For those that are new to trail running, there are so many questions and considerations when it comes to choosing the best trail running shoes. These will include:

  • Purpose – what will you use them for – short distance, long distance, racing, easy running?
  • Brand – do you have a favoured brand that suit you in a road shoe, would you better sticking with same brand of trail shoe?
  • Budget – how much do you want to spend, how much trail running do you do?
  • Model – how does the shoe compare to the previous model – are they the same, do you want a similar shoe to a previous pair? 
  • Special Requirements – do you have wide feet and need a wider fit trail running shoe?
  • Season – we wear different shoes in the summer on dry trails than we do when its wet and muddy 

How do you know which are the best trail running shoes for you? It can all seem a little confusing. Even when you are an old hat at the sport, and have purchased many pairs previously, there are still so many decisions to make, especially when so many new brands and models come to market.

We spend hours researching and testing trail running shoes and even we still get ourselves stuck on which ones to buy. It’s very much a case of trial and error as we have found. Not every one is the same, no two trails are the same and your requirement for a trail shoe may be completely different to your other running buddies. We try and help you see through some of the jargon and help you make a more informed decision. 

Things to Consider When Choosing Best Trail Running Shoes 2022:

  • Cushioning
  • Support
  • Wide fit
  • Zero drop/low profile
  • The type of terrain – rocky, muddy, boggy, wet, dry?
  • Distance – are you training for an ultra or do you run shorter distances?
  • Waterproof – are they the best choice of shoe and what are the benefits?

To help you make the best decision, we have selected some of the more popular trail shoes and have 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. 

Updated 13/05/22 

Cushioned Trail Running Shoes

It is fair to say that cushioning is not as important in trail shoes as it is in road shoes however, when you are running ultra marathon distances, you want a shoes that is kind to your feet. While the terrain is easier on your feet – especially if you are running on muddy or grassy trails, you are still on your feet for a long time. If your terrain includes a mixture of road and trail and lots of hard surfaces, it is important to 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:

Hoka Speedgoat

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. 

hoka speedgoat 4

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Hoka Challenger

The Hoka Challenger ATR 6 is a neutral shoe. Designed to cover both road and the trails, it offers 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. You can purchase the Hoka Challenger ATR 6 in a wide fit too so perfect for those with a wider foot. 

HOKA WIDE FIT

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Altra Olympus 4

If you are a keen trail runner, chances are you have been tempted to run an ultra, if you haven’t already. Perhaps you are considering signing up to one, maybe you are already an ultra runner but looking to up the distance? For those of you that are keen to try a 50, or even a 100 mile race, then you need to check out the Altra Olympus 4.0. It scores very high in many reviews, among many runners and, in our opinion, is an extremely well cushioned shoe for tackling the more serious distance. 

This beast of a shoe has a very generous amount of cushioning at 33m and can offer comfort and support all day long (and into the night). Of course, you don’t just have to be a serious ultra runner to feel the benefits of this shoe – it also makes a great long run or recovery shoe. If your feet have taken a pounding, get out in this pair for some easy miles. 

Altra, if you weren’t aware are renowned for their wide toe box so if you find yourself struggling to find a shoe that doesn’t squish your toes, it’s a good idea to check these bad boys out. 

Terrain wise it will deal with everything – rocks, mud, gravel and more. You certainly won’t want to take them off – the Vibram sole is the best. Looking for a shoe that can go the distance? This is it. 

altra Olympus 4 ultra marathon shoe

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TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max

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. The BOOMERANG insole boasts a 40% increase in energy return versus the previous footbed of the Terraultra 270.

Designed for hard trails, the TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max also offers great grip in the mud too however, it does tend to make the shoe heavier but there are plenty of features to counter this.

Additional features include thin, strong gusseted tongue that holds the top of your forefoot firmly without producing problems if you choose to snug up the laces tightly. The material around the ankle and Achilles tendon is well contoured and finished to reduce any gaps that might catch dirt and grit. This is great if you get fed up stopping to remove a bit of grit, or a stone from your shoe. 

If you like a light shoe that will fly over the trails, this is probably not your pick however, if you need something that can deal with tougher situations then this is up there with the best. 

inov-8 trail fly

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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 16

Brooks Cascadia is a supportive shoe providing comfort and stability on the trails. Great for those who want support on rigid and rough terrain, the shoe isn’t a bouncy cushioned shoe but it is lightweight, grippy and flexible with a Ballistic Rock Shield which includes vertical grooves to provide side-to-side adaptability and a design that protects you from slipping. 

Great shoes on technical trail where unpredictably is often the case, you can cover the change in terrains, the downhill descents and the uneven surfaces with confidence. If you’re not a fan of the low profile trail shoe, the 8mm heel to toe drop of the Brooks Cascadia 16, is preferred by those that are less enthused by low profile shoes. 

brooks cascadia 16

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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.  

ASICS Fujitrabuco Sky Trail Running Shoes

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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. 

LA SPORTIVA TRAIL SHOE

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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/G275

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 terraultra award winning trail running shoes

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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. 

inov-8 x talon trail running shoes

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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. 

altra lone peak 4.5

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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.

Formerly a trail racing shoe, it has evolved to become more of a classic, every day trail running shoe. It doesn’t have the frills of some of the modern trail shoes but it does combine great traction with mild cushioning, underfoot protection and a breathable upper. As a trail shoe, it does everything the every day trail runner needs.  

saucony peregrine trail running shoes

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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.

Salomon speedcross best trail running shoes

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Best Road to Trail Shoes

Nike Pegasus Trail 3

For us this is an important consideration. We are often on trails that are accessible by roads. Our favourite route starts a mile from the front door – a mile of road to get on the trails. As fans of the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus for roads, it seems that the trail version – the Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is a major contender. 

The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 has the same cushioning and comfort along with the with the familiar design of the classic road Pegasus look. With tough traction it will help you stay steady on rocky terrain. More support around the midfoot helps you feel secure on your journey.

best road to trail  

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Inov-8 Roclite 290

The inov-8 Roclite 290 is one of our favourites especially given that we have had five 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. We have never even had a tiny blister from even the wettest conditions. 

On the downside, the lightweight flexibility and the fact that this shoe can handle a crossover from road to trail makes it more of a summer, fair weather shoe, We find that wearing these shoes in muddy, wet conditions, means that it soon wears through hence why we have gone through so many of them. We’d say this shoes is a great summer shoe and will withstand about 300 miles before you are going to need a new pair. 

INOV8 ROCLITE low profile trail running shoes

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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. 

waterproof trail running shoes

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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. 

saucony waterproof trail running shoes

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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 Altra Olympus 4 (king of the wide shoe) Salomon Speedcross, the Hoka Challenger, the Hoka Speedgoat and the Brooks Cascadia 16.

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. 

Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. We earn commissions if you shop through the links on this page. We never recommend anything that we haven’t tried or researched ourselves and all our reviews are designed to help you make a more informed decision.