When shopping for the best running shoes for trails, you have a lot to think about. Trail running exposes you to all of the elements, as well as varying types of terrain and unforeseen obstacles. Tread, grip, flexibility, durability, breathability, and special features, like rock protection plates, all come into play when selecting the best running shoes for trails.
Ultimately, you should consider your personal needs, like foot shape, cushioning, and fit, along with the demands of the trails you run on. The features of your running shoes should align with the terrain you encounter on the trail, while accommodating your individual needs, for the best possible performance. Read on to learn more about the best running shoes for trails.
Best Running Shoes for Trails
#1 Altra Women’s Superior 4 Trail-Running Shoes
- Ideal Uses: Trail running, trail racing
- Cushioning: Low
- Stack Height: 21mm
- Weight: 6.6 oz / 187 g
- Designed to Improve: Natural Foot Positioning, Toe Splay, Comfort, Stability
The Altra Women’s Superior 4 Trail-Running Shoes are the best running shoes for trails for runners who prefer the zero drop style.
Altra’s FootShape toe box provides enough room for toes to spread out, allowing the muscles and joints of the feet to move naturally. The Zero Drop platform helps you sense the ground beneath your feet more accurately, for a barefoot feel.
The soft Quantic foam that makes up the midsole is lightweight. However, it does not provide a lot of cushioning. This is a desirable feature in zero drop shoes, but might not be ideal depending on your personal preferences. For added protection on rocky terrain, these shoes come with removable StoneGuard rock plates.
The wraparound knit uppers help keep debris out and provide extra support. Altra’s TrailClaw tread design, along with sticky MaxTrac rubber outsoles give you superior traction. These shoes come in two color options at a mid-range price.
- Zero drop style allows your feet to sense the ground underfoot more accurately
- Superior traction provided by lug positioning and sticky rubber outsole
- Very little cushioning
#2 Saucony Men’s Peregrine ISO
- PWR TRAC Outsole for optimal grip and traction across a multitude of surfaces
- EVERUN Top sole construction for enhanced energy return and continuous cushioning throughout the run
- TPU exo-skeleton frames the foot for optimal support and protection
- RUNDRY Collar Lining for moisture-wicking comfort
The Men’s Peregrine ISO running shoe by Saucony is a bit of a legend in the trail-running circle. That’s because these shoes really have “sole.”
The responsive EVERUN topsole gives your feet comfortable cushioning. The midsole, constructed from Saucony’s EVA PWRFOAM, provides support and shock absorption. The rubber PWRTRAC outsole is sticky for excellent traction, and resistant to abrasion. This trifecta keeps feet comfortable on uneven, rough ground.
The breathable mesh upper of the Peregrine ISO is constructed with ISOfit technology, which allows the shoe to conform to the unique anatomy of your foot. This technology also makes the upper lighter in weight.
Saucony’s Men’s Peregrine ISO is available in three colors at a bargain price. It may be one of the best running shoes for trails overall, because of it’s longstanding reputation, and thoughtfully designed sole.
- The sole provides a good combination of cushioning, support, and traction, ideal for trail-running
- Available at an affordable price
- This shoe has a longstanding reputation and comes from a reputable brand
- The sole can be a bit too firm for running on flat, hard pavement
#3 Topo Athletic Men’s Terraventure 2
- Bundle includes HDO Sport performance headband. Anatomical toe box allows toes to spread naturally and comfortably.
- For a '2nd Skin' fit and feel.
- Flexible ESS rock plate protects against stone bruising caused by sharp rocks and roots.
- Our mid-level drop provides a near neutral platform for a more natural running experience.
- Unparalleled grip and traction and durability from the leaders in technical outsoles.
Topo Athletic’s Men’s Terraventure 2 shoes, available in three color options, have many desirable features of both a running shoe and trail footwear. They are the best running shoes for trails that tend to be wet and muddy.
First of all, the mesh and PU printed uppers have a fully gusseted tongues to help keep debris from getting into the shoes, and drainage ports to let water out, for faster drying. There are also attachments for the Topo trail gaiter, for further protection from trail debris.
Inside of the shoe, a 5 mm, antibacterial Ortholite footbed resists compression, while helping to control odors associated with sweat and wetness from trails. Below that, a dual-density injected EVA midsole offers cushioning rebound.
The sticky Vibram XS rubber outsole provides powerful traction, in combination with the thoughtful spacing of the lugs on the tread, which were designed specifically to perform in slush and mud. A flexible rock plate in the forefoot of the shoe helps protect your feet from rocks and roots on the trail.
- Quick-drying, gusseted tongue, and odor protection for damp running conditions
- Sticky rubber outsole and lug spacing allow grip even on wet surfaces
- Some complaints about durability issues with soles separating
#4 Salomon Women’s Speedcross 5 Trail-Running Shoes
- Rubber sole
- Grip: The sole of Speedcross 5 has larger lugs with more space and an updated geometry, delivering better push-off grip and braking grip, in all surface conditions
- Stability: The heel unit of Speedcross 5 creates a cradle for your heel, ensuring clean foot strike and stability through the stride
- Fit: speed cross 5 uses a completely welded upper, with dissociated Sensifit arms. It moves more naturally with your foot, and dials in the comfort
A durable trail-running shoe at a mid-range price, Salomon’s Women’s Speedcross 5 Trail-Running Shoes are the best running shoes for trails with rugged terrain, offering you several levels of support.
The uppers are completely welded, and are constructed with Sensifit technology, which wraps the foot from soles to laces for a snug and supportive fit. The Quicklace system provides you with further fit security. It only requires you to pull laces to your preferred tightness and simply secure them with the toggle.
The heel cups are designed to lock your ankle in place so that you can keep your footing on uncertain ground. Protective toe caps guard your feet from stubs against rocks and roots, and also help resist abrasion of the shoe’s toe.
Deep, tapered lugs and Contagrip rubber outsoles are durable and sticky, for superior grip, even on loose surfaces. The EnergyCell midsoles are designed to return energy to the feet, helping to prevent foot fatigue while providing you with excellent cushioning. Further shock absorption comes from the antimicrobial Ortholite footbeds inside.
- Anti-fatigue technology, shock absorption, and substantial cushioning
- The entire shoe, from upper to outsole. features a durable construction
- Special features in the shoe’s upper allow a close fit for ultimate support and stability
- Superior traction, even on loose terrain
- Only available in one color
- Runs narrow
#5 Hoka One One Men’s Speedgoat 4
Thanks to their unbeatable comfort, Hoka One One’s Men’s Speedgoat 4 shoes are the best running shoes for trails if you have chronic foot pain.
The mesh uppers are breathable, while 3D printed overlays offer extra support mid-foot. The gusseted tongue features special cutouts that let heat out and keep trail debris from getting in. The wide toe box allows toes to spread out and move naturally.
The foam midsole is responsive and thick, yet lightweight. It gives you the feeling of walking on clouds. The outsole was designed with rugged trails in mind. The 5 mm lugs are stepped for maximum traction, and Vibram Megagrip sticky rubber grabs wet and dry surfaces on steep inclines and downhills.
This shoe comes in four color schemes, and is also available in a women’s version. It is the most expensive shoe on the list, but possibly the most comfortable trail-running shoe of all.
- Substantial, cloud-like cushioning
- Breathable upper with gusseted tongue
- Great traction on dry, wet, and steep surfaces
The above choices are definitely some great running shoe options for trails. However, they are not the only ones. If you have some suggestions for ones you’ve have success with, please let us know in the comments.