When you’re switching out the predictable terrain of concrete pavements for something rockier and probably muddier, it pays to pick yourself up a pair of trail running shoes.
While a normal pair of road runners will likely just about do the job, there’s plenty of reasons to spend on something better built for tackling rocky or gravelly paths, heading up and down hills and mountains and generally testing your running skills in different ways to pounding the pavement. Shoes with a more protective upper and a grippier outsole can give you something that’s a better fit for hitting the trails.
Whether you want a shoe that helps you stay speedy or will keep you well protected from what those trails can throw up, these are the best trail running shoes you can buy right now.
What are the best trail running shoes in 2020?
If you’re looking for something that can handle a wide range of trails and can keep you light and speedy on your feet, the INOV-8 G270 (£145) is our pick of the best trail running shoe you should go for. It’s a shoe that offers the right blend of protection, grip with its graphene outsole and level of comfort to make it a formidable partner on short or long distance trail runs.
Our pick for a budget trail running shoe is the Saucony Peregrine 10 (from £68). While it might not offer up the same level of protection as some of the other options on our list, it’s a shoe that is a great fit for tackling muddy routes at speed and with Saucony’s PWWRUN cushioning technology on board, also makes those runs enjoyable too.
For a trail shoe that can also be your go-to for moving back to the pavement and roads, the Nike Pegasus Trail 2 (£115) is one to go for. While it’s an option better suited to lighter, less challenging trails, Nike’s React foam offers plenty in the way of cushioning when you are on more stable running terrain.
INOV-8 Terraultra G270
WIRED Recommends: The INOV-8 Terraultra G270 is a trail shoe that feels supremely comfortable eating up big off-road miles
Heel drop: 0mm | Lug depth: 4mm
INOV-8 has a fair few shoes in its collection that are well designed for eating up the trails and the Terraultra G270 (£145) is the latest that’s built for varied terrain that works well across shorter and long distances.
It’s the successor to the G270 as INOV-8 once again employs its graphene-packing outsole that along with its 4mm-sized, arrow-shaped lugs bring a welcome stickiness underfoot to make it well suited to muddier, wetter routes even if its strength lies on harder ground. You’re also getting something that offers improved durability to make sure it goes the distance when you do.
The Powerflow Max midsole foam does a better job than standard midsole foams of retaining its thickness after putting in big miles with them. It also offers a springy, cushioned feel that provides an enjoyable running experience and one that is equipped to withstand terrain that’s harder and tougher on the feet. That comfort factor is elevated by its Boomerang insole that’s able to keep its shape for longer and offer 40 per cent more energy return than previous insoles, to help you stay speedy over longer runs.
These are zero drop shoes, which will keep your feet close to the ground and might not be everyone’s cup of tea if you prefer more heel to toe drop. If you can live with that, what you’ll get in return is a trail shoe that keeps you light and nimble on your feet, offers great levels of comfort and durability over long distances and as a bonus comes in some quite outlandish colourways.
Pros: Great grip; light to wear; responsive ride
Cons: Zero drop won’t appeal to all
Saucony Peregrine 10
The best shoe for muddy trails
Heel drop: 4mm | Lug depth: 5mm
Saucony has enjoyed a good year on the road with its trio of Endorphin shoes and when you need to switch up the terrain, it’s got a pretty impressive shoe in the form of the Peregrine 10 (from £68).
It’s a shoe that’s better built to generate more speed off-road than previous Peregrine adopting Saucony’s PWWRUN cushioning technology in the midsole that’s lighter and more durable than its previous midsole foam and offers more bounce than EVA foam-based shoes to give that more responsive ride on trails.
A 4mm drop keeps you close to the ground and underfoot, you’ve got 5mm lugs to offer good grip, with a sharp look, that makes it a good fit for softer, wetter surfaces that definitely excels in muddy, boggy routes. That lug design means they retain less mud, making them easier to clean as well.
There’s a rock plate sandwiched in the midsole and outsole to add protection against sharp debris and while the mesh upper might not offer masses of protection, it does ensure a nice locked down fit and comfortable running experience.
While it’s a shoe that can work on a mix of hard and soft trails, it’s definitely one that excels for the latter. You can also seek out the Gore-Tex version if you want better protection against the elements. Even without that added waterproofing, the Peregrine 10 will help you keep your speed off-road.
Pros: Good grip on muddy surfaces; speedy feel
Cons: Less protection for more technical trails
Nike Pegasus Trail 2
The best running shoe for mixing road and trail
Heel drop: 10mm | Lug depth: 3mm
Unlike Nike’s Terra Kiger and Wildhorse trail options in its collection, the Pegasus Trail 2 (£115) is designed to give you a shoe that can be your go-to for road and trails, merging features from its most recent road and off-road shoes.
Nike brings in its React foam to offer a cushioned and responsive feel underfoot with a mesh upper that offers soft, snug surroundings. The rubber outsole with its 3mm lugs offers the level of grip that’s more at home on more stable trail routes and make it a better fit for mixing in some time on the road with no issue.
Like the Wildhorse, Nike uses a faux gaiter at the back to offer better protection against rocks and debris with rubber toe cap to guard against trail obstacles up front. It also comes in a GORE-TEX version (£130), which will also give you an extra layer of waterproof protection.
The overriding feeling of running in the Pegasus Trail 2 is that it offers a fit and traction underfoot to make it best suited to less technical trails. It’s more comfortable getting on the road on those more enjoyable varied routes and Nike’s React cushioning will ensure it’s a comfortable shoe to run in on a mix of terrain.
Pros: Comfortable fit; great cushioning; works on road and trails
Cons: May struggle on more technical trails
Adidas Terrex Two Ultra Parley
The best eco-friendly shoe for easy miles
Heel drop: 5-8mm | Lug depth: mm
If you want a trail shoe that’s doing its bit for the planet, the Terrex Two Ultra Parley (£160) fits the bill. The Primeknit upper is largely constructed from plastic waste recovered from beaches, shorelines and remote islands. That all wrapped up in a gold and zebra pattern look that will have other runners casting an envious eye down at them.
The key elements here are the Continental rubber outsole that provides quite a satisfying grip on more gravelling, stony routes with Adidas’ Boost cushioning tech placed across the entire midsole to ensure they offer a noticeably bouncy feeling on the move.
It keeps things roomy up front in the toe box, making it a better fit for those with wider feet and while that upper looks great and feels comfortable, some might be hoping for a little more in the way of protection and something more locked in for more technical trails.
Running in the Two Ultra Parley though is an enjoyable one that feels like shoes for trails you want to enjoy on harder surfaces as opposed to racing in them or taking them for a trip in the mud. They look great and if you like the idea of adding serious bounce to your runs, then these are going to appeal.
Pros: Great look; comfortable; wide fit
Cons: Might be too much bounce for some; better for hard surfaces
Hoka Speedgoat 4
A shoe that keeps you protected
Heel drop: 4mm | Lug depth: 5mm
If you want a shoe that goes big on protection, traction across a range of terrain and something that can handle technical trails, then the Hoka Speedgoat 4 (£125) fits the bill.
While it looks a bulky prospect to lace up and is heavier than the previous Speedgoat, it still offers a surprisingly light feel on the feet. The EVA foam in the midsole offers plenty in the way of cushioning to absorb the impact of tackling the kind of terrain that’s taxing on the feet.
Hoka packs it with a Vibram Megagrip rubber in the outsole that combined with decent-sized 5mm lugs that come in different shapes to offer strong traction on dry, rockier routes and wetter ones too. The mesh upper has been updated to offer a nice locked down feel and to offer better protection against trail debris.
The regular fit version might feel narrow for some, so Hoka also offers a wider option that should give you more room for your toes to move around.
Overall though, the Speedgoat 4 is a shoe to match to the most technical trails offering stable foundations. It’s built to withstand whatever those trails have to throw at it and feels like a shoe that’s made to last many a long distance trail run.
Pros: Good traction on variety of surfaces; well cushioned
Cons: Bit heavier than the previous Speedgoat
Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2
The best option for staying light on your feet
Heel drop: 9mm | Lug depth: 3.5mm
The Arc’teryx Norvan LD 2 (£130) is a shoe you could comfortably keep on after hitting the trails with its traditional trainer-style look. Don’t let that look deceive you though. The LD 2 offers plenty of grip, comfort and a light feel to aid you in more technical trails.
The grippy Vibram Megagrip outsole is paired up with 3.5mm, square-shaped lugs that give it the kind of depth to penetrate into softer ground but also not too big so you can throw in some road time with them as well.
Arc’teryx retains the same midsole found on the last Norvan LD using a combination of EVA and polyolefin with the addition of an anti-fatigue insert to offer plenty in the way of cushioning and support that shows over long distances.
A synthetic toecap up front and a TPU rockplate beneath the forefoot offers some welcome protection against sharp objects. The upper is made from polyester with TPU film laid on top that beefs up its durability without adding too much extra weight. The tongue wraps nicely around the top of foot and while they’re not waterproof, do manage to handle striding through puddles without leaving your feet in a complete wet mess.
The LD2 keeps you light on your feet, offers good protection and is most at home on drier, harder trails. They don’t look too shabby either.
Pros: Surprisingly light to wear; fit to tackle roads too
Cons: Firmer cushioning than other trail shoes
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