Best Trail Running Shoes – Expert Reviews

Updated: February 13, 2024

Tread is what makes a trail running shoe differ from a road running shoe. If you're looking for the ultimate in tread cushioning, durability and traction, then look no further than the Saucony Peregrine

Generally, the deeper and wider-spaced the lugs are, the better traction for mud. That's why I highly recommend the No products found. for its unique outsole design, built with rubber compound Contragrip WT (wet traction) to kick up mud wherever it goes. 

If you are looking to run on both trails and roads, look for shorter, more closely spaced lugs. The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 are some of the most comfortable trail running shoes out there with their durable full-length EVA foam midsole to absorb shock and offer stability on varied terrains. 

Trail Running Shoes (Top Picks)

Best Overall

Saucony Men's Peregrine 11 GTX Trail Running Shoe, Black/Gravel, 10.5

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Salomon Men's Speedcross 6 Sneaker, Quiet Shade/Black/Pearl Blue, 10

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Most Comfortable

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 GORE-TEX Anthracite/Dark Gull Grey Trail Runner - 8

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Shoes for Trail Running (Detailed Reviews)

Here are some good trail running shoes:

  1. Saucony Peregrine 11 - Best Overall
  2. Arc'Teryz Norvan SL 2 - Best Lightweight
  3. La Sportiva Bushido II Running Shoe - Best for Uneven Terrain
  4. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 - Most Comfortable
  5. Salomon Speedcross 6 - Best Value

Read our complete buyers guide for trail running shoes.

Best Overall Trail Running Shoes

1. Saucony Peregrine 11 GTX

Saucony Men's Peregrine 11 GTX Trail Running Shoe, Black/Gravel, 10.5

5/5 Overall Rating

We’ve rated these award-winning shoes the best overall trail running shoes due to their many features that combine to give you optimal cushioning, durability and traction.

As the successor of the Peregrine 8, the Saucony Peregrine 11 has been adapted to offer a stretchy yet firm construction. 

They include an upper that adapts to your foot to give a comfortable, fitting feel as well as a flexible sole that offers more cushioning than many other trail shoes.

The cushioning is emphasised on the heel cup of the shoe, which takes some getting used to, but its great if you like feeling the trail beneath your feet.

There is grip all over the base of the shoes, all the way to the outer edges, allowing the traction to withstand grass, wet rocks, mud and puddles.

An extra layer of protection around the heel and outlining the sides of the shoes ensure extra durability.

Main Features
  • Rubber Sole
  • EVERUN topsole
  • PWRFOAM midsole
  • PWRTRAC outsole
  • ISOFIT dynamic upper
What we like
  • Can be cleaned with just a wet rag wipe down
  • Versatile and extremely comfortable
  • Aggressive treads
What we dislike
  • Heel cup might have trouble holding the heel in place during uphill runs
Key Takeway

The Peregrine 11 have both a woman and men’s design, and different widths are available so you may purchase a perfect fit. Their all-round comfortability, durability and traction make them the best overall shoes. Be sure to also check out the Peregrine 13s - the newest update to the 11 series. 

2. Arc’Teryx Norvan SL 2

best trail running shoes

4/5 Overall Rating

Weighing only 185g, the Norvan SL 2 shoes are one of the lightest trail running shoes ever developed.

The durable construction of these shoes feature extremely breathable, hydrophobic, hardwearing, practically paper thin TPU mesh uppers which can fold down for efficient packability (justifying there being no loop).

The outsole is capable of withstanding wet and dry trails and the rubber compound provides great grip for rocky and/or slippery terrain, just as advertised.

The cushioning is enough to protect your feet but still leaves you with a good under-foot feel, allowing your feet to navigate at full potential.

The breathability and snug fit of these stylish shoes limit its insulation, so it is advised to avoid using them in winter.

Ultimately, though there are many shoes that are a lot tougher, the amount of protection that the Norvan SL provide for their weightlessness is hard to beat.

Main Features
  • TPU mesh upper
  • Vibram outsole with Megagrip rubber
What we like
  • Highly breathable and fast drying
  • Cushioning is limited but dense and effective
  • Fantastic grip
What we dislike
  • Sensitive feel under the foot demands precise and delicate foot placement, making these shoes not ideal for beginners
Key Takeaway

For shorter to middle distanced technical trails with roots and roughness, the Arc'Teryx Norvan SL 2 shoes are great for experienced trail runners.

3. La Sportiva Bushido II Running Shoe

La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Running Shoes 12.5 D(M) US Black Yellow

5/5 Overall Rating

Named after the code of honour and morals that were developed by the Japanese samurai, Bushido, we’ve rated the La Sportiva Bushido II as the best trail shoes for uneven terrain due to their reliability on any rugged trails.

For such a light design, these shoes’ incredible traction take you by surprise. The TPU web that line the uppers add stability and protection with minimal weight gain, while compression-moulded midsoles lie firmly from the heels to the rubber toe caps.

Outsole lugs wrap around the midsoles to add traction while two treads with toothy, multi-directional pegs at the centre underline the feet. This combination lets the Bushido climb up steep uphills and brake hard on downhills, as well as grip onto slippery rocks or roots.

The updated heel design and slip-on construction now wraps around your feet with fitting comfort.

Main Features
  • FriXion XT V-Groove2 outsole
  • TPU toe cap
  • TPU web on upper
  • EVA midsole
What we like
  • Great cushioning
  • Hardly any odour following damp conditions
  • The lightweight/traction combination
What we dislike
  • The forefoot is narrow, limiting toe space
Key Takeaway

La Sportiva Bushido II shoes are clearly designed for rugged mountain trails, and it would not be recommended to use them for longer and flatter distances.

4. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

HOKA ONE ONE Mens Speedgoat 4 GORE-TEX Anthracite/Dark Gull Grey Trail Runner - 8

4/5 Overall Rating

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is a durable and stable shoe that is not only able to tackle all kinds of technical trails but also remains extremely comfortable while doing so.

Cushioned shoes tend to have a feeling of drag, making their user feel slowed down. The Speedgoat 3, however, has been constructed to feel light on the feet. Their design allows the shoe to feel cushioned without being too loose or puffy.

The EVA foam midsole is capable of absorbing rocks, roots and any other impact and provides lightweight cushioning. 

The TPU midfoot allows secure fitting and increased stability; combined with the “seatbelt” support on either side of the shoes, these features create a nice foot lockdown.

Add in the reputable Vibram MegaGrip sticky rubber outsole with 5mm, multidirectional lugs and you have a soft feeling pair of shoes with enough grip to withstand mud, gravel, grass, rocks and roughness.

Main Features
  • Reinforced TPU midfoot
  • CMEVA foam midsole
  • Vibram Megagrip hi-traction outsole
What we like
  • The amount of cushioning for its weight
  • Sizing is true to fit
What we dislike
  • Narrow toe box
Key Takeaway

This level of cushioning is a great support for those who are prone to foot or knee strain and Speedgoat make a great pair of shoes for the longer treks.

5. Salomon Speedcross 6 Trail Running Shoes

Salomon Men's Speedcross 6 Sneaker, Quiet Shade/Black/Pearl Blue, 10

4/5 Overall Rating

This shoe - the Salomon Speedcross 6 aggressively lugged trail runner - bites through technical, soft ground with speed, making it our preference for mud running.

The updated lug pattern now has more contact surface area, meaning more lateral stability and better traction, and the cradling design makes for a comfortable fit that lessens foot slippage inside the shoe.

The outsole is built with rubber compound Contragrip WT (wet traction), making the traction a monster on mud, snow and even wet conditions - users are often amazed by how responsive and nimble the shoes are for their burliness.

Another great feature is the updated uppers, which have been made slightly lower so that there is more freedom of movement around the ankles.

Combined with the Quicklace system (just pull and lock the toggle), the Speedcross 6’s fit is both comfortable and secure.

Main Features
  • Sensitift design
  • EVA padding on the midsole
  • Removable OrthoLite footbeds
  • Contragrip WT outsole
  • Nylon anti-debris mesh uppers 
What we like
  • Pockets on tongue store laces out of the way
  • The footbeds have an antimicrobial treatment to help deter odour
  • Light for its bulkiness
What we dislike
  • Breathability is a bit hampered by the anti-debris mesh 

Trail Running Shoes Buyer's Guide

It is obvious to make sure that the shoe you purchase fits well – ideally tightly around your foot without complete constriction or unstable looseness. But there are also other key considerations one should make when buying a pair of shoes, depending on what terrains or conditions you choose to run through.
Use this guide to help you find your ideal shoe.


Tread is what makes a trail running shoe differ from a road running shoe. A good grip is important if you’re running on the uneven ground and debris that comes with a trail.

Generally, deeper and wider-spaced the lugs the better traction for mud. Too deep lugs, however, can be uncomfortable to run with on roads or firm dirt (I mean 5-7mm).

If you are looking to run on both trails and roads, look for shorter, more closely spaced lugs. Sticky rubber – a specialized rubber that improves grip on rocks - outsoles are ideal for rocky trails.


The amount of cushioning in a shoe is up to personal preference. Less cushioning tends to provide more of a ground feel, but more cushioning can take some strain off your feet and knees.

This makes more cushioning ideal for those who are prone to any sort of leg pain. You may also want more cushioning if you want to use your shoes for both trails and roads, predominantly run on hard-packed trails or if you want to run long distances.

Opt for less cushioning if you run smooth, soft trails, short distances or just want that ground feel, which can lead to more nimble practice.

Heel-To-Toe Drop

Also known as just drop, the heel-to-toe drop refers to how many extra millimetres of cushioning are in the heel versus the toe. The traditional drop is generally between 10mm-12mm, offering plenty of heel cushioning. This is ideal for those who tend to heel strike.

The lower the drop, the more a shoe will help promote a lower-impact stride (as opposed to a heel strike). However, a lower drop also demands more from your Achilles.

Therefore, it is not advised for those who have suffered Achilles injury or strain. It also means that they may require an adjustment period, especially when tackling uphill.

Waterproof Features

Waterproof shoes are ideal for wet climates, cold weather or when running on snow. The con of waterproof features is that they never breathe as well as non-waterproof shoes.

Because of this, it is not ideal to get waterproof shoes if you only plan to run through wet conditions occasionally. In this case, rather go for an airy shoe that dries quickly - like a mesh pair.

Another important factor to note is that if water leaks through the top of your waterproof shoes, it can get trapped inside. This should be considered if you plan to cross through streams or creeks. In this case, aim for a pair of quick-draining, non-waterproof shoes.

Often gone unknown, a “GTX” feature (short for “Gore-Tex”) is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane. Although highly reputable, just keep in mind the cons of waterproof features before purchasing a shoe with such a feature.

Rock Plate

A rock plate is a firm material, often made of a type of plastic or carbon fibre, that is embedded into the midsole of a shoe. It’s used to provide underfoot protection from sharp rocks and stone bruises.

If rugged, rocky trails are what you opt for, a pair of shoes that have a rock plate is highly recommended.

If your trails don’t demand this kind of protection – i.e. you run on smoother, softer trails – then avoid a rock plate, as it is then an unnecessary weighted addition.


About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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