A good pair of trail shoes will keep you sure footed, fight fatigue, and look good while knocking out miles of gnarly dirt and rock. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker, weekend hiker, or obsessive trail runner, we’ve tested the very best trail shoes this year. Pick up a pair and disappear into the wilderness for an adventure. You feet will thank us.
From multi-day excursions on the Pacific Crest Trail to serious backpacking treks in the Alps, a good pair of purpose built backpacking or hiking boots are your best bet. With stiffer soles than your running shoes, and more ankle support, a pair of boots will aid you carrying heavier loads. They’ll also last you longer, unless your idea of a short hike is getting out on the trail for weeks on end.
Editor’s Pick Best in Category:Vasque Skywalk ($200)
The original 1980’s Skywalk has seen more miles of hard trail than any of us will likely have time for in our lifetimes. This updated version keeps the classic styling of the original, but pairs it with a cutting edge GORE waterproof liner and Vasque’s Pyrenees outsole. This is the boot we reach for in all conditions.
La Sportiva Core High GTX ($200)
For hot summer hikes when you’ll still need a waterproof boot (think stream crossing in the Rockies and muddy days in the Cascades), GORE’s new Surround liner is your best choice. The Core High is extremely breathable thanks to this, and when paired with the aggressive Vibram Nano sole, this should be your weapon of choice for rocky, off-trail adventures.
Under Armour ATV GTX ($180)
Under Armour’s ATV boot seamlessly transitions from trail to urban use. We’ve worn these to the office just as much as we have while out hauling gear to our favorite climbing spots. The suede and synthetic uppers can take a serious beating, and still look brand new after long miles on the trail. The ortholite footbed is anti-microbial, which is a nice bonus when you take your boots off after a long day and are not greeted with stinky feet.
Light Hiking shoes or boots are true hybrids. They’re not quite as supple as a pair of well broken trail runners, but not as restrictive as brand new backpacking boots. If you’re an experienced hiker looking to shed some weight, lighter shoes are the best way to do it. Likewise, if you’re a novice and not planning on hauling thirty to forty pounds up a mountain, these are an excellent option for the budding weekend hiker.
Editor’s Pick Best in Category: KEEN Versatrail ($120)
When you don’t know what the weekend has in store, wear the Versatrail. This hiker has tackled desert trails in Moab and Tucson, serious granite in the Wasatch, and even performed well on a SUP when we forgot our usual water shoes. These shoes are up for any adventure you can throw at them.
Hoka One One Tor Summit WP ($160)
Just like it’s name says, these shoes were built to tackle long summit treks. The overbuilt midsole adds extra cushion, which will fight fatigue on epic days. Additionally, the directional tread on the outsole makes these ideal for steep trails, ensuring you stay sure footed all day long.
Salomon X Ultra Mid Aero ($130)
When you need a little extra venting, Salomon’s mesh construction on this boot makes it a perfect option for tackling desert hikes in places like Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks. A skeletonized chassis is built over the mesh, locking your forefoot and heel in place for the long haul. These are our choice of ultralight backpacking trips where every ounce counts.
Whether you’re out for a quick 5k on the trail after work or training for your first ultramarathon, a dedicated running shoe built for dirt and rock will be your ticket to steep uphill and pre-dawn runs on empty trails. Trail runners come in a wide range of cushioning and tread, but each of these options will tear up the trails.
Editor’s Pick Best in Category: Salewa Lite Train ($129)
The deep lugs on the Lite Train’s Michelin rubber outsole grip everything from thick mud to slick granite. These shoes will give you the confidence of a mountain goat when navigating gnarly trails in the Rockies or just a mellow sunset training run on your local trails. Salewa’s climbing heritage is evident in the fit of the upper, as it hugs your heel and forefoot excellently. We’ve got nearly two hundred miles in our pair without a single blister or hotspot.
Treksta Mega Wave ($125)
Treksta’s toebox is wider than most other running shoes we’ve worn this year. That means there’s room to spread out your feet when pounding trails or pavement alike. For longer runs, this shoe is our favorite option due to the extra cushioning and airy vented upper. If you’re planning on running every day of the week, you couldn’t find a better option to fight fatigue. They fit true to size, but have enough room and flexibility that when your feet swell after a long run you’ll still be comfortable for more miles of punishment.
La Sportiva Akasha ($140)
La Sportiva is the only company with trail shoes in multiple categories for a reason – they build the best for everything. The Akasha features an outsole that is slightly rockered, giving you a little boost when you’re heading uphill. Whether you’re an ultramarathon racer or just wanting to add mileage to your daily training, these shoes are ready to go fast.
Scarpa Proton ($129)
The first thing we noticed about the all new Proton is the fit of the heel. Much stiffer than other running shoes, it is built like a much burlier boot heel cup. This is great for runners who need a little more support, and was extremely helpful when descending technical trails – no heel slipping meant better grip and no worries of blisters. A light toe rand protects from impacts. If your typical run is more of vertical scramble, reach for a pair of Protons.
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