Best Trail Running Shoes

It's time to run! Photo by akunamatata.

It’s time to run! Photo by akunamatata.

Are your shoes ready for the wilderness? The best trail running shoes need to stand up to challenges your ordinary street and gym shoes never encounter. Ideal trail running shoes require more support, better tread, and more protection. Once you’ve got all that, and you’ve found the right fit, you won’t need to worry about a thing. Except not getting lost. And staying hydrated. And eating some protein at some point. I guess those are important too.

Tread: On rough terrain or slippery rocks, you need more grip than you would on asphalt, grass, treadmill, or track. Deeper lugs will give you better traction. Wider lugs are especially helpful in wet and muddy trails, so the mud can be more easily released. This grip will keep you grounded and more balanced for a safer and more successful run.

Protection: Because you’re running in nature, you also need a sturdier shoe with added protection. Rocks, sticks, roots, and uneven ground could easily bruise and damage your feet if you’re not well shielded on all sides. Dirt and pebbles will sift into your shoe if it’s not made to keep them out. Designers of good trail running shoes will have outer protection in mind. This includes a stiffer sole, toe counters, and solid materials to keep out the rocks and dirt. For wetter conditions, also consider drainage ports and a waterproof/breathable liner, like Gore-Tex, for added comfort.

Fit: To make sure your shoes fit just right, try them out in a downhill movement, to make sure your toes don’t crunch. Also try them up some stairs, to ensure that your heel doesn’t lift too much within the shoe. When you find a snug, but not tight, fit, where nothing is rubbing or irritating, that’s when you have found a good match.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are some of best trail running shoes, recommended for you with the tread, support, and protection you know you need!


Patagonia Men’s Gamut

This super light shoe is also super breathable, but still protects your feet. With shock absorbing soles and toe bumper, your foot will be well prepared for the wild terrain. With drainage ports and so much breathability, you’ll be running on clouds, even when your running through puddles. And sticky tread will make sure you won’t slip! Subtle and fun colors to choose from. $125.00

Patagonia Women’s EVERlong Shoe

Like the Men’s Gamut, this shoe is also incredibly light and breathable and very well cushioned. The anatomical sole molds to your foot to give you support and flexibility to your specific shape. This kind of cushioning really keeps your foot in place and comfortable for long distance runs. Two fun and easy going colors available. $110.00

The North Face Men’s Ultra 109 GTX XCR Shoe

Sunshine or snow-slush, this shoe will protect your foot from all weather. The Gore-Tex membrane will keep your foot both dry and warm in the cold months. The sole supports and stabilizes for all types of trails. Light, comfy, and durable, you’ll have a hard time keeping your feet out of these puppies. Shoe comes in stealthy gray. $120.00

The North Face Women’s Ultra Guide

Get a grip with this light and powerful shoe. The Women’s Ultra Guide has a sticky rubber outsole ready for whatever terrain you tackle. The fit is snug without weighing you down. Specifically designed with a flexible plate to protect your foot from downhill running. Tight mesh upper is great for protection and breathability, but not so great for drainage. Perhaps keep these shoes at home on rainy days. Comes in a refreshing tropical blue. $110.00

Merrell Men’s Barefoot Run Bare Access 3Women’s Barefoot Run Bare Access Arc 2

If you’re looking for more of a barefoot running experience without removing the shoes or entering the world of FiveFingers, these Merrell’s are your answer. Designed with zero lift so you’re feet land flat while you run, these shoes are also meshy and breathable with a Vibram shock-absorbing outsole. These shoes are grippy, cool, and cushioning. Reflective upper. Bright colors. You will be noticed. $90.00

Check out our 2013 Outdoor Holiday Gear Guide for more great products and gifts, perfect for your holiday shopping!