• Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More) 1
  • Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More) 2
  • Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More) 3
  • Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More) 4
  • Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More) 5

Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes in 2021 (Salomon, New Balance, and More)

Thinking of moving your running routine outdoors? If you're wanting to expand beyond paved roads and sidewalks, you're going to need a good pair of trail running shoes. The best trail running shoes offer protection and cushioning against harsher elements, and provide the level of support you desire. 


We chose Salomon's Men's Speedcross 5 trail running shoe as our number one pick. The shoe's larger lugs on the soles will give you enough grip on wet and soft trails. Be sure to check out our entire top 10 list for a variety of options in men's and women's styles. Our buying guide provides additional insights on what to consider when purchasing your next pair of trail running shoes. Here's to better running on the trails!

  • Last updated: 07-26-2021
Table of Contents

Why Do I Need Trail Running Shoes?

Why Do I Need Trail Running Shoes?

If you're going to be running on trails that contain loose gravel, rock, or mud, you will need the extra grip that trail running shoes can provide. This extra grip, plus additional stability, will prevent injury and make it easier for you to run. Without trail running shoes, you may find that you need to run slower or come down to a walking pace. 


Trail running shoes with waterproof materials can give you extra protection and warmth in wet areas, and toe guards can stop rocks and roots from injuring the top of your feet. Trail running shoes also feature enhanced shock absorption and protect your feet from the impact of rocks and roots on the ground. 

Why Do I Need Trail Running Shoes?

Trail runners are also designed to prevent your feet from rotating and have sturdier materials to avoid rips and tears. 


The recommended fit for trail running shoes is similar to other types of footwear. You want them to be snug around the heel and arch but provide enough wiggle room between your large toe and the top of the shoe. The ideal gap is the width of your finger.


If you can't or haven't had a professional fitting, consider ordering your regular shoe size and one size up and one size down from online vendors. Check the return policies to ensure you can send back the ones that don't fit as well. 

Top 10 Best Trail Running Shoes

Our top 10 list is based on customer reviews, styles, and features, like shoes designed for light, rugged, and super-rugged trails. You will find a variety of shoes for men and women that offer different comfort and protection levels. 

1

SalomonMen's Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoe

$109.99

Available sizes7-14
Available colors15
MaterialsRubber, textiles, synthetic materials
2

SauconyWomen's Excursion TR11 Running Shoe

$49.95

Available sizes5-11W
Available colors9
MaterialsRubber, mesh, GORE-TEX
3

New BalanceMen's 481 V3 Trail Running Shoe

$53.30

Available sizes7-16XW
Available colors8
MaterialsRubber, mesh, leather, EVA
4

AsicsWomen's Gel-Kahana 8 Trail Runner

$67.00

Available sizes6-11
Available colors6
MaterialsRubber, synthetic materials, foam
5

AdidasMen's Rockadia Trail

$59.95

Available sizes8-10
Available colors2
MaterialsMesh, knit fabric, synthetic materials, foam
6

New BalanceWomen's Dynasoft Nitrel V4 Trail Running Shoe

$49.95

Available sizes5-12W
Available colors15
MaterialsRubber, synthetic materials, textiles, mesh, EVA
7

SalomonWomen's Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoe

$112.87

Available sizes5-12
Available colors9
MaterialsRubber, synthetic materials, textiles
8

New BalanceMen's Fresh Foam More Trail V1

$164.99

Available sizes7W-16W
Available colors1
MaterialsFoam, mesh, synthetic materials
9

NikeWomen's Quest 2 Trail Running Shoes

$60.51

Available sizes5-12
Available colors16
MaterialsRubber, mesh, synthetic materials, EVA
10

LeyangUnisex Trail Running Shoes

$25.49

Available sizes4.5-14 womens; 3-12.5 mens
Available colors8
MaterialsRubber, elastic mesh

Compare the Best Trail Running Shoes

Image
1
Salomon Men's Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoe 1

Salomon

2
Saucony Women's Excursion TR11 Running Shoe 1

Saucony

3
New Balance Men's 481 V3 Trail Running Shoe 1

New Balance

4
Asics Women's Gel-Kahana 8 Trail Runner 1

Asics

5
Adidas Men's Rockadia Trail 1

Adidas

6
New Balance Women's Dynasoft Nitrel V4 Trail Running Shoe 1

New Balance

7
Salomon Women's Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoe 1

Salomon

8
New Balance Men's Fresh Foam More Trail V1 1

New Balance

9
Nike Women's Quest 2 Trail Running Shoes 1

Nike

10
Leyang Unisex Trail Running Shoes 1

Leyang

Name

Men's Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoe

Women's Excursion TR11 Running Shoe

Men's 481 V3 Trail Running Shoe

Women's Gel-Kahana 8 Trail Runner

Men's Rockadia Trail

Women's Dynasoft Nitrel V4 Trail Running Shoe

Women's Speedcross 5W Trail Running Shoe

Men's Fresh Foam More Trail V1

Women's Quest 2 Trail Running Shoes

Unisex Trail Running Shoes

Features

Good for Soft and Muddy Trails

Best for Light, Even Trails

Shoes With Added Comfort Features

Lightweight Shoes That Absorb Shock

Comfortable, Supportive Shoes With Good Grip

Everyday Traction and Running

Extra Protection for Soft and Rugged Trails

Extra Cushioning for Rugged Trails

Waffle-Pattern Traction for Flexibility

Flexible Design With Non-Slip Soles

Price$109.99$49.95$53.30$67.00$59.95$49.95$112.87$164.99$60.51$25.49
Available sizes7-145-11W7-16XW6-118-105-12W5-127W-16W5-124.5-14 womens; 3-12.5 mens
Available colors1598621591168
MaterialsRubber, textiles, synthetic materialsRubber, mesh, GORE-TEXRubber, mesh, leather, EVARubber, synthetic materials, foamMesh, knit fabric, synthetic materials, foamRubber, synthetic materials, textiles, mesh, EVARubber, synthetic materials, textilesFoam, mesh, synthetic materialsRubber, mesh, synthetic materials, EVARubber, elastic mesh
Link

How to Choose Trail Running Shoes - Buying Guide

What makes a good pair of running shoes depends on your preferences and the terrain. However, you should consider the condition of the surfaces and trails you use, the amount of cushioning in the shoe, and the heel-to-toe drop. 

Determine What Surfaces You Will Run On

There are typically three different types of trail running shoes for various surfaces. These types include trails that are relatively even, such as gravel paths. They also include rugged trails that can include mud and rocks. Plus, off trails with streams, inclement weather exposure, and terrain with undefined paths.

Lightweight Shoes for Even Trails

Lightweight Shoes for Even Trails

Trail running shoes designed for light trails or paths with relatively even surfaces have a low profile, a breathable mesh upper, a lightweight design, and shallow lugs for traction on soil that's packed


These shoes also provide some degree of protection from rocks. Some trail running shoes made for light trails have more cushioning, while others have a minimal amount. 

Support and Protection for Rugged Trails

Support and Protection for Rugged Trails

Shoes made for rugged trails give you more support and protection via toe guards and underfoot plates. The material in the upper section has additional support and is sturdier to give you added stability


The soles of these shoes have diverse patterns for added grip from multiple directions. The sole designs and traction also allow mud and softer soil to break free.


Trail running shoes designed for challenging paths use the most resilient materials, like polyurethane foam midsoles. By comparison, rugged trail shoes typically have EVA, a rubber-like plastic foam, midsoles. Off-trail shoes are more likely to use waterproof materials, such as GORE-TEX, for protection against rain, snow, water, and cold. 

Mesh and Tall Lugs for Muddy Trails

Mesh and Tall Lugs for Muddy Trails

If you live in a hot and humid climate, look for a mesh material that will dry out quickly and provide good air circulation. 


The bottom of your shoes should also feature tall lugs with wider spacing that can go deep into muddy soil without having the soil stick to the shoe. These lugs are typically at least five millimeters deep or tall. You should also look for a stronger reinforced toe box and foot cradle that prevents falls and twisting. 

Consider the Amount of Cushioning

Consider the Amount of Cushioning

Trail running shoes can offer everything from no padding to heavy padding. If you have joint and knee problems or pain, heavy cushioning can lessen the impact your joints feel while running. 


You might choose a moderate amount of padding if you want to use your shoes on uneven trails with rocks and paved roads, you run long distances, or you typically run on trails with packed surfaces or soil. 


Minimal or no cushioning will work for you if you're running short distances, are running on smooth or soft trails, or like to feel the ground under your feet.  

Look For Shoes With a Rock Plate or Nylon Shank

Look For Shoes With a Rock Plate or Nylon Shank

Rock plates and nylon shanks are plastic inserts or fiberglass and plastic support structures that sit between the midsole and outsole. 


While running on gravel or rocky trails, you will want a running shoe with a rock plate or nylon shank built into the midsole to prevent your feet from bruising. Runners who are going to stick to smooth, even, or soft trails may not want this additional protection. 


Rock plates and nylon shanks can add extra weight to trail running shoes, which some people may be uncomfortable with. Alternatively, you can look for thicker foam instead of a rock plate. Foam absorbs more shock and impact, while rock plates make the ground feel more natural under your feet. Rock plates also keep your feet secure.  

Determine the Appropriate Heel-to-Toe Drop

Determine the Appropriate Heel-to-Toe Drop

The heel-to-toe drop is the variance between the heel height and forefoot height, and it also relates to cushioning. Barfoot shoes have a heel-to-toe drop of zero millimeters, while minimal shoes have measurements between zero and four millimeters. Moderate to maximum cushioning ranges from five to 12 millimeters.


If you're not sure what heel-to-toe drop will work for you, take a look at your current running shoes or other shoes you find comfortable. Lower measurements give you better balance and stability when landing, but not everyone's feet will do well with a lower heel-to-toe drop. 


If you're switching to a shoe with lower measurements, you will want to give yourself time to break in the shoes and get used to the feeling. 

More Helpful Gear for Exercising Outdoors!

More Helpful Gear for Exercising Outdoors!

Exercising outdoors can give you a feeling a treadmill can't, but there are some extra considerations and gear you will need to keep in mind. Check out these suggestions!

Summary

We hope our top 10 list and buying guide gave you a better idea of what to look for in your next pair of trail running shoes. 


Remember to consider the types of surfaces you will be running on and the amount of cushioning and support you need. With some evaluation of what level of comfort and protection you need, you will find a pair that works in your favor. Here's to getting your run on in the great outdoors!


Author: Helen Akers


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