Best Trail Running Shoes 2021

Buyer's Guide 2021 | Fleet Feet

Shop All Trail Running Shoes

The best trail running shoes can tackle any terrain Mother Nature has to offer. Whether you’re summiting muddy hills or cruising smooth single track, our selection of trail running shoes will help you find your footing.

There are several key differences between road running shoes and trail running shoes. Unlike road running shoes, trail running shoes use sticky rubber compounds in the outsole and aggressive lugs to grip the trail and stabilize each step.

Extra protection is also key. Rock plates are often included in the sole of the shoe to protect your foot from jagged rocks and roots while gaiter attachments keep debris out.

Trail running shoes need to be durable and versatile, which is why many of them feature drainage holes or mesh to allow water to escape after a stream crossing. Additional skins on the outside of the shoe work to increase durability and protect against wear and tear.

Invest in future trail running adventures with shoes built to take on technical trails. Here the best trail running shoes of 2021:


[Updated August 20, 2021.This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2021. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]

The North Face Flight Vectiv

The North Face Flight Vectiv Trail shoe.

The North Face brings speed to the trails with the innovative Flight Vectiv.

Featuring a 3D carbon-fiber plate integrated into a dual-density midsole foam, the Flight Vectiv strikes a balance between propulsive responsiveness and supportive cushion. Fleet Feet reviewers love the energy return and snappy ride the carbon-fiber plate delivers over technical terrain.

The dual-density foam is softer at the forefoot and more rigid toward the heel to offer support and create a rocker that supports your natural gait while generating forward momentum. A new Matryx upper designed from Kevlar provides the necessary support to keep your foot on the carbon-fiber plate. The upper also features a reinforced toe cap for the added durability you need on the trails.

Read our review of The North Face Flight Vectiv.

Shop the Flight Vectiv

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4

HOKA Speedgoat 4

Whether you’re battling technical terrain or fast single track, one thing’s for sure: The HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 trail shoe is the one of the greatest of all time.

The fourth edition of this award-winning shoe, the Speedgoat 4 sports 3D printed overlays on the mesh upper for a secure fit and increased midfoot support. A newly engineered, lightweight foam in the midsole cushions your feet and provides a more responsive ride.

The Speedgoat 4 lets you grip the trail with a Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole so you can take on both wet and dry conditions with confidence. Multidirectional 5 mm lugs and zonal rubber placement are the cherry on top, offering extra traction and stability.

Read our review of the HOKA Speedgoat 4.

Shop the HOKA Speedgoat 4

Brooks Cascadia 16

Womens cascadia 16 - black ebony - right facing view

A favorite among beginner and experienced trail runners, the updated Brooks Cascadia 16 is full of pop and foot protection with Brook’s plush DNA Loft v2 foam and Ballistic Rock Shield.

Unique grooves on the midsole and outsole conform and grip to rocky terrain and give you excellent stability and confidence on uneven trails.

The Cascadia 16 keeps your feet cool and protected on hot days thanks to a reinforced toe cap for knit mesh for durability and ventilation.

The padded heel collar keeps your foot secure and prevents debris from climbing down your shoe during your run, making the Cascadia 16 a do-it-all trail running shoe. Plus, if you tend to have a wider foot or like to wear thicker socks on your runs and hikes, Brooks offers wide widths for both men and women.

Shop the Brooks Cascadia 16

HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6

HOKA Challenger ATR 6 product

Back for a sixth iteration, the Hoka ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 returns to the trails better than ever.

The super-versatile Challenger ATR 6 absorbs impact while delivering smooth transitions. CMEVA foam in the midsole cushions each step and protects your foot, and the zonal lug placement and outsole construction provide excellent grip without weighing you down.

The breathable upper is designed with Unifi Repreve recycled yarn and features recycled polyester laces making the Challenger ATR 6 a sustainable option for any trail runner.

Read our review of the HOKA Challenger ATR 6.

Shop the HOKA Challenger ATR 6

Altra Lone Peak 5

Mens lone peak 5 - majollica blue - right facing view

The Altra Lone Peak 5 offers one of the most unique fits and rides of any trail running shoe on this list.

Trail running in the Lone Peak gives you a connected feel to the ground without skimping on cushion or protection. Altra’s 0mm drop encourages a natural stride and makes a huge difference when it comes to avoiding ankle-sprains while their balanced AltraEGO™ cushioning gives you a soft and responsive ride.

When you’re on the trail, control and confidence in your trail shoes mean everything. The Lone Peak’s sticky MaxTrac™ outsole gives you an unbeatable grip whether you’re ascending a steep climb or pumping the brakes downhill. No matter what type of trail you’re conquering, the updated StoneGuard™ brings an extra layer of protection from roots and rocks.

Perfect for staying comfortable during long days on the dusty trail, Altra’s FootShape toe box is roomy enough for most wide feet and lets the toes splay and balance without rubbing the sides of the shoe. The Altra Lone Peak 5 is a do-it-all trail shoe for hikers and runners and is a no-brainer if you have trouble finding shoes that fit your feet comfortably.

Shop the Altra Lone Peak 5

Saucony Peregrine 11

Saucony Peregrine 11

Built on the trusted and proven PWRTRAC rubber lugs and PWRUN cushioning, the Peregrine 11 is an tech-savvy update to a trail running classic.

A newly redesigned upper provides more protection from technical terrain than ever before thanks to dual-layer mesh. The new mesh construction provides the durability you need without sacrificing breathability. An inner mesh liner dries quickly to keep feet cool and dry in all conditions.

The PWRUN cushioning protects the foot while still offering a responsive ride. A built-in rockplate and unique drainage system provide added protection as you take on uneven terrain. Aggressive, 5mm rubber lugs made with PWRTRAC rubber give you the extra grip and traction you need to dig into a variety of trail surfaces and stay securely on your feet in all conditions.

Take your next trail run to new heights in the Saucony Peregrine 11.

Shop the Saucony Peregrine 11

Brooks Catamount

Brooks Catamount

The Brooks Catamount blends rugged durability and lightweight cushion for a plush ride on trails.

The Catamount is built on a lightweight DNA FLASH foam midsole. This nitrogen is feather-light and bouncy, delivering a responsive ride off-road. The thick, cushioned midsole works with Brooks TrailTack outsole to provide support and grip on the trails.

An upper built from lightweight mesh keeps your foot ventilated and allows for drainage after stream crossings. The midsole includes a rock plate to protect your foot from the impact of uneven terrain.

Read our review of the Brooks Catamount.

Shop the Brooks Catamount

On Cloudventure 3.0

Mens cloudventure 3 - glacier thorn - right facing view

When the terrain gets technical or steep, we look for a trail shoe that gives us confidence with every step. The On Cloudventure’s unique ground-feel, your ability to react and push off the trail, is what makes this consistently one of our favorite trail running shoes.

A sticky rubber outsole grips rock scrambles just as well as soft ground and gives you excellent traction for steep climbs and fast descents.

Soft, lightweight Helion foam is layered over top of On’s Cloudtec for a responsive ride that’s cushioned enough for long runs or multiple-day hiking trips. A split-design Speedboard sandwiched between the midsole gives the shoe some pop and flexibility, and it acts as a rock plate for extra foot protection.

For a more comfortable fit, On redesigned the forefoot shape and used a lightweight and airy upper that is durable enough to resist snags from roots and sticks.

Ready to take on the Swiss Alps or your local trail, the Cloudventure is your do-it-all trail shoe.

Shop the On Cloudventure 3.0

New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1

NB More Trail v1

Featuring new Fresh Foam technology, the New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1 combines precision plushness with rugged durability.

Using recent advancements in shoe fit data, New Balance constructed the More Trail v1 with strategically placed support and cushioning in the midsole to absorb impact. The lugged outsole offers all-terrain traction while the water-resistant upper lets you take stream crossings with ease.

With the thickest Fresh Foam midsole yet, the More Trail v1 delivers extra protection on even the rockiest trails. The Fresh Foam construction cups around your heel and midfoot for a secure fit, providing cushioned protection and lightweight performance on even the most challenging trails.

Read our review of the New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail v1.

Shop the New Balance More Trail v1

Brooks Caldera 5

A Brooks running shoe

The Brooks Caldera 5 is designed with a focus on all-around security on any terrain.

Lightweight BioMoGo DNA foam in the midsole provides sturdy support over long distances. The thicker midsole works with the large grooves in the redesigned outsole to provide adaptable grip and uncompromising comfort.

Patented TrailTack sticky traction rubber on the outsole works together with high surface area lugs for outstanding uphill and downhill traction on even the most difficult terrain.

The engineered mesh upper is redesigned to effectively block debris and to withstand wear and tear longer than previous models. A new, monoloop lacing system lets you dial in the fit of your Caldera 5's to create a personalized feel wherever you run.

Shop the Brooks Caldera 5

How We Picked the Best Trail Running Shoes

We used data from our fit id® outfitting process, interviews with designers and real-life wear testing to determine the best trail running shoes for most runs and the most runners.

You can shop with confidence at Fleet Feet: We offer free shipping on orders over $99, and you have 60 days to return any gear if you don’t like the way it looks, fits or feels. Plus, with our price-match guarantee, you can make sure you never pay too much for a new pair of running shoes.