10 Best Trail Running Shoes Rated for Performance
Before you hit the trails this season, you’re going to want to check out what everybody else is buying. You might be an avid runner on pavement and just be starting out on trails. Trail running gets you up close with nature and there is a different set of demands placed on the shoe design you’ll want to consider.
If you take your top ten running shoes and put them on one side of the scale and then put your top ten trail shoes on the other side, you’ll immediately see that trail shoes are generally MUCH heavier! They need to be! For starters, you are going to be running over dirt, rocks, weeds, all kinds of things and the shoe has to be able to provide you with traction on all those surfaces and protect your foot from nature’s hazards as you race through! The irregular surfaces you encounter on trails also mean the upper part of your shoe has to be stiffer and provide support against improper rotation.
So, the higher traction sole and more robust upper foot cradling materials naturally add to the weight of the shoe. You will also see that trail shoes have a different overall shape than running or basketball shoes. It’s a different set of requirements. So you might think that trail shoes with all that additional robust materials are going to cost more, right? Well, that’s not necessarily the case. Trail shoes are not going to be your first choice to wear into a club. The glam part is not in this equation. The comfort and the performance is! So, read on and we’ll fill you in on the top ten latest and greatest!
10 Best Rated Trail Running Shoes
1. Salomon Speedcross 4
Traction is one of the most important features to get right in a trail shoe and Salomon nails it!
Whether you’re running on dirt, gravel a forest trail or a slippery rock surface, you’ll find the Salomon Speedcross 4 to provide a surefooted grip that you will come to embrace and rely on. That kind of satisfaction keeps users coming back again and again.
Side webbing that resists the attachment of burs and other trail annoyances
Nothing is worst than trail shoes that act like magnets for attracting burweed, spurweed sandbur and Spanish needles. They’re always good for pricking your fingers and giving you an unwanted blood test in the field. The sleek, synthetic side webbing on the Salomon Speedcross 4 have a surface design that resists such accumulations. The same design gives you a real streamline feeling as you effortlessly jet through nature trails.
Cost and Value
Getting the balance right between cost and value is a challenge every trail shoe manufacturer faces and Salomon has done a great job maxing out the quality for the price. This is why this shoe rates do highly in our survey. The durability of this shoe is widely acclaimed so you may not need to replace the shoes as quickly as others. Together, these facts all add to our overall positive opinion of the shoes.
- Outstanding traction
- Competitive pricing
- Streamline performance
- Firm, foot cradling sides provide strong protection
- Excellent balance of ground feel and cushioning effect
- Extra wide versions are not available
- Same side webbing that streamlines the shoe breathes less
- Knobby soles that supply great traction, not so great on hard pavement
2. Merrell Vapor Glove 2
Your foot is completely surrounded and along with having protection from nature you also get the sense of the ground with every step. This shoe is not designed for high shock absorption, rather a bit of the opposite. This shoe lets you feel the ground and self-adjust your style to accommodate the character of the earth beneath you whether it be dirt, rock, gravel or pavement. The illusion of running virtually shoeless is further reinforced by the overall light weight of the shoes. The combined effect is intoxicating to those that seek this set of qualities in a trail shoe.
Totally breathable design
While having created a wondrous trail running shoe in the form of the Merrell Vapor Glove 2, it, unlike a real glove has a high-tech fiber woven surround that readily passes air throughout. You might expect such a permeable membrane to lack in support or overall integrity but this trail shoe does not disappoint! It hugs your foot just as you would expect and while still transmitting the feel of the trail, it still provides the protection you would expect to find in a trail shoe. It is a remarkable accomplishment!
Cost and Value
These shoes price in at the lower tier of every shoe reviewed in this article. For many, this shoe will not provide everything they seek because as a “barefoot” style shoe, it is lacking some of those qualities like the shock absorption and overall foot protection you will have with some of the other models in this review. Being void of such additional features has no doubt contributed to the popular price point on this model and if you like this sort of minimalistic style, you’ll be in luck.
- Shockingly lightweight, featherweight really!
- Moisture and odor wicking capability engineered into inner soles
- Lacing plan sits well atop your foot, a pleasure to wear
- Patented inner layer adds to the durability of the shoe
- Outer and inner soles are married as a unified bottom that adds to performance
- Not a shoe choice for those seeking much if any cushioning
- Lightweight uppers are a little more fragile and could develop tears with use
3. La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor 2 does have the look you could wear into a trending nightclub and not appear out of place in. The combination of stitching blended into the uppers with it’s rad color scheme makes this shoe look like a real contender. It’s a fully formed shoe with a full, cushioned sole and heel so you will not look out of place wearing it on the street as you might with more minimalistic styles.
Maximum foot protection
A serious high-tech upper and lower design provides excellent protection in any kind of environment you could expect to find on the trail. The form-fitting wrap around was praised by most (not by all, read on.) Central arch cushioning is included to keep your foot properly positioned in the shoe for a secure fit.
Cost and Value
This shoe is not cheap. However, you do get a heavier and very substantial shoe out of the deal. You could pay even more for Nike's just to sport the en vogue model so remember to take it all into consideration when you make your personal pick. I would wear these shoes with a suit and tie to any formal event and have the advantage should I have to hit the road quickly, being able to escape from nearly any situation . . . be it urban or woods!
- Great style
- Breathable upper design
- Advanced cushioning and foot support
- Good traction on a variety of surfaces
- Good foot protection
- Some have felt the shoe is a little sloppy fitting inside. Your mileage may vary.
- Without a doubt, heavier than most competitors
4. Altra Lone Peak 3
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 feels comfortable on your foot. The 5 mm cushioning bed seems just right to hit the trail with. Users report this shoe gets them through all kinds of trail and weather conditions with ease. The weight of the shoe seems just about right, certainly not too heavy. For those that want to feel the ground beneath them, the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 permits an adequate feel of the ground with a decent balance of cushioning to keep your feet comfortable.
Altra used everything it learned from previous models of the Lone Peak to make helpful compromises to each aspect of the shoe design so it works well at a trail running shoe and doubles as a lightweight training shoe. All the major aspects are covered so you can really use this shoe for a variety of sports disciplines without disappointment.
Cost and Value
Because of its modest price tag and multiple areas of performance, this new version of Altra’s signature model compares favorably with the competition. Those who seek an all around good pair of shoes without breaking the bank need to look at the Altra Lone Peak 3.0.
- Noticeably good and comfortable fit
- Excellent price point
- Available in a variety of colors
- Improved design from previous models
- Good traction in a wide variety of conditions
- Not the leader in fashion sense
- Some think the new model doesn’t breathe as well
5. Salomon Sense Pro 2
Salomon has come up with some proprietary terms for their extremely high-tech product. The “Endofit” technology envelops and protects your foot in great comfort while the “Contragrip” outsole translates ground feedback to your foot creating a perfect combination of man and machine . . . hence the name Sense Pro 2.
Removable inner sole
Being able to separate the inner parts to a trail shoe can be invaluable particularly when you want to clean the inside of your shoe from trail debris or just freshen up the inside. The Salomon “Ortholite” removable inner sole bed is just the answer for such folks. This is a shoe for serious trail blazers!
Cost and Value
For those who seek specific performance in a trail shoe, it’s hard to put a price on a shoe that you discover that meet your goals. Such is the case with the Salomon Sense Pro 2. It ain’t cheap! If you’ve become spoiled by a shoe such as this one that bathes your foot in glove-like comfort every time you put it in, you’re not going to be overly concerned with the higher price tag. Some folks with different persuasions will look elsewhere for a different shoe. It’s a very subjective thing, love it or hate it, so to speak.
- Well constructed for lasting performance
- Among the most comfortable shoe in the marketplace
- Inner sole can be disassembled
- Highly acclaimed outer sole design
- Handles all types of speed and road conditions
- Relatively hefty price tag
- Longer lacing design permits better wrapping but longer preparation
6. New Balance 510v3
Boasting a full sized composite sole, you will receive all the traction and cushioning you have come to expect from a professional trail shoe with the versatility you may need hitting the pavement on the way to your favorite trail spot. Absent is any lumpy feeling you might get from oversized tread yet when this shoe hits the dirt and gravel, it digs in just fine!
Sporting and stylish
When you’re seen on the trail with the New Balance 510v3 it says something about you! It is a well appointed shoe design with just the right amount of color and stylish appointments to look great without being ostentatious. It is a trail shoe ready to provide you with what you seek, a professional, no-nonsense workout.
Cost and Value
New Balance brings the 510v3 in for a great price that won’t break the bank. There have been some reports that the sizing is a little irregular on these shoes so you should test your pair right away and make sure they size up properly for you. For those that can select the proper size for them, they can be a perfect match!
- Latest model from a proven leader
- Stylish and professional appearance
- Suitable for use on and off the trail
- Very reasonable price point
- May run a little smaller relative to the designated size
- Cross-training design may seem like a bulkier fit for some
7. Salomon XA Pro 3d
The two don’t usually go together in a trail shoe but Salomon has hit the mark with a harmonious combination of both. Easy clean-up and fast drying components make this shoe a highly practical accessory in your athletic wardrobe.
Technologically advanced design and materials
Because the rigors of running on trails are very demanding, trail shoes necessarily need to have strong components for both foot protection and a performance that includes sending feedback about the terrain conditions to the runner. Getting all that technology into a single shoe model while also making it lightweight and breathable is a great achievement and the Salomon XA Pro 3d has made that accomplishment.
Cost and Value
High price but high performance. When you demand a high quality shoe like this, you know where to get it. Current reports on the durability of this model indicate that you can keep it long enough to get your money's worth out of it particularly since the shoe can be easily cleaned up and rejuvenated after every run.
- Lacing system leaves forefront of foot free to articulate
- Breathable design
- Among the lightest weight shoes in the trail shoe class
- Weather resistant, easy clean-up
- Not designed for maximum heel cushioning, better for forefoot running
8. New Balance MT410V4
The New Balance MT410V4 does the seemingly impossible here providing excellent traction on multiple surfaces, an exceptionally comfortable foot compartment with ample shock cushioning in a breathing, good looking shoe. This could not be accomplished without the advanced materials science incorporated into the design.
Remarkably lightweight for its class
Weighing in at 10.2 ounces, the New Balance MT410V4 stands alone in a class where the demands on the shoe typically require heavier materials. Taking on demanding trails while keeping your body protected is the goal of any shoe design and this model does all that and can even double as a stylish all-day shoe you can wear around town.
Cost and Value
The New Balance MT410V4 is among the least expensive track shoe on this list yet it is a full featured product. There are better and higher quality shoes on our list but the construction, materials and comfort available in this shoe come in at a really great price.
- Good on the trail and on the street
- Excellent comfort
- Stylish design
- Good protection on the trail
- Very good price point
- Those with wide feet might have fit issues
- Some have reported these shoes wearing out prematurely
9. Vibram V Trail
3d cocoon technology is Vibram’s terminology for the unified, wrap around sole that protects the runner from trail hazards. You may step right on that occasional pebble that would be a disaster when running barefoot but you will have good protection with this design.
Comfortable upper webbing
Having a technically correct upper surround on a minimalist shoe is important for making you one with the shoe. You may want the natural feel that simulates a barefoot run and to achieve that the upper and lower shoe parts must be harmonious. The Vibram V has created a successful marriage of these parts in this design.
Cost and Value
Vibram aficionados swear by these shoes and you would be hard pressed to find anything but five star reviews among them. They don’t mind shelling out the slightly extra money these shoes will set you back. There are a very small number of folks out there that are uncomfortable with the fit or feel of these shoes and they will be unhappy at any price. You should try them and see which group you fall in.
- Washable inserts
- Cocoon design offers high protection
- Angled tread design offers additional grip advantage
- Advanced design offers high stability
- Fit is amazing on most but not all
- Design makes this shoe specifically good for one thing, trail running
10. Adidas Terrex Agravic
The positive rebound provided by this shoe allows you to achieve a rhythm in your stride as you pass through trails at a slow to moderate speed. It is excellent for adapting to the art of trail running and while the effect is subtle, it is still quite effective.
Sure footed traction
Users report that the Adidas Terrex Agravic can traverse sand, dirt, gravel, both grassy and rocky terrain like a champ. It is also an all weather shoe that will get you through mud and even limited amounts of snow without issue. Rest assured that it is a trail shoe with very well rated traction.
Cost and Value
The moderate cost along with the high performance of these shoes fit a special niche in trail shoes. If you are an experienced urban street runner and have decided to expand your horizons to trails you should definitely consider this shoe and that makes the price totally justifiable. As always, selecting the right shoe at the right price for you is a very personal thing. Try all shoes on if you can and if you buy online, always save the packaging for a while.
- Excellent foot protection
- Multi-surface traction
- Good performance at slow to moderate speeds
- Long lasting durability and comfort
- Not the lightest shoe of its type by any means
- Some felt laces could be improved
The selection of a good trail shoe remains one of the most personal things anybody can do. As a result, it’s a highly subjective thing. In a field that has umteen competitors, we have narrowed down the selection in our top ten to shoes that all rated (among a quorum of total reviews) within the upper third tier of popularity. We have hit the highlights with hopes they might narrow down the long list you may have to select from. The hearts of avid runners beat in a slightly different way than everybody else. It is in this spirit that we seek to help you find the best shoe style. Having so many shoes to select from means that somewhere out there is a fabulous shoe for you and we wish you the best of luck finding that perfect pair!
Make sure to check out the best running shoes overall.
Here are the best low-cost running shoes.
If you love Vibram Fivefingers, here’s the top rated of 2017.
You will need a GPS Running watch to track your runs. Here’s a list of the best.
Are you a cross trainer? Here are the best cross training shoes.