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How We Tested Trail Running Shoes for Women

By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Sunday March 6, 2022

Where We Test


A good trail running shoe is characterized by its performance on the trail. As a result, we tested all contenders over a wide range of surfaces and environments over multiple years. We've literally run thousands of miles over varied terrain in South America, Canada, Europe, and throughout the United States. We've visited the summits of mountains, trained on the beach, ran through the valleys, and sweated it out in the desert.

trail running shoes womens - interval running the old horsethief trail up in ouray, colorado.
Interval running the Old Horsethief Trail up in Ouray, Colorado.
Credit: Amber King

We evaluate each shoe on its ability to perform across different categories. We also ensure that each model is tested fairly across a wide range of foot shapes and preferences by giving local runners and friends the shoes to test on the trails. We also did our research, cross-checking hundreds of other online reviews to make sure we weren't missing anything and to identify potential issues to look for. We condense all of this research and hands-on experience into a package of manageable information to help you make the best decision for yourself and your feet.

trail running shoes womens - we run at least 60 miles in each pair of shoes through a variety of...
We run at least 60 miles in each pair of shoes through a variety of conditions.
Credit: Amber King

Testing Metrics


Foot Protection


In this metric, we perform a variety of objective tests. While in the field, we observe which shoe provides the best protection underfoot. We notice if any trail debris penetrates the mesh uppers and which shoe offers the best water resistance while crossing streams. We compare the protection of the uppers, tongue, and outsole. We also look at responsiveness, cushioning, and other protective elements, such as the hardness of the toe cap and how fit affects protection.

Traction


We look at various surfaces in this metric and take notes for each shoe. We test on surfaces that included zoomy single track, sticky mud, snow, pavement, rocks and roots, wet rocks, and sand. We also look at the comparative lug length and type of rubber used in each trail shoe. We also look at the lug shape to determine how the form correlates to its best use. In addition, we note which shoes we feel safer and less slippery in.

Sensitivity


This test is relatively simple. The shoe that provides the least protection underfoot from the trail provides the best sensitivity. The more we could feel the trail, the better the sensitivity. As a result, in addition to field tests, we compared the relative stack height to measure each shoe in this metric.

Stability


When evaluating stability, we observe which shoes provide the most lateral support and which ones feel downright tippy. We measure the width of each shoe and compare its stack height to create a ratio. We also run over precarious surfaces to see which tip and which bend more.

Comfort and Fit


We run with each shoe to see which one feels most homey for our feet when looking at comfort. We look at the cushioning, its responsiveness, and its relative thickness. We also look at the upper and how breathable and comfortable it feels on our toes.

We didn't award any points for fit simply because this is such a subjective category. Instead, we identified which shoes fit best for wide, narrow, and medium feet and where the relative support exists or doesn't exist.

Weight


We simply measured each shoe on the scale (as a single, not in a pair) to see which was the most lightweight. We also note if the shoes feel trail dynamic or bulky when in use.

trail running shoes womens - running it out on a trail just outside of grand junction, colorado.
Running it out on a trail just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado.
Credit: Amber King

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