HomeGearThe Best Trail Running Shoes: A Mountain Runner's Perspective

The Best Trail Running Shoes: A Mountain Runner’s Perspective

As a triathlon coach living amidst the rugged and beautiful mountains of southern Spain, I’ve had the privilege of testing many trail running shoes on a variety of terrains. From rocky ascents to steep, challenging descents, each shoe has its own strengths and nuances.

Here’s a rundown of some of the best trail running shoes that I believe stand out for:

Quick List of the Best Trail Running Shoes

New Balance Fresh Foam X More v3 – Best Overall Trail Running Shoes

ASICS Trabuco Max 3 – Most Durable Trail Running Shoes

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mids GORE-TEX – Most Supportive Trail Running Shoes

Salomon Glide Max TR – Most Comfortable Trail Running Shoes

Inov-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX – Best for Ultra Distance Trail Running

Note: I have chosen cushioned trail running shoes which can help reduce impact on your ankles and knees. You may choose trail running or hiking as cross training or as a recovery session, so this style of shoe is a good option for triathletes.

New Balance Fresh Foam X More v3 Trail Running Shoes – Best Overall Trail Running Shoes

Comfort and Cushioning

The Fresh Foam X More v3 excels in providing plush cushioning without compromising stability. The Fresh Foam midsole offers a soft yet responsive feel, making long trail runs less taxing on the legs. The immense amount of foam can provide a lot of shock absorption which can help prevent injuries.

Traction and Durability

With its rugged Vibram Ecostep outsole, it grips well on both dry and wet surfaces. The shoe’s durability is impressive, holding up well against the abrasive mountain trails.

Fit and Breathability

The fit is snug but not constricting, accommodating different foot shapes comfortably. The breathable upper ensures good ventilation, keeping your feet cool during hot runs.

Technical Details

  • Stability: Neutral
  • Weight: 322g
  • Stack Height: 39.4mm (heel) 35.4mm (forefoot) and 4mm Drop
  • Special Features: Foam is able to compress easily so can improve shock absorption and reduce impact on ankles and knees
  • Contains recycled materials: Yes

Pros:

  • Excellent cushioning for long runs
  • Durable and grippy Vibram outsole
  • Comfortable and breathable fit

Cons:

  • Slightly heavier than some other trail shoes
  • May feel too cushioned for runners preferring a firmer ride
  • Squishy foam may not suit runners who run on roads/asphalt. The foam also wears quickly where there is no Vibram rubber

Overall Impression

This shoe is ideal for trail runners who value comfort and cushioning on their long training runs. It provides the necessary support for varied terrains, making it a reliable companion for both training and race day. May not suit you if you want a shoe for trail plus road running.

ASICS Trabuco Max 3 – Most Durable Trail Running Shoes

Comfort and Cushioning

ASICS is known for its cushioning, and the Trabuco Max 3 is no exception. It offers a smooth ride with ample shock absorption, perfect for those long-distance trail runs.

Traction and Durability

The aggressive outsole pattern provides excellent grip on technical trails, including loose gravel and steep inclines. It’s built to last, with reinforced areas on the toe and heel that protect against wear and tear.

Fit and Breathability

The fit is supportive, with a secure heel cup and a roomy toe box. The mesh upper promotes airflow, which is crucial for keeping feet dry and comfortable in warmer climates.

Technical Details

  • Stability: Neutral
  • Weight: 280g
  • Stack Height: 40mm (heel) 35mm (forefoot) and 5mm Drop
  • Special Features: Nifty elastic smart lacing system to store your laces so they don’t catch on foliage as you run, large ankle loop replacing the gaiter attachments on previous models and tough toe/heel protection.
  • Contains recycled materials: Yes

Pros:

  • Superior cushioning and shock absorption
  • Excellent grip on technical terrain
  • Durable construction

Cons:

  • Heavier than some competitors
  • May feel bulky for runners who prefer lighter shoes

Overall Impression

The ASICS Trabuco Max 3 is a solid choice for trail runners looking for durability and comfort on rugged trails. It provides excellent support and grip, making it suitable for long, technical runs. Great elastic “lace tamer” if you run in wooded areas to stopped them catching on leaves and twigs.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mids GORE-TEX – Most Supportive Trail Running Shoes

Comfort and Cushioning

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mids offer exceptional cushioning with their signature thick midsole. The added ankle support in the mid version provides extra stability, which is great for uneven terrain.

Traction and Durability

With Vibram Megagrip outsoles, these shoes offer excellent traction on both wet and dry surfaces. The durable design ensures they can handle the toughest trails.

Fit and Breathability

The fit is secure with a locked-in feel, thanks to the mid-cut design. The upper is both breathable and protective, keeping debris out while allowing airflow.

The shoe has a waterproof but breathable GORE-TEX membrane plus rubber toe cap so ideal for wetter conditions.

Technical Details

  • Stability: Neutral
  • Weight: 294g
  • Stack Height: 38mm (heel) 34mm (forefoot) and 4mm Drop
  • Special Features: GORE-TEX waterproof upper, rubber toe cap and heel protection.
  • Contains recycled materials: Yes

Pros:

  • Outstanding cushioning for long distances
  • Excellent traction on various surfaces
  • Additional ankle support for stability

Cons:

  • Mid-cut design may not be preferred by all
  • Slightly heavier due to extra support
  • Some say the GORE-TEX can make your feet sweaty in hot conditions, but I have not experienced this here in Spain.

Overall Impression

Hoka are a well-known brand in the community, and this makes the Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mid’s perfect for runners needing extra ankle support and cushioning. Their durability and grip make them a great choice for tackling challenging trails and even with the mid cut you can still run in them, and I find they give me extra confidence on the more technical trails.

If you would prefer a Hoka trail running shoe without the heel protection mid styling and GORE-TEX then the new Hoka Speedgoat 6 is a good option.

Hoka Speedgoat 6

Salomon Glide Max TR – Most Comfortable Trail Running Shoes

Comfort and Cushioning

The Salomon Glide Max TR features generous cushioning that absorbs shock well. It provides a smooth ride, making it comfortable for extended runs. With its 6mm reverse camber drop, this model is comfortable to run in. It is recommended for runners who tend to put the heel first.

Traction and Durability

The Contagrip outsole offers reliable traction on various terrains, from rocky paths to muddy trails. The shoe is built to withstand tough conditions.

Fit and Breathability

With a snug fit and a breathable mesh upper, these shoes keep your feet secure and well-ventilated. The shoe is a snug fit so your foot with stay put when running.

Technical Details

  • Stability: Neutral
  • Weight: 280g
  • Stack Height: 38mm (heel) 32mm (forefoot) with 6mm drop
  • Special Features: Rocker style shoe and all-terrain Contagrip sole
  • Contains recycled materials: Not known

Pros:

  • Great cushioning for a smooth ride
  • Reliable traction on multiple surfaces
  • Secure and breathable fit

Cons:

  • Fit may be too snug for some
  • If you like the normal Quick-lace system you will be disappointed as these shoes have standard laces

Overall Impression

The Salomon Glide Max TR is ideal for trail runners who need a cushioned, reliable shoe for varied trail conditions. Its secure fit and traction make it a dependable choice for long runs.

Inov-8 TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX – Best for Ultra Distance Trail Running

Comfort and Cushioning

The TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX is designed for ultra-distance running, offering excellent cushioning that supports your feet over long distances. The Graphene-enhanced foam provides a responsive yet protective feel.

Traction and Durability

The Graphene grip outsole is incredibly durable and provides exceptional traction on all surfaces, ensuring stability even on wet and slippery trails.

Fit and Breathability

The fit is comfortable with a wide toe box, allowing natural foot movement. The upper is breathable and helps keep your feet cool during intense runs.

Technical Details

  • Stability: Neutral
  • Weight: 300g
  • Stack Height: 25mm (Heel) 19mm forefoot and 6mm Drop
  • Special Features: Graphene – the world’s toughest material – is used again in the shoe’s grippy outsole. 4mm lugs provide incredible grip on hard, or rocky ground.
  • Contains recycled materials: Not stated but they do say they are vegan

Pros:

  • Outstanding durability with Graphene-enhanced materials
  • Excellent grip on diverse surfaces
  • Comfortable fit with a wide toe box

Cons:

  • Not as cushioned as the other tested
  • Slightly heavier due to durable materials

Overall Impression

The TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX is perfect for trail runners tackling ultra-distances. Its durability and comfort make it an excellent choice for long, grueling trail runs. They are durable and last a long time and have a lower price than other shoes so overall make it a good option for the budget conscious.

Conclusion

Choosing the right trail running shoe depends on your specific needs and preferences.

The New Balance Fresh Foam X More v3 offers plush cushioning, the ASICS Trabucco Max 3 provides excellent durability, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mids give added ankle support, the Salomon Glide Max TR ensures a secure fit and great traction, and the TRAILFLY ULTRA G 300 MAX stands out for its durability and comfort over ultra-distances.

I must admit I’m really loving the Hoka Speedgoat 5 Mids because the extra ankle protection gives me confidence on the more technical trails.

Each of these shoes has its own set of strengths, making them great options for runners looking to conquer the trails. Happy running!

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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com

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