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If you want to be light on your feet and swift on the trail, you can enhance your trail performance with the best trail running shoes. From extreme rugged terrain to easy-breezy well-groomed trails, there’s a range of trail running shoes out there to suit your needs.

The question is, what exactly are your trail running shoe needs? Do you prefer more cushion to avoid bruising from rocks? Or is optimal traction your main concern? To help you answer these questions and many more, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the best fitting pair of trail running shoes along with our top recommendations.

For more of our top hiking footwear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Shoes.

hiking gift guide
Hiking Gift Guide

Quick Answer - The Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking

  1. Saucony Peregrine ISO
  2. Salomon Speedcross 5
  3. La Sportiva Bushido II
  4. Altra Lone Peak 4
  5. Salomon Sense Ride 2
  6. Merrell Trail Glove 4
  7. Altra King MT
  8. Arc’teryx Norvan VT
  9. Topo Athletic MT2
  10. HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5

 

Comparison Table - Best Trail Running Shoes

PictureNameWeightCushioningClosurePriceRating
Saucony Peregrine ISO1 lb. 5 oz.ModerateLace-up$$4.7
Salomon Speedcross 51 lb. 7.2 oz.ModerateSingle-pull Lace$$4.4
La Sportiva Bushido II1 lb. 5 oz.ModerateLace-up$$4.8
Altra Lone Peak 41 lb. 3 oz.ModerateLace-up$$4.4
Salomon Sense Ride 21 lb. 3 oz.ModerateSingle-pull Lace$$4.2
Merrell Trail Glove 41 lb.MinimalLace-up$4.4
Altra King MT1lb. 1 oz.MinimalLace-up/Velcro Combo$4.0
Arc’teryx Norvan VT2 lb. 11 oz. (Men's Pair)ModerateLace-up$$$4.5
Topo Athletic MT21 lb. 1 oz.ModerateLace-up$4.7
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 51 lb. 2.8 oz.ThickLace-up$$4.8
PictureNameWeightCushioningClosurePriceRating

MULTI-DAY HIKING PACKING LIST

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Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Hiking Shoes for Trail Running

Saucony Peregrine ISO


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Comfortable
  • Flexible
  • Great Traction

BEST FOR: AGILITY

When you’re zooming along the trail the last thing you want are bulky shoes slowing you down. Enter Saucony Peregrine ISO. Built for speed, these are the trail runners you’ve been dreaming off.

The lightweight Saucony Peregrine ISO has tacky rubber outsoles with flexible rubber lugs that are grooves which bite into the earth to prevent slippage. This amps up traction making these trail running shoes suitable for varying terrain. As debris goes flying, the protective uppers keep your feet scratch-free. Powerful on the ascent and swift on the downhill, the cushioning keeps your feet feeling supported and comfortable every step of the way.

Salomon Speedcross 5


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Single-pull Lace
  • Weight: 1 lb. 7.2 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Quick Lacing
  • Superb Traction
  • Aggressive Soles
  • Durable

BEST FOR: WET OR DRY UNEVEN TERRAIN

Whether your foot is striking soft ground or sludge, you’ll scamper right through with the Salomon Speedcross 5. These trail running shoes have aggressive, deep lugs that give the outsoles (bottom of the shoes) teeth-biting grip on varying terrain.

As your foot strikes the ground, the midsoles power your movement while the cushioned footbed provides additional shock absorption. Fitting safe and snug, these running shoes have ample cushioning for out-of-the-box comfort eliminating break-in time. Slip on a pair and take them for a spin on your favorite rugged trail. You’ll find they’re begging you to tackle rough terrain.

La Sportiva Bushido II


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Excellent Traction
  • Solid Stability
  • Comfortable

BEST FOR: LONG DISTANCES

La Sportiva Bushido II shines on long distance trails with plenty of steep ups and downs. Putting a spring in your step, the rugged outsoles and cushy foam midsoles work together to energize your feet upon impact.

Giving you confidence with every stride, these running shoes feature a supportive sock-like feel and stable construction. Whether you’re on the ascent or descent, the tacky rubber outsoles offer excellent traction and additional stability. As you work up a sweat you’ll find the mesh on the upper lets your feet breathe, ramping up your comfort level.

Altra Lone Peak 4


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Wide Toe Box
  • Ample Cushion
  • ZeroDrop Eliminating Heel Elevation For More Natural Movement
  • Gaiter Attachment For Debris Protection

BEST FOR: WIDE FEET

For those looking for a more natural stride with cushy comfort, look no further than the Altra Lone Peak 4. These trail running shoes sport a ZeroDrop from heel to toe to imitate natural movement while offering plenty of underfoot cushion.

The Altra Lone Peaks sport a wide toe box allowing for full foot splay. This not only mimics barefoot running, but it also decreases the chance of irritating blisters. For sweaty feet, there’s plenty of breathable mesh for ventilation. Whether you’re running on wet or uneven terrain, you’ll stomp right through with the grippy soles. Meanwhile, the increased drainage on the uppers minimizes dry time after stream crossings. Slap on some gaiters for added protection against debris and hit the trail with confidence.

Salomon Sense Ride 2


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Single-pull Lace
  • Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Quick Lacing
  • Super Lightweight
  • Odor Protection

BEST FOR: NARROW FEET

When you’re going the distance, you’ll need some long-lasting comfort. For this we recommend you slip into a pair of Salomon Sense Ride 2. The blend of moderate cushioning, interior foot cradling sock-like layer, moisture wicking mesh, and breathable mesh uppers provide exceptional trail comfort. Salomon’s proprietary cushioning also takes the brunt of your foot’s impact, which helps to reduce fatigue.

Slip your feet in and give the quick lacing systems a tug to secure the shoes in place. As you increase your mileage, the antibacterial sockliners battle against smelly odors while the rubber outsoles keep you stable to maintain your steady pace.

Merrell Trail Glove 4


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Cushioning: Minimal
Features
  • Exceptionally Lightweight
  • Mimics Barefoot Movement
  • Breathable

BEST FOR: THE MINIMALIST RUNNER

If you find lofty soles, cushy interiors, and earth biting lugs weigh you down, pick up the pace with the Merrell Trail Glove 4. Shedding ounces for minimal features, these shoes are the next best thing to running without any shoes at all.

Imitating barefoot running, these lightweight trail runners fit like a glove. The thin soles let you feel the earth’s surface while the lightweight pads protect the bottom of your feet from roots and rocks. With rubber outsoles, you’ll still achieve ample grip on less rugged trails while the mesh uppers offer exceptional ventilation for fast-moving feet. If you prefer a more natural movement, then these shoes are an excellent choice for trail running.

Altra King MT


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up/Velcro Combo
  • Weight: 1lb. 1 oz.
  • Cushioning: Minimal
Features
  • Terrific Traction
  • Super Lightweight
  • Enhanced Water Drainage

BEST FOR: MUDDY TERRAIN

Muddy trails have met their match with the Altra King MT. The aggressive outsoles on these off-trail running shoes have deep lugs for exceptional grip and embedded rock plates to protect your underfoot from jagged rocks.

Since technical terrain calls for more support, these shoes include velcro straps to lock your foot in place. This way you can ascend and descend with a confident stride. To enhance your overall comfort, these trail runners feature a cushioned zero-drop from heel to toe along with a foot-shaped toe box so you can achieve a more natural range of motion. If you’re the type to not let a little, or a lot, of mud stand in your way, then you’ll appreciate what the Altra King MT can do for you.

Arc’teryx Norvan VT


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 2 lb. 11 oz. (Men's Pair)
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • One-of-a-kind Lacing System
  • Tacky Outsoles
  • Excellent Feet Protection
  • Solid Traction On Technical Terrain

BEST FOR: HIGHLY TECHNICAL TERRAIN

For the experienced runner who gets an adrenaline rush from highly technical terrain, you’ll need a serious shoe to match. In this case, we recommend Arc’teryx Norvan VT.

When you’re scrambling up a mountain, you’ll appreciate the secure fit these shoes offer. With the single pull of a lace, you can switch the laces from run to climb mode in an instant. Kicking into gear, the 9mm heel drop offers precise footing while the sticky outsoles provide stable traction. Plenty of protection on the outside, yet breathable and comfortable on the inside, these shoes are a beast waiting to be unleashed.

Topo Athletic MT2


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
  • Cushioning: Moderate
Features
  • Roomy Toe Box
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • Ample Cushion

BEST FOR: BUDGET

For those who enjoy trail running, but aren’t looking to get technical, take a look at the Topo Athletic MT2. These trail running shoes are an affordable option that’re perfect for light trails.

In 2016, Runner’s Magazine named Topo Athletic MT 2 their “Best Buy” and it’s not hard to see why. These trail running shoes offer plenty of flex with durable and grippy soles. The midsoles feature a decent amount of cushy foam while the breathable mesh helps keep hard-working feet cool. Super lightweight, these shoes sport a roomy anatomical toe box so you can stride happily and enjoy your scenic run.

HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Closure: Lace-up
  • Weight: 1 lb. 2.8 oz.
  • Cushioning: Thick
Features
  • Comfortable Thick Midsole
  • Stability
  • Contoured Heels

BEST FOR: CUSHION

If maxed out cushion feels best on your feet, then take a look at the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5. These shoes feature Hoka One One’s signature ultra thick midsole. This not only keeps you comfy but also stabilizes your footing and absorbs the impact.

For additional support, these trail running shoes feature a contoured heel. Making the transition from road to trail a seamless one, these shoes have closer spaced lugs to handle any terrain. As things start to heat up, the dual-layer breathable mesh cools you down. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 is an excellent choice for the trail runner looking for cushy comfort on less technical trails.

 

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING TRAIL RUNNING SHOES

COST

A solid pair of trail running shoes will offer ample protection, comfort, and traction. Depending on how serious of a trail runner you are, your running shoe needs will vary from person to person.

If you’re the type to enjoy the scenery on a mile or two run, then an inexpensive option will suit you just fine. However, if you greet technical terrain with a wide-toothed smile, you’ll want an aggressive shoe to match. For this, you’ll want to invest in a more expensive option.

 

WIDE VERSUS NARROW FEET

This is a big kicker. Wide, narrow, or average, you’ll need a trail running shoe that matches the width of your feet. Choosing a shoe that doesn’t fit the width of your foot can mean more blisters and swelling or result in an awkward floppy fit.

For narrow feet, you’ll comfortably slip into a slim and snug fit like the Salomon Sense Ride 2. For wide feet, you’ll want a more roomy option like the Altra Lone Peak 4.

 

SHOE TYPE

There are three types of trail running shoes: light-trail, rugged-trail, and off-trail shoes.

  • Light-trail shoes offer modest protection with traction best suited for well-groomed trails.
  • Rugged-trail shoes increase foot protection and support, making them well suited for the varying trail conditions you’ll find on hiking trails.
  • Off-trail shoes enhance the features you’ll find on rugged-trail shoes – such as more aggressive soles and water protection. This style of shoe is for the bold and daring trailblazers.

 

TERRAIN AND TRACTION

Rooted, rocky, soft dirt, compact dirt – there are a multitude of varying types of terrain you’ll encounter on the trail. While there are some trail running techniques to help you improve performance, without the right trail running shoes for the job you won’t stand a chance.

In this case, the main features that you’ll want to pay attention to are the outsoles. For technical terrain, you’ll want grippy outsoles with deep lugs that provide good traction and stability. On the other hand, for lighter trails you can get away with a less aggressive outsole.

 

CUSHIONING

If feeling every rock and root makes you cringe, you’ll want a decent amount of cushioning. Meanwhile, if you prefer ground feel then minimal cushioning is a better option. What you choose completely depends on your own comfort level.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

LUGS

Deep indentations on the outsoles of shoes that provide traction and stability.

GAITERS

A material that attaches to your shoe to prevent dust and debris from getting inside.

ROCK PLATE

A thin material, usually located between the midsole and outsole, that protects the underfoot from sharp rocks or roots.

ZERO DROP

Zero drop refers to the lack of elevation from heel to toe. This feature mimics barefoot movement allowing for a more natural range of motion and full foot splay.

 

 

READ MORE

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