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.

Want to join our wear testing team? Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

91

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. 

Altra Superior 2.0

74

2015

Altra Superior 2.0

The Altra Superior 2.0 is a mid-weight, zero drop shoe that can easily handle daily training duties and a variety of terrain. The major caveat with the Superior is the short, wide fit. 

La Sportiva Helios SR

81

2015

La Sportiva Helios SR

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

Montrail Bajada 2

78

2015

Montrail Bajada 2

Like the original, the Montrail Bajada 2 is a versatile, general purpose trail shoe. It can handle a wide range of applications, with the possible exception of aggressive running on technical terrain.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

80

2015

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR is a sub-9oz highly cushioned trail shoe built for long distance racing.  It offers a smooth ride at an unbelievable weight and could be Hoka’s best trail running shoe to date.

Topo Athletic Runventure

86

2015

Topo Athletic Runventure

The Runventure is a rugged trail runner from Topo Athletic that combes the company’s minimalist construction principles with aggressive features to help you blast through technical or challenging terrain. 

New Balance MT 101

93

2015

New Balance MT 101

The New Balance MT 101 is a re-issue of the New Balance MT 101, a sub 8oz lightweight trail shoe with a 10mm drop and unsurpassed technical ability.

Topo Athletic Oterro

89

2014

Topo Athletic Oterro

The Topo Athletic Oterro fits exceedingly well, and—while not the most responsive shoe—provides a great combination of ground feel and comfort.  It proved best for trail runners or fast packers who want to maintain pure foot biomechanics without compromising traction, mobility, or protection on rugged trails. 

Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3

68

2014

Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3

The Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3 is a 10-ounce shoe designed for aggressive running on loose, sloppy terrain. Although the Fellcross is described as a specialty shoe, it is actually tantalizingly close to being one of the premier technical trail shoes on the market.

Hoka One One Mafate Speed

73

2014

Hoka One One Mafate Speed

The Hoka One One Mafate Speed claimed to be a bombproof trail shoe sporting maximal cushioning, 4mm off set, and huge 30+mm stack heights, while also reducing weight. This shoe is best suited for mid to ultra trail running on primary non-technical straightforward trails. 

Mizuno Wave Kazan

67

2014

Mizuno Wave Kazan

The Mizuno Wave Kazan is a credible general-purpose trail shoe that should appeal to Mizuno brand loyalists and/or recreational runners who are just starting out on trails.   

The North Face Ultra Equity

77

2014

The North Face Ultra Equity

The North Face Ultra Equity is fairly typical example of the cushioned stability shoe. There’s nothing really remarkable about it—either good or bad.

Inov-8 Race Ultra 290

72

2014

Inov-8 Race Ultra 290

The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is a mid-weight long-distance shoe with a firm feel that will appeal to runners with wide and/or high volume feet. 

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail

76

2014

New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail

The New Balance Fresh Foam 980 Trail might just have one of the best mid-soles out there. If it weren’t for the narrow forefoot, it would be a nearly perfect shoe for long runs on groomed trails and dirt roads.

Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco 3

75

2014

Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco 3

The Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco 3 is a classic pre-minimalist trail running shoe designed for comfort, protection, and support. What really stoods out about the Trabuco was the balanced feel.

Saucony Xodus 5

85

2014

Saucony Xodus 5

The Saucony Exodus 5 is a rugged, cushioned trail shoe built for protection and comfort on demanding terrain. 

Brooks Pure Grit 3

84

2014

Brooks Pure Grit 3

The improved traction and stability combined with a near perfect balance between cushioning and responsiveness make the Pure Grit 3 a compelling long distance shoe for the performance-oriented runner.

Altra Lone Peak 2

79

2014

Altra Lone Peak 2

Although marketed as a zero-drop natural running platform, the Altra Lone Peak 2 is a decent all-around trail runner that can handle technical trail with the best of them. 

Merrell Bare Access Trail

93

2014

Merrell Bare Access Trail

The Merrell Bare Access Trail worked best for minimalist runners looking for a small amount of comfort and protection for long trail days, or trail runners seeking a low and lightweight race shoe for distances up to 50K. 

Merrell All Out Rush

87

2014

Merrell All Out Rush

The All Out Rush hits a sweet spot mix of rugged sole, 6mm drop, comfortable fit, and a rugged upper. 

[12  >>