Home Guides Best Trail Running Shoes 2020
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ROAD TO TRAIL

ROAD TO TRAIL

ROAD TO TRAIL

Salomon Sense Ride 3

Salomon Sense Ride 3
The Sense Ride 3 is a superb daily trail shoe that transitions well between road and trail. The Ride is at home on many surfaces never losing traction
The Sense Ride 3 is a superb daily trail shoe that transitions well between road and trail. The Ride is at home on many surfaces never losing traction
Jim Coulson
Fast Road and Trail Runner. Career Firefighter.

BEST OVERALL

BEST OVERALL

BEST OVERALL

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 combines strong protection and dynamic cushioning in a shoe with limitless uses for trail runners.
The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 combines strong protection and dynamic cushioning in a shoe with limitless uses for trail runners.
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.

FASTEST

FASTEST

FASTEST

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6
The Nike Terra Kiger 6 is a slick, fast trail shoe that improves over its predecessor. Nike has assembled the perfect shoe for fast trails.
The Nike Terra Kiger 6 is a slick, fast trail shoe that improves over its predecessor. Nike has assembled the perfect shoe for fast trails.
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.

ZERO DROP

ZERO DROP

ZERO DROP

Altra Superior 4

Altra Superior 4
The Altra Superior 4.0 is exactly as advertised: a lightweight trail shoe that performs well in a variety of trail conditions.
The Altra Superior 4.0 is exactly as advertised: a lightweight trail shoe that performs well in a variety of trail conditions.
Denny Krahe
Running Coach and Podcast Host.

BEST VALUE

BEST VALUE

BEST VALUE

Asics Gel Venture 7

Asics Gel Venture 7
The Asics Gel Venture 7 is a solid budget trail shoe that does the basics without taking any risks. Solid construction and simple design.
The Asics Gel Venture 7 is a solid budget trail shoe that does the basics without taking any risks. Solid construction and simple design.
Frank May
Fast Runner, Triathlete and Engineer

All Surface Trail Running Shoes

These shoes are your all-rounders: capable of handling smooth, rocky, wet, and dry terrain – this category is always a great place to start.

That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re pairing things down for you. Within this category there are various outliers such as maximal and minimalist shoes, as well as varying heel drops (more on this later).

The important thing to remember about these shoes is that many models have been on the market for many years in different iterations, confirming their popularity among seasoned trail runners.

First choice

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6

Reasons to buy
  • Fast and quick
  • Comfortable
  • Solid protection
  • No detrimental changes from the Kiger 5
“The Nike Terra Kiger 6 is a slick, fast trail shoe that offers only mild updates from its predecessor.  That’s not a bad thing, however, as the Kiger 5 is among the best trail shoes that I have tested and reviewed.”
Recommended for
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.
Read the full review of Zoom Terra Kiger 6
or buy them here: Men / Women
Also consider

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Reasons to buy
  • Can handle great range of trail from moderate to technical
  • Superior grip
  • Well-balanced cushioning
  • Excellent toe bumper
“The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is unique in that combines strong protection and dynamic cushioning in a shoe with limitless uses for trail runners.”
Recommended for
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.
Read the full review of Speedgoat 4
or buy them here: Men / Women
Also consider

Asics Gel FujiTrabuco 7

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Asics Gel FujiTrabuco 7

Reasons to buy
  • Comfortable
  • Great traction
  • Fit of the shoe
“The Asics Gel FujiTrabuco 7 has been a great trail shoe considering the heaviness of the shoe. These shoes have held up on various types of terrain from grassy to technical inclines and descents on rocks and roots.   You need to run long, these shoes will get you through. I do some cross over training from road to trail in order to get from one trail to the other and these shoes worked great between the trail transitions.”
Recommended for
Athena Farias
Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Run Coach.
Read the full review of Gel FujiTrabuco 7
or buy them here: Men / Women

Hard Ground Trail Running Shoes

This is a type of trail shoe designed to be worn almost exclusively on dry, hard packed, and rocky terrain.

Think of the arid southwest of the United States, southern France and Spain, Australia, and other climates which may tend toward the drier side.

While not to say that these shoes couldn’t work well in other conditions, they tend to be minimally lugged and would not be recommended for muddy conditions.

First choice

Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail

Reasons to buy
  • Lightweight
  • Can handle trails and roads
  • Soft and breathable upper
  • Slipper-like comfort
“The Nike Pegasus 36 Trail is a comfortable, cushioned trail shoe that can easily handle mild trails and roads, a great option for those who tackle both surfaces in their runs.”
Recommended for
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.
Read the full review of Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail
or buy them here: Men / Women
Also consider

Altra Olympus 3.0

Weight
10.70 oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Cushioning

Altra Olympus 3.0

Reasons to buy
  • Good Grip
  • Maximal Cushioning
“The Altra Olympus 3.0 is a maximally cushioned trail shoe that works well on just about any trail. If you’re going to be out on the trail for a substantial amount of time, you’ll likely appreciate the cushioning that the Olympus 3.0 provides. ”
Recommended for
The Altra Olympus 3.0 is a great shoe for any runner that will be hitting the trails for long distances. Trail marathoners, ultra runners, and long distance hikers are sure to love the comfort of the Olympus 3.0s even after many hours of running.
Denny Krahe
Running Coach and Podcast Host.
Read the full review of Olympus 3.0
or buy them here: Men / Women

Soft Ground Trail Running Shoes

This speciality type trail shoe started its own niche several years ago pioneered by European brands such as Salomon and Inov8.

These shoes are typically heavily lugged with minimal uppers designed to shed mud and water as much as possible.

Again, just because a shoe is advertised as such doesn’t mean that trail runners won’t use soft ground shoes in dry conditions as many prefer the extra traction offered by these rugged outsoles.

First choice

Salomon Speedcross 5

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Salomon Speedcross 5

Reasons to buy
  • Traction
  • Comfort
  • Lacing system
“The Speedcross 5 is a great shoe for any time of loose or muddy trail, including snow, that you may encounter in all seasons. A fairly traditional 11mm heel drop paired with highly durable and sticky 5mm chevron shaped lugs gives the Speedcross 5 great traction and good stability. ”
Recommended for
Athena Farias
Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, and Run Coach.
Read the full review of Speedcross 5
or buy them here: Men / Women
Also consider

Altra Superior 4

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Altra Superior 4

Reasons to buy
  • Light Weight
  • Good Grip
  • Drains Well
“The Altra Superior 4.0 is exactly as advertised: a lightweight trail shoe that performs well in a variety of trail conditions.”
Recommended for
Denny Krahe
Running Coach and Podcast Host.
Read the full review of Superior 4
or buy them here: Men / Women

Road-to-trail Trail Running Shoes

This is a category that applies to many runners who run on a variety of terrain and want to get by with one pair of shoes.

These shoes also work well if you’re running on roads to access trails and they typically have outsoles more consistent with road shoes which offer little traction on loose terrain or steep ups or downhills.

First choice

Brooks Caldera 4

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Brooks Caldera 4

Reasons to buy
  • Offers combination of being lightweight yet very stable
  • Comfortable after initial break-in period
  • Can handle roads to trails
“The Brooks Caldera is a lightweight shoe with solid traction on road and less technical trail terrain, such as rocks, dirt, snow, and grass. The high stack midsole provides sufficient protection from obstacles on the trail and enough cushioning to go for miles. ”
Recommended for
Henry Howard
Ultra runner and certified running coach.
Read the full review of Caldera 4
or buy them here: Men / Women
Also consider

Saucony Xodus ISO 3

Weight
oz.
Drop
mm.
Category
Trail

Saucony Xodus ISO 3

Reasons to buy
  • The inside of the shoe upper is like a sleeve with no tongue to shift.
  • The sole has a toothy grip.
  • The shoe drains/dries well, with mesh over the whole forefoot.
  • Good cushion for a thinner shoe.
  • The shoe is true to size.
“The Saucony Xodus ISO 3 seems to be good for wet or dry trail, and isn't uncomfortable when I'm running on road or gravel between trail sections. It may feel a little clunkier at first, but I got used to it and the weight difference really didn't bother me. I wouldn't wear it for long periods on har ”
Recommended for
Sarah Colligan
Trail Running Expert.
Read the full review of Xodus ISO 3
or buy them here: Men / Women

Trail running has grown exponentially over the past several years resulting in record setting participation at trail events and sold out races around the country.

These new participants consist of road runners gravitating towards a more forgiving surface and the relaxed atmospheres of trail races, as well as crossover and new athletes recognizing the appeal of hitting the single track for solitude and a mental reset.

With this increase in interest and participation shoe companies have responded by designing and releasing more trail running shoes than ever. Some of these models are tried and true generalists which are adequate for all types of trails, whereas other models are highly specialized for the terrain and distance.

Trail Shoe Jargon

There are several other things to consider whenever transitioning into a trail running shoe.

Heel drop can be a major consideration given that many road runners are transitioning from traditional road running shoes with a 10-12mm heel drop.

Heel drop is the differential between the heel and toe of the shoe which is measured in millimeters. This is important because many trail running shoes have lower heel drops which help condition a runner to a forefoot strike and provide better stability on technical trails. Road runners used to a higher heel drop may have difficulty with calve tightness and even achilles tendon issues if they transition too quickly.

Another consideration which many trail runners find to be an issue is forefoot width.

While road shoes feel more standardized, many trail running shoes have varying forefoot widths. While some shoes are more geared towards a tight fit for racing short distances and feeling secure on technical terrain, other long distance trail shoes accommodate for foot swelling that happens in the ultra distances.

Most trail running shoes, outside of those aimed at minimalist design, feature rock plates which are typically between the squishy midsole and the hard outsole of a trail shoe.

The purpose of the rock plate is to protect the foot from sharp rocks and stone bruises. While these can make trail shoes stiffer than road running shoes the added protection becomes key, especially after long distances on technical trails.

Trail running shoes also usually have a protective toe bumper which is usually made of welded on rubber overlays that protect the toes when hitting rocks on the front of the shoe.

Other welded on and sewn on overlays are usually more substantial than in road shoes for increased durability and stability in the shoe on terrain that requires frequent turns and steep downhills.

Some companies, especially Salomon and La Sportiva, have unique lacing designs made of kevlar that allow for quick and easy lacing and adjustments of the shoes.

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