The Best Trail Running Shoes

For runners that prefer to hit the trails, these shoes will provide both protection and stability

Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to spend more time outdoors, embracing nature, one great option is to take your daily run to the trails. But the gear needed to navigate a trail is noticeably different from your standard shoes. Trail running shoes are designed to provide traction on uneven or slippery surfaces, protect your feet from trail debris, and provide comfort along the way. 

While trail running shares some planning and consideration with traditional hiking, it also introduces some new challenges. Hiking boots are built to be strong and durable, but they are far too heavy and cumbersome for running. To conquer the muddy trails and rugged terrain, trail running shoes must provide the right balance between weight and functionality. 

Before you suit up to hit the trails this season, let’s look at how to choose the best trail running shoes for your needs. To help you get started, we have created this guide including a list of high-quality shoes that you can count on. 

Cover Image by Derrek Sigler

The Best Trail Running Shoes


 Saucony Men’s Endorphin EdgeSaucony Women’s Excursion Tr15 Trail Running ShoeSalomon Men’s Xa Pro 3D GTX Trail Running
editors choice
Brand:SauconySauconySalomon
Sizes:7 to 15, Including Half Sizes, Regular width5 to 12, Including Half Sizes, Regular and Wide7 to 14, Including Half Sizes
Available Colors:Black/Goldstruck, Ocean/Black, Prospect QuartzAlloy/Topaz, Black/Jade, Shadow/Sunblaze, Smoke/Fog, Alloy/Mauve, Black/Raz/Lime, Shadow/JewelBlack/Black/Magnet, Navy Blazer/Hawaiian Ocean/Dawn Blue
Lacing System:StandardStandardQuicklace

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Quick Answer: The Best Trail Running Shoes

  1. Saucony Men’s Endorphin Edge Trail Running Shoe
  2. Saucony Women’s Excursion Tr15 Trail Running Shoe
  3. Salomon Men’s Xa Pro 3D GTX Trail Running
  4. Salomon Men’s Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoes
  5. Joomra Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot Shoes
  6. La Sportiva Mens Karacal Trail Running Shoe
  7. ALTRA Men’s Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe
  8. Saucony Women’s Peregrine 12 Trail Running Shoe
  9. Brooks Catamount Trail-Running Shoes for Women

1.Editor’s Pick Men’s – Saucony Men’s Endorphin Edge

Saucony Endorphon Edge
I found thse to be the best men’s trail running shoes I have likely ever owned. Photo by Derrek Sigler
  • Brand: Saucony
  • Sizes: 7 to 15, Including Half Sizes, Regular width (runs wide)
  • Available Colors: Black/Goldstruck, Ocean/Black, Prospect Quartz
  • Lacing System: Standard

When Saucony asked if I wanted to try out their latest trail running shoes, I was a little skeptical, to be completely honest. I knew the shoes would be very high quality, I just have wide feet and the Endorphin Edge shoes don’t come in wides. I needn’t have worried. I figured I’d try them anyway, and just see how it went. I’ll start out by saying that these are my favorite shoes that I may ever have owned. I wear a 14 wide, and the size 14 Endorphin Edge fits perfectly.

The real test came when my wife said, “Hey, let’s go hike up Sugarloaf.” We hadn’t done this in over twenty years, and for me, that time span included several knee injuries/surgeries. My wife isn’t exactly known for being patient or sympathetic with me, so I knew I was going to need to keep up with her, or I’d be enjoying my time going up the trail by myself and meeting her at the top. Saucony’s Speedroll design helps propel you forward and the PWRRUN PB foam cushioning soaks up the imperfections in the trail surface. The cushioning took some getting used to when I first got the shoes because you can really feel it when you walk. Then you add in the Carbitex carbon-fiber plate adapts the shoes to the varied terrain, so you have excellent stability and not much wasted energy, which is something I’ve noticed in other shoes when I tackle different terrain. These shoes not only helped propel me up the trail, but they also absorbed a lot of the impacts that would have been transferred to my old, beat-up knees.

Saucony Endorphin Edge
The 4mm grip tread on the Saucony Endorphin Edge trail shoes is superb. Photo by Derrek Sigler

A few things to take note of – These shoes have a 4mm grip, so they dig into rough terrain. I also found they grip excellently on rocks and other hard surfaces. They are lighter by 10-grams or more than other Saucony trail running shoes. Stability is outstanding. They come up to a size 15 in men’s, and in three colors – a subtle black/gray, a bright ocean blue and, well, pink. I have the bright blue ones and have been complimented on my “snazzy” shoes. They look great and have even better fit and function. Easily the best shoes I’ve had.

By Derrek Sigler

Pros:

  • Carbitex carbon-fiber plate for rigidity, motion and light weight
  • PWRRUN PB soaks up impacts and adds cushioning
  • 4mm lugs on outsole for grip

Cons:

  • Higher cost

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2. Editor’s Pick Women’s: Saucony Women’s Excursion Tr15 Trail Running Shoe

  • Brand: Saucony
  • Sizes: 5 to 12, Including Half Sizes, Regular and Wide
  • Available Colors: Alloy/Topaz, Black/Jade, Shadow/Sunblaze, Smoke/Fog, Alloy/Mauve, Black/Raz/Lime, Shadow/Jewel
  • Lacing System: Standard

Ladies, this lightweight and comfortable vegan trail running shoe from Saucony is a great choice for the eco-minded adventurer. The trail-specific mesh around the from of the shoe will protect your feet from debris while the carbon rubber grippy lugs improve your footing and stability. The lightweight design reduce fatigue when on your feet for an extended time. 

Pros:

  • VERSARUN cushioning for added comfort
  • Vegan product with recycled upper materials
  • Carbon rubber lugs on outsole for grip

Cons:

  • Some users warn about a lack of arch support

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3. Best Overall Runner Up: Salomon Men’s Xa Pro 3D GTX Trail Running

  • Brand: Salomon
  • Sizes: 7 to 14, Including Half Sizes
  • Available Colors: Black/Black/Magnet, Navy Blazer/Hawaiian Ocean/Dawn Blue
  • Lacing System: Quicklace

If you’re looking for a trail runner that will protect your feet regardless of the weather conditions, this is a great option. The full Gore-Tex bootie protects your feet from moisture while the high-traction Contragrip outsole provides stability on a wide variety of different surfaces. The lacing system locks your food firmly in place without the need to tie your shoes. 

Pros:

  • Full Gore-Tex water protection 
  • Sensifit with quick lace for precise fit
  • Contagrip outsole for added grip and stability

Cons:

  • Some buyers report the shoes run narrow

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4. Best Shoes for Soft, Wet or Technical Trails: Salomon Men’s Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoes

  • Brand: Salomon
  • Sizes: 7 to 14, Including Half Sizes
  • Available Colors: Black/Black/Phantom, Grape Leaf/Black/Phantom, Magnet/Black/Phantom
  • Lacing System: Quicklace

This model of trail running shoes from Salomon features even larger lugs on the outsole, allowing for an aggressive grip that will perform well when faced with slippery trail conditions. However, while the tread works great on trail conditions, it can be uncomfortable on paved trails or roadways. The Lightweight Muscle Midsole provides rugged protection while still offering cushioned comfort.  

Pros:

  • Contragrip TA features deep, sharp lugs for maximum grip
  • Snug and secure fit with Sensifit design 
  • Water shedding/water repellent design

Cons:

    • The insole is thinner and can come detached from the shoe 

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5. Best Minimalist Trail Running Shoes: Joomra Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot Shoes

  • Brand: Joomra
  • Sizes: 5.5-6 through to 11.5-12
  • Available Colors: 33 Colors Including Black, Army Green, Camouflage, Rose Red, Pink Knit, Light Blue, Orange, and More
  • Lacing System: Standard or Quicklace (Depending on Color)

For those that prefer to feel a more minimalist barefoot feel when out on the trails, this pair of shoes is an ideal choice. They provide a wide toe box and comfortable rubber outsole. The shoe’s insole does offer cushioning and arch support, but it is also removable if you would prefer to swap it up for a different option. A reflective strip across the heel will give you a little added security during nighttime runs. 

Pros:

  • Responsive outsole for grip on a variety of surfaces
  • Wide toe box allows more freedom of movement as if barefoot 
  • Produced using animal-free products and processes

Cons:

  • Thinner sole may not be suitable for those with more sensitive feet

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6. Best Shoes for Rocky, Mountain Terrain: La Sportiva Mens Karacal Trail Running Shoe

  • Brand: La Sportiva
  • Sizes: 6 to 13, Including Half Sizes
  • Available Colors: Black/Yellow, Space Blue/Poseidon
  • Lacing System: Standard

Trail runners that are considering heading out on a rugged or rocky mountain trail will be looking for added support, protection, and stability. These shoes are designed to keep your feet safe. Underfoot protection is built into the outsole, allowing you to navigate rugged surfaces comfortably while a rubber toe cap is an added safety measure. 

Pros:

  • Thermo-Adhesive structure for support and breathability
  • Frixion AT 2.0 rubber outsole with 3mm lugs 
  • High-density rock-guard throughout shoe

Cons:

    • Higher price point

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7. Best Trail Running Shoe for Wide Feet: ALTRA Men’s Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe

  • Brand: ALTRA
  • Sizes: 7 to 16, Including Half Sizes, Regular and Wide
  • Available Colors: Black/Grey, Dusty Olive, Gray/Blue, Orange, Maroon
  • Lacing System: Standard

The winner of the Runner’s World 2022 Best Trail Shoe award, this trail runner is a great choice for comfort while hitting the trails. It is designed with a FootShape toe box which allows for extra room around the toes.  The balanced cushioning ensures that the heel and forefoot both rest an equal distance from the ground for better alignment and form. 

Pros:

  • Multi-directional TrailClaw lug pattern for traction
  • Balanced cushioning for low-impact landings 
  • Wider design allows toes to spread naturally

Cons:

    • Some users say balanced cushioning feels too flat 

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8. Also Popular: Saucony Women’s Peregrine 12 Trail Running Shoe

  • Brand: Saucony
  • Sizes: 5 to 12, Regular and Wide
  • Available Colors: Black/Charcoal, Basin/Gold, Blue Raz/Smoke, Campfire Stories, Composite, Cool Mint/Acid, Coral/Redrock, Prospect Glass, Vizigld/Vizired
  • Lacing System: Standard

The company’s new and improved rock plate has been added to this model, allowing for more flexibility and protection while also shedding moisture. The shoe itself is over an ounce lighter than its predecessor, making the Peregrine 12 a great choice for those that are going to be on their feet for an extended time. 

Pros:

  • Added sockliner with PWRRUN+ cushioning 
  • Protective rock plate 
  • Lighter footprint to reduce fatigue 

Cons: 

    • Some report fit is too snug in the midfoot area

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9. Honorable Mention: Brooks Catamount Trail-Running Shoes for Women

  • Brand: Brooks 
  • Sizes: 5 to 12, Including Half Sizes 
  • Available Colors: White/Iced Aqua/Blue, Alloy/Pink/Black, Black/Pink, Blue/Nightlife/Biscuit, Deep Cobalt/Diva Pink/Oyster Mushroom 
  • Lacing System: Standard

Every effort has been made to make these shoes both super lightweight and responsive, allowing runners to challenge how fast and how far they can go on their favorite trails. While the TPU Mud Guard keeps dirt and debris out of your shoe, the Ballistic Rock Shield protects our feet from rocks and roots that may be underfoot along the way. 

Pros: 

  • Nitrogen infused midsole for ultralight cushioning 
  • Extra traction with TrailTack rubber outsole 
  • TPU Mud Guard protects from trail debris 

Cons: 

  • Higher price point

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Best Trail Running Shoes Comparison Table


Trail Running Shoes BrandSizesAvailable ColorsLacing System
Saucony Men’s Endorphin EdgeSaucony7 to 15, Including Half Sizes, Regular widthBlack/Goldstruck, Ocean/Black, Prospect QuartzStandard
Saucony Women’s Excursion Tr15 Trail Running ShoeSaucony5 to 12, Including Half Sizes, Regular and WideAlloy/Topaz, Black/Jade, Shadow/Sunblaze, Smoke/Fog, Alloy/Mauve, Black/Raz/Lime, Shadow/JewelStandard
Salomon Men’s Xa Pro 3D GTX Trail RunningSalomon7 to 14, Including Half SizesBlack/Black/Magnet, Navy Blazer/Hawaiian Ocean/Dawn BlueQuicklace
Salomon Men’s Speedcross 5 Trail Running ShoesSalomon7 to 14, Including Half SizesBlack/Black/Phantom, Grape Leaf/Black/Phantom, Magnet/Black/PhantomQuicklace
Joomra Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot ShoesJoomra5.5-6 through to 11.5-12
33 Colors Including Black, Army Green, Camouflage, Rose Red, Pink Knit, Light Blue, Orange, and MoreStandard or Quicklace (Depending on Color)
La Sportiva Mens Karacal Trail Running ShoeLa Sportiva6 to 13, Including Half SizesBlack/Yellow, Space Blue/PoseidonStandard
ALTRA Men’s Lone Peak 6 Trail Running ShoeALTRA7 to 16, Including Half Sizes, Regular and WideBlack/Grey, Dusty Olive, Gray/Blue, Orange, MaroonStandard
Saucony Women’s Peregrine 12 Trail Running ShoeSaucony5 to 12, Regular and WideBlack/Charcoal, Basin/Gold, Blue Raz/Smoke, Campfire Stories, Composite, Cool Mint/Acid, Coral/Redrock, Prospect Glass, Vizigld/ViziredStandard
Brooks Catamount Trail-Running Shoes for WomenBrooks 5 to 12, Including Half SizesWhite/Iced Aqua/Blue, Alloy/Pink/Black, Black/Pink, Blue/Nightlife/Biscuit, Deep Cobalt/Diva Pink/Oyster MushroomStandard

What to Consider When Shopping for Trail Running Shoes 

It can be tempting to buy the first jacket that you see at a decent price that claims to be waterproof. But there are many factors that you should consider when shopping for reliable rain gear. Not only will this help you pick a coat that will keep you dry, but it will also ensure that you choose a coat that’s comfortable for your unique body shape.

When you’re getting dressed to go hiking, the focus is largely on protecting yourself from the elements. But this focus shifts slightly when you head out on a trail run. While it’s a great perk to have shoes that will repel water, there are many other unique factors to consider. 

Here are a few important factors to help guide you when shopping for trail running shoes. 

Weight and Breathability

These features are similar to what you would look for when choosing a hiking boot or a street running shoe. Lighter shoes are going to be easier to run in as you’re not carrying the extra weight. They also will reduce the risk of fatigue. But you may have to sacrifice some of the protective elements to keep that weight down. 

If you are going to be running during the warmer summer months, breathability will play an important role in your comfort. This will keep your feet from overheating and sweating, which can lead to blisters and other problems. 

Tread 

One of the most important factors is the tread of the shoe. When you’re running on a trail, you’re moving at a much faster pace than a standard hike. This means that you don’t have time to make sure that each step is stable and secure. 

Trail running shoes have small protrusions on the bottom of the shoe that are like cleats. These are called lugs. This is what sets them apart from standard running shoes. Deeper lugs that are spaced out more will give you the traction needed on muddy trails or in lose dirt. But they can be uncomfortable when running on a hard surface like rock or a well-packed trail. For these surfaces, you will be better served with smaller lugs that are positioned closer together. 

Finally, if you plan on running on rocky trails, you will want to pay attention to the material that was used to make the outsole. Look for a pair that has been made with “sticky rubber”, which is a specialized rubber that better grips to the surface of rock. 

Rock Plate 

The rock plate is a feature that is not available in every shoe, but it is one that you should consider if you plan on navigating ruff, rugged terrain. This is a protective layer that is built into the midsole of the shoe to protect your foot from the damage that could be caused by rocks and stones. But this feature will add weight to your shoe. So, if your trails don’t call for this added protection, you may want to skip it. 

Cushioning 

Whether or not to purchase a pair of shoes with a high level of cushioning is a matter of personal preference. Some runners prefer a shoe that offers minimal impact. This can be accomplished by choosing a pair with significant cushioning. On the other hand, there are runners who prefer to feel the “ground feel” with each step and prefer a shoe that allows them to feel more like they are running barefoot. 

There is no one “right” answer, but there are a few considerations that could help guide you in the right direction. If you suffer from foot or joint pain, you should consider a shoe with heavy cushioning to avoid making these conditions worse. The added cushioning is also a great choice for heavier-set runners that are worried about the impact on their joints. 

You can also look at the trails you plan on running. Hard-packed trails are often better navigated with extra cushioning to lighten the impact. But those who prefer running on smoother or soft-packed trails may be happier with something a little more minimalistic. 

Does One Shoe Fit All Situations? 

If you’re the kind of person that enjoys exploring new areas and expanding your running routes, you may not want to settle for a single pair of shoes. Running on a rocky trail with a pair of shoes that were made for wet, muddy conditions is not only going to be uncomfortable, but it could also increase your risk of injury. Whatever surface you are running on, you want to choose a shoe that will give you the best traction to prevent slips and falls. 

Personal Factors to Consider 

Foot Swelling 

Some people will suffer from swelling in their feet when running. This can make sizing a difficult consideration as the secure sizing when they start may feel tight and uncomfortable by the end of the trail. Pay attention to shoes that have a wider toe box and a little more flexibility to accommodate for these changes. 

Wide Feet Vs Narrow Feet 

Take some time to read the reviews of the shoes that you are considering. More specifically, note the way that others describe the fit of the shoes. Some trail running shoes are designed to fit tighter, holding the foot securely and preventing it from moving. On the other hand, there are shoes that are specifically created to provide a little more room either just in the toe box, or in the entire shoe. 

Arch Support

Many trail running shoes offer some degree of arch support but for those that are concerned, search for a shoe that has a removable insole or adjustable/customizable support. 

Trail Running Shoes FAQ

Can I use my trail running shoes to run anywhere?

While technically you can use your trail running shoes to run anywhere, it is better to not use them on paved surfaces, as the softer rubber compounds used for the outsole can wear at an accelerated rate, causing the shoes to wear out quicker than you might like.

How long should trail running shoes last?

On average, a good pair of trail running shoes should last you anywhere from 300-500 miles of use, providing they fit properly and you use them for mostly off-pavement running and walking.

What makes trail running shoes special?

Trail running shoes differ from regular running shoes in that they tend to have stiffer midsoles with a rockplate for added support on uneven terrain. They also tend to have softer rubber compounds on the outer soles for added grip, which can cause faster wear is used on paved surfaces.

 

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Britt Kascjak

Britt Kascjak is a freelance writer and content marketer based in Ontario, Canada. She specializes in writing about outdoor travel and recreation, especially exploring the great outdoors with pets. She has written for several outdoor-focused websites, such as Backyard Boss as well as contributing articles about pet-friendly outdoor travel on All Pet Voices. Inspired by her own travels with her husband, 3 dogs and 2 cats, she shares her experiences on her website The Kas Pack. When she isn’t working, Britt can be found camping, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking year-round including braving the colder Canadian winters outdoors.

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