If you’re going to spend hours running (or hiking) on trails, you need the right trail running shoes. Trail running shoes provide increased traction and protection to keep you sure-footed on even the roughest terrain. Be sure to check out our choices for the best trail running shoes available right now, each will appeal to a different type of runner.
Best Trail Running Shoes 2020
If you’re a trail runner, you probably already know about the Salomon Speedcross 5. It’s Salomon’s high-grip, high-flex trail racer. The QuickLace system combined with a supple upper mean you get a secure fit no matter what your feet are shaped like and no matter what you’re running through. It’s designed to keep your foot totally still within the shoe from heel to toe.
That upper is bonded to a sole with some serious traction; these are massive, sharp lugs that dig into dirt and grip slick rocks on any trail. The outsole’s rubber compound is designed to balance durability and traction, giving you the optimum combination of both. And the moderate amount of cushion keeps all of that from weighing you down too much.
adidas has been upping its game in the trail world, and the Vigor Bounce is evidence. There are very few places you can get this much technology for less than a hundred bucks. It all starts with the advanced rubber compound used for the sole. You can bet that adidas learned from its acquisition of FiveTen when designing outsoles.
The adidas Vigor Bounce midsole keeps the shoe from feeling like a spike, though. It cushions your foot impact and returns energy to keep you running as efficiently as possible. The upper is a seamless knit to improve comfort. In short, you get everything you could want from a trail shoe, from the upper to the outsole.
The Cascadia has been a long-time favorite of trail runners, and there’s no question why. These are highly durable, highly protective, run-in-any-conditions trail shoes. It starts with the sole. The outsole is thick and includes rock shields to protect you from sharp points, and there’s a lot of cushioning to keep your feet comfortable on long, rocky runs.
Add a Gore-Tex upper to keep water out, and you have a rugged shoe that’s ready for anything. Brooks’s BioMoGo DNA sole keeps everything flexing nicely, though, so you don’t feel like you’re running in wooden clogs. They even have a Brooks Cascadia 13 wide version available.
Like the Cascadia, the Peregrine is a long-time favorite of trail runners. As with Saucony shoes, the Peregrine is probably best for people with low-volume feet. If you need a lot of space between the arch and the top of the shoe, the Saucony Peregrine 8 might not be a good fit.
If that sounds like your kind of shoe, though, you’ll be treated to Saucony’s dynamic upper that moves with your foot to provide maximum comfort and security. You also get an aggressive tread that’s equally suited to acceleration and braking. The PWRTRAC outsole provides a solid grip without sacrificing too much durability.
While true minimalist running shoes have started to fall out of fashion, there are still many runners who want less shoe than the big, burly trail runners common at running stores. The Brooks PureGrit 8 is for those people. It has more padding and protection than a true minimal shoe, but it still gives you a great low-to-the-ground feel.
The idea behind the PureGrit line is that you should be able to feel the trail. And with a little less cushioning, you can. Less heel-to-toe drop helps, too. Combined with great grip from the tacky, lugged outsole, it’ll make you feel right at home on the trails (not to mention a whole lot faster than you were with your last heavy pair of trail kicks).
You don’t see many high-top trail running shoes, but if you’re running in sandy, dusty, or wet terrain, you’ll appreciate the added protection. The mesh upper keeps debris out of your shoes and socks while ensuring a great fit around your ankle.
One of the notable features of the La Sportive Uragano GTX Shoes are its massive lugs. They provide huge traction, and with V-shaped treads, give you extra grip for propulsion. The Vs are reversed on the back half of the sole, helping you brake without losing traction and sliding. Combine all of that with Gore-Tex to keep you dry and a draw cord for quick, secure lacing, and you have a trail shoe that can handle anything the mountains throw at you.
The Spin Ultra looks more like a skate shoe than a trail runner, but Scarpa knows what they’re doing. It’s made for longer-distance runs up to ultramarathons. There’s no Gore-Tex in this shoe, and that significantly decreases weight for dry runs. Along with the lightweight mesh and micro-nubuck upper, that makes this a great shoe for going fast.
The 6mm drop is also a nice feature; several other best-selling trail shoes have 10mm, so if you’re looking to get a little closer to the ground without going zero-drop, this is a solid choice. The Vibram sole keeps you anchored when you need traction, and the Sock-Fit System further reduces weight.
You might not expect to see The North Face on a list of top trail running shoes, but the Ultra 110 is a force to be reckoned with. A few things make it really stand out, like the inclusion of leather in the Gore-Tex uppers—these polyurethane-coated leather mud guards help keep your feet protected and dry.
The soles on The North Face Ultra 110 are just as impressive. The UltrATAC soles employ an aggressive tread pattern to keep traction on the slipperiest terrain. With a rock plate and a midsole shank for support, you’ll keep good form and reduce the likelihood of hard hits to the soles of your feet. This certainly isn’t a light shoe, but it’ll keep you going for a long time.
If you’re looking for a neutral shoe and don’t need a lot of pronation support, the Wildhorse is a great choice. The Zoom Air pocket in the heel adds a level of comfort that foam-only soles can’t match.
But the Wildhorse is more than just comfortable and snappy. It’s also very protective and will keep you upright. The inclusion of a rock plate keeps your feet from getting too beat up, and a combination of rubber types enhance both durability and traction. The toe bumper adds another level of protection to make your run even more comfortable. These make for a nice pair of Nike trail running shoes that are comfortable to wear on the trail and the street or the gym.
When you first see the Provision, you think “that’s a road shoe.” And you’re right . . . but, like the venerable Brooks Adrenaline GTS, it’s also a trail shoe. If you run both road and trail and you want a single shoe, this is one of your best bets.
You won’t get as much protection as you will with other shoes; there’s a notable lack of a rock plate or a toe bumper. But this zero-drop speedster has some serious negative tread in the sole—enough to keep you from sliding all over the trail. With its light weight and signature Altra comfort, that makes it great for all-around runners.
Trail Running Shoe Price Comparison
- Salomon Speedcross 5 – ($130)
- adidas Performance Vigor Bounce – ($82)
- Brooks Cascadia 13 – ($119.95)
- Saucony Peregrine 8 – ($120)
- Brook PureGrit 8 – ($119.95)
- La Sportiva Uragano GTX – ($180)
- Scarpa Spin Ultra – ($148.95)
- The North Face Ultra 110 – ($120)
- Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 – ($109.95)
- Altra Provision 3.5 – ($119.95)