The best trail running shoes 2024: get a grip on the trickiest terrain

Collage of the best trail running shoes
(Image credit: Future)

If you're planning to run off road then the best trail running shoes are a vital piece of kit. With reinforced foot plates and sticky treads you'll be able to tackle treacherous frost, squelchy mud, and debris-strewn ground, sometimes in the space of a single outing.

With this in mind, it's worth really delving into the specs when choosing a new pair to make sure they suit the needs of the terrain, particularly where the outsole is concerned. If you've spent time sliding around all over the place when the going gets muddy, you might be surprised at the difference deeper lugs can make to your runs.

As well as traction, the best trail running shoes provide breathability, protection and a certain amount of cushioning, which differs from shoe to shoe. More cushioning equals a bouncy ride, which some find more comfortable, while others prefer the trail feel of a more minimal pair.

All the trail shoes featured have been thoroughly put through their paces in the backcountry by our testers. The Saucony Endorphin Edge is still one of our favourites, while mountain runners with their eyes on the sky should consider the La Sportiva Bushido II.

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The quick list

This is our quick list, a brief overview of the best trail running shoes available today. To find out more about each product, see our more detailed write ups further down the page in this guide.

The best trail running shoes

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

The best for comfort

best trail running shoes: Saucony Endorphin Edge

The Saucony Endorphin Edge is super lightweight, with great traction in wet conditions (Image credit: Future)
The best trail running shoe for outright comfort

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 255g / 9oz
Materials: textile upper, EVA foam midsole, carbon fiber plate, rubber outsole (includes some recycled materials)
Drop: 6mm
Best for: Trail running, mixed terrain routes

Reasons to buy

+
Springy full length carbon plate
+
Ideal amount of cushioning
+
Roomy toebox with a secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive compared to comparable shoes

The first thing we noticed when we pulled the Saucony Endorphin Edge out of its box was its light weight and stiff build. Both of these can be attributed to a full-length carbon plate embedded in the midsole, which is springy and fun even on difficult terrain, offering plenty of control. This is reinforced by a full-length rockplate to protect the midsole EVA foam from stones and roots.

The upper is closely woven with a thinly cushioned, gusseted tongue to prevent ingress of dirt, grit, and water. The toe is reinforced with a generously sized rubberized area, and there's a firm plastic heel counter round the back. Saucony has also built in a heel loop to make the Edge easier to pull on swiftly when it's time to hit the trails. The outsole is equipped with chevron-shaped lugs, which are quite widely spaced. We found they prevented the accumulation of excess mud.

The Saucony Endorphin Edge is built for speed on tricky terrain, and gives a fast, fun ride thanks to its full-length carbon plate. The foam midsole strikes the perfect balance, offering enough cushioning to absorb shock (particularly on downhills) without compromising stability. If your wallet can take the hit, it's easily one of the best trail running shoes you can buy today.

Read our full Saucony Endorphin Edge review

The best for slick terrain

best trail running shoes: Merrell MTL Long Sky 2

The Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 is light and breathable, with a snug fit and good cushioning (Image credit: Future)
The best trail running shoe for slick terrain

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 280g / 9.9oz
Materials: 5mm Vibram MegaGrip soles, EVA foam insole with 100% recycled top sheet, FloatPro Foam midsole
Drop: 4mm
Best for: Technical trail running

Reasons to buy

+
Internal bootie for locked-in fit
+
5mm lugs handle slick terrain nicely
+
Good cushion and decent trail feel

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof
-
Low drop may not work for heel strikers

These trail runners are lightweight for when we wanted to go fast and far and with an internal bootie that pulls on like a sock, we got an instant locked-in fit without having to retie our laces. Easy to pull on, the snug fit around the cuff is balanced with a roominess around the toe box which adds to the light, airy feel of these shoes.

Breathable mesh uppers with a TPU overlay manage to be durable and keep feet cool when out in hot weather, plus they’re quick drying for when we were splashing through puddles. Once we hit uneven, rocky terrain, we really appreciated the stability provided by the low 4mm drop combined with 5mm lugs on the MegaGrip soles, which hold up even in slick conditions. They’re not waterproof, but with gaiter attachments we could easily protect our feet in any deluge.

The FloatPro Foam midsole strikes a nice balance between cushioning and a decent trail feel. These aren’t big and bouncy for super long runs, nor are they barefoot and minimal – they’re great for handling technical terrain and mixed conditions with confidence.

Read our full Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 trail running shoes review

The best all rounder

inov-8 TrailFly

Tough and hardwearing, the inov-8 Trail Fly Ultra G 300 Max is the best trail running shoe you can buy today (Image credit: inov-8)
The best trail running shoes all round

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 300g / 10.6oz
Materials: Synthetic upper; G-fly mid sole; Graphene outsole
Drop: 6mm
Colors: Green and black
Compatibility: Ultra running, all-distance trail running on hard and rocky terrain, and some road running

Reasons to buy

+
Very durable outsole
+
Excellent grip on harder surfaces
+
Comfortable for mile after mile

Reasons to avoid

-
Very little trail feel
-
Relatively expensive compared to most

In April 2021, inov-8 unveiled the Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max, featuring the world’s first graphene-enhanced midsole compound (called G-fly foam). Combined with the extreme durability of the graphene-enhanced rubber outsole the brand introduced in 2018, this shoe is taking trail running footwear into a whole new realm. Graphene has been reported to be the world’s strongest material, but as a nanotechnology it is also one of the thinnest. When inov-8 included the two-dimensional honeycomb lattice carbon allotrope (say that 10 times fast while running over rocks!) into a proprietary foam compound with help of scientists at the University of Manchester, it resulted in 25% more energy return and vastly enhance durability compared to other midsole

As trail runners, we want long-haul comfort from soft cushioning, rugged durability, grippy traction and energy propulsion that puts a spring in our steps, and the TrailFly Ultra G 300 Max offers all of that and more. Also, it doesn’t have the unyieldingly firm sensation as many new trail shoes do, with carbon-fiber propulsion plates embedded in their midsoles – instead, with these there’s a soft, flexible and resilient sensation that will pay dividends deep into a long training run or a 50K or 100-mile trail running race. On the downside, if you’re a tactile runner and you like a bit of trail feel, you’re not going to get any of that with these shoes, which have a chunky, almost maximalist midsole with a rocker, which performs well in terms of transference of energy, but completely cuts out any feedback from the terrain below your feet.

Read our full inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max review

The best for heel strikers

best trail running shoes: Merrell Agility Peak 5

A high-performing, richly featured, very versatile shoe for pounding peaks or simply scampering around your local trails   (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best trail running shoes for heel strikers

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 309g / 11oz (men's size 11)
Drop: 6mm
Materials: Mesh and TPU upper / EVA foam footbed (50% recycled) / FloatPro Foam midsole / Vibram MegaGrip rubber outsole
Colors: Men’s: Black / White / Black & tangerine / Oyster & coyote / Tahoe & cloud / High rise & High viz / Tahoe & tangerine; Women’s: Pear & burgundy / Atoll & cloud / Black / White / Black & tangerine / Oyster & coyote
Compatibility: All kinds of trail running, up to and including alpine trails and skyrunning routes

Reasons to buy

+
Protective rockplate
+
Excellent grip
+
Well-ventilated upper
+
Integrated tongue 

Reasons to avoid

-
No toe protection
-
Zero trail feedback
-
High stack (31–25mm) won’t suit all runners
-
Too rigid and over-specced for some low-level runners

For the new iteration of their popular and high-performing Agility Peak trail running shoe, Merrell have increased the roll in the rocker, shaved a few grams from the overall weight and improved the heel cup, so it supplies more support and increases runner confidence on tricky trails. 

Despite the reverse camber shape of the sole, designed to assist with forward momentum (especially for heel-strikers), there is a 6mm heel-to-toe drop in these shoes, which is modest enough to suit most trail runners. The amount of FloatPro Foam in the midsole is generous, and on test these shoes supplied us with plenty of cushioning and positive rebound, although this high, bouncy stack comes at the expense of all trail feel.

Feedback from the terrain would be limited anyway, because a protective rockpate runs along the length of the Agility 5, preventing sharp rocks and sticks from puncturing your poor feet, and supplying a decent degree of torsional rigidity that comes in handy when you’re negotiating rocky scrambly sections of a high-flying route. Lower down, in amongst the mud, the nicely spaced 5mm lugs on the excellent Vibram MegaGrip outsole provide the traction and braking control required to tackle slippery ascents and descents, without collecting too much muck. 

Find out how the shoes performed when one of our expert gear testers put them on to tackle the technical trails in the tough, rough and rocky terrain of the Alps around Chamonix.

Read our full Merrell Agility Peak 5 review

The best for foot lockdown

best trail running shoes: The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Trail Running Shoes

With superior lockdown, breathable mesh uppers and a light, rocker sole, these shoes are designed with speed in mind (Image credit: Future)
The best rail running shoe for foot lockdown

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 200g / 7oz (women’s UK 4)
Materials: Outsole: Rubber, Midsole: Foam, Upper: Synthetic mesh
Drop: 4mm
Best for: Trail running

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and breathable
+
Rockered midsole with carbon fiber plate offer good rebound and stability
+
Secure, sock-like fit with braided laces

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Lugs aren't deep enough for mud or highly technical terrain
-
Midfoot may be too narrow for some

These great shoes are built for people who don’t want to slow down just because they’re crossing uneven terrain. A thick, but light foam rocker sole is enhanced by the addition of a carbon plate, which ensures stability when the going gets rough and helps to propel you forward with every step. On test, we found the cushioning isn’t exactly maximalist plush, but offers plenty of protection from the ground underfoot. A sock-like fit and secure lacing system meant we could really lock our heel down, and braided laces stayed put over long runs.

The mesh uppers of these shoes are more like a plastic netting covering your forefoot, while a panel of synthetic fabric extends from your midfoot to your heel, providing breathability and quick drying technology if you hit some puddles or stream crossings. Both the heel and toes are well-reinforced to prevent painful toe stubbings when it’s rocky underfoot. The rubber outsoles are grippy on rocky paths, but with only 3.5mm lugs, these shoes aren’t great on muddy or highly technical trails. For the price, you might want a little more technical performance from these shoes, but if you have the money and want a light and fast ride over gravel and dirt paths, you’ll like the way these shoes handle.

All in all, these trail running shoes help you move quickly over rough ground and offer good protection and stability, but aren’t quite tough enough for muddy trails and steep, ultra technical terrain.

Read our full The North Face Summit Vectiv Sky Trail Running Shoes review

The best for sky racing

La Sportiva Bushido II

The La Sportiva Bushido II is built for seriously technical trails, with a big focus on stability (Image credit: La Sportiva)
The best mountain-fit trail running shoe for skyracing

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 305g / 10.75oz
Materials: TPU skeleton and synthetic mesh upper, compressed EVA midsole, Frixion Red rubber compound sole
Drop: 6mm
Best for: mountain paths and technical singletrack trails

Reasons to buy

+
Superb grip on a highly technical sole 
+
Very stable ride
+
Robust but lightweight upper

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly stiff collar
-
Not waterproof

The Bushido II means business as soon as it bounces out of the box. These shoes are intended for running technical trails on pointy shaped hills. The design and fit is aggressive, with a big emphasis on stability in the lateral way the upper connects to the sole, so we found we could really drop the hammer and go for it on technical trails, while the style and layout of the lugs helped us stay comfortably in control during descents, putting faith in the ‘impact brake system’. 

There’s a lot going on in the dual-compound ‘FriXion Red’ sole: the outer lugs rise up and wrap around the midsole, which inspires confidence when cornering and provides extra protection against sharp sticks and stones on the paths, while the studs on the central section supply extra traction and support. We found there was a reasonable amount of cushioning in the midsole, and the upper is constructed from a tough TPU skeleton combined with mesh, to keep the weight down. 

There’s a modest 6mm drop between heel and toe, which is a compromise height, so we think this shoe will be comfortable for the majority of people, regardless of whether their forefoot, midfoot or heel hits the ground first. If you’re a purist barefoot runner, however, this drop might be a tad too much for your liking.

Read our full La Sportiva Bushido II review

The best for hard packed trails

best trail running shoes: inov-8 Trailfly G 270 V2

The return of a modern classic, the Trailfly G 270 V2 (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)
The best trail running shoe for hard packed trails

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 270g / 9.5oz
Drop: 0mm
Colors: (men’s) Green/Black, Blue/Nectar, Pine/Lime, Graphite/Black: (women’s) Blue/Grey, Pine/Peach
Compatibility: Medium to long distance trail runs on hard-packed surfaces

Reasons to buy

+
Durable Graphene sole
+
Fun, propulsive ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for boggy ground
-
Mud can get caught in sole

We found that the return of a modern classic didn’t disappoint. Fast feeling, responsive and simply fun to run in, the Trailfly G 270 V2 is an ideal companion for trail running exploits in the warmer months. Look elsewhere if muddy terrain or the kind of softer ground you get up on the hills and moors are you bag. However, most will undoubtedly enjoy these excellent shoes, which truly excel on harder surfaces and are comfortable for mile after mile.

Those familiar with the original G 270 will immediately appreciate that this is very much a case of evolution rather than revolution. The outsole and midsole are unchanged, it’s in the upper that things have been spiced up a little. The V2 boasts a brand-new mesh material, one that’s 25% more durable than its predecessor, according to laboratory testing. Another enhancement is in the positioning of the four overlay strips on both sides of the shoe. They’ve been moved further back and we found this gave more flexibility and breathability right across the forefoot.

The tongue is also a little tastier, with a form-fitting shape and more padding that helps to lock down the midfoot, something the Trailfly series is renowned for. Fit wise, we found the V2 holds securely across the midfoot and the heel feels nicely contained, while a wide toe box gives a nice amount of wiggle room. They’re comfy straight out of the box.

Read our full inov-8 Trailfly G 270 V2 review

The best for training runs

best trail running shoes: Dynafit Alpine Running Shoes

The Dynafit Alpine has superb traction, and features a seamless tongue to avoid chafing (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)
The best all-purpose trail running shoe for heel strikers

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 280g / 9.9oz
Materials: Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole
Drop: 6mm
Colors: Alloy/ blackout, Fjord lime punch, Magnet frost, Winter moss blackout
Compatibility: Hiking, trekking, backpacking, trail running

Reasons to buy

+
Light compared to most
+
Superb traction
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as much trail feel as some
-
Doesn’t quite lock to the feet

Dynafit markets the Alpine trail running shoe as a ‘light, comfortable, all-rounder for technical terrain’ and we agree, finding it to be a jack of all trades that quietly does everything well. Cushioned enough to be comfortable yet minimalist enough to allow you to feel your way across the terrain, the Alpines are a great option for training runs, particularly if you’re a heel striking runner thanks to their 6mm drop.

Out of the box, they're good looking without being flashy. The protection around the heel and toes is immediately obvious, while its seamless tongue promises comfort without the chafing you get from pressure points. The Alpine Rocker sole design is intended to give excellent responsiveness and balanced cushioning even on rough terrain. Despite a good amount of cushioning, they manage to remain lightweight at 280g per shoe. 

The outsole contains the same Vibram Megagrip rubber found on many other leading trail running shoes and approach shoes, giving ironclad grip on rock, and there are chevron-shaped lugs for traction on muddy surfaces, though these are not as aggressive as some, so aren't in their element in a quagmire. Unlike some Dynafit running shoes, there’s no waterproof membrane but then they’re not intended for long periods of wear, so this isn’t such an issue. It seems we do indeed have a competent all-rounder on our hands – or paws, as it may be.

Read our full Dynafit Alpine Running Shoe review

The best cushioning

best trail running shoes: Hoka Tecton X

The Hoka Tecton X is a well cushioned trail running shoe, which means you get great shock absorption but at the expense of some trail feel (Image credit: Fiona Russell)
The best cushioned trail running shoe

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 240g/8.5oz
Materials: Vibram Megagrip with Litebase outsoles, recycled polyester laces, EVA sockliner, carbon fiber plates
Drop: 5mm
Best for: Trails and tarmac

Reasons to buy

+
Very lightweight and well cushioned
+
Vegan materials

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive compared others of similar quality

Hoka Tecton X trail running shoes are designed for speed on the trails, while also offering plenty of comfort.

The upper is single-layer jacquard engineered mesh that hugs the foot. Hoka has added a non-molded EVA sockliner to aid support inside the shoe. Polyester laces with (undefined) recycled content fit into a ghillie lacing system to make it easy to lace them up to the required tension. Underfoot there is a a ProFlyX midsole, which combines a lightweight and responsive foam base with an ultra-soft foam in-sole lining.

The outsole is Hoka’s own design of Vibram Megagrip with Litebase construction. The lugs are 4mm depth and with “zonal rubber placement” to offer grip where needed. This is a shoe for running on forest tracks and lower level trails, as well as some asphalt, rather than technical, muddy and rocky hill paths and mountain slopes. 

Read our full Hoka Texton X review

The best for long runs

best trail running shoes: Nike Wildhorse 8

These shoes deliver practically unparalleled comfort during those long runs, and look good enough to wear around town (Image credit: Future)
Best for comfort for long runs