Trail running is a sport on the move, if you’ll pardon me for opening with a pathetic pun. It’s challenging, exhilarating, satisfying, and highly effective as part of your training regimen. From the casual jog along a wooded path to the charged world of competitive trail running, the activity can be casual and relaxing or a serious sport.
Ditching the gym, track, or roads for the trail is great for myriad reasons, not the least which is the cross-training potential: When you run on a boring ol’ treadmill or flat city streets, you’re not engaging nearly as many muscles as you are when vaulting roots and fallen limbs, deftly leaping from stone to stone across a rushing creek, and navigating the ups and downs that come with a great nature trail.
Of course, there’s another big bonus that comes with a trail run: nature! Or at least the outdoors, assuming you’ve chosen a trail of urban or suburban nature. Getting away from your job for an hour or two of bucolic aerobics is a great way to recharge your mental and emotional batteries while staying fit and trim.
With trail running, you need to carefully pick the right footwear both for your feet and for the conditions you’re likely to encounter on the path. Nothing replaces being able to try on for fit and feel, but here are 10 of the best men’s trail running shoes we love this season. We tested each one at a size 11.5 U.S. (45 Euro).
Saucony Switchback ISO
The low-profile design of the Switchback ISO paired with an aggressive all-terrain outsole and Boa Technology dialed lacing system has produced a nimble shoe ready for all-day adventure on the trail. The full-length Everun midsole provides consistent cushioning and the brand claims it’s three to,es more durable than EVA midsoles. Fit: True to size.
Salomon Sense Ride 2
Salomon makes so many great trail running shoe it was hard to narrow it down to just one pair. At the end of the day, we settled on the Sense Ride 2 for our daily go-to. The shoes feature the brand’s Quicklace lacing system that swiftly and securely cinches down. The ContaGrip outsole provides excellent performance with a variety of surfaces and conditions. Fit: True to size
Hoka One One Speedgoat 3
Named after Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer, who has won more 100-mile trail races than anyone, the Speedgoat 3 is one kickass shoe. This third iteration in the Speedgoat line, the enhancements include increased midfoot lockdown in the upper and improved heel support. Like previous models, the sticky Vibram MegaGrip outsole provides traction on even the most extreme surfaces. Fit: True to size
Scarpa Spin Ultra
Scarpa has long held a reputation for making climbing and mountaineering footwear, but the brand as more recently been recognized for pushing the envelope in the trail running shoe arena. Last year, we introduced you to the Spin RS. This year, the Ultra takes the prize as it provides more cushioning than its predecessors. Tthe Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole features Lightbase technology to help minimize shoe weight. Fit: Bumped up a half-size (45 to 45.5) on the Euro sizing chart (11 2/3 on U.S. chart).
Merrell MTL Cirrus
Drawing on high-altitude clouds for inspiration, the MTL Cirrus trail running shoe is designed for navigating technical mountain trails. This lightweight and protective shoe features the Vibram MegaGrip outsole for providing superior grip under an array of conditions. Fit: True to size.
Brooks Cascadia 14
Having just recently surfaced last month, this flagship shoe in the Brooks trail running line has undergone some enhancements that are sure to inspire brand loyalists and newbies alike. This is the lightest iteration in the Cascadia’s evolution. The new TrailTack rubber outsole provides aggressive traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Fit: True to size.
Inov-8 Roclite G 275
When gathering submissions for this roundup, we wanted to include the forthcoming Trailroc G 280. However, we were also keen to include the recently released Roclite G 275, which features the graphene (G-Grip) outsole that provides exceptional grip for unpredictable conditions. Inov-8 athlete Kristian Morgan will be sporting this shoe for his FKT (Fastest Known Time) record-breaking attempt on the Appalachian Trail. Fit: True to size.
Adidas Terrex Agravic Boa
We love the Boa Closure System, which allows for dialing in the tension for a consistent and secure hold. The Continental Rubber outsole (the same company that makes tires) provides extraordinary grip regardless of terrain. Fit: True to size.
Altra Superior 4
What was lightweight just got lighter. Altra has reduced the weight of the Superior 4 with a completely redesigned upper. Thanks to the sticky MaxTrac rubber outsole, the shoe will grip even under the wettest of circumstances. As has become the benchmark of Altra shoes, this shoe also features the FootShape toe box for natural foot positioning. Fit: True to size.
Topo MTN Racer
This new shoe bridges the gap between the MT-3 and the Hydroventure 2 (which we also reviewed). This beefy yet lightweight trail runner sports the Vibram MegaGrip outsole for outstanding traction on a variety of surfaces. Unlike the Hydroventure 2, the MTN Racer does not possess a waterproof upper and may be better suited to warmer-weather running. Fit: True to size.
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