7 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2023

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
7 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2023
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We’ve tested more than 100 pairs of trail running shoes to help you find the best of the best.

Some trail shoes are created for the harshest off-road challenges like rocks, mud, snow, and branches. They keep you protected and surefooted. Others are made for the more urban-ready conditions and are comfortable enough to switch from roads to trails.

Whichever your purpose is, we have listed our top recommendations in several categories.

And if you want to dive into the nitty-gritty of selecting the best pair for your needs, skip right to our guide on trail shoes.

Best trail running shoes overall

Hoka Speedgoat 5

What makes it the best?

We ran through beaten paths effortlessly in the Speedgoat 5. It ticks all the boxes of a supportive trail shoe with its reliable traction, flexible and light nature, and cushiony platform. This shoe gives us the confidence to conquer the wilderness — cementing its position as the best trail shoe.

Speedgoat 5 aced its Vibram outsole with 3.0-mm deep lugs that bite through dirt, mud and icy pavements. It’s sticky and hard enough to protect our feet from sharp rocks and protruding roots. Our durometer validated this with an 84.5 HC measurement (85.1 HC average), confirming it's strong enough to handle abrasions.

Its flexible midsole and airy build enhance agility, making us quicker. Upon counterchecking with our flex test, its result is 17.9% more bendable than average — promoting smooth toe-offs in the forefoot. Its light 9.8 oz (277g) weight feels easier on our legs vs. the average trail shoe (10.4 oz / 296g).

We can go fast and far in this shoe with its velvety foam that makes the ride more enjoyable. Our durometer measurement shows it’s 59.9% softer than the average trail shoe.

We warn caution to heel-strikers about its 3.8-mm low drop. We recommend checking other options for a more comfortable experience.


  • Super grippy
  • Springy ride
  • Stable platform
  • Extra durable
  • High impact protection
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Secure fit
  • Excellent heel hold


  • Not for wide feet
  • Flared collar is not for everyone (style-wise)
Full review of Hoka Speedgoat 5

Trail running shoes with the best versatility

What makes it the best?

Peregrine 13 is an all-rounder shoe that handles any workout, terrain and season. Its flexibility and light weight make it convenient for leisure hikes and technical trails. Its traction allows us to run in snowy and rainy seasons too — making it our most versatile trail running shoe.

This is easily our go-to pair if we’re out all day since its flexible nature allows us to move freely. It keeps us agile and in control, flowing naturally with our feet instead of resisting it. Our flex test result confirms this: 32.5% more flexible than the average trail shoe.

Peregrine 13 is an effortless pair to wear with its light weight and breezy upper. No sweat for all-day use — proven by its above-average score on our breathability test. Weighing 9.6 oz (271g), it’s as light as a running shoe but holds the grippy power of a trail shoe. 

Speaking of grip, the shoe has a full-coverage outsole with 4.8-mm deep, sticky lugs. These withstand any trail condition — loose dirt, mud, and icy pavements. They're cleverly patterned to shed off the dirt too.

With its focus on flexibility, Peregrine 13 is not the most explosive shoe on the trail. We recommend checking other pairs if speed is a priority.


  • Cushioned midsole
  • Protective rock plate
  • Better for longer efforts than the v12
  • A good trail racing option
  • Great traction whether on ice, snow, gravel, and dirt
  • Mud just falls off the outsole
  • Comfy and airy upper
  • Performance-oriented fit
  • No heel slippage
  • Smooth and natural-feeling ride


  • Debris tends to get in
  • Not as fast as other speedwork trail shoes
  • Too-firm midsole
Full review of Saucony Peregrine 13

Best trail running shoes for racing

Hoka Tecton X

What makes it the best?

Weighing in at 8.64 oz (245g), the Tecton X is a lightweight, race-ready speed freak that had us crushing our splits whether out for a fast-paced training session or crossing the finish line of an ultra. Of all the competitive trail shoes we've tested so far, the Tecton X easily takes its place on top of the winner's podium.  

We secured the Tecton X to our workbench and measured the amount of force required to bend the shoe 90 degrees. With a result of 50.0N, the Tecton X is a whopping 62% stiffer than the average trail shoe. This is mostly due to the shoe’s dual carbon plate system which, on the one hand, sacrifices some underfoot comfort as the shoe resists the natural bending of our foot as we run. On the other hand, however, comfort doesn’t win races, but the propulsive responsiveness we felt when running at high speeds in the Tecton X just might. 

The Tecton X also features a midsole that is broader than average both at the forefoot and the heel, measuring 113.5 mm and 91.9 mm, respectively. This wide base, in conjunction with the shoe’s snug, racing toebox and strong heel hold gave us an extremely stable landing surface that feels secure and smooth even when taking corners on uneven surfaces at high speeds. 

As previously mentioned, the Tecton X is a very stiff shoe. This is exasperated even further in cold conditions where the shoe stiffens up by 55%, according to our freezer test. This means that the Tecton X will feel extremely rigid and uncomfortable in the winter months, akin to running in snow shoes. As such, we recommend sticking to races in warmer climates with this shoe.


  • 2 carbon plates: very propulsive ride
  • Insanely stable
  • Looks fast and runs fast
  • Lightweight
  • Very cushioned & responsive
  • Worth the investment
  • Room for feet swelling
  • Grippy
  • No break-in
  • Vegan materials used


  • Not for technical terrains
  • Might accumulate mud
  • Expensive
Full review of Hoka Tecton X

Best trail running shoes with a wide toebox

What makes it the best?

This shoe has everything we’re looking for in a trail shoe — excellent grip and lockdown, a flexible midsole that enhances agility, and all-day comfort with its wide toebox. Among trail running shoes, this is our best pick for wide feet.

Though this shoe is not the widest, its unique square toebox provides generous wiggle room for our toes to have a more natural splaying upon landing. It provides ample space for feet that tend to swell after miles of running.

With its almost zero drop at 0.2 mm, its low-to-the-ground profile enhances stability and control. This is crucial to have when encountering steep or uneven grounds. It’s also important that the shoe moves naturally with the runner to maintain agility and speed. We have no complaints! The lab confirmed it’s 20.8% more flexible than average.

The shoe remained resilient in our encounters with mud and puddles. Its traction is so reliable that we could run fast without worrying we’d slip. Its 3.4 mm-deep lugs arranged in a tread pattern gave us more control in descents.

At $150, this shoe is pricey compared to the $136 average of trail runners. We recommend checking other options if budget is a priority.


  • Very wide toebox
  • Protective midsole
  • Superb lockdown
  • Super grippy outsole
  • Excellent for fast runs in the mountains
  • Added heel cup provides stability
  • Super comfy
  • Easy to clean


  • Colorways might be a downer
  • A bit pricey
Full review of Altra Lone Peak 7

Best trail running shoes for ultras

What makes it the best?

Already claiming the title in its name, Salomon Ultra Glide 2 is our top pick for ultras among trail running shoes. UG2 keeps our legs fresh with its light, breathable nature and velvet foam and keeps us steady on mixed terrains with its traction. It gives us the comfort and security needed to conquer long miles on trails.

A breath of fresh air, UG2 weighs 10.1 oz (286g) vs. the 10.4 oz (296g) median of lab-tested trail shoes. This reduces leg strain and improves speed in endurance runs. Its well-ventilated upper makes it an accommodating environment to be in for long hours. With a score of 4/5 on our breathability test, it exceeds the average trail shoe (3.4/5).

The energyFOAM feels cushioned, bouncy, and stable — making long miles more enjoyable. Our durometer confirms its velvet touch, emerging 34.3% softer than average. It’s an effective impact dampener that doesn’t sacrifice stability with its below-average stack heights.

Further enhancing stability and control are its 2.8 mm lugs that cling to the ground to improve traction.

With UG2's 1.6 mm outsole that’s 1.1 mm thinner than average, it isn't protective enough for hard and rocky terrains. The rubber may wear out quickly too.


  • Breathable upper
  • One heck of a lockdown
  • Soft and protective cushioning
  • Good energy return
  • Very smooth, fun ride
  • Comfy for roads, good traction on moderately technical trails
  • Outstanding for daily miles and (very) long runs
  • Also works for faster efforts


  • Poor outsole durability
  • Using lace garage can get frustrating
  • Long tongue has a tendency to cause some rubbing
  • Maybe too narrow for some
Full review of Salomon Ultra Glide 2

Best road-to-trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

We can't all live near a nice trail, and lugging two pairs of shoes for a run is never fun. The solution? A shoe that can comfortably take us from our door to the trails and back of course! After extensive testing, we can safely say that the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is our top choice when it comes to road-to-trail shoes. 

The first thing we noticed when putting on the Pegasus Trail 40 is just how light it feels on the foot. Weighing in at 9.59 oz/272g, it's more on par with the average road shoe (9.45 oz/268g) than the average trail shoe (10.44 oz/296g). This lightweight nature makes the shoe feel just as comfortable and unburdensome on the foot whether we were picking up the pace on the asphalt, or more cautiously traversing the beaten paths. 

The Pegasus Trail 4 features 3.4 mm lugs, which fall right around the average range for trail shoes. It's the low-key configuration of these lugs, however, that makes the shoe a great hybrid. The three separate tread patterns lining the outsole provided us with excellent traction on the road, as well as on tightly compact trails and even some mildly technical ones. 

The biggest downfall we faced when testing the Pegasus Trail 4 was the shoe's lackluster grip on muddy trails and wet surfaces. The shoe's traction takes a serious dive when contending with soggy conditions, leaving us feeling as surefooted as a foal on a frozen lake. As such we don't recommend this shoe to runners living areas prone to rain. 


  • Efficient road-to-trail
  • Well-cushioned
  • Stable ride
  • Excellent, secure fit
  • Very breathable
  • Great traction
  • Unexpectedly light
  • Reasonably priced


  • Not for muddy areas
  • Not for wide feet
  • Could be more stylish
Full review of Nike Pegasus Trail 4

Best comfortable trail running shoes

Altra Olympus 5

What makes it the best?

Altra flips the script with the Olympus 5 and proves that a zero-drop shoe can be a maximalist creature of comfort. From the generous padding found throughout the shoe to the high stack of luxurious foam, the Olympus 5 easily climbs the ranks as the comfiest trail running shoe. 

The Olympus 5’s midsole is softer than average, giving us a durometer reading of 23.0 HA. However, the shoe's high stack means that it feels even softer than that. Apart from great impact dampening, the Olympus 5’s midsole also has a peppy rebound that isn’t overly bouncy and had us melting away the mile markers steadily and comfortably. 

The Olympus 5’s toebox is also extremely accommodating. Using our caliper, we measured it to be 103.4 mm at its widest point, making it roomier than average by 4.7 mm. What’s more, the Olympus 5 doesn’t taper very much towards the big toe, lending the shoe a more foot-shaped silhouette. This gives us plenty of room to splay out naturally during landings and toe-offs without the faintest hint of hotspots, even at the end of long haul efforts with significantly swollen feet. 

Typically renowned for its tough and grippy compounds, the Vibram outsole found on the Olympus 5 really let us down this time when it comes to durability. After only a handful of test runs, we noticed significant signs of wear on the lugs and tread. This is despite giving us a much harder-than-average durometer reading of 93.0 HC. While a harder outsole usually indicates better durability, in this case, we find that it’s actually quite brittle. 


  • Grippy on wet and dry trails
  • Protective muscles
  • Comfort is a 10/10
  • Toe box welcomes wide feet
  • Gives out energy
  • Breathable
  • Stable ride
  • Heel lockdown is terrific!
  • Easy on and off


  • Durability couldn't be worse
  • Annoying lace bites
  • It's a splurge
Full review of Altra Olympus 5

Comparison of the 7 best trail running shoes

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# of colorways

Consider terrain: light trail vs. rugged trail

Depending on the type of terrain they are intended for, trail running shoes are roughly divided into two categories: light and rugged trail.

Light trail: hard-packed, maintained surfaces

Rugged trail: uneven terrain with rocks, roots, debris, and other obstacles

Given the kind of challenges you may or may not face on these surfaces, trail running shoes offer different levels of protection, cushioning, and traction.

Trail shoe design: basic or sturdy?


Light trail shoe (left) vs. rugged trail shoe (right)


Light trail shoes

Rugged trail shoes

Shoes for light trails are more similar to road running shoes. They are lighter, more streamlined, and are less reinforced. Some of them can even transition from road to trail and are called hybrid.

Rugged trail shoed feature a sturdier design and materials, added overlays on the upper, and more hard-wearing sole components.

The most robust ones make it to a separate off-trail category.

Level of cushioning in trail shoes

Pick the right trail shoe by determining the amount of cushioning you need. Trail shoes with less cushioning are lighter and offer better ground contact while more cushioning means lesser impact and more comfortable running.

Barefoot-like shoes

  • Lightweight
  • With 3 to 4mm thin layer padding between the foot and the ground
  • Enhanced feel for the trail
  • Less pressure on hips
  • No arch support or stability features

See barefoot running shoes for trails

Minimal cushioning


Minimal cushioning.png
  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Minimal cushioning for comfort without sacrificing ground contact
  • Little to no arch support
  • Typically with 0 to 4mm heel drop

See all minimalist trail shoes

Moderate cushioning


Moderate cushioning.png
  • Characterized as traditional trail shoes
  • Enough cushioning for comfort
  • Most often features an 8-12mm drop

See our full list of cushioned trail shoes

Maximum cushioning


Maximum cushioning.png
  • Thickly cushioned for maximum comfort and plush feel
  • Helpful in reducing fatigue on high-mile runs
  • Heel height above 30mm; forefoot height above 25mm
  • Drop vary from 0mm to 12mm

See maximalist trail shoes

Disclaimer: Stack heights and heel-to-toe drop are generally following each other, but there are plenty of shoes with high stack heights and a lot of cushioning that maintains a low drop. The guidelines above are general. 

Outsole rubber and lugs


Variations of trail shoe lugs from the lightest to the grippiest

Light trail shoes Rugged trail shoes

Light trail shoes have a moderate level of outsole traction and durability.

The lugs are shallower.

Rugged trail shoes feature aggressive, durable outsoles with deep, multi-directional lugs.

Trail shoes for mud and snow tend to have the deepest lugs to keep you surefooted on soft terrain.

Protective elements in trail shoes

Most trail running shoes have external and internal features to protect the feet from rocks and sharp elements. Protective elements are important but they have their own advantages and disadvantages.




Rock plate.png

Suited for technical terrains

Protects feet from sharp rocks and stone bruises

Adds weight

See trail shoes with a rock plate

Toe cap.png

Ideal for technical, rocky surfaces

Protects the toes from rocks and trail debris

Adds durability to the upper of the shoe

Depending on the materials used, the toe bumper may not be as protective as expected

All trail running shoes come with a toe cap but have varying degrees of protection

Waterproof coverage.png

Keeps feet dry in wet running conditions

Keeps feet warm in cold weather

More durable than non-waterproof shoes

Not as breathable as non-waterproof running shoes

Once water gets in the shoe, it’s not getting out

Heavier than non-waterproof trail shoes

Cost $15-$20 more than non-waterproof trail shoes

See waterproof trail shoes

Water repellent element.png

Effective against light drizzle or dampness

More breathable than waterproof trail shoes

Offers less water protection than waterproof shoes

See water-repellent trail shoes

4. Size and fit

Shoes with a poor fit can be painful and cause foot conditions like bunions, calluses, and more. A few things to remember when it comes to shoe fit in trail running shoes:

  • A wide toe-box can help with bunion pain but it is not for everyone. 
  • For competition, a snug fit is better; for everyday training, a more natural fit is preferred.
  • An extra-wide fit will cause slipping if you're running on mountain hills but many prefer the wide toe box as it’s more comfortable.
  • Different lacing techniques can also improve the overall fit.


Buying tips

  • Make sure your toes are not cramped. Your feet swell as you run, make sure to have enough space to prevent blisters or black toenails. 
  • Sock thickness can affect shoe fit; try the trail shoes with the socks you plan to wear.
  • Shoe size changes over time, it is recommended to measure your feet when you buy new shoes.

See our guide on shoe sizing to learn more and find out the right size for you.

How we test trail running shoes

To save you time, we spend hours scrutinizing every single shoe release. As an independent shoe testing lab, we purchase all trail shoes with our own money to stay unbiased.

  • We cut shoes into pieces so we can observe and test the shoes and their components in a more in-depth manner
  • We take these shoes on trails and gravel roads and we overcome uphills and obstacles while using them
  • We measure over 30 different parameters far beyond weight and stack

Instead of “durable” or “comfortable,” we give you concrete data that puts each trail shoe up against hundreds of others. The best trail shoes make it here.

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.