The Best Trail Running Shoes
Picking the best trail running shoes depends entirely on the type of runner you are and the type of trails you’re running. We divide our trail running shoe reviews into two main categories—the Best Lightweight Trail Running Shoes, for stronger runners looking for a faster, more agile, close-to-the-trail experience, and the Best Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, for trail runners who want more cushioning and protection from trail hazards. Of course, if road running shoes are really what you’re after, check out our tests of the Best Road Running Shoes.
Each season, our expert team reviews the best trail running shoes head to head against each other in each of these two primary categories. Each tester spends approximately 2-3 weeks running in each shoe, providing objective feedback on comfort, speed, security of fit, agility and responsiveness. We run on a variety of trails—from flat and rolling to steep, technical mountain trails, on dry terrain and in mud and snow. We never let our advertisers or brand biases influence our reviews in any way, so you get unfiltered, candid assessments directly from our experts.
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Best in Class
Hoka One One Evo MafateCushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The Hoka One One Evo Mafate is a lightweight, fast, and maximally-cushioned shoe that’s ideal for ultramarathons and other long-distance trail running. It’s a ground-up revamp of the Mafate Speed 2, with a new midsole material and completely redesigned upper. Our wear-testers were impressed with the level of lightweight, responsive cushioning and the Evo Mafate’s agility across a range of terrain and trail conditions. There were some concerns about the fit and materials of the upper and a few runners noticed small rocks getting caught in the outsole, but overall, our team was very impressed with this shoe.
Most Plush & Comfortable
Saucony Xodus ISO 3Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The Saucony Xodus ISO 3 is a durable trail runner that our wear-testers described as “bombproof.” There are major, bottom-to-top updates from last year’s Xodus ISO 2, including a totally redesigned upper and a full midsole made from Saucony’s responsive EVERUN (the same material as the Saucony Freedom and Liberty road shoes). Our wear-testers found the Saucony Xodus ISO 3 extraordinarily responsive and comfortable, and praised the durable, sticky outsole. However, the Xodus ISO 3 tips the scales at 12.9oz (for men’s size 9), which made it the heaviest shoe in this round of testing. One described it as “lumbering.” The weight worked against what would have otherwise been a Best in Category trail shoe.
Salomon Sense Ride GTXCushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running & Running Shoes
The Salomon Sense Ride GTX is a brand-new waterproof version of the previously-released Sense Ride. Overall, our wear-testers thought it offered a good balance between cushioning and performance, with a vibrant visual design. “I need two pairs of Sense Rides: one for the trail and one for the rest of my life,” said one of our wear-testers. Although there were some concerns about the narrow fit and speed-lacing system, our runners felt like the Salomon Sense Ride GTX is an excellent choice for trail runners looking for a speedy, responsive waterproof shoe.
Brooks Cascadia 13Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
It’s hard to go wrong with the Brooks Cascadia 13, the newest iteration of Brooks’ flagship trail running shoe. The 13th version of this popular trail shoe gets a tweaked and modernized upper, but keeps the midsole, outsole, overall fit and most details of the previous edition. However, the Brooks Cascadia 13 is relatively heavy, and our wear-test team found its ride and responsiveness to be average at best. In an era where trail runners expect even well-cushioned trail shoes to be light, lively and nimble, the Brooks Cascadia 13 is starting to feel dated.
Best in Class
The North Face Flight RKTLightweight Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The North Face Flight RKT is the best all around shoe tested this season. It is light, responsive, fast and very comfortable. Unless you are looking for a technical mountain shoe, you will be hard pressed to find a better shoe than this.
Best for Race Day
Scarpa Spin RSLightweight Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
A very fast, grippy shoe that works best in technical or wet conditions. Under foot protection is sacrificed for weight and flexibility but it is a fair trade considering how good this shoe is otherwise.
Best for Rock Hopping Agility
La Sportiva VKLightweight Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The VK is a race ready shoe, as long as that race is a VK (vertical kilometer). This shoe knows what it was made for and it does it very well. This is a fast shoe for a very specific purpose—going up.
Best For Zero Drop Fans
Topo Athletic Runventure 2Lightweight Trail Running Shoes, Running & Trail Running Shoes
The Topo Runventure 2 is a solid and comfortable trail runner that provides protection in rough terrain and outstanding comfort for longish days on the trail. Like all Topo Athletic shoes, the Runventure 2 is built to maintain natural running biomechanics, but can also accommodate traditional heel strikers or transitioning runners.