Trail running continues to grow in popularity as more and more people discover it. It is a blend of running and hiking and typically occurs on hiking trails. Those who take up trail running have found that it’s an enjoyable form of exercise because of the challenges and views. With various ascents and descents among trails being in different conditions throughout the year, having the right gear is important.
In addition to encountering both the elements and diverse trail conditions, trail running has elements of both running and hiking, so it’s necessary to find shoes that are made specifically for this activity. Hiking shoes are too big and heavy to run in, and traditional running shoes don’t usually provide the kind of support and grip needed to run on hiking trails. The solution is to pick up a pair of trail running shoes.
There are plenty of brands and models of trail running shoes. The best type for you will not only fit well, it will also work with the terrain you typically run on.
Here are some of our favorite trail running shoes for women.
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Most Versatile: Saucony Peregrine 7
We love the Saucony Peregrine 7 for its versatility. This is Saucony’s 7th iteration of the popular Peregrine, and each subsequent version makes some important improvements. Thus, it is well made, well thought out, and a good value.
The Peregrine 7 is highly breathable. This is one of the smart design enhancements Saucony has made with the Peregrine model. They are ready to wear and use right out of the box, with a little stiffness in the soles. It is lightweight and neutral in profile, adding to that versatility factor that drew us to them.
The main complaint that we and others have about the Peregrine 7 is that they run at least a half size small. This, of course, is easily addressed but is good to keep in mind if you’re ordering online.
Best Barefoot: Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe
Fans of minimalist footwear, and barefoot running shoes in particular will like the Merrell Vapor Glove 3. It is one of the most reasonably-priced trail running shoes out there, as well. These are the newest version of Merrell’s popular Vapor Glove trail runners and just came out a few months ago.
Minimalist or barefoot running shoes cater to a niche group of runners, and trail running in this type of shoe can be tricky. These are lacking a bit in the arch support area, but that is expected in this kind of design. Finding shoes that fit like socks and are as low profile as possible naturally means there will be slightly less support.
We are also big fans of the looks on the Vapor Glove. They have some great color combos and designs and look great while also fitting into minimalist design expectations. The outsole is good on a variety of surfaces and offers great performance.
Most Comfortable: ASICS GT-2000 5 Trail Runner
The ASICS GT-2000 5 is our pick for most comfortable trail runners. These are considered light-trail and have moderate cushioning. They work great for keeping your feet comfy all day off-trail, too. This is a great “entry-level” trail runner – someone new to the sport looking for her first pair should find these to be good for just starting out.
Like several other makes and models, these are known to be at least a half size too small, so keep that in mind if you’re ordering online. These are highly breathable, too, which is another plus for newcomers as well as experienced trail runners.
In terms of pricing, the list price of these might feel a little high, especially for moderate/light-trail runners. We think they are worth the price for comfortability and durability, and for new trail runners, the ASICS GT-2000 5 will be a great entry shoe.
Best for Distance: Brooks Caldera
The Brooks Caldera is an all-around good trail running shoe. It is comfortable, well-cushioned, and has great stability and grip. All of these combined make it our pick for the best trail runner for distance. This model is a smart pick for runners who like to go the long way.
The Caldera looks beefy, but it’s actually really lightweight. It is also very breathable thanks to the construction of the upper part of the shoe. Price-wise, this is a bit more expensive than some other trail running shoes, but it’s worth every penny.
The Brooks Caldera is a good shoe for a runner looking for the next step up from their first pair, or for a runner who wants a pair of shoes that will hold up to long runs on variable terrain. Whether you use them every day or for ultra-long distance, this versatile pair of shoes will be there for you.
Most Wiggle Room: Altra Lone Peak 3.0
If you have orthotics, get swollen feet when hiking, or have wide feet, the rugged Alta Lone Peak 3.0 is right for you. The toe box is large – some say extra-large and is go-to for runners needing more room than most trail runners provide.
It’s not just the extra room in the Altra Lone Peak that’s worth mentioning – there’s plenty to cheer about here. It is well designed for distance, and it features sturdy construction and moves well over varied terrains.
The Altra Lone Peak is a great trail runner for ultra-distance and everyday use alike, but it’s that large toe box that sets it apart from some of its competitors. You get room to spread out your toes on runs, or you can comfortably add inserts if needed. It’s great for runners with wide feet too. You’ll be impressed by this one.
Best Traction: Salomon Speedcross 4
When you’re hitting tough terrain on your runs, you need a trail runner with excellent traction – that’s where the Salomon Speedcross 4 comes in. These aren’t as lightweight as some of our other picks, but they will do the trick when you’re running through mud, creeks, or on rocky trails. Built for technical trails and varied trail conditions, these shoes are best for those who stay off the road.
Given the durability, the Speedcross 4 is surprisingly breathable, thanks to the Anti-Debris mesh on the upper. It is also quite comfortable if a little narrow in the toe (a common issue with many new models of trail runners). Salomon’s Contigrip outsole rubber keeps you upright on slick surfaces.
For more advanced trail runners who tend to go way off the beaten path, the Salomon Speedcross 4 will be your go-to shoe for all seasons. These can be a bit spendy but are worth every penny when other trail runners are not cutting it.