For outdoor running enthusiasts, you are presented with two main options: road running, or trail running. The former is undeniably more convenient, as chances are, more of us are going to live closer to a road upon which to stretch our legs in the morning or evening than a long forest trail.
But for all its lack of convenience, trail running offers myriad benefits. Firstly, the surface, while littered with more obstacles than a road, is softer underfoot compared to hard and tough asphalt. This means you’re less likely to put any serious strain on your muscles and joints (at least, when compared to road running). But, because of the aforementioned obstacles, your reactions and reflexes will sharpen up and you’ll slowly but surely build up your core strength – as well as the muscles in your legs – as you seek to remain more stable on your feet.
Of course, your trail running experience can be dramatically improved with the right pair of shoes. Trail running shoes are very specific in their build and purpose to help you over various terrains, rocking much tougher soles than their road running counterpart.
Other areas of the trail running shoes will also be beefed up in the name of endurance, to help with stability when your feet aren’t necessarily moving in a regular forward motion (you could find yourself dancing from side to side or hopping over rocks), and reinforcement to protect against any sharp sticks or rocks from penetrating the shoe surface.
While the majority of trail running shoes will sport these features, some may also gain waterproof protection from the likes of Gore-Tex or a manufacturer’s own waterproof technology. If you live in an area frequented by rainfall, or you plan to go trail running no matter the weather, this will prove to be an invaluable feature.
As with any running shoe, the specifics of each model offered by manufacturers may or may not be beneficial to your particular running style and gait. You may benefit from extra cushioning while someone else may prefer a more neutral base but needs extra stability to prevent over-pronation.
Naturally, you’ll also want your trail running shoes to look the part. Obviously, performance is vital, but when you can be the best looking guy on the trail, you should take the opportunity. We’ve, therefore, picked out some of the best and most stylish trail running shoes for men to buy right now to get you moving off the beaten track.
Best Trail Running Shoes FAQ
What is the difference between road running and trail running shoes?
Trail running shoes will be far more robust in their build and will have outsoles that offer much more grip than road running shoes. They need to be able to provide stability all around the foot, since you could find yourself side-stepping along a route, as opposed to only running forwards on the road.
What do I wear with trail running shoes?
You will want to wear some comfortable socks with your trail running shoes. While the vast majority of pairs of trail running shoes will be waterproof, some won't, so you will want to make sure your socks are made from a breathable material and won't hold onto water.
As for clothes, regular running gear will be fine for most trail running routes. If, however, you're going somewhere you know to be wet, you'll want to look into getting a waterproof running top or running jacket.
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The Olympus 4 trail running shoes are the latest version of one of Altra's most popular models. Your feet will be locked in in comfort thanks to their FootShape toe box that allows for natural spreading of the toes, while a Vibram Megagrip outsole combined with Trailclaw lugs for extra traction as your feet leave the ground means you'll be able to feel more grip, allowing you to push off harder and therefore being able to run faster.
These Cloudventutre Waterproof trail running shoes employ a visually-similar aesthetic to On's other running shoes (which we're huge fans of). Incredibly lightweight and benefitting from a Missiongrip outsole, which several different grip patterns joined together to deliver incredible traction. They're fully waterproof too, thanks to a breathable membrane.
These GEL-Trabuco 9 trail running shoes look the part first and foremost, and are technologically-advanced second. Lighter than their predecessor thanks to a Flytefoam midsole, a Duomax support system provides plenty of stability as you navigate through your route. An Asicsgrip outsole provides grip over slippery surfaces, and a rock protection plate keeps your feet safe from harm.
That's exactly what you can expect from the Speedcross 5 Gore-Tex. The latest version of an already popular model, the Speedcross 5 are now fully weatherproof thanks to the inclusion of Gore-tex, while the Contagrip outsole (which appears on other Salomon trail running shoes) provides plenty of grip across mud, wet ground and snow by being able to dig in further. Comfort is a guarantee too, and you needn't worry about laces coming undone thanks to the Quicklace system.
Brooks Running's trail running shoe selection is significantly smaller than its road running variants, but that means more focus can be paid to make them as performance-focused as possible.
The Cascadia 15 GTX is a waterproof version of the also capable non-GTX version. Otherwise you get the same built-in rock plate to protect your feet from rocks and debris, and cushioned strides thanks to BioMoGo DNA. Brooks' own Pivot Post System keeps you steady and upright no matter which direction you find yourself suddenly heading in.
These Terrex Two Ultra Parley trail running shoes are made from recycled plastic waste taken from coastal areas, and gain the benefit of Adidas' own Boost cushioning system for shock absorption and energy return. The Continental Rubber outsole (the same rubber used for car tyres) you can be assured of extreme grip. They're not bad looking, either.
It's fair to say, La Sportiva knows how to do grip well, then. The Helios III is testament to that. The third iteration of a popular model, this ultralight shoe has plenty of cushioning all the way round to make for comfortable strides. A Frixion AT 2.0 rubber outsole provides all the grip you could ever need and a "crush-resistant" heel means your feet will be held securely in place.
These UA HOVR Velociti trail running shoes take the Velociti road running shoe and upgrade it for life on the trails. A Vibram Megagrip outsole keeps you from sliding over on slippery surfaces while Under Armour's own HOVR technology provides lightweight cushioning that provides plentiful energy return. They can connect directly to UA's MapMyRun app too, meaning you can easily track and analyse your trail running routes and times.
The Pegasus Trail 2 is a trail-faring model that joins Nike's incredible Pegasus collection of seriously impressive running shoes. Strategically placed "nubs" at the front and heel provide extra traction when going up or downhill and Nike's own React foam runs along the length of the shoe to provide cushioning throughout. They're not waterproof, but a mesh upper helps to prevent any water that finds its way in, also find its way back out again.
The Xodus 10 is, as Sauncony says, "packed with plenty of gnarly grip". Cool, dude. It's not all talk though, the company's own Pwrtrac system, combined with directional lugs, help you to practically stick to whatever surface you find yourself on and Pwrrrun+ cushioning keeps you comfortable during runs too. Worried about your feet succumbing to bumps from rocks? Fret not, with Saucony's Formfit technology, which reinforces the upper of the shoe to send incoming debris flying.
The Norvan LD 2 trail running shoe is rather minimalist in its appearance, but don't let that fool you into thinking its a shoe that isn't up to the task. Square-shaped lugs on the Vibram MegaGrip outsole make it possible to grip onto a variety of terrains while the midsole is afforded extra cushioning to both absorb shocks and provide ample protection against rocks and debris.
We could have chosen pretty much any pair of Inov-8 trail running shoes as a standout pair, but we
've settled on the Terraultra G 270 for their ability to keep you moving over long distances. You get grip, cushioning and comfort in spades, thanks to improvements to the company's Graphere-Grip technology and the use of a new foam that provides greater energy return than the preceding model. Ideal for use over hard and rocky routes and trails, you'll soon find yourself running where no man has run before.
The Primus Trail Winter FG trail running shoe can comfortably tackle any terrain and any weather, thanks to a waterproof build. Vegan-certified thanks to its use of recycled materials, this Vivobarefoot trail running shoe rocks a Firm Ground outsole that will latch onto any surface, slippery or dry. Better yet, Vivobarefoot offers a 100-day trial period, and promises to refund your money if you're not totally satisfied.
Dynafit produces trail running shoes for pros who race in competition, and amateurs who prefer to take things at a slower pace. The Speed MTN GTX fall into the latter category, being suitable for running and climbing, all the while giving you a completely comfortable experience. Gore-Tex gives them waterproof credentials and Ballistic bumpers and fabrics protect your toes against bumps, knocks and rocks.
The Speedgoat 4 is one of the latest shoe models to join the Speedgoat collection of footwear that makes light work of tricky terrain. Available in a huge range of colours and featuring a breathable yet rugged mesh for promoting airflow whilst protecting your feet. Inside your feet are held well in place thanks to 3D printed overlays, and you'll remain perfectly planted by way of a Vibram Megagrip outsole.
That's certainly true of the Nova 2 Gore-Tex. The latest model in Merrell's Nova collection of trail running shoes, this lightweight runner doubles as a hiking shoe, and thanks to Gore-Tex, is completely waterproof. It will feel like you're wearing nothing at all due to the InvisibleFit construction, and with plenty of cushioning the whole way around, your feet will soon benefit.
The Rover BUGrip GRX shoe is perfect for amateur trail runners. A Gore-Tex membrane keeps your feet warm and dry, and a BOA Fit System (also found on ski helmets) lets you make quick and easy adjustments to the laces. The cherry on top, however, is the BUGrip outsole that will happily tackle any terrain you can throw at it, meaning there's no excuse for not getting out on the trail.
The Ultraventure Pro trail running shoe benefits from plenty of technologies, many of which are developed in-house. These include a Zip-Foam midsole, which claims to offer greater cushioning and energy return than EVA midsoles, while an ESS rock plate protects your feet and toes against bruising caused by rocks that you don't see until last minute. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Vibram outsole features, here, the XS Trek which provides superior grip on both mud and snow, should you encounter any on your route.
They're not waterproof, but they do feature "drainage-gils" to allow for the quick release of water, and they're quick-drying too.
These Fresh Foam More Trail v1 trail running shoes have a super thick layer of cushioning (New Balance's thickest yet, no less) to deliver the ultimate in comfort and protection when out pounding the trails. A super grippy outsole and tough, rugged upper make it a perfect all-rounder.
The Erupt trail running shoes are a prime example. Available in bright yellow or pink colours, they rock Puma's iconic logo along with a large, durable outsole for incredible grip. Puma's own Hybrid running tech is its form of a cushion and energy return system, to help keep you going across rocks, hills and through mud.