8 best trail running shoes to help you take on tough terrains
Whether you're running on hard-packed trails or up steep hillsides, our roundup promises footwear that will keep you agile
Having a decent pair of trail running shoes is important if you’re likely to be running on rough, countryside terrain more often than roads.
In terms of tech, trail running shoes aren’t wildly different to their road running cousins, but features like deeper lugs, more aggressive tread patterns, stiffer soles and higher levels of water-proofing definitely make a difference when you’re tackling rocky hillsides or muddy paths.
Over and above any features however, the main thing to look for when you’re buying a new pair trail running shoes is the fit.
If you can, it’s always worth visiting a specialist running shop that offers gait analysis. This will let you know how much your feet pronate – how much they roll inwards when you run – and choose shoes accordingly.
Even if you’re not about to attempt a Bob Graham round, chances are you’ll be spending long hours in these shoes and the last thing you want is to find out they rub mid-run.
Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX shoes: £139.95, Adidas
Terrex is Adidas’ sub-brand for all things trail running, but it doesn’t operate in a silo. These shoes borrow some of the best bits of tech from Adidas’ main trainer division, including their groundbreaking Boost foam. They’ve combined this impressive impact absorbing material in the midsole with an EVA frame for extra support and a chunky outsole made by tyre-manufacturer Continental.
A great shoe for long runs on hard-packed trails, but one that’s comfortable covering the occasional bit of tarmac too, so you can enjoy the jog to the trail head. The GT version we’ve chosen here features a waterproof Gore-Tex liner too, making it great for winter runs. This, combined with the reasonable price, makes the Terrex Agravic XT GTX shoes our best buy.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 3: £124.99, Ellis Brigham
Founded by two French trail runners in 2009, Hoka One One swiftly developed a reputation as one of the best makers of specialist trail shoes around. Their Speedgoat shoes are a case in point.
Named after Karl Meltzer, an American ultrarunner who holds the record for the most 100 mile trail race wins, these are built for going the distance on tough, technical trails. Hoka One One have improved the upper in this third edition, adding a mid-foot lockdown, as well as "seatbelt" support on each side, making what was an already excellent shoe even better.
Inov-8 Roclite 275: £130, Inov-8
British brand Inov-8 are trail running specialists, and the various shoes in their Roclite range have won all manner of awards down the years. This latest and lightest addition to the range is one of the best yet -–weighing just 275g per shoe, and boasting a variety of improvements on previous models. Chief among these is the G-Grip graphene-enhanced rubber outsole, which not only offers better traction, it’s also tougher than standard soles.
Saucony Peregrine 8: From £73.50, Amazon
Saucony’s pedigree runs deep – the brand traces its origins back as far as 1898, when their first shoe factory was set up on the banks of the Saucony creek in Pennsylvania. As you might expect with that kind of history, they know a thing or two about making running shoes, as this excellent 8th iteration of their Peregrine trail running range demonstrates.
It uses the same Everrun foam in the midsole that’s proved popular in Saucony’s road running shoes, offering excellent energy return. This is combined with an Airmesh moisture-wicking upper and a deep lugged outsole that offers excellent grip on even the trickiest of trails.
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2: £160, Salomon
The S/Lab is Salomon’s research and development division, so if you see anything from the French brand’s enormous range of outdoor products that has S/Lab in the name, it means it’s right at the cutting edge. This shoe was developed in collaboration with the French trail runner Francois D’haene, a man who has won the prestigious Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc no fewer than three times – most recently with a pair of these shoes on his feet.
The shoe itself combines an "energy save" midsole with an outsole that’s made using the Premium Wet Traction version of Contragrip, a Salomon-owned tech that combines different compounds in different areas of the sole to maximise grip.
Columbia Montrail Caldorado III Outdry Extreme: £81, Columbia Sportswear
While most trail running shoes feature a water resistant upper, there are very few that are completely waterproof, and those that are often feature inner booties or some sort of multi-layered system. Not the Columbia Montrail Caldorado III Outdry Extreme however, which borrows an innovative membrane tech from the company’s jacket division (called Outdry Extreme) and incorporates this into the upper.
Combined with the company’s FluidFoam midsole, and a chunky outsole, this makes for a brilliant trail running shoe that’ll keep your feet dry whatever the weather, and however muddy the trails.
Merrell Agility Peak Flex 2 Gore-Tex: From £49.99, Amazon
Merrell started out making hiking boots in the eighties, and bring all their long years of expertise to the design of their trail running shoes which are built for tackling seriously tough terrain at speed. The Agility Peak Flex 2 Gore-Tex combines an EVA midsole with a deep lugs on the outsole, but it’s the upper that really makes these – it uses a Gore-Tex membrane integrated into the fabric to make them completely waterproof. If you’re going to be out in truly filthy weather, these are a well worth a look.
Arc’Teryx Norvan SL: £130, Arc'Teryx
Vancouver based brand Arc’Teryx is one of the most respected names in the outdoor gear business – famously the brand makes super-high end products that while never cheap, always feature the latest and greatest tech. The Norvan SL trail running shoe is a great example. Like the popular Norvan LD shoe, the SL (which stands for superlight instead of long distance) combines an outsole made by Italian company Vibram from their "megagrip" rubber, with a cushioned midsole and a comfortable upper.
The truly remarkable thing about the Norvan SL though is the weight – at 185 grams per shoe, these are some of the lightest on the market.
The verdict: Trail running shoes
As an all-round excellent trail running shoe, it’s hard to argue with the Adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX. The brand’s Boost foam is remarkable, and these are comfortable, and grip well. If you’re planning on doing a lot of trail running in winter, then the other two fully waterproof shoes we’ve picked on this list are worth a look – the Columbia Montrail with its Outdry Extreme membrane and the Merrell with its Gore-Tex upper.
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