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
Pearl Izumi Trail N3Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The Pearl Izumi Trail N3 is the company’s burly, cushioned new addition to the E:Motion line of trail runners While it looks and feels as substantial as other maximalist shoes, the N3’s light weight, comfortable fit, and buttery smooth trail feel make it stand out in this category.
Best For Long Runs In Technical Terrain
Inov-8 X-Claw 275Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The Inov-8 X-Claw 275 makes smart compromises in a lightweight, nimble package that can handle challenging trails as well as multi-hour runs. Our wear-testers had some concerns about the model’s fit and its performance on gentler terrain, but praised its responsiveness and low weight.
Best For Zero Drop Fans, Versatility
Altra Lone Peak 3.0Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is an all-around trail runner that’s suitable for everything from speedy off-road 5K’s through all-day ultramarathons and light hiking. It mates comfortable, supportive uppers to a responsive EVA/Abound midsole and sticky TrailClaw outsole. Although some wear-testers reported that the Lone Peak 3.0 doesn’t feel light or agile, it’s a shoe that’s built for all-day performance and comfort.
Best For Run-to-Hikes, Flashpacking
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell MidCushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
Best in Class
New Balance Vazee Summit 2Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
Best For Long Runs
Saucony Peregrine 7Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The Saucony Peregrine 6 was one of the best all-purpose trail shoes to hit the market this year. The Peregrine 7 is largely unchanged from the prior version, and retains the same outstanding combination of long-haul cushioning with the agility and responsiveness necessary for faster running.
Best For Deep Cushioning
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes, Running, Running Shoes & Trail Running Shoes
The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 is a highly cushioned trail shoe built for long distance training and racing. It offers a smooth ride at a weight that is simply unbelievable for this level of cushioning. The Challenger definitely requires some getting used to however when running on highly technical terrain.