The Best Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes

This round of testing brings together eight trail running models in the Comfort & Protective subcategory.  They’re distinguished from Lightweight Trail shoes by their stack height (typically 25-35mm in the heel), heavier weight, stable ride, and comfortable fit.  These are the trail shoes you pull out for a multi-hour training run in the mountains or an ultramarathon race – some of them even double as lightweight hiking shoes.  Our wear-testing team is spread across the country, from the desert southwest to mountainous Colorado to New England and the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin. They put in many hours and 20-80 miles testing each shoe on a variety of trails and types of terrain.  Each shoe was evaluated on six categories: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness, and protection.

All eight pairs of comfort & protective trail runners in this round of testing.

To dig a bit deeper, the shoes in this round of testing have a wide range of features and details.  There are models from traditional running mainstays like New Balance and Asics, as well as some of the biggest new names in trail running like Hoka One One.  Some are updated versions of models that have been around for a few years, while other models in the test are brand-new introductions to the field. Some try to perfect the versatile trail shoe; others try to stand out from the crowd with innovative, distinctive features like an integrated bootie with ankle gaiter.  Some of the models in the test are all-arounders to lace up for all sorts of trails, while others hit a specific performance niche (an aggressive all-mountain monster for only the gnarliest terrain, for example).

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Asics Alpine XT
95
Best in Class
2018
Comfort 9
Speed 10
Security of Fit 9
Agility 10
Responsiveness 8
Protection 9

Very comfortable upper

Responsive cushioning

Great traction

Lively trail feel

Attractive design

Minimal toe bumper

No rock plate

Stiff midsole

Low height of the toebox

MSRP
$100.00
BEST DEAL
New Balance Leadville v3
92
Best in Class
2016
Comfort 10
Speed 8
Security of Fit 9
Agility 8
Responsiveness 8
Protection 9

Seamless upper

Roomy toe box

Grippy, durable outsole

Comfortable, responsive midsole

Unobtrusive but effective medial posting

Thin tongue

Some heel slip

Relatively slow to break in

Runs about a half-size large

MSRP
$125.00
BEST DEAL
Montrail Caldorado
91
Comfort 8
Speed 10
Security of Fit 9
Agility 8
Responsiveness 9
Protection 7

Responsive midsole

Agile, quick trail feel

Comfortable upper bootie construction

Smart stability control

Heavier than peer shoes

Laces are short

Tongue is not fully gusseted

Some lace pressure through the thin tongue

MSRP
$120.00
BEST DEAL
Pearl Izumi Trail N3
91
Best in Class
2016
Comfort 10
Speed 8
Security of Fit 9
Agility 7
Responsiveness 8
Protection 9

Responsive cushioning

Seamless uppers

Lightweight for a maximalist shoe

Smooth & stable trail feel

Undersized lugs

Ineffective toe guard

Durability concerns on upper

MSRP
$135.00
BEST DEAL
New Balance Hierro v3
91
Comfort 8
Speed 7
Security of Fit 8
Agility 8
Responsiveness 10
Protection 10

Durable Vibram outsole

Responsive midsole

Plush cushion

Comfortable bootie upper

Limited ventilation

Heavy weight

Lack of traction

Hit-or-miss fit

MSRP
$135.00
BEST DEAL
La Sportiva Akasha
90
Comfort 9
Speed 8
Security of Fit 8
Agility 8
Responsiveness 8
Protection 9

Secure wraparound upper

Comfortable fit

Great ground-feel

Fast and agile

Terrific traction on a wide variety of surfaces

Sizing runs short

Very firm heel

Stiff, low-flexibility midsole

Uncomfortable heel cup

Relatively heavy

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
Inov-8 X-Claw 275
90
Comfort 8
Speed 9
Security of Fit 7
Agility 8
Responsiveness 9
Protection 9

Lightweight

Quick turnover

Aggressive grip

Wide forefoot

Overkill for smooth trails

Narrow laces

Shallow heel cups

Reduced breathability

MSRP
$120.00
BEST DEAL
On Running Cloudventure Midtop
90
Comfort 8
Speed 9
Security of Fit 8
Agility 8
Responsiveness 10
Protection 7

Quality materials and construction

Innovative cushioning system

Comfortable bootie liner

Attractive design

Fits long and narrow

Only one color option

Difficult to put on

Thin laces

Expensive

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
Salewa Ultra Train
90
Comfort 7
Speed 9
Security of Fit 8
Agility 8
Responsiveness 8
Protection 10

Versatile

Outsole durability

High quality

Supportive

Uncommon colors

Uncomfortable toe bumper

Thin laces

Lace grommets

Stiff heel counter

MSRP
$139.00
BEST DEAL
Brooks Caldera 2
89
Comfort 10
Speed 8
Security of Fit 7
Agility 8
Responsiveness 8
Protection 8

Comfortable upper

Roomy toe box

Plush cushioning

Lightweight

Small outsole lugs

Outsole durability

Fit runs large

Poorly-designed lace garage

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4
89
Comfort 7
Speed 9
Security of Fit 7
Agility 8
Responsiveness 9
Protection 9

Lightweight

Excellent cushioning

Great ventilation

Responsive trail feel

Flimsy upper materials

Outsole durability

Weak traction on wet trails

Minimal upper padding

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
88
Comfort 8
Speed 8
Security of Fit 7
Agility 7
Responsiveness 9
Protection 9

Terrific trail feel

Supportive upper

Integrated gaiter hooks

Comfortable fit

Challenging adjustment period

Slow foot turnover

Less stable on descents

MSRP
$120.00
BEST DEAL
Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid
87
Comfort 8
Speed 7
Security of Fit 7
Agility 6
Responsiveness 9
Protection 10

Versatile runner/hiker

Incredibly supportive upper

Roomy toe box

Effective waterproofing

Overpadded ankle collar

Very thick tongue

Traps heat

Difficult to adjust to zero-drop

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
Pearl Izumi Trail N2 v3
87
Comfort 9
Speed 9
Security of Fit 8
Agility 7
Responsiveness 7
Protection 7

No-stitch seamless uppers

Smooth rockered sole

Responsive feel

Roomy forefoot

Breathable mesh

Heavy

Undersized lugs

Not distinct from other models

MSRP
$125.00
BEST DEAL
Salomon Speedcross 4
87
Comfort 8
Speed 8
Security of Fit 6
Agility 8
Responsiveness 9
Protection 8

Colossal grip

Protective uppers

Durability

Long, narrow fit

Speed laces

No tongue gusset

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
Montrail Trans Alps
86
Comfort 7
Speed 7
Security of Fit 7
Agility 7
Responsiveness 8
Protection 10

Burly outsole

Super durable

Great protection

Full-foot rockplate

Excellent traction

Heavy

Stiff

Relatively narrow fit

Slow to break in

Not very versatile

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3
84
Comfort 10
Speed 6
Security of Fit 8
Agility 5
Responsiveness 6
Protection 9

Soft, cushy midsole

Wide toe box

Innovative drainage system

Flex grooves and rocker midsole

Soft midsole feels unresponsive

Minimal groundfeel

Less stable than shoes with traditional stack heights

Poorly-suited for technical trails

The new Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3 is the successor to last year’s GoRun Ultra road/trail hybrid, but it’s a full revamp of the shoe with substantial changes. The maximalist sole has innovative drainage ports and new rubber, while the segmented sole gives it the flexibility similar high-stack models from Hoka are lacking. At just under 11oz for size 9, it’s surprisingly light, and our wear-testers universally described it as supremely comfortable to wear. Reactions to its performance on the trail were mixed, however, with some wear-testers describing it as a solid choice for off-road ultras while others found the maximalist sole energy-sapping, unstable and distracting.

MSRP
N/A
BEST DEAL
Asics Gel-FujiEndurance
84
Comfort 7
Speed 8
Security of Fit 7
Agility 7
Responsiveness 8
Protection 7

Versatile trail/road hybrid

Waterproofing

Comfortable sockliner

Snug, secure fit

Responsive midsole

Shallow heel cup

Overbuilt toe guard

Heel slip and lateral forefoot movement

Best suited for tamer singletrack

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
Salomon XA Elevate
83
Comfort 4
Speed 6
Security of Fit 8
Agility 9
Responsiveness 8
Protection 8

Aggressive tread

Durable outsole

Innovative lacing system

Protective uppers

Narrow fit

Very snug toebox

Stiff midsole

Very firm ride

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
Scarpa Proton
83
Comfort 7
Speed 6
Security of Fit 6
Agility 7
Responsiveness 8
Protection 9

Protective

Durable Vibram outsole

Flexible forefoot

Reflective heel elements

Abrasive forefoot stitches

Stiff heel

Widely-spaced lugs

Low-quality laces

MSRP
$129.00
BEST DEAL
Adidas Terrex X-King Adidas Terrex X-King
82
Comfort 5
Speed 8
Security of Fit 5
Agility 7
Responsiveness 9
Protection 8

Extremely innovative

Aggressive lugs

Sticky outsole compound

Visually attractive design

Narrow removable midsole

Confusing sizing

Speedlaces come loose

Expensive

MSRP
$160.00
BEST DEAL
La Sportiva Helios SR
81
Comfort 8
Speed & Agility 7
Security of Fit 5
Responsiveness 6
Stability 5

Extremely soft and comfortable


Excellent responsiveness and turnover

Sticky outsole rubber grips well on rock

Poor traction on gravel and scree

Limited protection underfoot

Upper breathes and drains poorly

MSRP
$125.00
BEST DEAL
Columbia Montrail Trans Alps FKT II
79
Comfort 6
Speed 5
Security of Fit 6
Agility 7
Responsiveness 6
Protection 9

Aggressive tread/Great traction

Outstanding protection

Very durable

Slow & sluggish

Heavy

Cheap laces

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Montrail Bajada 2
78
Comfort 4
Speed and Agility 7
Security of Fit 4
Responsiveness 7
Stability 6

Excellent traction

Decent turnover for a shoe in this weight class

Well protected underfoot

Narrow midfoot and toebox

Stiff ride and cushioning

Stack height can inhibit stability on technical terrain

MSRP
BEST DEAL
ASICS Gel Fuji Attack 4
77
Comfort 4
Speed & Agility 7
Security of Fit 5
Responsiveness 4
Stability 7

Slightly more responsive than shoes in this category

Full-length outsole adds protection

Low profile lugs facilitate turnover

Slightly odd fit

A bit stiff for a comfort shoe

Traction struggles on wet surfaces and bare rock

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
The North Face Ultra Cardiac
76
Comfort 6
Speed & Agility 6
Security of Fit 7
Responsiveness 1
Stability 6

Comfortable fit and ride

Full length outsole aids traction

Good balance between flexibility and responsiveness

Protection is somewhat lacking

Short lugs struggle on loose surfaces

Narrow toe box

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
Inov-8 RocLite 315
75
Comfort 3
Speed 5
Security of Fit 5
Agility 6
Responsiveness 8
Protection 8

Low-to-the-ground ride

Firm midsole

Aggressive lugs

Lightweight

Clunky ride

Stiff uppers

Poor ventilation

Uncomfortable toebox

Low-fitting heel cup

MSRP
$135.00
BEST DEAL
Merrell MQM Flex GTX
71
Comfort 4
Speed 4
Security of Fit 5
Agility 4
Responsiveness 5
Protection 9

GoreTex waterproof uppers

Sturdy outsole

Excellent traction

Comfortably padded uppers

Heavy weight

Very high arch

Clunky ride

Sloppy heel

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
Scott Kinabalu Enduro
69
Comfort 3
Speed 6
Security of Fit 3
Agility 5
Responsiveness 5
Protection 7

Good traction under a variety of conditions

Aggressive treads with great traction

Durable Vibram lugs

Uncomfortable fit

Narrow uppers

Constrictive one-piece plastic overlay

Heavy weight

Stiff, clunky trail feel

MSRP
$150.00
BEST DEAL
Asics Alpine XT

The Alpine XT is a new trail model from Asics that strikes a balance between agility and protection, without sacrificing either. Our wear-test team found it versatile across a wide range of trails and conditions, thanks to an outsole with edge-to-edge lugs. The SpEVA foam midsole is responsive and lively, and cushioned enough (26mm heel, 20mm forefoot) that the lack of a forefoot rockplate wasn’t a serious hindrance. Some runners, however, may find the midsole too stiff. The uppers are a near-seamless dense knit that looks great and holds the foot securely and comfortably. Overall, our wear-test team was impressed with the new Asics Alpine XT.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

New Balance Hierro v3

The New Balance Hierro v3 is almost unrecognizable compared to its predecessor. From the ground up, there are changes to the outsole, midsole, and entire upper. While the upgrades add weight (the Hierro v3 is the heaviest shoe in this round of testing, and about an ounce heavier than last year’s Hierro v2), the benefits are substantial. The new Hierro v3 has outstanding comfort and protection with a snug bootie upper, all of which make it an excellent choice for ultramarathons and long trail days. The new design is also visually striking. On the downside, some of our wear-testers found that the extra benefits didn’t offset the added weight. There were also serious disagreements on the team about fit and traction, with wear-testers giving the Hierro v3 very high and very low marks. Overall, the New Balance Hierro v3 is a shoe that everyone will like to look at, but runners should test out before buying.

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Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

The new Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 keeps what most runners loved about the previous version, namely the maximal-cushioned outsole and lightweight, responsive ride. There are some changes to the upper to shave substantial weight over the previous version. But the weight savings comes from stripping down the upper, and that’s the source of most of our wear-test team’s concerns. Multiple runners on our team noted the flimsy structure to the uppers and lack of support. Overall, the Challenger ATR 4 sets the standard for a cushioned, lively ride, but there’s debate about whether saving weight by scaling back the uppers was worth it.

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Brooks Caldera 2

The Brooks Caldera 2 is a lightweight, versatile trail shoe that tries to find a balance between protection and cushioning on one hand, and agility and speed on the other. Our wear-test team gave it high marks for comfort and design, but were split on how well it found the right compromise on protection and responsiveness. One called it one of his favorite trail shoes ever and an easy go-to for training, while another said it was a poor choice for anything but easy, mellow terrain without any technical features.

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Salomon XA Elevate

The new Salomon XA Elevate is a performance-oriented trail runner with terrific agility, ample protection, and aggressive tread. Our wear-testers could run with confidence up and down just about any type of terrain in any weather, from loose rock to wet roots to hard-pack snow and ice. However, the XA Elevate is built on Salomon’s performance last, which is narrow and snug, especially through the toebox. The midsole is also firm and stiff, which gives the XA Elevate terrific performance at quick paces but makes it feel harsh during longer, slower runs.

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Columbia Montrail Trans Alps FKT II

The updated Columbia/Montrail Trans Alps FKT II is a beefy, burly trail shoe that could easily double as a lightweight hiker. The substantial full-rubber outsole, full-foot rockplate and sturdy upper make the Trans Alps FKT II at home on rocky, technical mountain terrain - although those same details make it heavier than its more versatile, all-around peers like the Brooks Caldera 2 and Salomon XA Elevate. Overall, our wear-test team was impressed by the Trans Alps FKT II’s protection on the trail, but wanted to see it in a more agile, lightweight package.

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Inov-8 RocLite 315

The RocLite 315 is Inov-8’s all-around trail model, designed to handle technical terrain but stay comfortable enough for long days on the trail and ultramarathons. It has impressive ground-feel and aggressive tread, but the uppers and midsole are stiff and inflexible. The result is a shoe that feels clunky and unwieldy instead of agile and fast.

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Merrell MQM Flex GTX

The Merrell MQM Flex GTX is a waterproof shoe that’s designed to do double duty as a stable, protective trail runner and an all-day hiker. It straddles the divide between categories, so it’s lightweight for a hiking shoe but the heaviest shoe in the test when compared to trail running shoes. Our wear-tester team gave it high marks for protection and durability, but thought the ride was uncomfortable and clunky.

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See All Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoes Reviews

Cushioned & Protective Trail Running Shoe Review Results

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As they put each shoe through its paces, our wear-test team tried to answer a range of questions. The answers help them evaluate the shoe and compare it to others in the test. We try to ask exactly the same questions you’d be asking about your own trail running shoes. Are they comfortable straight out the box, or do they need a break-in period?  How well do they fit, and how secure does your foot feel on the trail? What sorts of terrain do they perform best on, and can we identify what features or details explain it? Since they’re trail shoes, where do they grip, and where do they slip? What are their strengths, and what are their points of weakness? When we try to turn up the pace, how well do they respond?  On the trail, do they feel lively and nimble, or sluggish and slow? When we put long runs into them, do they feel as good at the end as they do at the beginning? How do we feel the morning after a long run in them? Any noticeable wear after a few runs? When the round of testing is over and all the reviews are uploaded, which pair do we want to postpone boxing up so we can keep running in them?

We’re also looking carefully at each shoe’s specs, design, and construction details.  Shoes in this category typically have relatively high stack heights (in this round, they range from 25mm heel/17mm forefoot all the way up to 31mm heel/26mm forefoot).  They often have plush uppers with a combination of breathable mesh panels and stitched-on overlays for support. The heels are typically firm to rigid, and the front of the toe box has a wraparound bumper to protect vulnerable toes against errant rocks and unexpected roots.

 

A comparison of heel cups. Salomon XA Elevate (left) and New Balance Hierro v3 (right).

There can be substantial variation between shoes in this category though. Some that we tested have relatively low outsole lugs, and could easily double as a comfortable trail/road hybrid shoe.  Others have outsoles with deep, aggressive lugs that claw into soft ground and grip tight on rock-strewn trails. Some of the shoes we tested have relatively large 8-10mm heel-to-toe drops, while others are built on a much smaller 4mm drop platform.  To deal with sharp rocks and trail obstacles, some have a stiff rock plate embedded in the midsole, while others rely on firm foam and a high stack height to protect the bottom of the foot.

Comparison of midsoles and stack height for the Asics Alpine XT (left) and Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 (right).

 

Because there’s a lot of technology and material in these types of trail shoes, they tend to be more expensive than the average running shoe.  MSRPs for the shoes in our test ranged from $110 at the low end to $145 for the highest-priced model. A higher price does not necessarily mean better performance, and the highest-scoring models are not necessarily the most expensive.

Comparison of outsoles and lugs for the Inov-8 RocLite 315 (left) and Brooks Caldera 2 (right).

 

Comfort

Here our wear-testers are looking for the overall fit of the shoe, cushioning and breathability.  Comfort is a function of the materials used, the way the shoe is constructed, and the manufacturer’s design choices.  A comfortable trail shoe ought to feel plush inside the upper, not overly restrictive around the midfoot and toe box, and almost unnoticeable on the trail.  Some trail shoes in this round of testing had seamless construction thanks to welded (not sewn on) overlays, and some had uppers constructed of an entire sock-like bootie.  Two of the most comfortable shoes in our test were the Brooks Caldera 2 and the New Balance Hierro v3. The Hierro v3 has a comfortably snug inner bootie liner with integrated gaiter, and the Caldera 2 has such a soft upper that one wear-tester compared it to a broken-in baseball glove.

Speed

Our wear-testers are also looking for how speedy the shoe feels on the trail, and in what types of terrain.  One shoe might feel fast on smooth-rolling gravel, while a different shoe with different features feels speedy when bombing down technical descents.  We’re looking for shoes that feel light on the trail, with a quick turnover and efficient footstrike (as opposed to a plodding, sluggish stride). The speediest shoe in this round of testing was the new Alpine XT from Asics, which all of our wear-testers praised for its nimble, quick feel on the trail.

Comparison of heel cups and tread patterns on the Columbia/Montrail Trans Alps FKT II and Merrell MQM Flex GTX.

 

Security of Fit

Here, we’re looking for how well the foot feels locked-in and secure.  A good trail shoe ought to have supportive uppers that keep the foot from sliding around.  The shoe needs a secure fit to confidently clear trail obstacles like rocks and roots, as well as off-camber sections and steep ascents/descents.  A shoe that doesn’t fit securely isn’t a shoe you can feel confident or fast in. In this round of testing, the model that offered the most secure fit was the Salomon XA Elevate.  The XA Elevate has a snug fit combined with supportive overlays in the upper and a firm heel cup to hold the foot exactly where it should be.

Agility

Our wear-test team put in miles across a range of different terrains, and each shoe was evaluated on how well it handled rocks, roots, loose gravel, hardpack, wet ground, soft ground, snow, ice, and other types of surface conditions.  A shoe’s agility is related to how well it handles a variety of different types of technical terrain without losing grip or forcing the runner to slow down. A lot of this depends on the shoe’s outsole material, lug placement, lug depth, and lug design.  Some of the shoes in our test, like the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4, have relatively low, flat lugs that don’t bite into technical terrain. The winner in this category was the Salomon XA Elevate, which has an aggressive outsole that handled a wide range of trails with ease and confidence.

Cushioned & Protective trail shoes cover a wide range of models, features and technologies.

 

Responsiveness

Here, our wear-testers are looking for a shoe’s energy return.  When they run, and especially when they turn up the pace, they’re looking for how well the shoe gives a lively reaction.  Shoes with poor responsiveness are often described as marshmallows – i.e., the runner sinks into them instead of easily bounding forward down the trail.  The most responsive shoes in this round of testing were the New Balance Hierro v3 and Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4, both of which have a snappy, lively midsole that our wear-testers described as fun to run in.

Protection

Finally, our wear-testers looked for how well each shoe protected the foot from trail obstacles like rocks and roots.  We looked for structural design features like the presence of a rock plate embedded in the midsole and a full-coverage, durable rubber outsole without exposed sections of foam.  Some models also protected feet with high stack height rather than an embedded plate. We also looked at the uppers, including how protective the front-end toe bumper is, how well the overlays protect the sides of the foot, and whether the mesh prevents dust and trail debris from getting into the shoe.  Some of the shoes we tested have built-in hooks for gaiters, which are an optional ankle cover to give even more protection from dirt, thorns, dust and small rocks getting into the shoe. The most protective shoes in this round of testing were the Columbia/Montrail Trans Alps FKT II and the Merrell MQM Flex GTX.  Both have rockplates as well as burly full-coverage outsoles, thick midsoles, and protective uppers.

Review Conclusion

With those six categories in mind – comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness, and protection – our team of wear-testers put the eight models head to head.  We tested them on gently rolling singletrack, in the mountains, in the muck, over fallen trees, powering up technical climbs, through the ice and snow, and flying down steep descents.  We tested them on easy training days and in tough ultramarathons. When it all shook out, the Asics Alpine XT stood on top, with the New Balance Hierro v3 and Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 close behind.  However, we recognize that runners with specific needs may find that shoes lower on our score-sheet may be right at the top of their personal list. A mountain runner in Colorado may be a perfect match for the Inov-8 RocLite 315.  Someone tackling a gently-rolling 100-miler on Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail may find that the Brooks Caldera 2 has exactly the comfortable, plush ride they need. A runner who wants a dual-duty shoe for fast hiking and backpacking should absolutely look at the Columbia/Montrail Trans Alps FKT II and Merrell MQM Flex GTX.  There’s a standout feature in every single shoe we tested, and our collective assessment is meant to be a starting point and guidepost, not a final determination or universal conclusion.

All eight shoes in this round of testing, waiting to head out the door to the trails.

 

Test Methods

Over the course of a few weeks, our wear-test team does multiple runs in each pair of shoes they test.  They aim for a variety of runs (easy recovery runs, long training runs, harder race-pace efforts) across as many different types of trails as they can manage.  The team is spread across the country, so we are able to test under a variety of different conditions, terrains, and types of trail, from gently-rolling fire roads to highly technical mountain singletrack.

Each member of the wear-test team individually evaluates each model on six different criteria: (1) comfort, which involves overall fit and cushioning, (2) speed, which is how nimble and quick the shoe feels at pace, (3) security of fit, which involves how locked-in and stable the foot feels when the shoe is laced up, (4) agility, which is related to the shoe’s traction across a range of different surfaces, (5) responsiveness, which involves the shoe’s energy return and whether it feels snappy or sluggish, and (6) protection, which is how well the shoe’s technical features protect the foot from trail obstacles.