- Quick list
- Best for comfort
- Best for slick terrain
- Best all rounder
- Best for heel strikers
- Best for foot lockdown
- Best for sky racing
- Best for hard packed trails
- Best for training runs
- Best for cushioning
- Best for long runs
- Best for park runs
- Best value shoe
- Best lightweight shoe
- Best for durability
- Best road to trail shoe
- Best for technical trails
- Comparison table
- How we test
- How to choose
1. The list in brief ↴
2. Best for comfort
3. Best for slick terrain
4. Best all rounder
5. Best for heel strikers
6. Best for foot lockdown
7. Best for sky racing
8. Best for hard packed trails
9. Best for training runs
10. Best cushioning
11. Best for long runs
12. Best for park runs
13. Best value shoe
14. Best lightweight shoe
15. Best for durability
16. Best road to trail shoe
17. Best for technical trails
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
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 for outright comfort
The Saucony Endorphin Edge is built for speed on tricky terrain. We love the fast, fun ride it gives, thanks to its full-length carbon plate
The best for slick terrain
This shoe strikes a nice balance between cushioning and a decent trail feel. We'd choose them for handling technical terrain and mixed conditions with confidence
The best all rounder
We're here for the long-haul comfort from soft cushioning, rugged durability, grippy traction and energy propulsion. It also doesn’t have the unyieldingly firm sensation many new trail shoes do
The best for heel strikers
We appreciated the generous amount of FloatPro Foam in the midsole. On test these had plenty of cushioning and positive rebound, although the high, bouncy stack came at the expense of all trail feel
The best for foot lockdown
These shoes help you move quickly over rough ground and offer good protection and stability, but we think they aren’t quite tough enough for muddy trails and steep, ultra technical terrain
The best for sky racing
We think this shoe will be comfortable for most people, regardless of whether their forefoot, midfoot or heel hits the ground first. For purist barefoot runners the drop might be a tad too much
See more trail running shoes ↴
The best for hard packed trails
We think these excellent shoes truly shine on harder surfaces and are comfortable for mile after mile. Look elsewhere though if muddy terrain is more your bag.
The best for training runs
Well-cushioned, yet minimalist enough to allow you to feel your way across the terrain, we reckon the Alpines are a great option for training runs, particularly if you’re a heel striker
The best cushioning
We'd recommend this 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
The best for long runs
The lack of protection against hard rocks on the uppers mean that, while there's plenty of cushion underfoot, we'd save these for long, easy runs, rather than rugged technical trails
The best for park runs
We love the versatility of these multi-terrain shoes, which are designed so that you can run out of your front door and hit the streets, woods, beach or park
The best for wide feet
We reckon this a great value all-round trail and ultra shoe will suit many runners. They're a little on the heavy side, but that adds to the feeling that they'll last for many miles
The best lightweight shoe
We enjoyed this fun, nimble feeling shoe that feels made for speed thanks to its light weight and flexibility. It's pretty minimalist, but still has a distinctively cushioned feel
The best for durability
While there may not be anything specifically unique about these shoes, we think they'll be a good all-rounder for ultra running and will eat up any terrain you throw at them
The best road to trail shoe
We were impressed by the build of this shoe, with its Cordura re/cor upper, respectable multi-directional lugs underfoot, and better toe protection than many dedicated trail running shoes
The best for technical trails
The Genesis have a large stack and a heel-to-toe drop of 8mm, which we found perfect for trail running on varied terrain, offering an ideal balance between supplying protection and maintaining a low centre of gravity
The best trail running shoes
The best for comfort
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
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
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
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