The best trail running shoes are made to keep you moving over the toughest terrain Mother Nature has to throw at you.
Whether you’re climbing muddy hills or cruising smooth single track, the best trail running shoes will help you find your footing on any run. The biggest difference between trail running shoes and road running shoes is the outsole. Trail shoes employ stickier rubber compounds and more aggressive lugs.
Other features of trail running shoes can include:
Your road shoes might get along fine on dry, mellow trails. But if you want to get onto more technical trails for the first time (or you’re just looking for another great pair of trail running shoes), it’s worth investing in a pair built specifically for the task.
Here are the best trail running shoes for most runners:
[This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2020. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]
The Saucony Peregrine 10 is one of the best trail running shoes because of its comfortable fit and clingy ride.
Saucony engineered the Peregrine 10 with 5 mm rubber lugs on the outsole to help grip the trail when the going gets tough. An abrasion-resistant mesh upper adds durability to the latest Peregrine, which is appreciated for miles on rough trail.
Designers included a rock plate to protect your feet from sharp stuff on the path, while a PWRRUN midsole gives the Peregrine a more responsive ride than its previous version.
The Peregrine 10 is the predecessor to the Saucony Peregrine ISO. Like with other Saucony running shoes of late, the brand is leaving the ISOFIT system behind in favor of its FORMFIT technology. The new fit tech uses three layers of cushioning to deliver a fit that adapts to your unique weight and stride.
In the Saucony Peregrine 10 review, Fleet Feet runners said they loved the confident traction and accommodating fit provided by the newest edition. One tester lauded how the Peregrine flew over sloppy trails without holding on to layers of mud.
The On Cloudventure 2.0 brings the Swiss brand’s unique CloudTec technology to the trails. Like the best On running shoes, the Cloudventure is pared down to its essential parts without sacrificing any comfort or performance.
The minimalist mesh upper offers a streamlined fit and feel while giving your feet top-notch ventilation to keep them cool on hot days. Two layers of mesh provide a soft feel inside and a protective layer on the outside to increase the shoe’s overall durability.
Off-road grip comes standard thanks to the Cloudventure’s Missiongrip outsole. The outsole, named for the sticky Missiongrip rubber, bears an enhanced traction pattern to give it better traction on smooth surfaces.
On lined the Cloundventure with its signature CloudTec elements that collapse on impact to cushion your landings and spring back into shape for a propulsive takeoff. On’s meticulous design and performance technology combine to make the Cloudventure 2.0 one of the best trail running shoes on the market today.
The Lone Peak is the original Altra trail running shoe, and it’s still one of the best around.
The Altra Lone Peak 4.5 sports two signature Altra technologies that appear in all the best Altra running shoes: a FootShape Toe Box and Balanced Cushioning. The toe box is wider and more squared off than most typical running shoes, which allows your feet and toes to splay more naturally; Balanced Cushioning provides a 0 mm drop from heel to toe for a more natural stance.
What sets the Lone Peak 4.5 apart, though, is its outsole. Altra coated the latest Lone Peak in clingy MaxTrac rubber and added aggressive TrailClaw lugs beneath the forefoot for improved grip at toe off.
Designers included attachment points for a gaiter and a StoneGuard layer to protect against hazardous rocks and roots.
New Balance brought its popular Fresh Foam to the Hierro for a cushioned and responsive ride off road.
Fresh Foam is a proven performer—the midsole on the New Balance Hierro v5 is the same midsole used in some of the best New Balance running shoes. It’s soft on landing and snappy when you take off, so bringing it to the trail makes sense.
Paired with the plush midsole, New Balance used a grippy Vibram outsole. Designers studded the MegaGrip outsole with multi-directional lugs for traction whether you’re climbing uphill or cruising down.
New Balance draped the Hierro v5 in a lightweight mesh upper that helps accommodate a wide range of foot shapes, while a snug bootie construction helps maintain a secure midfoot fit.
With an extra layer of protection on the toe, the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5 is a durable and confident trail running shoe that’s versatile enough to carry you on pavement and focused enough to excel off road.
Experience and innovation make the Brooks Cascadia 14 one of the best trail running shoes on the market year after year.
Brooks took its cues from the stability of an SUV when it developed the Cascadia’s Pivot Post system. The four posts—two in the forefoot, two in the rear—help stabilize your foot and maintain ground contact on uneven terrain.
The newest version of the Cascadia has a more streamlined upper than the previous version, and Brooks shaved some weight from the midsole, too. Overall, the shoe is lighter and more flexible than it’s ever been, which makes for a more natural-feeling ride.
Sticky TrailTack rubber gives you traction on wet and dry surfaces, and Brooks arranged rows of aggressive outsole lugs to provide excellent grip even the messiest trails. The Cascadia 14 is consistently one of the best Brooks running shoes, and Brooks’ commitment to innovation makes it one of the best trail running shoes, too.
Designers made big updates to the Nike Wildhorse 6, which make it one of the best trail running shoes out today.
The new Wildhorse 6 sports an updated midsole. Like many of the best Nike running shoes, the Wildhorse 6 now has React foam underfoot. React is soft, bouncy and durable, which makes it ideal for most running situations, including miles on dirt.
An updated, full-rubber outsole provides the grip you need when you head off road. Nike used a sticker rubber in the midfoot to help keep you upright, and they used a more abrasion-resistant compound on the heel and forefoot to improve durability. Deep rubber lugs coat the entire outsole for confident running in any conditions.
One thoughtful—and much appreciated—touch on the new Wildhorse 6 is the ankle collar. Nike sewed a higher collar onto the opening that hugs your ankle. The snug fit of the collar helps keep dirt and debris from falling into the shoe and causing irritation.
The major overhaul paid off for the Nike Wildhorse 6, making it one of the best (and more unique looking) trail running shoes around.
Looking for the most-cushioned trail running shoe? Check out the HOKA Speedgoat 4.
Named for prolific ultrarunner Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, the Speedgoat 4 is engineered to log big miles off road. HOKA packed the Speedgoat with its signature stack of foam that provides the supreme cushion you’re used to from the best HOKA running shoes.
But it’s not just a big midsole: The Speedgoat 4 comes with an aggressive outsole. HOKA sourced its MegaGrip outsole rubber from Vibram, which gives the Speedgoat traction on wet and dry surfaces. Then designers molded 5 mm rubber lugs to give the shoe purchase on loose dirt and mud.
In the HOKA Speedgoat 4 review, Fleet Feet testers praised the shoe’s instantly comfortable fit and its performance on all types of trail.
“The fit is really just no fuss,” one tester said. “There is nothing special or stand-out-wow about it. It just works. It’s dependable. It’s now somewhat of a classic in my rotation of trail runners.”
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.