8 Best Trail Running Shoes to Buy: Your Complete Guide

best trail running shoes

Maybe you're just getting started in your running career. Or, maybe you're a veteran, which is great. But the million dollar question is, are you wearing the best trail running shoes? It doesn't matter, even if you're only doing occasional runs on those trails. You need to protect your feet during activity. We don't want you to get injured by those sharp pebbles. We don't want your feet to get wet as you cross that stream. And we don't want you to suffer poor body balance.

Needless to say, you need the best trail running shoes. It's the only way you can bypass all those obstacles during activity while enhancing your performance. So, without further ado, let's see what's in store for you.

Best Trail Running Shoes Comparison Table

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Types of Trail Running Shoes

exercise hobby jog jogger

Just like road running footwear, trail running shoes come in several types. It all depends on the nature of the trails you're looking to tackle.

Light-trail footwear

These are shoes meant for wearing on light trails. They come with features suited for that purpose, including a relatively lower drop. Most of these shoes are also comparatively lighter, making for a faster run. The traction isn't as rigid as in the rugged-trail runners, either. In other words, you want to stick to light trails only when wearing these type of shoes.

Heavy-trail footwear

If you fancy tackling rough ground, these are the shoes to buy. Heavy-trail footwear comes with considerable protection to withstand the obstacles that are sure to be found on the uneven ground typical of trails. These shoes boast a massive lug system so that you can enjoy a smooth ride on muddy and dusty surfaces. They also offer decent stability, so you can maintain your balance when moving over bumpy terrain.

Multipurpose trail footwear

You can wear these type of shoes on both light and heavy trail surfaces. They are engineered to sustain you along a range of trail surfaces. Consequently, they are the best option if you like alternating between light and heavy trails in your runs.

How to Buy Trail Running Shoes

woman in gray crew neck shirt running on brown soil during daytime

Given the many options available on the market today, it can be difficult knowing what to look for when hunting for the best trail running shoes. These are some of the things you ought to consider before shopping.

  • Surfa​​​​ce

Consider the type of surface you're going to tackle. Do you fancy light trails or heavy trails? Or, would you rather have them both? This is vital in helping you choose a shoe with the right protective features, so you can focus on what you do best.

  • Gait

What type of runner are you? Are you a pronator or overpronator? Or, are you a supinator? Note that there are different shoes to cater to different running gaits. And you don't want to get mixed up in the selection. Pronators should go for neutral shoes. Overpronators should look for motion-control shoes with solid stability. And, supinators are better off with footwear that's flexible and padded reasonably. The best trail running shoes should agree with your gait.

  • Fit

Not all shoes follow standard sizing. Some shoes come with a large fit, while others boast a small-running size. Therefore, it's crucial that check this aspect before spending your hard-earned dollars. We recommend that you take a good look at reviews for the bigger picture.

  • Price

While this depends on each runner's wallet, don't be fooled that costlier shoes are better than the cheaper options. There are some affordable choices that can't be beaten when it comes to quality. You only need to play your cards right.

  • Distance

The miles you're looking to cover add to the things you should consider before grabbing one of the best trail running shoes. Go for relatively durable footwear if you're a long-distance runner. However, the durability feature might not be essential if you only hit the trails occasionally.

  • Drop

Of equal importance is the footwear's drop. Short for "heel to toe drop," "drop" refers to the difference in height between the heel of the shoe and the toe. Shoes with a higher drop might be a good option if you are a heel striker. Midfoot to forefoot strikers should stick to shoes with a lower drop. Just remember that a low drop comes with some limitations: It wears out faster and might not offer the protection you badly need on the trails.

  • Weight

In your quest for the best trail running shoes, the weight of the footwear matters, too. Lighter footwear generally makes for faster runs. Heavier shoes, on the other hand, are optimized for long-distance running on rugged trails, where speed isn't the chief concern.

Features of the Best Trail Running Shoes

exercise female fitness foot

Different running shoes have different features for different types of runs. That's why road running shoes have different features than trail runners. So, let's quickly look at some of the features of the best trail running shoes.


Breathability is vital during your runs, especially when you're covering a long distance. That's why the best trail running shoes should offer excellent ventilation. Your feet should breathe naturally while helping reduce in-shoe stuffiness, which can be a pain.


Many characterize trail running by a harsh environment. You never know when you're going to bump into a stream or cross a river. It could even rain while you're in action. What are you going to do? Stop to seek shelter? That explains why the best trail running shoes should be waterproof, so your feet can stay dry in the middle of the rain.


A well-cushioned shoe is a must-have for every runner looking to hit the trails. The midsole should be bouncy or springy, so it can help absorb shock. This also helps give a soft landing upon impact. In some footwear, the padding even offers a responsive ride, propelling you forward while enhancing performance.

Traction and stability

This is perhaps the most vital feature of the best trail running shoes. Trails are characterized by mud and dust, which can make it hard to keep your grip. And the same is true of stability; go for those shoes with added stability to maintain body balance -- even on bumpy ground.

Toe protection

How many times have you hit a sharp pebble as you maneuver over those trails? Did your toes hurt? Most likely. And it's just why the best trail running shoes should come with substantial toe protection. Toe guards help shield your toes against the outside environment.

Price Range

The best trail running shoes on our list fall in the $40 to $390 price range. Most of these shoes are available on Amazon. Though, you can also purchase them on sites like REI and RunRepeat, among other online stores.

How We Reviewed

We considered many factors in our review process. First, we considered the price point of various shoes and brands. Then, we compared features across many products on the market. Last but not least, we looked at customer reviews to get a good sense of product satisfaction.

The Best Trail Running Shoes to Buy

Here's our list of the best trail running shoes. We hope it helps you make an informed purchase decision. Be sure to choose wisely! This list is in no particular order.

Topo Athletic Terraventure

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Not all shoes come with a snug fit, but the Topo Athletic Terraventure is an exception. It's also the option to grab if you're looking for durable footwear. And, if you have wider feet, this shoe has got you covered.

One of the things users like is the traction; it's terrific, offering reliable grip in the harshest of environments. Critics have issues with the treads, as they seem to be positioned unevenly on the outsole. Also, because the shoe has a comparatively wider toe-compartment, runners with large feet don't take it lightly.

Buyers gave it a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on REI.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 2

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A great purchase for folks who fancy rugged trails, the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 features one of the best outsoles out there. The outer platform couldn't be stronger and is comparatively thicker than competitors. When it comes to traction, this footwear is also great -- you'll love the outstanding lug system.

Users are in love with the shoe's excellent performance on rugged trails. Some runners, however, particularly those with wider feet, aren't on good terms with the shoe's slim build.

Amazon buyers gave this footwear 4.1 out of 5 stars.

Saucony Peregrine 8

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Another contender for the best trail running shoe, the Saucony Peregrine 8 comes with comfort-enhancing features you'll love. The midsole boasts a ton of padding so that you can enjoy a comfy run. This also makes for good shock absorption. And the decent traction is a bonus.

According to most runners, the Saucony Peregrine 8 is like a two-in-one. It's good on both the easy and heavy trails, which is a plus. Other users are all smiles about the shoe's traction; it can't be beaten. However, the footwear could use more stability features.

The shoe boasts a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Brooks Caldera 2

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Are you looking for a lighter option? The Brooks Caldera 2 could fit the bill.

According to users, this is not the type of shoe that will wear out after the first few uses, but it should serve you for a reasonable period. The Brooks Caldera 2 has also won the trust of users for its lockdown fit. Nevertheless, the wider design is a bummer for narrow-footed runners.

Buyers gave it a rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars on REI.

Salomon Speedcross 4

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An option with standout traction, the Salomon Speedcross 4 is sure to give a smooth run on slippery or dusty ground. Something else you get is a thicker midsole, which adds to the overall sturdiness of the shoe.

While a couple of buyers report stability issues, most users are pleased with the excellent tread system, which gives enhanced traction.

People who've bought this product give it a score of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic

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This footwear spells one word: sturdiness. The outer platform is pretty strong so that it can withstand abrasion from the external environment. This also means it doesn't wear out quickly. Also, the sturdy outsole makes for a solid base, adding to the shoe's stability.

Users recommend Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic for traction alone. It has excellent grip. Another pro reported is decent stability, and users find that the footwear is durable enough. Downsides include lack of breathability, with users complaining of a stuffy in-shoe feel. Also, the heftier weight of this footwear subtracts marks when it comes to sustaining a long-distance run, according to users.

Purchasers on Amazon rated it 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Altra Lone Peak 4.0

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If a durable upper and outer platform sound like good features to you, then you want to grab the Altra Lone Peak 4.0. The upper comprised a robust and durable mesh, which means it should serve you for a reasonable period. The outsole is also pretty sturdy, and the powerful grip it offers is an edge. You also get a rock plate in the forefoot area, adding to the shoe's overall protection.

Decent cushioning is among the features users like, and it makes for a comfortable run. While wide-footed folks are in love with the wide toe-box, runners with narrow feet don't find it that attractive.

It scores 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Merrell Trail Glove 4

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If you like to feel the trails while tackling short distances, then Merrell Trail Glove 4 has got you covered -- thanks to the zero heel-to-toe drop. The footwear is also pretty light for a faster run. The rock guard takes care of your forefoot area, shielding it against the unfriendly trail environment. The shoe gives a lockdown fit, too.

Runners with a thing for a barefoot feel find Merrell Trail Glove 4 an excellent purchase. The same is true for midfoot and forefoot strikers, who are in love with the low build. A low-drop shoe, however, has its fair share of woes: Most runners find this footwear less protective on the light trails. Also, heel strikers don't find Merrell Trail Glove 4 an attractive purchase.

Amazon users rated it 4.6 out of 5 stars.

So What's the Best?

All of the shoes on our list are, without a doubt, worth a try. These best trail running shoes can mean a difference in your runs, bringing a whole new experience to your running career.

If you are on a budget, however, the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Agravic is the choice for you. Yet, the low price doesn't compromise quality as you also get a lasting outsole and decent stability. And for those runners who don't mind shedding extra dollars, we recommend the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2. The exceptional traction means you should tackle those rough trails with ease. A durable outsole is also among other lucrative features you get with this runner.

Still, if you're looking to feel the trails (the light trails for that matter) in your runs, we have no issues with you trying out the Merrell Trail Glove 4. And, for a strong, durable build, the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 should comfortably fit the bill.


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