This year, we’re seeing a new trend emerge in trail shoes. The push for lighter, faster footwear that can still cut it under any circumstances has many companies cutting weight, employing techniques previously only seen on the roads.
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Here’s the complete roundup of trail shoes as seen in Canadian Running.
Men’s: 292 g (10.3 oz.), Women’s: 249 g (8.8 oz.) Drop ratio: 10 mm $175
Nike got serious about trail running and retooled the Wildhorse. They’ve added a full, toothy outsole, FlyKnit lacing system and a bigger rock plate that goes all the way down to the midfoot. The wider forefoot allows for much more toe splay, although the Wildhorse 3 seems to run about a half-size small. It’s bigger and tougher, which, unfortunately, means it’s much heavier. Their other trail shoe, the Kiger 3, is now defined as their lightweight off-road option. The Wildhorse 3 is an all-terrain beast, and adding Gore-Tex to this model means that your feet will stay dry in any conditions.
Men’s: 227 g (8 oz.), Women’s: 184 g (6.5 oz.) Drop ratio: 4 mm $140
The Gel-FujiLyte appears to be inspired by lightweight road shoes. Fans of Asics’s racing flats will gravitate towards this stripped down design. There is a rock plate in the forefoot, so the Gel-FujiLyte can be taken on more technical trails, but the lug pattern performs best on faster, packed terrain. The upper is designed with mostly no-sew overlays and mesh, allowing it to be supremely breathable. The structured heal counter adds stability and protection. One nice little detail is the “lace garage,” which allows you to tuck your shoelaces into the top of the tongue. A great option for road runners looking to break into trail running.
Unisex: 250 g (9.5 oz.) Drop ratio: 4 mm $175
Inov-8 have developed a dedicated following in the trail community, with their very light, agile shoes. The TerraClaw lives up to its nifty name, with an outsole that feels like it’s always digging in to the ground, regardless of the conditions. The upper is very light and breathable, and overall this shoe would work well in race situations or on more aggressive runs.
Men’s: 329 g (11.6 oz.), Women’s: 272 g (9.6 oz.) Drop ratio: 10 mm $160
This once-well loved beast of a shoe gets an entirely new upper. The fit is much closer to the foot, with a shallow, narrow toe box and very padded heel counter. Brooks also adds a protective overlay on the medial side of the midfoot in order to keep debris out, which was a problem with the last iteration. The sole of the shoe has stayed the same. It’s a firm ride with lots of traction. The Cascadia is known to be a workhorse, and this 11th version will take a ridiculous beating. It’s not a perfect trail shoe, but if it fits properly, it will deliver great cost per wear.
Men’s: 241 g (8.5 oz.), Women’s: 193 g (6.8 oz.) Drop ratio: 3 mm $160
The MT2 is the first shoe we’ve tested by Topo, the new kid on the running block. The company was started by former Vibram ceo Tony Post (hence TO-PO), who was a big part of creation of FiveFingers and the minimalism movement. His new approach is all about a wide, roomy toe box, medium stack height and lower drop ratio. Fans of Merrell and Altra will welcome the new brand. The MT2 is for those who like a firmer right. The ultra-tough outsole and ripproof upper make this shoe pretty much indestructible, but it’ll take time to break the MT2 in.
Editor’s Pick: Best New Trail Shoe
Men’s: 264 g (9.3 oz.), Women’s: 213 g (7.5 oz.) Drop ratio: 10 mm $130
Last year, New Balance rolled out the Vazee Pace, a light but cushioned everyday trainer. The Vazee Summit could be seen as a similar offering in the trail space, but our testers found it to actually be a touch more aggressive. Sure, it can still be seen as a trainer for the trails, but its fit and feel has us comparing it to another New Balance road shoe, a much loved racer-trainer hybrid, the 1400. This is a fantastic first-generation shoe for anyone who wants to run fast, and often, on the trails.
Men’s: 264 g (9.3 oz.), Women’s: 207 g (7.3 oz.) Drop ratio: 4 mm $120
The Ultra model is Skechers’ foray into maximalism. Their signature plush, almost squishy approach to sole technologies fit nicely with the maximalist idea: that more is better so long as it’s light and doesn’t inhibit the stride. The Ultra 2 is a very subtle update, and Skechers were wise not to mess with a good thing here. Our wear testers enjoyed how flexible and lightweight the Ultra 2 felt underfoot, which is a must when deciding to go big. Skechers also offer a very desirable price point.
Men’s: 269 g (9.5 oz.), Women’s: 221 g (7.8 oz.) Drop ratio: 4 mm $160
We really liked the first Challenger. It had that signature Hoka cushioning, was surprisingly light and handled expertly on varied terrain. The second iteration improves the comfort substantially with a padded tongue, reshaped heel cup and counter, redesigned upper fit and a plusher insole. Of course, adding all this cushioning comes at a cost. The Challenger atr 2 is a touch heavier. It also fits about a half-size to a size snugger. Thankfully, once you get the fit right, it more or less feels like the same shoe we raved about last year, and is indeed a bit more comfy.
Editor’s Pick: Best Lightweight Trail Shoe
Men’s: 227 g (8 oz.), Women’s: 198 g (7 oz.) Drop ratio: 6 mm $130
The chief characteristic of this new Merrell offering is its extreme flexibility. You can pretty much fold this shoe in half. It won’t offer very much protection from rocks and roots, but it will move well with every foot placement on the trail. It’s a minimal shoe in the truest sense: the upper is super light, and the company didn’t even bother inserting an insole. Merrell’s ninja-starshaped 5 mm lugs are very grippy on even the sloppiest trails. A great all-around option for those that love a light, flexible shoe.
Men’s: 325 g (11.5 oz.), Women’s: 275 g (9.7 oz.) Drop ratio: 10 mm $170
The Speedcross Pro is Salomon’s premium, hardcore trial racing shoe. The outsole has deep, toothy chevron-shaped lugs meant for extreme terrain. It’s great for digging into a muddy hill or flying down a slippery descent, but the spacing and height of the lugs makes for a tough run on a nontrail surface such as asphalt. The midsole has a generous amount of heel cushioning for a speedy shoe, but the forefoot is quite firm. Up top, the upper is snug and comfy, with Salomon’s trademark quick lace system providing a custom fit. If you’re looking for a fast shoe for challenging trail runs, the Speedcross Pro is a proven performer.
Editor’s Pick: Best Update
Men’s: 266 g (9.4 oz.), Women’s: 241 g (8.5 oz.) Drop ratio: 4 mm $140
Saucony took their excellent midweight trail shoe and gave it a complete overhaul. This surprised us, but the results are stunning. The chief reason for the remake was in order to get their new EverRun midsole technology into the heel of the Peregrine. It won’t actually be all that noticeable unless you’re a heel-striker. If so, you’ll really appreciate it. The forefoot still maintains a protective rock plate as well, which is a plus. Our testers loved the ample wide toe box and all the welded overlays that wrap around the foot for a secure feel. There’s a slight increase in weight, but that shouldn’t be an issue for this already reasonably light shoe.
Editor’s Pick: Best Tough Conditions Trail Shoe
Men’s: 274 g (9.7 oz.), Women’s: 218 g (7.7 oz.) Drop ratio: 8 mm $130
The first version of the Cardiac was inspired by one of their athlete’s tough experiences at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Tim Olson struggled through the French Alpine 100-Miler, so the company developed a shoe that they felt would better withstand even the toughest 24-hour race. Version two is a wise paring down and streamlining of the Cardiac’s chunky design. This new version feels faster but still provides all the durability that an ultrarunner could ever ask out of a shoe.
Men’s: 298 g (10.5 oz.), Women’s: 261 g (9.2 oz.) Drop ratio: 8 mm $150
The second version of Pearl Izumi’s neutral trail trainer (the “N” stands for neutral) sees minor tweaks to their already great shoe. The N2 has a medium cushioning midsole to complement its slipper-like Ortholite sockliner and supportive padded heel counter. The outsole does have an embedded rock plate, but the N2 performs best on densely packed, less technical dirt trails. The perfect trail shoe for feeling fast on less fierce singletrack.
Men’s: 334 g (11.7 oz.), Women’s: 266 g (9.3 oz.) Drop ratio: 6 mm $140
The Conspiracy should be seen as more of an all-purpose trail companion than specifically a running shoe. We included it because it performed well in some very tough running conditions. Columbia’s OutDry material competes quite well with Gore-Tex. One tester submerged the Conspiracy during a run through a brook and the shoe left their foot bone-dry. This stiff, firm ride provides flared-out edges around the forefoot and back of the heel so that you won’t roll your ankle. The outsole’s Omni-Grip is really quite grippy, making the Conspiracy a decent approach shoe or backwoods runner-hiker.