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The Best Trail-Running Shoes Of 2022

The North Face Flight Vectiv trail-running shoe
The North Face Flight Vectiv is one of the best trail-running shoes, and was the first trail-specific shoe to feature a carbon plate in the midsole (Image credit: The North Face)

Trail running is an appealing proposition for most people, especially runners who have to dodge hordes of people on polluted city streets. 

It’s a chance to get away from it all, forget about your split times and enjoy the nature around you. Taking to the trails really opens up a different side to running compared to pounding city pavements.

However, to really enjoy these runs, you need the right kind of footwear. All the fun of trail running goes out the window when you’re slipping on mud or turn your ankle several miles from your car.

We’ve got great options to fit every kind of trail runner, and advice on things to think about it to make sure you get the right pair for you. Or if you’re an old hand looking for new kicks use the quick links to jump straight in to our recommendations of the best trail-running shoes.

Our Top Picks Of The Best Trail-Running Shoes

Below you’ll find a range of excellent trail-running shoes to suit all types of terrain and lengths of run, though if you want the fast track we’ve put a few favourites first.

  1. The Hoka Speedgoat 5 has a well-earned reputation as one of the best ultramarathon shoes, but it’s also simply our favourite all-round trail shoe, even if you stick to shorter distances. It grips well on a range of terrain, is comfortable, and can handle slow and fast runs alike.
  2. If you’re heading for the mud, our top pick is the Adidas Terrex Speed SG, which has 7mm lugs that bite into soft ground to provide reliable grip even when running at speed.
  3. Those who want a versatile trail shoe for all kinds of terrain will be well-served by the Saucony Peregrine 12.
  4. If you plan on running on the road and light trails, our favourite road-to-trail shoe is the Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280, which is comfortable for long stints on the asphalt but still grips like a champ when off-road.

Best All-Rounder Trail-Running Shoes

Hoka Speedgoat 5

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Our favourite trail-running shoe and great for long races

Specifications

RRP: £130
Weight: 299g (UK 9)
Stack: 33mm heel, 27mm forefoot (M), 31mm heel, 27mm forefoot (W)
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth and comfortable ride
+
Grips on almost any terrain

Reasons to avoid

-
Lighter options from other brands
-
Better options for all-out speed
-
Toe box is narrow

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 could be a top pick in almost any of our trail-running shoe categories – perhaps with the exception of shoes for the mud since it’s mainly built for harder terrain – but it’s best know as a long-distance racing shoe, having been named after ultramarathon legend Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer.

Hoka redesigned almost every aspect of the Speedgoat 5 compared with the 4. The new shoe has a lighter upper and a springier midsole, plus 5mm stepped lugs that offer reliable grip on technical terrain and a comfortable ride when on the road or hard, flat trails.

The shoe has a comfortable and smooth ride that’s just as enjoyable over 10km runs as it will be over 100km or more, so even if you’re not planning an ultramarathon any time soon the Speedgoat 5 merits your attention.

Buy men’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | £130 | Hoka Speedgoat 5 review


Salomon Sense Ride 4

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Salomon Sense Ride 4

An all-rounder that's comfortable on all terrain

Specifications

RRP: £110
Weight: 290g (UK 9)
Stack: 32mm heel, 24mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable, stable ride
+
Good on wet and dry terrain
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Quicklace system divides opinion
-
Lighter options available

The Sense Ride 4 ticks every all-rounder box. It’s able to handle wet and dry terrain with equal sureness of grip. It has a comfortable, but not unstable or squishy ride, and can be used for very long trail runs as well as short, sharp efforts. And it also offers good value at £110, considering the Sense Ride line is renowned for its durability. The midsole is made from Salomon’s Optivibe material, which has enough give to dampen the impact of long stretches on hard surfaces – especially when pounding down hills – while still firm enough to offer stability on uneven ground. The Contagrip outsole doesn’t have large lugs but did find solid purchase in the mud during our runs, and it’s comfortable to use on hard trails or even on roads.

Buy men’s from Salomon (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Salomon (opens in new tab) | £110


Saucony Peregine 12 trail-running shoe

(Image credit: Saucony)
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Saucony Peregrine 12

Comfortable all-rounder that can handle rocky trails and mud

Specifications

RRP: £130
Weight: 284g (UK 9)
Stack : 26.5mm heel, 22.5mm forefoot
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile shoe that can handle mud
+
Lighter than its predecessor
+
Comfortable ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for road-to-trail

We’ve long been fans of the Peregrine line, all-rounders that are comfortable on rocky tracks and can handle the muddy trails typical of the UK winter. That’s still true of the 12th edition of the shoe, which kept us upright when running through some downright unpleasant bogs, but Saucony has changed the outsole to be a little more suited to hard ground. If you want a shoe that’s all about muddy terrain, you’re still well served by Saucony because the range now also includes the Peregrine 12 ST.

The Peregrine 12 handles a mix of trails well, though it’s not that comfortable on the road for long stints. The best update in this 12th edition is that Saucony has cut its weight to well below 300g in a UK 9, which makes it a racing option for longer trail events, and nimbler in general on tricky tracks.

Buy men’s from Saucony (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Saucony (opens in new tab) | £130


Hoka Torrent 2 trail-running shoe

(Image credit: Hoka Torrent 2)
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Hoka Torrent 2

Lightweight, comfortable all-rounder

Specifications

RRP: £110
Weight: 264g (UK 9)
Stack: 23mm heel, 18mm forefoot (men’s) 21mm heel, 16mm forefoot (women’s)
Drop: 5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Speedy and comfortable ride
+
Great for short and very long runs

Reasons to avoid

-
Faster options available
-
Some might prefer higher stack

Both the original Torrent and now the updated Torrent 2 fulfil the title of all-rounder whatever way you look at it. Not only do the shoes have an outsole that manages to find grip on all kinds of surfaces, but both are also lightweight enough for short races while still offering a comfortable ride for long and easy trail runs. The ProFly midsole deserves the lion’s share of the credit, providing a cushioned landing and propulsive toe-off. We’ve used the Torrent for short cross-country races in London parks, a half marathon in the sodden Scottish Highlands and a long and easy run along cliffs on the Welsh coast, as well as many other runs, and loved every step in them.

Buy men’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | £110


Allbirds Trail Runner SWT

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Allbirds Trail Runner SWT

Eco-friendly trail shoe for easy runs

Specifications

RRP: £128
Weight: 369g (UK 9)
Stack: 25mm heel, 18mm forefoot
Drop: 7mm

Reasons to buy

+
Eco-friendly
+
Good-looking

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy
-
Firm ride
-
Lacking in grip at times

The Trail Runner is the first off-road shoe from Allbirds, a brand that uses natural, sustainable materials to make all of its products. The materials used in its shoes include Merino wool, tree yarns and foams made from sugar, which offers a welcome alternative for runners who worry about the environmental impact of their footwear and gear.

Performance-wise, the Trail Runner is not as impressive as other options on this list. It’s a pretty heavy and firm shoe, lacking the comfort and bounce you’ll find elsewhere. However, it is still a solid trail-running shoe, and we enjoyed lacing it up for easy plods through our local forest, tackling a variety of terrains including roads, hard-packed trails, grass and boggy ground. When it gets really muddy the 4mm lugs do struggle to find grip, but on all other surfaces we ran on the shoe was fine. If you like to hit the trails for easy runs and would rather do so knowing that the shoe you’re running in has caused as little damage as possible to the environment you’re enjoying, the Allbirds Trail Runner SWT will suit you just fine.

Buy men’s from Allbirds (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Allbirds (opens in new tab) | £128

Best Trail-Running Shoes For Hard Trails

Hoka One One Zinal

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Hoka Zinal

Speedy all-rounder that loves hard trails

Specifications

RRP: £140
Weight: 258g (UK 9)
Stack: 22mm heel, 18mm forefoot
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and speedy 
+
Breathable upper

Reasons to avoid

-
Firmer than other Hokas
-
Long and narrow fit

The Zinal is a hard shoe to categorise. We could easily have classed it as an all-rounder, a road-to-trail shoe or a racer, but we found it’s happiest on hard ground so we’ve stuck it here. It’s also a terrific shoe – one of the best we’ve tried this year – and more nimble than Hoka’s other offerings with a relatively low stack.

As a result it’s great for shorter races, though some especially light individuals might even consider it for ultras too. The outsole features 4mm lugs according to Hoka, but these look shorter to us than other 4mm lug shoes. The Zinal definitely prefers hard or gravelly ground to full-on mud, though it does a surprisingly OK job in boggy terrain.

The only downside is that it comes up a little long and narrow. We tripped on a root the first time we used the shoe just because it is that tiny bit longer than expected. Keep your eyes on the road when the terrain gets tricky.

Buy men’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | £140


Arc’teryx Norvan SL 2 Trail-Running Shoes

(Image credit: Arc’teryx)

Arc’teryx Norvan SL 2

Super lightweight, packable shoe for shorter runs

Specifications

RRP: £130
Weight: 174g (UK 9)
Stack: 19mm heel, 12mm forefoot
Drop: 7mm

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptionally light
+
Packable

Reasons to avoid

-
Very firm ride
-
Only suited to shorter runs

The SL in the name stands for superlight and that is exactly what these shoes are, coming in well under 200g – our UK size 9 weighed 174g. Naturally, some concessions have been made elsewhere to achieve that weight, and the Norvan SL 2 wouldn’t be our first choice for longer trail runs since it lacks the comfort of more cushioned, heavy options, but there is still enough foam in the midsole to protect the legs on shorter off-road sessions. It’s also a great option for regular travellers because you can fold the shoes in half to make them easier to pack.

The outsole features large, shallow diamond lugs and the Vibram material used grips well on hard ground even in the wet, but it’s best kept off the really soft and slippery stuff.

Buy men’s from Arc’teryx (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Arc’teryx (opens in new tab) | £130


Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

Comfortable and lightweight racer

Specifications

RRP: £160
Weight: 260g (UK 8.5)
Stack: 26mm heel, 18mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile short- and long-distance racer
+
Comfortable but light

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks protection from rocks
-
Expensive

Adidas garnered input from ultra-marathoner Tom Evans when building this very-long-distance racer, but we found it a versatile shoe that anyone who regularly hits hard trails will enjoy using. The midsole has a layer of Boost foam on the bottom to cushion your landings, while the layer of Lightstrike foam above it keeps the weight down and increases the ride’s responsiveness. The shallow chevron lugs on the outsole are closely spaced to increase the comfort and grip of the shoe when on harder trails, and the toe box of the shoe is spacious to accommodate the inevitable swelling of your feet during long runs.

The expense might put off anyone who isn’t planning to fly through epic events, but it’s a fast and durable option that works beautifully for runs on harder ground, whether short or long or slow or fast.

Buy men’s from Adidas (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Adidas (opens in new tab) | £160


Brooks Catamount

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Brooks Catamount

Superb trail racer for hard and rocky tracks

Specifications

RRP: £140
Weight: 264g (UK 9)
Stack: 31mm heel, 25mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Responsive DNA Flash midsole
+
Light for a high-stack shoe

Reasons to avoid

-
Maybe too firm for long distances

We are big fans of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo road shoe, primarily because of the nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole foam, which is incredibly light and responsive, and that same foam is employed in the Catamount trail shoe. That bright blue midsole coupled with the white upper might stand out more than we’d prefer, but the Catamount delivers the same excellent performance as the Hyperion Tempo and is a superb trail racer on hard and rocky tracks. The rock shield underfoot protects you from jagged edges, while the multi-directional lugs do a grand job of finding purchase on wet rocks.

Buy men’s from Brooks (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Brooks (opens in new tab) | £140

Best Running Shoes For Road To Trail

inov-8.com parkclaw g 280

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Inov-8 Parkclaw G 280

A comfortable shoe that can handle most terrain

Specifications

RRP: £160
Weight: 309g (UK 9)
Stack: 18mm heel, 10mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable on the road
+
Better grip than other road-to-trail shoes

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than alternatives

The Parkclaw G 280 doesn’t look like a typical road-to-trail shoe: it doesn’t have a huge stack of cushioning and the 4mm lugs look like they’d offer great grip off-road but be uncomfortable on it. However, looks can be deceiving, and the Parkclaw is comfortable for long stretches of road running and the graphene material used for the outsole is hard-wearing, so you need have no fears about the lugs grinding down.

Inov-8 is a brand renowned for shoes that grip well on all kinds of terrain and even though the Parkclaw is a road-to-trail shoe it offers better grip than many full trail shoes. The lugs bite into soft ground and we had no problems with traction on wet or uneven trails. Given the terrain it can handle, the Parkclaw is one of the most versatile shoes available.

Buy men’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | £160


On Cloudvista trail running shoes

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

On Cloudvista

A stylish shoe that’s at home on the road and the trail

Specifications

RRP: £130
Weight: 294g (UK 9)
Stack: Not given
Drop: 7mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable 
+
Good-looking
+
Grips well on road and light trails

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for fast running
-
Outsole can trap debris

We don’t tend to pick our top trail shoes on looks alone, but it’s a bonus when a great running shoe looks as good as the On Cloudvista. Consider it added versatility – not only is the Cloudvista comfortable on roads and light trails, it’s also an option for casual use as well. 

You will want to avoid any boggy trails though, not only to preserve the shoe’s good looks but because the grip is suited to harder ground rather than mud and grass. Keep it on the hard stuff and the Cloudvista gives a comfortable and enjoyable ride. It’s a top option for cruising through your easy runs, even if it lacks a little pop when you want to up the pace.

Buy men’s from On (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from On (opens in new tab) | £130


Nike Pegasus Trail 3

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Comfortable road to trail shoe for parks and dry trails

Specifications

RRP: £114.95
Weight: 326g (UK 9)
Stack: 36mm heel, 26mm forefoot
Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

+
Equally good on roads and light trails
+
Comfortable midsole foam

Reasons to avoid

-
Outsole struggled on wet ground
-
Heavy

This is one of the better-looking trail or road running shoes we’ve come across, but looks are only part of the appeal of the Pegasus Trail 3, which has a large stack of React foam in the midsole that adds bounce to the ride without making it unstable when on uneven ground.

There is a bumper around the front of the shoe to protect your toes, and the outsole has wide, fairly shallow lugs that provide grip on harder, drier trails and are comfortable on the road as well. While the Pegasus Trail 3 comes unstuck in wet and muddy conditions, this is a great option for city runners who like to hit parks whenever possible, as well as those who stick to dry trails.

Buy men’s from Nike (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Nike (opens in new tab) | £114.95 | Nike Pegasus Trail 3 review

Best For Trail Ultras

Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3

Lightweight and nimble shoe despite its high stack

Specifications

RRP: £150
Weight: 267g (UK 9)
Stack: 29mm heel, 23mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable cushioning to protect legs
+
Lightweight given high stack
+
Vibram Megagrip outsole

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best for speedwork
-
Outsole struggles on wet, soft ground
-
More expensive than rivals

The chunky stack of foam in the midsole and padding around the upper would make you think the Norvan LD 3 is a heavy cruiser of a shoe, but it’s surprisingly lightweight and nimble because of the EVA/Polyolefin blend midsole, which is the key update on the shoe compared with the Norvan LD 2.

A Vibram Megagrip outsole with 4mm lugs provides reliable grip on a variety of trails, though the shoe is mainly meant to be used on harder ground, and the Cordura upper breathes well while the tight mesh keeps debris at bay.

Buy men’s from Arc’teryx (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Arc’teryx (opens in new tab) | £150


Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Inov-8 TrailFly Ultra G 300

Cushioned, stable shoe for long runs

Specifications

RRP: £170
Weight: 366g (UK 9)
Stack: 25mm heel, 19mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Durable outsole that grips well on mixed terrain
+
Stable, supportive design for long runs

Reasons to avoid

-
Firmer ride
-
Very heavy

Keep reading and you’ll clock that we’re big fans of Inov-8’s trail-running shoes, but most of them are built narrow and lightweight which means they don’t offer as much cushioning and comfort as other brands’ do. The TrailFly Ultra G 300 addresses this gap in Inov-8’s line-up with a sizeable chunk of cushioning in the midsole to help protect your legs over ultra distances.

That cushioning is unique, as well, being the first graphene-enhanced foam. Inov-8 has been using graphene to increase the durability and grip of its outsole in the past couple of years, but this is the first time it's been used in the midsole as well. The result is still not a soft or squishy ride by any means, but it’s more cushioned than the Inov-8 G 270 ultra-marathon shoe.

The TrailFly is designed mainly for hard trails but we found the outsole gripped fine in the mud as well, though it did pick up a fair bit of muck when we ran through bogs, making what is already a fairly heavy shoe (366g in our UK size 9) even bulkier.

Buy men’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | £170

Best Trail-Running Shoes For Cross-Country And Obstacle Course Racing

Trail-Running Shoes

(Image credit: Unknown)

Inov-8 X-Talon G 210 V2

Light racer with superb grip in mud

Specifications

RRP: £135
Weight: 233g (UK 9)
Stack: 9mm heel, 6mm forefoot
Drop: 3mm

Reasons to buy

+
Upper drains quickly
+
Reliable grip on muddy ground
+
Light design for racing

Reasons to avoid

-
Uncomfortable on hard ground

Some people will never be persuaded to use anything other than spikes for cross-country, but if there’s one shoe that we reckon could convince almost any runner to switch to studs, it’s the Talon G 210 V2. It’s very light and has 8mm lugs that provide superb grip in all conditions. We took on the notoriously boggy course on Hampstead Heath in the previous version of the shoe and didn’t slip once, despite the sometimes knee-high mud.

This second version has the same outsole as the original, with the huge studs made out of a highly durable graphene material that does a decent job of finding grip on hard surfaces, so you won’t slip on the short paved sections that occasionally crop up in cross-country races. The upper has been changed to Inov-8’s Cordura mesh material, which drains well and should be more hardy than the upper on the original X-Talon 210, which we found did develop small holes during the long XC season.

Buy men’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | £135

Best Trail-Running Shoes For The Mud

Adidas Terrex Speed SG Pro

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
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Adidas Terrex Speed SG

Fast shoe designed for soft ground

Specifications

RRP: £140
Weight: 231g (UK 9)
Stack: Not given
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Upper drains rapidly
+
Great grip on mud and fells

Reasons to avoid

-
Firm ride on harder ground

The SG in the name of these shoes stands for soft ground, and the 7mm chevron-shaped lugs provide exceptional grip on muddy terrain as well as on steep, slick hills. The shoe also lives up to the Speed in its name thanks to its low weight, and we’ve found it a great option for the XC season, tackling 8km and 16km races in it.

While the midsole cushioning is thin, and firmer than you’ll find elsewhere, the Terrex Speed SG is not uncomfortable over long distances – as long as you’re sticking to mostly soft ground overall. We did a 27km run in the Pentlands in Scotland that contained plenty of harder sections and the shoe protected our legs well, while gripping like a champ on both muddy hills and icy paths. 

Buy from Adidas (opens in new tab) | £140


Trail-Running Shoes

(Image credit: Unknown)

Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2

Hardy shoe with excellent grip in mud

Specifications

RRP: £140
Weight: 313g (UK 9)
Stack: 8.5mm heel, 4.5mm forefoot
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent grip on muddy ground
+
Hardy upper and durable outsole

Reasons to avoid

-
Less cushioned than other options

The giant 8mm studs on the bottom of this shoe mean that you’ll have a fighting chance on the muddiest trails and the steepest fells. It also makes the Mudclaw a great pick for obstacle course races (which are never short of boggy ground), especially since the shoe uses Inov-8’s lightweight and extremely durable graphene-enhanced rubber on the outsole of the shoe, so you can rely on good grip for years to come.

While the outsole remains unchanged from the original Mudclaw G 260, Inov-8 has toughened up the front part of the upper for the second version, to ensure that said upper can last as long as the graphene-enhanced studs underfoot.

Buy men’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Inov-8 (opens in new tab) | £140


Trail-Running Shoes

(Image credit: Unknown)

Salomon Speedcross 5

Versatile shoe with great grip on boggy terrain

Specifications

RRP: £120
Weight: 337g (UK 9)
Stack: 35mm heel, 25mm forefoot
Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile option for mud and harder ground
+
Stable ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow fit can be uncomfortable
-
Quicklace system unpopular with many
-
Heavier than predecessor

Most UK trail runners will be well acquainted with boggy conditions and many will have donned a pair from the Salomon Speedcross line to help them negotiate slippery terrain without taking a tumble. The latest version of the shoe has been designed to provide even more grip when pushing off, so you can throw caution to the wind and head out at full speed on muddy terrain. The upper on the shoe has also been redesigned to be softer and more comfortable than past Speedcross shoes, especially around the toe box.

Buy men’s from Salomon (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Salomon (opens in new tab) | £120 (currently £96)

Best Carbon Plate Trail-Running Shoes

Hoka Tecton X

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Hoka Tecton X

Best trail-running shoe with a carbon plate

Specifications

RRP: £175
Weight: 260g (UK 9)
Stack: 33mm heel, 27mm forefoot (M), 31mm heel, 27mm forefoot (W)
Drop: 6mm (M) 4mm (W)

Reasons to buy

+
Parallel carbon plates for added propulsion
+
Responsive ProFlyX midsole

Reasons to avoid

-
Not well-suited to soft ground
-
Expensive

People had been waiting for Hoka to release a carbon-plate trail shoe for a long time and when it finally arrived the Tecton X had two plates. These run in parallel down the shoe to add extra propulsion to your running, without being stiff and unstable on uneven ground, which makes the Tecton X suitable for a greater range of terrain than other carbon trail shoes.

The shoe is light for a trail shoe and the dual-density ProFlyX midsole has a softer top layer of foam to cushion your landings and a firmer, more-responsive layer beneath to add stability and increase the energy return so you pop off your toes. It may not be cushioned enough to use for ultramarathons but the Tecton X is a top option for most trails races on hard ground.

Buy men’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from Hoka (opens in new tab) | £175


The North Face Flight Vectiv

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
An effective shoe for long races on hard ground

Specifications

RRP: £180
Weight: 297g (UK 9)
Stack: 34mm heel, 28mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Efficient ride that will help in long races
+
Carbon plate and rocker

Reasons to avoid

-
Outsole lacks traction
-
Upper caused discomfort
-
Expensive

The marquee feature here is the carbon plate in the midsole, just like in the Nike super-shoes that have changed the face of road racing in recent years. The effect is less dramatic with the Vectiv, but it is a shoe that can help you pound through long races on harder ground more effectively thanks to that plate, which is combined with a high stack of foam and a rocker design to move you through your foot strike efficiently. The Vectiv’s foam makes for a more stable ride than you’ll find on a road racer like the Vaporfly, and it has other features that increase the stability of the shoe so you don’t come unstuck on uneven ground. The outsole has shallow lugs designed for rocky and hard trails, and the Vectiv also works well on the road – but it’s not one for the mud.

Buy men’s from The North Face (opens in new tab) | Buy women’s from The North Face (opens in new tab) | £180 | The North Face Flight Vectiv review

How To Buy The Best Trail-Running Shoes For You

For all the info you need to help select the perfect trail shoes for you, we spoke to Simon Callaway of Saucony UK.

How do trail-running shoes differ from road shoes?

“The main differences are the traction on the sole – trail-running shoes have more and deeper lugs for a bigger surface area, which is designed to increase traction,” says Callaway. “The uppers tend to be knit meshes, so less debris can get into the shoe itself, and trail shoes generally have a lower offset – the heel height to the toe height is lower so the shoe is relatively flatter, giving a more stable platform to run on.

“In terms of cushioning they are generally about as cushioned as the road running shoes.”

What lug depth should you look for on a trail shoe?

One key measure of a trail shoe is the depth of the lugs on the sole, as that will determine which terrain it’s best suited to.

“At Saucony – plug! – we have a 3mm lug on the Canyon TR (opens in new tab) which is designed for road-to-trail,” says Callaway. “It’s for the person who wants to run around the park but also has a bit of road running to do as well. The slightly shallower lug works on wet Tarmac as well as it does on light trail.”

“Then we’ve got the Peregrine 11 (opens in new tab) which have a 5mm tread. They are designed for traditional trail running. And then we’ve got the Peregrine 11 ST (opens in new tab) which has 7mm lugs, almost like a studded lug, and is designed for really muddy conditions. It’s not the best shoe for road-to-trail but if you go directly to the trail to run – with a change of shoes for the drive there and back – that depth is useful.”

One key measure of a trail shoe is the depth of the lugs on the sole, as that will determine which terrain it’s best suited to.

“At Saucony – plug! – we have a 3mm lug on the Canyon TR (opens in new tab) which is designed for road-to-trail,” says Callaway. “It’s for the person who wants to run around the park but also has a bit of road running to do as well. The slightly shallower lug works on wet Tarmac as well as it does on light trail.”

“Then we’ve got the Peregrine 11 (opens in new tab) which have a 5mm tread. They are designed for traditional trail running. And then we’ve got the Peregrine 11 ST (opens in new tab) which has 7mm lugs, almost like a studded lug, and is designed for really muddy conditions. It’s not the best shoe for road-to-trail but if you go directly to the trail to run – with a change of shoes for the drive there and back – that depth is useful.”

What type of lug should you go for if you’re a fell runner who is constantly tackling steep gradients?

“Generally fell runners will be in deep-lug shoes,” says Callaway. “If you’re running downhill flat out, you want to make sure the heel is gripping as soon as it lands. Similarly on uphills, when you’re at steeper angle you get water run-off and patches where it’s particularly muddy.”

What is a rock plate and why do many trail shoes have one?

“A rock plate or rock counter is basically a flexible piece of plastic that sits across the forefoot where you’re pushing off from,” says Callaway.

“If you’re on rocky ground then stones can push up into the foot. That, repeated over several hundreds or thousands of steps, can cause irritation to the foot. It’s a little bit of extra protection where the shoe absorbs more of the impact and disperses it over a greater area.”

Why are trail shoes generally not waterproof?

If you’re heading for the hills for a hike, the first feature you might look for in walking boots is waterproofing, but most trail shoes are at most water-resistant.

“There is waterproofing available but the issue is that to make the shoe waterproof you have to wrap the upper under the whole of the midsole and then glue it down to create a complete seal,” says Callaway.

“This makes the shoe heavier and less flexible. It’s a trade-off. A lot of brands refer to their uppers as water-resistant, which means the material is probably waterproof but they haven’t wrapped it right underneath the foot and glued it to the sole. So it can only be called water-resistant as opposed to waterproof.

“Also waterproofing means a shoe is not particularly breathable so your foot gets very hot and sweaty. It’s a comfort thing. People will accept if they’re running off-road they're going to get wet feet, in which case what’s really important is making sure you have good-quality running sock that you can get wet and sweaty in and not blister.”

Are there any other features to look out for?

Traction, protection from rocks and a comfortable upper are your key boxes to tick when looking at trail shoes, but another handy feature can be no-tie shoelaces, which are looped with a toggle that you pull to tighten them. These are easier to deal with when your hands are cold and your shoes are muddy, and less likely to come undone.