This review discusses the best trail running shoes currently on the market.
Trail running shoes differ from regular running shoes, as they weigh more and provide better support and protection for your feet on rough terrain.
Have a look at our reviews and use the buyer’s guide at the end to help you learn what to look for before getting the pair that's right for your needs.
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We reviewed over 19 pairs of trail running shoes for this article. Below are the best trail running shoes that made our short list.
Read our complete buyers guide for trail running shoes.
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 ISO 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.
The Peregrine ISO 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.
Weighing only 185g, the Norvan SL 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.
For shorter to middle distanced technical trails with roots and roughness, these shoes are great for experienced trail runners.
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.
These shoes are obviously designed for rugged mountain trails, and it would not be recommended to use them for longer and flatter distances.
The Speedgoat 3 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.
This level of cushioning is a great support for those who are prone to foot or knee strain and they make a great pair of shoes for the longer treks.
This shoe - the fourth edition of Salomon’s 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 4’s fit is both comfortable and secure.
The high stack height and protruding lugs may cause issues on rough, uneven terrain. Purchases these shoes if it is flatter, damper terrain that you plan to venture through.
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 super important if you’re wanting to run without slipping on the uneven ground and debris that comes with a trail.
Generally, deeper and wider-spaced the lugs make better traction for mud. Too deep lugs, however, can be uncomfortable to run with on roads or firm dirt (we’re speaking 5mm-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.
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 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.
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.