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All runners will agree that trail running and hiking are both ways for us to fulfill our innate need to move and workout in nature. Running on a treadmill, road running, or leisurely walks in the park may already be enjoyable for many, but they just don’t compare to running or hiking through the woods. Physical exertion in nature just provides a different “high.”

One of the most important tools for this kind of exercise is the right pair of trail shoes—a pair of sneakers that can keep up with your demands. When choosing your running shoe, personal preference will obviously play a big role, but you should always remember key factors like foot protection, grip, and fit should always outweigh appearance and brand. Whether you are a beginner trail enthusiast or a seasoned one, this article will help you decide which trail companion best fits your wilderness needs and running goals.

How To Choose The Best Trail Shoes For Running & Hiking

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and lost when choosing the best trail shoes, especially because new ones come out every year. We’ve got three important questions that you can use to significantly narrow down your footwear choices.

1. What Are Your Goals?

You have to think about what you’re going to use your trail shoes for. Will they be for occasional running, daily training, or for competition? Will you be hiking in them every day? What kind of weather or trail conditions will you be encountering? 

Each goal influences the need for a specific feature. For example, if the shoes are for occasional running, you may need your trail runners to be comfortable and versatile. For daily training, you may need a pair that’s protective and stable. If you need the shoes for hiking, you may need to focus more on comfort, fit, and tread.

2. What Type Of Terrain Will You Be Running Or Hiking On?

Dirt, scree, snow, mud, grass, asphalt, trails, synthetic trackseach type of terrain will need a different outsole (the bottom of a trail shoe). You’ll need the tread of your shoes to deliver enough grip and traction for sure footing. If you’re running or hiking over just flat dirt, then you’ll be alright with an outsole tread that’s not too chunky. However, if you’re dealing with highly technical terrain, you will need an outsole tread that will permit you to move fast but still be safe.

3. What Distance Are You Planning To Cover?

How far you want to run will help you focus on the durability and comfort your trail shoe provides. Other factors such as stack height may also come into play. Stack height refers to the amount of material between the bottom of your foot and the ground. A trail shoe with the most stack height is called a maximalist shoe. The one with the least stack height is a minimalist shoe. 

Maximalist shoes are usually for long distances because they offer the most protection and comfort. Minimalist shoes, on the other hand, are commonly for running short distances, allowing the runner or hiker a better feel of the ground.

When you have all of your answers to these three questions, you can then focus on other important factors.

Fit & Width

Fit is one of the most important factors when choosing any shoe, much less a trail shoe. Unlike regular running shoes which mainly focus on comfort, trail shoes need to be snug on the backfoot and midfoot to provide a locked-down feel while preventing the foot from shifting or moving while running on uneven terrain. On the forefoot, however, there needs to be enough room (at least a thumb’s width of empty space) for the toes to splay naturally.

Drop

Drop is a measurement that describes the difference in height between the toe and heel of the shoe. It’s also called the heel-to-toe drop. It matters because the drop of your trail shoe will support the running style you already have. When it comes to hiking, drop isn’t such a big factor, but you should pay attention to it when you are planning to dash through the woods. 

For example, a 10mm to 12mm drop is considered to be a traditional drop. It’s ideal for beginner runners as they tend to be heel strikers, which means they land on their heels when they run. Traditional drop measurements have thicker cushioning on the heel to protect runners. 

Trail running shoes with lower drops, on the other hand, tend to encourage midfoot striking, which is ideal because the impact on the lower limbs is reduced.

 

How We Chose The Best Trail Shoes

We based our reviews of the best trail shoes on the most important factors that runners should look at first. Mainly, we examined the grip, foot protection, durability, stability, and comfort of each trail shoe as these factors will directly affect a hiker’s or runner’s performance. To a lesser degree, we looked at the shoe’s usage, versatility, and price—factors that can appeal more to beginners. 

The Best Trail Shoes Of 2020

Top Picks

Salomon Speedcross 5: Best Grip Trail Shoe

Asics GEL-Venture 7: Most Affordable/Beginner-Friendly Trail Shoe

Salomon Supercross: The Friendlier Version of the Speedcross

Altra Lone Peak 4.5: Best Zero Drop Trail Shoe

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail: Best Cross Over Trail Shoe

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4: Best Maximalist Trail Shoe

The Best Trail Shoes: Salomon Speedcross 5 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 95% 95%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 85% 85%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Versatility 75% 75%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Pros

Reliable Grip and Traction

Comfortable

Offers A Stable Ride

Has Performance-focused Features

Has Wide-width Option

Cons

Narrower Than Other Trail Shoes

Not Very Versatile

Doesn't Drain Well

Best Application: Running On Soft Ground, Slippery Running Conditions, Highly Technical Terrain

Upper: SensiFit™, Welded Upper, Anti-debris Mesh, Lace Pocket, Quicklace™

Midsole: EnergyCell™+, Molded OrthoLite®

Outsole: Contagrip® TA

Weight: M - 320g, W - 280g

The Best Trail Shoes: Asics GEL-Venture 7 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Amazon.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 95% 95%

Pros

Sufficient Traction

Comfortable

Budget-friendly

Beginner-friendly

Delivers A Stable Ride

Well-cushioned

Has Wide-width Option

Versatile

Cons

Upper Not As Breathable

Not Suited For Highly Technical Terrain

Best Application:  Casual Hiking or Running

Upper: Mesh Upper

Midsole: GEL® Technology, EVA Midsole, ORTHOLITE™ Sockliner

Outsole: AHAR®

Weight: M - 303g, W - 252g

The Best Trail Shoes: Salomon Supercross - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Foot Protection 85% 85%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 65% 65%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 85% 85%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Pros

Speedcross-like Traction

Comfortable

Affordable

Wider Forefoot

Cons

Ride Is Not Very Stable

Best Application: Occasional Trail Running and Hiking

Upper: Ripstop Fabric, Protective Toecap, SensiFit™, Welded Upper, OrthoLite® Diecut

Midsole: EnergyCell

Outsole: Contagrip TD, Chevron Lugs

Weight: M - 310g, W - 260g

The Best Trail Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4.5 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 75% 75%
  • Stability 90% 90%
  • Comfort 75% 75%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 75% 75%

Pros

Comfortable

Delivers A Stable Ride

Above-average Protection

Responsive

Cons

Not Suited For Highly Technical Terrain

Clunky Shoe Shape

Best Application: Casual Hiking or Running

Upper: Quick-Dry Air Mesh, GaiterTrap, FootShape Toe Box

Midsole: Dual Layer EVA / A-Bound™, StoneGuard™

Outsole: MaxTrac™ Rubber, TrailClaw™

Weight: M - 298g, W - 247g

The Best Trail Shoes: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 75% 75%
  • Durability 75% 75%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 95% 95%
  • Versatility 90% 90%
  • Value for Your Money 90% 90%

Pros

Lightweight

Versatile - Can Be Worn on Trail and Roads

Comfortable

Breathable Upper

Designed for Speed

Cons

Thin Toe Bumper

Not Suited for Technical Trail

Doesn't Lock the Foot Down

Best Application: Road/Trail Running

Upper: Perforated Mesh, Synthetic Upper

Midsole: Zoom Air Units

Outsole: Trail Lugs

Weight: M - 291g, W - 232g

The Best Trail Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 80% 80%
  • Foot Protection 90% 90%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 95% 95%
  • Versatility 70% 70%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Pros

Generous Cushioning

Improved Grip

Breathable

With Wide-Width Options

Enhanced Durability

Efficient Stride

Cons

Slightly Narrow

Heavier Compared To Other Trail Shoes

Best Application: Long-distance Trail Running/Hiking (50 miles and above), Ultra Distances

Upper: Open Engineered Mesh Construction

Midsole: Reinforced TPU midfoot overlays, Oversize EVA Midsole, CMEVA Foam

Outsole: Vibram® Megagrip

Weight: M - 306g, W - 261g

The Best Trail Shoes: Brooks Caldera 4 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 75% 75%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 70% 70%

Pros

Plush Cushioning

Breathable

Enhanced Durability

Door-to-trail Ready

Cons

A Bit Expensive

Can Only Handle Moderately Technical Terrain

Best Application: Daily Training/Hiking, Long-Distance Hiking/Running

Upper: Mesh Upper, Synthetic Overlays, Lace Catch

Midsole: BioMoGo DNA

Outsole: TrailTack Sticky Traction

Weight: M - 283g, W - 252g

The Best Trail Shoes: Altra Timp 1.5 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Moosejaw.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 80% 80%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 70% 70%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Pros

Plush Cushioning

Better Traction and Grip

Durable Outsole

Roomy Forefoot

Better Ground Feel

Cons

The Ride Can Be A Bit Unstable

Can Handle Moderately Technical Trail

Takes Awhile For Sweat to Dry After A Run

Best Application: Daily Runs or Hikes on Moderate Terrain

Upper: Footshape, Gaiter Trap

Midsole: Balanced Cushion

Outsole: Trail Claw, DuraTread

Weight: M - 312g, W - 266g

The Best Trail Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 14 - Gear Hacker

Buy now at Backcountry.com

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 75% 75%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Versatility 90% 90%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Pros

Comfortable

A Good Crossover Option

More Protective

Cons

Not Very Stable

Grip is Good for Moderate Terrain

Best Application: Daily Trail Running/Hiking

Upper: Internal Saddle System, Cordura Mud Guard

Midsole: BioMoGo DNA, Built-in Rock plate

Outsole: TrailTack Rubber

Weight: M - 303g, W - 269g

Salomon Speedcross 5

The Best Trail Shoes: Salomon Speedcross 5 - Gear Hacker

Best Grip Trail Shoe

  • Grip 95% 95%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 85% 85%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Versatility 75% 75%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Best Application: Running On Soft Ground, Slippery Running Conditions, Highly Technical Terrain

Upper: SensiFit™, Welded Upper, Anti-debris Mesh, Lace Pocket, Quicklace™

Midsole: EnergyCell™+, Molded OrthoLite®

Outsole: Contagrip® TA

Weight: M – 320g, W – 280g

What we like: Reliable Grip and Traction, Comfortable, Offers A Stable Ride, Has Performance-focused Features, Has Wide-width Option

What we don’t like: Narrower Than Other Trail Shoes, Not Very Versatile, Doesn’t Drain Well

Price$130

The Salomon Speedcross 5 takes the cake when it comes to grip. Thanks to its widely-spaced lugs that are shaped like chevrons, you’ll feel more sure-footed on the trail. If you’re going to tackle wet or soft terrain, this is one of the top shoes to consider because it was specially designed for miles on the trail.

Asics GEL-Venture 7

The Best Trail Shoes: Asics GEL-Venture 7 - Gear Hacker

Most Affordable/Beginner-Friendly Trail Shoe

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 95% 95%

Best Application:  Casual Hiking or Running

Upper: Mesh Upper

Midsole: GEL® Technology, EVA Midsole, ORTHOLITE™ Sockliner

Outsole: AHAR®

Weight: M – 303g, W – 252g

What we like: Sufficient Traction, Comfortable, Budget-friendly, Beginner-friendly, Delivers A Stable Ride, Well-cushioned, Has Wide-width Option, Versatile

What we don’t like: Upper Not As Breathable, Not Suited For Highly Technical Terrain

Price: $70

The Asics GEL-Venture 7 is a trail shoe with the friendliest price on our list. Its features are straight-forward when it comes to performance. However, it will likely won’t disappoint you when it comes to comfort. If you’re looking for an entry-level trail shoe with a price tag that’s hard to pass up, you can list the GEL-Venture 7 as a top choice.

Salomon Supercross

The Best Trail Shoes: Salomon Supercross - Gear Hacker

The Friendlier Version of the Speedcross

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Foot Protection 85% 85%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 65% 65%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 85% 85%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Best Application: Occasional Trail Running and Hiking

Upper: Ripstop Fabric, Protective Toecap, SensiFit™, Welded Upper, OrthoLite® Diecut

Midsole: EnergyCell

Outsole: Contagrip TD, Chevron Lugs

Weight: M – 310g, W – 260g

What we like: Speedcross-like Traction, Comfortable, Affordable, Wider Forefoot

What we don’t like: Ride Is Not Very Stable

Price: $110

Most would say that the Supercross is a friendlier version of the Speedcross series from Salomon. Price-wise, it’s only a few dollars less, but the Speedcross-like traction is still retained. One of the main differences is the forefoot fit. If you find the Speedcross 5 too narrow for your needs, you might want to give this pair a try.

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 

The Best Trail Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4.5 - Gear Hacker

Best Zero Drop Trail Shoe

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 75% 75%
  • Stability 90% 90%
  • Comfort 75% 75%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 75% 75%

Best Application: Casual Hiking or Running

Upper: Quick-Dry Air Mesh, GaiterTrap, FootShape Toe Box

Midsole: Dual Layer EVA / A-Bound™, StoneGuard™

Outsole: MaxTrac™ Rubber, TrailClaw™

Weight: M – 298g, W – 247g

What we like: Comfortable, Delivers A Stable Ride, Above-average Protection, Responsive

What we don’t like: Not Suited For Highly Technical Terrain, Clunky Shoe Shape

Price$120

Your toes will have a bit more freedom with the Altra Lone Peak 4.5. Most of the trail shoes on this list aren’t very forgiving when it comes to the roominess of the forefoot, but you don’t have to worry about that with the Lone Peak 4.5. It’s our top pick for the best zero-drop trail shoes, and that’s because it can make you more confident on the trail by delivering a good amount of stability.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail

The Best Trail Shoes: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail - Gear Hacker

Best Cross Over Trail Shoe

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 75% 75%
  • Durability 75% 75%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 95% 95%
  • Versatility 90% 90%
  • Value for Your Money 90% 90%

Best Application: Road/Trail Running

Upper: Perforated Mesh, Synthetic Upper

Midsole: Zoom Air Units

Outsole: Trail Lugs

Weight: M – 291g, W – 232g

What we like: Lightweight, Versatile – Can Be Worn on Trail and Roads, Comfortable, Breathable Upper, Designed for Speed

What we don’t like: Thin Toe Bumper, Not Suited for Technical Trail, Doesn’t Lock the Foot Down

Price: $130

Nike has always been highlighting versatility in their shoes, whether it is footwear mainly for fashion or for road running. The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Trail is no exception. It delivers adequate performance on the trail, but it comes second to none in the aspect of comfort and versatility.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

The Best Trail Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 - Gear Hacker

Best Maximalist Shoe

  • Grip 80% 80%
  • Foot Protection 90% 90%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 95% 95%
  • Versatility 70% 70%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Best Application: Long-distance Trail Running/Hiking (50 miles and above), Ultra Distances

Upper: Open Engineered Mesh Construction

Midsole: Reinforced TPU midfoot overlays, Oversize EVA Midsole, CMEVA Foam

Outsole: Vibram® Megagrip

Weight: M – 306g, W – 261g

What we like: Generous Cushioning, Improved Grip, Breathable, With Wide-Width Options, Enhanced Durability, Efficient Stride

What we don’t like: Slightly Narrow, Heavier Compared To Other Trail Shoes

Price: $140

 

Hoka One One’s Speedgoat is among the most popular trail running shoes on the market. The improvements made on this version are subtle, but they fine-tune elements that provide you with more durability and a better grip. The shoe does come in wide options, which is something new that Hoka is trying with the Speedgoat series.

Brooks Caldera 4

The Best Trail Shoes: Brooks Caldera 4 - Gear Hacker
  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 75% 75%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 80% 80%
  • Value for Your Money 70% 70%

Best Application: Daily Training/Hiking, Long-Distance Hiking/Running

Upper: Mesh Upper, Synthetic Overlays, Lace Catch

Midsole: BioMoGo DNA

Outsole: TrailTack Sticky Traction

Weight: M – 283g, W – 252g

What we like: Plush Cushioning, Breathable, Enhanced Durability, Door-to-trail Ready

What we don’t like: A Bit Expensive, Can Only Handle Moderately Technical Terrain

Price: $140

Fans of the Caldera will appreciate this new iteration. With new tweaks that have improved its forefoot space, cushioning, and durability, it might just be the hiking or running companion you take with you to conquer the trail, especially if you’re looking for a lightweight, speedy, yet moderately protective trail shoe.

Altra Timp 1.5

The Best Trail Shoes: Altra Timp 1.5 - Gear Hacker
  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 80% 80%
  • Durability 85% 85%
  • Stability 80% 80%
  • Comfort 85% 85%
  • Versatility 70% 70%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Best Application: Daily Runs or Hikes on Moderate Terrain

Upper: Footshape, Gaiter Trap

Midsole: Balanced Cushion

Outsole: Trail Claw, DuraTread

Weight: M – 312g, W – 266g

What we like: Plush Cushioning, Better Traction and Grip, Durable Outsole, Roomy Forefoot, Better Ground Feel

What we don’t like: The Ride Can Be A Bit Unstable, Can Handle Moderately Technical Trail, Takes Awhile For Sweat to Dry After A Run

Price: $130

Most would describe the cushioning of the Altra Timp 1.5 as the sweet spot between the max cushioning of the Olympus and the moderate midsole of the Lone Peak. Delivering a responsive ride, it could be your next trail companion if you have already started down the path of using zero-drop trail shoes to explore the great outdoors.

Brooks Cascadia 14

The Best Trail Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 14 - Gear Hacker
  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Foot Protection 75% 75%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Stability 70% 70%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Versatility 90% 90%
  • Value for Your Money 80% 80%

Best Application: Daily Trail Running/Hiking

Upper: Internal Saddle System, Cordura Mud Guard

Midsole: BioMoGo DNA, Built-in Rock plate

Outsole: TrailTack Rubber

Weight: M – 303g, W – 269g

What we like: Comfortable, A Good Crossover Option, More Protective

What we don’t like: Not Very Stable, Grip is Good for Moderate Terrain

Price: $130

Brooks Cascadia 14 is an adequately cushioned trail shoe that has had been updated to improve its durability, comfort level, as well as extend and expand the options for its use. The previous version of the Brooks Cascadia was more at home on the trail, but with the Cascadia 14, you’re going to get a crossover shoe with the right amount of underfoot protection plus moderate stability.

We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!