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Best trail running shoes for men and women

Hitting the trails? Need shoes with grip, durability, drainage and a good sense of fun? Here's our guide to the best and most robust and reliable off-road trail running shoe this winter...

Best trail running shoes for men and women

The benefits of trail running for triathletes are huge, from building core strength to technique gains and pure off-season enjoyment.

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Trail running shoes can make going off-road a more enjoyable and beneficial experience so we’ve rounded up and reviewed some of the best options on the market for men and women.

What are trail running shoes?

The road or pavement may rule the triathlon amphitheatre throughout the summer months, but when autumn arrives there’s a wealth of opportunities to slip into a pair of trail running shoes for both racing and training.

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Of course, you can run in your road shoes, but there are subtle (and not so subtle) feature differences – grip, toe bumpers, water protection – that make off-road running in off-road run shoes a more enjoyable and productive experience. In simple terns off-road running shoes are designed to cope with every type of terrain thrown at them, whether it be mud, hills, ice, snow…

What to look for in pair of trail running shoes

To keep feet cool in summer, look for a breathable upper. This is key year-round across all terrains but even more so on trail-specific shoes, because lightweight material also aids drainage come the muddy and wet off-season.

A distinct feature of a trail shoe’s rubber outsole are teeth-like lugs, vital for staying the right way up come field or fell. They come in varying sizes and depths, so select to suit your intended terrain types, from tow paths to ragged mountain routes.

Consider the laces themselves when buying: round ones can come undone while elastics stay put, and some models feature a tongue pocket to stow laces away. Always aim to try the shoes before you buy, and look for potential areas where rubbing may occur.

Nestled between the outsole and upper, is the mighty midsole; the bulk of your cushioning. Models vary in heel drop and stack height. Don’t go changing too fast when picking your trail shoes, your road shoe heel-to-toe ratios are a good start.

Best trail running shoes for men

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6
  • £125

While the Arc’teryx shoe has minimal cushioning, the New Balance option feels bulky by comparison. The result, when combined with the Fresh Foam midsole, is an incredible amount of cushioning and support.

Of course, this does result in a weight penalty (373g per shoe in the wide version, UK size 11). We’ve found New Balance to run small in the past, but the wide version on test here fits well and allows for plenty of toe splay.

Meanwhile, performance of the Vibram outsole was good on dry, damp or rocky trails, but in proper winter sludge it was left wanting due to the low profile, wide-shaped lugs. The upper proved to be breathable but does notably hang onto moisture.

Verdict: A super comfortable and versatile shoe

Score: 84% 

Scott Supertrac 2.0 GTX

Scott Supertrac 2.0 GTX
  • £150

Scott’s small range of trail shoes has been a firm favourite at 220 HQ over the years and the Supertrac 2.0 ably demonstrates why. It’s easy to get a good fit, while traction is exceptional on both hard-packed trails and serious mud.

There’s a good amount of support on offer around the ankle without being over the top, while the eRIDE midsole delivers a cushioned, efficient ride. Though, this does mean ground feel is limited. A waterproof Gore-Tex lining keeps the elements out, but if you run hot then you’ll inevitably end up with sweaty feet.

All of that does come at a price though, both in cost and weight, and at 419g per shoe (size 11) these are the heaviest on test. They didn’t feel like it, though.

Verdict: Fantastic off-road performance but heavy and sweaty

Score: 88% 

Adidas Terrex Speed SG

Adidas Terrex Speed SG
  • £140

Once you get past the in-your-face, reflective design, the first thing you’ll likely notice about the Terrex Speed SGs is the aggressive outsole. The 7mm lugs provide impressive traction in a range of muddy conditions, shedding mud well, but aren’t very well suited to short stints on tarmac.

The upper is made of a robust almost see-through mesh, which is incredibly breathable and also allows moisture in and out extremely well. There’s minimal support or cushioning but this does mean they’re very lightweight (256g per shoe, UK size 11). We found the latter, and the 4mm drop, makes for quite a minimalistic, harsh ride on hard surfaces, but, as it’s designed to, it excels on muddy trails.

Verdict: Lightweight and great traction, but expect wet feet 

Score: 90% 

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3
  • £125

The Terraventure 3 has the lowest drop of all the men’s shoes on test here (3mm). This’ll suit minimalist fans, but the midsole doesn’t offer the most cushioned of rides.

On the flip side, that does mean ground feel is high, and they felt nimble despite weighing 362g per shoe (UK size 11). The toe box is also roomy, while the lacing system ensures a great fit on the midfoot.

The Vibram outsole offers ample grip on a range of surfaces and the mesh upper is breathable. Meanwhile, the cushioning around the ankle cuff and tongue felt comfortable and supportive, resulting in a stable ride. However, we did experience some irritation from the bottom of the tongue where it joins to the shoe’s upper.

Verdict: Great traction but an irritating tongue

Score: 82%

Saucony Peregrine 11

Saucony Peregrine 11
  • £115

Now onto their 11th iteration, the Peregrines are a bit of an institution in the trail-running world and we found these very comfortable from the word go. It’s easy to get a good fit and there was a decent amount of support on offer from the ankle cushioning.

Traction was not an issue, with the Peregrines proving skilful in a range of conditions. At 349g per shoe (UK size 11) they’re not the lightest, but still felt nimble on trails.

The upper is breathable and there’s an impressive balance between ground feel and underfoot comfort. A final thing to note is that two new colourways (a darker blue and an olive colour) are replacing the light blue shown here.

Score: An ideal balance of comfort and performance

Verdict: 87% 

Arc’teryx Norvan SL 2

Arc'Teryx Norvan SL 2
  • £130

Known best for its technical hiking and mountaineering gear, Arc’teryx has submitted the Norvan SL 2 for this test. The ‘SL’ in the name of these shoes stands for superlight and, at 201g per shoe (UK size 11), they’re certainly that.

The light weight is partly achieved through an ultra-thin TPU mesh upper, which is just a millimetre or two thick. It makes for an extremely nimble and breathable ride, but the compromise is a lack of cushioning and stability.

The 3.5mm lugs of the Vibram outsole provide a reasonable amount of grip on mixed terrain, but struggle in serious mud. Instead, the Norvan SL 2 is best suited for those looking for a minimalistic, lightweight shoe for dry, hard-packed or rocky trails.

Verdict: Super light and nimble, but not much support

Score: 84% 

Evadict Race Light Trail Running Shoes

Evadict Race Light Trail Running Shoes
  • £99.99 

These Race Lights from Decathlon are the cheapest trail shoe pair on test, and yet they perform very well for the price. But let’s get the negatives out of the way. Firstly, there’s a truly bizarre, irritating placement of a label on the inside of the ankle.

Secondly, we felt the tongue wasn’t quite long or cushioned enough, which meant some discomfort from the lacing. Elsewhere, however, the shoe strikes a decent balance between cushioning, low bulk and weight very well, being comfortable and supportive while staying nimble on the trails.

Grip from the 5mm lugs is impressive, as is a weight of just 280g per shoe (UK size 11), and a 4mm drop should keep the minimalist fans happy.

Verdict: lightweight with great traction but a few niggles

Score: 82%

Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC 2.0

SCOTT KINABALU ULTRA RC 2.0
  • £140

The Kinabalu Ultras tip the scales at a lean 270g (for trail shoes) and, for a shoe with an ‘ultra’ tag, they instantly feel nimble. The responsiveness is due to a combo of Scott’s Kinetic midsole foam and an aggressive outsole traction.

The rock plate in the midsole heightens the versatility, yet they lack meaningful toe protection for jagged fell runs. And ultra comfort? The high heel collar that is a potential area for rubbing, yet the breathable upper and lightly padded tongue aid the comfort stakes. Overall, then, a do-it-all shoe that’ll adapt to racing, short and long training sets. Pricey, though. 

Verdict: An ultra billing, but adept at faster sets too

Score: 91%

Adidas Terrex Two Ultra Parley

ADIDAS TERREX TWO Ultra Parley trail run shoes
  • £159

Many shoe brands claim their offerings are like “running on pillows,” but with the 320g (UK size 7) Terrex it’s like striding on tightly-coiled springs due to the beefy EVA-Boost midsole. It’s far from unpleasant and it’s plenty of fun, although we’d like a touch more feel for the ground in the midfoot especially.

The grip, supplied by tyre giants Continental, is adequate enough for lighter trails, although the heel loop and sock-like ankle have tri appeal. Comfort comes from the Primeknit upper, while points are awarded for being constructed from plastic waste collected on beaches.

Verdict: High price and weight, but lots of off-road comfort

Score: 83%

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II Recycled

VIVOBAREFOOT PRIMUS LITE II RECYCLED
  • £110

Like this reviewer, Vivobarefoot’s roots are in Street, Somerset, and we have plenty of West Country love for their minimalist style, wide toe box and eco-ethos – the vegan Primus are made from recycled PET plastics.

As a casual shoe, we’ve worn them all summer, but as the ‘ideal shoe to train hard’? It’s here that our Somerset bond separates as there are too many flaws, from the tepid grip to the inability to deflect water ingress, and the hot spot on the medial side. There’s dry Parkrun grass appeal, but the lack of midsole protection make them a no for stony paths. 

Verdict: Style and eco credentials but not for rougher stuff

Score: 69%

Merrell MTL Long Sky

MERRELL MTL Long Sky
  • £120

For a brand with minimalist tendencies, Merrell’s vegan Long Sky sit at a Hoka-esque 27.5mm stack height, which is due more to the monster 5mm lugs than any oversized midsole wedge.

And serious grip they have, suitable for an array of slippery stuff and sharp stones, but happily not a clawed nightmare on tarmac. Like Adidas, there’s sock-like inner comfort, but we found more versatility – the 280g (UK size 7) and 8mm drop make them race friendly, and comfort comes from an EVA midsole/insole combo. There’s no toe bumper, but the tear-resistant mesh upper shouts durability. 

Verdict: Light and durable, grippy and comfy – impressive

Score: 89%

Best trail running shoes for women

Hoka One One Zinal

Hoka One One Zinal
  • £140

Primed for shorter trail ambles and off-road racing, Hoka’s Zinal is a lightweight speed machine at only 195g (UK size 5). The lightest and most nimble on test, the Zinal also feels breathable when on thanks to the thin and aeriated recycled mesh upper and a wafer-thin, gusseted tongue, which keeps out debris.

As expected, the Zinal has a medium-to-minimal amount of padding, but our feet still felt supported during 10km runs and the dual-density Profly midsole adequately absorbed impact while providing enough toe-off propulsion. Like the Merrells, the Zinal comes complete with 4mm Vibram Megagrip lugs, which had no problem in tackling slippy terrain along the muddy Cotswold trails.

Verdict: Top choice for short and speedy trail racing 

Score: 88% 

Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max

Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max
  • £170

Cushioned to the max, Inov-8 claims the Trailfly provides 25% better energy return from foot strike to toe-off thanks to their industry-first Graphene-enhanced G-FLY foam in the midsole.

With this being difficult to quantify, we tested the Trailflys on mud, rocks and even in some swimrun events, and were surprised at how grippy, light and quick draining they felt despite being the heaviest on test at 282g (UK size 5).

The curved ‘boomerang’ rocker with 6mm drop helped to propel us forwards without feeling too extreme over long distances. We wish the tongue was slightly longer and less rigid, but other than that the Trailflys were a hit and should also fit those with wider feet thanks to a roomy toe-box.

Verdict: Great trail tech, if you’re willing to splash the cash 

Score: 92%

On Cloudventure 

On Cloudventure
  • £135

One of the best-looking pairs on test, the Cloudventure is part of On’s third iteration of trail shoe and it shows in the tech available. We were surprised to feel a decent amount of padding, especially around the collar and aeriated sole, for a reasonable weight of 253g per shoe (UK size 5.5).

In action, the Cloudventure certainly feels agile thanks to the typical, bouncy CloudTec lugs and Helion superfoam that cushions the foot on hard terrain. Made for training on technical trails, On claims the Cloudventure isn’t for racing but we’d be more than happy to lace them up for a speedy race thanks to the Sligshot Speedboard, which aids with propulsion.

Verdict: Swift kicks suitable for pavement pounding and techy trails

Score: 90%

Salomon Ultra Glide

Salomon Ultra Glide
  • £130

They may look chunky with some extreme cushioning, but Salomon’s Ultra Glides are actually our second lightest shoe on test at only 241g (UK size 5). Designed for long distances, they stood up to the test during 20km trail runs.

The Contagrip rubber outsole helps to keep traction on slippery surfaces and the responsive Energy Surge midsole with rocker provides a feeling of natural propulsion when running.

We particularly liked the quicklace system, which allows for easy adjustment at one pull of a toggle. Like most on test here, they didn’t keep the water out but a breathable upper meant they didn’t feel soggy or clunky after ploughing through many a muddy trail.

Verdict: Cushy kicks that you can just slip on and go

Score: 83%

Brooks Cascadia 16

Brooks Cascadia 16
  • £120

Another well-cushioned and comfortable pair of kicks from Brooks, the Cascadia 16 sits at the higher end of the weight range of those on test here, at 264g, but certainly didn’t feel clumpy. The TrailTrack rubber lugs offered great traction on all terrains and the sole’s built-in ‘ballistic rock shield’ aims to protect against hard rocky trails.

The roomiest kicks on test, we’d recommend these to our wide-footed friends, and we also liked the protective layer over the toes to avoid any painful stubbing. The Cascadia 16s are the only shoes on test to have Velcro gaiter heel tabs, too, which could come in handy on those extra gnarly tracks this off-season.

Verdict: Great all-rounder and one of the cheapest options here 

Score: 84% 

Merrell Agility Peak 4

Merrell Agility Peak 4
  • £120

For those in need of arch support, look no further. The Agility Peak 4 is fitted with a comfortable sock liner, making it easy to slide your foot in and go. This updated model has a thicker midsole made of FloatPro foam, which is designed to be lightweight and durable.

Of all the shoes on test, these feel the most supportive, with padded collar and EVA insole. All this comfort does come at a price, however, and they don’t feel quite as nimble as some others, weighing 275g per shoe (UK size 5).

To end on a positive, though, the protective toe cap does a great job at protecting the feet on rugged trails and like the Hokas, the 4mm Vibram lugs provide great traction in motion.

Verdict: Top pick for a supportive and reliable trail shoe

Score: 88%

Newton Running Boco at 6

Newton Boco at 6
  • £110

Slipping on Newton’s Boco 6, it’s instantly apparent that these are the most minimal kicks on test. There’s a distinct lack of padding around the heel and sides, with the 3mm drop making them feel fairly flat when on; not ideal for those needing arch support, but great if you prefer a minimal feel.

The firmness of the shoe is thanks to Newtonium-infused insole foam, which aims to absorb impact and provide energy return. The multidirectional lugs took on the trails with ease, but did seem to slip a bit on tarmacked roads. While the ‘weatherised’ upper kept some splashes off, we were most impressed with the recycled materials used in these light shoes (244g per shoe, UK size 5.5).

Verdict: Eco-friendly but not the comfiest or more propulsive

Score: 79%

Topo Athletic MTN Racer

TOPO ATHLETIC MTN RACER trail run shoes
  • £140

They may not be the best-known in the run shoe world, but Topo have become one of this tester’s go-to brands in recent months due to their wide toe box and comfortable uppers.

In this trail version, you get a similar feel and they give a comparable experience out on the trails to the Hokas, despite having a 5mm drop compared to Hoka’s 8mm. The sole is similarly sturdy and creates a similar rocking motion, plus the Vibram sole is grippy on most wet or rocky test surfaces, but didn’t get stuck in mud either.

These shoes aren’t waterproof, though they do dry relatively quickly, yet the upper did dry in a weirdly, wrinkly way – odd, but this didn’t affect performance!

Verdict: Love the fit and feel, just pipped by Hoka on price!

Score: 90%

Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 GTX

nov-8 parkclaw 275 gtx trail run shoes
  • £140

Where Inov-8 shine is when their born-and-bred knowledge of the fells translates into shoes such as their Rockclaw and Mudclaw: specific shoes for a specific purpose.

The Parkclaw is a more hybrid beast and we found the chunkier construction and 8mm drop meant this shoe was equally at home on roads or hard-packed pathways as well as on trails, making it a good choice for varied runs, while the Gore-Tex kept our feet dry too. The solid backs were a little tough on our heels while the shoes took a while to break in, and overall they did lack some nimbleness. 

Verdict: Good do-it- all shoe for runs on  varied surfaces

Score: 80%

Hoka Torrent 2

Hoka One One Torrent 2
  • £110

The chunky trademark midsoles of Hoka shoes might seem a bit counterintuitive on trails where you’re on softer surfaces and changing your plane of movement, but after a 2019 season in the chunkier Evo Mafates we can’t sing the brand’s praises enough on trails.

The Torrent is a lighter, more nimble shoe than the Evos and felt leaner and faster from the off, as well as very comfortable. What Hoka do well is give you the confidence to run long miles and this is equally true of the Torrents. They did get a bit soggy, though, so a GTX version would be a very welcome addition. 

Verdict: We’re Hoka trail converts! Our winter long run fave

Score: 92%

Salomon Supercross Blast

salomon supercross blast trail run shoes
  • £100

We used 2019’s version of the Salomon Supercross for a mixture of multi-surface runs, muddy walks and general traipsing about last winter. The plush and comfortable upper combined with the Contagrip sole made them a definite go-to shoe that also looked pretty cool for daily wear, too.

And now 2020’s version is equally comfortable, with a soft lining and quick-lacing system that quickly cradles the foot and is easy to adjust on the fly. The long heel tab is comfortable on the Achilles tendon and a waterproof version is now available this year for an extra £20 quid.

Verdict: Plush and grippy all-rounder;  good price point

Score: 88%

Brooks Catamount

brooks catamount trail run shoes
  • £125

White. Trail. Shoes… Yep, coming into the wettest, muddiest week of the year so far, we couldn’t help but see these as the sacrificial lamb of the test and within seconds we’d destroyed their Daz-white looks.

That aside, though, they felt light, plush and responsive. The sole is grippy but best suited to loose, dusty trails and rock surfaces, rather than sticky mud where we didn’t get enough traction.

Added features include space to write your crew names on the side and a Velcro gaiter tab. One for dusty summer trail runs or desert ultras, rather than a UK winter, perhaps? 

Verdict: Plush and comfy, but not for muddy British winters

Score: 72%