Are you looking for a new pair of trail running shoes but you don’t know which to buy? We have curated a list of the best shoes for trail running in 2021. With each shoe we test, we consider stability, comfort, traction, and underfoot protection. No matter your budget or need, we’ve got you covered!
Can You Wear Running Shoes for Hiking?
Running shoes can be used for hiking. However, terms and conditions apply. If the trails are not very scraggy or rough, running shoes can work. It is necessary to state here that wearing shoes to run on trails can leave you vulnerable to injuries.
This is because they are not built to withstand the intensity of trails.
Trail Running Best Shoes
When it comes to trail running, having a great pair of shoes gives you that extra edge you need to conquer tough terrains. Here are our top picks of the best trail running and hiking shoes available.
The Hoka One One is an impressive improvement on the excellent first EVO Mafate. The upper of this trail running shoe is more spacious and comfier than its predecessor. Even after your feet swell up, the shoe effortlessly accommodates it.
The Kevlar construction shields your feet from rugged trail debris, while the stretchy soft layer over the top lets the toe box easily expand. The midsole of the Hoka One One offers a cushioned landing with a great energy return.
The Vibram outsole lugs are angular and crunched into the trail surface, assisting the runners in gliding over mud and wet slabs of rock easily. The shoe feel is generally excellent, and runners will find these trail running shoes work as hiking shoes.
For runners who need a lot of cushioning between the trail and their foot, the Brooks Caldera 4 is a great choice of trail shoes. Known for its versatility, impressive drop trail, and soft protection, the Caldera is one of the best hybrid trail running shoes. It has a solidly padded midsole and non-aggressive lugs that transition easily from pavement to trail.
The Caldera 4 trail running shoes come with considerable bounce and elevated energy return through the whole shoe. Its lacing system ensures the trail runner stays locked down to your foot. Whether you’re running on endless gravel, sharp rocks, uneven terrain, or knotted roots, the Caldera hiking shoes have you covered.
In trail running shoes, beginners and experienced trail runners love the Salomon Sense Ride 4. This shoe comes with a double-layered cushioning structure that works great for all kinds of running distances. It also has a moderate heel-toe offset that is similar to the one found in zero-drop shoes. Some of its other amazing features include hard-wearing mesh upper and soft support traction.
This pair of shoes is named after the fastest bird in the animal kingdom – the Peregrine Falcon. The shoe’s sprightly prowess aptly backs up the choice of name. The Saucony Peregrine 11 has a rather remarkability to clamp down and pull traction through the ice, snow, mud, and other slippery surfaces.
The Peregrine 11 is fast, comfortable, and lightweight. This combination of features makes it a leader among trail running shoes. In addition, the shoe upper is created from burlier mesh topped off with a swift lacing system that keeps your foot secure through your race. Whether you are going for a short or long trail run, the Peregrine 11 trail running hiking shoes can and will carry you through.
The Altra Superior 4.5 kept the overall responsiveness, stack height, and lightweight feeling of the 4.0, but its knit upper was enhanced to give a better high-quality texture to this trail running shoe. The 4.5 comes with removable stone guards for defeating tough trails.
The renowned Alta Superior wide toe box gives your feet a lot of room to breathe, expand and stay protected, even after a long day of trail running and road runs. It also has claw lugs that solidly grip even the slickest of surfaces. The Alta Superior 4.5 can be used as hiking shoes as well.
Runners who need a lightweight and light-footed trail running shoe will enjoy the Topo Runventure 3. The great thing about this shoe is how well it can hold its own in nearly all kinds of trail running situations. It features a versatile forefoot plate, a snug water-repellent upper, and a sticky Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole.
Although the plate shield will protect your foot-pad area when it falls hard on a root, the remaining part of the shoe lacks the plushness and arch support to additionally shield you. Overall, these trail running shoes are great for off-road terrains that aren’t too shabby.
The Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 3 followed the same bouncy EnergyCell+midsole structure that its predecessors had. This structure offers abundant foot cushioning on tough terrains, a flexible, versatile rubber Contagrip outsole that easily grips any surface, and a rock plate that shields the feet against gnarly trail tracks.
The Ultra 3 also kept the durability of its forerunners. However, in this new version of the shoe, the upper has been streamlined to provide a much more snug and enhanced fit. Combining old and new Ultra features have resulted in producing one of the best trail running shoes available. The Ultra 3 trail running shoes offer an impressive blend of grip, speed, comfort, and smooth running.
The Speedgoat 4 is still the swift tough trail shoe as its older counterparts but with better sticky lugs and improved softer landings. The new Speedgoat comes with additional foam in its heel area and a more breathable mesh upper. Although some runners may find this shoe too comfy and less responsive, it still offers a lot of cushioning and protection to the feet and efficient heel-to-toe drop. It is also incredibly lightweight, so trail runners won’t feel like they are lugging around a brick.
This trail monster is one of the most reactive trails running shoes out there. The La Sportiva Bushido II shoe structure is made of aggressive sticky lugs at the bottom, drop tail, and perimeter, which gives it an impressive grip on even the roughest terrains. It also features a strong toe cap that shields your foot. The proportion of cushioning within the midsole of this shoe and the breathable mesh upper gives it versatility that can take on a lot of mileage.
On knotty trails, the Inov-8 RocLite 275 shines like a star because of its reactive abilities. This shoe is fairly cushioned, lightweight, and offers more than substantial foot protection. It comes with a Meta-Plate shank beneath the midfoot that functions as an impact guard and rock plate at the isolated area.
The shoe upper is water-resistant and flexible, so even if your feet swell, it is still protected. The G-Grip outsole is fitted with polygonal lugs that grip both rocky and slippery surfaces effortlessly. Inov-8 claims that the outsole is made from resilient graphene-infused rubber that is 50% tougher and sturdier than regular outsole rubber.
At the intersection between ultra-comfy and minimalism lies the Altra Lone Peak 5. It features a MaxTrac outsole with angled TrailClaw lugs that can just about stick to a wall. However, it is slightly weightier than most minimalist trail running shoes.
It also has an increased cushion within its new Ego midsole to better shield your underfoot from roots and rocks. Another new addition to the Lone Peak is the StoneGuard rock plate at the toe area.
Other than this, this new 5 model maintained the spaciousness of the shoebox and the comfy upper. The Altra Lone Peak 5 can support long mile runs on technical trails, and many trail runners – beginners and connoisseurs alike – applaud its durability.
The Catamount’s major selling point is its new midsole designed with tech known as the “DNA Flash ”. Brooks fused its renowned super-lightweight DNA foam with infused nitrogen to create more bounce at a lessened weight cost in this trail running shoe. Although the Catamount is incredibly fast and strong, its durability falls short.
Nevertheless, for runners who love speed while on the trails, these trail running shoes are a great choice because of their smooth glide and ultra-lightweight. The Brooks Catamount also comes with a sticky aggressive TrailTack outsole that can grip mud and complex terrain. On hard-packed trails, the Catamount performs remarkably well without feeling clunky.
The Ultraventure Pro offers an impressive,hard-packed trail sturdy midsole that can withstand all kinds of rocky and steep terrains. The manufacturers made these trail running shoes with particular emphasis on harsh weather and rough circumstances. The hardy midsole, rock plate to guard against roots and rocks, waterproof upper, and sticky Vibram outsole with aggressive lugs all come together to make this shoe a trail monster. Although the shoe’s support may not tolerate long mileage, it has loads of cushioning to handle rock garden and gravel trails.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Run on the Road with Running Shoes?
Generally, trail shoes are alright for use while running on roads or pavements. Since trail shoes are typically built to offer maximum stability and traction, they can handle the road.
Is Trail Running Bad for Your Joints?
Trail running typically offers a less intensive surface for running compared to asphalt or pavement. Running on trails is easier on your joints and good for your overall muscular and cardiovascular health.
Happy running! Everyone has different running shoe needs and preferences, so it may be difficult to recommend one shoe that works for all trail runners. However, you can find a great trail running shoe that’s just right for you on our list.