The 9 best trail running shoes
Off-road running expert Keri Wallace picks her favourite kicks for taking on the mud and mountains this year.
Whether you’re running on forestry trails, moorland or mountains, a comfortable pair of trail shoes with decent grip is vital. Here fell runner and director of guided trail running company Girls on Hills Keri Wallace picks out the best shoes for every type of trail in 2020.
Oh, and if you're logging your miles on Strava, don't forget to sign up to Red Bull Race the Moon – a Strava challenge calling on participants to run 1.5 million collective miles in 28 days between June 19 and July 21, with prizes on offer for reaching various milestones along the way...
1. Inov-8 ROCLITE 275
Best for: Versatility. This shoe is an all-rounder that is designed to do it all – from muddy paths to rocky trails, and everything in between.
Cushioning: The ROCLITE 275 features a POWERFLOW midsole which gives improved shock absorption and energy return compared to standard midsoles.
Features: The shoe is the lightest model in the ROCLITE range. The upper is made of non-water absorbing materials, ideal for boggy trails, and is designed to adjust to the shape of a runner's foot.
Updates: Featuring inov-8's new graphene-grip (G-GRIP), the latest ROCLITEs offer improved traction, providing excellent grip in wet conditions. These shoes also benefit from a rock plate, so will protect the foot over jagged stones in the mountains.
Other information: This shoe was worn by Jasmin Paris when she won outright the 2020 edition of the 268-mile Spine Race.
Buy: £130, inov-8.com
2. HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3
Best for: A super-cushioned ride on long hard trails.
Cushioning: A massive EVA midsole gives this shoe a chunky look and unrivalled cushioning. The wider foot platform off-sets the additional height though, giving a surprisingly stable base on mixed terrain.
Features: A midfoot cage design cradles the foot for good stability, while the breathable mesh helps the shoe to quickly dry out in wet conditions. The 5mm lugs give good grip on dry or hard trails but can struggle a bit on wet grassy terrain. While these shoes look chunky, they are surprisingly light and very comfortable.
Updates: Compared to the Speedgoat 2, the 3 has additional overlay supports to lock down the midfoot, as well as a ‘seatbelt-like’ support on each side of the shoe to anchor the laces in place.
Other information: The Speedgoat range is said to be effective in reducing the likelihood of lower-limb overuse injuries.
Buy: £124.99, hokaoneone.eu
3. Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260
Best for: The wettest and muddiest terrain you can find – perfect for British fell running or obstacle course races.
Cushioning: This narrower-fit shoe has an EXTEROFLOW midsole, designed to absorb and release energy (aiding propulsion), and its aggressive 8mm lugs give exceptional grip on terrain that does not require cushioning.
Features: Inov-8 has used Kevlar and other super-strong materials in manufacturing the shoe, to give high levels of durability as well as breathability.
Updates: The lugs are made of graphene-enhanced rubber (G-GRIP) for maximum grip and improved longevity. The flexibility of this new rubber lends a more cushioned feel on hard ground, compared to other studded shoes. A rock plate also protects the foot from rocks and stones underfoot.
Other information: The shoe comes with an optional integrated gaiter to help keep out scree.
Buy: £140, inov-8.com
4. La Sportiva Kaptiva
Best for: A dedicated competition shoe for skyraces or mountain running events with loose or technical terrain.
Cushioning: A compressed EVA midsole provides just the right amount of cushioning for technical ground.
Features: The Kaptiva is a slick-looking, lightweight shoe, ideal for mountain racing. The outsole has 4-5mm all-terrain lugs and flex-grooves, offering excellent grip on loose terrain. The shoe also features a fitted mono-layer cuff which sticks to the ankle, helping to keep out grit and stones, as well as a full-length EVA rock guard to protect from knocks in the mountains.
Other information: The Kaptiva is essentially a stripped-down racing-flat version of La Sportiva's popular Akasha shoe.
Buy: £125, lasportiva.com
5. Salomon Speedcross 5
Best for: A nimble and bouncy feel on softer trails. This is a lightweight and cushioned shoe with big grip.
Cushioning: A high-rebound midsole provides substantial cushioning and energy return, without added weight.
Features: The Contagrip rubber sole and chunky chevron-shaped lugs give great adhesion in mud, snow and wet conditions. Despite the shoe's height, it offers good stability, thanks to the foothold that cradles the foot from the midsole to the laces. The lacing system is the usual Salomon Quicklace System and lace pocket, for quick and convenient cinching.
Updates: The outsole has larger lugs than the Speedcross 4, laid out with updated geometry to improve grip over a number of surfaces.
Other information: This shoe has an iconic design and there are lots of colour options available.
Buy: £120, salomon.com
6. La Sportiva Bushido 2
Best for: Performance and protection on technical terrain – a mountain shoe suitable for both training and racing.
Cushioning: This Bushido 2 offers moderate cushioning thanks to a compression-moulded MEMlex midsole, which also has an EVA rock guard in the forefoot.
Features: The slip-on construction gives the shoe a sock-like feel and wraps the foot without compressing it or creating pressure points. TPU stabilisers also provide added stability in the face of roots, rocks and off-camber terrain. The large lugs provide reliable grip and are angled to improve braking power, handy when tackling sharp mountain descents. Finally, a rip-stop upper and TPU toe-cap give good protection on rocky trails.
Updates: The Bushido 2 has 3mm extra midsole cushioning than its predecessor, leading to an overall softer feel. It also has a new padded and highly breathable tongue, designed to stay fixed place, and an improved heel-cup design to give better comfort and an ergonomic fit.
Other information: The Bushido has been La Sportiva’s best-selling model for several years, and all of the improvements are aimed at boosting comfort even more.
Buy: £130, lasportiva.com/en
7. Saucony Peregrine 8
Best for: Those who need to run a few miles on road to access their local trails.
Cushioning: The Peregrine 8 is a durable trail running shoe that provides plenty of responsive cushioning and a more natural ride than its firmer and bouncier predecessor.
Features: The Peregrine 7 gets an almost complete overhaul in the updated Peregrine 8.
Updates: The PWRTRAC outsole is more flexible than in the Peregrine 7, giving the shoe a more responsive feel. The 7’s midsole rockplate has been removed, but the bigger 6mm lugs help offset this, offering both protection and improved grip over rocky or lumpy trails. The 8 also has a new midsole, made from PWRFOAM combined with EVERUN cushioning, giving a softer feel and noticeable rebound – perfect if you are running a few miles on road.
Other information: The Peregrine 8 is extremely durable. It's not available in any exciting colourways, but they at least conceal the accumulation of dirt and grime over time!
Buy: £79.00, saucony.com
8. Brooks Cascadia 13
Best for: Cushioning and support on dry trails.
Cushioning: A BioMoGo DNA midsole delivers considerable cushioning while dynamically adapting to the shape of the foot on impact, for a more responsive ride.
Features: A curved arch gives support through the midfoot and ankle, while the mesh uppers gives plenty of flexibility and ample wiggle room for the toes. The outsole has a lug pattern that maximises traction for both uphill and downhill running, and the lugs at the edge are rounded for improved grip when making turns. There is also a hard rock plate that will keep your feet from getting bruised along the way.
Updates: The Cascadia 13 offers a softer ride than the previous model and incorporates an internal saddle that adapts to wide feet and high arches. An added 3D Rubber Print Mud Guard also protects feet from flying debris and an integrated gaiter connection point at the back of the shoe gives the option of extra protection on very muddy trails.
Other information: There is a wide-width version available for runners with broader feet, and a waterproofed Gore-Tex version that can handle wet trail outings.
Buy: £79.00, brooksrunning.com
9. Inov-8 X-Talon 260 Ultra
Best for: Ultra-distance running on softer trails; a tough and comfortable shoe for endurance athletes.
Cushioning: Like the ROCLITE, these shoes feature inov-8's POWERFLOW midsole for brilliant shock absorption, providing ample comfort and protection for long miles.
Features: This wider-fit shoe has 8mm cleats made from STICKY GRIP rubber, which provides good traction and can shed mud mid-stride, while a functional groove in the forefoot provides flexibility and allows for maximum propulsion. A lightweight rand (the bit of rubber that wraps over the toe of the shoe) also manages to offer protection without adding bulk.
Updates: This model has a snugger fit than its predecessor, the X-Claw 275. Its upper is made of ballistic nylon to protect against scratching and tearing, and is also DWR treated to repel water on the trails.
Other information: A wider toe box allows swelling toes to splay over time.
Buy: £135, inov-8.com