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-gritties of selecting the best pair for your needs, skip right to our guide on trail shoes below the shoe descriptions.

How we test trail running shoes

To save your 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
  • Take them on long runs
  • Measure over 30 different parameters far beyond weight and stack

Instead of “durable” or “comfortable” you get concrete data that puts each trail shoe up against hundreds of others.

To make it as comprehensive as it can be, we have also gone over 200,000 of real user and expert reviews for 500+ trail running shoes. All opinions are reflected in the CoreScore, a number from 1 to 100 which is assigned to each model.

The best trail shoes make it here.

Best trail running shoes overall

Hoka Tecton X

What makes it the best?

The Hoka Tecton X is Hoka's first carbon-plated trail running shoe. To justify the name, it just might have started a tectonic shift - that's how much it is loved by runners. It's positioned as a speed-ready, racing and training companion to the Hoka Speedgoat 5. Thanks to the dual-plated design, it shines at fast paces, especially the ultra ones. On top of this, it's a max-cushioned running shoe that keeps the feet protected without weighing them down.


  • 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

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Any color
Persimmon Orange - Radiant Yellow (1123161PORY)
Thyme/Fiesta (TFST)
Blue (SBDP)

Best trail running shoes with wide toebox

What makes it the best?

Trail runners, backpackers, and day hikers alike praised the 7th version of the Lone Peak - the do-it-all trail running shoe from Altra. People love how these shoes are versatile and comfy enough for casual trods in the mountains and taking on sharp turns on single-track descents. The lockdown and grip of these shoes let wearers take on the trail with confidence.


  • 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

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Any color
Red (AL0A7R6H680)
Black (AL0A7R6H020)
Navy (AL0A7R6H445)
Green/Teal (AL0A7R6H008)
Taupe (AL0A7R6H923)
Tan (AL0A7R6H922)
Dark Purple (AL0A7R6H252)

Best lightweight trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

Most trail runners haven't been very KEEN on Adidas trail shoes. They seemed like an afterthought given that the brand's focus was admittedly on sneakers and soccer cleats. But then the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra arrived. It performed so well out on the trails that many runners have chosen it as their go-to.


  • Lightweight
  • Nimble ride
  • Grippy outsole
  • Breathable
  • Dries quickly
  • Great lockdown
  • Reflective elements


  • Feels a touch minimalist
  • No heel pull loop
Full review of Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

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Any color
Green (GZ8921)
Blue (FW2806)
Black (FW2830)
Black (GZ8920)
Black / Grey / Red (GY6113)
orange (HR1120)
ftwr white/crystal w (FW2805)

Best trail running shoes for ultra

What makes it the best?

Based on our running and lab tests, we found this shoe to be perfect for ultras. We discovered that its cushioning offers great comfort and protection for long runs. Not something we get often from Salomon, but here it is and it rocks. The aggressive 3.5mm lugs made our runs super grippy and, with its quicklace system, the Ultra glide screams safety all over it. The ride and the lockdown are 10/10, which is imperative for ultra runs on the trails. 

In the lab, we measured the tongue thickness to be 10.3 mm which is almost double the average (5.5 mm). On the runs, we realized that this thickness is perfect for ultras when the feet swell and the laces must be adjusted. The thick tongue prevents the tight laces from hurting the feet. Another great thing is the heel drop: our caliper measured it at 7.9mm. Although the brand said it was 6mm, it is anyway considered midrange and, therefore, it’s perfect for our tired feet on ultras!

Be warned, though: the platform runs and feels (!) narrower than expected - with 105.2 mm in the forefoot, it is 7.6mm narrower than an average running shoe. What might fix this: the shoe is available in Wide (E).


  • Durable
  • Breathable
  • Grippy
  • Great lockdown
  • Plush and comfortable
  • Great lacing system
  • Protective overlays
  • Energetic ride
  • Cushioned


  • Tight midfoot for wider feet
  • No reflective details
Full review of Salomon Ultra Glide

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Any color
Black/Alloy/Goji Berry (L414305)
Crystal Teal/Barrier Reef/Goji Berry (L415791)
Orange (L470712)
Arctic Ice/Pacific Black (L417273)
Multi (L414308)

Best trail running shoes for mud

What makes it the best?

As one of the longest-running trail series, it’s safe to say the Peregrine is among the first shoes runners think about when going offroad. It can handle nearly anything you throw at it thanks to its tried-and-true comfort, agility, and traction. But what truly puts the v13 above its predecessors is its thicker slab of midsole foam—making it even more capable for easy days, long slow miles, and the occasional race through punishing terrains.


  • Cushioned and protective midsole
  • 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

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Any color
Agave/Basalt (S2083825)
Wood/Fossil (S2083815)
Fog/Clay (S2083885)
Vapor/Poppy (S2083816)
Arroyo (S1083835)
Finesse Black (S2083891)

Best trail running shoes for long distance

What makes it the best?

The React Pegasus Trail 4 is one of the top road-to-trail options from Nike. Cushiony and responsive on the roads yet grippy and stable on the trails, the shoe makes a perfect hybrid. It also remains surprisingly light given all the features packed into it. Experienced runners are happy that it feels a lot like the original Pegasus Trail 36 but with an enhanced grip.


  • 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 React Pegasus Trail 4

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Any color
Black (DJ6158004)
002 light iron ore/cobblestone/foo (DJ6158002)
Blue (DJ6158400)
Black (DJ6158003)
Black (DJ6158001)
Light Silver Mineral Teal Racer Blue (DJ6158005)
Black/Olive Flak/Spring Green (DJ6158006)
gold (DJ6158700)
More colors

Best trail running shoes with plush cushioning

Hoka Speedgoat 5

What makes it the best?

The Speedgoat 5 from Hoka remains your reliable and great-value do-everything trail shoe. But if you want to bring the best out of it, fast runs on very technical terrains can do the trick. On top of this, it ticks all the boxes of an excellent trail shoe. It's insanely grippy, durable, and supportive; conquering the great outdoors is an easy feat. Overall, take the Hoka Speedgoat 5 if you want to go fast and far.


  • 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

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Any color
Deep Lake/Ceramic (DLCR)
Stone Blue/Dark Citron (SBDCT)
Bellwether Blue/Cyclamen (BBCY)
Thyme/Fiesta (TFST)
Fiesta/Radiant Yellow (FRYL)
Scuba Blue/Black (SBBK)
Outer Space/Bluing (OSBN)
Impala/Flame (1123157IFLM)
More colors

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.

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.