Trail running’s popularity continues to grow year after year. Those who take up the sport quickly find out that regular running shoes just don’t cut it on the trail. Having specific trail running shoes is vital to comfort and longevity on the trails.
There are quite a few brands and models of trail runners on the market. The ones that work for you will be largely dependent on the terrain you usually run on as well as the level of support and breathability you need.
To help you get started on your quest for the perfect pair of trail runners, here are our favorites on the market right now.
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Best for Exploring: Salomon XA Pro 3D
Salomon is great at creating super specific shoes for all kinds of different terrains. We like the XA Pro 3D for its ability to take you off trail and keep your feet protected. These offer excellent protection and durability, as well as a secure and comfortable fit.
These are not light, so they really are best for trail runners who do more hiking and exploring than distance running. The water resistant outsole and mud guard technology adds to their ability to be great for off trail exploring and all season trail running.
While perhaps too heavy for some runners, the Salomon XA Pro 3D makes our list due to its solid construction and hiking-centered performance.
Saucony Peregrine 7: Best Versatility
The Peregrine 7 is the latest version of the renowned Peregrine shoe from Saucony. These take the prize for most versatile, primarily because there are so many types of users who claim they love theirs. From the Spartan racers to distance trail runners, it seems that there is a lot to love about this shoe.
These have a wide toe box, which is another reason they are so well liked – it seems that many current trail runners are reducing width, which is a problem for those who need the room in the toe. The traction on the Peregrine 7 is one of the best out there and works well for a variety of terrain.
The Peregrine 7 is highly breathable and features Saucony’s Everun technology – just a few more reasons why this shoe is so incredibly versatile. No matter what kind of trail runner you need, definitely take a look at the Saucony Peregrine 7.
Best Comfort: Altra Superior 3.0
Altra likes to claim that they took into account all the customer feedback they were getting about the Superior 2.0 in order to craft the Superior 3.0. It sure seems like they did, though, because this latest model is a fantastic trail runner with maximum comfortability.
Many trail running shoes have an issue with running small (why is that?), and that was a common complaint with the Superior 2.0. The Superior 3.0 seems more true to size. The upper is also more durable, and the outsole is designed to be more stable.
The Altra 3.0 also occupies a unique space of in-between – they are well liked by many barefoot/minimalist runners, and they are go-to for some trail runners looking to go more minimalist. They do fine on rugged trails and for distance runners, so these are just a great all-around shoe for a number of types of runners.
Best for Distance: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4
The Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 provides an excellent balance of cushion, comfort, support, and stability. It is a perfect shoe for distance trail runners, though it will perform best on dry, flat trails. The fit is excellent, and feet feel incredibly secure in the Kiger.
Nike’s waffle sole is well known for its grip, and this trail runner is no exception. Also featured are Nike’s Zoom Air pods in the heel and forefront for added comfort and support. These are known and loved for the fit – the fit is very versatile and adapts to most feet.
The Nike Zoom Terra Kiger trail running shoes are not great for rugged terrains, but they are very versatile and comfortable for distance and ultra-distance running. These are a great pick for most runners and should work well for most new trail runners especially.
Best Minimalist: Merrell Trail Glove 4
Minimalist trail running shoes have legions of fans, but it’s tough to find minimalist trail runners that also have good traction and support. The Merrell Trail Glove 4 is able to accomplish all those and more, offering a fantastic shoe for various trail conditions.
The Trail Glove’s outsole uses Merrell’s new Vibram TC5+ material. This change in material gives the Trail Glove optimal traction. Additionally, Merrell’s Trail Protect Plate offers runners protection from debris. Some runners don’t love the mid-sole, and the inserts do not come out to accommodate orthotics, but the toe box is relatively wide.
While there are minimalist trail runners that are more, well, minimalist, we like the Trail Glove for its breathability, traction, and fit. The Trail Glove is a shoe that gives the minimalist, barefoot feel many runners seek while also providing enough protection to take on variable terrain. And, it’s a good-looking shoe that works for everyday use.
Best Waterproof: Topo Athletic Hydroventure
The Topo Hydroventure can boast about a few things: it’s the lightest fully waterproof trail runner on the market, and it received recognition from National Geographic on its Gear of the Year roundup. Titles aside, the Hydroventure is an excellent trail running shoe that provides the real waterproof technology so many crave.
In addition to the waterproofing, the Hydroventure is also known for its great fit, with a wide toe box for toe splay and a narrow mid foot. The rock plate gives underfoot protection up front, and overall the traction is fantastic. In terms of weight, these are about middle of the road at 9.7 oz – but, for a fully waterproof shoe, that’s pretty astounding and well worth the trade off when you need waterproofing.
It’s not just the lightweight waterproof design of the Hydroventure that makes it great. It has superior breathability, a comfortable fit that makes it useful for distance, and high traction outsole that makes it great for all weather and a variety of trail conditions.