Trail run shoes: 5 of the best for men reviewed

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

Credit: Secret Studio

SAUCONY SWITCHBACK ISO

£120

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In the lacing department, the Boa Technology separates Saucony’s Switchback ISO from the following page’s contenders. It proves more effective than the Guidance Line on the Asics Fujitrabuco Pro, and – especially when combined with Saucony’s Isofit sock-like tongue – provides better security than the traditional lacing options and a more uniform fit than elastic tri laces (although we do have some long-term durability concerns about the top lace loop).

And the shoe below the laces? There’s a noticeable lack of outsole protection when the terrain becomes jagged: a rock plate, more substantial toe bumper and deeper lugs would be on our Switchback wishlist for mountainous adventures (or we’ll just use our Peregrine 6, easily our favourite Saucony trail shoe). Yet, thanks to the lacing system, light 248g weight (UK size 7), low 4mm heel-to-toe drop and the responsive Everun midsole, these were our pick of the five men’s shoes on test for off-road triathlon race day. They delivered a fun, flexible, breathable and natural running experience at our new favourite race, the Aviemore Triathlon in Scotland.
saucony.com

Verdict: Superior lacing and build for tri racing 83%

Buy from www.saucony.com

  

BROOKS CALDERA 3

£110

While it’s been a case of diminishing returns for Brooks’ Puregrit since edition six, the neutral support of the Caldera
3 has a broader appeal for both athletes and trail types. There’s a breathable mesh upper, fairly low 269g weight and responsiveness for upping the tempo on trail race day.

And yet we enjoyed them most on long, steady efforts, with the thick midsole but low 4mm drop combining to produce a responsive, comfy and protective ride that edges into Hoka territory. While drainage is good, they’re not the most water resistant and the shallow lugs can collect stones so they wouldn’t be our choice for the most slippery stuff.

Verdict: The most versatile on test; our pick for longer runs 87%

Buy from www.brooksrunning.com

  

ASICS FUJITRABUCO PRO

£115

Knowing what trail types you’ll usually be running on is key when buying, especially when considering the Fujitrabuco Pro. That’s due to the plasticky outsole, which is rigid on any forms of rock. Escape the asphalt world, however, and the impressive traction, a lean weight (258g) and 6mm drop ensure the Pro come alive.

There’s a protective rock plate and toe bumper for deflecting jagged elements, while the booty prevents debris entering. The heel loop and the uniform tension of the lacing system have race-day appeal, but the laces are hard to adjust with cold hands. The fit is fairly narrow and there are more breathable uppers on test. asics.com

Verdict: not for parkrun but plenty of heavy-duty appeal 75%

Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk

MERRELL FLEX 2

£85

Until Hoka arrived, we used the Bare Access range consistently and can vouch for their durability. Yet they come with caveats. The positives of the Bare Access Flex 2 are a sub-£100 price tag and a breathable mesh design, while the ultra-lean 203g weight and minimal grips give them Parkrun appeal (but keep away from slippery rocks and thick mud). But, if you have injury issues or less-than-perfect technique, we’d suggest looking elsewhere, as the minimal stack height (14.5mm) and zero drop feel suitable only to the nimblest of mountain goats. There’s little protection and propulsion properties here, and it’s only when adding our own Sortbothane insoles that we felt any sort of cushioning. 

Verdict: Light and cheap, but more a road/trail hybrid 71%

Buy from www.trekkinn.com

  

361° YUSHAN

£119.99

We’ve had the Yushans for a while and we’re still struggling to locate a USP apart from their ability to numb any jagged surface due to their furiously firm sole. That’s due to a hefty heel (drop is 8mm), 6mm thick footbed and
rock plate protection under the forefoot. But, even after multiple runs, the shoes feel just too rigid, heavy (344g)
and unresponsive for any prolonged running or short-course trail triathlons or parkruns. The knit upper is breathable
and durable, though, while grip is assured on gravel and mud (less so on wet rocks), and we’ve no concerns
over the durability of the upper or midsole.

Verdict: Durable but far too firm and rigid for running 59%

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Buy from www.361europe.com