The Best Trail Running Shoes for Every Runner in 2022 – Sports Illustrated

The Best Trail Running Shoes for Every Runner in 2022  Sports Illustrated

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Trail running is a popular hobby and wearing the proper shoes is critical for safety, stability and comfort. Whether you’re splitting your time between the roads and trails, need a lightweight shoe or want the best all-weather shoes to help you explore any climate, our guide has you covered.

Traditional running shoes aren’t built to handle the demands of unstable surfaces, mud and dirt, so trail running shoes are essential for any off-road running. Ahead we’ll break down what you need to look for when shopping for trail running shoes and share our top picks.

Versatile enough to handle any trail, the adidas Agravic Flow 2 Trail shoes are the best overall shoes available on the market. A full-length promoderation foil and rock plate run along the midsole, helping to keep your foot secure and protected from any pointy objects you may step on. This extra support helps keep your foot from rolling inward as you run and a breathable mesh upper allows the air to flow comfortably over your foot.

The Continental outsole is designed to provide maximum traction on any surface and the shoe still provides a bit of cushioning with Lightstrike EVA foam. These aren’t the lightest trail running shoes, but for maximum protection and stability, it’s hard to beat them.

Key features:

  • Price: $140
  • Weight: 11.3 ounces. (320 grams) for a US M9 / US W10.5
  • Cushioning: Lightstrike EVA foam cushioning
  • Available in 5 colorways:
    • Wonder Steel / Magic Grey / Impact Orange
    • Core Black / Core Black / Grey Six
    • Core Black / Grey Four / Cloud White
    • Core Black / Blue Rush / Turbo
    • Pulse Lime / Turbo / Cloud White

Pros: High-traction, with a promoderation foil to stabilize your foot and provide rock protection.

Cons: The extra stability makes these shoes a little heavier than many competitors.


Purchase adidas Agravic Flow 2 Trail 


While the Hoka Speedgoat 5 is primarily a trail shoe, its lightweight design, cushioning and traction make it versatile enough for hitting the streets. These are lighter than some of the other trail running shoes on our list (10.3 ounces), so they won’t weigh you down when you’re running on pavement.

The protective toe cap is a nice touch and this iteration of the Speedgoat includes a Vibram Megagrip with Traction Lug, which the brand claims will provide even more traction and responsiveness on any surface.

Stable enough for the trails, yet light enough for the roads, this is our top choice for hybrid runners who enjoy training on multiple surfaces, from smooth sidewalks to the uneven terrain of your favorite trail. They also have the lowest heel-to-toe drop on our list, for those who like a flatter shoe.

Key features:

  • Price: $155
  • Weight: 10.3 ounces
  • Drop: 4.0 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Balanced cushioning that’s not too thick or thin
  • Available in 3 colorways:
    • Blue Coral / Evening Primrose
    • Fiesta / Radiant Yellow
    • Duffel Bag / Thyme

Pros: Provides enough versatility to run on both roads and trails

Cons: Hoka rates these shoes as “neutral” stability, so they won’t add too much extra support to the midfoot, forefoot or sole. For those users who want more stability and protection, this may not provide enough.


Purchase Hoka Speedgoat 5


For those who are just getting started with trail running or transitioning from road running, the Salomon Sense Ride 4 GoreTex Invisible Fit is one of the lightest trail running shoes on the market at just 10.7 ounces.

For those who find a heavy shoe a bit clunky and uncomfortable to run in, this shoe is designed to allow youto stay mobile and agile on the trails thanks to its design. Lightweight, with minimal drop and Salomon’s Quicklace lacing system (a patented criss-cross design that makes it easier to lace up securely), these shoes will have you running up trails in no time.

The only trade-off is the durability; a lighter design means less protection and traction. Salomon only recommends these shoes for mixed surfaces, such as roads and trains with light debris. They don’t have the aggressive lugs required for running in mud or snow.

If you’re running on hard, rocky surfaces or running through mud, snow or ice, you’ll want a sturdier shoe. But for those light summer trail runs, this is our pick for the best shoe on the market.

Related Post: The Best Running Shoes for Men

Key features:

  • Price: $160
  • Weight: 10.7 ounces
  • Drop: 8 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Regular cushioning
  • Available in two colorways
    • Stormy Weather / Quarry / Cherry Tomato
    • Black / Quiet Shade / Black

Pros: Lightweight design to minimize muscle fatigue, while still providing steady footing on mixed surfaces.

Cons: These shoes aren’t quite durable enough for harsh weather conditions, mud or hard, rocky surfaces.


Purchase Salomon Sense Ride 4 GoreTex Invisible Fit 


For those who need to run on snowy or muddy trails, the Salomon Speedcross 5 is the shoe for you. These are designed to offer the most protection and traction, helping you grip even the muddiest of trails while keeping debris out.

Special lugs on the bottom are designed to grip loose dirt and mud, with significantly more grip than your average shoe. This construction is designed to support your entire foot, offering a bit of extra stability when navigating unstable, slippery surfaces–the last thing you want is to be stumbling over wet rocks.

These shoes don’t have any waterproofing, so you probably wouldn’t want to wear them in the pouring rain, but they’re great for muddy or snowy trails.

Related Post: The Best Running Shoes for Women

Key features:

  • Price: $130
  • Weight: 11.3 ounces
  • Drop: 10 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Regular, moderate cushioning
  • Available in four colorways:
    • Magnet / Black / Phantom
    • Black / Black / Phantom
    • Grape Leaf / Black / Phantom
    • Crystal Teal / Barrier Reef / Golden Oak

Pros: High-traction, with lugs designed to support you in any type of mud and snow.

Cons: There’s no waterproofing, so if it’s raining or you’re running through creeks and puddles, your feet may soak up a bit of water.


Purchase Salomon Speedcross 5


Hikers who aren’t concerned with speed and prefer stability and comfort will love these hiking shoes from New Balance. With a wide base and toe-box, extra cushioning along with a Vibram Megagrip outsole (a rubber compound specifically designed to improve grip), the New Balance Fresh Foam x Hierro shoes are the most comfortable, stable hiking shoes on our list. While runners may not want this amount of cushioning, those who prefer comfort over speed will love these shoes.

Users found these to be very comfy even at long distances and the Vibram outsole provides excellent traction in nearly any weather condition.

Key features:

  • Price: $139.99
  • Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Drop: 8 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Heavy cushioning, these are New Balances’ most cushioned trail shoe
  • Available in three colorways:
    • Golden hour with dark camo and black
    • Mystic purple with black and sunflower
    • Thunder with vibrant orange and vibrant apricot

Pros: The wide base and maximum cushioning provides a comfortable, high-traction shoe, perfect for long hikes.

Cons: Runners may not like this level of cushioning and prefer a more natural feel.


Purchase New Balance Fresh Foam x Hierro v7 


Anyone who’s concerned with stability and safety on the trails will love the La Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoe. La Sportiva includes a sticky, high traction grip on the bottom and sides of the rubber outsole, providing an extra layer of stability in nearly any weather condition. Users say these shoes have kept them extremely safe, eliminating slipping even while climbing mountains in the pouring rain.

All of the shoes on our list provide more traction than running shoes, but the Bushido II trail running shoes offer the highest level of stability and support.

Key features:

  • Price: $145
  • Weight: 10.5 ounces
  • Drop: 6 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Moderate midsole cushioning
  • Available in 2 colorways:
    • Carbon/tangerine
    • Olive/neon

Pros: Extra-sticky outsole to provide the maximum amount of traction while hiking

Cons: At $145, these are among the pricier options on our list.


Purchase La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Running Shoe 


If you’re just getting started with trail running and aren’t sure if you like it, you’ll likely want to avoid spending excessive amounts of money on trail shoes. The Under Armour Charged Bandit TR 2 is a perfect option that features a sleek, minimalist design.

For only $90, you’ll receive a sleek, high-traction shoe designed for running up and down any trail you come across. A molded sock liner conforms to your foot, minimizing slipping and sliding inside of your shoe.

Under Armour’s Charged cushioning supports the midsole, keeping your foot comfortable during your runs. There’s no waterproofing, but as long as you’re not running in heavy rain, these shoes will keep you safe and comfortable.

Key features:

  • Price: $90
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Drop: 8 millimeters
  • Cushioning: Midsole cushioning
  • Available in 3 colorways:
    • Black/Jet Gray
    • Jet Gray/Orange Ice
    • Fresco Green/Black

Pros: Low-cost, high-traction shoes are perfect for those just getting started with trail running.

Cons: There’s no waterproofing and the traction isn’t quite as aggressive as other options on our list. 


Purchase Under Armour Charged Bandit TR 2 


Why Buy Trail Running Shoes

As anyone who’s ever tried trail running can tell you, the right shoes are essential to your safety. Trails are unstable surfaces, with loose rocks, dirt and all sorts of debris in your path and it’s very easy to misstep and lose your footing.

With road running, the type of shoe doesn’t matter too much, but with trails, you need to be wearing shoes with the proper traction to keep you from slipping around. The last thing anyone wants is a sprained ankle when you’re two miles deep into a run.

Trail running shoes will provide cushioning and support, similar to normal running shoes, but with extra traction and durability. And even if you’re not a runner and simply enjoy weekend hikes in nature, trail running shoes will make every step more comfortable and secure. 

Trail Running Shoe Features

Trail running shoes are designed for unstable pavement. As such, you’ll notice the bottoms typically have much more tread than standard running shoes, to prevent your foot from slipping and sliding as you run.

While many shoes are designed to be lightweight, to keep you nimble and avoid unnecessary leg fatigue, you can also find heavier-duty options. If you find yourself running through mud, snow or other wet elements, the extra durability and protection may be worth the heavier weight. 

How to Choose the Best Trail Running Shoe for You

When shopping for trail running shoes, the main consideration is where you’ll be doing the bulk of your running.

If you regularly mix in road or track running or your runs include both, a hybrid shoe is a great option. It won’t provide the most traction, but enough to get the job done and allow you to change between surfaces.

For those who purely run on the trails, you’ll want a pure trail running shoe to maximize your safety.

Once you’ve figured out where you’ll be running, the rest is your personal preference. Do you like a heel drop or a level sole? Do you prefer lighter shoes or heavier shoes?

These are some of the factors that vary between shoes and should be chosen based on your preferences.

FAQs

Are Nike shoes good for trail running?

If you’re using Nike trail running shoes, then yes they are! Nike offers several models designed specifically for outdoor trail running. However, your standard Nike running shoes won’t have enough traction to safely run on the trails.

Yes and no. With trail running, you’re on an unstable surface, so you need to be careful where you’re stepping. Trail runners often move slightly slower and need to be very agile–a slightly different approach than pure road running.

If you’re training on a road, you shouldn’t need to worry much about your footing and can put all of your focus into building your cardiovascular endurance. So a trail run may challenge your stability a bit more, while road running may challenge your endurance and top run speeds a bit more intensely. 

What’s the difference between a trailer running shoe and a running shoe?

The shapes and designs are often very similar, but road running shoes don’t need to consider loose pebbles, dirt and other debris that may cause your foot to slip around. Because of this, trail running shoes often have more tread on the bottom, similar to hiking boots.

Can trail running shoes be used on a treadmill?

Yes, you can absolutely wear your trail running shoes on a treadmill. However, keep in mind that many trail running shoes are slightly heavier than regular shoes, so you may experience more lower-body fatigue. 

Do trail running shoes have less cushioning?

Most of the time, yes. Because your foot often lands on uneven surfaces, the bottoms of trail running shoes are usually stiffer, often with special plates to protect your feet in case you accidentally step on a pointy object.

You don’t need this sort of protection with road running, so road shoes usually provide much more cushioning with each step.

Do you need different shoes for trail running?

You don’t need different running shoes to hit the trails, but we strongly recommend them, the same way you should wear basketball shoes for basketball or training shoes for weightlifting. Road running shoes simply aren’t built to stabilize your foot in the mud and dirt and you’ll likely find yourself slipping around a lot more.

If it’s the occasional run or hike, you may be able to get away with normal running shoes, but if you’re going to be trail running on a regular basis, a good pair of shoes is one of the best investments you can make. 

Can I wear trail running shoes for walking?

Absolutely! Walking on trails requires just as much stability and traction as running, so wearing your trail running shoes on regular walks is a great idea.

Can you wear trail running shoes every day?

If you’re running the trails every day, then you’ll definitely want to wear your trail running shoes daily. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wearing them around during your daily errands, but they are going to be heavier and wearing them when you’re not on the trails may cause the traction to wear out quicker.

How long do trail running shoes last?

This is highly individual and depends on both the frequency of use and the terrain. For someone wearing trail running shoes once a month to go on a light run, they can last for years.

However, if you’re wearing them several times a week and putting lots of miles on your shoes, they’ll likely need to be replaced several times a year, just like running shoes. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re going to be running up and down rocky, potentially muddy trails, you need proper shoes to keep your feet safe and dry, while minimizing the risk of slipping and falling.

Whether you’re looking for hybrid shoes that work on both the roads and trails or heavy-duty shoes that can handle any inclement weather, you’re sure to find the perfect pair for your needs in our guide!

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.