Best Trail Running Shoes - Top 10 Picks and Reviews (Men and Women) for 2017

The Complete Guide to Buying Trail Running Shoes - by Running Experts and Outdoor Jogging Enthusiasts

Best Trail Running Shoes (Men and Women) for 2017

It’s usually the simple things we easily forget. Like the crisp cold air rushing into your lungs early in the morning as you run towards the glowing horizon. Or the rustling of leaves as the wind dances with the trees. Or that runner’s high you get after pushing yourself past what you thought your body was capable of. These are just the little things. Similarly, it’s easy to overlook that your feet comes into full force contact with the ground when you run. Your feet deserve protection, comfort, and the best design for maximum performance.

A great quality pair of trail running shoes will improve your running entirely. That’s why we’re here to help you pick your next best pair of shoes whether you’re preparing for a race, running rough trails, or jogging through a park. It’s a simple thing. An easy investment. One you won’t forget or regret.

Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runner

The Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runner. Play, fitness, and exploration can all be combined into one. With these Salomon trail running shoes, you can explore tough terrains and run even longer distances outdoors. Outstanding quality, durability, and protection. Who knows what new journey awaits you?

adidas Rockadia Trail M Running Shoe

The Adidas Rockadia Trail M Running Shoe. Rocky roads or hills can’t stop you. Not when you run with the adidas Rockadia Trail Running Shoes. These are excellent shoes for beginners and seasoned runners. The quality is unmatched for the price!

Find your unique trail running experience

Here we have reviewed some of the best shoes for trail running and we've got something for everyone.
You will also find our comparison charts and buying guides, all designed to help you buy the the right pair for your next run.

Best High-End Trail Running Shoes (Men and Women) for 2017

For serious trail runners and extreme adventure racing competitors

adidas Outdoor Terrex X-King

The true king who rules and conquers all terrain. The Adidas Terrex X-King is for athletes who want to dominate trails and races. These are for runners who want to push limits and challenge mother nature.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 Trail Running Shoes

Are you ready for your next big adventure over mountainous terrain or rocky roads? Maybe you’re about to compete in an adventure race with hundreds of other people. No matter what your reason is, the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 will give you the reliable performance and stability you need for your feet!

Best Budget Trail Running Shoes (Men and Women) for 2017

For beginners or people looking to get into trail running

New Balance 510v3 Trail Running Shoe

Flip phones. Gameboys. Power Rangers. AOL. Michael Jordan. What do all these have in common? Well, they’re from the 90s. The New Balance 510 v3 takes inspiration with its design from this decade. These shoes offer you great durability and protection for all your outdoor runs at a super low cost

New Balance Women's 690v2 Trail Running Shoes

The New Balance Women’s 690v2 is a bubbly and cute option for women who love bright colors that pop. Run in style and get your workout on through mud, dirt, grass, or rocks. These offer you great value at an incredibly low price! These might possibly be the best trail running shoe for women.

The Winners: Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes (Men and Women) for 2017

 

  
 
Design
Material
Fit
Avg.Weight
Support Type
Water Resistance
Price

1.Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runner

Design : Modern
Material : Anti-debris Mesh
Fit : Standard
Avg.Weight : 17 oz.
Support Type : Neutral to underpronation
Water Resistance : Yes
Price: $$

2.adidas Rockadia Trail M Running Shoe

Design : Rugged
Material : Mesh, Synthetic, & Textile
Fit : Small
Avg.Weight : 13 oz.
Support Type : Neutral
Water Resistance : No
Price: $

3.adidas Outdoor Terrex X-King

Design : Sporty
Material : Mesh & Synthetic
Fit : Standard
Avg.Weight : 13 oz.
Support Type : Neutral
Water Resistance : No
Price: $$$

4.Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 Trail Running Shoes

Design : Minimalistic
Material : Mesh & Synthetic
Fit : Standard
Avg.Weight : 10 oz.
Support Type : N/A
Water Resistance : No
Price: $$$

5.Altra Lone Peak 3 Trail Runner

Design : Adventurous
Material : Textile & Synthetic
Fit : Small
Avg.Weight : 12 oz.
Support Type : Neutral to underpronation
Water Resistance : No
Price: $$

#1 Recommendation: Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runner

4.125 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Who made up the rule that adults can’t play? In a society where speed and stress have taken over, people take less time to play. And even less time connecting with nature. Salomon is a sports equipment company that focuses on enabling people to play, progress, and connect with nature. Founded in the heart of the French Alps, this family business was started by Francois Salomon, his wife, and son in 1947. To this day, they manufacture top quality trail running, climbing, hiking, racing, skiing, and snowboarding gear for those who love the outdoors.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Anti-debris Mesh
  • Avg. Weight: 17 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral – Underpronation
  • Fit: Standard

The 4th edition of the iconic Salomon Speedcross turns the normal image of refinement on its head. Super lightweight, highly cushioned, and with a monster grip on soft trail conditions, these trail running shoes deliver more raw fun than ever before.

The overall appearance of the Salomon Speedcross 4 is modern. The design is truly eye-catching and gives you the impression that it’s a high-quality product. In addition, there are tons of color options to choose from. The soft, synthetic linings offer you a great step-in feel. It features a protective rubber toe cap and mudguard. The injected EVA midsoles deliver durable cushioning and are removable. The quick lace is a specialized and highly resilient polyester cord running through a series of friction free lace eyelets. As you pull, the laces tighten evenly. Lock in place with the stopper and stow everything in the lace pocket. Sensifit cradles the foot from the midsole to the lace eyelets, providing a precise and comfortable fit. The gusseted tongue helps keep debris out. The outsoles feature premium rubber Wet Traction Contagrip. The aggressive lug pattern gives you optimal traction.

Performance

We absolutely love the Salomon Speedcross 4. You can easily run 20 miles, sometimes more, in one go. These are perfect for mountain runs or outdoor running. The grip performs extremely well – it’s almost like cleats but manages to be remarkably light. Also, these shoes are water resistant which allows you to go through mud, run in the rain, or step in puddles without worrying about your feet getting soaked.

Comfort & Fit

The cushioning provides you incredible comfort but isn’t excessive that you lose the feel of the trail beneath your feet. It may ultimately come down to personal preference, but many runners find it very valuable, especially on rocky or technical trails, to be able to feel the ground.

Despite the overall standard fit, some users have complained of these shoes feel a bit narrow. You may want to consider ordering a half size to a full size up if you’re feet run wide.

Price

Not the cheapest, but an intermediate price range that offers you much more than you pay for.

Bottom Line

The ultimate choice for any runner who wants to tackle tough trails, compete in adventure races, or explore the outdoors. Tricky terrain is no match for the Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Runners. It doesn’t matter what fitness level or background you come from – a pair of these beautiful shoes will give you outstanding quality, protection, and performance for all of your escapades.  

#2 Recommendation: Adidas Rockadia Trail M Running Shoe

3.975 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Are you ready to explore some wicked trails or rocky terrain? The adidas Rockadia is ready to jump right in with you.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Small
  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral
  • Fit: Small

These shoes are rock solid, highly durable, and tough. The adidas Rockadia boasts its classic design with stripes running across the sides. The mesh upper provides maximum ventilation while the synthetic and textile overlays add strategic support. The breathable textile lining is designed to ensure comfort and offers a great in-shoe feel. With a mud release surface, the bottom has a grippy rubber outsole with special traction for optimal running on mixed terrains.

Performance

We’re impressed with how well the adidas Rockadia running shoes perform. Shoes at a low price point usually don’t last long, nor do they give you the best stability for optimal performance. But adidas did an excellent job creating this footwear despite it being a budget-friendly product. Running on uneven terrain or bumpy sidewalks is a breeze.  

Comfort & Fit

These are fairly comfortable for the price, but they definitely run small. If you’ve worn adidas trail running shoes before, you may have noticed that they tend to run a little wide. This is true for the adidas Rockadia as well. The only downside is that the back of the shoes are stiff and rub against the back of your ankles. Therefore, we recommend that you wear socks that aren’t super low-cut to prevent potential blistering.

Price

Low cost. No other athletic shoe is as good of quality at this budget-friendly price point.

Bottom Line:

The adidas Rockadia shoes are the perfect choice for trail runners of all levels. For a seductively low price, these shoes give you a fantastic fit, allow you to run in style, and gets your heart pumping so you burn extra calories. Rock out or rock on with the adidas Rockadia!  

#3 Recommendation: Adidas Outdoor Terrex X-King

3.9 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

The adidas Terrex X-King are mountain bikes for your feet. These can handle a variety of trails and allow you to conquer any rough terrain.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Mesh & Synthetic
  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Support Type:
  • Fit: Standard

The adidas Terrex X-King takes the crown when it comes to design and appearance. These shoes are stunning and extremely beautiful. It features a hardy mesh and synthetic uppers. The bungee lace closure allows quick adjustments. Heel pull loops are attached for easy slip on and off. The tongue is thin and blocks debris. The collar is nicely padded and the breathable fabric lining offers an outstanding in-shoe feel. Insoles provide lasting underfoot cushioning and are removable. Engineered together with the Continental wheel experts, the Terrex X-King offers the ultimate grip to run on any tough terrain. It’s manufactured just like a tire and the Continental rubber compound is heat-pressed directly into the upper material.

Performance

The Terrex X-King offers everything for your perfect mountain run: lightweight, solid protection, and extraordinary grip. You’ll feel confident even when you’re descending or running up hills on mixed surfaces and conditions. A lot of low-cost shoes don’t perform well when you transition into a wet environment. Not these. Rain or shine, these are also one of the best options for getting the most grip on a trail. Regardless of where you wear them, you won’t be disappointed. If you currently use gym shoes or indoor running shoes, you’re going to notice a significant improvement in performance.

Comfort & Fit

The lightweight design is very comfortable and the quick laces are easy to use. In the future, the X-King could be better engineered with stronger and thicker laces. The only major complaint is the tongue. As mentioned, the design is very sleek and lightweight, but it doesn’t have a lot of cushion for your feet. However, this isn’t a big deal if you prefer the efficiency of a lightweight design over a heavier shoe with added comfort.

One thing to note is that while the shoe box is wide, it is narrow in the middle. If you have normal-wide feet, you may want to buy half a size up to feel good in the middle.

Price

High-end shoes with a steep price. But well worth what you get. If you’re looking for a cheap option, this may not be the best choice for you. But if you want the absolute best, you won’t be let down.

Bottom Line:

The adidas Terrex X-King is innovative and original. Fast, responsive, and light, this is one of the highest-quality outdoor running shoes. This is a must-get for all serious trail runners! If you’re looking to compete in an outdoor race that requires you to run through mud, rocks, grass, and slopes, these shoes will easily help you cross the finish line!

#4 Recommendation: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4

3.825 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Design & Construction

  • Material: Mesh & Synthetic
  • Weight: 10 oz.
  • Support Type: N/A
  • Fit: Standard

The Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 has a minimalistic design that resembles many of Nike’s other running shoe lines (such as the Flyknits). What sets this apart from Nike’s other running shoes is that it’s specifically designed for trail running. It features a breathable flymesh upper for a lightweight feel. The flywire cables work with the laces to increase comfort and balance when running. Foam midsole with Zoom Air units are integrated into the heel and forefoot for a springy step. The top cap provides protection from rocks, tree roots, and various outdoor hazards. On the bottom, the waffle design has exaggerated lugs for traction on wet-surfaces.

Performance

These shoes have excellent traction! The soles are clearly designed for running off pavement. The air pockets are placed perfectly on the heel and forefoot, allowing for great sensitivity while protecting your feet from rocks without a rock plate. While the overall construction and quality aren’t as great as the adidas Terrex  X-King, it comes pretty close in performance.

Comfort & Fit

Comfortable and very lightweight for trail runners. The soft upper and lightweight construction of the shoe makes any run as comfortable as possible on your feet while the rugged sole allows the shoe to withstand harsh conditions. The toe box is nice and roomy, but the shoes run a little small. It may feel tight if you order your normal shoe size.

Price

Not the most expensive, but definitely a high-end product with a pricier tag. If the price of the adidas Terrex X-King is steep for you, this is the next best choice.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking to upgrade your old, worn-down running shoes, these are a great choice for you. The Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 is responsive, grippy, and comfortable. Hardcore trail runners will love the feel and performance of these Nikes, but it’s also great for fitness enthusiasts looking to get into running outdoors.

#5 Recommendation: Altra Lone Peak 3 Trail Runner

3.8 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Altra is a company that started in the back room of a Wasatch Mountain running store. The founders are elite athletes and running store managers. They noticed that the design of many running shoes was hurting runners more so than helping them. That is why Altra focuses on designing shoes that give you the most natural and comfortable feel for all your runs.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Textile & Synthetic
  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral – Underpronation
  • Fit: Small

Named after eleven thousand feet of pure Utah peak ruggedness, the Lone Peak 3.0 is the latest version of the trail shoe that started it all for Altra. With a wide selection of colors to choose from, these shoes look bold, fun, and adventurous. The outsole has been re-designed and spec’d up with the all-new MaxTrac outsole, offering more grip for all conditions. The StoneGuard has been sandwiched between the midsole and outsole to offer extra protection from rocks trying hard to go after your feet. Your toes will love the luscious FootShape toe box up front.

Performance

Great shoes to hit the trails with! These shoes have incredible traction whether you’re running up steep turf hills, walking boulders, or just running less treacherous trails. These shoes will meet your demands. Ever have foot pain after a 15 or 20 miler? Not with these. Overall, your feet will still be comfortable and feel good at the end of the day.

The only concern is that users have noticed that the Altra Lone Peak 3 starts to fall apart after 120+ miles. The longevity of these shoes will depend on how beat up they get on the trails, but the lifespan seems to be shorter than its higher-end competitors.

Comfort & Fit

Very comfortable right out of the box. No break-in needed.

Price

Intermediate price point.

Bottom Line:

Whether you adventure solo or with a pack, keep your feet comfortable mile after mile in these Altra Lone Peak 3 shoes. These are “natural running” inspired and excellent for trail running, fastpacking, or your next Spartan Race. An amazing choice for beginners and running enthusiasts!

#6 Recommendation: Adidas Performance Duramo 7 Trail W Running Shoe

3.775 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Design & Construction

  • Material: Mesh & Synthetic
  • Weight: 9 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral – Underpronation
  • Fit: Small

Like the adidas Rockadia, these shoes stick with the classic design. The adidas Performance Duramo 7 combines simple design with expert construction and quality materials to deliver supreme performance. The breathable air mesh upper keeps you comfortable while the soft footbed gives you plush, responsive cushioning. The flexible rubber outsole provides excellent grip for traction.

Performance

These perform and hold up well for the price. The adidas Performance Duramo 7 provide excellent grip and give you confidence when running down hills. Running through rocky terrain and mud is a breeze. The only issue with these shoes is that it may not last as long as high-end models.

Comfort & Fit

Comfort and lateral stability are excellent.

Price

An entry-level price point that provides more than just the basics.

Bottom Line:

If you want to explore outdoor running and tone up your legs, get the adidas Performance Duramo 7! These are great for outdoor running, hitting up local trails, or even competing in outdoor obstacle course races. An affordable choice for runners of all backgrounds!

#7 Recommendation: ASICS Gel-scram 3 Trail Runner

3.65 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

In 1949, Mr. Kihachiro Onitsuka began his athletic footwear company by manufacturing basketball shoes out of his living room in Kobe, Japan. He chose the name ASICS for his company in 1977, based on a famous Latin phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”, which when translated, expresses the ancient ideal of “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.” ASICS was founded on this belief that the best way to create a healthy and happy lifestyle is to promote total health and fitness. Behold, the ASICS trail running shoe that you will absolutely love.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Mesh & Synthetic
  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral – Underpronation
  • Fit: Standard

The camo inspired design will get you in the right mood to travel the great outdoors. The ASICS Gel-Scram 3 has a hardy mesh and synthetic upper. With a breathable fabric lining, the tongue and collar are padded. The Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System attenuates impacting shock and allows for smoother transitions. On the bottom, it features a rubber trail-specific outsole with reversed lugs that provide uphill and downhill traction on various terrain.

Performance

It doesn’t matter if you run outside 5 miles or 20 miles each week. The ASICS Gel-Scram 3 Trail Runners can take you across solid surfaces, rocks, grass, and dirt. We’re very impressed with its traction and stability.

Although users are happy with the performance, there seems to be an issue with extensive use. Many owners have complained of the tread on the soles falling off after periodic use for a few months. Perhaps it’s a quality control issue. You may want to take this into consideration before you buy because, although the price is very appealing, durability doesn’t seem to be a strong attribute.

Comfort & Fit

Supportive and comfortable. ASICS provides some of the most comfortable running shoes in the market.

Price

Highly budget-friendly!

Bottom Line:

Get ready for your next adventure with the ASICS Gel-Scram 3. If you love a good price and good quality shoe, these are an amazing choice for you. The low price point allows anyone with any fitness background to easily get into the world of trail running!

#8 Recommendation: Merrell Glove 4 Trail Runner

3.625 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

In 1981, Randy Merrell teamed up with two former ski company executives: all-American Olympian Clark Matis and John Schweizer. Both were looking to strike out on their own. But Randy’s expert craftsmanship paired with Clark and John’s industry experience and athletic instincts proved to be the perfect combination. Together, they began to design a more affordable model of high-performance outdoor footwear.

Design & Construction

  • Material: Mesh
  • Weight: 8 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral
  • Fit: Small

The Merrell Glove 4 Trail Runner is designed with innovation in mind and has a futuristic inspired appearance. Features a mesh and TPU upper. There’s light padding on the tongue and collar with a mesh lining on the interior. The barefoot technology gives you an anatomical shape for natural comfort. The TrailProtect pad offers underfoot protection. With a 3 mm lug depth, the Vibram TC5+ outsole provides you high stability, durability, and slip resistance.

Performance

The Merrell Glove 4 shoes are the perfect combination of barefoot and trail running designs. On one hand, there is a great amount of comfort and traction. On the other hand, they feel a bit clunky for minimalist shoes. They’re definitely not speed shoes. The Vibram sole is great at keeping you moving. It’s not as soft, lightweight and malleable as other minimalist versions, but that’s due to it being shoes for running on a trail.

Comfort & Fit

These have an amazing fit! The wrap around style provides great comfort and really feels like a glove. Despite the low profile, the shoe does a great job supporting your feet. However, if you’ve never tried minimalistic or barefoot-style running, these shoes may feel awkward and possibly uncomfortable to you.

Price

Mid-price range that offers you a unique product.

Bottom Line:

The Merrell Glove 4 balances a minimal shoe design with sufficient protection for running across various surfaces. These are cool looking shoes that have a lot to give. If you’re into barefoot running, these may be the perfect shoes for your trail runs. These are also the best choice for vegan runners – 100% animal product free!

#9 Recommendation: New Balance Women's 690v2

3.45 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price

Design & Construction

  • Material: Textile & Synthetic
  • Weight: 8 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral
  • Fit: Standard & Wide Options

These bubbly shoes feature breathable mesh and synthetic upper materials. The sewn in, gusseted tongue helps block debris from entering the shoe. The collar and tongue are both padded, and the textile inside gives you an amazing in-shoe feel. The IMEVA midsole provides a solid yet flexible cushioning for your feet. The ATtread provides traction for various terrain.

Performance

Whether running through mud, dirt, or rocks, the New Balance 510 v3 handles terrains really well. Trail running has never been more fun!

Comfort & Fit

These are super comfortable. They are less bulky and more flexible than many cheaper running shoes. Compared to a lot of shoes at a similar price range, these new balance trail running shoes have a lot of support and cushioning under the foot. Also, with most New Balance shoes, they are snug at first but then adapt to your feet. Wear them for a few days and they will be fine.

Price

Low to mid price range. Excellent deal!

Bottom Line:

These are for the ladies who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty down the beaten path! Great cushioning and lightweight for an entry level shoe of this type. The New Balance 690 v2 gives runners who love bright and bold colors an exciting pair to wear for every run outdoors. These are a bargain buy for beginners who want to get in shape and blaze through trails rather than being stuck on the treadmill.

#10 Recommendation: New Balance 510v3

3.05 Overall
Design
Construction
Performance
Comfort
Price
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Design & Construction

  • Material: Leather & Textile
  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Support Type: Neutral – Underpronation
  • Fit: Small

The New Balance 510 v3 will remind you of the 90s vibe and look. These shoes are designed with 75% leather and 25% mesh. It features a synthetic sole and IMEVA midsole, a Memory Top Comfort insert, and AT Tread outsole (a dual-use outsole tread combining both trail and running lug designs for on and off-road running).

Performance

Although these aren’t designed for hardcore trail running, it still performs exceptionally well on both wet and dry surfaces due to the shoe’s reliable grip. These can easily be used as your daily go-to shoes for running outdoors.

Comfort & Fit

Now as for comfort, you will have to break them in and walk/run around in them for a couple miles. but these shoes are in fact very comfortable and lightweight and for NB a very good value shoe. These do run small so you may want to order a size up. The width feels true to size, but the toe area is tighter than standard.

Price

The most affordable out of all our picks!

Bottom Line:

The New Balance 510 v3 Trail Running Shoe has the style and the quality you want. These new balance trail running shoes for men combine the off-road outsole you need for the trail with a full-length cushioned midsole that provides the comfort of a traditional road running shoe. Don’t miss a single beat of your workout! One of the most budget-friendly options for all trail runners.

Ultimate Buying Guide For The Best Shoes For Trail Running

The right footwear will make a huge difference in your running experience. When you’re on a trail it’s easy to trip over roots, sharp rocks and bruise your toes and heels on a downhill sprint.

We’ve found that the best shoes for trail running are lightweight, capable of protecting you against sharp rocks and can provide enough support to prevent ankle twists. Waterproofing is also a definite advantage if you want your feet to stay dry and comfortable on the trail.

These are only a few aspects you need to look for. In this guide you will find the information you need to pick a pair of the best trail running shoes.

What are Trail-Running Shoes?

Pairs designed for off road jogging differ from traditional running shoes. Their stiff construction helps prevent rollovers, and they come with innovative features that provide additional foot protection. You also have the advantage of plenty of traction, thanks to the lugged soles.

While you can tackle trails in regular running shoes, the support, traction and protection you get from an off-road pair is worth taking the time to find the right ones.

Types of Off-Road Shoes

Trail shoes can be categorized by their style, amount of support and cushioning or most commonly the type of terrain they’re designed for. Thinking about where you’ll be running will help you pick the right type of footwear.

Light Trails

Are gravel paths, fire roads and other types of well-tended trails the terrain you primarily jog on? If so, then you might want a pair of these lightweight shoes.

Similar in design and construction to traditional running shoes, some of their features include;

  • Light to moderate protection from protruding roots and rocks.
  • Lightweight construction so you can easily maintain a brisk and constant pace.
  • Provide stable foot placement without being overly stiff.
  • Shallow lugs on the soles offer ideal traction on packed soil.

The midsole cushioning can vary from moderate to minimal, depending on your preference.

Rugged Trails

If the type of terrain varies from well-maintained to rugged hiking trails, then you need the support, protection and versatility this footwear offers. They typically come with,

  • Toe guards and stiff plates that are designed to protect your feet from rocks and other debris on the trail.
  • Their sturdy construction makes them ideal for running on overgrown paths.  
  • Midsole cushioning absorbs impact shock on steep descents and hard landings.
  • A stiff, supportive design helps to provide plenty of stability on uneven surfaces.
  • The soles often come with thick lugs, so traction won’t be a problem in mud, sand or soft soil.

The lug pattern can vary so you can find a pair that can handle slippery surfaces or ones that are designed for durability.

Off Road

When you are planning on “making your own trail”, the protection you get from these shoes is key. They also come with a rigid and durable construction. Some features common in off-road running shoes includes,

  • Durable materials used in construction. Polyurethane is commonly used in the midsole, instead of EVA foam.
  • Rigid structure that helps to prevent ankle and foot turns that can occur when running over rough, rocky terrain.

Many are also waterproof, so streams and marshy areas won’t interfere with your run.

What to Look for in Trail Running Shoes

There are several aspects to consider, and they can affect everything from your comfort to safety. Knowing what to look for will make it easier for you to pick the best pair.

Cushioning

The amount of cushioning or “stack height” will vary, and this gives you more options to choose from. Typically, there are four types and each has its advantages.

  • Barefoot: If you love the feel of the ground under your feet and are comfortable with your foot placement, then a pair without any cushioning will probably be your best choice.
  • Minimal: These are ideal for runners that enjoy feeling the ground, but still want some padding in the midsole.
  • Moderate: This used to be standard in trail shoes, and will keep your feet comfortable on rocky terrain.
  • Maximum: While plenty of cushioning is easier on your joints, and can also reduce runner’s fatigue, the extra padding can make your gait less efficient.

Where you run, along with personal preference will play a role in determining the amount of cushioning you need.

Heel to Toe Drop

This refers to the difference in the height of the forefoot and heel. It affects foot placement and varies according to the amount of midsole cushioning from 0 to 12mm.

Shoes with moderate to maximum padding have the broadest range, while minimalist pairs typically come with a heel-to-toe-drop between 0 to 4mm. Barefoot models do not have one, due to their lack of cushioning.

If you’re wondering which drop height is best for you think about your style of running, along with the type of shoes you are used to wearing. Runners that live in flip-flops, and do not have a problem with over or under pronation can comfortably wear a pair with a lower to no drop height. However, if you’re not used to planting your feet firmly on the ground a pair with a 4 to 12mm height difference might be better suited for you.

Material

The type of material used to construct the shoe, varies on the type, style and manufacturer. Most use a combination to ensure durability, performance and comfort. Synthetic materials are durable and often blended with mesh and textile fabrics. If air flow is a concern, you’ll want the pair to come with mesh uppers or side panels.

Support

Shoes for running trails are usually designed to provide plenty of support, especially if they’re intended for off-road jogs. Some of the top models are neutral, which means that they won’t interfere with your natural foot placement. You can find some that are designed for under or over pronation, but this usually means more midsole padding and a heavier weight. Pay attention to how your foot rolls to the side, and this will help you decide on the type of support you need.

Design

You can find a pair to fit almost every taste and style, from sporty to modern or rugged. The colors can also vary, so you can match or compliment your other running apparel. The type will affect the overall design, but you can still find some that you’ll be proud to wear. After all, if you’re embarrassed by your footwear it will probably just end up in your closet.

Waterproofing

Generally, only ones geared for off road runs are water resistant. However, you can find some designed for rugged trails that can keep your feet dry in damp areas. Where you run, along with your budget will help you decide if this feature is necessary.

Choosing the Right Fit

How the shoes fit depend on size, along with the manufacturer. Each brand uses a unique foot form, and these slight variations can affect how well it fits your feet.

Before picking a pair, it is important to know your shoe size, along with the shape and length of your arch. If you have a low or no arch, padding will probably be a must. This will affect the size. Runners with “normal” arches can often go with the type that feels best to them. If you’re not sure which ones will fit your feet best, a podiatrist or even athletic shoe specialist can give you advice.

The width of your foot will also affect fit, and you can find them in everything from “narrow” to “extra-wide”. Taking the time to measure your feet will prevent you from purchasing a pair that is uncomfortable or even dangerous to wear.

Questions to Ask Before Buying the Shoes for Trail Running

Your shoes will determine how well you run, and factor into your comfort and safety. While the right pair can have you setting new times on all types of terrain, the wrong ones often result in injury. Before you settle on a set, there are a few questions you should ask.

  1. Is my gait an important factor to consider?

Gait refers to foot placement, and it is important. If you over pronate walking or jogging on paved surfaces, it will still be an issue on the trail. It can also affect the fit of the shoes.

  1. Can I wear shoes designed for a trail on paved surfaces?

You can wear them on roads and sidewalks, but your performance will probably be affected. Since they are heavier, leg fatigue can be a problem. The lugged soles are also better suited for the types of terrain you typically find on the trail. If you want a pair for roads and maintained paths, look for ones classified for light trail runs.

  1. How should they fit?

While you don’t want a pair that is too tight, it should have a snug fit around your midfoot. This ensures plenty of support, and eliminates any potential problems with rubbing. You also want there to be room to wiggle your toes in the front.

Tips to Get Started Trail Running

Now that you know what to look for in trail-runner shoes, here are a few tips that will help you stay safe and improve performance.

  • Go slow. This is important if you are new to the sport. Taking the time to get used to the uneven terrain can prevent painful falls and ankle twists.
  • Pay attention to your technique. Beginners often find that their knees are raised, and their steps are shorter and faster. This can help you avoid roots and rocks, but it can also result in joint pain and fatigue.
  • You can improve your stability on rugged terrain, simply by performing some lightweight strength training routines.
  • Short and steady is usually advisable, your first few times out on the trail. Pacing yourself will help you get used to running on the rough or slick terrain, and prevent common injuries. Remember, it is easier to run farther and faster on paved surfaces.
  • The clothes you are wearing are just as important as the footwear. Dress for the weather, and your comfort. You will want to avoid loose fitting shirts, since the wide sleeves can get caught on branches. One item that is always good to have is a lightweight waterproof jacket. If it starts to rain while you’re on the trail, there probably won’t be a place for you to take cover.

When to Replace an Old Pair

Even the best pair will need to be eventually replaced, especially if you are out every day. Telling when it’s time for a new pair can be difficult, but there are three factors that usually indicate a replacement is needed.

  • If you’ve covered a lot of distance in the shoes, usually 300 to 500 miles
  • Outersoles are worn or the heels loose and stretched out.
  • Blisters begin to appear and your feet hurt after every run.

Whether you are buying your first pair or replacing an old one, you have all the information needed to pick the best footwear for running on the trails.

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