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The Best Women's Trail Running Shoes of 2019

The HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 offers great protection with the use of its burly and thick midsole. It doesn't integrate a rock plate as it's not really needed with all this cushion.
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday December 2, 2019
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Looking for the best trail running shoe for women? After considering 100 different options, we purchased 19 different models of 2019 to compare side-by-side. Each has been tested thoroughly in varied terrain from high mountain traverses to dry and rocky deserts. Smooth single track, country roads, rambling off-trail tundra, and rock-littered scree piles are just a few places each shoe has seen. While testing primarily took place in Southwest Colorado, we also ventured out to explore the best trails in both the USA and around the globe. With all this data and information provided, you'll find our best recommendations for all the types of trails you plan to tackle in the future.

Related: The Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019


Top 19 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 19
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Awards Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award 
Price $106.54 at Amazon$109.95 at Backcountry
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$94.48 at Amazon
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$130.00 at REI
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$101.20 at Backcountry
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Pros Wonderful traction, balance of sensitive and protection, durable outsole and upper, unisex designInexpensive, super lightweight, light cushioning, comfortable, zero-drop, wide toe box yet narrow profileInexpensive, responsive & comfortable cushioning, great for non-technical surfaces, breathableSensitive, stable, perfect amount of protection, precise fit, great for technical surfacesExcellent traction, great balance of foot protection and sensitivity, specific fit, durable outsole
Cons Laces are short and stupid, expensive, potential midsole durability issues, zero drop may not be for everybodyPotential durability issues, less aggressive outsole not meant for muddy surfacesLacks an aggressive outsole, unstable, non-specific fitHeavier, lacks cushioning, best for narrow feetHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavement
Bottom Line A unisex trail runner that offers amazing all-around performance on all surfaces.A zero-drop shoe boasting lightweight cushioning and a super wide toe box.A lightweight shoe designed for non-technical trails and roads.A sensitive yet protective trail runner best for technical terrain.An aggressive trail shoe that is built for the steepest and most technical trails out there.
Rating Categories Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 Altra Superior 4.0 - Women's Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 Bushido 2 Speedcross 5
Foot Protection (20%)
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8
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6
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9
Sensitivity (20%)  
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8
Traction (15%)
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7
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10
Stability (15%)
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9
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9
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6
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7
Comfort And Fit (15%)
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Weight (15%)
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Specs Inov-8 TerraUltra... Altra Superior 4.0... Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 Bushido 2 Speedcross 5
Measured Weight 8.45 oz 7.9 oz 9 oz 10.4 oz 10.7 oz
Ideal Terrain All terrain All terrain Non-technical trails Technical trails Soft surfaces, technical terrain
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular and Wide
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 0 mm 8 mm 6 mm 10 mm
Stack Height from toe to heel (mm) 9/9 21/21 20/28 8.5/14.5 10/20
Upper Kevlar Mesh Engineered knit Mesh AirMesh, Thermal adhesive microfiber, High frequency welded ripstop Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays
Midsole EXTERFLOW Altra Quantic Phylon/Zoom Air 1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA Injected EVA
Outsole Graphene Grip MaxTrac/TrailClaw Sticky rubber Dual-Density FriXion XT V-Groove with Impact Brake System Contragrip
Rock Plate? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sizes Available 4 - 15 6 - 11 6 - 11 36 - 43 EU 5 - 12

Best Overall Women's Trail Runner


Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 - Women's


Editors' Choice Award

$106.54
(29% off)
at Amazon
See It

87
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 10
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 9
Weight: | Heel-to-toe drop: 0mm
Thin and protective
Lightweight and durable
Amazing traction
Stable and sensitive
Break-in period
Laces are terrible

Over the many years of testing, the Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 shoe offers the best all-around performance that we've seen. Built as a unisex shoe, it is lightweight and has amazing traction. On sloppy surfaces, it sheds mud well while its Kevlar infused built uppers offer great durability and protection. Flexible with amazing stability, it offers a solid ride on even the most technical of terrain. Ladies, this is one of the best shoes we've ever tested, earning it this grandeur award.

While it's hard to find anything wrong with it, it's not perfect either. The first point is that while this is a great shoe for those that appreciate zero drop construction, most people need time to get used to the lack of cushioned support in the midsole. The toe box is eventually wider but takes some time for the cushioning to break in. Also, we absolutely hate the laces; they are too short and come undone. Another piece of feedback we've had is from a hardcore ultra runner who mentioned the cushioning tends to pack out after 300 miles.

Read review: Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 - Women's

Best Bang for Your Buck


Saucony Peregrine ISO - Women's


Best Buy Award

$89.93
(25% off)
at REI
See It

79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 9
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 6
Weight: 9.8 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
Comfortable midsole
Fantastic traction and grip
Price
It doesn't shed particulates and mud well

As a contender for our Editors' Choice award and its lower price point, the Saucony Peregrine ISO continues to be one of the most versatile trail shoes tested. The mega-bomber outsole offers traction that bites into the trail and offers support for even the softest of surfaces. The midsole is responsive, plush, and very comfortable with more room in the forefoot and midfoot for wide feet and toes that need to wiggle. The shoe is both flexible and protective and feels lightweight underfoot. Designed for those who plan on tackling just about any surface, from smooth dirt roads to super rocky terrain, it's one to be considered.

While it was challenging to find any caveats with this shoe, we did notice debris getting stuck in cracks and that it doesn't shed mud incredibly well.

Read review: Saucony Peregrine ISO - Women's

Best Budget Buy


ASICS Gel Venture 7 - Women's


Best Buy Award

$47.25
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

67
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 20% 7
  • Traction - 15% 5
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 6
Weight: 9.8 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: n/a (traditional design)
Good performance on cross-over terrain
Durable construction
Supportive arch support and cushioning
Narrow and wide sizing
Very affordable
Lackluster performance on sloppy terrain
Doesn't shed mud or snow well
Lacks breathability for the summer

This year we took the time to find some decent trail runners at a very affordable price. While most shoes are an initial investment, the Asics Gel Venture 7 is a traditional shoe that offers good performance over rocky terrain - with great crossover action. Offered in two widths, it can be used for both the wide and narrow footed. It offers wonderful arch support with a supportive collar, which prevents foot slippage when moving up and down trails. While it is not our choice for technical terrain, its perfect for easy single-track and non-technical surfaces over shorter distances. The underfoot foam is protective, while the constructive seems to be pretty durable over our 60 miles of testing.

Unfortunately, at a lower price, you won't get the same performance as other higher quality options in this review. While the lugs do well on less technical terrain, it's not ideal for super sloppy surfaces. It can handle rocky trails, but not for long as the only protection is in the form of foam, with no rock plate for added protection. While the upper can resist the occasional splash of water, it will saturate quickly and takes more time to dry out. It is also a shoe that isn't as breathable for summer months.

Read review: Asics Gel Venture 7 - Women's

Top Pick Award for Sloppy Terrain


Salomon Speedcross 5 - Women's


Top Pick Award

$101.20
(22% off)
at Backcountry
See It

79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 9
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 10
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 9
  • Weight - 15% 4
Weight: 10.7 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm
Excellent traction on soft surfaces
Precise fit
Protective
Great cushioning underfoot
Slow to dry
Not good on pavement
Heel sits high

The Salomon Speedcross 5 is a solid workhorse is designed to take on the softest and most technical of surfaces. Its deep, chevron-shaped lugs chomp down hard on surfaces that would otherwise leave you on your bum. The flat outsole attached to the lug sheds mud efficiently, while the super sticky rubber glomps onto rocks, leaving you confident on high ridge traverses or steep trails littered with kitty litter. If you want to feel overwhelming confidence while moving through the most technical of surfaces, this is one you should check out.

Unfortunately, while it does well in dry weather, the upper absorbs water readily and takes time to dry out. The heel, while nicely cushioned, sits high on the outsole, making the whole shoe feel less stable, than lower sitting options. It's also heavier and can't be worn on the pavement without as the lugs wear down quickly. It's not a crossover shoe and is best for technical terrain only.

Read review: Salomon Speedcross 5 - Women's

Top Pick for Wide Feet


Topo Athletic Ultraventure - Women's


Top Pick Award

$129.95
at Backcountry
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 8
Weight: 9.3 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Lightweight with a wide toe box
Supportive and durable cushioning
Vibram outsole with good lateral and front-back traction
Water-resistant upper with great drainage
Lugs wear down on hard rock
Hard to lock the foot in

The Topo Athletic Ultraventure is a head-turner for its durable construction and is best for those that love to spread their toes. Over the years, we've been devoted to the Altra Lone Peak, but this year our tone has changed. This shoe supersedes it with its better performance underfoot and far superior durability. The upper is durable and flexible while the underfoot midsole is responsive and hasn't packed out…even after 60 miles of use. The 5mm drop offers a tiny bit of additional cushioning in the heel while bouncing comfortably down the trail. The upper offers better water resistance than the Lone Peak, staying drier in winter runs. It also has a far superior drainage system. This shoe is ideal for all distances. While it's not the go-to if you're trying to go super fast, it's best for those looking to go anywhere from 5 to 100 miles. It does well on most technical terrain, rising above on dry, rocky, or sandy single track. They are also a great choice for hiking and general wear to work and around town.

The lugs are made of a harder Vibram rubber that does a good job grabbing rocky terrain, but they aren't quite long enough to battle out on sloppy terrain. While the outsole does offer better lateral traction than the Lone Peaks, it's still hard to lock the foot down to avoid the foot from slipping forward, once again, similar to the Lone Peaks.

Read review: Topo Athletic Ultraventure - Women's

Top Pick for Stability


Scarpa Spin Ultra - Women's


Top Pick Award

$148.95
at Backcountry
See It

76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 6
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Stability - 15% 10
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 7
Weight: 9.70 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm
Super stable construction
Sticky Vibram sole
Comfortable ride
Expensive

The Scarpa Spin Ultra stands out as an ultra-stable shoe with impeccable traction built into a fairly lightweight construction. The forefoot offers wonderful sensitivity while keeping you upright on the steepest and sloppiest of terrain. Given its responsive cushioning and all-around awesome performance, we recommend it for all distances, and for those who want a super stable trail running shoe that is also lightweight.

The price point is our only point for complaint. While we wish it were a little cheaper, know that it is worth the investment for those who need great lightweight stability. Also, while the Vibram role can hold tight to dry rocks while scrambling, it becomes much more slippery when these rocks get rained on. As such, we don't consider them as an excellent option for rock slab scrambling if you find yourself in the rain. That said, it's hard to find any shoe that performs well in these conditions.

Read review: Scarpa Spin Ultra - Women's

Top Pick for Comfort


HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 - Women's


Top Pick Award

$129.95
at Backcountry
See It

70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 20% 5
  • Traction - 15% 6
  • Stability - 15% 5
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 10
  • Weight - 15% 8
Weight: 9.1 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Ample and responsive cushioning
Great transitional traction
Lightweight and breathable
Dries quickly
Less stable
Less sensitive

In search of comfort? The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5's uber plush midsole will have you hitting the trails for hours on end. Built as a maximalist shoe for long-distance running, it has a bomber outsole that grabs and suctions to most surfaces, doing best over dry flatter surfaces with minimal technicality. The thin, streamlined outsole is super breathable and quick to dry, making it a perfect option for river crossings or wet weather. Its wider forefoot offers nice toe-splay while hugging the heel and arch, without your foot sliding forward.

Given the excellent level of breathability, this shoe is not warm in the winter, nor can the lugs grab super sloppy muddy surfaces. As a result of the responsive cushioning, it's not very sensitive, nor is it the most stable shoe (but it's pretty good for the amount of cushioning it has). Avoid it for rocky tundra or surfaces where you might find yourself constantly on uneven terrain, and keep it for flatter terrain with rock slabs, sand, and kitty litter trails.

Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 - Women's


Amber (our main author) runs out steep trails in Ouray  Colorado with ease (thank goodness for downhills). The TerraUltra G260 made by Inov-8 proves to offer amazing performance in all categories winning our Editors' Choice award.
Amber (our main author) runs out steep trails in Ouray, Colorado with ease (thank goodness for downhills). The TerraUltra G260 made by Inov-8 proves to offer amazing performance in all categories winning our Editors' Choice award.

Why You Should Trust Us


Amber King is a Senior OutdoorGearLab Editor that has been reviewing women's trail running shoes for the last six years. 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 super technical and steep Telluride Mountain Run. When she's not climbing rocks around the Southwestern part of Colorado, you can find her taking on fastpacking missions around the world. She travels to remote places like Iceland, fastpacking, and exploring places with no roads, like the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.

We have traveled all over the world testing women's trail running shoes for the last six years. We've taken them up towering passes in Peru, over summits in the Rocky Mountains, and the dry terrain of the desert. We've flown to remote Islands in Iceland and sunny beach environments of Hawaii. Each pair has at least 60 miles of trail experience with our team of female experts providing feedback on each one. With all this data, we've compiled an authentic and genuine review that reflects our on-trail experience.

The trails surrounding the Peruvian Andes is where most of our testing took place. Here we encountered all sorts of terrain...what kind of shoe do you need for your adventures? Here we choose the Altra Lone Peak 3.5.
Tackle summit  long trails  or training runs with this versatile trail running shoe. It wins an award for its amazing versatility and all-day comfort and protection on the trails.

Related: How We Tested Trail Running Shoes for Women

Analysis and Test Results


In this article, we provide a comparative overview of the best trail running shoes on the market. We chose a range of trail runners from cross-over options to the most technical. While it might seem that we're comparing apples to oranges, take the overall scores with a grain of salt. The higher scores represent a shoe that offers more versatility across all terrain. However, niche shoes that do better in some metrics might be just what you need. When looking through the options, look at the metrics that are most important to you. This will help you find the shoe you need. The metrics we evaluate include foot protection, sensitivity, stability, traction, and weight.

Related: Buying Advice for Trail Running Shoes for Women

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.
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.


Value


When buying a pair of shoes, you want to ensure that they will perform well for the money you invest. A good shoe with great value is one that'll last between 300 - 500 miles, depending on how heavy you are. Many shoes will either lose responsiveness in the foam or lose an upper after this time. However, many 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. The Altra Lone Peak is a good example of this. It costs quite a bit for a pair of shoes, and in our experience, lasts about 200 miles (depending on the water content of the terrain) before the midsole starts to compact (our main tester weighs 145 pounds). While this is a shoe that isn't the highest value, people continue to buy them because they love their performance. So depending on what you want to invest in, value is in the eyes of the beholder.

Our Best Buy award winners are here to help direct you to options that perform well for a low price. For example, the Saucony Peregrine ISO has over 150 miles (and counting) and is bought at a lower cost than most high-performance shoe options. The Asics Venture 7 is a more traditional running shoe. While it is not as flexible as other higher-performing options out there, it's still very durable and costs almost half the price of higher performers. In the world of trail runners, higher prices can reflect better quality, not it's not always the case. Be sure to do your research and make your choice accordingly.

Here we run across tundra just at 13 000 feet in the San Juans with the Saucony Peregrine ISO. This incredibly adaptive trail shoe is a wonderful choice for just about anybody  from beginner to expert.
Here we run across tundra just at 13,000 feet in the San Juans with the Saucony Peregrine ISO. This incredibly adaptive trail shoe is a wonderful choice for just about anybody, from beginner to expert.

Foot Protection


An excellent trail runner provides the right combination of foot protection to sensitivity, which allows a runner to feel a trail underfoot without suffering hard blows from unsuspected hazards. In this metric, we consider the cushioning and the presence of a rock plate to assess this. We also explore the architecture of the upper to see if it is breathable and keeps out smaller particles from entering the shoe, and evaluate the toe cap's rigidity and protection from unsuspected stubbed toes that can cause you to halt to a stop. All trail shoes tested offer enough protection to be worn on trails.


The most protective shoes are those with hard toe caps, a continuous upper, and a midsole that is thick enough to protect from underfoot hazards. These are the ones that'll protect for many miles on treacherous terrain. Our favorites include the La Sportiva Akyra with a super thick and responsive cushioning and the Salomon Speedcross 5. Both have a beefy midsole without a rockplate. The Salomon Speedcross 5 doesn't have a mesh upper (like the Akyra) but is built with a continuous upper that is superior to any at keeping debris out of the shoe. We also love the Saucony Peregrine ISO, which also has a thicker outsole, but doesn't have the hard toe cap or a continuous upper. If foot protection is your top priority, these are the ones we'd consider.

The ultra-stable and protective Akyra stands out for its rigid construction built with a comfortable and flexible upper. It does well on even the most technical terrain and offers amazing foot protection from all sides.
The ultra-stable and protective Akyra stands out for its rigid construction built with a comfortable and flexible upper. It does well on even the most technical terrain and offers amazing foot protection from all sides.

Other protective options aren't as thick in the sole, but thinner with a protective rock plate. They are also a little more flexible. The Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 and Scarpa Spin Ultra both fit into this category. While the Terraultra is thinner than the Spin Ultra, its rock plate is of very high quality and the kevlar infused upper does a great job at resisting water, which adds to its protection score.

Maximalist shoes like the HOKA One One Speedgoat uses super thick cushioning as a form of underfoot protection  designed to carry you upwards of 100 miles!
Maximalist shoes like the HOKA One One Speedgoat uses super thick cushioning as a form of underfoot protection, designed to carry you upwards of 100 miles!

Other shoes like the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 and Speedgoat 3 are both maximalist options with a huge amount of springy cushioning. When moving over trail hazards, the foam wraps itself around the hazard, protecting your foot. Neither uses a rockplate, with the HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 offering the most ample cushioning of these two maximalist contenders.

Best for Water Crossings

Seeking the best trail running shoe for crossing the odd stream? A shoe with a waterproof upper that doesn't absorb water and dries quickly is the best option. None of the shoes we tested are completely waterproof, but some dry out faster than others. For example, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 and the TerraUltra G260 have an overlay mesh that isn't water-resistant or waterproof but does dry quickly while on the run. We also appreciate the Topo Ultraventure that does a good job at draining and doesn't get saturated on snowy runs.

A shoe that can wick water and dry quickly is important for both snowy conditions and small (or HUGE) water crossings. Here we test the La Sportiva Bushido II which absorbs water but dries quickly.
A shoe that can wick water and dry quickly is important for both snowy conditions and small (or HUGE) water crossings. Here we test the La Sportiva Bushido II which absorbs water but dries quickly.

Sensitivity


Shoes that offer really good sensitivity are ones that have less cushioning underfoot. A shoe with enhanced sensitivity allows you to be nimble on the trail. You feel underfoot hazards, which gives you time to re-adjust body positioning when setting off balance. Sensitivity is the ying to foot protection yang. A good shoe will have a little bit of both, which is both metrics are equal in weight. To test, we look to see which shoes offer the least amount of cushioning in the forefoot and simply which made us feel more intimate with the trail.


The most sensitive shoes are those with very minimal cushioning in the forefoot (less than 8mm) and no rockplate. None of the shoes we reviewed fit this criterion. Instead, the most sensitive options come with a rock plate with a tiny bit of cushioning. The TerraUltra G260 (Our Editors' Choice Winner) takes the cake in this category with only 9mm of cushioning underfoot. The La Sportiva Bushido 2 is also very thin (8.5mm in the forefoot) but has 14.5mm of cushioning in the forefoot. During our testing, we could wear both of these shoes on pretty rocky terrain; however, after about ten miles (and we have seasoned feet), we could feel the soreness. As a result, we'd recommend making building up some calluses in these options if you're planning on running ultra-length distances in either.

A look at the flexible and sensitive design of the La Sportiva Bushidos. They have less cushioning throughout that'll get you super intimate with the trail.
A look at the flexible and sensitive design of the La Sportiva Bushidos. They have less cushioning throughout that'll get you super intimate with the trail.

Other options have thicker cushioning that is softer to make sensitivity ideal. The Altra Superior has 21 mm of cushioning with a rockplate integrated while the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 (20mm/24mm) has no rock plate. Since the cushioning in the Superior is softer, we can feel the ground more closely than the Kiger 5. Others have thicker soles, like the Altra King MT 2, which takes a little bit away from the sensitive feel of the trail.

The Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 comes in some interesting colors but will carry you to the highest places. Here we pose on top of a 13 000-foot pass in the San Juans after thrashing up a steep couloir in the Weehawken basin. Its sensitivity offers stability and inherent protection.
The Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 comes in some interesting colors but will carry you to the highest places. Here we pose on top of a 13,000-foot pass in the San Juans after thrashing up a steep couloir in the Weehawken basin. Its sensitivity offers stability and inherent protection.

Traction


When treading over slippery and soft terrain, good traction inspires confidence and limits slips and falls. So, we made sure we rated each on its ability to bite down on the trail. When testing, we subjected each trail running shoe to different types of surfaces in different conditions; this includes mud, snow, pavement, scree, sand, sandstone, granite slabs, and more. The slope we test on ranges from steep and unstable to flat. We dunk them in rivers and run in the snow, simply to see how each will do when wet.


Through our testing, none of the outsoles were able to perform perfectly on all types of slippery and wet rocks. 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. Be careful with a shoe that markets itself to stick to these surfaces.

The soft  fine silty sandy of this dirt hill is a perfect place for the technical Salomon Speedcross 5. Rugged with the deepest lugs we've seen so far  it'll provide the best traction for sloppy surfaces. On the downhill  we feel even more confident.
The soft, fine silty sandy of this dirt hill is a perfect place for the technical Salomon Speedcross 5. Rugged with the deepest lugs we've seen so far, it'll provide the best traction for sloppy surfaces. On the downhill, we feel even more confident.

The shoe that offers the most technical traction continues to be the Top Pick for Sloppy Surfaces, the Speedcross 5. Its long sticky lugs are well spaced, jabbing into the mud and rolling up scrambly terrain with ease. The body of the shoe is rigid enough, as the La Sportiva Akyra and Scarpa Spin Ultra to kick steps into snow when faced with a big slope. No other shoe has long lugs like these in our review, making it the best in this category. The only downside is you can't use it on the road as the lugs wear down very quickly.

Breaking trail is a little slippery  but we're impressed by the traction of the King MT.
Breaking trail is a little slippery, but we're impressed by the traction of the King MT.

If you plan on tackling more trails less littered with grass, mud, and other soft surfaces, you'd be better off looking at other shoes with lugs that aren't as long but just as awesome. The Saucony Peregrine ISO has a mega aggressive outsole that'll satisfy any trail condition. The bottom of the shoe looks like razor-sharp teeth and supports great lateral and front/back traction. The TerraUltra 260g is another. While its outsole isn't as sharp as the Peregrine ISO or Speedcross 5, it is instead flat and burly, making for nice transitions on harder trails (with better durability).

We love love love the Saucony Peregrine its lattice-work of "teeth" on the outsole that bites down on most surfaces. Unfortunately  since the lugs are set so close together  this shoe has trouble shedding mud.
We love love love the Saucony Peregrine its lattice-work of "teeth" on the outsole that bites down on most surfaces. Unfortunately, since the lugs are set so close together, this shoe has trouble shedding mud.

The La Sportiva Akyra and Altra King MT 2 are also two options to look at. The Akyra has a sturdy build that adds to the traction of its superiorly beefy and outsole. The King MT is not as sturdy with its soft, flexible upper, but it has deeper chevron spaced lugs that are spaced out on a zero-drop design, making it the most aggressive of Altra shoes that we've tested.

Here we test the traction of the Scarpa Spin versus the Nike Terra Kiger 5. The Spin Ultra wins hands down...especially on this rocky terrain that can get slippery when steeper.
Here we test the traction of the Scarpa Spin versus the Nike Terra Kiger 5. The Spin Ultra wins hands down...especially on this rocky terrain that can get slippery when steeper.

While the choices above are great for more technical terrain, all the shoes scoring mid-range (between 6 - 8 out of ten) offer functionality on most trails you'd encounter running. All the shoes tested can take on a rocky, dry single track easily. Those that are great for both the road and the trail (cross-over options) also exist. All the shoes mentioned above function for this well. However, if you find yourself on the road more often than not, take a look at the Brooks Caldera 3 that offers a cushioned ride that lacks a super aggressive outsole. The Brooks Cascadia 14 also has a less aggressive outsole that is durable enough for road running. The Asics Venture 7 is another lacking a protective rock plate, and featuring a gel-infused midsole that'll have you bouncing easily from the trail to the road.

The lugs of the Caldera 3 are composed of a sticky rubber that does well on both wet and dry rocks. However  they aren't deep enough to combat super-soft surfaces.
The lugs of the Caldera 3 are composed of a sticky rubber that does well on both wet and dry rocks. However, they aren't deep enough to combat super-soft surfaces.

Stability


A stable shoe is one that'll keep you on your feet when picking through rogue rocks and uneven terrain. The stability of the shoe comes from the use of more rigid materials in the outsole of the shoe in addition to its relative height to width at the base of the shoe. The shoes that offer good support in the upper while hugging the ground are the ones that do best in this metric.


There are two favorites that we want to gloat about. First, is the Scarpa Spin Ultra offering a lightweight and stable ride. Most shoes will trade-off weight to enhance stability, like the La Sportiva Akyra. This one is the heaviest shoes tested, but it also keeps you feeling flat on the trail, no matter what the surface. The Spin Ultra does the same work, but it has a lightweight profile, earning it our Top Pick for Stability. The Asics Gel Venture also features a wider toe box with a synthetic rubber upper while promotes good stability on uneven terrain.

Here the Scarpa Spin provides awesome stability on this unstable and slippery snow crossing high in the alpine on an early summer day. Its lightweight designs also earns it a Top Pick.
Here the Scarpa Spin provides awesome stability on this unstable and slippery snow crossing high in the alpine on an early summer day. Its lightweight designs also earns it a Top Pick.

Unlike the two shoes mentioned above with a lot of underfoot cushioning and a more rigid structure, the Inov-8 TerraUltra 260g is another stable option with less cushioning underfoot. It has a wider foot box that disperses the impact force. Its insane level of sensitivity also increases the stability of the shoe. The La Sportiva Bushido is another with less cushioning, but it infuses a more rigid outsole for better stability on super technical surfaces. All the shoes mentioned above can take on rocky or uneven terrain well into the ultra miles. The thinner ones just need some getting used to.

The heel cup of the Akyra by La Sportiva is super supportive with amazing stability. This is a shoe that's carried us for over 500 miles (and still counting). Its seen at least three 50-mile races and a hundred more trail miles over technical terrain.
The heel cup of the Akyra by La Sportiva is super supportive with amazing stability. This is a shoe that's carried us for over 500 miles (and still counting). Its seen at least three 50-mile races and a hundred more trail miles over technical terrain.

Other trail running shoes with a super wide toe box are more stable than those with a more narrow toe box. Many shoes from Altra keep you feeling low to the ground. Of the three tested, the Superior is the most stable since it has the least amount of cushioning with the widest relative toe box in comparison to the Altra King 2. The Lone Peak is the least stable of the three simply because of its thicker cushioning and less fitted feet. The Topo Ultraventure is another shoe constructed almost exactly like the Lone Peak. With its enchanced fit and better overall traction, we find it's more stable.

The TerraUltra G260 provides all the stability you need when exploring the high alpine terrain in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
The TerraUltra G260 provides all the stability you need when exploring the high alpine terrain in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Flexible shoes that are lighter also offer great stability. Ours include the Nike Terra Kiger 5 and the Brooks Caldera. While the Terra Kiger is much more flexible than the Caldera, both offer lofty foam cushioning underfoot that also wrap around trail hazards to help keep you upright.

Comfort and Fit


In this metric, we rate the overall comfort of a trail running shoe. We look at the anatomy of the materials on the collar, the lacing system, and note how the cushioning feels on lift-off and landing. In this section, we note relative fit but don't score on it simply because it's such a subjective metric. The most comfortable shoe will be the one that fits you correctly.


With amazingly cushioning throughout the midsole, it's not surprising that the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 wins our Top Pick for Comfort award. It stands out for its soft yet responsive midsole that provides ample protection from underfoot hazards. While the Speedgoat 3 offers more of this springy cushioned bliss, it didn't win our Top Pick for Comfort because its fit is narrow and too specific.

Here we take on a single track with the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR  our Top Pick for Comfort. The airy cushioning underfoot will keep you charging hard wherever you run.
Here we take on a single track with the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR, our Top Pick for Comfort. The airy cushioning underfoot will keep you charging hard wherever you run.

Other shoes with a taller stack height, like the Salomon Speedcross 5 and the Topo Terraventure, don't provide the super springy experience quite like the HOKA shoes, but these offer solid cushioning underfoot. The Terraventure has a wide toe box that lets your toes wiggle while the Speedcross 5 has a more fitted design. We also love the Saucony Peregrine ISO, thanks to its excellent responsive cushioning that isn't too mushy, while the Brooks Caldera 3 makes you feel like you're running on air. The Salomon Sense Ride 2 offers such a nice ride that is super lightweight that you could run in it all day long.

Of the wide and zero drop shoes, the Altra Lone Peak 4 stands out as the most cushioned, and the most comfortable, especially for super long trail days. The Superior is close and seems to utilize a more responsive midsole foam that doesn't break down as easily as the Lone Peak.

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.

Narrow Fit

If you have a narrow foot, look for shoes with a tight-fitting heel cup and a narrow profile around the arch. The forefoot can still be wide, but it's important that you can lock your foot into the shoe to avoid slippage. The shoes made by Salomon are a great option for you. We also like the Nike Air Terra Kiger and Brooks Cascadia 14.

Both shoe options are great for a foot with a narrow width  but the Altra (on the right) has much more room in the toe box  making it a great option for those with wide and regular width foot.
Both shoe options are great for a foot with a narrow width, but the Altra (on the right) has much more room in the toe box, making it a great option for those with wide and regular width foot.

Regular Fit

Most shoes fit in this category. A regular fit is one that most people can wear. Of them, the Peregrine ISO and Inov-8 Terraultra are two of our favorites.

The Scarpa Spin Ultra fits all types of feet. It's considering a regular width  making it quite versatile.
The Scarpa Spin Ultra fits all types of feet. It's considering a regular width, making it quite versatile.

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. The favorites that we've tested include the Topo Terraventure, Altra Lone Peak 4, and the Altra Superior.

The Altra shoes tested (like this) are designed with a wide forefoot to accommodate wider feet.
The Altra shoes tested (like this) are designed with a wide forefoot to accommodate wider feet.

Weight


Having a lightweight shoe on the trail can make a world of difference if you're out for the day. 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. It's also important to remember that when a shoe gets wet, it doesn't weigh you down. When evaluating the weight, we look at which is the lightest on foot and the scale.

All shoes tested in this review are considered "lightweight"; we just provide a comparison of the heaviest to lightest options. None felt too heavy for wear on the trail.


The Sense Ride is another lightweight shoe. Here we see the weight of one size nine.
The Sense Ride is another lightweight shoe. Here we see the weight of one size nine.

The lightest shoe we tested is the Altra Superior (7.9 ounces). Its zero-drop is perfect for anything from long distances to a short training run. Following this are other super lightweight contenders. With its lightweight construction (only 8.4 ounces) and protective cushioning, the Nike Terra Kiger 5 feels weightless on the trail. The Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 is also pretty amazing, weighing just 8.45 ounces with more protection, better traction, and durability. The Salomon Sense Ride 2 (8.6 ounces) is worth checking out as well. Its traction is pretty bomber and it has a great fit and decent protection.

Scrambling up through some fifth class terrain in the Altra Lone Peak 4.0s while taking in spectacular views! What a better way to enjoy running and climbing in the mountains?
Scrambling up through some fifth class terrain in the Altra Lone Peak 4.0s while taking in spectacular views! What a better way to enjoy running and climbing in the mountains?

Conclusion


We've come along way from running just on our bare feet. While many still prefer this wild form of running, a great trail running shoe will offer you more comfort and protection from underfoot hazards. While there are many options to explore out there, you should do your research to figure out exactly the attributes that you need, depending on where you run. While a lot of this information is good information, the shoe that fits the best is truly the best of the rest. Happy shoe hunting!


Amber King