A solid shoe is a must for trail running where balance, stability, traction, and propulsion play a role in how fun-and how safe-you’ll be on the trail. While your individual needs for fit and support will play a huge role in your ideal shoe selection, identifying your needs when it comes to terrain, trail conditions, running style and performance expectations will help you sift through a mountain of tech-savvy options.
Questions to ask before you buy:
On what kind of trails do you run? a) technical b) easy c) A combo with roads
What kind of gait do you have? a) neutral b) mild pronation c) severe pronation
What’s more important to you? a) low weight b) foot protection c) support
Trail running can be dirty business: made all the better by muddy trails and wet streams. Shoes are either designed to drain muck quickly via open-weave meshes and permeable uppers, or repel wetness with water-proof membranes and tight fabrics that stop water before it soaks in.
Shoe fit is a major factor in performance: hotspots, pressure, or a sloppy-feeling fit are all sure-fire ways to ruin a run. You should feel cradled, supported, balanced, and secure, but beware of pressure, especially across your foot’s widest point; pinching; and interior seams. It’s worth trying on shoes from several brands or product lines: different lasts-the foot shaped forms that shoes are built around-create different fits.
Logging lots of miles on rocky trails will inevitably land you with a stubbed toe or nerve-tingling run-in with a pointy rock. Toe-guards, over-sized lugs, and rockplates-flexible plastic plates built into a shoe’s outsole-are all options to help protect your feet. Extremes range from barely-there soles to tank-like protection. Your local trails and running style will dictate your needs, but consider the trade-offs (namely, weight and reduced flexibility) as you decide.
Protecting your foot, providing traction and stability, and helping you transfer power efficiently are the primary jobs of the outsole. Whether you prefer lugs or sticky rubber will depend on where you’re running-lugs for muddy fields, sticky rubber for slickrock, and some combination in variable terrain-but also consider flexibility. The outsole shouldn’t hinder your foot’s natural movement.
Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral
Driving to the trailhead is so last year. Salomon’s high-mileage trail runner is lightweight and impact-absorbing enough to transition smoothly between en-route roads and technical trails. The quick-draw lacing system snugs comfortably around feet of varying widths, and the wide outsole make for a secure, stable feel while running. The seamless, taped exterior is both flashy-looking and flash-flood protective-repelling wetness from the outside. ($130; salomon.com)
The North Face Women’s Double-Track
A cradle support system corrects over-pronation and a cushioned midsole offers shock-absorption that combine in this lightweight trail running shoe meant for rough and rocky terrain. The chunky outsole grips rugged surfaces-hexagonal and triangular lugs add traction-and it’s got a cushy interior and midsole that make it a great crossover shoe for trail-runs that start on roads. ($110; thenorthface.com)
The Fairhaven’s sticky multi-surface Gryptonite outsole catches on uneven terrain and its stiff sole offers protection and makes for efficient power-transfer as you push off the ground. The seamless support frame and compression-molded midsole are comfortable and add a stabilizing feel without sacrificing performance. The tight-mesh weaves breathe well while offering some protection from morning dew. ($110; montrail.com)
Somnio Westridge 2.0
The Westridge 2.0 is the trail-ready neutral chassis for Somnio’s first-of-its-kind fit and stability system-a custom combination of wedges, cushions and insoles adjustable for each shoe. The result of a custom fit-session is alignment and pronation control specific to your biomechanics and a built-for-you shoe that feels natural on trails and-due to low-profile lugs and a flexible forefoot and upper-on the road, too. ($120; somniorunning.com)
New Balance NB 915
Part of New Balance’s re-vamped trail performance line, this shoe marries minimalist trends with tried-and-true performance features including a smooth-transitioning midsole-support system, full-length shock absorption, an imbedded rock-plate, aggressive yet simple lugs, and debris-free tongue construction. The slimmed-down trail shoe provides some stability but allows for ground-feel that translates to solid running. ($125; newbalance.com)
It would be really helpful if you said which shoes are for people with a neutral gait, under or over pronate. I am a supinator (sever under pronator and need just a nice neutral shoe with lots of cushioning, cannot figure this out with your reviews)