Best Trail Running Shoes

Trail Running Shoes - Reviews & Guides For 2024

Our Top Trail Running Shoes

Need Help Choosing Trail Running Shoes?

Trail Running Shoes buying guide

When it comes to off-road running or hiking in the wilderness, you may think your regular running shoes will work. Stop, wait a second. You have to understand a vital thing before moving ahead with this notion.

Regular shoes are not stiff to provide adequate protection to your feet from the offroad elements. Moreover, they don't have to make a strong grip on slippery surfaces. So, you can easily land in challenging situations.

But don't worry. Trail running shoes are here to the rescue. These shoes are explicitly developed to provide comfort and safety on off-roads. To select the best option for your feet, you need to understand all the features of the boots.

We have prepared a comprehensive guide in which you will get all the necessary details. So without wasting any more time, let us begin our hunt.

What are Trail Running Shoes, and how are they different from regular shoes?

You can quickly get bored while running on the treadmill or by just running on the road. Trail running shoes will assist you in running efficiently in outdoor areas while enjoying the outdoor scenery. It isn't easy to purchase the best shoes to cope with the terrain, which can be quite challenging.

Many features are essential in the shoe, and those features make the shoe the perfect boots. While purchasing the shoes, you may want to look for the features like durability and traction while not compromising on the comfort and light weightiness.

Our regular shoes and trail running shoes are meant to be used on different surfaces. Trail running shoes provide its users with a firm grip on surfaces that comprise many turns and twists, while the regular shoes are for everyone who wants to run any surface which is hard and flat like the road.

Types of Trail Running Shoes

It will help if you choose your trail running shoes based on the trail you plan to use. The shoe's durability can be as long as four to six months if you are a person who runs regularly.

  1. Light trail

These shoes have been used explicitly on the surfaces that are of uniform type. As the name suggests, these shoes are known to be very light in weight and have been specifically built to be used as road running shoes.

These shoes are known to protect from obstacles such as rocks and roots. These shoes are very light in weight, which helps us run or walk at a faster pace. The foot placement is relatively stable as the shoe has built up stiffness. The soles of the shoe assist with providing traction on the soil. For the user's comfort, the shoes consist of midsole cushioning, enabling you to cover large distances without any discomfort. Some shoes come with the least amount of cushioning, which allows you to be in touch with the trail.

  1. Rugged trail

These shoes have been specifically designed for the trails which are for hiking. These trails can be as perfect like the engineers might have constructed them or as bad as if the miners have abandoned the path. Hence the shoes that belong to this category are developed to cover all types of terrains.

These trail running shoes have toe guards and hidden plates in the front and underfoot, respectively, to get protection from any obstacle like the rocks or the roots. The material is quite tough and sturdy to protect from sensitive materials like thorns. While running over the steep descents, the shoes comprise the midsole cushioning that is resilient to absorb any shock experienced by the feet while landing hard.

There are lug patterns in the trail running shoes to assist with the optimum grip and to be able to stop the user while the foot may be at an angle of elevation. There are models of the shoes which come with shanks, contributing to the stiffness of the shoe.

  1. Off-trail

These shoes are meant for the runners preparing to run over any trail that ordinary people may fear even to face. Such types of shoes have the properties of rugged trail shoes, but in addition to that, they are enhanced by much other stuff, which makes the trail running shoes the perfect choice for off-trail runners.

The material that has been used in these shoes is quite resilient. The midsoles are made from polyurethane foam instead of the EVA foam material midsole, usually used in rugged trail shoes. The shoe structure is built to deliver torsional rigidity, which enables the shoe to survive any force applied to it.

Torsional rigidity plays a vital role as it avoids any footfall that may occur on the ground, which is flat.

You may experience bad weather, or you may come across any water stream. So these shoes have also been provided with the waterproof quality to protect your feet.

Some top aspects to note

The trailing shoes come along with unique features that count for the uniqueness of the shoes. The features include optimum grip, comfortable padding, including the weight and the shape of the shoe. There are other features too which you might need to consider. They are listed below.

  1. Grip

The shoes for trail running come along with broader grip patterns as compared to the regular running shoes. The intended terrain decides the appropriate size and depth of the shoes. These shoes have been designed for the ultimate grip and stability with the idea of providing broad, aggressive, and multi-directional lugs.

  1. Lacing System

The perfect lacing system should provide sturdiness in the shoe. The user's foot should remain in one place without feeling any such pressure or tightness by the shoe's material. There are trail running shoes available in the market that are conclusive of the quick lace system.

  1. Tongue

There are trail running shoes that come along with a gusseted tongue, which is known to be a thin piece of material that plays a role in adhering the tongue with the shoe. It prevents the tongue from slipping sideways and prevents any dirt or stones from getting inside the shoes.

  1. Toe surround

This is known to be a common feature in most trail running shoes. It has been designed to prevent the feet from any injury when our feet hit any rock or other obstacles on the trail. It is a rubber rand which offers protection to the toes.

  1. Rock Guard

This is yet another essential feature that is available in trail running shoes. The rock guard offers a protective layer that is located between the midsole and the outsole. This prevents any sharp-pointed stone, gravel, or root from pricking through the sole into your foot. It helps to reduce the risk of injuries while on the terrain and provides comfort and relaxation.

Features to look at while selecting appropriate Trail Running Shoes


The most attractive advantage of the trail running shoes is its feature of being lightweight. Suppose you are considering running in your regular hiking boots. It won't be comfortable for you as the hiking shoes are comparatively more massive and significantly less protection if offered by the traditional shoes.

Thus the trail running shoes serve for the benefits of both the regular and the hiking shoes as it offers the user with lightweight protection. There is absolutely no point in purchasing the trail running shoes if they are not light in weight. The trail running shoes should enable you to run faster, and the lightweight will maintain the balance as it will not let you get tired quickly.

You should not go for the lightest weight trail running shoes; you should consider the type of area you will run in before purchasing the trail running shoes. If you require protection in your shoes, then the protection feature will add extra weight.

So that is the main reason for not buying entirely lightweight shoes. The weight will be directly proportional to the durability and the protection that the shoes will offer.


The fit of the shoe is the essential feature which is needed to be considered while purchasing the perfect trail running shoes. A shoe cannot be ideal for you, even if it has the most outstanding features if it cannot fit into your feet.

The perfect fit feature needs to consider several factors like the arch shape, length of the arch, the volume of the foot, etc.

  1. Shoe lasts

The manufacturers build the shoe against a foot form, which is often known as last. If you want to find the perfect shoes for you, then you should consider finding the brands that manufacture shoes with lasts that are the size of your foot.

  1. Never assume that you know your shoe size

The size of your feet grows with your age, so the most appropriate method is to measure your feet length before purchasing the shoe. It would help if you also considered that your feet would swell while running, so you will need enough space in the toe box that comes with the appropriate length and width.

  1. Consider getting a fit assessment

Some specialists can advise you on the size offered by various brands that provide their customers with multiple designs available in different sizes. The specialist can also guide you on the best shoes if you have foot issues.


The level of cushioning is also known as the 'stack height,' and the height was the same for every shoe throughout all these years until the shoes that didn't involve any padding were manufactured. In today's world, these shoes for running offer us various options in which the comfort and lightweight features are given the topmost priority.

  1. Barefoot

As the name indicates, these shoes do not involve any padding. They are loved by individuals who want to feel the trail and get more in touch with their bodies and the biomechanics.

  1. Minimal

These shoes can be an excellent option for those who require to feel the trail, but along with that, they are not comfortable with the no padding shoes or the barefoot ones. The minimal padding available in these shoes will deliver them comfort without compromising the terrain's feel.

  1. Moderate

These shoes can also be classified as the ones that are mainly meant for trail runners. There is an optimum amount of padding available in the shoe, which provides you comfort when running over rough terrain with many obstacles on the path like rocks, roots, etc.

  1. Maximum

These shoes come with a lot of padding, which is available in the midsole. These shoes are the best for people who have medical issues like pain in joints, and they also help lower the amount of fatigue while running for a long distance.

Stability and traction

  1. Stability

The ability to keep the user upright on their feet is often referred to as stability. Most of the shoes' manufacturers don't worry about the stability as the regular runners mostly walk on straight surfaces that do not have any obstacle and are completely flat.

But while you are there on rough terrains, then you require the trail running shoes that can bear the wear and tear of the uneven surfaces without compromising on the stability.

It is highly essential to have a solid base that offers your foot a broader area to avoid rolling over. The user's ability to turn should not be compromised, so the base should not be too broad. Another feature that must be present in the shoes is firmness. As when you can quickly push off from the base and to avoid folding over on uneven surfaces.

The running shoes are also provided with a shank, usually located between the midsole and the outsole. The shank is present in the back of the shoe to make it more stable as the stiffness will increase the stability in the end and offer flexibility in the shoe's front.

  1. Traction

Traction is another feature that makes the trail running shoes beneficial and excellent for the user. The rubber material used is the determining factor of the quality of traction provided by the shoe.

Rubber can be both soft and sticky. The rough terrains require the rubber of the shoe to have durability, but along with that, it should also be gentle to grip to the surface firmly. The hard rubber properties allow you to push off from the surface too.

The rubber material is also required to be sticky to not prevent the runner from slipping on surfaces. The material should also not be too sticky that the runner gets stuck.

A thorough analysis of the rubber's quality is thus critical as we need to maintain a delicate balance between all these characteristics. That's why these shoes are a bit expensive, sometimes with all these features.

Heel-to- toe-drop

There is a very close relationship between the measurements of the cushioning height and the heel-to-toe-drop. The range of the size lies from 0mm to as much as 12mm. The heel-to-toe-drop is the amount of difference in heel's height and the forefoot's height.

The barefoot shoes come with a drop of 0mm. The minimalist shoes also have a drop of 0 to 4mm. A wide range of drops is available in the market for moderate and maximalist shoes.

You can follow the tips mentioned below to know what heel to toe drop will work for you:

  1. You can consider matching the heel drop of the shoes that you are currently using with the ones, as you should not take chances with the biomechanics of the body. It is advised to double-check the heel drop even if you are buying the same shoe model as the manufacturers keep updating the heel-to-toe-drop every once in a while.
  2. If you are unable to match the heel drop to your current running shoes, then you can also check it with the regular running shoes. Try looking for the heel drop in your athletic shoes. If you do not have athletic shoes, then you can also use your casual shoes. Mostly all shoes come with very moderate heel-to-toe-drop measurements. The average measurements guide the user to abstain from buying shoes with a heel drop from 0mm to 12mm. Low-drop shoes can also work well for people who are used to wearing comfortable flat or flip-flops.
  3. Midfoot or forefoot strike is well encouraged by the low heel drop. Mostly everyone wants a relatively stable platform for them and provides sturdy balance, and engages all muscles. The barefoot and the minimalist shoes provide this premium feature of biomechanical shift, which is loved by people who prefer low drop shoes.
  4. It would help if you switched slowly from the high heel drop to the barefoot or the minimalist shoes. It is recommended to plan a transition time of a few months as you might face some discomfort because it will require physical adjustment.


Breathability is yet another essential feature of trail running shoes. By breathability, we mean that the shoe should be able to provide proper ventilation to keep the feet cool and to avoid the accumulation of any sweat in the feet.

Adequate ventilation in the feet has a huge role to play in the comfort and relaxation of the user.

You may feel very uncomfortable if your feet are sweating and there is no space for the air vapors to leave the shoe, and very soon, you will be running in wet, damp socks. This also increases the risk of developing blisters on the feet as it softens the skin, which will cause friction in the shoe.

The material of the upper determines the breathability of the shoe. Very often, a nylon mesh is used on the upper of the shoe as it enables the air to pass through the shoe and also maintains the lightweight of the shoe. Hard synthetic materials like leather are mixed with the nylon mesh to make it a more durable solid upper.

Toe protection

The regular shoes are unable to provide their users with optimum protection on rough terrain. While you are running on rugged terrain, you require tough shoes that can protect you from the obstacles like stones or roots which lie in your path, along with providing you with comfort.

Your toes require extra protection, and that is the reason why the toe area is equipped with extra rubber to survive any substantial impact. The main reason for the defense is that the runner might hit a rock or any root while running on such rough terrains.

The protection acts as a barrier to save you from any severe injuries. But the protection also adds some weight to the shoe along with extra rubber. The companies that provide users with lightweight shoes have significantly less protection in the toe area. If you are a person who is likely to fall, then you must consider such shoes that can offer you toe protection.


Durability is an essential feature of trail running shoes, and many factors can affect the durability of the shoes. Make sure that you are buying a shoe which is of premium quality as the shoes which are lightest in weight have no point if they get damaged after a little running,

The most appropriate way to learn about the durability of the shoes that you are considering buying is to go through the reviews of the shoes that are available online. This is another good idea to know whether these shoes are durable or not.

You can also have a look at the top quality materials that have been used in the making of the shoes.

How to clean Trail Running Shoes?

The first step that you might take in cleaning his trail running shoes is to get rid of any stones or debris that might be stuck between the lugs. The debris can make the runner feel uncomfortable and will also alter the level of traction thought by the user, along with escalating the wearing off of the sole.

You can use warm water to clean your shoes with mild soap. Please do not soak the shoes in water as they might get damaged. The shoes come along with a set of instructions that are to be followed for the proper maintenance of the shoes depending on the material that was used in them. It would be best if you always aired dry these trail running shoes as you can damage them by using heat as the adhesive used in the shoe might lose its binding.


  1. I have an ache in my joints. Which type of cushioning should I opt for?

You should opt for maximum cushioning. It offers pads in the midsole, which provide extra comfort and relieve the extra stress and pressure over the joints.

  1. How should I clean and store my shoes?

Here are quick tips to follow for cleaning and storage:

  1. Always read the instruction manual before using any cleaning agent.
  2. Clean the shoe with a mild soap solution with water. Never use abrasive strokes while cleaning the boots.
  3. Never soak your shoes in a bucket of water. The water can damage the material and shine
  4. Always air-dry the shoes and keep them in a dry place.

Summing Up

So here is all that you need to pick the best pair of trail running shoes. You will get all the information on crucial features that define the performance of different types of boots.

Moreover, you will get answers to different queries. Don't forget to give a quick look at the cleaning tips. Arm your feet with the best boots and enjoy your trips safely / - © Copyright 2020