9 Best Men’s Trail Running Shoes for Every Budget

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best trail running shoes for men

Whether you’re tired of running on pavement, like the occasional jog through the woods, or prefer to run on gnarly terrain, you need to consider trail running shoes.

Trail runners represent the right tool for the job when you go off-road and our guide to the best trail running shoes for men covers all aspects.

We’ll review the highest quality trail running shoes – including the Hoka One Men’s Challenger Mesh Trainer – discuss the differences between trail runners, running shoes, and hiking shoes, the types of trail running shoes, and more.

Let’s kick things off with some trail running shoe buying tips.

Quick Summary

bb2-table__imageHoka One One Mens Challenger ATR 5 Mesh Trainers
  • Waterproof design
  • Durable and stable rubber sole
  • Excellent running dynamics
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bb2-table__imageSaucony Men's Switchback ISO Trail Running Shoe
  • Excellent traction
  • Unique lacing system
  • Everun midsole design
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bb2-table__imageSalomon S/Lab Ultra 2 Trail Running Shoes Mens
  • Protects the feet, mile after mile
  • Excellent durability
  • Great for long distances
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bb2-table__imageALTRA Men's AL0A4PE5 Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe
  • Improved features enhance comfort
  • Good for running and backpacking
  • Outsole delivers good traction
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bb2-table__imageAdidas Performance Men's Galaxy M Trail Runner
  • Affordability
  • Good traction
  • Breathable mesh upper
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bb2-table__imageInov-8 Mens Terraultra G 260 Ultra Trail Running Shoe
  • Traction that’s hard to beat
  • Built for long-distance running
  • Durable
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bb2-table__imageASICS Men's Gel-Quantum 360 5 Running Shoes
  • Versatility
  • Flexible mesh upper
  • Abrasion-resistant
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bb2-table__imageLa Sportiva Men's Bushido II Running Shoe
  • Fits like a sock
  • Superior grip on any terrain
  • Better impact absorption
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bb2-table__imageNike Men's Trail Running Shoes
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • Versatile all-terrain shoe
  • Comfortable cushioning
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Before you buy: 7 Things to consider when purchasing trail running shoes

Choosing the best trail running shoes for you shouldn’t be an inexact science. A shoe that suits another man and his feet might be incredibly uncomfortable for you. Keep the following factors in mind when you’re shopping for trail runners:

1. Foot protection

Trail running is different from road running in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the surface. Trails are often uneven and rocky, and you need a shoe that protects your feet when you go off-road.

Protection comes from underfoot, i.e., the combination of the midsole and outsole. Trail running shoes may protect your soles with thick foam cushioning, or a rock plate made from hard plastic or a compositive material.

The common type of foam found in running shoes is EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate), which absorbs a significant amount of impact and helps protect the foot from protrusions.

Two other factors to consider about foot protection are the shoe’s upper and its toe. The upper should be sturdy enough to prevent protrusion like rocks or sticks, while rigid toe bumpers also provided needed protection when on the trail.

2. Traction

Maintaining good traction and stability is essential when running on trails.

The type of rubber used in a shoe’s outsole and the type and spacing of its lugs are key factors for proper traction.

The hardness of the rubber is important; firmer rubber is durable and a good choice for hard-packed dirt trails, but it doesn’t grip rock as well a softer rubber – which tends to be “stickier.”

Regarding lugs, the deeper and more aggressive they are, the better grip they provide, especially on steep, muddy, and snow-covered trails. In general, lugs spaced more closely together do a superior job of gripping rock and hard dirt surfaces.

3. Activity

What type of trail running you do is another important factor. Whether you plan to run on easy trails, rugged trails, or all-around running, keep the style of shoe in mind.

Easy-trail shoes should feature more sturdy construction than regular running shoes as well as increased traction, stability, and protection. They’re typically a bit more flexible than other trail runners.

Shoes made for rugged terrain are more specialized than the rest and feature durable construction, a stiffer build, and are heavier than easy trail and all-around trail shoes.

4. Weight

The weight of trail running shoes varies widely depending on the shoe’s type. Popular trail runners might weigh a little over a pound and provide all the protection you need without feeling too heavy.

Minimalist shoes weigh less and feature a build that’s best suited for shorter distances.

5. Stability

Apart from good traction, the shoe you choose should provide a stable ride that helps prevent mishaps such as ankle rolls. A shoe with a solid platform, one that’s wide enough to sustain heavy impacts on uneven surfaces.

Some trail runners include a shank, which is a piece of plastic or nylon placed between the midsole and outsole for additional stiffness. Others feature a reinforced heel cup that provides additional rollover protection and added structure.

6. Heel-to-toe drop

A shoe’s heel-to-drop refers to the difference in the shoe’s height from the heel to toe. Many quality trail running shoes have a drop that ranges from 4 to 8 millimeters – which is suitable for both midfoot and heel strikers.

Runners with a mid or forefoot landing point often prefer a shoe that has a zero-drop (zero-millimeter difference). If you choose a zero-drop shoe, you may want to ease it in before heading out for a long trail run, especially if you’ve never run in one before.

7. Breathability

A key component of comfort is a shoe’s breathability. Feet that are hot and sweaty aren’t comfortable, which is why you should consider the shoe’s ventilation carefully.

A common, breathable, material used in trail-running shoe construction is nylon mesh. The mesh may feature a combination of thin fabric and a tight weave to encourage better air and moisture flow while also protecting the shoe against tears.

Let’s move on to our reviews of the best trail running shoes for 2020.

The 9 best trail running shoes for men in 2020

1. Hoka One One Men’s Challenger ATR 5 Mesh Trainers

Hoka One One Mens Challenger ATR 5 Mesh Trainers

Best features:

  • Versatile
  • Breathable Gore-Tex mesh upper
  • Absorbs impact

The best trail running shoes for:

Men looking for waterproof trail running shoes

Overview

Trail runners may encounter bad weather and less-than-ideal conditions when running off-road. Their shoes need to be up to the task, and Hoka One’s Challenger ATR Mesh Trainer answers the bell in many ways.

For starters, the ATR trainer features a waterproof upper – which makes it suitable for running in inclement weather – as well as traction that’s good for the trail or the road. The shoe’s lugs are deep and dig into the ground nicely.

Another thing we like about the ATR is its lightweight and breathable construction. The upper’s mesh consists of Gore-Tex, which is not only lightweight but also waterproof. You won’t have to fret if you encounter rain and mud during your run.

The ATR features Hoka’s Meta Rocker midsole that helps your foot to land and lift-off in one smooth movement. It also helps to absorb the impact inherent to running.

The outsole consists of rubber that offers good stability and, as mentioned, excellent traction even if trail conditions are less than ideal. There’s also a foam-padded insole that enhances cushioning and support.

Pros

  • Versatile enough for trail and road running.
  • Gore-Tex waterproof and breathable upper mesh design.
  • Durable midsole provides excellent shock absorption and stability.

Cons

  • A bit heavier than some other trail runners.

Bottom line

Hoke One has a shoe that’s good for any weather condition with its Challenger ATR 5 Mesh Trainer. You’ll run with confidence whether you’re on the trail or the road.

2. Saucony Men’s Switchback ISO Trail Running Shoe

Saucony Men's Switchback ISO Trail Running Shoe

Best features:

  • Great traction
  • Good flexibility
  • Suitable for all terrains

The best trail running shoes for:

Men looking for a shoe that combines comfort, traction and weight

Overview

We love shoes – trail running shoes or otherwise – that earn high marks in a variety of categories. The Saucony Switchback ISO is just such a shoe.

There’s a lot to love about the Saucony ISO. It has excellent traction, cushioning, protection, and it’s lightweight enough not to slow you down when you’re on your favorite trail.

Its fit is second-to-none; it hugs your foot without being too tight thanks to Saucony’ ISOFit construction.

And it features an Everun midsole – another signature Saucony feature – that runs the length of the shoe and offers exceptional cushioning and protection, along with great flexibility and energy return.

The Iso’s power-track rubber outsole offers the kind of traction you need for trail running. The sole is firm in the center but is softer and tackier in all other areas to enhance traction on uneven or rocky terrain.

Whether you run on wet rocks or hard-packed dirt, the ISO will help keep you upright.

The newest version of the Saucony ISO features a Boa lacing system which helps to create a more sock-like feel thanks to beefed-up wings at each eyelet.

Pros

  • The contoured footbed is form-fitting.
  • The lacing system and Isofit construction create a superior fit.
  • Excellent traction on most terrains.

Cons

  • A bit too flexible for the rockiest terrain.

Bottom line

The Saucony ISO offers everything you need in a quality trail running shoe – from traction to comfort to protection.

3. Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 Trail Running Shoes Mens

Salomon S Lab Ultra 2 Trail Running Shoes Mens

Best features

  • Precise fit
  • Very durable
  • Excellent stability and traction

The best trail running shoe for:

Anyone who puts in a lot of mileage

Overview

Salomon utilized the expertise of elite French ultra-runner Francoise D’haene in developing its S/Lab Ultra 2 Trail Running Shoes. The result is one of the best ultra-distance shoes on the market (along with the Inov-8 Terraultra G 260, which we also review).

The Salomon Ultra 2 blends comfort, durability, a precise fit, and superior traction in a shoe that embodies what ultra-running is all about while standing up to its rigors.

A trail running shoe must be durable, for starters, and the Ultra 2 accomplishes that with a midsole and upper that is built to last and provides the protection runners need on challenging trails.

It must also provide exceptional traction and grip – which the Ultra 2 addresses with its Contragrip outsole that keeps you on your feet in wet and dry conditions.

And it must provide comfort that lasts the duration of a race consisting of many, many miles. The Ultra 2 delivers in that category with a dual-density compressed EVA outsole and an OrthoLite molded sock liner. The shoe is lighter than previous versions, as well.

The fit is, as mentioned, precise, and locks the foot into place to create a stable ride over all kinds of terrain. Moreover, it has a Kevlar quick lace system that also helps to keep the foot secure.

While it’s billed as a shoe meant for racing, the Ultra 2 is more durable than many other similar shoes and suitable for training runs.

Pros

  • It’s perhaps the most protective shoe for long-distance trail running.
  • The midsole and upper combine to create a precise, comfortable fit.
  • It’s a shoe that any serious ultra-runner should consider.

Cons

  • Fits a little narrow

Bottom line

The Salomon Ultra 2 is built for the trail. It’s durable, comfortable, and rugged enough to keep you feeling good over the long haul.

4. ALTRA Men’s AL0A4PE5 Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe

ALTRA Men's AL0A4PE5 Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Running Shoe

Best features:

  • New closure system
  • Trimmed down upper
  • Very protective

The best trail running shoes for:

Hikers

Overview

Hiking shoes (and boots) differ in many ways from trail running shoes, which we’ll explore later in this article. Some shoes, such as the Altra Lone Peak can handle both tasks without sacrificing performance.

The Lone Peak is a longtime favorite among trail enthusiasts for a lot of reasons and the 4.5 represents an upgrade from an already excellent shoe. Not that Altra did an overhaul, mind you, but they tweaked some things in a way that enhanced the Lone Peak’s overall quality.

While the Maxtrac outsole remains the same, the midsole foam is a bit different and enhances the shoe’s overall durability. There was no need to change the outsole, which features a multi-directional lug pattern to provide traction that’s second-to-none.

The upper underwent a more extensive overhaul and has fewer overlays for enhanced comfort and flexibility. There’s a new lacing system, which locks in the fit and is easy to use when you need to make micro-adjustments only.

Integrated Stoneguard protection keeps the pads of your feet out of harm’s way but it’s flexible and lightweight enough that it never feels too stiff.

Pros

  • Trimmed-down upper makes for better comfort and flexibility.
  • New lacing system allows you to make minor adjustments with ease.
  • The outsole has all the traction you need to navigate trails.

Cons

  • It’s a bit too firm for some.

Bottom line

The Lone Peak 4.5 is a good choice for trail runners and backpackers alike. You’ll appreciate its upgraded features, which makes a good thing even better, and they’re the best trail running shoes for hiking.

5. Adidas Performance Men’s Galaxy M Trail Runner

Adidas Performance Men's Galaxy M Trail Runner

Best features:

  • Superior traction
  • Excellent breathability
  • Cloudfoam midsole

The best trail running shoes for:

Men on a budget

Overview

The Adidas Galaxy is proof that you don’t have to break the bank to purchase a shoe that delivers the performance you need when running off-road.

With a great blend of comfort, traction, and wallet-friendly price, the Galaxy represents the best budget trail running shoes on our list. They feature the level of quality Adidas enthusiasts have come to expect.

It’s hard to beat the Galaxy’s overall comfort. They feature a Zoned Protection breathable mesh and synthetic overlays that not only feel good but offer a durable fit and the kind of support you need when the terrain gets tricky.

A Cloudfoam midsole provides the cushioning trail runners need and responds well to the natural movement of the wearer’s feet.

A quality trail running shoe must have good traction, of course, and the Adidas Galaxy’s Traxion rubber outsole delivers in that department. It features moderately aggressive lugs that enhance grip and stability on rugged trails.

Many wearers also like the Galaxy’s stylish looks, and it’s available in five colors.

Pros

  • Breathable protection thanks to a durable mesh upper.
  • Provides good traction and support on rugged trails.
  • Cloudfoam midsole helps create a comfortable fit and cushioning.

Cons

  • Takes a bit longer to dry than some other trail runners.

Bottom line

The Adidas Galaxy is proof that you can get a high-quality trail running shoe at a favorable price.

6. Inov-8 Mens Terraultra G 260 Ultra Trail Running Shoe

Inov-8 Mens Terraultra G 260 Ultra Trail Running Shoe

Best features:

  • Superior traction
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

The best trail running shoes for:

Ultra-distance runners

Overview

Ultra-distance runners (think 30-mile runs and beyond) need a shoe that can withstand the pounding, whether it’s on a trail or pavement. Inov-8 has the right shoe for off-road with its Terraultra G 260 Ultra Trail.

The Terraultra comes loaded with great features that make it good for long-distance but also for regular runs, as well. It all starts with a graphene-enhanced rubber sole that offers the best grip of any shoe listed in our reviews.

You’ll get all the traction you need – and then some – on all types of terrain.

The shoe also has a zero drop which Inov-8 says promotes a natural running form with an increased range of motion in the ankle joint.

You’ll appreciate this shoe’s overall comfort; the upper consists of tough breathable mesh (with Kevlar overlays) that adapts to the foot’s natural movement and the natural swelling that occurs during extra-long-distance running.

Further comfort comes from a midsole that minimizes impact while delivering a high degree of energy return.

The G 260 represents an updated version of an already superior shoe. The folks at Inov-8 tested them on pumice fields with sharp rocks in Oregon before giving them the final thumbs-up.

In part, they wanted to be sure the rubber sole was durable, and sticky enough to provide the kind of traction they demand from a shoe.

Pros

  • It’s hard to beat the overall traction of the graphene-enhanced rubber sole.
  • Durable enough to withstand the pounding of ultra-distance off-road runs.
  • The shoe adapts nicely to the natural movements of the foot.

Cons

  • More expensive than many other trail running shoes.

Bottom line

The Terraultra G 260 by Inov-8 is built to handle the rigors of long-distance trail running.

7. ASICS Men’s Gel-Quantum 360 5 Running Shoes

ASICS Men's Gel-Quantum 360 5 Running Shoes

Best features:

  • Good for the trail and the road
  • Lightweight feel
  • Durable off-road design

The best trail running shoe:

For men looking for a very versatile shoe

Overview

Hybrid running shoes are versatile enough that you can wear them for running – both on and off the road – and even for activities such as exploring your favorite city or other location.

The Asics Gel-Quantum 360 5 has that sort of versatility, which is why many runners rely on it for running in various conditions and terrains.

The 360 5 has a futuristic look and design that keeps pace with updates in technology. Its construction includes Asics’s Trusstic System that features a multi-direction stretch fiber upper that wraps the foot comfortably to enhance the overall comfort.

The Trusstic system, along with 360 gel technology of the kind for which Asics is known, also helps create superior cushioning.

The shoe’s mesh upper consists of multi-directional fiber that stretches in multiple directions while allowing the foot to move easily and without restriction.

The Gel-Quantum 360 also offers a lightweight feel but doesn’t lack any of the support you need when you take to the trail. The forefoot doesn’t have any seams, which means less irritation, while a padded tongue and collar offers additional support.

Other important features include a High Abrasion Rubber outsole that helps to protect the shoe from normal wear and tear, as well as from any obstacles you may encounter on the trail, and a Solyte midsole.

The latter is very lightweight and comfortable while providing excellent shock absorption. Many runners say that the Gel-Quantum 360 allows them to run at a faster pace than normal.

There’s also an Exoskeletal Heel Clutching System that improves the shoe’s fit while enhancing performance and stability.

Pros

  • 360 design mesh upper stretches in multiple directions to provide great comfort.
  • It promotes flexible foot movements and enhanced motion control.
  • Seamless forefoot construction reduces irritation.

Cons

  • It’s a bit heavier than some other trail running shoes

Bottom line

The Asics Gel-Quantum 360 5 combines innovative technology and a variety of great features in a shoe that’s highly versatile.

8. La Sportiva Men’s Bushido II Running Shoe

La Sportiva Men's Bushido II Running Shoe

Best features:

  • Good for mountain running
  • Solid outsole with good traction
  • Breathable air-mesh design

The best trail running shoes for:

Anyone who runs on uneven terrain

Overview

“Technical” trail running refers to running on uneven, often-challenging terrain. Not every trail running shoe is up to the task of technical terrain but that doesn’t include the La Sportiva Bushido II.

The Bushido’s design meets the demands of rugged mountain terrain, including that it offers the level of protection you’d expect from a regular hiking shoe. But it’s also lightweight and delivers the traction and stability you need when the trails get a bit crazy.

The team at La Sportiva made a few changes to the original Bushido – thus the unveiling of the Bushido II – while improving upon an already good thing. Everything from the heel to toe and top to bottom has received technical tweaks that make it better than ever.

The Bushido II includes an ergonomic, padded tongue that provides additional comfort and gusseted construction that helps to keep it in place. The shoe also has slip-on construction that wraps around your foot to provide a sock-like feel.

The Bushido II outsoles are second to none and incorporate dual-compound rubber to deliver superior grip on any terrain, whether it’s dry or wet.

The updated version also includes more cushioning in the midsole and offers even better impact absorption than before. The outsole’s lugs wrap the midsole for enhanced stability.

Further protection comes from a rubber toe cap and forefoot rock plate. In rugged terrain, often marked with rocks, adequate toe protection is a must.

Pros

  • The shoe’s slip-on construction wraps the foot comfortably without exerting extra pressure.
  • Ergonomic, gusseted tongue offers an optimal comfort and fit.
  • The shoe’s outsole has enhanced traction and stability.

Cons

  • Not as much cushioning as some other shoes

Bottom line

The La Sportiva Bushido II is another quality trail running shoe that can handle the most challenging terrain. Its improved design is more comfortable and does a good job of protecting the foot.

9. Nike Men’s Trail Running Shoes

Nike Men's Trail Running Shoes

Best features:

  • All-terrain design
  • Comfortable fit
  • Breathable

The best trail running shoes for:

Runners looking for excellent road to trail running shoes

Overview

The Pegasus is a favorite among many runners and Nike enthusiasts, and with good reason. Its versatility is one reason it fits into our trail running shoe category, but it has many other cool features that deliver quality performance.

While you can use them as everyday road running shoes, they also perform well on the trail – particularly on lighter trail runs in which the terrain is less rugged.

The Pegasus 36 has a synthetic outsole that has opposing lugs that optimize traction, including when you’re running uphill.

You’ll like the overall comfort of the Pegasus 36 running shoe, comfort that comes from a perforated mesh/synthetic upper that allows your feet to breathe comfortably.

A foam underfoot, combined with a Cushion sole tech, helps to cushion landings while softening impact.

The Pegasus 36 construction includes Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot for additional cushioning and comfort.

While you’ll pay a bit more for the Pegasus 36, the good news is that you’ll get a good trail running shoe and good road running shoe. That kind of versatility is worth the investment.

Pros

  • It features a roomy toe box that’s neither too loose nor too tight.
  • The shoe’s overall breathability keeps your feet comfortable in all conditions.
  • Excellent traction for the trail and road.

Cons

  • The collar is a bit low for some runners.

Bottom line

Another trail running shoe with enough versatility for use on the road is Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus 36. It’s an ideal all-terrain shoe.

7 Tips you should know for when wearing trail running shoes

There’s a difference between trail running shoes, regular running shoes, and hiking shoes, which we’ll cover in a bit, but one of the nice things about (many) trail runners is their versatility.

You can wear them on regular training runs on pavement, but – as their name suggests – they’re best suited for unpredictable off-road terrain.

1. Make sure the shoes suit the task

Trail-running shoes are a bit heavier and bit lower to the ground than regular running shoes, which is why they perform best on trails and other off-road paths. They also have a tread pattern that’s essential for non-pavement running.

Ideally, trail running shoes should fit snug in the heel and a bit roomier in the toe box than regular running shoes.

2. It’s OK to wear them on pavement

Again, the versatility of today’s trail running shoe designs helps make them more versatile than, say, regular running shoes.

Why you shouldn’t wear regular running shoes on the trail – they don’t have the durable outsole and overall protection – it’s OK to wear trail runners on the road.

Perhaps the best advice is that, while you can use your trail shoes for road running, they’re not the best choice if you’re a high-mileage runner who only runs on pavement or tracks, which leads to our next point.

3. Don’t wear them on a running track

The tread design of trail running shoes may damage the surface of running tracks. Wear regular running shoes instead.

4. Can you wear trail running shoes for hiking?

The short answer is “yes.” The more in-depth answer takes into a variety of factors, however, and it depends on the type of hiking you do (and we’ll take a closer look at hiking shoes and boots in a bit).

Hiking shoes are heavier, bulkier, and (often) more durable than trail running shoes. They work better on rougher terrain and in colder weather than trail runners, and they can support more weight – such as when you wear a backpack.

The need for speed isn’t nearly as important for hiking and backpacking than it is for trail running, either. Trail running shoes are lightweight and more breathable – which makes them a good choice for wearing during warmer weather.

5. But don’t go too fast

Running on trails is a lot different than it is running on pavement. Trail running is often more demanding, depending on the terrain, and some dedicated road runners find it difficult to adjust to the slower pace of trail running at first.

Adjust your pace so that you develop a comfortable trail tempo.

6. Waterproof isn’t necessarily better

You never know what types of conditions you may encounter while on the trail, including weather conditions. Some trail running shoes have a waterproof design – which is great for hiking – but the waterproof membrane may cause your feet to overheat and sweat.

Unless you run in cold, wet weather consistently, stick with highly breathable trail running shoes that don’t have waterproofing.

7. Can I wear trail running shoes for the gym?

No rule says that you shouldn’t wear trail running shoes to the gym, and many people do. They’re supportive enough for a variety of activities and you can even wear them on a treadmill, although they’ll feel different than when you wear them on soft ground.

Regular running shoes work best on the treadmill if you do tempo or interval runs but if you’re someone who does a lot of long-distance trail running, a treadmill can help you get in the miles you need when the weather outside is frightful.

6 Types of trail running shoes you should consider

If our reviews of the best trail running shoes showed anything, it’s that no two pairs of trail runners are the same. They share a lot of similar characteristics, true, but they’re often designed to do different things and for different surfaces.

The following are types of trail running shoes that should fit every runner’s needs:

1. Zero drop shoes

We mentioned a shoe’s “drop” in an earlier section; it’s the amount of difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe.

A zero drop shoe mimics how you would stand if you weren’t wearing shoes. The theory is that zero drop shoes represent the most natural body mechanics of running.

The zero-drop design was often associated with the barefoot and minimalist type of running shoes, but many zero drop shoes today – including trail runners – feature a large amount of cushioning.

Many trail runners swear by the zero-drop design and won’t buy anything else. However, know that it may take time to adjust to your first pair of zero-drop shoes because, if you’re like most people, your body is trained to the customary 6mm to 12mm shoe drop.

2. Light trail running shoes

Light trail runners resemble regular running shoes in many ways but include features that make them suitable for off-road running.

They’re excellent for running on smoother, faster trails, and typically have a little less aggressive traction than shoes made for slower, rockier terrain.

These shoes are great for races of short to medium distances, but you shouldn’t wear them for long ultra-races or on unpredictable terrain.

3. Hybrid trail running shoes

Some running shoes, such as the Nike Pegasus 36 reviewed above, are suitable for use on the road and the trail.

They may have more rugged soles conducive to running on different types of terrain, but they transition best from the road to smooth, even trail surfaces.

4. Rugged trail running shoes

So-called “rugged” trail running shoes are your best choice when you run on trails and other terrains that may get downright treacherous.

These types of shoes tend to have a large amount of protection underfoot, either with a lot of EVA foam or by incorporating a rock plate.

The uppers of rugged trail runners tend to be more robust, as well, and a normal toe drop – although that’s not always the case. You won’t get quite the lightweight feel as you get with other trail runners, but the trade-off is plenty of protection and the ability to absorb impact.

5. Maximalist

Maximalist is another trail running shoe category and refers to shoes that generally have a lot of extra foam while not emphasizing heel-to-toe drop so much. Ultra-marathon competitors often use them, as do people who log frequent long-distance training runs.

The goal of maximalist shoes is to absorb more impact while still having a lightweight upper that doesn’t become too heavy over long distances.

6. Minimalist

Not a lot of people run trails with minimalist or barefoot shoes, but some do. These types of shoes attempt to mimic the most natural way humans move about the earth.

They provide some coverage for the soles, but not much. Use them at your own risk on rugged terrain.

Trail running shoes vs. regular running shoes vs. hiking shoes

It can get a bit confusing when buying shoes for running on the trail. Can’t I use regular running shoes? What about hiking shoes?

Here’s a closer look at each type of shoe while examining their differences and similarities.

1. Trail runners

Some men use their trail running shoes for running on pavement, which isn’t necessarily a no-no. But the design of trail runners focuses on a different task, i.e., running on hard-packed trails, uneven terrain, even in muddy and wet conditions.

Sure, you can wear your regular running shoes on less-strenuous, hard-packed trails but you need trail shoes when the going gets rougher.

And trail runners provide foot protection that your road running shoes don’t thanks, in part, to soles that are wider, closer to the ground, and heavier.

The soles of trail runners also consist of stickier rubber and have outsole lugs designed from better traction on dirt and soft surfaces. They may also include a rock plate – or an additional layer of EVA foam – to protect feet against jagged rocks and roots.

Most trail runners also have a toe bumper for added protection.

In short, if you run off-road on trails that require extra effort to maintain your footing, then you should do so while wearing trail running shoes.

2. Regular running shoes

If you regularly run on pavement, smooth surfaces, groomed trails, or running tracks, then regular running shoes are your best choice.

Road running shoes are different from trail runners in a variety of ways, including the materials use in their construction. Road shoes usually consist of lighter weight materials and thinner soles and treads than trail running shoes.

The outsole of running shoes also consists of smooth, blown rubber for good traction on pavement, while they don’t have a rock plate – as do many trail running shoes – and they’re more flexible overall.

One of the nice things about many modern road running shoes is that they don’t need much of a break-in period, if any at all, before they feel 100% comfortable. If they’re uncomfortable in the store, they’re probably going to be uncomfortable when you run.

3. Hiking shoes

While trail running is like regular running workouts, hiking is similar to regular walking except that it’s done off-road and usually at an undetermined distance. Backpacking and hiking are often the same.

Hiking shoes, unlike trail runners, have a waterproof upper material and they also tend to have deeper lugs and enhanced traction to keep you stable on all types of terrain, including technical terrain.

Protection is everything in hiking shoes, which is why they have stiffer mid-soles and additional cushioning to protect against the sharp edges of rocks, branches, and other obstacles.

Hiking shoes also feature a construction that enables them to bear more weight, which is important for backpackers.

How we chose these shoes for our review

Our goal was to offer a wide sampling of trail running shoes in our reviews. To that end, we included trail runners that best suit ultra-distance running, but also designs that one can use for light hiking.

We also considered a host of other factors, including protection – a must for trail running – comfort, cushioning, as well as traction and stability.

We also considered price while keeping in mind the importance of value, i.e., a shoe that costs more is worth every penny if it protects you, feels good, and gives you many miles of use.

And we considered the reviews of others, particularly those who’ve worn a certain shoe long enough to gain a true sense of its overall worth.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are trail running shoes?

Trail running shoes have features that make them suitable for running on terrain that’s not as smooth and obstacle-free as pavement. They feature a sturdy design, extra protection, and an outsole design that offers increased traction and stability.

How should trail running shoes fit?

In general, a trail running shoe should fit snugly around the midfoot/arch area.

There should be a slight amount of space – about a thumb’s width – between your toes and the end of the shoe. There should be a “locked-down” feeling in the heel that prevents shifting or lifting.

How to choose trail running shoes

Some key factors to keep in mind when choosing trail running shoes are cushioning, traction, heel-to-toe drop, protection, and the type of trail running you typically do.

The weight of the shoe is also important, although trail runners tend to be a bit heavier than regular running shoes.

What to look for in trail running shoes

Take a close look at a trail running shoe’s outsole before you buy it. Longer lugs are best for soft surfaces, while shorter ones work best on hard-packed trails. Shoe width is important, as well, as is deciding whether you prefer thick foam or a rock plate.

How to wash trail running shoes

You may want to rinse your trail running shoes with water from a garden hose if they’re caked in mud or otherwise excessively dirty. You should remove the insoles and brush out the inside of the shoes, while loosening the shoelaces allows your shoes to air out.

How long do trail running shoes last?

A common rule of thumb says that running shoes, and trail running shoes, should last 300 to 500 miles.

Trail runners may not have the same lifespan, however, considering the terrain, and the person’s weight and stride matters, too. Also, cushioning breaks down over time.

Conclusion

You need the right shoes if your running regimen takes you off-road. Trail running shoes are up to the task and have many features that protect you and your feet on unpredictable terrain, while also enhancing your running experience.

There are plenty of good trail running shoes from which to choose. We think those we mention in our reviews represent the cream of the crop and, hopefully, inform your buying decision.

We always welcome your feedback and suggestions, as well. Do you own trail running shoes? If so, what brand? Have you worn any of those we list in our reviews? We’d love to hear from you.


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About The Author

Domen Hrovatin
Domen Hrovatin

Domen—a self-confessed facial hair addict—is a grooming professional, style enthusiast, and someone with deep personal experience and knowledge about male pattern baldness. His work was mentioned in countless notable men's grooming and style publications, including Beardbrand and AskMen.

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