Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Best Trail Running Shoes

Picking the best trail running shoes depends entirely on the type of runner you are and the type of trails you’re running. We divide our trail running shoe reviews into two main categories—the Best Lightweight Trail Running Shoes, for stronger runners looking for a faster, more agile, close-to-the-trail experience, and the Best Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, for trail runners who want more cushioning and protection from trail hazards. Of course, if road running shoes are really what you're after, check out our tests of the Best Road Running Shoes.

Each season, our expert team reviews the best trail running shoes head to head against each other in each of these two primary categories. Each tester spends approximately 2-3 weeks running in each shoe, providing objective feedback on comfort, speed, security of fit, agility and responsiveness. We run on a variety of trails—from flat and rolling to steep, technical mountain trails, on dry terrain and in mud and snow. We never let our advertisers or brand biases influence our reviews in any way, so you get unfiltered, candid assessments directly from our experts.

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Asics Gel-FujiRado Review

84

2017

Asics Gel-FujiRado Review

The brand-new Asics Gel-FujiRado is a visually striking shoe with distinctive features like a mid-height flexible bootie and micro-adjustable BOA retention system instead of laces.

Altra Timp Review

82

2017

Altra Timp Review

The Timp is a new, versatile model from Altra that fills the gap between the moderately cushioned Lone Peak 3.5 and the maximalist Olympus 2.5.

La Sportiva Akyra Review

85

2017

La Sportiva Akyra Review

The La Sportiva Akyra is a burly, aggressive all-mountain shoe that’s not designed for easy cruising or tame groomed trails.

Hoka One One Stinson ATR 4 Review

86

2017

Hoka One One Stinson ATR 4 Review

Hoka One One’s radical oversized midsole design is the standout feature of the Stinson ATR 4, and it’s a solid choice for rolling through ultramarathons and other long days on the trail where comfort and cushioning are paramount.

Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid Review

88

2017

Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid Review

The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid brings Altra’s proven zero-drop platform and wide toe box to a hybrid trail runner that doubles as a lightweight, warm weather hiking shoe.

New Balance 910v4 Review

88

2017

New Balance 910v4 Review

The New Balance 910v4 is a versatile, comfortable trail shoe that can handle a variety of terrain, but fails to excel at any particular purpose.

The North Face Ultra Vertical Review

90

2017

The North Face Ultra Vertical Review

The North Face Ultra Vertical is a agile, responsive trail runner that balances comfort, responsiveness and weight (as long as you can get the fit right).

Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 Review

92

2017

Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 Review

The revamped Speedgoat 2 from Hoka One One retains the versatility and lively feel of the original while substantially improving on the fit and traction.

New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi

81

2017

New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi

The New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi is a smooth and comfortable lightweight trail runner that excels on groomed surfaces and dirt roads. 

Montrail Rogue FKT

77

2017

Montrail Rogue FKT

The Montrail Rogue FKT is a mid-weight trail shoe that provides solid all-around performance on a variety of surfaces. 

Inov8 Trail Talon 250

82

2017

Inov8 Trail Talon 250

The Inov8 Trail Talon 250 is a lightweight, low-profile trail runner that excels on technical terrain.

Brooks Pure Grit 5

85

2017

Brooks Pure Grit 5

The Brooks Pure Grit 5 is a mid-weight, low-profile, general purpose trail runner with a natural ride and outstanding comfort and flexibility. 

Brooks Mazama

79

2017

Brooks Mazama

The Brooks Mazama is a mid-weight, low-profile, racing machine with unparalleled responsiveness. 

Saucony Peregrine 7

88

2017

Saucony Peregrine 7

The Saucony Peregrine 7 is an outstanding general purpose trail running shoe that will appeal to a wide range of runners.

New Balance Vazee Summit 2

89

2017

New Balance Vazee Summit 2

The New Balance Vazee Summit 2 is a lightweight and responsive trail runner with excellent traction, speed, and versatility.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3

82

2017

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 is a highly cushioned trail shoe with a smooth ride and surprising responsiveness.

Altra Superior 3

80

2017

Altra Superior 3

The Altra Superior 3 is a lightweight zero-drop trail runner with excellent handling and comfort.

Scarpa Spin

74

2017

Scarpa Spin

The Scarpa Spin is a nimble but stiff general purpose shoe with great traction and handling.

Arc’teryx Norvan

64

2017

Arc’teryx Norvan

The Arc’teryx Norvan is a heavy-duty but cumbersome trail running shoe built for rugged terrain.

Scarpa Proton

83

2016

Scarpa Proton

The Scarpa Proton is a versatile, all-around trail runner that lacks distinctive features to set it apart in a crowded field. 

Salomon Speedcross 4

87

2016

Salomon Speedcross 4

Fans of the toothy, aggressive Salomon Speedcross will be relieved that the new Speedcross 4 receives only minor updates to the terrific previous version.

Pearl Izumi Trail N2v3

87

2016

Pearl Izumi Trail N2v3

The Pearl Izumi Trail N2v3 is a neutral, versatile trail shoe that fills in the gap in the E:Motion trail line between the maximalist N3 and the stripped down N1v2. 

On Running Cloudventure Midtop

90

2016

On Running Cloudventure Midtop

The new Cloudventure Midtop from Switzerland’s On Running is a high-quality trail runner that uses the company’s proprietary CloudTec sole pods for comfort and responsiveness.

Inov-8 X-Claw 275

90

2016

Inov-8 X-Claw 275

The Inov-8 X-Claw 275 combines substantial tread with protective uppers for an off-road shoe that’s responsive, flexible, and comfortable.

Pearl Izumi Trail N3

91

2016

Pearl Izumi Trail N3

The Pearl Izumi Trail N3 is a beefy new addition to the company’s off-road E:Motion line-up that runs smoothly and is lightweight for a maximalist trail shoe.

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid

87

2016

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid

The new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid shares a sole with the terrific new Lone Peak 3.0, but adds a layer of waterproofing and an ankle-wrapping, mid-height upper. It’s a shoe that does double-duty as a trail runner and lightweight hiker.

Altra Lone Peak 3.0

88

2016

Altra Lone Peak 3.0

The revamped Altra Lone Peak 3.0 retains what trail runners love about the model but adds positive structural and visual updates.

Adidas Terrex X-King

82

2016

Adidas Terrex X-King

The new Terrex X-King from Adidas is essentially a gnarly mountain bike tire strapped around a removable midsole. It’s an innovative, unique approach to trail running shoes.

Salewa Ultra Train

90

2016

Salewa Ultra Train

Salewa’s new Ultra Train is the company’s first foray into traditional trail running shoes.  It’s a versatile off-road model that draws on the European trekking giant’s long history of high-quality mountain gear. 

Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3

84

2016

Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3

The Skechers GoTrail Ultra3 is a maximalist off-road shoe that is a ground-up revamp of last year’s GoRun Ultra 2.

Scott Kinabalu Enduro

69

2016

Scott Kinabalu Enduro

The new Scott Kinabalu Enduro is an all-around trail runner with an aggressive, durable Vibram outsole.

Montrail Trans Alps

86

2016

Montrail Trans Alps

The new Montrail Trans Alps is a burly mountain running shoe for the most challenging terrain.

Montrail Caldorado

91

2016

Montrail Caldorado

The Montrail Caldorado is an all-around off-road shoe that is responsive and versatile on the trail.

La Sportiva Akasha

90

2016

La Sportiva Akasha

The La Sportiva Akasha is a brand new off-road model that balances technical trail performance with comfort.

New Balance Leadville v3

92

2016

New Balance Leadville v3

The New Balance Leadville v3 is an update to the 1210v2 with only minor revisions to what was already a terrific ultra-marathon shoe.

Asics Gel-FujiEndurance

84

2016

Asics Gel-FujiEndurance

The Asics Gel-FujiEndurance is a trail/road hybrid built with a new PlasmaGuard waterproofing treatment.

Saucony Peregrine 6

88

2016

Saucony Peregrine 6

The Saucony Peregrine 6 is a mid-weight, highly capable general purpose trail shoe.

Altra Superior 2.0

78

2016

Altra Superior 2.0

The Altra Superior 2.0 is a mid- to light-weight, general purpose shoe on a zero drop platform.

La Sportiva Helios 2

71

2016

La Sportiva Helios 2

The La Sportiva Helios 2 is soft yet responsive lightweight trail runner with a unique outsole pattern.

Pearl Izumi Trail N1v2

80

2016

Pearl Izumi Trail N1v2

The Pearl Izumi Trail N1v2 is a mid-weight, highly responsive low profile shoe.

Salomon Sense Pro 2

78

2016

Salomon Sense Pro 2

The Salomon Sense Pro 2 is a mid-weight trail shoe that excels at higher speeds.

Scarpa Neutron

72

2016

Scarpa Neutron

The Scarpa Neutron is a durable, mid-weight mileage workhorse with the traction and protection needed to tackle tough terrain.

Salomon S-Lab Wings

88

2015

Salomon S-Lab Wings

The Salomon S-Lab Wings is clearly a shoe built for performance racing and training. Everything about this shoe is built for running hard and fast, from the responsive midsole to the unique internal sleeve fit system to the low-profile outsole lugs. 

Hoka One One Speedgoat

75

2015

Hoka One One Speedgoat

The Hoka One One Speedgoat is designed for aggressive trail running, and has the outsole and midsole to back it up.  Unfortunately the last and upper presented significant fit issues for a number of our testers. 

Salomon Speedcross Pro

78

2015

Salomon Speedcross Pro

The Salomon Speedcross Pro is a rugged and aggressive shoe built for shredding loose, rugged terrain.

Montrail FluidFlex ST

80

2015

Montrail FluidFlex ST

The Montrail Fluid Flex ST is a lightweight and supremely comfortable shoe. Although it struggles somewhat on technical terrain, it shines at more up-tempo paces on runnable surfaces.

The North Face Ultra MT

83

2015

The North Face Ultra MT

The North Face Ultra MT is an aggressive, mid-weight trail shoe designed for difficult trail conditions

Brooks PureGrit 4

89

2015

Brooks PureGrit 4

The Brooks PureGrit 4 is amid-weight, 4mm drop all-purpose trail shoe with excellent traction, handling, and speed.

The North Face Ultra Cardiac

76

2015

The North Face Ultra Cardiac

The North Face Ultra Cardiac is a comfortable and versatile mid-weight mileage workhorse that can handle a variety of terrain and running speeds.

ASICS Gel Fuji Attack 4

77

2015

ASICS Gel Fuji Attack 4

The ASICS Gel Fuji Attack 4 is a cushioned and comfortable trail shoe that excels on groomed trail. 

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