Best Trail Running Shoes – Dec 2018

Best Trail Running Shoes GEAR GUIDE 2 web
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Welcome to our ever-evolving list of the best trail running shoes for every scenario; whether you run ultramarathons, race 10k’s or plan to do a Spartan/Tough Mudder event.

Choosing trail gear can be confusing when you start factoring in things like ‘type of terrain’, ‘distances’, ‘weather conditions’ and even ‘running styles’. I’m writing this list based on my extensive experience of trail shoe testing and running on different trails all over the world, covering both long and short distances. This page will be updated regularly as and when I test more shoes and run even more miles.

Jump To Your Running Environment/Style


Best All-Round Trail Running Shoes

If you’re not sure what type of trails you’re going to be spending most of your time on, then it’s worth looking at trail running shoes that can perform in every situation. For example, you may have to run to a trail-head which will involve running on roads for a couple of miles. If you don’t have the shoes that will allow you to run on the roads as comfortably as on the trails, then your run may get tarnished before you even make it to the fun bit!

The following sneakers are considered to be ‘door to trail’, ‘mixed-use’ or ‘varied terrain’ trail running shoes.

1ON Cloudventure (NEW EDITION)

The On Cloudventure is for runners looking for a versatile trail shoe with full cushioning protection. The outsole combines multiple grip patterns so you can stay in control as conditions around you change and the improved traction pattern of Zig-zag channels combine with flatter details to prevent slipping on smoother surfaces.

On cloudventure review outsole pattern

The most fun part of all On running shoes is the cloud pods that give you that feeling of a cushioned landing, as they compress under your weight and then provide a barefoot take off as your foot leaves the ground and the pods spring back. It’s a really innovative and effective system!

On cloudventure review outsole

This NEW Cloudventure takes that system one step further by combining On’s Zero Gravity cloud elements with a grip overlay that adds trail-level toughness to the unmistakable sensation of running on clouds. This means you can truly own the downhill, again and again.

$149.99 at on-running.com

Men’s    Women’s

Interested in learning more about the ON Running brand? We have the largest collection of in-depth and professional On running shoe reviews on the web.

2Brooks Cascadia 13

The Brooks Cascadia 13 are especially comfortable on hard packed rocky trails but will perform across most trail types. I find myself pushing harder on the downhill sections due to the extra cushioning, which makes such a difference. Finishing a run with feet feeling fresh is such an important motivational factor in getting yourself back out there regularly and actually wanting to put more miles in. I find the Cascadia 13s also perform well on road sections, very handy when it’s hard to completely avoid roads during a run, especially when you have to run to the trailhead.

$130 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

Brooks Cascadia 13 Men’s Review / Brooks Cascadia 13 Women’s Review

 

Ultrarunning

If you love to run huge distances from Marathon up to 100 miles and beyond then it’s very important that you have shoes that will keep your feet comfortable for many hours at a time. Below are the best trail running shoes for Ultrarunning.

3Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 2

Developed with Francois D’haene, the Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 2 embodies his physical and mental preparation for ultra distance racing. It blends long-distance comfort, precise fit, and grip with a graphic treatment that expresses the different stages of an Ultra. The ULTRA 2 will help you reach your ultra goals. This is a unisex shoe so if you’re looking for the women’s version, it’s on the same link below.

$135 at Zappos.com

View at zappos.com

4Hoka One One Speedgoat 2

Inspired by Karl Meltzer, who holds the record for most 100-mile trail race wins, and epitomizes the “go everywhere, run everything” attitude, this shoe is designed to attack all breeds of technical trail. The wide midsole creates a stable platform for the foot and offers a wide toe box with reinforced areas where your feet need them. The outsole features deep, aggressive Vibram® lugs which hold up to all kinds of rugged terrain, while the more forgiving upper offers comfort up top. This is a fast and tough trail running shoe that will keep your feet comfortable over long distances.

$140 at zappos.com / £119.99 at sportsshoes.com

Men’s    Women’s

5Inov-8 Terraultra 260

The Terraultra 260 delivers high levels of shock absorption without compromising on ground feel. Striking the perfect balance between superior comfort and flexible responsiveness. It’s currently my go-to shoe for long distance trail running and ultra races. Biomechanically designed to move with the natural movement of the foot, this zero-drop shoe makes you feel like you can run forever. This shoe also belongs in the barefoot/zero drop running section below.

$130 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

 

Racing Anything Up To The Marathon Distance

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

6Salomon S/Lab Sense 7

Top endurance runners demand lightweight, precision and ground feel. The S/Lab Sense 7 is approximately 200g, which is insanely lightweight. The shoe has an integrated sock liner and a minimal drop of 4mm. The Sense 7 is a favorite among amateur mountain runners and the top Salomon athletes including Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Lucy Bartholomew, Martina Valmassoi and more. This is a unisex shoe so if you’re looking for the women’s version, it’s on the same link below.

$180 at zappos.com / £159 at sportsshoes.com

View at zappos.com

 

Wet/Muddy/Cold Conditions

Looking for a shoe that will give you no excuses to go out running during the winter, even on rainy days? Note: if you’re planning on running through rivers or deep bodies of water then you’re better off with non-waterproof shoes that can drain water out quickly after being soaked through, so they dry out quicker. Many trail races may have river crossings but Tough Mudder and Spartan events will most definitely have them. If you need shoes for these types of events then jump to our Tough Mudder/Spartan category below.

Below are my top recommendations for waterproof running shoes that will keep your feet dry and warm in wet weather situations where surface traction is paramount.

7ON Cloudventure Waterproof (New Edition)

The new On Cloudventure Waterproof trail shoes look so badass and offer excellent cushioning while thrashing the trails. When wearing these I was able to storm down the hills much faster than usual on harder terrain. Don’t let winter stop you running.

Price $169.99 / £150 at on-running.com

Men’s   Women’s

On Cloudventure Waterproof Review

8Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX

The Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX is a popular shoe amongst runners who love to get dirty on the trails. It’s lightweight for a waterproof shoe (330g) and offers a very aggressive grip on technical, soft trails. On top of all that, the GORE-TEX® waterproof protection means your feet stay dry and warm. This shoe will have you ready for anything out on the trail.

$120 / £81 on Amazon.com

Men’s    Women’s

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Smooth Buffed Trails

9ON Cloudventure Peak

The On Cloudventure Peak is a trail running shoe, designed for moving fast in the Mountains. So with that in mind, I decided to go for a run up Mount Tamalpais, in Marin California, to see if the claims were true. Long story short, I got a PB going up the mountain! ON have brought some really great innovations to the Cloudventure Peak. I love the smaller pods on the front that make running uphill more efficient and the unique sidewall design around the ankles. The ripstop upper mesh is also a great touch that reduces overall shoe weight. The Cloudventure Peak also belongs in the Racing Trail Shoe Category above.

$149.99 at on-running.com

Men’s    Women’s

On Cloudventure Peak Review

Interested in learning more about the ON Running brand? We have the largest collection of in-depth and professional On running shoe reviews on the web.

10Inov-8 Trailroc 285

The Inov-8 Trailroc 285 works particularly well on hard ground due to its exceptional foot plate that protects the bottom of your feet. And because it also performs well in wet conditions it became our chosen all-round trail shoes for most of 2018.

$150 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Men’s Review / Inov-8 Trailroc 285 Women’s Review

 

Barefoot/Zero Drop Running Shoes

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. Sometimes referred to as minimal running, this is the art of re-aligning your running style to a more natural and efficient one.

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. 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

11Altra Lone Peak 4

The Lone Peak 4 has a new upper with an integrated tongue that has static webbing for better cinching when doing up the laces. Breathability is also improved over the last version by way of a draining mesh in the heel and forefoot and the lugs have been re-carved for improved traction and reduced weight. We are fans of low/zero drop running and the fact that they stick to their guns by creating zero drop shoes is a major reason why Altra has such a large fan base of repeat buyers!

$120 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

12Xero Shoes Terraflex

The Xero Terraflex trail running shoes are a very affordable way to kick-start your “barefoot” running journey. They have so much flex in them, allowing full movement of your feet when navigating the trails. Running with a zero drop is a strange feeling at first but if you stick with it, as I have then you’ll probably learn to love it and hopefully you’ll start to see injuries becoming a thing of the past.

$99 at xeroshoes.com

Men’s    Women’s

Xero Terraflex Review

13Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit

 

The Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit is a very innovative shoe. It’s lightweight, minimal, zero-drop and with the upper being made from a knitted material means it literally fits and feels like a glove. It also has a very impressive Vibram outsole which provides excellent grip!

$129.95 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

Merrell Trail Glove 4 Knit Review / The Freedom of Barefoot Running: How-To Guide

 

Tough Mudder & Spartan Events

Uhh ohhhh! Have you just signed yourself up for a Tough Mudder or Spartan? You’re in for a world of pain… and fun, don’t forget the fun part, albeit “type-2 fun”. 😂 The two most important things to think about when choosing a trail running shoe for these types of events are:

  1. Will water pass through the shoe and will it dry off quickly?
  2. Is the grip good enough for thick mud or the obstacles when the shoes are wet?

I have first hand experience of what works and what doesn’t during these obstacle course events and it tells me that these shoes will get you through like a champion. Share this article with your team mates because you don’t complete one of these events until your whole team crosses that finish line. Hoo Rah!!

14Salomon Speedcross 4

The Speedcross 4 is a favorite for many who take on OCRs because of their reasonable price, rugged build, excellent grip and ability to drain well in conditions just like these. It’s lightweight, highly cushioned and has mega grip in soft trail conditions, the Speedcross 4 delivers more raw fun than ever. It also comes in about 8 different colors but who cares about the color in an event like this, you know they’ll end up brown by the time you finish.🤣

$130 at zappos.com

Men’s    Women’s

15Salomon S/Lab XA Amphib

The XA Amphib is one shoe, in and out the water. This 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 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.

I ran 2x Tough Mudders in my Salomon S/Lab Sense SG trail running shoes but only because the XA Amphibs 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.

$180 at zappos.com

View at zappos.com

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