Running - Gear/Equipment

Trail Running Shoes Guide: For the Rugged Terrain!

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“Give a runner the right shoes and they can conquer the world.” Shoes are a runner’s soul -mate! We have already pondered on how trail running is different from road running. So, if the track is different, then the shoes to need to be different as well. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, your trail running shoes will dictate your success on the trail. Therefore, before venturing into trail running, it becomes important that you invest in a good pair of trail running shoes.

To get a complete insight into Trail Running, read Trail Running Tips You Wish You Knew Before.

Now, the question arises as to what is the difference between trail running shoes and road running shoes. Their composition and purpose are different. Road running is all about shock absorption and repetitive running patterns. Therefore, road running shoes are necessarily soft and lightweight with softly treaded foam or gel midsoles.

On the contrary, trail running involves running on a rugged terrain. Thus, trail running shoes are made of a denser material for aggressive treading and have a wider base. The wide base provides support on uneven surfaces and prevents from injuries like ankle twist. Most of the trail shoes have the “rock guard” feature to guard the toe against debris, rocks, and twigs.

Now that we are on the same page, we will discuss how to choose a good pair of trail running shoes. You will have to consider various factors, such as the trail type, weather conditions, and the type of running.

Read our article “ Best Trekking Shoes for a Comfortable and Enjoyable Trek Experience.

Only Guide You Need to Buy Your Next Trail Running Shoes!

Let us quickly take you through our guide to how to choose the best trail running shoes for hiking.

best trail running shoes
Running Shoe


Your shoes should tightly secure your arch area or the mid-foot and give you a lockdown feeling in the heel. This will prevent any lifting of the foot inside the shoe under the uneven or rugged terrain. Also, the boots or shoes should be high and sturdy enough to cover your ankle and give them support.There should be a finger space distance between your toe tip and the end of your foot.


This factor is more of a personalized choice. Cushion selection will depend on your preference to feel the trail. Cushioning can reduce the impact on your knees and ankles. Our recommendation is to have trail shoes with a moderate cushioning level to feel the trail and at the same time preclude any jerks to your knees and ankles.


The grip of your trail shoes depends on the sole you choose. There is a specific sole designed for every trail track; for example, for a rocky and wet terrain, knobby lugs on the outsole are perfect. For a less technical and simple trail, low-profile outsole lugs are fine.

Expert Tips to Pick the Correct Trail Running Shoes

There is a very thin line between a good trail running shoes and the best trail running shoes.The following tips will help you pick the best trail shoes :

trail runner shoes
Trail Running Shoe

Shoe Type

There are four types of running shoes based on either your running preference or the type of trail :-

  • Hybrid Trail Running Shoes

These are the basic trail shoes that are good for well-groomed trails. The sole design is shallow lugs, which protect you from rocks and roots. Light in weight, they provide minimal midsole cushion. These shoes are primarily for beginners and runners who prefer both road and trail running.

  • Conventional Trail Running Shoes

Best choice for seasoned trail runners and those who like to choose extreme trails. Tough outsoles, wide tread patterns, rock guard, resilient midsole cushion, supportive uppers, diverse lug pattern, and waterproof features make them a perfect choice for rugged trails.

  • Off – Trail

These shoes are made for runners who believe in taking the road less traveled. Designed for extreme terrain, the material is stronger and most of these shoes are waterproof. The structure of off trail shoes is firm, as you will barely place your foot on the flat ground.

  • Minimalist Trail Running Shoes

Usually meant for runners who want to feel the terrain as these shoes closely resemble the barefoot running condition. Due to the absence of a thick cushion, you will have to make an adjustment to your biomechanics. These shoes comprise aggressive lugs and additional toe and heel protection.


Your shoes are all about the fit. So, it is the most vital point to be considered. Fitting is not only restricted to the length and width of the shoe but has much more to it. A good-fit shoe takes into account the arch shape, arch length, foot volume, etc. Look for a brand that offers “last” shoe. A last shoe has a shape similar to a human foot.

What is A Last?
A last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot. It is used by shoemakers in the manufacture and repair of shoes.

Your shoe size keeps changing, so it is advisable to check your size before you buy a pair of these. Also, keep into consideration that your feet swell as you run, so there should be adequate length and width in the toe box.


There are four types of cushioned midsoles:

  • Barefoot: They are no-padding shoes that give you an enhanced feel of the trail and you can develop your own biomechanics.
  • Minimal: With little padding, these shoes offer you a feel of the trail without feeling uncomfortable.
  • Moderate: These shoes enable you to have run comfortably on a rocky track with enough padding to support your sole.
  • Maximum: Properly padded midsole shoes are easier on the joints and reduce fatigue. They are best for extreme terrains or high-mile runs.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

Heel-to-Toe drop is the measurement of how fat a running shoe’s heel feels. In other words, it tells you how tall the heel is from the forefoot. It ranges from 0 mm to 12 mm. Barefoot have 0 mm drop, minimal shoes have 0-4 mm drop, and moderate and maximum shoes offer a wide range of drop.

While choosing the heel drop in your trail shoes, match it with that of your existing running shoes or any other sports shoes. This way your biomechanics will not be altered. If you plan to upgrade or degrade the cushion level, make the transition slow and smooth. This way you will not encounter any discomfort while making the physical adjustment.

Do not buy shoes by looking at the price tag. Select a good pair of shoes that meets your requirements for the daunting challenges the trail is going to offer you.

best trail running shoes for hiking
Trail Runner Shoe

Adidas has launched their new collection of best trail running shoes for hiking , which is gaining popularity among sports enthusiasts. These shoes are made with Gore-Tex and Continental rubber, which gives a good grip for trail running and hiking. Many of the models include a material called BOOST. These shoes stay soft in cold temperature but do not get soggy in the heat. Moreover, they are lightweight, soft, waterproof, and breathable and are a revolution in the shoe market.

Best Picks in Trail Running Shoes

Other than that, here are some of the best picks in trail running shoes for different categories of trail running, check out!

All Surface Trail Running Shoes

These shoes can be considered to be all-rounders as they are capable of dealing with smooth, rocky, wet, and dry terrain. They are quite popular with seasoned trail runners. Here are two of the best trail running shoes in this category-

1. New Balance Vazee Summit v2:

These shoes feature considerable outsole lugging and upper protection with Fantom Fit technology for a secure fit. In a sub-9 ounce trail shoe with a 10mm heel drop, the Vazee Summit offers a road running feel. While the weight of the shoe feels minimal, the RevLite EVA cushioning and rock plate provides ultimate comfort. However, this otherwise a perfect trail running shoe does have a drawback- it retains water which makes it unsuitable for sloppy conditions or water crossings. Best Price: $ 79

best trail shoes
New Balance Trail Running Shoe

2. Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3

This one is Nike’s third version of Wildhorse. At 10.3 ounces with an 8mm heel drop, this pair of Wildhorse is slightly heavier than other models available in the market. The third version of Wildhorse offers more forefoot room and excellent midfoot fit. Durability and great sole traction are two attractive features of Wildhorse 3. On the other hand, anecdotes from runners using this shoe suggests a break in the momentum to feel rigid. Best price: $59

best trail running shoes for men
Zoom Air Trail Running Shoe

Hard Ground Trail Running Shoes

Terrains that are hard packed, dry, and rocky calls for sturdy trail running shoes. These shoes are minimally lugged and are recommended to avoid for muddy conditions. Here are two of the best picks in this category-

1. La Sportiva Helios 2.0

The Italian brand, La Sportiva guarantees very high quality with Helios 2.0. These pair feature a wide toe box and Morpho Dynamic outsole which is sticky as well as incredibly well cushioned.

Since it weighs at under eight ounces with a low 4mm drop, Helios 2.0 isn’t ideal for fast paced trail running. The upper part of the shoe is criticized for being a bit stiff, while on the whole, the shoe has water drainage issues which should be a problem as they are specifically designed for dry, arid conditions. Best price: $ 125

Best trail runner shoes
La Sportiva Helios Trail Running Shoe

2. Altra Olympus 2.0

For runners who aren’t biased against maximal shoes, Altra’s Olympus 2.0 is your choice. With a body weight of 12 ounces, this maximal shoe monster offers a great amount of cushioning and toe space. Ideal for technical terrains, the Olympus 2.0 doesn’t feel clunky on the feet and feel extreme comfort, especially on the mellow trail. The only drawback is the premature wearing of the outsole which makes it difficult to find traction on loose, sandy, or slightly muddy trails. Best Price: $87

Trail Shoe for Running
Altra Olympus Trail Running Shoe

Soft Ground Trail Running Shoes

Designed for soft grounds, these kinds of shoes are heavily lugged with minimum uppers to shed mud and water optimally. Here are two of the best soft ground trail running shoes-

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

Featuring an 11 mm heel drop with high durability and sticky 5mm Chevron shaped lugs, Speedcross 4 offers incredible traction and stability on steep up and downhill. It withstands wet conditions as the upper feels tight and secure in such conditions as well. However, these Salomon trail running shoes lend minimum forefoot room.

trail running shoes for hiking
Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoe

2. Inov8 X-Talon 212 Precision

If you are looking for trail running shoes that can handle daily outings and offers good grip in the wettest conditions, then the X-Talon 212 is your best bet. It provides enough underfoot cushion for its under-8 ounces weight and could easily manage up to 50K distance. In addition to that, they can also be used on the grass too and it doesn’t retain water. These Inov-8 shoes lend itself well to faster paced running and forefoot striking efficiency.

trail shoes
Inov8 X-Talon Trail Running Shoe

Road-to-trail Trail Running Shoes

This category of trail running applies to runners who choose a variety of terrain to run on. They want a hybrid pair of trail running shoes so that they can easily make the transition from roads to trails. Characteristically, such running shoes have outsoles more consistent with road shoes that offer limited traction on loose terrain and steep ups or down hills. Here are two of the best running shoes in this category-

1. Salomon Sense Mantra 3

To create Mantra 3, Salomon uses their great minimal trail technologies plus some additional EVA cushioning. It’s 10.2 ounces weight and 6mm heel drop makes Mantra 3 capable of handling moderate trail surfaces. These shoes also provide maximum forefoot area while using the brand’s Quicklace system and ProFeel Film rock plate. Best Price: $120

Running Shoe
Salomon Sense Trail Running Shoe

2. The North Face Litewave TR

The Litewave is a trail shoe with minimal outsole lugging and a very lightweight, responsive midsole feel that provides ground proprioception too. It’s sub-8 ounces weight and 6mm heel drop makes the Litwave a perfect road/trail hybrid shoes. It performs equally well on smooth, hard trail as well as in rocky conditions. Although a few runners have complained of skin chaffing due to the shoe’s welded on overlays, the Litewave’s semi-soft EVA cushion cancels out the charge. If you like to change your route frequently, then the North Face Litewave TR is one of the best buys. Best price: $85

Trail Running Shoes
The North Face Trail Running Shoe

Best Trail Running Shoes for Women

Agravic-style shoes have become popular among many women trail runners. Saucony Xodus ISO is one of the best trail running shoes for women and is highly recommended by us. It has a good grip in both wet and dry conditions. It has chevron-shaped lugs and 3 mm bouncy foam, which is ideal for long trails. Other trail shoe options for women include New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi, Inov8 X-Talon 225, Montrail Rogue F.K.T., 361 Degrees 361-Santiago, Salomon Speedcross 4, Mammut MTR 201-II Max Low, and Altra Lone Peak Neoshell 3.0 MID.

Be wise while choosing your shoes as they are your feet’s true companion off-road. Good shoes will ensure that you enjoy the run on the gnarly and muddy track. So, say bye to your road shoes and invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. Happy Running!

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