Best Trail Running Shoes

After much searching, the pick for the best trail running shoe is the ASICS Men’s GEL Venture 5 Running Shoe. Any shoe needs to be perfect for the person wearing the shoe, otherwise it might cause problems for the person. It is advisable not to buy shoes that fit perfectly on your feet, and to leave some “wiggle room” for your toes. Each time the feet strike the ground, the feet spreads an average of 5 mm, so it is important that the shoe size you select is ½ to a full size bigger than your regular shoe size.

ASICS Men's Gel Venture 5 running shoe

Top Pick: ASICS Men’s GEL Venture 5 Running Shoe

The ASICS Men’s Gel Venture 5 running shoe has a rearfoot gel cushioning system which provides the all-important cushioning for the foot. There is a trail-specific outsole which provides traction on both uphill and downhill roads for a very comfortable running experience. There is also a removable sockliner which can be removed if and when required to accommodate a medical orthotic. Special material is used to make the critical areas of the shoe to make sure that the shoe lasts for a long time. If it is not possible to grab a ASICS Men’s Gel Venture 5 running shoe, do not be too disappointed as there are other fine performers in the market as well. Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe is a good buy if you are willing to spend a few more bucks. Among other features, the Speedcross 3 trail running shoe is constructed from lightweight materials which are welded together to keep the weight of the shoe itself to a minimum. The shoe has molded and injected EVA midsole which provides comfort and cushioning. The shoe also features a Sensifit system with Endofit sleeve which ensures that the shoe will fit the person wearing it, giving him a comfortable feel of the running terrain. If you are not willing to spend that much money on a trail running shoe, then the Saucony Men’s Cohesion TR8 Trail Running Shoe is the perfect buy for you. The Cohesion TR8 Trail Running Shoe boasts a trail specific outsole to ensure smooth experience of running on trails that are off the beaten path. The shoe also features an extra 2mm of foam underneath the shoe to provide the important cushioning for the feet that will make running on the trail a comfortable experience. The shoe also has breathable mesh on the upper part of the shoe which makes the trail running experience more comfortable by preventing the feet from getting too hot and sweaty.

Why a trail running shoe?

There would be many people who would ask the question why would someone who already possess a pair of nice road-running shoes invest in a trail running shoe? To answer this question, first you would have to acknowledge the fact that running on roads and running on trails is not quite the same thing. A road is made of concrete and is a relatively smooth surface, while a trail would be an uneven surface consisting of soil and rocks.

Both types of shoes, be it a road running shoe or a trail running shoe, offer benefits to the person wearing it. Shoes are designed with two purposes in mind. First, to protect the feet and body from injury that can result from the repeated impact of striking the ground. Second, to maximize forward speed by gripping the road or trail surface to provide traction, aiding forward momentum. The main difference between a road running shoe and a trail running shoe is in the material that is used to manufacture them. A shoe used for running on the road is constructed of lighter materials compared to a shoe used for running on trails, which would be a little heavier in weight and would have a thicker sole. This is done to make sure that the trail running shoe does not disintegrate. A trail shoe would also have more cushioning and support to account for the more uneven surface that a trail would provide compared to a road. A trail running shoe would generally offer more grip to boost the stability of the runner. A trail running shoe would also feature a stiffer sole and hidden plates to shield the feet from bruising that might occur due to impact on rocks and tree roots. Most trail running shoes would also include stiff, protective toe counters on the front to prevent toe injuries.

Some questions to ask before buying

1. How will the shoes be used most often?
If the shoes will be used most often for up-tempo runs and racing, then the weight of the shoe would need to be low. This would mean that you would get less structure, protection and support from the shoe, however.

If the shoes would be used mostly for running occasional off-road runs to add variety to a running course, then you can probably look for a sturdier version of a road-running shoe as you probably would not need the deep lugs and stiffer soles that a trail-running shoe would provide.

2. Where will the shoe be used?
If the shoe would be used to run on steep and difficult terrain, then look for a shoe that would provide more structure, support and protection to the wearer.

If you are getting the shoe in order to run on wet and muddy conditions, then you would look for shoes that have widely spaced lugs which would release the mud easily.

3. Is a minimalist trail running shoe worth getting?
Minimalist trail-running shoes offer a more natural “barefoot” running experience. Advocates believe that this is a healthier way to run, provided that this is approached slowly. Such shoes weigh less at the expense of providing less stability, protection and durability.

4. Should the shoe have a waterproof/breathable liner?
Waterproof/breathable liners would be most useful when running in wet conditions. Whenyou are planning to run in warmer or drier climates, opt for shoes that are without liners because shoes that are not lined will offer breathability and quicker drying times. If you are considering getting a waterproof shoe, consider a getting a size that is ½ size bigger than your regular shoe size because of the extra padding material that will be present in the trail running shoe.

Finding a shoe that fits

For any person in the market looking for a shoe, the most important factor that outweighs all the other factors discussed above is whether the shoe fits comfortably or not. A shoe that fits properly will avoid your feet from getting black-and-blue toenails and heel blisters.
1. How would you find a shoe that fits?
Shoes are built around forms known as “lasts”. Each manufacturer will use a last that they think would be the best representative of the shape of the typical human foot. Shoes that are of the same size will vary largely in depth, width and volume, which is a testament to the fact that different manufacturers have different views of a typical human foot.

2. What type of feet do you have?
There is a quick test to determine what type of feet you have. Look at your footprints after swimming or showering if you step on a piece of A4 paper. Do you have a high arch – meaning a curved, narrow footprint? Or are you flat-footed – meaning you have a wide and straight footprint, or somewhere in between (a normal arch)?

Some trail running shoes cater to certain foot types because of the last used to design their used and the type of sole used in the shoe.

3. What is meant by a “good fit”?
A shoe that fits well will be snug everywhere, and will not be tight anywhere. The shoe will also have enough room so that you can comfortably wiggle your toes. A shoe that fits well is important because an ill-fitting shoe will leave the feet with blisters or bruised toenails.

4. What do you look for when trying on new shoes?
If it is possible, try the two tests outlined below:

Downhill: With the laces snugly tied up, walk down an incline. As you do so, stomp and scuff your feet. If your toes feel smashed into the front of the shoe, then look for another pair of shoes, as the shoe you are testing out will give you black and blue toenails if worn on a regular basis.

Uphill: Wearing the shoe you are testing, climb up some stairs, taking them 2 at a time. If your heels are lifting off the insoles more than about 1/8″ consistently, try relacing the shoes so that the shoe fits snugly, change your socks with more padding or change the insole of your shoes. All this is done to make sure that the up-and-down movement of the shoe is not there, because if this shoe is used regularly, it will cause painful blisters on the heel.

Desirable qualities of a good shoe

As has been seen, it is definitely possible to run on trails by wearing road running shoes, but if you are planning to make trail running as your primary surface of running, then it would definitely be worth the money to invest in good pair of trail running shoes. Shoe manufacturers will try to compensate for this fact by making the upper part of the shoe with breathable material so that the shoe will dry off quickly. Shoe manufacturers will also try to balance breathability with the durability of the shoe by making their shoes with materials which will protect against abrasion and hold up to abuse for a long time.

The first step you should do before you invest your money into a pair of trail running shoes is to conduct an honest self-assessment. Ask the questions outlined below to help you decide what kind of a runner you are not, which in turn will help you decide what kind of a runner you are. The questions that you need to ask yourself are: Do you simply intend to buy one pair of shoes, or are you willing to spend your money on multiple pairs of good trail running shoes? What do you intend to use the shoes for? Are you new to running or have you been doing it for years? Are you currently injured, or have you been injured recently? Do you always strive to achieve perfection in the way you run, or do you run just for the relaxation it provides? What shoes have worked well for you in the past?

1. One pair or multiple pairs of shoes
If your intention is to buy more than one pair of trail running shoes, then you probably do not need to be very selective about the shoes that you will be buying. It is definitely nice to be able to wear different pair of shoes depending on where you are planning to run or how you are feeling on that particular day. On the other hand, if you are like most people and is planning to buy one pair of shoes only which you will wear every day until the soles are falling off, the laces are torn and the upper is coming off at the seams, then you want to make sure that you get exactly the pair that is right for you. You would have to focus your search on well-rounded traditional shoes, as any other types of trail running shoes out there in the market will probably not fit your bill.

2. Intended purpose
What is your intended purpose behind buying this shoe? Would you use the shoe to go for running on trails through mountains, over slickrock and sand in the desert, through forest, or all of the above, or are you buying the shoe just for the occasional racing? If you are looking for a shoe just to run the occasional race or two, you would probably benefit from buying something that is light and fast. Otherwise, you should consider spending your money on tough and durable shoes which will enable you to dole out a punishment to them.

3. Experienced or novice runner
If you are a novice runner, then you probably will not be very familiar with the pounding the body receives once you start to run regularly. It can take a long time, even years, for the body to fully adjust to the strains that a daily running regimen can provide. It is good to have a shoe that has a moderate amount of heel-toe drop, the height difference between the heel of the shoe and the toes, simply because that is the natural posture of the body and for the novice runners, it is good not to add more strain to an already strained body.

4. Injured
Many doctors and sports medicine specialists recommend a change in shoes when one has certain types of injuries. This is a field where we cannot recommend any specific type of shoe as it is entirely up to the professional in this field.

5. Strive for the ideal run
If you are one of those people who stress on the fact that they have to run as close to natural as possible, then you should look for the low heel-to-toe drop shoes, which would give you the feel of running barefoot without causing as much injury to your feet. Be warned, though, that it might take your body some time to adjust to the rigors of such way of running. Hence it is a good idea to have such a shoe as part of a number of other shoes, and slowly let your body adjust.

6. Brand loyalty
If some particular brand of shoe has worked well for you in the past, then it is recommended that stick to that brand of shoe when you are in the market looking to buy new shoes. On the other if you have come across particular brand of shoes that have given you a hard time, next time avoid those. As the saying goes, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The Top Pick

ASICS Men's Gel Venture 5 running shoe

Top Pick: ASICS Men’s GEL Venture 5 Running Shoe

The ASICS venture 5 has an open upper mesh which allows for good breathability and can help the feet to dry out faster if you are in the mood for running in trails which has streams running through it, or through snow. Wearing socks with this shoe is optional because the padded tongue and heel collar is made of a material which ensures that there is irritation-free and next-to-skin comfort for you.

The ASICS gel venture has a removable sock liner which is useful for runners with medical conditions. The sock liner has a fabric mesh lining which has a soft feel to it. The runner can remove the insole and install medical orthotics which can help them in aligning and correcting movable body parts.

The shoe also features premium cushioning technology. The rear-foot GEL cushioning system uses a silicone-based gel in the midsole which is proven to improve shock absorption and cushioning. So when you are running on an uneven surface, your heels are constantly protected from the irregular surface as well as the shock coming from the landing is also reduced. The EVA midsole present in this shoe is used by some performance brand shoes. The shoe has a full-length EVA midsole which means it covers from the forefront of the feet to the heel and increases shock attenuation and protection significantly. The Asics High Abrasion Rubber used in the outsole of the shoe gives the shoe a high wear resistance, enhanced durability and super traction.

In the Amazon user reviews for this shoe, it was seen that some people had problems with this shoe in that pieces of the shoe would come off. A number of users reported a small chunk around the right area of the right shoe was missing, and when they checked the same area of the left shoe, he found the same area was loose. Another user has complained that the shoe is too narrow at the midsection. But apart from these isolated complaints, there has been an overwhelming number of positive responses for this shoe, with people saying that this is a really comfortable pair of shoes and it suits their purpose really well. As for the problems, it is always a good idea to visit a retail store and buy shoes from there instead of shopping on the internet as such problems can be easily discussed and resolved with the shoe salesman there.

The Runner Up

Mens salomon speedcross 3 shoes
Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe

The slightly more expensive option, the Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 running shoe has many of the many same features available in the top pick. The shoe has nylon mesh with synthetic leather overlays which are light, flexible, quick-drying and highly breathable which are of utmost importance for any trail running shoe. The shoe also has a quick-drying nylon lining which provides comfort for the feet and wicks moisture away from the feet. Speedcross has the Quicklace feature which would help you tie the laces very quickly and be on your way. The Sensifit design makes sure that your feet do not slip while you are running.

This shoe also has the removable Ortholite footbeds which can be replaced with custom made footbeds if so instructed by the doctor. These antimicrobial footbeds aid in shock absorption and can deter foot odors. The midsole features the dual-density EVA padding for superb cushioning through the entire gait. The rubber outsoles have multidirectional lugs which provides superior traction on snow, slush and ice. And when it is dark outside, the shoe has reflective hits which increases visibility. Some users have reported that the shoe tears apart at different places after about 4 or 5 months, but then again these complaints are not very common.

Other picks

Saucony Men's Cohesion TR8 Trail Running Shoe
Saucony Men’s Cohesion TR8 Trail Running Shoe

The Saucony Cohesion TR8 running shoe is equipped with an extra two inches of foam for more underfoot cushioning. This shoe also has breathable mesh on its top side which helps the feet to dry out quickly when you are running in wet conditions. The decoupled heel and the flexible forefoot help the runner to transition smoothly through his gait cycle, which maximizes the comfort experienced by the runner. The shoe has EVA midsole cushions which minimizes the effect of the shock experienced by the feet when the feet is landing on the uneven surface of the trail. On the outside, the shoe has rugged, trail-specific XT-600 rubber outsole with a triangular lug pattern which makes sure the shoe can take the pounding of the outdoors. The main complaints on these shoes happen to be that these shoes have less cushioning than their previous iterations, and some of the users wished that they had ordered the shoes one size higher than the shoe they had received.

Low profile shoes are light and sleek and generally feature low heel-toe drop so that the runner can experience the feeling of running wearing a barefoot shoe. According to Zappos, the La Sportiva Helios SR Trail Running Shoe was chosen as the Editor’s Choice for the Climbing Shoe for 2015 and is a good example of a low-profile shoe.

Best Climbing Shoe

La Spotiva Helios SR Trail Running Shoe

La Sportiva Helios SR Trail Running Shoe

The shoe weighs just 9 oz, and has a Hydrain nylon mesh upper which allows for quick draining and also keeps the dirt and sand out. The EVA air mesh in the heel also helps the feet dry faster by taking moisture away. The shoe features a forefoot rock guard endurance platform for excellent protection on rocky terrain, and the gusseted tongue keeps out rocks and other trail debris which you might kick up while you are running on the trail. The highly flexible EVA midsole is lightweight and promotes a natural flex so that you have no problem wearing the shoe the whole day and the FriXion AT/VA Wave rubber outsole helps by providing a sticky traction.

Best Minimalist Shoe For Zero Drop: Altra Mens Superior Running Shoe

Altra Superior Running Shoe
Altra Mens Superior Running Shoe

This shoe has very little protection on the lower part of the shoe so that the runner can feel the trail that he is running on, as is the norm with these types of shoes. This shoe however also comes with a rock shield insert which can be put on the underside of the shoe to provide added protection if so desired by the runner. The shoe however has some flaws with the upper part, which seems to disintegrate easier than anticipated. Notwithstanding this fact these are a great pair of shoes. As is the The North Face Ultra Trail we will introduce next.

The North Face Ultra Trail

The North Face Ultra Trail
The North Face Ultra Trail

This has many of the same features as the Altra shoe, but it has a unique design on the underside, which helps it to grip rocks and dirt without much trouble. However the closely spaced lugs on the shoe means that it will not perform very well on muddy or snowy surfaces. The shoe does not absorb much water, but if it does it takes a little while to dry out. The shoe is however quite sensitive, and it will bend and wrap around obstacles on the trail with ease.

The vast majority of trail running shoes falls into the category of standard or traditional shoes. The Pearl Izumi EM Trail N 2 is a good example of such a shoe and is the Editor’s Choice from Outdoor Gearlab.

Editor’s Choice for Traditional Shoe: Pearl Izumi EM Trail N 2

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N 2

The shoe has great underfoot protection with a forefoot rockplate and a pefect amount of cushioning for rough trails and long distances. The upper part of the shoe is also quite durable and is made mostly of mesh. The lugs on the underside of this shoe is quite wide which means that almost no mud will stick to the shoe. The outsole consists of composite carbon rubber which makes the shoe extremely durable and water-resistant. The upper part of this shoe is seamless, which provides for a very comfortable run.

Traditional Shoe

Mizuno-Wave-Kazan

Mizuno Men’s Wave Kazan Trail Running Shoe

The Mizuno Men’s Wave Kazan Trail Running Shoe is one of the most stable shoes available, mostly due to its very wide and flat toe box that serves as a fantastic landing platform. It also strikes a perfect balance of adequate protection and adequate sensitivity. The shoe provides great traction on trails thanks to its large flower-shaped lugs.

Another Great Traditional Shoe

New Balance leadville MT1210v2

New Balance Men’s Leadville MT1210v2

Another great choice is the New Balance Men’s Leadville MT1210v2, which provides fantastic underfoot protection by using ample cushioning. The widely spaced lugs provided ample traction on muddy trail, but did not perform as well on cross country runs or on grassy trails. The shoe is also quite comfortable with its no-seam upper, but its main drawback is that it can absorb a lot of water.

Maximalist Shoe

Hoka Stinson ATR Square

Hoka One One Men’s M Stinson Atr Running Shoe

The Hoka One One Men’s M Stinson Atr Running Shoe is a unique shoe in that it uses a maximalist approach as opposed to a minimalist approach. This shoe is designed to emphasize one thing, cushioning. The shoe uses lugged rubber glued onto the midsole in order to provide some form of traction, and it does a decent job at it, though the shoe starts to disintegrate at the sole. But all the foam used for cushioning really takes a toll on the stability of the shoe, and also the runner has no idea where he is running based solely on the information he is getting from his feet.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it is entirely the runner’s decision on which shoes he feels most comfortable wearing. We think our top pick for the best trail running shoe, the ASICS Men’s GEL Venture 5 Running Shoe, will be the favorite for most people. The reviews provided here are based solely on third-party experiences of users, which of course will vary from person to person. The most important factor that the runner has to consider is how well the shoe fits him, as he will have to probably use the shoe on a daily basis, and an ill-fitting shoe will cause nasty feet problems.

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