Trail running seems to have soared in popularity in recent months. As the recent pandemic meant we unable to do many of the normal things that we enjoy, many people have turned to the trails as a way to explore and enjoy nature while getting fit. Of course, there are many reasons for this. The main one being the fact that all you really need is a decent pair of trail running shoes to get started but also because it is also a fabulous way to reconnect with nature. Choosing the best trail running shoes is where it becomes a little complicated. From wide lugs for running in mud, to zero drop for stability, there are so many things to consider. We take a look at the best trail running shoes 2021:
Things to Consider When Choosing Best Trail Running Shoes 2021
- Wide fit
- Zero drop/low profile
- The type of terrain
To help you make a more informed decision, we have selected some of the more popular trail shoes and what given a brief overview of what they are best for. Our recommendations will take you to the complete selection within the range including the male and female version of each shoe.
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Cushioned Trail Running Shoes
Cushioning is not as important in trail shoes as it is when choosing road shoes. This is largely because the terrain is easier on your feet – especially if you are running on muddy or grassy trails. However, if your terrain includes a mixture of road and trail and lots of hard surfaces, choose a shoe that offers good cushioning. The best trail running shoes will also provide sufficient grip. You can’t go far wrong with any of these, in our opinion:
The Hoka Speedgoat 4 is known as the Aggressively Grippy Trail Conqueror. With 3D printed overlays, the increased midfoot support gives a more secure feel with a comfortable toe box. Add to that great grip on the climbs and added security for descents, the Speedgoat 4 has been coined as something of a ‘badass’ on the trails.
The Hoka Challenger ATR 6 is a neutral shoe. Designed to cover both road and the trails, they offer the necessary comfort and cushioning to take you from your front door and out onto the most challenging of trails. Ideal for both races and long training runs, the outsole is designed to be spaced closer on the heel for a smoother, more consistent ride with a wider forefront for added grip.
Inov-8 Park Claw 275
The Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 is billed as the shoe for those that want to make the transition from road to trail. Being traded scale 5 on the toebox grading system (1 being the narrowest and 5 being the widest). They are a wider fitting shoe which, as owners of a pair ourselves, we can vouch for. A comfortable fit with ample cushioning, they allow you to transition between the road and the trails although not the best choice if you are going to be choosing particularly soft ground.
TrailFly Ultra G 300
This particular shoes has a sizeable piece of cushioning in the midsole which offers more comfort and protection over longer distances. The graphene-enhanced foam has previously only been used in the outflow however, now it is been adapted and used in the midsole too.
Designed for hard trails, the TrailFly Ultra G 300 also offers great grip in the mud too however, it does tend to make the shoe even heavier.
Most Stable Trail Running Shoes
For uneven surfaces, you want to ensure that you wear stable trail running shoes. Extra cushioning and support make for a stiffer shoe which offers greater support on uneven surfaces. Of course, you will be running on so many different surfaces, you will want to choose the type of shoe that will suit the majority of your runs.
Brooks Cascadia is a supportive shoe providing comfort and stability on the trails. Great for those who want support on the rigid and rough terrain, the shoe isn’t a bouncy cushioned shoe but is lightweight, grippy and flexible.
Asics Fuji Trabuco
These particular shoes seem to be getting rave reviews from a number of sources at the moment. A lightweight shoes that was designed with three time UTMB winner, Xavier Thevenard, the focus is on weight and drainage. The shoe features a flexible plate underfoot which allows runners to move quickly over rough terrain.
La Sportiva Akasha
A good choice for off road running, La Sportiva Akasha is one of the best trail running shoes for stability, the shoe features great shock absorption, and is specifically designed for longer trail runs and ultra marathons. The Dual Mix FriXion XT improves the flexibility, grip and traction of the shoe on multiple trail surfaces.
Low-Profile Trail Running Shoes
A low profile shoe allows you to feel what is going on beneath your feet making you nimbler over uneven ground with less risk of rolling an ankle. These low profile or zero drop shoes are very popular hence why there are so many suggestions. Personally, we prefer a low profile shoe but it really does depend what you are looking for.
Inov-8 Terraultra G260
Billed as the world’s toughest shoe for running the world’s toughest trails, the latest model of the Terraultra was awarded Trail Shoe of the Year in 2020. It’s revolutionary graphene-enhanced rubber delivers the world’s toughest grip, with next-generation underfoot technology striking the perfect balance between comfort and responsiveness.
Inov-8 Roclite 290
The inov-8 Roclite 290 is one of our favourites especially given that we have had 3 pairs each now. The beauty of this shoe is the fact that it feels just as good after 50 miles as it does after 10. With a great crossover from road to trail, we highly recommend this shoe for those who like to run varying terrain over a long distance. Word to the wise though – not the greatest choice for muddy trails – we prefer the Mudclaw for that.
Inov-8 X Talon 235
One look at the lugs on the Inov-8 X Talon 235 and you can see they have been designed for the muddier trails. Like so many of the Inov-8 range, they have a lower profile to help you skip over the trails with less of a risk of rolling an ankle.
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Low Mesh Trail Running Shoes
The Altra Lone Peak was designed to take runners back to their natural running state, hence the zero drop design. The improved drainage hole system will remove any water efficiently and effectively with a breathable upper mesh. The footshape toe box allows the foot to spread naturally improving performance. The addition of a heel loop allows you to carry them easily indoors after a muddy run, something that we think is a handy feature. EVA midsole is responsive offering protecting and rebound and the Stoneguard shield offers protection from rocks. A lightweight shoe suitable for multiple terrains, these are popular with off road runners who like the more natural feel of a shoe.
Saucony Peregrine 11
The Saucony Peregrine 11 is a popular trail shoe offering a grippy, comfortable experience to those that want to go exploring off road. A protective trail shoe, it offers cushioning for responsive climbing and forgiving descents. The PWRTRAC outsole provide excellent traction and abrasion resistant and Coefficient of Friction (COF) that is 3x that of normal carbon rubber.
Salomon Speedcross 5
There is no doubt that the Salomon Speedcross 5 is a popular choice among trail runners and you will find it on most review sites billed as the most popular trail shoe of all time however it’s not for everyone and there are many of us that have our own favourites. That said, it is a decent trail shoe for those that are serious about trail running and the more hardy runner that seeks protection from the elements. You can read more about the Salmon Speedcross 5 in our honest and frank review.
Waterproof Trail Running Shoes
Now, we don’t go much for waterproof trail shoes because if the water can’t get in, it also can’t get out. Imagine stepping in a puddle that’s deep and the water going in through the tops of your shoes. Once it’s in, it’s not getting out. Most trail shoes drain pretty well however if waterproof is important to you, you could try these:
Asics Fuji Trabuco GTX
Designed to deal with steep and rocky paths, the Asics Gel-Fuji Trabuco trail running shoes deliver a blend of lightweight cushioning with rugged outdoor protection. They are especially grippy on wet rocky surfaces. With a Gortex exterior, they are designed to keep out the water.
Saucony Excursion GTX
The GORE-TEX membrane of the Saucony Excursion GTX means that the water can’t get in when you hit the wet and muddy trails. The shoe also allows moisture to escape for a warm, cool and comfortable feel. The ruggedness of this shoe is built to deal with harsher terrains however we can’t vouch for how much comfort they provide.
Wide Fitting Trail Shoes
And finally onto the best wide fitting trail shoes. Now, as we have covered each of these individually above, we won’t bore you with all of the details again but particularly good for wide feet are the Salomon Speedcross, the Hoka Challenger, the Hoka Speedgoat, the Brooks Cascadia and the Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 .
Choosing the Best Trail Running Shoes
As you can see from the above, there is a lot to consider when choosing the right trail running shoes for you. While we appreciate this is not an exhaustive list of the best trail running shoes, we hope that you have found the above information useful. The truth of th matter is, everyone is different. While one person may love the ions-8 brand, another will prefer Salomon. Once you ind the right pair of shoes though, the chances are you will own a few pairs of them at some point. We certainly do.
Got a favourite trail shoe? Share it with us. We’d love to hear your feedback.