The best road to trail running shoes 2024: footwear for all terrains

The best road to trail running shoes provide a happy medium between suitability for both hard-packed surfaces and softer ground. They're ideal for those looking to transition from tarmac to the myriad terrain types encountered when trail running, or for those who often pound well-constructed paths or enjoy park runs.

Features wise, the best road to trail running shoes have much in common with trail shoes when it comes to their sole, with cleats to help you keep your footing when roaming off the beaten path. However, they're also cushioned, which is vital for absorbing the force of hitting the pavement when you move onto the road.

We've tested the best road to trail running shoes in a variety of settings to bring you this guide to the very finest options available in 2024. Our pick for the best all-rounder is the Parkclaw G 280 from British brand inov-8, who also make many of the best trail running shoes around.

The quick list

This is the quick list, a snapshot of the best road to trail running shoes available in 2024. To delve deeper into the features and qualities of each featured pair, see our more detailed reviews further down the page in this guide.

best running jackets: Claire Maxted
Claire Maxted

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, she writes for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, and her book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k was released in 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races. 

The best road to trail running shoes 2024

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The best road to trail running shoe overall

best road to trail running shoes: Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280

A super robust pair of comfortable, cushioned running shoes with grip that lasts a lifetime (Image credit: Fiona Russell)
The best road to trail running shoe overall

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 510g / 18oz
Colors: Men’s: Black / Blue / Yellow; Women’s: Blue / Red
Drop: 8mm
Compatibility: Rough roads and trails where durable grip is required

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent, durable grip
+
Light
+
Grippy laces
+
Cushioned
+
Comfy straight from the box
+
Snug fit

Reasons to avoid

-
High price
-
Laces tricky to pull tight (re-lacing solves this)
-
Toe box not super wide
-
No recycled materials/production mentioned

The incredibly durable grip of the Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280s is thanks to the inclusion of graphene, one of the world’s strongest materials, in the rubber outsole and foam midsole. This is a bombproof road to trail running shoe, which we found was light and comfy straight from the box, with padding from the gusseted tongue and a secure heel. 

The outsole is studded with deep cleats for muddy tracks and trails, combined decent cushioning. "It’s great to have a shoe that offers a good balance of cushioning, yet still allows you to feel the trail under your feet," stated one of our running experts. The grip really is excellent on all surfaces.

However, in certain types of especially sticky field mud, this shoe does like to hold on to gloop between its plentiful but narrowly-spaced 4mm deep cleats. The toe box is not super wide compared to some of the others here, which is interesting as it is 4/5 for wideness on Inov-8’s fit scale. The laces are very grippy and stable making for a wonderfully secure fit throughout, but they do take some hoiking as they are laced the opposite way round to most shoes.

Read our full Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280 review

The best road to trail running shoe for grip

Salomon Sense Ride 4 road to trail running shoe

Light-feeling, quick-lacing and designed for tackling soft, muddy trails at speed, with a bit of road thrown in for good measure (Image credit: Salomon)
Best for grip

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 526g / 18.6oz
Colors: Men’s: Black / Blue / Orange / Gray; Women’s: Peach / Turquoise / Maroon / Blue / Red / Purple
Drop: 8mm
Compatibility: Softer trails with not as much road or rock beneath the feet

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent, durable grip
+
Reasonably light
+
Quicklace system
+
Large range of colors

Reasons to avoid

-
Lace lock housing covered by laces
-
Shaped footbed may not suit everyone (but you can swap it easily)
-
Fit slightly big
-
No recycled production/materials mentioned

The Salomon Sense Ride 4s appear lighter than they actually weigh, with a breathable upper and a slim, bendy Optivibe foam midsole that allowed our feet to feel more of the terrain than a more cushioned road to trail running shoe would do. This means that, for most runners, the shoe is better suited to softer terrain – like grassy, muddy trails – more so than huge expanses of rock and road, especially with the excellent all-terrain Contagrip outsole with wide-spaced 4mm lugs. 

The fit of the shoe comes up around a half size big, which is actually a good size for those after an even roomier toe box, and we found the padded tongue and gusset are very comfortable too. Salomon’s trademark Quicklace system works really well for most runners. However in this model the top laces criss cross the lace lock housing making it very tricky to stow away quickly. Doh! 

Also, the OrthoLite footbed may not work for every foot shape as the arch curve could sit in the wrong place for your foot; if this happens simply replace the footbed with one from another shoe that works for you.

Read our full Salomon Sense Ride 4 review

The best road to trail running shoe for ultras

best road to trail running shoe: On Running Cloudultra

A versatile, durable all-rounder with some unique, innovative features for long-distance running and ultras (Image credit: Claire Maxted)
The best road to trail running shoe for ultras

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 565g / 20oz
Colors: Men’s: Olive / Black / Yellow; Women’s: Lavender / Black / Turquoise
Drop: 8mm
Compatibility: Long-distance runs on every terrain type

Reasons to buy

+
Unique front lace quick-widening clip
+
Elastic lace keeper
+
Wide toe area
+
Snug, wrap-around sock-style fit

Reasons to avoid

-
High price
-
Skinny laces
-
'Cloud' holes gather dirt

On Running Cloudultras feel wonderfully snug and securely-fitted with a wide, rounded toe box. The website advises to go half a size up, and this is good advice to ensure the best fit. Our tester says that she "found this a wonderfully comfortable shoe," once the fit is right. Most obviously, the unique feature about On Running’s shoes is their CloudTec pockets in the sole unit – a series of oblong holes that absorb the impact of foot strike and provide rebound. 

Having tried On Running’s earlier road running shoes back in 2017 / 2018, the Cloudultras really did not seem to have the same dramatic – almost illegal-feeling – bounce to them. They felt very much the same as all the other running shoes in this test despite the radically different sole unit. They are pleasantly bouncy but no more so than the rest, and when you’re running on trails, mud and grit finds its way into the holes and can get stuck there. 

They are also the heaviest in this test at 565g / 20oz for a women’s size UK 6.5, despite them being full of holes! An innovation we found much more useful was the FlipRelease towards the toe-end of the laces. Turn this to expand the laces at this point when your feet swell during longer runs; it’s a very useful feature, especially for ultra runners.

Read our full On Running Cloudultra review

The best road to trail running shoe for propulsion

best road to trail running shoes: Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3

A monochrome statement shoe that truly delivers in lightness, rebound and fun (Image credit: Claire Maxted)
The best road to trail running shoe for propulsion

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 492g / 17.4oz
Colors: Men’s: Black / Red / Dark Teal / Blue; Women’s: Blue / Light Blue / Red
Drop: 6mm
Compatibility: Long distances on a wide variety of surfaces

Reasons to buy

+
Very light
+
Comfy straight from the box
+
Bouncy ride
+
Great grip

Reasons to avoid

-
Surprisingly narrow toe box
-
Very small lace keeper

"Great fun to run in, as they’re so light and bouncy," says our principal trail running expert. The Norvan LD 3 from Arc’teryx is designed for long distances and it certainly gives enough rebound to propel you along the trails in comfort. 

Despite the lightweight design, the fit is roomy, great for the larger volume foot, but we wouldn’t advise going down a half size as the toe box is not overly wide. The fit is similar to the Brooks Cascadia 16 but the Arc’teryx InFuse midsole feels bouncier, especially in the heel area. This is good news for heel strikers, especially as the 6mm drop is noticeable compared to the 8mm drop on the majority of shoes here. As a result, the Norvan LD will best suit runners whose Achilles tendons and calf muscles can cope with less of a heel stack.

The Vibram MegaGrip sole with 4mm-deep lugs is superb in both rain and shine, and durable too. But our blue version with white sole is not going to stay white for very long. 

Read our full Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 review

The best road to trail running shoe for toe room

best road to trail running shoes: Columbia Montrail Trinity AG

A unique, asymmetric lacing system, great rebound and good grip make for a shoe at home on both roads and trails (Image credit: Claire Maxted)
The best road to trail running shoe for toe room

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 531g / 18.7oz
Colors: Men’s: Red / Blue; Women’s: Teal
Drop: 8mm
Compatibility: Slippery, wet runs when maximum bounce is required

Reasons to buy

+
Asymmetric lacing
+
Very bouncy
+
Good grip
+
Wide-ish toe area
+
17 per cent recycled material in OrthoLite Eco insole

Reasons to avoid

-
High price
-
Tongue lists to the outer side 
-
Inside tongue-gusset seam can rub

The Montrail Trinity AG road to trail running shoe from Columbia is unique in its asymmetric lacing, which is fantastic if you’ve tried regular straight-up-the-front lacing and it isn’t working for you. This is called the NavicFit system as it fits over the mid-foot navicular bone, which keeps your heel in place. Cool, but this is a problem we didn’t know needed fixing as we’ve never felt our heel was not in place in other running shoes…!

The padded tongue and debris gusset works in the same way as the other shoes, but we unfortunately found the high, bulky seam attaching them together created a hotspot for blisters when worn for over an hour, especially in the arch area. Double-layer socks would go some way to mitigating this problem if you find the same thing happening to you. 

This is a great shame as the ride is super bouncy with their Techlite+ cushioning and the AdatTrax grip is excellent in the rain. The gaiter velcro at the heel and corresponding loop on the front lace make this shoe great for gritty and sandy trails, and the stretchy laces are ideal for swelling feet. If the Trinity AGs fit you nicely, they’re amazing. 

Read our full Columbia Montrail Trinity AG review

The best road to trail running shoe for value

best road to trail running shoes: Scarpa Golden Gate ATR

A good-value shoe that’s comfy and padded enough for roads and still grippy on trails with breathable uppers perfect for summertime (Image credit: Claire Maxted)
The best road to trail running shoe for value

Specifications

Weight (pair UK 6.5): 509g / 18oz
Colors: Men’s: Acid Lime & Black / Military & Deep Green; Women’s: Aruba Blue & Black / Oasis & Deep Green
Drop: 4mm
Compatibility: Roads and trails in all weathers for runners wanting a lower drop shoe

Reasons to buy

+
Very breathable
+
Quick draining
+
Good grip
+
Comfy wrap-around sock-style fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower drop may not suit some runners
-
Harder to get on
-
Firm midsole
-
Cold in winter
-
No eco-friendly production/materials mentioned

"A fantastic road to trail shoe" says our trail running expert, the Golden Gate ATR is a highly breathable product with a minimalist heel-to-toe drop of just 4mm. The fit is small, so we advise going a half size bigger if you’re on the cusp of a size, and the feel is very comfortable thanks to the wrap-around Sock-Fit LW, which hugs the foot seamlessly without the need for a stitched tongue and gusset combination. This does make the shoe harder to get on, though. 

The ride of this shoe isn’t so much bouncy, as firm and propulsive – the lower drop heel combined with the i-Respond rocker work to push you forward making you feel light and speedy. And who doesn’t want that?  The sole is interesting, with Scarpa’s Presa rubber in widely spaced 4mm lugs, but there is an unprotected softer section in the middle of the heel that surely will wear down after a few hundred miles on trails. We’ll keep wearing them to see happens…

Read our full Scarpa Golden Gate ATR review