The best trail running shoes 2024: get a grip on winter's trickiest terrain

If you're planning to run through winter 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.

Winter calls for better weather protection and aggressive, deeper lugs to provide grip on slippery trail surfaces.

With this in mind, it's worth really delving into the specs when choosing a new pair for winter and early spring runs, particularly where the outsole is concerned. If you've spent previous winters sliding around all over the place, 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.

Meet the expert

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.

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.

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

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