The Best Trail Running Shoes, According to a Certified Running Coach

The Salomon Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoes are protective and durable

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Whether you’re new to trail running or you’ve been off-roading it for some time, you need a pair of shoes that is up to the challenge. Trail running shoes are specifically designed to provide protection and support on rugged, uneven, and sometimes slick terrain. Often heavier and sturdier than regular running shoes, they're crafted to shield runners from rocks, sticks, and other debris on the trails.

Reviewed & Approved

Lightweight yet protective and durable, the Salomon Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoes are our number one selection for women. Superior traction meets lightweight breathability for the Brooks Cascadia 16, our top choice for men.

"When selecting trail running shoes, the cushioning, fit, durability, and traction are critical factors to consider for optimal comfort and protection," says William Spielfogel, DPM, a New York-based, board-certified podiatrist and specialist for The Good Feet Store. You'll also want to look for features such as grip, support, breathability, and water resistance.

We spoke to trail runners and coaches and reviewed the American Podiatric Medical Association’s list of products that have received their Seal of Acceptance. With this in mind, w evaluated trail running shoes for price, performance, durability, materials, technology, and design.

Here are the best trail running shoes on the market, according to a certified running coach.

Best Women's Overall: Salomon Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoes

4.8
Salomon Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoes

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Protective outsole

  • Snug, secure fit

Cons
  • May run large

  • Shoe's high back is not for everyone

Our top pick, Salomon’s Speedcross trail runner, provides the fit and level of support needed for trail running. They also easily adapt to various surfaces, from gravel trails to slippery slopes. A rubber toe cap, mudguard, and anti-debris mesh upper keep you protected from rocks, roots, and other obstacles. The tough lug pattern on the rubber outsole provides stellar grip and traction. Plus, these lightweight, versatile shoes have plenty of cushioning to keep you comfortable on the trails.

The Speedcross 5 shoes boast a snug and custom-like fit, thanks to the Quicklace closure system. They're available in women’s sizes 5-12 and in wide or medium widths, as well as in a variety of colors. These kicks are also available in a GTX (Gore-Tex) version that comes fully waterproof.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: EVA foam | Closure: Quicklace system | Weight: 9.9 ounces per shoe

Best Men's Overall: Brooks Cascadia 16

Brooks Cascadia 16

Source: Brooks Cascadia 16

Pros
  • Great traction

  • Breathable

  • Lightweight

Cons
  • May run large

  • Limited color options for wide width

The Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes will leave runners feeling protected and sure-footed on uneven terrain and in changing weather conditions. The shoe’s midsole offers lightweight, energizing cushioning that adapts to your feet with every stride.

With its sticky TrailTack rubber outsole, the Cascadia provides exceptional traction on both wet and dry trails, while the mudguard keeps out dirt and small debris. A protective rock shield helps protect you from rocks and debris, while vertical grooves provide side-to-side adaptability. The proprietary 3D Fit Print upper increases the shoe’s breathability and drains water quickly, keeping you light on your feet. 

Available in men’s sizes 7-15 and in medium or wide widths, this durable, dependable shoe is the perfect companion for off-road adventures.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Brooks' patented DNA LOFT | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 10.5 ounces per shoe

Best Men's Budget: Nike Nike Juniper Trail - Men's Trail Running Shoe

Nike Juniper Trail Men's Running Shoes

Courtesy of Nike

Pros
  • Affordable

  • Lightweight

  • Breathable

Cons
  • No wide sizes

  • Not waterproof

Nike's Juniper trail running shoes are a budget-friendly pick that doesn't sacrifice quality or performance. They’re durable, stylish, and, most importantly, built for keeping you protected and confident on the trails. Thick rubber outsoles and tapered lugs provide rugged traction for rocky terrain and hilly routes, while the lightweight design keeps you nimble and comfortable, even on longer runs.

The leather, mesh, and rubber upper offer the right combination of durability and breathability necessary in a trail runner. The shoe incorporates foam midsoles for responsive cushioning, as well as an internal bootie construction and Flywire cables for a secure and stable ride.

Like other Nike styles, the Juniper is attractive and can easily go off-trail for comfortable all-day wear as a casual shoe. It comes in men’s sizes 6-15 in a variety of colors.

Materials: Leather, rubber, and mesh | Cushioning: Foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: Not listed

Best Women's Budget: ASICS Women's Gel-Venture 6 Running-Shoes

Asics

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Removable sockliner

  • Shock-absorbing

  • Great traction

Cons
  • May run small

  • Limited color options for wide width

If you’re fairly new to trail running, you may not want to invest a lot of money in a pair of shoes. However, it’s possible to find a pair that won’t break the bank and is still comfortable, supportive, and durable. These reasonably-priced Asics GEL-Venture running shoes feature a GEL cushioning system in the rearfoot and forefoot, which allows for a smooth transition and provides shock absorption where it’s most needed.

With a rubber outsole and trail-specific lugs, they provide good traction for trail running or hiking but also perform well on the road. Plus, the breathable mesh fabric allows for excellent moisture management.

Available in women’s sizes 5-12 and medium or wide widths, the versatile Venture shoes are a great value and solid choice for trail running.

Materials: Mesh, synthetic leather, rubber | Cushioning: GEL cushioning | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 9 ounces per shoe

Best for Wide Feet: Altra Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

4.9
ALTRA Women's Lone Peak 5 Trail Running Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Quick-drying

  • Good for trail running and hiking

  • Regular and wide sizes

Cons
  • Not waterproof

If you need extra space in your trail runners to accommodate orthotics, wide feet, or room for feet that swell during hot runs, the versatile Altra Lone Peak 5 trail shoe is a great pick. It comes in wide sizes and features a spacious toe box that allows plenty of room for toes to relax and spread out. With the perfect amount of responsive, balanced cushioning, the shoe is a popular choice among distance trail runners. Plus, the breathable mesh upper keeps feet dry and cool for long distances.

Well-suited for both technical terrain and flat trails or asphalt, the Altra Long Peak also features a StoneGuard underfoot for rock protection and treads with a multidirectional lug pattern for grippy traction on any surface.

Available in women’s sizes 6-12 and in several color options, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid pick for trail runners and hikers who need a wide shoe. The zero-drop shoe is also available in men's sizes and styles.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Dual-layer EVA foam Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 9.2 ounces per shoe

Best Waterproof: Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX

4.8
Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX Trail Running Shoes

Source: Saucony

Pros
  • Waterproof

  • Shock-absorbing sole

  • Keeps out debris

Cons
  • Longer break-in time

  • Some find it heavy

Trail runners know how quickly conditions can change when you’re running or hiking trails, and these shoes from Saucony will help you be ready for anything. The shoe excels in the area of traction, fit, and protection, making it a great choice for runners who hit the trails year-round. With Gore-Tex technology, you get breathable, waterproof protection to keep your feet dry in wet conditions.

The rubber outsole and grippy, deep lugs allow for excellent traction on technical trails, as well as steep hills, mud, snow, and brush. This heavy-duty workhorse also features a stiff and protective upper that keeps your feet locked—while keeping debris out.

All that protection results in a heavier shoe, but that’s a small price to pay for exceptional durability. The cushioned midsole adds to the shoe’s overall comfort and responsiveness, while also providing just the right amount of shock absorption for most conditions. The Peregrine 11 comes in women’s sizes 6.5-12 and men's sizes 8-14.

Materials: Mesh upper with Gore-Tex laminate, rubber outsole | Cushioning: PWRRUN EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 10.1 ounces per shoe

What Our Editors Say

"As someone who has run in Saucony's road shoes for about two decades, I've been happy and impressed to watch them innovate in the trail running market as well. The Peregrines are probably Saucony's most popular trail runners. And for good reason. They're as rugged as basically any other trail runner on the market. Deep lugs. Rock plate. Gore-Tex waterproofing. The Peregrines have all the features that have now become almost basic for top-end trail runners. My one qualm with the Peregrines is how stiff they are. Add a touch more flex and cushion, and these kicks really will be near perfect." —Nathan Allen, Dotdash outdoor gear editor and product tester

Best Minimalist: Merrell Trail Glove 6 Trail Running Shoes

Merrell Trail Glove 6 Trail Running Shoes

Source: Merrell 

Pros
  • Responsive

  • Soft and flexible

  • Anti-odor protection

Cons
  • Not as cushiony as other options

  • Narrow toe box

If you like the flexibility and ground contact that comes with a minimalist running shoe, but still want protection on the trails, the Merrell Trail Glove 6 is definitely worth considering. It features a sleek construction and barefoot shape with a comfortable, glove-like fit that allows for a natural stride. Yet you still get midsole cushioning for a softer ride and rock plates to shield your feet from debris and rough surfaces.

The Glove’s hyperlock TPU film heel counter provides a secure and stable feel even as you’re running up and down hills, while the mesh upper allows for good breathability. Plus, the shoe has antimicrobial agents that reduce shoe odors and keep your feet feeling fresh. The zero-drop shoe comes in several attractive colors and women’s sizes 5-11. Bonus—the upper utilizes some recycled materials.

Materials: Mesh, rubber | Cushioning: EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 12 ounces per shoe

Best for Long Distances: Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7

Source: Nike

Pros
  • Pressure-relieving tongue

  • Multi-directional traction

  • Lightweight

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Not good for very wide feet

Another quality pick from Nike, the Terra Kiger 7 trail running shoe is ideal for runners who spend some serious time on the trails. The low-profile cushioning is lightweight and responsive, so you get excellent performance and protection for long distances without feeling weighed down.

With a grippy outsole and multidirectional lugs, the shoe provides dependable traction, durability, and stability. The rock plate at the heel offers additional protection on rough terrain. The Terra Kiger also boasts an exceptional, secure fit, thanks to its dynamic fit system, no-sew seams, and forefoot stretch mesh. A padded tongue helps to relieve pressure caused by foot swelling that often occurs during long runs. They’re available in men’s sizes 6-15 in a variety of colors.

Materials: Mesh, rubber | Cushioning: Foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 10.5 ounces per shoe

Best for Plantar Fasciitis: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 Trail Running Shoes

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 Trail Running Shoes

Courtesy of Zappos

Pros
  • Great cushioning

  • Stable and protective

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Medium width may be too narrow for some

If you’re prone to plantar fasciitis or other foot issues, you’ll appreciate the ample cushioning in the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 trail running shoes. The shoe’s cushioned bed provides a stable base and keeps the foot—especially the heel area—well-protected. With a wide forefoot, the shoe has plenty of room for toes to splay, adding to the overall comfort and stability, especially when tackling hills.

Available in women’s sizes 5-11 and in medium and wide widths, the Speedgoat has a breathable upper that offers good protection while preventing your feet from overheating. Trail runners also appreciate the Vibram MegaGrip hi-traction outsole and multi-directional lugs, which provide rugged traction and durability.

You’ll pay a bit more for the Speedgoat than some other trail running shoes, but they’re well worth the investment for the exceptional comfort and performance. These shoes, which are also available in men's sizes and styles, also double well as lightweight hiking shoes.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 9.2 ounces per shoe

What Our Editors Say

"The Speedgoats are my go-to trail running and backpacking combo shoe. I've used them for trail runs of up to 20 miles and backpacking trips of similar distances. They handle it all. These kicks have the plush cushioning Hoka One One has become famous for. That comfort is combined with Vibram outsoles with 5-millimeter deep lugs that are extra grippy. I've personally never used a shoe that performs as well for huffing around a 35-pound pack as it does running a 25-kilometer trail race." —Nathan Allen, Dotdash outdoor gear editor and product tester

Best for Flat Feet: Asics GEL-Kahana 8 Running Shoes

Asics GEL-Kahana 8 Running Shoes

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Supportive midsole

  • Durable rubber sole

  • Great traction

Cons
  • No wide sizes

  • Too stiff for some

If you have flat feet or have sore feet after trail running, you may need more support and cushioning in your shoe. The Asics GEL-Kahana Trail Running Shoes is a dependable option for flat-footed runners, thanks to its rearfoot GEL Cushioning System and dual-density midsole support. The stellar shock absorption and comfort, especially in the heel area, also make it a good choice for runners with plantar fasciitis or similar issues.

With a rubber outsole and reversed lugs, the Kahana also boasts excellent traction, keeping you steady on hilly and uneven terrain. Plus, the versatile performance and comfort make the shoe a good choice for running on asphalt, so you can easily take it from trail to road. The 10-millimeter drop Kahana is available in women’s sizes 6-12 in a variety of colors that also look great for casual wear.

Materials: Mesh, rubber | Cushioning: GEL rear cushioning, EVA midsole | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 11 ounces per shoe

Best for Hiking: La Sportiva Bushido II Running Shoes

La Sportiva Bushido II Running Shoes

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Breathable

  • Lightweight

  • Good for trail running and hiking

Cons
  • May run small

  • Not as cushiony as other options

If you’re into hiking as well as trail running, the La Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoe is a versatile pick for all types of outdoor adventures. With the right balance of stability and comfort, it’s ready to handle all types of terrain and unfavorable conditions. The Bushido’s rubber outsole and aggressive lug pattern provide exceptional traction on all types of surfaces.

A protective toe cap and rock guard underfoot enhance the overall protection and will boost your confidence as you tackle very technical trails. Additionally, the shoe’s breathable, durable upper provides a snug yet comfortable fit that feels secure.

The Bushido shoes are available in women’s European sizes 37-42, which converts to about 7-10 in US sizes.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 8.8 ounces per shoe

Best for High Arches: New Balance Women's Fresh Foam More Trail v1 Running Shoes

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam More Trail v1 Running Shoes

Source: New Balance

Pros
  • Great traction

  • Breathable

  • Comfortable foam footbed

Cons
  • Expensive

  • May run small

Runners with high arches need a shoe with supportive cushioning, especially when they’re tackling uneven and rough terrain on trails. With its cutting-edge Fresh Foam cushioning, New Balance’s Fresh Foam More Trail v1 running shoe is an excellent choice for delivering the necessary comfort and protection. Despite the cloud-like feel and support, these shoes are extremely lightweight and won’t weigh you down.

The shoe’s all-terrain tread outsole works well on gravel paths, dirt trails, and roads, making it a good pick for runners who like to go back and forth between roads and trails. Available in women’s sizes 5-12 and medium or wide widths, they’re also stylish enough for casual wear.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Fresh Foam | Closure: Lace-up | Weight: 9.5 ounces per shoe

Heading

With the quality features and performance you want in a trail running shoe, the women's Salomon Speedcross 5 (view at Zappos) is an excellent pick for those looking for a dependable trail runner. The shoe’s lug pattern handles challenging trails with ease, while the cushioning and snug fit allow for a comfortable ride.

Trail running enthusiasts also appreciate the men's Brooks Cascadia 16 (view at Zappos) for its lightweight cushioning and overall protection. Its exceptional traction also keeps you steady and confident, even in challenging conditions and terrain.

Both shoes are also suitable for hiking if you’re looking for a versatile trail runner that can serve double duty.

What to Look for in Trail Running Shoes

Cushioning

Those who run long distances on trails or have a history of foot problems may want more cushioning to offset all the pounding and provide good shock absorption and support. Heavier runners and anyone with knee or joint pain may also want a high level of cushioning. However, highly cushioned shoes tend to be heavier and bulkier, so trail runners need to take that into consideration, too.

Runners who don’t want to feel weighed down should look for shoes with lightweight cushioning. That said, shoe technology is evolving to provide lightweight shoes with plush cushioning. But you'll likely pay top-dollar for that tech.

Podiatrist William Spielfogel explains that distance trail runners need shoes that have responsive cushioning, which is the rebound you feel when you're actively hitting your shoe to the ground. “This provides energy back as you stride, rather than pulling you to the ground,” he says.

Fit

A good trail running shoe should have a snug fit without being too constricting. The midsole and heel area should feel secure, so your foot isn’t sliding around or slipping out. A well-constructed shoe will have enough room in the toe box so your toes can splay naturally and help you stay stable on various terrains.

Support 

Running on trails usually means a shorter stride on uneven terrain, so trail runners should be stiffer than regular running shoes to help prevent excessive rotation. Even if you’re not an overpronator, you should look for a rigid outsole for protection, as well as a firm toe box to push off.

Traction and Grip

Look for a shoe with an excellent grip to offer good traction and protection from rocks, slippery surfaces, and other potential hazards. An ideal pair of trail running shoes should have enough lugs, or cleats, on the outer sole to grip on both soft and hard trails.

If you expect to do a lot of running or hiking on rocky trails, consider shoes with “sticky rubber,” which will help improve the shoes’ grip on rocks. Most shoe companies now provide measurements on the lugs found on the bottom of shoes. The larger—or deeper—the lugs, the better they'll be able to grip in muddy or loose conditions.

Consider where you'll most likely be trail running. If you're on flat dirt or gravel trails, you won't need aggressive traction or lugs. But if you'll be running on muddy, steep, or technical trails, emphasize grip and traction in your trail shoe purchase.

Breathability

Trail running shoes that are breathable will help keep you comfortable on the trails. “You want to make sure you are selecting shoes made with a material that’s breathable to avoid excessive sweat and smells,” Dr. Spielfogel says. By allowing moisture to escape, the shoe can also help prevent hotspots or blisters. Look for shoes with some mesh or other breathable material on the upper.

Waterproofing

Some trail running shoes are waterproof, which helps keep your feet dry in stream crossings or rainy conditions and allows you to wear them in snow and slush. Just keep in mind that waterproof shoes are not always that breathable, so they may not be as comfortable as shoes that are water-resistant rather than waterproof.

If you run a lot in wet or muddy conditions, opt for a trail running shoe with good drainage. If your trail running is mainly in an arid or dry climate, there's probably not much need for waterproof shoes. Many shoe companies are beginning to make trail running shoes in a normal and waterproof version. If you see "GTX" in the name of a shoe, that means it's waterproofed with Gore-Tex technology.

Durability

Trail running will definitely lead to some wear and tear, but "trail running shoes are built to be more durable shoes than regular running shoes," Dr. Spielfogel says. Look for shoes with sturdy outsoles made of rubber or other very durable materials that can hold up under tough conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you use trail running shoes on the road?

    Trail running shoes are constructed with sturdier materials and thicker soles than most road running shoes because they’re intended to provide support and protection on uneven terrain. However, most trail shoes can also be used for road running. Keep in mind that a trail shoe will feel bulkier and may slow you down as compared to road running shoes.

  • How should trail running shoes fit?

    Trail running shoes should fit similarly to other running shoes. Go up at least a half size from your casual/street-shoe size. “There should be about a thumb’s width of space between the inside front of the shoe and the inside heel area,” Dr. Spielfogel says. “The midfoot area should also fit snugly and not slip.”

  • How long should trail running shoes last?

    Most running shoes lose their support and cushioning after about 400 miles, but trail running shoes may last a bit longer because they’re sturdier. "Great, durable shoes can and should last over 500 miles in average conditions,” says Paul Ronto, ultra-runner, gear expert, and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat.com. 

    You should regularly replace your running shoes to prevent injuries that may occur from running in shoes that have lost their cushioning and support. Check your shoes regularly for signs of wear and tear. Look at the outsole to see if the tread is worn and check for uneven wear that may make the shoes unstable.

    “A great way to extend the life of your shoes is to build a shoe rotation,” says Ronto. “If you have multiple shoes for different purposes that you rotate through your training, it gives your shoes a longer life.” If you dedicate a pair of trail running shoes just for use on trails, they’ll last longer than if you wear the same shoes for all your runs. If you run on trails frequently, you may want two pairs of trail running shoes that you can rotate, so that each pair can dry fully between uses.

  • How do I break in trail running shoes?

    “In general, a perfect pair of shoes will not require a ‘breaking in period’ for anyone,” Dr. Spielfogel says. That being said, you may want your first couple of runs in a pair of trail running shoes to be just a couple of miles on an easy, non-technical trail before tackling a tough trail or long distance. You’ll feel much more confident if you’ve tested them out during short runs.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a long-time running coach, marathon runner, and fitness writer, Christine Luff has researched, tested, and recommended many running shoes through the years. For trail running shoes, she suggests getting fitted for the right pair and sticking to reputable brands such as the ones featured in this roundup.

Was this page helpful?