We Have What You Need

This season’s trail shoes reflect the maturity of the sport. Not only can runners find shoes for rugged trails, but manufacturers are also providing shoes specifically for training on smoother terrain as well as offering shoes for those who split their time between paved sur- faces and trails. Throw in some minimalist shoe options and it’s clear that trail runners now have shoes for almost every terrain and running style. 

Merrell

merrell trail shoe

All Out Rush

Men’s: 264 g (9.3 oz.) Women’s: 204 g (7.2 oz.) Heel: 16 mm, Forefoot: 10 mm, $150

The Rush is designed for unstable terrain. The outsole features 30 5 mm cylindrical lugs that can handle even the muckiest condi- tions. Merrell continues to deliver a flexible shoe with a wide forefoot for toe splay. Although the Rush has some give through the midfoot, it’s still stiff enough to not feel sloppy.

We really liked the two-stage lacing construction and the reasonable 6 mm drop. The Rush is a sturdy option for dedicated trail runners. For such a backcountry-ready model, it would have been fun to have a rock plate underfoot, but that would have compromised the Rush’s lightweight and flexible ride, which is what makes this shoe so great.

TESTER SAYS: “I took them out for a few really long runs in the forest and they felt nimble but had a nice amount of heel cushioning. There’s also a good amount of protection around the big toe, which is smart.” 

Brooks

brooks trail shoe

Cascadia 9

Men’s 332 g (11.7 oz.), Women’s 275 g (9.7 oz.) Forefoot 28 mm, Heel 18 mm, $160

For nearly every trail shoe, there is going to be a trade- off between protection and performance. We’ve loved the Cascadia since version one primarily because of its ability to deliver both needs.

There are significant tweaks to the ninth generation of this trail trainer. Brooks has gone with a more dramatic 10 mm drop, which may turn off those looking for a more minimalist ride. That said, the forefoot area of the sole is very responsive, although the heel delivers substantial cushioning for those that land on the rear of the foot. The upper has also seen an overhaul that breathes well and was irritation-free for our testers. The aggressive outsole was an aspect of previous generations that we loved. Thankfully, Brooks has left it unchanged. The Cascadia 9 isn’t the lightest shoe on the market, but it performs really well on trails, and feels great doing it.

TESTER SAYS: “The sole dug into the ground going up and down steep, slippery hills, but felt pretty quick on the packed down single track. They’ve got great support but don’t feel too chunky.” 

Columbia

columbia trail shoes

Conspiracy II Outdry

Men’s: 293 g (10.3 oz.), Women’s: 250 g (8.8 oz.) Heel: 28 mm, Forefoot: 18 mm, $140

The outdoor giant delivers the most waterproof shoe in this review. It’s also among the firmest, with a very dense midsole and extremely rugged rubber outsole. The Conspiracy II also provides ample cushioning in the arch and the heel for runners looking for a more stable trail ride.

This shoe uses an asymmetrical lacing system that felt very snug around the mid-foot, although it may not be the best fit for wider feet. The heel-to-toe action felt fluid and the toe-off was aided by the Conspiracy II’s plush forefoot.

TESTER SAYS: “I personally really like a shoe to have some pop, so this shoe worked for me. It’s really firm but the sole doesn’t feel wooden or dead. The rubber lugs really grab the trail.” 

Pearl Izumi

pearl izumi trail shoes

EM Trail N1

Men’s: 276 g (9.6 oz.) Women’s: 252 g (8.9 oz.) Heel: 25.5 mm, Forefoot: 21.1 mm, $120

With their seamless upper made of quick draining, non-absor- bent mesh and handy heel tab, the Trail N1 will be quick to get on and cool on long, hot runs on single track. This neutral, near-zero (1 mm) drop shoe is the sibling of the N2. The N1 has a solid rock plate and a low-to-the-ground minimal feeling.

The aggressive tread and firm midsole have made the N1 a popular choice for those who want a speedy trail trainer or racer for demanding courses. Pearl Izumi does a nice job producing a lineup that runners can move through with ease, making the N2 or their road and tri models a good choice for lovers of the N1.

TESTER SAYS: “The N1 was solid on a really rooty run, and also holds up nicely in the snow and mud. They breathe well but manage to keep my feet dry.” 

Nike

nike trail shoes

Free Hyperfeel Run Trail

Men’s: 201 g (7.1 oz.), Women’s: 170 g (6 oz.) Heel: 21 mm, Forefoot: 18 mm, $185

Built with a seamless sock-like upper and a hyper-flexible midsole and outsole, the Nike Free Hyperfeel Run Trail will appeal to trail runners looking for a minimalist experience. Nike uses a durable glued rand- like overlay that encircles the shoe where the sole meets the upper. This overlay protects the upper from abrasion and helps keep water from entering the shoe. Nike’s Flywire lacing anchors the foot and provides a surprising amount of stability and control considering the relatively light and unstructured upper. Cushioning comes from a highly segmented and flex- ible Lunarlon insert/midsole while an aggressive small-block outsole offers solid traction on loose or muddy trails.

TESTER SAYS: A surprisingly protective and cushioned ride for such a minimalist and unstructured shoe. But the esthetics may not appeal to everyone.” 

Montrail

montrail shoe

FluidFeel II

Men’s: 296 g (10.4 oz.), Women’s: 238 g (8.3 oz.) Heel: 18 mm, Forefoot: 10 mm, $120

This year, Montrail has updated their FluidFeel shoe with glued overlays resulting in less weight and a more foot-hugging fit. The midsole consists of a super-plush eva FluidFoam material that’s surprisingly lightweight and durable. For the outsole, Montrail employs a combi- nation of lightweight, shock absorbing blown rubber with more durable carbon rubber in high wear areas. The outsole’s small, close-spaced lugs ensure a fast and nimble ride on hard packed surfaces and paved terrain.

TESTER SAYS: I loved the plush ride and enjoyed using these for longer runs on trails or on the road.” 

Asics

asics trail shoe

Gel-Fuji Racer 3

Men’s: 240 g (8.5 oz.), Women’s: 198 g (7 oz.) Heel: 22 mm, Forefoot: 15 mm, $135 

The Asics Gel-Fuji Racer 3 is a lightweight trail shoe suited for racing or fast-training. This year, Asics has updated the upper with all-glued overlay construction which helps shed weight and provides a snugger, foot-hugging fit. The midsole drainage holes have been moved up (away from the ground) to minimize water entry, while the new larger-contact outsole provides improved traction and control. For protec- tion against rocks and roots, Asics uses a thin, flexible rock plate that won’t inhibit toe-off or road-feel.

TESTER SAYS: These shoes felt fast and nimble without sacrificing traction or protection.” 

Helly Hansen

helly hansen trail shoe

Kenosha HT

Men’s: 315 g (11.1 oz.), Women’s: 264 g (9.3 oz.) Heel: 18.5 mm, Forefoot: 11 mm, $130 

With its Hellytech Performance membrane, the Kenosha HT is waterproof and breathable making it a good choice for wet and muddy trails. Helly Hansen uses a combination of glued and sewn over- lays in the upper, which offer excellent protection from trail debris while still providing a snug and comfortable fit. The eva midsole provides firm and responsive cushioning while an aggressive open lug outsole delivers solid traction in almost any trail conditions.

TESTER SAYS: The Kenosha HTs were my favourite shoes for wet, rugged trails.” 

New Balance

new balance trail shoes

MT 910 v1

Men’s: 292 g (10.3 oz.), Women’s: 257 g (9.1 oz.) Heel: 26 mm, Forefoot: 19 mm, $140 

With its plush yet responsive revlite midsole, the New Balance MT 910 v1 provides plenty of cushioning for longer trail runs. For solid traction on different trails, New Balance uses a small-block lugged outsole that also works surpris- ingly well on paved surfaces. An almost seamless upper easily conforms to the foot for a snug fit, while underneath, a rock plate protects runners from rocks and roots.

TESTER SAYS:  I like this shoe for longer trail runs and would also occasionally use it for shorter runs on the road.” 

Saucony

saucony trail shoes

Peregrine 4.0

Men’s: 266 g (9.4 oz.), Women’s: 235 g (8.3 oz.) Heel: 21.5 mm, Forefoot: 17.5 mm, $125 

The updated Peregrine 4.0 delivers improved traction, comfort and protec- tion while reducing weight. Saucony starts with a redesigned upper, which provides a snug, supportive fit without increasing weight. A new midsole with a PowerGrid heel insert offers greater cush- ioning, while the improved nylon-fibre rock plate provides low weight and excep- tional push-through protection. Finally, Saucony has specced a new more aggres- sive, deeper-lugged outsole for excellent traction in a variety of terrain.

TESTER SAYS:With its relatively low weight and solid traction, this was my go-to trail shoe for almost any trail.” 

Treksta

treksta trail shoes

Sync

Men’s: 298 g (10.5 oz.), Women’s: 242 g (8.6 oz.) Heel: 24 mm, Forefoot: 14 mm, $130

Built with an almost all-glued upper and a last that’s the result of scanning and measuring 20,000 runners’ feet, the Treksta Sync delivers a snug, high-arch fit that many runners will appreciate. A light- weight eva midsole delivers consistent cushioning and protection over a variety of terrain, while the relatively low-profile outsole excels on hard-packed trails and paved surfaces. Treksta builds the Sync with a 4 mm drop, which should appeal to minimalist-oriented runners who still want protection from the trails.

TESTER SAYS: This is a good shoe that can easily transition from road to moderate trails.” 

Ecco Biom

ecco boom trail shoes

Ultra Quest

Men’s: 320 g (11.3 oz.), Women’s: 261 g (9.2 oz.) Heel: 26 mm, Forefoot: 16 mm, $170

These rugged trail running shoes should be a top choice for any runner seeking excellent durability and support in chal- lenging terrain. Ecco uses a unique injected midsole that’s bonded directly to the upper providing stability, protection and cushioning. The small block outsole delivers good traction without feeling clunky on paved surfaces.

TESTER SAYS: I liked the firm, responsive ride and would even use them as light hiking shoes.” 

The North Face

north face trail shoe

Ultra Trail

Men’s: 245 g (8.7 oz.), Women’s: 207 g (7.3 oz.) Heel: 16 mm, Forefoot: 8 mm, $120

With its low ride height and light weight, the Ultra Trail is a great option for runners looking for a fast trail shoe. The supple uppers offer a snug fit and improve control over challenging terrain. The North Face uses a dual-injection-molded eva midsole which delivers solid cushioning without compromising responsiveness. The densely lugged Vibram outsole provides excellent traction on hard-packed surfaces and allows the shoe to easily transition to pavement.

TESTER SAYS: These are great fast-feeling shoes that are perfect for hard-pack trails or even training on pavement.” 

Salomon

salomon trail shoes

X-Scream

Men’s: 290 g (10.2 oz.), Women’s: 250 g (8.8 oz.) Heel: 19 mm, Forefoot: 10 mm, $110

We were excited to hear that one of the most respected trail brands was making a hybrid trail/road shoe. The X-Scream does not disappoint. For an initial foray onto the pavement, Salomon has created a lightweight, responsive neutral trainer that will be handy for those who want to transition back and forth between park trails and city streets.

The tread is just aggressive enough to handle moderately technical conditions, but doesn’t feel too slow on the roads. The upper sacrifices the ability to repel the conditions in favour of a more road-appropriate breathable mesh, which we feel is a fair risk to take, as the X-Scream feels fast. Fans of Salomon’s core trail models will appreciate the inclusion of many of the well- thought-out details that have made this brand a trail king.

TESTER SAYS: “I’ve always just used my road shoes on the trail because I find trail shoes bulky. This shoe saved me from a few wipeouts but also felt much more like the sneakers that I’m used to.” 

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1 Comment

  • markcarey says:

    Great roundup. I can’t seem to find a retailer in Canada that sells the Pearl Izumi Trail N1 (online or offline) — any idea where I can buy a pair?

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