The best trail running shoes for men and women in 2024

A man wearing trail running shoes running on a rocky path
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best trail running shoes have more grip and support than standard running shoes for when you want to escape the city sidewalks and explore the trails instead. This improved grip helps as you make your way over uneven terrain, whether it’s rocks, gravel or grass you’re running on.

This extra grip and support sets them apart from many of the best running shoes, as those are generally designed with road and sidewalk runs in mind and focus more on packing in foam to cushion the impact of running. Trail shoes often have increased ankle protection and debris resistance too. 

The trail shoe that’s best for you will depend a lot on the type of off-road terrain you’re running on — some are built for hard ground and some for soft. There are also all-terrain trail running shoes designed to work well on a wide range of terrain and some built to be comfortable on both road and trails, if you split your runs between the two. We put at least 30 miles on each set to test the best trail running shoes, running on a mix of terrains at a range of paces to see how they fare.

The best trail running shoes available right now

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Hoka Speedgoat 5 running shoe

(Image credit: Future)

1. Hoka Speedgoat 5

Best trail running shoe overall

Specifications

Weight: 10.2oz (M), 8.3oz (W)
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable over long distances 
+
Grips well on most terrains
+
Smooth ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Tongue a little short
-
Toe-box isn’t very wide 

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a stable shoe with a good amount of grip that can handle trails of any distance on almost any kind of terrain, with the only ground it’s not ideal for being deep mud where we prefer a shoe with longer lugs. It’s a favorite for ultramarathoners, but you don’t need to rack up huge distances to enjoy the Speedgoat 5  — its smooth, rockered ride is great for shorter trail runs too.

Despite being a well-cushioned shoe that’s comfortable for long distances, the Speedgoat 5 still manages to feel agile when you’re running on narrow or tricky trails. It’s light and nimble enough to feel good when you’re running up hills, then has the cushioning required to protect your body when you’re pounding back down them.

There are lighter and fast shoes for short races, and the best carbon plate running shoes for trails might now have an edge on the Speedgoat 5 when it comes to ultramarathon events, but we rate as the best pick overall as a trail shoe that can handle almost everything. Just be wary of the narrow toe-box if you have a wide foot. A wide version of the shoe is available, if you are concerned about the fit.

Merrell Morphlite running shoe

(Image credit: Future)

2. Merrell Morphlite

Best value trail running shoe

Specifications

Weight : 8.5oz (M), 7.6oz (W
Heel-to-toe drop: 6.5mm

Reasons to buy

+
More affordable than others
+
Lightweight but comfortable
+
Great for road-to-trail running

Reasons to avoid

-
Only for light trails
-
Not as durable as others

There aren’t many great trail shoes available for $100 and the Morphlite certainly stands out as an excellent option for those seeking a cheaper option. It is a comfortable shoe that’s built for light trails, with the 2-3mm lugs on the outsole not really offering enough grip if you hit mud or technical trails but providing more traction than road shoes for off-road runs on well-groomed paths.

We were impressed by the feel of the FloatPro Foam in the midsole, which is soft without being squishy or unstable, which wouldn’t be welcome on uneven ground. There’s some bounce to the foam too, and the Morphlite is a good budget trail-racing option, as well as a comfortable shoe for general runs.

There is not a full rubber outsole on the shoe, with some exposed foam in the midfoot, and we noticed that the shallow, broad lugs also seem to be wearing down a little quicker than others, so if you regularly run on gravel tracks in particular durability might be a concern with the Morphlite. However, that’s not enough to undermine its appeal as a cheap option for tamer trails, and it’s a good road-to-trail shoe as well.

Saucony Peregrine 14 running shoe

(Image credit: Future)

3. Saucony Peregrine 14

Best all-terrain trail running shoe

Specifications

Weight : 9.4oz (M), 8.5oz (W)
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
All-terrain grip 
+
Comfortable and fairly light 
+
Waterproof version available 

Reasons to avoid

-
Similar to Peregrine 13
-
Not as cushioned as others

The Peregrine 14 is one of the most versatile trail running shoes available with regards to the terrains you can tackle in it, with the 5mm lugs on the PWRTRAC outsole providing reliable grip on almost every surface. We’ve been using the Peregrine for many years and each generation of the shoe has offered that all-terrain grip as a key feature, and we’ve run on hard and soft ground, road, mud and snow in the shoe without it coming unstuck.

It’s also a versatile shoe in terms of the distance and pace you can run in it. The Peregrine 14 is cushioned enough for long runs — though we’d prefer a bit more cushioning for ultramarathon distances ourselves — and it’s light enough to speed through short, fast runs as well. There’s also a GTX version of the shoe with a waterproof Gore-Tex upper, which is handy when running in cold and wet conditions.

The biggest problem with the Peregrine 14 is how similar it is to the Peregrine 13, with Saucony’s updates to the newer shoe being so minor that we didn’t notice a considerable difference on the run. That means that looking for a deal on the older shoe would be a smart bit of shopping while stocks of the 13 last.

Hoka Challenger 7 running shoes

(Image credit: Future)

4. Hoka Challenger 7

Best road-to-trail shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.9oz (M), 7.7oz (W)
Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Grips well on road and trail
+
Comfortable
+
Waterproof version available

Reasons to avoid

-
Midsole foam is a little dull 
-
Not very nimble on uneven ground

The Hoka Challenger 7 is a comfortable, cushioned shoe that’s equally at home on the road as light trails. The lugs in the middle of the outsole are more tightly-spaced to grip well on flat, hard surfaces, while slightly larger lugs on the edges of the outsole have more bite for uneven and soft ground. 

We’ve done long runs entirely on the road in the Challenger 7, and long runs on light trails, and plenty of runs including a mix of both, and it moves on and off the road seamlessly. It’s also fairly light for such a cushioned shoe and quite enjoyable to use for faster runs, though when on uneven ground it doesn’t feel as nimble as lower-stack shoes.

To ensure it’s comfortable for long stints on the road, the Challenger 7’s outsole doesn’t have enough grip to work well on very soft and muddy ground, and if you need a bit more purchase for technical trails then the Speedgoat 5 would be a good alternative that can also handle spells of road running. Once you’re doing half or more of your runs on the road, however, the extra comfort of the Challenger 7 definitely tells compared to full trail shoes.

Arc'teryx Norvan LD 3 GTX running shoes

(Image credit: Future)

5. Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3 GTX

Best waterproof trail running shoe

Specifications

Weight: 9oz
Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Warm, waterproof upper
+
Comfortable midsole foam
+
Outsole grips well on most trails

Reasons to avoid

-
Cheaper options available

It doesn’t come cheap, but the Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3 is worth every cent if you do a lot of long runs in wet and cold conditions. It kept our feet dry and warm on long runs on icy hills in Scotland, even when breaking through ice into freezing puddles — just make sure you don’t run through anything deep enough for the water to get over the collar and inside the shoe, because then the Gore-Tex works against you in blocking drainage.

The InFuse midsole on the shoe is durable and comfortable, and has a little bounce that’s noticeable when you hit flatter, harder trails. The Vibram Megagrip outsole uses 4mm lugs for grip on a variety of trails, including some snowy descents, and aside from when running through deep mud and on icy roads, we had no traction concerns when using the shoe.

If you don’t need the waterproof upper the standard version of the Norvan LD is $35 cheaper and also a great option for long runs on varied trails. It will also be more breathable for runs in hot conditions without the Gore-Tex liner you get on the Norvan LD 3 GTX.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra running shoes

(Image credit: Future)

6. Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra

Best trail running shoe for races

Specifications

Weight : 9.5oz (M), 8.1oz (W)
Drop : 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, bouncy ride
+
Comfortable midsole foam
+
Reliable grip on hard trails

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow midfoot and heel
-
Not as stable as others

The Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra is the first trail shoe to come close to matching the feel of the best carbon plate running shoes for the road. For the most part, this isn’t possible off-road because the unstable, high-stack designs that work on flat roads aren’t suitable for uneven trails. However, Adidas has thrown caution to the wind with the Speed Ultra, and produced a very rockered and springy shoe that will help you run your fastest over any distance on the trails, with the plastic rods in the midsole acting like a plate in providing extra propulsion while stabilizing the soft Lightstrike Pro foam.

That speed does come at a cost, in that the Speed Ultra is not as stable as other trail shoes, and we did worry about the very narrow heel and midfoot when descending on tricky trails in particular. For most runners it will be a better racing shoe for shorter distances on fairly tame trails as a result, but experienced trail runners will be able to hare up and down mountains and through ultramarathons in the shoe.

While the lugs on the outsole are shallow, the Continental rubber used does stick well to wet rocks and roots in our experience, and while we wouldn’t want to use the shoe for mud runs, the Speed Ultra grips well on any harder ground, and the high stack of foam in the midsole means your feet are protected from jagged rocks.

a photo of the Nike Ultrafly Trail

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)
Best trail running shoe for ultramarathons

Specifications

Weight : 10.6oz (M), 8.8oz (W
Heel-to-toe drop: 8.5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Bouncy, responsive ride 
+
Grippy Vibram outsole  
+
Wide toe box 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Heavier than other racing shoes

The Ultrafly is Nike’s first trail running shoe that combines the brand’s bouncy ZoomX midsole foam and a full carbon plate, mimicking the setup of the Vaporfly and Alphafly road-racing shoes. To ensure the Ultrafly is more stable and durable than its road counterparts the ZoomX is wrapped in fabric and the shoe has a very wide base.

This adds a little weight and the Ultrafly doesn’t feel as springy and  nimble as Nike’s road racers, but it’s extremely comfortable and the responsive midsole foam helps you to keep going during ultramarathon distances — we’ve done a 30-mile run in the shoe and used it for the second half of a 50-mile ultra, and it protects the feet well and provides welcome support. It wouldn’t be our top pick for shorter events on the trails because it is a bit big and heavy, but if you want comfort as well as speed it’s a great option.

The Ultrafly was also the first Nike trail running shoe to use a Vibram outsole, which is a welcome and major upgrade on the in-house material the brand has used in the past for its outsoles. The grip is much better on wet, rocky trails in particular, though the shallow lugs used mean that the Ultrafly is best on hard ground, rather than mud.

How to choose the best trail running shoes

The best trail running shoe for you is the one that fits you best, so it’s always a good idea to head to your local running shop to try a couple of different brands before you buy. Other things to consider before investing in a pair of trail running shoes are the surfaces you plan on running on. If you’re just planning on exploring your local woodlands, you’ll be fine in a shoe with a less dramatic outsole. However, if you’re off on technical trails, you’ll need extra grip to avoid accidents. 

Other things to think about are how long you plan on running. If you’re heading to the Marathon des Sables or the UTMB, you’ll want a trail running shoe with a good amount of responsive cushioning to keep you comfortable. On the other hand, if you’re heading from your front door to the trails, you’ll want a shoe that is comfortable on the concrete, as well as the trails. 

How we test the best trail running shoes

We test trail running shoes by running in them! All of the shoes on this list have been put through their paces on a number of different tracks and trails. We’ve run at least 30 miles in each shoe, through the woods on sunny, dry days, and in the mud when the weather has turned in order to help you work out which is the best shoe for your adventure. 

FAQs

Is it OK to wear trail running shoes on the road?

Yes, there's no reason why you can't wear your trail running shoes on the road. That said, keep in mind trail running shoes aren't designed to be worn on concrete, so might not have as much midsole foam to protect you from the harder surface. The outsole will also be designed for gripping onto mud or light trails, so might actually have less grip on the pavements than road running shoes. 

Nick Harris-fry
Senior Writer

Nick Harris-fry is an experienced health and fitness journalist, writing professionally since 2012. He spent nine years working on the Coach magazine and website before moving to the fitness team at Tom’s Guide in 2024. Nick is a keen runner and also the founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers, which specialises in reviewing running shoes, watches, headphones and other gear.

Nick ran his first marathon in 2016 after six weeks of training for a magazine feature and subsequently became obsessed with the sport. He now has PBs of 2hr 27min for the marathon and 15min 30sec for 5K, and has run 13 marathons in total, as well as a 50-mile ultramarathon.

He runs 50-80 miles a week and races regularly with his club, which gives him a lot of opportunity to test out running gear: he has tested and reviewed hundreds of pairs of running shoes, as well as fitness trackers, running watches, sports headphones, treadmills, and all manner of other kit. Nick is also a qualified Run Leader in the UK.

With contributions from