Best Trail Running Shoes Compared And Reviewed 2021

Last updated: November 29, 2021

Running Shoes / Best Trail Running Shoes Compared And Reviewed 2021

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Trail running has only ever increased in popularity. The breath of the outdoors, the huge scenery, it all creates a great connection both spiritually and mentally. You need little more than running shoes to start enjoying it too.

When looking for the best pair of running shoes for trails though, you need to ensure that they’re durable enough to withstand the terrain as well as be able to cushion your muscle tissues against rocks, stems and other trail debris. Other personal factors come into play as well, so we’ve done a comparison on some of the runners favorites.

Best Trail Running Shoes Compared And Reviewed

Best Value
Adidas Terrex Ax3 
Adidas Terrex Ax3 
Most Durable
Saucony Peregrine 11
Saucony Peregrine 11
Support + Cushion
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX
Best Overall
Salomon Speedcross 5
Salomon Speedcross 5
Neutral Runners
Brooks Caldera 5
Brooks Caldera 5

1. Adidas Terrex Ax3 

Key Features

  • Continental Rubber outsole
  • Climawarm technology
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Weight: 354 g (12.5 oz)
  • Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

  • Cost-effective
  • Supportive sides
  • Appealing modern aesthetic
  • Grippy rubber outsole
  • Weatherproof upper

Reasons to avoid

  • Arch might not suit everyone
  • Comparatively heavier

Nothing inspires confidence more than a world-renowned brand, and with the Adidas Terrex Ax3, you can be confidently sure-footed regardless of the terrain you run on.

Designed to be an all-rounder trail runner, the Adidas Terrex Ax3 features a special Continental Rubber outsole that maintains its grip on the ground no matter the conditions. Even if it’s raining hard, you won’t have to worry about slipping or losing your footing.

The midsole is made of EVA textile, with a molded sockliner and supportive sides. This results in a very comfortable experience, whether you’re trail running, hiking, or climbing.

The upper’s interior is made with Climawarm insulation technology, while the exterior is made of water-resistant mesh — essentially making the shoes weatherproof. With this power combo, you’ll stay protected no matter the season.

Design-wise, the Terrex Ax3 looks great. They’re versatile enough that you can easily wear them on a casual day out or as heavy-duty work boots. For the price it’s being offered, it’s definitely a steal.

However, keep in mind that the high molded arches might not be comfortable for everyone. It’s also slightly heavier than other similar shoes, so if you prefer something light, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Overall, the Adidas Terrex Ax3 is an aesthetically pleasing, versatile, and comfortable pair of trail running shoes that can effortlessly take you on whatever journey you may want to go on.

2. Saucony Peregrine 11

Key Features

  • PWRTrac rubber outsole
  • PWRTrac midsole cushioning
  • Available in 8 colors
  • Weight: 310 g (10 oz)
  • Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

  • Excellent traction
  • Rigid and supportive fit
  • Breathable and lightweight upper
  • Comfortable and responsive cushioning
  • Midsole rock plate for protection and durability

Reasons to avoid

  • Requires longer breaking-in periods

For comfort and traction that will help you fly to the finish line, you’ll want a time-tested and well-recognized pair of trail running shoes like the Saucony Peregrine 11.

The Peregrine 11’s PWRTrac rubber outsole offers excellent grip and durability. When combined with Saucony’s signature aggressive lugs, you get a great hold that will keep you on your feet, whether you’re running technical mountain trails or muddy countryside roads.

It also has PWRRun midsole cushioning that proves a cushioned, responsive, and lively run. A rock plate in the midsole absorbs impact and keeps your soles in the perfect position so you can run uphill and downhill with minimal chances of injury.

The Peregrine 11 also improves on the previous version’s upper material. While it remains comfortable and supportive, its upper now features an ultralight top mesh layer that makes the shoes more durable and breathable. 

However, be careful when wearing this straight out of the box, as it needs a break-in period. Unlike other shoes, the Saucony Peregrine 11 is relatively stiffer than most. You’ll probably end up with blisters and abrasions if you don’t break it in properly before running on trails.

Other than that, though, the Saucony Peregrine 11’s excellent grip, breathable upper, and protective midsole are good enough to make it to our list of the best trail running shoes.

3. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX

Key Features

  • Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Weight: 346 g (12.2 oz)
  • Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

  • Aggressive traction
  • Extra-protective cushioning
  • Breathable, water-resistant mesh upper
  • Comfortable and padded interior design

Reasons to avoid

  • Relatively more expensive
  • Less accurate steps

With its signature aggressive and chunky look, it’s very easy to recognize the ultra-protective look of a Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX.

The Hoka One One brand has earned the reputation of providing utmost comfort to runners even when they’re traversing the most grueling paths. This Speedgoat 4 GTX model is no exception, thanks to its distinct thick chunk of midsole that encourages responsive steps while still maintaining an easy weight.

It also has aggressive lugs in its durable Vibram Megagrip outsole. Due to this, the Speedgoat 4 GTX can get you through rocky outcroppings and slippery mud alike without losing its hold on the ground, keeping you safe and upright no matter the terrain or weather.

Although the upper is very supportive and well-cushioned, its water-resistant design allows it to stay light and breathable. The extra cushioning in the insole can also be removed, depending on your preferences.

One weakness of this extra protective design is that it reduces the accuracy of your steps. Unlike with low-slung shoes, it can be more challenging to maintain balance when shoes are stacked higher, especially in rocky downhill terrains.

It’s also quite pricy compared to the other shoes on this list. But if you’re extremely sure that you want high-stacked shoes on trail runs and are willing to pay for it, then the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX is a solid pick.

4. Salomon Speedcross 5

Key Features

  • Single-pull lacing synthetic textile upper
  • Available in 7 colors
  • Weight: 320 g (11.3 oz)
  • Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

  • Single-pull lace system
  • Durable full rubber outsole
  • Rugged yet classy aesthetics
  • Stiff upper forms a heel cradle for stability

Reasons to avoid

  • Longer breaking-in period
  • Not for those with wide feet
  • Only good for soft, wet ground

For those who never want to slip, the Salomon Speedcross 5’s monster lugs are sure to keep you on your feet.

One of the most disliked terrain by trail runners is wet ground. Not only can it be challenging, it can also be a significant fall risk if you’re unqualified or unprepared. Typical trail running shoes might not be able to handle severely flooded trails – the lugs are either too small to grip the earth effectively or too narrowly spaced to avoid sticky mud.

It’s this specific type of terrain that the Salomon Speedcross 5 hopes to address. Made specifically for wet, slippery trails, the Speedcross 5 features a full rubber outsole equipped with large, widely-spaced, arrow-shaped lugs that will bite the tracks hard, giving you a solid foothold.

Its midsole has a thick slice of cushioning to keep you comfortable even on the most technical trails. It’s also fully integrated into the upper to increase durability even during wet conditions.

More than that, the upper is made of hardy synthetic textile, forming a cradle for your heel to keep you stable and protected at all times. Lastly, it features a quick-lace, single-pull system, as well as rugged aesthetics that look sporty and classy at the same time.

However, some Salomon trail shoes are known to run on the narrow side. Coupled with their unusual hardness, they can be quite uncomfortable and even painful to wear for some, especially if the fit isn’t perfect. It’s also an incredibly specialized shoe and wouldn’t do as well in other forms of terrain.

Nevertheless, for its mid-range price point, the Salomon Speedcross 5 is an industry standard for runners looking for the best trail running shoes to wear on soft, wet ground.

5. Brooks Caldera 5

Key Features

  • BioGoMo DNA technology
  • TrailTrack outsole
  • Monoloop engineered mesh upper
  • Available in 3 colors
  • Weight: 300 g (10.6 oz)
  • Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

  • Innovative lacing system
  • Light and breathable upper
  • Protective and responsive midsole
  • Great traction

Reasons to avoid

  • More expensive than most
  • Stack height is not for everyone
  • Small lugs can’t handle more technical terrain

Designed to keep you running trails all day long, the Brooks Caldera 5 is a comfortable, reliable, and versatile pair of trail running shoes for light terrains.

Whether on concrete roads or on rough trails, the Caldera 5 provides a cushioned running experience. Its thick, chunky, and super protective midsole is reminiscent of the Hoka One One. It makes use of the BioGoMo DNA technology to give enthusiastic feedback and superb cushioning no matter the terrain.

Despite having smaller lugs, the Caldera 5 offers serious traction because of its sticky TrailTrack outsole. Although it can’t be used for ultra-technical or wet ground trails, the Caldera 5 performs well in light trails, perfect for casual trail runners who prefer spending their time on long trail runs.

The upper is made of monoloop engineered mesh, which keeps it light and breathable while providing comfort and stability. Also, this newest version of the Caldera line sports an innovative lacing system that locks down on your foot, keeping you stable.

As expected, though, the high stack height could make running difficult for people used to more control and precision in every step. This could make the Caldera 5 dangerous for runners who are unused to wearing such high shoes. It’s also on the pricier end of the scale.

Overall, if you want easy runs on light trails, the Brooks Caldera 5 is your friend.

6. ALTRA Lone Peak 5

Key Features

  • Altra EGO midsole
  • TrailClaw and MaxTrac outsole
  • Footshape technology
  • StoneGuard rock plate
  • Quick-dry air mesh upper
  • Available in 7 colors
  • Weight: 318 g (11.1 oz)
  • Drop: 0mm

Reasons to buy

  • Wider toebox fit than previous versions
  • Enhanced rock plate protection
  • Versatile trail running shoe
  • Grippy outsole
  • Springy and comfortable strides

Reasons to avoid

  • Doesn’t have a lot of side support
  • Zero drop is not for everyone

One of the most iconic images in rugged trail running, the Altra Lone Peak 5 enhances everything you love about the classic Altra series. More than that, it takes things to a whole new level in exchange for a relatively tiny price increase.

These shoes are made to be versatile, useful in both light and technical trails thanks to the ultra-grippy outsole. Altra combined the TrailClaw and MaxTrac technologies to create a more durable outsole equipped with arrow-shaped lugs that will bite down on the terrain and keep you moving. For added durability and protection, the Lone Peak 5 also features an enhanced StoneGuard rock plate.

This version is also the first to combine the Altra EGO midsole technology to provide a livelier and more protective run. Its FootShape technology also molds the shoe to a more natural contour, allowing the toe box more room to breathe and expand during long runs.

However, if this is your first time using Altra, keep in mind that these are truly neutral zero drop shoes. An offshoot of the barefoot movement, neutral zero drop is made for runners who believe that it makes for a more natural gait. If you’re not used to it, though, the shoes might end up feeling uncomfortable and sluggish.

More than that, the shoes don’t have a lot of side support and can end up feeling unstable on long rides or if used for activities with a lot of lateral movement.

Other than those minor issues, the Altra Lone Peak 5 is a shoe that can conquer any challenges you throw its way.

7. ASICS Gel-Sonoma 6

Key Features

  • AmpliFoam and GEL technology
  • OrthoLite sockliner
  • Engineered mesh upper
  • Available in 5 colors
  • Weight: 300 g (10.6 oz)
  • Drop: 8mm heel drop

Reasons to buy

  • Great value for price
  • Omnidirectional outsole lugs
  • Specially widened toe box
  • Keeps your feet safe and comfortable
  • Livelier and more protective strides

Reasons to avoid

  • Reduced midsole cushioning

Made for the free runner who enjoys taking the road less traveled, the Asics Gel-Sonoma 6 is a comfortable and speedy companion.

These shoes have a competitive solid rubber outsole with multi-directional lugs that can take on whatever outdoor activities you have in mind. More than that, it sports Asics’ own AmpliFoam and GEL technology, strategically cushioning impact points on your feet. Though the midsole cushioning is much thinner than previous iterations, it does have an extra comfortable sockliner to keep you comfortable even while running ultra-technical paths.

The upper is made of engineered mesh that supports your feet while staying breathable and light. It also has a wider toe box to fit more sizes and give more room for your feet to move.

The best part about the Asics Gel-Sonoma 6? The price. Depending on the color variety, these shoes can sit in the low-to-mid-range end of the scale, which is excellent compared to the value it brings.

How to Pick the Best Trail Running Shoes

Trail running is a great sport to round off your running experience. From testing your speed on even running tracks, you can build muscle strength, flexibility, and stability by periodically running off-road trails as well.

To perform at your best, you need to have the right trail running shoes to complement your skill. You can pick the best one for your needs by considering three factors: terrain, protection, and comfort.

Terrain Type

There’s a wide variety of terrain to consider when going off the road, and the kind of terrain you will be running in will significantly affect what types of shoes you wear.

When running rocky and technical mountain trails, you should go for stiff, agile shoes that can provide you with plenty of stability and precision. For wet and soft ground, you’re going to enjoy long, widely-spaced lugs to bite the earth and avoid bringing along the mud.

Protection

An off-road track will have a lot more risks than when running on an even, flat surface. If you want the best protection, you should have shoes that have rock plates. These are metal or fiberglass plates that sit in the shoes’ midsole to spare your feet from the impact and keep your shoes in the right shape.

Comfort

You can’t afford to be distracted on the trail, as a single misstep can immediately lead to injury – not to mention that uncomfortable shoes are a hazard in themselves. Thus, always think about the fit, cushioning, and support when thinking about buying off-trail shoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What trail running shoes should I buy?

The best trail running shoes for you depend on your specific needs and preferences. That said, you can’t go wrong with any of the 7 models in this list. Just make sure to consider your terrain type, protection needed, and desired comfort level.

Are trail running shoes good for hiking?

Trail running shoes are good for hiking, as well, since they tend to be grippier than other varieties.

Can trail running shoes be used for road running?

You can technically run on concrete roads with trail running shoes. However, trail running shoes are not the best choices for this type of running since they tend to be heavier and may not have the right traction.

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