If you don’t have time to read the entire review and just want to find out the best trail running shoes, then we recommend the Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoe as the best choice.
While running on roads and in the park can be great fun, there is no denying that trail running takes exercising to a different level.
When you are trail running you are immersed in the great outdoors with all the beauty that it offers, and the challenges that it can present. Not least of these is ensuring that your footing is both stable and secure. To achieve this, you need to be wearing the best trail running shoes possible.
This article will help you choose, plus our buyer’s guide will highlight what to look for.
We’re going to review the following best trail running shoes:
- New Balance Men’s Mt410v5 Cushioning Trail Running Shoes
- Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes
- Merrell Trail Glove 4 Running Shoes
- Altra Men’s Lone Peak 4 Trail Running Shoes
- Vibram Men’s V Trail Running Shoes
Best Trail Running Shoes Reviews
Whenever you go trail running you want to be wearing a pair of running shoes that will support your feet adequately and are comfortable at the same time. That is exactly what these trail running shoes from New Balance will give you.
Whenever we are reviewing any kind of sports shoe it is almost certain that New Balance will be there given their huge range of sports footwear, and in the case of their Mt410v5 trail running shoes, they have once again hit the mark in term of quality and comfort, in addition to giving you a good range of color options.
The outsole is made of rubber which is the go-to material for most decent trail running shoes. The grip is ok, but more importantly the sole is durable, so it should last well, given the rough terrain that you might be running on.
The midsole and footbed incorporate foam to ensure your feet are well cushioned and have the desired amount of stability that is needed when running on trails where the ground will most likely be uneven.
The uppers are a combination of synthetic material and leather, meaning you get the best qualities from both. With the leather, there Is the obvious benefit of its durability, as well as providing further support. The synthetic material is breathable, which helps evaporate sweat and keep your feet cool and fresh.
What I Like
Using a combination of leather and synthetics in the uppers is a clever choice as it provides multiple benefits which complement each other such as flexibility and durability.
What I Don’t Like
Given that these are trail running shoes it is surprising to note that the amount of support in the arch area is somewhat limited compared to others we have reviewed.
- Good color options
- Durable rubber outsole
- Foam insole for stability and comfort
- Leather/synthetic upper
- Pull tab on heel
- Very rigid when new
- Grip underfoot is average
These very distinctive trail running shoes are made by ‘Salomon’ which has a huge reputation for manufacturing high-quality sports equipment, especially for outdoor pursuits like trail running.
This is the fourth version of Salomon’s ‘Speedcross’ trail running shoes and as such, they incorporate a whole host of advanced features. Starting with the upper, it is made from advanced water-resistant fabric, that will help keep your feet dry if you are running in wet conditions.
As part of the upper, there is a mesh fabric that will keep debris such as small stones and grit from getting inside the shoes. Salomon’s trademarked ‘Sensifit’ provides the necessary wrap around the foot so that the shoe fits precisely. This works in conjunction with the inner sock liner which has the added benefit of keeping your feet cool.
The lacing is somewhat unique and involves a ‘one-pull’ system to close the shoe, which along with frictionless eyelets make the shoes very secure. There is even a lace pocket where the laces can be stored.
EVA material is used for the footbed, and as you may already know molded EVA has the qualities which provide stability, flexibility and the comfort needed for these sorts of sports shoes.
Although they are very lightweight, this should not hide the fact that they are rugged too, which is especially so in terms of the grip underfoot. The grip pattern is very effective when you are running on wet surfaces and provides a great platform from which you can take each step.
What I Like
The textiles used for the uppers in these trail running shoes are extremely comfortable and do a great job of keeping your feet cool and dry in all conditions.
What I Don’t Like
The lacing system is good in dry conditions but if these shoes get covered in mud or other debris when it’s wet outside it is extremely difficult to tighten or loosen them.
- Excellent grip on wet surfaces
- ‘One-pull’ lacing system
- Molded EVA midsole
- Anti-debris mesh
- Very lightweight
- Studs can be felt on hard surfaces
- Narrow in most sizes
Merrell is another company which is highly respected in the field of apparel and equipment for activities like hiking, climbing and of course, trail running, so there are high expectations for their Trail Grove 4 running shoes.
The first impression of the Trail Glove 4 is that it’s a streamlined trail running shoe with a very low profile. The main benefit of this is that it does not have any superfluous material and therefore should be lighter in terms of its weight. The other benefit is that as you running there is less resistance and therefore you should require less energy for each stride.
The upper is made from a combination of TPU and mesh to provide a robust, but very comfortable running shoe. The lining is also made from a breathable material and this is obviously going to help with the evaporation of sweat from the shoe, and thus help keep your feet free from odors.
Merrell has incorporated a number of their very own trade-marked features within the midsole, and the outsole of the Trail grove 4. Within the shoe, there is the ‘TrailProtect’ pad which provides protection for your feet by way of absorbing the force as you take each stride.
Underneath we find the outsole which is made from a material call ‘Vibram TC5+’. It might sound more like the name of a robot on Star Wars, but in reality, it is a high spec material used in the production of sports shoe outsoles to provide enhanced traction
What I Like
The streamlined profile of these trail running shoes not only provides a practical benefit in terms of reduced resistance, but it also makes the shoes look very modern too.
What I Don’t Like
While the grip is not poor by any means they do not feel as secure when running on wet surfaces which is disappointing for shoes designed for trail running
- Breathable mesh lining
- ‘TrailProtect’ pad for protection
- Streamlined profile
- Choice of 9 colors
- TPU and mesh upper
- Arch support is lacking
- Not very durable
Although the upper might suggest that this is simply another training shoe, there is no denying this is a shoe designed for trail running once you turn them over and see the impressive tread pattern on the sole.
That sole we just mentioned is made from rubber so it should prove to very durable. In addition, the tread pattern incorporates lugs across the toe area which should ensure that you will be sure-footed at all times. Those lugs should also help enhance the traction you have when stepping off on inclines.
Directly under your foot, the midsole is made from a cushioning compound that absorbs the energy which is generated every time your foot hits the ground. By doing so, it reduces the stress on your joints and the impact on the soles of your feet, which should minimize the risk of any injuries.
Trail running by its very nature means you are likely to encounter stones and grit, and if they ingress into your shoes it can be very uncomfortable. This is why the Altra’s redesigned ‘Stoneguard’ feature is most welcome, as it will deflect debris away from the inside of your shoes.
Sticking with the subject of comfort, the upper’s mesh material not only provides a snug fit, but it is also breathable so it will help to keep your feet dry by allowing moisture such as sweat to evaporate easily.
What I Like
The lugs which are positioned in the toe area of the sole are a great innovation and definitely help with traction whenever you are climbing up or climbing down an incline.
What I Don’t Like
Toe rubber is known to separate on longer or rugged trails, and while it is easily remedied with strong glue, this is a tick in the negative column.
- Rubber sole for durability
- Breathable mesh upper
- Cushioned midsole
- Lugs on toe section for traction
- 5 color options
- Lace holes should extend further
- Minimal sole cushioning
Our fifth and final trail running shoes come from Vibram, and it is safe to say these are undoubtedly the most unique of all of them, for a number of reasons.
If you were to look down on these trail running shoes from above, you will see that they look like a foot, including the toes. The reason for that is because that is exactly how they are designed to be worn. When you place these on your feet, you need to locate each toe individually in the same way you put your fingers in a pair of gloves.
It does take some getting used to, but once you do then the massive benefit to you is that the level of comfort that you will experience, especially around the ball of your foot, is exceptional. The other aspect of this that many runners comment on is that they have a better ‘feel’ underfoot, which is understandable, given that your toes and feet are positioned as they would if you were running barefoot.
The rubber sole is extremely flexible, and it provides superior contact with the ground with every step you take. The grip pattern provides excellent traction in all directions
The shoes are also designed to effectively cocoon your foot and by doing so they promote the stability of your feet. This cocooning also helps prevent grit and stones from entering the shoe.
What I Like
The soft polyester and spandex upper is extremely comfortable and as mentioned above, the upper feels like it is cocooning your feet.
What I Don’t Like
If you are trail running in wet weather be prepared for these to absorb a lot of moisture and subsequently take a lot of time to dry out afterward.
- Excellent traction underfoot
- Very comfortable
- EVA insole for stability
- Prevent grit/stones from entering
- 8 color options
- Can be difficult to put on
- Sizes can be large
Buying a pair of trail running shoes requires a great deal of thought in terms of ensuring that the ones you buy are going to allow you to run safely. Most runners know that, but the question which is often asked at this point, is ‘What should I be looking for?’ this is a very valid question because trail running shoes have different features from standard running shoes or basic sneakers.
In order to help you make a more informed choice, we have produced this short buying guide, which goes through the 6 features which we believe are the most important. By understanding what these features are, and then comparing them between the trail running shoes in our reviews, you will hopefully make the right choice when it comes time to buy them.
There are generally three types of trail running shoe. the first is called ‘Off Trail’ and these are used for running on rocky or very uneven ground. They are very robust and resilient. Next, we have ‘Rugged Trail’, and these are shoes which can be used on most types of terrain and hiking trails.
These are the most versatile trail running shoes with good grip and stability. finally, there is the ‘Light Trail’ running shoe which is suited to more even ground such as parks and country paths. They are lightweight and more flexible than the other two types.
As you are likely to be running on surfaces that are not perfect, you need good cushioning to help dampen the impact as you run and to help keep your feet comfortable. Some trail running shoes have thick outsoles and midsoles, and others are somewhat thinner.
When it comes to trail running shoes it is essential that they fit you properly. Always check the sizing chart to make sure that the shoe you want is available in your size. Take account of the sorts of socks you normally wear when running and whether or not you use additional insoles.
Padding is normally found around the upper, the collar area and the tongue of trail running shoes. It helps to protect this area of your foot from impacts and scratches as you run, makes the shoes more comfortable and also supplements the stability of the running shoe.
Trail running shoes come in a range of weights based on the type of shoe they are. ‘Light Trail’ shoes require less bulk as they are not designed to be used in rugged terrain and thus weight less than ‘Rugged’ or ‘Off Trail’ running shoes. The maximum weight tends to be around 12 lbs., with shoes weighing around 2 lbs. at the other end of the scale.
The grip is obviously a critical element when you are running across trails and so it is essential that the tread on the outsole of your shoes is effective. You will see that some treads are particularly good at maintaining traction on slippery surfaces, so if you tend to run in wet weather these types of running shoes are recommended.
Best Trail Running Shoes FAQ
How do I choose trail running shoes?
You are already taking the best first step to choosing trail running shoes by reading this article. Thereafter, you want to pick a pair of trail running shoes that are appropriate for the types of trail you will be running on. Ensure they have good support, and that the grip underfoot is sufficient.
What are trail running shoes?
Trail running shoes are footwear designed for running in locations and on terrain that would be considered ‘off-road.’ In other words, if you run in the countryside, across rocky surfaces, and on trials then trail running shoes should be worn.
Why do I need trail running shoes?
Trail running shoes provide you with several benefits due to the surfaces that you will be running on. The first is the grip that they provide underfoot, which is essential to ensure that you have good traction and that the risk of your foot slipping is minimized. They also offer excellent support and stability which should alleviate any potential pain caused by foot ailments.
How should trail running shoes fit?
Unlike some types of sports footwear, you want your trail running shoes to fit as snuggly around your foot as possible. This reduces the amount of vibration which transfers through your foot when running on uneven surfaces.
Why wear trail running shoes?
When running on the rugged and uneven terrain that you find when trail running, your feet are at more risk of injury than running on a track, for example. For this reason, trail running shoes are essential as they provide extra grip underfoot, enhanced stability, and they are normally more durable.
Hopefully, the reviews, buying guide and FAQ have helped you to come to a decision as to which pair of trail running shoes you are going to buy, or have at least helped to make that decision somewhat easier for you.
To be honest it is a tough choice as each of the trail running shoes we reviewed have merits, however, we need to pick one to be the ‘best’, and in this case, the winner is Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoe.
The fabrics used for the uppers are very comfortable and the ‘one-pull’ lacing system is excellent. Other notable benefits include the anti-debris mesh and the molded EVA midsole.