The Best Trail Running Shoes Review

We selected 10 of the season’s top trail running shoes for a head-to-head comparison on the trails in and around Boulder, Colorado and on trips around the country. We ran flat fire roads covered in crushed gravel, meandering through farmlands. We charged technical single-track that climbed and descended the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. And we ran terrain that switched from mellow to technical—even from snow to mud, dusty paths to packed dirt—and back, all within one run. All of the products in this review performed well, though they vary greatly between minimal and beefy, aggressive outsoles to best-for-mellow terrain. One—the Saucony Peregrine 2—emerged as the best of all worlds.

We tested footwear that ranged from burly, supportive and protective—like the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 and La Sportiva Wildcat, to minimalist, barefoot-like shoes with trail tread underfoot—like the New Balance Minimus MT 10, and a range of great footgear that fall in between the two extremes.
See also our Best Trail Running Shoes For Women review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Mark Eller and Lisa Jhung April 1, 2013

Top Ranked Trail Running Shoes - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Saucony Peregrine 2
Saucony Peregrine 2
Read the Review
Video video review
La Sportiva Wildcat
La Sportiva Wildcat
Read the Review
Salomon Speedcross 3
Salomon Speedcross 3
Read the Review
Asics GEL-Kahana 6
Asics GEL-Kahana 6
Read the Review
Asics Gel Fuji Racer
Asics Gel Fuji Racer
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award        Top Pick Award 
Street Price Varies $70 - $100
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $63 - $110
Compare at 11 sellers
Varies $86 - $145
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $67 - $85
Compare at 3 sellers
$110
Compare at 2 sellers
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Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Low-to-the-ground, lightweight, great traction, enough protection, form-boosting.Stable, supportive, protective.Great traction, overall aggressive option that’s still lightweight.Runs well on both road and trail.Lightweight, fast.
Cons Though great when wearing gaiters, the gaiter loop on the shoelace seems extraneous.Heavier and less flexible than others.Not as breathable as other shoes.Not the most protective, or responsive.Not a ton of protection; traction isn't as good as others.
Best Uses Trail running on technical and smooth trails. Trail racing. Okay on road.Trail running, mixed run/hikes, rocky, technical terrain.Trail running, mountain adventures, trail races, epic run/hike outings.Trail running, mellow trails, mixed road and trail running.Trail racing, fast training.
Date Reviewed Mar 20, 2013Feb 26, 2013Feb 26, 2013Feb 26, 2013Mar 05, 2013
Weighted Scores Saucony Peregrine 2 La Sportiva Wildcat Salomon Speedcross 3 Asics GEL-Kahana 6 Asics Gel Fuji Racer
Foot Protection - 35%
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Stability - 25%
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Weight - 20%
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Traction - 10%
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Product Specs Saucony Peregrine 2 La Sportiva Wildcat Salomon Speedcross 3 Asics GEL-Kahana 6 Asics Gel Fuji Racer
Weight Per Shoe 9.4 12.4 11.2 11.7 8.7
Sizes Available 7 to 13 38-47.5 EUR 7 to 13 6-13, 14, 15, 16 6 to 13, 14
Color Options Black/gray Black and green, red and grey, turtle Yellow, black, green and black, black and blue, black and blue and yellow, orange and blue, grey Green, grey and orange, grey and red Green, purple, blue
Upper Material Synthetic mesh air mesh with TPU film water-resistant textile Syntethic mesh Synthetic mesh
Sole Material rubber Frixion AT rubber non-marking Contagrip rubber rubber with high-abrasion rubber rubber with high-abrasion rubber
Lacing style Traditional lacing Traditional lacing with gussetted tongue Kevlar Quicklaces Traditional lacing Traditional lacing
Comments BEST OVERALL: A winning combination of low weight, excellent comfort and a nautural feeling on the dirt. Stable, supportive, cushioned but firm beefy, durable Runs well on every surface from pavement to rocky trails. TOP PICK: A great choice for racing or fast workouts. Light and quick, almost like a road racer but with just enough beef to make it suitable for trail running.

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Traction
The combination of multi-directional, fairly substantial lugs and hard rubber compounds seemed to make for the best traction on a range of surfaces, from dry to wet to rocky and beyond. The Saucony Peregrine 2 and Salomon Speedcross 3 rated highest in this category, followed closely by the Montrail Mountain Masochist and La Sportiva Wildcat, the latter of which uses sticky rubber like you'd find on the sole of a climbing shoe. The Salomon Speedcross 3 seemed to shed mud and muck the best, likely due to the wide spacing of the lugs.

Click to enlarge
The Men's Trail Running Shoes with the best traction from right to left: Salomon Speedcross 3, Saucony Peregrine 2, and La Sportiva Wildcat.
Credit: Lisa Jhung

Cushioning
The Asics GEL-Kahana has the most substantial cushioning, which makes sense and was appreciated, considering it's a hybrid; it's meant to be worn on both roads and trails. The Brooks Cascadia 7 also had a good amount of cushioning, and even though its a trail-specific shoe, this feature helps make the Cascadia another good choice for runners who run sections of roads to get to their trails. On the other end of the spectrum is the New Balance MT 10 Minimus, which is built to feel as if you've spray-painted the sole of your foot with rubber. Cushioning is a highly personal matter. Some prefer lots of cush for comfort, while others prefer slighter amounts to give them more ground-feel for agility.

Protection
The most protective contender in the review, both underfoot and on the sidewalls, is the La Sportiva Wildcat. The Wildcat is ready for all-day epics on rocky terrain. The Brooks Cascadia 7, Salomon Speedcross 3, Asics GEL-Kahana 6 and Adidas Vigor Trail 2 all had good amounts of protection both underfoot and on the upper. The Vigor Trail 2 feels the beefiest on the foot, which we didn't love (but it is a great deal for the price). The Saucony Peregrine 2, we felt, had just the right amount of protection for just about every trail type.

Stability
The La Sportiva Wildcat rated the most stable in the category, with the dual-density midsole of the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 right there with it. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the New Balance Minimus MT 10, which again, isn't meant to provide any stability. Some runners will want to create their own stability with the barefoot-like feel of the Minimus. A couple shoes, like the asics GEL-FujiRacer and Saucony Peregrine 2, gave us great ground-feel with solid traction, which made us feel very stable on the trail.

Weight
Due to its minimalist approach overall, the New Balance Minimus MT 10 is the lightest shoe we tested. But for more traditional shoes with some cushioning, the asics GEL-FujiRacer, Montrail Mountain Masochist and Saucony Peregrine 2 all managed to pack a ton of great features into a lightweight package. On the heavier end of things is the Adidas Vigor Trail 2.

Flexibility
The New Balance Minimus MT 10 is the most flexible, while the asics GEL-FujiRacer followed closely behind. Surprisingly for how beefy and protective it is, the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 ranked highly flexible, joining the Saucony Peregrine 2 and Salomon Speedcross 3.

Click to enlarge
The Best 2013 Men's Trail Running Shoes: From left to right: Saucony Peregrine 2, Adidas Vigor Trail 2, Asics Gel Fuji Racer.
Credit: Lisa Jhung

The Bottom Line
Editors' Choice
We loved how the Saucony Peregrine 2 gave us great feel for the trail, thanks to its low profile and minimal heel-to-toe differential. The drop from heel to forefoot is just 4mm, as opposed to the more traditional 10 to 14mm of most other models in this review. But, unlike the zero drop New Balance Minimus MT 10, the Peregrine still provides cushioning, a decently protective upper, and aggressive tread underfoot. All of these great features pack into the Peregrine 2, while it remains one of the lightest weight contenders in the review. Its lightweight, great traction and flexible forefoot combine to make us choose this shoe for faster trail efforts as well as slower days. The Peregrine can handle a trail race as well as it can handle a casual run/hike combo.

Saucony Peregrine 2
Saucony Peregrine 2
Credit: Lisa Jhung
Best Buy
Trail running shoes can cost upwards of $150, but a couple options give you a solid pair for much less. Our pick for Best Buy is the Adidas Vigor Trail 2. Found as low as $67, this is a well-built offering that provides comfort, cushioning, traction and protection. The downside is that it’s heavier than most, and can feel a bit beefy overall.
Adidas Trail Vigor 2
Adidas Trail Vigor 2
Credit: Lisa Jhung

Top Pick: Best For Racing
One model in this review is built for racing on trails, and made us feel fast and agile on all our runs. The lightweight (8.7-ounce) Asics GEL-FujiRacer flexes well in the forefoot for a quick turnover, has enough traction underfoot to grip for control, and provides a nimble, ready-for-action feel. And when worn on daily runs of all speeds, we appreciated it’s qualities as a light, comfortable, capable trail shoe.
asics GEL-FujiRacer
asics GEL-FujiRacer
Credit: Lisa Jhung

Mark Eller and Lisa Jhung
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by Lisa Jhung and Mark Eller
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