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Best trail-running shoes 2023: Head off-road with the best all-terrain shoes for men and women

Leave the pavement behind with these top trail-running shoes

Trail running is very different to road running. It takes you out of yourself and lets you explore the most beautiful places in the world – even if you will have to tackle a few more uphills to appreciate the views.

If you want to enjoy all that the trails have to offer, however, you’ll need the best trail-running shoes – because trying to run on uneven, loose or muddy ground in your normal road shoes is a surefire recipe for a pratfall. Here’s our roundup of the best trail-running shoes for every kind of surface you’re likely to run on, plus a guide to what you should look for in a pair.

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Best trail-running shoes: At a glance

  • Best value lightweight trail shoe: Saucony Blaze TR | Men’s | Women’s
  • Best budget trail-running shoe for longer runs: Saucony Aura TR | Men’s | Women’s 
  • Best trail-running racing shoes: Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra | Men’s | Women’s
  • Best trail-running shoes for muddy tracks: Salomon Speedcross 5 | Men’s | Women’s

How to choose the best trail-running shoes for you

When choosing a pair of trail-running shoes, it’s important to consider what sort of terrain you want to tackle. While roads all tend to have very similar characteristics, trails can be wildly different, and it’s important to choose shoes that are tailored to the surface you’ll be running on the most. The key to this is the sole, which will have lugs of different length to suit different types of surface.

If you’ll mostly be running on muddy trails then a good grip is vital; this means you’re looking for deep lugs of around 8-9mm. These are also good for fell running when you need the grip to hurtle safely down slick or loose slopes.

Really long lugs can be skiddy and uncomfortable on hard surfaces, though, so if you like to mix up your runs then look for an all-rounder with lugs around 6mm deep. If you plan to spend a good proportion of your time running on roads, or only intend to tackle very hard and rocky paths, then a lug depth of 3-4mm will be best – these are often described as road-to-trail shoes.

What other features should I look out for?

One common feature in trail-running shoes is a rock plate – a piece of plastic on the forefoot that protects the underside of your feet from jagged stones. This is a must for rocky trails, but less essential if you stick to muddy forests.

No-tie laces, which you can tighten by simply pulling a toggle, can also be useful on trail-running shoes. They’re easy to do up even when your shoes are caked in mud, and won’t get pulled loose by rogue branches.

If you’re looking for waterproofing, however, you’re in for a disappointment: most trail-running shoes aren’t waterproof, as this would make them heavy and uncomfortably sweaty to run in. Water-resistant uppers offer some protection, but if you’re heading off-road regularly you probably need to accept wet feet as all part of the fun.

How much cushioning do I want?

You normally don’t need as much cushioning for trail running as you do on the road: soft, uneven trails are less jarring for the body than tarmac, so it’s common for trail-running shoes to be relatively minimalist in this regard. However, highly cushioned trail shoes do exist and could be a good pick if you’re contemplating an ultra-marathon, where you’ll want all the support you can get.

How much do I need to spend?

While road-running shoes come at a wide range of prices, the vast majority of trail-running shoes land somewhere in the £70 to £130 bracket. There are some bargain options below £50, however, and you can often find old models of popular lines for around that price too. These are normally just as good as the latest model, so it’s definitely worth checking them out if you’re bargain-hunting.

READ NEXT: Run further and faster with the best running shoes

The best trail-running shoes to buy in 2023

1. Saucony Blaze TR: Best value lightweight trail shoe

Price when reviewed: £80 | Check men’s | women’s price at Sports Shoes

The extra protection and grip a trail shoe provides normally means added weight but the Saucony Blaze TR strikes a fine balance between sturdiness and snappiness. They weigh a mere 259g – only 19g more than Saucony’s road-focused Ride 16 – and feel nimble and supportive out on the trail as a result.

Despite the featherweight construction, there’s plenty here to like about the Blaze TR. As with most of Saucony’s running shoes, the fit is exceptional, with the upper wrapping the midfoot snugly and securely in place and plenty of room in the forefoot area for your toes to spread out.

There’s a decent 35.5mm wedge of Saucony’s mid-range PWRRUN foam under the heel and 27.5mm under the forefoot, which contribute to a well-cushioned yet stable ride. And the sole is covered in grippy, chevron-shaped lugs that provide good grip on soft and loose surfaces.

Best of all, the Blaze TR comes in at a very reasonable price, with an RRP of £105 often discounted to as little as £80. It’s a superb shoe for anyone seeking a low-cost off-road option.

Key specsBest terrain: All-rounder; Weight: 269g; Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm (35.5mm heel / 27.5mm forefoot)

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2. Saucony Aura TR: Best budget trail-running shoe for longer runs

Price when reviewed: £95 | Check men’s | women’s price at Sports Shoes

We swear by trail running shoes, not only for running up mountains, forests and off the beaten track in general, but also for regular daily wear and the Saucony Aura TR fit that bill perfectly.

They have a lower stack height than the Saucony Blaze at 31mm below the heel and 23mm under the forefoot, so make a better candidate for more rugged trails, giving a more surefooted feel over uneven terrain. And the dense, firm-feeling VERSARUN foam adds to the more planted feel. Conversely, this means the Aura TR aren’t the most responsive feeling shoes when it comes to running on the road but you can’t have everything.

Still, there’s plenty of rubber and huge lugs on the sole giving plenty of grip on loose and soft surfaces, and the shoes’ breathable mesh upper kept our feet relatively cool, even when running in high summer temperatures. Overall, they’re an excellent all-rounder but especially suited to slower running and walking on rougher trails.

Key specsBest terrain: Big mountain; Weight: 272g; Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm (31mm heel / 23mm forefoot)

Check men’s price at Sports Shoes

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3. Salomon Speedcross 5: The best trail-running shoes for muddy tracks

Price when reviewed: £105 | Check men’s price at Sports Direct | women’s at Amazon 

Runners faced with boggy conditions have long valued Salomon’s Speedcross line as an excellent ally against the mud. The latest version offers even more grip on slippery terrain owing to the larger lugs, which are more widely-spaced on the outsole than in previous editions. This extra grip is especially noticeable during hilly fell runs and when attempting to run at speed through the mud, when your foot slipping as you push off can knock you off your rhythm.

The upper of the shoe has also been updated to be more comfortable, moving with your foot to avoid sore spots while still locking it in place as you plough through the mud. The quick-lock laces can be tightened with a pull, which is always easier than trying to tie knots in mud-caked laces.

Key specs – Best terrain: Muddy; Weight: 328g; Heel height: 30mm; Heel-to-toe drop: 10mm

Check men’s price at Sports Direct

Check women’s price at Amazon

4. Saucony Endorphin Edge: Best carbon plate trail running shoes

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check men’s | women’s price at SauconyUntil relatively recently, carbon plate running shoes were restricted to road and track shoes but not any more. A number of manufacturers, including Saucony, have started to adapt the technology for their off-road counterparts and the Endorphin Edge is Saucony’s first offering in this relatively new genre.

On paper, the shoe is similar to its road-going carbon plate counterpart – the Endorphin Pro 3. It uses the same PWRRUN PB Foam in the midsole and the same “Speedroll rocker” geometry, too, although the heel to toe drop is 6mm rather than 8mm, to allow for a bit more foam under the forefoot. The sole is more substantial, too, with widely spaced 4mm lugs to give extra grip on the trails and more protection around the toe.

The big difference, however, is the shoe features a three-quarter plate (versus full length on the Pro 3) made from a more flexible type of carbon fibre. This allows the shoe to twist and adapt to uneven trail surfaces while still promoting a propulsive, springy feel. It works, too. Not only does the Edge feel supportive and grippy on all types of trail but, when you hit the flat and can pick up a bit of speed, the carbon fibre plate provides that little bit of extra pop over most trail shoes.

The only caveat is that the upper is a little insubstantial and may not be ideal for more rugged, mountainous terrain. Aside from that, though, the Saucony Endorphin Edge are stupendously good trail running shoes. They fit snugly, run brilliantly and feel good on a variety of surfaces, even tarmac and pavement. They’re pricey, true, but well worth the extra investment if you spend a good chunk of your time running off-road.

Key specs – Best terrain: All-rounder; Weight: 255g; Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm

Check men’s price at Saucony Check women’s price at Saucony

5. Inov-8 Trailroc G 280: The best trail-running shoes for rocky roads

Price when reviewed: £50 | Check men’s price at Amazon | women’s price at Inov-8 

You might assume that you can just use your road running shoes on hard, rocky trails, but finding grip on firm ground isn’t as easy when you’re off-road as on it. Wet rocks get slippery fast, and you’ll be landing on uneven surfaces most of the time, so your shoe needs a sticky, lugged outsole to find grip even on the narrow edge of a rock, plus some protection for your feet from those jagged edges.

The Trailroc G280 has 4mm studs on the bottom that pierce through loose shingle to find grip underneath, and the graphene material used is both sticky and incredibly durable. Underfoot is Inov-8’s META-PLATE, which protects your foot from sharp edges, and there are bumpers on the toe-box to protect the top of your foot as well.

Key specs – Best terrain: Rocky; Weight: 280g; Heel height: 20mm Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm

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6. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Trail 3: The best road-to-trail running shoes

Price when reviewed: £115 | Check men’s | women’s price at Sports Direct 

First off, we’d like to show some appreciation for the design team behind the Pegasus Trail 3, because it’s one of the best-looking road or trail shoes we’ve ever come across. Fortunately the Pegasus Trail 3 also backs up its looks with its performance on the run, offering a comfortable and versatile ride that’s great for road running or hitting lighter, harder trails.

The shoe has the same React cushioning in the midsole as the standard Pegasus road shoe. This is a foam that manages to be both comfortable and durable without sacrificing stability, which is important when running on uneven trails. The outsole of the Pegasus Trail 3 is not the best when it comes to very wet tracks, but it grips well on hard surfaces in dry conditions, and is both comfortable and reliable on roads, where trail shoes with longer lugs can get a little skittery.

Key specs – Best terrain: Road & light trails; Weight: 326g (UK 9); Heel-to-toe drop: 9.5mm

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7. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4: The best trail-running shoe for ultramarathons

Price when reviewed: From £63 | Check men’s | women’s price at Sports Shoes 

It turns out that perhaps the best sporting nickname of all is found in ultramarathon running, and it belongs to Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Melzer, who holds the record for the most 100-mile trail race wins. Hoka borrowed the name from Melzer for this line of popular long-distance racing shoes, and while you might not match the Speedgoat himself when it comes to your times on ultra events, you can at least use the same footwear.

The Speedgoat 4 has 5mm lugs that offer grip on pretty much any kind of terrain and excel on technical ground. It has Hoka’s classic oversized stack of cushioning to protect your legs over ultra distances, but is still surprisingly light on the foot so you’re not slowed down by your shoes.

Key specs – Best terrain: All-rounder; Weight: 263g; Heel height: 30mm; Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Check men’s price at Sports Shoes

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8. Merrell MTL Longsky 2: The best trail shoes for big mountains

Price when reviewed: £135 | Check men’s | women’s price at Merrell 

Merrell may not be the first name you think about when it comes to running shoes but the firm’s walking shoe pedigree is second to none. And there’s plenty of that running through the veins of the MTL Longsky 2.

What we love the most is their super grippy Vibram sole. The 5mm-deep “Megagrip” lugs provide huge amounts of traction on loose, uneven terrain (we haven’t had the opportunity to test in the wet yet) and they give you loads of confidence, particularly on faster runs.  A thick, mesh upper offers protection from roots and rocks, as well as plenty of lateral support and the fit around the mid foot is superlative, thanks to a stretchy inner bootee.

The Longsky 2 aren’t as plush or cushioned as the most popular shoes for tarmac pounding but they’re still very comfortable. Merrell’s FloatPro foam gives just the right balance of rigidity versus cushioning on uneven surfaces and the 4mm heel-to-toe drop gives a sense of security as you run. The only thing we’d criticise is that the heel didn’t fit our narrow heel quite as snugly as we’d like. It’s also worth noting that there’s also no waterproofing; instead, the Longsky are designed to shed water and dry quickly so that they never get waterlogged.

All in all, the Merrell MTL Longsky 2 are a comfortable, grippy and tough trail shoe; not quite the perfect all-rounder but the ideal companion for long runs over rough terrain.

Key specs – Best terrain: Mountains; Weight: 543g; Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

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Also consider:

9. Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra: The best trail-running racing shoe

Price when reviewed: £160 | Check men’s | women’s price at Adidas

The Speed Ultra was developed in partnership with professional ultramarathoner Tom Evans, but rest assured you don’t have to be hitting distances of 50km plus to get the benefits of this shoe in your races.

The shoe has a lightweight design, and the combination of foams in the midsole makes for a comfortable and quick ride. On the top of the midsole is a layer of Adidas’s responsive Lightstrike foam, while underneath you’ll find the company’s bouncy and durable Boost foam. The combination provides a stable and springy feel that will help you speed through trail races of any distance.

That is if you stick to fairly dry races, however, because the shoe is built for harder trails. The Continental rubber outsole grips well on slick surfaces and can handle forest trails well when they’re dry, but will come unstuck in the mud owing to the shallow lugs on the shoe.

Key specs – Best terrain: All-rounder; Weight: 245g; Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm

Check men’s price at Adidas

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10. Inov-8 X-Talon G 210 V2: The best shoe for cross country and obstacle course races

Price when reviewed: £140 | Check men’s | women’s price at Inov-8

When you’re looking to move fast on muddy ground, you need a lightweight shoe with reliable grip, which is exactly what the X-Talon G 210 is. It has 8mm studs on the outsole that can find purchase on the boggiest of ground. Everything else about the shoe is designed to be as minimal as possible to keep the weight down to just 210g despite those long lugs.

The upper is very thin and drains quickly after you splash through puddles or streams, and the second version of the G 210 has an upgraded, more durable upper made from Cordura mesh. This is a welcome update given that we made holes in the first version of the shoe over the course of an XC season.

While the shoe is at its best on soft ground, the durable, graphene-enhanced rubber used for the outsole also does a good job of providing traction on harder ground, so you won’t come a cropper if your otherwise muddy race has some rocky or asphalt sections.

Key specs – Best terrain: Muddy; Weight: 210g; Heel-to-toe drop: 3mm

Check men’s price at Inov-8

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