Did you decide you want to try trail running? Or are you already a trail runner and searching for the best trail running shoes available?

Either way, you need something that will give you protection, traction, and stability on the uneven terrain you will encounter. This guide will teach you how to choose the correct trail running shoe and provides a list of the best shoes available, updated for 2017.

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I’m a huge trail running fan and these are my preferred shoes for working out and doing outside runs in. Trail running has become quite popular these days and as such, there’s a huge variety of different trail running shoes to choose from.

There are the shoes that stand out from the pack as the best.

Why You Need Trail Running shoes

All shoes are not created equal. What may work on the road or track may not be effective as keeping your feet in place while on the trail. Furthermore, these shoes normally have a thicker sole so as to protect you from roots and rocks. There are three main components to trail shoes, protection, traction, and stability. We will look at these individually and see how they affect your decision in choosing trail running shoes.

Protection means keeping your feet safe from trail debris, such as the rocks stated above. They have more protection underfoot, as well as toe bumpers in case you accidentally run trip over something. Manufacturers who create these trail shoes have become innovative when protecting your feet. They have created patterns that look like trails or the bones in your feet. The manufacturers have tested these to ensure you receive the most protection when wearing your shoe. Furthermore, some shoes come with an attachment point for gaiters or a screen guard near the tongue. If you are planning a long run in some questionable terrain, these additions will give you extra comfort.

Traction on trail running shoes is slightly different than road shoes. The outsole on trail shoes will have more of a flat pattern. In addition, the rubber on the outsole will be softened slightly so it can feel somewhat sticky. This helps it grip rocks as you run along the trail. If you are going to run on trails that are mostly dusty or full of mud, then your outsoles need to be a little more aggressive. This is so you do not fall or get out of control if you have to stop suddenly.

Stability is a necessity when running on trails because of the uneven terrain and unpredictable surfaces. Most of the time, trail running shoes are thinner and have lower to the ground midsoles that tend to be denser. Along with this, they have supportive uppers and heel counters to ensure you have the responsiveness you need and lower the chance of turning an ankle while on your run.

How to Choose the Right Shoe

There are a few things to know and think about when deciding what type of trail running shoe to purchase. The first, and probably most important question is what how will you use these shoes? Are they going to be for occasional runs, racing, or faster paced runs? If you are an occasional trail runner and have a favorite pair of road running shoes, try the trail version of those shoes if they are available. For trail racing or faster runs, you will want lightweight trail running shoes.

The next question you should think about is if you will need waterproof or breathable liners in your shoes. The answer is yes if you live in wet climates or plan on crossing a few streams or rivers on your trail. If you live in a dry climate, you will not need waterproof liners. These will give you more breathability and keep your feet more comfortable during the long, hot day.

When deciding on the right type of shoe, it is important to know what your foot type is. Do you have a high, normal, or flat arch? Different trail running shoes are designed for diverse foot types, so keep this in mind when reading the descriptions of each shoe. Once you try the shoe on, make sure you have room enough to wiggle your toes and the shoe is snug on your feet. This will help to prevent bruised toenails and blisters.

There are two tests you can do when trying on trail running shoes to see if they are right for you. First, climb up stairs by taking them two at a time. Take notice of your heel as it should not move more than 1/8 of an inch while you are going up the stairs. If they do, try adding an insole or changing socks. If your heel still moves, try a different pair of shoes as these are not a good fit. The second test is to go downhill in the shoes you are looking at. If your shoes hit the front of the shoe and feel uncomfortable, they are too tight.

Tips for Using Your New Trail Running Shoes

Are you thinking about using your trail running shoes for backpacking? Good news, you can as long as you take into consideration a few things. Make sure your ankles and knees are strong enough to support your backpack as well, otherwise you may need shoes that offer more stability. If the terrain is too rough, the shoes may not be the best idea. Another thing to think about is how long you want your trail running shoes to last. Taking them backpacking will put extra wear and tear on them, so if you plan on backpacking on a regular basis, it is a better idea to purchase hiking boots so both pairs of shoes last longer.

ALSO READ:  The Best Stretches for Runners

Plantar Fasciitis and Trail Running

Plantar Fasciitis can happen with trail running, so you want to be prepared for it. Some trail running shoes go for a more minimalist design, however; if you have suffered from Plantar Fasciitis in the past, you will want to stay away from these types of shoes. The best ones for trail running with Plantar Fasciitis are shoes that offer stability and motion control.

Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that happens when your plantar fascia becomes inflamed or has micro tears. It is usually caused by overstretching or overuse of the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that connects the heel to the balls of your feet. The pain is first noticed in the heel of the foot, because that is where the smallest connection point of the plantar fascia is located. If you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis from time to time, choosing the right trail running shoes are most important to keep the pain away.

1  Saucony Peregrine 6



The Saucony Peregrine 6 is designed exclusively for the trail and those with neutral pronation. It is lightweight with a flexible midsole, so it is perfect for casual runs or racing on the trail. The outsole is designed to grip rocks so you can push your way over the trail. Saucony says these have three times more grip than other shoes because of the type of rubber used on the outsole. Furthermore, they have rear stoppers so your foot stays securely in place when you need it to.

Why They Work

The Peregrine 6 has TPU heel cups to keep your foot in place as your run. This is very helpful when you are on tricky surfaces. Another nice feature of this shoe is the EVERUN heel insert. This provides you with an 83% energy return along with exceptional cushioning to keep your heel protection. If you are traditionally a heel striker, this will make your run more comfortable.


While climbing hills on a regular basis, some people notice blisters on their heels because of the back heel plate. These are not stability or motion control shoes, so if you need something to control pronation and support your arch you may have to look elsewhere.

  • Pros: EVERUN heel insert, lightweight, extra grip on the outsole
  • Cons: Heel plate can be hit or miss for some

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Buy Saucony Peregrin 6 Trail Running Shoes on Amazon

2 Asics Gel-Fujilyte



If you are searching for a fast, lightweight shoe to take on the trails, the Asics Gel-Fujilyte is the one for you. It is breathable to keep you comfortable while still providing protection against rocks and stones. The shoe is designed for neutral pronators and made specifically for trail running.

Why We Recommend Them

The reversed lugs on the outsole of the shoe give you traction on both uphill and downhill terrain. The shoes can be worn on a variety of surfaces because of their rugged design and rock protection in the forefoot. The midsole has EVA cushioning to ensure you are comfortable and provide you with a somewhat responsive shoe.


The sole of this shoe may wear out faster than others, according to our in-depth research. In addition, some people noted the mesh upper wearing out in a short amount of time. Another concern is the sizing of the shoe, it can be small compared to other brands.

Pros: Reversed lugs, rugged design, lightweight

Cons: Durability and sizing issues

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Buy ASICS GEL Fuji Lyte on Amazon


3 Brooks Cascadia 11



The Brooks Cascadia 11 has great traction to keep you secure on both wet and dry surfaces. The mesh upper is breathable and lightweight to help keep you cool and dry. The Cascadia 11 is a well-rounded trail running shoe that will provide you with protection and support through all types of terrain. It’s also one of the more popular running shoes on the market, loved by millions of trail runners around the world.

Why We Recommend Them

The Cascadia 11 is designed to give you a platform of balance and protection to meet your trail running needs. It has a suspension system that aids in balance when you are on uneven ground or rocks. The outsole is rugged and will keep a hold on various types of surfaces. The midsole conforms to the shape of your foot to give you an individualized cushioning system.


While the shoes are outstanding in many areas, they are not designed for those looking for ultralight running shoes. The shoe is somewhat heavier than other trail runnings shoes, so if you are needing a shoe for racing or fast courses, this is not the one for you. Through our research, some people noted the Cascadia 11 shoe is narrower than the 10s. Another concern people had was the tongue rubbing on the top of their foot during their run, which became uncomfortable.

  • Pros: Rugged outsole, midsole conforms to your foot, provides balance
  • Cons: Heavier, tongue rubs on top of foot

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Check Prices on Amazon


4  Montrail Caldorado



The Montrail Caldorado is a comfortable shoe that has noticeably great grip. It is a good amount of flexibility and cushioning, so you will be comfortable as you move over uneven terrain.

Why We Recommend Them

The Caldorado features FluidGuide technology that provides stability in your midfoot. This will give you a smooth experience while trail running, yet it is also flexible enough that it does not feel clunky. It has a wider forefoot to give you enough room and comes in wide sizes for those who need even more room. The outsole has extra durability in higher wear areas so it will last longer. The TrailShield will protect your feel while you are on the run.


It does not come in many color options, so if you are not fond of bright colored shoes, you may need to look elsewhere. Another concern we found through our research were people did not like the laces the shoe came with because they were somewhat short. This can be fixed with purchasing your own laces, but that will add to the amount the shoe costs and it is already pretty expensive.

Pros: FluidGuide technology, wide forefoot, cushioning

Cons: Short laces, not many color options

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Check Prices on Amazon


5 Skechers GOtrail Ultra 3



The Skechers GOtrail Ultra 3 have a new design for this year that many will appreciate. The outsole, softness, and flexgrooves all got an upgrade to give this shoe superior performance.

Why We Recommend Them

The rubber outsole can handle almost any type of trail you run on. It also features a drainage system that has ports in the midsole. This will easily drain any water that may normally accumulate and keep your shoes lightweight while running on wet trails. The cushioning in the GOtrail Ultra 3 is made of the Next Generation Resalyte Midsole. While it has a maximalist style, it will still give you some responsiveness so you can feel the trail.


Through our research, we found that people had concerns with these shoes handling extremely rock trails. They are better suited for gravel or even running along the riverbed. In addition, other people found that these shoes do not last as long as they would have liked. Therefore, if you are searching for more durable shoes you can take on technical terrain, you should look elsewhere.

Pros: Drainage system, cushioning midsole, overall soft shoe

Cons: Not good for technical terrain, durability issues

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Buy Montrail Caldora Trail Running Shoes on Amazon


6 Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2



If you are searching for a trail running shoe that has maximum cushioning, this is the shoe for you. This lightweight shoe will keep you quick on your feet without you having to worry about rocks and rough terrain getting in your way.

Why We Recommend Them

The Challenger ATR 2 has a rocker type profile that propels you forward as soon as you land on your step. The midsole has two layers, so you have extra comfort when your foot hits the ground. The outsole has good traction that works best on moderate terrains.


While doing our research, we noted that some people had concerns with these shoes on steep, technical terrain, or land that was really muddy. In addition, other people did not like the bulkiness of the shoe, but said it did have good responsiveness.

Pros: Propels you forward, cushioning, responsive

Cons: Can feel bulky, not for technical terrain

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Buy Hoka One One Men’s M Challenger Atr 2 Shoes on Amazon


7 Merrell All Out Crush



The Merrell All Out Crush is a lightweight running shoe with drainage ports so you won’t be slowed down by wet or soggy shoes. These trail shoes are slip resistant on dry or wet terrain, so you will be safe no matter what type of weather you want to run in.

Why We Recommend Them

The Merrell All Out Crush shoes features M Select Fresh that keeps moisture and sweat from building up in the shoes. The Uni-Fly absorption system will keep your feet comfortable as they glide across all types of terrain. The outsole works well on rocks, hard trails, soft trails, mud, and dirt.


During research on these shoes, we found that some people experienced a narrow toe area and heel slippage. This can cause blisters and painful feet, so make sure you have enough room when trying these on.

Pros: Keeps feet fresh, absorb impact, work well on all types of terrain

Cons: Somewhat narrow

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronation

Merrell Men’s All Out Crush Shoes on Amazon


8 Salomon Speedcross CS 3



The Salomon Speedcross CS 3 is comfortable to wear and gives a secure fit to the person who is wearing it. The material at the bottom of the shoe works as a mudguard and it has a quick lacing system so they are ready to go when you are.

Why We Recommend Them

The Speedcross CS 3 is designed for soft trail ground and faster runs, making it a good racing shoe. The shoe is durable and will protect your feet from rocks and other debris you experience on the trail. In addition, the Speedcross CS 3 has a cushioning system that runs the length of the shoe to ensure you are comfortable. This also absorbs the harsh impact from the ground you are running on.


Through our research, we found that people said the shoe was hot to wear. Another problem people noted were the insoles rolled up after they got wet. This can get very uncomfortable when running long distances on the trail. Furthermore, people said these shoes run small.

Pros: Lightweight, cushioning, durable

Cons: Run small, may be hot to wear

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronators

Buy Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 CS Trail Running Shoes on Amazon


9 New Balance Minimus Trail V4



The New Balance Minimus Trail v3 is a trial and road shoe, so you get more for your money. It is a minimalist shoe, so it does not provide much, if any, arch support. This is something to keep in mind if you have Plantar Fasciitis as these shoes would not be a good choice. Yet, if you are in search of a minimalist shoe, these are perfect because they are flexible and lightweight.

Why We Recommend Them

The band across the forefoot will give you extra support and make your foot feel more secure as you run over different types of terrain. The upper is made of mesh, so it is very soft. Furthermore, the mesh has no-sew construction so you don’t have to worry about irritation on your feet. The outsole has large lugs and more of them than the previous versions of the shoe.


Research into what people experienced while wearing these shoes found that the forefoot was narrow. In addition, some people experienced blisters when they wore the shoes without socks.

Pros: Secure, minimalist, lightweight

Cons: Narrow

Recommended Types of Feet: Neutral pronation

Buy New Balance Minimus v4 Trail Running Shoes on Amazon


10 Merrell All Out Charge



If you are searching for a stability trail running shoe, the Merrell All Out Charge is a great option. While being supportive, it will still give you comfort, flexibility, and is lightweight enough that you will not be slowed down.

Why We Recommend Them

The All Out Charge combines connection with the terrain with protecting your feet. This gives you the ultimate experience when running over various types of ground. It has a firm sole and a rugged outsole so you do not have to worry about rocks. When doing our research, most people found that this was the perfect shoe between a minimalist shoe and motion control shoe.


Through our research, we found that some people experienced their heel sliding out of the shoe when they moved. Along with this, the toebox was narrow which gave some people blisters and sore feet after a run. Furthermore, some people said they are hard to get on and off.

Pros: Rugged outsole, comfortable, lightweight

Cons: Narrow, hard to get on and off

Recommended Types of Feet: Those who need stability

Buy Merrell Men’s All Out Charge Trail Running Shoes on Amazon


The Final Word

Purchasing the right type of trail running shoes will protect your feet while making your run more comfortable. There are all types of shoes on the list, such as minimalist, neutral, and stability shoes. Find the right type of shoe for your feet and make sure the fit feels comfortable. In addition, think about the type of terrain you will be running on as this will make a difference in your shoe choice as well.

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