Whether it’s a byproduct of the pandemic or people are just trying to get out more nowadays, trail running is more popular than ever. The scenic, more rugged alternative to road running, trail running is a phenomenal way to build strength and endurance in your legs due to its more tactile and physical nature. It’s one of our favorite ways to get fit, however, trail running presents a couple more inherent risks than standard running for which you need to account.
There’s pretty much a shoe for every type of exercise, and trail running is no different. Sure, you can tackle a rugged trail in your everyday gym shoes, you’re just more likely to sprain an ankle, develop blisters, and have an overall harder time. For trail running, you’re going to want a lightweight shoe that’s durable, flexible yet stable, and offers plenty of traction. It can be difficult to find a shoe that accomplishes all of those tasks, but that’s why we’re here. We’ve looked up and down the internet and found the 13 best trail running shoes you can wear so you can tackle the trails like a pro.
ASICS Gel-Venture 7
ASICS is one of the best-known athletic shoe brands on the planet, so it’s no wonder that its out-of-this-world Gel-Venture 7 trail running shoes would make it on this list. Boasting GEL technology in the heel and an EVA midsole, this shoe is tailor-made for tackling the trails and absorbing shock with ease. Its ORTHOLITE sock liner offers enhanced comfort and shock absorption to keep you running faster and longer with more comfort. These shoes also feature a synthetic leather upper, which provides protection from the elements as well as support for when you want to ratchet up the intensity of your trail running. Add in its eye-poppingly accessible price, and you have one of the best-valued trail running shoes you can get.
Altra Superior 5
Altra specializes in making high-quality running shoes, which is why the running community ravenously supports this brand. Founded by two friends who met on their high school’s cross-country team, Altra is a brand forged by bona fide runners. Its Superior 5 shoes exemplify the craftsmanship and know-how that have made Altra a staple in the running community. These kicks feature MaxTrac rubber outsoles which provide elite traction no matter the terrain. The shoes’ burrito-style tongue wraps around your foot for a tight, controlling feel while its Balanced Cushioning platforms and FootShape toe make them feel completely natural. To top it off, they also sport Quantic foam midsoles for extra comfort.
Hoka ONE ONE Torrent 2
Hoka is no stranger to the world of performance shoes, as the French-founded standout graces practically every best running shoe list with one of its stellar offerings, and its ONE ONE Torrent 2 shines as the gold standard for trail running shoes. People go nuts for this shoe for good reason. Aside from its psychedelic colorway, the Torrent 2 thrives with engineered mesh and synthetic overlay upper, which protect your feet from trail debris. Its lightweight midsole combines support and comfort to help propel you further while the multi-directional lugs on its outsole will conquer any terrain you run on. As an extra performance augmentation, the shoes also sport PROFLY midsoles that are soft in the heel and springy on the balls of your feet to launch you to new PRs.
Nike Pegasus Trail 2
Nike may be one of the fashion juggernauts dominating the market right now, but its bread and butter will always be its fantastic footwear. Such is the case with its Pegasus Trail 2 shoes. While the shoes, unfortunately, won’t turn you into a winged pony that zips around the skies, you’ll run as smoothly as one, and that’s what we really care about. These versatile trail shoes will tear up your normal runs and tackle the trails efficiently. Their shockwave-like patterned outsole distributes the impact on your foot evenly while the React foam provides support and comfort on your run. To round things out, Nike designed the Pegasus Trail 2 to feature a perforated tongue for easier drainage, a midfoot cage for a secure fit, and toe fangs at the forefoot to optimize their traction.
Merrell Chameleon 8 Stretch
Another standout name in the space, Merrell has been making quality footwear for over 40 years. Its Chameleon 8 Stretch is a spectacular example of the rugged and tough gear that made Merrell a go-to brand in the space. The shoes lean more on the bulkier side, so they’re great for taking on intense terrains. These adaptable shoes feature an ultra-durable nubuck leather and mesh upper and a Vibram XS Trek Evo non-marking outsole for enhanced stability and versatility. For support, they sport a Kinetic Fit BASE contoured insole as well as a Merrell Air Cushion in the heel for shock absorption. If that isn’t enough to entice you, the Chameleon 8 Stretch also has an EVA foam midsole and TPU molded heel counter to prepare you for the rowdiest of trails.
Saucony Peregrine 12
Picking just one of Saucony’s phenomenal offerings is pretty much impossible. After some sole searching (wink, wink), we decided to go with their Peregrine 12. When you name a shoe after the fastest animal in the world (the Peregrine falcon) you best deliver the goods, and Saucony has done so in spades. Its PWRRUN cushioning provides a tactile feel while the upgraded rock plates expel moisture and protect your feet from any hazards. For a dimension of sustainability, its upper is made of a breathable recycled polyester Air-mesh, and its PWRTRAC rubber outsoles will grip every nook and cranny you come in contact with as you tear up the trails.
La Sportiva Karacal
Any outdoorsman worth his salt is familiar with the great gear that La Sportiva produces. The Italian standout makes a variety of premium gear for outdoor recreational activities, and one of its best products is its killer trail-running shoes. The Karacal shoes, in particular, exemplify the design genius that La Sportiva brings to the table, featuring 3D seamless mesh uppers with Thermo-Adhesive frameworks to give you a lightweight and secure fit. Its 4mm OrthoLite insoles and dual-density EVA midsoles offer comfort and stability as you change planes. To cap things off, the Karacal shoes boast Frixion AT 2.0 rubber compound outsoles and an Impact Brake System to offer enhanced grip and multidirectional control.
Brooks Caldera 5
Brooks is a Seattle-based company that’s obsessed with creating the ultimate running shoe. It’s an incredibly well-respected brand in the space, and we’d be remiss to exclude them from this list. The Washington brand’s Caldera 5 is a phenomenal piece of footwear. If you’re a trail runner looking for maximum cushion, these are the shoes for you. These bad boys feature thick BioMoGo DNA cushioning in their midsoles for enhanced comfort and midfoot ghillies for a secure yet flexible fit. Their monoloop engineered mesh uppers are breathable and offer ample protection from debris, while the TrailTack outsole provides optimal traction, even on wet trails.
Arc’teryx Konseal FL 2
Arc’teryx is one of the great Canadian gear brands. It’s known throughout the space as a technical wunderkind, producing some of the more innovative garments the market has to offer. The brand’s Konseal FL 2 shoe is a modern marvel made to tackle the mountains; specifically Alpine environments. A breathable synthetic mesh upper expels moisture to regulate temperature and enhance comfort, with an injected EVA midsole providing shock absorption and stability no matter how jagged the trail is. For optimal grip, the shoes sport Vibram MegaGrip outsoles, and their TPU molded forefoot offers plenty of stability for any unexpected change in plane.
adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Trail Running Shoe
adidas may not have gotten its start making outdoor running gear, but its first-rate Terrex subbrand would make you believe otherwise. The Terrex Speed Ultra trail running shoes offer professional-caliber performance, support, and comfort, as well as a hardy amount of style points. These shoes have abrasion-resistant welding in their uppers for enhanced durability and BOOST cushioning for optimal comfort, energy return, and responsiveness. Their Lightstrike midsoles offer incredible support without weighing down the shoes while the gravel bike-inspired Continental outsoles hold on to every inch of the trail to give you superior control.
Salomon Sense Ride 4 GORE-TEX Invisible Fit
Salomon is one of the great performance footwear brands. The French brand has been crushing its craft for nearly 75 years, and if its Sense Ride 4 GORE-TEX Invisible Fit trail running shoes are any indicator, it won’t stop anytime soon. Their uppers feature a blend of anti-debris mesh and GORE-TEX Invisible Fit membranes for an ultra-durable, waterproof experience. For enhanced usability, they also feature a SensiFit lacing system to ensure a secure fit, as well as Optivibe foam cushioning for next-level shock absorption and propulsion. Capping off this stellar shoe are its Contagrip MA rubber outsole that provides traction in all elements and a Profeel film that protects your feet from sharp rocks.
The North Face VECTIV Infinite
The North Face is an outdoor gear juggernaut, and while many people may associate the brand with its phenomenal jackets, its VECTIV shoe is one of the best trail running shoes you can get. This shoe is made for long-distance running, so it’s built to take a beating and still provide mind-boggling comfort. Its Matryx upper is tough as nails and abrasion-resistant while its 3D Pebax plates provide even more protection, stability, and control. Dual-density midsoles with rocker midsole geometry provide a responsive feel and enhanced propulsion, and the shoe’s VECTIV technology throttles energy return. To top it off, the outsoles boast Surface Control rubber and 3.5mm lugs to grip any terrain you run on.
Simply put, On makes some of the best running shoes money can buy. The Swiss standout endeavored to change the world of running when it was founded in 2010, and it did so decisively. We don’t have enough time to wax poetic about On’s stellar lineup of shoes, but as far as trail running shoes are concerned, the Cloudultra shines the brightest. This stylish shoe sports a perforated sandwich mesh upper that’s tough and breathable to keep your feet dry and comfortable. The company’s proprietary Helion superfoam cushioning provides unrivaled comfort and some extra spring in your step while working in tandem with the Missiongrip outsole for enhanced shock absorption, comfort, and stability, so you can run harder for longer. If you’re in the market for a shoe that can tear up tracks and trails alike, then this is the shoe for you.
The 15 Best Men’s Shorts For Running
You’ve got your trail running shoes figured out, now check out our guide on the 15 best running shorts to round out your fitness thread game.
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