Best Trail Running Shoes 2019

Best Trail Running Shoes 2019



When it comes to trail running, the shoes you wear should match the surface of the terrain you run on most of the time. If you run in a pair that’s geared for a different type of terrain, it will feel awkward and potentially painful. While it’s easy enough to wear your favorite road running shoes on smooth, dirt trails, there are plenty of subtle and significant reasons a pair of trail running shoes will do the job more effectively.

All trail running shoes can pretty much be fit into three categories: road-to-trail shoes, technical trail shoes and jack-of-all trails, do-everything shoes that can handle just about any kind of surface.


These shoes feel a lot like your cushioned road running shoes and have a little bit of added traction and only a little protection. These shoes are fairly light, flex easily and don’t inhibit your stride whatsoever. You can run on mild dirt trails, gravel routes and paved roads with aplomb.

These are built for the rougher, tougher terrain elements you’ll encounter in various regions: dry, rocky surfaces, soft, wet and muddy terrain, sandy desert trails or some combination of all of the above. These shoes typically are typically more burly and have protective toe bumpers, durable, grippy outsoles and sometimes rock plates sandwiched in the midsoles.

These versatile models are the most popular types of trail running shoes because they can tackle most types of terrain well, with the sweet spot being the moderately technical terrain that might include some rocks, roots, gravel or mud. They’re typically soft and comfortable like road running shoes, but they also offer some trail-specific protection and traction.  

Here’s an overview of eight of the best trail running shoes available this spring.

Salomon Running


- Shoe type: Technical
- Weights: 11.6 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 9.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: men: 10mm (30mm heel, 20mm forefoot); women: 9mm (33mm heel, 24mm forefoot)

The Buzz: Salomon went back to the drawing board to revise the iconic Speedcross style built for training, racing and adventuring on both soft, sloppy, wet surfaces and technical, rocky terrain. The subtle but significant improvements to the Salomon Speedcross 5 include slightly larger outsole lugs that are more widely spaced, a completely welded upper for improved fit and flexibility and a deeper heel for more rear-foot stability and better heel-toe transitions.

Differentiator: The traction and agility served up by the Speedcross 5 are unparalleled. They provide sure-footed confidence in every stride, no matter the surface, steepness or speed. The new outsole lugs are bigger and wider, offering more stability while still providing exceptional grip and purchase.

Buy the Salomon Speedcross 5 if: You run on wet, sloppy trails most of the time, this shoe is ideal for you. But it’s also a great shoe for running—and racing—on technical rocky terrain, over loose scree and gravel and through sections of sand.

- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 10.3 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 9.2 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (24mm heel, 16mm forefoot)

The Buzz: This is the training version of the Salomon’s race-oriented S-Lab Ultra. The Salomon Ultra Pro is built with long-haul comfort in mind.  The Ultra Pro style offers ample cushioning, support and protection for running long on all types of trail surfaces. The Kevlar laces of the Quicklace system and the breathable, stretch mesh upper offer a connective and comfortable all-encompassing fit with a single pull. No struggling with your laces with this shoe, just slip on and run.

Differentiator: The grippy Wet Traction Contragrip outsole rubber and directional 5mm lugs on the Salomon Ultra Pro offer reliable purchase on wet and dry terrain while also being subdued enough to run on smooth trails, gravel roads and pavement.

Buy the Salomon Ultra Pro if: You are looking for a comfortable and stable, high-mileage trainer that can cover a wide variety of surfaces with style and ease.


La Sportiva

La Sportiva

- Shoe type: Technical
- Weights: 10.5 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 8.8 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (19mm heel, 13mm forefoot)

The Buzz: The Bushido II from La Sportiva offers an ideal combination of cushioning, stability, traction, protection and responsiveness for moderate to technical terrain. The cushioning and fit have been enhanced in the second edition (but La Sportiva shoes still fit about a ½ size smaller than most other brands) and a new dual-compound rubber offers superior traction on both wet and dry terrain.

The Differentiator:The Bushido II offers reliable stability and protection for running on craggy, off-caber mountain terrain via flexible rock plate embedded in the semi-firm EVA midsole, a TPU-enhanced frame and the versatile traction of outsole lugs that wrap the midsole to provide added traction and enhanced stability on off-camber terrain. Despite all of the protection this shoe offers, it’s pliable, flexible and full of energy.

Buy La Sportiva Bushido II if: You regularly run on rocky, mountainous trails and want a shoe that offers ample cushioning, stability and protection.


saucony trail


- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 10.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 8.8 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (25mm heel, 21mm forefoot)

The Buzz: Saucony upgraded the versatile Peregrine, the do-everything trail runner with its ISOFit system to ensure a snug, semi-custom, comfortable fit that adapts to the dynamics movements of your foot out on the trails. With ample cushioning from the dual-density cushioning platform and a grippy outsole, the new Saucony Peregrine ISO can tackle and adapt to all types of trails.

The Differentiator: The outsole of the Saucony Peregrine ISO has an array of directional lugs in a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure optimal traction on all types of wet and dry terrain without inhibiting the flex or the overall ride of the shoe.

Buy the Saucony Peregrine ISO if: You need a versatile shoe for running a wide range of trails on a regular basis that include smooth, rolling dirt paths, trails with rocks and roots and even extremely rocky mountain routes.


hoka one one trail


- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 9.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 9.7oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (31mm heel, 26mm forefoot)

The Buzz: A lightweight, maximally cushioned shoe, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 serves up a comfortable fit and a soft ride on mild to moderate trails. Although it doesn’t offer much trail-specific protection, the updated outsole offers improve traction.

The Differentiator: The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR's high cushion-to-weight ratio, rockered (or convex) outsole profile and locked-down fit make it one of the smoothest-riding trail runners on the market.

Buy the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 if: You’re interested in running a lot of miles on mild to moderate dirt trails, gravel roads and even pavement in a shoe that feels as smooth and comfortable as your road running shoes.

- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 11.2 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 9.6 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 4mm (32mm heel, 28mm forefoot)

The Buzz: With its thickly cushioned midsole and Vibram MegaGrip sticky rubber outsole, the HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3 WP is ideal for running long distances on moderate to technical trails—especially in wet, rainy conditions. A wider midsole and toe box make this version of the Speedgoat more accommodating to a wider range of foot shapes and allow for swelling on long runs.

The Differentiator: The thick cushioning and rockered (or convex) geometric profile serves up a smooth, soft ride that reduces hard heel striking and increases forward propulsion. The cushioning and design of the Speedgoat provides comfort, support and energy return for the long haul.

Buy the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 WP if: You’re planning to run a lot of long trail runs or plan on racing a trail marathon or ultra-distance race, especially in a wet climate or over rocky terrain.

- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 12.1 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 10.7 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (39mm heel, 34mm forefoot)

The Buzz: A maximally cushioned trail shoe built for mild to moderate terrain, the HOKA ONE ONE Stinson ATR 5 serves up a soft, smooth and consistently plush experience out on the trails. An updated toe box has helped refined the fit of this shoe, offering a better experience for a wider variety of foot shapes.

The Differentiator: The HOKA ONE ONE Stinson ATR 5 continues to be one of the most thickly cushioned shoes on the market. Combined with its rockered (or convex) geometric profile and soft cushioning, it serves up a rolling sensation that prevents hard heel striking, reduces impact stress and increases forward propulsion.

Buy the Hoka One One Stinson if: You want a softly cushioned ride on mild to moderate trails, no matter if you’re running 5 miles or 50 miles.


on cloudventure


- Shoe type: All-Terrain
- Weights: 10.4 ounces (men’s size 9.0); 7.9 oz. (women’s size 7.0)
- Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (25mm heel, 19mm forefoot)

The Buzz: Although the On Cloudventure is a trail shoe, it feels like a fast and light road shoe. On Running’s unique Cloud cushioning system wrapped with a thin but durable grippy rubber outsole offer great trail-specific vibe, but its agile, soft-flexing demeanor inspire fast running. The midsole pods have been re-designed for a softer, more fluid ride on all types of surfaces.

The Differentiator: The nimble, performance-oriented feel of the On Cloudventure makes it unique among its contemporaries. Although it’s not a featherweight shoe, it’s an agile shoe that is adept at quick-cadence striding, fast cornering and race-pace efforts for long periods of time.

Buy this shoe if: You typically run moderate to fast on mild to moderate trails and dirt roads without much trail debris.


About Author

Brian Metzler

Brian has run races at every distance up to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a 3-time Ironman finisher & occasionally participates in pack burro racing in Colorado.

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