10 Best Trail Running Shoes For Women in 2021

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
10 Best Trail Running Shoes For Women in 2021

There are nearly 500 trail running shoes for women available on the market. Choosing the right pair is exhausting, to say the least.  

But don’t fret, we took our time testing and selecting the best trail runners for women from various brands. They also come from different categories. So whether you’re looking for a trail bruiser, a protective shoe, or a long-distance tank, you got the answers on this list.

How we choose the best trail running shoes for women

We conduct a multitude of tests in all the trail running shoes in our arsenal. With our own shoe testing lab, we gather data on each shoe that helps to explain why they are the greatest. Even more, we also make sure to do the following: 

  • Get them with our own money to avoid bias
  • Run at least 30-50 miles in each shoe
  • Slice them open and see what’s inside
  • Measure each part of the shoe based on 30 different parameters
  • Calculate their CoreScore through gathering thousands of expert and user reviews

Best overall

Who would’ve thought a trail beast could be this fun and lively? The Salomon Sense Ride 4 crushed everything underfoot, while giving us all the bounce we craved. 

With its 3.57-mm lugs, its claw-like grip made us tackle the most rugged terrain with confidence. For high-mileage efforts and steep climbs, this is our top go-to. 

If you prioritize protection and stability, the Sense Ride won’t disappoint. In our lab test, its midsole is 31.7% stiffer than the average. While its outsole is 6.4HC tougher than normal.

And of course, this reflects on the weight. At 10.5 oz, it’s on the heavy side. But with its spring-like response, it was agile and didn’t cause any drag. 

Although firm, the Sense Ride has some give to it. Our feet never felt strained nor did they need recovery after. 

To top it all off, the generously padded upper wrapped our feet with so much plushness, comfort was taken up a notch. Even better, small rocks and debris were the least of our worries.

See our full review and facts

If you want to soar through the trails, the Saucony Peregrine 11 is your trusty trailblazer. 

Having tested past iterations of the Peregrine, we can confirm that this is the best one yet. It didn’t just pace us. It also gave us the best traction we’ve ever experienced. 

Whether it’s on wet or dry stream crossings, mud, and snow, we were cruising without any slips or missteps. 

Apart from the shoe’s amazing bite, its lockdown is also what makes it a lot stable. The upper delivers a glove-like wrap, our feet were tucked snugly in place. 

It also doesn’t cut corners on protection. At 33.6N (vs. 26.2N average), its stiffer midsole dampens all the harshness on the trails. Add in the tank-like outsole (50% thicker), poking rocks and roots shouldn’t be a concern. 

After 50 miles of putting it through the paces, the Saucony Peregrine 11 proved itself tough. It barely has any scratches. We are even sure it can last 500 miles.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Brooks Divide 2 proved to us that all-rounders don’t always come at a high price. It only retails for $100, but does an even better job than most expensive trail shoes. 

If you want one shoe from your door to the trails, the Brooks Divide will deliver with flying colors. It’s not overbearing on paved roads. And when it’s time to hit the trails, its grip is just as reliable. 

Unlike other trail shoes in our arsenal, it wasn’t hard on our feet. Its comfort is even along the ranks of road running shoes! 

Its lockdown is also to die for. Thanks to the gusseted tongue, our feet never slid out of the shoe. Up front, there’s also enough space and volume for the toes to splay. Even wide-footed runners can enjoy it. 

For such a budget-friendly price, we were astounded that it’s loaded with a rock plate. Although it’s not designed for the technical trails, Brooks really outdid themselves in the Divide 2. 

It’s not meant to go fast. But if you want a foolproof road-to-trail hybrid, we can’t recommend the Brooks Divide 2 enough.

See our full review and facts

For only $70, the Asics Gel Venture 8 didn’t come here to play. Packed with unmatched strength and grip, it’s more than trail-ready. 

The Gel Venture 8 is a no-frills trail shoe. It looks simple from the outside, but it’s far from simple on the inside.

Its foam is cushy, you can run in it straight from the box. No break-in period needed. Even better, the Gel tech dampens all the impact so well, our strides were pain-free. 

But what really stood out to us was the shoe’s grip. We even forgot that it was an affordable trail shoe. On gravel, loose ground, and mud, it bit so well. Feeling tippy is history. 

We didn’t have to worry about sharp turns either. Traction aside, the lockdown was impeccable, our feet were anchored and steady. 

To seal the deal, the Asics Gel Venture 8 is also built to last. After putting it through the wringer, it looks and runs brand-new. And if you want a shoe that can go beyond 450 miles, the Gel Venture 8 can do the job.

See our full review and facts

Best off-trail

It nails it in the traction arena, we think it’s the cleats version of trail shoes. Seriously, the Salomon Speedcross 5 grips so well, soft and loose trails are nothing next to it. 

It’s no wonder why it bites so well. As opposed to other trail shoes, it has 4-mm lugs (vs. 3.2mm) that digs deep into the ground for surefooted steps. 

Protection is also paramount in the Speedcross, which is why it’s our top pick for the harsh off-trail surfaces. It has so much cushion underneath, we totally forgot about the jagged rocks and roots beneath us. 

Lockdown is as great as it gets. The laces and upper clutched our feet securely, we were cruising with confidence. What’s more is the laces stayed tied all throughout our test runs. 

Splashes from creek crossings and moisture from snow can’t get through this shoe. Although it’s not waterproof, it somehow manages to repel water. 

Overall the Salomon Speedcross 5 is THE most reliable off-trail running shoe we’ve ever tried. And if you want a shoe that’s built to take the abuse from the harshest terrains, it won’t fail you.

See our full review and facts

It’s a behemoth, to say the least. The Salomon XA Pro 3D is so brawny, it’s the superlative of durable. 

It will take you hundreds of miles before you can even gash this beast. Even after more than 100 miles of rough wear testing, the XA Pro 3D remained unscathed. 

Not only is it plenty sturdy. It’s also incredibly protective. Even when we stepped on rocks, branches, and debris, it almost felt like it had a rock plate (even though it wasn’t packed with one). 

Stubbed toes are a thing of the past in Salomon XA Pro 3D. Of all the trail shoes on our roster, it has the toughest toe bumper. 

Protection and strength aside, it’s also one of our favorites, thanks to its top-notch support. Even flat-footed runners and overpronators can benefit from it. The upper holds the foot impeccably (from the ankle to the heel), you’ll have zero wobbling in this titan. 

Even better, you won’t find yourself readjusting the laces mid-run. They stay locked from the first mile down to the last. 

Whether it's for trail running or hiking, the Salomon XA Pro 3D will bring all the protection and support off-road adventurers could ever ask for.

See our full review and facts

Best for ultra

Named after the highest mountain in Greece, the Altra Olympus 4.0 is built to go the distance. And if you’re racing 100 miles, this is your go-to. 

Of all the ultra essentials that we’ve laid out, the Olympus 4.0 ticks all our boxes. With its 33-mm midsole foam, protective and comfortable isn’t even enough to describe it. And on your off-days from racing, it can be your cozy pick for easy and recovery paces.  

It’s also your friend when your feet start to swell. Like a true Altra, it’s extremely spacious in the toe box, your toes can splay comfortably. 

Of course, the Vibram outsole is just as trusty as ever. On rocks, mud, and loose trails, it handled everything with no sweat. 

Moreover, comfort is not only found in the Altra Olympus 4.0’s midsole. It’s also evident in the upper. It’s light and breathable, you don’t have to worry about blistered toes.

See our full review and facts

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 may be a tad short in thickness compared to the Olympus (32mm vs 33mm). But it’s just as great for ultras. 

Like most of the trail shoes on this list, the Speedgoat loads up on protection. With its generous cushioning, it doesn’t even need a rock plate to mute out the sharp elements on the trails. On rocky and gnarly terrains, not once did we feel any poking. 

What took us by surprise was the shoe’s stability. Despite its marshmallowy midsole, the Hoka Speedgoat, with its wide base, remained supportive and steady. 

Like the Olympus, it also has a Vibram outsole. It sticks to the ground so well, we were even confident on muddy sections. And when it comes to durability, it’s a solid tank. 

Fit-wise, the Speedgoat has a snug midfoot wrap. The cage kept our feet locked in position, they never slid out of place. 

Packed in an attractive package, the Hoka Speedgoat 4 is perfect for runners looking for a less expensive ultra running shoe.

See our full review and facts

Best road-to-trail

From road to trail, we didn’t have to switch gears in the Brooks Caldera 5. On the road, its traction was easy-going. And on the trails, it clung fantastically. 

It’s not speed-oriented. Rather, it’s a commuter shoe that will take you miles and miles on the pavement and unfriendly outdoor terrains. 

Enjoyable is how we’d describe the performance of the Caldera. It’s soft and forgiving with a tinge of bounce for a lively ride. 

It’s burly on the outside, and it’s exactly how it is on the inside. After some hard playtests, the upper and outsole are still as flawless fresh from the box. While the midsole is not bottoming out. 

And who doesn’t love a gusseted tongue? It made it easy to put the shoe on and off. What’s more is it upped the lockdown. No wobbling nor slips.  

It’s heavy on paper at 10.5 oz. But for the protection, comfort, and versatile traction the Caldera 5 from Brooks provided, we can move past its weight.

See our full review and facts

The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 doesn’t even feel like a trail shoe in all the best ways possible. It’s cushy and comfy, our feet were pampered all day long. 

Typically, trail shoes are firm. But the Pegasus Trail 3 is here to make a difference. Contrary to other running shoes, it’s 38% softer (in our lab test). 

And what’s great about it is it doesn’t have that sink-in sensation that makes the ride unstable, thanks to its wider base (3.2mm more in the forefoot and 3.3mm in the heel). 

Sturdiness is also one of the signatures of the Pegasus Trail. It has a great amount of rubber coverage on the outsole, it’s 20% stiffer in our flex test. We even expect it to go beyond 500 miles. 

Apart from being durable, what does this mean? It can shield the feet by muting out all the rough elements on the trails. 

As a road-to-trail shoe, its lugs aren’t as pronounced as other dedicated trail shoes. But don’t worry, the Nike Pegasus Trail’s 3-mm lugs latch superbly on road, light trails, and moderately technical terrains. 

On top of it all, it’s an eye-candy!

See our full review and facts
Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic

Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.