7 Best Nike Trail Running Shoes in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
7 Best Nike Trail Running Shoes in 2024
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Nike is a household name in the running world. Although it’s better known for its road running shoes, Nike doesn’t cut corners when it comes to its trail shoes. They’re sturdy, traction-ready, stable, and responsive, helping you blaze through the trails with no sweat. 

Because there’s so much hype over Nike trail running shoes, we tested them out ourselves and ended up picking the best models from different categories. 

These shoes have been tested meticulously, and we are confident they can help you run the gnarliest terrain with ease.

How we test trail running shoes

We have our independent shoe testing lab to help us identify which shoes are good and bad. And with the data we’ve gathered, we can definitely help you. To do so, we strictly execute the following during our tests: 

  • We buy all shoes with our own money to prevent bias-filled reviews. This prevents us from being corrupted while giving our feedback.
  • Run in them for 30-50 miles. We test the shoes on trails, wet and dry, uphill and downhill, rocky and muddy, and other more varied environments.
  • Slice each shoe into pieces. We do this to spot all the techs and details inside the shoes. Also, we measure them in 30 different parameters like breathability, sturdiness, cushion, etc.

Best Nike trail running shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 is superbly cushioned yet highly responsive, exceptionally comfortable, and remarkably grippy—this almost perfect road-to-trail hybrid shoe gets the crown as the best Nike trail running shoe.

With a heel stack of 35.5 mm, the Pegasus Trail 4's midsole is significantly higher than the average of trail running shoes (31.7 mm). We could almost hear our feet thanking us for the protection they gained from the generous midsole.

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4’s lugs provide the shoe with noteworthy and excellent traction. At 3.4 mm, it is almost on par with the average but it provided us noticeably great grip when we tried diverse terrain. Wet or dry, road or trail, the Pegasus Trail 4 conquered them all and made us feel confident with every stride.

Perforations along its upper and tongue also help with the Pegasus Trail 4’s breathability. Running on warm days and humid conditions was less of a hassle and became quite a pleasant experience. 

Overall, the Pegasus Trail 4 definitely excels as a hybrid and no other Nike shoe comes close. However, runners who frequent super muddy and very technical trails could check out alternatives with beefier lugs.

Pros

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

Cons

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

Best budget waterproof Nike trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

Juniper Trail 2 GTX is so versatile and protective that it tops two categories in the Nike trail running lineup: best budget and waterproof. In our runs, we experienced a safe and steady ride through its robust upper and stability enhancements, all while retaining a relaxed feel due to its adaptive midsole. Waterproof running shoes in our lab average £170 while this Nike is significantly more affordable at £140.

During testing, the upper did not let a single drop of water enter. Our breathability tests confirm this with a 2/5 score, which is impressive since it still allows some airflow while blocking off liquid. What’s also remarkable is its tough and padded material that greatly resisted our rigorous Dremel, earning a rare 5/5 score.

The supportive cushioning ensures steady strides while protecting our legs from impact. Our durometer shows the foam is 27.8% firmer than average, enhancing surefootedness along with its high level of torsional rigidity and wide 114.4/94.3 mm midsole. This Nike adds width to its base to stabilise off-balance landings.

Complementing all the tough elements is a loose midsole that allows our natural movements. Our bend test shows it’s 20.3% more flexible than average.

However, the firm platform falls short of energy return. Those who prefer a more dynamic ride should look elsewhere.

Pros

  • Impressive upgrade
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Amazing durability
  • Exceptional stability
  • Ideal for heel strikers
  • Spacious toebox
  • Excellent for winter conditions

Cons

  • High price increase
  • Firm ride
  • Grip could improve
Full review of Nike Juniper Trail 2 GTX

Best Nike trail running shoes for race

Nike Ultrafly
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What makes it the best?

Ultrafly delivers a Vaporfly experience for the trails with its world-class energy return and plush platform. It surprisingly offers one of the most stable rides! After testing out and cutting open Nike’s best trail runners, we found Ultrafly to be the best racer. It’s a high-performance shoe that offers the best of both worlds — comfort and speed at any distance.

Featuring a full-length carbon plate that’s rare in trail shoes, Ultrafly feels insanely rigid and responsive. Upon checking with our bend test, it stands 31.5% stiffer than average. Underfoot is a robust Vibram outsole lined with 3.0 mm lugs to enhance grip. We found it performs best on easy trails and fast runs.

Despite the stiffness, it's ultra-soft to the touch. It stands as one of the thickest models, particularly in the 36.3 mm heel. Ultrafly stands out with its unusual cloud-like experience, which our durometer confirms is 9.8 HA — 63.7% plusher than average! The ZoomX midsole offers an exceptionally bouncy ride, making long miles effortless.

Ultrafly gives an unexpectedly stable ride, driven by the carbon plate and impressively wide midsole that inhibits awkward foot movements. This trail shoe offers generous room for high-volume feet and ensures steady landings.

With its focus on comfort and stability, Ultrafly feels extra heavy. Weighing 10.6 oz (299g), it’s beefier than the 10.4 oz (296g) average of trail shoes. 

Pros

  • Optimised for trail races
  • Accommodates wide feet with ease
  • Full-length, responsive Pebax midsole
  • Equipped with a Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Ideal for long-distance training
  • Offers outstanding comfort
  • Remarkably stable
  • Suitable for 100-mile races

Cons

  • The Vaporweave upper could be more durable and breathable
  • Heavier than expected even for a trail racing shoe
  • The £270 price tag might be steep for some
Full review of Nike Ultrafly

Best Nike trail running shoes for speed

What makes it the best?

Nimble and lightweight, yet offers a propulsive feel and amazing traction: the Nike Terra Kiger 9 holds all of these powerful features packed in a featherlight package. If speed on the trails is the priority, whether in training or races, this shoe delivers. 

The Nike Terra Kiger 9 feels so light that it's almost cloud-like. It weighs 288g (10.16 oz), which is clearly below the average weight of trail running shoes at 296g (10,44 oz). When we wore these shoes, we felt like we could fly on the trails.

The react foam on the Terra Kiger 9 feels very responsive but also protective. Measuring 17.3HA on the durometer test, it is 37.32% softer than the average of trail running shoes. This provided us with a heavenly blend of energy and comfort. 

The outsole on the Terra Kiger 9 is grippy on most terrains and we were able to cruise smoothly on rocks, loose ground, light mud, and even trails. The 4.4 mm lug depth is actually 25.7% more than the average, giving it superior flexibility for running on more technical terrain.

Although it has an excellent grip on dry surfaces, its grip on wet terrain is slightly amiss. It is recommended for runners to look elsewhere if grippier shoes are a priority.

Pros

  • Bouncy and durable React foam
  • Excellent grip on dry terrain
  • Built-like-a-tank upper
  • Adequate cushioning for long runs
  • Fantastic choice for wide feet
  • No heel slippage
  • Light and agile
  • Remarkable value at £160
  • Outstanding choice for forefoot strikers

Cons

  • Subpar grip performance on wet terrain
  • Could be more stable
Full review of Nike Terra Kiger 9

Best Nike trail running shoes for long distance

What makes it the best?

The arduous yet fulfilling adventure of long-distance trail running requires top-quality levels of traction, cushion, and comfort. As the Nike Wildhorse 8 excels in all these, it is undoubtedly the cream of the crop in Nike's range for long-distance trail running. 

We have absolutely no complaints about the traction on the Wildhorse 8. It performed valiantly on a mix of terrains even though the rubber outsole is only 2% softer than average. The lugs, on par with the 3.5 mm average of trail running shoes, are spaced accordingly to allow mud to disperse and maintain traction. On our day hikes and trail runs, we rode the Wildhorse 8 with confidence. 

The ‘React’ midsole in the Wildhorse 8 is both chunky and squishy—with the heel stack measuring 34.2 mm (thicker than the average of trail running shoes at 31.7 mm). Meanwhile, our durometer test found the midsole to be 42% softer than average. This stack height and midsole softness protected us throughout all our longer runs. 

A soft inner layer, padded heel, and padded tongue make the Wildhorse 8's upper very comfortable, which is a must for frolicking along the trails for hours. The tongue, 30.65% thicker than the average for trail running shoes, provided us with comfort for every step.

Sad to say, ventilation in the Wildhorse 8 is very poor. Runners looking for trail shoes for the summer may want to look somewhere else.

Pros

  • Superior upper comfort
  • Durable
  • No need to break it in
  • Superb lockdown
  • Ample toe box space
  • Great traction on muddy, boggy, snowy trails
  • Also comfortable on hard surfaces
  • Sheds mud easily
  • Stable and protective midsole
  • Smooth, enjoyable ride
  • Best for daily training and trail LSDs

Cons

  • Not as protective for the toes
  • Does not like to go fast
  • Can be unstable at fast paces
Full review of Nike Wildhorse 8

Best waterproof Nike trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

The Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX not only offers waterproof protection, but also outstanding grip, long-lasting comfort, and incredible bounciness. It proves it's an all-around performer in our lab tests and runs, making it our top waterproof Nike trail running shoe. 

Other than the Gore-Tex membrane, this Peg has several TPU overlays in the upper for protection and durability. Testing it against our brutal Dremel test, it achieved a rare and remarkable 4/5 score.

The outsole performs like a champ, boasting its grip on our encounters with grass, wet pavements, mud, and even snow. In fact, it handles fast corners and steep inclines with ease. It latches so well to the ground thanks to its variously shaped 3.5-mm deep lugs.

The Peg also has a lively and comfortable React midsole that allows us to run without counting the miles. Its generous stack height of 37.7 mm (5.5 mm higher than average), and its 29.0% softer-than-average cushion protect our feet during trail adventures. Though the midsole is soft, it still delivers a peppy ride. 

We found ourselves looking for a crucial element for full waterproofing — a gusseted tongue. Best to avoid submerging this shoe or else water will creep in.

Pros

  • Versatile road-to-trail performance
  • Grippier than the standard version
  • Surprisingly light for a GTX shoe
  • Accommodates wide feet with ease
  • Delivers a really stable ride for neutral runners
  • Upper showcases remarkable durability
  • Fantastic option for heel strikers

Cons

  • Non-gusseted tongue allows water and debris to enter the shoe
  • Not suitable for technical terrain
  • Excessive drop for midfoot or forefoot strikers
Full review of Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX

Best budget Nike trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

At a non-intimidating £90 price, Juniper Trail 2 is our best budget pick among Nike’s trail lineup. In our actual trail runs and lab tests, we found that it’s a great road-to-trail shoe that offers a cushioned and stable ride. Its flexible nature enhances our agility and delivers grip for gentle to moderate terrains.

While Nike trail shoes average £140, Juniper Trail 2 is way below the £110 mark. For the price, it doesn’t hold back on cushion and comfort. Our calliper measurement shows its 34.7/25.3 mm stack is higher than average. The ride feels moderately firm and balanced. Our durometer confirms its 27.1 HA foam is around the average.

The firm cushion enhances our stability, explaining why we have no awkward foot movements despite the shoe’s tall stack. Further improving our balance is the wider-than-average 113.7/95.0 mm midsole that ensures safe landings.

Adding to the pleasant experience is the unresisting midsole that allows us to adapt to uneven terrains easily. Our bend test confirms it’s 26.0% more flexible than average.

We advise against using Juniper Trail 2 on longer runs since the firm midsole may feel too harsh for some runners. 

Pros

  • Great value at just £90
  • Durable upper
  • Can handle road runs if needed
  • Exceptional stability
  • Perfectly suited for heel strikers
  • More cushioning than v1
  • Roomy and comfortable

Cons

  • Grip could be better
  • Might feel too firm and stiff
  • Not ideal for long-distance running
Full review of Nike Juniper Trail 2

Nike is no stranger to designing and manufacturing footwear with innovative footwear technologies. It’s no different with their lineup of trail running shoes.

Nike’s trail running shoes combine many of their tried and true running shoe technologies with extra features that prepare their shoes for the rough conditions you find on the trail.

Trail run in Wildhorse 7

Let’s have a look at some of the core components that make Nike trail running shoes so effective. And some proprietary Nike technologies you can expect to benefit from by purchasing Nike trail running shoes.  

How to select the best Nike trail running shoe for you

With such a strong lineup of impressive trail runners, it’s tricky to delineate which shoe is best for you. Here are some things to think about that will help you make your decision. 

Consider the terrain you enjoy

The trail running shoes you purchase should possess characteristics and features that lend themselves to the terrain you most often run on.

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Think about it this way– trail running shoes are tools you can employ to accomplish the task of trail running. You want to employ the best tool for the job. For example, you wouldn’t use a crescent wrench to hammer in a nail.

nike-wildhorse-8-lugs.JPG

Nike shoes with shallower lugs are better for transitioning from road to trail. Example:

  • Nike Pegasus Trail (3.4 mm lugs)
  • Nike Wildhorse (3.5 mm lugs)

nike-pegasus-trail-4-outdoor_002.JPG

Trail shoes with deeper lugs are better for mud, slush, and other types of soft and loose terrain. Example:

  • Nike Terra Kiger (4.4 mm)

Think about the volume, intensity, and duration of your trail running

Volume is how often you go trail running. Intensity is how hard your trail running typically is. And duration is how long your trail runs can go for.

Do you prefer long runs in the backcountry? Do you want a shoe for casual runs nearby town? Do you run every week or every day?

Ideally, you want to select a Nike trail running shoe that can stand up to your typical routine. For example, if you cover longer distances (10K+) or have long stretches of road or hard-packed terrain, go for Nike shoes with more cushioning:

  • Nike Pegasus Trail (heel stack: 35.5 mm)
  • Nike Wildhorse (heel stack: 34.2 mm)

nike-wildhorse-8-half.JPG

And if you go on shorter but want to feel speedier and more manoeuvrable on technical terrain, try:

  • Nike Terra Kiger (heel stack: 30.1 mm) 

Consider if you need waterproofing

If you live in a geographic region that has consistent wet weather, you may need to invest in a pair of Nike trail running shoes that feature a GTX membrane.

On the other hand, if you live in a dry and arid region, you may not need GTX trail running shoes. In that case, you may be better off with a pair of Nike’s super breathable trail runners.

The difference in breathability is very apparent in our smoke-pumping machine test:

Waterproof GTX shoe vs. non-waterproof shoe

Think about versatility

Are you looking for a specialised purpose-built trail running shoe that you deploy for trail running missions? Or do you need a more versatile shoe that you can put on for various activities, including trail running, hiking, and maybe even running errands?

The Pegasus Trail is Nike's most versatile trail running shoe.

What makes Nike trail running shoes effective?

Lightweight materials are used in the upper

One of the most important characteristics of Nike trail running shoes is that they are lightweight. Nike accomplishes this by utilising synthetic materials in the shoe’s upper. For example, many Nike trail running shoe designs incorporate mesh in the construction.

Uppers constructed with synthetic materials like mesh facilitate unprecedented breathability when compared to other materials like leather. Breathability is very important for trail running shoes because the more the shoes can breathe, the better your feet can ventilate and avoid overheating.

In addition, trail running shoes made with breathable materials dry quickly. That’s because synthetic materials hold onto less moisture in the first place. In addition, synthetic materials like mesh ventilate more effectively than heavier and thicker materials.

Therefore, when given the opportunity to dry, Nike trail running shoes will dry super fast after getting soaked in an afternoon thunderstorm or slipping in a creek.    

The midsoles are made with EVA foam

Trail running is hard on your body, in particular your feet. That’s why Nike trail running shoes utilise ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam in their midsoles. When it comes to dampening vibrations and absorbing shocks, EVA foam is the best in the business.

Plus, the material is lightweight and relatively durable. What’s not to love?

Of the Nike trail running shoes we reviewed, the Nike Wildhorse 8 had the softest cushioning. This makes the Wildhorse 8 ideal for long-distance trail running and ultra running.

nike-wildhorse-8-durometer.JPG

Based on our durometer measurement, the Wildhorse 8 is 70% softer than trail shoes on average

The midsoles have integrated rock plates

Rock plates are super important for the effectiveness of trail running shoes. They are harder plastic (normally polyurethane) shields that are integrated into a shoe’s midsole.

The extra rigidity from the harder plastic adds stability and support to the shoe. But most importantly, they protect your feet from sharp objects on the trail, like rocks and roots.

nike-wildhorse-8-back.JPG

Rock plates are found in the Nike Terra Kiger and the Nike Wildhorse

One fallback of rock plates is that they can add some weight to the overall design of the shoe. However, unless you’re a gramme-counting trail runner, the difference is negligible.   

The outsoles are designed for offroad use

Another way that Nike trail running shoes stand out from the rest is with their outsole design.

The outsole of a trail running shoe is important because it’s the first point of contact between you and the trail. Its purpose is to provide you with traction as you move over varied terrain such as dirt, rocks, gravel, mud, grass, snow, and ice. 

Trail running outsoles feature specially designed lug profiles and patterns. When compared to traditional running shoes, trail shoes have aggressive chevron-shaped and large lugs. In addition, wide lug spacing allows mud to clear out quickly from the tread.

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Nike Pegasus Trail is the brand's most road-ready trail shoe

Nike trail running shoes also rely on special rubber compounds for off-road usage. Typically, the rubber used in trail runners is thicker, harder, and more resistant to abrasion. That way, the outsole can remain durable and outlast the lifespan of the shoe. 

Nike trail running technologies

Nike has been at the forefront of footwear technology since the very beginning. When it comes to their trail running shoes, it’s no different.  Let’s take a look at some of the impressive technologies you can look forward to in Nike trail running shoes. 

Nike React technology is super responsive

Nike React is one of Nike’s most responsive foam types. It’s 11% softer and offers 13% more energy return. Plus, it’s more durable and lightweight. 

nike-pegasus-trail-4_026.JPG

To achieve its unique characteristics, Nike combined multiple polymers– thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA).

ZoomX foam gives you the greatest possible energy return 

ZoomX foam uses cutting edge technology to offer you the greatest possible energy return. The foam and the midsole’s shape literally help you turn the impact of your step into energy for your next stride.

Zoom X is Nike’s lightest foam type. And it offers 85% energy return– the greatest of any Nike foam.

Gore-Tex waterproof materials keep your feet dry

For trail runners who don’t want the threat of rain or river to slow them down, Nike has created some of the shoes in their trail running lineup with Gore-Tex. 

Nike-Pegasus-Trail-3-GTX-in-shoe-feel

Gore-Tex (GTX) is a high-performance material made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). Due to the unique qualities of ePTFE, GTX materials are water and windproof. Even better, GTX fabrics are still breathable and allow for ventilation. 

Vibram rubber outsoles give you traction

For the first time, Nike has collaborated with Vibram to offer a trail running shoe that combines Nike’s innovative shoe technologies with Vibram’s tried and true rubber.

The Nike Ultralfy Trail features Vibram’s Litebase technology. Vibrams Litebase uses Vibram's award-winning traction lug technology and its Megagrip rubber compound.

Carbon Flyplate protects your feet

Nike’s Carbon Flyplate is a thin and rigid carbon fibre plate embedded in the shoe’s midsole. The Flyplate is featured in many different Nike shoes and is designed to provide support, minimise fatigue, ease pressure in your Achilles, and reduce slipping inside the shoe.

As an added bonus in Nike trail running shoes, the Carboon Flyplate also functions as a rock shield protecting the bottoms of your feet from aggressive impacts with sharp objects on the trail. 

Vaporweave mesh allows your feet to breathe

Vaporweave is a proprietary Nike material used to construct the uppers of many of their running shoes, including some trail running shoes. The Vaporweave mesh is a mixture of thermoplastic polymers and nylon and is inspired by boat racing sails.

Due to its construction, it absorbs much less water than other Nike meshes. Plus, it’s super breathable, lightweight, and relatively durable. 

Author
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.