These shoes are far and away our favorite zero drop trail runners, far out-performing the numerous models made by Altra, Merrell, and Topo that we have repeatedly compared them against. For those looking for a more natural stride with cushy comfort, look no further than the Altra Lone Peak 4. Even for mountain missions that involve a lot of snow travel, we’ll often add waterproof socks and gaiters rather than opt for a waterproof shoe. In 2021, there are a plethora of more modern and improved options, whether you’re looking for a peppy ride on roots and rocks or all-day comfort for long distances. Whether you’re running on wet or uneven terrain, you’ll stomp right through with the grippy soles. 2.6 oz.Cushioning: Light/moderateDrop: 6mmWhat we like: Cushioned for long distances but still has great technical chops.What we don’t: No rock plate and some might not like the isolated feel. 2.6 oz.Cushioning: Light/moderateDrop: 5mmWhat we like: A Hoka shoe for Hoka skeptics; responsive and fast.What we don’t: The upper feels a bit sloppy; light cushioning is not ideal for high-mileage days. And for those who regularly get out in the cold and wet, the Speedcross 5 and Wildcross are also sold in Gore-Tex versions, which retail for $150 and $160 respectively.See the Men's Salomon Speedcross 5  See the Women's Salomon Speedcross 5. A race or mountain-oriented shoe like the La Sportiva Bushido II is stiffer and has more of a structure, while easy trail options are more flexible and comfortable out of the box. Category: All-aroundWeight: 1 lb. If you’ll be running steep terrain or over rocks, roots, or other rough ground, the stability, grip, and underfoot feel will be a disappointment. If you want to be light on your feet and swift on the trail, you can enhance your trail performance with the best trail running shoes. We love its signature trail-eating, teeth-like tread that grips anything from wet rocks to hardpack dirt, and a rock plate underfoot adds protection without compromising flexibility. If you plan to stick mostly to smooth trails or want to mix in some road miles, the Asics Gel-Venture 7 makes a lot of sense. The Techamphibian 3 Trail Running Shoe is a prime example of Salomon at its best, delivering high performance and an outstanding design with strong thick rubber soles.. And if you’re intrigued by the Speedcross, it’s worth checking out Salomon’s Wildcross, which offers a more stable and cushioned alternative and features a wider toe box (we’ve found the Speedcross to be quite narrow, although wide sizes are available). Better yet, trail running is an immensely easy sport to get into and requires only minimal gear. But with a mesh upper, the Gel-Venture has the light and airy feel of a road runner. This shoe provides a high level of support and comfort. These trail running shoes have aggressive, deep lugs that give the outsoles (bottom of the shoes) teeth-biting grip on varying terrain. In the end, most recreational trail runners will benefit from a jack-of-all-trades shoe over a specialist design, and the Caldera’s mix of durability, comfort, and traction make it a solid performer in most conditions.See the Men's Brooks Caldera 4  See the Women's Brooks Caldera 4. She loves nature, lives for adventure, and yearns for a good campfire at the end of the day. 5 oz.Cushioning: ModerateDrop: 0mmWhat we like: Cushioned and very comfortable.What we don’t: Slightly sluggish feel; hard to trust in off-camber or technical sections. As a result of the unique designs for both trail and road running shoes, it’s difficult to try and use one single shoe for both activities. For a beefed-up alternative to the Terra Kiger for rough terrain, check out Nike’s Wildhorse 6.See the Men's Nike Terra Kiger 6  See the Women's Nike Terra Kiger 6. Finally, we don’t recommend trail running shoes for heavy loads or particularly rugged terrain, when you’ll want a more supportive option. For a more cushioned and flexible option from Arc’teryx that’s comfortable on moderately technical terrain, check out their Norvan LD 2. Whether your foot is striking soft ground or sludge, you’ll scamper right through with the Salomon Speedcross 5. Do you prefer more cushion to avoid bruising from rocks? If you’re the type to enjoy the scenery on a mile or two run, then an inexpensive option will suit you just fine. Further, it has a significant impact on breathability and drying time, and if water does enter the shoe (from the ankle, for example), the impermeable walls mean it won’t drain out. Updated last year, the Bushido II features a compression-molded EVA... Arc’teryx jumped into the trail-running-shoe market a couple years ago with the Norvan VT, and last summer they released the retooled “2.” The “VT” in its name stands for vertical: this shoe is designed for... WWhether you’re training for an ultra-marathon, embarking on a leisurely trail run, or tackling a ridge scramble in the alpine, a running vest is the perfect tool for hauling your essentials. These shoes will serve you better the more unforgiving the terrain and may work for day hiking as well. Salomon Sense Ride 2. You get a lot of features we look for in a trail running shoe, including a cushioned midsole, breathable upper, and a lightweight build. Some trail runners also feature a sticky rubber … Shedding ounces for minimal features, these shoes are the next best thing to running without any shoes at all. La Sportiva Bushido II shines on long distance trails with plenty of steep ups and downs. This not only keeps you comfy but also stabilizes your footing and absorbs the impact. If you find lofty soles, cushy interiors, and earth biting lugs weigh you down, pick up the pace with the Merrell Trail Glove 5. This is a big kicker. We’ve also found the MTN Racer to be very capable in wet weather: the upper is designed with minimal bulk and drainage ports, meaning that when your feet do get wet, they dry quickly. Footwear. How much protection is needed depends on personal preference and the terrain you'll be running over (more miles on rough trails will merit burlier protection), but overall, we find rock plates to be a great feature. It’s not all bad with the Cascadia though. Lighter shoes are faster, feel less cumbersome, and allow you to cover more ground with less fatigue. But the Norvan VT (short for “vertical”) makes its climbing intentions clear with a streamlined toe box, ground-hugging design, and Megagrip outsole with a climbing zone underneath the big toe. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 is an excellent choice for the trail runner looking for cushy comfort on less technical trails. The MTN Racer features deep lugs and a Vibram Megagrip sole (a blend often used in climbing approach shoes) for excellent hold on rocky and rooted trails. Evaluated. Depending on how serious of a trail runner you are, your running shoe needs will vary from person to person. The Caldera offers a whole different take on a trail runner, with a stack height reminiscent of a Hoka One One, the wide toe box of an Altra, and overall more flexibility and cushion than the Cascadia for tackling long distances on moderate terrain. Light trail runners offer minimal grip, but rugged and off-trail styles offer similar traction to hiking shoes. Trail shoes don’t have to be heavy and clunky to perform well. All in all, the Bushido II gets the edge as the more capable all-rounder that does a better job absorbing impacts over high-mileage days. While there are some trail running techniques to help you improve performance, without the right trail running shoes for the job you won’t stand a chance. Buy on Amazon. Choosing a shoe that doesn’t fit the width of your foot can mean more. Shoes for easy trails feature a combination of outsole rubber and exposed midsole, which lends a lightweight, springy feel but suffers particularly on slippery rocks, roots, and mud. All in all, the Lone Peak 4.5 is our favorite zero-drop shoe, but there are a number of great options available, including Altra’s Timp 2, the Merrell Bare Access XTR, and the Topo Athletic Runventure 3.See the Men's Altra Lone Peak 4.5  See the Women's Altra Lone Peak 4.5. Fitting safe and snug, these running shoes have ample cushioning for out-of-the-box comfort eliminating break-in time. For 2021, our favorite trail runners weigh a little over 1 pound per pair (measured in a men’s 9 or 10). Best Trail-Running Shoes For The Mud Salomon Speedcross 5. Accordingly, we recommend avoiding quick laces if you often fiddle with your laces to get the fit just right. But its upper lags behind the Salomon in terms of durability, especially around rock (or if you’re strapping on a crampon). No matter what model you choose, the Peregrine continues to offer an impressive combination of comfort, performance, and high-quality materials.See the Men's Saucony Peregrine 11  See the Women's Saucony Peregrine 11. That said, for the vast majority of runners—including those covering serious distances over fairly rough terrain—the Speedgoat hits a sweet spot between performance and cushioning.See the Men's Hoka One One Speedgoat  See the Women's Hoka One One Speedgoat. Category: Rugged trailsWeight: 1 lb. On the other end of the spectrum are maximum-cushioned shoes from brands like Hoka One One and Altra (the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is 32mm at the heel). While there are hundreds of hiking boots, trail shoes, and trail runners available, most hikers and backpackers choose from a small set of common makes and models. In recent years, trail running shoes have taken off as a go-to choice for day hikers, fastpackers, and thru-hikers alike. Otherwise, we recommend most people start and end their search here.Rugged Trails For everything from rugged local trails to mountain missions—think fast-and-light peak bagging in the Cascades, the Sierra, and Colorado—you’ll want a shoe with a sticky rubber sole, added protection around the foot and extra durability in the upper, and a stiffer build that can handle technical rock (and even accommodate a crampon). We wore the first iteration of this shoe on our first 50K, and found it to be a comfortable, capable choice for the hardpacked dirt of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Meanwhile, if you prefer ground feel then minimal cushioning is a better option. It’s no accident most of the shoes we have listed above offer a moderate amount of cushioning. They both weigh about 10 ounces per shoe (the Peregrine is slightly heavier), have a 4-millimeter offset, and provide a similar mix of cushioning, flexibility, and on-trail performance. In 2016, Runner’s Magazine named Topo Athletic MT 2 their “Best Buy” and it’s not hard to see why. These pairs can handle any conditions nature dreams up. Of all the outdoor activities we cover here at Switchback Travel, hiking is dearest to our hearts. Category: All-around/easy trailsWeight: 1 lb. Because of the lightweight intent of a trail runner, the toe protection isn’t as substantial as a hiking shoe, but it should prevent your toes from turning black and blue should you accidentally kick a rock or root on the trail. Category: Rugged trails/all-aroundWeight: 1 lb. And finally, the Jackal runs small (it’s worth considering bumping up a half size) and some runners have experienced issues with the Jackal rubbing around the heel, although we’ve had no complaints during our testing. The Jackal also tacks on a Gore-Tex membrane, making it a great option for shoulder-season hiking or those who want added moisture protection, although keep in mind this will come at the cost of some breathability (it’s available in a non-GTX version, too). Category: Rugged trailsWeight: 1 lb. For more of our top hiking & backpacking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: Carissa is an outdoor writer based in Washington. Category: All-aroundWeight: 1 lb. Many people like a moderate drop in their trail running shoes, while others prefer a zero-drop design. In this case, we recommend Arc’teryx Norvan VT. More below. As your foot strikes the ground, the midsoles power your movement while the cushioned footbed provides additional shock absorption. This typically gets you enough protection and support for long distances without feeling sluggish. Taken together, the Cascadia 15 is still good but not great, and we’ll point all but the most stalwart of fans towards other options farther up the list.See the Men's Brooks Cascadia 15  See the Women's Brooks Cascadia 15. Category: All-aroundWeight: 1 lb. Other familiar features remain unchanged, such as the highly responsive React foam in the midsole, segmented rock plate, sturdy toe cap, and outsole that grips particularly well in hardpack dirt and rock. The Torrent 2 goes head-to-head with an all-around trail shoe like the Topo Athletic MTN Racer above. What we don’t: Not as fast and nimble as more modern options above. Most runners will find this extra support to be overkill on smooth paths, and the lightly cushioned midsole is noticeably less comfortable than an all-around model like the Speedgoat or MTN Racer (especially on high-mileage days). The design of the shoes is innovative, offering convenience with laces that don’t tangle and a quick-drying mesh that resists debris. And the newest “11” builds on the winning formula, with a premium-feeling upper that improves upon durability, protection, and breathability (for a small weight penalty). It only requires a single pull, and then you can tuck away the excess laces and forget about them. Best Waterproof Lightweight Trail Running Shoe: New Balance Women's 910 V4 Running Shoes. Our take is that drop is a matter of comfort and personal preference more than anything else. But for cruising dirt or park paths, shoes like the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 and Asics Gel-Venture are great options. Now in its 4th iteration, the updated design features added mesh for increased breathability, a TPU toe cap to guard against toe stubs, and an improved outsole that excels on hardpack dirt and rock. Best Bang for your Buck – Saucony Peregrine 8. Both feature a rock plate, 6-millimeter lugs, and a lightweight build (the Roclite is 1.7 ounces lighter per pair), but the Inov-8 has slightly more aggressive intentions, with less cushioning and a more pronounced drop (8mm vs. 6mm). The trend is toward lower drops for running shoes in general, although the performance and injury prevention science are hotly debated. Altra quickly progressed from an unknown to a go-to brand in the trail running community, and much of their rapid ascent can be attributed to the rise in popularity of zero-drop shoes. In many ways, the Nike Terra Kiger is a direct competitor to the Saucony Peregrine 11 above. Want to learn more about a technical term? Many of the shoes in our all-around category have a drop in the range of 4 to 8 millimeters, which can work well for both heel and midfoot strikers. Enter Saucony Peregrine ISO. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4: Best trail-running shoe for ultramarathons. This type of low-cut hiking footwear is a mix of boots and running shoes that takes the best from both worlds. Salomon has been in the trail running game for a long time, and the Speedcross 5 packs in all of their well-known features: a single-pull lace system, supportive fit, and sturdy but still reasonably light chassis. But the Topo Athletic tacks on some technical chops, with a 5-millimeter drop (compared to the Altra’s 0mm), slightly firmer cushioning, and a small decrease in weight. As a result, the Norvan is a specialized shoe best for mountain running, and particularly routes with minimal trail mileage (this is a tough shoe to actually jog in). True zero-drop shoes have a 0-millimeter difference (Altra is a leader in this department), encouraging a mid- or forefoot landing point. From extreme rugged terrain to easy-breezy well-groomed trails, there’s a range of trail running shoes out there to suit your needs. There are three types of trail running shoes: light-trail, rugged-trail, and off-trail shoes. With the most recent update, the Terra Kiger features a revamped mesh upper that’s designed to better keep out mud and other trail debris, alongside an improved fit in the forefoot. Rugged-trail shoes increase foot protection and support, making them well suited for the varying trail conditions you’ll find on hiking trails. With a stack height of only 8 millimeters at the forefoot, the Roclite is by far the least-cushioned shoe on our list (the next in line is the Norvan VT 2 with 16mm at the toe), which keeps you feeling close to the ground and in control (a rock plate adds ample protection). These remind us a lot of a fat bike: the ride is smooth and you barely notice the ground underneath, but there is more of a disconnect between you and the trail (and their tall heights can make them prone to rolling over). 3.3 oz.Cushioning: LightDrop: 8mmWhat we like: Great grip and durability along with a close-to-ground feel.What we don’t: Less of an all-rounder than the Bushido II above. Wide, narrow, or average, you’ll need a trail running shoe that matches the width of your feet. The "14" saw a much-needed revamp, and the "15" builds off of its improved design a new mesh upper (similar to that of the Caldera 4 above) that offers more protection and a closer fit. Plenty of protection on the outside, yet breathable and comfortable on the inside, these shoes are a beast waiting to be unleashed. If maxed out cushion feels best on your feet, then take a look at the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5. And many models for rugged trails have the most dramatic drops, often 8 to 10 millimeters. Muddy trails have met their match with the Altra King MT. Thus this category covers the broadest spectrum of terrains. Footwear is one of our specialties here at Switchback Travel—we depend on it for just about outdoor activity that we do. 5.5 oz.Cushioning: Light/moderateDrop: 8mmWhat we like: A reliable go-to for technical terrain. Like the Lone Peak above, the MTN Racer features a wide toe box and locked-in waist and heel, lending all-day comfort for swollen and hard-working feet. The 14 Best Hiking Boots and Shoes of 2017. But for runs that mix together short sections of road and fairly easy trail (a popular combo if you’re running from home), the Challenger is one of the best designs we’ve used.See the Men's Hoka Challenger ATR 6  See the Women's Hoka Challenger ATR 6. The final entry on our list of the 10 best hiking shoes is the Men’s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe by La Sportiva. This should tell you two things: one, runners (and thru-hikers) love the Cascadia and turn to it year after year for technical trail needs. In addition, the aggressive outsole is one of our favorites, with substantial lugs and tacky Vibram Megagrip rubber that hold well in everything from dry dirt and mud to steep rock. An offshoot of the barefoot running movement, zero-drop trail runners keep the foot in its naturally flat position (most shoes here elevate the heel by 4 to 10mm). Among the larger trail running market, these are the most flexible, prioritizing comfort over all-out grip and support. It’s unlikely you’ll get as many miles out of your trail runners as you would a lightweight hiking shoe or full-on hiking boot, which are designed to handle more use and abuse. Salomon’s proprietary cushioning also takes the brunt of your foot’s impact, which helps to reduce fatigue. For tackling local trail networks or maintained paths that aren’t very technical or steep, a shoe in our easy trails category is best. But for light trail use, the Venture is a solid choice and a nice value.See the Men's Asics Gel-Venture 7  See the Women's Asics Gel-Venture 7. In the end, the Sense Ride 3 puts it all together better than most, and it has become our trusted companion for mountain missions that include a long trail approach and a variety of cross-country travel.See the Men's Salomon Sense Ride 3  See the Women's Salomon Sense Ride 3. Max Cushion Shoes. Category: All-around/easy trailsWeight: 1 lb. It’s here that their lightweight and aggressive Roclite G 275 excels. Saucony’s Peregrine has been an all-around favorite of ours over multiple generations, excelling in all of the categories that matter: traction, cushioning, protection, and weight. This spec was barely on the radar of folks outside the hardcore running community until the zero-drop fad hit a few years ago. Arch: Normal. After narrowing our list from dozens of models, we found the best trail running shoes for comfort, short trail runs, distance ultramarathons, and mud and steep inclines (and all of these shoes are good for ultralight backpacking on trails). Keep in mind that the 3-millimeter lugs are shorter than we’re used to seeing in a mountain running shoe (4mm is a more standard lug length) and don’t hold up on snow or deep mud as well as other designs. Finally, the updated “6” features a revamped upper made with post-consumer recycled plastic, and the greatly improved fit should appeal to most runners (wide sizes are also available). 4.5 oz.Cushioning: ModerateDrop: 4mmWhat we like: Nike’s proven road-running technology tailored for trail use.What we don’t: The Peregrine 11 above has a better outsole design. These trail running shoes are an affordable option that’re perfect for light trails. To help you answer these questions and many more, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the best fitting pair of trail running shoes along with our top recommendations. It won’t feel stiff and overkill on easy-going singletrack, but has the chops to handle a race like the Leadville Trail 100. The Best Hiking Shoes of 2018. All-rounders fall somewhere in between and are a great middle-ground option for most trail running objectives. Category: All-around/rugged trailsWeight: 1 lb. Tack on a medium-width toe box that fits a broad range of foot shapes—plus available wide sizes for both men and women—and the Speedgoat is our favorite trail running shoe of 2021. This will reduce the chance of injury and ensure that it's the right choice for you. These shoes can rip their way up steep trail runs, traverse long trails, and tackle the roughest mountain routes. A material that attaches to your shoe to prevent dust and debris from getting inside. Rugged-trail shoes increase foot protection and support, making them well suited for the varying trail conditions you’ll find on hiking … For our top picks, see our articles on the best hiking shoes and the best trail-running shoes. Another scenario where waterproofing may come in handy is if you use your trail runners for year-round hiking. The La Sportiva Bushido has been at the top of our trail-running shoe rankings for years thanks to its excellent traction, stability, and all-around performance on technical terrain. The aggressive outsoles on these off-trail running shoes have deep lugs for exceptional grip and embedded rock plates to protect your underfoot from jagged rocks. ALTRA Women’s ALW1957F Trail Running Shoe — Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking. Choosing a shoe that doesn’t fit the width of your foot can mean more blisters and swelling or result in an awkward floppy fit. And airy feel of a shoe that matches the width of your foot strikes the ground, the features. 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