Best women’s trail running shoes 2022: for speed on tough terrain

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

The best women's trail running shoes have all the benefits of unisex pairs but come with one crucial difference, they are designed for a more precise and comfortable fit for the female foot. When you're taking on challenging terrain, a good fit is half the battle, which is where a pair of the best women's trail running shoes really come into their own.

Of course, you can still expect the same solid traction, breathability and protection as the leading unisex pairs. These are shoes that give you feedback on the ground below your feet, allowing you to adjust and speed along no matter how technical the terrain.

As with all the best trail running shoes, they are markedly different to "normal" road running shoes, which are designed to absorb repetitive impact on consistently hard and flat surfaces. The best women's trail running shoes feature aggressive lugs for gripping muddy terrain and less cushioning than their road running cousins.

In this guide, we present a dozen of the best women's trail running shoes available in 2022. From versatile pairs like CimAlp's 864 Drop Evo to mountain-ready pairs from the likes of Salomon and Merrell, we've got every kind of trail runnner covered.

Best women's trail running shoes for versatility

Cimalp 864 Drop Evo women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Cimalp)
Work out the right drop for your running stride with Cimalp’s 864 Drop Evo, customisable with three sets of insoles

Specifications

Weight: 265g / 9.35oz
Drop: 4–8mm
Sizes available: 3.5–7.5
Colors available: Gray
Compatibility: Good for tackling varied terrain each time you run

Reasons to buy

+
Customizable drop
+
Grippy Vibram soles

Reasons to avoid

-
Different insoles might be unnecessary if you always run the same terrain

Cimalp’s clever new 860 Drop Evo for women comes with three pairs of insoles, allowing you to switch downwards from an 8mm to a 4mm drop (also known as offset – different drops will suit different running styles, strides and surfaces). This is brilliant if you’re getting into running more seriously and want to work out what your natural stride suits. Even if you know what kind of runner you are, switching to less drop on more technical terrain and then going back to more drop on groomed trails and tarmac might suit you nicely, or you may want to experiment with dropping down to strengthen your Achilles heel. We always rate Vibram branded soles when testing out trail running shoes and hiking boots, and Cimalps are no exception, offering reliable grip even on wet, uneven ground.

On Cloudultra women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: On)
As cushiony as a cloud but with great grip on wet surfaces, the Cloudultra is ideal for swapping from trail to road surfaces as you please

Specifications

Weight: 245g / 8.64oz
Drop: 8mm
Sizes available: 3–9
Colors available: Lavender / Black / Pale green
Compatibility: A good all-rounder that can tackle both tarmac and trail

Reasons to buy

+
Cushioning insoles
+
Great grip
+
Well-designed lugs

Reasons to avoid

-
The pale hues look dirty fast

The cushiony On Cloud collection of trail running shoes really are as comfy and as springy as they look, and the Clouldultra is our pick of the line-up for the great outdoors. A thick insole keeps feet comfortable when you’re clocking up longer distances, and the sticky grip really stood out on test – this shoe is reliable even on wet, slick surfaces such as rocks and roots, and the lugs are designed to stay free of debris, so you can keep your footing on long-distance runs. This was our favourite shoe on test for going from trail to tarmac, so if you like to mix up your runs, fancy a new pair of shoes for tackling Park Runs or just want one set of runners for all kinds of terrain, these are a great pick. We like the urban looks of the Cloudultra, although the paler colours do look dirty quickly (but they are reasonably quick to wash), so mud enthusiasts may want to pick the black version.

Best women's mountain running shoes

Merrell MTL Long Sky 2 women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Merrell)
Tackle the toughest trails in any conditions with these lightweight, versatile and breathable trail runners featuring a locked-in fit and mega grip soles

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

+
Lightweight
+
Roomy toe box with reinforcements
+
Internal bootie for locked-in fit
+
Gaiter attachments

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof
-
Midsole may not be thick enough
-
Low drop may not work for heel strikers

These trail runners are lightweight for when you want to go fast and far and with an internal bootie that pulls on like a sock, you get an instant locked-in fit without having to retie your 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 your feet cool when you’re out in hot weather, plus they’re quick drying for when you’re splashing through puddles. Once you hit uneven, rocky terrain, you’ll really appreciate 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 you can easily protect your feet in a 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

Salomon Sense Ride 4 women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Salomon)
Waterproofing meets breathability in these lightweight and airy shoes – great for changeable summer conditions

Specifications

RRP: $172 (US) / £145 (UK)
Weight: 235g / 8.29oz
Drop: 8mm
Sizes available: 3–9
Colors available: Blue
Compatibility: Great for wet conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Quick-adjust laces
+
Water-resistant
+
Breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
Look dirty fast

Most waterproof trail-running shoes are only recommended for the coldest weather, as they don’t let feet breathe very well. Not so Salomon’s Sense Ride 4, which boasts a waterproof membrane but is also breathable enough to keep your feet cool on warm, rainy runs. This shoe is not quite as waterproof as, say, a Gore-Tex hiking boot would be, but it does repel rain well, and if it does get saturated in puddles, it’s quick to dry – we’d class it as water-resistant.

The Ride 4s are pleasingly lightweight and speedy to wear, and we like the quick-adjust laces – no more faffing with knots mid-jog. The light weight and mesh-like outer fabric feel freeing to wear, but do offer a tad less protection than a stiffer shoe would, making these shoes better suited to trails rather than going off-piste on rocky ground. A quality choice for Britain’s mercurial weather, although the pale blue hue does look dirty quickly when you’re exploring dirt trails (we will never understand why trail shoes come in pastel colorways!).

La Sportiva Jackal women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: La Sportiva)

La Sportiva Jackal

A cushioned all-mountain trail running shoe for medium-distance training runs and ultra distance races

Specifications

RRP: $140 (US) / £130 (UK)
Weight (per shoe): 250g/8.8oz
Materials used: Sandwich Mesh upper with No-Sew thermo-adhesive reinforcements and breathable Mono-burr nylon inserts, TPU toe cap; 4mm Ortholite Insole with compression molded EVA and Infinitoo PU inserts; 1.5mm Dual Density Compressed EVA Rock Guard underfoot; FriXion XT 2.0 outsole with impact brake System, FLEX Inserts and 3mm lugs
Drop: 7mm
Colors: Hibiscus & Malibu blue / Neptune & Pacific blue / Celery & kiwi
Compatibility: This is an all-terrain off-road shoe, but it excels on mountain trails

Reasons to buy

+
Cushioned sole
+
Traction on a range of terrain
+
Soft, fitted tongue
+
Higher volume forefoot
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 3 color options for women

The La Sportiva Jackal is designed to be a comfortable fit for medium to long distances on a range of mountain terrain. The cushioned sole has a 7mm heel-to-toe drop and boasts ‘Infinitoo’ high-energy return technology. The midsole also incorporates a high-density EVA Rock-Shield for a more stable run with rock-guard effect (supplying protection for your sole from sharp rocks and sticks). The sole has longitudinal grooves to enhance the flex of the sole along the fold lines, while the dual compound ‘Frixion Red tread’, with differentiated ‘Impact Brake System lugs’, gives grip, traction and control on different terrains, including mud, wet rocks and tree roots. The uppers include lateral ‘Net-Mesh’ to improve ventilation and climate comfort, while protection comes from a toecap and rand. A soft, elastic tongue has what La Sportiva call ‘internal bellows’ to give protection against intrusion of stones and mud.  An extra wider pair of eyes at the top of the lacing facilitates the adaptation of the foot volume during long-distance runs, and therefore accommodates feet that may swell. 

The women’s Jackal is built on a different Tempo Ultra last to the men’s shoes, and this takes into account the fact that women’s feet are naturally slimmer and lower volume than men’s. In addition, the female version shoes weigh on average 50g less than the men’s, and the color options are brighter. La Sportiva shoe are often slightly shorter than other brands, so it might be worth going up a half or full size.

Topo Mt Racer 2 shoe women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Topo)
A trail running shoe with a specially designed wide-fit toe box and low profile to promote a natural footstrike

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 249g / 8.8oz
Materials: TPU heel counter, ZipFoam midsole, Vibram rubber outsole
Drop: 5mm
Best for: Wide-foot runners on soft terrain and muddy trails

Reasons to buy

+
Debris gaiter attachments
+
Lightweight
+
Super wide toe box
+
Comfy fit straight from box
+
Great Vibram grip
+
Promotes a natural, responsive ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one colour
-
Only compatible with Topo gaiter (£30)
-
Lacks cushioning & protection

The exciting thing about the Topo Mtn Racer 2 is its extra wide toe box. For any runners constantly in pain from squashed toes, you must give these a try. The toe box is fantastically wide and it really provides a much more natural shape for the toes to splay out. If you Google natural toe splay you’ll see plenty of images coming up showing feet that look kind of triangular with the toes spread out, and then other images showing how traditionally shaped shoes cause the big toe and little toes in particular to bend worryingly inwards. 

If you feel like regular shoes are doing this to you, the Topo Mtn Racers may well be a breath of fresh air for you. Having said that, these may not be the best shoe for every runner at every distance. The ZipFoam padding is fairly minimal, making it fantastic if you’re an experienced barefoot-style runner with strong feet – you can really feel and respond quickly to the terrain underfoot, however that does mean that your foot feels all the harder parts of the trails, like rocks, roots, the odd road section or gravel path. There’s not as much protection here as in the more padded trail running shoes.

The Vibram Megagrip outsole with widely spaced 4mm lugs is great for mud. This shoe is definitely best for soft, muddy and grassy trails rather than a lot of rock and road.

Read our full Topo MTN Racer 2 trail running shoe review

Best women's trail running shoes for general use

best women's trail running shoes: Saucony Endorphin Edge

(Image credit: Saucony)
A supremely comfortable trail running shoe with excellent traction in tough conditions

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 221g / 7.8oz
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
+
Secure fit with no slipping

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

The first thing you'll notice when removing Saucony's excellent Endorphin Edges out of their box is their 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, while 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 to prevent 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

Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Adidas)
Grippy trail running shoe that boast an innovative dial lacing system and a propulsive, cushioned sole

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 308g / 10.9oz
Materials: Rubber outsole; upper: 50% Parley Ocean Plastic and 50% recycled polyester
Drop: 4mm
Best for: High-volume feet on any trail terrain

Reasons to buy

+
Looks cool
+
Very easy to lace up quickly
+
Great Continental grip
+
Comfy cushioning
+
Propulsive ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Large - suits a high volume foot
-
Heavier than most trail shoes
-
Slightly stiff-feeling

The Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro trail running shoe wins the prize for the longest name! And also it scores highly for the courage to innovate with the unique BOA L6 lace system down each side. This dial does mean the shoe is incredibly easy and quick to lace up and unlace, plus there are no laces over the midfoot area to catch on brambles and it feels very comfortable across this area. 

The fit is on the large size, you may want to go down a half size to see if it fits better, but it’s actually the volume of the shoe that’s big rather than the length. The ankle part also comes up higher than most other trail running shoes so it suits a higher volume foot. Both of these features mean the weight is on the heavier side, the pair is about 100g more than most other trail shoes, but if they fit your feet well this isn’t a deal breaker, and hopefully this means they will be very durable too - for this price you’d hope so! 

The 4mm drop will need gradually easing into if you’re used to a shoe with a higher heel stack, while the Lightstrike cushioning protects the foot from trail buzz. The ride feels bouncy and propulsive so if these fit your feet, you’re in for a treat.

Read our full adidas Terrex Agravic Pro review

Best lightweight women's trail running shoes

Mizuno Wave Rider TT women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Mizuno)
Lightweight and freeing to run in, the Wave Rider is lovely for long distances on dry trails

Specifications

RRP: $172 (US) / £130 (UK)
Weight: 230g / 8.1oz
Drop: 12mm
Sizes available: 3–10
Colors available: Coral
Compatibility: Dry conditions on established trails

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited grip
-
Big drop won’t suit everyone

If you like feeling fleet footed when you’re running, you may get on well with Mizuno’s Rider shoe – weighing in at just 230g, this really feels barely-there underfoot, and is ideal if you’re working up to tackling trail half-marathons, marathons or beyond and want your legs to feel fresh for as long as possible. 

They may not feel substantial underfoot but the Wave Riders still offer fair grip – on test they performed well on hard-packed trails but were less reliable on slippery wet surfaces, so we reckon they are best saved for dry days on more cared-for trails rather than challenging terrain. They’re also highly breathable, even on the hottest of summer runs – good if you like to fit trail runs in on your travels abroad. If you already own a more heavy-duty waterproof pair of trail runners for winter, this would be a good pair to swap into once the clocks go forward.

Altra Superior 4.5 women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Altra)
A minimalist shoe that lets you connect intimately with the trail

Specifications

RRP: $110 (US) / £115 (UK)
Weight (per shoe): 198g/7oz
Materials used: Seamless wrap-around engineered knit upper, MaxTrac rubber outsole, Contour footbed insole with removable StoneGuard
Drop: 0mm
Colours: black pink / Capri breeze
Compatibility: From woodland paths to technical singletrack trails – you can take this shoe most places, but your legs and feet need to be barefoot fit

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight, barely there feel
+
Wide toe box
+
Flexible ride 

Reasons to avoid

-
Less traction than some others
-
Less protection 

Altra has been around for about a decade now and it has remained true to its origins, offering up a foot-shaped design that allows for comfort and a barefoot feel. This translates into fantastic ground feel. The sole is also extremely flexible, a feature loved by those who prefer to let their feet move as designed. With less cushioning and bulk, the Superior also feels light and in touch with the trail. Another mainstay of Altra is its zero drop design, which appeals to minimalist runners. If you’ve never tried a zero drop shoe, however, do ease your way into it in order to prevent lower leg injury. If you like protection from obstacles on the trail, this probably isn’t the shoe for you, but it coped with the Appalachian Trail on our test.

Best maximalist women's trail running shoe

Hoka Tecton X women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: Hoka)
A newly designed, vegan trail running shoe with plenty of cushioning for a smooth, extra bouncy run

Specifications

Weight (per shoe): 196g/7oz
Materials: Vibram Megagrip with Litebase outsoles, recycled polyester laces, EVA sockliner, carbon fiber plates
Drop: 5mm
Best for: Trails and tarmac

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Comfortable
+
Cushioned
+
Vegan

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
One color

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 tarmac, rather than technical, muddy and rocky hill paths and mountain slopes. 

Read our full Hoka Texton X review

Best women's trail running shoes for running in mud

INOV-8 X-Talon G 235 women's trail running shoe

(Image credit: INOV-8)

INOV-8 X-Talon G 235

Aggressive, toothy trail-hugging high performer in adverse conditions

Specifications

RRP: $180 (US) / £140 (UK)
Weight (per shoe): 235g/8.3oz
Materials used: Synthetic upper, Powerflow+ midsole, Graphene Grip sole
Drop: 6mm
Colours: Orange and black
Compatibility: The muckier, rougher, tougher and more technical the trail the better – a classic fell running shoe

Reasons to buy

+
Good grip
+
Minimal, lightweight feel
+
Fast ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Low cushioning
-
Expensive
-
Narrow toe box

This British brand has multiple models to select from, but the X-Talon is a consistently popular choice for experienced rough-terrain runners who frequent technical and challenging trails. It offers a rare combination of a flexible, lightweight feel equipped with a good grip in the sole. In fact, some users have commented that it gives the sensation of a trail shoe combined with cleats. It does all of this with a full rock plate running down the bottom. The shoe wraps and hugs the foot thanks to its gusseted tongue, which means your foot doesn’t slide around when hopping from rock to rock or slogging through mud. As a result, the shoe is a bit on the narrow side, not offering the toe splay you might find from a wider toe box. Cushioning is minimal, so this is not the shoe for someone who likes a pillow-like landing.

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Best women's trail running shoes comparison table
Trail running shoeRRPWeight (per shoe)DropBest use
Cimalp 864 Drop Evo$132 (US) / £169.90 (UK)265g / 9.35oz4-8mmGood for tackling varied terrain each time you run
On Cloudultra$212 (US) / £160 (UK)245g / 8.64oz8mmA good all-rounder that can tackle both tarmac and trail
Merrell MTL Long Sky 2$140 (US) / £115 (UK)9.87oz / 280g4mmTechnical trail running
Salomon Sense Ride 4$172 (US) / £145 (UK)235g / 8.29oz8mmGreat for wet conditions
La Sportiva Jackal$140 (US) / £130 (UK)250g/8.8oz7mmThis is an all-terrain off-road shoe, but it excels on mountain trails
Topo MTN Racer 2$140 (US) / £140 (UK)249g / 8.8oz5mmWide-foot runners on soft terrain and muddy trails
Saucony Endorphin Edge£200 (UK)221g / 7.8oz6mmTrail running, mixed terrain routes
Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro $220 (US) / £170 (UK)308g / 10.9oz4mmHigh-volume feet on any trail terrain
Mizuno Wave Rider TT$172 (US) / £130 (UK)230g / 8.1oz12mmDry conditions on established trails
Altra Superior 4.5$110 (US) / £115 (UK)198g / 7oz0mmFrom woodland paths to technical singletrack trails – you can take this shoe most places, but your legs and feet need to be barefoot fit
Hoka Tecton X$200 / £175196g / 7oz 5mmTrails and tarmac
INOV-8 X-Talon G 235$180 (US) / £140 (UK)235g / 8.3oz6mmThe muckier, rougher, tougher and more technical the trail the better – a classic fell running shoe

How we test women's trail running shoes

Our female reviewers test women’s trail-running shoes on varied terrain, including technical singletrack and mud, in a range of conditions, on training outings and during competitive events. Specific features (including grip, foot support, toe and heel protection, cushioning, waterproofing, breathability, materials used and general comfort) are tested against claims made by the brand, and we assess factors such as durability, environmental impact and value for money.

How to choose women's trail running shoes

Just like choosing road shoes or the best hiking shoes, picking the best women's trail running shoes is a very individual decision. However, there are different benchmarks to use when selecting the right pair.

If you’re new to trail running, the easiest place to start is probably finding the hiking shoe equivalent in the brand you prefer as a starting point. But if that doesn’t work for you, experiment a bit until you find your sweet spot. While doing so, think carefully about the following:

Where you run

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Think about the type of terrain you usually take on – is it dry, muddy (see: Running in mud), rocky, smooth, or what? If you’ll be sloshing through streams or lots of mud, keep an eye out for upper materials that afford some waterproof qualities. Also look for an upper that offers quick drainage so that you’re not lugging around all that extra weight when wet. For more on this, check out Anatomy of a trail running shoe and How to choose trail running shoes.

best women's trail running shoes

A late afternoon jaunt on the trails (Image credit: Getty)

Protection and padding

If you’re intending to run on rough trails, with sharp rocks and sticks, you’ll need more protection – ideally a shoe with a rockplate, for instance. Think about whether you’re a tactile runner, who wants to feel the trail beneath your feet – if so, consider a more barefoot-style shoe. But if not, look for cushioning in the midsole.

Profile

A big difference between road and trail shoes is the size of the drop between heel and toe. For extra stability on tricky trails, off-road shoes tend to have less drop, although the exact amount varies.

best women's trail running shoes: runner in the Brecon Beacons

Sky high in the Brecon Beacons National Park (Image credit: Getty)

Weight

If you like something light on the end of your leg, you’ll probably have to forgo some of the protection you’ll get from a heavier duty trail shoe. Whereas, if you run in winter, you may want more protection and warmth and should go for a bulkier option. Anyway, you'll already be wearing running gloves, leggings and your best running hat so a bit of extra weight is just more water under the bridge. Speaking of water, there's your weight saving: at least you won't have to carry as much in the colder months.

Other considerations

Depending on where you live and what conditions you typically take on, you might want to add on gaiters to keep elements out and off of your shoes. Running socks matter, too – for trail running, an ankle length or higher sock will keep your ankles and lower legs protected from branches, rocks and other natural obstacles. Lightweight wool socks might be the best all around choice to help keep your feet dry and warm.