Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Trail Running Shoes for Women of 2022

We've logged many miles in the best women's trail running shoes from Salomon, Inov-8, HOKA, Altra, Saucony, and more to help you find your perfect match
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women of 2022
The tightly-woven nylon mesh upper isn't as breathable as we'd like, but it offers rugged protection.
Credit: Ally Arcuri
Thursday May 26, 2022
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Our trail nerds have reviewed 90 of the best trail running shoes for women over the last 6 years. This update features 18 of the most popular options on the market, tested head-to-head to determine the best. We log at least 60 miles in each pair, running day in and day out to bring you the most reliable information possible. From ultra-distance marathons in the US to fast-packing adventures in Iceland, long mountain trails in Peru, and coastal climbs across California, we've embarked upon many running adventures over the years. And our testing doesn't stop with the trails; we also weigh, compare, and mull over each detail, no matter how tiny, to provide you with solid recommendations that you can trust.

Trail shoes are made specifically for rough and rugged terrain. To keep you prepared for these conditions, it is also wise to have an excellent pair of socks, comfortable running shorts, and a breezy top. If you plan to explore sandy or snowy trails, gaiters may also be a good accessory to have. If you're not sure that you need a trail-specific shoe, there are other shoe styles to consider before making a final decision. For all other gadgets and accessories, check out our favorite running gear to get you out on the trail.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 26, 2022, to add reviews for new offerings and updated versions of old favorites.

Related: Best Trail Running Shoes for Men

Top 18 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 18
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Awards  Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award 
Price $190 List
$146.89 at Amazon
$129.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$130 List
$130.00 at Amazon
$179.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$109.53 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score
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76
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81
78
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Pros Great traction, rugged foot protection, stable, durableExcellent traction, great foot protection, specific fit, durable outsoleLight, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stableSuperior comfort, light on foot, protective cushioning, stable architecture, breathable upper, great tractionGreat traction, streamlined profile, encourages speed
Cons Less comfortable, tougher to break in, feel heavy underfoot, no sensitivity, pricyHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavement, fit won't suit everyoneNarrow fit, runs small, rigid construction, takes time to break-inLace pocket is difficult to use, tight collar can bite into the ankle, pricyLess protective, runs narrow
Bottom Line If you want a rugged, beefy, and well-tractioned shoe to carry you through tough terrain, you've met your matchAn aggressive trail shoe that is built for steep, technical, and sloppy trailsStable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alikeOur favorite shoe offers a well-balanced ride with one of the stickiest and most confidence-inspiring outsoles we've ever seenWhen you are looking to ratchet up the speed on technical trails, this is the lightweight and snug-fitting shoe you'll reach for
Rating Categories Inov-8 Trailfly Ult... Salomon Speedcross 5 Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Saucony Peregrine 12
Foot Protection (25%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (20%) Sort Icon
10.0
10.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
Sensitivity (15%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
10.0
8.0
Stability (15%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort and Fit (15%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
Weight (10%)
5.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
Specs Inov-8 Trailfly Ult... Salomon Speedcross 5 Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Saucony Peregrine 12
Measured Weight (per shoe) 9.84 oz (size 7) 9.52 oz (size 7)
10.7 oz (size 9)
9.45 oz (size 7)
9.8 oz (size 9)
8.68 oz (size 7)
9.8 oz (size 9)
7.76 oz (size 7)
Heel-to-Toe Drop 6 mm 10 mm 8 mm 8.6 mm 4 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 25 mm, 19 mm 35 mm, 25 mm Not disclosed 26.8 mm, 18.2 mm 26.5 mm, 22.5 mm
Upper Mesh Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays Mesh, continuous nylon Textile/synthetic Recycled polyester Air-mesh
Midsole G-Fly Injected EVA Feline SL midsole Energy Cell, polyurethane foam PWRRUN
Outsole Graphene-enhanced rubber Contragrip Sticky Pomoco Outer Rubber PWRTRAC rubber
Rock Plate? No Yes Not disclosed Not disclosed Yes
Wide Version Available? No No No No Yes
Sizes Available 5.5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 11 4 - 13 5 - 12


Best Overall Trail Running Shoe for Women


Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 7.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Sensitivity 10.0
  • Stability 7.0
  • Comfort and Fit 9.0
  • Weight 6.0
Weight (per shoe): 8.68 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8.6mm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent protection and traction
Fit molds to the foot
Stable and sensitive
Breathable
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Collar is tight
Expensive
Lace pocket is ineffective

Yet again, the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is a favorite that absolutely crushes the competition. Though we painstakingly test the best of the best, this pair is our legitimate and unanimous favorite. A go-to for all types of running missions, this is the shoe to buy if you want one that'll do it all. We used it for everything — from technical ridge missions to fast road runs, and it performs. We love the responsive midsole, super sticky outsole, and breathable upper that seems to protect from every type of particulate. We've been running in it for well over 400 miles, and it's still going strong. This unisex shoe seems to do it all and is one we recommend to all our friends, including you.

While this shoe, performance-wise, is absolutely amazing, the price is a hard one to swallow. The fit also feels large, so we recommend sizing down if you like a tighter feel. Lastly, the collar can be tight around the ankle depending on your anatomy, so be sure to wear taller socks and exercise a little patience getting into them if they don't feel perfect out of the box. This fantastic trail shoe is one you've got to try and earns our highest accolades for its balanced performance, protection, and sensitivity on all types of terrain.

Read review: Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

trail running shoes womens - best overall trail running shoe for women
The S/Lab Ultra 3 is the shoe we cannot stop telling our friends, family, and even strangers about. It really is just that good.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best Overall for Technical Terrain


Dynafit Feline SL - Women's


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 9.0
  • Traction 10.0
  • Sensitivity 7.0
  • Stability 8.0
  • Comfort and Fit 6.0
  • Weight 6.0
Weight (per shoe): 9.45 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 9mm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent mud shed
Fantastic traction
Very protective
Lightweight
Agility-inducing
REASONS TO AVOID
Runs small and narrow
Rigid
Takes time to break-in

The Dynafit Feline SL is a light and nimble shoe that is fantastic for tearing up techy, fast terrain. Initially, we found the fit to feel like a narrow and rigid cleat, but once we laid down a few break-in miles, it became perfect for taking on flowy and potentially slippery trails. The claw-like lugs are spaced perfectly for security on steep inclines and provide excellent mud shedding. These were our go-to shoes for steep, rocky trails. The toe bumper is super protective, and despite the narrow platform, these 9mm drop shoes are surprisingly stable. The outsole is rugged but provides a perfect balance of strength and sensitivity.

The fit of the Feline won't be for everyone since it is pretty narrow and tough. Additionally, these shoes run a bit small, so you might need to size up, especially if you like running in thick, protective socks. The break-in period takes a bit longer than other trail running shoes, but since they break into a shape that perfectly molded to our unique feet, we didn't find this problematic. The tough sensitivity of the outsole might not be right for heel strikers as the Feline tends to ride a bit less luxuriously than plusher options. But if you are looking for a shoe that inspires confidence and agility on technical terrain, look no further.

Read review: Dynafit Feline SL

trail running shoes womens - best overall for technical terrain
The Dynafit Feline SL surprised us by being one of our favorite shoes this time around. From its incredible protection to speed-including profile, we couldn't log enough miles in these trail-claw-laden kicks.
Credit: Amber King

Best Long Distance Value


Hoka Torrent 2 - Women's


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 8.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Sensitivity 7.0
  • Stability 7.0
  • Comfort and Fit 8.0
  • Weight 7.0
Weight (per shoe): 7.41 oz Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5mm
REASONS TO BUY
Incredibly comfortable
Affordable
Stable
Durable
Great for all distances
REASONS TO AVOID
Narrow lace bed
Stack height takes some getting used to

The HOKA Torrent 2 is a favorite for its wear-all-day comfort. In fact, this is the shoe we recommend to all long distances runners because of its almost universal comfort. Loaded with a responsive and cushioned midsole, we ran 20+ mile distances with ease. The traction is superior with sticky rubber and multidirectional lugs, built to bite down on any surface. It transitions nicely from the trail to the road, and the lugs stay strong and beefy even when worn on abrasive surfaces. The Torrent 2 is an excellent choice if you're looking for a shoe that'll carry you into the ultra distances, though it is equally great for shorter distances.

While this is one of the most stable HOKA shoes we've tested (a brand known for having a high stack height), the Torrent 2 still requires a little getting used to. Once you get comfortable with the 31mm stack and the 5mm drop, you'll love the molded-to-you comfort and responsivity of this shoe. If you're looking to have a bit more impact absorption and comfort for miles on end, this model comes with our highest universal recommendations.

Read review: HOKA Torrent 2

trail running shoes womens - best long distance value
Even after our testing was complete, these are the shoes we don't want to take off of our feet.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best Bang for your Buck


Brooks Divide 2 - Women's


69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 6.0
  • Traction 7.0
  • Sensitivity 6.0
  • Stability 8.0
  • Comfort and Fit 7.0
  • Weight 8.0
Weight (per shoe): 8.0 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8mm
REASONS TO BUY
Affordable
Fits like a traditional running shoe
Good crossover shoe
Great for beginners
REASONS TO AVOID
Less rugged
Lacks sensitivity

The Brooks Divide 2 is one of the best crossover shoes in our lineup. Because of its less rugged outsole and traditional road running shoe shape, it is a great shoe for trail running beginners. The fit feels familiar, with an 8mm drop and a 20mm heel stack, and it is comfortable with enough cushion to make for a smooth ride. All of the elements of the Divide come together to create a solid and affordable light-to-medium trail shoe.

The Divide 2 is made for light trails, which is truly what it is perfect for. The lugs are less deep and powerful when compared to burlier shoes, and it definitely isn't as protective, even though it does contain a rock plate. The outsole design provides far less sensitivity than we have grown to prefer. That said, if you are a newbie looking for a crossover shoe to tackle fire roads and gentle trails, the Divide is a great value.

Read review: Brooks Divide 2

trail running shoes womens - best bang for your buck
This affordable shoe didn't score as high as other trail runners across the board, but it holds its own for a much lower price.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best Traditional Fit


Saucony Peregrine 12 - Women's


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 7.0
  • Traction 9.0
  • Sensitivity 8.0
  • Stability 8.0
  • Comfort and Fit 6.0
  • Weight 9.0
Weight (per shoe): 7.76 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4mm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent traction
Streamlined fit
Responsive
REASONS TO AVOID
Less protective
Runs narrow

The new and improved Saucony Peregrine 12 is a well-tractioned and svelte-fitting trail running shoe that offers above-average protection. It provides a breathable and comfortable Airmesh upper that molds to the outer edges of your feet as it breaks in. The lugs are sturdy, stable, and well-patterned for exceptional traction. We love that the Peregrine is a rugged shoe that rides and looks more like a road shoe. It isn't quite as protective as other shoes that we tested, but it provides just enough to make it versatile. Because its rugged outsole and rock plate combine perfectly with its lightweight and responsiveness, we love wearing this shoe for all different types of trail runs.

The list is pretty short when it comes to our list of grievances with the Peregrine 12. The narrow fit, much like a lot of Saucony's road running shoes, won't appeal to wide-footed runners. The base of support is pretty streamlined and might feel unstable if your feet are wider than the platform. The Peregrine also isn't the toughest shoe we tested, but it holds up to demands pretty well. Most of the protective elements are simply a bit more forgiving than those of shoes that are made for tougher, more technical trails. If you are looking for a well-tractioned and responsive trail shoe with enough comfort to get you through long runs, the Peregrine might be the perfect choice.

Read review: Saucony Peregrine 12

trail running shoes womens - best traditional fit
The responsive fit and great outsole of the Peregrine 12 inspire confidence on flowing, fun runs.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best for Sensitive Zero Drop Performance


Altra Lone Peak 6 - Women's


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 7.0
  • Traction 7.0
  • Sensitivity 7.0
  • Stability 9.0
  • Comfort and Fit 9.0
  • Weight 9.0
Weight (per shoe): 7.62 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent trail intimacy
Fitted and streamlined performance
Lightweight
Protective enough
Very sticky and confidence-inspiring outsole
REASONS TO AVOID
Zero-drop isn't for everyone
Less durable
Less arch support

The Altra Lone Peak 6 is a staple shoe in the ultra distance and hiking community for a good reason. It is packed with 25mm of cushioning throughout the length of the midsole, with an extra-wide toe box that allows for a natural splay of the forefoot. This type of toebox space is great for helping to build the musculature in the sole of the foot and toes, which can aid in the healing of foot and toe issues. The upper offers breathability for hot days and dries quickly after a good dunk in a cool stream. This new iteration has an updated eyelet pattern, which allows this naturally wide shoe to be cinched to fit narrower feet. It hosts a 0mm drop, meaning this doesn't have additional support or cushioning in the heel. It is best for those that intend to strike the ground with the forefoot and not the heel. Altra has increased the durability of these shoes in the recent past, and it shows. It's our favorite for longer distances and the one we choose when there's a long fast pack or training day ahead.

While we love this shoe, it's not for everybody. The zero-drop design takes some training to get used to. Since there is no extra cushioning in the heel to lift it, the rear chain of muscles in your body will have to work quite a bit harder, and you may feel a bit of strain on the Achilles tendon. With proper training, this can wane, but if you are new to the zero-drop game, this might not be the shoe you can buy and start running long distances in immediately. But for those seeking a cushioned, well-protected, and wide trail running shoe that gives you room to spread your toes, here it is.

Read review: Altra Lone Peak 6

trail running shoes womens - best for sensitive zero drop performance
The updated version of the Lone Peak offers unparalleled comfort and well-designed features.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best for Sloppy Surfaces


Salomon Speedcross 5 - Women's


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot Protection 9.0
  • Traction 10.0
  • Sensitivity 7.0
  • Stability 6.0
  • Comfort and Fit 6.0
  • Weight 5.0
Weight (per shoe): 9.52 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 10mm
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent traction on soft surfaces
Specific fit
Fantastic durability
Very protective
REASONS TO AVOID
Lugs wear on pavement
Heel stack makes it slightly less stable
Unique shape won't fit all feet

The Salomon Speedcross 5 stands out for its crampon-inspired grip that tackles muddy, messy trails with ease. The 5mm chevron-shaped lugs are well spaced and shed mud effectively, keeping you going even when the rain pours. This shoe offers a cushioned feel and a sensitive forefoot that allows you to feel the trail while retaining just the right amount of needed protection. The heel is extra cushioned, which makes it a great match for heel strikers. We appreciate the specific fit that hugs the foot, so you most likely won't experience toe bump when charging on the downhills. The same fit profile helps stabilize you as you take on sloppy trails. The Speedcross is durable, so expect a long lifecycle with this contender.

There are only a few notable caveats to point out regarding the Speedcross. It is not the ideal crossover shoe as the soft rubber that sticks well when scrambling over rocks will wear down quickly on a classic road run. Some of our testers also felt that the steeper sidewall and elevated heel made for a less stable ride on super tricky terrain. The heel height, which stands at 35mm, and the narrow architecture prevent this from being a shoe that all uniquely-shaped runners will love. But if you seek a shoe that'll do well on typical technical, steep, and sloppy terrain, this is the one to buy.

Read review: Salomon Speedcross 5

trail running shoes womens - taking on technical, varied, and sloppy terrain is no issue when...
Taking on technical, varied, and sloppy terrain is no issue when riding high in the Salomon Speedcross 5.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Compare Products

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Score Product Price Our Take
81
$180
Editors' Choice Award
A unisex shoe that offers superior performance across the board, boasting a protective yet sensitive ride with an architecture that sticks and doesn't slip
80
$130
Editors' Choice Award
Built for soft and slick surfaces, this contender earns top marks across the board with the ability to stick to everything and shed mud like a champ
78
$125
Best Buy Award
This responsive and cushioned ride is one that's a favorite amongst ultrarunners
78
$130
Top Pick Award
A grippy and well-designed shoe that offers great trail sensitivity with moderate foot protection and a narrow profile
78
$140
Top Pick Award
If you are looking for a spacious and comfortable shoe to house your feet on long trail runs, this protective zero-drop shoe might be your perfect match
76
$130
Top Pick Award
Built for steep and sloppy surfaces, this is a great option for technical terrain or muddy, wet trails
73
$130
A well-built trail runner designed for stability and protection that performs well on moderately technical surfaces
73
$159
A technical train runner designed with stability and protection in mind
72
$135
A durable all-terrain warrior that stands out for its extra-wide toe box and extra underfoot cushioning with good durability in our tests
72
$190
With an incredibly grippy outsole, this protection shoe will be with you mile after mile - once they get broken in
71
$140
Cushioned and protective for everything from cross over terrain to ultra distances
69
$100
Best Buy Award
A comfortable and durable shoe that is affordable and built for light terrain
69
$170
If you are looking for a grippy, stable, and zero-drop shoe with an above-average base of support, you'll love hitting the trail in these stacked, plush runners
68
$120
Sticky traction, different fit options, and performing well on all types of trails, all at a good price
68
$130
Sporting a wide toe box, lightweight construction, and lighter level of cushioning, this shoe is built for a wide variety of trails with a close to the ground feel
68
$140
A versatile narrow trail runner designed to be nimble and quick over easy to technical trails
66
$155
The Vibram soles and underfoot cushion make this shoe a rugged ultramarathon superstar, though the fit might not appeal to everyone
62
$120
This cross-over shoe does well across most surfaces, inspiring confidence while you dance across rocky ridges and explore pavement jungles

trail running shoes womens - it&#039;s impossible not to fall in love with trail running when you have...
It's impossible not to fall in love with trail running when you have the right shoes strapped to your feet.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Why You Should Trust Us


Our main tester is a trail runner, exercise specialist, and cancer survivor. Ally Arcuri has been deep in the world of running for over a decade and truly found her feet on the trails. She has taken on ultra marathons in the Rocky Mountains and is currently training for shorter, speedier trail races. Ally has a degree in kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton and utilizes her knowledge of biomechanics heavily while assessing each pair of shoes. She currently lives next door to Montaña de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County, California, though she attributes her love of trails to her upbringing in South Lake Tahoe.

Ally is joined by Amber King, who has been reviewing trail running shoes for women since 2014. She's an avid trail runner taking on ultra-distance marathons and has raced in several trail ultramarathons, including the Bryce Canyon 50 miler and the Telluride Mountain Run. When she's not climbing rocks around the Southwestern part of Colorado, you can find her taking on fast-packing missions worldwide.

Our testing of trail running shoes is divided across six rating metrics:
  • Foot Protection (25% of overall score weighting)
  • Traction (20% weighting)
  • Sensitivity (15% weighting)
  • Stability (15% weighting)
  • Comfort and Fit (15% weighting)
  • Weight (10% weighting)

We have traveled all over testing women's trail running shoes for over 6 years, getting our hands on more than 90 pairs. We've hiked up towering passes in Peru, run over summits in the Rocky Mountains, jogged over dry singletrack in the desert, raced across the beaches of California, and explored the most remote parts of the Pacific Northwest. We've taken on self-supported 50K distances in Iceland and logged training miles on the sunny shores of Hawaii. One of our testing sites is the steep trails of Ouray and Silverton, Colorado, which offers some of the most beautiful trails you'll find in the USA (in our opinion). Our main testing location is Montaña de Oro State Park, which is located on the rugged coast of California, south of Big Sur. It offers sweeping vistas, scenic peaks, hundreds of miles of trail, and enough slippery scree to test an army of running shoes. Each pair of shoes has logged at least 60 miles — some with over 1,000 miles, if they last that long. Our review compiles this data to give you recommendations for your best trail sidekick, or two.

The trails surrounding the Peruvian Andes are one of our many...
The trails surrounding the Peruvian Andes are one of our many testing sites. The Altra Lone Peaks are a top choice for these long trails that take us to some of the best views.
The Bear Creek trail is technical and rocky. The Inov-8 trail runner...
The Bear Creek trail is technical and rocky. The Inov-8 trail runner is a sensitive ride that we wish had a touch more protection.
At OutdoorGearLab we take our shoe testing seriously. Here we see...
At OutdoorGearLab we take our shoe testing seriously. Here we see our main tester tackling the ascent of Crestone Peak... a fourteen thousand foot peak in Colorado's high mountains with the Alta Lone Peak model.

Analysis and Test Results


Our trail running shoe review covers a wide range of products to reflect the best options on the market. Each shoe is subjected to the same tests to determine even tiny differences in performance with objectivity. After rating each across our metrics, we assign a comparative score to determine which has the best performance. We offer an in-depth comparison to help you find exactly what you're looking for.

trail running shoes womens - while we tested what seems like a mountain of shoes, there are some...
While we tested what seems like a mountain of shoes, there are some obvious winners that we need to gush about.
Credit: Amber King

Value


When buying a pair of shoes, you want to ensure that they will perform well for the money you invest. This is especially true as manufacturers add feature after feature, causing the price of each pair of shoes to creep up. A good shoe with great value will last and won't break down after a hundred miles. In the world of trail shoes, we tend to associate value with the burliness of the lugs and protective features, which is part of why foot protection is such a heavily weighted metric. Many shoes will either lose responsiveness in the foam or have a deteriorated upper after this time. However, many folks opt to buy those that are not as durable simply because they are light and flexible with good performance when they are in top shape.


There are plenty of durable options within the shoes we tested that offer outstanding performance for a reasonable price. The Saucony Peregrine 12 stands out for its versatile design with an aggressive outsole that'll stick to steep trails and mud. Other durable options in our lineup include the HOKA Torrent 2 and the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max. The Torrent 2 offers a superiorly cushioned ride and is built to take on long trail runs. The Trailfly is a bit more rigid and offers less cushion but is built tougher than most of the other shoes we've tested — but it's also more expensive. All three of these options provide a durable construction that has lasted 300+ miles so far for our testers.

trail running shoes womens - the trailfly by inov-8 is a super rugged, albeit slightly rigid...
The Trailfly by Inov-8 is a super rugged, albeit slightly rigid, shoe for technical and slippery terrain.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Foot Protection


An excellent trail running shoe provides the right combination of foot protection to sensitivity, allowing a runner to feel the path underfoot without suffering hard blows from unsuspected hazards. It is really easy for a shoe to be too protective, which can cut down on its sensitivity; we love when we get to run in shoes that have a perfect balance of protection and sensitivity.


This metric has a 25% weighting in the overall score. We consider factors such as cushioning and a rock plate's presence, or lack thereof. There are plenty of protective shoes that do not include a rock plate, but we have found that we prefer trail running shoes that include this feature. We explore the upper architecture to see if it is breathable and keeps out smaller particles from entering the shoe. Finally, we look at the toe cap's rigidity and protection from unsuspected stubbed toes. All the shoes tested offer enough protection to be worn on trails, with some providing more than others.

trail running shoes womens - the salomon speedcross 5 is one of the most rugged terrain-ready...
The Salomon Speedcross 5 is one of the most rugged terrain-ready shoes in our lineup. We love the thick lugs and ample, uniquely patterned cushion.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

The most protective shoes have lots of underfoot cushioning, a strong toe bumper, a rock plate, and a well-constructed upper. Of our selection, the most protective shoes with a thicker outsole include the Salomon Speedcross 5 and the HOKA Challenger ATR 6. The Challenger doesn't have a rock plate but instead has loads of underfoot cushioning. HOKA is known for creating stacked shoes, which makes the Torrent 2 and the HOKA Speedgoat 5 great for underfoot protection as well.

trail running shoes womens - the hoka torrent 2 offers excellent underfoot protection in the form...
The Hoka Torrent 2 offers excellent underfoot protection in the form of ample cushioning.
Credit: Amber King

The Salomon Speedcross 5 has a well-cushioned midsole, especially in the heel, ensuring a flexible and sensitive ride. The Speedcross 5 is protective underfoot, offering 35mm of rigid EVA cushioning in the heel and 25mm in the forefoot. It has a continuous upper with excellent wicking capabilities that keep out trail matter and small sprays of water. If you're seeking a protective and truly rugged shoe, this is a great choice.

trail running shoes womens - a look at some different toe cap styles and uppers. continuous...
A look at some different toe cap styles and uppers. Continuous uppers are more protective but typically aren't as breathable.
Credit: Amber King

While these shoes have beefier outsoles with a more significant heel-to-toe drop, there are also protective options with a medium amount of cushioning underfoot. The integration of a rock plate aids a little extra protection. The Altra Lone Peak 6 is a notable shoe in this category, sporting a softer but thick midsole (25mm in the heel and forefoot) that is incredibly protective and well-cushioned, with the addition of a rock plate to counter the softness of the materials. The latest iteration is leagues more durable than prior versions, making it that much more protective over a lot of miles.

trail running shoes womens - even though they are on the lightweight side of things, the new lone...
Even though they are on the lightweight side of things, the new Lone Peak provides great comfort and also above-average foot protection.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

The Topo Ultraventure 2 is a similar contender, boasting a little extra cushioning in the heel (30mm) and 25mm at the forefoot. It has an outsole that is much more rigid than the Lone Peak but doesn't integrate a rock plate. The Scarpa Spin Ultra also falls into this category (without a disclosed stack height), with more responsive foam and the integration of a rock plate. The Brooks Cascadia is a durable and protective contender with a thick yet soft midsole and hard toe cap, protecting from unsuspecting bumps along the way. These are great options for hammering on the pavement or trails for ultra-length distances because of the level of comfort.

trail running shoes womens - the feline sl offers exceptional protection and its fit inspires you...
The Feline SL offers exceptional protection and its fit inspires you to push the pace on flat parts of the trail.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Other shoes sport minimal cushion but have protective elements that make them a good choice for technical terrain. The Dynafit Feline SL features an ultra-hard toe cap and a lower stack height. The Feline SL also has a burlier upper with a single-pull lacing system and isn't as flexible, thus earning a higher score in this category. This is one of our favorite shoes for speedy, technical runs that require strong foot protection.

trail running shoes womens - the s/lab ultra 3 by salomon does a great job balancing all of its...
The S/Lab Ultra 3 by Salomon does a great job balancing all of its elements. We love it for technical climbing, water crossings, and fast-paced and flowing trails.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best for Water Crossings

Seeking the best trail running shoe for crossing the odd stream? The best option is a shoe with a waterproof upper that doesn't absorb moisture and dries quickly. None of the shoes we tested are entirely waterproof, nor are they fully intended for water use, but some dry out faster than others. For example, the HOKA Challenger ATR 6 has an overlay mesh that isn't water-resistant or waterproof but does dry quickly while on the run. We appreciate the Altra Lone Peak 6, which has a dedicated drainage system for quick-drying performance. Unfortunately, the new drainage holes are on top of the toebox, which doesn't exactly work with gravity. We love the Salmon S/Lab Ultra 3 as the upper dries quickly and resists water from penetrating around the outsole if the puddles aren't too deep.

The Altra Olympus 4 is slightly more water-resistant than others, but it really shines during shallow creek crossings because of its stack height. With 33mm of height and exceptional stability, we have felt confident crossing shallow water because we stand so high above it.

trail running shoes womens - the olympus&#039;s stack height alone makes it great for crossing shallow...
The Olympus's stack height alone makes it great for crossing shallow waters.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Many of the shoes we tested have a "GTX" version, meaning Gore-Tex is used to add water protection. If you know you'll be tackling a lot of water, look for this option - just realize it's likely to be far less breathable and more expensive.

Traction


Your traction needs depend on what type of terrain you find yourself on most frequently. If you stick to smooth dirt paths and gravel roads, you may be able to get away with less aggressive shoes more akin to road runners. However, good traction inspires confidence and limits slips and falls when treading over slippery and soft terrain. We made sure to pay attention to each shoe's ability to bite down on the trail. When testing, we subjected each trail running shoe to different types of surfaces in various conditions; this included mud, snow, pavement, scree, sand, sandstone, granite slabs, and more. The slope we test on ranges from steep and unstable to flat. We also dunk them in rivers and run in the snow to see how each performs when wet.


None of the outsoles performed perfectly on slippery and wet rocks through our testing. Perfect performance is a big ask, and we know it. Some rubbers are stickier than others, but none can completely ensure a slip-free experience when crossing rivers or jumping across boulder fields in the rain. Trust your body and your abilities over what each company says their shoes can do.

Three shoes stand out for superior traction: the Dynafit Feline SL, Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max, and Salomon Speedcross 5. All have longer lugs that stick well to rocky surfaces. The Speedcross 5 and Feline both have more rigid and durable lugs, holding better on steep surfaces that are quite sloppy. Both shed mud well too. The Trailfly has unique, double-decker lugs and a Graphene-enhanced rubber outsole, which makes it one of the grippiest shoes we have ever had the pleasure of testing.

trail running shoes womens - the multitextured and layered lugs combined with graphene-enhanced...
The multitextured and layered lugs combined with Graphene-enhanced rubber make the outsole of the Trailfly a total beast on the trail.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

We appreciate the stickiness of the Torrent 2 and S/Lab Ultra 3 with more extended lugs that are a little less rigid but seem to stick to anything we tried. On steep downhills, all shoes kept us in place, making them excellent technical terrain choices.

trail running shoes womens - the salomon s/lab ultra 3 features ultra-sticky traction that we...
The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 features ultra-sticky traction that we trust on the trickiest of terrain.
Credit: Amber King

If you plan on tackling trails less littered with grass, mud, and other soft surfaces, you'd be better off looking at shoes with lugs that aren't as long but feature stickier rubber and a nice pattern. The stickiest rubber out there comes on the Salmon S/Lab Ultra 3, Brooks Cascadia 16, and the Salomon Sense Ride 4. All have a rubber compound that grips well to rocks.

trail running shoes womens - here we compare a few options that have sticky rubber. the dyanfit...
Here we compare a few options that have sticky rubber. The Dyanfit Feline SL (middle) does better than these Salomon options sticking to rocky surfaces and taking on muddy conditions.
Credit: Amber King

The Saucony Peregrine 12 is less sticky with more aggressive outsoles for better purchase on steeper trails. This high-value and versatile shoe feature longer lugs that did well across most tests, only falling short when it came to holding up on road runs. The only shoes that impressed us in the mud shed tests were those with lugs that are a little further apart, like the Salomon varieties. The Topo Ultraventure 2 sports a Vibram sole which is also more durable.

trail running shoes womens - the dynafit feline sl is an excellent choice for sloppy or dry...
The Dynafit Feline SL is an excellent choice for sloppy or dry, steep terrain. Here our main tester runs down a trail in the steep San Juan mountains surrounding Telluride, Colorado.
Credit: Amber King

Sensitivity


Shoes that offer excellent sensitivity have less cushioning underfoot, typically. Sensitivity is essential because it allows a runner to feel underfoot hazards, which gives them time to re-adjust body positioning. By this logic, sensitivity and stability go hand-in-hand, and sensitivity must be balanced with foot protection to make an excellent shoe. To test this, we noted which shoes were the thinnest and which ones allowed us to feel underfoot hazards.


The most sensitive options come with just a tiny bit of cushioning underfoot, so you can feel the trail as you run. The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is among the most sensitive, with just 18.2mm of dense cushioning in the midfoot. The sole is flexible, which had us feeling most objects underfoot, with a balanced level of protection. The shoe structure allowed us to feel trail hazards but also dampened their impact as we ran across them.

trail running shoes womens - the sensitivity of the salomon s/lab ultra 3 is absolutely...
The sensitivity of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 is absolutely exceptional. We love the way these shoes feel on our feet - so much so that we often neglect to take them off until long after we've finished our runs.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

The Altra Superior 5 also scores high in this metric, with a thicker outsole (21mm, heel to toe) and a very thin rock plate. While the stack height is taller, the midsole material is incredibly soft, which translates to a similar level of sensitivity on the trail. If intimacy is what you seek, choose any of these options.

We remain impressed by the Altra Lone Peak 6 and its sensitivity. For being such a well-cushioned shoe with a rock plate, it is amazing how well you can feel the trail beneath your feet even though the entire shoe has a 25mm stack height. The HOKA Speedgoat 5 hosts a thick 31mm stack height, which cuts down on its sensitivity. However, the sole of the Speedgoat is a bit more flexible than most super-stacked shoes, making it a good choice if you're looking for a balance between a plush underfoot feel and adequate sensitivity.

trail running shoes womens - once you get used to the stack height, the traction of the speedgoat...
Once you get used to the stack height, the traction of the Speedgoat 5 offers a non-slip grip and moderate trail sensitivity.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Stability


A stable trail running shoe will keep you on your feet when picking through rough rocks and uneven terrain. A shoe's stability comes as a proportional value of the height and width of the shoe itself. Those lower to the ground, with a more flexible nature and wider outsole, tend to do better here. This is very much a result of the design of the shoe, but we also consider how your stabilizing muscles react when held in each shoe. That said, some shoes are built to be rigid and to essentially flatten uneven terrain underneath them. While some stable shoes are flexible, others can be rigid. Overall, we look for a shoe that doesn't feel tippy and keeps us upright while tearing down the trails. We survey the space each shoe offers for our feet to do their natural, biomechanical stabilization as well.


A few shoes stand out as among the most stable in our review for two completely different reasons: The Scarpa Spin Ultra is a beefy shoe with a rigid platform and an integrated rock plate. The shoe's body is stiff, with a wide forefoot and heel that offers an excellent landing pad. It is similar to the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 and Altra Superior 5. These kicks are stable because of their incredible flexibility that allows for agile and full movement. The Superior 5 stands out because it has a wider forefoot and a low level of cushioning, which always feels close to the ground.

trail running shoes womens - testing the stability of the salomon s/lab ultra 3 on the high...
Testing the stability of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 on the high 12,000 ft ridges in Ouray, Colorado.
Credit: Amber King

Another option with a little less cushioning is the Dynafit Feline SL. We aren't sure why the Feline feels so stable on the trail, but the fit makes it feel like you aren't sitting very high. The platform width is narrow, but the shoe feels close to the ground without tipping over on technical terrain. It also has a nice fit, with admirable agility.

trail running shoes womens - despite its semi-small base of support, we love how stable we feel...
Despite its semi-small base of support, we love how stable we feel while cruising our favorite trails in the Dynafit Feline SL.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Other options with a wider toe box feel a little more stable than those that are more narrow. This is because the wide toe box gives your toes room to splay to build strength in your tiny foot muscles. For example, the Altra Lone Olympus 4 has a higher stack height but an incredible amount of stability for its boaty fit. Zero-drop shoes tend to be more stable because your heel and toe ride on the same plane. The Altra Lone Peak 6 is a queen of comfort, with exceptional stability due to its zero-drop profile. The Brooks Cascadia 16 is another stable contender with a new flexible design that offers better stability than ever before.

trail running shoes womens - though the stack height takes some getting used to, we love the...
Though the stack height takes some getting used to, we love the biomechanical healthy feeling of pumping out runs in protective zero-drop shoes like the Olympus.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Comfort and Fit


In this metric, we award points based on the anatomy of collar materials, lacing systems, and how the cushioning feels during lift-off and landing. We comment on relative fit but don't score on this aspect of the metric simply because it's so subjective. We are veteran testers, so we have. a lot of opinions about standard versus unique fits, but we assess this knowing that each runner has unique anatomy. You'll notice that we describe a few shoes as "universally comfortable," which is how we have chosen to describe shoes that we believe will cater to a wide variety of foot shapes and preferences. Ultimately, it's essential to know that the most comfortable shoe is the one that fits you best.


With exceptional cushioning throughout the midsole, it's not surprising that the Hoka Torrent 2 is the most comfortable shoe we have tested. This is the main shoe that we recommend for trail runners of all shapes and sizes due to its comfortable features and perfectly-placed cushion. It stands out for its wider fit and stable ride, making it easy to log miles on the trail. The Hoka Challenger ATR 6 is another comfortable shoe with more arch support and a narrower fit. Between the two, we prefer the Torrent 2 because of its better stability which ultimately adds more comfort for the long haul.

trail running shoes womens - ridge running for miles on end in the hoka torrent 2 for women is...
Ridge running for miles on end in the Hoka Torrent 2 for women is just a slice of delight. Loaded with additional cushioning it's designed to carry you well into the longest of race distances. Our top choice for comfort.
Credit: Amber King

Other shoes with a taller stack height, like Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 and Salomon Speedcross 5, don't provide a super springy experience like the Torrent 2, but each has responsive cushioning underfoot. We also like the Dynafit Feline SL for this reason. If you want a responsive and comfortable, albeit slightly narrow, trail running shoe, we also stand behind the Saucony Peregrine 12, as it offers more responsiveness than most trail shoes.

trail running shoes womens - the cushy stack height and 5 mm drop of the hoka torrent 2 feel like...
The cushy stack height and 5 mm drop of the HOKA Torrent 2 feel like a dream on lengthy runs.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

The Topo Ultraventure 2 and Altra Lone Peak 6 have wide toe boxes that let your toes wiggle. On longer runs, this is an advantage as feet tend to swell as you put down the miles. Between the two, the Lone Peak 6 has a standard Altra-wide toebox, while the Ultraventure 2 has a wide toe box at the broadest part of the foot, with a more significant taper towards the toes. Those that appreciate toe-wiggling freedom should consider either of these. They both have medium amounts of cushion, too, with the Lone Peak having a softer insole that tends to pack out a little faster than the Ultraventure 2.

trail running shoes womens - the wide toebox of the lone peak 6 is perfectly paired with a...
The wide toebox of the Lone Peak 6 is perfectly paired with a customizable upper so runners of all shapes and sizes can enjoy ample real estate for toe wiggling.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

One of the more interesting shoes that we tested when it comes to comfort and fit is the HOKA Speedgoat 5. It sits atop a beefy stack but has a reinforced mesh sockliner upper. At first, this can feel really strange, unstable, and even uncomfortable to run in. We found that once the upper molded to our feet a bit, we loved the trail feel of these kicks. Most of the shoes with softer mesh uppers provided prime comfort. If comfort is your priority, we love the zero-drop Altra Olympus 4. Zero-drop shoes are not comfortable for all runners in all conditions, but if you want a plush ride, the Olympus is one of the cushiest we've tried.

trail running shoes womens - even though the olympus 4 didn&#039;t score as well as others across the...
Even though the Olympus 4 didn't score as well as others across the board, if zero-drop comfort is what you are after we recommend these or the Lone Peak 6 for a smooth and comfy ride.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Fit


In this section, we provide recommendations for relative sizing. Here we focus on the foot width to provide you with a jump-off point for where you need to start looking. We indicate if the shoe you want comes in either a wide or regular fit option.

trail running shoes womens - we don&#039;t love the fit of the salomon sense ride 4, but a...
We don't love the fit of the Salomon Sense Ride 4, but a wider-footed runner looking for great traction might.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Narrow Fit

If you have a narrow foot, look for shoes with a tight-fitting heel cup and a slim profile around the arch. The forefoot can still be wide, but it's essential that you can lock your foot into the shoe to avoid slippage. We recommend the Dynafit Feline SL, Saucony Peregrine 12, Salomon Speedcross 5, and Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7. With the release of the Lone Peak 6, Altra added an updated eyelet pattern, which makes these shoes much more appropriate, comfortable, and well-fitting for narrow-footed runners looking for a spacious, zero-drop shoe. The added eyelets allow you to cinch the upper a bit tighter than was comfortable in previous versions, which one of our narrow-footed testers loves.

trail running shoes womens - the narrow heel collar combined with its plentiful heel cushion...
The narrow heel collar combined with its plentiful heel cushion makes the Salomon Speedcross 5 a dream for narrow-footed heel strikers who want to tear up the trails.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Regular Fit

A regular fit is one that most people can wear. The Brooks Divide 2, Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3, and Merrell Antora 2 are three of our favorites. Many of the shoes we tested have a regular fit and fall under this category, and many of these shoes have standard and wide-size options too.

trail running shoes womens - the brooks divide 2 wears like a traditional road running shoe, but...
The Brooks Divide 2 wears like a traditional road running shoe, but with the protective elements of a trail shoe.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Wide Toe Box

Are you looking for a shoe that offers a wider toe box? The shoes by Topo and Altra dominate this market, but there are many other options out there. Our favorites include the Topo Ultraventure 2 and Altra Lone Peak 6. The Altra Olympus 4 is a fantastic option for wider feet because it is a broad, luxury shoe that is not made for speed but totally designed for comfort over long distances. The Ultraventure has superior durability and a little extra cushion in the heel compared to the Lone Peak. We cannot get enough of the softer cushioning housed in the Altra's midsole.

trail running shoes womens - the topo athletic ultraventure 2 is another option with a wide toe...
The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 is another option with a wide toe box and a little extra cushioning in the heel. It's a good alternative if the fit for Altra's brand doesn't work for you.
Credit: Amber King

Weight


Although not a make-or-break feature, having a lightweight trail running shoe can make a world of difference if you're out for the day (or multiple days). If you're an ultra-runner, a couple of ounces may feel like ankle weights after 50 miles. If you're a recreational runner, a lighter construct may allow you to increase your turnover and leave you feeling liberated on the trail. When evaluating the weight, we look at which shoes are the lightest on both the foot and the scale.


All shoes tested in this review are considered "lightweight"; we provide a comparison of the heaviest to lightest options. None felt too heavy for wear on the trail, especially when compared with the weight of a standard hiking boot.


Not only did we assess the actual weight of each shoe, but we took copious notes while running to determine which shoes felt the heaviest while we were in motion. The HOKA Speedgoat 5, for example, is built in such a way that the weight of it rides underfoot, which can be tricky to get used to. One women's size 7 US Speedgoat weighs 8.57 ounces per shoe, which is notably lighter than many others even though it feels a bit heavier underfoot. Conversely, the Dynafit Feline SL weight is more evenly distributed, making them feel light and agility-encouraging on the trail; each size 7 US women's shoe weighs a hearty 9.45 ounces.

trail running shoes womens - once we got used to running in the thick-soled speedgoats, we loved...
Once we got used to running in the thick-soled Speedgoats, we loved the way the weight felt underfoot.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

One of the lightest shoes that we tested this time around is the Altra Lone Peak 6, which weighs 7.62 ounces per shoe. It is incredibly comfortable and feels lightweight while you're on the move. If a lightweight and comfortable shoe is what you're after, we recommend giving the updated Lone Peak a try. On the other end of the spectrum is the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max, which weighs in at a solid 9.84 ounces per shoe. The Trailfly is loaded to the gills with protective features, which tend to lead to heavier weights.

trail running shoes womens - finding our way down rocky terrain in the best trail shoes we can...
Finding our way down rocky terrain in the best trail shoes we can find is one of the ways we ensure that all of the information we bring you is the best around.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Conclusion


We've come a long way from running barefoot. While some still prefer this wild form of running, a great trail running shoe will offer you more comfort and protection from underfoot hazards. The quest for the perfect shoe is always challenging, so be sure to identify what you care about most, try on potential options, then buy the one that fits best. Happy shoe hunting!

Ally Arcuri and Amber King


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