How to Choose the Best Trail Running Shoes?

You never want to go trail running on a beat up pair of sneakers. Low and behold, trail running sneakers came into existence. These lightweight, waterproof, and durable shoes will not only help you through the roughest and wettest trails but also prove to be up to the task in poor weather conditions in daily life. We have gone through every brand, every shoe, and picked the top 5 trail running shoes that you need to get your hands on next. Say goodbye to blisters and hello to these trailblazers.

Our Picks for Best Trail Running Shoes in 2017*

  1. Salomon Speedcross 4
  2. ASICS GEL Venture 5
  3. Merrell All Out Peak
  4. Pearl Izumi Trail EM N2 v3
  5. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

* There’s more detailed review below, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

What are Trail Running Shoes?

To the untrained eye, trail running shoes may just look like a regular pair of sneakers, but this could not be more false. When you hear the name trail running shoes, you can probably glean that these are running shoes meant to be used for trail running. However, these special shoes are notably different from other running shoes and cross trainers.

The main difference lies in their aggressive tread design. They were designed to be used only on the rugged and uneven trail. They most often feature an open tread pattern and deep lugs. This really makes them stand out from the mostly-flat underneath of regular running shoes.

Another area where these shoes differ from other running shoes is in the toe region. Trail running shoes are built to handle tough trail obstacles and uneven, rocky terrain. Because of this, these shoes have additional toe protection. They are also more structured on the sides and bottom to provide stability and protection for the feet and ankles. Trail runners are not just modified running shoes, they are an entirely unique genre of shoe.trail running shoes

Trail running shoes

Types of Trail Running Shoes

There are four main types of trail running shoes.

  • Minimalist: These trail running shoes are an attempt to mimic the way humans naturally travel, barefoot. These shoes provide minimal coverage, simulating a barefoot running experience while providing some of the safety of shoes.
  • Low-Profile: These trail running shoes are sleek and lightweight. They are built using the same idea at the minimalist models but provide much more protection and support. They are designed to support a natural stride.
  • Traditional: Traditional trail running shoes are designed for the everyman. They provide much more underfoot protection and cushioning making long runs easier and more comfortable. They typically sacrifice weight to provide more durability and comfort.
  • Maximalist: These shoes focus on providing the most cushioning possible to absorb the maximum impact from the ground. These types of shoes are most often used in very long runs and races.

How to Choose the Right Trail Running Shoes?

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the best trail running shoes. These include:

  • Weight: Would you prefer a faster lightweight shoe or a heavier, more cushioned shoe?
  • Traction: Can these shoes grip on all types of outdoors terrain?
  • Cushioning: Will these shoes provide enough padding and comfort for my runs?
  • Stability: Are these shoes built durable enough to provide my feet the stability and protection they need?
  • Foot Protection: Do these shoes provide enough toe and underfoot protection to prevent injury on uneven terrains?
  • Price: How often will you be using them and how much are you willing to pay for a pair of trail running shoes?

Our Recommendations for the Top Trail Running Shoes

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

Salomon Speedcross 4

 
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The Salomon Speedcross is a nearly perfect trail running shoe, offering quick-lace and gripping technology for a better run and good improvement on already great previous generation Salomon Speedcross 3. It is also water resistant for running in inclement weather such as the rain or snow. Also, with a rubber sole, it has much stronger durability making it a great investment in the long run.

Pros

  • Quicklace technology
  • Intense gripping technology in inclement weather conditions
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • Price

 

2. ASICS GEL Venture 5

ASICS GEL Venture 5

 
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This trail running shoe comes in a variety of unique colors and offers one of the best features for running in sunny or rainy weather conditions. It is primarily composed of a synthetic mesh which makes it incredibly breathable and has an outer rubber sole for extra durability. With its Rearfoot GEL system, it always adds a more comfortable and cushioned fit.

Pros

  • Rearfoot GEL cushioning support
  • AHAR outsole rubber for added durability
  • Outsole gripping system

Cons

  • Offer a very narrow fit

 

3. Merrell All Out Peak

Merrell All Out Peak

 
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The Merrell All Out Peak are a great sporty looking trail running shoes that offer a variety of color options as well as great padding for any obstacles you may cross when you’re running. The added mesh coverings also offer a great deal of breathability while still offering plenty of structure for a comfortable fit. Another great feature is its reflective patches for night running, in case you forget your reflective running vest.

Pros

  • Mesh covering for added breathability
  • Trail protect pad for foot protection
  • Reflection system for night running

Cons

  • Not intended for constant use

 

4. Pearl Izumi Trail EM N2 v3

Pearl Izumi Trail EM N2 v3

 
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These synthetic running shoes have a durable rubber sole built in making it perfect for harder trail runs than most. The shoe comes in a variety of color options and has a strong toe pad for rocks and sticks that may cross your path. The Pearl’s also have a more natural fit than most shoes making it a more comfortable shoe for extended runs.

Pros

  • Fits naturally to your feet
  • Trail protection under top flap and on bottom of shoe
  • Offers a unique tread system for fewer slips and falls

Cons

  • Price

 

5. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

 
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This trail running shoe has a looser fit, but not loose enough to hurt your feet while you run. Its rubber sole offers great protection from the trail and the shoe is composed of a breathable fabric for cooler or warmer weather. This shoe also has a unique DWR coating for years of lasting durability and fits the bill for a budget friendly pair of running shoes.

Pros

  • Looser fit
  • Breathable material for warmer runs
  • DWR coating for added durability

Cons

  • Lack of protection on bottom of shoe
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