Best Trail Running Shoes for Men of 2024

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
Waist-down view of a runner wearing the Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes with a view of Mt. Hood in the background
Altra Lone Peak – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

Whether you’ve been a hardcore trail runner for years or you’re transitioning from sidewalks to singletrack, the right pair of running shoes is essential for a fun and healthy running season. From muddy, rocky trails to sandy, steep routes, trail runners are the key to staying comfortable, agile, and stable in any weather.

Our full-time gear testers have been hard at work testing over 30 running shoes over thousands of miles of trail, taking on the arid Arizona desert, rocky Colorado high country, and soggy rain forests of the Pacific Northwest to narrow down the best of the best. When it comes to comfort, weight, durability, and price, the shoes on this list leave the rest in the dust.

We’ve also done the legwork for trail running shoes for women. If you want something burlier for your next trail outing, our guide to the best hiking shoes has tons of recommendations. For the dedicated (or aspiring) ultra runner, we’ve got the best running vests, as well as top GPS watches for people who want to track their stats.

Quick Picks for Men’s Trail Running Shoes

Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best trail runners overall: HOKA Speedgoat 5 ($155)

Trail runners with a great balance of traction, low weight & comfort: Saucony Peregrine 14 ($140)

Supportive & breathable trail runners with excellent traction: Brooks Catamount 3 ($170)

Durable trail runners for rugged mountain trails: La Sportiva Bushido II ($155)

Reliable trail running shoes with a classic design: Brooks Cascadia 17 ($140)

Best trail runners with a natural foot shape: Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 ($150)

Best budget trail runners: HOKA Torrent 3 ($130)

Best zero-drop trail runners: Altra Lone Peak 8 ($140)

Supportive trail runners with a rockered sole: The North Face Vectiv Enduris 3 ($149)

Affordable trail runners that excel on muddy routes: Salomon Speedcross 6 ($145)

Best waterproof shoes for wet & cool weather: Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX ($160)

Breathable trail runners with a sock-like fit: Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 ($160)

Ultralight trail runners for extremely technical terrain: Nnormal Kjerag ($195)

What’s new

We’ve refreshed our reviews of our favorite trail runners and introduced some exceptional newcomers. As a result, this list has seen some big changes:

  • The HOKA Speedgoat 5 takes our number one spot thanks to its ultra-cushy ride and responsive sole, making it a great choice for most trails.

  • The comfortable Saucony Peregrine 14 is a close second as an excellent all-around trail shoe with unrivaled stability and durable construction.

  • We welcome the Brooks Catamount 3 to the top of our list as a lightweight and super-responsive shoe with excellent breathability.

  • We’ve added the HOKA Torrent 3 as one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to a lightweight trail shoe that tackles obstructions with ease.

  • Nike’s waterproof React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX  is perfect for muddy trails and wet days due to burly construction, sticky traction, and impressive energy return.

  • Say hello to the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2, a versatile shoe for pavement or packed trails on hot summer days when breathability is top priority.

  • The lightest and most technical racing shoe on the market, the Nnormal Kjerag, earns a spot for its superb craftsmanship and durability on the gnarliest trails.
Stock image of men's Hoka Speedgoat 5

HOKA Speedgoat 5

Best trail runners overall

Price: $155

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 4.6 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: GTX Low, GTX Mid, GTX Spike

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Cushy foam
  • Excellent traction
  • Supportive midsole
  • Roomy toe box
  • Versatile for pavement or trail
  • Lots of colorways
  • Snug fit
  • Available in wide sizes

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Less robust laces
  • Bright colorways aren’t for everyone

You won’t find a more comfortable and supportive trail runner than the HOKA Speedgoat 5. These shoes continue to be a favorite among the CleverHiker team for everything from morning jogs with the dog to half marathons to ultras. Basically, if you like to be outside and moving – the Speedgoats are probably a great option for you.

The cushy midsole is what puts the Speedgoats at the front of the pack. They gobble up trail obstructions like sharp rocks, gnarly roots, and uneven terrain easily because of their thick foam cushioning. This stacked and soft foam absorbs impact and will keep your feet and joints feeling fresh no matter how far you run, especially on hard-packed trails.

The Speedgoats also offer grippy, sticky traction. We’ve found the lug spacing and sizing grab the ground and keep you stable whether you’re running on muddy forest routes, soft beach boardwalks, or gnarly and steep mountain paths.

Compared to the last version of these shoes, the Speedgoat 5s offer an extra long lip at the heel cuff, which acts both as a tab for pulling the shoe on, and a bit of extra cushion for steep-angle running. The upper is still awesomely light and breathable, so these are our go-to’s when the weather warms up.

Our biggest complaint about the Speedgoats comes down to durability. The laces on the Speedgoats are less robust and stretchy than other top models and began to show meaningful wear and tear after only 100 miles, so you may want to consider a second set of laces to get the most out of this pair. Though we love HOKA’s eye-catching neon colorways, we recognize some people might have a more muted aesthetic. 

However, when it comes to a top-performing trail running shoe, the Speedgoats are the GOAT. They offer an expert balance of weight, durability, and comfort, making them an excellent choice for anyone who likes to run.

Stock photo of the Saucony Peregrine 14

Saucony Peregrine 14

Trail runners with a great balance of traction, low weight & comfort

Price: $140

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 2.4 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: GTX

Pros

  • Excellent traction
  • Comfortable
  • Top-tier lacing system
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Secure fit
  • Rock plate protects arches

Cons

  • Not as durable as others
  • Needed a short break-in period

Our team has been running in every iteration of the Saucony Peregrines since they came out, and the 14s are better than ever. They’re comfortable out of the box, and the burly tread pattern offers some of the best traction on this list for high mountains to sandy desert trails and beyond.

The details are what set the Peregrines apart. The large heel loop makes them easy to pull on, the cushy tongue is padded and comfortable, and they have our favorite shoelaces on the market. The round, ultra-durable static shoelaces stay in place once tied, and the holes are perfectly placed to dial in specific fits depending on your needs.

The Peregrines also stand out for their sock-like comfort. We found these shoes have a short break-in period – we’re talking about five miles or so – but after that, they softened around our feet and felt incredibly agile and fast.

These shoes also land at the top of the list for feeling so secure and stable on the trail. The beefy rock plate and snug fit contribute to the shoes feeling steady and firm under most trail conditions, so we highly recommend these for loose, soft trails, as well as packed dirt, and urban routes with pavement.

Our only knock on the Peregrines is their lack of durability. The mesh uppers and TPU overlays tend to wear out faster than more burly and durable options with stitching. And this version, like the one before it, can begin to split on the heel of the outsole after about 300 miles.

However, the Peregrines are at the top of the trail runner game when it comes to lightweight, breathable, and comfortable shoes. For those who want an affordable and stylish option to add to your collection, you can’t go wrong with the Peregrines.

Stock image of men's Brooks Catamount 3

Brooks Catamount 3

Supportive & breathable trail runners with excellent traction

Price: $170

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 2.8 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: N/A

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent traction for steep ascents / descents
  • Durable materials
  • Comfortable on long runs
  • Good for mixed pavement & trail
  • Breathable upper
  • Larger toe box
  • Protective toe cap

Cons

  • Less cushioning than some
  • A bit narrow
  • Rock plate makes shoe feel a bit stiff
  • Limited colorways

We’ve added the nimble, durable, and comfortable Brooks Catamount 3 to our list. These shoes are great all-around trail runners with outstanding traction for most trails, whether you’re on a paved riverwalk, packed singletrack, or deep in the backcountry.

The Catamount is a true trail shoe built for steep ascents and descents. It runs just a bit longer in the toes than some on this list and has a slightly larger toe box – a design that prevents your toes from jamming while you’re running downhill and helps you maintain your footing on complex terrain going uphill. With traction most concentrated in the front of the shoe, you’ll feel confident and stable on soft and moderate trails.

We’re big fans of the Catamount’s unique propulsion plate – basically a softer, longer rock plate that adds a slightly springy feel to each step – especially when tackling steep ascents. This feature also makes the shoe extra stable and secure, making it even more comfortable whether you’re doing a couple of miles or going on a much longer adventure.

Plus, this pair is seriously durable. We’ve racked up over 400 miles of jogs, runs, and half-marathons on one pair, and they’re still going with less wear and tear than we would expect. The TPU overlay on the toe cap is effective at blocking sharp rocks and brambles and the mesh upper is breathable but reinforced.

The Catamounts do have a bit less cushioning than many on this list, so if you don’t love the ground feel, you might want to consider the heavier, but more structured Brooks Cascadia 17s. And, the Catamounts only come in one colorway, which is a bit limiting.

Though the Catamounts are one of the most expensive models we tested, their low weight, durable construction, and versatility from the asphalt to the trailhead make them an excellent value. If you’re looking for breathable and supportive trail runners, these are the shoes for you.

La Sportiva Bushido II

Durable trail runners for rugged mountain trails

Price: $155

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 5 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6 mm

Sizing: Narrow

Options: Waterproof

Pros

  • Great traction
  • Durable construction
  • Protective uppers
  • Stable on technical trails
  • Large rock plate
  • Large heel loop for easy on / off
  • Snug fit

Cons

  • Stiff soles
  • Flimsy laces
  • Narrow toe box

The La Sportiva Bushido II is our all-time favorite trail runner for technical mountain trails. Whether you’re new to the trails or you’re a seasoned veteran, these shoes are top performers in alpine environments due to great durability, a supportive build, and outstanding traction.

Gear analyst, Ian Krammer, used the Bushidos to climb 260 peaks over 13,000’ in the Colorado Rockies over three years. He tackled tens of thousands of feet of vert and ran and hiked thousands of miles through the gnarliest alpine landscapes. The verdict? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better shoe for mountain terrain.

The Bushidos are one of the most durable options on this list. Mesh zones on the uppers are reinforced with ripstop fabric and TPU overlays. The beefy rubber toe cap protects against sharp rocks and stubbed toes for hundreds of miles, and the stout heel counter offers top-tier medial and lateral stability, so you’ll feel secure whether you’re dancing across scree fields or slogging up gravel gullies.

If you’re looking for a 4-wheel-drive shoe to explore everything from established trails to the toughest alpine routes, you’ve found it. The Bushido II uses an updated outsole and rubber compound, making it sticky on everything from muddy, slick trails to soft sandy routes and even sharp boulder fields. We felt confident, stable, and secure on steep descents and fast and agile on ascents over loose, off-trail terrain.

Keep in mind, though, the Bushido is built for alpine environments – not hard-packed trails or pavement. We found the stiff sole, chunky traction, and meticulously engineered upper really are meant for rugged terrain. These shoes are overbuilt for casual runners hitting the local trails and lower elevation single track.

But if you’re regularly running tough miles in rocky, technical terrain, the Bushido IIs will kick your performance to the next level. Thanks to stellar durability and aggressive grip, these shoes will help you forge your own path from base camp to summit.

Stock image of Brooks Cascadia 17

Brooks Cascadia 17

Reliable trail running shoes with a classic design

Price: $140

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 6 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: GTX

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Cushy soles
  • Rock plate (increased protection in sole)
  • Durable construction
  • Stable ride
  • Good traction
  • Built-in gaiter attachment

Cons

  • A bit stiff in midsole with less ground feel
  • Doesn’t stand out in any one category
  • Laces can get stiff over time

If you’re looking for a running shoe with solid all-around performance, great durability, and tons of support for hundreds of miles on groomed trails, look no further than the Brooks Cascadia 17s.

Our team has been running in this model for years, and almost every iteration has made our list for their reliability and simplicity. CleverHiker’s Managing Editor, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, uses them daily as his go-to running shoe and has put 2,000 miles on several pairs of Cascadia 17s. 

Thanks to plenty of foam and a supportive arch through the midfoot, this model offers excellent stability on rough trails and outstanding energy return with every step. Whether you’re running on a packed dirt road or tackling miles of soft, sandy trails, the Cascadias will stay comfortable and responsive.

That said, these shoes don’t necessarily stand out in any category, they just show up to work every day and do their job. The Cascadias are a bit stiff in the midsole, which reduces the ground feel on rougher trails. And, they’re some of the heavier shoes on this list.

However, none of these things are dealbreakers. They are a stellar value with a tried-and-true design, durable construction, cushy soles, and nice colorways to choose from. They may not be the sexiest shoes on the market, but they perform admirably whether you’re knocking out a few miles on your local trails or a half-marathon in the high country.

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3

Best trail runners with a natural foot shape

Price: $150

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 4.4 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: N/A

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Flexible
  • Versatile
  • Roomy toe box

Cons

  • Not as durable
  • Low ankle cuff isn’t for everyone
  • Shallow lug depth is best for dry conditions

We love the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 for its wide toe box, super breathable uppers, and plush, flexible soles. For those who prioritize long running days and big miles on the trail, the versatile and comfy Ultraventures could easily become your new favorites.

What sets the Ultraventures apart is their natural foot shape, with a large toe box, narrower heel cup, and midfoot that hugs close. And if you’re looking for out-of-the-box comfort, the Ultraventures are good to go right away. We found they didn’t need much break-in time at all. The padded tongue and pleasantly soft insoles inspired confidence immediately, and we were ready to run.

We highly recommend the Ultraventures for hot summer runs and arid environments because of the well-ventilated mesh upper. They also dry very quickly, so we don’t mind splashing through puddles or streams during long summer runs or occasional afternoon storms. 

The compromise with the Ultraventures is with their traction depth. The lugs are not deep enough to bite as effectively on wet rocks or trails with lots of steep ascent and descent so we prefer them for easy and moderate established trails.

And while the mesh uppers are a dream for ventilated runs, they don’t last quite as many miles as those made with TPU reinforcements or thicker construction. Still, we found we’re averaging around 400 trail miles before the fabric starts to break down.

That said, if you’re looking for a lightweight shoe with a bit of extra wiggle room for your toes, superior ventilation, and a stable ride for long trail runs, these could be the perfect kicks to keep you ahead of the pack.

Stock image of HOKA Torrent 3

HOKA Torrent 3

Best budget trail runners

Price: $130

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 1.4 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: N/A

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Ultralight
  • Breathable upper
  • Good traction on dry terrain
  • Supportive arch
  • Responsive & springy
  • Sturdy midsole

Cons

  • Stiff on technical terrain
  • Less durable laces
  • Narrow toe box

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, the HOKA Torrent 3 is tough to beat. These shoes offer outstanding value as entry-level trail runners for moderate trails, training runs, and shorter races.

The Torrents are some of the lightest shoes on this list – and they feel like it. At just over a pound for the pair, they are impressively breathable and well-ventilated thanks to soft mesh uppers. The slightly rockered sole and curved toe spring lend a nice energy return with each step, making them exceptionally responsive as well.

We’re big fans of the slightly stiff midsole, especially compared to the other HOKA model on this list, the Speedgoat 5. The Torrents are lighter and offer a more traditional slim, sturdy, and stiff performance profile. That directly translates to strong arch support and stability on soft terrain as well as packed dirt. Instead of the hefty cushioning of the Speedgoats, you’ll get a much better ground feel and improved edging on rocks and slightly technical terrain.

The biggest downside of the Torrents is their durability, an issue that’s common for ultralight shoes. Since the all-mesh uppers of the Torrents aren’t reinforced, the material won’t last as long as others on this list, and the rubber compound on the outsole wears out faster as well. We got about 250 miles in these shoes before they needed to be replaced.

That said, at this price, the Torrents are still a great value for comfortable, lightweight, and less expensive trail runners and come in a variety of bright colorways. If you’re looking for lightweight shoes to crush your summer training cycles, run in warm and dry climates, or simply want to get out on the trails, these are the kicks for you.

Altra Lone Peak 8

Best zero-drop trail runners

Price: $140

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 5.4 oz

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0 mm

Size: True to size

Options: Waterproof

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Roomy toe box
  • Good traction
  • Breathable & fast drying
  • Comfortable fit
  • Built-in gaiter attachment

Cons

  • Wide toe box is too roomy for some
  • Not as durable
  • Zero drop doesn’t work for everyone
  • Heavier

If you’re looking for the ultimate zero-drop trail shoe, the Altra Lone Peak 8 is our top choice for long-distance runners. These workhorses have been on our list of the best trail runners (and best hiking shoes) for years thanks to their airy feel, grippy outsole, and ergonomic foot shape.

When it comes to comfort, this iteration of the Lone Peaks is dialed in. These shoes have a natural foot shape, meaning the toe box is larger than most on this list – but not sloppy – so your piggies have lots of room to wiggle and spread naturally with each footfall. The midfoot is narrow but cushy and the heel cup is snug, which creates a soft and supportive ride out of the box.

There are lots of details to love on the Lone Peak 8s. The lacing system got a bit of an upgrade, with slight adjustments to the spacing of the holes to lock tension where we want it and release pressure where we don’t. The Velcro gaiter attachment at the heel is now bigger to keep ankle gaiters attached more securely. And, the uppers are light and airy, so they dry fast if you step in through a creek, and they vent exceptionally well on hot and dry hikes.

The main drawback of these shoes is that they are not as durable as other options on this list, with notable wear to the outsoles and uppers after 250 miles. At 10.7 ounces, they’re also one of the heavier pairs we reviewed. And, zero-drop shoes aren’t for everyone – going from higher heel-to-toe-drop footwear to a zero-drop shoe often requires a bit of a transition period to avoid injury, so make sure to account for this if you haven’t used zero-drop shoes before.

That said, the Lone Peaks are tough to beat when it comes to stellar traction and breathable uppers. We recommend them to anyone who wants a comfortable, roomy, and affordable running shoe with a natural feel.

Stock image of The North Face Vectiv Enduris 3

The North Face Vectiv Enduris

Supportive trail runners with a rockered sole

Price: $149

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 5.6 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6 mm

Sizing: True to size

Options: Waterproof

Pros

  • Comfortable out of the box
  • Rockered sole is responsive & springy
  • Supportive midsole & cushioning
  • Durable construction
  • Breathable uppers

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Flimsy insole
  • Traction is a bit lacking

The North Face Vectiv Enduris 3 is an excellent all-around trail-to-town running shoe with an ergonomic design, solid construction, and great support. For those who run mostly on dry, non-technical trails or mixed pavement and dirt in warm conditions, the Enduris 3 is worth a closer look.

These babies are comfortable right out of the box and need very little break-in time. In fact, we felt so confident in them, we went straight to the trailhead for a quick up-and-back after picking them up. The toe box is roomy enough to let your toes wiggle free, the midsole feels springy but soft, and the mesh upper is super breathable – a combo that makes for an airy and fun ride.

While many shoes on this list have a slightly rockered sole, the Enduris 3 is a bit stiffer, so you’ll notice this slope at the toe and heel more too. But, we’re big fans of this design: the curved toe spring makes propelling forward on each step just a bit easier, and the energy return on the heel strike is noticeable. In other words, this is a fun shoe that will make you feel fast.

The smaller, shallower lugs don’t grip as well on mud, rocks, or roots compared to other shoes on this list so we recommend saving these shoes for dry, warm summer runs.

We also found the upper runs a bit wide and long, so they are better suited for folks with larger ankles and/or high-volume feet. For everyone else, consider going down by a half-size if you’re buying online, or trying them on in person to get the perfect fit.

The Enduris 3s are durable and comfortable trail runners that look great and feel great on trail and pavement. They are a major improvement over the prior versions in every way, and deserve to be in the rotation for daily town-to-trail runs or dedicated training shoes – they may be the key to winning your next 5K.

Stock image of Salomon Speedcross 6

Salomon Speedcross 6

Supportive trail runners that excel on muddy terrain

Price: $145

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 5 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 10 mm

Sizing: Runs large, we recommend sizing down ½ size if you’re on the edge

Options: GTX

Pros

  • Good arch support
  • Comfortable snug fit
  • Excellent traction on soft terrain
  • Sheds debris easily
  • Stash pocket for laces

Cons

  • Quicklace system takes getting used to
  • High heel-to-toe-drop
  • Runs narrower

Every iteration of the Salomon Speedcross has made our list, and we’re pleased to welcome the Speedcross 6 as well. Like prior versions, this Salomon model offers excellent arch support, a snug fit, and a stylish profile for fast and spry runs on wet and soft trails.

If you’re the type that frequently tackles trails with lots of loose terrain like mud or sand, the Speedcross 6s will be your new best friend. These shoes have deep lugs that provide exceptional traction in muck, gravel, snow, and other soft surfaces. The aggressive tread pattern bites the ground and offers great stability, but the traction still easily sheds debris. 

We’re also big fans of the Speedcross 6 for their snug (but not too tight) fit and outstanding arch support. Those who want their running shoes to fit like a glove will love this slightly narrower pair. That said, if you have wide feet or you’re between a regular and wide fit, we recommend going with the wide version.

These shoes have a couple of features to look out for. At 10 millimeters, the Speedcross has a tall heel-to-toe drop, and the quicklace system takes some getting used to. Though the lugs are great, the midsole is a bit too stiff to feel comfortable for long runs on hard surfaces like groomed trails and pavement so you’ll want to save these ones for rougher backcountry routes and wet trails.

We also found that the soles – including traction – are not as durable as others on this list. The Speedcross shoes are well-built, but the softer rubber composite will wear faster on rocky terrain and asphalt. When we ran on mixed terrain – trail, pavement, and packed dirt – we averaged about 275 miles before the shoes needed to be replaced.

That said, there’s no need to tread lightly with the Speedcross 6. If you’re looking for specialty footwear for soft terrain, these are the kicks for you: grippy, comfortable, and sleek.

Stock image of Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX

Best waterproof trail runners for wet & cool weather

Price: $160

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 4.3 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 9.5 mm

Sizing: Runs small

Options: Non-waterproof

Pros

  • Excellent traction in snow & rain
  • Durable materials
  • Waterproof
  • Comfortable
  • Gaiter-like ankle cuff keeps out debris

Cons

  • High heel-to-toe drop
  • Runs hot (common for GTX shoes)
  • Runs a bit small – go up half a size

If you’re a year-round runner undeterred by wet, muddy, and snowy conditions, the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX are the shoes for you. These are waterproof powerhouses that offer excellent traction, a comfortable ride, and impressive durability to keep you moving on muddy fall trails, icy winter routes, and slushy spring sidewalks.

The Pegasus 4s are incredibly comfortable thanks to cushy midsoles that feel springy and supportive during hours of nonstop movement. The responsive foam through the heel made us feel nimble and fast. We’re also big fans of the gaiter-like cuff, which hugs your ankle closely to block debris, gravel, and dirt from entering your shoe and gives a nice, cozy fit.

This Nike model also has exceptionally sticky traction. We are impressed with its performance on everything from slick pavement to steep, slippery clay. The aggressive lug pattern bites the ground so you’ll feel locked in and solid no matter where you’re running – even in light snow.

In general, we’re not big fans of Gore-Tex trail runners for warm weather and summer months because they run hot and don’t offer much ventilation. The Pegasus 4s are no exception, so we recommend them for cooler weather in fall, winter, and spring when the added warmth is welcome. 

The Gore-Tex does become less effective over time but a bit of quick maintenance with a shoe-specific waterproofing spray will help seal your shoes and keep the water out.

If you’re looking for a shoe that can keep up with your year-round training schedule, the Pegasus 4s are an excellent choice. They’re a bit spendy, but we think they’re worth every penny for those who need durable and waterproof running shoes for the road or trail – no matter what the elements are doing.

Stock image of Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2

Breathable trail runners with a sock-like fit

Price: $160

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 2.3 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8 mm

Sizing: Narrow

Options: N/A

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Supportive arch
  • Firm soles help with precision steps
  • Strong construction
  • Excellent traction
  • Comfortable
  • Gaiter-like protection at shoe cuff
  • Stash pocket for laces

Cons

  • High heel-to-toe drop is not for everyone
  • Quicklace system takes getting used to
  • Small shoe opening
  • Reduced ground feel due to stiff rock plate

If you’re looking for a versatile shoe that can handle mixed routes – from pacing on pavement to tearing up gnarly trails – the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 is the shoe for you. This model is delightfully lightweight and nimble, offers excellent stability, and its unique shoe cuff is great for keeping out debris.

The Pulsar 2s are only eighteen ounces, making them one of the lightest shoes on this list – and they feel like it. They inspire confidence on any route: the responsive forefoot and springy foam feels spry and fast while running, with notable stability that devours most terrain. We love the supportive arch and tight heel lock, and the Pulsar’s durable uppers and excellent traction will keep you feeling strong mile after mile.

The Pulsar 2s standout feature is its tight cuff. These shoes eliminate the tongue and instead feature a unique, sock-like cuff that wraps tightly around your lower ankle. We love this cuff because it acts like a built-in gaiter, blocking sand, gravel, and debris from getting into the shoe better than any shoe on this list. Combining this tight cuff style with the slightly rockered sole and the Pulsar’s snug, glove-like feel results in an incredibly comfortable and smooth-feeling shoe.

The downside of this tight cuff, however, is the cuff makes the Pulsar 2 cumbersome to put on or take off. We found it takes an extra minute or two to get these shoes on and tinker with the quicklace system before our runs. That said, once they’re on your feet, the Pulsar 2s are awesomely snug, responsive, and ultra-comfortable mile after mile.

If you’re looking for a trail runner built for fast movement almost anywhere you need reliable traction, a smooth ride, and a stable outsole, the Pulsar Trail Pro 2s are a great option to hit the ground running.

Stock image of Nnormal Kjerag

Nnormal Kjerag

Ultralight trail runners for technical terrain

Price: $195

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 0.1 oz.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6 mm

Sizing: Long & Narrow

Options: N/A

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Responsive
  • Very durable
  • Good heel cushioning
  • Sensitive ground feel
  • Versatile for technical routes & packed triails
  • Excellent traction

Cons

  • Runs long (size down 1 full US size) & narrow
  • Expensive
  • Lack of insole isn’t for everyone
  • Thin upper
  • Traction limited in wet conditions

The Nnormal Kjerag is an incredibly lightweight, durable, and technical trail runner pushing the evolution of performance shoes.

As the brainchild of Killian Jornet, one of the fastest and most efficient runners of our lifetimes, the Kjerags are predictably built for performance. At 8.07 ounces per shoe – barely over 1 pound for the pair – the Kjerags are the lightest on this list, and they feel airy and spry. And somehow, they are still impressively durable – the combination of a simple, time-tested upper, outstanding craftsmanship, and a burly outsole makes these versatile and bombproof from packed trails to the most technical, rocky, and steep routes you can find.

Our primary complaint is around the stiffness of the sole, which is necessary – and exceptional for – stability and precision on gnarly routes full of rocks, roots, and obstructions. So they might be too technical for the average runner. Despite this firmness, the shoe still offers decent sensitivity with the ground as you move through the mountains.

At almost $200, they are also the most expensive trail running shoes we’ve tested. At the end of the day though, there’s no way around it: for a premium price, you get one of the best performance trail runners. So, if you’re looking for a top-tier trail running shoe for your next 50K race or plan to set a PR on a long-distance trail effort, the Kjerag can’t be beat.

If you’re looking for a less aggressive shoe overall, check out the Nnormal Tomir 1.0. It’s a great daily trainer with a softer sole and a lower price tag.

THE ALTRA LONE PEAKS ARE LIGHTWEIGHT AND FEATURE A WIDE TOE BOX FOR A NATURAL GAIT

What’s Most Important to You in a Trail Running Shoe?

COMFORT & FIT

Shoe comfort and fit are extremely individual, since everyone has slightly different foot shapes and sizes. However, we generally recommend looking for running shoes with a flexible but supportive sole, enough room for your toes to wiggle, plenty of breathability, and cushioning for those long miles.

Best trail runners with a wide fit

PRICE

Your feet are the key to your success on trail. The healthier and happier your feet are, the further and faster you’ll be able to go. That’s why, out of all the gear you consider for running, we recommend choosing the highest quality footwear your budget will allow based first on comfort and fit, and then durability.

Best budget trail runners

WEIGHT

Lighter shoes mean less weight for your legs to lift on every step, which translates to reduced muscle fatigue, less tripping and stumbling, and healthier ankles, knees, and hips. That said, if you tend to run on muddy, technical, or complex trails, heavier shoes might be preferable since they’ll hold up better and last longer than lighter options.

Best ultralight trail runners

DURABILITY & MATERIALS

Trail runners are intentionally made with lightweight materials so you’ll feel nimble and comfortable while moving fast. The downside of featherlight shoes is they aren’t as durable compared with burlier options. The most durable trail runners are usually reinforced with TPU overlays, have a bit more structure through their uppers, and feature firm, aggressive tread patterns on the sole.

HEEL-TO-TOE DROP

Heel-to-toe drop measures, in millimeters, the difference in height between the heel of the shoe versus the toe. While millimeters may seem like a measurement too small to notice, heel-to-toe drop dramatically affects your gait when you’re walking or running. It also plays a major factor in how efficient your stride is and how comfortable your ankles, knees, and hips feel during a run.

The shoes on this list range from 10 millimeters to the lowest possible, 0 millimeters. With zero-drop shoes, your foot is the same distance off the ground from back to front, which can put less stress on your joints and facilitate a more natural step. However, everybody is different, and finding the right height for you depends on your unique foot shape, running style, personal preference, and trail conditions.

Best zero-drop trail runners

Critical Footwear Considerations

SIZING

For the best fit, consider getting trail running shoes at least half a size bigger than usual, since feet can swell during long runs. But, how can you tell if there’s enough room? Place your foot in the shoe with your toes up against the toe box. You should be able to slide your index finger easily between your heel and the back of the shoe – if there’s enough room, it means your toes won’t jam into the toe box on descents and steep sections of trail.

Sizing is also based on whether the shoe runs narrow or wide, and what kind of arch support you’ll need. When you’re choosing a size, also take into account the specific socks you plan to wear, and if you’re adding aftermarket insoles – a trail runner that’s a bit too big is better than one that’s too small.

THE SWIFTWICK PURSUIT TWO ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE SOCKS FOR RUNNING
IF YOU PLAN TO ADD AFTERMARKET INSOLES TO YOUR SHOES, MAKE SURE THE SIZE YOU CHOOSE CAN ACCOMMODATE THEM

HIKING

At CleverHiker, our absolute favorite footwear for hiking is trail runners. For the same reasons trail shoes are perfect for running – lightweight, flexible, breathable, and supportive – we love them for hiking and long backpacking trips. In fact, our team has collectively hiked tens of thousands of miles in trail runners in extreme places all over the world – from the Rockies to the Andes, and the Smokies to the Himalayas – and we’ve run half and full marathons in them. They’re our go-to shoes from spring until fall and continue to be the most popular footwear for thru-hikers on the CDT, AT, and PCT. Pop over to our Best Hiking Shoes for Men guide to see which trail runners are our favorites for hiking.

MANAGING MOISTURE & BLISTERS

Your feet are bound to get wet when you’re running, no matter what shoes you choose – if you run long and consistently enough, soggy conditions or a big storm are all but inevitable. But, wet feet are the precursor to hot spots and blisters, so it’s crucial to know how to manage moisture and prevent issues ahead of time. Luckily, regular foot care can prevent and handle most injuries and irritations. For more about how to manage moisture and hot spots, see our guide on How to Prevent and Treat Blisters.

THE HOKA SPEEDGOATS HAVE THICK SOLES TO ABSORB SHOCK & KEEP YOUR JOINTS COMFORTABLE ALL DAY LONG
THE TOPO ULTRAVENTURE TRAIL RUNNERS ARE LIGHTWEIGHT, BREATHABLE, AND FLEXIBLE

WATERPROOFING TREATMENTS

When it’s been rainy for days but you’ve still got to get on the trail, waterproof shoes are a great choice. They’re especially helpful during spring and fall days full of mixed rain, snow, and sun. However, keep in mind that “waterproof” doesn’t actually mean waterproof – ongoing rain showers, slippery creeks, and deep puddles will eventually soak your feet. To keep your shoes sealed, you’ll need to regularly reapply a treatment so you can keep your feet happy and dry.

SOCKS

Quality socks can make all the difference between a fun, satisfying, and healthy run on trail and giving up halfway to hobble home due to pain or blisters. Look for socks that are comfortable, durable, and made with materials like merino wool, polyester, and nylon. These fabrics effectively wick moisture away from your skin, dry quickly, and still retain their shape to avoid rubbing or hot spots. For reviews of our favorite socks for running and hiking, see our guide to the Best Hiking Socks.

THE SAUCONY PEREGRINES ARE AN EXCELLENT VALUE BECAUSE THEY’RE LIGHTWEIGHT, VERSATILE, AND ULTRA COMFY

INSOLES

Aftermarket insoles can address a number of foot pains. If you’re dealing with chronic pain from issues such as plantar fasciitis, need support for a specific arch height, or simply want extra support in a rigid shoe, swapping out insoles is an easy solution. If you like a tighter fit or you’re in between sizes, new insoles are helpful for taking up a bit more room in your trail runners.

GAITERS

Gaiters are an excellent barrier to stop gravel and sand from getting into your running shoes and causing irritation, pain, and even blisters. We highly recommend a lightweight pair of gaiters to add a bit of extra protection while you’re racing along. Some shoes even have a Velcro gaiter attachment built in.

ALTRAS ARE DESIGNED WITH “GAITER TRAP” VELCRO AND A METAL HOOK ON THE LACES SO IT’S EASY TO ATTACH GAITERS