Trail Running Shoes

Explore Nature With These Trail Running Shoes

In ultrarunning, finding the best trail running shoes can be as challenging as finding the perfect running jacket and other gear you need on a day-to-day basis.

These days, even 50K races tend to take place on mixed terrain as opposed to city marathons that are run on tarmac.

The point is that the specific training, i.e. phases of higher mileage, requires us ultrarunners to divert to routes off-road at least once a week. In the long run it is less strenuous on the body, mainly the legs and feet.

It's worth investing into at least one or two decent pairs of trail running shoes even if you're mainly participating in ultramarathons like 12 and 24-hour track races or road races.

Here are important general guidelines to finding the best trail running shoes.

Let's take a look at the requirements and needs first:

  • A trail running shoe must provide grip, stability and flexibility
  • The shoes should be an uncompromising fit; you put them on and it feels like wearing a pair of slippers
  • If you're running an ultra race mainly on soft to medium-rocky trails aim for a light-weight version; this also helps you to run taller on your feet
  • During the winter, the best trail running shoes have proven to be ones with a more solid sole for extra support and grip
  • Extra cushioning and stability provides better impact absorption when running on slippery ground
  • A shoe with Gore-Tex is excellent for running in areas prone to a lot of rain and snow such as mountainous regions

trail running, trail running shoes


From experience, it can be a bit of a gamble and trail and error until you find the shoes you feel most comfortable in. Many retailers offer to run up and down the shop aisles helping to decide for the right pair of running shoe. That often doesn't prove much whether the shoes actually do their job outdoors.

I tend to judge on a shoe the second I put it on. That very first impression and feeling when you walk a few steps counts.

Have your toes got enough room? This is especially important when running downhill a lot.

Do you need extra support on your heels? Also an important consideration on undulating and rocky terrain.

Are you intending to run an ultra in hot climates like the Gobi March, the Marathon des Sables or the Atacama Crossing? Choose a trail running shoe with materials that let your feet breathe. The feet tend to swell up so that Gore-Tex has a reverse effect. Also consider the shoe size and buy the trail shoes at least one size bigger, even 1.5 sizes to be on the safe side.

Different terrains require you to choose different trail shoes. Some ultra runners are happy to run in trail running shoes of one brand only which is fine. Nowadays, there are many manufacturers specialised in producing a large variety of trail running shoes.

Are you ready to find out about the best trail running shoes? Those that have been tried-and-tested under the critical eyes of ultra runners that don't make compromises when it comes to choosing the most important kit, the shoes you can excel in?

The focus lies on the key requirements grip, flexibility and stability rather than going into too much scientific detail regarding the material components that often have complicated names that only manufacturers can understand. What matters is whether the shoes feel right when you run long haul.

Keep in mind that the very first impression counts when you try on a new trail running shoe.


Take a close at the best trail running shoes carefully chosen and finely selected for you. Just take your pick.

LA SPORTIVA CROSSLITE

A great shoe for mountain trail running and even good to use on tarmaced roads. Ok, not ideal to run a city marathon in but wears really well in races that include tarmaced sections, too. I had two pairs with me during the stage race this year and felt extremely comfortable in the shoes. The rubber sole is quite soft still giving you enough grip on muddy and wet terrain as well as stability on rockier terrain.

The special sole material helps to absorb impact, holds while braking and helps on uphills. You can even attach spikes to offer special grip on very rocky terrain. It's not a typical racer, yet ranges on the lower end of the scale with 335 g. On top of the shoe is breathable and light mesh. The Crosslite comes with a gaiter cleverly sewn to the top and hides the laces to get protection from stones and mud. And it definitely works.

ASICS GEL TRABUCO

This shoe was my favorite last winter and coming into spring. I did most of my long runs in the Asics Trabuco as it's a shoe providing a lot of stability and medium grip. The shoe weighs 470 g whereas the women's model stands at just 300 g. It's a shoe that can also be worn on tarmaced roads although it is defined as an off-road shoe.

The sole is stiffer compared to the Crosslite but the built-in rearfoot Gel supports and stabilises the foot as it hits the ground. The mid-sole has added arch support giving the feet extra stability. The upper comes with a water-resistant, not water-proof teflon-coating. My feet stayed reasonably dry even when I ran through ankle-deep snow.

The Trabuco is an excellent winter training shoe for runs up to four hours and recommendable for those slightly over-pronating. If you're planning to do a long ultra race it'd be wiser to invest into a trail running shoe that weighs a little less. One final advice: Don't make the mistake and wear the Trabuco in a desert race. People misconceive the difference between a trail shoe and a racing trail shoe. This shoe is not made for the heat as the feet tend to swell up and the non-breathable material holds the heat in which, in return, has a sauna effect.

SALOMON XA PRO 3D ULTRA M's + W's

Salomon's best-selling trail running shoe. It's a very balanced shoe with a neat fit, therefore ideal for those with fairly slender feet needing stability and extra heel support. I've run in these Salomon's for a while now. They're only a little heavier than the La Sportiva with 340 g for the women's and 390 g for the men's shoe. Recommendable to wear in a longer race and obviously for longer training runs. I feel that my feet don't tire and stiffen up. If anything, the sole supports the natural running style and the shock absorption is excellent.

Salomon is famous for their innovative lacing system as the lace is put into a small pocket on top of the shoe. The grip is amazing on wet and slippery trails and you won't involuntary slip into all directions. The low-cut of this shoe works a treat giving the feet a lot of freedom in combination with motion control technology in the chassis. The transition from trail running to road running is excellent, too. The perfect shoe for those who run 50% on trails and 50% on roads or 100% on trails.

SALOMON SPEEDCROSS 2 M's & W's

The ultimate racing shoe in Salomon's impressive collection of trail shoes. It's a real light-weight at 290 g men's and 245 g for the women's model and purely designed for speed.

It's got all the beneficial features like anti-debris mesh, the lace pocket on the upper and extra heel cup to give additional support and stability on technical downhill sections. The design of the sole guarantees perfect grip on rocky grounds.

The lining material is made from textile resistant to abrasion for breathability and quick-drying. These shoes prove to be an excellent choice in 100-mile races as you barely feel them on your feet. As a result, you naturally tend toward a better upper body posture and more effortless running style. Beware that the Speedcross suits runners with slim feet.

Avoiding tarmaced roads when running in the Speedcross is advisable since the soles are not designed for such terrains.

INOV-8 ROCLITE 282 W's

All of Inov-8's running shoes can be worn by women. The Roclite 282, though, has been specially designed for the female trail runner who is looking for a lightweight and highly functional shoe.

Whether you're running just off-road or on mixed terrain or even mainly on roads with only little off-road sections. The 282 is very versatile and perfect for such conditions. It's comfortable on long hikes, for nordic-walking and mountain running, basically any running/walking training you wish to do.

The cushioned midsole provides excellent under foot comfort while the fascia-band aids propulsion efficiency of the running cycle. In comparison to the Salomons, the Inov-8 trail shoes have a wider cut providing more room for the toes.

INOV-8 ROCLITE 285

This shoe is similar to the 282 with the difference that it's ideal for shorter trail races. It's better known as the all-terrain racer. Here, the men's model weighs 10 g less than the Speedcross.

It has a low profile midsole with stick rubber outsole. The grip is good in dry conditions but when it's really muddy and slippery it could get a little risky. Still, stability is great in the 285 and another plus factor is the good cushioning.

VASQUE BLUR SL 7526 M's & VASQUE BLUR SL 7575 W's

Vasque trail shoes are gradually gaining popularity amongst trail ultra runners running races exceeding 100 miles and longer. The Blur is an endurance shoe geared for those with flatter feet. The broader toe box offers you extra comfort.

The upper keeps the promise of being super breathable and the midsole contains more EVA, a special cushioning material, for better shock absorption.

A great feature about Vasque trail shoes is that you're offered a range of different widths. And due to the anatomical specificity of the woman's foot, Vasque tweaks the shoes to perfection. While they're very popular in the U.S. they are luckily available in most parts of the world.

What Are Your Favorite Trail Running Shoes?

What makes your trail running shoes so unique that you wouldn't want to swap them for the world?

What is your criteria for a good running shoe so that you feel comfortable even after hours of running? And how do you deal with tired feet in an ultramarathon, let's say during a 50 or 100-miler?

Do you alternate between different pairs of trail running shoes or even run in 'barefoot'-style shoes such as Vibrams or Huaraches?

Your opinion and experience is very important and right here, right now you can share your story!

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Read Other Trail Running Shoes Reviews

Click on the links below to see some great reviews about the best trail running shoes. They were all written by other ultrarunners visiting this page.

Ever Run In Hokas? Check Out How The Hoka Mafate & Hoka Bondi B Differ From Other Shoes 
Just got back from running in the simpson desert multimarathon race. Each day had very different tracks to run on ! Sand, red dust, small stones, gibber …

Salomon XA 3D Pro Ultra 
I have been very happy with these, they fit like a second skin, my feet stay dry, and I have never had a blister even in very technical 50k runs with lots …

Salomon Speedcross 
These shoes are truly awesome despite the aggressive traction. Another advantage is their lightweight so that I felt great even after 32miles of running!! …

What A Difference The Grip Makes: Comparing Salomon XA And Inov 8 Roclite  Not rated yet
I disagree a little bit with your assessment that the Salomon XA provides excellent grip on wet, slippery trails. I have not had the best experience under …

Salomon XT Wings 2 Not rated yet
This shoe is absolutely perfect on varying terrain. Whether it's soft trails, really rugged single trails, rocks or running on grass and even on tarmaced …

Click here to write your own.





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