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Best trail running shoes of 2023

SAIL

April 28, 2023

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best trail running shoe

Are you looking to switch things up when it comes to your running routine? If you need a change from the same old city sidewalks, trail running may be just the ticket. All you need is a pair of running shoes, right? Of course, but it’s worth noting that the criteria for choosing the best trail running shoes are quite different from those used to pick road running shoes. Here, depending on your running type, your focus may be on durability, stability, grip, cushioning, protection, waterproofing or breathability. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, there is a plethora of brands offering a very wide range of options. Below are our specialists’ top trail running shoe brands to consider before making your choice.

 

In this article, you will discover:

  1. The best for sustainable trail running shoes: On
  2. The best for performance trail running shoes: Salomon
  3. The best for comfortable trail running shoes: Asics
  4. High-performance trail running: New Balance
  5. The best for hybrid trail running shoes: Saucony
  6. The best for perfectly fitted trail running shoes: Altra
  7. FAQ

Performance and sustainability combined: On

best trail running shoe onFounded in 2010, On has quickly made a name for itself in the running world. The brand has developed some unique technologies, which it uses to design high-performance running shoes for every level of runners, from beginner to expert. Its CloudTec® technology in particular is used to provide runners with a midsole that activates on landings to cushion the impact of each stride, while still providing an explosive takeoff.

In addition, On has adopted an eco-friendly approach that aims to reduce the environmental impact of its activities. In fact, its sustainability policy is quite extensive. For example, the components used in the manufacturing of its range of trail running shoes are increasingly made of recycled materials. Its three-layer Cosmo waterproofing membrane features the same characteristics as Gore-Tex, without any polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

Trail first, road second: Salomon

best trail running shoe salomonMany footwear brands start by designing road running shoes, then adapting them to design the best trail running shoes. Salomon has a “trail-first” approach, and it shows: most of its R&D is spent on optimizing its trail line. The brand regularly reviews and improves each of the components that make up its trail running shoes. For example, following some feedback from the industry about carbon rock plates making it harder for runners to move through their full range of motion, thus making shoes less stable, Salomon opted for something different. The brand developed its own polyamide and fibreglass composite rock plate. The plate still protects runners’ feet from roots and rocks poking through the shoe, provides rebound and ensures maximum stability.

Salomon has a wide range of models on offer, from durable entry-level shoes to the kind of lightweight footwear runners carefully select for ultramarathon races. The S/LAB collection in particular has been designed by athletes, for athletes for ultimate performance. However, it is a well-known fact that serious trail runners will not settle for just one pair of shoes, no matter how great they are: most will own several pairs and select the right one to wear each day based on the conditions. Salomon’s wide selection of high-performance trail running shoes allows expert trail runners to do just that.

Read about Pamela Boucher’s 5 favourite running trails for suggestions on where to go for a great trail run.

Comfort for longer outings: ASICS

best trail running shoe asics

Asics is already known globally for its comfortable road running shoes, and the same applies to its trail running shoe collection. Comfort is always a key area of focus for the brand, which keeps finding new ways to improve the cushioning of its trail collection. For example, the Trabuco shoes are now fitted with FLYTEFOAM™ under both the heel and forefoot for added comfort, which also means longer runs for outdoor enthusiasts. After all, who wants to turn around and go home early because their feet hurt!

However, this doesn’t mean that comfort is the only factor considered in the design of the brand’s range of trail running shoes. Most products feature a unique uphill and downhill lug pattern which provides grip even on tricky terrain. This means runners benefit from added traction when pushing off and landing. Many models are also made with closed engineered mesh uppers to prevent dust, mud and water from getting in.

High-performance trail running: New Balance

New Balance Trail Running Shoes

New Balance has been making sports shoes for both professional athletes and casual sports enthusiasts for over a hundred years. In addition to its expertise making road running shoes, the American brand offers a wide range of trail running shoes for both men and women.

New Balance is also known for its “Fresh Foam” cushioning technology, which can be found in some of its trail running shoes. The midsole in the New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7, the iconic trail running shoe model, does feature this technology. And thanks to its Vibram® Megagrip outsole, the shoes provide added comfort and traction over rough terrain. This model is available with a Gore-Tex membrane: ideal for snowy or rainy days.

The American brand also distinguishes with the quality of the upper shoes it designs for most of its models. The upper shoe on the Fresh Foam X Hierro v7 is breathable and ultra-resistant, both of which are much needed qualities when trail running.
New Balance’s shoes are made for runners of all levels, even those stepping off the paved road to run in the woods for the first time. The DynaSoft Nitrel V5 model, available for both men and women, is great for those just discovering the sport. With its ultra-responsive and cushioned DynaSoft midsole, runners will be able to run for miles on end, no matter the conditions.

Versatile shoes for any outing: Saucony

best trail running shoe sauconyBeginners may struggle to narrow down the specific type of terrain they’ll prefer to run on, which can make purchasing the right shoes difficult. Will you stick to gravel and well-maintained paths, or venture into rugged uphill mountain trails? Fortunately, Saucony’s range of the best trail running shoes comprises several hybrid models that work just as well on groomed trails as they do on rocky or muddy forest paths.

The Peregrine model, for example, is very popular amongst both hikers and expert trail runners looking for traction, stability and comfort. Its midsole is also fitted with a rock plate for added protection from trail obstacles. The staple model comes in a variety of options: regular or wide, breathable or Gore-Tex… There is even a winter version of the Peregrine, fitted with a non-slippery outsole designed specifically for running over icy terrain, and a waterproof Runshield upper. When it comes to versatility, Saucony is the go-to brand.

If you are thinking of taking up winter trail running, have a look at our blog article on how to choose winter running clothes.

 

A perfect fit: Altra

best trail running shoe altraThe Altra brand is no stranger to innovation. In fact, its founder Golden Harper is said to have put a pair of shoes in a toaster in order to heat them up enough to remove the heels and shape them into a cushioning platform! It is no surprise that this kind of innovative thinking has led to the development of some great features, such as the popular FootShape™ design, a range of carefully crafted shoe shape options for each model in its collection. Altra’s shoes are therefore available in a range of fits, namely original, standard and slim, each providing enough toe room to reduce friction and lower the risk of blisters. FootShape™ also addresses the biological differences between men’s and women’s feet, improving fit and increasing comfort levels.

The brand’s trail running collection includes a wide range of shoes with different stacks, each with its own features (such as rock plates, waterproofing membranes, etc.). Fortunately, Altra’s website features a nifty shoe finder widget: try it out to find the best pair for your needs.

If you need more tips on how to choose the best trail running shoes for your needs, read the article on our blog.

FAQ

How do trail running shoes differ from road running shoes?

Why invest in a good pair of trail running shoes?

Can I use my trail running shoes on the road?

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