The Best Trail Running Shoes

This year's best trail shoes, plus our comprehensive buyer's guide to finding the best pair for you.

All opinions are our own and never influenced by brands. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here's our process.

If you’re looking for a shortlist of the best trail running shoes then you’ve come to the right place. We live and breathe trail running and have personally run thousands of miles in hundreds of different trail shoe brands and styles.


Choosing the best trail shoes can be confusing when you factor in things like ‘type of terrain’, ‘distances’, ‘weather conditions’, and even ‘running styles’. We’re here to demystify the jargon and narrow down the wide range of options when it comes to finding the best trail shoes for you, not just provide you with a list of every trail running shoe currently available.

Whether you are a beginner trail runner and are looking for your first pair of all-round trail shoes, or you already run trails (including 5km, 10km, marathons, 50k+ ultra marathons, Swim-run or even OCR events like Spartan and Tough Mudder), we’ve shortlisted and picked out this year’s best trail shoes by type.

This trail running shoes buyer’s guide is made up of two parts:

PART 1: Best trail running shoes – this is a list of the best trail shoes for different styles of trail running, distances and types of trails. As there are so many great trail shoes out there, each category has a winner and some have one or two runners up for you to also consider.

PART 2: Buyer’s Guide – this is a complete guide to choosing the best pair of trail shoes for you, including different types of trails you may run on, heel-to-toe drop, whether or not waterproof trail shoes are a good idea, and what to think about if you’re researching trail running shoes for hiking, rather than running in.

The Best All-Round Men’s and Women’s Trail Shoes

The following are considered to be the best for ‘mixed-use‘, or ‘varied terrain‘ trail running.

1. On Cloudultra

On Cloudultra best trail marathon shoes trail and kale

The On Cloudultra is On Running‘s latest trail running shoe and a seriously worthy contribution to the trail running and ultrarunning arena.

I’m a big fan of On running due to their consistent ability to innovate when it comes to running shoes, and even apparel. Yes, this running brand has a larger focus on road running, but On’s trail running shoes have been developing super fast year on year.

The On Cloudultra has answered my calls for an On trail running shoe that can handle technical terrain extremely well and remain comfortable for many miles on trails or hard surfaces like concrete and tarmac. When you wear them, regardless of whether on roads or trails, you get a firm yet responsive ride which is confidence-boosting and enjoyable. These are great trail running shoes for distances up to and over the marathon and my current favorite On trail running shoe all-rounder. To learn more about these trail running shoes, read my full On Cloudultra review.

Drop: 8mm / Weight: 10.41oz (295g) / Support Type: Neutral.

2. Salomon Ultra Glide

Salomon Ultra Glide Best Trail Running Shoes
Salomon Ultra Glide

The Salomon Ultra Glide did a brilliant job of tackling pretty much any type of terrain I chucked at it. On steep technical downhills I had total control of my footing and felt very confident in my ability to run hard knowing that the grip on these trail running shoes would keep me upright.

They’re comfortable out the box, and fit true to size with Salomon, and other running shoe brands that we review here on Trail & Kale. I love the Quicklace system for fast adjustments when you need to make them, and as mentioned earlier, the outsole provides formidable grip when you need it.

To learn more, watch my Salomon Ultra Glide review on YouTube.

Drop: 6mm / Weight: 9.2oz (260g) / Support Type: Neutral

3. Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3

Salomon S Lab Ultra 3 Best Fastpacking Gear Guide Trail and Kale

The Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 is one of those trail running shoes that’s so comfortable it feels like a road running shoe; this is to some degree down to the very breathable, lightweight upper and the long-lasting foam that provides soft cushioning and protection for long distance trail running whether 5k to ultra marathons.

The outsole of these unisex Salomon trail shoes is built for a wide variety of surfaces, and it really does handle it all very well, whether wet, dry, hard or loose, and offers long-term durability. This shoe is expensive, but when you think about how durable the outsole is, you’re actually getting a pretty good deal compared to other less-expensive trail shoes which can wear down more quickly.

The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 trail running shoes have a built-in gaiter to stop debris from getting in. It’s similar to the gaiter on the Nike Pegasus Trail 2, although it closes around your ankle more effectively in my opinion.

Assuming you’re not looking for a trail running shoe with loads of cushioning (in which case check out the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 trail shoes below, which has more), these are excellent trail running shoes that will do it all.

Drop: 8mm / Weight: 10.2oz (290g) / Support Type: Neutral.

4. La Sportiva Bushido 2

la sportiva bushido 2 review trail and mountain running trail and kale

The La Sportiva Bushido 2 trail running shoes is great if you want a high-performing trail shoe with a combination of responsiveness, stability, and comfort with excellent protection and impressive traction.

The Bushido 2 style has been around a while, which is a testament to what a great, reliable and all-round popular trail shoe La Sportiva have created.

These La Sportiva running shoes provide enhanced cushioning while also providing a stable, lightweight, sticky and aggressive outsole – the performance and protection on technical terrain is impressive. These would be a better pick than the Salomon trail shoes listed above, if you need that extra protection and stability for running on harder, rockier terrain more frequently. The La Sportiva Bushido 2 trail shoes are also in our opinion one of the best options when it comes to trail running shoes for hiking. For more, read our full La Sportiva Bushido 2 Review.

Drop: 6mm / Weight: 10.5oz (298g) / Support Type: Neutral.

5. Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 MAX

Inov 8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max Best Trail Running Shoes Trail and Kale

We only have good things to say about these lightweight, rugged-yet-flexy trail shoes from Inov-8.

The grip on these ultra-worthy shoes is the best out there, and when you run in these you can really feel the spring and rebound provided by the graphene-enhanced foam midsole. If you’re looking for some protective, test breathable trail shoes that will give you confidence running at speed over uneven and loose terrain, especially on gnarly descents, then these are a great choice.

Drop: 6mm / Weight: 10.5oz (300g) / Support Type: Neutral

6. Nike Pegasus Trail 3

pegasus trail 3 mens trail running shoe QPcRqp

The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is a high-performance trail running shoe for those running light, or buffed / hard-packed trails. The 9.5mm drop forces a more forward-leaning stance which is typical of a running shoe for runners who want to run fast and keep that forward momentum pushing them forward.

The Pegasus Trail 3 is well suited to running fast downhill and they also pack a punch while running uphill due to the aggressive tread on the outsole and that super-cushioned React foam in the midsole. The React foam midsole protects the bottom of your feet from spiky rocks extremely well too.

The Nike Pegasus Trail’s construction is very durable and personally I think the design looks great. For a more detailed look at the Nike Pegasus Trail 3, read my in-depth review.

Drop: 9.5mm / Weight: 11.29oz (320.1g) / Support Type: Neutral.

Best For Racing (Up To And Including Marathon Distance)

Do you love to run trails FAST over distances spanning 5k to trail marathons? If so then you need high-performance lightweight trail running shoes but may sacrifice a little in cushioning underfoot as a result. These shoes are for the speed junkies who like to fly over any type of trails!

SPEAKING OF RACING… if you haven’t read my ultimate 50k and trail marathon training plan/guide, and you’d like to improve your training and racing strategy for the 50k and trail marathon distances, then definitely go have a read!

There’s a lot of great information in there for people new to the 50k/marathon distances, and seasoned racers alike – information that many won’t talk about in order to give themselves the edge over other competitors but I’m a sharer, so go and have a read after absorbing this best trail marathon shoes buyer’s guide.

1. Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7

Nike Terra Kiger 6 Best Trail Running Shoes Trail and Kale 2

The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7 is a lightweight Nike trail running shoe for fast trail runs or races.

The previous Nike Terra Kigers were known for their grip on dry trail surfaces, but the new Terra Kiger 7 now features a sticky midfoot rubber compound for improved traction on slick roots and rocks.

The Nike Terra Kiger 7’s full foam midsole delivers a smooth and responsive ride on hard trail surfaces, as well as a forefoot rock plate for protection from sharp rocks. This midsole makes it a great ‘door to trail’ shoe too.

If you’re a Nike fan and like to run trails fast with a low heel-to-toe drop, the Terra Kiger 7 is a great pick for running anything up to trail marathon or 50k distances although if you run fast and light-footed you could absolutely compete in longer ultra marathons wearing these Nike trail shoes, too.

Drop: 4mm / Weight: 9.75oz / Support Type: Neutral.

2. Salomon S/Lab Sense 8

Salomon S Lab Sense 8 Best Trail Running Shoes Trail and Kale 2

The second pair of Salomons to make this list, the Salomon S-Lab Sense 8 is my choice as the best for mixed distances of anything up to the trail marathon distance. Top endurance runners demand lightweight, precision and ground feel.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense 8 is approximately 6.87oz, which is an insanely lightweight trail shoe – much lighter than the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 included above. Key features of the Sense 8 include an integrated sock liner and a welded stitch-free upper that fits like a sock, a minimal drop of 4mm and softer cushioning under the front of the foot than previous versions.

This is a unisex shoe so if you’re looking for the women’s version, it’s on the same link below.

Drop: 4mm / Weight: 6.87oz / Support Type: Neutral.


HOKA One One Zinal Best Trail Shoes Trail and Kale

If shorter trail runs are your thang, then the HOKA Zinals could be your new best trail companions. New for 2021, these breathable, 100% vegan trail shoes are a lightweight choice, offering a moderate level of cushioning for some great responsiveness when you’re pushing for speed, whether on singletrack or those punishing fire roads.

To help with responsiveness and to provide that feeling of being close to the ground, these HOKA trail shoes also feature a relatively low 4mm heel-to-toe drop.

Drop: 4mm / Weight: 17oz (482g) / Support Type: Neutral

Best Waterproof Trail Running Shoes

Looking for a shoe that will give you no excuses to go out running during the winter, even on rainy days? If you need to keep your feet warm and dry, you may need a pair of waterproof trail running shoes, which feature technologies such as GORE-TEX to keep water out while you’re running in wet conditions. But first – just to be sure – jump down to our tips on choosing waterproof trail shoes in case you decide not to opt for a waterproof version once you’ve read them.

1. Nike Pegasus Trail 3 GORE-TEX (GTX Waterproof)

pegasus trail 2 gore tex best waterproof trail running shoes Trail Kale

Nike’s Pegasus Trail 2 GORE-TEX is an excellent waterproof Nike trail shoe and has earned my pick as the best Gore Tex trail running shoes for wet and cold winter running. The Pegasus Trail 2 Gore-Tex is a high-performance trail running shoe that feels just as comfortable on the road as it does on the trails, making it a great door-to-trail hybrid running shoe.

They’re great for running on light trails and even road surfaces, and I love how comfortable they are while running fast downhill due to the cushioning in the heel. They also dig in very well while climbing hills. Nike React foam offers great protection and cushioning underfoot and they are generally a very comfortable fit, in my experience. They are also very reasonably priced for a waterproof trail shoe!

Drop: 9.5mm / Weight: 11.8oz / Support Type: Neutral.

2. Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX

salomon speedcross 5 GTX best fastpacing gear guide trail and kale 800x

Our best trail running shoes guide would not be complete without the inclusion of this classic wet-weather trail shoe from Salomon. The Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX is the latest waterproof (Gore-Tex) addition to an extremely popular shoe amongst runners who love to get dirty on the trails.

The Salomon Speedcross 5 GTX is a lightweight trail shoe, especially considering it’s waterproof and offers a very aggressive grip on technical, soft trails. This Salomon trail shoe offers tons of support too, which makes it a popular choice for hikers who don’t want the bulk of a traditional hiking boot and would prefer to wear trail running shoes for hiking.

And finally, there’s the Quicklace adjustment system that so many people love as it’s so fast and easy to do up and doesn’t come loose as standard running shoelaces can.

Drop: 10mm / Weight: 12oz / Support Type: Neutral.

3. On Cloudventure Waterproof

On Cloudventure Waterproof best on running shoes web wide

The On Cloudventure Waterproof trail shoes look so badass and offer excellent cushioning while thrashing the trails.

When wearing these to test for our more detailed review of these On running shoes, I was able to storm down the hills much faster than usual on harder terrain.

You get the same ‘run on clouds’ feeling wearing these running as you do with the On Cloudultra and On Running’s road running shoes range, but with a much more solid and, of course, waterproof trail shoe specifically designed for running in wet conditions. READ OUR REVIEW: On Cloudventure Waterproof Review

Drop: 6mm / Weight: 12.2oz / Support Type: Neutral.

Best For Hard Packed Trails

1. On Cloudventure Peak

On Cloudventure Peak FW19 2nd Gen 2019 trail and kale

The On Cloudventure Peak is another On trail running shoe, designed for moving fast in the mountains and it delivers, that’s why I have ranked it as the top choice for smooth buffed trail runs.

On has added some significant new design features to their 2nd Generation Cloudventure Peak! The new Missiongrip outsole has been improved in terms of ‘trail-feel’, cushioning, grip and durability, all the while maintaining the same light weight of 260g (9.2oz). The breathable ripstop upper mesh is still there, albeit redesigned but still weighing next to nothing. The Cloudventure Peak is also a top contender for the Racing Trail Shoe Category above. READ OUR REVIEW: On Cloudventure Peak Review

Drop: 4mm / Weight: 9.2oz / Support Type: Neutral.

Best Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes (Also the Best Trail Shoes for Wide Feet)

If you’ve heard about barefoot running or the use of zero drop running shoes before, then you’ve probably also learned that they come with various benefits. Click here to jump down to learn more about zero drop shoes or read on to see the shoes.

1. Altra Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5.0 best barefoot trail running shoes Trail Kale

The Altra Lone Peak 5 has a new trimmed-down upper to enhance comfort and flexibility, while the midsole foam has been tweaked for a more resilient feel underfoot. Altra’s signature FootShape toe boxes allow the toes to relax and spread out naturally and the big toe to remain in a straight position.

As well as being the best zero drop trail shoe on the market right now, these Altra trail runners are also a top pick if you’re looking for wide trail running shoes, as this model is known for having a wide toe box to allow your toes to splay out naturally when inside.

The Altra Lone Peak 5 is a highly popular shoe and deserves a place on this list, especially when considering how well they cater to people looking for trail shoes for wide feet. It is also a great choice if you’re looking for rugged trail running shoes for hiking, especially as they also come in a ‘mid’ style which offers more ankle support than the regular low shoe option.

Drop: 0mm / Weight: 10.5oz / Support Type: Neutral.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking

If you’re looking for a pair of trail runners for hiking in then it’s worth considering what features are important to you in a pair of shoes when you’re hiking in them, and you can read more about that by clicking here to jump down to our trail shoes buying guide.

The best trail shoes for hiking on this list in our opinion are the ever-popular:

  1. La Sportiva Bushido II
  2. Brooks Cascadia 15
  3. Altra Lone Peak 5

the latter of which are differentiated further from the other shoes on this list due to them also being available in a high-top version (‘mid’) that offers greater ankle protection if worn hiking and running on more rugged trails.

The Salomon Speedcross 5, which is on this list below, is another great choice especially if you’re hiking in soft, wet and slippery mud conditions.

Best For Ultra Running

If you love to run huge distances from Marathon up to 100 mile ultra marathons and beyond then it’s very important that you have shoes that will keep your feet comfortable for many hours at a time. See below for the top trail shoes for ultra running. These trail shoes can handle anything from 50ks to 100 miles and more.

1. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 Best Fastpacking Gear Guide Trail and Kale

Named for Karl Meltzer aka “The Speedgoat”, who holds the record for the most 100-mile ultra trail race wins and epitomizes the “go everywhere, run everything” attitude, these Hoka trail running shoes are designed to attack all kinds of technical trail.

The Hoka Speedgoat 4s have some chunky Vibram lugs which are designed to be able able to handle very rugged terrain and there’s extra heel support and midfoot lockdown in the upper, which helps provide comfort when run in for many hours at a time on hard trails.

The Speedgoat 4 is one of the fastest and toughest trail running shoes out there and our top pick when it comes to the best ultra running shoes.

Drop: 4mm / Weight: 10.8oz / Support Type: Neutral.

2. Brooks Cascadia 15

Brooks Cascadia 15 Best trail running shoes buyers guide Trail and Kale

The Brooks Cascadia 15 are especially comfortable trail shoes for hard, rocky trails but will perform across most trail types on account of their excellent grip – some of the best grip out of all the trail running shoes in this buyer’s guide!

I find myself pushing harder on the downhill sections when wearing these trail shoes due to the extra cushioning, which makes such a difference how how your feet feel after a run on the more punishing, rocky trails, in particular.

The Brooks Cascadia 15 trail shoes also perform well when running on road sections, very handy when it’s hard to avoid roads during a run, such as when you have to run to a trailhead.

There are very good reasons why Brooks Cascadia trail shoes have been around for so many years and are so very popular among trail and ultra runners. They also make a great choice if your looking for trail running shoes for hiking in, on account of the excellent cushioning and stability they offer.

Drop: 8mm / Weight: 12oz / Support Type: Neutral.

In addition to the Hoka Speedgoats and the Brooks trail shoes listed above, Salomon’s S-Lab Ultra 3s are also great trail running shoes for ultra running (they’re my top pick as an ‘all-rounder’ for good reason!).

Best For Obstacle Course Racing Like Tough Mudder & Spartan Events

The two most important things to think about when choosing a trail running shoe for mud run and OCR-type events are: “Will water pass through the shoe and will it dry off quickly?” and “Is the grip good enough for thick mud or the obstacles when the shoes are wet?”. These shoes are in our opinion the best trail running shoes for OCR that meet these criteria.

1. Salomon Speedcross 5

Salomon Speedcross 5

The Salomon Speedcross range has long been a popular shoe amongst runners who love to get dirty on the trails, but also for hikers who don’t want to wear heavy hiking boots.

To anyone looking for a lightweight trail running shoe for hiking in, as an alternative to a hiking boot, I always point them towards the Salomon Speedcross. This is why I rate these Salomon trail shoes as the best for Spartan and Tough Mudder OCR courses. They’re workhorse shoes that will perform and endure pretty much anything your throw at them – and they LOVE mud.

The Salomon Speedcross 5 promises all the same features as the beloved Speedcross that came before it if you’ve ever worn its predecessors, with even more grip, even more stability and even more dynamic uppers.

Drop: 10mm / Weight: 11.3oz / Support Type: Neutral.

2. Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib 2

Salomon s Lab XA Amphib 2 best trail running shoes for swimrun trail and kale

Notice a pattern? Salomon has the OCR trail shoe genre dialed. The Salomon XA Amphib 2 is a true Swim-Run racing shoe designed by and for the athletes in the sport. It’s fast and super efficient both wet and dry which is why it’s the perfect trail shoe for OCR events.

They drain so well that you’ll be able to wash these off after your race and they will still look and feel new, just as well because they aren’t cheap (and hence being beaten by the Speedcross shoes to top the list). The Salomon XA Amphib 2 is definitely the best shoe for Swim-run events, if you don’t mind paying that much extra.

I ran 2x Tough Mudders in my Salomon S/Lab Sense SG trail running shoes but only because the XA Amphib 2 didn’t exist back then! This is a unisex shoe so if you’re looking for the women’s version, it’s on the same link below. Here’s a video of one of those Tough Mudders. It’s an old classic: Tough Mudder South West Video.

Best For Vertical Kilometer (VK) races (uphill trail running)

A Vertical Kilometer trail race is an uphill mountain running race, which ascends approximately 1000 meters (3,300ft) while covering a distance of no more than 5km (3.3 miles). The spelling is often referred to as a ‘VK’ or ‘VKM’. These are a popular category of mountain running race in Europe but anyone can get into uphill trail running as a hardcore niche!

1. La Sportiva VK

la sportiva vk best vertical kilometer trail running shoes trail and kale

The La Sportiva VK is a mountain running shoe created specifically for Vertical Kilometer endeavors and other uphill running challenges.

This shoe was designed in collaboration with the VK world record holder – La Sportiva Mountain Running athlete Urban Zemmer, who knows a thing or two about running uphill up the side of mountains. This purpose-built lightweight shoe is specifically for short, steep trails and our top choice for Vertical Kilometer style running.

This La Sportiva trail shoe a snug-fitting shoe with seamless uppers to hug your feet as you go, although designed to be snug, it’s recommended that you go half a size up to get a better fit. The toe cap and rock-guard at the forefoot offer rock protection while the lightweight rubber sole helps you conquer steep trails, quickly. The versatile tread will help you get your footing on rocks and mud alike, two very common terrains on a VK.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing Your Next Pair Of Trail Running Shoes

Before you choose to buy a pair of trail runners, it’s worth learning about the key features of trail shoes, how they differ from road running shoes and which of those features are likely to be most important to you.

As trail and ultra runners we at Trail & Kale have personally tested many different brands and styles of trail running shoes. We’ve run in everything from wide zero drop trail shoes such as Altras to rugged and cushioned trails shoes such as Brooks Cascadia and many many different pairs of Salomon trail running shoes, including lightweight and minimal options through to waterproof gore-tex trail shoes designed for wet and slippery trail conditions.

Using this experience over many years of trail running, we have put together this buyer’s guide to help you find a pair you’ll love to run in – and if the guide doesn’t answer your question, ask us in the comments!

Trail running shoes compared to road running shoes

The key difference between trail and road running shoes is that trail shoes are built to be more rugged and durable. They have to be able to keep you on your feet when navigating uneven, often slippery and loose terrain, including steep inclines and descents.

The key features of trail running shoes as well as more on how they differ from road shoes are explained below.

Grip and traction in trail shoes

The most noticeable difference between trail and road running shoes is that trail shoes are designed to have varying degrees of textured grip and knobby lugs designed to help you achieve and maintain traction when running off-road.

The type of grip and traction varies between the different types of trail shoes depending on what terrain they are designed to be used on. The all-round best trail running shoes on this list such as the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3 and the La Sportiva Bushido 2s are designed to be good at all terrains other than the most extreme.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be running through slippery muddy conditions regularly, then a trail shoe with a more aggressive, sticky outsole like the Salomon Speedcross 5s is going to be a better choice, although we find this style doesn’t hold up as well (or last as many miles) if worn to run regularly on hard, rocky terrain due to the softer rubber used to produce the grip on the outsole.

Trail shoe stability, rock plates and cushioning

I mentioned above that trail running shoes are designed to help keep you upright! What this means when it comes to design is that they generally have a wider, firmer base than road shoes to provide a more stable platform underfoot, reducing your chances of rolling an ankle or losing balance when stepping on uneven ground.

The ‘midsole’ of a pair of trail shoes is typically stiffer than road shoes, with less flex – and some trail shoes have a ‘rock plate’ built into this part of the shoe, which adds underfoot protection when running on rocky terrain.

When it comes to cushioning, trail running shoes generally have less ‘soft’ cushioning than road running shoes. Most people need that cushioning when running on roads, to protect from the repetitive punishment your body receives from running on harder, unnatural concrete and tarmac surfaces. With trail running shoes, cushioning is important, but needs to be more ‘responsive’ so you can feel the ground underfoot and be able to remain light-footed and adaptable if it’s uneven or loose/slippery terrain.

Heel-to-toe drop in trail running shoes

Heel-to-toe drop is the height differential between where your heel and toe areas sit within your trail shoes. Trail running shoes generally range from between 10mm to 0mm (zero drop trail shoes) and we find that a mid-range heel-to-toe drop of 6-8mm suits most people by offering the sweet spot between cushioning on rugged trails and ground-feel so you can remain responsive to the terrain you’re running on.

Before we talk about zero drop shoes, let’s talk about barefoot running. Sometimes referred to as minimal running, barefoot running is the art of re-aligning your running style to a more natural and efficient one, because people didn’t always wear cushioned shoes (or any shoes at all).

The difference between barefoot running and running in zero drop running shoes is that zero drop running shoes allow you to run with a zero drop (from heel to toe), whilst still providing protection from the trail or road surface under-foot. Zero drop trail shoes are not for everyone, but if you are looking for something different or really like that style of running without having your heel sit higher than your toes in the shoe, then these are definitely something to try out. Click here to head back up to our recommended zero drop trail running shoes.

To learn more about barefoot running and how you can practice it, have a read of our easy to follow guide: The Freedom of Barefoot Running: How-To Guide.


Both trail running shoes and road running shoes are designed to be breathable, i.e. they should allow your feet to ‘breathe’ and moisture to escape.

That said, road running shoes are generally made of lighter, more open knit fabrics as they are not required to be as tough to protect the tops of your feet from trail debris and obstacles as trail shoes.

Trail running shoe durability

As mentioned above, trail running shoes are designed to be more durable when it comes to the fabric and protection offered in the upper (the top of your feet), toe area (to protect your toes from kicking rocks and roots), and rock-plate underfoot.

Trail running shoes outsoles, being the grippy sole that hits the trail, are generally made out of softer, grippier rubber than road running shoes. This means that they may wear down quicker, especially if you wear your trail running shoes on roads, or if you wear trail shoes designed to perform best in soft, wet conditions, on hard, rocky terrain.

Can you wear trail running shoes on the roads and pavement?

As a general rule, because of the durability of the outsoles, we do not suggest you wear trail running shoes for running on pavements for your normal runs if you don’t plan to run on a trail at all, however most trail running shoes are perfectly fine and comfortable when worn on roads for short periods of time.

Wearing trail shoes on pavements is inevitable at some point because you may have to run on a road to get to a trail or on a route that is mixed terrain. Trail running shoes described as being good ‘door to trail’ running shoes are generally comfortable for this type of running, and shoes in this list include both the Nike trail running shoes (Terra Kiger and Pegasus Trail 2).

Do I need waterproof trail running shoes (Gore-Tex)?

It’s easy to think that if you’re going to be running on trails and getting your feet wet then you are best off buying Gore-Tex, waterproof trail running shoes like the On Cloudventure Waterproof or the Salomon Speedcross GTX version. However, with a waterproof trail running shoe you also get a shoe that is generally a little heavier, stiffer and less breathable than the non-Gore-Tex alternative, and this can mean that the shoes take longer to drain water if they get submerged.

Generally we only wear waterproof trail running shoes for running on cold, exceptionally wet and / or snowy conditions where we need to keep our feet warm and we don’t want water getting into our shoes. If this is the type of running you’ll be doing, head back up to our recommended waterproof trail shoes above. If we are running in warmer conditions then generally regular trail running shoes that are more breathable and drain more quickly are a better choice.

Many trail races may have river crossings but OCR events like Tough Mudder and Spartan will most definitely have them. If you need shoes for these types of events that will drain water, then jump to our recommended shoes for Tough Mudder/Spartan.

Can you wear trail running shoes for hiking?

Wearing trail running shoes hiking is becoming a popular choice amongst people wanting to do faster, more lightweight hiking in particular, although people interested in thru-hiking and keeping overall weight to a minimum may favor trail running shoes over hiking shoes or boots especially if you are one of those people that likes to hike fast.

Trail running shoes tend to be overall lighter and more breathable than chunkier hiking shoes and boots so they offer some comfort advantages, especially when worn hiking in summer months when wearing very breathable shoes helps keep your feet happy and dry. The downside to wearing trail running shoes for hiking is that by comparison, a pair of trail running shoes is likely to wear down quicker than a pair of hiking shoes or boots worn for the same distances, as their outsoles tend to be made of softer rubber.

For most people, the best running shoes for hiking are going to offer a good amount of cushioning and stability support, on the basis that your steps are going to each take all of your weight as well as the weight of whatever you are carrying in your hiking backpack, so in this case, minimal trail running shoes are probably not the best choice.

In addition to the cushioning and support, trail running shoes best suited to hiking in tend to be the more durable, rugged trail shoes with features such as a solid rockplate underfoot and enhanced toe protection to protect your toes if you kick a rock or root (for example) when hiking. Click here to jump back up to our recommended trail running shoes for hiking.

Now you’ve read the full buyer’s guide, click here to jump back up and see the list of recommended trail running shoes.

NEW TO TRAIL RUNNING or RUN ON ROADS? Read our Trail Running Guide for Beginners next – and if you enjoy running on roads too, then our Best Road Running Shoes Buyer’s Guide is for you.


Thanks for reading! For more authentic independent adventure journalism direct to your inbox, including gear guides, reviews, training tips, plant-based lifestyle advice, and how to become more self-sustainable in your day-to-day, join thousands of others in subscribing to our Newsletter today. SIGN UP HERE.


Best Ski Socks For Men And Women

Buyers guide to the best ski socks that will be warm and comfortable for skiing and snowboarding, plus recommendations from top sock brands.

Best Ski Goggles For Skiing and Snowboarding

Read our buyer's guide to the best ski goggles for skiing and snowboarding, for men and women in all snow conditions.

What to Wear Skiing & Snowboarding

This men's and women's ski gear checklist covers what to wear skiing (or snowboarding) so you don't forget to pack your ski trip essentials.

The Best Reflective Running Vests For Running At Night

Wearing reflective running gear such as a reflective running vest or belt over your running clothes can help you stay safe running or walking at night.

10 Sustainable Gifts For Eco-Conscious Outdoor Enthusiasts

Looking for sustainable gifts for him or her? These eco friendly products for outdoor enthusiasts are environmentally sustainable and practical.

Fun & Useful Christmas Gifts For Hikers, Fitness and Travel Lovers

You can't go wrong with these cool and unique Christmas gifts for fitness focused outdoor-loving friends and family who love to stay active and travel


  1. I’m on my 3rd pair of Speedcross 4s and absolutely love them. However I’m starting to get metarsal bruising in my left foot. I’m in AZ and as you know it’s very rocky here. I was looking at a pair of Hokas but not sure which ones to go after. The Speedgoats? The Stinson atr because of the added stability in the uppers? Also not a fan of the Bushidos. Altra lone peaks were way too wide and felt very sloppy. I love the fit and stability of the Speedcross but I think they are just not padded enough for the terrain I’m on. Thanks and great read!

    • Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for dropping by!

      The Speedcross are excellent, I agree. Have you tried Merrell by any chance? I think you may enjoy the comfort, responsiveness and grip of the new Agility Peak Flex 3 (I’m going to be reviewing it in full this week) – It’s this one here:


  2. Dear Alastair,
    what about the Terraultra 260 as a versatile long distance shoe (approx. 40-60km), enough cushion ? Or do you have a comparison shoe cushion-wise) ? Inov 8 is quite harsh in hard ground after my Experimente…
    Thank you, Ingo

    • Hi Ingo!

      It should be good for that distance, but my top choices for that distance right now would be the La Sportiva Bushido 2, or the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 2 (both in this list, and great shoes).

      Do you have any experience with them?


  3. Hi and thank you for the fast andere…the Salomon is too narrow, but I tried the Bushido 1 lately and was really impressed. As the Bushido 2 seems to be Note flexible, I might give it a try, good review of yours.
    Kind regards from Germany, Ingo

  4. The Lone Peak is a shoe I really like but the midsole is dead after 150 miles. So basically I’m looking for a replacement. The Terraultra has way less cushion I suppose, right ?
    Thank you, Ingo

    • I’ve only worn my new Terraultra G 260 for shorter runs so far (I’ve worn Lone Peak 4.0’s for a 50K), but the amount of cushioning in those Inov8’s is surprising. Although the stack height listed online is quite low, it doesn’t feel like it when I’m running in them. The midsole almost feels just like a firmer version of the Lone Peaks; I didn’t even notice that it was thinner. The wide toebox also gives them somewhat of an Altra-like feel. I’m interested to see how they feel over longer runs.

  5. Hi, I’ve signed up for Tough Mudder classic, and need guidance on which shoes to buy. I suffer from compartment syndrome in my calves, have had operation to relieve but still use insoles. Any advice on which shoes would give best support and comfort would be great.

    • Hi Neil!

      The Salomon Speedcross 5 is an excellent shoe for Tough Mudder because they have such good grip. Perfect for deep mud (like the mud mile) and also for Everest when you may be attempting it while your shoes are wet. They also have great support and drain well. That would be my choice!

      It’s on this list in the bottom section ‘Running Shoes For Tough Mudder & Spartan Events’. Have a great time at Tough Mudder! 🙂


  6. Hi,
    I’ve been running in the Nike Terra Kieger 4 which I’ve really liked, mostly 15-30km run range. They need replaced now and I just cant decide if I should go with the new terra kiger 5 or try something else? Have been looking at the cascadia’s, salamons or new balance hierro as options. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Dan,

      I think if you’ve been enjoying the Kiger 4 then you should really like the extra improvements Nike have made to the 5. The Cascadia 13 is a great shoe too though, and I’m always enjoy running in Salomon shoes. I have to say though, my current favorite is the La Sportiva Bushido 2.

      Hope you find your next shoe, let me know what you go for and how you get on with them.


  7. Hello! I’ve signed up for the Beaverhead 55km ultramarathon and am needing a pair of trail runners. I love Nike pegasus turbo’s for road running, do you have any suggestions?

  8. Hi I am running the tough Mudder and just bought HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 Trail-Running Shoes. I seen the recommendations in the article but those shoes just don’t have the same feel as the Hokas. Do you think I made a mistake and the Hokas will not drain well enough after the water obstacles? Do you think they will be to heavy?

  9. Hi! Thanks for the article. I live in Costa Rica and there’s micro-climate every 3-5 miles. I mostly run 10-25k, I’ve been using the Altra Superior 4.0 but now I’m looking for a replacement. I’m looking for something that performs well in rough dry climates to a mid mud type of terrain with rain sometimes. PS. I have a wide feet and tends to swallow after a while. Thanks!

  10. Hi there, thanks for the in depth reviews – they are so valuable! I was wondering if the Adidas TERREX AGRAVIC XT MEN’S TRAIL didnt make the list, or if you haven’t finished the long term review for it?

    • Hi James,

      I’m going to be reviewing the Agravic XT very soon but unfortunately I don’t think it will be making it onto our ‘best trail running shoes’ list due to the their stiffness in the upper and outsole.


  11. I am on my 3rd pair of ON Cloudventures (the second pair with the new, more square pods on the bottom) – they are my go to for muddy, technical trails and races with variable surfaces (I just ran a 25 mile race that combined rooty single track, grass, gravel and even a little road). I’ve had people ask me if the pods get mud trapped in them but I have not found that to be the case at all – you might hear a mild “squish” for a few seconds after coming out of a bog or through a creek, but both the pods and the shoe itself drain quickly. The longest race I have run in them is 50 miles and I felt supported throughout. I definitely find that I feel more confident on steep descents with these than with other trail shoes I have worn – the pods seem to “grip” the slopes well.

  12. Hi Alastair,

    I am looking for a versatile trial shoe that is suitable for marathons and ultras.
    I have participating in a 40 mile ultra later this month in Worcestershire which will cover some road running, farmlands, hills, meadows etc.
    I typically have a low arch, medium/over pronation.
    I was looking at a pair of Inov8 Roclite 305 but can’t seem to find a pair in my size, so have been looking at the Trialroc 285 GTX and Nike Pegasus 36 GTX. Ideally looking something at an affordable price.
    Also any recommendations on road shoes would be great as well- I bought a pair of Adidas UltraBoost ST six months ago however the outsole rubber on both shoes have already worn and split so they are on their last legs.


    • Hey Dave,

      The all-round shoe That I’m living right now is the Pegasus 36 Trail. It drains well if you do get soaked through. The GTX version is also a great show and waterproof, but the weatherproofing comes at the cost of a little extra flexibility. Both are very durable and relatively well prices when you look at the competition.

      And the road shoes I love right now are the On Cloudflow(also reviewed on the site) and the Pegasus 36. Good luck in your Ultra!


    • I can’t wait to find out! They will be arriving in the mail early next week and I’ll be spending a lot of time on the trails testing them. Watch this space…


  13. Thanks for a great post. Having used Altra now for a few years – Its hard to be able to consider anything else. I was on Vivo before, but love the cushioning now on Altra. I’m not convinced of the quality of Altra. Anything similar to recommend. Wide, zero drop is a must.

  14. Cheers for the round up. Personally get on well with Merrell but not tried the Agility Peak Flex 3, will keep an eye out for them. Always find that the uppers go on my shoes (of all brands) any that were stand out in terms of durability? Be interested to hear the comunities views on this one.

  15. Hi, which trail shoe would you recommend for running trail half marathons and 30ks? I just switched to trail running from roads so this is my first pair of trail running shoes. I’m thinking Nike Pegasus Trail or the Salmon Sense 8? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    • Hi Hannah!

      The S-Lab sense 8 is a great shoe but you may feel it is a little minimal if you’re just switching to trail, and so you may prefer a shoe with more cushioning like the Pegasus Trail 2 or even the Brooks Cascadia 15!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

ADVERTISEMENTlululemon we made too much sale