Having a suitable pair of trail running shoes is crucial for a trail runner like myself. I have spent years searching for a shoe that offers the necessary stability on uneven terrain while still being lightweight enough to maintain my olspeed.
To find the best trail running shoes, I experimented with several pairs on different terrains to test their durability, and after a series of trials, I found a few that were outstanding.
These shoes met all my requirements and provided exceptional comfort and support during long runs, so if you are looking for a great pair of trail shoes, check out my recommendations.
11 Our Top Recommended Trail Running Shoes of 2023
1) Altra Lone Peak 7
The Lone Peak 7 is a popular zero-drop trail running shoe, particularly among thru-hikers and those engaging in multi-day activities.
Fresh on the market, the new Altra Lone Peak has a wider toe room than the old Lone Peak 6, and it’s deeper, offering more room for your toes. The traction is better too, with the improved MaxTrac outsole offering a better grip that can handle more technical terrain.
While the shoe’s zero heel-to-toe drop may not feel the most comfortable at first, after wearing this trail shoe pair for a few days, I got accustomed to it, and I had no problems using it even on technical trails.
The shoe is neutral, comfortable, and moderately cushioned, making it an excellent choice if you are new to zero-drop shoes.
With welded overlays instead of stitches, the Lone Peak 7 is more resistant against scuffs, and the glue held up extremely well through all my tests.
For more information, please see our Altra Lone Peak 7 review.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 2.4 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lbs. 6 oz. (men’s 10)
- Waterproof: No
- Upper Material: Mesh
- Top Features: contour footbeds, Altra EGO™ foam midsoles, StoneGuard™ plates
2) Brooks Cascadia 16
Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking
Introducing the Cascadia 16 trail running shoe from Brooks, designed to provide all-terrain comfort for long miles.
With an extra 2mm of cushioning and added DNA Loft cushioning, this shoe delivers a softer ride. While the shoe may feel bulky at times, it provided enough toe space for my wide feet, being more comfortable than most trail shoes in this category.
The midsole and outsole are built to mold to the ground, which gave me a stronger feeling of stability. Plus, the Ballistic Rock Shield easily adapted to uneven terrain, keeping me safe from pebbles and branches.
The new DNA LOFT v2 midsole is 5% softer and 20% lighter than its predecessor, the Cascadia 15, offering a lighter and softer cushioning.
Weighing in at about 1 lb. 5 oz. for men and 1 lb. 3 oz. for women, with an 8mm midsole drop, this shoe is both lightweight and cushioned.
Unfortunately, the Cascadia 16 hasn’t seen any improvements in insole quality, but you can replace the insoles if you need more support.
For more details about this shoe, check the full review of Brooks Cascadia 16.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 3 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 5 oz. (men’s 9.5)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Synthetic mesh
- Top Features: Updated Ballistic Rock Shield, DNA LOFT v2 midsole, drainage ports
3) Hoka One One Speedgoat 5
Best Trail Runners for Traction
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a trail running shoe that boasts an excellent blend of cushioning and agility, which makes it ideal for those huge days in the mountains with substantial elevation gain and loss.
Although its larger stack height may not be suitable for advanced technical terrain, this trail racing shoe performed great when I took it on an ultra-trail with a rollercoaster elevation graph.
It lacks the carbon fiber plates found in Hoka Tecton X, but the ample cushioning worked well for me, absorbing trail impacts, while its soft cushioning compound firmed up nicely when compressed, saving me from injuries and foot fatigue.
Compared to the Speedgoat 4, the new model’s sole is more lightweight and has an improved Vibram outsole that runs the length of the shoe, providing excellent traction in a variety of wet or dry conditions.
The gusseted tongue remains thin and short as in previous versions, but the laces provide extra protection.
See the full product description by checking Hoka One One Speedgoat 5 review.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 1.4 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 4.2 oz. (men’s 10)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Recycled engineered mesh
- Top Features: Molded EVA sock liners, Vibram Megagrip outsoles, protective toe cap
4) Salomon Speedcross 6 (not Gore-tex)
Most Durable Trail Runners
The latest release in the Salomon Speedcross line, the Speedcross 6 is tailored for technical, muddy, soft-ground trails and off-trail adventures, where traction and foot-hugging agility are essential.
The new version comes with subtle but important improvements, like a tighter woven anti-debris mesh fabric in the upper with improved breathability and abrasion resistance. The lugs on the outsole are 5 millimeters deep, the same as the previous version.
However, the actual weight of the trail shoe has decreased to 10.4 ounces, making them the lightest in their class.
The Speedcross 6 is designed to be tighter than most trail running shoes produced by Salomon, but from my direct experience with this trail runner, the longer you wear it, the more comfortable it becomes.
It is also a well-cushioned trail running shoe and performed better than most trail shoes I tested on rocky terrain.
This model is not waterproof, but if you are looking for a pair of waterproof trail running shoes, Salomon offers a GTX model as well.
Learn more about this product by checking our Salomon Speedcross 6 review.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 2.2 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 5.4 oz. (men’s 9.5)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Ripstop fabric
- Top Features: Contagrip outsole, SensiFit™ construction, Quicklace™ closures
5) Nike React Pegasus Trail 4
The Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is a durable and versatile shoe designed for road-to-trail use.
This updated version features an improved outsole pattern that enhances traction and stability without sacrificing road performance. The shoe also retains the supportive and springy React midsole from the Pegasus Trail 3.
The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 may not perform as well on technical or slippery surfaces compared to many trail shoes, but, based on what I noticed while wearing these trail shoes, they provide excellent protection for non-technical trail terrain and road-to-trail running.
After using them on a variety of terrains, including snowy, icy roads, and dirt, they showed minimal signs of wear. The shoe’s upper is sturdier than that of a typical road running shoe, and the toe cap covers a larger area.
After buying this shoe from the local running store, I found there is no rock plate, which leaves the shoe somewhat vulnerable to underfoot hazards, but it has good cushioning that can face some bumpier sections of the road.
- Weight (pair): 0 lb. 15.52 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 2.1 oz. (men’s 9)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Elite-engineered mesh
- Top Features: Nike React technology, generative traction pattern
6) La Sportiva Wildcat
The La Sportiva Wildcat is a durable trail running shoe with a very effective abrasion-resistant upper and a firm and highly cushioned midsole that provides ample foot protection.
With just a few tweaks here and there from the old Wildcat, this trail running shoe is slightly more stable and durable.
While the Wildcat is considered heavy by most runners’ standards, and thus unsuitable for technical terrain that requires finesse, I found it great for high-volume training and long-distance runs.
The shoe’s 12mm heel-toe drop provided a lot of underfoot cushioning, and except for a few slippery surfaces, the sole gripped well on everything.
I also appreciated the wide toe box that allowed my toes to move and kept me from getting blisters during long trail races.
For me, the extra cushioning in the heel worked just fine, but if you are looking for a more barefoot feel, good quality zero-drop shoes may be a better choice.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 5.5 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 12.4 oz. (men’s 11)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Nylon mesh
- Top Features: Dual-density midsoles, nylon molded shanks, Sticky FriXion® AT rubber outsoles
7) Brooks Divide 3
Most Affordable Trail Runners
An entry-level trail running shoe, the Brooks Divide 3 offers great performance for beginners without the high price of more advanced trail running shoes.
The new version is more robust than versions 1 and 2 and comes with an improved DNA LOFT midsole that encourages a smoother transition from road to trail.
While I wouldn’t recommend this trail shoe for super technical terrain, during my tests, the Divide 3 proved to be rigid and supportive, providing cushioning for long-distance running. It also offered high stability, resulting in less strain on the ankles, knees, and hips.
The traction is more minimal and flexible, allowing for reduced road noise when running on dry surfaces.
Plus, the upper and fit on this model are neutral, but the shoe can accommodate a wide range of foot types and pronation patterns, so it is a good choice for wide-footed runners.
Check Brooks Divide 3 full review for more details about this shoe.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 1.1 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 4.2 oz. (men’s 9)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Synthetic mesh
- Top Features: Soft DNA LOFT cushion, TPU mudguards, Brooks TrailTack rubber outsoles
8) Merrell Moab Flight
Most Comfortable Trail Runners
Merrell’s Moab Flight trail running shoe is a new addition to the Moab collection that aims to offer an easy entry point for off-road foot travel.
Compared to Moab Speed, which is the hiking version of this shoe, the Mab Flight has better cushioning and is more breathable, although it lacks the GTX waterproofing membrane.
The more I used this shoe, the clearer it became to me that it works better as a hiking shoe despite being presented as a trail runner.
I occasionally felt that my feet were slipping laterally inside the shoe at high speed, and sometimes the Vibram Ecostop outsole wasn’t grippy enough when crossing slippery portions.
However, the shoe is incredibly comfortable, with an ample design to fit any foot shape, an overly padded tongue, and a breathable all-mesh upper.
The Moab Flight has a wide and highly cushioned platform that uses Merrell’s FloatPro Foam in the midsole to provide up to 29mm of padding in the heels. Moreover, the new model uses even more recycled materials than other Merrell versions.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 1 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 4 oz. (men’s 9)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Mesh (70% recycled)
- Top Features: Removable EVA insoles, FloatPro® Foam midsoles
9) Altra Olympus 5
Best Trail Runners for Backpacking
A very popular trail shoe, the Altra Olympus 5 provides a high level of cushioning and protection for the longest runs.
This shoe features Altra’s unique Zero Drop design with a rounded FootShape Toe Box, which promotes a more natural forefoot strike and allows your feet to function in the shoes, reducing wear and tear and the chance of injury.
The Olympus 5 is based on Altra’s Original Fit, providing the most space and volume, especially in the toe room.
The updates made to this model, including a higher rand on the medial side and a splays-out midsole at the heel, provide stability and support after long days out on the trails.
Like most trail runners, the Olympus 5 is not fit for challenging trails. However, from my experience with these trail shoes, the 4mm Megagrip outsole is sticky enough for speed workouts.
Another bonus for me was the soft and flexible material in the uppers, which stretched over my bunions and produced zero chafing.
Learn more about this footwear by checking our complete review of Altra Olympus 5.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 4.8 oz. (women’s), 1 lb. 8.6 oz. (men’s)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Engineered mesh
- Top Features: Premium collar design, Vibram® Megagrip outsoles
10) La Sportiva Bushido II GTX
Best Waterproof Trail Runners
With Bushido II, La Sportiva introduces a pair of waterproof trail shoes, excellent for runners navigating uneven terrain.
The new version has a GTX liner and provides a snugger feel compared to the classical Bushido, although it loses a bit of its breathability.
While the GTX waterproofing does make these mountain runners feel tighter, I managed to break them in in just a few days.
The upper design includes a breathable mesh, which is flexible and easily conforms to any foot shape, while the TPU reinforcement around the sides of the toe box provides good protection against rocks.
The rubber outsole is hard and durable, yet surprisingly sticky on rocks, and it performed respectably on mud and loose gravel. Moreover, these waterproof shoes are comfortable, and the padded tongue and TPU overlay protected my feet from side and front impacts.
- Weight (pair): 1 lb. 1.6 oz. (women’s), 1 lbs. 5 oz. (men’s)
- Waterproof: yes
- Upper Material: Air mesh/thermal adhesive microfiber/high-frequency welded ripstop overlays/TPU toe caps/TPU exoskeleton
- Top Features: GORE-TEX Invisible Fit™ membranes, Slip-on construction
11) Saucony Peregrine 12
Best Lightweight Trail Runners
The Saucony Peregrine is a fast and lightweight trail runner designed for short to mid-distances.
As the trail version of Saucony’s popular road running Kinvara, the Peregrine 12 trail running shoe features the same 4mm drop. However, this version’s upper is designed with reduced padding to shed weight, but without sacrificing durability.
The insole features PWRRUN+ cushioning for increased support, and the midsole is made of the same PWRRUN material as its predecessor. The outsole lug design has been slightly redesigned and features tacky, durable PWRTRAC rubber.
While these trail running shoes are not the most comfortable for long runs, due to their minimalist design, they proved to be reliable in all trail running conditions, and their protection is exceptional.
I found the flexible rock plate and toe bumper to be effective against rocks, roots, and other trail hazards, while the shoes dried quickly when I accidentally stepped into a puddle.
- Weight (pair): 0 lb. 15.52 oz. (women’s 7), 1 lb. 6.12 oz. (men’s 10)
- Waterproof: no
- Upper Material: Recycled polyester Air-mesh
- Top Features: PWRRUN cushioning, rock plates
How to Choose Trail Running Shoes
When selecting and ranking the products for this top, I followed some common sense criteria that I knew would impact the shoes’ overall performance.
If you wonder where to start when purchasing trail running shoes, use this buying guide to better understand what you should look for.
When choosing the best trail running shoes, you should pay attention to performance because it can affect your comfort, speed, and safety while running.
The right shoe can provide you with good traction on soft terrain, protect your feet from rocks and debris, and give you the support you need to avoid injuries.
One important factor to consider is the heel-to-toe drop, which affects the angle your foot strikes the ground.
For example, shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop, like the Lone Peak 7, can be more suitable for those with a midfoot or forefoot strike, while the Hoka Speedgoat 5 provides excellent cushioning for a more comfortable ride on rough terrain.
Breathability is also super important when picking out trail running shoes.
When you’re running on uneven terrain and steep hills, your feet work extra hard, and they need to breathe to stay cool and dry.
Shoes that don’t allow for proper ventilation can trap moisture, leading to blisters, odor, and even fungal infections.
That’s why it’s essential to choose trail shoes with breathable materials and design features like mesh uppers or perforated soles.
The Merrell Moab Flight and La Sportiva Wildcat provided excellent ventilation during my tests, being some of the best shoes for the summer.
If you’re planning to use your shoes during the winter, opt for a waterproof pair to keep your feet dry and warm, particularly in wet or snowy conditions.
A waterproof membrane prevents the water from getting in and making your foot slip inside the shoes, which can result in blisters and even injuries.
The La Sportiva Bushido II GTX on our top performed great in wet environments thanks to its Gore-Tex membrane that repels water while permitting your feet to breathe.
Trail running can be tough on shoes, so investing in a high-quality pair can save you money in the long run. However, that doesn’t mean you need to overspend. Look for shoes that balance durability with affordability and try to stay within your budget.
For example, the Brooks Divide 3 and Altra Lone Peak 7 are both popular trail running shoe options, but the Divide 3 is generally more affordable, while the Lone Peak 7 may be more expensive due to its additional features.
When choosing the best trail running shoes for your adventures, comfort should be at the top.
It’s essential to have a cushioned ride that will protect your feet from the uneven terrain you may encounter on the trail.
Barefoot-style shoes may seem tempting, but they don’t provide enough support and protection for the trail.
Pay attention to the ankle collar as well, as it provides stability and helps prevent injuries. When it comes to specific shoe models, the Merrell Moab Flight and La Sportiva Bushido II GTX were extremely reliable in terms of comfort.
Many trail runners underestimate the importance of a good-fitting shoe, but it can make all the difference in terms of performance, comfort, and even injury prevention.
A cushioned shoe will provide extra shock absorption for rocky and uneven terrain, while a flexible shoe will allow your foot to move naturally over roots and rocks.
Most importantly, a secure fit will keep your foot in place, preventing painful blisters and reducing the risk of sprains or twists.
Two great trail running shoe options to consider are the Merrell Moab Flight and the La Sportiva Wildcat – both offer a combination of cushioning, flexibility, and a secure fit to keep you comfortable and safe on the trails.
Choose a shoe that is light enough not to stay in your way but with plenty of padding to keep you comfortable and safe.
A lightweight shoe can make running on rough terrain easier and less tiring, as it reduces the energy needed to lift your foot with every stride.
Additionally, it can help prevent injuries, as it puts less strain on your joints and muscles.
The Saucony Peregrine 12 has a very lightweight design and was one of the most performant shoes we tried for speed trail running.
Before you decide on a model, look at its outsole pattern. Are the lugs deep enough? Are they multidirectional? Trail running involves running on various terrains, such as dirt paths, steep terrain, and rocky areas, which can be slippery and unstable.
A good tread pattern will help provide better traction and grip, giving you more confidence and stability on the trail.
Trail running shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat 5, Altra Lone Peak 7, and Salomon Speedcross 6 all have aggressive outsoles designed for this purpose.
Look for shoes that are made of breathable and durable fabrics like mesh or synthetic materials.
These materials will help keep your feet cool and dry while also protecting you from rocks, branches, and other obstacles you may encounter on the trails.
For the sole materials, it’s essential to consider the type of terrain you’ll be running on.
Trail running shoes with moderate cushioning, like the Altra Olympus 5 and Merrell Moab Flight we tested, work well for rough trails to help absorb shock and prevent injuries.
Insoles are an essential part of trail running shoes, especially when it comes to covering ultra distances.
They provide cushioning and support, reducing the risk of injury and making your run more comfortable.
The right insole can also improve your performance by enhancing your stability and balance.
The Saucony Peregrine 12 trail running shoes have some of the most comfortable insoles on the market, which are removable, so you can customize the fit even further.
11. Toe Protection
When you’re running on rough trails, your feet are vulnerable to a range of hazards that can cause pain and injury. Rocks, roots, and other obstacles can leave your toes bruised, cut, or even broken.
That’s why toe protection is crucial in trail running shoes. Among the models on our top, the Saucony Peregrine 12 and Nike Pegasus Trail 4 have proven to perform well on rocky trails, where toe protection is especially critical.
12. Rock Plates
Trail running shoes are specifically designed to withstand the harsh and rugged terrains that come with trail running.
One essential feature of these shoes is the rock plate.
This is a thin but strong protective layer placed in the sole of the shoe, providing a barrier against sharp stones, stones, and other debris that could cause you injuries while running.
During our tests, the Brooks Cascadia 16 and Altra Lone Peak 7 performed nicely on rocky terrain, with their rock plates offering the right level of protection and comfort.
What Other Key Factors Should Be Considered When Choosing Trail Runners?
We also considered these aspects when making our selection, as each of them can make the difference between a shoe you love and a regular trail runner that performs fairly well.
1. How Simple Is the Process of Wearing and Removing Them
Choose trail running shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
This is important because, during your trail run, you can encounter challenging trails that can make the process more difficult.
Shoes that are simple to wear and remove, like the Altra Lone Peak 7 can save time and frustration while on a race.
2. Number of Eyelets and Lacing Mechanism
The number of eyelets determines how secure the shoe fits, while the lacing mechanism affects how easily and quickly you can lace up the shoe, which is essential for trail shoes.
More eyelets mean better support and fit, while a lacing mechanism like the Salomon Speedcross 6’s Quicklace system allows for easy adjustment and prevents tripping on the trail.
3. Purpose of Use
If you’re planning on running on challenging terrain with steep inclines and rough surfaces, you’ll need shoes with an aggressive outsole for better traction.
Look for a heel-to-toe drop that suits your running style.
For example, Salomon Speedcross 6 is great for muddy terrain, while Brooks Divide 3 is ideal for smoother trails.
4. Time Required to Break Them In
Always consider the time required to break your trail shoes in and give yourself enough time to get accustomed to them before hitting the trails. This way, you can avoid blisters and an uncomfortable experience.
The La Sportiva Bushido II GTX has quite a short break-in period, despite being one of the stiffest trail shoes we tried.
5. Range of Colors Offered
The color of your shoes may not affect your performance, but it can certainly enhance your overall experience in the trail running world. Furthermore, different color options can make it easier to find a pair that matches your trail running gear or preferences.
For example, the Brooks Cascadia 16 trail shoe comes in 8 different colors, giving you plenty of options to choose from.
6. Appearance and Style
When choosing trail running shoes, prioritize the shoes’ functionality over style, but don’t forget to choose shoes that you like the look of, so you feel confident and motivated to hit the trails.
The Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is an example of capable shoes that come in a variety of colors to suit your style.
7. Availability for Individuals With Wide Feet
A trail shoe that fits too tightly can cause discomfort, blisters, and even injuries while running, so make sure you select the right size and design for your type of feet.
One great option for wide feet is the Merrell Moab Flight, which comes in a variety of widths and offers ample cushioning and support for a comfortable and safe trail running experience.
Our Nr. #1 Pick
After testing multiple trail shoes, the Altra Lone Peak 7 is my top choice. What I appreciated the most about these shoes was their comfortable and natural fit, which allowed me to run for hours in them without feeling tired.
The shoe’s wide toe space also provided ample space for my toes to spread out, reducing discomfort and the risk of blisters.
It also includes rock protection to reduce impact with rocks, but it stays lightweight and breezy, exactly how you need it for the summer.
The Lone Peak 7 has durable construction and sticky outsoles that grip slippery surfaces and mud and keep you going even on the most challenging sections of the trail.
Yes, you can wear trail running shoes on hikes. They are designed for off-road terrain and offer good traction and comfort. However, they may not provide as much ankle support as hiking boots, so be mindful of the difficulty and duration of your hike.
Learn more about the difference between hiking boots and trail running shoes.
No, trail running shoes are not the same as hiking shoes. While both types of shoes are designed for outdoor activities, trail running shoes are built for speed and agility, with a focus on providing support for quick movements and a comfortable fit for running.
Salomon, Brooks, and Altra are some of the best trail running shoe brands due to their excellent quality, durability, and design.
Salomon shoes are known for their excellent grip and stability on the most challenging terrains, while Brooks shoes offer comfort and support, especially for long-distance running. Altra shoes are popular among runners who prefer zero-drop shoes that allow for a more natural foot motion.
Yes, you can use trail running shoes on the road, but it’s not the most ideal choice. Trail shoes are designed with more rugged soles and better traction for off-road terrain, but they can still provide adequate support and cushioning on the pavement. However, road shoes are optimized for smooth surfaces, with less traction and more cushioning for impact absorption.
Yes, you can trail run in running shoes. However, it’s recommended to use trail running shoes as they are specifically designed for the terrain and offer better traction, stability, and protection. Running shoes may not provide enough grip or support, especially on more technical trails, increasing the risk of injury.
Yes, you can walk in trail running shoes. They offer more support and protection than regular walking shoes, making them ideal for uneven terrain. However, keep in mind that they may be less comfortable than walking shoes due to their stiffer construction and more aggressive tread.