoes on challenging terrain. They are not made to protect your feet on such conditions. Trail running shoes have been designed to keep you safe on difficult grounds.
q: How do I care for my shoes?
There is no unique way of cleaning these shoes. You can use standard washing methods just the same way you clean your regular shoes. Always remember to remove the laces and dry them separately. Laces tend to dry slowly.
q: How can I maximize the use of my waterproof running shoes in the rain?
We recommend buying waterproof sportswear to prolong your time in the rain. The proper cover will enable you to continue. You will not stop your exercise because you got soaked. Additionally, you can buy water-resistant pants that ran over your pants.
Ensure that water does not get in your shoes, as mentioned earlier; you can use gaiters to keep your feet dry. Track pants that ran over your shoe will prevent water from entering over the top. They should also have excellent breathability.
q: Will waterproof shoes irritate my skin?
This problem rarely happens but do not worry, and there are measures you can take if it happens. You can buy a pair that has an inner lining. The lining will block the direct contact of your skin with the shoe.
If that does not help, you can use leukotape. Athletes have been using this hack for such situations. Apply the leukotape on the affected areas. Doing this will also help to prevent blisters from forming on your feet.
q: Can these trail running shoes be worn with socks?
Yes, some socks can work well with them. Some athletes wear waterproof socks with waterproof shoes to keep dry. Socks are more effective in extreme conditions where you expect short or mild rains in intervals.
Performance specific socks are in major sporting stores. Choose socks with excellent wicking abilities to keep your feet free of moisture. Before you purchase a pair, you can check the different designs and advantages it comes with. You can also do research and consult before making a final decision.
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